Derek Fisher preaches culture change, says when introduced he has experience to turn Knicks around

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It’s not going to take just a couple of little tweaks to make the New York Knicks contenders again. The roster needs a lot of work, the organizational culture needs to change.

Phil Jackson has hired Derek Fisher to be his coach and help usher in that change, something that was made and Fisher’s introductory press conference at Madison Square Garden Tuesday. Fisher reportedly got a five-year, $25 million deal.

But is Fisher — a guy with no head coaching experience, who was still playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder a couple weeks ago — the right guy to help spearhead that change with Jackson? Fisher is confident he is. Very confident.

“There will be a lot of talk about my inexperience as a head coach, and that is obviously factually true,” Fisher said. “I have never been a head coach in the NBA or in college or in high school — but I am experienced. Basketball is a game that I am experienced in. Playing, understanding, leading in, guiding in, helping another group achieve the greatest gift in the world as a professional athlete and that is being a champion. That I have experience in. And that’s the experience I plan on sharing with these players, sharing with this organization.”

It’s something the Knicks have not experienced for more than 40 years as an organization. That is why Jackson was brought in by owner James Dolan at the hefty price tag of $12 million a year, it’s why Jackson was given real power.

Jackson has talked about changing the culture at Madison Square Garden and Fisher echoed that sentiment. He said the bar needs to be set at a championship level.

“That is who we will become, that is who we are,” Fisher said. “It is here, it exists here, Phil experienced it as a player almost 40 years ago… and we know without a doubt we know what that is, what it means how to create that, how to live in that on a daily basis. I’m excited about this.”

Jackson said he had a feeling Fisher wanted to go this way based on conversations previous summers, and once hey started talking things progressed quickly.

Jackson mentioned Fisher a couple weeks ago at a press conference as a “person of interest” but Fisher was still playing for the Thunder at that time. That tampering earned Phil Jackson a $25,000 fine — and if you don’t think Jackson knew the fine was coming when he said it but he was willing to pay the price to get the message sent, you haven’t watched Jackson over the years. He is careful about what he says publicly, these kinds of things accidentally.

Jackson tried to dispel the idea Fisher would simply be a proxy coach for him, saying that a younger coach who could relate to the players was needed. The players don’t exactly listen to the Grateful Dead like in his day, Jackson noted.

“Obviously Derek’s in a bit of a learning process, but we think his experience the last three or four years has been one of more assistant coach/player role and he’s learned under some of the best coaches: Don Nelson, Jerry Sloan, and the latest in Scotty Brooks,” Jackson said, leaving himself and his 11 rings off that list.

Fisher said yes, you can expect to see the triangle in New York.

“I love the triangle system,” Fisher said. “I believe with the roster we have we can utilize it to be more efficient, more effective, to give ourselves a chance to play better defense by getting higher percentage shots, so I believe in the system.”

Carmelo Anthony would fit well in the triangle system, getting the ball at the elbow or spacing the floor on the wings at times. He’s the kind of elite scorer the offense needs (providing he is willing to move the ball in it).

Anthony can and is expected to opt out and become a free agent this summer, he can choose to re-sign with the Knicks or not. Jackson and GM Steve Mills are going to meet with Anthony in the coming days, according to Jackson. Even if ‘Melo does opt out he could re-sign with the Knicks. But mostly Fisher and Jackson dodged the question about the future with Anthony.

Fisher said he did have very informal contact with the Lakers but never seemed to be seriously considered, which is why he was surprised the Lakers released a statement saying they were not going to pursue him. But that flirtation was never serious, the Lakers are focused on getting an experienced coach.

Jackson hired Fisher and went another direction, but Fisher thinks he has the experience for this job. Fisher was never the best athlete, the tallest, the fastest guy on the court but he played 18 NBA seasons in part because of a high basketball IQ.

“(His past basketball experiences) all provide an experience for me that I look forward to sharing with our players, and helping us re-establish the championship culture that exists in the DNA of this organization and this city,” Fisher said

Report: Cavaliers flying blind into draft because LeBron doesn’t know what he’s going to do

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The first day we’re going to get a hint of LeBron James‘ plan this summer is June 29 — that’s the date he has to opt into, or out of, the $35.6 million on his contract for next season.

Opt-in and that means either he’s staying with the Cavaliers or there has been an arrangement made to trade him (likely to Houston). Opt- out and he becomes a free agent on July 1 — he could re-sign with the Cavaliers, or he could sign anywhere else for next season.

What LeBron is doing could impact what the Cavaliers do at the NBA draft, keep the No. 8 pick and draft for the future or try to trade it (probably packaged with Kevin Love or another player) to get LeBron more help now.

But LeBron isn’t going to let the Cavaliers know because he himself doesn’t know, reports Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

According to sources, the Cavs’ front office and James’ camp have been in contact over the phone and in person, though there has been no meeting with James present, nor has there been any real dialogue as far as James’ future is concerned.

Because the superstar himself doesn’t know.

The Cavs have been signaling (strongly, in some cases) that they’re looking to upgrade their team from the group that was swept out of the Finals this month, whether James stays or goes.

If LeBron is going, then the Cavaliers should consider trading that pick to a team eager to land someone still on the board (if Michael Porter Jr. is still available there likely would be plenty of solid offers). However, if he’s going they should use that pick to start the rebuild (and Porter would be a good step that direction).

In reality, the Cavaliers have to act as if LeBron is gone. That was the sense one got being around the team through the playoffs and Finals, that this relationship had run its course. The Cavaliers should draft the best player they can with that pick, unless some team comes through with a killer offer for the slot (and Love plus the No. 8 is not going to land Kawhi Leonard, who the Spurs are not moving that fast to trade anyway). Then, if and when LeBron leaves, start looking at possible trades for Love, Kyle Korver, and every other veteran on the roster. Start the rebuild.

Still, new GM Koby Altman is flying blind on draft night, and LeBron’s not going to help the team out.

 

Brad Stevens says Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward should be fully cleared by Aug. 1

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Everyone watching the Boston Celtics in the playoffs kept thinking the same thing: Add Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back into this lineup next summer and — bang — instant contender.

That leads to the question: Just where are Irving and Hayward on their recovery tracks? Glad you asked.

That’s a good sign for the Celtics. And for fans of good basketball.

One word of caution: Progression when adding stars into a system is not necessarily linear. Or, to put it more plainly, throwing superstars who need the ball in their hands into the mix comes with its own set of adjustments and challenges, things do not always go smoothly or as planned. There could be some fits and starts as the Celtics figure things out next season. (And that’s not even getting into the Kawhi Leonard rumors, which are legitimate but also a long way from reality as of today.)

If you were going to trust one coach to figure it out and get guys to buy in, Brad Stevens would be your guy. The Celtics are rightfully going to enter next season as the bar to clear in the East (free agency depending). Just don’t expect things to go smoothly from day one, because that’s just not how basketball or life work.

Michael Porter Jr. says his injury situation “got exaggerated a lot”

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If healthy, Michael Porter Jr. might be as talented as anyone in this draft. He’s a 6’11” wing or small ball four who can shoot from the NBA three-point line and has the athleticism to get up and down the floor then finish with authority.

But health is a concern. There was the back injury which forced a microdiscectomy surgery that forced Porter to miss all but three games last season. Back injuries in big men are tricky things and can linger. Then last week there was an off-again-on-again workout and medical evaluation with the pause due to a hip issue. Was that soreness tied to the back issue?

In an interview on ESPN radio, Porter played down the injury concerns.

Former Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr., who had issues with his hip and back, said Monday that he’s “feeling great” and wouldn’t dismiss the idea of working out for teams this week ahead of Thursday’s NBA draft.

“It’s a possibility,” Porter said on The Will Cain Show on ESPN Radio. “I feel good. … I got evaluated. I let the doctors come in and do all their tests on me. I’m feeling good. I think the teams are comfortable, but I might get a couple workouts in.”

As for last week’s hip issue.

“It was just a little sore, so I told [my agent] my hip was kind of sore and he just wanted to shut it down for a couple of days,” Porter said. “And then people took that and kind of ran with it, saying, you know, my hip was injured, I couldn’t get out of bed. … None of that was really true. I was just sore and I wanted to take a couple of days off. So that’s all that was.”

Porter is the mystery man in this draft — and those guys always seem to rise and have someone fall in love with them. It’s hard to imagine Porter going lower than eighth, but he has been linked to teams as high as the Kings at No. 2.

Porter is the kind of player that some team lower in the draft may fall in love with and be willing to trade up to the top five to snag him. The health is the question. An NBA front office member who has seen Porter’s medical reports described them to NBC Sports as “fine.”

There are also concerns about Porter’s grit and toughness. He has the reputation of having been insulated and having been a bit of a diva, what happens when he gets to an NBA team where he is not the first (and, at first at least, maybe not the second) option. What happens when he has to play more of a role and have it not be about him and his touches? Teams are asking about that.

Despite the concerns, there will be a team taking him in the first half of the lottery. It could be a home run. Or… that’s what makes the draft interesting.

Report: As expected, Jamal Crawford declines $4.5 million player option with Minnesota

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Jamal Crawford wants a bigger payday, and after a solid season scoring 10.3 points per game for Minnesota last season, he might get it despite a tight market. That’s why what happened on Monday was expected.

Crawford opted out of the final year of his contract with the Timberwolves, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford has declined his $4.5 million player option for next season and will become a free agent, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Crawford, a three-time Sixth Man of the Year, will become one of the top reserve scorers on the open market after facing Monday’s deadline to decide on his option.

The concern for teams is that Crawford is 38 and already showing some decline in his skills and game. Crawford can still be productive, but teams will be leery of offering more than two years guaranteed on his contract. And for a guy who comes off the bench — even a three-time Sixth Man of the Year — teams are not going to spend big.

Crawford may also just be looking for a new team chemistry and role, something at this stage in his career he should be able to get.