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The dark cloud hanging over Knicks’ strong start

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For the first time in a long while, some good energy is emanating from the arena above Penn Station. The Knicks had a fantastic February, in which they went 9-5 SU and 10-3-1 ATS and finished second in defense (106.7) and fourth in net rating (+4.8). They need just five more wins to clinch the Over on their season win total.

Something dark is looming over the Knicks, however, and it could derail their wonderful season. The difficult times may have begun with Tuesday night’s 119-93 loss in San Antonio.

Entering Tuesday, the Knicks’ defense ranked 27th in frequency of wide-open shots allowed (25.2 percent), but opponents were shooting just 37.4 percent on those attempts. They rated 28th in frequency of wide-open opponent 3-point attempts, but first in opponent 3-point shooting on those wide-open looks at 33.1 percent. Those shots will eventually begin to fall — the Spurs made 18 of 42 (42.9 percent) of their 3-point attempts — and once they do, the Knicks could fall as well.

Then you consider their second-half schedule — with the Bucks, Nets and 76ers among the first six games — and you start to see the Knicks’ path toward regression.

The 18-18 Knicks are a fun story, but keep an eye out for some spots to play against this team once we return from the All-Star break.

James Harden
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Harden Hardware

Hello, do you have a moment to talk about the best player in basketball right now, James Harden?

I have begun the campaign for Harden as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, and I am not ashamed. The Beard is fresh off a Player of the Month Award for February, and it just so happens to be his first full month with the Nets. Harden took the Nets by the scruff and led them to a 9-4 record in February while averaging 25.6 points on 49.1 percent shooting, and doing most of that without Kevin Durant on the floor.

We can quibble about Harden’s time in Houston at the beginning of the year, when he averaged 24.8 points and 10.4 assists with three performances of 30+ points. But there is no denying his growing resume for MVP as he thrives in Brooklyn.

Clippers’ Crunch-Time Woes

With 37 seconds left and the Clippers trailing 101-100 on Sunday, Paul George had the ball at the top of the key with the Bucks’ Khris Middleton defending him. Marcus Morris came from the right wing to screen Middleton, which gave George enough space to fire a 3-point shot that hit the front iron.

On the ensuing possession, the Bucks ran a Giannis Antetokounmpo screen for Jrue Holiday, which led to Holiday running free in the lane. After the Greek Freak found Holiday, the Clippers were forced to rotate, leading to the ball swinging around the arc until it found its way back to Giannis. He had a longer runway than the one at the end of “Fast & Furious 6,” and it led to a thunderous dunk that helped solidify a massive 105-100 win for Milwaukee.

Those final minutes were a microcosm of what plagues the Clippers this season — poor execution at the ends of tight games. I have been adamant that the Clippers need to add a true north-south point guard with legitimate passing prowess before the deadline or in the buyout market, and the end of Sunday’s game showed us why.



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Bulls’ Zach LaVine called cops on ‘obsessed’ fan at his home

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Zach LaVine had an unwanted visitor.

The Chicago Bulls star had to call the police after an “allegedly obsessed” woman showed up to his Chicago home and refused to leave on Thursday night, according to TMZ. 

The woman reportedly traveled from out of state, demanding to speak with the first-time All-Star, who was home at the time.

Police took her a local hospital for mental evaluation, and she has not been formally arrested or charged with a crime.

LaVine, 25, wrapped up first-half action with the Bulls on Wednesday and was drafted to Kevin Durant’s All-Star side for Sunday’s festivities in Atlanta.



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Blake Griffin a free agent after Pistons buyout

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Blake Griffin will be free to sign with the Nets or another interested NBA team after agreeing to a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons.

The six-time All-Star forward “has interest from most of the NBA’s top playoff contenders and is expected to make a decision on his next team after conversations with prospective teams,” ESPN reported.

The Nets, Lakers, Heat, Warriors and Clippers – his former team — are among those that have expressed interest, according to the New York Times. ESPN.com added that the Blazers are interested

The 31-year-old Griffin hasn’t played since Feb. 12 while the Pistons attempted to trade him before the March 25 deadline, but they found no takers due to the remainder of his $36.6 million salary for this season and the $39 million he’s owed for 2021-22.

Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
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Griffin is averaging a career-low 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20 games this season. He was dealt by the Clippers to Detroit in 2018, during the first season of a five-year extension worth $171 million.





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Broncos send a pretty strong warning to Drew Lock

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Drew Lock is no lock to remain the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2021.

General manager George Paton and coach Vic Fangio both said Thursday that the team expects to bring in competition for Lock, possibly with the ninth pick in the NFL Draft.

“Obviously we’re always looking to bring in players at all positions that can raise the level of competition, and the quarterback is no different in that regard,” Fangio said, according to the team’s website.

“Until we get or until Drew proves to be the next great quarterback, like the ones that the Denver franchise has been used to in years past or certain teams around the league … are used to, we’re going to always try and bring in competition. But I have confidence that Drew can continue to improve.”

Lock made 13 starts in 2020 and tied with Carson Wentz for the league lead with 15 interceptions. He finished 32nd in the league among qualifying quarterbacks with a 75.4 passer rating, ahead of only Dwayne Haskins, Wentz and Sam Darnold.

Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
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“Very talented, was inconsistent at times, has a lot to work on,” Paton said Thursday. “But I’ve spoken with Drew, I see him every day. He’s here early. He’s working. He really wants to be great. And we’re always going to try to bring in competition at every position, and quarterback as well. But I like the track that Drew’s on.”

Lock, the Broncos’ second-round pick in 2019 out of Missouri, had started five games as a rookie, winning four of them. Denver went 4-9 with him as the starter last season.

“I’m confident that Drew’s going to continue to improve,” Fangio said. “Drew’s had a great offseason up to this point. There’s not a lot you can do, but he’s working hard on his own, coming over here and getting workouts, and I know he’s doing a lot at home by himself, watching video by himself. He’s got a good setup over there. And he’s doing anything and everything he can to improve, even in February and now in March.”



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