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Amar’e Stoudemire: “I want to be a Knick for life”

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When you talk about Amar’e Stoudemire the contract is the first thing that comes up — he is making $21.7 million this season and will pick up his player option for $23.4 million next season. Yes, that is overpaying for his current production, which has been improved this season (11.1 points a game on 55 percent shooting) but is not max contract numbers.

But then you have to remember the context of when Stoudemire signed — the Knicks had nothing. Donnie Walsh had gotten the Knicks out of the hole that Isiah Thomas had dug, but they needed a star to build around. They struck out with LeBron James. Stoudemire was the next biggest free agent that summer and the Knicks landed him. Teams were hesitant to go five years at a max salary for him because of his injury history, but the Knicks needed a home run to help put them on the map and attract other talent. Carmelo Anthony is not a Knick without Stoudemire.

Now, though, Stoudemire’s contract is an anchor on the franchise rebuild efforts. His three knee surgeries during his time in New York have been a blow. This summer the Knicks will shop his expiring deal around, but under the current CBA there isn’t much demand for big expiring deals so a deal may well not happen.

Which is fine with Stoudemire — he loves New York and wants to stay a Knick. Forever.

That is what he told Jared Zwerling in a fantastic first person feature at Bleacher Report (go read the entire thing, right now).

“Now, I’ve had a successful, injury-free year so far and I’m back in the starting lineup. From the hard work that I put in, I knew it was going to manifest into some positive. I feel like I’m back to my dominant self and I’m still improving, still getting better, still getting stronger. Now, we’re on a seven-game winning streak and we’ve got a chance to make the playoffs. We dug ourselves a hole, but we’re fighting out of it somewhat, climbing out of the hole, so I feel positive about that….

“I want to be a Knick for life and win multiple championships here. I don’t want to go anywhere else, especially with (Phil) Jackson coming in. He has an incredible legacy; it’s probably unmatched. With a leader like that, it can only become a positive output with that type of leadership. He’s been around great organizations, from Chicago to L.A., so now joining us with the Knicks, it’s great to see. Regarding the Triangle offense, it’s funny because I’ve been hearing that it would be great for me for the past six years. It could be possible that we implement the Triangle offense, and I just can’t wait to perfect whatever system we’re going to be in. I’m ready to get to work now.”

This is the effect Jackson is having in New York already.

While Knicks fans may not like the idea, keeping Stoudemire after this last contract expires may not be the worst idea for New York… with a couple big caveats.

First, Stoudemire would need to remain healthy the remainder of this season and all of next season. In doing so he has to continue to be productive and valuable on the court.

Second, he has to take a MASSIVE pay cut. Like down to the $6 million range give or take. Close to the league average.

Phil Jackson will set a tone and a direction for the Knicks — they are going to be a triangle team. Stoudemire can fit into that role, his mobility, midrange shot and skills around the rim could be a good triangle fit. But Jackson needs to see if there are better players out there for that role. Then he needs to get Stoudemire in at a fair price because he is not near a max salary guy anymore.

All of which is to say, stranger things have happened. This is not likely, but not impossible either. We just need to see how things play out with Jackson and with Stodemire’s knees over the next couple of seasons.

Team USA has sing-along on plane leaving Chicago. Well, except for ‘Melo.

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the United States Men's National Team looks on during player intro duction prior to playing the China Men's National Team in a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Team USA had their “Tiny Dancer” moment.

Like “Stillwater” in Almost Famous, Team USA’s Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green and Kyrie Irving were leading a sing-along of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” on the team plane out of Chicago to Houston for the USA’s final exhibition game. Hat tip Alysha Tsuji who pulled the snapchats.

Everyone was loving it… except for Carmelo Anthony, according to DeMar DeRozan.

Melo ain't having it…😂

A video posted by DeMar DeRozan (@demar_derozan) on

Watch Kyle Lowry’s tip-pass alley-oop to Jimmy Butler in USA win

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There were a lot of ugly things for Team USA in its exhibition win over Venezuela — the 4-of-25 shooting from three comes to mind. There was more, it was not a strong offensive performance from Team USA.

But like usual, we can overwhelm teams with athleticism, and that means wins and highlights. Like Kyle Lowry‘s tip-pass alley-oop to Jimmy Butler.

Or DeMar DeRozan‘s late-game windmill dunk.

Kyrie Irving helps USA to ugly 80-45 win over Venezuela

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  Kyrie Irving #10 of the United States Men's National Team looks to make a move with the ball against the China Men's National Team during the first half of a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 13 points, DeMarcus Cousins powered a dominant performance in the paint, and the United States pulled away from Venezuela for an ugly 80-45 exhibition victory Friday night.

Coming off three straight flashy victories in Las Vegas and California, the United States shot 42.4 percent from the field and committed 13 turnovers in by far its worst offensive performance of its five-city tour in preparation for next week’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. But the Americans used their superior athleticism to limit Venezuela to 24 percent shooting and owned the interior with a 54-29 rebounding advantage.

Returning to Chicago for the first time with the U.S. national team, Bulls star Jimmy Butler was cheered every time he was announced at the United Center. He had four points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes in his first start with Team USA.

Butler had one of the few electric plays for the U.S. when he ran out on the break and dunked Kyle Lowry‘s tip pass in the fourth quarter. DeAndre Jordan also had a vicious dunk off a lob from Kevin Durant, and DeMar DeRozan drew chants of “USA! USA!” with a windmill jam in the final minutes.

Klay Thompson also scored 13 points, and Cousins finished with seven points and 12 rebounds. Durant had nine points of 3-of-9 shooting.

John Cox scored 14 points for Venezuela, which will play the U.S. again on Aug. 8 in the Olympics.

Irving and company were greeted with a round of hearty cheers when they came out for pregame warmups. Fans lined the side of the court where the Americans had their layup line, and Anthony and Durant posed for pictures with a couple of eager boys.

Before Butler’s introduction drew the most applause of the night, former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau received a thunderous ovation when he was announced with the U.S. coaching staff. Thibodeau took a year off after he was fired by the Bulls in May 2015, and then was hired as Minnesota’s coach and president of basketball operations in April.

The star power also extended to the sideline near the U.S. bench, where former Olympians Scottie Pippen and Dwyane Wade watched the action attentively. Wade was joined by his wife, actress Gabriel Union, hours after he held his introductory press conference for his new contract with his hometown Bulls.

Pippen played on the 1992 Dream Team that rolled to gold in Barcelona, and also helped the U.S. win gold in 1996. Wade was on the Americans’ gold medal-winning teams at each of the last two Olympics.

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.