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Can the Knicks challenge the Celtics? 12.13.10 at 9:46 pm ET
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Since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived in 2007, the Celtics have not had a legitimate challenger in the Atlantic Division. They won the division by 25 games in 2008, 21 in 2009 and while the Raptors were within 10 games last season, that said much more about the Celtics’ problems than any great surge by Toronto.

The Celtics run has neatly coincided with failed attempts at franchise building in Philadelphia and Toronto and complete overhauls in New Jersey and New York. While their opponents floundered, the Celtics took advantage, winning 47 of their 54 games against their divisional brethren.

That provided a comfortable landing space for the Celtics, who never had to worry about anything other than the Eastern Conference standings. Until now.

Finally, a challenger is emerging. The Celtics will play the Knicks Wednesday night in the most anticipated matchup in years at fabled Madison Square Garden. This is easily the biggest division game the Celtics have played since 2007, which is admittedly not saying much, but in a season that stretches as long as the NBA does you take your red-letter dates where you can find them.

Unlike other big games at the Garden in recent years this one has nothing to do with the future and everything to do with the present. While the Celtics have won 10 straight games, just like they did last year at this point in the season, all eyes are on New York.

The Knicks are the talk of the basketball world again, having won eight straight games to improve to 13-1 in their last 14 games. This comes after a dreadful 3-8 start that had many questioning, among other things, Mike D’€™Antoni’€™s system, Ray Felton’€™s ability to run said system and whether Isiah Thomas would make a triumphantly catastrophic return to New York at some point.

Things have changed. Felton is being hailed as the best Knicks point guard since Mark Jackson and MVP chants are raining down on Amar’€™e Stoudemire, who set a franchise record by scoring over 30 points in each of the last eight games. For his part, Thomas has faded blissfully into the background.

Of course, this being New York, a good deal of the attention has been consumed by someone not on the current roster, namely Carmelo Anthony, who more or less made it clear that he only wants to be traded to New York. (Whether or not he is in control of the process is another matter.)

After waiting patiently to build a proper roster, the Knicks are once again faced with a choice: Go for broke or give this team a chance. All of that makes for hot and heavy rumors, but until the day Anthony actually arrives ‘€“ if he ever does ‘€“ the Knicks are once again relevant for basketball reasons.

Here are five things to know about the Knicks: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Amare Stoudemire, Celtics, Knicks, Ray Felton
Preview: Celtics-Knicks 10.28.10 at 11:27 pm ET
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For the last two seasons, the New York Knicks tried to pretend that their team didn’t exist. The goal, which was carefully articulated and plotted by Donnie Walsh, was to remove contracts, not to win games. The fans bought into this strategy and in truth, it was an easy sell. They had their fill of shortsighted quick fixes with long-term implications and two years of penance wasn’t so bad if the return turned out to be LeBron James.

There were two problems with this plan. One, Walsh and his coach Mike D’Antoni did very little to make the last two years anything more than a chore. The only development players on the roster were Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Tony Douglas and Bill Walker, which left a roster full of players who knew they were going elsewhere eventually and they reacted accordingly. The other was that there was no guarantee LeBron would want to go to New York, and when he didn’t, Walsh was forced to scramble.

On the whole, the scramble doesn’t look so bad as the Knicks were able to sign Amar’e Stoudemire and Ray Felton and acquire Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf for David Lee. Throw in a potential second-round steal in Landry Fields and a 7-foot Russian named Timofey Mozgov and suddenly the Knicks look like an actual team with direction and a directive to be competitive.

If the Celtics are going to have any competition in the Atlantic Division it’s going to come from the Knicks. Stoudemire is an A-list scorer and Gallinari doesn’t look to be too far behind. Felton is a solid point guard, which alone is a huge upgrade from what they were running out in previous seasons, and now there is depth.

To be sure there are still holes on New York’s roster, especially when it comes to size and rebounding and a team that plays D’Antoni’s system could always use more shooters, but the Knicks finally resemble a coherent basketball team whose goal is winning games, not shedding contracts.

NEW YORK (1-0)

Probable Starters: Felton, Fields, Gallinari, Stoudemire, Mozgov

Injuries: Randolph (ankle), Azubuike (knee surgery), Eddy Curry (hamstring)

BOSTON (1-1)

Probable Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal

Injuries: Avery Bradley (ankle), Kendrick Perkins (knee surgery)

KEY MATCHUP: Stoudemire vs. Garnett

Garnett shutdown Chris Bosh in the first game of the season to such an enormous degree that people are already questioning whether Stoudemire would have been a better frontcourt running mate for James and Dwyane Wade. In his second game, Garnett recorded 15 rebounds, which is more than he had in any game last season.

He will have his hands full with Stoudemire who is the focal point on the Knicks offense. Stoudemire had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks opening night win over Toronto, but he also turned it over nine times. This will be a solid early-season test for Garnett because Stoudemire is one of the best pick-and-roll big men in the league and he will Garnett work all game.

KEY STAT: Turnovers

The Celtics have already turned it over 39 times. That’s how a team that is shooting 47 percent for the floor and 39 percent from 3-point range has an efficiency rating in the 20’s and has scored less than 90 points in both of its games. The Celtics simply must take better care of the ball. (Related: Zach Lowe had an interesting post about the Celtics turnover problems on The Point Forward).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Celtics have not yet played a complete, 48-minute game and their struggles in the fourth quarter against Cleveland brought back bad memories of regular season collapses from a year ago. This will be their third game in four nights and it will be interesting to see how Doc Rivers uses his bench in what should be fast-paced game.

There’s also the matter of establishing their homecourt advantage, something that the players have noted over the past few days. The C’s are off until Tuesday and this would be a good spot to finish their first week on a winning note at home against a team in their division.

Read More: Amare Stoudemire, Kevin Garnett, Knicks, Preview
New contract gives Robinson a new beginning 07.22.10 at 8:40 pm ET
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Nate Robinson is entering his sixth season in the NBA, but in a lot of ways, his career has a new beginning.

After more than four seasons with the Knicks, and a few months with the Celtics, Robinson is returning to Boston with a two-year deal that gives him a fresh start.

‘€œFor me, I think it will be a good start for me to just come in and start from scratch,’€ he said in a conference call. ‘€œI loved my time there in Boston. The fans welcomed me with open arms, the team, coach Doc (Rivers), Danny Ainge, everybody, the whole organization, they were real good to me. I decided they’€™re a great, winning organization, a lot of history, and I think I fit in well with the guys. So I was like, why not?’€

Even though Robinson was only been traded to the Celtics in February, he is preparing for next season like a player who has been with the team for years. He immediately embraced the tradition of the organization and was struck by the Celtics relentless drive for victory.

Robinson spends his days in Seattle gyms with hometown friends including Brandon Roy, Jamal Crawford, and Aaron Brooks. They work out three times a week and play games for two. (Robinson will also throw out the first pitch at Friday’s Red Sox – Mariners game in Seattle.)

For the first time in his career, he is spending his offseason preparing to contend, not just compete.

‘€œThe main thing that stood out to me was just their will to win,’€ he said. ‘€œThey expect to win every night. I was like, ‘€˜Wow, this is awesome.’€™’€

Robinson says he never experienced such strong team chemistry on the Knicks like he did on the Celtics. It makes his return that much sweeter knowing that Doc Rivers, the coach who expressed confidence in him when he wasn’€™t seeing major minutes, will be back on the sidelines and the core of the team is still in tact. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Brooks, Avery Bradley, Brandon Roy, Celtics
Duhon agrees to deal with Magic 07.06.10 at 11:21 am ET
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One day after agreeing to a deal with free agent Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks lost their starting point guard. Chris Duhon agreed to a four-year, $15 million contract with the Magic, his agent told ESPN.com. Duhon, 27, averaged 7.4 points and 5.6 assists in New York last season, his sixth in the NBA.

Read More: Chris Duhon, Knicks, Magic, NBA Rumor Mill 2010
Rumors: Knicks hear offers for Lee 07.05.10 at 9:04 am ET
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If the Celtics are interested in Knicks forward David Lee ‘€” reportedly, they contacted him on Thursday, the first day free agents could be courted ‘€” they might want to act quickly. The New York Post is reporting that the Knicks have been offered Warriors guard Monta Ellis and Timberwolves big man Al Jefferson in separate sign-and-trade scenarios, and there is some speculation of a three-way trade, sending Lee to Minnesota, Jefferson to Golden State and Ellis to New York.

Lee met with the Timberwolves for nine hours on Saturday, after conferring with the Bulls and Heat the day before. The 2010 All-Star becomes expendable in New York assuming the Knicks are able to lure Amare’ Stoudemire to Madison Square Garden. Stoudemire spent Sunday in New York, capping his day there with a party at the home of Knicks owner James Dolan.

The New York Post also has more about LeBron James‘ second meeting with the Knicks on Saturday.

Read More: Celtics, David Lee, Knicks, NBA Rumor Mill 2010
Why Spike Lee is rooting for the Celtics 05.11.10 at 12:09 pm ET
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Diehard New York fan Spike Lee is throwing his support to the Celtics ‘€” but not without his own motivations.

As Lee explained to ESPNNewYork.com, he has the Knicks’ best interest in mind when he roots for the C’€™s. He hopes that an Eastern Conference semifinals loss for the Cavaliers could sway James to leave Cleveland during free agency this summer.

“We need LeBron,” Lee said. “I feel we have a better chance to get LeBron James if Cleveland loses this series to the Celtics. The quicker Cleveland loses, the better our chances are of getting LeBron.”

In spite of his allegiance to the Knicks, Lee actually has a few ties to the Celtics. He directed Ray Allen in ‘€œHe Got Game’€ and recently spoke with Rajon Rondo at an event for ‘€œJust Wright,’€ a movie in which Rondo has a cameo.

While Lee told ESPN he does not think the Cavs have an answer for Rondo, he strongly re-emphasized the true reason behind his unexpected support for the C’€™s.

“I’m not putting on any green and I’m not going to kiss the Blarney Stone or do the shamrock thing,’€ he said. ‘€œI hate the Red Sox as much as I hate the Celtics and the ghost of Johnny Most and all those guys. This is the first and last time I root for Boston on anything, but for this one possible result it’s worth it.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Knicks, LeBron James
Preview: Celtics-Knicks 04.06.10 at 10:42 am ET
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The Celtics went 3-3 on their homestand and there was some good mixed with the continuation of a disturbing pattern.

First, the good. They registered an impressive win over Denver and beat the Cavs, no matter how hard it got in the fourth quarter.

And the bad. They have been absolutely terrible in the second half. Even in two of their wins the Celtics melted down in the fourth quarter, barely beating the Kings and Cleveland. They also collapsed in the second half against San Antonio and didn’t execute at the end of losses to Houston and Oklahoma City.

Paul Pierce called them learning experiences, but why should a veteran team at this stage of the season have to go through them? With six games left in the regular season we either know everything there is to know about the Celtics, or we know nothing at all, because based on their regular-season performance this is not a team that is capable of winning a championship.

CELTICS (48-28, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.1

Points Allowed: 95.1

Differential: +4.0 (9th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.4 (15th)

Defensive Efficiency: 103.0 (2nd)

Pace: 91.8 (20th)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: None.

KNICKS (27-49, 4-6 last 10)

Points Per Game: 101.8

Points Allowed: 105.4

Differential: -3.6 (22nd)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.9 (18th)

Defensive Efficiency: 110.7 (24th)

Pace: 94.2 (6th)

Likely Starters: Sergio Rodriguez, Tracy McGrady, Bill Walker, Danilo Gallinari, David Lee

Injuries: Wilson Chandler (Groin), Eddy Curry (Calf, knee), McGrady (Knee, Questionable) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Knicks, Preview,
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