Posts Tagged ‘Ron Harper’

Phil Jackson’s first move in New York?

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com




VIDEO: The Knicks have won a season-high six straight games

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The New York Knicks’ optimists would tell you that the mere prospect of Phil Jackson joining their beloved team as the president of basketball operations has inspired a season-high six-game win streak.

Who knows? There might be something to that … the power of Zen is strong in Jackson.

In reality, the Knicks are just riding the ebb and flow of completely predictable season of unpredictability. When we assume these Knicks are ready for a dirt bath, they rise up and surprise us. And just when we’re ready to assume that they’re poised to give serious chase for that eighth and final spot (currently occupied by the Atlanta Hawks and their 3.5 game lead over the Knicks) in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, they’ll crash and burn in the coming days.

That’s why the focus in New York has to be on Phil and his first move(s) as boss of the Knicks. I know Mike Woodson has his heart and mind set on grinding to the finish and stealing that playoff spot from the Hawks. But it’s of little consequence to just about everyone else involved.

Jackson, of course, has more important matters to consider. He has Carmelo Anthony‘s future with the franchise to consider. He has Woodson’s future to consider as well. My suggestion, cut bait with one and build with the other. And I think it’s safe to assume that it’s easier to build around Anthony, something that wasn’t done strategically with this current Knicks team, than it is to mold and shape the philosophy of a proud coach like Woodson, who is a branch of the Larry Brown coaching tree.

Gauging the general mood of the Knicks, there seems to be genuine excitement about Jackson taking over. Melo called it a “power move” and lauded the Knicks for going after and landing the greatest winner the game has seen, coach or player, since Bill Russell.

“I’m a chess player. That was a power move right there. You know what I mean?” a smiling Anthony told reporters after a win over the Milwaukee Bucks. “So, now we’re going to see what’s the next move, but that was a great power move.”

Getting a buy-in from Anthony is the first order of business for Jackson. And he shouldn’t have a hard time convincing Anthony to get on board with the plan (provided there is one already mapped out), what with the $30-$34 million more the Knicks can pay him than he could stand to make in free agency.

As for future plans, this will be the most challenging endeavor in Jackson’s career. He had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as foundation pieces in Chicago, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. Finding a competent and quality supporting cast for future Hall of Famers isn’t necessarily easy to do, but it is decidedly different challenge compared to crafting a championship roster around Anthony.

Is Anthony’s Horace Grant or Brian Shaw or Rick Fox or Ron Harper already on the roster? It’s hard to tell. I could see Tyson Chandler being a player Jackson would like to keep around, but Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and some of the other current high-dollar Knicks don’t seem to be good fits. We know that second superstar is not on the Knicks’ roster right now, so that’s already a huge void that must be filled by Jackson.

Jackson’s presence, in theory, has already led to that mini-surge mentioned earlier. Anthony swears by it, as Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com pointed out:

“Phil knows what to do, how to build teams, and how to win,” Anthony said. “That’s the most important thing. When you know how to win — whether you’re a coach, whether you’re in the front office — that stands out.”

Anthony said all of the speculation surrounding Jackson helped the Knicks focus in recent days. New York has won a season-high six in a row, including a 115-94 rout of the Bucks earlier Saturday.

“It’s not a distraction at all,” he said. “If anything, it made us come together more as a team, as a unit, to really kind of keep that on the outside. We’re excited and happy that it got done, instead of all the speculation that’s been going on. So finally, it’s signed, sealed and delivered.”

Jackson, one of the most brilliant basketball minds of all-time, has every reason to be cautious in his approach to reshaping the Knicls. But I would suggest that he be as aggressive as possible in taking this current roster apart. This group clearly does not operate with the same chemistry and synergy that it did a year ago, albeit with seven new faces added to the mix this time around.

Woodson didn’t suddenly become a bad coach during training camp this season. And Anthony, who was lauded for his relentless work a season ago, didn’t wake up this season with selective amnesia about his role.

That said, there is a chance Jackson will want to go in a different direction in both instances. He might want one of his own in that crucial position he knows so well. Woodson, of course, is saying all the right things …

“Anytime you can get a great basketball mind that comes into your organization, I mean, it can’t do nothing but help,” Woodson said. “I mean, Phil’s been through the ringer. He’s won titles. He’s dealt with players individually. He’s dealt with players as a team. I mean, there’s probably not a lot he hasn’t seen from a basketball standpoint, so I think it’s got to be a plus.”

Woodson’s words of praise might not matter. He’s under contract next season, but there was rampant speculation before Jackson came on board that his job security was dwindling and that he might be replaced at season’s end.

Anthony is the sort of high-scoring anchor Jackson-coached teams have been built around in the past. But no one will confuse Anthony for MJ or Kobe. He’s a great scorer and an extremely hard worker but not the sort of dynamic alpha dog that Shaq or those other guys were and, in Kobe’s case, still are.

It requires an exquisitely manicured plan, but letting Anthony test the free agent waters might be just the sort of escape hatch Jackson needs to restart the Knicks in a different image.

No one knows for sure what his plans are. But it’s safe to say Phil Jackson’s first move or series of moves with the Knicks will be telling. We’ll know much more about Front Office Phil after he starts chipping away than we do now.



VIDEO: The Inside crew discusses Phil Jackson and the Knicks

76ers’ MCW Doesn’t Play Like A Rookie


VIDEO: The Spotlight is shined on rookie phenom Michael Carter-Williams

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Is it too early to just go ahead and hand Michael Carter-Williams the Rookie of the Year trophy? Maybe, but who would argue?

It’s usually way too early to play the re-draft game. We typically reserve that for a couple years down the road to re-evaluate the order of the picks. The superb all-around play of the Philadelphia 76ers first-year point guard in his first 11 games has been as special as it is confounding as to how enough teams didn’t see this coming from a 6-foot-6 prospect that would allow him to drift all the way to No. 11.

No. 1 would be more like it. OK, so the Cleveland Cavaliers already have Kyrie Irving (and we won’t get into Anthony Bennett‘s start here), so No. 1 was out of the question anyway. But Orlando? The pick of Victor Oladipo at No. 2 was a solid choice, argued by no one, but the Magic are trying to train him as a point guard and there’s going to be some lumps along the way.

The Utah Jazz took Michigan point guard Trey Burke, the 6-foot college player of the year, at No. 9. We’ll have to wait a bit to make any declarations on Burke considering he broke his right index finger the third game into the preseason and has played in just two games, both coming off the bench, although that could change as early as tonight when the Jazz play at Oklahoma City (7 p.m. ET, League Pass).

Carter-Williams has simply soared above all other rookies and is a primary reason why the rebuilding 76ers shocked the league with a 4-2 start and 4-4 before he got hurt. In the four games he missed, Philly went 1-3.

He had the Sixers, still a surprising 6-9, scrapping Saturday night in a 106-98 road loss at the East-leading Pacers, going for 29 points, six rebounds, three assists and seven steals. The last stat, the steals, has been an eye-opener all season. He’s got 12 in the last two games and Carter-Williams started his career by nabbing nine against the Miami Heat.

He’s on pace to set an NBA rookie record for steals. Carter-Williams already has 33 — 20 more than Oladipo, who is second among rookies — which puts him on pace to finish with 234 if he plays in all of the Sixers’ remaining 67 games (he missed four games already with a foot injury). Dudley Bradley holds the rookie record of 211 in 1979-80 (Ron Harper had 209 and Mark Jackson had 205 in the 1980s).

At 3.0 spg, Carter-Williams already ranks among the league’s top thieves. He’s tied atop the NBA with Ricky Rubio in steals per game, and in total steals he ranks third, one behind Chris Paul, who has played three more games, and 12 behind Rubio, who has played in four more games.

Among rookies, none come close to Carter-Williams’ across-the-board production. He leads all first-year players in scoring at 17.3 ppg; Oladipo is next at 12.8 ppg. His 7.4 apg are tops with Milwaukee’s Nate Wolters next at 4.7. His 63 total rebounds rank third among rookies and tops among guards. His 10 blocks rank third among rooks; the top three are all centers.

Perhaps most impressive about Carter-Williams is simply the smoothness and poise of his game. He’s not rattled by the competition and he demonstrated that in the first game of his career against the two-time champion Heat with a near quadruple-double: 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals. Against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls he went for 26 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and three steals.

He’s already produced three double-doubles, and as he improves his shooting percentage (40.0 from the floor through 11 games, although 36.2 percent from 3-point range), his scoring average will rise. He posted consecutive games of shooting at least 50 percent from the floor for the first time this season in his last two games.

Perhaps it is too early to simply anoint Carter-Williams as the Rookie of the Year, but the young man groomed two seasons at Syracuse is certainly stating his case with authority.

Hit And Miss: The Cavaliers’ 40-Year Draft History Has A Bit Of Everything!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Teams use all sorts of information to guide them during the Draft process.

Everything from analytics to eye-witness accounts to brain waves (in Boston) to studying a guy’s tattoos is used as a way to gain insight into what sort of projection a team can make on a particular player.

It wasn’t always this complicated. There was a time when the recommendation of the right scout or college coach, along with a standout career in the college ranks, was enough to convince a team that they’d found their man.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have a 40-year history of hit-and-miss first-round picks that span the entire spectrum of the Draft process, dating back to 1970 and then 1971 with their selection of Austin Carr as the No. 1 overall pick. Nearly every uptick in their franchise history is tied to the work they did well in the Draft,  from Brad Daughtery in 1986 to LeBron James in 2003 to Kyrie Irving in 2011 and whatever they do with the No. 1 overall pick tonight.

The Cavaliers have a chance to change the course of their franchise history once again, provided they do the right thing with the pick tonight and that player they get turns out to be like Daughtery or James and not one of their many lottery misses over the years (apologies to Trajan LangdonLuke Jackson, DaJuan Wagner, DeSagana Diop and several others who, for various reasons, never lived up to their Draft hype).

With that said, the Cavaliers have had more hits than misses if you grade out their Draft history since 1971, as The Plain Dealer‘s Mike Peticca did this morning.

In addition to those overall No. 1 picks they hit on, the Cavaliers can boast of drafting the likes of John Johnson (sixth overall) in 1970, Campy Russell (eighth) in 1974, Ron Harper (eighth) in 1986, Kevin Johnson (seventh) in 1987, Terrell Brandon (11th) in 1991,  Zydrunas Ilgauskas (20th) in 1996 and Andre Miller (eighth) in 1999.

For every miss the Cavaliers have at least one hit, which is a pretty solid track record for a franchise with decades of Draft history. We can only speculate how different things might have been if the focus and attention to detail on the Draft was as meticulous 40 years ago as it is now (not that combing through every bit of minutiae prevents a team from making a Draft night blunder or two) …