Today’s question: Who has the most pressure on him?
You could say it’s Phil Jackson, who is being paid a fortune to turn the Knicks around. Or you could say it’s Derek Fisher, who is coaching for the first time in his life and is also being paid millions to get the Knicks back to the playoffs.
Without a doubt, those two will have pressure on them. But the one Knick with the most pressure is Carmelo Anthony. And there are more than 124 million reasons why.
Anthony was the center of NBA free agency this past summer. The Knicks had to sweat it out before Anthony spurned the Bulls, Rockets, Lakers and Mavs to re-sign with the Knicks to the tune of $124 million.
Jackson has to build the entire franchise around Anthony. And whatever pieces Jackson surrounds Anthony with, the franchise star will have to make it work.
Carmelo not only has to adapt to the triangle and perhaps make some sacrifices to his individual game, but he also has to find a way to make his teammates better.
He has the pressure of trying to follow in the footsteps of great individual scorers who had success with Phil such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Anthony has to make alterations to his game and sacrifice for the team -- a Jackson must. All the while, Anthony has to do this while helping Fisher transition into coaching.
Sure, the pressure on Anthony won't be as great this season as it will be in the future because the Knicks aren't going to contend this season. They can and should make the playoffs. But they aren't built to win the East right now. Not yet anyway.
But if Jackson is able to add another star or two very good complementary pieces, all the pressure will be on Anthony. He won’t have any excuses if Jackson can somehow find him the necessary reinforcements to contend with LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for the future.
And let’s say that Jackson isn’t able to get two stars to join Anthony. The pressure is still on Melo. After all, the Knicks signed him for $124 million. Instead of just trying to rebuild completely, the Knicks kept Anthony to keep the Garden packed and to stay in contention. He’ll have to shoulder the load and keep the Knicks relevant.
That’s just what comes with the territory of being a superstar making basically max money.
Let’s face it: Anthony could have left for Chicago for a greater chance at winning it all. He opted to stay in New York. He bought into Phil’s plan. He will make a lot of Jim Dolan’s money.
Melo is at a critical juncture in his career. At 30, Anthony has to show that he can be more than just a great scorer.
The pressure is on Anthony to prove he can win and be the player Phil wants him to be, not to mention the pressure of delivering for 124 million other reasons.
Question: Which Knick do you think has the most pressure on him?
This year was a little different.
Anthony started working out two weeks after the end of the Knicks' 37-win season.
Why such a short break?
"I was angry," Anthony said Saturday at the Citi Carmelo Anthony Basketball camp in Manhattan.
Anthony also probably wanted to be in top shape for free agency. He tested the market over the summer and ended up signing a five-year, $124 million deal with the Knicks.
The star forward has been working out at the team's facility in Westchester recently, along with "six or seven" other Knicks, to get a head start on the new triangle offense.
"I haven't been broadcasting it, man. But I've been at the facility for the last couple of weeks with the young guys, with the coaches, trying to figure out that triangle offense," Anthony said.
The Knicks and new head coach Derek Fisher are expected to install the triangle offense this season.
Anthony says that he "can't wait" to learn the offense that helped Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant win championships under Phil Jackson-coached teams.
"Without a doubt, without a doubt. When people say spots, I'm going to be all over the floor in the triangle," Anthony said. "It makes it hard to guard, it keeps all eyes off of you. I'm looking forward to it, I've been saying it all summer. I can't wait."
Anthony has said that he expects the Knicks to make the playoffs but doesn't see them winning a title this summer.
On Saturday, he noted that the Eastern Conference is vastly different because of free-agent movement and Paul George's injury.
"Every year is different. Last year I don't think nobody thought Toronto would do what they [did]. I don't think nobody thought the Wizards was going to do what they did last year. So every year is always different," Anthony said. "Of course Cleveland is the top right now. Chicago will always be there. But as far as basketball goes, I'm excited to get back and play on the court because I know what we have with the New York Knicks, and we're only going to get better. So I'm excited about that."
Carmelo on LeBron's move to Cleveland: Anthony supports his buddy LeBron James' move to the Cavs.
"I applaud him. I applaud him. I thought it was a great move for him," Anthony said. "That's not to take nothing away from what he's already established and created down in Miami, but for him to go back home at this point in his career, you can't ask for nothing better than that."
Anthony didn't want to talk much about the team James formed in Cleveland with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. The Knicks play the Cavs in Cleveland on the second game of the season -- James' first game back in his hometown.
"We'll see them when we play them," Anthony said. "They're not on my radar right now. Don't take that the wrong way. But they're not on my radar. I'm focusing on one game at a time. When we play them the second game of the season, we'll be ready."
Carmelo on his weight loss: Anthony also talked in detail about his much-discussed weight loss over the summer.
"I think people kind of overreacted to that. I love to work. I love to train. It’s the accumulation of a lot," Anthony said.
He added: "Kind of switching up my eating habits, kind of taking on new workout routines, training a little different, trying to test myself and challenge myself differently from a training aspect. Also, I took maybe a week, two weeks off this year, so I was still in the mode from last training camp. I took maybe two weeks off over the year, and this is the result you’re seeing now."
Anthony supports the idea of a longer, week-long break for the All-Star Game this season. The game will be played in New York. "I love it, I'm a big fan of that. I wish it was two weeks," he said. Anthony isn't bothered by the idea of playing an extra back-to-back to extend the break. "We play too many games as it is. So another back-to-back is not gonna hurt," he said.
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"[There] ain't nobody [who] would want to go there," Anthony said Saturday at the Citi Carmelo Anthony Basketball camp in Manhattan. "At the end of the day, Atlanta, I think it puts Atlanta back even further now, from that standpoint.
"Atlanta is a great city, a great market, great people, great atmosphere. But as far as the comments [that] were made, I think it was uncalled for. From an owner, from a GM, those are not things you play with."
Ferry, paraphrasing a scouting report, described then-free agent Luol Deng as someone who "has a little African in him."
"He's like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back," Ferry said on the call, which was recorded.
Deng, who was born in what is now South Sudan, eventually signed with the Miami Heat.
Anthony, who tested free agency over the summer and ultimately re-signed with the Knicks, said players "wouldn't look at" Atlanta as a potential destination.
"As a player, as an athlete, we're looking for a job, we're trying to find a place where we can move our family, we can make our family comfortable, where we can be comfortable in a comfortable environment," Anthony said. "But those comments right there, we would never look at [playing there].
"I'm speaking on behalf of all athletes. We would never look at a situation like that, I don't care what it is."
Knicks and Rangers owner Jim Dolan completed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge during Friday’s "Today" show on NBC.
Dolan was challenged by former Knicks center Patrick Ewing. Joe Walsh, guitarist from the Eagles, dumped the ice-water bucket on Dolan's head.
Dolan and his band "JD & The Straight Shot" will open for the Eagles on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Coming off surgery to repair the patellar tendon and meniscus tears in his left knee, the shooter couldn't get comfortable nor did he have the kind of mobility he had in the past.
Frustration and losses mounted, and Smith admits he only made things more difficult on himself with his shoelace antics, which led to $50,000 in fines.
“Between that [not being healthy] and the combination of myself –- yeah, I didn’t help the situation with the incidences,” Smith added of the negative perception some might have of him from last season. "But at the same time it was still a learning experience. I will take that."
Smith, 29, knows this upcoming season is critical for him. The Knicks need their former Sixth Man of the Year to have a bounce-back season, and he is eager to prove himself under a new coach and new system.
After he got off to a slow start and saw his scoring average dip from 18.1 points per game in 2012-13 to 14.5 last season, Smith looks forward to starting this season with a bang.
Smith -- who appeared at Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC Partners on Thursday with teammates Iman Shumpert, Shane Larkin, Cleanthony Early, Jason Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cole Aldrich for the Garden of Dreams foundation -- said he is back to being “fully healthy” again.
“I got my bounce back a little bit,” Smith said. “I should start off better than I did last year.”
Smith averaged just 11.7 points and 28.6 percent shooting from 3-point range in the month of November last year.
“It was disappointing,” Smith said. “Because I felt I would come back better than I did after surgery, have more of an impact on a positive note. It just feels really frustrating. When you have surgery, there’s certain things that you can’t do. My pivoting, stuff like that. Certain things I knew I am capable of doing but just couldn’t do at that point in time. That was frustrating.”
That frustration grew as he also got into trouble with the league after untying opponents' shoelaces in consecutive games, leading to the hefty fines.
But Smith was able to finish the season looking more like the former Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 23.4 points and 46.3 percent shooting from 3 in his last seven games in April.
Still, he said he wasn’t able to do all the things he can do when healthy. Now he is looking forward to being able to do those things in the triangle offense with new head coach Derek Fisher. And he’s hoping the triangle will have similar results for him as it did for two other prolific shooting guards who played for Phil Jackson.
“It suits me well,” Smith said. “If you’re a jump shooter and you pass the ball, guys with my skill set, it should be great. The last two guys that were in it became Hall of Famers and got a lot of rings. Hopefully, I’m in that position.”
While Smith has a very long way to go to follow in the footsteps of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, the Knicks guard is ready to start by having a bounce-back season.
“Absolutely,” Smith said of being able to rebound from last season. “I feel like I am capable of doing that.”
As for whether he will do that as a starter or off the bench, Smith said Fisher has yet to tell him what his role will be.
“Find out in training camp,” Smith said. “Of course [I want to start], but whatever they need me to do.”
Jordan, 27, appeared in 21 games for the Knicks in 2011-12, averaging two points in 5.1 minutes. The 7-footer spent last season in the Italian League.
Jordan could have a chance to compete for a spot at the end of the roster during training camp.
The Nets have 13 fully guaranteed contracts -- Cory Jefferson and Jorge Gutierrez not among them.
Each August, the NBA offseason quiets down and we begin to take stock of the flurry of activity that marks every summer. That process is kicked off by ESPN's Summer Forecast, an aggregation of judgment from the various branches of our NBA coverage. It's the baseline consensus opinion that will inform how we react to the season ahead. The forecast does pretty well, too. (Here are last year's East and West picks.) It's not perfect, and no one would want it to be. If sports were that predictable, we'd lose interest fast. We project to establish a baseline of expectation so we know when to be surprised.
Few NBA teams veer up and down the standings like they do in the NFL from one season to next, unless they've made a home run acquisition or two like this year's Cavaliers, or suffered a season-debilitating injury, like the Pacers. But there are always surprises. Last year's summer prognostications said Toronto and Charlotte would combine to win 59 games. The Raptors set a franchise record for wins, and both teams made the playoffs. In the West, the Phoenix Suns were pegged for 22 wins, yet won 48 and contended in the rugged West into the season's final day. Portland, which was picked to finish out of the playoffs, not only earned their way in but advanced to the second round.
This year's summer forecast (East and West) will again be uncannily prescient, yet paradoxically imperfect. Of the 14 teams predicted to finish out of the playoffs, at least a couple will find themselves continuing to play after the regular season ends. Because those teams by definition will be defying what we currently know about them objectively, it's hard to say who they'll be -- precisely why they'll be surprise teams.
Here's a look at three teams I see as good candidates to outperform their baseline expectations in 2014-15 and potentially make the playoffs.
Smith was fined $50,000 by the NBA last season for his shoelace stunts in consecutive games.
“I do care about the fines because it’s loss of money, but other than that, I like to have fun,” Smith told Bleacher Report. “I would do [the shoelace thing] again if there wasn’t a fine. But now that I’m in my 10th year in the NBA, I take the game more seriously than I did my first five, six years.”
Smith has been known for his immaturity since he entered the league.
“People think I’m just some wild child, that I’m just somebody that bugs out all the time and doesn’t care,” Smith said. "That’s the main thing that pisses me off the most. People who actually take the time to come [to my golf tournament] and get to know me, they know what I’m about. But some people don’t really care to come.”
Today’s question: Who is the Knicks' best secondary scoring option? Who is best suited to complement Carmelo Anthony in the triangle?
The Knicks had trouble finding consistent scoring behind Carmelo last year.
New York's second-highest scorer last season, J.R. Smith, shot just 41 percent from the field. Not good.
That failure to find consistent scoring behind Anthony is one reason -- among many -- that the Knicks missed the playoffs last year.
Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol).
Unfortunately for Fisher, the Knicks won't have a future Hall of Famer to play alongside Carmelo this year.
Below, we take a look at two secondary scoring options for the Knicks this season:
Smith was generally given a green light last year under ex-Knicks head coach Mike Woodson. That philosophy yielded mixed results for New York. Smith struggled in the first two months of the season following offseason knee surgery, shooting just 34.8 percent from the field.
But in the second half of the season, Smith surged. He averaged 16.7 points per game and hit 42 percent of his 3-pointers.
Can that production carry over in the triangle offense? Some statistics suggest it may.
Smith performed well in catch-and-shoot situations last year, a skill that can be put to use in the triangle.
The veteran shooting guard hit 45 percent of his catch-and-shoot jumpers, including 46.2 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s, per SportVU. That 3-point percentage was the sixth highest among players who attempted at least 1.5 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers per game, according to the stats site.
On the flip side, Smith has been guilty of over-dribbling in the past. That approach doesn't fit well in the triangle offense (or most other offenses, for that matter).
When considering Smith as a secondary scoring option, it's worth noting that the Knicks went 7-9 last season when J.R. took at least 15 shots.
Not long ago, Stoudemire and Carmelo were expected to form one of the top forward combinations in the NBA. Due in part to injuries and in part to ineffective schemes, that hasn't happened.
At one point, it seemed like the two couldn't play together. In fact, when Phil Jackson famously called the Knicks roster "clumsy," he was referring to the Carmelo-Amar'e pairing.
But Amar'e may be able to thrive in the triangle -- and alongside Anthony -- this season.
Stoudemire can find opportunities to operate in the mid range and at the elbow in the triangle -- two areas where he has been effective.
He also could find chances to play in the post and in the pick-and-roll.
Also, some numbers from last season show that Amar'e was effective when paired with Melo.
Stoudemire shot 59.7 percent when he shared the floor with Carmelo. He shot 49 percent when Anthony was on the bench.
Stoudemire didn't have the same effect on Anthony, though. Anthony shot 46.2 percent when he was on the floor without Stoudemire and 42.7 percent when he was with STAT.
Still, it should be noted that Stoudemire finished last season in strong fashion. He scored 16.1 points on 57 percent shooting in the final 20 games. And he did so while in the starting lineup with Carmelo. So it's worth wondering if Amar'e -- assuming he stays healthy -- can give the Knicks consistent scoring behind Carmelo this season.
Question: Who is the Knicks' best secondary scoring option? Who is best player to complement Carmelo in the triangle? J.R. Smith? Amar'e Stoudemire? Tim Hardaway Jr.? Should it be done by committee?
You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.
Strahan: (On being a pro athlete in New York) Not only on the court, but off the court, you’re the leader. Everything you do is more scrutinized. You have to be more careful than anybody else. And watching LeBron [James] go back to Cleveland, did that affect your decision on staying in New York, and did you learn anything from watching LeBron go back home?
Anthony: No. Honestly, I think it was the other way around. I think he saw when I came back home to New York and saw the response and saw the reaction and saw how at peace I was when I came back home. ... I’m pretty sure he looked at that moment and saw that that was a very special moment, and he had the opportunity to go back home himself and regain that love.
Anthony, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, and lived the first seven years of his life there, was acquired by his hometown Knicks in a blockbuster trade on Feb. 22, 2011. He then signed a three-year, $65 million extension with the Knicks.
Anthony became a free agent this offseason, but re-upped with New York on a five-year pact worth $124 million. On July 12, 2014, James, who was born and raised in Cleveland, returned home following a four-year stint in Miami, signing a free-agent contract with the Cavaliers.
• The Westchester Knicks begin their inaugural NBDL season on Nov. 16 in Oklahoma City before having their home opener on Nov. 19 against Canton. More here.
• The Knicks announced Tuesday they’ve signed Langston Galloway and Travis Wear to their training camp roster. Galloway, a 6-2 guard out of St. Joseph’s, played on New York’s Summer League roster, averaging 5.8 points in four games. Wear, a 6-10 forward out of UCLA, also played on New York’s Summer League roster, averaging 2.7 points in three games.
In our ongoing NBA Front Office series, Tom Penn (general manager), Chad Ford (assistant GM), George Karl (coach), Amin Elhassan (scouting director) and Kevin Pelton (analytics director) weigh in on hot-button topics from around the league. Today, the group debates three high-profile teams from the bottom half of Insider's Future Power Rankings, discussing the rebuilding efforts and outlooks of the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Want in on the conversation or have a question for one of the guys? Use #NBAFrontOffice.
1. How can the New York Knicks alter their bleak outlook (25th) in the Future Power Ranks? What steps can they take now to avoid it?
Tom Penn (@1TomPenn): This year should be about establishing a culture and maintaining flexibility for a "big move." New head coach Derek Fisher needs to lay the foundation for his style, system and leadership. Then the front office needs to be patiently aggressive, wait for the right time to make the bold move. They have cap room next summer to get an impact free agent. Can they find a better deal in the interim? Either way, they should surprise their fans with a better-than-expected season, given the low expectations, and continue to build a good foundation.
Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider): The Knicks spent years trying to chase a title without the right players and ended up overspending and mortgaging their future by trading away draft picks. They have Carmelo Anthony, which gives them one true star. But the next-best player on their team? Ugh. The good news? They actually own their first-round pick this year. They need to use it wisely. The team doesn't really have any young potential stars to build around. (No, Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert and Shane Larkin don't really qualify.)
If I were Phil Jackson, I'd seriously consider tanking this year. Getting a top-five pick would do wonders down the road. Even if they end up in the late lottery, with good scouting they should be able to get a player to help them. With their first-round draft pick gone in 2016, they need to make this one count. They are also getting the huge contracts of Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani off the books next summer, which will give them some real cap flexibility for once. New York still is a destination and if the Knicks can lure a legitimate free agent or two there next year (LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo and Marc Gasol are probably the headliners), they'll be fine. But what they can't keep doing is paying big money for mediocrity and trading away draft picks for bloated contracts.
George Karl (@CoachKarl22): New York improved its roster and the leadership is much better than last year. But I still don't see the Knicks being much of a threat. Yeah, they could make the playoffs as a low seed. But for what? Their mission has to be finding better, more talented players. That is going to take a while. The players who want to come to New York probably aren't available until next offseason, so the Knicks are still going to have to wait a year. And they have to drop those big overpaid contracts.
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Today’s question: Who is the Knicks' most important defensive player?
Defense -- or lack thereof -- was one of the most glaring issues during the team's forgettable 37-win season last year.
In case you need evidence to support this theory, here are the numbers:
So the big question entering the preseason is, how will this year be different for New York?
With that in mind, we take a look below at two players who may be key to the Knicks' defense this season:
On the perimeter: Iman Shumpert
Guarding the perimeter and the pick-and-roll were two of the Knicks' biggest issues on D last year. New York was outscored by an averaged of nine points per 48 minutes at point guard last season, per 82games.com. They were outscored by six points per 48 minutes at shooting guard, according to the web site.
Opposing shooting guards and point guards combined to shoot slightly better than 50 percent against New York last season. Ouch.
And, as was pointed out by Joe Flynn at SB Nation's Posting and Toasting blog, the Knicks were awful at defending the 3-point shot, allowing opponents to hit 37.1 percent of their threes (27th in the NBA).
Raymond Felton was the player most often blamed for the Knicks' perimeter defense. So you couldn't find many fans who were upset when Felton was shipped to Dallas earlier this summer.
But Felton's replacement, Jose Calderon, isn't known as a defensive stopper.
Last season, Calderon’s "defensive real plus-minus" was a minus-3.56, which was 72nd among point guards. Defensive real plus-minus measures a player's defensive contributions based on points allowed per 100 defensive possessions.
That's why we think Shumpert will be so vital to the Knicks' defense this season. Depending on the backcourt pairings, Shumpert may be called upon to support Calderon on the perimeter. And based on recent history, the fourth-year guard should be up to the task.
Shumpert put together a defensive plus-minus rating of plus-2.00, which ranked him fourth among all shooting guards and first among shooting guards who played at least 25 minutes per game last year.
If he can duplicate that number, particularly when paired with Calderon, Shumpert's play should help make the Knicks a competent defensive club.
In the paint: Samuel Dalembert
I know there was a vocal segment of Knicks fans who were happy to see Tyson Chandler traded to Dallas, but his absence may leave a void in the paint and around the rim.
It will be up to Samuel Dalembert, Cole Aldrich, Jason Smith and others to fill that void.
There are many defensive metrics available, but predicting how well the players mentioned above will defend the rim is difficult.
It's hard to quantity an individual's impact on defense, because that individual's defensive statistics can be contingent upon the four players he's sharing the floor with.
That being said, if we are basing things on last year's stats, it seems like Dalembert will be able to fill in admirably for Chandler.
Chandler allowed opponents to shoot 51 percent at the rim, which was ninth among NBA centers, according to NBA.com. Dalembert, playing 10 fewer minutes per game than Chandler, allowed opponents to shoot 52 percent at the rim.
So Dalembert compares favorably there.
Also, Dalembert grabbed 45.8 percent of contested rebounds last season, per NBA.com. Chandler corralled just 35.8 percent of contested rebounds.
So Dalembert may be an improvement on the boards for the Knicks. Either way, his performance around the paint and at the rim could be key for a Knicks team looking to re-establish an identity on that side of the ball.
Question: Who do you think the Knicks' most important defensive player will be this season?
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How It Happened: Since being manhandled by Spain 82-63 last week in a game that was billed as a test of their Cup credentials, Brazil have coasted past Serbia and Egypt to restore some of that luster.
Argentina, with elimination for the loser and the symbolism of facing their old rivals, was always going to provide another examination but Brazil came through with a domineering second-half performance.
Brazil shot just 2-for-11 from deep in the opening half with New York Knicks guard Pablo Prigioni’s trio of 3-pointers figuring in a 6-for-11 showing that took Argentina into a 36-33 halftime advantage.
It was all changed though in the third with much more vibrant ball movement and a concerted effort to take good open shots. A 15-3 run to open the third swung the momentum over to the Brazilians for good.
And with Prigioni, who finished with a team-high 18 points, running into foul trouble, there was no way back with Argentina making just 4 of its 18 shots from beyond the arc in the second half.
The Serbians, who earlier destroyed Greece in the second half for a 90-72 victory, might struggle to contain Nene Hilario and Tiago Splitter in the next round with ex-Nets center Nenad Krstic admitting he is still only good for “around 10 minutes per game” after missing much of the build-up with injury.
When the teams met in the preliminary phase, Brazil won 81-73 but it was all but over after Serbia was outscored 32-12 in the third quarter.
Battle of the (Fairly) Bigs: For the first 13 minutes, Luis Scola cut a frustrated figure. The Indiana Pacers forward, manning the middle, was corralled by a rotation of Splitter then Nene, missing his first four field goal attempts and finding himself outmuscled at both ends.
The frustration was clear when he was called for an offensive foul while backing down Nene in the post before sitting out the final 6:21 of the first half. He wasn’t overly-missed defensively, with his fellow NBAers combining for just five points before the break, but Argentina only got to the line twice in 20 minutes.
And while they weren’t huge offensive factors, Splitter’s scoring and passing, and Nene’s sheer presence were a huge factor in breaking Argentina’s resistance.
Play of the Game: Marcus Vieria de Souza doesn’t sound quite as cool as Marquinhos but the 30-year-old Brazil big was a huge factor in his team’s heating up in the second half.
After Splitter had given their team a first lead since the opening minutes, Marquinhos bore down on Scola to drive the ball home while duping his defender into committing a third foul.
It had the Brazilian bench off their seats in unison. It seemed to root Argentina to the floor and exemplified the physicality that ultimately made the difference, even though their sizable and loud band of traveling supporters were on their feet until the very end.
Prigioni knew how much this meant back in Argentina where, no matter the sport, second best to their big neighbors hurts. “It’s always a rivalry,” the veteran New York Knicks guard said. “People talk about that.”
The 37-year-old will soon return Stateside with his role under Derek Fisher uncertain at Madison Square Garden. There’s been occasional trade rumors this offseason with Prigioni’s name included.
So does he expect to start his 20th professional season overall with the Knicks? “I have to believe it, yes,” he said.
What’s Next: Both Brazil and Serbia get a two-day break before squaring off Wednesday in Madrid for a place in the final four. But that’s a little less than Spain and France, which are on a 72-hour hiatus after advancing on Saturday, respectively, against Senegal and Croatia.
As you’d expect, the European rivals have frequently collided in recent years, including in the semifinals of the 2013 EuroBasket when the French snatched a 75-72 victory en route to claiming the title.
But that counts for little 12 months later with Les Bleus missing Tony Parker and Alexis Ajinca and the Spaniards adding five players including Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro and Serge Ibaka -- an extreme makeover that showed when the hosts dished out a crushing 88-64 beating in the preliminary round on Sept. 3.
“We knew it’s going to be hard,” said one-time Sonics and Timberwolves forward Mickael Gelabale. “Spain are playing very good basketball now and they’re at home. But we think we can do it.”
This will be meeting No. 74 since the first in 1943 with the standings tipped 48-25 in Spain’s favor. And even though their dominant form so far has raised expectations of a potential conquest over Team USA next Sunday, memories are still fresh of the final of EuroBasket 2007, staged in this city, when that host advantage failed to prevent Russia from snatching the championship with a dramatic 60-59 win after Pau Gasol’s shot rimmed out at the buzzer.
“Everybody remembers that game,” Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio said. “They knew how tough it was playing at home playing under a lot of pressure but at the end, it didn’t help us.
“Pau didn’t make the shot. But we’re handling the pressure every well this time. And the pressure is going to go up because when you lose, you go home.”