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Knicks president Steve Mills trying to add ‘calmness to what had been a little bit of a crazy environment’

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NEW YORK (AP) Carmelo Anthony is gone. Phil Jackson is gone.

The losing appears here to stay.

The New York Knicks have entered a rebuilding mode, with new president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry touting the team’s youth even before they had traded Anthony on the eve of training camp.

The young players might be ready to win in a couple years, but for now, it looks like another long season inside Madison Square Garden.

“The whole talk for us is it’s a start for us to instill a culture of playing as hard as you can, trying to play together as a team,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We don’t necessarily have these superstars that have been in the league for many years carrying our team. We’ve got to do it collectively.”

That will fall on players such as Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Willy Hernangomez, rookie Frank Ntilikina and center Enes Kanter, who was acquired from Oklahoma City in the trade for Anthony.

The Jackson-Anthony drama hung over the Knicks last season and into the summer, with the team president making it clear he wanted to move on from the All-Star forward. But before he could, the Knicks moved on from Jackson, who couldn’t build a playoff roster in his three seasons. Mills was promoted and he has taken aim at cleaning up the mess within the organization.

“Part of my job is to try to add some sense of calmness to what had been a little bit of a crazy environment that we’ve been going through,” Mills said. “So I think that we have a good group of people here.”

But it’s a group that looks incapable of defending, and it will be hard to outscore its ineptitude on that end without the 40 points per game the Knicks lost when they traded Anthony and let Derrick Rose leave.

So they could be even worse than last season’s 31-51 finish, but at least some of the dysfunction could be gone. Fans seemed fed up with it under Jackson, so maybe they’ll accept a team that loses quietly if they see growth on the court without the circus off it.

“They want to see effort, they want to see tenacity, they want to see hard work and they just want to see us not backing down from anybody,” Hardaway said. “The icing on the cake is winning ballgames. That’s what we want to do and that’s our goal, to win ballgames, and win as many as possible to see ourselves looking towards the end of the season where we can find ourselves in the postseason.”

Some things to watch with the Knicks:

KRISTAPS’ KNICKS: Porzingis left frustrated, blowing off his exit interview before returning to Latvia for the summer. The third-year forward came back as the face of the franchise, returning to New York the day Anthony left for Oklahoma City.

FRANK FROM FRANCE: Jackson’s last big move was drafting the 19-year-old Ntilikina with the No. 8 pick. It’s hard to tell yet what the Knicks have in the French point guard, who missed summer league with an injury and then most of preseason when he was hurt again.

HARDAWAY’S HERE: Mills’ first big move was to give Hardaway a $71-million deal to return to New York after Jackson traded the former first-round pick to Atlanta two years earlier. His game grew with the Hawks, and the Knicks believe he’s ready for a bigger role now.

SPEED IT UP: Jackson’s triangle system is mostly gone, with Hornacek saying the Knicks want to open up the offense more in hopes of getting more easy shots.

JOAKIM’S JOB: Joakim Noah‘s forgettable first season of a $72-million deal ended with him serving a suspension for violating the anti-drug policy. It continues into this season and it’s unclear where he fits after that in a center rotation that also includes Kanter, Hernangomez, Kyle O'Quinn and sometimes Porzingis.

 

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.