Today’s question: Which newcomer is most vital to the Knicks’ success this season?
Jose Calderon: Calderon is widely recognized as the top shooting point guard in the NBA. He hit 45 percent of his threes last season. In that respect, Calderon will be a big upgrade from the departed Raymond Felton, who knocked down just 31 percent from beyond the arc in 2013-14.
If the spacing and ball movement in the Knicks’ new triangle offense are present, Calderon should have plenty of opportunities to knock down shots from the perimeter.
So offense shouldn’t be an issue for the nine-year veteran.
Historically, however, Calderon has struggled defensively.
For comparison’s sake, Felton, who was widely criticized for his defensive issues last season, ranked 39th among point guards with a -1.24.
One thing worth watching here: Can Shane Larkin, who came over from Dallas with Calderon, help the Knicks defend point guards? He excited some people with his play in the Knicks’ summer league season.
Samuel Dalembert/Jason Smith: These two big men, along with Cole Aldrich, will be called upon to defend the rim and protect the paint for the Knicks this season. They are replacing Tyson Chandler, who was shipped to Dallas in the trade that sent Dalembert to the Knicks.
As we noted in our positional analysis on centers, neither Dalembert nor Smith made a huge impact on the defensive end last season based on on/off statistics.
The Mavs gave up 2.6 more points per 100 possessions with Dalembert on the floor; the Pelicans allowed 0.6 points more per 100 possessions with Smith on the court.
The Knicks will need Smith and Dalembert to protect the rim and rebound the ball effectively. Those were two things Chandler, when healthy, did well for the Knicks.
As noted in the positional analysis, Dalembert grabbed 42 percent of the contested rebounds available to him (30th among players who averaged at least five rebounds per game last season) and Smith pulled down 32.6 percent of the contested rebounds available to him (86th).
So it will be worth keeping on eye on these guys to see how they rebound and defend the paint throughout the season.
On offense, Smith, a PF/C, adds a dimension to the Knicks that Chandler did not possess: an outside shot.
Smith hit 47 percent of his attempts last season on shots more than 16 feet from the rim but inside the 3-point line. Seventy four percent of his attempts last season came from between 10 and 22 feet.
Cleanthony Early/Travis Outlaw: These two players may be counted on to spell Carmelo Anthony throughout the season.
If numbers from last season are any indication, getting Anthony more rest throughout the game may help him in the fourth quarter.
Last season, Melo’s shooting percentage dipped significantly late in games. As noted in this story, Anthony shot 47.9 percent from the field in the first quarter, 49.3 percent in the second quarter and 45.2 percent in the third quarter. But in the fourth, Anthony shot just 38.0 percent from the field. In overtime, that number dipped to 30 percent.
He also played a career-high 38.7 minutes per game. If the Knicks and Anthony believe there was a correlation between all of the minutes played and his shooting percentage late in games, they’d be wise to reduce his minutes this season. That’s where Early and Outlaw, acquired in a trade with the Kings, come in.
Question: Which newcomer do you think is most important to the Knicks’ success this season?
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“Yeah, I think so for sure. Absolutely,” Anthony said Monday when asked if the team will play in the postseason, according to the New York Post.
“I can’t wait to get started. No goals. Not setting any goals, but I just can’t wait to get it back on.”
Anthony missed the playoffs for the first time in his career last season when the Knicks stumbled to a ninth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. Anthony re-signed with New York over the summer, inking a five-year, $124 million contract.
On Monday, Anthony played a pickup game at the Jordan Gym Terminal 23 on W. 32nd Street, featuring fellow Knicks J.R. Smith and Cleanthony Early, according to the New York Post.
The Knicks added Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert and Shane Larkin in a trade with Dallas and signed Jason Smith in free agency.
Said Anthony, “I’m cool, I’m happy, but I don’t really want to get into details about that.”
"Just from a basketball point of view it would have been better to go to Chicago because they've got better players," Boeheim, who coached Anthony on Syracuse's national championship team in 2003, said on Monday. "But he wanted to be in New York and he wants to see if they can turn it around there. I think that's a great thing."
Anthony re-signed with the Knicks over the summer, inking a five-year, $124 million contract. The Bulls had enough cap space to offer Anthony a $74 million contract -- or more than $50 million less than the Knicks. The Bulls could have increased their offer to Anthony to a max contract of four years and $96 million by acquiring him via a sign and trade. But the Knicks never discussed a sign and trade with Chicago.
Boeheim's belief that the Bulls are currently a better team than the Knicks isn't unfounded. Chicago boasts a team featuring Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and the newly signed Pau Gasol.
"I think anybody would agree with that. That’s not rocket science," Boeheim said after Team USA practiced at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Boeheim also said that Anthony probably would have left New York if Phil Jackson hadn't taken over as president of the team.
"I would think so. He stayed because he believes Phil," Boeheim said. "Derek Fisher, he knows the game. If you’re going to pick a coach who hasn’t coached, he would be the guy I would pick. I think he’s a great choice. I talked to Derek a little bit. I think he’s really smart. I think he’ll be a really good coach. I think they’ll show significant improvement this year. If they get a couple of guys down the road, I think they’ll be good."
Added Boeheim: "The bottom line is that [Anthony] wanted to stay in New York and he feels that they'll be significantly better this year. A few moves, a different look, a more consistent approach. And then it comes down to can you attract a couple guys? Maybe not the guy -- but a couple good players to get you back on the right road."
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The New York Knicks have added veteran Jim Cleamons to the coaching staff, a league source confirmed to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne.
Cleamons will serve as an assistant under first-year head coach Derek Fisher and will be reunited with Knicks president Phil Jackson.
He also was the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks in 1996-97 and for part of the 1997-98 season. He went 28-70 in Dallas.
Cleamons, whose hire was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, will add another veteran presence on the bench for Fisher. Earlier this summer, the Knicks hired veteran coach Kurt Rambis to serve as the top assistant under Fisher. Both Rambis and Cleamons have a strong grasp of the triangle offense, which Fisher is expected to implement in New York.
Cleamons most recently was an assistant coach in Milwaukee under Larry Drew. Drew was fired and replaced by Jason Kidd in early July.
Before beginning his coaching career, Cleamons also played nine seasons in the NBA for four teams, including 180 games with the Knicks over three seasons.
Today's question: Who should be in the Knicks’ starting lineup this fall?
Derek Fisher could have some interesting lineup decisions on his hands.
Whom will he start at shooting guard? Will Fisher play Carmelo Anthony at power forward or move him back to small forward? Will it even matter in the Knicks' new offense?
What about Amar'e Stoudemire? And what's the best way to use Andrea Bargnani?
All of these questions will have to be answered in the weeks leading up to the regular season.
For now, we'd like to present two lineup options for Fisher, along with pros and cons for both.
Before getting into the lineup combinations, we should note that traditional positions aren’t as relevant in the Knicks’ new triangle offense as they are in other offenses. The idea for the Knicks is to find the best combination of talent to maximize the potential of the offense.
With that in mind, we present the options. Take a look, and let us know which starting five you prefer:
1. Start Tim Hardaway Jr. at forward; bring J.R. Smith off the bench: This lineup would feature a backcourt of Jose Calderon and Iman Shumpert with Hardaway Jr. at a forward spot.
Samuel Dalembert or Jason Smith starting at center.
Pro: You have one of the top young shooters in the NBA on the floor in Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway Jr. hit 36.3 percent of his 3s last season, the top mark among rookies who made at least 55 3s. By pairing Hardaway Jr. with Shumpert, you give Hardaway Jr. some help on the defensive end. Hardaway Jr. struggled at times on defense as a rookie. So the success of this lineup could hinge in part on how much Hardaway Jr. has improved on defense. Last season, the Knicks gave up 111.8 points per 100 possessions with Hardaway Jr. on the floor (or 5.4 more than when he was on the bench).
Con: The Knicks had some successful runs with Smith as a starter last season. New York went 15-11 in games in which Smith started and Shumpert came off the bench. As a starter, Smith also shot 43.6 percent from beyond the arc in the final 21 games of last season. Would he be able to shoot as effectively coming off the bench?
2. Start Smith and Hardaway Jr.; bring Shumpert off the bench: This lineup would feature Calderon in the backcourt with Smith and Hardaway Jr. interchangeable between the 2 and 3 positions. Anthony would be at the other forward spot with either Dalembert or Smith at center.
Pro: You probably wouldn't have much trouble finding a scorer in this lineup with Anthony, Smith and Hardaway Jr. on the floor. The trio of Carmelo, J.R. and Hardaway Jr. was three-fifths of one of the Knicks' best lineups last season. With those three on the floor along with Tyson Chandler and Pablo Prigioni, New York outscored opponents by 12.1 points per 100 possessions (though it should be noted that this lineup was on the floor together for just 50 minutes last season).
It would seem the interior defender in this lineup is critical. All other lineups (besides the one mentioned above) with Anthony, Hardaway Jr. and Smith on the floor gave up more points than they scored.
Con: Defense may be an issue with this lineup regardless of who plays center. Shumpert is widely known as the team's top perimeter defender. With Shumpert off the floor, will Smith and Hardaway Jr. have trouble guarding their positions?
Last season, the Knicks were outscored at a rate of 5.6 points per 100 possessions when Smith and Hardaway Jr. shared the floor (approximately 1,065 minutes, per Basketball-Reference.) Will the Knicks' team defense coalesce well enough to compensate for Smith and Hardaway Jr.?
When thinking about this lineup, it's worth considering that, based on net rating, Smith and Shumpert were the Knicks' top two-man combo last season. When they shared the floor (for 830 minutes), the Knicks outscored opponents by 10 points per 100 possessions.
Question: The Knicks used 21 different starting lineups last season and won just 37 games. Which starting lineup would you like to see Fisher use this season?
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Which team is headed for some unhappy times this season?
Our Summer Forecast rolls on with predictions for Team Turmoil -- the squad that will have some unsettling experiences in the 2014-15 season as voted on by our ESPN Forecast team.
Grunwald, who was fired as Knicks GM less than a week before training camp last season, has accepted a position as Director of Athletics and Recreation at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
“I’ve always had an interest in university athletics and working in administration,” Grunwald said by phone earlier this month. “I’ve always thought this would be a fun and rewarding job to have.”
Grunwald was in the mix for the Memphis Grizzlies opening that eventually went to Ed Stefanski. He said that the search firm looking to fill the McMaster position contacted him to see if he knew of any quality candidates. Naturally, Grunwald nominated himself.
“They have good facilities, they have successful programs ... there’s a lot of good things going on there,” Grunwald said of McMaster, ranked annually as one of Canada’s top universities. “It’s got a really good vibe so hopefully I can enhance and build upon the good work that’s already been done before me.”
Grunwald certainly did that as Knicks GM.
The team he put together won 54 regular season games, a division title and a first-round playoff series in 2013.
Grunwald was surprisingly fired in the offseason by Knicks owner James Dolan. Dolan replaced Grunwald with Steve Mills, who is currently the team’s GM under president Phil Jackson.
“My last year there I was happy about the success that the team had. I wished I would have had the opportunity to continue there, but it didn’t work out and now it’s time for everyone to move on,” Grunwald said. “But it was great working for New York and the Knicks. I owe a lot to [former president and GM] Isiah Thomas for bringing me there and [ex GM] Donnie Walsh for keeping me and then Jim Dolan gave me the opportunity to be the GM for a while so I appreciate all of those guys and their support and I wish them all the best.”
Added Grunwald: “They’re in good hands with Phil Jackson and it will be interesting to see how things develop there. He certainly has a track record of success.”
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One of them? To make sure he’s healthy enough to play at a high level through the life of his new five-year Knicks deal.
“In anything, you get older, and getting leaner and lighter helps with the longevity of your career,” Anthony’s trainer, Idan Ravin, told ESPNNewYork.com in a phone conversation Thursday afternoon.
Ravin said that Anthony, 30, was not on an aggressive weight-loss plan this summer.
Anthony was listed at 235 pounds in official Knicks literature this past season. It is not clear how much weight he lost over the summer, but recent photos posted on Instagram show he has clearly dropped a few pounds.
Ravin also said that Anthony’s training wasn’t related to any plan to increase his minutes at small forward in the coming season or to adapt to the Knicks’ new triangle offense.
Rather, it was, in part, a conscious effort to ensure Anthony can continue to produce into his 30s.
“He’s just been very meticulous about his diet and his workout,” said Ravin, who has trained Carmelo since he entered the NBA in 2003. “We’ve been very consistent throughout the summer, and he’s been very focused. [There are] a bunch of new folks coming in [Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher] who are very bright and very accomplished, and I know he wants to have an amazing year. Every summer he’s committed, and we always try to tweak something and do something a little bit different. I can’t really go into what that is, but ... his weight loss and his fitness is a testament to his commitment.”
Ravin declined to divulge details of Anthony’s workout. But he said the seven-time All-Star has been diligent about his diet as he enters his 12th season.
“That’s one of the hardest things. To say yes and to say no [to certain foods],” Ravin said. “There’s more cardio, and then obviously there’s his discipline, requiring him to be more meticulous with his diet.
“When you’re driving a Lamborghini you’re going to put the most expensive gas in it,” he said. “It’s important. They’re not 18 years old anymore.”
BOOK IT: Ravin wrote a book called “The Hoops Whisperer” about his life and his experiences as a trainer for some of the top players in the NBA. He counts Anthony, Chris Paul and J.R. Smith among his full-time clients.
“I think people see me and they go, ‘Oh my God, you got lucky,’ or ‘How did this happen?’" said Ravin, who did not play NBA or college basketball. "They don’t realize that it was decades of devotion and faith that led to this point.”
“I don’t have the pedigree,” Ravin said. “My parents don’t know [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver. I don’t have any connections, but I built this with my own hands, on my own shoulders.”
Ravin said his book also breaks down some of the widely held misconceptions about the athletes with whom he works.
“It humanizes and demystifies many of these NBA superstars that I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years,” Ravin said. “I think there’s this idea that these guys live at the top of the hill on this golden palace sort of insulated from struggle and frustration and despair, but we all experience it.”
Ravin said he is proud of how readers have received the book so far.
“It’s resonated with so many different sorts of people,” said Ravin, who worked last season as an assistant coach with the Knicks but left midway through the campaign. “Obviously, it’s connected with a sports audience, but it’s also connected with women, with parents, with Wall Street folks, with churches and synagogues because the book on a macro level is about faith, intuition and courage and the importance of unconventional thinking. And on a micro level it’s a book about my unusual journey and how it’s intersected with the lives of some of greatest athletes of the world.”
Question: What do you make of Anthony’s weight loss? How do you think it will affect his game this coming season?
You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.
Today's question: Where will the Knicks finish in the East?
I think the they will make the playoffs. But it will not be easy. The Knicks have a first-time head coach in Derek Fisher. They will be learning a new system with Phil Jackson and Fisher installing the triangle. And we’ll have to see if they have enough bigs inside.
But let’s look at the rest of the East.
Kevin Love expected to join LeBron James in Cleveland, the Cavs look likely to be the top seed in the East. With that being said, the Cavs may have some growing pains, as young players like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters still have to learn how to win. But LeBron and Love make that learning curve a bit easier.
No. 2: With the addition of Pau Gasol, the Bulls are my pick to finish No. 2 in the East. Derrick Rose still has to prove that he can stay healthy. If Rose returns to his old form, the Bulls will be challenging the Cavs for that top seed and the Central Division crown.
No. 3: Washington is my pick to win the Southeast Division. As somebody who grew up in the D.C. area, I have seen the Bullets/Wizards fail to meet high expectations in the past. The Southeast will be an improved league despite LeBron’s departure as Charlotte and Atlanta are expected to keep progressing. But I think Washington has the potential to finish with the third-best record.
No. 4: Toronto is the favorite to win the Atlantic Division. A young core is back, and the Raptors should learn from last year’s painful Game 7 loss to the Nets in the first round. Will Kyle Lowry be as motivated as he was last season now that he has his new contract? Dwane Casey should keep the Raptors in the top four in the East.
No. 5: The Charlotte Hornets have a good chance to finish fifth. Steve Clifford is an excellent coach and the Hornets acquired Lance Stephenson in free agency. Al Jefferson should only get better.
No. 6: This is where the Knicks, Nets, Heat and Hawks come in. Atlanta made the playoffs last year and should be right there again. But I think the Knicks will be the sixth seed in the East despite what could be a slow start as they get acclimated to the triangle offense.
They have some questions at center, and I’d like to see Samuel Dalembert stay healthy the entire season. Also, defensively, can Jose Calderon hold his own at point guard? J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert need to bounce back this season, and Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani have to stay healthy.
That said, expect Carmelo Anthony to get comfortable enough with the triangle to lead the Knicks to the playoffs and for Fisher to have the team more motivated than it was last season.
No. 7: Brooklyn can be higher than the seventh seed, but it might take a quarter, maybe half, of the season for Deron Williams and Brook Lopez to return to form. So I think the Nets will finish seventh.
No. 8: Even without Paul George, the Pacers will be in the mix for a playoff spot as well. But the Heat will make the playoffs with all their experience despite James’ departure.
Obviously, we're making all these predictions in the middle of August. Much can change in the next few months. But the Knicks appear to be headed to the sixth seed in the East.
Let me know what you guys think below.
1. Knicks vs. Bulls, Oct. 29: Carmelo Anthony flirted with joining the Bulls before finally staying. Now he gets to see what could’ve been when the Knicks face the Bulls for the first time on opening night. Instead of getting Melo, Chicago added Pau Gasol. The Bulls should be the second-best team in the East this season.
2. Knicks at Cavaliers, Oct. 30: Carmelo versus LeBron ... with K-Love. The East now runs through Cleveland, and Melo and LeBron James renew their rivalry with James back in Ohio -- and playing in his first home game since his return to town. Kevin Love is set to be traded to the Cavs later this month, making Cleveland the favorites to win the East. The Knicks? They're not contenders yet, but it will be good for Phil Jackson to see how his team matches up with the Cavs, and exactly what he needs to add next summer when the Knicks have cap space.
3. Knicks at Nets, Nov. 7: Remember all that trash talk from last summer about who runs this town? Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd are gone, but both teams should still be engaged when they face each other. With both franchises splitting All-Star Weekend duties this season, James Dolan and Mikhail Prokhorov's crews will have to play nice, but bragging rights help.
4. Knicks at Mavericks, Nov. 26: Remember that trade the Knicks made before the draft? Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton will. While Chandler was ready for a new start elsewhere, he and Felton will be motivated to show the Knicks and Phil they can play.
5. Knicks vs. Warriors, Feb. 7: Derek Fisher versus Steve Kerr. The two first-time head coaches match wits as Phil watches on. Kerr was Phil’s first choice before Kerr opted to coach the Warriors instead. Kerr has the better team right now. But let’s see how Fisher counters Kerr and get an idea of how good two of Phil’s protégés are.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant needs 593 points to pass Michael Jordan for 3rd on the all-time scoring list.
The return of Kobe
After missing all but six games last season, Kobe Bryant will make his debut on Tuesday, October 28 when the Los Angeles Lakers play host to the Houston Rockets.
Bryant has scored 31,700 career points and if he scores at least 593 points, he’ll pass Michael Jordan for third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
If he averages 20 points per game, he could pass Jordan on the scoring list around the 29th or 30th game of the Lakers season.
Those games happen to be at the Chicago Bulls on Christmas Day and at the Dallas Mavericks the next day.
Last season, Bryant missed the Lakers season opener for the fifth time in his career. Ironically the Lakers have won all five of those openers.
They would prefer to have him in the lineup though as his 27.2 PPG in season openers is the most among active players and seventh-highest in NBA history (Michael Jordan holds the record, 30.8 PPG).
The King returns
Making a return of a different kind will be LeBron James, who returns to the Cleveland Cavaliers after spending the last four seasons with the Miami Heat.
LeBron will make his season-debut on October 30 when the Cavaliers play host to the New York Knicks.
Another highlight for him will be on Christmas Day when he and his teammates travel to South Beach to take on the Heat (5 ET/ABC).
When LeBron returns, he’ll do so as the second-leading scorer (26.7 PPG) among active players at the American Airlines Arena, trailing only Kevin Durant (27.6).
LeBron's teams have not lost on Christmas day since his rookie season in 2003 (7-1 record). That year, the Cavaliers lost to the Magic.
Champions quest for repeat
The defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs open their season hosting the Dallas Mavericks on October 28. The Spurs are 16-4 in their last 20 home openers.
Since Tim Duncan debuted in 1997, San Antonio is 16-1 in season openers, the best winning percentage (.941) among all teams in season openers over this time (their only loss was to the Suns in 2008).
The Spurs and Heat will face off for the first time since the NBA Finals on February 6 (9:30 ET on ESPN) in San Antonio.
Over the last four seasons (including regular and postseason), the New York Knicks (3-4) and Heat (9-10) are the only teams the Spurs have a losing record against.
Notable rookie debuts
Maybe Andrew Wiggins should get some advice from his father on avoiding first game jitters. Andrew’s dad - Mitchell Wiggins - scored 26 points in his first career game with the Bulls in 1983.
Wiggins, who reportedly will be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, begins his pro career on October 29 at Memphis.
As for other notable rookies, Jabari Parker and the Milwaukee Bucks open at the Charlotte Hornets on October 29, while Nerlens Noel (who missed all of last season after recovering from a torn ACL) makes his long-awaited debut with the Philadelphia 76ers on October 29 at the Indiana Pacers.
Tough start: The NBA didn’t do the Knicks any favors in the first seven days of the season.
They open at home against the Bulls in an ESPN game on Wednesday, Oct. 29. On the next night, New York travels to Cleveland to take on LeBron James, Kevin Love (we think) and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Cavs' first game with James back.
The Knicks then head home to host a Charlotte team on the rise featuring New York City guys Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson in the backcourt on Sunday, Nov. 2. Then the Knicks host Washington and its star backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Ouch.
All in all, the Knicks face the Cavs three times and the Bulls three times.
New York hosts LeBron in a Cleveland uniform for the first time since 2010 on Dec. 4, which is the first game of a home-road back-to-back.
They are at Brooklyn on Feb. 6, a day before they host Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry and Golden State at MSG. The Knicks and Nets finish things up April 1 at the Garden. Will this game have playoff implications in the Atlantic Division?
Road kill? The Knicks host Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin and the Lakers on Feb. 1 and travel to La La Land to face the Lake Show on March 12. That’s the middle game of a season-high five-game road trip for New York. The trip falls in a stretch where the Knicks play 10 of 14 games on the road, including trips to Phoenix and Golden State.
The Knicks have four back-to-backs during that 14-game stretch and 20 back-to-backs overall. They also have two sets of four games in five nights in 2014-15 and play seven games in 10 nights between March 19 and March 28.
Reunions: Derek Fisher heads back to Oklahoma City on Nov. 28 and hosts the Thunder on Jan. 28. As noted above, the Knicks are in L.A. on March 12. Will Phil Jackson be there? The Knicks host Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton on Tuesday, Dec. 16. The Knicks travel to London to play Jason Kidd and the Bucks on Jan. 15 at O2 Arena and face Anthony Davis and the Hornets on MLK Day at 5:30 in the annual game at MSG on that holiday.
In all, the Knicks have 16 games on national television, including nine on ESPN, one on ABC and six on TNT. For comparison’s sake, the Bulls and Cavs each have an NBA-high 10 TNT games. Six teams play 10 games on ESPN. The Thunder play an NBA-high six ABC games.
Question: what do you think about the Knicks' schedule? Which games are you most excited for?
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