Courtney Lee

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Jeff Hornacek, Knicks coaches to handle defensive plans this season

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On veteran teams, with high-IQ players, coaches often will lean on players to help with the game plan. Especially defensively. Veteran defenders know the tendencies of their opponents (having played them so many times) and can offer suggestions on what works and what doesn’t.

Jeff Hornacek came from one of those teams as a player, so he tried to do it with the Knicks last season as their coach. That would be the Knicks who ranked 25th in defensive efficiency last season. It didn’t work out so well.

This season the coaching staff in NYC is taking over the defensive game plans, Hornacek told Ian Begley of ESPN.

“We’re not doing that this year,” Hornacek said Monday. “When we go to shoot around that (defensive) plan will be in place. We’ll know the adjustments, instead of trying to give the guys the idea, ‘Hey, you guys play, you guys know these guys. What’s the best way to do it?'” Hornacek added that he may have made a mistake in giving players that leeway last season. “I played on teams that had great veteran players. We had a basic thing, but most of the time it was, ‘Okay, I’m going to be doing this, you’re going to be doing this and we worked it out.’ That’s maybe what I thought we’d be able to do last year with the guys. But that’s, we found out that didn’t work the best for us. This year we worked all summer to try to figure these things out.”

The Knicks defense should be better in part because of personnel, with guys like Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Frank Ntilikina, Kristaps Porzingis, and Willy Hernangomez in the rotation. However, it’s really about having a clear, simple plan for these guys to execute nightly and making them stick to it. Effort matters. The Knicks aren’t going to defend like the Spurs or Warriors, but they can be better. That should make Knicks fans feel a little less hopeless.

If they’re not, Hornacek’s seat will get a little hotter.

Michael Beasley on college basketball scandal: “you guys are just catching on”

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Michael Beasley was a highly recruited high school basketball player out of Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., who went on to play his college ball at the Kansas State then eventually became the No. 2 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.

He’s been the focus of recruiting battles, not unlike the ones that have taken down Rick Pitino at Louisville and led to former NBA Rookie of the Year Chuck Person being arrested.

Is this a massive scandal or just business as usual in college sports? Beasley told reporters more of the latter. He told the USA Today that reporters and prosecutors are just starting to catch on — and said college players should get paid.

“Man, you guys are just catching on. And that’s all I gotta say….

“My jerseys. They sell my jerseys. Not just me but what about Kentucky and Anthony Davis. USC and O.J. Mayo. Western Kentucky and Courtney Lee. We bring a lot to these schools and we can’t even park in front of the arenas for games. They still make us, as freshmen, park two parking lots away from the dorm rooms in the freezing cold. So do I think that guys need to be compensated for their work? Yes. Because most of us don’t make it to this level. A lot of us don’t make it to the professional level, let alone the NBA. So I do think guys should be getting paid. The NCAA is making billions: not just off basketball but off football and soccer – by the way, golf players get paid. Tennis players get paid. There are athletes getting paid at the college level. We’re just not one of them.”

For the record, Beasley said he did not get paid to go to K-State.

Also, for the record, pretty much every sports fan knows this goes on as common practice, we just turn a blind eye.

College basketball is a massive business built on a model of free labor, Beasley is right about that. Schools and the NCAA, make big money — and that’s not to mention universities luring donors to the university and stoking alumni — and while the players do get a free education (those that take advantage of it), that cost is a fraction of what the teams bring in. The NCAA’s efforts at amateurism create a black market that has shoe companies funneling money to players and coaches to get a recruit to Louisville (or has Louisville assistant coaches hiring strippers to “entertain” guys on recruiting visits). Don’t make the mistake of just singling out Louisville or Adidas schools, this is widespread. And it goes on in college football, too.

That said, I’d be shocked if we see players get paid in our lifetime. There would be too much pushback from the universities, not to mention people whose minds are stuck in the 1950s. Plus, there are a lot of questions that go with it — college softball players put in long hours and travel for their sport and to represent the university, should they be compensated as well? If so, how much? And we can go on down the line of college sports.

 

Knicks reportedly could add Trey Burke, Jarrett Jack for camp

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The Knicks have the aging veteran Ramon Sessions, the rookie Frank Ntilikina, and the wildly overpaid Ron Baker to play the point this season, all on guaranteed deals. Not thrilling options, but that’s your point guard core (with maybe some Chasson Randle in the mix, too, although his salary is not guaranteed until the first day of training camp, Sept. 26).

But they could add another guard for training camp and Ian Begley of ESPN threw out some interesting names.

Jack is a good veteran but is coming off multiple knee surgeries, the latest of which was last March after he had gotten a 10-day contract with the Pelicans. Burke washed out in Washington as a backup point guard after he had not panned out for Utah, either.

The Knicks are fairly set at both guard spots — Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee will split the bulk of the time at the two — but they are looking for guys for camp. New York has 14 guaranteed roster spots, if Randle is there when camp opens it’s 15 and there are no more openings.

Report: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum did “good job of recruiting” Carmelo Anthony

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According to every report and every source, as of right now Carmelo Anthony will only waive his no-trade clause for the Houston Rockets.

That doesn’t mean plenty of people are not trying to get ‘Melo to broaden that list. The Knicks certainly are. So have been the Portland Trail Blazers, in the persons of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN Radio’s The Russillo Show,

Wojnarowski had said before that Portland was a dark horse in the chase.

Lillard and McCollum have been public about it and worked hard to get Anthony to put Portland in the mix. So far to no avail, but the pair apparently has not given up.

Portland has the salary to make a trade work, particularly if the Knicks take on Evan Turner plus another rotation player, although with Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr. on the roster that may not work for New York. To match the salaries the Blazers could do Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu’s and Ed Davis, plus the Blazers can throw in picks and maybe one of their recent draftees. But I can’t see the Knicks taking on Leonard. Also, if the Knicks want a quality young player or if the Trail Blazers want to shed Leonard they will need a third team.

You could ask at this point how picky can the Knicks be, unless they want to bring ‘Melo into to training camp? However, GM Scott Perry has made it clear the Knicks are willing do just that.

All of this is fun speculation, but also moot if Anthony doesn’t add Portland to his list of destinations. So far, he has not.

 

Report: Knicks interested in Kyrie Irving trade, but Kristaps Porzingis is off the table

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Kyrie Irving wants out of LeBron James‘ shadow and has asked for a trade in what seems a preemptive “if he’s going to leave then I’m going to leave first” kind of move.

Irving also gave the Cavaliers a list of preferred destinations. Which is nice. Irving doesn’t have a no-trade clause, he has no real power in these negotiations because he has two years on his deal — it is basically a child’s Christmas list to Santa starting with “a Dragon-themed Luxury Playhouse.”

The Knicks are on Irving’s preferred list, and they are interested but know the team’s best player is off the table, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

The Knicks, obviously, have strong interest in Kyrie Irving (just like 29 other teams) but I’m told people in the Knicks front office would not be willing at this point to include Kristaps Porzingis in a trade. Some with the organization would be willing to include future first-round picks and Carmelo Anthony in a deal for Irving, per league sources.

A few thoughts here. At the top of the list, this is the absolutely right and only call for the Knicks, no way KP is available. And on social media, Porzingis liked a fan’s tweet of Irving in a Knicks’ uniform, so we know what he is thinking.

We know Carmelo would want to go to Cleveland, the question is would the Cavaliers want him with Irving gone? If they feel LeBron is leaving next summer, would this help change that dynamic and help get the Cavaliers back to the Finals?

If I were in the Knicks front office, I’d pitch the Anthony idea (heck, I’d pitch a Joakim Noah trade too, just to lighten up the room with a laugh). Then we could talk about doing a trade without Anthony or Porzingis, which would mean picks, Courtney Lee, Willy Hernangomez, Frank Ntilikina, and another player to make the numbers work.

The Cavaliers can afford to be patient, and they aren’t beholden to Irving’s list. See if teams with young assets — Phoenix, Dallas, Denver, etc. — come up with better offers. Wait the market out, don’t rush. If no deal blows you away, move into the season with Irving.

The Knicks are as realistic an option as anything right now. The doors are wide open.