Watchability: Knicks begin real Phil Jackson era

Team President Phil Jackson took an offseason to develop his vision for the Knicks.

      
 

 

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What a Breakout Season for New York Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. Will Look Like

In his second NBA season, Tim Hardaway Jr. could break out and make a noticeable leap forward, making him the only player on his current roster with the possibility to do so.  

Selected by the New York Knicks with the 24th overall pick, the 6’6” former Michigan Wolverine stood sturdy as a symbol of youthful poise last season, flashing promise and consistently proving his worth on a floundering team that couldn’t seem to get out of its own way. He led the Knicks in games played, missing only one contest all season.

Hardaway Jr. exceeded expectations and shined while everything around him was dark, and by the end of his first taste of NBA life, he was named to the 2013-14 All-Rookie First Team. He averaged 10.2 points per game, shot 36.3 percent from deep and boasted the second-best turnover percentage in the entire league among players who play significant minutes (a microscopic 5.9 percent). 

There will be growth in his sophomore season because that’s what good, young NBA players do; here’s what it may look like.

Hardaway’s duty as a rookie was to shoot, shoot and shoot some more, but unlike some of his more famous scoring teammates, the bulk of his production came within the flow of New York’s offense. He showed tremendous ability moving away from the ball, getting open and eluding the defense, finding holes like a slot receiver over the middle. 

This skill will help him this season. Whether it’s tightly curling off a screen or flaring into the corner, Hardaway Jr. is a slippery eel who New York’s coaching staff can confidently run half-court plays for next season when they go outside the triangle offense.

There’s no hesitation once Hardaway Jr. catches a pass. He either takes one or two dribbles to get open or simply rises up from where he stands, snaps his wrist and watches the ball sail toward the rim. 

With Carmelo Anthony still holding strong as the focal point of New York’s offense for the foreseeable future, Hardaway Jr. will only have so many opportunities to grow with the ball in his hands. But the Knicks would be wise to make him a secondary ball-handler with Carmelo in the game and a primary one when the superstar is resting. 

Testing Hardaway Jr.’s playmaking skills, especially in the pick-and-roll, could reap humongous benefits, if not this season, then down the line. 

Last year, in limited attempts—only 72 plays, per Synergy Sports (subscription required)—he was one of the league’s 10 most efficient scorers as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. It was here he showed the confidence of a veteran, pulling the trigger on his dangerous jump shot the second a high screen gave him some breathing room—without thinking twice. There’s good to that, and there’s bad.

If he’s to develop into the type of player New York badly wants him to be, Hardaway Jr. will need to do more than unconsciously pull up for shots off the dribble or (especially) become a floor-stretching statue in the corner. He’ll need to read the defense and make the correct pass. He’ll need to hit the open man, analyze how he’s being guarded and react properly. 

It’s unknown how much more rope new Knicks head coach Derek Fisher will let Hardaway Jr. pull on, but this is the most exciting area where the young player can get better. What other dimensions of his game can stand to improve? 

Like most rookies, Hardaway Jr. struggled on defense last season, but he is focused on making strides this year. Here’s ESPNNewYork.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk with what Hardaway Jr. expects from himself in the immediate future.

I just want to be a better defender, a better vocal leader out there,” Hardaway Jr. said at Charity Day, hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC Partners last Thursday. “That is my main focus. I know offense will come and I will get better at that each and every day. Where you separate yourself in the league is by playing team defense and I want to be a part of that.” 

Shooting and providing offensive punch certainly isn’t a problem for Hardaway Jr. … He should only get better as he continues to expand his offensive game and learn what defenses will give him. 

Hardaway possesses all the physical tools necessary to be a solid, if not very good, on-ball perimeter defender. His combination of quick feet, long arms and fantastic reflexes made blowing past him difficult last season. In New York’s switch-happy system, Hardaway Jr. did a relatively good job handling quicker point guards, too.   

Off the ball is a different issue, though, and Hardaway Jr.’s development in a new system may take some time. 

The Knicks are neither young nor very good, and after missing the playoffs last season, their ability to improve this year rests in large part on the shoulders of talent that still has room to improve. 

Hardaway Jr. is first on that list. He’ll never make an All-Star team or average 20 points per game, and he may not even solidify himself as a starter for another couple seasons. But New York’s 22-year-old has the potential to be a splendid cog in something successful and will be more polished this year than last.

 

All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com or NBA.com unless otherwise noted. 

Michael Pina covers the NBA for Bleacher Report, Sports on Earth, FOX Sports, ESPN, Grantland and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelVPina. 

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New York Knicks 2014-15 Win/Loss Projections

The New York Knicks enter the 2014-15 NBA season with a new head coach in Derek Fisher and a slew of new faces (namely Jose Calderon and rookie Cleanthony Early) to join Carmelo Anthony at Madison Square Garden. Can the Knicks climb back into the playoffs in the East?

Howard Beck and Ric Bucher join Adam Lefkoe to give their take in the video above.

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Report: Knicks Likely Trading Iman Shumpert

It seems like Iman Shumpert has been on the trade block forever. The 24-year old is averaging 10.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 dimes a game.

Shumpert is eligible for an early extension. It’s unlikely he gets an overwhelming offer from the Knicks prior to October 31 deadline which means a trip to free agency is likely in the cards next summer. If those other wing performers play well, it wouldn’t surprise if the Knicks once again float Shumpert’s name around the league early on.

Shump would be a good asset for any team. He’s big, athletic and brings perimeter defense.

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Knicks fans jimmy rig air conditioning unit to pay tribute to Mike Woodson (video)

The New York Knicks may have cut Mike Woodson loose all the way back in April, but the oft-criticized and constantly beleaguered former head coach still weighs on the hearts and occupies the minds of some Knickerbocker backers. Or at least two of them. Two Knicks fans posted a video to VINE showcasing how they, […] The post Knicks fans jimmy rig air conditioning unit to pay tribute to Mike Woodson (video) appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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Breaking Down NY Knicks’ Small Forward Position for 2014-15 Season

The New York Knicks are in an in-between phase of Phil Jackson’s franchise rejuvenation, and it’s apparent throughout the roster. The team’s new president administered as much roster overhaul as he could over his first summer in charge, and there are several new pieces for Derek Fisher to work into his rotation. 

At the same time, expensive, intrusive leftovers from the prior regime remain on the roster and will impede New York’s ability to prepare for the future. The presence of these holdovers—Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire, namely—will have a direct impact on how Fisher handles minutes at the small forward position this season. 

Carmelo Anthony, a natural small forward over the course of his career, has enjoyed tremendous success at the power forward slot these past two seasons thanks to the matchup nightmares he presents against traditional 4s. With Stoudemire and Bargnani in the fold for 2014-15, Anthony may be bumped back down to the position for extended minutes. 

The small forward minutes will generally be taken up by the same crowd as last season—Anthony, Shumpert and J.R. Smith are all returning—while rookie Cleanthony Early will attempt to earn a role at the position as well. Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw, who were acquired from the Sacramento Kings in August, could figure into the rotation as well. 

This year is all about transition for the Knicks, as they await to make a free-agency splash in 2015. But let’s take a look back and a look forward on the small forward position’s status in the meantime.

 

Grading Last Year’s Performance

Position Grade: B

 

Last season wasn’t pretty for the Knicks in most aspects, but they did get positive production out of their small forward spot. Much of that had to do with Anthony, but there were bright spots from Shumpert and Smith at the position also. 

Let’s start with Anthony, though. It’s clear now that ‘Melo is better suited at the 4, and he has posted better numbers there over the last two seasons, but he is still one of the league’s best offensive talents at small forward. 

According to Basketball-Reference, Anthony logged 38 percent of his total minutes at the 3 last season, and according to 82games.com, he posted a 22 player efficiency rating and 30.2 points per 48 minutes while playing there. The bulk of those minutes came early in the season before Bargnani’s season-ending injury in January, when Mike Woodson insisted on including the two players in a bigger lineup. 

After Bargnani went down, Anthony bumped back up to the power forward position for the most part, which opened up a slot for another guard in the starting lineup. More guards with shooting range around Anthony in the lineup led to more space for him to operate, and him being matched up against 4s led to more panicky help defense by opponents, which led to more open teammates for Anthony to utilize. 

J.R. Smith, according to Basketball-Reference, played the vast majority, 72 percent, of his minutes at the 3. And while his overall numbers infer a putrid all-around season, Smith was a very solid option for the Knicks after shaking off a brutal two-month stretch to begin the year. 

After Jan. 10, Smith shot 45 percent from the field and and 43 percent from three-point range, averaging 16.5 points, four rebounds and three assists a game. 

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert rounded out the small forward rotation, and two of the youngest Knicks could not have gone through more different experiences. 

Hardaway, in his rookie campaign, impressed with his scoring ability but struggled in every other facet of the game, and the Knicks were a worse team with him on the floor. Shumpert went through a season-long scoring slump, posting a shooting line of .378/.333/.746, but gave the Knicks a boost in other key areas and posted the team’s best net rating aside from Anthony. 

As was the case with the rest of the team, though, there was never enough consistency beside Anthony to string together a meaningful run. The 3-slot was solid enough to keep the Knicks above water, but considering all else, that just wasn’t enough. 

 

What’s Left to Settle?

The biggest question the Knicks face heading into the year features two of their three highest-paid players. How much will Stoudemire and Bargnani factor into the rotation?

In theory, both players can help a team score in limited roles. But with both being natural 4s, unable to protect the rim and unable to coexist in the same lineup on either end of the floor, both are simply expensive nightmares for a rebuilding Knicks team.

Last season, New York was 8.5 points per 100 possessions worse with Stoudemire on the floor. Bargnani’s number was 8.1 points worse.

Here’s the conundrum the Knicks face: Carmelo is a better weapon at the 4. If Anthony is at the 4 and STAT or Bargs figure into the rotation, one will need to play the center position, effectively destroying the team’s chances on defense. If one—or God forbid both—of Stoudemire and Bargnani are playing with ‘Melo, it bumps him back down to the 3, ruining space and taking minutes away from the younger wings.

This is a dilemma that’s easy to spot, even months before the season. The way Jackson is constructing the Knicks, and with their hopes of landing a prime free agent next summer, these two players will not be a part of the future. The only thing left to settle is when Fisher will cut them out of the present.

 

The New Rotation

At least at the onset of 2014-15, it’s reasonable to assume the small forward rotation will resemble last year’s, with Anthony logging some minutes there to accommodate Stoudemire and/or Bargnani.

When Anthony is resting, two of Smith, Shumpert and Hardaway will accompany him on the wings. Over time, Early could work into the rotation at the 3 as well, but at least in the season’s early stages, Travis Outlaw may get the nod over the rookie for those spot minutes.

According to general manager Steve Mills after the Knicks traded for Outlaw and Quincy Acy (via Ian Begley of ESPN New York), Outlaw is “a mobile big that can play the 4 and the 5. He’s got a great mid-range shot. I think he’ll fit within sort of the triangle. He’s got good hands, he can space the floor and he’s got great size.”

Outlaw has averaged under 15 minutes per game over the last three seasons and will likely only be capable of spot minutes if Fisher opts not to overwork Anthony in the season’s early going. After impressing in the summer league, though, and after more practice time with Fisher’s triangle offense, it’s easy to see Early earning a role behind Anthony and the other wings. 

Acy is another player who adds depth at the position but probably won’t make all that much of an impact. He’s been an energy guy throughout his brief NBA career and by all accounts a likable teammate. He’s averaged 13 minutes per game over his two pro seasons, and judging by the talent the Knicks have at the 3, that number may decrease by the time this season is over. 

How the complete rotation at small forward ends up largely depends on Fisher’s plans for Anthony and what position he sees him fitting best in the triangle. Talent-wise, though, like last season, the position projects to be a strength for New York.

 

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Knicks sign forward Orlando Sanchez (Yahoo Sports)

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Knicks signed former St. John’s forward Orlando Sanchez on Wednesday.

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Why Iman Shumpert Is Finally Set to Thrive with New York Knicks

For a guy who hasn’t been hit with so much as a speeding ticket off the basketball court, Iman Shumpert’s three-year NBA career has been uncommonly tumultuous.

Such as it is with the New York Knicks, a team that’s spent the better part of the last decade orchestrating, and then immediately recovering from, so many a wayward rebuild. That’s made Shumpert—a promising two-way prospect with upside for days—something of a volatile commodity.

But after years of being bandied about in virtually every Knicks-related trade talk and chat-room rumor, Shumpert is finally poised to thrive as a long-term piece in Phil Jackson’s puzzle.

At least according the New York Post’s Marc Berman, who quotes a source around the time of Jackson’s hiring to the effect that Shumpert was, in fact, part of the long-term plan.

Things could change, of course. After all, there’s seldom such a thing as a sacred cow in professional sports—particularly when the commodity in question stands as one in a logjam of backcourt talents and has just one year remaining before his qualifying offer officially kicks in.

Indeed, as ESPN New York’s Ian Begley writes, Jackson’s praise may have been more about managerial mind games than genuine infatuation:

But Jackson’s praise may have served a duel purpose.

The Knicks continued to explore opportunities to trade Shumpert over the summer, according to league sources, so Jackson may have been trying to improve the league-wide perception of his player.

Still, we think Shumpert has an opportunity to make a strong impact this season in the triangle. Tall guards such as Ron Harper have thrived in the offense. Can Shumpert fill the same role?

What Shumpert offers, however, is a skill set nicely suited to the team’s new orientation toward a Carmelo Anthony-centric triangle offense.

Following a season in which the former Georgia Tech standout hit the statistical skids, Shumpert—who just turned 24—is poised for a bounce-back year. Especially from three-point range, where Shumpert will look to approach the 40 percent clip he authored just two seasons ago.

Operating in a system where quick ball movement trumps superfluous dribbling, Shumpert—who’s struggled somewhat with his ball-handling abilities—is sure to get open looks aplenty. And while he might not be quite the knockdown shooter of a Tim Hardaway Jr., Shumpert’s superior passing and playmaking make him a viable rotational option at both the 2 and the 3.

For his part, Shumpert sees in the triangle the perfect antidote to what’s thus far been something of a stagnant role on offense. Here he is in a recent interview with the New York Post’s Howie Kussoy:

There’s constant action going on. I think I’ll be able to capitalize off that and I’ll be able to use my athleticism a lot more than standing in the corner. … I know this year, this offense, I’ll have a lot more opportunities to cut and get to the basket, so I just want to work on the strength in my leg and be able to jump off and be comfortable.

A lot more than standing in the corner.

If that sounds like a veiled swipe at former head coach Mike Woodson’s isolation-heavy offense, well, it probably is.

Derek Fisher, by contrast, is a triangle disciple through and through. And not just any triangle disciple, either. Indeed, if ever there was a player who personified how the offense can maximize what might otherwise be a middling talent, it’s Fisher—an athletically limited but intelligent point guard who became one of Kobe Bryant’s most trusted on-court confidants during the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship run of the early 2000s.

Tyronne Lue, Devean George, Sasha Vujacic: Jackson’s career is rife with replacement-level wings who used the triangle to author the best statistical seasons of their careers.

Obviously, Shumpert’s career trajectory is, at this stage of the game, impossible to pinpoint. What’s become increasingly clear, however, is that after three years of injury misfortune and roller-coaster roster dynamics, the Knicks—after nearly 20 years of flabbergasting front-office doings—finally have the look and feel of a genuine basketball incubator.

It remains to be seen how Fisher will manage the multifaceted wing troika of Shumpert, Hardaway and J.R. Smith. Each brings their unique strengths and weaknesses to the table and each, under the right circumstances, could prove potent triangle fits alongside Anthony.

Assuming Jackson’s roster retooling will include more multiplayer deals, there’s a good chance one of the three could be gone by the trade deadline—if only to either reinforce New York’s paper-thin draft-pick stock or further lessen its salary-cap commitments heading into next summer.

Should Shumpert survive past the deadline, much will depend on whether (and how many) teams look to test his $3.8 million qualifying offer next summer. Even though Jackson would be able to exceed the salary cap in order to match any offer, the CBA’s prohibitive luxury tax might make him think twice about rolling the dice on what very much remains a risky commodity.

In the meantime, Shumpert will have every opportunity to prove to Jackson and Fisher that last year’s regression was nothing more than an anomaly.

So much of Shumpert’s struggles have been due to factors beyond his control, from the knee injury that sidelined him for the better part of a year to New York’s volatile coaching carousel.

Luckily, the ascendance of Jackson and Fisher portends for the Knicks not only a breath of fresh air but a fair shot as well.

If you’re Shumpert, what more could you ask for?

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Watch Knicks owner Dolan sing about NJ governor

The Knicks, Rangers owner sang one of his politically-leaning songs on My Fox New York.

      
 

 

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One Question Facing Every Knicks’ Starter

Jose Calderon

Can Calderon defend well enough to help New York reach the playoffs?
We all know Calderon can shoot it. He has shot above 40% from deep the last two seasons and maintains a 41% average for his career. He’ll likely fill the same role in the Triangle Offense that Derek Fisher filled during his time in LA by knocking down open shots as defenses collapse on Carmelo Anthony. But will he give up more points than he gets? In the Atlantic Division alone, Calderon has to deal with the likes of Kyle Lowry, Rajon Rondo, and Deron Williams. If those guys are consistently blowing by Calderon and knifing through the lane to create open shots for their teammates, the Knicks can plan on an early playoff exit… if they make there at all.
 
Iman Shumpert

Will he play well enough to justify a big contract this offseason?
This season is a contract year for Iman Shumpert as he will become a restricted free agent in the offseason. He is already well known for his insane athleticism and prowess on the defensive

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