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Props Slaps
 5 years ago '04        #9741
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Hahn

Carmelo Anthony has enjoyed the best regular season of his career. But what lies ahead determines everything. More:

"Everything we accomplished in the regular season really pretty much don't matter at this point," Melo said of winning 54 games, the Atlantic Division, gaining the No. 2 seed in the East and, of course, winning his first NBA scoring title.

"It doesn't matter right now," he said again.

Never mind his critics, for Melo, this is the moment he's been waiting for since he returned from London with a gold medal around his neck.

He does not live in a vacuum. He is well aware of how he is being labeled. He is well aware of his playoff record.

He is also close friends with LeBron James, who often heard the same said about him, until it all went away after last year's championship.

Melo may not have enough around him to lead the Knicks beyond LeBron's Heat, but he has the best chance to do it.

And he knows nothing short of getting a shot at the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals will be acceptable. In fact, it may be the only ending that will allow this season to be called the success it has been so far.
 5 years ago '08        #9742
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@IanBegley

NBA announces 2013 Draft order. #Knicks have 24th pick in 1st round. Their 2nd round pick (No. 54) goes to WAS in the Chandler sign & trade
 5 years ago '04        #9743
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Berman

The Celtics may have already blown their best shot.

With the Knicks vulnerable Saturday in Game 1, the Celtics may have lost their only opportunity to seize momentum in the first-round series.

Evidence suggests the Knicks are only going to get better and it’s only going to get tougher for the Celtics as the series resumes tomorrow with Game 2 at the Garden.

The Celtics gave the Knicks a good scare, but the Knicks’ record-setting fourth-quarter defense sealed the Game 1 win, 85-78, and made them again resemble a club with championship mettle.

“It’s what good teams are supposed to do,’’ coach Mike Woodson said in yesterday’s conference call regarding their playoff-record fourth-quarter defense in holding the Celtics to eight points.

“We’ve been one of the best fourth-quarter defensive teams in the league [ranked second]. That’s the time you have to step up and make plays. I thought [Saturday’s] game, we were probably more solid than we’ve ever been all season in terms of locking in and rotating.’’

Center Tyson Chandler, who played his season’s most ineffective game Saturday after sitting out two weeks to rest his neck, was rusty and suffered through a scoreless, shotless day. Woodson said he expects the center to be “back up to speed’’ tomorrow.

“It won’t take him long,’’ Woodson said. “That was a factor. I could tell the way he was moving, he didn’t have the pop we’re used to seeing him have. That’s expected. Eventually he’ll get his stamina back.’’

The Knicks are also figuring on having starting guard Pablo Prigioni (ankle) back for tomorrow, changing the matchup dynamics in the Knicks’ favor.

With Prigioni starting in a two-point-guard alignment, defensive specialist Iman Shumpert will shift to hound series X-factor Jeff Green, the athletic wing who pumped in 20 first-half points.

Carmelo Anthony was switched to Green in the second half and slowed him down. But an Anthony-Green battle is not what Woodson has in mind because the Knicks want to keep Anthony out of foul trouble and fresh on offense.

The alignment with Prigioni puts less pressure on rookie Chris Copeland, who started despite a sore shoulder and jangling nerves. Copeland, who started out on Green, will head to the bench.

Woodson revealed their matchup preference is Raymond Felton dogging Paul Pierce and Shumpert on Green. Felton did good work on Pierce late, forcing him into an errant pass that Anthony intercepted for a breakaway layup.

“If Pablo’s back, the lineup changes to start out anyway,’’ Woodson said. “We probably have Raymond on Paul, Iman on Green. That’s what we envisioned coming into the series before Pablo got hurt. I thought Melo did an excellent job on Green. Green’s a tough cover for anybody.’’

The Knicks also don’t expect poor shooting nights from their dynamic 1-2 punch, Anthony and J.R. Smith (20-of-48).

The Knicks’ defense won Game 1, not the offense, which looked sluggish (40.5 percent). The pace, ball movement and shotmaking was off.

“We went back and charted our offense,’’ Woodson said. “We had some slow times where it was very stagnant. At times where we had movement and good looks and just didn’t make shots that could’ve broke the game open. When you play playoff basketball, it’s not always going to go pretty offensively. It’s the first thing that normally goes because everyone’s so locked in from a defensive standpoint.’’

The Knicks held Boston without a field goal in the final 4:32. Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin, who played the fourth quarter over Chandler, were the defensive stars. Just like they were once with the New Jersey Nets, who advanced to two straight NBA Finals.

“Both of them are still relentless and savvy,’’ Woodson said.

Anthony played off the first win with great humility.

“Although we won, we didn’t really do nothing,’’ Anthony said. “We just protected our home court, got our first win. Game 2 will be even tougher.”

Maybe not.
 5 years ago '04        #9744
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Based Hahn

Mike Woodson left an all-star on the bench in the fourth quarter and it was the right move. More:

Tyson Chandler, last season's Defensive Player of the Year and an all-star this season, was back in uniform. But he was on the bench in the most important part of Game 1 because Woodson felt Kenyon Martin was more effective.

When asked about the decision afterward, Woodson stuck to a message he has been preaching all season.

"Doesn't matter who plays," he said. "Tyson didn't have it and that's no knock against him. He gave us what he had. I just elected to go with Kenyon."

Chandler afterward admitted he felt rusty after missing several weeks with the neck issue. He said the neck "felt good" and it was "more my conditioning" that impacted his play.

He expected to "be better come Game 2" and said of Martin's performance in his place, "Huge, huge. Kenyon came in and played big minutes and made big plays."

That's something to consider for Game 2 and beyond: Tyson Chandler hardly had an impact and the Knicks still won the game.
 5 years ago '04        #9745
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Berman

After sitting out Game 1 for ABC, MSG Network will resume its Knicks telecasts with Game 2 tomorrow — which means Kevin Garnett better watch his mouth.

MSG Network recently has restarted using its court-side microphones to pick up the players’ oncourt utterances, and it’s been a boon for the viewer late this season.

It all came about after the infamous Jan. 7 contest between the Celtics and Knicks when Garnett and Carmelo Anthony had their trash-talking battle in the fourth quarter.

It led to a one-game suspension for Anthony when he confronted Garnett after the game in the tunnel and later by the team bus. Garnett allegedly made a crude remark about La La Vasquez, Anthony’s wife, comparing her to cereal.

The next few games, owner James Dolan had two MSG Network employees hold very visible parabolic microphones to pick up audio. The Post reported the decision to employ the microphones was made to protect the combustible Anthony from another “he said-he said’’ dispute by having an audio record.

While Dolan ditched the visible parabolic mikes, others high-tech court-side mikes have been used during MSG telecasts to pick up the players and coaches after NBA commissioner David Stern praised the stunt as potentially bringing fans closer to the game.

For instance, during the April 9 telecast, when Kenyon Martin fell in a heap, he could be heard pounding the floor with his hand and saying clearly to the trainer: “It’s my ankle.’’

On the MSG Network post-game show and website, a montage called “Sounds of the Game’’ is shown of players and coaches yapping.
 5 years ago '04        #9746
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Hahn

Were Chris Copeland's ineffective minutes a result of nervousness or an issue with his shoulder? More:

Copeland took the first shot of the game and it was a hesitant three that became an airball when Jeff Green tipped it. Beyond that, Copeland, off an impressive rookie regular season, had a forgettable playoff debut.

He was scoreless in 13 minutes on 0-for-3 shooting and one rebound. And he wore a compression shirt to protect a left shoulder injury he suffered in the final game of the season.

"It's been better," he said of the shoulder, "but I'll be cool."

He revealed that he had a cortisone shot in the shoulder before the game "to help with the pain" and is getting treatment.

Mike Woodson grinned, however, when asked if the shoulder led to Copeland's struggle.

"He could be a little nervous," Woodson said. "This is big-time basketball and when you have never done it, it can be an eye-opener. He'll be all right."

Copeland admitted feeling anxiousness before the game and caught up in the buzz of the crowd.

"I was excited," he said. "I just wanted to get everything rolling and get that ball in the air."

Copeland started, but if Pablo Prigioni (ankle) is available for Game 2, he will start and Copeland will go back to his usual place coming off the bench.

Will that help ease the nerves for Copeland or is the shoulder a greater concern for his confidence?
 5 years ago '04        #9747
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Congrats to SMITTY for winning 6th Man of the Year
 5 years ago '04        #9748
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Based Hahn

Spread-out series schedule impacts momentum, but favors rest. Allows Jason to play like a Kidd. More:

"This is the best time . . . this is the fun," Jason Kidd said of the playoffs. "This is what the journey is all about."

Kidd, at 40, still lives for this. January and February? Not so much. He had a strong start to the season to help get the Knicks out of the gate properly, but then mainly cruised through the middle of the season. All the while, Kidd's purpose was to have enough left in the tank for when he could help this team the most.

In his first playoff game as a Knick, the 147th of his NBA career, Kidd's impact was felt, especially in the fourth quarter. He had three steals, including one Carmelo Anthony called "the key play for us" in the win. Kidd deflected a pass and then dove on the floor to retrieve the loose ball.

"For him to dive on the floor the way he did, that was, believe it or not, the key play for us to get that steal," Melo said.

Tyson Chandler, who won a title with Kidd in Dallas, said the veteran showed "a champion's heart . . . Plays like that, you've got a guy 40 years old stripping a ball and diving on the floor, it's key."

After the Game 1 win, Kidd also showed the poise and experience that he brings to the locker room.

"This is a veteran ballclub," he said. "We know we haven't accomplished anything."

He immediately pointed to re-setting the intensity for Game 2 and not allowing the Celtics to take a split back to Boston.

"The swing games," Kidd said, "are always the most important ones."
 5 years ago '04        #9749
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Jared Zwerling

Today's Burning Question: Can the Knicks create an advantage with a smaller lineup against the Celtics?

On Sunday, Mike Woodson said Pablo Prigioni will start at point guard when healthy, moving Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert to the 2 and 3 spot, respectively.

Many coaches would counter with a bigger lineup against a Boston starting five of Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett. But Woodson is confident in the Knicks' smaller lineup strategy, which should pay off offensively.

With the extra point guard on the court, the Knicks can look to score more off the pick-and-roll, which should force the Celtics to scramble to rotate. The Knicks would also be more likely to make the extra pass. Woodson said the offense in Game 1 became too stagnant at times with Felton as the sole point guard on the court. While Felton played well, the coach said Prigioni was "definitely missed."

But here's the question: Can a smaller Knicks lineup contain the Celtics? With Felton on Pierce and Shumpert on Green, Doc Rivers could call more isolation plays on the perimeter and in the low post. Woodson would likely have to send an extra defender at the Celtics' two best scorers, which means the Knicks' perimeter rotations need to be on point.

Rivers-coached teams play smart basketball, and his players have a knack for reading the defense well and finding open creases to score. For example, three times in Game 1, Bradley capitalized off backdoor cuts. Pierce, Green and Garnett complicate matters because they're skilled passers out of the low post.
 5 years ago '04        #9750
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NEW YORK -- Knicks guard J.R. Smith has won the NBA's Sixth Man award, a league source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley on Monday.

The Knicks have called an afternoon news conference at which Smith will be given the award, the source said. The news was previously reported by The a.ssociated Press.

The eighth-year guard has averaged 18.1 points in 80 games, all off the bench. He had 29 games in which he scored 20 points as a reserve, tying him with the Clippers' Jamal Crawford for the NBA lead.

Smith helped the Knicks win the Atlantic Division title for the first time since 1994. New York is the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and leads the Boston Celtics 1-0 in their first-round playoff series.
 5 years ago '04        #9751
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P-Body n*ggaz practiced today and current status for game 2 has improved to "Probable"
 5 years ago '04        #9752
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Jared Zwerling & Ian Begley

J.R. Smith recently said that if the Knicks win the championship, he will get a Knicks tattoo.

So should fans read anything into the permanency of that potential blue and orange addition?

Well, during a "SportsCenter" segment on Monday discussing his Sixth Man Award, Smith said that New York is where he wants to finish his career.

"Without a doubt," Smith said. "I was born in New Jersey, born and raised. I would love to retire a Knick."

This offseason, Smith could be tempted to leave financially. The Knicks can only pay him up to $5 million based on his Early Bird Rights -- 175 percent of his salary this season. But another team with significant cap space can offer Smith a higher amount, and the Knicks would be powerless to stop him from leaving. And since he's not restricted, meaning the Knicks have no control over his free agency, they won't be able to match any offer sheets to retain him.

In favor of the Knicks keeping Smith is his close relationship with Carmelo Anthony and Mike Woodson, who helped push the 27-year-old into one of the best shooting guards in the NBA down the stretch this season. In addition, Smith loves New York City beyond the court, from being close to home to the nightlife. He's also seen a recent spike in his sponsorship deals (for example, SK Energy).

MORE SHOTS FOR KG? Celtics coach Doc Rivers said that he'd like to get Kevin Garnett more involved offensively in Game 2. Kenyon Martin appreciates the coach's candor.

"That's fine, whatever. They've got to make adjustments," he said. "So if they're going to tell [the media] that's what they're doing, thank you, so we can prepare."

The Knicks big man helped hold Garnett to eight points on 4-for-12 shooting in Game 1.

DOUBLE TROUBLE? Anthony expects more double teams from the Celtics on Tuesday. He was single covered often on Saturday and scored 36 points on 13-for-29 shooting.

"I think that's an adjustment they will make; double teams. We're prepared for that," Melo said. "I have to make plays for [my teammates]; they have to make plays for me."

Anthony said that he missed a few open shots on Saturday, but he wasn't beating himself up over them.

"I'm not really worried about what I shoot from the field and things like that," he said. "I'm trying to win the basketball game."

On the perception that he's a shoot-first player after he had just one a.ssist on Saturday, Anthony said, "It really doesn't matter to me. I know what type of player I am. I know that I share the ball. We share the ball as a team. Sometimes me sharing the ball, I don't always get the a.ssist. It is what it is. I really don’t pay no attention to it."
 5 years ago '04        #9753
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Ian Begley & Jared Zwerling

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Some Knicks fans might be worried about Raymond Felton's Game 2 defensive a.ssignment. But Mike Woodson isn't.

The coach is confident that Felton can guard Paul Pierce, a plan if Pablo Prigioni plays.

Prigioni missed Game 1 with a sprained right ankle and he's probable for Game 2. If he returns to the starting lineup, he'd be matched up with Avery Bradley. That would leave Felton to guard Pierce.

"Ray's guarded a little bit of everybody all year," Woodson said. "Our team does that. It's OK. He'll be fine."

Pierce, the Celtics' top offensive threat, could have his way against Felton, who is six inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter. Pierce led the Celtics in scoring at 18.6 points per game during the regular season. He had 21 points on 6-for-15 shooting in Game 1 when he was guarded initially by Iman Shumpert.

Woodson said on Monday that he's comfortable with Felton guarding Pierce because the Knicks point guard matched up against the future Hall of Famer in the Knicks' last two regular-season games against Boston -- both wins for New York.

"It's nothing new," the coach said.

It will be interesting to see how Felton handles Pierce. The Knicks might need to send a help defender to slow Pierce, which could lead to uncovered shooters on the perimeter or open lanes in the paint for the Celts.

Woodson, again, isn't worried.

"He's got to be tough. That's all I can tell you," he said when asked about the height difference between Felton and Pierce. "Good luck. He's got to play."

FROM PIERCE TO ...: Jeff Green. That's who Shumpert will match up with on Tuesday -- the second game in a row the defensive specialist will guard a Celtics' main scorer.

Shumpert held his own in Game 1 against Pierce, who was 40 percent from the field. Shumpert's biggest challenge was working around pick-and-rolls with Pierce facilitating and Kevin Garnett setting screens. The additional size was something the Knick wasn't used to. But in several face-up situations, Shumpert's strong base enabled him to keep his footing and get up into Pierce.

There were a few times Pierce beat Shumpert to the basket and got fouled, but a few of those breakdowns were inevitable with the size disadvantage. While Shumpert is 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Pierce is 6-foot-7, 235 pounds.

Green is two inches taller, and he's more athletic and a better low-post player than Pierce.

"Not only is he long and able to stretch out to make a lot of buckets, he's also very athletic, bouncy and making more and more shots as the season goes on," Shumpert said.

Green also excels in the open court. He occasionally acts as the point forward off of defensive rebounds to give the Celtics a quick scoring threat, which they miss in Rajon Rondo.

"He's great in isolation and he's great working the post, so a lot of different rotations, a lot of different schemes you've got to throw at him," Shumpert said. "But all in all, we've got to play Knick basketball and make sure we communicate and make sure rebound the ball."

Shumpert is appreciative of a difficult defensive a.ssignment once again.

"It give me a load of confidence, especially going to the other end of the court, getting that big stop and especially playing at home guarding those players," he said.
 5 years ago '04        #9754
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Berman

With deep emotions swirling around Boston, the Knicks want nothing to do with heading there in a deadlocked series.

With guard Pablo Prigioni ready to return tonight to make the Knicks’ starting lineup whole again, the Knicks talked of an urgency to take a 2-0 lead in the series.

Game 2 is tonight at the Garden, with the series shifting to Boston Friday and Sunday for Games 3 and 4.

“We’re approaching this game as a must-win here on our home court,’’ Carmelo Anthony said. “We want to win this basketball game. We don’t want to go back to Boston 1-1. Game 2 is just harder than Game 1. Although we took care of business in Game 1, we still want to come back and not give away this game. This game is more important than Game 1 was.”

The Knicks, buoyed by the news of J.R. Smith winning the Sixth Man Award, should be in better shape tonight with Prigioni stabilizing the lineup and allowing the matchups they want.

Iman Shumpert gets series X-factor Jeff Green, Raymond Felton dogs Paul Pierce and Prigioni squares up with Boston point guard Avery Bradley. Prigioni’s insertion into the starting lineup last month in Utah coincided with their 13-game winning streak.

“It’s huge,’’ Game 1 hero Kenyon Martin said of Game 2. “You don’t want to go up there 1-1 facing that team and that crowd. I’ve been there.

“They know what they have to do. They’re going to come here and they’re going to scratch, claw, f!ght. They know it’s a big game. We’ve got to be prepared for whatever.”

The Knicks survived Green’s 20-point first half and bottled up the Celtics by holding them to a playoff-record low eight points in the fourth quarter. But the Knicks’ ball movement and pressure defense should improve with Prigioni, moving rookie Chris Copeland back to the bench.

“We want to play Knicks basketball,’’ Shumpert said. “We want to get out, we want to pressure, pressure early, we want to pressure in the full court. That’s something that Pablo loves to do, so having him back would be great.’’

The Knicks are also expecting a more ferocious Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, neither of whom imposed their will on Saturday’s game, especially down the stretch.

Garnett and Pierce combined to shoot 10 of 27 in Boston’s 85-78 loss as the starry duo combined for six points in the fourth quarter. The Celtics said the intent is to get Garnett more involved. Garnett actually seemed passive — even light on trash-talking.

“Yeah, they’re going to come back,’’ Anthony said. “They’re not All-Stars, Hall-of-Fame guys, for no reason. They’re going to make adjustments. We’ve got to be prepared for that.”

When told of Boston’s plan to make Garnett a bigger factor, Martin said: “They got to make adjustments. If that’s what they’re doing, thank you. We’ll be prepared for it.’’

“I expect him to get more shots,’’ center Tyson Chandler said of Garnett. “We have to do a good job defending in the paint. And make sure he doesn’t get open jump shots.’’

The Knicks also need to make adjustments on offense, which sputtered Saturday. The team shot 40.5 percent and totaled just 13 a.ssists on 32 buckets.

Anthony scored 36 points. Though he was just 13 of 29, he got hot late with a 4-for-5 fourth quarter. He expects to see more double teams and knows he has to do a better job moving the ball.

“I’m pretty sure that’s an adjustment they will make, double teams,’’ Anthony said. “We’re prepared for that. We’ve got to be prepared for thatGuys, when the ball comes to them, they’ve got to make plays. I have to make plays for them, they have to make plays for me. We have to make plays for each other out there.”

The Knicks will also need a more vibrant Chandler, who was benched in the fourth quarter for Martin. The center, who didn’t take a shot or record a single point, was returning from a two-week absence from a recurring neck injury and played just 20 minutes.

Chandler, with a bulging disk in his cervical spine, said he felt “a little stiff, sore’’ afterward. He said his poor play was a conditioning issue but he seemed tentative. He promises a better showing tonight.

“The more on the floor, the better condition I’ll be,’’ Chandler said. “I feel I’ll be better Game 2 than I was Game 1.

“Game 2 is just as important as Game 1. We didn’t do much yet. Game 2 is just as important as the first.’’“I feel I’ll be better Game 2 than I was Game 1.

“Game 2 is just as important as Game 1. We didn’t do much yet. Game 2 is just as important as the first.’’
 5 years ago '04        #9755
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Berman

J.R. Smith was ticked during training camp. The enigmatic yet supremely talented Smith wanted to finally be an NBA starter and was crushed when coach Mike Woodson sat down with him with the news he would be the team’s Sixth Man.

It couldn’t have worked out any better for Smith, who received the Sixth Man Award yesterday during a press conference at the Knicks’ Tarrytown facility.

“I’ve been known as a selfish player for so long, I wanted to show my teammates I could be a team guy and it’s all about the team,” Smith said. “[Woodson] always told me it’s not who starts. It’s who finishes the game and 99 percent of the time I’m finishing.’’

More than half of Smith’s teammates, entire coaching staff and general manager Glen Grunwald attended the press conference. Smith was cheered by his mates when he entered in a dapper gray suit. When he took the podium, he addressed his mates with a playful “Woot, Woot’’ and they chanted back.

Woodson said Smith accepted the a.ssignment “in grand style.’’

“I just thought for our team, we needed to establish guys coming off the bench to make plays,’’ Woodson said. “He bought in. He didn’t like it at first, but he accepted his role and walks away with the Sixth Man Award.”

While the award brought joy yesterday, it could complicate Smith’s return next season as he is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. His stock will only rise with this award. He is scheduled to make $2.8 million next season and Smith has long felt he has been underpaid.

The Knicks have his early Bird rights and can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him. But they still can only go four years and as high as $5.2 million, under salary-cap rules. Teams with the full mid-level exception of $5 million can equal the offer. Teams under the cap can blow the Knicks out of the water.

Smith, who grew up in Freehold, N.J., was asked if he’d like to remain in New York, but declined to say. Smith’s agent, Leon Rose, his parents and brother Chris Smith, who should be on the Knicks next season, attended the press conference.

“I’m not really worried about it right now,’’ Smith said. “I’m worried about Game 2 versus Boston. When that times comes, I’ll worry about it then.’’

The Knicks will be desperate to have him back. He sizzled as the second scoring option (18.1 ppg, 5.3 rebounds) to Carmelo Anthony.

“I gave him a big hug and told him things have a way of working out,’’ Woodson said. “They do.’’

Woodson masterfully handled Smith, who has a renegade image. Earlier this season, Smith admitted he got caught up in the New York nightlife last season and had cleaned up his act in this, his ninth season.

“He’s figured it out,’’ Woodson said.

“I’m so proud of him,’’ Tyson Chandler said. “He dedicated himself this year and it’s paying off for him. He’s really focused and locked in this year. He’s more focused on his craft. He’s a professional this year, staying after, getting up shots. Something clicked.’’

“Big honor,’’ Anthony said. “I’m honored to be a part of it. To have him alongside me as my wingman.’’

The mercurial shooting guard gained control of the award with a huge March and April after adding a driving element to his scoring arsenal after being encouraged by Woodson.

“If you’re going to be a scorer in this league, you got to mix it up,’’ Woodson said. “If you don’t use the free-throw line in this league as your friend, it’s going to be a struggle. He went through a phase where he was just shooting jump shots and jump shots and finally a green light went off.’’
 5 years ago '04        #9756
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Hola Hahnito

JR Smith couldn't accept Landry Fields starting over him. Now he understands why Woodson wanted it that way. More:

Smith yesterday won an award he never thought he'd win. He had been a high-scoring reserve throughout his career and rarely got consideration for 6th Man of the Year.

But standing with the trophy, Smith fulfilled a prophecy made by his coach in October.

"JR and I sat down and we had a long talk before the season about his role," Mike Woodson said. "And it was JR who accepted his role in grand style."

Smith bristled at the idea of Fields starting over him last season. After Fields left for Toronto in the summer, Smith thought the starting role would be his. But Woodson had a different plan.

"Yes, he could start for a lot of teams in this league," Woodson said. "But he accepted his role, he's made the most out of it and we all benefited from it as a basketball team."

Smith admitted it was hard to accept coming off the bench for yet another season. But the veterans on the team -- he specifically named Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace -- encouraged him.

"They kept telling me, 'It's not about who starts, but who finishes'," he told MSG Network's Tina Cervasio. "It's not about me, it's the team. They really installed it in my brain.

"Once I got it," he continued, "it clicked and I was able to lock in and just play basketball."

Woodson, who pushed Smith hard all season, spoke like a proud parent after Smith won the award. Smith came to the Knicks with a reputation as a rebel and uncoachable. He's still had his moments, but Smith's transformation over the second half of this season is remarkable.

"I couldn't be prouder of a young man," Woodson said. "I saw where he started and I see where he is today and it's a beautiful thing, man, it really is."

Carmelo Anthony, one of Smith's closest friends on the team, added, "There comes a point in time in your life when you're almost forced to grow up. You're almost forced to mature . . . I think right now, this season, JR has done that."
 5 years ago '04        #9757
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Patrick Aloysius Ewing, Sr. will be providing Post-Game analysis tonight
 5 years ago '04        #9758
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Berman

Stoudemire, for first time since surgery, spoke to reporters in #Knicks locker room. He could start full-speed running later this week and go from there. But he said eight weeks from his surgery could be the timetable - not six weeks - which has just passed. "The blessing is we have such a great team,'' Stoudemire said. "They’re doing so well. If we continue to win, it gives me more time to heal up and be 100 percent. That’s the blessing.'' I asked Stoudemire if Round 2 is still on his mind. ’’If everything goes great I’m willing to play sooner than later if everything continues to improve,’’ Stoudemire said.
 5 years ago '04        #9759
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Ian O'Connor

NEW YORK -- Pablo Prigioni starts ahead of J.R. Smith, and you do not need a sixth sense to understand why the sixth man would be annoyed by that. By any measure of size, speed, scoring ability and athleticism, Prigioni does not belong on the same planet with Smith, never mind on the same team.

It doesn't matter that Celtics coach Doc Rivers practically put Prigioni in Bob Cousy's class before Game 2, calling him "brilliant, another Jason Kidd-ish type guy." It doesn't matter that basketball people are forever reminding us we should focus on who finishes games, not on who starts them.

Deep down, J.R. Smith wants to start just like every basketball player from Biddie Ball on up wants to start. It's a basic human desire. If a coach is sending out five guys for the opening tip, you don't want to be No. 6 on his depth chart.

Tuesday night, after he held high his NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award before a standing, cheering Garden crowd, after he scored 19 impactful points in an 87-71 victory over Boston that gave his New York Knicks a 2-0 series lead, Smith was asked if he struggled with the fact his coach, Mike Woodson, was putting less talented teammates on the floor before summoning him from the pine.

"I've gotten over that situation," Smith said. "There's a reason why guys are out there on the floor, a reason why Coach Woodson is doing what he's doing. It's been effective. If we were losing, I'm sure it would be a different story, but we're playing great right now, so I can't complain."

Yes, if the Knicks were losing, it would be an entirely different story -- that was the open window on Smith's soul. If the Knicks were losing, Smith might be lighting up reporters' notebooks, and he might be tweeting things about Woodson he'd later regret. If the Knicks were losing, Smith might be voted this year's Knick Most Likely to Punch a Fire Extinguisher Case, if only because Amar'e Stoudemire isn't around to beat him to it.

But the Knicks aren't losing, not yet, anyway. They're making the Celtics look small and slow and remarkably limited on the offensive end, where Paul Pierce, the great Paul Pierce, stumbles and bumbles to the basket and looks older than Uncle Drew.

It's hard to picture the second seed losing four of five to these Celtics, unless, of course, Rick Pitino was wrong and Bird, McHale and Parish do indeed walk through that door. The Knicks outscored Boston 32-11 in a third quarter that saw Carmelo Anthony score 13 of his 34 points, and that was that.

Anthony is too young and hungry right now for Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who desperately need a healthy Rajon Rondo to create plays that the Avery Bradleys and Jordan Crawfords and Courtney Lees simply can't create. But the Knicks aren't out to merely beat Boston in the first round. Melo will score 35 just about every postseason night, but if they want to beat Miami and win their first title since 1973, they'll need a Robin for Melo's Batman.

J.R. Smith has to be that Robin. He shot 50 percent or better from the field in 25 regular-season games, and the Knicks won 22 of them. Tuesday night, Smith finished a tick below that standard by going 7-for-15, and nobody was moved to complain. He put on a show by making all four of his attempts in the first quarter, including a wild 36-footer to beat the buzzer, a basket that inspired him to drop to a knee and swing his right arm in windmill form three times as if he were a rock star ready to jam on his guitar.

"He needs to play like that all the time," said Kenyon Martin, whose own stunning rebirth (11 rebounds and four blocks in 23 minutes) has made Tyson Chandler's injury a lot less relevant.

"It's a great feeling to have the Sixth Man of the Year on your team. That's the way we need him to play at all times, not just tonight. We need him to be on his game in order for us to be successful."

Martin said what Melo wouldn't. Asked if he was confident Smith could a.ssume the role of consistent complementary star during a championship run, Anthony said he's focusing solely on Friday night's Game 3 in Boston and didn't say a word about his super-sub. No sweat.

The significance of Smith is obvious, precisely why Woodson has talked in the past of making him more responsible, more professional, even more presentable. Woodson has urged Smith to pull up his pants and act the part. There's been slippage; the league fined Smith for his tweeted photo of an almost-bare-nekkid lady. But all in all, despite a few unforced errors on Twitter, most agree the 27-year-old Smith has grown up some under Woodson.

"I'm not surprised," Smith's high school coach at St. Benedict's of Newark, N.J., Dan Hurley, said Tuesday night by phone. "He was drafted by New Orleans when they weren't a good team, more of an expansion-type team, and then in Denver there were all those personalities around J.R. Now he's finally in a place with some real professionals like Kidd and Chandler, and that's helped him."

Now the head coach at the University of Rhode Island, Hurley met with Smith at the St. Benedict's gym every morning at 5:30 for two hours of work before classes, and again after school was out, to prepare him for the 2004 McDonald's All-American game (Smith would be named co-MVP) that got him drafted in the first round.

"He never cheated me or himself one day in the gym, ever," Hurley said. "You'd question shot selection, but never his passion or intensity. He's one of the most talented athletes and players in the history of the state, and every time you went to see him play, he gave you your money's worth."

Smith was worth the price of admission again Tuesday night after he received his award and his ovation. "It was an out-of-body feeling," he said of the pregame ceremony. "I never really thought I would get a standing ovation at the Garden the way I did."

He later admitted that he didn't want to come off the bench to start the season and that he eventually came to terms with his role. So far this postseason, so good. The Knicks are winning, and J.R. isn't whining.

But this time last year, after his dreadful performance in the first round against Miami, Smith tweeted that he wasn't sure he wanted to return to New York, this after some fans had blamed him for the loss. Now he's talking about retiring happily ever after as a Knick.

So be it. If Smith can be as hard to decipher as some of his tattoos, this much is clear:

The sixth man has to play like the second man from here to June, or the entire season will end up on the bench.
 5 years ago '04        #9760
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Berman

Fresh off his Sixth Man Award, J.R. Smith is almost certain to opt out of his contract and become a free agent July 1. The Knicks are praying they are not outbid.

At Monday’s press conference, Smith evaded a question on his contractual future, saying he will “worry’’ about it when the time comes. However, in a TV appearance later, Smith said he hopes it works out here.

“Without a doubt. I’m born in New Jersey, born and raised,” Smith said. “I would love to retire a Knick.”

Smith made $2.8M this season. With his Early-Bird rights, the Knicks are permitted to raise a new contract to $5.2M for a maximum four years. However, teams under the cap in search of a prime-time scorer can blow the Knicks out of the water.
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