Dan Feldman

Isaih Thomas Introduced as New Knicks GM
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The Isiah Thomas-Jeff Hornacek-Knicks conspiracy theory

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Why did Phil Jackson – after all indications to the contrary – reach outside his coaching tree to hire Jeff Hornacek? The early spin is that the Knicks president likes the way Hornacek thinks the game.

But was Jackson fully behind the Hornacek hire?

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

Of course, there’s also the suggestion that the Hornacek hire came at the behest of Isiah Thomas, whose high school coach in Chicago, Gene Pingatore, has employed Hornacek’s father, John, as his lead assistant for 25 years.

This might not be fair. Jeff Hornacek has been involved in basketball for decades and has established many connections. Add degrees of separation, and you can connect him to thousands of people. One of them being Isiah Thomas isn’t necessarily relevant here.

But as long as Knicks owner James Dolan continues to give Thomas jobs – Knicks president, Knicks coach, Knicks consultant, something, Liberty president – and express his personal affinity for Thomas, people will speculate. Dolan invites it.

The Knicks are the only team in the NBA where you can’t be sure the guy being paid $12 million per year to run basketball operations is truly running basketball operations.

Stephen Curry, Warriors knot series with Thunder

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Stephen Curry comes at you fast.

Curry – who was playing with a knot on his elbow after diving into the crowd for a loose ball – went on a 15-2 run in 1:58 of the third quarter, propelling the Warriors to a 118-91 Game 2 win in the Western Conference finals Wednesday. The series is now tied 1-1 with Game 3 Sunday in Oklahoma City.

The only possible gripe about Curry’s outburst was that he was moving so quickly on a fastbreak, he skidded past the 3-point arc when pulling up for a long jumper. Still hit the shot, though.

And now the Warriors have to feel much better about their shot of returning to the Finals. No, they’re not out of the woods against a strong Oklahoma City team. Not even close. Remember, the Thunder beat the Spurs after losing Game 1 by 32.

But the Warriors looked like themselves tonight. Curry scored 28 points, and Golden State made 13-of-28 3-pointers (46%). Heck, the Warriors even took a page from Oklahoma, outrebounding the Thunder, who’ve dominated the glass.

Golden State couldn’t successfully expose Enes Kanter in Game 1, and Steven Adams‘ defense looks here to stay – even against this elite challenge. But the Warriors lit up Serge Ibaka, taking advantage of his slow-footedness on the perimeter and half-step-too-slow rotations inside.

Russell Westbrook (16 points on 14 shots, 12 assists) wasn’t as aggressive as usual, and though Kevin Durant scored 29 points on 18 shots, Golden State pestered him into eight turnovers.

That’s far too ordinary by the standards of those superstars – especially against a team that’s anything but ordinary.

The Warriors have now gone 98 games without losing two straight. They’re 14-0 after losses in that span. They haven’t lost consecutive home games since January 2014.

It wasn’t a forgone conclusion Golden State would bounce back from a Game 1 loss tonight, but this team is not easily tamed. Even if you think you have them bottled up, they’ll demoralize you — quickly.

By the time Curry’s third-quarter run ended, the Thunder were effectively out of this game. Now, the pressure turns to them to prove they have the resolve to fight back themselves.

Carmelo Anthony on playing in Olympics: ‘Can’t stop now’

US forward Carmelo Anthony celebrates af
MARK RALSTON/AFP/GettyImages
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Carmelo Anthony said he looked forward to playing in the 2016 Olympics. He later affirmed his desire to play in the Rio Games. And a report emerged Anthony agreed to play for Team USA.

But the Knicks forward then said he was undecided.

If he’s still undecided – despite all indications, including his own statements, to the contrary – it doesn’t sound like it.

Anthony, via the Associated Press:

“Listen, I’ve been with USA Basketball since I was 16, 17 years old,” he said. “Can’t stop now.”

Anthony won gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and a bronze medal in the 2004 Games. Before that, he was a member of junior versions of Team USA.

If you were totally committed to building the best 12-man roster, I’m not sure Anthony – who turns 32 before Rio – would make the cut. But he has been so committed to USA Basketball and the Olympics bring out the best in his game. He has probably earned a semi-saved spot on the team.

And it really seems as if he’ll take it.

Report: Jazz expected to shop No. 12 pick for veteran point guard or wing

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 09:  Gordon Hayward #20 of the Utah Jazz celebrates withTrey Lyles #41 of the Utah Jazz and Raul Neto #25 of the Utah Jazz after shooting the game winning basket against Zaza Pachulia #27 of the Dallas Mavericks in overtime at American Airlines Center on February 9, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. The Utah Jazz beat the Dallas Mavericks 121-119. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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At 78-86, the Jazz have – by far – the best  record over the last two years without making the playoffs either season:

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Utah remains a young team and continue building patiently.

But maybe it’s time to cash in some chips – like the NO. 12 pick – for an immediate boost.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

For the second straight year, rival execs expect Utah to quietly gauge the market for its lottery pick in search of veteran help at point guard or on the wing. And for the second straight year, Utah will have trouble finding a player under the right sort of contract, and in the right age range, to make a deal worthwhile.

This went nowhere last year, so the Jazz drafted Trey Lyles – another young player in their arsenal full of them. I’m not as convinced as Lowe this year will produce similar results.

Utah could still get better in the short term at point guard, with Dante Exum just 20 and robbed by injury of a season of development. Another quality wing behind Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood could be useful.

Missing the playoffs a second time could also add temptation for an immediate upgrade, but the big difference is the salary cap.

Including the No. 12 pick, the Jazz are in line to have 15 players under contract and be about $19 million below the salary floor and $29 million below the the salary cap. That $19 million will get spent one way or another, whether it’s acquiring players in mid-season deals, restructuring contracts or paying the shortfall to players on the team (the only “punishment” for not meeting the floor).

So, why not spend it this summer to upgrade the roster for the entire season? Maybe that means free agency, though Utah isn’t traditionally the most appealing destination. Utah should  also be more open to accepting a highly paid player in a trade. The willingness to accept a less-than-desirable contract plus the No. 12 pick could yield a player who really helps on the floor now.

The Jazz are in a place where winning now must start to matter.

Report: Jeff Van Gundy no longer candidate for Rockets job

HOUSTON - APRIL 23:  Coach Jeff Van Gundy of the Houston Rockets on the sidelines while playing the Utah Jazz during Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Utah Jazz during the 2007 NBA Playoffs at the Toyota Center on April 23, 2007 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
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Favorite to out of consideration – the story of Jeff Van Gundy and the 2016 Rockets’ coaching search.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Van Gundy was reportedly viewed favorably by Houston general manager Daryl Morey, less so by owner Leslie Alexander. And that’s how it works. The owner is in charge.

Attention now turns to Mike D’Antoni, who had a second interview with the Rockets.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Mike D’Antoni has emerged as a front-runner for the Rockets’ coaching position though several steps have to still fall in place for him to land the job, a person with knowledge of the process said on Wednesday.

The individual, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the process, said that talks have been ongoing and that there are two other top candidates for the position.

It’s unclear whether Van Gundy was one of those two other top candidates. So, there could be one or two other competitors besides D’Antoni.

The job might not be D’Antoni’s yet, but based on what we know, it’s hard to predict anyone else will get it.