Jeff Hornacek doesn’t want to use Kristaps Porzingis at center

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Watch Kristaps Porzingis play — the way he can score in the paint, knock down threes, and get blocked shots — and it’s easy to think he’s the Knicks’ future at center. He’d be a matchup nightmare — he already leads the team in blocks (KP had seven in one game against the Lakers a few weeks back), he can play inside but can also knock down threes. He’d need a rebounding, dirty-work four next to him, but Porzingis at the five running the floor with Derrick Rose/Brandon Jennings, Courtney Lee and company seems a threatening lineup that may be the ultimate direction for New York.

Except, coach Jeff Hornacek doesn’t want to go there.

The Knicks’ coach told Stefan Bondy at the New York Daily News said he wants Porzingis at the four and to use a traditional center next to him.

“That’s an option we’ve gone to sometimes. Sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it hasn’t been great,” the coach said. “So we want the big guys. Sometimes when we take those guys out our protection at the basket isn’t as good. That puts a bigger emphasis on our guys outside to have to stop the penetration. Because KP can block shots in there, but then his man may be doing stuff on the weak side. So I think we’re better in the long run when you have two big guys down there — KP and somebody else defensively.”

“We have three capable centers in Jo and Kyle and Willy played really well in Denver so if we play KP more at the 5 it kind of takes away those minutes,” Hornacek said.

Those three bigs are Joakim Noah, Kyle O’Quinn, and Willy Hernangomez, and Horacek has used all three fairly regularly. Porzingis is basically treated as a stretch four, albeit one who can block shots. He’s gotten run at the five with Jennings and had success, but it such a small sample size it’s hard to read too much into it.

Porzingis at center isn’t going to work against every team and every lineup — he’s going to struggle to defend guys like Andre Drummond, for example — but it can cause a lot more problems for the opposing team most nights than it creates. New York just seems loathe to embrace that, and when you have Noah aging before your eyes, of course, you want to get him as much run as possible. Why not use Porzingis at the five sort of like a death lineup for 10-14 minutes a night? Try it with different combinations.

You can watch Porzingis use his 7’3″ frame to try to block shots from the lilliputian Isaiah Thomas on Christmas Day. That will be entertaining. And with the Celtics, you can see what an offense looks like when the center can space the floor.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

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The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat value.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.

LeBron James still striving to surpass Michael Jordan

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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LeBron James has discussed chasing Michael Jordan’s “ghost,” motivating himself by trying surpass Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history.

Just 27 points behind Jordan for the all-time playoff scoring lead – a record he could break in Cavaliers-Celtics Game 5 tonight – LeBron is again discussing that pursuit.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“It’s just a personal goal of mine,” James said Thursday before Cavs shootaround in preparation of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics. “It has nothing to do with passing the rings, passing the points, passing MVPs. It’s just my personal goal to keep me motivated — that’s all.”

“You guys are going to have the conversations about who is greatest of all time and things of that nature,” James said. “It doesn’t matter to me. At the end of the day, it’s so funny that the conversation is always talked about in the NBA about who is the greatest but it’s never talked about in the NFL about who is the greatest quarterback. It’s just like: [Dan] Marino, [John] Elway, [Peyton] Manning and [Tom] Brady. All great quarterbacks, you know — and it should be the same for us.

Jordan or LeBron? Save your hot takes. LeBron just burnt them all.

The greatest quarterback of all time is never debated? Claiming that is now the hottest take in the entire realm of the Jordan-LeBron debate.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Kyrie Irving feeling ‘good’ after ankle injury

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BOSTON (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says that Kyrie Irving‘s left ankle is feeling “good” in advance of Cleveland’s Game 5 matchup Thursday night with the Celtics.

Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs’ morning shootaround.

The All-Star rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4 when he stepped on Terry Rozier‘s foot. Irving was able to stay on the floor and finish the game, scoring a career playoff-high 42 points.

Cleveland leads Boston 3-1 and can wrap up its third straight Eastern Conference title Thursday night.

Several Celtics are also fighting injuries as they try to stave off elimination.

Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a right hip pointer. Jae Crowder is probable with a left groin strain, and Amir Johnson is probable with a right shoulder sprain.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.