Dan Feldman

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Rumor: Knicks players still skeptical of Jeff Hornacek after he let Phil Jackson demand triangle

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Former Knicks president Phil Jackson hired Jeff Hornacek – who had no experience coaching the triangle offense – and forced the scheme on Hornacek at different points to varying degrees.

Players grumbled about Hornacek, as they tend to do on losing teams. Hornacek kept touting the triangle, appeasing his boss.

Now, Jackson is out, and Hornacek remains. The coach is seemingly free to implement the up-tempo system he used to better effect with the Suns.

But Hornacek isn’t exactly working from a blank slate, as Ian Begley of ESPN explained on The Woj Pod.

Adrian Wojnarowski:

Was Hornacek compromised in the locker room last year because players thought he was just a puppet of Phil? He was running an offense that they knew he didn’t want to run, that Phil was guiding a lot of his decision-making and that they thought maybe, “Our coach isn’t strong enough to stand up for what he believes in because” – that’s part of Phil hired him and puts him in a difficult position because of what he wants him to do and how he wants him to run things. He doesn’t have to run the triangle anymore. He can run what he wants. Does that give him something in the locker room he didn’t have a year ago?

Begley:

I’ll say this, Woj: I can’t speak for every player in there last year, but there were guys who shared those opinions the way you just laid it out. Just, because there was so much vacillation throughout the course of the season about, how much are we going to run the triangle? Is Jeff going to be able to open up, which he did early in the season? But then you look at around the All-Star break. They started running more triangle, and it was clearly Phil’s influence. So, players looked at that, and they saw Jeff as not having enough authority to kind of stand up and say, “Hey, Phil, I’m coaching the team. This is how I want to run the offense. This is what I want to do.” I think if Jeff took that approach, he would have won this locker room over. But he didn’t, and I think that hurt him. So, that doesn’t go away – right? – just because Phil is not here. I think that impression, just from the few guys who shared it with me, I think is still there. I think Jeff has to show himself to be his own man this year, and I think every opportunity is there for him to do that. But he’s certainly under a microscope.

Phil was not going to be able to fire Jeff Hornacek last year. There’s no way that Jim Dolan was going to be paying Derek Fisher and Jeff Hornacek to sit at home while he pays another coach to coach the team.

So, Jeff had the juice, right? He had the latitude to kind of put his foot down. And again, I think if he did that, the players would have rallied around him. I think that he could have got the locker room behind him if he took that stance. He didn’t take that stance, and now, again, he’s left in a difficult position where I think he’s under the microscope from a management perspective.

Hornacek doesn’t seem adept at playing politics, which is hardly a bad thing to say about a person. But sometimes it’s part of the job.

Defying his boss would have been far easier said than done. Maybe Jackson couldn’t have fired Hornacek immediately, but every indication was that Jackson would remain in New York for years. Hornacek appeared terribly positioned to challenge Jackson’s authority.

Unfortunately for Hornacek, he can’t escape these games. He’s now working for Steve Mills, who didn’t hire him. Rumors are already swirling about David Blatt becoming the Knicks’ next coach. If Hornacek wanted avoid drama, he shouldn’t have taken a job anywhere near James Dolan or New York.

The best thing Hornacek can do now is coach well, and the removal of Jackson’s triangle meddling should help. If Hornacek’s offense is effective, players will get behind him.

But have you seen this roster? Tactical changes alone won’t produce immediate positive results, and losing tends to get pinned on the coach – especially when players are already apprehensive of him and management didn’t hire him.

Hornacek is fighting an uphill battle now, and he can partially blame Jackson.

Michael Jordan: ‘I don’t know if I could’ve survived in this Twitter time’

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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LeBron James is too soft to have played in Michael Jordan’s era.

That’s at least the thinking of many retrograde fans and former players.

But maybe Jordan – a notorious gambler with plenty of long nights under his belt – wouldn’t have made it today.

Jordan speaking about Tiger Woods, via Cigar Aficionado:

I don’t know if I could’ve survived in this Twitter time, where you don’t have the privacy that you would want and what seems to be very innocent can always be misinterpreted.

I think LeBron would have excelled in the 90s and Jordan would have been great today, but each would have faced adjustments in playing style and lifestyle.

Mostly, I just appreciate the rare vulnerability from Jordan. How will his fans cope?

Draymond Green: Everybody panicking, knows they don’t have a chance against Warriors

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Draymond Green is outspoken.

That’s on full display in Clay Skipper’s GQ profile of the Warriors star. Green’s groin kicks, arrest and comfort in his role are all discussed. Green is nothing if not unapologetically Green throughout.

A sample:

Ten days after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers to win his second NBA title, 27-year-old Draymond Green still has some shit to talk. He’s in the brick-walled New York offices of Maverick Carter, LeBron James’ longtime business partner, here to film a promo video for a celebrity soccer game in which he’ll coach a team opposite Drake.

“They didn’t stand a fucking chance,” he says of the Cavs, who lost in five games. “It pissed me off we didn’t sweep them, though.”

Hours after I talk to Green, the Bulls will trade Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Six days later, Chris Paul will join James Harden in Houston. The rest of the summer plays out like a very athletic game of Red Rover: Paul George and Melo head to Oklahoma City; Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward join the Boston Celtics; Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade link up with LeBron in Cleveland. Eight marquee players—who have combined for forty-five total all-star selections—switch homes, the very landscape of the league changing in the shadow of the growing juggernaut in the Bay Area.

And, here in Tribeca, before any of it happens, Draymond Green knows it’s coming.

“It’s so funny sitting back and watching this shit,” he starts, before pausing to pull his phone out of his jeans, looking through the Golden State Warriors’ group chat. (The team has one, and the Hampton Five—Green, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Kevin Durant, the five guys that were in the Hamptons in the summer of 2016 to recruit KD—has another.) He wants to relay something that Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey had said in an interview, reacting to the Warriors’ title. The team had texted it to each other: “They are not unbeatable. There have been bigger upsets in sports history. We are going to keep improving our roster. We are used to long odds. If Golden State makes the odds longer, we might up our risk profile and get even more aggressive. We have something up our sleeve.”

Then he pauses, scoffing at Morey’s comments.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” he says to me. “They are really trying to rethink their whole strategy”—here he bumps a table repeatedly with his hand for emphasis, getting excited—“because teams know they don’t have a fucking clue.”

On a roll now, he remembers the Warriors’ lone playoff loss, in Game 4 of the Finals, when the Cavs sank twenty-four three-pointers, an NBA Finals record.

“That’d never been done!” Green exclaims. “They don’t come out and hit twenty-four threes and they’re swept. And that’s the second best team in the world. It’s pretty fucking sick to see how everybody is just in a fucking panic about what to do. You sit back and think, like, these motherfuckers, they know. That’s the fun part about it: They know they don’t stand a chance.”

Post-title gloat aside, Green is not about to do what LeBron did seven years ago, after his talents arrived in South Beach to join Chris Bosh, D-Wade, and set this NBA arms race into motion. He’s not going to say that he and his super bros won’t be happy with just one ring (or four, or five, or six).

“At the end of the day, it’s hard as hell to win a championship,” says Green. “To say, ‘Yeah, if we don’t do this, we failed?’ No the fuck [we] didn’t. We won a championship. We are champions forever. If I never win another championship, I will forever be called: Draymond Green, NBA fucking champion.”

The Warriors have an odd problem: They want to gloat about their dominance, but everyone accepts their inevitability – and blames them for it! Since signing Kevin Durant, Golden State is treated like an invincible villain.

I argued assuming the Warriors would win last year’s title was ignoring history. Overwhelming favorites tend not to live up to the hype. Winning a champion is hard as hell. But the way Golden State dominated, those pleas – even if they were correct – will fall on deaf ears.

So, Green is trying to play both sides – bragging about winning a league that everyone believes is stacked in the Warriors’ favor. If he figures out how to do that, I’ll truly be impressed by his gabbing ability.

Report: Heat’s Rodney McGruder out 3-6 months with leg injury

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After going undrafted out of Kansas State in 2013, Rodney McGruder climbed into the NBA last season. With the Heat, he even worked his way into the starting lineup and appeared likely to keep his job at small forward this season.

But this is a devastating setback.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The 26-year-old McGruder is in his prime earning years, but he’s so cheap – partially guaranteed at the minimum this season, unguaranteed at the minimum next season – the Heat will probably keep him. They’ll just have to adjust their rotation and hope this isn’t a season-ender.

McGruder balanced the starting lineup, comprised of other players more comfortable with the ball in their hands. He just made enough open 3-pointers to stay on the court, where he focused on playing rugged defense. Without him, Miami must adjust to a new dynamic.

Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow are in line for more minutes at small forward now. Richardson is the far better shooter, but there will be diminishing returns on his playmaking while sharing the court with Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters. Winslow brings defense, but his shooting is a liability.

Trickling down, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson, Waiters and Dragic can collectively cover the minutes Richardson would have spent in the backcourt.

Miami is built to withstand this loss. It’s still a bummer, though.

Report: Phil Jackson reportedly floored multiple free agents with unpreparedness in meetings

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Remember that time former Knicks president Phil Jackson reportedly couldn’t get his computer to work during a free-agent pitch meeting? That was just an isolated gaffe, right?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I heard some horror stories about Phil in presentation situations with players – unprepared, just disorganized. And sometimes, he’d have Steve Mills in there, who’d try to re-direct him. But I know of a couple players who walked out of meetings in a couple different free-agent scenarios and, “Wow, that was Phil Jackson? That’s now how I imagined he’d be.”

At least he showed up and stayed awake (I think).