The Knicks bench could win them some games. No, I mean it.

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Thumbnail image for D'antoni.jpgWhile you were busy talking about how the Knicks missed out on LeBron and Wade but got that Amare guy and he’s not that bad, you missed something.

Donnie Walsh put together a pretty deep team.

Not deep with name guys in the Lakers sense, but similar in one way — deep with guys who fit the system. The Lakers, Celtics (mostly, we’ll see about Shaq), Spurs, Suns have all been very good at this, getting role players who really fit in with what they want to do.

The Knicks did that this summer.

Let’s assume a starting five of the Knicks tall lineup: Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Anthony Randolph, Amar’e Stoudemire and Ronnie Turiaf. (Nobody knows who will actually start, not even Mike D’Antoni at this point, maybe Wilson Chandler starts at the two, Gallinari at the three and Randolph comes off the bench, but we’ll go with the tall lineup for now.)

Off the bench would come Toney Douglas, Wilson Chandler, Kelenna Azubuike, Roger Mason Jr., Larry Fields, Eddy Curry and Timofey Mozgov.

That is not a lineup of All-Stars. But it is a lineup of guys who are athletic, who can run, who can drain the three, who can score. Guys who fit the system. It’s sort of like what the Suns had last year — a group of guys who hustled and blended with what the Suns wanted to do and could put up points. That Suns group won regular season games — it also won a Western Conference finals game. It was a big part of what the Suns did.

Douglas can run the point a little and is we learned one thing about Mozgov at the World Championships it’s that he can set a good pick, roll to the hole and finish. You can picture a drag screen with them being effective. Mason could bounce back to the form that made him a supersub in San Antonio — picture him sprinting down the court to an open spot on the arc and draining the transition three.

Once he really gets healthy and his strength back, Azubuike may be the starter. He is more dynamic than Chandler. In the short term Azubuike is going to be explosive off the bench. And Wilson Chandler showed last year he can ball in this system.

Eddy Curry… let’s not bet on it. But if he can even return to the 15 PER guy he was two seasons ago — a league average guy — at the five off the bench? Huge boost for this team.

Mike D’Antoni’s system is built in part on conditioning and wearing another team down — they are going to run and run and run and you will not be able to keep up. You will wear down. They will break you.

To do that takes more than five — it takes nine or 10 deep. The Knicks have that now.

There will be a lot o playing around with lineups and matchups. It may take a while to figure out the rotations. But the Knicks have depth now, they have athletes deep on the roster.

And that could win them some games.

Tom Thibodeau on Timberwolves not getting first-rounder in Jimmy Butler trade: ‘Getting good players was a priority’

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The Heat offered Josh Richardson and a first-round pick. The Rockets offered four first-round picks or Eric Gordon, Nene and two first-round picks. The Pelicans reportedly offered Nikola Mirotic and an unprotected first-round pick.

But the Timberwolves traded Jimmy Butler to the 76ers for Robert Covington and Dario Saric in a deal that included no first-round picks and Minnesota getting only one second-rounder.

Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau:

We wanted quality players. I think that that was important for us.

When you look at, to get two starters off a team that won 52 games, and they’re both young, and they’re going to get better, and they’re both very good defensively. They both shoot the 3, so we think they fit well with the guys that we do have.

And so once we once got to that point where felt we were getting multiple rotational players, then we felt it would be time to execute the deal.

It was what was best for the organization. Obviously, getting good players was a priority. But the pick part is important, and we felt we got a good pick from Philly.

It was what does it mean for the team? If you get two rotational players, that’s good. And then if you can get a pick, that allows you to do more things. And so I think that’s all part of it. You always try to think about what the possibilities could be.

Thibodeau might have taken the best offer for the the Timberwolves by the time he actually accepted a deal. Miami pulled the Richardson offer after his strong start to the season. Getting four first-rounders from Houston required taking Brandon Knight‘s negative-value contract, and it’s unclear exactly how the picks were protected. New Orleans has the best record of those three teams, so an unprotected pick carries less value.

But it’s also impossible to overlook Thibodeau’s present-minded attitude. That’s how he already approached everything. Now, he appears to be coaching for his job this season. Nobody ever expected him to prioritize long-term assets.

Covington and Saric are good players, but Minnesota was also 4-9 at the time of the trade. Are Covington and Saric good enough to lift the Timberwolves out of this hole and into the playoffs? It’s a tough ask. In 2020-21, Saric will be up for a big raise, and the Timberwolves already have a lot of money committed. They might have to downgrade the rest of the roster to keep Saric and avoid the luxury tax. This is a narrow window for Minnesota to get value from this trade.

That said, blame Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor for creating this situation. By allowing Thibodeau to remain in charge without much job security, Taylor is practically demanding Thibodeau emphasize the present. If Taylor wanted draft picks, he should have fired Thibodeau earlier.

Caris LeVert suffers injury so horrific, it brings teammates to tears and opponents to prayer (video)

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Caris LeVert has been one of the Nets’ biggest bright spots. The hard-working 24-year-old was a Most Improved Player candidate, and he seems well-liked throughout the organization. He’s even already hit a couple gamewinners this season.

But LeVert’s breakout campaign hit a devastating snag tonight, as he injured his leg.

The reactions of both his Brooklyn teammates and the Timberwolves say everything. This is a tough one.

Markelle Fultz takes ugly pump-fake free throw

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A key question after the 76ers traded for Jimmy Butler: How would the demanding star affect Markelle Fultz‘s confidence?

Butler isn’t even playing for Philadelphia yet, but this isn’t an encouraging sign.

Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice:

Maybe the ball just slipped out of Fultz’s hands on the way up, and he had to continue pushing it toward the rim to avoid a violation. That could happen to anybody.

But given everything we know about Fultz’s shooting woes, it’s impossible to take this as anything other than a ghastly low point in an ongoing problem.

LeBron James: ‘I almost cracked’ with Lakers’ slow start

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LeBron James has played in eight straight NBA Finals.

How’s he handling reduced expectations with the Lakers, who started 2-5 before rising to 7-6?

LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

‪“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”‬

LeBron warned everyone to stay clear when he loses his patience, but he has never sounded close to losing it this season. He signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, said he doesn’t feel urgency to win quickly before his prime ends and seems content to wait for a co-star.

If anything, it seemed LeBron might be too relaxed, enjoying the Los Angeles lifestyle and focusing on showbusiness.

So, this is a welcome sign of his competitiveness.

Also kudos to LeBron for harnessing it unlike others in the organization. These Lakers need time to determine how these oddly shaped pieces fit together – unless a star becomes available. Then, all bets are off.