Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson leaves ‘awful’ Knicks game early to walk dog

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Remember when there was concern Phil Jackson would be too removed to effectively run the Knicks? With health and family tying him to California, how much time would he actually spend in New York?

Everyone figured at least he’d at least have no trouble seeing the Knicks when they played in Los Angeles twice a year, though.

But we didn’t count on the Knicks’ ineptness making them so difficult to watch.

Billy Witz of The New York Times:

With 8 minutes 54 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Phil Jackson had seen enough. He texted his fiancée, Jeanie Buss, and agreed to meet at the loading dock inside Staples Center where their car would be waiting. The Knicks were losing by 26 points.

“It was awful, huh,” Jackson, the new Knicks president, said with a slight grin as he exited a luxury suite in the corner of the arena and took an elevator down to the floor level.

When Jackson exited the elevator, he stopped to use the bathroom. Then he made his way down familiar corridors, through a door and to his car. An attendant held the driver’s door open for Jackson. Buss was in the passenger seat.

What did he have planned for the rest of the night?

“I think I’ll walk the dog,” he said.

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Jackson obviously needn’t watch every second every Knicks game in person to do his job, but doing so obviously wouldn’t hurt – and might even help.

I don’t understand why so many people leave games early, this case included.

At every game, it’s as if people race to see how quickly they can determine the game’s result. Then, they head to the exit.

Why? Where is everyone rushing?

I understand some people must work the next day and would prefer to get extra sleep, but I guarantee that’s not the reason everyone leaves early. I suspect many just get bored and what to go somewhere else, even if it’s sitting home and doing nothing. There’s no point in beating the traffic if you’re getting a head start toward nowhere.

But this is Jackson’s job, so he surely didn’t leave it early in order to prepare for it.

What was so bad about the Knicks’ game? Jackson, via Witz:

“Fifty-one points,” Jackson, in a dark blue suit and a striped tie, said as he arched his eyebrows. “When it’s 35 points you start to get worried. When it’s a 51-point quarter, that’s really awful.”

Ah, yes. The Knicks allowed 51 points in the third quarter, the most by any team in a quarter in the last four years and second-most in the last 23. I can understand that’s disconcerting, and I don’t want to beat up Jackson over what’s, at most, a minor issue.

But wouldn’t it be better to stay and evaluate how the Knicks react? Wouldn’t their body language on the bench inform you of their attitudes? Wouldn’t their on-court demeanor tell you something about their competitiveness?

Jackson can watch the end of the game on film if he chooses, but so can league’s other decision-makers. Jackson’s job is to find an edge that helps the Knicks return to the playoffs.

I doubt he’ll find it walking his dog.

Cavaliers have offered Anderson Varejao a championship ring. Does he take it?

Golden State Warriors' Anderson Varejao (18) poses with a cutout with his likeness during NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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In the middle of last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers let go of long-time Cav and fan favorite Anderson Varejao to make room for Channing Frye, a stretch four they thought would be more valuable in the playoffs. In hindsight it seems the right move.

After a cap clearing move in Portland, Varejao ended up on the bench of the Golden State Warriors. We all know the story from there, including Varejao getting some meaningful minutes after Andrew Bogut went down, but it wasn’t enough for Golden State.

Which brings us to the awkward championship ring conversation. Usually, an iconic team player like Varejao would get one from the Cavaliers, but will Varejao want this one? From Marc Stein of ESPN:

Good on the Cavaliers for offering.

Is there a correct answer for Varejao? A wrong answer? I can’t blame him either way.

He is on the Warriors roster again this season, and he once again could get meaningful minutes (now behind Zaza Pachulia). Does he decide that one with this team is what he wants (and will bet is going to happen)? Nobody can answer all these questions for him.

Nuggets retiring Dikembe Mutombo’s number at first home game

Center Dikembe Mutombo of the Denver Nuggets goes up for two over center David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs during the Nuggets game versus the Spurs at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado.
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If the Hawks can retire Dikembe Mutombo’s number after four and a half seasons in Atlanta, the Nuggets can retire it after five in Denver.

Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post:

Mutombo will join the list of people who’ve had a number retired by multiple teams:

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lakers, Bucks)
  • Charles Barkley (76ers, Suns)
  • Wilt Chamberlain (Warriors, Lakers, 76ers)
  • Clyde Drexler (Trail Blazers, Rockets)
  • Julius Erving (Nets, 76ers)
  • Michael Jordan (Bulls, Heat)
  • Bob Lanier (Pistons, Bucks)
  • Moses Malone (Rockets, 76ers)
  • Pete Maravich (Jazz, Pelicans)
  • Earl Monroe (Knicks, Wizards)
  • Oscar Robertson (Bucks, Kings)
  • Jerry Sloan (Bulls, Jazz)
  • Nate Thurmond (Cavaliers, Warriors)

Shaquille O’Neal, who had his number retired by the Lakers, will also make the list this season, when the Heat will put his number in the rafters.

Mutombo spent his best years with the Hawks, but he was pretty darn good with the Nuggets, who drafted him No. 4 overall in 1991. He won a Defensive Player of the Year award and went to three All-Star games with Denver. Playing for the Nuggets, he also produced the most iconic image of his career: lying on the floor and clutching the ball in jubilation after Denver became the first No. 8 seed to upset the No. 1 seed (Seattle SuperSonics in 1994):

Draymond Green says he doesn’t want to chase 74 wins: “It’s brutal.”

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors reacts against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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If the Warriors have been consistent about one thing in the run-up to the coming season it is this: They are not going for a record number of wins again.

From the GM on down they have worked to tamp down expectations about their regular season, saying there is no goal of chasing their 73-win total of last season. This is how Draymond Green put it on media day, via Sam Amick of the USA Today.

Last season Steve Kerr and some of the staff were hesitant to chase the Jordan-era Bulls 72-win record, but it was a push from the players — Draymond Green being at the front of that parade — who wanted it. They pushed, and Kerr let them. They got 73. Was that lack of rest down the stretch the reason they were down 3-1 to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals, then blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals against Cleveland? Certainly not, there were plenty of other bigger factors (hello LeBron James), but it may have played some role. Clearly, the team thinks it did, based on their words and actions.

However, the Warriors still want the No. 1 seed in the West and will make that a goal. The question is, with an excellent regular season team in San Antonio — one that had a better point differential than the Warriors last season, then they added Pau Gasol — how many wins will it take to get the top seed in the West? 65? More? How hard will the Warriors and Spurs push to get home court throughout?

The Warriors aren’t going for the record, but the top of the West is still going to be an interesting place.

Mike D’Antoni declares James Harden the Rockets’ point guard (‘points guard’)

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James Harden is no longer the NBA’s best shooting guard.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Harden – who averaged 29.0 points and 7.5 assists per game last season – is now Houston’s point guard, though D’Antoni added it wouldn’t be a big adjustment.

D’Antoni, via ClutchFans:

With James, we’ll make a cheap joke. He’ll be a points guard.

We just renamed it. You guys got something to write about.

Harden already controlled the ball a ton, taking primary playmaking and distributing responsibilities last season. This just gets the ball into his hands quicker and should allow the Rockets to play faster, a key component of D’Antoni’s offense.

Of course, D’Antoni’s offense functioned best when Steve Nash – more of a pure passer – ran it with the Suns. Harden won’t duplicate that. His passing ability is more predicated on taking advantage of his scoring threat. But Harden – who, like Nash, is an excellent ball-handler – could make the offense hum in his own way.

Even though D’Antoni is trying to downplay the position switch, it’s a notable shift. Harden fully commanding the offense is a grand experiment with major upside (and potential for a rocky downside).

This will also allow Houston to use Patrick Beverley (historically a point guard) or Eric Gordon (historically a shooting guard) in the backcourt with Harden, allowing a more flexible rotation.