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Report: Kristaps Porzingis, frustrated about “dysfunction, drama” skips Knicks exit meeting

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The Knicks are providing more drama than “Hamilton” on Broadway — and with cheaper ticket prices.

Phil Jackson vs. Carmelo Anthony war or words continued on Friday with Jackson saying ‘Melo would be better off on another team, and Anthony responding on Instagram with a Great Gatsby reference (seriously). Then there’s the triangle offense and Jackson stepping on Jeff Hornacek’s toes drama. It’s all rather ridiculous drama leading up to a ‘Melo trade this summer, but it could be having another impact.

The future star of the franchise Kristaps Porzingis is sick of all this, and he skipped his exit meeting with the team because of it, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

Kristaps Porzingis skipped exit meetings with New York Knicks management due to frustration over what he perceives as the dysfunction and drama surrounding the organization, team sources told ESPN.com….

Porzingis, according to team sources, is frustrated with the lack of direction with the team, which is headed by team president Phil Jackson.

So, he’s like every Knicks fan then.

The difference is Porzingis isn’t going anywhere — he’s still on his rookie contract, and he’s not going to walk away from the max extension the Knicks will undoubtedly offer him after next season. He’s going to be a Knicks for eight or nine years to start his career, most likely.

Which means he likely outlasts Jackson, who just had the last two years of his deal picked up by owner James Dolan. This move by Porzingis seems a message to Jackson and more importantly to Dolan that he is not happy. KP could threaten to leave after his rookie deal (which has a lot of risks), but that’s another level. This was a warning shot. Whatever move Porzingis makes, the Knicks fans will back him before Jackson, Dolan, or anyone else.

All this and the summer of drama in New York is just getting started.

Will he or won’t he? Jusuf Nurkic’s return to Blazers for playoffs still uncertain

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland center Jusuf Nurkic‘s availability for the opening game of the Trail Blazers’ playoff series against the Golden State Warriors remains uncertain.

Nurkic has missed seven games with a non-displaced right leg fracture.

There had been speculation the 7-footer known as the Bosnian Beast could return for the playoffs. He was seen shooting during warmups for the past two regular-season games, and he’s walking with no apparent limp.

But Portland coach Terry Stotts said Friday that his status for the first-round opener in Oakland on Sunday was “undetermined.” He said it would likely be a game-day decision.

“I feel better and I’ve made good progress, but we still haven’t decided if I’m going to play,” Nurkic said.

Nurkic, traded to Portland on Feb. 12 from the Denver Nuggets, was averaging 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 20 games with the Blazers.

“Completely different team with him in there. So it changes everything. Obviously if he plays I’m sure I’ll be on him some. I foresee the game probably being a smaller game if he doesn’t play, whereas if he plays it turns into a bigger game,” Golden State’s Draymond Green said following practice on Friday. “It changes everything whether he’s in or out.”

Since his arrival in Portland, Nurkic has been embraced by Portland fans. He’s credited with boosting the team as it made a final push for the playoffs: The Blazers finished in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, clinching a spot ahead of the Nuggets with two games left in the regular season.

Before the All-Star break, the Blazers were 23-33 and it looked as if they were headed to the draft lottery in the offseason.

Enter Nurkic.

Portland went 18-8 following the break and finished at .500. In a short time he seemed to develop chemistry with Portland’s starting backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and with Nurkic in the starting lineup, Portland was 14-5.

When Nurkic scored 28 points with 20 rebounds at home this season against Philadelphia, Stotts spoke about how fans had taken to the newcomer: “Nurkic fever? Why not?”

On the court afterward, Nurkic smiled when he was told about the coach’s comments. The crowd roared and a catchphrase was born.

“I love being here,” he said. “I appreciate what the city is doing for me. I just want to give them back something.”

Even while he was rehabbing from the injury, Nurkic endeared himself to fans by pouring cups of water over the heads of teammates when they appeared in postgame TV interviews.

Nurkic’s arrival in Portland wasn’t just good for the Blazers, it was good for the big man, too.

Taken with the 16th overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in 2014 but sent to Denver in a draft-night deal, he was hampered last season by a knee injury.

At the start of this season, Denver looked to use both Nikola Jokic and Nurkic at the same time in a big starting lineup. But the experiment never jelled, and Jokic got the bulk of the minutes while 22-year-old Nurkic averaged fewer than 18 minutes with eight points per game.

Energized in Portland, he became the first Trail Blazer to average 15-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in his first 20 games with the team since Mychal Thompson in 1978.

After his injury was announced, Nurkic vowed he would do what he could to return as quickly as possible.

“If it doesn’t hurt I’m going to be back. It’s not a question,” he said. “I’m going to do my part, work every day like I do, and try to be back.”

On Friday he hadn’t changed his tune.

“If it was up to me, I’d play right now,” he said.

AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Check out Giannis Antetokounmpo’s best plays from last season (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo made the leap this past season from “he has a lot of potential” to All-Star and soon (well, a couple of months from now) All-NBA player. And he still has a lot of potential growth. He’s going to be a handful for the Toronto Raptors to slow down in the first round of the playoffs.

The Greek Freak is also one of the most entertaining players to watch in the NBA.

So when the folks at NBA.com put together a video highlight of Antetokounmpo from this season, we thought we should pass it along. Enjoy. It makes a good start to a Friday night.

Three things to watch: Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

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As we dive into the playoffs, we at PBT are going to break down each first-round playoff series and give you three things to watch in each. The Cavaliers are the Eastern Conference favorites, but the last time these teams met it was one of the best games of the season, a double -OT thriller the Cavs won 125-130, where LeBron James and Paul George had a classic duel. Will we get more of that? Let’s break it down.

How focused with the Cavaliers be on defense? The malaise that enveloped the Cavaliers the second half of this season has become part of the narrative of the postseason — just how vulnerable are the Cavaliers? They had a defensive rating of 111.6 over their final 26 games, a number worse than the Lakers’ season average (and LA was dead last in the league in defense). Tyronn Lue said he has a fix for the team’s defense and when Kevin Love and other Cavs are asked about it they’ve said they can fix it. I’m not sold, they haven’t built good defensive habits, Plus they are going to miss Andrew Bogut in the paint on defense.

The other half of that equation is do the Pacers have the tools to exploit that defense? Expect Paul George to have some huge games because he’s that good, but the Pacers are going to need Myles Turner to put up big numbers (and pull Tristan Thompson out of the paint), plus have Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young have big games as well. The Cavaliers are going to score, can Indiana keep pace?

Who will LeBron James for the Pacers? And who is going to guard Paul George for the Cavaliers? Both teams in this series defensively will want to “cut off the head of the snake” and make someone other than the best player on opposition beat them. Which is a sound strategy — although the Cavaliers have legitimate other top scoring options — but leads to another problem: Who is going to guard these key guys? Who gets the LeBron assignment? Who gets the George assignment.

LeBron torched the Pacers this season, averaging 32.3 points per game on 60 percent shooting in the three meetings where he played (the one game Indiana beat Cleveland LeBron rested). LeBron was able to get into the restricted area and finish at a high rate this season, and the Pacers lack a rim protector who can make him think twice. George will certainly get some time on LeBron, but he shot 52 percent when PG13 was on him this season (stats via Sports VU and the NBA). Of course, there is the drama of Lance Stephenson, and he likely will get some time on LeBron, but Stephenson has lost a step and that’s a bad matchup for the Pacers.

Also, the Pacers do not have a good defender to match up on Kyrie Irving, who could have a big game or two in this series.

Who on the Cavaliers will draw the Paul George assignment? In crunch time that will be LeBron, we saw that at the end of the double-overtime game (remember LeBron and Tristan Thompson yelling at each other over a missed assignment in that stretch?). But it could be too taxing on LeBron to carry the offense and guard George for 40 minutes a game. Expect some Richard Jefferson, but if guys like J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert draw the assignment for a while George is going to put up big numbers. And he has to for the Pacers to have a chance in this series.

Is this the last time we see Paul George in a Pacers’ uniform? George has been brilliant over the last month of the season and reminded everyone why the Pacers’ primary goal this summer is to keep him in Indiana. If George makes the third-team All-NBA — and that’s a coin flip, one that will not land until June 26 at the NBA awards ceremony — then the Pacers can offer him the designated player contract of five years and more than $200 million, and he will stay put.

However, if George doesn’t make that team, the Pacers have to consider trade options this summer. Larry Bird may not pull the trigger, but he can’t lose George for nothing to free agency in the summer of 2018, so there will be pressure this summer if a team steps up with a good offer (and Boston has the pieces to do that, among others). What George wants to do is win, and if the Pacers have a strong series against the Cavaliers and push this to six or seven games, Bird can say to George that this team is close and to trust him to build a contender around George. How this series goes will have some impact on the summer

Prediction: Cavaliers in five. The Pacers starters can hang with the Cavaliers starters, but once these teams start going to the bench the Cavaliers will pull away. The Pacers don’t have the shooters to hang in this series.

PBT Extra: Russell Westbrook gets my MVP vote

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I don’t want to speak for all the others given the honor and responsibility of a vote on the NBA awards, but I think I can in this case:

Damn, that was a hard decision.

This year’s MVP race was the toughest decision in decades. I studied stats, went back and watched a lot of games and film (on this and other awards), talked to other voters and people around the league I respected, and I sweat out this vote. I literally lost sleep looking at this race and trying to decide on an MVP.

In the end, I voted for Russell Westbrook, with James Harden second and Kawhi Leonard third.

Even choosing the fifth slot was challenging. I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.