Knicks should be wary of giving the reins to Melo over Amar’e

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Amar’e Stoudemire was given a “mental break” this week by Mike D’Antoni. Moving aside the fact that Amar’e seems to miss a lot of practices this year for non-injury reasons, there are some interesting dynamics on the Knicks being reported by the New York Daily News:

“Looks like Amare is in a funk,” said one Eastern Conference GM this past week, after watching Stoudemire play without his normal maniacal intensity in the Knicks wins over Orlando and New Jersey, while Anthony was putting up more than 30 points and getting the shots in crunch time in both games. “But you could expect that when they made the trade for Carmelo.”

Of course you could. For the first 54 games of the season, Stoudemire was having the time of his life in New York, enjoying his role as King of the Knicks and the teams lone star. Finally, he had the big stage he craved and his own team he could never have in Phoenix.

Now he’s got Anthony, who loves being a star and a celebrity, who is easier to get the ball to on the perimeter, and, as you may have noticed, to hold it. For long stretches. Before he shoots.No wonder Stoudemire needed a couple of days this past week to get a break. It’s not easy getting passes inside, or competing against Anthony, another “alpha dog,” to use Mike DAntoni’s term.

“I think it makes a difference, it could be for good or for bad, you’d have to ask him about that, exactly,” DAntoni said. “But we’ll try to make it for the good so he doesn’t have to carry the load down the stretch.”

via Amare Stoudemires feelings must be mended as Carmelo Anthony takes over as Knicks go-to player.

The weird thing is: Amar’e Stoudemire is way more important to the Knicks’ future than Anthony. Anthony’s an elite player, don’t misunderstand me. But what Anthony does, many players in this league can do. But as far as a power forward that can nail the elbow jumper face-up out of the high-post, drive inside, finish off the pick and roll, tap in putbacks, and work over opponents in the deep post? Those guys are harder to come by than gun-and-gun (the running is optional) wings. Anthony’s a fantastic component to add to the Knicks. But with a complimentary player, even if he’s considered better, in Nash next to him, Stoudemire made multiple Conference Finals, challenged champions, made his mark on the league. Anthony, apart from one magical run in a down year for the conference, mostly just came into the first round, shot a lot of jumpers, and then was quietly asked to leave. If you want to buy into the clichéd “some guys are just winners” model (which I don’t), Stoudemire fits that better than Anthony.

The Knicks were only in a position to gamble on a trade for Melo because of where Stoudemire had taken them. It’s undeniable that Stoudemire still leaves gaping holes on the floor in defense and rebounding. But in terms of elite big men in the league, it’s hard to find a power forward outside of Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki more valuable right now. As well as Carlos Boozer has played, the Bulls would be better with Stoudemire finishing off Rose lobs and taking some of the pressure off as a multiple-post offensive player. As … nice as Chris Bosh has played, the Heat might be the actual fearsome threesome they were supposed to be had they had Stoudemire’s no-nonsense aggression versus Bosh’s wafting wavering. That the Knicks are likely first-round fodder does not speak to Stoudemire, and in fact, speaks to how Anthony, at least in terms of this season’s hopes, was too high a cost to maintain the Knicks’ momentum.

Anthony’s going to continue to get the ball because he’s more of a power player in terms of politics as a member of the CAA group that includes LeBron and Wade. He orchestrated his way out of Denver for half the Knicks’ roster, is a perimeter player, and has shown he and his agent will get their way. But the Knicks need to realize that Stoudemire isn’t a role player. He’s the best overall player they have. That’s what got them into the playoff race to begin with. Melo’s a great player. But giving him the reins could put the Knicks on a bad path.

 

Report: Celtics reach out to former assistant Larranaga about joining Mazzulla’s staff

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The Boston Celtics are reportedly looking for a veteran assistant to put on the bench next to 34-year-old Joe Mazzulla, the man thrust into the head coach’s chair for a title contender in the wake of Ime Udoka’s suspension.

Who better than a guy who spent nine years on the Celtics’ bench? Boston reached out to Jay Larranaga, currently on the Clippers bench, about returning to the East Coast, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Clippers had no turnover on Tyronn Lue’s staff heading into this season. Mazzulla has become a trusted member of the Clippers staff, working a lot with the big me on the roster. However, if the Celtics back up the Brink’s Truck, the Clippers will not stand in his way if he wants to leave. It’s a question of comfort level, lifestyle, and of course money for Larranaga.

The Celtics made Mazzulla their interim head coach after an investigation found a “volume of violations” of team policy by Udoka, who had an improper relationship with a team staff member. So far the Celtics and Udoka have been able to keep the details of what happened under wraps, but league sources described the situation to NBC Sports as “ugly” and “messy,” especially if/when those details do find their way to the public.

For Celtics players, just getting back on the court, practicing Tuesday and focusing on basketball — not the turmoil around the franchise — was a good thing.

“Once we got out on the court, it was just nice to get back out the court and review our defense and to talk about offense and doing what we do,” Al Horford told the Associated Press. “It’s a good thing to just play basketball. That’s what we’re here for. It’s important to just start this thing back up again.”

Getting another coach on the bench will be important for the Celtics as well.

Hawks trade Harkless, second-round pick to Thunder for Vit Krejci

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The Atlanta Hawks just saved some money, getting under the luxury tax line. The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up a second-round pick for their trouble of taking on a contract.

The Hawks have traded Moe Harkless and a second-round pick to the Thunder for Vit Krejci the teams announced (Shams Charania of The Athletic was first).

This saves Atlanta a little over $3 million, which moves them from above the luxury tax line to $1.3 million below it. While the almighty dollar was the primary motivation in the ATL, the Hawks also pick up a development project. Krejci showed a little promise in his rookie season, appearing in 30 games and averaging 6.2 points plus 3.4 rebounds a night, before having his knee scoped in April.

Krejci was on the bubble of making the team in Oklahoma City, now the Thunder pick up a second-round pick for a guy they might have waived anyway.

Harkless, 29, is on an expiring $4.6 million contract, which fits nicely into the Disabled Player Exception the Thunder were granted for Chet Holmgren’s season-ending foot injury.

The Thunder are expected to waive Harkless and buy him out, making him a free agent. However, they could keep him and see if another trade could net them another second-round pick.

Lonzo Ball says ‘I can’t run’ or jump; Bulls’ Donovan has to plan for extended absence

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Officially, Lonzo Ball will be out 4-6 weeks after getting his knee scoped this week.

However, this is his second surgery on his left knee this year — he had meniscus surgery in January, after which he was never able to return to the court — and there are concerns Ball could miss significant time again. And coach Billy Donovan has no choice but to plan for an extended absence.

Ball did a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday and it’s hard to come away from what he said overly optimistic. Rob Schaefer reported on the call for NBC Sports Chicago:

“Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump. There’s a range from, like, 30 to 60 degrees when my knee is bent that I have, like, no force and I can’t, like, catch myself. Until I can do those things I can’t play,” Ball said. “I did rehab, it was getting better, but it was not to a point where I could get out there and run full speed or jump. So surgery is the next step.”

The symptoms are something Ball said he has never dealt with and have left doctors, in his words, “a little surprised.”

It’s never good when doctors are surprised. Ball said the doctors don’t see anything on the MRI, but there is clearly something wrong, so they are going in and looking to find the issue and fix it.

Ball has been diligent in his recovery work from the start, the problem was pain in his knee. Something was still not right after the first surgery. Whatever it is.

The 4-6 week timeline would have Ball back in early November, but you know they will be overly cautious with him after the past year. Coach Billy Donovan was honest — he has to plan for a season without Ball.

The Bulls need Ball in a deep and challenging East. He brings defense, pushes the pace in transition, and takes care of the rock. Chicago has other players who can do those things individually — Alex Caruso can defend, Coby White pushes in transition, Goran Dragic takes care of the ball — but the Bulls lack one player who can do all those things. At least they lack one until Ball returns.

Whenever that may be.

Deandre Ayton says he hasn’t spoken to coach Williams since Game 7

Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four
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In a Game 7 against the Mavericks last May, Suns coach Monty Williams benched center Deandre Ayton, who ended up playing just 17 minutes in an ugly, blowout loss for Phoenix. When asked about it after the game Williams said, “It’s internal.”

Ayton and Williams have not spoken since then, according to Ayton.

Yikes. Remember that includes a summer where the Suns would not offer Ayton a max contract extension so he went out and got one from the Pacers, then the Suns instantly matched it. Ayton did not sound thrilled to be back in Phoenix on Media Day, and he was rather matter-of-fact about dealing with his coach.

It’s what every fan wants to hear — “this is just my job.”

Reporters asked Williams about this and he played it off, saying he hasn’t spoken with a lot of players yet.

It’s just day one of training camp, but there are a lot of red flags around the Suns: owner Robert Sarver being suspended and selling the team, Jae Crowder not in camp waiting to be traded, and now not a lot of communication between the team’s star center and its coach.

Maybe it all amounts to nothing. Maybe the Suns get on the court, Chris Paul looks rejuvenated, Devin Booker looks like Devin Booker, and none of this matters. But what had looked like a stable situation not that long ago now has a lot of red flags flying heading into the season, and that has to concern Suns fans.