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Jeff Hornacek, Knicks coaches to handle defensive plans this season

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On veteran teams, with high-IQ players, coaches often will lean on players to help with the game plan. Especially defensively. Veteran defenders know the tendencies of their opponents (having played them so many times) and can offer suggestions on what works and what doesn’t.

Jeff Hornacek came from one of those teams as a player, so he tried to do it with the Knicks last season as their coach. That would be the Knicks who ranked 25th in defensive efficiency last season. It didn’t work out so well.

This season the coaching staff in NYC is taking over the defensive game plans, Hornacek told Ian Begley of ESPN.

“We’re not doing that this year,” Hornacek said Monday. “When we go to shoot around that (defensive) plan will be in place. We’ll know the adjustments, instead of trying to give the guys the idea, ‘Hey, you guys play, you guys know these guys. What’s the best way to do it?'” Hornacek added that he may have made a mistake in giving players that leeway last season. “I played on teams that had great veteran players. We had a basic thing, but most of the time it was, ‘Okay, I’m going to be doing this, you’re going to be doing this and we worked it out.’ That’s maybe what I thought we’d be able to do last year with the guys. But that’s, we found out that didn’t work the best for us. This year we worked all summer to try to figure these things out.”

The Knicks defense should be better in part because of personnel, with guys like Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Frank Ntilikina, Kristaps Porzingis, and Willy Hernangomez in the rotation. However, it’s really about having a clear, simple plan for these guys to execute nightly and making them stick to it. Effort matters. The Knicks aren’t going to defend like the Spurs or Warriors, but they can be better. That should make Knicks fans feel a little less hopeless.

If they’re not, Hornacek’s seat will get a little hotter.

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.