J.R. Smith confirms he is close to deal with Knicks

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UPDATE 7:03 pm: Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld spoke with J.R. Smith himself and tweeted this:

I just spoke to J.R. Smith. He confirmed that he’s nearing a deal with the New York Knicks.

This echoes what we have been hearing all day, that it is just a matter of hammering out the contract details and Smith will be a Knick. The question for Mike D’Antoni is do you start him or keep Landry Fields as the starter and make Smith a deadly sixth man?

2:17 pm: This comes out of the New York media, so it should be consumed with a few grains of salt. That said, this is the outcome we all have been expecting.

J.R. Smith has chosen the Knicks and is close to a deal with them, reports Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

Smith’s agent, Leon Rose, met with Garden Chairman James Dolan following Wednesday’s Knicks’ win over Sacramento to finalize a contract. It is believed that Smith, who has also attracted the interest of the Clippers, will receive the Knicks’ $2.5 million exception. Rose also represents Carmelo Anthony, who has lobbied the club to add Smith, an explosive scorer who can also be erratic at times. He has averaged 12.5 points per game over seven NBA seasons.

This deal is not finalized, but it is close. And it is a great pickup for the Knicks, who beat out the Clippers (and Chris Paul’s recruiting efforts) for Smith’s services as he returns from a season in China.

The Knicks were considered the favorite because they could plug him into the starting lineup and give him big minutes — plus they could give him more money. It’s always about the money. New York can offer a pro-rated share of their $2.5 million mini-midlevel exception, plus they can give him a player option for a second year at that price. The best the Clippers can offer is the pro-rated share of the veteran’s minimum for only this season.

If and when Smith signs on the dotted line, Linsanity will have the ultimate test and opportunity. Anthony and Smith are unrepentant gunners who can fill it up but need to follow Jeremy Lin’s lead, stay within the offense and pick their spots. Run in transition, move off the ball, don’t just wait for a chance to go iso. With a starting five that includes Amare Stoudemire, ‘Melo, Smith and Tyson Chandler around Lin, the Knicks look like the third best team in the East. If D’Antoni and Lin can keep their gunners in line.

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.

Dwyane Wade: Making Carmelo Anthony ‘fall guy’ doesn’t address the ‘real problem’

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LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul – the banana-boat buddies – comprise the NBA’s most famous friendship group.

With Anthony nearing his end with the Rockets, that puts Houston teammate Paul in an awkward place. But Wade and LeBron are speaking up. So are the Trail Blazers’ Evan Turner and Damian Lillard.

Wade:

LeBron:

Evan Turner:

Damian Lillard:

It’s unclear whether Wade is scolding the Rockets or fans/media. That comment is far more loaded if he’s referring directly to the organization. I wonder what he sees at the “real problem” in Houston.

A struggling team waiving a minimum-salary player is rarely viewed as making that player the scapegoat. But Anthony has an outsized reputation due to his long, star-level career. With that in mind, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tried to defend Anthony.

But Anthony is a part of Houston’s problems. He’s awful defensively and shooting poorly. There is mounting evidence he’s washed up. Downgrading his role, whether or not that includes waiving him, is a step in the right direction for the Rockets.

It won’t solve everything, and Anthony – after all that he has done in the NBA – should be treated with respect. But there’s no way around his substandard current level of play.