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New York Knicks Falling Further From Pre-Season Expectations

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Rose vs Bucks

 

After going through the customary post-game handshakes and offering a few positive cliches to the media, there wasn’t any reason for the New York Knicks to feel good about themselves as they headed to the locker room following last Friday’s 116-111 victory in Milwaukee.

While desperately needed, the victory served as a depressing reminder that the Knicks hadn’t won a single game since defeating the mediocre Orlando Magic at home on December 22. And throughout the six-game slide that immediately followed that pre-Christmas win at the Garden, head coach Jeff Hornacek’s squad had been exposed as a defensively vulnerable team with questionable depth, an injured superstar, and an extremely uncertain future.

By now, the Knicks were supposed to be among the Eastern Conference elite and scouting sharp-shooters ahead of February’s trade deadline in an attempt to catch the Cleveland Cavaliers during the season’s second half. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, and after the Knicks acquired Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee during the off-season, even some skeptics had this team locked in to the conference’s playoff picture as a legitimate threat to LeBron.

As one of the Knicks’ only consistent positives, second year standout Kristaps Porzingis has taken on a bigger role than expected despite his youth. But the youngster isn’t blind to his team’s many shortcomings, and Porzingis recently told the media that the Knicks have a long way to go before becoming the team that so many are expecting them to be.

”In the moment we were four games out of .500, I said it—I don’t see ourselves as that good of a team yet,” said a concerned Porzingis. ”We were still growing. We were winning games, but we still had a lot to learn. It was a good moment based on our talent, but we weren’t there yet and now it’s showing. We got to figure this out and keep growing as a team. It’s not coming together yet. It’s frustrating.”

Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that the Knicks [17-22], who were sitting in 11th place entering Wednesday night’s action, have even struggled to keep pace with last year’s 32-50 team. Through their first 39 games of last season, Derek Fisher’s Knicks stood at 19-20 before falling flat on their collective faces. But those Knicks didn’t drop a fortune to start a former league M.V.P., a recent NBA Defensive Player Of The Year, and previously under-appreciated shooting guard Courtney Lee, alongside Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony in an attempt to win now.

Thus far, point guard Derrick Rose has been at the heart of New York’s problems. On Monday, Rose used an unexcused absence to skip New York’s cross-conference loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, and Hornacek chose to bench the former Chicago Bull for the entire fourth quarter of recent games against Milwaukee and the Indiana Pacers due primarily to late-game inconsistency and his often reckless approach, making way for throwback rookie Ron Baker.

While Rose was the answer to New York’s point guard problems a few months ago, his rumored rift with Hornacek and a series of sub-par performances has some fans hoping that Baker will experience a Jeremy Lin-like rise that will magically move the Knicks back into the playoff picture. In the meantime, Baker is just grateful for an opportunity that he’s been waiting for since the summer.

”At the beginning of the year, I had a meeting with Jeff [Hornacek] and he had mentioned something about January,” said Baker via The New York Post. ”If I stayed on the right path as I did in pre-season, I’ll be fine. I wasn’t concerned after that meeting, but I’m trying to keep improving obviously.”

Along with porous perimeter defense and a lack of offensive chemistry, the Knicks’ growing list of concerns also includes the shoulder injury that continues to plague Anthony, and to a lesser extent, the achilles injury that recently caused Porzingis to miss a trio of consecutive contests during his team’s six-game slide.

Regardless of what Phil Jackson envisioned for his new-look Knicks, it’s safe to say that it didn’t involve a healthy Rose being benched for a former Wichita State walk-on named Ron Baker, and after acquiring what are supposed to be several high-price pieces of New York’s playoff puzzle during the off-season, The Zen Master obviously wasn’t planning to entertain trade offers for his shiny new point guard ahead of next month’s deadline.

But that’s the reality Jackson has helped to create, and at some point, the franchise must forget about his sparkling resume and history in New York, and hold him responsible for leading the Knicks into what already looks like a very expensive disaster.

Denver Nuggets

Nuggets’ Mike Malone Emotional Following Denver School Shooting

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Mike Malone

Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone became emotional during a press conference discussing a school shooting that left one student dead took place at a Highlands Ranch public charter school in his suburban Denver community.

Malone talked how his two middle school-aged daughters, who attend a different school, had experienced a lockdown for the second time in a three week period due to a shooting threat, as he called for something to change to stop this epidemic.

One student was killed and eight injured during Tuesday’s shooting at the STEM school in Highlands Ranch, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s office. According to their report, two suspects are currently in custody.

“The [STEM] school is literally two minutes away from where I live, right down Broadway in Highlands Ranch,” Malone said, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “My wife and daughters know people. As a coach, I am somewhat of a recluse, but it’s a close community.

“It’s not just Highlands Ranch. It’s not just Colorado. This is an epidemic. And it continues to happen. And that is the frustrating thing. How do you stop it? Again, gun control, laws, whatever it might be. I am not a politician. I don’t want to sit up here on a soapbox. I just want everybody back at Highlands Ranch to know that we’re with you and that is very important for them to know.”

There was a moment of silence prior to Game 5 between the Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers.

Malone said that he was at the Pepsi Center preparing for Game 5 when his wife, Jocelyn, called to inform him about the shooting and to let him know that their daughters were safe but scared.

“The thing that makes you angry is that she’s telling me how scared my daughters are in their schools, texting her, because they don’t know what’s going on — it’s a lockout,” Malone said.

“Where’s this shooter? Is it at our school? Some other school? The kids go to school, they should be going to school to learn, have fun, be with their friends. Not worry about an active shooter. … It’s just frustrating, and it gets you angry because it hits home. And that’s how I felt today.”

While Malone stated that he would likely wouldn’t bring up the shooting with his team prior to Game 5, he did discuss how he would address the topic with his daughters.

“That’s a great question, and you know, that’s something I haven’t even really thought about,” Malone said emotionally. “I’m texting my daughter, telling her she’s going to be OK. I don’t even know if she will be OK.

“This is every parent’s worst nightmare, and it’s something that when you see your kids go to school in the morning, it’s ‘Have a great day’ and just assume everything is going to be all right. And as we all know, it’s not. So you figure it out.”

The STEM Highlands Ranch campus is not far from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Columbine was where one of the most infamous school mass shootings in American history took place back on April 20th, 1999.

“I know thoughts and prayers are never enough,” Malone continued. “And from myself, our team, our organization, our thoughts and prayers are with all those families, students, school administrators, everybody that was there today. It’s a tragedy.

“I would like to say a thank you to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department that was there, on top of it, in matter of minutes and all the first responders that were there and allowing that to not become worse than it was,” Malone added. “But it’s a shame. My girls have been in a lockout twice in the last month. I’m not a politician, I don’t have the answers, but something must change. So I just want to make sure that I acknowledge what happened today in my backyard and all those families are on my mind.”

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Brooklyn Nets

Nets’ D’Angelo Russell Cited for Marijuana Possession at Airport

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Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell was cited for marijuana possession on Wednesday night at LaGuardia Airport in New York, according to USA Today’s A.J. Perez.

Per the report, during a routine search of a checked bag police found marijuana hidden inside a container, located in Russell’s bag, that was made to look like an Arizona Iced Tea can.

Russell would be forced to enter the league’s marijuana program if he is convicted of possession, however, he won’t face suspension until a third violation.

While Russell received a summons to appear in court following the search, he was allowed to continue on his flight to Louisville, Kentucky.

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Boston Celtics

Celtics’ General Manager Danny Ainge Suffers Mild Heart Attack

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Boston Celtics general manager and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge suffered a mild heart attack on Tuesday in Milwaukee, according to a team press release.

Ainge, 60, was with the team in Milwaukee for the first round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Bucks.

“Been in constant communication with his family,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, according to ESPN. “He’s resting well and feels better. Obviously, always scary, but he’s got a good support network. Obviously, expect a full recovery and he’s feeling good. So that’s all positive. Certainly scary.”

Ainge, who suffered what is described as a mild heart attack back in April 2009, received immediate medical attention and is expected to make a full recovery, and is expected to return to Boston soon.

“Danny is just one of those guys who takes time out of his life, his day when he’s doing his schedule, to make sure you’re all right,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “He constantly checks in on us, my family, and things like that. Just personally, for me, he’s been another mentor. For me, from when I first got here, Danny was the person I see every day and am talking to, so he means a lot to my life as well. … I just hope he has a speedy recovery.”

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