SH Blog: Stoudemire wants to win multiple championships with Knicks, Nash ready to play on Friday

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amare_stoudemireFor power forward Amare Stoudemire, the past few years in New York have been nothing short of a dreadful nightmare.

After reviving the New York Knicks with dominant play in his first season and leading them to the playoffs for the first time in a decade, it has been just about all downhill for the former All-Star.

To recap some of the things that have gone wrong since that glorious year: he nearly destroyed his hand after slapping a glass casing surrounding a fire extinguisher out of frustration during a playoff series, has suffered through multiple knee surgeries, became a backup to – gulp – Andrea Bargnani, has seen limited playing time due to medical restrictions, and never truly got comfortable playing alongside Carmelo Anthony. 

How Did Most Improved Player Candidates Fare in March Madness?

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andredrummondIt’s March Madness, and that can only mean one thing.

I just spent the past 48 hours writing three paragraphs on all 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament for my blog, RoundballDaily.com. If I have to hit the parentheses button one more time, I’m going to lose my index finger (I put a lot of the stats in parentheses). Dammit.

In the spirit of the Big Dance, I’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about the greatest March Madness moments from each of our Most Improved Player candidates. Lord knows it’s a better idea than putting them all into a fake tournament.

So without further paragraphs, let’s take a look at each player and how they fared in March Madness:

Goran Dragic: OK, bad start. Dragic didn’t play college basketball because he’s from Slovenia. But if he had, I think he would’ve gone to St. Mary’s, and led them to the Sweet 16. There, his Gaels would have gotten hosed on every call and subsequently lost to an overseeded Duke team led by a bunch of future crappy NBA players. I think Jay Bilas would have described him as a “really good” point guard with “excellent ball skills.”

Andre Drummond: UConn was a disaster the only year Drummond was there. The Huskies lost to Iowa State in their first game and Jim Calhoun’s last one. Andre averaged 10 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.6 Calhoun Panic Attacks per game that season. He was way too talented for those numbers.

Lance Stephenson: He played one season at Cincinnati, which didn’t make The Dance. “Born Ready” was probably outstanding in the NIT, even though the Bearcats bowed out in the second round.

Anthony Davis: The ‘Brow is the clear winner here. He’s a college legend for his ridiculously successful freshman year at Kentucky in 2012. Davis won the National Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Player of the Year awards. He also won the national championship and ended up as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, something no one else in NCAA history has done. Other than that, he sucked.

DeAndre Jordan: A Jordan-led Texas A&M team almost upset Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love’s UCLA squad in 2008, falling 53-49, in a second-round heartbreaker. I can remember Jordan holding onto his shorts in the lane as the camera panned to him immediately after the buzzer sounded. It was a heck of an effort. Jordan only spent one season at A&M and averaged just 7.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

Isaiah Thomas: The Hustlin’ Husky was a star at Washington, where he played in the Big Dance each of the three years he was there. UW hasn’t been back since. The best tourney moment for Thomas had to be when he led the 11th-seeded Huskies to the Sweet 16 in 2011. That Washington team manhandled Darrington Hobson and No. 3 New Mexico, 82-64, in the second round.

Well…that was fun, wasn’t it?

And the best part? No Rony Seikaly Region.

On to the rankings.

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Bernucca: Jackson’s Resume Alone Not Nearly Enough To Fix Knicks

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220px-Isiah_ThomasPhil Jackson won’t be awful as president of the New York Knicks. He certainly won’t be as bad as Isiah Thomas was in running the club. And he will almost certainly be better than David Kahn, Bryan Colangelo, Joe Dumars, Otis Smith and Geoff Petrie have been in recent years.

But Phil Jackson isn’t Isiah Thomas, or David Kahn, or Bryan Colangelo. He’s Phil Jackson, with a reputation of all things basketball that he touches turning to gold.

And that’s exactly what Knicks fans – now with three generations of folks waiting for another NBA title – will expect from Jackson.

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From the Clouds: This Week’s Most Improved Player Rankings

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MikeFrancesa2008

A well-proportioned, wise Italian man with a radio show in New York once told me and a listening audience of probably hundreds that the NBA “goes into the clouds” in February and March. I can’t really remember his name, OK? So let’s just call him Ike Manfresca.

Manfresca’s quote has always stuck with me, because:  (a) it was so strange and (b) it’s the perfect way to describe the seasonal malaise that rolls in around this time of year, like a warm front heading northeast from the Great Basin.

In March, the NBA exists in a dream-like state, as players shuffle through the hazy backstretch of the season, traveling from city to city to city almost on muscle memory.

They box out, fill fast break lanes and take contested jump shots without even thinking, like you getting off that exit you always get off on your way to work. You know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you sit there and think, How did I get here this morning? I don’t remember anything from the minute I remote-started my car.

It’s the same with coaches, who will complain to referees and shout nonsensical jargon at their players without using the frontal lobe of their brains.

How did we end up in a 3-2 zone?, they wonder. I don’t even remember anything I said in that second quarter timeout.

For fans, March is the time when you stop listening to the guest speaker and start to wonder how many bananas you’ve eaten in your life.

Casual fans have already turned their attention to college basketball, which is infinitely more exciting this time of year. It’s easy to tune out the professionals and happen upon scores while looking up at TV screens at the bar, or by accidentally clicking “NBA” instead of “College Basketball” on your smartphone app.

Sure, many teams are fighting tooth and nail for the posteason, and some, like the Pacers (who have lost four in a row), might be sleepwalking as home court advantage – and ultimately the Larry O’Brien Trophy – slips through their fingers, eyes glazed over.

But for most fans, the games have gotten repetitive and redundant. Bobcats-Nuggets in November is exciting and intriguing. Bobcats-Nuggets in March i

Sorry, I lost interest in that last sentence.

It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just that the NBA season is like a movie that waits too long to get to the climax. We get it. The East sucks, LeBron is awesome, Kevin Durant might win MVP, and Kels Dayton is an up-and-coming sportswriter.

Enough cheeky dialogue. Get to the part where people start jumping out of planes!

It’s going to happen soon, but first we have to take a trip through the clouds. Call it the calm before the storm. Or call into Ike Manfresca’s radio show.

Wake me up when we get to April.

Until then, I’ll be watching the MAAC championship.

On to the rankings.

 

 

Whoa….how did we get here? I don’t even remember typing any of that.

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Kamenetzky Bros. Power Rankings: The Curious Case of the Pelicans

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AnthonyDavisSH1At this time of year, it’s common practice to categorize teams into tankers and non-tankers, but where a team is in mid-March isn’t necessarily where they were in October.

You have your teams who started the year constructed to be historically atrocious, now rounding spectacularly into form (Philadelphia). Some expected to be bad, but turned out pretty good (Phoenix, Toronto). Some hoped to be maybe-we-scrape-the-playoff-ladder-if-all-goes-well-but-we-know-it’s-a-rebuilding-year competent, then saw everything go straight to the terlit (Lakers).

Then there is the curious case of New Orleans.

Few teams were as aggressive last offseason as the Pelicans. Coming off a 27-win season, New Orleans traded the sixth pick in last summer’s draft (Nerlens Noel) and this year’s first-rounder for Jrue Holiday, then engineered a pricey sign-and-trade for Tyreke Evans. They went from a slow build to win-now almost instantly.

It hasn’t worked, and in the worst possible ways. First and most obviously, they haven’t won many games, but aren’t likely to lose enough to trigger the 1-5 lottery protection on the pick they owe Philly. Meanwhile, injuries – most prominently to Holiday and Ryan Anderson – have made it tough for them to know exactly what they have going forward.

It’s been tough, coach Monty Williams acknowledges, but not without a silver lining.

“For one, Anthony (Davis). I don’t think Anthony would be where he is if we had Jrue and Ryan and [other injured players] on the floor. I just don’t think that would have happened,” he said earlier this week. “I think this has been a blessing in disguise, in that he’s been able to stamp his claim as the franchise player, and now when those guys come back I think they know they have to adapt to his game.”

As will the rest of the league. Only 20 (for one more day), Davis has become a 20-10 player, is swatting almost three shots a game, sports the league’s fifth best PER and has lifted virtually all of his advanced metrics from his rookie season.

Particularly remarkable have been the consistently of his splits. Month-to-month, he hasn’t averaged fewer than 19.3 points or more than 21.6, no fewer than 9.4 rebounds or no more than 11.0. In no full month has his shooting percentage dropped lower than 51.3.

Davis buys Williams’ theory about circumstances accelerating his development.

“With Jrue and Ryan out, and Jason (Smith), it made me mature fast and try to become a leader faster. To learn how to handle situations faster. So there’s a lot of truth to that, and each and every day I’m more prepared for it,” he said. “It’s coming faster. teams are staring to key into me a lot faster than I expected. I have no choice but to figure it out.”

The problem for New Orleans is figuring out what to do going forward. Without two key rotation pieces available, GM Dell Demps doesn’t have the sample size to say definitively what the Pelicans will need to crack the top eight in an absurdly deep Western Conference. He probably won’t have a pick to work with, nor any real cap flexibility. To some degree, whatever tweaks he is able to make will be done with imperfect information.

“I don’t think we have to start over,” Williams says, but there’s a good chance the Pelicans will have to use next year as a do-over for this one.

At least they can be confident in Davis.

“One thing we can go into the summertime and say,” said Williams, “we know he’s the guy.”

To the rankings!

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