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Kenny Atkinson reportedly has ‘internal support’ to be next Knicks coach

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New York is going to hire Tom Thibodeau as its new head coach… unless Kenny Atkinson becomes the Knicks choice.

Thibodeau wants to return to NBA coaching, and his decades-long friendship with Rose made him the frontrunner from the start. It is likely still his job to lose.

However, former Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson is gaining support in the Knicks’ front office, reports Ian Begley of SNY.TV.

While there is no specific timetable known for the Knicks’ head-coaching search, there is legitimate internal support within the organization to name Kenny Atkinson as its next head coach, league sources tell SNY…

Agents and other coaches with a vested interest in the Knicks’ search continue to see Thibodeau as the most likely hire if team president Leon Rose decides not to bring back [interim coach Mike] Miller as head coach. Other outlets have reported that Thibodeau is the early favorite.

What drives the Atkinson support at Madison Square Garden is his success developing young talent and setting a culture in Brooklyn. The Knicks have a young core they like — RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, a high draft pick this year — but as an organization has not been good at identifying and developing talent in recent years. If the Knicks are thinking about a patient rebuild around their youth, Atkinson would be a good choice.

Hiring him is also a shot at the Nets, who let him go.

The Knicks also believe they are well positioned to trade for a star. Dealing with elite players — in this case, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant — proved to be Atkinson’s downfall in Brooklyn, as he was seen as inflexible with his system to cater to the new talent. Atkinson didn’t connect with the team’s imported stars.

Thibodeau has a history as a win-now coach who leans on veterans, but he struggled to relate to young players such as Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota. Thibodeau says he has grown and will bring a new perspective to his next job, but is that a bet the Knicks want to make?

Mike Miller and Mike Woodson also are expected to interview for the Knicks’ job. There is support in the organization to take a look at Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy as well.

Leon Rose has not tipped his hand much, but the buzz around the league is this is still Thibodeau’s job, even if some in the Knicks’ organization love Atkinson.

Knicks reportedly remain open to trading Julius Randle

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Back at the trade deadline in February, the Knicks and Hornets discussed a Julius Randle trade, it just never came together. New York continued to stumble through the season, with the combination of Randle and RJ Barrett — two ball-dominant, inefficient scorers who don’t space the floor — never meshing.

Now officially onto their offseason (the Knicks are not one of the 22 teams headed to the NBA restart in Orlando), New York and new team president Leon Rose remain open to trading Randle, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post in a Q&A.

Undoubtedly the Knicks are open to [trading Randle]. His contract for next season ($18.9 million) is manageable but the downside is he will count $4 million on the 2021 cap if they don’t exercise his team option after next season. The 2021 free-agent class is golden. Randle had his moments as a double-double force and is still early in his prime. But Randle’s defense is below average and it’s been reported here his knack of over-dribbling frustrated some teammates, including RJ Barrett. And a bigger disappointment was Randle lost his magic from the 3-point line (27.7 percent). As David Fizdale noted recently, the Knicks could use a 3-point shooting stretch 4. Someone like, say Kristaps Porzingis.

Quality little dig with Porzingis at the end.

The challenge in trading Randle becomes finding a dance partner. Randle has talent and is a floor raiser for a struggling team — he averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds a game — but he’s not a consistent All-Star level talent teams are going to build around. Going back to the trade deadline, Randle would have made Charlotte better in the short term, but long term the Hornets are better off going into the draft lottery and adding talent rather than trying to make a late push for the eighth seed.

What role Randle plays for the Knicks next year will depend on the coach Rose hires — likely Tom Thibodeau — and what direction the organization goes in terms of building with youth vs. going after veterans. Rose has a lot of other things higher up on his to-do list than a Randle trade at this point.

Report: Julius Randle frustrated multiple Knicks, including R.J. Barrett, with ball dominance

Knicks players R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle
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The Knicks have just two players with guaranteed salaries above $7 million next season – Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett.

At quick glance, it’s a fine tandem. The 25-year-old Randle is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. The No. 3 pick in the most recent NBA draft, Barrett is averaging 14 points, five rebounds and three assists per game.

But neither has met hopes individually this season.

Collectively, the issues could be even worse.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Nevertheless, some Knicks, including rookie RJ Barrett, were frustrated by Randle’s penchant for not distributing the ball quickly enough and overdribbling, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

“A lot of players felt like that with the exception of Elfrid Payton,’’ one NBA source told The Post.

Of course, Barrett was frustrated by an inefficient shooter who dominates the ball and commits too many turnovers. It’s exponentially more difficult to have two players than one like that, and Barrett was already filling that role. Imagine how teammates who must play with both feel.

Apparently except Elfrid Payton? He played with Randle on the Pelicans last season. Randle shot 34% on 3-pointers with New Orleans (27% the rest of his career, including 28% this year), which went a long way toward making Randle more suitable within a team offense. So, Payton has that experience.

Randle has talent, and that’s why he puts up numbers. His shot creation helps him raise a team’s floor. But – also considering his defensive shortcomings – it’s tough to see him fitting as a starter on a winning team.

Barrett is just a rookie, so there’s more hope he develops a style that fits better with other good players. Of course, even if he does, for it to matter, the Knicks would have to get better players.

For now, they’ve got an expensive Randle.

Bradley Beal’s hot streak continues, scores 40 to lift Wizards past Knicks (VIDEO)

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WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal got back to his high-scoring ways with 40 points, lifting the Washington Wizards to a 122-115 victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night.

Beal overcame a slow start and surpassed the 25-point plateau for the 22nd time in 23 games. His string of 21 such games was snapped Sunday when he scored 23 in a loss to Miami.

The Wizards’ win meant the Heat will have to wait at least one more day to clinch an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Miami can do so with a home win Wednesday against Charlotte.

Beal scored 27 in the second half after connecting on five of his first 15 shots against the Knicks.

Shabazz Napier added 21 points for the Wizards.

Bobby Portis led the Knicks with 20 points against his former team, while Julius Randle added 16 before fouling out.

Both teams squandered big leads. The Wizards lost a 14-point lead in the first quarter, and the Knicks blew an 18-point advantage in the third.

The teams are out of the playoff hunt in the East, and it sounded as if there were more Knicks fans than Wizards supporters in the stands.

When it was announced late in the first quarter that a 3-pointer by Frank Ntilikina was overturned by replay review, there were more boos than cheers in the more-than-half-empty arena. Chants of “Let’s go, Knicks!” and “MVP” could be heard as rookie RJ Barrett shot free throws.

Three Things to Know: James Dolan’s Knicks still don’t know how to pick their battles

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) James Dolan’s Knicks still don’t know how to pick their battles. Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” is technically a military book, but in reality it is a 2,000-year-old treatise on how to win at conflict. Within its pages is a lot of wisdom on how to get the upper hand in conflicts by outsmarting an opponent, about how to win the war on the home front and not just on a battlefield. Ideally, it’s better to win without a costly battle rather than charging headlong into a fight. One of the book’s biggest lessons is simple:

Choose your battles wisely.

James Dolan and the Knicks never seem to do that. The Knicks owner and his organization charge headlong into the next unwise fight, time and time again.

The latest is the kerfuffle with Knicks superfan Spike Lee, who says he is done with the team for this season (not that he is missing much). We could get into the details of the back-and-forth between the sides from Tuesday, the potentially staged photograph and all the rest, but that misses the larger point.

Dolan, an unpopular owner, and his organization picked a fight with the public face of Knicks’ fandom — a battle Dolan and the Knicks cannot win on the PR front. Lee does not shy away from confrontation or publicity, did the Knicks even consider this as they put out a press release that they likely though ended the conversation but really just escalated it?

Dolan lost this battle before it started.

And over what? Which entrance to the arena Lee uses? That’s the hill the Knicks want to die on? Celebrity customers bend the rules in every walk of life (fair or not), and the reaction of business owners is usually “the customer is always right.” If a behavior needs to be addressed, it’s done out of the spotlight – and kept out of the spotlight, no matter what — to help everyone save face. It’s basic business. It’s putting the customer first.

Not at Madison Square Garden. On a night the Knicks got their best win of the season — knocking off the red-hot Rockets, with RJ Barrett putting up 27 points — nobody is talking about that because Dolan’s ego and the Knicks PR “machine” got involved. Dolan and the Knicks didn’t pick their battles. Again.

Hope you’re enjoying your first week on the job, Leon Rose.

2) Caris LeVert drops 51, leads Nets from 17 down in the fourth quarter to knock off Celtics in overtime. There are plenty of excuses lined up if Boston wants them: Jayson Tatum was out, Kemba Walker was on a minutes limit, then Gordon Hayward’s knee bruise and Jaylen Brown’s hamstring had them missing key minutes down the stretch.

It doesn’t matter. If Boston is really the second-best team in the East, it has to find a way to win a game against a banged-up sub-.500 team the Celtics led by 17 to start the fourth quarter.

Enter Caris LeVert. Brooklyn’s athletic wing scored 26 points in the fourth quarter, all 11 of his team’s points in overtime, and sparked the Nets comeback from 21 down in the second half to beat the Celtics 129-120 in overtime.

It’s one of the best wins of the season for the Nets, who will make the playoffs as the seven or eight seed in the East. Brooklyn put up a franchise-record 51 points in the fourth to complete the comeback.

It was the worst loss of the season for the Celtics. Marcus Smart wanted to blame the officials — his foul on LeVert with 0.2 in regulation allowed overtime to happen — and had to be held back and taken off the court after the game so he didn’t go after them.

Smart can be pissed at the officiating, but this loss is on the guys in the Boston locker room, not the refs. The Celtics surrendered a 51-point quarter, Brad Stevens didn’t make many adjustments as the walls crumbled, and a team that has been “next man up” all season long wasn’t in this game, the bench struggled.

The priority for Boston has to be getting Hayward, Tatum (illness) and everyone healthy — the Celtics don’t want these things to linger through the final six weeks of the season. That said, the Celtics are currently the three seed in the East and are now one game back in the loss column from the Raptors for the two seed. Boston has lost two in a row and heads to Cleveland, where the Celtics need to right the ship.

3) Anthony Davis scores 37, the Lakers keep on winning and the 76ers keep on stumbling. The Lakers were not caught looking ahead. They have big tests coming up — the Bucks on Friday night, the Clippers on Sunday — but first Anthony Davis and LeBron James made sure they took care of business against Philly.

Davis led the way with 37 points (he had a red-hot second quarter), while LeBron had 22 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds during a 120-107 win against a 76ers team still without Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons due to injury (plus Josh Richardson missed the game due to a concussion).

Philly fell to 9-23 on the road and they sit as the six seed in the East currently. Tobias Harris was aggressive early, and finished with 18 points in the game, but foul trouble limited him. Al Horford looked a step slow next to Anthony Davis (or, really, anyone). Glen Robinson III did have 25 to lead the Sixers.

This was another quality win for the Lakers, the kind they have consistently gotten all season to stay on top of the West. They look every bit the title contenders, but the real tests on that front come this weekend.