NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Arguments mark Knicks’ latest loss — At 3-13 and with nine straight losses to their name, the New York Knicks are the coldest team in the Eastern Conference and sit tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for the conference’s worst record. In short, it’s not pretty for New York right now and things were particularly unpleasant last night at the Garden, when in the course of losing to the New Orleans Pelicans, Knicks guard Iman Shumpert got into on-court arguments with both rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. and leading scorer Carmelo Anthony. Marc Berman of the New York Post details that tiff, while in another report, ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Begley has some telling words from Anthony and coach Mike Woodson on New York’s slump:
A shouting match with Carmelo Anthony and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr.’s breakout game may have pushed Iman Shumpert closer to the door.
Hardaway is fighting for playing time with Shumpert, who got into a heated rant with Anthony on the Knicks bench during a third-quarter timeout. Anthony didn’t look at him as Shumpert raved. Shumpert, who was then benched for the fourth quarter of the 103-99 loss to the Pelicans, called his tiff with Anthony “a miscommunication’’ on defense.
“Of course I wanted to play,’’ Shumpert said. “Tim was making shots. J.R. [Smith] had it rolling. We were just trying to get a win.’’
Anthony declined to talk about Shumpert, who has been on the trading block since the middle of last month. Trades usually pick up Dec. 15, because free agents signed over the summer and draft picks can be dealt.
Anthony and Woodson both think the Knicks have been playing ‘not to lose’ of late and that the losing streak has affected New York in several ways:
Shortly after the New York Knicks dropped their ninth-straight game, star forward Carmelo Anthony said the team is “playing to lose” and appears “a little tense” as the losses pile up.
“I think we’re playing to lose rather than playing to win right now,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ 103-99 loss to New Orleans on Sunday. “When you lose games the way we’ve been losing them at home, on the road, you start thinking a lot. You start playing a little tense, you start playing on your heels.”
“We just can’t seem to get it together,” Anthony said after scoring 23 points and grabbing ten rebounds. “We can’t seem to figure it out.”
The Knicks’ last home win was Oct. 30 against Milwaukee in the season opener.
Head coach Mike Woodson admitted the obvious when he said the losing streak is weighing on his players.
“I thought coming down the stretch, we played on our heels. The [eight-game losing streak] we were looking at here was staring at us in the face [and] instead of relaxing and just playing, we just didn’t make one play,” Woodson said.
The Knicks have held two closed-door meetings in the past three weeks to try to turn things around. Anthony isn’t sure if another one will help.
“I don’t know what we have to do as far as coming together as a group,” Anthony said. “I don’t know if we’ve got to sit here for hours and talk and get it all out, but we’ve got to do something.”
Anthony said earlier this week that he worried about his team going into a “dark place.” He doesn’t think the Knicks are there yet.
“Anytime you’re fighting an uphill battle, you feel like you’re in a dark place. But we can’t go to that place,” he said. “I’ve never been to that place. I don’t plan on getting to that place.”
Firings and trades aside, Anthony believes the bigger issue for the Knicks right now is a lack of identity.
“Last year around this time we had our identity as who we were as a team,” he said. “This year we’re still searching who we are as a team and who we’re going to be as a team.”
No. 2: Report: Rockets want two first-rounders in Asik trades — Omer Asik has worked his way back into Houston’s playing rotation, logging 20 minutes in the Rockets’ thrilling win over the Spurs on Saturday night. However, Asik continues to be a popular name on the trading block and seems all-but certain to be dealt at some point this season. What the Rockets are apparently asking for Asik, though, might make the kind of deal they want hard to come by. Alan Hahn of MSG Networks explains and provides a bit of Knicks slant on any possible deal, too:
The name that is dominating the early rumors is Omer Asik of the Rockets. The disgruntled center can be had, but Houston isn’t just giving him away.
In fact, the Rockets are setting the market high for Asik, with a demand of two first round picks in any deal.
That eliminates the Knicks, who have given away enough first rounders over the last few years. They can’t move one until 2018.
Even if they did, Asik’s luxury tax hit next season is the same as Jeremy Lin‘s ($15 million), which would make it an expensive transaction.
It’s more likely the Knicks will target more of an “energy” big, if they can land one. Kenneth Faried, a recently rumored name, certainly would fit that mold, but the Nuggets have shown no interest in making a deal.
The Knicks, like many teams in the league, could use an upgrade at the point guard position but that’s like shopping for a BMW with a Kia budget.
And the competitive market for point guards has gone up even more now that the Bulls are shopping hastily for one in the wake of Derrick Rose‘s season-ending injury.
No. 3: Hollins turned down chance to be assistant in Detroit — After being fired by the Memphis Grizzlies following a 56-win season and a berth in the 2013 Western Conference finals, coach Lionel Hollins has spent his down time playing golf, putting in some work for NBA TV and watching his son, Austin, play at the University of Minnesota. In an extended, insightful interview with ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelbourne, Hollins talks about his desire to coach again in the NBA and how he passed on a chance to be an assistant in Detroit this season:
Nice as the time off has been, however, Hollins is ready to return to the NBA.
“I believe I’ve established myself as a head coach and I’d like another opportunity to show that [my success] wasn’t a fluke,” Hollins said. “I feel like I’ve proven I can take a young team and develop it, then sustain what I’ve done by what I did in the last five years in Memphis.”
Hollins was let go by the Grizzlies despite winning a franchise-record 56 games and leading Memphis to its first Western Conference Finals appearance last season. The reasons were philosophical in nature, after a season in which Hollins didn’t always publicly embrace the moves or direction set by the Grizzlies’ new ownership and front office.
“We want to have the kind of organization where we get people in a room … who are going to disagree about what we should do and what the personnel moves should be,” Grizzlies president Jason Levien said in a radio interview with WHBQ after Hollins was let go. “We want to really dig in and get messy when we’re in that room talking about what the decision and direction should be. And then once we come to a decision, whatever that personnel decision is, we want to walk out of the room arm-in-arm, locked together in how we’re going to proceed.”
Hollins, who still makes his home in Memphis, declined to comment about his exit from the Grizzlies. He said that he has tried to keep a distance from his former players as well, out of respect for new coach Dave Joerger, who was an assistant for him last season. He occasionally runs into Tony Allen, whose wife is close with Hollins’ wife. He also sent a text message to center Marc Gasol recently, after he suffered a knee injury.
But mostly, he said he’s tried to move on with his life and career.
“I think Marc [Gasol] said it best, ‘It was odd knowing — from his perspective — that I wasn’t going to be there,’ ” Hollins said. “And from my perspective, it was odd knowing that we weren’t going to add a few pieces and build on what we’d already established. We were at a level where we needed to add the right pieces in order for us to take another leap. So it was just odd not being there and planning and going through the whole process that we normally do every summer with our young players, starting with the draft and then summer league and then the workouts that we have all summer, with players coming in and out. You get away from that routine. …
“I was antsy when training camp started. But once they started playing, I was comfortable not being there. I get to watch a lot of basketball on TV. And now I’ve gotten to re-evaluate what I like to do and what I want to do.”
Over the summer, Hollins said he had an opportunity to join Maurice Cheeks‘ staff with the Detroit Pistons as an assistant coach but declined.
“I had done it [serve as an assistant coach] for a long time before I was given the opportunity to be a head coach,” Hollins said. “But my thought process was, ‘I’ve established myself as a head coach. I’d like to stay in that state at the moment.’ But if it didn’t work out, yeah, I’d go back and be an assistant coach. I’d go to college and be a head coach there, if I had the opportunity. But my thought process is to be a professional head coach.”
No. 4: D’Antoni hyping Young for Sixth Man of Year honors — Swingman Nick Young is averaging 14.2 ppg this season, only .1 ppg behind team leader Pau Gasol for the No. 1 spot on the Lakers. But while Gasol has started all 18 games for the Lakers this season, Young has notched just six starts, doing most of his damage off the bench. That big scoring punch and his vital role in L.A.’s offense has coach Mike D’Antoni starting some early buzz for Young in the Sixth Man of the Year campaign, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
Within a two-month span, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has viewed Nick Young as a a streaky shooter and inconsistent defender to a candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
“He should. If we can get our record [good],” D’Antoni said. “That’s going to be the product of the team. He’s playing well enough. But if we surprise people, get in the playoffs and do really well, yeah, he’ll have a really good chance at it.”
Ever since D’Antoni demoted him as a starting small forward to a reserve, Young has jokingly touted himself as a sixth man of the year candidate. Young has backed up those words said in jest with his play. Young has averaged 16.5 points on 47.4 percent shooting in 27.1 minutes through 11 games as a reserve.
“I’m loving it with his concentration and ability not to take a play off,” D’Antoni said. “We have a few guys who have home run trots and were not engaged. But for the most part, most guys have gotten that out of their game. They’re engaged. A lot of that is due to the chemistry of the team and how they feel about themselves. We can keep getting better. He’s playing both ends of the floor. He’s playing phenomenally.”
So much that Young has slightly altered his nickname.
“As he says, he’s changed his name to ‘Swaggy D,’” D’Antoni said with a smile. “We’ll see how that holds up.”
No. 5: Heat finding steady role for Beasley — In the offseason, the Heat more or less took a flyer on their former No. 2 overall pick, Michael Beasley, after the Suns terminated his contact. Early in the season, Beasley’s role was that of mostly mop-up duty in blowouts with some sporadic minutes during games when the decision was not in doubt. That has changed of late as Beasley is averaging 19.5 mpg over his last four games and had a solid night against Charlotte last night (four points, seven rebounds) as Miami rallied for a win. After the game, coach Erik Spoelstra explained to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel how he and the Heat have started to find an appropriate role for Beasley in Miami’s stacked lineup:
If it looks only now like Erik Spoelstra is developing a role for Michael Beasley, you’re not too far off.
The Miami Heat coach acknowledged Sunday that it wasn’t until after training camp that he began formulating a plan for the Heat 2008 first-round draft choice. Before that, he said it was just about creating a fit with the versatile forward who had split the previous three seasons between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns.
“With Michael,” Spoelstra said, “it was more about, initially, we felt he was part of our family. We drafted him. We spent a lot of time with him, not only during those two regular seasons, but during the offseasons and we just wanted to open up our arms back into our family. “That was our initial thought when we talked to him. I didn’t even talk role. I didn’t even talk specifics about anything. I didn’t talk about, ‘Hey, you’re going to learn from these guys.’ It was, ‘Hey, come back to the family,’ and just get back into the routine and we’ll take it from there. After training camp, that’s about the first time I really started to talk about a possible role with him.”
Spoelstra said it was more about allowing the Heat’s locker-room culture to envelop Beasley, who returned on a one-year, non-guaranteed, veteran-minimum contract.
“Our whole locker room is important for anybody we bring in now, that there’s a world-class professionalism we expect from everybody, and our guys live and breathe it,” Spoelstra said. “They take pride in it. There’s a culture and discipline and structure to how we do things. And so when we’re recruiting players, we always have that in mind, whether a guy will fit in. We love it that guys will get inspired by each others’ professionalism and work ethic.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Anthony Davis is out indefinitely after breaking his hand in last night’s game against the Knicks … Wesley Matthews says the Blazers aren’t a ‘cool’ team, but rather, a pack of ‘dogs’ … The Wolves were selling tickets that give fans the right to high-five the Heat as they come out of the tunnel when they visit Minnesota …
ICYMI Of The Night: All you have to do is watch what Steph Curry and Klay Thompson did last night in Sacramento to understand why they’re called the Splash Bros. …