Knicks woes not D'Antoni's fault

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D'antoni.jpgIt’s not easy to watch the Knicks right now. Almost as hard as sitting through a Dane Cook concert. It’s just not entertaining or interesting, and the losing is wearing on Knicks fans.

And they want to blame the coach. Mike D’Antoni. Right or wrong.

Knicks President Donnie Walsh tried to change that yesterday by throwing himself in front of the bus.

Walsh, the Knicks president, still believes his plan to rebuild the club through free agency was the prudent call even though there are no guarantees the team will sign one of the top pending free agents – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh – this summer, or that Walsh will be around to see his plan come to fruition.

“I didn’t say in one summer we’re going to turn around and build a championship team,” Walsh said. “And I’m not asking for time. I won’t have that much time. But I know one thing: Now at least we have a flexible position, and whether it’s next summer or the summer after, we’re going to start adding players to this team that can lead you in that direction.”

Got to love the New York media, saying Walsh “still believes” in his plan. As if there was another plan other than two years of pain to clear out what Thomas hath wrought on that roster. It had to be done. I get it, Knicks fans are impatient. Owner James Dolan may be getting impatient. It’s been a couple years of the Walsh/D’Antoni era and things are not better on the court. And LeBron isn’t coming. And losing sucks.

But this isn’t on D’Antoni — Phil Jackson could coach this roster with John Wooden as his assistant and they wouldn’t win two more games than D’Antoni has. The old coaching axiom is, “It’s not the Xs and Os, it’s the Jimmy and Joes.” You have to have the talent. Was Doc Rivers a much better coach in 2008 than in 2007? No. He just had Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen added to his team, and that makes any coach look smart.

The thing is, things are better now in New York because there is cap space. There is flexibility now to start building a team that fits D’Antoni’s system rather than the square pegs that are there now.

Fans are right to be pissed that the players are not hustling night in and night out, but at the NBA level that is on the players more than the coach. These are professionals, and college rah-rah speeches have limited effect. The teams that bust it hard every night do so because a player leads that charge. Did the Celtics hustle because of Doc or Garnett? The Lakers because of Jackson or Kobe?

None of this makes it any fun to watch the Knicks right now, even with Tracy McGrady back. And nothing is changing that until the season ends.

Report: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.