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Report: Knicks interested in trading for Suns’ P.J. Tucker

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The Knicks are a mess defensively. They have the fifth-worst defense in the NBA for the season, allowing 107.9 points per 100 possessions, and that has taken a step back to 110.3 per 100 during the current five-game losing streak. Assistant coach Kurt Rambis was given the task mid-season of taking over the defense, but with this roster — Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose are not exactly lock down defenders, and Joakim Noah is well past his Defensive Player of the Year prime if he could even stay healthy — it is like handing him a flank steak and asking him to turn it into a rib eye.

The Knicks are also just half a game out of the eight seed, and they know defense is the key to turning things around.

Which is why they are eyeing Phoenix’s physical wing defender P.J. Tucker in a trade, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

There could, however, be some roster changes ahead. The trade deadline is less than two months away, and the Knicks, like every other team in the NBA, are looking at their options. It doesn’t seem as if any move is imminent, but some members of the Knicks’ front office have labeled Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker as a potential trade target, league sources told ESPN.com.

The club is in need of tough defenders, and Tucker has earned a reputation as a strong defender over his five-year career. This season, he ranks 22nd among 80 qualified small forwards in ESPN’s defensive RPM. That might not seem like an elite measurement, but Tucker would certainly seem to be an upgrade for a Knicks club in need of one.

The Suns should be active sellers at the deadline — Brandon Knight could be had — and moving Tucker could mean more run for Dragan Bender. Which is a good thing.

The challenge for the Knicks is they have to give to get — the rebuilding (even if they won’t admit it) Suns will want young talent in return. If I were the Suns I would ask for Willy Hernangomez, and if I were the Knicks I would counter with Mindaugas Kuzminskas. Would Phil Jackson trade picks for a rental defender like Tucker and a playoff push?

Tucker is the final year of a contract paying him $5.3 million, so the Knicks would have to spend this summer to keep him.

The Knicks may not get Tucker, but keep an eye out for them to go after someone who can defend on the perimeter as the trade deadline approaches.

LeBron James gave Jrue Holiday some support before tip-off Monday

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Jrue Holiday missed the start of the NBA season as his wife — Lauren, a former Team USA soccer player with a gold medal and a World Cup title to her name — first gave birth to their child, then underwent brain surgery for a tumor. With the team’s blessing, he stayed home through camp and the start of the season to do the more important job of supporting his family. Fortunately, both mother and child are doing well.

Holiday is back the team now and, not coincidentally, the Pelicans are suddenly moving into the hunt for the final playoff spot in the West.

Before the Pelicans took on the Cavaliers on Monday, LeBron James approached Holiday to him and gave him a little tap on the chest. Dave McMenamin of ESPN asked the participants about it.

“When we heard about it, me and my family and my wife heard about it, we were in L.A. at the time in the offseason and we automatically had a prayer for her,” James told ESPN of Holiday’s situation. “This is a brotherhood, no matter if you’re on the same team or not, this is a fraternity. Our league is a fraternity. Any time someone’s family is going through a situation like that, you just hope the greater God above is looking out for him. So, I couldn’t wait to actually see him today.”

“Obviously to him, family means more than anything,” Holiday told ESPN. “And the same thing for me. So, the fact that they’ve been praying and supporting my wife is a blessing to me.”

That’s a classy move by LeBron.

There are a lot of us out here happy to see Holiday back on the court, and not just because of his play.

Check out Top 10 long distance shots of 2016 (VIDEO)

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You went back to work today and now you need a distraction. We completely understand.

How about guys sinking long-range bombs in NBA games. That work for you?

Above is a look back at the best long-distance shots of 2016 — the buzzer beaters that fell. There is some Lou Williams,  Vince Carter and Andre Drummond, but the top spots go to the ridiculous game winners — Emmanuel Mudiay and some guy named Stephen Curry.

First time Jason Kidd benched Giannis Antetokounmpo angry youngster decided to check Kidd’s career stats

Giannis Antetokounmpo
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If you grew up a hoops fan in America, you know who Jason Kidd is — NBA champion, gold medalist, six-time All-NBA, nine-time All-defensive, 10-time All-Star, future Hall of Famer and one of the great point guards ever to play the game. He’s now the Bucks’ coach.

Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t grow up in the United States.

Antetokounmpo’s adjustment from a guy playing in the Greek second division to budding NBA superstar — this year he should play in his first All-Star Game — is the focus of a brilliant feature by Lee Jenkins at Sports Illustrated. You should read the whole thing. But as an illustration of how little Antetokounmpo knew about the NBA, there is this anecdote from the story.

The first time Kidd benched him, Antetokounmpo was irate. “I was like, ‘Let’s see what this guy did in his career, anyway,’ ” Antetokounmpo recounts, and called up Kidd’s bio on his phone. “I saw Rookie of the Year, NBA championship, USA Olympic gold medal, second in assists, fifth in made threes, blah, blah, blah. I was like, ‘Jesus freaking Christ, how can I compete with that? I better zip it.’ ”

Kidd has come to trust Antetokounmpo more and more, and has unleashed him as a point guard in the Bucks offense (which is eighth best in the NBA this season). He has all the skills. He is a relentless driver of the lane — Antetokounmpo leads the NBA in points in the paint per game (more than DeMarcus Cousins, although Cousins does have a better outside shot). Antetokounmpo knows to finish, and he is a gifted passer learning how to run the offense.

Imagine how dangerous he will be when his jumper becomes consistent? Look at his shot chart for the season:

Antetokounmpo shot chart

Andrew Bogut to come off bench for Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki to start

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It only took a few minutes of Andrew Bogut and Dirk Nowitzki sharing the court to realize this was simply not going to work — that is two slow-footed big men who like to stay back in the paint, not push out on pick-and-rolls. Go up against a team with even mediocre shooting and that lineup will get exposed.

The solution? Move Bogut to the bench.

And it was his idea, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Mavs C Andrew Bogut will be coming off the bench for the foreseeable future. “There’s no point of starting with Dirk and then getting pulled 30 seconds into a game,” Bogut told ESPN. “So I went to coach and said, ‘If you’re going to continue to do that, just bring me off the bench. I won’t be offended. We’ll get on with life.'”

Bogut off the bench should help the defense of that unit and keep the ball moving with the reserves. It’s also very possible he still closes games.

Dallas has gotten healthier — although Bogut and Nowitzki are on minutes restrictions — and moved up the ladder to “respectable” of late, having won four of their last eight. But all the new faces in game jerseys leaves coach Rick Carlisle trying to figure out lineup combinations on the fly, stuff most teams figured out long ago.

Nowitzki said the Mavs haven’t given up hope on making the playoffs, that they just need to string together some wins. That seems optimistic. The Mavericks are just 4.5 games out of the eight seed (currently Sacramento), but the Mavs would have to leap six teams to get there, and that is incredibly difficult to do.