Phil Jackson says Knicks will be thinking defense first in draft, free agency

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Whatever system the Knicks are running next season, what they need more than anything else is better talent on the roster.

However, in selecting that talent look for the Knicks to think defense first. That’s what team president Phil Jackson told season ticket holders at an event Thursday, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

“Gotta have a defender,” Jackson said. “… That’s a good starting point — a guy like Tyson Chandler (whom the Knicks traded over the summer) is the defensive backup that we have to have. In this day and age in our game, there are so many screen and rolls, so many 3-point shooters, so many things that a player of size has to (do). Not only cover the paint and protect the basket but he has to be able to step out defensively and play a guard. And do some defensive work on the extreme part of the floor so it’s very important that that player have defensive capabilities.”

That answer came in relation to a question about the draft. It suggests that should the Knicks land the top pick; they are among the growing number of teams leaning toward Kentucky’s Karl Towns over Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Towns is the better defender (and the better free throw shooter).

Of course, Jackson was peddling hope for the future to these season ticket holders — yes this season sucked but with the worst record they are guaranteed a top four pick. But he and Knicks GM Steve Mills also talked free agency plans, at least in broad strokes.

“It’s a different approach than in the past — we won’t go after the biggest name out there, we’ll go after players who fit in system and style,” Mills said. “It may in fact be a big-name player but it’s going to be who fits system-wise.”

 

That system may be a little less triangle, but there needs to be a system.

The Knicks are expected to have $25 million or more to spend, and if they could land Marc Gasol with that they would. But he’s not leaving Memphis for NYC. What Mills is suggesting is the right course of action — New York doesn’t need a home run this summer, it needs some solid singles and maybe a double or two. Get quality players in, build a foundation that can win some with Carmelo Anthony, one that shows hope for the future.

That’s how you draw a big name free agent to come in 2016 (or 2017) — you can’t just sell the brand and the city, you have to have some substance on the court.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.