Dan Feldman

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Report: Marcus Keene, top college scorer in 20 years, declaring for NBA draft

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Marcus Keene averaged 30.0 points per game this season – the most in Division I college basketball in the last 20 years.

He’s also 5-foot-9 and played at Central Michigan.

How will the NBA square those factors? We’ll find out.

Larry Lage of the Associated Press:

A person familiar with the decision tells The Associated Press that the nation’s leading scorer, Marcus Keene, is entering the NBA draft.

Keene benefits from Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas having maybe the best-ever season by a sub-6-foot player. Though Keene should be evaluated on his own merits, Thomas’ success will – implicitly or explicitly – frame evaluations of Keene.

Perhaps a better comparison is another 5-foot-9 point guard who produced huge numbers at a Michigan mid-major: Kay Felder, the Cavaliers rookie who was the No. 54 pick out of Oakland.

Keene holds up as a scorer. He can pull up from anywhere, including deep beyond the college 3-point arc, and bury shots. His floater will likely be a useful tool in the pros, where rim protectors are bigger.

But Felder averaged nearly twice as many assists per minute. Some of that is context-dependent. Oakland built a supporting cast around Felder and asked him to initiate all the offense. Central Michigan had other creators around Keene, who transferred from Youngstown State. On the other hand, Central Michigan played at an extremely fast tempo, offering more opportunities to rack up assists (and points, for that matter). Keene showed some distributing ability, but not enough to erase questions.

Felder also flashed pesky defense in college, even if his overall effort on that level was lacking amid his huge offensive burden. Keene has shown far less defensively, and his size is obviously a major concern.

Lastly, Felder excelled against top competition. Keene – 1-for-4 against Pitt as a freshman, 2-for-9 against Texas A&M as a sophomore, 9-for-23 against Illinois as a redshirt junior – struggled in, admittedly limited, action against major foes.

And Felder is no lock to succeed in the NBA. He was Cleveland’s point guard behind Kyrie Irving while LeBron James was extolling the need for another point guard.

Keene is coming off an impressive season, but for someone bound to reach the NBA, excelling in the Mid-American Conference at age 21 is expected. He’s in the running to be a second-round pick. Despite his gaudy scoring, that’s his standing as a prospect.

Chris Paul on Rudy Gobert: ‘He just talks a lot’

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The Jazz and Clippers are on pace to meet in the first round – which would be a heck of series that early in the playoffs.

Utah’s net rating (+5.2 points per 100 possessions) is better than any team in the Eastern Conference, and net rating tends to better predict playoff success than record. Despite earlier injury woes, L.A. is still loaded with talent: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Adding to the intrigue: It seems these teams are growing to dislike each other.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert fanned the flames, tangling with Redick and Paul in Utah’s 114-108 win over the Clippers on Monday.

Jody Genessy of the Deseret News:

Jazz coach Quin Snyder rushed to the opposite end of the court to usher Gobert away from Paul and the Clippers after the final confrontation, which happened as Utah veteran Joe Johnson hit a game-clinching corner 3.

The Clippers didn’t appreciate Gobert’s antics, which reportedly included his pointing at the scoreboard.

“It was just a little tussle,” Paul said about his run-in with Gobert. “I’m not worried about him. He can play, but he just talks a lot.”

Paul being a talker shouldn’t preclude him from calling someone else a talker. Remember, Paul is downplaying the incident, not chastising Gobert.

So, don’t call Paul a hypocrite. Just get excited for the potential playoff matchup.

Report: Knicks won’t fire Jeff Hornacek

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Has Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek earned the respect of his players? Some evidence suggests no.

Has Hornacek earned the respect Knicks fans? New York’s 27-41 record says no.

Has Hornacek earned the respect of Knicks president Phil Jackson? Hornacek is saying everything he can to make the answer yes.

Newsflash: Appeasing your boss matters.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Despite the Knicks’ brutal record and growing input of Phil Jackson, who reversed the head coach’s offense, Jeff Hornacek’s job is safe, according to an NBA source.

When Jackson fired Derek Fisher in February 2016, during the coach’s second season, it was not because of a poor win-loss record. Sources insist Fisher was dismissed because of his lack of communication with Jackson, failing to respond to Jackson’s emails promptly and a passive-aggressive resistance to Jackson being involved with coaching aspects.

Hornacek, according to an NBA source, gets high grades on both counts — maintaining a strong rapport with Jackson and associate head coach Kurt Rambis, Jackson’s longtime compatriot.

“Phil can’t afford to fire [Hornacek] and bring in a new coach,’’ said another NBA source, who has spoken to Jackson.

James Dolan has pledged to keep Jackson, but that doesn’t mean the Knicks owner will give Jackson carte blanche. Firing another coach wouldn’t reflect well on the franchise (and it’d cost money).

But the problem isn’t firing coaches. Its hiring coaches who should be fired so quickly.

Hornacek might be a solid coach. But how good can he be if Jackson demands Hornacek run the triangle, a scheme Hornacek never coached before? How good can Hornacek be if he’s caught in the middle of the discord between Jackson and Carmelo Anthony?

Leaving Hornacek in place won’t magically fix those issues. It might just delay the Knicks finding a coach who can work successfully with Jackson.

But an even better solution than firing Hornacek: Finding a president who doesn’t have such a shallow pool of coaches who can work well with him.

76ers’ D-League team to wear Pink Power Ranger jerseys (photo)

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While everyone else wears green tomorrow, the 76ers’ D-League team, the Delaware 87ers, are going a different route for their game against the Salt Lake City Stars.

87ers release:

The Pink Power Ranger costume character is scheduled to be in attendance to meet and greet fans. Sevens players will wear custom uniforms inspired by the Pink Ranger’s iconic design featured in Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The game-worn, autographed jerseys will later be available to fans in an auction, which will benefit March of Dimes.

Wait. Power Rangers is on Nickelodeon now?

Isaiah Thomas missing Celtics’ upcoming road trip

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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The second-place Celtics are trying to fend off the Wizards (1.5 games back) and maybe even catch the Cavaliers (two games up).

Boston will have to battle for position this weekend without its best player, Isaiah Thomas.

Celtics:

Boston beat the Magic by 30 in the first game Thomas missed this season, prompting far too many questions about whether the Celtics were better without him. Then they lost their other three games without Thomas: vs. Raptors, at Thunder, at Spurs.

Thomas is excellent, in the midst of arguably the best season ever by a sub-6-foot player. Whatever his shortcomings, particularly defensively, he brings far more positives.

That said, the Celtics have shown an ability to outplay lousy teams, and their opponents this weekend – Nets on Friday, 76ers on Sunday – qualify. Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier can handle point-guard duties in Thomas’ absence.

Boston might have to experiment with its biggest star sidelined, but that’s not so bad.