Burning Q's: Will defense be an issue?

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Will the Knicks' defense be an issue again?

I think the Knicks’ defense will have its challenges again this season. I also believe that Derek Fisher will get the Knicks to play better D by installing a better scheme.

[+] EnlargeDerek Fisher
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesWill Derek Fisher be able to fix the Knicks' D?
Last season, the Knicks were often confused on defense and all the switching did not go smoothly. They also looked completely unmotivated at times on that end of the floor.

While Fisher may have some growing pains in his first season as a head coach, he should be able to get the Knicks to be more motivated on defense.

However, the personnel’s strong suit isn’t on the defensive end. And Phil Jackson’s biggest trade thus far involved sending the team’s defensive anchor, Tyson Chandler, to Dallas. The Knicks got a defending big back in Samuel Dalembert but the key piece in that deal, Jose Calderon, isn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess.

Let’s start at point guard with Calderon. He clearly will help the team with his outside and locker room presence. He averages just under one steal a game for his career and the 6-3 point guard, like his predecessor Raymond Felton, will have difficulty keeping speedy and athletic point guards in front of him. The same thing goes for Pablo Prigioni. Shane Larkin, the other point guard that came in the Chandler trade, will have to prove himself in order to get minutes. Even then, he’s 5-11 so his size hurts defensively.

The Knicks need Iman Shumpert to be their best overall defender. Jackson had success with an athletic swingman creating offense off of steals much in the way Scottie Pippen did for the Bulls. Shumpert is no Pippen, but he will have to be a sparkplug defensively for this team.

J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony are not great defenders and will have to step up when their opponents have the ball. Anthony can help on the boards with Chandler gone. Tim Hardaway Jr. showed great promise last season but defensively he has much to improve on.

Jackson added forwards like Cleanthony Early, Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy. But none are exceptional defenders. Acy should add some toughness.

The Knicks do have some capable shot blockers in Amar'e Stoudemire, Dalembert and Jason Smith. Even Andrea Bargnani can block shots, averaging 1.2 blocks in 42 games last season. But can all those bigs stay healthy? None are intimidating on the back end, especially with Stoudemire's knees keeping him from playing the way he did when he was younger.

The Knicks will have to find a way to replace Chandler’s defensive presence and IQ inside. Chandler blocked 1.1 shots a game last season but often affected other shots with his length and he was a good help defender. Somebody will have to hold the last line of defense, communicate and make sure everybody is on the same page. Kenyon Martin could help in that department a bit but he's a free agent and he also was limited by injuries last season.

Defense was an issue last year. Even with a new coach and some new blood on the team, it looks like it will be an issue for this team again.

Question: Do you think the Knicks' defense will be an issue this season?

Burning Q's: Do Knicks have enough size?

August, 27, 2014
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: Do the Knicks have enough size to compete?

When Phil Jackson traded Tyson Chandler earlier this summer, the Zen Master was lauded for not only being able to ship Chandler and Raymond Felton out of town but also for bringing in Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and two second-round picks, which helped land Cleanthony Early.

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While Chandler was looking for a fresh start elsewhere, the Knicks parted with their best rebounder and interior defender. When healthy, he provided the Knicks with an active big man who was the last line of defense.

Now, the Knicks start the Derek Fisher era with uncertainty inside the paint. Yes, Carmelo Anthony can be a force on the boards. But does he have enough help inside?

Let’s start with Dalembert, who could be the starter. When given steady minutes, he can rebound and certainly can block shots. The 6-foot-11 center has career averages of 7.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game over his 12-year career.

Dalembert is probably at his most effective within a 20- to 25-minute range. Over the past six years, he has averaged no more than 25.9 minutes per game during a season. Last season, Dalembert played 20.2 minutes a game and averaged 6.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for the Mavericks.

At 33, Dalembert should be able to provide the Knicks with rebounding and blocked shots but not heavy minutes.

The wild card for the Knicks could be 7-footer Jason Smith. He provides the Knicks with a center capable of burying the midrange jumper, rebounding and blocking shots. Smith, 28, averaged 9.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game in 31 games last season before missing time with a knee injury.

Smith has had trouble staying healthy, playing more than 50 games in a season only once in the past three years. But he could be a good fit in the triangle if he avoids injury.

Speaking of health, the Knicks would benefit if Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani can stay on the court. Stoudemire showed flashes last season of the old Amar'e, averaging 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22.6 minutes a game. It remains to be seen how he will fit in the triangle, but his ability to hit shots from the outside helps. Fisher shouldn’t use Stoudemire for a ton of minutes, obviously, due to his knees. But Stoudemire has said he feels better, and he is entering a contract year.

Bargnani, the 7-foot offensive-minded big man, might like playing in the triangle with his ability to shoot from the outside. He averaged 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 42 games, missing time with an elbow injury. Bargnani is also entering a contract year, so he should be motivated. Being reunited with Calderon also should help.

The Knicks acquired the 6-9 Travis Outlaw and 6-7 Quincy Acy, and backup center Cole Aldrich adds depth. Early is thin, but at 6-8 he adds some length.

In the East, Cleveland boasts Kevin Love, LeBron James, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao. Chicago now has Pau Gasol to go with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.

The Raptors still have a rising Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. The Wizards re-signed Marcin Gortat and added Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair to go with Nene. The Heat still have Chris Bosh, and the Hornets still have Al Jefferson.

The Knicks may not have the offensive firepower inside like some of these other East playoff contenders. They don’t have one athletic big man who can log 30-plus minutes and be a surefire double-double guy. They will likely have to rely on Melo to be that force on the boards.

Fisher will have to go with size by committee. Where I see the biggest concern inside is defensively for the Knicks. There are some shot-blockers, but can they defend in the post? Will they be able to win the battle on the defensive boards?

Much of the answer rests with their health. If their bigs can remain active, the Knicks should have just enough size to be in contention for a playoff spot in the East.

Question: Do the Knicks have enough size to compete and be a playoff team?

Iman Shumpert: Offense an upgrade

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
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[+] EnlargeShumpert
Reid B. Kelley/NBAE/Getty ImagesIman Shumpert says he is excited about the Knicks' season with new coach Derek Fisher and the possibilities inherent in the triangle offense.

ARDSLEY, N.Y. -- New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert is spending his offseason working on strengthening his surgically repaired left knee and staying off social media.

He's also looking forward to playing in an offense that allows him to do more than "standing in the corner."

Shumpert, speaking at his Citi Basketball Procamp at House of Sports on Tuesday, said he is excited about the upcoming season with new coach Derek Fisher and the possibilities that come with playing in the triangle offense.

But Shumpert took what could be perceived as a shot at ex-Knicks coach Mike Woodson by pointing out that he could do more in the Knicks' new offense.

The three-year veteran averaged a career-low 6.7 points per game on 37.8 percent shooting last season in an offense under Woodson that was heavy on isolation.

"The way it's set up, you can start three guards, it really doesn't matter. Everybody's going to get touches, everybody gets opportunities to cut," Shumpert said of the triangle offense. "It's constant action going on. So I think that I'll be able to capitalize on that and I'll be able to use my athleticism a lot more than standing in the corner.


(Read full post)


J.R.: On way to be among top shooters ever

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
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SmithNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesJ.R. Smith gave himself the thumbs-up via social media on Tuesday.
J.R. Smith has a message for his doubters.

On his Instagram account, the Knicks shooter wrote about perceptions he believes he has overcome and how he's "on pace to be one of the best shooters the game had ever seen!"

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"They said I wouldn't make it!" Smith writes. "I did! They said I wouldn't stay! This is my 11th yr! They said you can't shoot like that in the league! I'm on pace to be one of the best shooters the game had ever seen! Bottom line what yall say don't me sh@$ What I do says everything! #Gone"

During his 10-year career, Smith has shot 42.5 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from 3. His career scoring average is 13.4 points per game.

No one doubts Smith's ability to shoot, but Knicks fans will certainly settle for a bounce-back season from Smith first. He averaged 14.5 points per game last season after a slow start following offseason surgery. The season before, he averaged 18.1 points per game.

What do you guys think? Is J.R. right about being on pace to be one of the best shooters the NBA has ever seen?

Knicks preseason schedule set

August, 25, 2014
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The Knicks announced their preseason schedule with three games to be played at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks will face the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors twice each with their three other preseason games coming against Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Washington. The three home games at the Garden will be against the Raptors, Bucks and Wizards.

The Knicks will visit Connecticut twice to play the Celtics at Hartford and Mohegan Sun. They also will make a trip to Syracuse to play the Sixers and travel to Montreal for a game against the Raptors. Here's the preseason schedule:

Oct. 8: at Boston Celtics (XL Center, Hartford, CT 7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 11: at Boston Celtics (Mohegan Sun Arena, Mohegan, CT 7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 13: vs. Toronto Raptors (Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 14: at Philadelphia 76ers (Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY 7:00 p.m.)

Oct. 20: vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 22: vs. Washington Wizards (Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 24: at Toronto Raptors (Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec 7:30 p.m.)

Vegas likes Knicks better than Nets

August, 25, 2014
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Las Vegas likes the New York Knicks’ odds better than the Brooklyn Nets heading into the 2014-15 season.

Vegas sports book Bovada has the Knicks at 50-1 to win the championship. The Nets are at 66-1.

The betting lines were adjusted after Kevin Love was officially traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers are the title favorites at 5-2, followed by the San Antonio Spurs at 4-1 and the Chicago Bulls at 11-2. The Oklahoma City Thunder at 6-1 and the Los Angeles Clippers at 12-1 round out the starting five.

As for the Eastern Conference title, the odds are as follows: Cavaliers 4-5, Bulls 9-4, Washington Wizards 14-1, Miami Heat 16-1, Indiana Pacers 20-1, Charlotte Hornets 25-1, New York Knicks 25-1, Toronto Raptors 25-1, Nets 28-1.

Remember: LeBron James has gone to four straight NBA finals. So perhaps it might be better to take your Nets/Knicks betting money and donate it to a charity or good cause rather than Vegas.

Question: What do you think of the odds?

Melo workouts draw Durant, J.R. & others

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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To get in playing shape before training camp, many NBA players head to warm weather cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Miami to workout.

But last week, some of the biggest names in the NBA were training a couple blocks away from Madison Square Garden.

Tzvi Grossman Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant working out at a gym in midtown Manhattan.
Carmelo Anthony hosted workouts at his gym in midtown Manhattan last week that included Kevin Durant, J.R. Smith, Lance Stephenson, Kemba Walker, Nerlens Noel and David Lee, among others.

The workouts also served as a mini-camp of sorts for the Knicks. Second-year guard Tim Hardaway Jr. was on hand, as was rookie Cleanthony Early. Ex-Knick Toure' Murry also played, as did Chris Smith, J.R.’s younger brother, who spent time with the Knicks last season.

So, how did some of the top players in the NBA end up in Anthony’s gym?

Knicks player development coach Chris Brickley was tasked with putting the workouts together. Brickley, a former Louisville player, has developed a strong rapport with many Knicks veterans, including Smith and Anthony, and is well-regarded for his work with players. So Anthony turned to Brickley to find enough NBA talent to put together a quality workout at his gym.

Brickley, with the help of player manager Tzvi Grossman, organized the roster for last week’s games, which featured several one on one battles between Anthony and Durant.

Anthony referenced the workouts last week when talking about how “antsy” he was for the season to start.

“You can feel it,” Anthony said. “I had a pro week this week at my gym and you can feel it everybody’s antsy, waiting to get back. I can’t wait.”

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Burning Q's: How will Melo fit in triangle?

August, 25, 2014
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: How will Carmelo Anthony fit into the triangle offense?

Last week, we posed the question above to a longtime scout for an Atlantic Division team.

His first impression was a positive one.

"I think he's skilled enough and I think he's smart enough. I think he'll fit very well."

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But the same scout, who has been watching Anthony since his rookie year (2003-04), also has some reservations.

"He’s got to bring the whole package [to make the triangle work]. He’s gotta be a team player, he's got to cut harder and he's got to move the ball. He's going to have to do a lot of things that he isn’t known for doing."

This will be one of the more interesting subplots to the Knicks' 2014-15 season. How will Anthony fit into an offense predicated on ball and player movement?

Below, we'll take a look out how this scout views Carmelo and the triangle:

1. Post play: Anthony was the No. 2 scorer in the NBA last season. In 2012-13, he led the league in scoring. That's a lot of points. A significant portion of those points were scored with Anthony operating in the post. So it's worth wondering if Anthony will continue to get post touches in the triangle this season.

"There’s opportunities for him to get the ball in the post," the scout said. "There's opportunities for him to be in the pinch post and isolate. Or he can catch the ball high and play a two-man game."

Based on recent history, it would seem to be in the best interest of both the Knicks and Anthony to get him the ball in the post.

According to Synergy Sports Technology, Anthony shot 49 percent in the post last season. He averaged 1.017 points per play while operating in the post, which put him in the 89th percentile when compared to the rest of the league. He also scored at least one point (including free throws) on 51 percent of his post possessions. Not bad.

2. He's gotta run: When talking about Carmelo and the triangle, the scout we spoke with used Kobe Bryant's success in the offense as a reference point. The scout said Kobe's ability to excel in the triangle stemmed, in part, from a willingness to run hard enough to beat defenders to certain spots on the court.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Debby Wong/USA TODAY Sports Can Carmelo Anthony adjust his game for the triangle offense?
"Kobe would just sometimes outrun the bigs so he would run right into the post and then the other players just had to follow suit and just get into other spots. Is Carmelo going to run and hustle and get into the post and make an effort to get in there first? That’s up to him," the scout said. "If he makes the effort, I think he’ll get those opportunities and he’ll just go to work."

It's hard to quantify just how hard Carmelo runs on the floor. Some scouts and observers believe that he doesn't run with maximum effort all of the time on the offensive end. Again, this is tough to quantify.

One player tracking metric measures the distance a player travels on the court and the speed at which he does it.

For what it's worth, Anthony's average speed on the court last season was 3.7 miles per hour, per the Player Tracking on NBA.com. Mike Dunleavy had the highest average speed among forwards at 4.5 miles per hour.

Anthony averaged three miles traveled on the court per game last season. Again, Dunleavy had the longest distance covered among forwards last year with 3.7 miles per game.

These numbers can be a bit misleading, though, because they measure the average speed of all movements (sprinting, jogging, standing, walking, backwards and forwards) by a player while on the court. So it's tough to draw definitive conclusions from those statistics.

3. Moving the ball: One of the tenets of triangle offense is movement. Both players and the ball should be in motion in order for things to work well.

The scout we spoke with wonders if Anthony can adapt his game to fit that approach.

"For them to have success, he's going to have to be a willing passer. That offense is predicated on spacing and ball movement and he can’t hold the ball like he has on previous occasions. So he’s got to pass the ball."

The feeling here is that Anthony's reputation as a ball stopper is a bit overblown. Again, this is tough to quantify.

But it's worth nothing that Carmelo had 6.3 "assist opportunities" per game last season. This is an interesting statistic because it's a measure of passes to a teammate in which that teammate attempts a shot. You acquire an "assist opportunity" if the shot attempted was one that, if made, would have resulted in the passer getting an assist.

Anthony had a strong number of "assist opportunities" last year.

Anthony's mark of 6.3 assist opportunities per game was 13th among forwards who played at least 30 minutes per game. Kevin Love posted 8.5 assist opportunities per game.

On the flip side, only 38.5 percent of Carmelo's field goals were assisted last season, a relatively low number.

And he had the ball for an average of 3.6 minutes per game, the 2nd highest mark among forwards who averaged at least 30 minutes per game, behind LeBron James.

So the statistics can paint a murky picture.

But no matter how you analyze Anthony's ball movement from last season, it's fair to assume that he'll have to be a bit more willing to pass this season for the triangle to be successful.

Anthony's success in the triangle is pivotal for the Knicks this season and in the future. He signed a five-year, $124 million contract with the Knicks in July. Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson are under contract for the life of Anthony's deal. So Anthony and the triangle will be intertwined for the foreseeable future.

But Anthony himself he pointed out last week, the success of the offense can't hinge solely on Melo.

"It's not about really me, it's about everybody else. If everybody's not on the same page in the triangle, then the triangle is not going to work," Carmelo said last Thursday. "So it's about everybody coming together, playing their role and doing what they have to do to make it work."

That's true. But as with most other things around the Knicks, it all starts with Melo.

Question: How do you think Carmelo Anthony will fit in the triangle offense?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Burning Q's: Who starts at shooting guard?

August, 22, 2014
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Smith_JR & Shumpert_Iman & Hardaway_Tim_Jr 140822 - IndexGetty ImagesWho should start at SG: J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert or Tim Hardaway Jr.?
With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today’s question: How should Derek Fisher divide minutes among his shooting guards? And who should start at shooting guard?

Unless they make a trade, the Knicks will enter the season with three players who can make a strong case for the starting shooting guard spot: Tim Hardaway Jr., J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.

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It will be up to Derek Fisher to decide how to divide minutes among the three players.

Fisher can play one at shooting guard while the others sit on the bench or mix and match combinations of the three guards in the triangle offense, as GM Steve Mills suggested earlier this month.

"That's for the coach to decide. All we've got to do is play," J.R. Smith said Thursday. "Whatever they decide, we've got to just live with it. Hopefully everybody could put their egos aside and come together for one common goal."

That all sounds great and, in the best-case scenario for the Knicks, that would come to fruition.

Still, it will be interesting to see who Fisher chooses to start this season, how he finds time for the other two shooting guards and how the division of playing time impacts each player.

Below, we take a brief look at the pros and cons of each candidate for the starting shooting guard position.

Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway Jr. is one of the top young shooters in the NBA. As we noted in our look at the Knicks' potential lineups, Hardaway Jr. was the most accurate shooter among rookies who made at least 55 3s, knocking down 36.3 percent from long distance.

Hardaway Jr. was inconsistent on defense last year, though. The Knicks allowed 111.8 points per 100 possessions with Hardaway Jr. on the floor, five more than their season average.

Smith: Smith struggled early on last year following offseason knee surgery, but seemed to find his footing in the second half. As we noted in this story on J.R. last month, in the final 43 games of the season (after Smith's second shoelace-related benching), he averaged 16.7 points per game on 45 percent shooting and knocked down 42 percent of his 3-point attempts; in the 31 games prior, Smith hit just 34 percent of his 3s.

One issue with starting Smith is this: Will he be able to bring enough on defense to help compensate for Jose Calderon? Smith ranked 34th among NBA shooting guards in defensive plus-minus last season, which measures a player's on-court impact on defense.

Shumpert: Shumpert may be the Knicks' best defender. Based on history, he's certainly their best defender at shooting guard. Last season, Shumpert put together a defensive plus-minus rating of plus-2.00, which ranked him fourth among shooting guards and first among shooting guards who played at least 25 minutes per game. With Calderon in the back court, the Knicks may need someone like Shumpert to provide help on the perimeter.

Shumpert struggled to find consistency on the offensive end last season. His shooting percentages from the field and from beyond the arc last season were down from 2012-13.

There were 19 games in which Shumpert played at least 25 minutes but scored fewer than six points. So that is one factor to take into account when thinking about Shumpert's usage this season.

Question: If you were Derek Fisher, how would you divide minutes among the Knicks' shooting guards?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Melo optimistic about new-look Knicks

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
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NEW YORK -- A confident Carmelo Anthony believes the New York Knicks will create a "new culture" and "new identity" this season and leave any remnants of last season's 37-win nightmare in the rearview mirror.

"I don't think we will have another season like we had last year. When I say, 'I believe that we will make the playoffs,' that's where I'm coming from. I think we will have a much better season than we did last year," Anthony said on Thursday night at Barclays Center, where he served as a coach in a celebrity basketball game sponsored by CC Sabathia and Robinson Cano's charities. "As far as putting a number on the games we want to win, it's hard to say that right now. But as far as us feeling good about this upcoming season, the way we feel I'm confident in what we're about to create. I believe we will be in the postseason."

Anthony tested free agency over the summer and was courted by several teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls. He ultimately decided to re-sign with the Knicks, agreeing to a five-year, $124 million contract.

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Anthony reiterated on Thursday that he was "close" to leaving New York.

"It was close. I don’t even like to talk about that no more," he said. "This is home. There is no place like New York. Although the other situations were very intriguing, there is no place like New York."

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who coached Anthony on Syracuse's national championship-winning 2003 team, said earlier this week that Anthony would have left New York if Phil Jackson hadn't joined the organization as president.

Anthony smiled when Boeheim's marks were relayed to him.

"I haven’t heard that. I know [Boeheim] says some crazy stuff. That’s my guy. He’s been the same way for 40 years. But at the end of the day, man, with what we’re trying to create here in New York, it’s a new culture and a new identity, and we’re trying to create that," Anthony said. "As far as me staying here, a lot went into that decision. At the end of the day, I did have to believe in Phil, I did have to believe in my teammates. So that’s all that matters."

Anthony said that he has spent time recently playing with teammates J.R. Smith, Cleanthony Early and Tim Hardaway Jr. at his gym in New York and commended Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert's offseason workouts.

"Everybody is just putting in the proper work. I think with the new energy that we have now with the team and the coaches, everybody is just excited to get back," he said.

Anthony and the Knicks will have to learn a new offense this season. First-year head coach Derek Fisher is expected to implement Jackson's triangle offense.

"It's something that's not going to happen overnight. That's why I'm kind of getting into it right now and kind of studying it and learning it and just trying to figure out where I'm going to be at on the court," Anthony said. "It's not about really me, it's about everybody else. If everybody's not on the same page in the triangle, then the triangle is not going to work. So it's about everybody coming together, playing they're role and doing what they have to do to make it work."

Anthony acknowledged that teams in the Eastern Conference have improved. But he sounds confident in the improvements the Knicks have made, which include trading for Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert, and signing free-agent forward/center Jason Smith.

"Regardless of who got better, I believe we got better. I believe [our team] has gotten better than last year," Anthony said. "I know what I went through last year from an emotional standpoint, and I don’t want to feel that again."

Question: Do you agree with Carmelo Anthony that the Knicks create a culture of winning this season under Phil Jackson?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Ewing tabs Dolan for Ice Bucket Challenge

August, 21, 2014
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New York Knicks great Patrick Ewing accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from Michael Jordan and he in turn challenged Knicks owner James Dolan to participate.

There was a time when the relationship between Ewing and the Knicks was perceived to be as cold as the water people are dumping on themselves to bring attention to ALS.

But the Knicks and Ewing have mended fences in recent seasons. Ewing was invited to several games at Madison Square Garden in the 2012-13 season before he accepted a position as an assistant coach of the Charlotte Hornets.

J.R.'s goal for the season: 'Be a leader'

August, 21, 2014
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JR SmithNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesJ.R. Smith, in addition to helping kids, hopes to be a valuable reference for the Knicks in 2014.
J.R. Smith has several goals entering the 2014-15 season.

He wants to help the Knicks make the playoffs and contend in the Eastern Conference. He wants to produce consistently on both ends of the floor.

All of these are normal goals for any NBA player.

But Smith has one goal that may surprise you:

"Be a leader," Smith said in an interview with ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday at his foundation's annual golf fundraiser. "We've got so many younger guys around. A lot of the older guys left within the last two years. So be more of a leader and help out."

J.R. Smith
Smith
Smith is going into his 11th season, so he has the experience to take on a leadership role. But will he be able to transition from a player who has gotten into trouble, both on and off the court, to a player whom the Knicks organization can count on in a leadership role?

That's the goal.

"Just 'show instead of say' and stuff like that," Smith, speaking at his fundraiser for the J.R. Smith Youth Foundation at Eagle Ridge Golf Club, said when asked about his leadership approach. "'Sheed [Rasheed Wallace], J Kidd [Jason Kidd] -- those guys led by example and that's what I'm going to try to do."

Smith was involved in several incidents last season that drew the ire of the Knicks. Whether or not that compromises his ability to lead is a debate we'll leave for fans and members of the organization.

When it comes to on-court matters, Smith said he feels fully healthy coming into the season, which is different from how he was feeling last summer following offseason knee surgery.

The procedure hampered him early in the season and impacted his production. Smith found his form later in the season, hitting 43 percent of his 3-pointers in a starting role in the last six weeks of the season.

Now that he is fully healthy, Smith expects to produce on a more consistent basis this season. He also agrees with teammate and longtime friend Carmelo Anthony: The Knicks will be a playoff team this season after winning just 37 games in 2013-14.

"Absolutely. We should be," Smith said. "We should have been one last year. This year, definitely."

Helping the youth: Through his youth foundation, Smith hopes to help young athletes in and around New Jersey. One of the goals of the foundation is to expose young athletes to golf. Smith is an avid golfer and hopes to show young athletes around his hometown of Lakewood, New Jersey, the benefits of the sport.

"My goal is just to help kids who have certain talents who don't really have a chance to be seen. There are people that can put them in positions they want to be. I just want to help make the extra push to the youth," Smith said. "Especially in this area, we've got a lot of young talent that gets lost in the numbers.

"I just want to show kids a different side of sports. So many people play basketball, baseball, football. Once they get around [golf], they'll realize it's fun. I just want to open the door to show them they have options."

Knicks assistant GM Allan Houston and ex-Knick John Starks also attended Smith's fundraiser on Thursday.

Question: Do you think J.R. Smith should take on a leadership role for the Knicks this season?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

MJ tabs Phil for Ice Bucket Challenge

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
3:30
PM ET
Michael Jordan has delivered a challenge to Phil Jackson.

Jordan has taken the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and as part of the challenge, he has named his former Bulls coach and current Knicks team president as one of the people he’s passing the challenge on to.



“I’m answering my Ice Bucket Challenge [from] David Beckham, Ray Allen and Derek Jeter,” Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets, says in his video.

“I challenge Phil Jackson and my Dream Team teammates -- cash and ice bucket -- for ALS.”

The Zen Master is on the clock.

Burning Q's: Which newbie is most vital?

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
2:32
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Jose Calderon and Samuel DalembertUSA TODAY SportsWhich Knicks newcomer will be most vital to the team's success this season?
With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

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 3s 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.

SportsNation

Which Knicks newcomer will be most vital to the team's success?

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    78%
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    5%
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    15%
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    1%
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Discuss (Total votes: 3,947)

Last season, Calderon’s "defensive real plus-minus" was a minus-3.56, which was 72nd among point guards. Defensive real plus-minus measures a player's defensive contributions based on points allowed per 100 defensive possessions.

For comparison’s sake, Felton, who was widely criticized for his defensive issues last season, ranked 39th among point guards with a minus-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 an 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?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Melo: Knicks will 'absolutely' make playoffs

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
10:57
PM ET
The New York Knicks won just 37 games last season. But Carmelo Anthony is confident they’ll make the playoffs this year.

“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.”

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2