Rumor: Knicks could fire Mike Woodson by trade deadline

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The Knicks are not rebuilding, they just have the record of a rebuilding team.

At the start of the season the Knicks thought they were the 54-win team of last season, which made the second round of the playoffs; instead they are 19-29 and two games back of the last playoff spot in the lowly East. Injuries are part of that (management built a team that cannot win without Tyson Chandler), but also they aren’t taking or making as many threes, they aren’t shooting as well overall, their point-guard play has been down, and the offense is no longer covering up a defense that was never all that strong to begin with.

That’s not all coach Mike Woodson’s fault, but he is far from blameless in this mess (he only went to the small lineup of Carmelo Anthony at the four because injuries forced him to).

Which has led to a ton of speculation early in the season Woodson was in trouble — rumors owner James Dolan has tried to shoot down. However the Knicks have traded away future assets to be good now and when that goes poorly the coach is always on the hot seat.

Now comes the latest speculation that Mike Woodson could be let go by the Feb. 20 trade deadline, via Steve Popper of the Bergin Record.

With the trade deadline looming and no reason to tank — already sending their first-round pick away in the deal that brought Carmelo Anthony — the Knicks are desperate to make a playoff push.

Their options for a deal are slim and with Anthony a free agent at season’s end, the Knicks will try to provide enough hope and optimism to keep him in town.

That leaves a coaching change as the other impetus for a late run. Players seemed to have distanced themselves from Woodson — and Stoudemire seems the latest to lose faith.

Understand that is speculation, not even a sourced report. So take it for what it’s worth.

From the outside it seems Woodson has lost the locker room — players’ defense of him seems tepid at this point. And if the idea is that a coaching change can shake up a team and put them on run, we’ve seen that before. It does work.

The big question is: who do they get to replace Woodson?

For the rest of this season an assistant could be promoted or Alan Houston could come down out of the front office, and maybe that provides a little bump this season. But that is not the long-term answer.

The name coaches the Knicks would want — Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, George Karl and the like — will demand a level of control over the roster Knicks management is not willing to surrender. Despite the money and prestige, those guys see the roster, see the organization and will be hesitant to step into the muck.

There are not a lot of good long-term options for the coaching spot lined up for New York.

Firing Woodson could provide a short-term boost, but the long-term issues with this organization remain. And they’re issues not only a new coach would ask about, they’re ones Carmelo Anthony will ask about this summer.

Report: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.