NBA playoffs return to Manhattan, will New York like the show?

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The NBA playoffs return to the heart of New York, to Madison Square Garden Friday night after seven long years away and will be welcomed back like the prodigal son.

Celebrities will ring the court — including Spike Lee in some all-orange disaster of an outfit — and profanity-laced chants will rain down on the Celtics. There will be real energy, real passion, real optimism, a real New York feeling that the NBA playoffs have sorely missed. Carmelo Anthony bullied his way out of Denver to be here for it and told ESPN New York this will be, um… well, he can’t use the word he wants to for a description.

“I’m pretty sure it will be crazy,” Carmelo Anthony said. “I think crazy is an understatement but that’s the word I’m going to use right now.”

The only thing this hyped and with this many injuries in New York in the last seven years was Spider-man the Musical. New Yorkers are just hoping they like Friday night’s show better.

The Knicks have landed two solid punches on the Celtics in the first two games, one from Amar’e Stoudemire in Game 1, another from Carmelo Anthony in Game 2.

In both cases the Celtics staggered, found their footing, then executed better at the end and got the wins. The Celtics played like a team with a ring — getting Ray Allen a key late-game shot — the Knicks closed out games like a team that has missed the playoffs for seven years. When Jared Jeffries is taking your clutch shots in the final minutes, you’re doing it wrong.

To do it right, the Knicks need to get healthy.

Stoudemire is expected to go, although don’t expect him to do any pregame dunks this time. That would help, although at some point he and Carmelo need to play together and not next to each other for the Knicks to truly evolve. Chauncey Billups seems unlikely but is officially a game-time decision. (Shaquille O’Neal is a no for Game 3 for Boston, there is a slight chance he plays on Easter.)

Expect the Celtics to be physical with Stoudemire early — they are physical with everyone in the paint but they will step that up a little to test Amar’e early. Also, Carmelo Anthony can expect hard double teams early as Boston does not what him to get going — make someone else beat them.

Where the Knicks need to beat them — where this game will be decided — is in the paint and on the glass. The Knicks were the better, stronger team inside in Game 2 and that as much as ‘Melo’s heroics was the reason the Knicks had a shot at the end. A shot Jeffries had to take, but a shot nonetheless.

If you’re looking for a Knicks killer, watch Ray Allen. He is 7-of-9 from three in this series, he has his stroke back. Expect Rajon Rondo to get him the ball more… well, you should expect that. But Rondo has been a little unpredictable lately. Which is another thing to watch.

Kevin Garnett has to be big, but he needs to get some help. Jermaine O’Neal was a huge factor in Game 1 and a ghost in Game 2. They need him to control the paint, they need to turn the Knicks into jump shooters.

Toney Douglas and ‘Melo can get hot and drain those jumpers, and when then do Madison Square Garden will explode. But it is not a sustainable way for the Knicks to win.

The Knicks have to win. It is must win, and desperate teams often find a way. Or, this could be Spider-man the Musical.

The only thing we know for sure is that in a series that has been crazy and loud, the volume is about to go up.

Jimmy Butler on Markelle Fultz: ‘I know how hard he works’ (VIDEO)

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Much discussion has taken place about the potential impact that new Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler might have on the development of struggling young sophomore Markelle Fultz.

Fultz has had the yips for over a year, and Butler did not garner rave reviews from the young stars on his last team, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

There does seem to be some worry that Butler might not respect Fultz, or that Butler might push him even further into whatever psychological hole he’s currently in.

Butler joined the Sixers organization this week, and during his introductory press conference said that he knows that Futlz is a hard worker. It was the right thing to say, perhaps the first in many weeks after Butler went off the rails in Minnesota.

Via Twitter:

That’s promising at this moment. Fultz needs all the help he can get, and not having Butler going directly at him is additive in and of itself.

Sixers fans are hoping things work out with this new group in Philadelphia. Time will tell if Butler will be able to solve some of the issues they’ve had on offense to start the year.

Raptors players say emotions will run high when Dwane Casey returns

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TORONTO (AP) Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas spent a dozen years between them developing their games under coach Dwane Casey. Valanciunas had never played for any other NBA head coach before this season.

When they welcome Casey and his Detroit Pistons back to Toronto on Wednesday night, the two longest-serving current Raptors know emotions will be running high.

“It’s going to be different, but hey, I’m still going to try to take his head off, the team’s head off,” Lowry said with a laugh.

The Raptors will face Detroit for the first time since Casey was fired, just days after Toronto was ousted from the playoffs by Cleveland for the third consecutive season.

Lowry became a four-time NBA all-star under Casey’s watch, while Valanciunas has grown into a multi-skilled big man. Casey had kind words for both Raptors on the eve of his visit. Lowry got off to a rocky start with Casey when the Raptors acquired the temperamental guard in 2012, but he and Valanciunas returned the compliment.

“(Our relationship) changed a lot,” Lowry said. “It went from a guy who kind of wasn’t trusting in what I did, and me not trusting in what he wanted, and kind of us battling back and forth, to him being like, `Hey listen, I believe in what you can do, you show me what you can do,’ and me saying `All right, if you show me that and I’ve showed you what I can do, I’ll listen to you more and we’ll have a good relationship.”‘

“It turned into a great coach-player relationship. And him having young kids, and me having … they played soccer together, so we created a bond off the court also.”

Nick Nurse, who was promoted to head coach after Casey’s dismissal, insisted he was looking forward to seeing his former boss despite rumors the two were not close.

“My communication with whoever is between me and whoever I’m communicating with, whether it’s between Kyle and me and Kawhi (Leonard) and me or Case and me. . . or whoever,” Nurse told The Canadian Press. “I’ll keep that to myself. I am looking forward to seeing him.”

Nurse characterized his relationship with Casey as “good.”

“We have five years together and a lot of success. A lot of battles and a lot of long hours together, working hard,” Nurse said. “He took a team from relative obscurity or the hinterlands to relevance, and that may be the hardest thing to do in this league. I’m glad I was a part of it for five years. We had a lot of success and I learned a lot from the guy and have a lot of respect for the guy.”

The 51-year-old Nurse said the biggest lesson learned under Casey was professionalism and diligence.

“The seriousness of the day-to-day, the grind and probably most importantly is the work ethic,” Nurse said. “He used to say it to us a lot. He’d put his work ethic up against anybody in the league and he was right in that. The guy always had our staff prepared and our players prepared, he taught me all those things.”

After leading Toronto to a team-record 59 wins and the top seed in the East last year, Casey was also named the NBA’s Coach of the Year – after his firing.

The Raptors have a video tribute planned for the 61-year-old Casey early in the game.

“He did some really good things for the city, for the team. I think everybody respects him,” Valanciunas said. “(But) as a business we’ve got to move on and he (ended) up pretty well, so that is life. Sometimes we’re separating.”

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Steve Kerr jokes after Durant-Draymond spat: ‘I kicked MJ’s ass’

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Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers said on Tuesday that Kevin Durant and Draymond Green had not yet spoken after the two had a dust-up during Monday night’s overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Green was suspended for one game, apparently for repeatedly calling Durant “bitch” while the two were still on the court with the Clippers. It was testy, and Durant was even seen saying what appeared to be the words, “That’s why I’m out.”

Things didn’t calm down when the Warriors returned to the locker room after the game, and a suspension was issued by the team.

Meanwhile, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that he felt that the team would be fine. He reiterated that no team he had ever been on had always experienced smooth sailing. Kerr famously got into a scuffle with Michael Jordan in Bulls training camp in 1995.

To that end, Kerr joked on Tuesday that he had, “Kicked MJ’s ass.”

Via Twitter:

Will things be okay in the Bay moving forward? The team has such a strong culture it’s hard to bet against things getting patched up, especially with regard to how the team will play as they seek another championship this season. Remember, Green was one of the guys who recruited Durant to Golden State in the first place, and the two have the same goal.

The real question many have is whether this spat will have an impact on Durant staying with Golden State this offseason. That’s anybody’s guess, seeing as how Durant is nearly impossible to predict.

For now, we just have to wait.

Kevin Durant appears to mouth ‘That’s why I’m out’ after Draymond Green dustup

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Is Kevin Durant leaving the Golden State Warriors? That has been the question on the minds of many NBA fans for some time now, and the big dust-up between Durant and teammate Draymond Green on Monday night has continued to fuel the speculation that the superstar wing might be headed elsewhere.

That was before any of us saw the following video, where Durant appears to mouth the words, “That’s why I’m out” after he and Green had to be separated during their OT loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Take a look for yourself and tell me that’s not what it appears Durant is saying in this clip.

Via Twitter:

I’m no professional lip-reader, I just play one here on the internet. But it does seem that Durant said to himself, “That’s why I’m out.”

Meanwhile, Green will serve a one-game suspension and new doubt has been cast on the inevitability of the Warriors sweeping through the rest of this season.

I don’t know where Durant will end up next year, but the journey we’re going to be on until he decides is going to be a bumpy one.