January 27, 2023

What will be the aftermath following the Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor fight?

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS: POPPIN – PART 1

• The Jimmy Butler saga continues. At last count, the Miami Heat and the L.A Clippers were vying for Jimmy Butler’s services. What’s complicating Butler’s trade is that Gorgui Dieng must be part of the deal.

Q. Will the Minnesota Timberwolves deal Jimmy Butler before the start of the NBA season?

Kyrie Irving is the man! First, Jimmy Butler, now it’s Anthony Davis that says he wants to play with Kyrie Irving in Boston. According to league sources, Davis will probably end up with the Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers.

Q. Let’s dream a bit, can you imagine a Boston team with Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Anthony Davis? If not Boston, where would you rather see Anthony Davis?

• Billed as one of the most significant fights in UFC history. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor had their very anticipated showdown and Khabib won.

Q. What was not expected was the fight’s aftermath. Should the fight organizers have been more prepared for a potential melee?

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS: QUICK BITES

LeBron James was considering joining the Toronto Raptors before he finalized his move to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, it seems both sides were interested in reaching an agreement.

• The family of NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau has settled their wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL. Seau died from suicide at the age of 43; his death followed a long battle with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head.

Drew Brees passes Peyton Manning as NFL's all-time passing leader: New Orleans Saint quarterback Drew Brees broke Peyton Manning's record of 71,940 career passing yards with a 62-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith in the second quarter of a game against Washington. New Orleans defeated Washington 43-19, ouch!!!

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS: POPPIN – PART 2

• Former Louisville men’s basketball head coach, Rick Pitino, has been promoting his new book, entitled Pitino: My Story. He says he never wants to coach basketball again.

Q. Do you believe Pitino?

• Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul has taken offense to the criticisms of fellow teammate, Carmelo Anthony, calling the criticism of Melo disrespectful.

Q. Do you think Chris Paul is right that the media may have gone too far with their assessment of Carmelo Anthony?

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

What’s The 411’s Photo of the Week is a photo of Saquon Barkley making a touchdown during the New York Giants game against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium.

NY SPORTS REPORT

• We have a preseason look at the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks.

• New York Yankees Update: The Yankees made it into the ALDS and will play the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 tonight.

• Discord has visited upon the NY Giants.

Q. Are the New York Giants on the brink of falling apart?

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS OFF TOPIC:

Summer vacation is officially over, and Khloe Kardashian was headed back to Cleveland to be with baby True’s father, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and decided to stay in Los Angeles.

Nets rookie Rodions Kurucs playing in his first NBA game showed true grit scoring 13 points in 12 minutes, all in the fourth quarter

Granted it's a preseason game, in a new season, but the Brooklyn Nets still look like the team of last season. The first competitive game for the Brooklyn Nets in the 2018-19 NBA season was held at the Barclays Center tonight against its East River rival, the New York Knicks. The one thing that was different from the very start was that a Brooklyn Brigade fan group showed up in full force and cheered the Nets from start to finish shutting down any Knicks’ fans in the audience. Believe me, this is a first. At one Knicks game last season, when I checked in on Facebook, the app thought I was at Madison Square Garden and would not allow me to put in the Barclays Center.

Tonight the Nets got off to a good start, which isn’t unusual, leading by as much as 15 points with 1:04 left in the first quarter. But in the closing minute of the first quarter, New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina put up a three-pointer at the 50-second mark. Nets guard Joe Harris missed a 3-point jumper with 35 seconds left, and Knicks guard Allonzo Trier added another three points at the buzzer, ending the first quarter with a score of Nets 26 and the Knicks 17.

During the second stanza, with just under eight minutes left to play in the half, the Nets had a 15-point lead (38-23). However, the New York Knicks found cracks in the armor and little by little chipped away to end the first-half 50-46. The reverse of fortunes continued into the third, when the Knicks went up 10, ending the third quarter with a score of 81-71. The Nets tried to claw their way back in the fourth quarter and came within one point (99-98) at the 2:26 mark, however, turnovers and defensive pressure on the part of the Knicks at the end of the day is what contributed to the Nets demise in Preseason Game 1, ending with a hurtful 107-102.

“I thought that we missed a lot of open ones,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told the media during his postgame interview. “But still I thought that we took some contested ones, especially the contested ones off the dribble. You know the contested threes off the dribble – it’s a tough shot, I felt like too many of those. But, I do think our offense has a long way to go. We struggled to execute, give the Knicks credit. I thought they pressured our guards and did a good job of getting into the ball and we struggled executing.”

“There were a lot of positives,” an assessment that Nets guard D’Angelo Russell gave the media in his locker room postgame presser. “I think we came out and competed, played hard. We focused on what coach was expecting of us. Things we can work on as well. But it’s something that we can watch film, build on it.”

In adversity, there is generally a silver lining somewhere, and Net rookie Rodions Kurucs was it. During the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Kurucs got his first opportunity to play in an NBA game and he was pushing for a real comeback. Kurucs scored 13 points in 12 minutes.

Russell was not surprised by Kurucs’ deliverables.

Asked what he sees in practice from Kurucs that translated into tonight’s game, and Russell responded, “Same thing, same thing. He’s active, he’s athletic, he plays hard, he knows his role. He knows what he’s capable of. He never steps outside the box. He’s the guy that plays hard and brings that energy.”

“It was really emotional for me because I didn’t play last year,” Kurucs said about getting his chance to play for the first time ever in the NBA. “It was a really good moment for me. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed every minute.”

Kurucs was drafted by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2018 NBA Draft in the second round (40th overall).

“I think I bring energy on defense,” Kurucs continued. “I’m just working on all the stuff, what coach told me. I’ll help my team out. I’ll do all my best. I’ll give my all.”

And, from tonight’s performance, he’s definitely one to watch this season.

The Nets had six players to score in double digits. Caris LeVert led the Nets with 15 points and four steals. Both Spencer Dinwiddie and Kurucs scored 13 points. Dinwiddie added six assists, while Kurucs added four rebounds and four steals. Russell and Treveon Graham each tallied 11 points. Russell added three rebounds and three assists, while, Graham secured eight rebounds and three assists. Joe Harris chipped in 10 points and three rebounds.

For the Knicks, Allonzo Trier led all scorers with 25 points and four rebounds; his teammate, Enes Kanter contributed 22 points and 20 rebounds.

Next up, for the Knicks, are the New Orleans Pelicans at home at Madison Square Garden on Friday, October 5, 2018.

The Nets travel to Detroit to take on the Pistons on Monday, October 8, 2018. The Nets first regular season game at home will be against the New York Knicks on Friday, October 19, 2018. 

In His Own Words: Rodions Kurucs:

Timberwolves owner seeks to trade Jimmy Butler, but no deal yet

KEISHA: Welcome to this week's edition of What's The 411Sports. I'm Keisha Wilson and I'm Mike McDonald. Mike, we have so much to talk about. So we're just going to get to it.

The NBA season is upon us. And as of this taping, the Jimmy Butler saga continues. Butler is demanding a trade and he also said he's not going to show up for training camp nor was he present during the Timberwolves media day. Now, Timberwolves owner, Glen Taylor, had a demand of his own that Jimmy Butler is to be traded sooner than later, preferably before the start of training camp.

Now, Jimmy is reportedly asking for a change to the Brooklyn Nets, the Clippers, and the New York Knicks. However, the Knicks are reportedly not interested in Butler's services. Now, Mike, you are a Knicks fan. News of the reported disinterest by the Knicks of having Jimmy Butler on their team is getting the fans livid.

Do you think that the fans should be upset and are you upset if the Knicks pass on Jimmy Butler?

MIKE: No, I'm not. I think for the Knicks, they really want to build for the future. And you know, from their standpoint, look, you can't bring on a guy like Jimmy Butler who's been struggling to play with some younger players and then you bring him onto the Knicks where they're also filled with the young roster as well. I think you're kind of just asking for trouble.

I think what a lot of Knick fans are thinking here is they're looking at the numbers. They're looking at these fantastic, All-Star caliber numbers that Jimmy Butler has put up over the course of the last several seasons, but at the same time, I feel like it would not necessarily be a good fit for the Knicks. I think the plan is to build for the future. The Knicks right now are not necessarily a win now team and I think by giving up some of the pieces that they've sort of picked up over the course of the last several years, I think that that's going to wind up hurting them in a long run.

Now, I get it, it is enticing to go after a guy like Butler bring him in try to get him signed up, right, and then at the same time, maybe try to make a push for Kyrie Irving when all is said and done. But I just think right now, the Knicks should stand pat and I don't see that they should go make a move for Jimmy Butler.

KEISHA: I wholeheartedly agree, and according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, reports of Butler's interest in the Knicks were overstated. So, allegedly, Butler wants to win sooner rather than later which would not put the Knicks in contention. And, which also makes the fact that Brooklyn Nets are on his list a head-scratcher, but that might be more for money because the Brooklyn Nets, have room to offer a max contract.

So, I definitely agree with you. I don't think that the Knicks aren't interested. It's just that they're sticking to their philosophy. They have learned from the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York City in exchange for pretty much decimating their future. They want, they have a new coach, they have new players, and they want to build a culture, and; they feel as though they want to build that culture through the young talent that they have and the draft picks that they have and maybe will acquire again.

And, in terms of a trade, with (Kristaps) Porzingis not on the trading block, the Knicks don't have a lot to offer, so their next valuable assets are their draft picks. But they want to hold on to them. So they're going to take a calculated risk to see if they can get Jimmy Butler in free agency where they don't have to give up any of their assets for him.

And then also, you know, like you mentioned, the fans are salivating over a possible Butler-Irving pairing in New York. However, If Jimmy Butler goes elsewhere, there goes that dream. And then Kyrie Irving has said on the record that he hadn't talked to you Jimmy Butler about that pairing or what his career is going to look like since 2016. So, Kyrie may not even want to come to New York. We don't know how his season with Boston will be this year and he may actually want to stay with a contender.

MIKE: Yeah. Well, it's going to be interesting Keisha to see how it all plays out.

 

Expectations for the Nets are heightened with the addition of new players chief among them, defensive players, Ed Davis, and Kenneth Faried

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

KEISHA: Welcome back to What's The 411Sports. We're in a New York state of mind with our “New York Sports Report” and we are going to talk about our Brooklyn Nets. It was media day across the NBA and the Brooklyn Nets had their own, and there were a good number of (Nets) players who really think that they have enough pieces to do significantly better this year than last, playoffs even.

While there is some that are a little more cautious and just believing that they'll get more wins without going so far as to say that they would make the playoffs. Mike, are the players right to be cautiously optimistic, or should they be more aggressive in their thinking and their beliefs on how they're going to do this season?

MIKE: No, I think that they're right to be cautious here because yeah, I think the over-under is something like 31 or maybe even thirty-two wins for the Nets for the wins for the upcoming season. They won 27 or 28 games last year. So, and I know that doesn't seem like much improvement, but I think that there's no question in my mind that this team will wind up winning more games than they did last season. They know that people can look at that and say well, you know, it's not much of an improvement. But when your win column is really that depleted and you don't have much it's good to pick up on something.

I think Kenny (Atkinson), he's gotten comfortable here. Now. I saw him in an interview on the Yes Network about a week or two ago. And the guy just seems like he's very upbeat. I like his energy. I think that the big focus for this team, of course, is going to be defense right? Because they know that without a doubt that that's one of the things that really hurt them over the last couple of seasons.

That first quarter, like sometimes the first five, ten minutes of the game they’re in it and then all of a sudden everything just seems to fall apart and then by the end of the first quarter, they're down by 15 points. And, I think that those collapses are something that they're really going to try to look to avoid.

You can't knock this team's heart. I can't tell you how many Net games we've seen over the last several years, a couple of years, and they're in it, right even back when Lionel Hollins was coaching. Yeah, they were not winning many games but there were times where they'd be playing tight games against the Cleveland Cavaliers or even when the Knicks were somewhat competitive and they would keep games close.

You mentioned off air I know you might want to speak about it. But Ed Davis, I think is really someone that people are going to want to keep an eye on this year. This guy's tough-minded, no question about it. And I think the rebounding is something that he's going to lead a big focus on for them.

KEISHA: Yeah and Kenneth Faried, I actually like him too. I think he's going to be a really nice piece for the Brooklyn Nets and I think that you know, I think that aiming for more wins than last year is attainable. So, I'm, just quick, I have decided that for the remaining quarter of this year. I'm going to set goals for myself.

I've never done it really in a formalized, formalized manner and I'm going to do it because that is one of the keys for highly successful people and if it works for them why not try it. So you set smart goals and S.M.A.R.T is an acronym and the "A" stands for attainable, and I think that saying that you're going to win more games than last year is attainable.

So I looked at last year's playoff standings and the Wizards had the eighth spot. They were the last team to make the playoffs and they won 43 games. Last year, the Nets won 28. So that's a differential of 15 games. Now, the Nets had an increase of eight games from the year prior to last year. So in order to kind of ...I guess if they can make the playoff that means they have to make, they have to double. Now, it may not be impossible, but because it's like, all right, you won eight games last year why not win eight more. But you've got a lot of new pieces coming in. So I think it might be a little too aggressive to say that you can win 16 games with new pieces. But I definitely, I definitely see more wins for the team. I say about, I'll say 38.

MIKE: All right, okay.

The Knicks start out strong, but ultimately lose to Philadelphia 76ers 104-94

The clocks were turned forward one hour just a few hours before the New York Knicks faced the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. When they stepped on the floor, they played as if they were still asleep.

Coming into the game, the first place 76ers (24-17) were riding a two-game winning streak with wins over Boston and Utah. The Knicks, however, were coming back home after losing their four previous games, all on the road. With Tyson Chandler back in the starting line-up after missing the last 2 games (hamstring and left wrist), New York was hoping his presence, especially on the defensive side, would help bring the end to the losing streak.

With Carmelo Anthony coming out with a purpose (10 points), the Knicks took an early first-period lead (21-14) before Philadelphia outscored them 8-3 to end the period trailing only by two (24-22). Evan Turner (7 points) and Louis Williams (coming off the bench to add another 7) helped close the gap.

The teams went back and forth in the second period with no lead getting bigger than 6 (Philly 49-43) after Thaddeus Young, getting additional bench help, scores four straight points. He finished the period with 10 points. Louis Williams led the team with 13. Anthony, Jeremy Lin, and Landry Fields scored the Knicks last 6 points in the final 1:08, but ended the first half trailing by 2 (51-49).

The Knicks started the third period only trailing by three (65-62) after a Lin lay-up. Then New York went into its sleepwalking mode. Not hard to see how the Sixers dominated the rest of the period and showed why they have scored more points than any other team in that period. Philadelphia outscored the Knicks 24-11 over the rest of the period (38 points for the period) to take a 16 point lead (89-73) entering the final period. Williams continued his hot shooting scoring 14 points.

With both Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire benched in the last period, head coach Mike D' Antoni was hoping the second unit would spark a comeback. It wouldn't happen as Philadelphia continued to hammer the lifeless Knicks. With Young, Williams, and Evan Turner outscoring New York 9-4 to begin the final, the Sixers upped their lead to 21 (98-77). The Knicks got as close as 10 points (104-94) with a little more than 1 minute left but the game had long been decided.

The defense that had been a big part of the Knicks during the Lin-Sanity run not only allowed Philadelphia to shoot 51% from the floor but an unacceptable 57% from 3-point land.

"Collectively we didn't play well. Collectively our spirit isn't good. Collectively, our defense wasn't good. Collectively we just didn't do what we needed to do. We have to solve that," said D' Antoni.

If there was a team the New York Knicks needed to face in order to break their 3-game losing streak, it was the Phoenix Suns who came into Madison Square Garden Wednesday night with a 4-9 record and losers of 5 straight. The Knicks, playing the 2nd of 4 straight home games, were coming off their Monday matinee loss at the hands of the Orlando Magic. Both teams split the two games they played last year with each team winning on the road. Head coach Mike D' Antoni, who coached Suns guard Steve Nash for years, knew the team would have its hands full.

"He's one of the best players to ever play the game," said D' Antoni. He works exceptionally hard at what he does. He knows the game exceptionally well. He does everything well."

Steve Nash lived up to the praise D' Antoni heaped upon him as he led all scorers with 16 points and 4 assist in the first half as Phoenix took a 45-42 lead. With Carmelo Anthony still dealing with a sore wrist and ankle, the Knicks wanted to get Amar'e Stoudemire into the offensive flow right from the start. He took the team's first 3 shots, scoring 3 points finishing the quarter with 5 points along with Tyson Chandler. It was enough to give them a 1 point first quarter lead (20-19) even though they shot a paltry 37% from the floor missing 6 of 7 three-pointers.

The second quarter was slightly better for the Knicks as the shooting increased to 42% but they trailed by 3, as the Suns extended the lead to as many as 6 (43-37) after a Marcin Gortat (5-13, 11 points) jump shot. Anthony would miss 4 of 5 shot attempts with Stoudemire ending the quarter with 15 points. Two themes that stood out and would be a factor in the loss was New York's inability to convert free throws and take advantage of them dominating the boards. The final stats would show why.

The Knicks kept things close in the 3rd only trailing by as many as 4 points during any period. Landry Fields, (6-12, 17 points) who played his best game of the year, led all scorers with 10 points. Both teams only scored 19 points leaving the Suns in front (64-61) to begin what would be a back and forth last period. Neither team would trail by more than 3 points in the 4th until the Suns pushed the lead to 7 with 3:22 left after a Shannon Brown slam dunk.

New York battled back with rookie Iman Shumpert (8-14, 20 points) scoring 10 of the team's last 17 points. He hit 2 consecutive 3-pointers, the second bringing the team within 2 points 85-83. With the time running out and no timeouts left, New York was forced to foul sending Nash to the free throw line. He sank 6 in a row, as his team ended its 5-game losing streak. New York took 30 free throws (14 more than Phoenix) and missed 10. They also out-rebounded the Suns by 16 (15 more offensive) and could not take advantage, as they finished shooting 37%.

"It's killing us," stated D' Antoni after the game of the offensive futility. "We won almost every statistical category but couldn't put the ball in the basket." Dominating the boards would normally lead to the team getting out to more fast breaks but for whatever reason, the Knicks were not able to do that. "We tried and did a little better in the fourth quarter. Overall it was not good enough."

After the 91-88 loss, the New York Knicks record fell to 6-8. "We're in a little bit of a crisis," D 'Antoni admitted. "The good thing about it is that they're playing hard, they're playing good defense, they're rebounding."

They're just not winning games.

Poor execution held Knicks back in 1st half, but able to eke out a win over the Cavs in closing minutes

The New York Knicks started the second half of their season against the Cleveland Cavaliers (13-19) with a roster that had players that didn’t play the first time they faced each other. The game played in Cleveland and won by the home team (91-81) had everyone talking about guard Kyrie Irving the way all have been talking about Jeremy Lin. Irving had a less than impressive night finishing with only 7 points and 7 assists. But with New York turning the ball over 23 times, leading to 24 Cavaliers points, Cleveland went on to the 10 point victory for their 7th win of the year. Fast forward to last night when New York played host with head coach Mike D’ Antoni having a true point guard in Lin and veteran back-ups in Baron Davis and J.R. Smith. They also had at their disposal Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson who missed time with injuries. Finding the right combination with a full roster was the dilemma facing D’ Antoni.

It did not matter what combination of players D’ Antoni put on the floor in the first half as the Knicks came out as if they all had all participated in every event that took place during NBA All-Star weekend. New York would never lead in the first 24 minutes of the game as Cleveland, coming off their 3 point loss to Boston the night before, jumped all over the Knicks. The Cavs shot 54% taking a 12 point halftime lead. Antwan Jamison led all scorers with 15 points (2 of 3 from 3-point land) while both Tyson Chandler and Jeremy Lin scored 10 points for New York. As poorly as they played, the Knicks were only down by 7 (36-29) with a little less than 10 minutes to go in the second quarter. Over the next 9 minutes, Cleveland outscored the Knicks 25-15 to take a 17 point lead (61-44). Only a 5 point spurt by New York reduced the lead to 61-49.

Said D ‘Antoni of the first half malaise, “it was a matter of rust,” he started. “We just talked about the spirit and the team effort we needed to have in the second half.”

The defense that was non-existent in the first-half, came to life in the 3rd quarter.

New York forced 8 Cleveland turnovers and outscored them 33-19 by the end of the period. They took their first lead of the game with 2:52 left after a Steve Novak 3-pointer. Novak, who established himself in the first half of the season with his deadly 3-point shooting, picked up right where he left off. Novak would hit 2 more 3-pointers before the end of the period as New York took a 2 point lead (82-80) heading into the final 12 minutes.

“He was ridiculous,” said D’ Antoni.

Novak’s hot shooting continued to begin the 4th as he hit the next 2, 3-pointers that extended the Knicks lead to 8 points (90-82). Just when you thought the Cavaliers were about to call it a night, Irving connects on a 3 pointer of his own to cut the lead to 8 (106-98) with less than 3 minutes to go. It was the Lin show the rest of the way. He began with 2 free throws, scored on a lay-up and assisted on 2 other baskets. The last assist, an ally-oop slam with Iman Shumpert on the receiving end.

Lawrence Frank Grinds On

February 01, 2012

Lawrence Frank, head coach of the Detroit Pistons has seen better days. The first year has not started kindly for the guy who as an assistant coach under Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics. Frank helped the Celtics give up the fewest points in the NBA. However, that hasn't been the case in the first 22 games this year, his first with the Pistons.

They came into Madison Square Garden having lost 18 of those games. It hasn't helped that his key player, Ben Gordon from Yonkers, has been out the last 5 games with a shoulder injury. In the 15 games he's played, Gordon averaged 33 minutes and 15 points. Will Bynum (strained right foot) and Charlie Villanueva (sore right ankle) have missed significant time as well. It's life in a league that had to start the year with a shortened training camp and an abbreviated pre-season schedule. Those facts have not been lost on Frank.

"It is what it is," Frank said after watching his team get romped by the Knicks 113-86 on a night where they allowed New York to shoot 60% from the floor and 50% from 3-point land. "There's no excuse. We have to do better with what we have."

For more than 7 years, Frank was the head coach of the New Jersey Nets taking over after then head coach Byron Scott was fired at the end of January during the 2004 season. He quickly made news by winning his first 13 games. No other coach in the four major professional sports began their career in such fashion. Six of those games came on the road, setting another record. When he was let go at the end of the 2009-10 season, Frank was the Nets all-time leader in coaching victories. Under his guidance, Frank's team made the playoffs 4 years in a row, including winning the Atlantic Division twice and advancing to the Conference Semi-Finals three times. Taking over a Detroit franchise that has seen better days may be Frank's most daunting task.

The Detroit Pistons championships years has been well documented. Led by Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars they won back-to-back NBA Titles in 1989 and 1990 against the Lakers and Portland respectfully. Those teams were led by legendary head coach Chuck Daly and the Bad Boys moniker was established by their hardcore defensive players, Dennis Rodman, Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer.

"When I was in New Jersey they (the Pistons) had to go through us in the eastern conference semi-finals. They were a hard-nosed, blue-collar defense first. Share the basketball, team first, grind it out team. Very tough-minded," said Frank.

It would take them 14 years (2004) to win their next championship, with a team that was built more on finesse and athleticism. Larry Brown was at the helm coaching Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Tashuan Prince and Ben Wallace. They defeated a heavily favored Lakers team that included Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O' Neal. Prince and Wallace are still with the Pistons and although they lost the following year to San Antonio, neither has been close to another final. Prince, who finished with 10 points on 5 of 10 shooting, believes the core is there to build another winner. Prince knows he and Wallace can guide the rest of the team in the right direction.

"At some point, we have to build a foundation to where we're going to get to that."

It would help if they could get Gordon, Bynum and Villanueva back and healthy, as soon as possible.

Knicks Cage Bobcats

March 30, 2013

New York Knicks Keep Winning Streak Alive Beating Charlotte Bobcats 111-102

Riding the current longest NBA winning streak (6 games) after the Heat streak was broken at 27 by the Chicago Bulls this past Wednesday, the New York Knicks faced a Charlotte Bobcats team that had only won 17 games when they stepped on the Madison Square Garden hardwood floor Friday night. Head coach Mike Woodson was not concerned about getting his team up against a club that had lost 54 games up to this point.

"They're next in line," Woodson said prior to tip-off. "It doesn't matter who we play. It's all about what we do as a team. We've been playing some pretty good basketball as of late. We're trying to stay at the top of our division. This is an important game. Every game from here on out is important for our ball club."

Right from the start, New York treated Charlotte like the team with the worst record (Orlando started the night with 18 wins) in the league. Like they did Wednesday night against Memphis, the Knicks jumped out to a huge first-period lead (38-20) behind 13 Carmelo Anthony points. J.R. Smith continued his scorching play. He chipped in 9 points (4-6 shooting) looking to score more than 30 points for the third straight game. Iman Shumpert, who hit his first 3-pointers against Memphis, picked up right where he left off. Eight of his points came from behind the three-point arc. Shumpert has converted 6 of 8 three-pointers in the last two games.

By halftime, the contest (if that's what you want to call it) resembled the latest NBA video game, as the Knicks lead ballooned to as many as 30 points (58-28) with Smith adding 14 more points. As a team, New York shot a blistering 62% from the floor including an eye-opening 75% from 3 point land. The Bobcats never had a chance as they were in the crosshairs of the Knicks all night.

Unlike the Grizzlies game, when the Knicks saw its 30 point lead dwindle to five, Charlotte really never made it a game even though they did outscore the Knicks 31-22 in the final period. The Bobcats managed to close the gap to 7 (104-97) but Smith did it on the defensive end with a steal, leading to free throws by Anthony sealing the game.

The streak extends to seven games with Smith scoring 37 points and pretty much locking up the NBA's 6th man award. Something his head coach said was a reasonable goal at the start of the year. His teammates have been impressed.

"He (Smith) is focused," said Anthony. "He is dialed in, locked in. His confidence is sky high. We are following his lead."

Knicks guard Jason Kidd, who began the year starting but now is coming off the bench, compared Smith to a golfer saying "he's putting well. He hasn't hit a bad drive. He's playing as well as anybody right now."

It's been a long time in the memory of Smith since he can recall playing this well.

"I haven't been on a streak like this since high school," he said.

The New York Knicks went on their customary west coast drought (1-4) dealing with injuries and could have easily fallen off the top of the division. Smith found his game at the right time becoming only the second player since 1990 to score more than 30 points in 3 straight games coming off the bench. The Knicks winning streak extends to seven games when they host the Boston Celtics Sunday night.

Brandon Jennings scored a game and season-high 36 points for the Bucks, and Carmelo Anthony finished with a team-high 35 points for the New York Knicks

With the New York Knicks offense struggling and the team on a 5-game losing streak, head coach Mike D 'Antoni can't wait until Baron Davis gets healthy enough to bring stability and veteran leadership to the backcourt. It may not happen for a couple of more weeks, but it's not because of a lack of effort on Davis' part.

Prior to the game against the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night, Davis talked about his health and the state of the team. It hasn't been easy watching the team go through the offensive funk that has them averaging only 88 points in their 8 losses. They have scored over 100 points only 3 times, winning 2 of those games. Defensively they have been better than in the past under D 'Antoni giving up 100 points or more in 4 out of the 14 games they've played. With Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire on the floor, points should not be hard to come by. Both have been in a funk evidenced by their poor performance in the Wednesday night loss to Phoenix. They combined for 35 points but needed 44 shots to do so. Only Stoudemire's free throws (9 out of 10) made his final line look respectable. Granted, Anthony has been hampered by a sore wrist and ankle and Stoudemire may still be dealing with a sore back, but as a team, they have not moved the ball well enough to give their teammates open looks and uncontested shots. That's where Davis is hoping to contribute when he's ready to play.

"I can shoot, dribble and a lot of spot shooting," said Davis sitting in front of his locker.

He basically does this alone with the help of the assistant coaches and watched closely by the training staff. He's doing things in moderation while working on conditioning drills.

"It's a process," he continued. "It's strength, it's conditioning, it's balance. It's being able to do that on a consistent basis day in and day out and wake up the next day and be ready to progress forward. I'm making leaps and bounds and huge strides to get myself on the court."

In the meantime, when the ball goes up in the air, Davis is relegated to being a cheerleader and teacher. When Toney Douglas' poor early season play forced D 'Antoni to bench him in favor of first-year guard Iman Shumpert, Davis had already been mentoring him while he was waiting to come off the bench. He was giving Shumpert advice and making sure he never lost confidence. Shumpert isn't his only pupil.

"We have a lot of young guys on the team," Davis continued. "If I see a weakness in a defender on the floor I will talk with Toney or Shumpert about it. I try and work with the younger guys to get them to hone in on the fundamentals. As we proceed thru the season, those are the things that are going to push us over the top."

As he watches his team from the bench, dressed to the nines, Baron Davis is learning the offense he will be running as soon as his back can handle the everyday pounding. As easy as it may look from his vantage point, putting it into action with a new group won't be easy. He doesn't think it will take that long to pick things up.

"I'm the type of person that I pick up things very, very quickly when I'm out there."

He will do that with a starting line-up that is still trying to develop offensive cohesiveness.

"Any time you have these many new faces in a system, it takes everyone to really catch a rhythm and to get on a roll. You have to be patient. Offensively I know that will come around."

It didn't come around against the Bucks as New York fell behind early in the fourth quarter by as many as 17 points in their 100-86 loss. Brandon Jennings, who torched the Knicks the last time he touched the Madison Square Garden floor for 37 points, scored a game and season-high 36 points. Carmelo Anthony finished with a team-high 35 points but his frustration showed after with 1:33 left in the game as he was hit with his second technical foul resulting in his ejection. The Knicks lost for the 5th straight time and their 3rd straight at home. D 'Antoni said the team was in "crisis" after Wednesday's loss. You can add turmoil as well.

"It's the whole team," he said afterward. "We are just not sharp. It looks like they are running circles around us. It is not just one guy. We wouldn't be this bad. Again, we have to dig deeper and get through this."

Getting Baron Davis on the floor would be a good start.

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