Knicks head coach resigns suddenly

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Knicks head coach resigns suddenly

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike D'Antoni resigned as coach of the New York Knicks on Wednesday, a person familiar with the decision said. Yahoo Sports first reported the surprising news, which comes with the Knicks in the middle of a late-season slide that could cost them a playoff spot. New York has lost six in a row for the second time this season and has fallen into a tie for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The decision came just hours after star Carmelo Anthony denied there was a rift with D'Antoni. The Knicks have struggled since Anthony returned from a groin injury 10 games ago. There was speculation that he and D'Antoni did not get along, though the All-Star forward said Wednesday he supported the coach "100 percent." D'Antoni put the Knicks through a morning workout Wednesday, seemed in good spirits and said players were, too. He acknowledged the media frenzy around the sinking team but believed the Knicks would handle it. "You battle against it and I think we're cohesive enough to battle through this and we expect to do that," he said. He was preparing to coach the Knicks against the Portland Trail Blazers later Wednesday, but Mike Woodson is expected to handle that role instead. And certainly there's already speculation that the Knicks will try to lure a big-name coach such as Phil Jackson or Kentucky's John Calipari next season. D'Antoni's departure comes less than a month after he seemed rejuvenated by the emergence of Jeremy Lin, the undrafted point guard from Harvard who came off the end of the bench and proved to be the player who could properly run the offensive system. But the success didn't last once Anthony returned, with the Knicks going 2-8 in a season that D'Antoni said should see them contend for a championship. Never able to duplicate his success in Phoenix, D'Antoni was headed to his third losing season since signing a 24 million, four-year contract in 2008 that made him one of the NBA's highest-paid coaches. He never won a playoff game in New York, where the Knicks were focused on the future during his first two years and made numerous changes that didn't give him much of a chance to compete. But they spent big this season, bringing in Tyson Chandler to play between Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, while adding players such as Baron Davis and JR Smith during the season, and D'Antoni acknowledged Wednesday morning it was his responsibility to make everything work. New York returned to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2004 and had its first winning record in a decade, losing to the Boston Celtics in the first round. But the Knicks radically changed the team in the offseason, waiving point guard Chauncey Billups through the amnesty clause to free up salary cap space to sign Chandler, and they sputtered through January while trying three point guards to replace him. D'Antoni finally turned to Lin on Feb. 4 and the Knicks took off, winning seven games in a row and looking like a threat to the top teams in the East. But it all came to a halt when Anthony returned, reinforcing the notion that his desire to get the ball in isolation didn't fit in D'Antoni's offense that focused on pick-and-rolls and quick ball movement. D'Antoni averaged 58 wins in four full seasons in Phoenix before he was hired to replace Isiah Thomas on May 13, 2008. The Knicks got off to a quick start in his first season but broke up the team three weeks into it, trading Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford in separate deals on the same day. New York would make a series of moves over the first two years, all with an eye toward clearing salary cap space for the summer of 2010. D'Antoni always supported the plan, even as it came at the cost of his won-loss record. He was 267-172 when he arrived in New York but went 121-167 here. The Knicks finished in the top 10 in scoring in each of his first three seasons while racking up the three highest 3-pointer totals in team history. But his offense-first style was never a natural fit in New York, where fans craved the hard-nosed, defense-first approach of the 1990s teams of Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason and John Starks. Worse for D'Antoni, he lost his biggest backer in the front office when team president Donnie Walsh opted not to return after last season. D'Antoni became a coaching star in Phoenix, reaching two Western Conference finals. He won a Coach of the Year award and was named an assistant coach to Mike Krzyzewski with the U.S. national team. But the Suns let him talk to other clubs about their jobs after losing to San Antonio in the first round of the 2008 playoffs. He chose the Knicks over the Chicago Bulls, citing his comfort with Walsh, who had just been hired, and his desire to live in New York. After two years in transition, the Knicks appeared to be a team on the rise after landing Stoudemire in the summer of 2010 to give New York its first superstar since Ewing. But the Knicks didn't stop there, trading four of their top six players to acquire Anthony from Denver last February before the trade deadline. The high price, paid when Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan reportedly overruled Walsh, put enormous pressure on D'Antoni and Anthony to make it work, and they never really could. Anthony was shooting a career-low 40 percent and at times his frustration was evident, such as Monday's loss in Chicago. Asked about that Wednesday, D'Antoni said: "I'm sulking over on the bench, too. So I can understand the frustration. We've just got to a better job of blending things that we want to do and we haven't done that." Now someone else will.

Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

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Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over the Colorado Rockies:

 

QUOTES

"I felt a little cramp. I'm fine. I appreciate John and everybody looking out (for me). We obviously don't want anything to happen like last year, but I'm good.'' - Dustin Pedroia, who left the game in the fifth after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring.

"It's nice to be able to get deep into the game. That's my goal every time. My goal is nine innings, so if I don't get nine innings, I'm a little disappointed because I want to be able to go out there and pitch as many innings as I can.'' - Steven Wright.

"I think my release point was just a little off. That definitely makes it hard, especially when it's moving, because it's not a consistent release point.'' - Wright on the early-inning unpredictability of his signature pitch.

"Even when I was catching, I pride myself on running. I want to be an athlete back there. I want to run the bases, steal bases, things most catchers aren't known to do.'' - Blake Swihart, who hit two triples.

 

NOTES

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 29 games.

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 18 games.

* David Ortiz tied Paul Molitor for 12th on the all-time doubles list with 605.

* Ortiz has driven in multiple runs in three straight games

* Dustin Pedroia has a career batting average of .340 in interleague play, the highest ever for someone with 500 or more at-bats.

* Travis Shaw drove in three runs and now has 68 RBI in his first 111 games since Fred Lynn and Jim Rice in 1974-75.

* Blake Swihart became the third Red Sox hitter this season to post two triples in the same game.

* The Red Sox clinched their fifth straight home series win.

* The Sox are 21-8 since April 24 and are 13-2 in their last 15 home games.

 

STARS

1) Steven Wright

Backed by some rare run support, Wright evened his record at 4-4 with seven-plus innings and his eighth quality start this season.

2) Travis Shaw

Shaw produced two hits and knocked in three runs, making him the fourth Red Sox player this season to reach 30 RBI.

3) Blake Swihart

Swihart got to flash both his power and his speed by hitting two triples to the triangle, motoring around the bases.

 

Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

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Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

BOSTON -- A day after the Bruins announced a much-maligned four-year contract extension for defenseman Kevan Miller, B’s general manager Don Sweeney held court with the media to equal parts explain/defend the $10 million deal. Sweeney pointed to the very high character of a hardnosed player in Miller, and the relatively low mileage given that he’s played only 159 games at the NHL level.

There was also mention made of the room to grow in Miller’s game, though it’s difficult to imagine a much higher ceiling for a 28-year-old player than what the former UVM produced showed in 71 games last season.

“Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development,” said Sweeney. “We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.”

Here’s the reality: Miller is a 5-6, bottom pairing defenseman on a good team, and a top-4 defenseman on a team like last year’s Bruins that finished a weak 19th in the league in goals allowed. The five goals and 18 points last season were solid career-high numbers for a player in the middle of his hockey prime, but he barely averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game as a front top-4 defenseman. Miller struggles with some of the fundamental needs in today’s NHL if you’re going to be a top-4 D-man: the tape-to-tape passes aren’t always accurate, there’s intermittent difficulty cleanly breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and Miller was exploited by the other team’s best players when paired with Zdeno Chara at points last season.

Certainly Miller has done some good things racking up a plus-55 rating during his three years in Boston, but executives and officials around the league were a bit surprised by the 4-year, $10 million contract extension. It’s viewed as a slight overpay in terms of both salary and term, but it’s more the redundancy of the contract that’s befuddling to some.

“Miller is certainly a rugged guy, but you already had one of those at roughly the same value in Adam McQuaid. I believe that you can’t win if you have both McQuaid and Miller in your top 6 because they are both No. 6 D’s in my mind,” said a rival NHL front office executive polled about the Miller contract. “You look at the playoffs and the direction that the league is headed in, and you need to have big, mobile defenseman that can quickly move the puck up the ice. You have too much of the same thing with Miller and McQuaid, and I think you can’t win with that in this day and age.”

The one facet of the four-year Miller contract that might make it okay for some Bruins fans: the tacit connection to the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. According to several sources around the league, the Bruins taking care of Miller now will very likely have a positive impact on their chances of landing Vesey when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, and makes them the front-runner for the Harvard standout’s services. Both Miller and Vesey are represented by the same agent in Peter Fish, and those are the kinds of behind-the-scenes connections that many times factor into free agent signings and trades around the NHL.

So many, this humble hockey writer included, may owe Sweeney a slight apology if paying a $10 million premium for a bottom-pairing defenseman in Miller now pays dividends in landing a stud forward like Vesey that’s drawing interest all around the league.