NBA Teams Still Dropping Memes, Introduce ‘NBADramas’

Who’s ready for your weekly NBA meme roundup? 

That was weak, people. I need a roar. No? Alright, moving on.

NBA social media teams are sticking to the formula—that is, the one where they have criminal amounts of fun on Twitter with the help of Photoshop and fan creativity.

To date, the NBA offseason has offered up gems such as “Embiidrill,” “The Super Morris Bros” and other characters. Their latest target, however, may be their most expansive. 

Titled “NBA Dramas,” teams and fans are placing players in serious TV shows and apparently attempting to permanently ruin the “Breaking ______” trope. 

Let’s start with “House of Guards”—a theme touched on by multiple teams but perfected by the Orlando Magic.

“Penny Little Liars” will make you feel feelings you wish didn’t exist.

I’d like to take this moment to climb out of my parents’ basement and point out that SportsNation has mistaken “high fantasy” for “drama.” 

You will never look at Kemba Walker the same again. Ever.

A rogue hero who will do anything in order to get the job done? LeBron James is Jack Bauer with better acting chops. 

The “Ides of Marcin.” Presented without comment. 

It’s not your fault, John Wall.

And now for the Breaking Bad submissions, including Blake Griffin, Brandon Jennings and Thaddeus Young.

My father would watch “Wilsons of Anarchy” just to loop the conversation around to ask if I’ve watched Sons of Anarchy yet.

Of course, Jrue Holiday knows that any time with the Pelicans is spent in a flat circle.

Well done, NBA social media and fans. I eagerly await next week’s meme, which hopefully will include remixing players with the cast of The Wire.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news.

 

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Can Kobe Bryant Really Still Carry the Los Angeles Lakers?

Carrying the Los Angeles Lakers is a familiar task for Kobe Bryant.

Armed with unequaled self-confidence and an insatiable desire to prevail over opponents—both literal and figurative—on his own terms, ferrying Los Angeles’ hopes has become Bryant’s preferred way of life. He wouldn’t have the Lakers entrusting their fate to anyone else. He wouldn’t share the strain of expectations even if he could.

Nothing has changed.

Almost two decades into his reign as Hollywood’s king, the Lakers are still very much Bryant’s team, the roster reflective of their dollars-dependent future and—most importantly—a patent pledge to continue building around No. 24 until the bitter end.

But where such conduct once engendered hope and teamwide tenacity befitting of Bryant’s own aplomb, time has turned the tables. 

Certainty has given way to confusion. Age and injuries have created doubt. Bryant’s burden-bearing, hope-hauling capabilities have come under siege.

Can he still carry his team? 

For the first time, the answer is less about Bryant’s bionic mystique and more about where the Lakers intend to go.

 

Charting Expectations

Talk of summer 2015 and all the promise it holds has been temporarily suspended.

New head coach Byron Scott refuses to accept that the mountain ahead is too steep to scale now. References to patience and process have come few and far between, their existence secondary to seemingly ungovernable optimism.

“I think it would be unfair for us to put any expectation on those guys, but the bottom line with me is winning. That’s the bottom line, so I’m not putting any limitations on our guys as well,” he said on Fox Sports Live, per NBA.com’s Joey Ramirez. ”I’m gonna go in there the first day of training camp and say, ‘Guys, we’ve gotta shoot for winning a championship.’”

Title talk can be interpreted as any number of things. 

Is Scott being serious? Using boundless bluster as a motivational tool? Selling something the Lakers don’t—and won’t—stock anytime soon?

This year’s Lakers will stumble into 2014-15 following a 27-win, injury-infested debacle. They’re barely recognizable from last year, though not in ways that guarantee they’ll win more games, play more defense or move forward at all.

Through it all, Scott constantly cites Bryant.

Sometimes he focuses on Bryant’s limitations and the balance between reality and stardom he must find. Other times he can be heard adding weight to Bryant’s two-ton crown.

“I’ve got a lot of guys that I don’t really know,” Scott admitted in August, via the Los Angeles Times‘s Eric Pincus. ”I’ve got to get to know these guys and see what makes them tick—but I’ve got one guy that I do know what makes him tick and that’s a great piece to have.”

Judging by those words, Scott is no different than any other Lakers coach, and this team no different from any other Lakers team. 

Winning—impractical or not—remains the standard, and it’s Bryant who must lug the bar to which they hold themselves.

 

Bryant’s New Reality

Current expectations would have seemed tame not two years ago. 

Neither time nor age had bested Bryant. Serious injuries weren’t holding him back. His game was his game, his production and reliability timeless.

Circumstances have since changed, even if Bryant’s career-long role hasn’t.

At 36, his basketball mortality obvious, Bryant must adapt. And though adjustment isn’t exact science, specific lines—those which Bryant, Scott and the Lakers are forbidden to cross—must be drawn. 

That may involve him settling for even more jumpers or playing point guard and ceding the most physically demanding responsibilities to Nick Young, Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle.

It most certainly entails him playing less.

Scott has already stressed the importance of conservation, hinting at a minutes limit for his shooting guard, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Yet a potential minutes cap has done little to curb his enthusiasm.

“I see a guy who’s going to average 20 something points a game, will have a great year and have a lot of people eating crow,” he told Medina. “I’m glad people are saying [otherwise]. Keep adding it. It motivates him that much more. It makes my job easier.”

Averaging 20 points is a tall order by itself. Forget collective wishes, wins and losses and every other aspect of the game. Twenty points, on its own, is ambitious.

Players aged 36 or older have averaged 20 points per game only nine times since 1983. More complicated still, three players—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (three times), Michael Jordan (twice) and Karl Malone (four times)—make up all nine occurrences.

Not once did any of those players log fewer than 30 minutes per contest. Jordan and Malone—who make up the last six instances—each needed at least 34.9 minutes to complete the feat. 

Bryant, meanwhile, is supposed to eclipse similar numbers on a minutes cap. 

Only five qualified players in NBA history have ever averaged 20 points in under 30 minutes per game. It hasn’t been done since 1990-91 (Ricky Pierce), and the oldest player to do it was 32 (George Gervin).

Last season saw a 35-year-old Bryant muster 13.8 points a night in 29.5 minutes. Six-game sample sizes don’t offer windows into Bryant’s basketball soul, but if he’s to score as much as Scott and the Lakers want, stringent playing restrictions are the enemy.

And even if he does that, even if he stays healthy and makes history while playing at a familiarly high level, there’s still the matter of having to carry everyone else.

The Lakers ranked 28th in defensive efficiency last season, according to NBA.com, and aren’t built to be much better this year. They ranked 21st in offensive efficiency, playing a fast-paced brand of basketball Bryant isn’t fit to exist within and Scott won’t run.

Single cures aren’t out there for what ails this Lakers team. Not even a statistically magnificent Bryant would be enough to revive Los Angeles’ winning ways. Not if he stands as the Lakers’ lone star.

 

Different Reality, Same Old Misconceptions

Mentions of the Lakers and “winning” and “playoffs” in the same breath casts a cloud over Bryant’s impending return.

These (mostly) self-delivered forecasts—borne out of design or blind belief—are, as Bleacher Report’s Jim Cavan implies, a double-edged sword:

On the other hand, the Lakers are coming off their worst season in almost 60 years, play in a perpetually loaded Western Conference and are poised to pay their best player—the 36-year-old Kobe Bryant—a whopping $48.5 million over the next two years, despite recent injuries to the aging star’s Achilles and knee.

Meanwhile, L.A.’s second-best player, Carlos Boozer, was grabbed off waivers after being released by the Chicago Bulls via the NBA’s amnesty provision.

If this doesn’t sound like the blueprint for a championship-caliber team, congratulations: You are firmly grounded in this dimension.

Multistar powerhouses make up the Western Conference. Kevin Durant isn’t on his own in Oklahoma City. Chris Paul has Blake Griffin. Damian Lillard has LaMarcus Aldridge. James Harden has Dwight Howard. Tony Parker has the rest of San Antonio‘s roster. 

Old and fragile as ever, Bryant is all alone, surrounded only by bit role players acquired to appease his unbending faith and protect Los Angeles’ books. 

Teams built on this whim—however well-intentioned—don’t make the playoffs out west, let alone contend for championships. Contenders aren’t founded upon one 36-year-old superstar who has appeared in just six games since April 2013. 

No NBA player of Bryant’s age has ever racked up more than 18.2 win shares. Under the most ideal circumstances—Bryant has never amassed more than 15.3 wins in a single season—if the Lakers actually wish to flirt with a playoff berth, where are the other 30-35 victories coming from? 

Some combination of Boozer, Lin, Young, Jordan Hill, Ed Davis and Steve Nash, who totaled 17.4 victories between them for their respective teams last year?

Hope of Bryant’s return resembling a miracle runs amiss here, where he’s being asked to carry the Lakers further than reason allows, acting as something more than an encouraging bridge between this era and the one in which lofty expectations belong.

 

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise cited.


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Can Chicago Bulls Still Rely on Derrick Rose as Their Franchise Building Block?

The Chicago Bulls are deep enough into their design that they can’t swap out the centerpiece now.

Their linchpin, Derrick Rose, remains their ultimate source of optimism, their key to joining the uber-exclusive fraternity of full-fledged NBA contenders.

As the former MVP goes, the Bulls will follow. That portion of the program hasn’t changed.

Yet Chicago’s foundation is frighteningly flimsy. As good as this house looks from the outside, its main support beam has already faltered twice. The Bulls can hope that Rose’s knee problems—first a torn ACL in his left one, then a torn meniscus in the right—are behind him.

They bet the farm on that fact before knowing this was a battle he would fight. And outside of crossed fingers, well-wishes and all the patience they can muster, they have nothing to help him wage that war.

It used to take something special from Rose—a killer crossover, a rapid-fire offensive outburst, a Tom Thibodeau-approved highlight hustle play—for the Windy City to erupt. Now he can spark mass hysteria simply by stepping inside the lines.

After watching him log just 50 games (regular season and playoffs) the past three years combined, hoop heads are just happy to see him in any type of action. They can look past the rust (5.4 points on 25 percent shooting through five games at the FIBA World Cup), sweat out his injury scares and buy every last bit of his hype still up for sale.

When Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski tells reporters how Rose has shown his teammates he’s “back at a level that’s elite,” fans can take his comments at face value and start counting down the days until Rose’s real return (Chicago’s season opener on October 29).

The Bulls don’t have that luxury. They are far too invested in both his present and future to hear that he’s back and immediately subscribe to that theory.

Fans and analysts alike want to stretch out the small strides he’s made into something bigger than they are. The Bulls just hope that each baby step can be followed by another.

“We just want to keep building, just daily improvement,” Thibodeau told reporters last month. “That’s what he’s concentrating on.”

Rose might not have a choice since he’s peppered with questions about his health on a daily basis. 

As he should be. It’s not as if his play on the international stage has really answered any on its own.

Some nights, he has looked like that athletic superhero NBA fans remember:

On others, he has seemed to be locked in a battle with his body:

With rust to shake off and fuel tanks to fill, these inconsistencies will likely persist. And so will his media-administered medical checkups.

“I know the questions are going to come and they’re going to be there the whole year,” Rose said, via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. “So I can’t get tired of it.”

The Bulls can, though.

Every inquiry made is a reminder of their franchise face’s fragility. It’s also a suggestion that the Rose coming back to Chicago may not be the two-way force who had the entire basketball world in his palm just a few years back.

Realistically, when a 25-year-old player whose game depends on explosiveness undergoes two knee surgeries in 19 months, perhaps the best isn’t yet to come,” wrote David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.

There is no way to know for sure whether his best days are behind him. That answer will come with time.

The Bulls have hinged their hopes on a full recovery. Despite parting with Thibodeau-favorite Luol Deng last season, they stopped short of holding an all-out fire sale. They entered this offseason fully embracing the buyer’s market, trading up on draft night for Doug McDermott, inking free agent Pau Gasol to a three-year deal and importing draft-and-stash prospect Nikola Mirotic.

Combine that with the key returning pieces—All-Star center Joakim Noah, perimeter stopper Jimmy Butler, super-sub Taj Gibson, rising swingman Tony Snell—and this looks like the recipe for a contender.

It should be one if Rose is healthy enough to lead the way. As ESPNChicago.com’s Mike Wilbon noted, it’s hard finding certainty with this type of recovery:

His second injury makes you reconsider everything … such as, maybe D-Rose simply can’t play the game the way he wants to play it, maybe he can’t explode and cut with the ferocity he has until now. Maybe it isn’t advisable he come back firing fastballs, but instead rely for the first time on changing speeds and sleight of hand.

Can Rose still be as effective as he was if he changes his style of play? Can a career 31.2 percent three-point shooter afford to stop attacking? Does he even have off-speed stuff in his arsenal?

These are the questions the Bulls need answered. There is no reliability in their world or in his. Two seasons (essentially) lost to injury can have that effect.

But at this point, what else can the franchise do other than hope its brightest star can realign himself? The Bulls’ base is unnervingly wobbly, but attempting to remove it will only bring their foundation crashing down.

There is no way to recast his role. There are maybe a handful of players who can match his talent, and perhaps none are better suited for this supporting cast. Even if a better fit for this roster existed, he wouldn’t be available on the trade market.

And while Rose hasn’t played consistently well on the international circuit, he has said he’s pleased with the stuff that doesn’t make the stat sheet:

Considering Rose’s age, his obvious ability and what this team can potentially accomplish if he’s right, the Bulls have no option but to proceed with him as their primary building block.

Their road ahead is lined with uncertainty, but it’s the only one available that might lead to a world title. As long as that remains true, there is no other choice worth considering.

 

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Los Angeles Lakers: 4 reasons why Kobe is still the greatest player of our generation

Kobe and Duncan have both won multiple titles in the 21st century, making the argument for best player of the 2000s complex.
With Spurs forward Tim Duncan recently capturing his 5th NBA title, a lot of debate has ensued on whether or not he has taken the title of Greatest Player of the 2000′s away from Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. Don’t get me wrong; Duncan is more than qualified to be in this discussion with 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs and not one losing season. But here are 4 reasons why he still comes in second to Kobe:

Adversity. A great man once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” If there’s anything that Duncan’s career lacks, it’s challenge and controversy. Having been in the same system with the same Hall of Fame coach with mostly the same supporting cast his entire career has been smooth sailing for Duncan. Meanwhile, Kobe has thrived with far le

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Finland lost by almost 60, their fans were still happy

Incurable optimists.

      
 

 

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Sacramento Kings: Rajon Rondo Still A Possibility?

What’s Happening With Rondo And Boston? I’ve lost track of just when all these Rajon Rondo rumors began, but it was quite a while ago now. The Boston Celtics seem to have looked into the possibility of moving Rajon Rondo for the best part of a year now, but still he remains in Beantown. One […]
Sacramento Kings: Rajon Rondo Still A Possibility? – Hoops Habit – Hoops Habit – Analysis, Opinion and Stats All About The NBA

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Los Angeles Lakers’ Future Still Rests in Kobe Bryant’s Hands

Kobe Bryant‘s present with the Los Angeles Lakers is littered with question marks, and his future with the franchise might be better measured in months instead of years.

But his position within the organization is the same one he’s held the majority of his career. He is the Lakers’ most important player for today and tomorrow.

That fact is somehow equal parts entirely predictable and incredibly astounding.

On one hand, Bryant is a historically prolific player with a resume and competitive edge nearly unrivaled by his NBA brethren past and present. He is a 16-time All-Star, five-time champion and the fourth-highest scorer in league history (31,700 career points and counting).

He isn’t passing the baton to anyone. Someone will have to rip it away from him.

That isn’t news to those who have watched a second of his career, but it’s remarkable nonetheless. He turns 36 on Saturday and has dealt with both a torn Achilles and a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee since April 2013, but he’s unquestionably a franchise leader in a young man’s game.

As someone who once jumped straight from the high school ranks to the big leagues, his basketball clock is ticking even faster than his biological one.

Across his first 18 seasons in the league, he has logged 45,567 minutes across 1,245 games. Those totals don’t even account for the extensive playoff runs that put another 220 games and 8,641 minutes on his odometer.

There is no way to roll back the mileage. Anything taken by Father Time over the years—explosiveness, agility, quickness—is a casualty of the same war legends have been waging and losing for decades.

Bryant is evolving, doing what he can to offset his physical losses with mental and tactical gains. He isn’t the same player he once was, but he says it’s wrong to assume he’ll automatically be worse for the wear.

“When I hear pundits and people talk saying, ‘Well, he won’t be what he was.’ Know what? You’re right,” he told Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Ballard. ”I won’t be. But just because something evolves, it doesn’t make it any less better than it was before.”

Maybe those words are nothing more than arrogance. History has not been kind to players dealing with his type of setbacks, let alone ones attempting the feat so late in their careers.

Then again, if he’s able to prove his critics wrong, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Forget about the disastrous 2012-13 campaign for a moment, when injuries kept him off the floor for all but six games and the Lakers posted their second-lowest winning percentage in franchise history (.329).

Just one season prior he was still cemented among the game’s current greats. In 2012-13, he put up 27.3 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting along with 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds. Do you know how many players averaged 27 points on 46 percent shooting, six dimes and five boards last season? One: four-time MVP LeBron James.

Can Bryant still be that type of player? Well, it depends who you ask.

Reggie Miller, who spent 18 seasons in the league, says no. He said Bryant has a chance to still be pretty good, but greatness might be out of the question, via Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak disagrees.

“My window overlooks the court, and he comes in to work out from time to time,” Kupchak said, via Lyle Spencer of Sports on Earth. “You would not know he’s in his mid-30s. You wouldn’t know he hurt his knee and had a torn Achilles. There’s no limp. He’s got a hop in his step.”

That’s the type of thing Lakers fans need to hear.

After firing blanks at top-shelf free-agent targets Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, the franchise invested its offseason funds in players who won’t tie up the books moving forward.

The Lakers found some talent this summer—rookie Julius Randle could be a steal, Ed Davis has plenty of upside and veterans Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer bring over some proven production—but that might not equate to much in the fully-loaded Western Conference.

As CBS Sports’ Zach Harper observed, the Lakers will enter next season fighting a steep uphill battle for a playoff spot:

How much would have to go their way, while finding worst-case scenarios for a handful of other teams, to get them into the playoffs in 2015? The Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Warriors, Blazers, Rockets, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Suns, and Nuggets are all undeniably better than this Lakers team at its best. The Pelicans are likely better than this Lakers team as well. The Wolves could be decently competitive for a good portion of the season and the Kings might actually have more in their favor than this Lakers team if not everything goes well for Los Angeles.

That might not seem like it matters much. After all, the Lakers are largely plotting their next championship run around their potential success in the 2015 or 2016 free-agent markets.

However, L.A.’s future strides may well be tied to the present. The whiffs of this past offseason suggest that the Lakers may no longer have the same pull with the league’s top talent.

They failed to get Carmelo Anthony or James, proving the Lakers are no longer the free-agent destination they used to be,” wrote Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

The Lakers haven’t lost their built-in market advantages, and L.A.’s climate is as inviting as ever. Those championship banners inside the Staples Center haven’t come down, and the team can still sell players on the opportunity to be the next star for such a proud organization.

But it’s hard to say how much things like market size, weather and history still matter to NBA players when LeBron James can turn the Cleveland Cavaliers into a destination franchise.

Today’s premier players, by and large, need to see some chance at success. And that’s why Bryant, despite having only two years left on his contract, will play such a massive role in the Lakers’ future.

With only $36 million in guaranteed money committed to the 2015-16 payroll, via ShamSports.com, the Lakers have the means to pursue some of the stars of the 2015 free-agent class.

However, they’ll need a healthy, productive Bryant to really bolster their recruiting pitch. His attitude might not always blend well with others (see: Dwight Howard), but championship-caliber numbers are hard to ignore.

If he can be the Bryant of old—as opposed to an old Bryant—he might convince a top player (whether that’s someone like Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge next summer or even a Kevin Durant the following year) he can still play a significant role on a title team.

But if Bryant’s body breaks down and the team’s performance nosedives with it, the Lakers could be stuck with stacks of cash and no impactful way to spend it.

He seems to think his best days aren’t completely behind him, and maybe he’ll be proved right. It’s a gamble the Lakers have no choice but to take, and one that offers either a road back to relevance or a stumble that could set this franchise back for years.

This team is overloaded with questions, and Bryant, once again, is the only man capable of providing any answers.

 

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Why the New York Knicks Still Have Work to Do to Become a Contender

Phil Jackson is in the early stages of molding the New York Knicks into a contender. Jackson re-signed Carmelo Anthony and established new head coach Derek Fisher. However, the roster will need more pieces to complement Anthony and a new outlook on playing style to compete in the Eastern Conference next season. 

The Knicks’ roster has been subjected to significant changes. New York lost two starters, Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler, to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and Samuel Dalembert.

Ellington and Jeremy Tyler were subsequently traded to the Sacramento Kings for Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw. One can argue if these trades push New York closer or further away from an NBA title but Jackson is looking at the bigger picturea picture that’s still blurry at this point.

Looking through the rosters across the league, it’s clear the Knicks won’t contend for a championship in the 2014-15 season. The nuances in their coaching strategy, implementing the triangle offense, building team chemistry and weeding out parts that don’t fit will take at least a full season.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards—all currently considered top-tier teams in the Eastern Conference—added key players to their rosters. The Wizards acquired a proven veteran in Paul Pierce, and the Bulls signed Pau Gasol as they anticipate the return of Derrick Rose.

The addition of Kevin Love and LeBron James catapult the Cavaliers into competition to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. These major offseason moves place all three teams in contention to win now, while the turnover on the Knicks roster signals a rebuilding period.

The growth process will be painful but necessary. Players must alter their mindset to operate efficiently within Jackson’s game plan. The triangle offense places emphasis on making good shot selections, court vision, movement without the ball and court spacing.

Here’s a basic summary of how the triangle offense works.

Here’s the relative fluidity Fisher and Jackson hope to see from their players in the near future:

Fisher’s top priority heading into the new season is the lack of ball movement displayed last season. The Knicks ranked 28th in the league in assists, averaging 20 assists per game. Much of this was due to frequent isolation play. Many practices will be spent on getting the ball to the right player at the right time in specific situations.

Jackson made note of the lack of chemistry in an interview with Ian Begley of ESPN.com with this statement: “Watching them play I saw guys that looked at each other like, ‘You didn’t back me up, you weren’t here when I needed help.’ There just wasn’t the right combination or feel (where) it felt like everybody was in synch all the time.”

Another question mark when fitting the pieces of the roster into the triangle is developing Andrea Bargnani’s court vision from the post position.

Luc Longley, Shaquille O’Neal and Gasol were all able to raise their assist averages playing within the offense on championship teams. None of these centers became prolific passers, but they succeeded in drawing the defense in and kicking the ball out to perimeter shooters, or making an accurate pass to the player cutting to the basket.

Bargnani doesn’t garner enough attention in the paint to collapse a defense. Throughout his career he has been highlighted as a good shooter at his sizeto elevate his game play he’ll have to become a proficient passer.

Anthony’s weight loss is great for self-preservation but it takes the Knicks a step back as contenders. According to Melo’s trainer Idan Ravin, via Marc Berman of the New York Post, the star forward’s weight loss was inspired by wanting to set an example and lead the locker room vocally.

But was the weight loss necessary to achieve the role as an absolute leader? Psychology lessons on how to motivate his teammates would have been more suitable than burning calories at the gym for Anthony’s vocal leadership deficiencies.

On the court Melo has been exceptional.

Over the past three seasons with the Knicks he’s developed into a clutch player and led the team into the playoffs in two of his three full seasons with the team.

A confidant of Anthony was quoted in the New York Post per Berman as saying, “He wants to be as athletic as he was when he was a rookie. Plus he wants to be a facilitator in the triangle and speed will help that.’’

The major caveat to Anthony’s commitment to becoming a better facilitator at the 3 is the fact he flourished as a high-scoring power forward.

In his last two seasons playing at the 4, he has vastly increased his points per game average and three-point shooting percentage. This past season, Anthony’s three-point shooting reached 40 percent. In the 2012-13 season Melo won the scoring title averaging 28.7 points per game.

It’s also worth noting he worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon prior to that season to improve his offensive attack in the post. The hard work paid off.

Anthony’s ability to back down a defender in the post to reach a certain spot on the floor will be challenged with a heightened difficulty as players will attempt to box out his thinner frame.

The Knicks’ scoring consistency takes a significant fall following Melo’s 27.4 points per game. Streaky shooter J.R Smith averaged 14.5 points per game as the second-leading scorer on the roster last season. Anthony won’t have much support as a facilitator on a team previously ranked 20th in the league in scoring, at 98.6 points per game.

The reason behind Melo’s weight loss is logical, but it comes a bit prematurely as the roster lacks enough scoring which would allow him to focus on other parts of his game.

The offseason trade sending Chandler back to the Mavericks is a major detriment to the Knicks’ interior defense. Dalembert will pose a threat inside, but he lacks the ability to play extensive minutes to help the Knicks sustain a solid front at the basket. Last season, he averaged 20.2 minutes per game in 68 starts with the Mavericks.

Chandler averaged 9.6 rebounds per game with the Knicks ranking 26th in rebounding. Without Chandler, expect players averaging double-doubles like Love, Joakim Noah and Al Jefferson to dominate the paint.

Anthony grabbed a career-high 8.1 rebounds per game as the second-leading rebounder. As a nimble small forward in the upcoming season he will contest for fewer rebounds when the Knicks need it most. Every other player on the roster averages fewer than seven rebounds per game.

The Knicks will depend on a mix of Amar’e Stoudemire, Bargnani and Dalembert for the bulk of their rebounding—all of whom have struggled in the category or will play limited minutes in the upcoming season.

Expect New York to struggle with making stops on the defensive end and creating second-chance opportunities on offense.

Improvements to reach a level of contention will require shrewd roster moves, progression from key players on the bench and exploring trade scenarios.

The starting lineup should feature Dalembert, Bargnani, Anthony, Smith and Calderon. Dalembert must be on the court to compete on the boards.

At center, Bargnani struggled last season in rebounding, grabbing 5.3 rebounds per game. The Knicks should look to bring in another defender in exchange for Bargnani before his contract expires at the end of the season. The core of the defense needs improvement.

Another defender is insurance for Iman Shumpert if he continues to struggle. On offense, he struggled as a jump-shooter; 330 of his 484 shot attempts were jump shots on 37.8 percent field-goal shooting, via nba.com. Fortunately, the third-year guard is capable of using his athleticism to attack the basket, taking advantage of the spacing within the triangle.

As a defender he’s still worth a spot in a starting lineup; it’s also the reason he remains on the trade block. Begley reports that Shump could be on the move, with an excess of guards on the roster. Shumpert’s upside is a valuable trade tool, and for the right deal he’s expendable for an established player.

It’s about winning championships. Established productive players trump potential productive players. The Cavaliers’ front office would agree, as they traded away promising rookie Andrew Wiggins for Love.

The Knicks are well-known for trading budding players too soon, but Shumpert’s trade value is worthy of landing a game-changer alongside Anthony.

Smith was openly shopped around to other teams after his shoelace antics, but still he remains, and he will expect to be a starter in the upcoming season.

If Smith’s request isn’t granted by Fisher, it will be difficult to put trust in his temperament. He still has two years on his contract, and it won’t be easy moving a publicly disgruntled player.

Placing Melo back at the 3 creates competition between Shumpert and Smith as the starting shooting guard; Smith played at the 3 while Melo played at the 4 last season.

Shumpert needs to regain his confidence on the court. Fisher can benefit from utilizing his energy as a spark off the bench. The gradual reintegration of Shump’s talents as a sixth man also helps avoid another headache from Smith.

Significant skill development from the bench will be essential in propelling the Knicks to the next level. The management of Stoudemire’s minutes should benefit Cole Aldrich. The 6’11″ center played sparingly in his first season in New York, but he displayed a glimpse of his potential, averaging 14.8 points per 100 possessions via Basketball-Reference.com.

Second-year guard Tim Hardaway Jr.’s rookie season was so impressive that he’s already coveted by the organization. According to another Begley report, the front office isn’t looking to move Hardaway—and rightfully so. He averaged 10.2 points per game as a 36 percent three-point shooter, showing early signs of stardom as a rookie.

The Knicks will reap the benefits from the budding sharpshooter off the bench in crucial moments.

It’s too early to place value on first-round draft pick Cleanthony Early’s NBA projection. However, his physical attributes are valuable to the triangle offense.

Early has similar physical advantages to Melo—he can play a backup role at the 3, or stretch the floor as a 4. The ability to score in the paint and drive the lane creates more scoring opportunities within the triangle.

Rebounding isn’t his strong suit, but if he learns to use his body frame to crash the boards, he will quickly find himself in the rotation.

The Knicks have undeveloped talent with a system that needs to be tailored to their roster strengths. The fit between Jackson’s triangle offense and the players is inconclusive, and as a result it’s fair to say that the Knicks won’t contend this year.

Instead, Coach Fisher will experiment with starting lineups, rotations and play-calling, in an effort to get the most out of a season of learning.

More changes are inevitable as the anticipation for a talented free agent pool follows in the 2015 offseason. At that point, the Knicks will make significant moves to complement their franchise player and push the younger talent.

Until then, championship contention is a distant goal—an objective Knicks’ president Jackson views as achievable with patience.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

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