Report: Knicks trying hard to sign Beno Udrih

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Beno Udrih was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Orlando Magic last season, enjoying a mild career resurgence when he was handed the reigns late in the season while  getting some spot starts in the absence of starting point guard Jameer Nelson. The 31-year-old Slovenian’s decent production while his team went 2-16 to end the season didn’t earn him much fanfare on this year’s free agent market, unsurprisingly, but the New York Knicks are apparently still interested in his services for the upcoming season.

The journeyman point guard was paid nearly $32.5 million over the past five seasons spent with the Sacramento Kings, Bucks and Magic, but ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that the Knicks are trying hard to convince him to move to New York if he’s willing to take a bit of a pay-cut. Actually, a pretty large pay-cut, unfortunately for Udrih, considering the Knicks only have enough room under the salary cap to offer the nine-year NBA veteran a minimum contract. If Udrih can match the 10.2 points and 6.1 assists in 27 minutes like he did with the Magic last year, that’d end up being a pretty solid get.

Udrih’s been a consistently average point guard in the NBA since joining the San Antonio Spurs as a backup in 2004, but there’s value in consistency when it comes to backup point guards. The Knicks haven’t had a lot of luck when it comes to injuries in its backcourt over the past few seasons. Between incumbent starter Raymond Felton, Udrih and 36-year-old veteran Pablo Prigioni, though, New York’s backcourt should always be occupied with a steady hand to guide the offense.

The Knicks could also play Udrih off the ball like the Bucks did during the 2011-12 season, but his value there is only truly intriguing if he’s making and taking shots like he did with the Magic to end last season. The lefty’s shot selection has very rarely been lauded by those watching him play (his pull-up jumper in transition is even legendary in some circles) but the fact that he was able knock said shots in Orlando certainly helped his plight. In a 27-game sample, the 6-foot-3 gunner shot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc — his best percentage since his rookie year — while taking more 3-point shots than he had since his time in Sacramento.

The Knicks getting Udrih might not be a game-changer. If he’s able to stay productive on a minimum contract, though, it’ll likely be considered a nice signing when all is said and done.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

Associated Press
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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

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Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.