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Report: Owner James Dolan is upset with Knicks slide out of playoff contention


Why is Phil Jackson making $12 million a year from the Knicks? To keep James Dolan out of basketball decisions.

Whatever Jackson has done right (drafting Kristaps Porzingis and other members of the Knicks young core) and wrong over his time in charge of the Knicks basketball operations, every day he keeps the Knicks’ owner from meddling on the basketball side is a good day. Jackson’s $12 million salary is leverage in that battle.

But as the Knicks have gone 2-12 in their last 14, and got thumped by the Raptors at home on Monday, Dolan’s anger is boiling up, reports Frank Isola at the New York Daily News.

The MSG chairman, according to a source, was visibly agitated following the Knicks’ lackluster performance in a loss to the Toronto Raptors on Monday.

It is unclear if Dolan addressed team president Phil Jackson, just as he did one week before Derek Fisher was fired. But Dolan is said to be just as angry as Anthony with the direction of the Knicks, who are 24-34 entering Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers.

Carmelo Anthony expressed his frustration after the Raptors loss, and interim coach Kurt Rambis knows that when the boss is mad you should be mad.

“We’re all frustrated. We can’t accept this,” said interim head coach Kurt Rambis. “For the organization, for our team, ourselves as individuals, the coaching staff. We can’t accept losing. I want players to be angry. I want players to be frustrated. That’s the right attitude to have.”

The losing streak isn’t fun, but the Knicks are performing above expectations this season. This has been a step forward. If the playoffs were expected, well, James Dolan was being unrealistic.

Which gets us back to why Phil Jackson is valuable to the Knicks.

LeBron James: “This year I feel 10 times better than I did last year”


Last season during the NBA Finals, LeBron James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. He wasn’t terribly efficient (47.7 true shooting percentage), but considering the offensive load he was asked to carry you can’t ask much more than that. He carried the Cavaliers to two wins against the Warriors.

Which is why what LeBron said about how he feels physically right now, at this point in the season compared to a year ago, should scare the NBA. From Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

In fact, James said he’s better off this season at 31 years old than he was last season, when he missed a career-high 13 games, including a two-week hiatus to rest.

“It’s how my body was feeling,” James said Wednesday after the Cleveland Cavaliers held shootaround in preparation for their game against the Charlotte Hornets. “Last year I was banged up. It’s not a mindset, it’s just reality. This year I feel 10 times better than I did last year. So that’s the mindset.”

The slow decline of James’ skills has been a topic around the NBA for a couple of years now. He’s gone from being the unquestioned greatest player in the game to somewhere in the top five but usually three through five, depending on whom you ask. His jumper isn’t as consistent, he doesn’t attack or defend with the same energy, and he admits he’s saving that energy for the playoffs, when he needs it most. That said, he has defended better this season than last, and he seems to have more vintage LeBron athletic plays.

That said, once the Cavaliers lock up the No. 1 seed (they are just three games ahead of the Raptors) coach Tyronn Lue has said he would rest LeBron before the playoffs (presumably Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and others, too). If this is a healthy Cavaliers team, they are a much bigger threat in the NBA Finals.

Whether that will be enough remains to be seen.

Chris Copeland, John Jenkins claimed off waiver wire (Copeland waived again already)

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Waiver wire claims are not common in the NBA, but we had two of them on Wednesday afternoon.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports broke the news.

Chris Copeland had been waived by Milwaukee Bucks to make way for the addition of Steve Novak. Jenkins had been with the Dallas Mavericks but was waived to free up a roster for the addition of David Lee. Both of those teams used a trade exception it had from a previous deal to land the new additions. Also, this means is that the salaries of Copeland and Jenkins will count against the cap of their new teams, not their former ones.

Orlando turned around and instantly waived Copeland again. Why? Because they are below the salary floor and this saves them money. From Bobby Marks of the Vertical.

Jenkins had a decent rookie season a maybe the Suns think they can recapture some of that magic.

Old school Lionel Hollins doesn’t like meddling front offices

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It’s old school vs. new school.

Lionel Hollins is about as old school as it gets. He’s from the era when the front office assembles the team, and the coach gets to run the team as he sees fit. Modern NBA teams tend to have more involvement between the front office and the coaching staff, a place such as Golden State where there is a deep brain trust that discusses a lot of issues and adjustment ideas can come from any corner of the organization.

I’m not sure what Hollins had to deal with in Brooklyn could be called collaborative. He was let go by Brooklyn Jan. 10. In an interview on Sirius XM NBA radio recently Hollins talked about meddling management (this was transcribed by the New York Post).

“The main thing when you’re looking for a job is finding somebody that allows you to be you and lets you coach as you coach,” Hollins said on SiriusXM radio. “If you’re successful, great. If you’re not, get rid of him.

“But the micromanaging, the meddling of who should play and how you should talk to this guy and how you should talk to the media, what you should say or shouldn’t say because how it looks for the organization versus just speaking the truth — those things weigh on you when you spend so much time trying to massage everybody instead of just coaching.”

This sounds like it could apply to Hollins’ time in Memphis as well.

It’s also a growing part of a modern NBA. Successful organizations do a good job breaking down the wall between the front office and the coaching staff — Gregg Popovich has specifically talked about this in San Antonio. They hire people who are “over themselves” and want to be part of a team setting, so that guys like Sean Marks can bounce from the front office to being an assistant coach to being in the front office with ease.

Marks is now the GM of the Nets, and whoever he brings in as his next coach will be from that collaborative mindset, not one where there is a wall between management and ownership.

Kobe Bryant says Stephen Curry toughest player to guard in NBA. Who else?

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Kevin Durant is close because he can score from three, from the post, and has a silky-smooth jumper. Russell Westbrook and his relentless play and athleticism can make the list. LeBron James, Damian Lillard, even maybe DeMarcus Cousins can be injected into the conversation.

But when you’re talking about the most difficult player to guard in the NBA right now, that list has to start and end with Stephen Curry. Don’t take my word for it, ask Kobe Bryant (which is what Baxter Holmes of ESPN did).

It’s pretty hard to argue this. Curry’s shooting range (you need to actively cover him at 28 feet), handles, ability to shoot off the bounce or catch-and-shoot, his court vision and his passing make him an insanely difficult cover. Much like Joe Montana in the West Coast offense, Curry is the perfect point guard for this up-tempo, small-ball era.

There was a day when Kobe headed that toughest to guard list. He’s a student of the game. He knows who tops the list now.