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Report: Knicks talking to Trail Blazers about acquiring extra draft pick this June

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The New York Knicks have the No. 8 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, where they will likely add someone such as Jonathan Issac or Dennis Smith or Lauri Markkanen.

However, the Knicks are not done, they would like to add another pick to the mix later in the first round and are talking with Portland about that, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

As evidenced by their recent — and ongoing — trade discussions with the Portland Trail Blazers, members of the Knicks’ front office are seeking to acquire an additional draft pick.

One source described talks between the Knicks and Blazers as “fluid,” with several different proposals — as is the case with most trade discussions. One scenario discussed involved the Knicks taking back a player — and Maurice Harkless’ name was among those that came up.

The Trail Blazers have the 15th, 20th, and 26th pick in the Draft and are not a team looking to bring three rookies into training camp — if one team will be active with trades on draft night, it will be Portland. The question is what would the Knicks give up to get that pick? This is not a team with a lot of talent on the roster other teams covet.

Begley also repeats the rumor that at least some with the Knicks are looking to acquire Ricky Rubio this summer.

Some members of the organization would again like to try to pursue Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio in a trade this offseason, sources said. The Knicks were close to completing a deal shortly before the trade deadline centered around Derrick Rose and Rubio. Talks continued until shortly before the deadline. Per league sources with knowledge of the situation, some Knicks decision-makers see trading for Rubio as a viable option this offseason.

Rubio played arguably the best basketball of his career after the All-Star break this past summer, with his jumper finally falling. Add to that the fact the Timberwolves do not have another point guard to trust on the roster (Kris Dunn has not panned out so far) and Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves should not be looking to move Rubio unless a team wildly overpays to get him. Which means it’s possible because these are the Knicks.

But a trade for a draft pick seems far more likely.

Stephen Curry urged teammates to just be themselves vs Cavs

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry spoke up, just in case his Golden State Warriors needed another reminder from their MVP and leader. His message as the NBA Finals began: be yourselves.

Forget the juicy story lines, or avenging something that happened last June, that championship that got away. Set aside the hyped-up Cavs-Dubs rivalry, constant talk of the trilogy, Part III.

Just go play. And it worked splendidly for the two-time reigning MVP and Kevin Durant in their first Finals together.

Durant was utterly dominant 11 months after leaving Oklahoma City last July to join the Warriors, while Curry found a groove once he removed the black sleeve from his shooting arm protecting his tender right elbow. It just didn’t feel right.

They combined for 66 points and 18 assists in a 113-91 Game 1 thumping Thursday night against LeBron James and the defending champion Cavaliers, who must find a way to defend the high-flying Durant when the best-of-seven series resumes Sunday at Oracle Arena.

“We were really, really good in that department at just being ourselves, playing Warriors basketball, knowing that there’s a lot of talent out on the floor,” said Curry, who had 28 points and 10 assists. “And that’s our best effort to win this championship, is just be ourselves.”

Cleveland might be thinking the same thing a day after that startling Game 1 defeat that featured 20 turnovers and Durant driving to the basket at will with nobody even close as he dunked again and again – six times in the first half alone. When the Cavs left him unguarded on the perimeter, Durant hit 3-pointers.

The Cavs watched film and vowed to get back to basics and the solid fundamentals that carried them this far, especially on the defensive end.

“We have to stop the ball first and foremost,” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love, whose 21 rebounds in Game 1 were a franchise postseason record. “That’s very apparent when you look at the film.”

Not only did the Warriors match a Finals low with just four turnovers, they took Tristan Thompson out of the equation by holding him scoreless. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue changed his rotation as he searched for someone who could make a scoring impact in the middle, saying that led to his decision to only play Thompson 22 minutes.

James and Kyrie Irving shot 19 for 42 between them but the sloppy ball handling allowed the Warriors to take nearly as many shots – 106 – as they had points, and 20 more attempts than the Cavs’ 86.

Golden State was so good that Lue called them the best team he has seen. Sure, the Warriors won a record 73 games a year ago but in the end they failed to hold a 3-1 Finals lead as Cleveland rallied back in the series to win Game 7 and steal a title in Oakland.

They sure look unstoppable lately. Durant has scored at least 25 points in each of his six career Finals games, losing in his only other appearance to LeBron and Miami in 2012. KD also became the first player with at least 38 points and no turnovers in a Finals game since Shaquille O’Neal did so with 41 points on June 19, 2000.

“You cannot simulate what they bring to the table. No matter how many days that you have to prepare, you can’t simulate what they have,” James said. “So it’s great to get the first game up underneath us. We made a lot of mistakes. They capitalized. And we get an opportunity to get a couple days to see what they did and see what we did wrong and how we can be better in Game 2.”

Golden State realizes it might not get quite the open lanes and looks that Durant had Thursday as the Cavs try to adjust in the paint, yet the pass-happy Warriors are more than capable of opening up the game in other ways as efficiently as they move the ball.

“I think it’s part of the reason people enjoy watching us play. People see so much unselfishness, they see the beauty in the pass,” Andre Iguodala said. “It can scare teams at times. What do you do? `Are we giving up 3s? Are we giving up runs at the basket?”‘

That’s up to Cleveland to figure out – and fast.

 

Atlanta Hawks new GM faces some tricky personnel issues

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ATLANTA (AP) — Travis Schlenk knows what it takes to win a championship.

He’s also a realist.

Just over a week after he was hired as general manager and head of basketball operations by the Atlanta Hawks, Schlenk was formally introduced by his new team Friday at Philips Arena, facing a host of issues ranging from re-signing free agent Paul Millsap to figuring out a role for Dwight Howard.

Hawks owner Tony Ressler gushed over Schlenk’s qualifications, saying he clearly stood out among the 8-to-10 candidates interviewed by the team.

Schlenk spent a dozen years with Golden State, helping build a team that won the title in 2015 and is playing in its third straight NBA Finals. He worked his way up to director of player personnel and spent the last five years as the top assistant to general manager Bob Myers.

Now, Schlenk has a team of his own.

“The breadth of experience that Travis had – having every job in a basketball operations, understanding what everyone does in basketball operations, having that championship pedigree, having the type of mentors and colleagues that Travis has had – he separated himself in our discussions,” Ressler said.

While taking over a team that has made 10 straight playoff appearances, Schlenk also must cope with some major personnel issues and a sense that this is a franchise in decline after a record 60-win campaign in 2014-15, when the Hawks were top seed in the East and reached the conference finals.

This season, Atlanta went 43-39 and was knocked out in the opening round of the playoffs.

Schlenk said one of his top priorities is bringing back Millsap, a four-time All-Star who opted out of the final year of his contract.

But perhaps the most pressing issue is Howard, who still has two more years on his contract. Once one of the league’s most dominating players, the 6-foot-11 center endured a disappointing debut season with the Hawks and looked totally out of place by the playoffs.

Struggling to adapt to coach Mike Budenholzer’s motion offense, Howard averaged just eight points per game against the Washington Wizards – and didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter of the series-deciding loss.

Schlenk wants to find a way to make it work. He has yet to speak with Howard in person, but the two have exchanged text messages.

“I certainly plan to sit down,” the new GM said. “I don’t judge people on what I hear. I judge people when I have a chance to sit down and talk to them. But he’s one of the most productive big guys in the league, so he’s important to us.”

Schlenk is also stepping into what could be an uncomfortable situation, claiming authority over player personnel decisions that had been held by Budenholzer.

After a series of questionable moves, which included the signing of Howard to a three-year, $70.5 million deal and making a four-year, $70 million commitment to former D-League player Kent Bazemore (who lost his starting job late in the season), Ressler stripped Budenholzer of his title as president of basketball operations and demoted general manager Wes Wilcox – who was essentially Budenholzer’s top lieutenant – to an advisor role.

Budenholzer did not attend the news conference, but the team was quick to point out that wasn’t a sign of discontent: the coach was attending his son’s high school graduation.

While conceding that he didn’t know Budenholzer all that well before being hired by the Hawks, Schlenk said the two had met extensively this week to begin ironing out their roles and what they expect from each other.

“I have no reason to believe that there’ll be any issues with coach and I,” Schlenk said. “I’m here to help him. It’s a partnership. We’re in this together. I can’t be successful in my job in he’s not successful in his job. I think we’re going to have a very strong working relationship.”

While noting that it took seven years to build a championship team at Golden State, Schlenk said the Hawks have many of the elements needed to reach that goal, including a committed owner, a new practice facility and the ongoing $190 million renovation of Philips Arena, as well as long-term plans to develop the blighted area around the team’s home.

“We want to build a championship-quality team that’s sustainable,” he said. “We want to be in the conversation every year as a franchise than can compete for a championship.”

 

After a dunkfest in Game 1, Cavs must slow Warriors at rim

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The first-half list of baskets for Golden State’s Kevin Durant in Game 1 of the NBA Finals went like this: layup, dunk, jumper, dunk, dunk, dunk, dunk, layup, dunk, layup.

Most were easy.

And easy isn’t supposed to happen, especially not at the rim in the NBA Finals.

Forget all the things that Cleveland did wrong offensively in Game 1, the poor shooting and the 20 turnovers and how the bench basically contributed nothing and how Rihanna got – and merited – more commentary from ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy than J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson did.

The Cavs can score. They’ll likely be better on Sunday night in Game 2. That isn’t the issue.

The issue is this: If the reigning NBA champions don’t show some toughness – especially at the rim – soon, they won’t be reigning NBA champions much longer.

“I think that’s how Cleveland is going to approach it, make it a physical game,” Michael Cooper, now the coach of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream who went through some epic Lakers-Celtics battles as a player in the 1980s, said before the series began. “Golden State wants a finesse game.”

Finesse won Game 1.

And after a team has been blown out in the playoffs, history shows that team typically tries to make a statement in Game 2 that things will be different.

Funny thing is for Cleveland, the Cavs had the answer they needed to just that three months ago in Andrew Bogut. Problem is, they only had him for 58 seconds .

Let’s clear up a misconception: Golden State’s biggest undoing on the way to blowing that 3-1 lead in last season’s NBA Finals was not Draymond Green‘s Game 5 suspension for connecting with LeBron James‘ midsection.

The Warriors lost that series because Bogut – their best rim protector – got hurt in Game 5 .

And this year, it was Cleveland’s turn to lose Bogut.

He started the year in Dallas, got traded to and ultimately waived by Philadelphia, and signed with Cleveland because the Cavs knew they needed – and wanted – another tough guy who could clog the lane and had playoff experience. And there is no doubt he would have been eager to go against the team that jettisoned him to the Mavericks to make room for Durant.

But Bogut checked into a game against Miami for his Cavs debut, collided with Heat rookie Okaro White, and broke his left leg. Season over. So while he was tweeting Thursday about Santa Claus and Australian Rules Football, Durant was dunking on the sort of nonexistent defense typically seen at an All-Star Game and not the NBA Finals.

Durant had six dunks, all in the first half.

– The first came off a great cut to beat James.

– The second, James got no help after he swiped unsuccessfully at the ball.

– The third, James slipped and again no help came.

– The fourth, Kyrie Irving didn’t stop the ball as Durant sailed past.

– The fifth, Shaun Livingston faked the Cavs out and Durant was left all alone.

– The sixth, Durant drove the lane and Smith ran away to cover Stephen Curry.

“We made a lot of mistakes. They capitalized,” James said. “And we get an opportunity to get a couple days to see what they did and see what we did wrong and how we can be better in Game 2.”

To be fair, playing the Warriors is a slew of pick-your-poison decisions. Overcommit to the lane, and their shooters will tee off from 3-point range. Overplay the perimeter, and the rim is undefended. They’ve won 28 of their last 29 games. They’re 80-15 this season. They could post the second-best record in NBA history when counting the regular season and playoffs, behind only the 1995-96 Bulls.

Today’s NBA isn’t the sort of league where someone is going to clothesline Durant or any other Warrior to send some sort of foolish overly physical message, nor should it be. Though Kevin McHale’s aggressive at-the-rim takedown of Kurt Rambis in the 1984 title matchup remains a quintessential moment in postseason lore (and swung that Celtics-Lakers series totally Boston’s way).

And this series is a long way from over. James has been on the losing end of Game 1 of the Finals seven times in eight tries. He was down 1-0 in all three of the series where he went on to win a ring. Not even a 3-1 deficit last year was enough to faze him.

But someone from Cleveland, maybe many someones, had better find a way to make life tougher for the Warriors going forward starting on Sunday.

Or else a lot more dunks are coming.

Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds(at)ap.org

AP Source: Bosh, Miami Heat reach agreement to part ways

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MIAMI (AP) — Chris Bosh‘s time on the Miami Heat roster is finally nearing an end.

A complicated end, at that.

The blood clots that Bosh has dealt with over parts of the last three seasons have been declared a career-ending injury situation and the Heat will soon remove the 11-time All-Star forward from their roster and salary cap going forward, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the agreement has not been announced publicly.

Bosh will never be able to play again for the Heat, said the person, adding that Bosh could play again if another club gives him medical clearance.

If that happens – and it’s unclear if that’s a possibility because the specifics of Bosh’s current health situation are unknown – the Heat will face no risk of having any of the $52 million Bosh is owed over the next two seasons returning to their salary cap.

“I’m still a basketball player at heart,” Bosh told AP in March. “I can’t help it.”

So it appears the 33-year-old Bosh will have a chance to play again, and Miami gets to soon close the last remaining link to the “Big Three” era that saw the Heat reach four consecutive NBA Finals with Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James leading the way from 2011 through 2014. And months of talks between Bosh, the Heat, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are about to bring a resolution.

Bosh remains on the Heat roster for now, and could stay there for several more weeks. It’s almost certain that he will eventually be waived once Miami needs his cap space for free agency in July – the Heat will have around $37 million in room once Bosh’s contract comes off the books – though a trade is still technically possible.

It was obvious last September that Bosh had played his last game for the Heat, after he failed a physical and team president Pat Riley said the franchise was moving forward without the two-time champion in its plans. Bosh made clear last fall that he wanted to play, and eventually got back into the game as an analyst for Turner Sports late in the season.

He described what he went through this past season as “a taste of retirement.”

“You’re going 100 mph and the brakes are slammed on and now you’re not moving at all,” Bosh said in the March interview. “It’s definitely an adjustment, just being able to get used to things and finding that purpose that I think we all need to succeed and have good mental health. It’s been a challenge. Things happen for a reason, I guess.”

Bosh’s first known bout with a clot was in February 2015, when one that was believed to have formed in one of his legs traveled to a lung and caused problems so severe that he needed to be hospitalized for several days. He recovered and was averaging 19.1 points in the 2015-16 season when the second known issue with a clot began – ironically, at the All-Star break, just as was the case the season before.

He hasn’t played since.