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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.

 

Knicks shut out Carmelo Anthony in 2nd half, beat Thunder 111-96

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NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony‘s return to Madison Square Garden was much like the 6 1/2 years he spent playing for the Knicks.

A video played on the overhead scoreboard as part of a huge welcome from the fans and franchise, followed by a fast start that gave Anthony hope he could have everything he wanted.

Then things fell flat until the finish.

The Knicks shut out their former All-Star in the second half and beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-96 on Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling for me, coming back here knowing the goal that I had and what I wanted to accomplish here and falling short in that category,” Anthony said.

Michael Beasley tied his season high with 30 points in place of injured Kristaps Porzingis, and Doug McDermott, acquired with Enes Kanter for Anthony, added 11 of his 13 after halftime to help the Knicks break open the game.

“This game was kind (of) about him and I thought we did a really good job of not letting that distract us and just focus on winning the game,” McDermott said. “And it felt great, especially being a part of the trade (with) Enes.

Anthony scored 12 points in the first half but was 0 for 5 after, perhaps low on energy after the Thunder’s three-overtime victory at Philadelphia a night earlier.

He made a 3-pointer for the Thunder’s first basket of the game after refocusing following a video tribute that caught him off guard, but finished 5 of 18 from the field as the Knicks played with passion and precision they lacked in Anthony’s final years in New York.

“You got to beat the best to be the best,” Beasley said. “He’s one of the best of our era.”

Russell Westbrook had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Thunder, who were trying to sweep a three-game trip that began with Paul George‘s winning return to Indiana on Wednesday.

But they couldn’t deliver a victory for Anthony back at Madison Square Garden, even with the Knicks playing without leading scorer Porzingis because of a knee injury.

“I think the guys just, they were ready for tonight’s game,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “And we caught them after a triple-overtime game so that probably helped us too, but our guys played hard all night which probably wore them down.”

Anthony received a pair of loud cheers during pregame introductions, before and at the end of a video tribute showing his highlights on the court and his charitable efforts off it that was played after the first four Thunder starters were announced. But the boos became more noticeable once play got underway, and soon they were coming every time he touched the ball.

“That was expected,” Anthony said. “They can’t cheer for me, I’m on another team.”

Later, the cheers were all for the Knicks, who after trading their leading scorer on the eve of training camp are a surprising 16-13 – better than Anthony’s new team (14-15). Anthony was booed one last time as he was removed with 1.4 seconds remaining.

Beasley had a hand in 12 of the Knicks’ final 15 points of the third quarter, scoring nine himself and assisting on Ron Baker‘s 3-pointer. That turned a two-point lead into an 80-73 advantage over the final 3 1/2 minutes of the period.

The Knicks pushed it into double digits in the fourth behind five straight points from McDermott – originally it was six by a 3-pointer was changed to a 2 after review – and he later made it 100-87 with a 3-pointer with 6:02 remaining.

The Thunder played without starting center Steven Adams because of a concussion.

 

Manu Ginobili game-winner caps 13-0 closing run to rally Spurs past Mavericks

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — At 40 years old, Manu Ginobili‘s refusal to slow down in his 16th season with the Spurs has been a source of inspiration to the team’s young core.

The man and the mantra helped propel San Antonio to an improbable victory over Dallas on Saturday night.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and 14 rebounds and the Spurs scored the final 13 points of the game, rallying for a 98-96 victory over the Mavericks.

Aldridge’s fall-away, 11-foot jumper tied the game at 96 with 23.4 seconds remaining and Ginobili’s driving layup with 3.1 seconds was the game-winning shot.

“He’s our grandpa,” 21-year-old Dejounte Murray said, chuckling afterwards. “He’s a beast, man. You’ve all seen what he’s done for this organization and he’s still around giving his wisdom to all the new guys. To see him coming in every day, I mean there’s not one day I’ve seen Manu not show up at the facility. Being a young guy, I’ve got to be there every day.”

Ginobili’s layup off the left side of the glass gave the Spurs their first lead of the game after trailing by as many as 16 points.

“We did a lot of good things, but the ending is unforgiveable,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.

Maxi Kleber had 21 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 19 for Dallas in the final regular season matchup between the Southwest Division rivals.

Kleber’s 3-pointer gave Dallas a 96-85 lead with 4:11 remaining, but the Spurs held them scoreless the remainder of the game.

The Mavericks drought included a turnover when Wes Matthews was unable to inbound the ball with 23.4 seconds remaining. Mathews threw the ball at Ginobili’s legs to avoid a 5-second violation, but the Spurs gained possession when the ball ricocheted off Matthews just as he stepped inbounds.

“We did everything right to lose,” Nowitzki said. “We missed shots offensively, bad turnover, gave them some offensive rebounds. Letting Ginobili go left down the stretch to lay it in. We literally had to do everything perfect to lose this one and we did.”

Aldridge had his 12th double-double of the season to help offset the absences of starters Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Danny Green.

Coming off a 15-point blowout in Houston on Friday night, San Antonio was able to avoid its third straight loss.

“We played with everybody in Houston and hoped to play a good game in which we could grow and learn from our mistakes while playing against the best team in the NBA right now and I don’t think we got anything out of it,” Ginobili said. “So, if after that poor effort we came here and played badly again and lost, it would’ve been a tough one. We are proud of this win.”

The Spurs missed their first five shots, all short jumpers from Aldridge and Pau Gasol, on their way to shooting 30 percent in the opening quarter. The Mavericks took advantage, charging to a 31-18 lead after the first quarter.

San Antonio’s reserves reversed the team’s fortunes in the third quarter.

Davis Bertans finished with 13 points and Ginobili added 12 off the bench.

 

LeBron James finishes left-handed alley-oop with head behind backboard

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We have reached the point with LeBron James and his legendary career that the incredible almost seems ordinary — he has made our jaws drop so many times it’s hard for him to clear the bar of amazing anymore.

He did Saturday night against Utah.

In transition, LeBron gave up the ball to Jeff Green, who returned the favor with an alley-oop pass. Just not a particularly good one, it was behind James.

So he reaches back with his left hand and throws it down as he ducks his head under the backboard. Then LeBron stops and stares at his left hand, like he can’t believe what he just did.

We can’t either.

Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.