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NBA AM: Things Are Getting Ugly in New York

Things are getting ugly in New York. The Knicks are struggling on the court and having issues off the court as well.

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When a team is struggling in the NBA, there tends to be a lot of frustration behind the scenes. When a team has lost 10 straight games and, at 4-20, has the league’s third-worst record, it’s no surprise to see that frustration boil over and lead to finger pointing, fighting and a lot of drama.

That seems to be what’s happening with the New York Knicks right now, as they have dropped 16 of their first 20 games and things are reportedly getting ugly behind the scenes.

The team is struggling on both ends of floor and, according to a report from ESPN’s Chris Broussard, players have been butting heads and doubting that the triangle offense will work with this roster. The report describes the Knicks as “full of discord, defiance and doubt.”

The article indicates that Carmelo Anthony threatened to fight Tim Hardaway Jr. during a recent game, that there has been “a lot of arguing and cursing each other out after games” and that the team has “disdain for the triangle offense.”

Head coach Derek Fisher and team president Phil Jackson are trying to implement the triangle offense, but it hasn’t been successful yet since many of the players are still learning it and some don’t appear to be a good fit for the system. With so many losses in recent weeks, the team is reportedly losing faith in the triangle offense and, at times, going away from the system and playing within their comfort zone instead. Jackson alluded to this during his state of the team press conference earlier this week.

“I think guys understand what we’re trying to do; hopefully, they’re getting to be more compliant,” Jackson said. “There’s some resistance to discipline and order and culture change and things like that.”

One issue that the Knicks have encountered is that they are preaching patience and selling the idea that learning the triangle will pay off for the team in the long run. However, many of the players on the roster could very well be gone at season’s end since some are in the final year of their contract (Amar’e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, Samuel Dalembert, Andrea Bargnani, Jason Smith, Shane Larkin, Cole Aldrich and Quincy Acy) and some have been mentioned in trade rumors (Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Hardaway Jr. among others).

These players are trying to showcase their skills and audition for their next contract rather than make individual sacrifices and struggle for the long-term good of a franchise they may not be a part of by this time next year. This me-first behavior becomes even more prevalent when a team is at the bottom of the standings and seemingly playing for nothing. It’s always tough to get NBA players to change their game and make sacrifices, and it’s even harder to do when individuals are playing with their next deal in mind.

Another issue that is apparently dividing the team is the play of Anthony. According to Broussard, several Knicks players are “at odds with Anthony and believe he is not playing team basketball” and Broussard said that some of his teammates confronted him over the weekend during a players meeting. It seems that Anthony has some supporters and some detractors in the locker room.

Broussard says that Anthony’s biggest critic is Hardaway Jr. since both players have accused the other of shooting too much and playing poor defense. During one game, Hardaway Jr. yelled, “Grab a rebound!” and Anthony thought the comment was directed at him. This led to Anthony threatening the sophomore during the game and then the two exchanged words again in the locker room after the loss.

It’s worth noting that Anthony and Hardaway Jr. were asked about their alleged issues on Wednesday night and they downplayed the ESPN report.

“Me and Tim have no problems,” Anthony said, according to Ian Begley of ESPN. “Tim is a guy who I always wrapped my arm around and put under my wing from day one, helped him through times when he’s been down, and I will continue doing that.”

“We’re brothers,” Hardaway Jr. “Brothers argue in the heat of the moment and then they make up. It’s just that simple. I look at Melo as a mentor.”

Anthony also denied that the team is doubting the triangle offense or that anyone confronted him during the team’s meeting on Saturday.

“We’re all committed. We’re all committed to the triangle and to this system,” Anthony said. “We do have times when we do get frustrated. But are we committed as a team to doing what’s right by it? We are committed. We said it from day one.

“Everybody had the platform to kind of speak their piece on what they felt about what’s going on and how they can better the situation [during the team meeting]. But it wasn’t no pointing fingers or anything like that or solely pointing me out to be the blame for what’s going on.”

Is this Anthony telling the truth and shooting down the report because it is inaccurate or is he just doing damage control and trying to keep the Knicks’ issues from going public?

While it may be true that some members of the team aren’t pleased with Anthony’s play, he is really the only Knick who has any job security since he just inked a five-year deal worth over $120 million. Jackson was determined to re-sign Anthony this past offseason and he’ll likely be a big part of New York’s free agent pitch going forward as Jackson tries to add another star or two to the roster.

Winning certainly fixes a lot of problems and if New York can string together some victories and gain some momentum, perhaps things will start getting better behind the scenes as well as on the court. Fortunately for the Knicks, the Eastern Conference is wide open so they’re only six games back from the eighth seed even with their horrendous start.

However, they have a lot of work to do in order to climb into the playoff picture. New York is currently ranked 27th in defense and 21st in offense, and they have lost to non-playoff teams like the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Hornets. Their schedule doesn’t get much easier in the near future either, as 12 of their next 15 games are against playoff teams.

New York has been one of the biggest disappointments of the season, and right now they’re on pace to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row. If the Knicks continue to struggle in the coming weeks, things could get even uglier and drastic changes could be made.

Kirilenko Deal Almost Complete Between Nets, Sixers

In a move that is expected to be finalized on Thursday, the Philadelphia 76ers will acquire Andrei Kirilenko, a 2020 second-round pick, the right to swap second-round picks in 2018 and possibly Jorge Gutierrez from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Brandon Davies.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports was the first to report the details of the trade.

Kirilenko had fallen out of Lionel Hollins’ rotation, playing in just seven games this season for a total of 36 minutes. He had recently been excused from the Nets as he dealt with a family matter, and then it became clear that he wasn’t going to be suiting up for Brooklyn again.

Now, the Sixers will acquire him and likely waive him right away. This is what Sam Hinkie has been doing quite often since taking over as the 76ers’ general manager. He is fine with facilitating another team’s salary dump as long as he gets draft picks or young talent back in return. The 76ers did the same thing when they acquired and waived Danny Granger, Hasheem Thabeet and Marquis Teague among others. Philadelphia has acquired 11 additional second-round picks between 2015 and 2019.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers are two teams that are reportedly interested in Kirilenko’s services, since they could use an upgrade at small forward (particularly a defensive-minded player like Kirilenko).

The 33-year-old is in the final year of his contract and is being paid $3,326,235 this season. This is his 13th year in the NBA, and he has career averages of 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.4 steals.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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