Derek Fisher claims he got more out of a less talented Knicks team

Derek Fisher added another facet to the Knicks drama surrounding its star players on Monday as he claimed his squad did a better job with less talent when he was head coach than they are now under Jeff Hornacek.

Fisher, who was fired last February after a 23-31 start, told Bleacher Report he laid the groundwork for success that hasn’t come yet.

“We were able to take a team that wasn’t as talented as the team they have now, and we were much better and much further along than this group is that they have now,” Fisher said. “Because the foundation was being laid.

“That’s different than just trying to coach basketball — and it takes longer. That’s the part that you can’t measure in wins and losses, either. That’s what we were doing the best at.”

Fisher does have a point. The current Knicks squad that now features the new faces of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee among others is 21-28 entering Tuesday’s game against the Wizards. The trio, which are set to earn a combined $143 million from the Knicks, hasn’t played up to their contracts.

Aside from the Lynn situation, here’s the thing that makes the decision-making process difficult for the Cardinals, and why I wouldn’t be surprised if they wait until the offseason to make any major moves: Aside from cascading waves of bullpen stumbles, most of their issues in 2017 stem from disappointing production from young players not living up to reasonable expectations.

These three guys in particular: Outfielder Randal Grichuk was sent to the minors, and he’s currently on the DL with a .215 average; shortstop Aledmys Diaz, an All-Star last year, was sent to the minors, too; Stephen Piscotty has a .236 average and just six home runs. t_rangers_069-115x115

Pelicans desperately need Jrue Holiday to wake up in DeMarcus Cousins era

Things appeared to be trending up for Jrue Holiday around this time last week. The Pelicans had just formulated the most intimidating frontcourt duo in the NBA, had rejuvenated ambition, and all while the eight-year veteran was having arguably the best stretch of basketball in his career.

Game Womens Paul Posluszny Jersey The Rockets want a perimeter defender in Shumpert, while the Cavs still search for a backup point guard in Patrick Beverley, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. But Houston is hesitant to part with Beverley.

The Pacers are assessing the possibility of trading their superstar, according to Wojnarowski. It’s unclear who possesses the assets to sway Indiana’s decision, but if moves collapse for Boston in pursuit of Butler, George may be plan B. The Lakers are also in the mix for George, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick. They may just pursue him as a free agent in the summer of 2018, though.

Coach Rick Carlisle told reporters, With the trade deadline tomorrow, you can read a lot into that. Williams has been rumored to possibly return to the Utah Jazz.

The Rockets (44-21) got 35 points from James Harden, but he missed all eight of his 3-point attempts as the Rockets were just a combined 8 for 32 from behind the arc.
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Utah (41-24) has won four straight and climbed within three games of Houston for third place in the West. The Jazz haven’t been in the playoffs since they were the eight seed in 2012 and haven’t won a playoff series since 2010, when they made the playoffs as the five seed.

Westbrook’s team is too lousy to win the award.

Again, the chances of this are incredibly slim. But, yeah, Yankees brass have to salivate at the idea of Freeman wearing pinstripes and hitting homers in their stadium for the next four seasons. The cost would be incredibly steep — a package that starts with two elite prospects (Frazier/Torres), then a couple of mid-level guys — to even get the Braves to listen to a discussion. You know what? The Braves aren’t listening. Never mind.
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Winning matters. So much so that some league MVPs hadn’t even had prolific seasons. Derrick Rose in 2011 is the latest example of a player whose MVP candidacy was boosted because of team success. Rose averaged 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds on a Bulls team that was known for its defensive prowess, leading us to assume that MVP award routinely goes to the best player on one of the NBA’s top teams.

And don’t forget, Robertson didn’t win the MVP either when averaged a triple-double in 1961-62. Bill Russell won the MVP by leading the Celtics to a No. 1 playoff seed and eventually a championship.

You get the picture — Westbrook’s team is too lousy to win the award. But it extends even deeper than that.

Westbrook has been criticized this season for taking too many shots, turning the ball over a lot and playing poor defense. Of the top 40 scorers in the NBA, Westbrook is shooting the lowest percentage (41.9 percent). That would be the worst percentage by an MVP since Bob Cousy shot 37.8 percent in 1956-57, which was well before the NBA-ABA merger.

Game Womens Ben Heeney Jersey Take a look at the five worst percentages by MVPs.

The Bucks, according to league sources, were another. That would have reunited Williams with Jason Kidd, his coach in Brooklyn in 2013-14, one of Williams’ most disappointing years. He was hampered by injury and out of shape as the star-laden Nets won just 44 games. During that season, Kidd was once so frustrated by Williams that he took the practice court against him in order to spark some motivation. Yet Kidd wanted Williams in Milwaukee.

Stephen Curry says he’d pick James Harden for MVP

At this point, it’s a complete guessing game as to who will be crowned the NBA MVP this year, but James Harden and Russell Westbrook have been leading the talks.
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For two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry, the choice isn’t that difficult — go with Harden.

The report states that Silver thinks players like Paul and owners like Michael Jordan could meet like they did during collective bargaining to discuss ways to improve the All-Star Game.

Among the possible rules changes, captains would be allowed to pick their own starters, there could be a 4-point shot added to some spots on the floor and there could even be a 10-point half-court shot.
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All of these changes would be strictly for the All-Star game only. No one wants to see players chucking up half-court shots on a regular basis.

We will change it by next year, Silver said of the All-Star game.

It seems as though the players and fans alike are tired of watching a meaningless game near 200 points year-in and year-out without any consequences.

The Knicks are looking for a new point guard. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Ricky Rubio is a significant target for the Knicks, and ESPN’s Marc Stein says New York wants another piece in a potential deal involving Rubio and Derrick Rose. Something to keep an eye on.

Jahlil Okafor would prefer to go to the Bulls in a trade, ESPN’s Marc Stein reports, but the Sixers will take the best deal that comes their way. It feels like a matter of when, not if, Okafor will be traded. The Sixers simply don’t have room for Okafor in a crowded frontcourt, especially after they added Tiago Splitter in a deal with the Hawks.

Rajon Rondo reportedly agrees to one-year deal with Pelicans

Rajon Rondo is making his way to New Orleans.

According to USA Today, the former Chicago Bulls point guard agreed to a one-year deal with the Pelicans on Saturday.

Rondo averaged 7.8 points and 6.7 assists during the 2016-17 season with the Bulls and had Chicago on the brink of a first round upset of the Boston Celtics, but a hand injury forced him to miss the final four games of the series, all of which the Bulls lost.

Rondo joins Jrue Holiday in signing with the Pelicans this offseason. Holiday agreed to a five-year contract worth some $126-150 million with added bonuses July 1.

Well, the Pelicans just added an All-Star in his prime at a time when they’re only 2.5 games out of the playoffs at the break. That’s always good!

Cousins should help to ease the load on Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, both of whom are having stellar seasons. There is some concern that Cousins and Davis may not be an ideal pairing — especially given the success Davis has had at the 5 this year and the overall direction of the league toward small ball. But in terms of skill allocation on the floor, Davis and Cousins have everything you could want on both ends.

Over the last two years, Cousins has morphed into a dynamic offensive force that is equally as comfortable outside as he is in the paint. The 6-11 center has stretched out his range, hitting 95 3s this season on nearly 36 percent from behind the arc. He’s also morphed into a prolific passer, particularly in both the mid and high posts, plus is still deadly as a post-up weapon. That versatility of skills will mesh nicely with Davis, who excels as a pick-and-roll/pop big man and as a baseline cutter/rim runner. Basically, these two have a perfect mix of power (Cousins), length (Davis) and quickness (both). steelers_004

Madison Bumgarner effective in return for Giants, who still lost

Madison Bumgarner wasn’t dominant in his return from the disabled list Saturday, but he was effective.

The Giants lefty did not factor in the decision of Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Padres, but went seven innings and allowed just three runs on four hits with five strikeouts and a pair of walks.

Need to know: This would mostly be about finding an ace-type pitcher for playoff pushes in 2018 and 2019, but the Braves are still at .500 this season and would love to make a run at a wild-card spot this season. Gray would help on both fronts.
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Los Angeles Dodgers
Limited Youth Patrick DiMarco Jersey Need to know: The Dodgers have a rotation headed by Clayton Kershaw and filled out with solid starters Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy and Kenta Maeda, so they don’t HAVE to trade for Gray. But with a World Series-or-bust approach to 2017, you can’t really keep the Dodgers out of the conversation for any available players. Remember, they’re connected to Orioles closer Zach Britton even though they have Kenley Jansen, one of the best closers in baseball. If the Dodgers’ front office decides Gray is the final piece, they’ll do everything possible to land him before the trade deadline.

Need to know: Baseball (and life, really) is all about taking advantage of opportunities, whether they’re expected opportunities or surprise opportunities. The Brewers certainly weren’t expected to spend most of the season in first place in the NL Central, but a powerful lineup and solid pitching staff have put them in position to make a playoff run. Adding Gray to the top of the rotation would be a huge help in holding off the Cubs, who just picked up Jose Quintana from the White Sox. And though the Brewers are understandably hesitant to part with the top prospects in their solid farm system, that Gray is under club control through 2019 makes this a little more palatable than giving up an elite prospect for a three-month rental such as Yu Darvish.

2017 MLB All-Star Game starters: Chris Sale, Max Scherzer to face off

Brandon Coleman Game Jersey Max Scherzer and Chris Sale have taken the ball to open an All-Star Game before, but doing so again Tuesday night in Miami will put each pitcher in rare company.

In starting this year’s game for the National League, Scherzer will become just the fifth pitcher to start for both leagues after doing the honors for the American League in 2013. Sale, meanwhile, becomes the first AL pitcher to start consecutive All-Star Games since Dave Stieb in 1984-85.
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Neither was a surprising choice after both turned in dominant first halves. Scherzer leads major-league pitchers with a 2.10 ERA in 18 starts, and Sale can say the same about his 178 strikeouts.

Both will be tasked with navigating powerhouse lineups, which also were unveiled Monday by managers Joe Maddon and Brad Mills.

It comes down to athleticism for Ibaka. No, this isn’t a question about his age after Ibaka had to release a statement yesterday regarding the rumors. Rather, it seems injuries have taken a toll. The explosive leaping ability that saw him, at one point, participate in a dunk contest hasn’t been the same since his 2015 knee surgery. Even as of the start of this year, Ibaka has suffered from soreness.

Without that explosiveness, Ibaka hasn’t quite been as potent around the rim on either end. He’s augmented his game offensively by stretching his range out past the 3-point line, but the defense just hasn’t quite recovered to anything more than league average.

The Giants are hopelessly out of the race and their focus should be on 2018 and beyond.

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Why it makes sense: There are 2.3 million people in the metropolitan area of Puerto Rico’s capital. San Juan has been a home for Major League Baseball before, serving as the split residence of the Expos during their final years in Montreal as well as a few other recent regular-season series. Puerto Rico’s love of baseball is unquestioned.

The Giants should hold Bumgarner back: The injury he suffered to his throwing shoulder was nearly catastrophic, and Bumgarner was lucky there wasn’t more significant damage. The injury could very well still be affecting his arm angle, as his fastball velocity has been a tick or two lower than his average across all of his rehab starts. And before this last rehab outing in which he gave up an unearned run over six innings of work, Bumgarner was rocked for nine earned runs over four innings. So it’s not as if he’s been mowing down minor leaguers for a few weeks now.

The Giants are hopelessly out of the race and their focus should be on 2018 and beyond. Why risk another potential injury to Bumgarner, who’ll be counted on to anchor the rotation in those seasons? Instead, give him more time in the minors to find his form, regain his velocity and prove there are no long-term effects from the injury. If he struggles, shut him down and work toward getting him ready for February. In the meantime, give a few big-league starts to a prospect such as Tyler Beede and see whether he’s ready to contribute behind Bumgarner in next year’s rotation.
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The Giants should activate Bumgarner this weekend: Yes, the Giants need to focus on 2018 and beyond. And with Bumgarner’s team-friendly contract set to expire after 2019, the team needs to see Bumgarner pitch like his old self before committing the money and years it will take to lock him up long term. The Giants are still feeling the sting from Matt Cain’s huge contract extension that quickly turned sour after injuries derailed his career. They have to be sure the same thing won’t happen with Bumgarner, and a strong return from injury this year might go a long way in reassuring the front office.

I’m just going to try to shoot it with confidence.

There’s a lot of silliness in all of this, of course, and the Celtics were able to get through the first round under the cloud of something more serious — the death of star guard Isaiah Thomas’ sister just before the start of the postseason. Thomas had some gutsy showings in the first round, but his numbers obviously dipped (23 points, 43 percent shooting).

Still, playoff series tend to get chippy by the third or fourth game, but for Washington and Boston, there should be tension right out the gate. The difference here is the rivalry means something this time.

Case in point: With 4:18 to play in the first half Tuesday, Butler tried a midrange jumper from the left wing. Three Celtics were under the basket — Horford, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder, three of Boston’s top five rebounders. Yet, when Butler’s shot caromed off the rim, it was Lopez spreading his arms, pushing aside the Celtics’ bigs and corralling the ball. That led to a Paul Zipser (16 points) layup.

Lopez has also chipped in as a scorer, left alone all too often by a Boston defense busy chasing other Bulls scorers. Lopez is an excellent midrange shooter (he made 44.9 percent of his 2-pointers from 16 feet out this year), but the Celtics have repeatedly helped off him. In two games, he has made 14 of 20 shots, averaging 16.0 points, and the Celtics have made zero adjustments.

“That shot’s open,” Lopez said. “I’m just going to try to shoot it with confidence. I am sure Bobby (Portis) would tell you the same thing, or Niko (Mirotic), whenever we are passed the ball, we are told, shoot it if it is open. That makes it easier to shoot the ball. Makes it easier for it to go on.”falcons_116

NBA playoffs: Thunder coach will ‘trust’ Andre Roberson at free-throw line vs. Rockets

Elite Kyle Brodziak Jersey One of the reasons the Thunder didn’t defend home court in Game 4 against the Rockets was because of a late-game strategy by Houston to foul Andre Roberson on purpose, sending him to the free-throw line where they expected him to miss. Roberson delivered, and his misses played a huge role in the Thunder’s loss.

Elite JuJu Smith-Schuster Jersey Not all the blame can be placed on Roberson, though. Coach Billy Donovan also was criticized for leaving the forward in the game for so long. But if the Rockets plan to use the Hack-A strategy again in Game 5, the coach is going to trust his player.

Also left unsaid: This is a motivated superteam. Much like Cleveland, it has toyed with its early playoff opponents, especially on the road (average away margin: 17.0 points). Thus far, it has found the extra (normal?) gear when necessary.

It knows it will need to stay in that high gear against Houston or San Antonio. If it does, then watch the Warriors run through the short-handed Spurs. Watch them outpace the Rockets. (Who isn’t excited about some 135-129 games in that series?) Watch them roll full speed into The Finals.

Game 4: Golden State led 39-17 after one quarter. Utah got that margin down to six mid-third quarter. The Warriors outscored the Jazz by 20 the rest of the way.

Acting coach Mike Brown would like to see more consistent domination. When a team is going this well, he needs to say something to help maintain focus.

We talked about getting off to a good start (in Game 4), Brown told reporters, per the San Francisco Chronicle. Our guys did that. But maybe I should’ve said, 鈥楲et’s get off to a good start and keep playing that way.’ That’s the part I may have left out.