Tag:Mike D'Antoni
Posted on: February 20, 2012 11:56 pm
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Against Lin, D-Will restores sanity

NEW YORK – For 16 days, all Deron Williams heard about was Linsanity.

“It started on me,” Williams said Monday night.

And his personal mission was to have it end on him, too.

“We definitely had this one circled,” Williams said. “The whole team did, and I personally did because it’s been stuck on my mind. This all started on me.”

On a night when the Knicks assembled their full array of stars around amazing point guard Jeremy Lin, it was Williams, the one-man show from across the Hudson, who stole the show. Williams had a season-high 38 points, including a career-high eight 3-pointers, as the Nets beat the Knicks 100-92 to avenge a Feb. 4 loss at Madison Square Garden that spawned the incredible rise of Lin.

“Like I said, I had this one circled,” Williams said. “I don’t really watch SportsCenter. I don’t really watch too many games. But I do see Twitter. People tweet me and every three lines was, ‘Jeremy Lin destroys Deron Williams.’ So I definitely took offense to that. I had it circled.”

So did Knicks fans who were waiting to see how Carmelo Anthony, returning from a seven-game absence due to a groin injury, would fit with Lin running the offense. The best way to put it is: some good, some bad, lots to work on.

Anthony was willing to work within the flow of the offense, scoring his first basket on a pick-and-pop with Lin and then setting up Amar’e Stoudemire for two straight baskets, including and three-point play. But predictably, given Anthony’s extended absence while Linsanity gained momentum without him, the Knicks’ offense lacked its usual flow.

Lin’s 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds weren’t enough, and both Anthony (11 points, 4-for-11 shooting, six turnovers) and Stoudemire (17 points, four rebounds) struggled to pick the right times to assert themselves. Baron Davis also was ineffective in his first game of the season after missing the first 32 with a bad back, and it was J.R. Smith’s second game with the team.

“We have to get some things sorted out, and we know that,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Before we get back to Williams, who was the biggest reason for the Knicks’ struggles because he flat wore out Lin on the defensive end, here’s what you need to know about the much-publicized job of fitting Melo back into the Knicks’ offense: It can work, but everyone is going to have to adjust – including him.

Straight from a scout who has watched Anthony’s career extensively, here are the issues: Anthony and Stoudemire like to operate in the same area of the floor, and that’s something D’Antoni has to figure out regardless of who the point guard is. The way Lin has played for the first 11 games of this run, it will be easier for him to figure out than it was for any of the other point guards the Knicks have tried.

Here’s the other, and perhaps more important issue: Anthony likes to set up and call for the ball in an area that is between the low block and the 3-point line, a little wider than most mid-post isolation scorers want the ball. Anthony has been effective his entire career from that area, because he has so many options from there. But he also takes up a lot of space, thus killing the corner 3-pointer – so crucial to D’Antoni’s style – on that side of the floor, and also crowding out the pick-and-roll and wing penetration. One game is a little soon to call it a failure, though I’m sure that won’t stop it from happening.

“We are not in panic mode,” Lin said. Now, back to the real star of the show.

Back to D-Willsanity. After one night of well-deserved satisfaction, Williams goes back to his reality of playing for a 10-24 team that is quite obviously in the Knicks’ shadow for the time being. At his locker in the visiting room Monday night, Williams called this “definitely the toughest year of my career and one of the toughest years of my life.”

“I’ve never lost at any level going back to middle school,” Williams said. “It’s definitely been a struggle, but I’m learning to fight through things and trying to lead guys even though it’s not the best situation all the time. We’re playing better as it goes and learning how to play and we’re developing guys. So it’s still a fun process. I just hope it’s not an extended process.”

Which brings us to Williams’ future, the options he has before him with an opt-out after the season and whether he’ll be chastened in his desire to team up with stars – in Brooklyn or somewhere else next season – when he sees that it isn’t always easy to make it all fit.

“We still need to get some guys in here, there’s no doubt about that, if we want to be a better team,” Williams said. “We’re 10-24 right now. We’ve got to get some players.”

Asked how he feels about the Nets’ plan to make that happen, Williams said, “I’m very comfortable right now. There’s not much I can really do besides play basketball. And that’s what I said I was going to do from the beginning of the season: play basketball and let everything work itself out, and at the end of the season, assess where things are. I’m sure I’ll have a conversation with Billy (King, the Nets’ president), with ownership and go from there.”

On Wednesday night, the Nets’ last game before the All-Star break, Williams will see his friend and foe (for now), Dwight Howard, when the Nets host the Magic. The fortunes of so many are tied up in what happens with Howard between now and the March 15 trade deadline – and with both of them after that, on July 1.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the fans are going to react,” Williams said. “I’m sure it’ll be pretty crazy. I kind of look forward to the game. I like playing against him, so it should be fun.”

Enduring the worst season of his professional life, D-Will deserves to have some fun. And putting a speed bump in front of Linsanity, which started on his watch, was well worth the trip back across the river.
Posted on: February 14, 2012 10:38 pm
 

Lin uses his jumper, just like he was coached

Long before Linsanity took off, Jeremy Lin was alone with his trainer in a 24-Hour Fitness in Pleasanton, Calif. He was working on a lot of things -- balance, upper-body strength to absorb contact and still finish the play, and most impressively, his jump shot.

"I'd like to see him use that jumper a little more," his personal trainer, E.J. Costello, was saying on the phone earlier Tuesday. "He can drive to the hoop and kick, but he’s got a good jumper and I’d like to see him use it."

Costello, who spent a couple of hours a day with Lin, four days a week from May through September in the Bay Area during the lockout, got his wish Tuesday night.

Despite eight turnovers from Lin, despite trailing by as many as 17 points, the Knicks and their fearless point-guard savior would not go away. Lin took the advice of his strength coach on the final possession in Toronto, confidently stepping into a game-winning 3-point shot with 0.5 seconds left to give the Knicks their sixth straight victory, 90-87 over the Raptors.

"It was a good shot for me," Lin said.

The way things are going for him now -- 5-0 as a starter, and 6-0 if you count his 27-point debut off the bench 10 days ago against the Nets -- any shot is a good shot. Nearly every play results in the right decision.

Not always the best result, but almost always. And nobody is quibbling with the historic results.

"I'm just glad it went like this so we can calm the Linsanity down a little bit," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters in Toronto, his postgame comments beamed back to New York on the Madison Square Garden Networks.

"He held it til five-tenths of a second left," D'Antoni said. "He was confident that shot was going in, no rebound or nothing. That thing was getting buried."

Yes it was, just like the hundreds of jumpers a day Lin was taking in the gym with Costello during the lockout.

"He’s money when it comes to shooting," Costello said. "And he just has to carry that onto the court."

After leading the Knicks to victories in his first four starts, being named Eastern Conference player of the week and becoming the first player in NBA history to total at least 20 points and seven assists in his first four starts, Lin did it again Tuesday night. He had 27 points (9-for-20 shooting), 11 assists and yes, eight turnovers. He was torched defensively by Jose Calderon and Leandro Barbosa at times in the game, and later said, "That's on me."

He passed one test, getting superstar Amar'e Stoudemire back Tuesday night and still winning despite an off-night from Stoudemire -- understandable, considering his absence due to the loss of his brother. Carmelo Anthony, the other star whose game may or may not fit with the way the Knicks are playing under Lin's leadership, will be back later in the week.

Of teammate Iman Shumpert, who slowed Calderon down in the fourth and made Lin's game-winner possible when he stole the ball from Calderon and drove for a run-out dunk that cut the Raptors' lead to 87-84 with 1:28 left, Lin said, "He just bailed me out tonight."

The way Lin has bailed the Knicks out of what had been a dismal season that saw them lose 11 of 13 on their way to an 8-15 record before Linsanity began. The Knicks (14-15) can climb back to .500 Wednesday night in New York against the Kings as they start a five-game homestand that promises to be the most electrifying in at least a decade.

"I don't know when there's an ending," D'Antoni said. "Maybe there won't [be]."

As the basketball world tries to digest and comprehend Lin's improbably sudden rise to stardom, you could see Tuesday night two of the key aspects of his game that he worked so hard on during the summer and early fall. After Shumpert's steal and dunk, Lin drove the lane, absorbed contact and converted the basket and three-point play to tie the score at 87-87 with 1:05 left. As Costello has watched from afar as Lin has made plays like this during the six-game winning streak, he couldn't help but think back to those long days at the gym when they worked so hard to make him strong enough to absorb contact and finish plays.

"He uses his body really well," Costello said. "His upper body has gotten so much better and stronger, and his ability to control his body really speaks to what we did in the offseason. We killed his upper body. You can see a massive bruise on his right arm, and I talked to him and he said, 'My body is beat up right now.' But as he gets in shape, he’s only going to get better."

Better?

OK. Who's going to dispute that now?

In the postgame news conference, Lin was asked, "Can you believe this is happening to you?"

"No," he said. "But I believe in an all-powerful and all-knowing God who does miracles."


Posted on: February 5, 2012 12:39 am
 

Jeremy Lin: From teammate's couch to career night

NEW YORK – This was partly about Jeremy Lin and his own personal party at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. It was about Lin, the first NBA player from Harvard in 58 years and only the fourth American-born Asian to play in the league, putting on a show with 25 points, seven assists with the crowd chanting his name.

And then Pearl Jam singing his name over the PA system as thousands stayed in their seats for the on-court TV interview.

He had toiled in the D-League, been tossed aside by the Warriors and Rockets, and wasn’t sure he’d be long for this part of the basketball world, either. How unsure was he? Lin had been crashing at his brother’s place when coming home late from road games, as the Knicks did after a crushing loss in Boston Friday night. But there was no room at the inn – his brother had ample house guests, Lin said – so he slept on teammate Landry Fields’ couch the night before the best game of his life.

“I think I may just go move in with him,” Lin said.

Or get his own place. It’s only one game, but it was precisely the spark the Knicks needed after losing 11 of their previous 13 with an offense predicated on quality point-guard play “grasping at straws” without one, coach Mike D’Antoni said.

“The biggest thing is, he’s got a point guard mentality,” D’Antoni said. “He has a rhyme or reason to what he’s doing and players can kind of play off that. Whereas when you don’t know, you’re just grasping at straws. He gives us a good feel. Again, it’s one game, so let’s not get too excited. But he gives us what we sorely need.”

And this is where the story of Lin having a career night turns into a story that is really about something else. Having a point-guard play the way Lin did Saturday night – attacking and beating pick-and-roll double teams, aggressively getting into the paint and scoring – only underscored how lost the Knicks were without that.

And how lost they will continue to be if they don’t keep getting it.

“We’ve got to make sure we continue to keep the floor spaced and move the ball,” said Amar’e Stoudemire, limited to 17 points and in foul trouble in the Knicks’ third game in as many nights. “We’ve got to continue to do that consistently. We can’t do it one game and then the next game go back to what we’ve been trying not to do.”

Stoudemire was a factor only sporadically due to foul trouble and the grueling stretch of games. Carmelo Anthony was 3-for-15 for 11 points. In the Knicks’ third consecutive game against the kind of elite point guard they lack – Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams – somehow Lin was the best player on the floor. If you’d told Stoudemire before the game that Lin would’ve had almost as many points as Stoudemire and Anthony combined Saturday night, “I would’ve woken up from a bad dream,” he said.

Was it a fluke that Lin made 13 of 19 from the field – jumpers, floaters, reverse layups – on his dream night? Yeah, that’s not going to happen again. But the way Lin directed the Knicks’ directionless offense? The way he gave it purpose and an actual method of attack? Having seen him a time or two in the D-League, where he was the best player on the floor of every game I’ve seen in person, Lin can do that.

But the fact that D’Antoni already said he was thinking seriously about starting Lin Monday night against the Jazz? That speaks more to the Knicks’ state of desperation than anything else. They’re going nowhere without a point guard to run the offense, and who knows when Baron Davis is going to be ready. And when he’s ready, who knows how much of Baron Davis is going to show up.

So for now, for this snapshot in time, the Knicks have a point guard. Dare I say it was the best a point guard has played for D’Antoni since a gentleman named Steve Nash was doing stuff like this every night for him. So Jeremy Lin saved the Knicks from their 12th loss in 14 games, saved D’Antoni from another day of speculation that he’ll be fired, and generally just took a tense, desperate situation and let everyone breathe a little.

“I’m just thankful to be here right now for this team,” Lin said.

Believe me, the team feels the same way.
Posted on: July 8, 2011 3:47 pm
 

Pritchard hired by Pacers, but still available


In a savvy move to bolster their basketball operations staff, the Pacers have reached a deal with former Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard to be their director of player personnel, sources familiar with the hire confirmed to CBSSports.com.

Pritchard, fired hours before the 2010 draft, will report to general manager David Morway, sources said, under a unique at-will arrangement that both sides can end at any time. Pritchard will be paid about $200,000 annually under the deal.

Pritchard will begin evaluating the roster and preparing for potential trades and the pursuit of free agents in advance of the eventual end of the lockout. With team president Larry Bird undecided about his long-term future, Pritchard's role could expand. But he also would be available to be considered for more permanent and higher-profile GM jobs as they become available.

One team thought to be a sensible landing spot for Pritchard was the Knicks, who elevated Glen Grunwald to the interim general manager position after team president Donnie Walsh stepped down last month. The arrangement comes with the understanding that Grunwald's contract will be extended for the 2011-12 season -- whenever that may be. Members of the coaching staff and some key members of the front office, such as vice president of basketball operations Jamie Mathews, director of pro scouting John Gabriel, director of pro player personnel Mark Warkentien, and regional scout Mark Hughes, also are expected to be retained for next season.

Coach Mike D'Antoni is entering the final year of his contract, and no indications have been given as to whether Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan intends to offer him an extension.

Grunwald, 53, is a respected, behind-the-scenes executive who received a strong recommendation from Walsh. If the Knicks ultimately look outside the organization to bolster the front office, among those they are expected to consider are former Hornets GM Jeff Bower and Pritchard.

Pritchard, who was briefly a teammate of Bird's with the Celtics in the early '90s, goes home to the Pacers -- up the road from his Bloomington, Ind., birthplace -- at an exciting time for the organization. Indiana acquired guard George Hill from the Spurs on draft night, and the Pacers have a talented, young roster built around Danny Granger, Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert with only $37 million in committed salary for next season. 

It was never clear why Pritchard, the driving force behind the Blazers' current run of success, was fired in the first place. His replacement, former Thunder executive Rich Cho, also has since been fired and landed on his feet with the Bobcats
Posted on: June 5, 2011 7:07 pm
 

Woodson, Sampson on list of Pistons candidates

DALLAS – Pistons management huddled Sunday to begin formulating a list of candidates to replace John Kuester as head coach, with defensive-minded coaches possessing experience and/or a commanding presence dominating the early discussions.

Pistons president Joe Dumars and his basketball staff have a preliminary list of candidates including former Hawks coach Mike Woodson, Mavs assistant Dwane Casey, former Nets coach Lawrence Frank, Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, and ABC/ESPN broadcaster Mark Jackson, league sources told CBSSports.com. Former Pistons star Bill Laimbeer also is expected to receive consideration, as is Hornets assistant Michael Malone.

Malone, who worked with Kuester on Mike Brown’s staff in Cleveland, is a finalist for the Golden State head coaching position and also is in the mix to join Brown’s staff with the Lakers. Kuester, who ran the offense for Brown in Cleveland, also is expected to speak with his former boss about joining him in L.A.

Sampson’s push for a head coaching position is gaining momentum due to his expertise on the defensive side of the ball. The former Indiana University coach also has the presence and fiery personality the Pistons are seeking. Sampson’s name also has been linked to the Timberwolves, who have yet to decide Kurt Rambis’ future. Sampson also would be a logical fit for the Knicks, who are seeking a defensive assistant to add to Mike D’Antoni’s staff -- though it is uncertain whether the Bucks would permit him to leave for a lateral move.

Dumars said Sunday there is no timetable for the search, and teams are proving to be slow on the trigger with firings and hirings due to the possibility of a lockout.
Posted on: June 3, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 7:38 pm
 

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

Donnie Walsh came to New York determined to restore honor to the Knicks and steer them off a decade-long path of destruction toward one with the promise of success.

He will not get to finish the job. The theater of the absurd that is Madison Square Garden swallowed up one of the gentlemen of the sport Friday, sent one of the most respected basketball men in history fleeing for the exits.

The news Friday that Walsh will step down from his post as team president when his contract expires June 30 is a devastating blow to the franchise that he nearly singlehandedly resurrected. Gone is the man who cleared nearly $30 million in cap space, built a foundation around two superstar players, invited legends from the past back under the spotlight of the Garden, and gave Knicks fans hope that the days of dysfunction were over.

The story behind Walsh’s quiet negotiations for a new contract in recent months made Friday’s news all the more disturbing. Walsh, 70, was not seeking multiple years or millions at this stage of his basketball life. He was seeking autonomy over basketball decisions – the same autonomy that Garden chairman James Dolan publicly promised he would have when he was introduced in the spring of 2008 as the man who would save the Knicks from themselves.

"The more we talked about it, the more I realized I didn't want a multi-year deal," Walsh said. "I can understand why he'd want that. I just realized I probably wasn't the guy to go forward with."

As recently as midweek, sources said Walsh's situation was either going to result in a two-year extension -- possibly with a team option for a third year -- or Walsh moving back to Indiana, though not necessarily retiring. Dolan’s statement Friday described Walsh’s decision to leave as mutual, while Walsh said he had lost the "energy" required to do the job.

Walsh will stay on as a consultant and head up the search for his replacement, which immediately could focus on the two best candidates not tied to teams: former Trail Blazers executive Kevin Pritchard and former Hornets GM Jeff Bower. Former Cavs GM and current Spurs executive Danny Ferry also is expected to be considered, and a name to watch is Timberwolves assistant GM Tony Ronzone, whose strong international presence and close relationships with the stars of Team USA could be appealing to Dolan. Ronzone also has a working relationship with Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni through USA Basketball. D'Antoni has one year left on his contract.

Former Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien, whose consulting contract with the Knicks expires June 30, has to be considered a viable candidate.

Besides who will replace Walsh, the key issue hovering over this stunning development is what assurances he was seeking that he didn’t receive. Money was "never a big issue" for Walsh in the months-long discussions about his future, said a person familiar with the negotiations. In fact, despite widespread reports that Dolan insisted on a 40 percent pay cut for Walsh, the person familiar with the matter said it was Walsh who volunteered to take a substantial pay cut next season in anticipation of a lockout. His concern, the person said, was making sure the rest of the front-office staff -- whose contracts also expire June 30 -- would be taken care of during the work stoppage. Glen Grunwald, the senior vice president of basketball operations, will stay with the team as interim GM during the search for Walsh's replacement.

Throughout Walsh’s discussions with Dolan about his future, it was clear from multiple sources with knowledge of the talks that Walsh would not stay with the Knicks if A) he would not have final say over basketball decisions, or B) there was a chance he could be overruled by the Garden’s many agenda-driven outside influences. The most sinister of those was former team president Isiah Thomas, who remains in close communication with Dolan and in the MSG chairman’s circle of trust – despite running the franchise into the ground and turning the Knicks into a league-wide embarrassment.

“They were a joke for six years,” a rival team executive said Friday. “What Donnie has done for that organization, you’ve got to be kidding me. Come on. The whole world has paid attention to basketball in New York because of the guy – in a positive way.”

Thomas, whose attempted hiring as a consultant by Dolan last summer was nixed by league rules forbidding an NCAA coach to serve in such a role, is not coming back to run the Knicks, sources maintain. But he continues to have Dolan's ear, not to mention the desire to return to the Garden. And while Walsh dismissed the notion that Thomas had anything to do with his decision to leave, the idea of Thomas back-channeling decisions with Dolan would not be palatable to any executive of Walsh's experience and track record.

"The whole thing was going to come down to whether he was going to have autonomy," said a person with knowledge of the discussions. "That’s what this was about."

Walsh's replacement faces the challenging task of adding pieces to complement Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the two stars Walsh landed with the cap space he spent 2 1-2 years demolishing. But Stoudemire and Anthony will combine to make $36.7 million next season; add Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million, and that figure rises to $50.9 million for three players. That's more than Miami's Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are scheduled to make next season, leaving the Knicks the ability to add only minimum-salaried players or those who'd except the mid-level exception -- if there is such a thing in the new collective bargaining agreement. And with the haul of assets Walsh had to give up to land Anthony, the Knicks have few short-term assets to offer in trades aimed at filling their needs for a defensive-minded big man, elite shooting guard, and eventual replacement at point guard for Billups.

That predicament, viewed through the prism of Walsh's departure, only fuels speculation that Dolan hijacked the Anthony trade talks and ordered Walsh to make a trade he didn't want to make -- not at that price, anyway. Walsh again deflected that notion Friday, but a person with knowledge of the trade talks between New York and Denver said Dolan played a prominent role in the deal.

"Donnie had a good hold of it, but I think Dolan had the intentions," the person said. "Dolan wanted Melo at all costs. It was 100 percent Dolan who was the one with an all-costs Melo type thing. And Donnie was saying, 'This would be a good trade, but let’s do it the right way."

He did everything the right way in three years rebuilding the Knicks, a job that now goes to someone else to finish.
Posted on: May 13, 2011 12:39 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 1:00 pm
 

Rivers' return keeps Celtics whole

How the Celtics bounce back from getting toppled by the Heat, that is a question for another day. Priority No. 1 was taken care of Friday when coach Doc Rivers agreed to a five-year extension to remain a Celtic.

This is what Rivers said he was at his core the other night, gracious and optimistic in defeat after the Heat beat the Celtics 97-87 to evict the defending Eastern Conference champs from the postseason in five games. At a time when his players and assistant coaches were hurting -- and worse, uncertain about the future -- Rivers threw them a lifeline when he calmly revealed in the postgame news conference that he was "leaning heavily" toward coming back.

The finer points of a five-year, $35 million extension were still being discussed, but there will be no hang-ups here. Rivers and general manager Danny Ainge work together like left hand and right, and Rivers revealed in a quiet moment after that Game 5 loss Wednesday night that he was serious about returning. Several weeks ago, he basically informed Celtics management that whatever they worked out with his agent, Lonnie Cooper, he'd agree to.

The five-year deal at $7 million annually has been on the table for three months -- perhaps longer, a person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Friday. Rivers alluded to the offer Wednesday night on his way out of American Airlines Arena.

"There’s been a contract basically for three months there and Danny and Wyc (Grousbeck) and them have been on the other side of patience," Rivers said. "And it gave us a long time to talk about it as a family. So I haven't signed anything or done anything. But it’s there and I probably will sign it."

The only job that would've remotely tempted Rivers, the person with knowledge of Rivers' situation said, was replacing Phil Jackson with the Lakers. But that wasn't happening, not with Rivers -- not with a Celtic.  

"Leaving the Celtics to go to the Lakers would be akin to selling out," the person said. "He's old fashioned in a good way that way. That's the only job that would've been of any interest."

As for the Knicks, a team Rivers played for, New York executives are not believed to have explored whether Rivers would be available or interested. Mike D'Antoni has a year left on his contract, and team president Donnie Walsh is committed to giving D'Antoni a full season with a stable roster before making any rash decisions. But make no mistake: It wouldn't have mattered. Rivers has grown as close with his players in Boston as any coach in the league, and simply couldn't walk away -- even though some retooling at minimum and rebuilding at worst will be part of the job.

Does Ainge give in to the temptation to trade one of the Big Three at draft time -- the same way he acquired Ray Allen in the first place? Does Paul Pierce accept a secondary role, or even go to the bench? Does Jeff Green stay? How do the Celtics upgrade the size and toughness that was lost in the Kendrick Perkins trade?

All these decisions will be made with Rivers completely in the mix, working as effectively with Ainge as any coach and GM tandem in basketball. And don't forget this: Whatever challenges confront the Celtics, Rivers was adamant about showing the organization the same kind of loyalty it showed him. Before the Big Three were formed, Ainge stuck with Rivers and ignored the groundswell of opinions and speculation that he should be fired. It's no surprise they're finding a way to stick together now.

So close are Rivers and Ainge that one person familiar with their relationship suggested that Ainge may have been inclined to leave if Rivers did. That would've brought about a swift and painful end to the Celtics of the Big Three era, who progress now into a transition period with the most important piece of the puzzle firmly in place.

Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:07 am
 

Knicks considering two-year extension for Walsh

NEW YORK -- The Knicks are considering a two-year extension for team president Donnie Walsh, with the matter expected to be resolved in the next two weeks, a person familiar with the organization's thinking told CBSSports.com Sunday night. 

Walsh, 69, has an option for the 2011-12 season to be exercised by April 30, but the more likely scenario is a two-year extension that would keep the architect of the Knicks' revival at the helm through the critical next phase of the rebuilding plan. If the option is not picked up, Walsh's contract expires June 30. 

"It's basically going to be Donnie's call whether he wants to come back," said the person with knowledge of the organization's intentions. 

No final decisions have been made on Walsh or coach Mike D'Antoni in the wake of a 4-0 first-round sweep completed Sunday with a 101-89 loss to the Celtics, and sources cautioned that several issues could complicate both situations. For one, neither Walsh nor D'Antoni has been given a clear indication as to their respective statuses, which explains why D'Antoni took some off-guard with his postgame comment Sunday, "I don't know what the future holds." 

D'Antoni's comment was not made with knowledge of his status one way or another, one of the sources said. The coach's fate is strongly tied to Walsh, whose future has been shrouded in secrecy and subject to the whims of Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan. Even those with ties to Walsh who've had dealings with Dolan have been unable to decipher in recent weeks how far Dolan will go to try to keep Walsh. 

Another complicating factor could be an attempt to force something on Walsh that he's not comfortable with, sources said. Such a circumstance could be another attempt by Dolan to bring former coach and president Isiah Thomas back into the organization in an official capacity -- an unequivocally destructive move that is believed to be no more than a remote possibility, one of the sources said. Dolan's attempt to hire Thomas, the coach at Florida International, as a consultant last summer was shot down by NBA rules forbidding team employees from having contact with college players who are not yet draft eligible. 

Walsh has consistently sidestepped questions about his future and has grown increasingly aggravated that his status has become a news item as the Knicks made their first trip to the playoffs in seven years. Before the Knicks' brief return to the postseason ended Sunday with a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Celtics, Walsh testily tried to deflect questions about D'Antoni's status and a looming decision on whether to guarantee point guard Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million contract for next season. 

Walsh appears to be leaning toward keeping D'Antoni -- "Overall, he's done a good job," he said Sunday -- given that the Knicks lost Billups for the final three games of the Boston series and were further compromised by Amar'e Stoudemire's back injury in Games 3 and 4. D'Antoni has one year left on his contract, had only two months to integrate Billups and Carmelo Anthony with Stoudemire, and hasn't coached a stable roster from start to finish for three seasons. 

The decision on Billups, 34, must come first due to a five-day clock that began ticking Sunday on a deadline to fully guarantee his contract for next season. But the most important call is on Walsh, who restored dignity to a lost franchise, cleared a mountain of cap space to attract stars, and now is expected to embark on the third phase of a massive reclamation project that began when he was hired to replace Thomas in April 2008. 

Walsh has endured several health problems during his tenure, including a successful bout with tongue cancer and hip-replacement surgery in November that has him still using a walker. But those close to Walsh have described him as being in good health and spirits as well as invigorated by the prospect of completing a rebuilding job that began with the signing of Stoudemire and escalated with the February trade that paired him with Anthony. 

After Sunday's loss, both Anthony and Stoudemire deflected questions about whether Walsh and D'Antoni would be back next season. 

"I'm pretty sure the front office will handle it to the best of their ability," Anthony said of the multitude of offseason decisions. "They have one of the best front offices in the NBA right now, so they will do their job. I'll let them handle that."
 
 
 
 
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