Shumpert, Jason Smith look like starters

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
Derek Fisher's starting five is starting to take shape.

Fisher went with Iman Shumpert at shooting guard and Jason Smith at power forward in the New York Knicks' preseason finale Friday, against the Toronto Raptors in Montreal.

Those two are likely to start in the regular-season opener as well.

[+] EnlargeJason Smith, Brandon Davies
Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports
"We’re still identifying a specific group of guys that work best together, but I think it’s safe to say it’s close to it," Fisher told reporters in Montreal, when asked if he'd stick with this lineup for Wednesday's game against the Chicago Bulls. "Over the next four, five days we’ll hopefully get more work and get those guys comfortable with each other."

Fisher has said all along he's looking for lineups that are well-balanced defensively. So it makes sense to start Shumpert over J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr., the other two candidates at shooting guard. Shumpert is the strongest individual defender on the roster.

He will share a backcourt spot with Jose Calderon, who missed the final two preseason games with a calf injury but is expected to play Wednesday.

It will be interesting to see how Fisher divides the minutes up with Shumpert, Hardaway Jr. and Smith. All three can handle the ball or play small forward, so they can share the floor together at times. But you'd think at least one guy will get fewer minutes than he'd hoped for coming into the season.

In the frontcourt it appears Jason Smith will start, alongside Samuel Dalembert and Carmelo Anthony.

Fisher started Andrea Bargnani at power forward in the preseason opener, but Bargnani missed the Knicks' final six preseason games due to a hamstring injury. His status for Wednesday is uncertain. And it looks like Fisher will turn to Smith instead of Amar'e Stoudemire and Quincy Acy.

Smith has good range on his shot, and has shown a proclivity for using his size and strength to battle for rebounds and defend the paint.

Assuming Fisher starts Smith, it will be interesting to see how he divides the minutes up with Stoudemire, Acy and Bargnani on the second unit.

Question: Do you think starting Shumpert at shooting guard and Smith at power forward is the right call? Or should Fisher consider a different starting five?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Phil says triangle is "not rocket science"

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
Before you watch Spike Lee’s film on the triangle offense, it’s worthwhile to listen to Phil Jackson describe the principals of it in his own words.

Below, an excerpt from Jackson's conversation earlier this month with New Yorker writer Ben McGrath about the triangle offense:

McGrath: How do you go about trying to change culture of an organization from scratch?

Phil: “The first thing you do in my mind is to have a system of how you want to play basketball. And I don’t think that -- everybody talks about a triangle offense and what’s associated with our background, my coaching staff and myself, has been this triangle offense. I really don’t put that much emphasis on triangle. It’s got a name but it’s a system. It’s a system of how to play. And it’s organized. And I think you have to have an organized system to play basketball the right way.

“It puts people in position on the floor where there’s spacing and there’s opportunities. The first priority obviously in any offense is to get down the court as quickly as possible while the court is undefended and score. And then when people start showing up and presenting themselves in front of the ball and the basket and you have to do something, then you have to have an organization. And in that organization sense you have to be spaced, you have to move the ball, you have to have purpose with the movement, you have to provide really good opportunities for people to be able to shoot the ball. You have to rebound the basketball and get back on defense.

“It’s not that complicated. It’s not rocket science. Sometimes it’s hard for players to understand exactly how (they) fit into this sequence of events. But that’s what we’re trying to do as a staff is to give them the idea (that) there’s an orderly way to play this game and when you do that it’s logical, there’s good shots. You play defense from it. You have second chance opportunities. You limit the turnovers and the transition by your opponents and it puts you in position to win.”

Question: Do you have faith that the triangle offense will work with the Knicks and lead to a title during Jackson’s tenure? What personnel changes are needed to make it work?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

#NBArank 2014: Top 500 ballers

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24


For the fourth straight year, and the TrueHoop Network are ranking every NBA player and counting them down on Twitter (@ESPNNBA), from No. 500 to No. 1.

We asked our ESPN Forecast panel to predict the overall level of play for each player for the upcoming NBA season. This includes both the quality and the quantity of his expected contributions, combined in one overall rating.

What is #NBArank?

#NBArank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

You also can follow along @ESPNNBA.

How did we rank the players?

We asked our ESPN Forecast panel to rate each player on a 0-to-10 scale, in terms of "the overall level of play for each player for the upcoming NBA season."

Top 100

(Top 5 to be announced on Oct. 27 & 28)

(Read full post)

New LeBron James mural in works

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23

CLEVELAND -- Once again, a colossal image of LeBron James will loom over downtown.

A new, 10-story-tall banner celebrating James' return to Ohio will be unveiled on Oct. 30 before the superstar and the Cavaliers open the NBA season against the New York Knicks.

The Nike-sponsored banner will hang on the side of Sherwin-Williams Co.'s global headquarters across the street from Quicken Loans Arena, in the same spot where an iconic banner of James hung during his first stint with the Cavs but was removed four years ago when he took his talents to Miami.

On Thursday, workers took down and packed up the colorful "Our Vibrant Hometown" banner to make way for the new one of James.

"For the past three years, we have dedicated the side of the Sherwin-Williams headquarters building at Ontario and Huron to celebrate the energy, strength and beauty of our home town of Cleveland," said Sherwin-Williams CEO Chris Connor. "LeBron James is certainly one of the prides of Northeast Ohio. We think this new banner is a fitting tribute to LeBron's return to Cleveland and we join with Nike and Cavaliers fans everywhere to welcome him home."

The city's planning commission approved the new banner in September.

Before he signed with Miami in 2010, the black-and-white "We Are All Witnesses" banner of James, his arms spread under a cloud of chalk he routinely tossed into the air before home games, became a spot of public pride and a must-see attraction for out-of-towners.

But on the night he announced he was signing with the Heat, some angry Cleveland fans threw rocks at the original James banner. It was removed a few days later, a symbolic ending to a career that now includes a homecoming,

James re-signed with the Cavs in July, returning to the team that drafted him and played with for seven years.

(Read full post)

Carmelo ranked 11th in player rankings

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
It remains to be seen how Carmelo Anthony fits into the triangle.

With a first-time head coach in Derek Fisher, a new system and perhaps even a new way of thinking to learn, Anthony enters the season with some uncertainty ahead of him.


Does Carmelo Anthony deserve to be ranked among the NBA's top 10 players?


Discuss (Total votes: 4,175)

In ESPN’s latest NBA player rankings, Anthony comes in at No. 11 on the list of the NBA's 500 players.

The rankings are decided by the ESPN Forecast panel, which rates each player on a 0-to-10 scale in terms of “the overall level of play for each player for the upcoming NBA season.”

Anthony received a score of 8.58. Last year, Melo was ranked 15th overall.

This season, Anthony is being asked to not only adapt to a new system but perhaps alter some old habits that have gotten him this far in his career, as Phil Jackson and Fisher preach team first and ball movement.

Anthony will be asked to think somewhat differently this season. He is going to have to learn how to be more patient than ever in not just learning a new system but also a new ideology to a certain extent.

Jackson wants Anthony to be the latest prolific scorer he transforms into championship winner like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Like Jordan and Bryant, Jackson wants Anthony to alter his scoring mentality a bit and incorporate more team thinking.

Last season, Anthony was second in scoring at 27.4 points per game. He led all players with 6.6 isolation points per game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The triangle will certainly still give Anthony plenty of one-on-one opportunities to score. And they could come in better situations than last season, when he often had to take shots late in the shot clock.

We’ll see how Anthony performs this season with the triangle.

What do you guys think of Anthony’s No. 11 ranking? Let us know where you rank Melo.

Fisher needs to run Knicks, not Phil

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23

Hardened by his years with Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher stands among the league's leading scholars in the field of ego management. But if the rookie coach of the New York Knicks thinks downsizing Carmelo Anthony's opinion of himself on the offensive end will represent his biggest challenge, he should probably think again.

Phil Jackson will be the more formidable hurdle in Fisher's pursuit of his own identity, in his quest to establish that he is the one and only authority figure who matters in the locker room.

Anthony has a contract worth $124 million over five years, more than double the guarantee James Dolan handed Jackson ($60 million), and yet Melo's power and influence are been-there, done-that realities for the old point guard in Fisher, winner of five Los Angeles Lakers titles with a franchise player who had his owner, Jerry Buss, on speed dial.

Upon completing practice Thursday, Fisher said dealing with superstars the likes of Bryant "is not that hard to do when everybody has a common purpose." His chief responsibility in running the Knicks' offense, Fisher added, is to scheme up a way to blend the triangle offense and Anthony's talents together "that doesn't put Carmelo on an island and put the rest of the guys on another island."

(Read full post)

Calderon sits out practice

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
GREENBURGH, N.Y. –- Jose Calderon sat out practice Thursday as the point guard continues to nurse a calf injury.

Calderon said he is unsure if he will play against the Raptors in Montreal on Friday.

“Don’t know yet,” Calderon said. “It’s day to day. It’s better ... We’ll see tomorrow. We’re getting more treatment. Like I said the other day it’s nothing to worry about.”

Calderon suffered a calf injury in the first quarter against Milwaukee on Monday. The team held him out against Washington on Wednesday as a precaution.

“I’m feeling good,” Calderon said. “There’s nothing to worry about. There’s nothing I’m really concerned about, anything like that.”

Forward Andrea Bargnani (hamstring), point guard Pablo Prigioni (personal reasons) and forward Amar'e Stoudemire (recovery day) did not practice as well.

Knicks signing: The Knicks added Jordan Vandenberg, a 7-1 undrafted free agent center from NC State.

Vandenberg averaged 2.0 points and 4.0 rebounds over 9.9 minutes in two games for the Knicks summer league team.

J.R. Smith: Team-first notion is tough

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The adjustment to the triangle offense has been "a struggle" for J.R. Smith, and it isn't just because the system is foreign to him.

A candid Smith admitted that he must alter his shooter mentality and wrap his mind around the team-first concept being preached by Knicks coach Derek Fisher and president Phil Jackson.

And it hasn't been the smoothest transition for the former Sixth Man of the Year, who has been trying not to force shots.

"Yeah, absolutely," Smith said when asked if he has had to make a conscious effort to play differently. "I mean, believe it or not, being the type of player I've been, it's a struggle. I'm not going to lie.

"Trying to think about the rest of the team over myself or my scoring is something that I never really had to do before," Smith continued. "I've always been in a situation to score, [now I'm] in position to take my time and let the game come and let my teammates succeed more than myself, I think that's the ultimate win."

The Knicks' adjustment to the triangle, not just physically but mentally, will take time. It has not been easy so far in the preseason for the Knicks, who also have had to deal with injuries to Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon.

Smith admitted his struggles after scoring five points in 23 minutes in a 103-100 win over the Wizards on Wednesday night.

This preseason, Smith is averaging 8.5 points and shooting 39 percent from the field in six preseason games. Smith said Fisher has explained why the team-first mentality that comes with the triangle works.

"He just told me -- look at the rings they have," Smith said. "It's worked. I want one so bad, I'll do whatever it takes. If it takes me sacrificing my scoring, that's what it takes."

Fisher says the project of installing the triangle and the overhaul in mentality will not happen overnight.

"You know J.R. like many players, this is difficult to do," Fisher said at practice Thursday. "Last night, we talked about we're not just installing new software to the computer. We're building a computer from scratch, and that's not easy to do."

When Jackson took over as team president of the Knicks, one of his major goals was to develop a new culture and way of thinking in the franchise. Like he did with his previous stops with the Bulls

(Read full post)

Fisher 'still searching' for Knicks' starting 5

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22

NEW YORK -- Derek Fisher says he's fine with the uncertainty, but you wonder how he can be.

His New York Knicks now have less than a week to go before they play for real. They have just one more of these preseason games to go.

And yet, when Fisher was asked before Wednesday night's 103-100 win over the Washington Wizards if he's closer to identifying a rotation, his answer was basically what it has been for a few days now.

"We're still searching," Fisher said.

Asked after the game if he's closer to figuring out the starting power forward position, it was more of the same.

"It's definitely still a work in progress," he said.

Remember, less than a week to go before it counts. One preseason game to go.

The Knicks have a rookie coach, and you know he'd love to spend these final tune-up games putting players in the spots they'll be in beginning next Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls. You know he'd love to have everything set.

[+] EnlargeFisher
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Derek Fisher started with a lineup of Carmelo Anthony, Jason Smith, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and Tim Hardaway Jr. Wednesday.

"It's not uncomfortable," Fisher said. "It's a part of this job. At every position, we have a guy that can play. Would we like to have everyone healthy? Sure. That shouldn't change our mentality."

The Knicks remain hopeful they'll have everyone ready to go next week, but they're increasingly convinced they won't have everyone playing before next week. Three players expected to be in their regular rotation sat out Wednesday's game, and it's very possible none of the three will play in the final preseason game Friday night in Montreal against the Toronto Raptors.

Andrea Bargnani, who might well have been the starting power forward if he were healthy, missed his fifth consecutive game Wednesday because of a hamstring injury. Quincy Acy, who started the past four games at power forward, was out Wednesday with a sore right wrist. Point guard Jose Calderon was also missing with a calf injury.

Does any of that matter? Not necessarily, because these games don't count and these injuries don't appear to be serious.

But the Knicks are a team with a new coach, and a team learning a new system, a team about to go into an opening game against one of the Eastern Conference favorites without a true dress rehearsal.

At least the Knicks were able to give their home fans an exciting win Wednesday. Carmelo Anthony made a three-point play with 13.9 seconds left, and the Knicks played good enough defense to keep the Wizards from getting a good enough shot to tie it.

"It was nice to win," said Anthony, who played 34 minutes and scored 30 points. "A test for us to see if we could pull games out, to see if we could win."

They did win, and two nights after giving up 120 points in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Knicks even played a little defense.

"We played better defense in the second half than we have for a while," J.R. Smith said.

Are they ready for the season? That's a lot harder to say, and what's becoming more and more obvious is that they won't come close to answering that question until they get to next week.

Bargnani speaks, says little: As for Bargnani, he answered questions Wednesday afternoon for the first time since he got hurt -- except that he really didn't answer anything.

"We keep working on [the hamstring] every day," Bargnani said. "I'm trying to get it better and go on the court.

"Injuries are always frustrating."

He should know. Bargnani hasn't played more than 42 games in any of the past three seasons because of various injuries.

The Acy update: Fisher said that Acy probably could have played but that the Knicks didn't want to take any chances with an injury to his shooting wrist. He also said that Acy "has separated himself a little" from the other candidates to start at power forward with Bargnani out. With Bargnani and Acy missing Wednesday, Jason Smith got the start.

Melo gets minutes: Fisher said he liked the idea of playing Anthony 34 minutes Wednesday to get him ready for the season. Anthony was fine with it and fine with the idea of playing 38 or 39 minutes a game once the season begins.

"I know I don't want to play 40 minutes unless I have to," Anthony said.

Anthony scores 30 as Knicks beat Wizards

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22

NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony scored 30 points, including a tiebreaking three-point play with 13.9 seconds left, and the New York Knicks overcame a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter to beat the Washington Wizards 103-100 on Wednesday night.

John Wall scored 29 points, hitting 10 of his 16 shots from the field, and Otto Porter Jr. added 22 points in the loss for the Wizards, who wrapped up their preseason schedule.

With the Knicks leading 100-97 with 1:22 left on the clock after a 3-point shot by Pablo Prigioni, who scored 12 points, Washington's Damion James evened it 100-all on a 3-pointer with 33.2 seconds left.

On the ensuing play, Anthony hit a jumper and was fouled. He made the free throw to give New York a three-point lead.

Porter Jr. had a chance to tie the game but misfired on a 3-pointer.

(Read full post)

Phil Jackson gives player-by-player scouting report on his Knicks

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
Phil JacksonJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesPhil Jackson has a unique vantage point in his first season as president of the Knicks. Does he like what he sees?
Carmelo Anthony is the New York Knicks' "only certified All-Star." Andrea Bargnani will thrive in the triangle. J.R. Smith "has to learn the difference between a good shot and a bad shot," and "tends to be a ball-watcher" on defense. Amar'e Stoudemire can be a potent shooter, but "playing adequate defense is a real challenge for him, and he's also got to improve his rebounding."

Says who?

Phil Jackson.

The Knicks president offered a blunt player-by-player assessment of his first Knicks team Wednesday, in an story by Charley Rosen. Rosen, who worked under Jackson as an assistant coach in the CBA, spoke to Jackson during the Knicks' training camp at West Point.

A few of the highlights:

• Jackson said that while passing the ball has never been Carmelo's strength, he believes his star can thrive in the triangle offense. "He'll be able to have check-off reads like a quarterback looking for his first-option receiver, then his second and then his third," Jackson said. "There'll be plenty of iso opportunities for Melo, and in the triangle it'll be very difficult for defenses to double-team him. It won't be like last season where he had to take clutch shots with a gang of defenders in his face."

• Jackson called Stoudemire "one of the keys to the season," and said he hopes the Knicks will be able to play him for four rotations of eight minutes each game. He said the Knicks still need to figure out whether Stoudemire will be more effective in the 4 or the 5 position.

• On Bargnani, who has missed much of the preseason with a hamstring injury, Jackson called him a "deadly shooter" from 20 feet and under, and said the triangle should generate those shots for him. He also said Bargnani needs to improve on defense.

• On Smith, Jackson said he has to trust that the triangle will create good shots for him, and avoid going out of the offense to find other shots.

Samuel Dalembert will likely be limited to about 26 minutes a game, because he tends to get in foul trouble, but Jackson still sees him as a "10-and-10 player."

• While Jose Calderon and Pablo Prigioni are "heady and steady," both need to become better on-the-ball defenders.

Iman Shumpert is a Jackson favorite, but has to improve on his inconsistent shooting mechanics.

• Jackson likes Shane Larkin's energy, and also that Larkin is "a winner."

• Jackson believes colleges don't emphasize defense, and said defense is still a challenge for Tim Hardaway Jr. But he predicted Hardaway "will become an excellent all-around player in this league."

Click here to read the full scouting report.

Knicks get no love in GM poll

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
Were you surprised that Carmelo Anthony re-signed with the New York Knicks last summer?

At least one NBA general manager was.

We can't tell you which one, because's annual survey of league general managers is conducted anonymously. But under the category of "most surprising move of the offseason," Carmelo staying in New York is listed among others receiving votes. LeBron James' move to Cleveland (42.9 percent) and Chandler Parsons' move to Dallas (21.4 percent) received many more votes.

Anthony earned a fair amount of respect from the general managers, notably finishing second to Kevin Durant as the player "best at getting his own shot," and finishing a distant third behind James and Durant as the player who "forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments.


Were you suprised Melo re-signed with the Knicks?


Discuss (Total votes: 1,588)

Carmelo even received a vote or two as the preseason Most Valuable Player, although to be fair the GMs see that at best a two-man race (James got 67.9 percent, Durant 21.4 percent).

The Knicks as a team get considerably less respect.

Only 3.8 percent of respondents pick them to win the Atlantic Division (Toronto at 76.9 percent and Brooklyn at 19.2 percent got more votes). No one picked them to make the East finals.

And the only player besides Anthony to receive votes in any category was Cleanthony Early, who tied for fifth as "biggest steal at where he was selected in the draft."

Brian Keefe was among those receiving votes for best assistant coach.

General managers weren't allowed to vote for their own team or their own players.



Carmelo Anthony
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2