Derek Fisher preaches culture change, says when introduced he has experience to turn Knicks around

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It’s not going to take just a couple of little tweaks to make the New York Knicks contenders again. The roster needs a lot of work, the organizational culture needs to change.

Phil Jackson has hired Derek Fisher to be his coach and help usher in that change, something that was made and Fisher’s introductory press conference at Madison Square Garden Tuesday. Fisher reportedly got a five-year, $25 million deal.

But is Fisher — a guy with no head coaching experience, who was still playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder a couple weeks ago — the right guy to help spearhead that change with Jackson? Fisher is confident he is. Very confident.

“There will be a lot of talk about my inexperience as a head coach, and that is obviously factually true,” Fisher said. “I have never been a head coach in the NBA or in college or in high school — but I am experienced. Basketball is a game that I am experienced in. Playing, understanding, leading in, guiding in, helping another group achieve the greatest gift in the world as a professional athlete and that is being a champion. That I have experience in. And that’s the experience I plan on sharing with these players, sharing with this organization.”

It’s something the Knicks have not experienced for more than 40 years as an organization. That is why Jackson was brought in by owner James Dolan at the hefty price tag of $12 million a year, it’s why Jackson was given real power.

Jackson has talked about changing the culture at Madison Square Garden and Fisher echoed that sentiment. He said the bar needs to be set at a championship level.

“That is who we will become, that is who we are,” Fisher said. “It is here, it exists here, Phil experienced it as a player almost 40 years ago… and we know without a doubt we know what that is, what it means how to create that, how to live in that on a daily basis. I’m excited about this.”

Jackson said he had a feeling Fisher wanted to go this way based on conversations previous summers, and once hey started talking things progressed quickly.

Jackson mentioned Fisher a couple weeks ago at a press conference as a “person of interest” but Fisher was still playing for the Thunder at that time. That tampering earned Phil Jackson a $25,000 fine — and if you don’t think Jackson knew the fine was coming when he said it but he was willing to pay the price to get the message sent, you haven’t watched Jackson over the years. He is careful about what he says publicly, these kinds of things accidentally.

Jackson tried to dispel the idea Fisher would simply be a proxy coach for him, saying that a younger coach who could relate to the players was needed. The players don’t exactly listen to the Grateful Dead like in his day, Jackson noted.

“Obviously Derek’s in a bit of a learning process, but we think his experience the last three or four years has been one of more assistant coach/player role and he’s learned under some of the best coaches: Don Nelson, Jerry Sloan, and the latest in Scotty Brooks,” Jackson said, leaving himself and his 11 rings off that list.

Fisher said yes, you can expect to see the triangle in New York.

“I love the triangle system,” Fisher said. “I believe with the roster we have we can utilize it to be more efficient, more effective, to give ourselves a chance to play better defense by getting higher percentage shots, so I believe in the system.”

Carmelo Anthony would fit well in the triangle system, getting the ball at the elbow or spacing the floor on the wings at times. He’s the kind of elite scorer the offense needs (providing he is willing to move the ball in it).

Anthony can and is expected to opt out and become a free agent this summer, he can choose to re-sign with the Knicks or not. Jackson and GM Steve Mills are going to meet with Anthony in the coming days, according to Jackson. Even if ‘Melo does opt out he could re-sign with the Knicks. But mostly Fisher and Jackson dodged the question about the future with Anthony.

Fisher said he did have very informal contact with the Lakers but never seemed to be seriously considered, which is why he was surprised the Lakers released a statement saying they were not going to pursue him. But that flirtation was never serious, the Lakers are focused on getting an experienced coach.

Jackson hired Fisher and went another direction, but Fisher thinks he has the experience for this job. Fisher was never the best athlete, the tallest, the fastest guy on the court but he played 18 NBA seasons in part because of a high basketball IQ.

“(His past basketball experiences) all provide an experience for me that I look forward to sharing with our players, and helping us re-establish the championship culture that exists in the DNA of this organization and this city,” Fisher said

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

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One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.