The Knicks are legit. If they can keep this up is another question.

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The Knicks are 6-0, the last undefeated team in the NBA — and it’s not a fluke.

They are defending better than anyone in the league, giving up just 93.6 points per 100 possessions, via Hoopdata. (Anyone who says they just started defending this year wasn’t watching last year.) Their offense with Carmelo Anthony at the four is clicking, they are averaging 111.3 points per 100 possessions, again best in the NBA. Raymond Felton back at the point has steadied the decision making and added points.

If you questioned their competition, they just knocked off the Spurs in San Antonio. They are moving the ball on offense; their defensive rotations and hustle are sharp for this time of the season.

They are legitimate…

Well, let’s define legitimate. We are 7.3 percent of the way into their regular season. When we look at an East where the 76ers are without Andrew Bynum and the Celtics are struggling to find their groove, suddenly the idea of a top 3 or 4 seed and advancing out of the first round of the playoffs seem very legitimate.

But that’s not what Knicks fans are thinking… or at least starting to let themselves dream about.

And I’m far from sold on those big dreams. Because it’s a long season. Because of regression to the mean. And because there are some big hurdles ahead. (Oh, and because of the Miami Heat.)

First, the long season. Showing you can string together six good games — the first six, or six in January — only shows potential, not the ability to sustain a level of play. The Knicks will continue to be legit because they are defending, they are not going to fall off the map (baring major injury). But looking like a contender in November and in May are two very different things.

Second, regression to the mean — the Knicks are playing over their heads right now.

This season they are shooting 42.8 percent from three, a huge jump from the 33.6 percent of last season. J.R. Smith is shooting 73.7 percent from three through six games. That is not going to last. New York will be better from three than last year, but they are not going to keep hitting threes at this rate, and that is going to impact the rest of their offense when Jason Kidd is missing those threes in the fourth quarter, not burying them.

Generally, shots are just falling for the Knicks — they are hitting the highest percentage of spot-up jumpers in the league. They are getting 23.4 percent of their offense from spot-up shoots and they are hitting 45.1 percent of those shots (stats via Synergy Sports). That will slip.

Or, there is this note on twitter from Zach Lowe of Grantland: “Knicks have turned the ball over 9.9% of their possessions. Would be easily the lowest TO rate in league history. Uptick coming.”

Things are going to normalize for the Knicks.

And then they are going to have to integrate Amare Stoudemire back into the offense.

This really remains the question out there — the offense is clicking with Carmelo Anthony at the four, can you really start Stoudemire at the four and move Anthony back to the three again? Not and succeed at this pace. Right now the Knicks are getting 15.5 percent of their offense from isolation and they are shooting just 36.7 percent in isolation (13th in the NBA).

The Knicks are sharing the ball right now, they can’t go back to ‘Melo isolating on the wing 23 feet from the hoop. Not and win.

There’s a lot of potential with this Knicks team — Tyson Chandler has compared the makeup of this squad to the 2011 Dallas Mavericks title team. That’s lofty, and that team needed a Texas-sized load of things to go right for them to get the ring.

Things are not going to keep going this right for the Knicks, and when they don’t we’ll see what kind of team this really is.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.