Phil Jackson says desire to change ‘style’ among reasons for trading Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith

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The Knicks were involved in a three-team trade on Monday that essentially amounted to nothing more than a salary dump, and won’t do anything to improve the team this season.

The players New York received in return are expected to be waived, and by losing Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, the team increased its available salary cap space to in the neighborhood of $30 million to spend next summer.

These moves were about changing the roster for the future. But according to both Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, they were also about something else.

From Al Innazzone of Newsday:

“As our journey moves through this season, we will search for the type of players that fit the style we hope to exhibit for our fans,” Phil Jackson said in a statement. “Our desire is to improve our ability to compete. In addition, these transactions improve our flexibility to the current roster and the salary cap for future seasons.” …

Derek Fisher said the Knicks will try to fill their two open roster spots. “I don’t think this in any way signals the end of our transition process,” he said.

“I think our front office will continue to look at what we can do to replace a couple of these guys, but also how we’re going to build our roster going forward in the short term and the long term. I think Phil is continuing to look at how we transition as we change the culture of the New York Knicks.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because we heard a similar refrain out of Sacramento earlier this season, when the Kings fired their head coach over what ownership described as a desire to play a more uptempo style — despite the fact that the team was doing just fine playing a slower pace where most of their points came in the halfcourt set.

It isn’t as though the Knicks had anything to lose by moving two rotation players for nothing more than cap space for the future. The team wasn’t very good when healthy, but a string of injuries to New York’s core players (including Carmelo Anthony) has resulted in the Knicks winning just five times through the first 37 games of their season.

Building around a particular style when starting essentially from scratch can be successful, if there are players available who would fit the chosen system. But more important to the long-term success of a franchise is an ability to remain flexible, in case the roster ends up consisting of guys with a variety of skill sets who may be better-suited to playing differently than was originally planned.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.