Rumor: Knicks could fire Mike Woodson by trade deadline

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The Knicks are not rebuilding, they just have the record of a rebuilding team.

At the start of the season the Knicks thought they were the 54-win team of last season, which made the second round of the playoffs; instead they are 19-29 and two games back of the last playoff spot in the lowly East. Injuries are part of that (management built a team that cannot win without Tyson Chandler), but also they aren’t taking or making as many threes, they aren’t shooting as well overall, their point-guard play has been down, and the offense is no longer covering up a defense that was never all that strong to begin with.

That’s not all coach Mike Woodson’s fault, but he is far from blameless in this mess (he only went to the small lineup of Carmelo Anthony at the four because injuries forced him to).

Which has led to a ton of speculation early in the season Woodson was in trouble — rumors owner James Dolan has tried to shoot down. However the Knicks have traded away future assets to be good now and when that goes poorly the coach is always on the hot seat.

Now comes the latest speculation that Mike Woodson could be let go by the Feb. 20 trade deadline, via Steve Popper of the Bergin Record.

With the trade deadline looming and no reason to tank — already sending their first-round pick away in the deal that brought Carmelo Anthony — the Knicks are desperate to make a playoff push.

Their options for a deal are slim and with Anthony a free agent at season’s end, the Knicks will try to provide enough hope and optimism to keep him in town.

That leaves a coaching change as the other impetus for a late run. Players seemed to have distanced themselves from Woodson — and Stoudemire seems the latest to lose faith.

Understand that is speculation, not even a sourced report. So take it for what it’s worth.

From the outside it seems Woodson has lost the locker room — players’ defense of him seems tepid at this point. And if the idea is that a coaching change can shake up a team and put them on run, we’ve seen that before. It does work.

The big question is: who do they get to replace Woodson?

For the rest of this season an assistant could be promoted or Alan Houston could come down out of the front office, and maybe that provides a little bump this season. But that is not the long-term answer.

The name coaches the Knicks would want — Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, George Karl and the like — will demand a level of control over the roster Knicks management is not willing to surrender. Despite the money and prestige, those guys see the roster, see the organization and will be hesitant to step into the muck.

There are not a lot of good long-term options for the coaching spot lined up for New York.

Firing Woodson could provide a short-term boost, but the long-term issues with this organization remain. And they’re issues not only a new coach would ask about, they’re ones Carmelo Anthony will ask about this summer.

Reports: Rockets think Chris Paul could be sidelined for up to a month

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The Rockets’ opening night win over the Warriors was a boost to their confidence — they believe they can challenge the Warriors next May in the playoffs.

Chris Paul is a big part of that plan, which is why we may not see him for up to a month (even though he is listed as day-to-day, and officially only out Saturday). With that, the Rockets are considering adding another point guard to the roster. Marc Stein of the New York Times and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news Friday afternoon.

At the top of the free agent point guard list is Jameer Nelson, the veteran was just waived by Denver to make room for Richard Jefferson, and the Rockets have reached out to him. C.J. Watson and Trey Burke also are available.

Chris Paul and Harden still need to smooth out playing together, something that will take time on the court together. CP3 being out until mid-November is not ideal, but the Rockets are thinking about May, and ideally June, so they will sacrifice a few games now to have him healthy then.

Dwight Howard still feeling ‘super’ expectations with Hornets

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DETROIT – Dwight Howard went from leading Orlando in the NBA Finals to playing in star-studded Los Angeles to joining a Houston team that also fancied itself a contender to being the highest-paid player in his hometown Atlanta to… landing in Charlotte, a small-market franchise with modest ambitions.

The spotlight finally off the former No. 1 pick, Howard doesn’t feel reduced pressure.

“Everybody expects me to be Superman every single night,” Howard said.

Howard is diving into his new situation – his third team in three years – headfirst. He’s leading pregame huddles and the Hornets onto the court.

“I have the most experience,” said Howard, in his 14th season. “So, it’s not to come in and fit in. It’s to come in and be a leader.”

This is the latest referendum on Howard. Despite eight All-NBA selections (most of them first-team) and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, he faces relentless criticism of his legacy.

His exit from the Magic was so ugly, it’s known as the Dwightmare. His feuding with the Lakers great is the stuff of legend in Kobe Bryant mythology. Howard never clicked with James Harden with the Rockets. The Hawks unloaded him for a paltry return in what was more salary rearrangement than salary dump, and his former teammates reportedly cheered.

Howard just seems to rub people the wrong way.

That makes his latest test in Charlotte so interesting. Howard is supplanting maybe Kemba Walker as the face of the team and definitely Cody Zeller as starting center. The Hornets have found success with Zeller, going 63-53 when he starts and 57-73 otherwise the last three seasons.

“The nature of his game, he plays in a way to help other people play better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Zeller. “He is a screener. He is a ball-mover.”

In other words, the type of player teammates love.

Is Howard?

Howard is still solidly productive. In Charlotte’s season-opening loss to the Pistons, he posted 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks – and ruffled a few feathers. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

https://twitter.com/Vincent_Ellis56/status/921100491362365440

Dirty-work players who irritate opponents are revered. High-priced players who irritate their teammates are loathed.

Howard walks a fine line.

He returned to Atlanta with emotion and expectations. By the end of his time with the Hawks, everyone seemed unhappy. Still, Howard says he’s grateful for the opportunity to play in front of people, especially his grandparents, who watched him grow up.

“Atlanta is going to be my home,” Howard said. “The Hawks is always going to be my favorite team.”

It’s just never easy for Howard.

Even a career Basketball Reference pegs as 99% likely to end in the Hall of Fame based on his tangible accomplishments stirs controversy.

“He’s a Hall of Famer right now if he never played another game,” Clifford said.

Said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando: “It’s mind-boggling to me that would be any debate there.”

It’s probably easier for Van Gundy and Howard to recall their time together fondly than it was to enjoy it while partnered. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles while Howard was there, is just getting into his time as Howard’s head coach.

It’s those middle moments, in the throes of long seasons, that have proven difficult for Howard and those around him.

Here he is in Charlotte, hosting the Hawks tonight, and facing another challenge. The Hornets would probably be happy just making the playoffs and ecstatic advancing, which would be their first playoff-series victory since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. Howard, who has reached three conference finals, is counting on himself to lead them there – even if nobody else is anymore.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.