Can Stoudemire and Shaq work in Cleveland?

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stoudemire.jpgIf you are the Cavaliers — the best team in basketball through 50 games and the frontrunner for the NBA title — making a move to shake things up is a risk. Any move. Even if it does make LeBron James happy.

The ongoing efforts to bring Amare Stoudemire to Cleveland raise the question of if Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal can mesh together in Mike Brown’s offense. Well, LeBron’s offense, really. Amare thinks so and tweeted as much.

I play very well
w/Shaq. I averaged more pts last year WITH him & played better D.
You guys can stop saying we don’t play well together.

ESPN’s JA Adande backed him up with statistics.

A little revision is in order. It’s not that Stoudemire couldn’t play well next to O’Neal; he didn’t play as well next to O’Neal under Terry Porter’s system.

Stoudemire did just fine with Shaq in the house while the Suns were running Mike D’Antoni’s offense. Since Shaq didn’t start playing for the Suns until the first game after the All-Star break in 2008 it’s very easy to look at life with and without the Diesel. Before the break Stoudemire averaged 23.2 points on 59% shooting. After the break, playing alongside O’Neal, Stoudemire upped his scoring average to 28 points per game while maintaining that 59% field goal percentage.

Adande goes on to say that both Nash and Stoudemire struggled in Porter’s “feed the post first” system with Shaq, but when the Suns abandoned Steve Kerr’s experiment, put Alvin Gentry in as coach and started running again Shaq and Amare were just fine.

Adande is right about that. But he leaves out a couple not-so-little details.

First, the Cavaliers don’t play Mike D’Antoni’s system, either. The Cavaliers are a slow-it-down team, playing at the 25th fastest pace in the league right now. They do not run Porter’s offense (although the Cavs do feed Shaq in the post plenty if they like the matchup), but this is a half-court team and that is where Amare struggled was finding room with Shaq. That will be an adjustment again.

Second, it’s the other side of the court that may be the bigger concern. While the Suns offense was fine with Amare and Shaq, their defense (both shooting percentage allowed and points per possession allowed) got worse. How did Orlando defeat Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals last year? Pick-and-rolled them to death. If this trade goes through the Cavaliers have two of the worst pick-and-roll defending bigs in the game. Both Boston with Rajon Rondo and Orlando with Jameer Nelson will run that play every time down until Cleveland figures out how to stop it.

Stoudemire and Shaq may work together in Cleveland, ensuring a title for a title-starved city. But it is a risk. And don’t assume the offensive stats under D’Antoni tell the entire story.

Unstoppable Meyers Leonard drops 25 on Warriors in first half (VIDEO)

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Stephen Curry had an I-don’t-want-to-play-Game-5 kind of first half for Golden State, scoring 25 points and hitting 5-of-7 from three.

However, he was the second best player on the court because Meyers Leonard held that crown.

Yes, Meyers Leonard.

He had 25 points of his own on 10-of-12 shooting.

Fans broke out a “Mey-ers Leon-ard” chant.

All that had Portland up 69-65 at the half in a defense-optional Game 4 where it is win-or-go-home for the Trail Blazers.

Knicks Frank Ntilikina reportedly wants to be traded, switches agents

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When the Knicks acquired Emmanuel Mudiay last season — a player Denver just released outright — Mudiay instantly jumped past Frank Ntilikina on the point guard depth chart. Then, when the Knicks traded for Dennis Smith Jr. at the deadline (part of the Kristaps Porzingis deal), the future of Ntilikina in New York was thrown into uncertainty.

Ntilikina sees that, wants out, and is getting a new agent as well, reports Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina dropped CAA as his agency last season and planned to sign with French agent Bouna Ndiaye, the Daily News has learned.

Ntilikina, who was drafted eighth overall by Knicks in 2017, is on the trading block and desires a relocation, a source told the News. The Knicks declined offers to move Ntilikina at the trade deadline in February, acquired another point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., and Ntilikina quickly decided to change agents.

Ndiaye represents several French players in the NBA, including Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier.

The Knicks are expected to try to trade Ntilikina, either at the draft or next summer. Mostly other teams will view him as a way to save money — if teams do not pick up his 2020-21 option by Oct. 31 he comes off the books after this next season — but also Ntilikina played good defense and other teams may try to take a flier on him.

Andre Iguodala out for Game 4 against Portland with sore calf

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Andre Iguodala was limited in Game 3 in Portland, playing just 18 minutes Saturday night, none after he was taken out with 7:49 left in the third quarter. An MRI on his left calf Sunday came back clean, but he was questionable with leg tightness, officially. Call it a sore calf if you prefer.

Up 3-0 in the series, there was no reason to risk something worse in Game 4, so Iguodala is out, coach Steve Kerr announced pregame.

Alfonzo McKinnie will start in place of Iguodala.

Iguodala joins Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins on the Warriors bench for Game 4.

If there is a Game 5, it will be Wednesday night in the Bay Area.

With the NBA Finals not starting until May 30 — a week from this Thursday — the Warriors have plenty of time to rest and get their starters healed before taking on a serious challenger from the East (whether that is Milwaukee or Toronto). The Warriors have used their depth against Portland to help keep minutes down for their starters and Kerr will lean on that bench to close out the series in the next couple of games.

Report: Rockets, Mike D’Antoni talking contract extension

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Mike D’Antoni, the father of the seven seconds or less system that started a revolution of NBA style, has changed in recent years. In Houston, with James Harden at his peak and this specific roster around him, D’Antoni now coaches an isolation-heavy team that has pushed the NBA envelope in other ways, particularly in trusting the three ball.

D’Antoni fits with Daryl Morey, and the sides have started talking contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Houston Rockets and coach Mike D’Antoni have had preliminary discussions about the framework of a contract extension that would keep the two-time NBA Coach of the Year from entering the final year of his deal…

“I’ve let [general manager] Daryl [Morey] and [team owner] Tilman [Fertitta] know that I’m energized to keep coaching — and believe that I can continue to do this at a high level for at least another three years,” D’Antoni, 68, told ESPN on Sunday night.

“I want to be a part of a championship here.”

This is the smart move, he is a part of what has made the Rockets such a success in recent years.

The Rockets should look for roster upgrades this summer but they should not be blowing things up. The Rockets were the second best team in the NBA last season and may have been again by the playoffs this season (it depends on where you want to put Milwaukee and Toronto in that ranking, but the Rockets were in the mix). Houston’s problem has been a historic dynasty in Golden State, but that could look very different next season. If the Warriors take a step or two back, for whatever reasons, Houston is poised to pounce. They will be contenders.

D’Antoni is a part of that, and the Rockets need to keep one of the best coaches in the game in house.