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.

LeBron James rips AAU workload: ‘AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid’

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Last week, during the pointless debate about Kawhi Leonard missing a game for load management, the most salient point came from former Suns coach Earl Watson.

He echoed a must-read story (from Baxter Holmes at ESPN) that reverberated around the NBA this summer (but for many fans got lost in the shuffle of player movement): How NBA team medical staffs — as well as just doctors working on young athletes — were noticing the extreme wear and tear on the body of AAU basketball players. The volume of games, often without enough training and conditioning to properly strengthen their young bodies or let them recover, sets young players up for injuries later in their playing career. NBA teams and doctors, with their load management techniques, are trying to make up for damage that started long before.

LeBron James, with two sons playing AAU ball right now, is in full agreement.

LeBron ripped the volume of games played in the youth basketball culture, speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

“These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know [that] … well, AAU coaches don’t give a f***,” James told Yahoo Sports. “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through…

“I think [AAU] has something to do with it, for sure,” James told Yahoo Sports. “It was a few tournaments where my kids — Bronny and Bryce — had five games in one day and that’s just f- – -ing out of control. That’s just too much… So, I’m very conscious for my own son because that’s all I can control, and if my son says he’s sore or he’s tired, he’s not playing.

“Because a lot of these tournaments don’t have the best interest of these kids, man. I see it. It’s like one time, they had to play a quarterfinal game, a semifinal game and a championship game starting at 9 a.m., and the championship game was at 12:30 p.m. Three games. I was like, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And my kids were dead tired. My kids were dead tired. This isn’t right. This is an issue.”

It is an issue. A big issue. The NBA can talk about reducing the number of games — they are, and they should, the season is too long, but cutting the number of games becomes a complex financial issue — but it goes beyond just the NBA level.

There needs to be fundamental changes in youth basketball in the NBA, down to the AAU level. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about this.

“So, where historically it’s been an area, particularly AAU basketball, that the league has stayed out of, I think these most recent revelations (from the NCAA scandal) are just a reminder that we’re part of this larger basketball community. I think ultimately, whether we like it or not, need to be more directly involved with elite youth basketball,” Silver said a couple of years ago. Since then, the league has taken steps in that direction.

However, like shortening the NBA season, there are a lot of competing interests in a complicated situation. A lot of people are making money the way things are now and don’t want them to change.

For the health of players, it needs to.

 

Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton to miss 3-4 weeks with thigh contusion

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Khris Middleton, coming off a summer with Team USA, has quietly continued his All-Star level play this season — an efficient 18.5 points per game, shooting 39.3 percent from three but also finishing well at the rim, and the Bucks offense is 3.3 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

However, he’s not going to be on the court for a few weeks due to a deep thigh bruise, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

In the third quarter of the Bucks win over the Thunder Sunday, Middleton suffered the thigh bruise, which sent him to the locker room. While he returned to the bench, he did not return to the game. Afterward, in the locker room, Middleton didn’t seem to think it was that serious.

It turned out to be a little more than that, it has to be a deep bruise to have him out for up to a month.

Kyle Korver would be next in line to get those minutes, but he sat out Sunday with a “head contusion.” Behind him look for smaller lineups with Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo, Sterling Brown, and Wesley Matthews to get more minutes, plus maybe a little Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

After 0-6 start, Raptors coach Nick Nurse celebrates successful challenge like he won a championship (video)

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After the Raptors won the 2019 NBA title, Toronto coach Nick Nurse hugged Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and Masai Ujiri.

Some of the hug recipients changed, but Nurse’s celebration didn’t look that different last night.

Nurse missed his first six coach’s challenges then finally got one right during the Raptors’ win over the Lakers. He responded by hugging everyone – including a Los Angeles fan – around him.

This was a long time coming. Even after a couple early failed challenges, Nurse sounded exasperated.

Michael Grange of Sportsnet:

Maybe Clippers coach Doc Rivers, a noted challenge critic, will eventually experience this euphoria.

Report: Gordon Hayward to have surgery on left hand

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How good would Gordon Hayward be if he could just stay healthy?

Hopefully we will find out someday, but probably not for the next couple of months after his agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Hayward will have surgery on his non-shooting hand to repair a broken bone.

There will be no official timeline for recovery until after the surgery, but after going under the knife Hayward is likely out at least six weeks. Stephen Curry is out three months after surgery on his non-shooting hand (that is a different injury, but it shows how long the timeline can be).

The play where the injury happened was innocuous.

Even so, it has left Boston with some big questions to answer through New Year’s Eve, or whenever Hayward returns. Hayward was having a bounce-back year, averaging 18.9 points per game, shooting 43.3 percent from three, pulling down 7.1 rebounds and dishing out 4.1 assists per game. He’s been a critical playmaker for the Celtics.

For Boston, this likely means a lot more Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, and maybe Javonte Green.