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New York Knicks president Steve Mills wrote a lengthy blog outlining his vision for the future of the club but made no mention of Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, whom New York is looking to trade.

“Our plan to become more youthful and athletic is underway with 22-year-old Kristaps Porzingis, the return of Tim Hardaway Jr., 25, Willy Hernangomez, 23, and with the debut of our 1st round draft pick, Frank Ntilikina, just 19,” Mills wrote in a blog on the Madison Square Garden website.

The Knicks have made it clear that they’d prefer to trade Anthony, who has a no-trade clause. The 32-year-old veteran has been willing to waive that clause, with his top priority as of earlier this month being a trade to the Houston Rockets, per league sources.

The Knicks and Rockets have been unable to come to an agreement after re-engaging on trade talks earlier this month, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Members of the Knicks organization are holding out hope that Anthony will widen his list of potential trade destinations as training camp approaches, per sources.

Mills said in July that the Knicks want to do what’s best for both the organization and for Anthony, acknowledging that the club had discussed trade scenarios involving the 10-time All-Star with other teams.

Mills also said then that the Knicks would be committed to building around a young core whether or not Anthony was on the team.

Anthony said this month that he was at “peace” with the uncertainty surrounding his situation in New York, and he was unsure if he’d be back with the club this season.

Mills wrote in his blog on Friday that the club would emphasize a selfless, defense-first approach going forward that will be led by younger players. He credited young players like Ntilikina, Porzingis and Hernangomez with recently changing the atmosphere around the Knicks, who have missed the playoffs for the past four seasons and have been the subject of embarrassing on and off-court storylines.

“We will emphasize ball movement, body movement, spacing and screening, while understanding that these changes will be a work in progress,” Mills wrote. “We may not be there at first, but that’s the brand of ball our players will aspire to fulfill.”

Mills then referenced the young group of Ntilikina, Porzingis, Haradaway Jr., Hernangomez and Ron Baker once again in his blog, writing: “These players, still young, intent on enhancing their games, engaged in a common objective, are already altering the atmosphere surrounding the club.”
In his blog, Mills echoed many of the thoughts he presented during a press conference in July introducing general manager Scott Perry. The entry is worth reading for Knicks fans interested in hearing how the new regime plans to approach team building.

Mills wrote that the Knicks would be committed to restoring “the pride, work ethic and accountability that comes with playing in New York.”

“Dogged defense. Crisp, unselfish ball movement. Scraping for loose balls. These will be our hallmarks,” he added.

It seems like a sound rebuilding plan for a franchise that has been plagued by instability since the turn of the century, winning just one playoff series in the past 17 years.

The Knicks in the past have been guilty of chasing after big names rather than committing to a slow, painful rebuild. Will the club under Mills be different? Based on what he wrote on Friday, that seems to be the plan. We’ll find out soon enough if it can be executed.

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The offseason hype for the Baltimore Ravens’ defense rolls on.

This spring, new safety Tony Jefferson said Baltimore’s defense has an opportunity to be legendary. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams said this summer the unit could reach levels of the 2000 Ravens D.

Corner Jimmy Smith added to the chorus this week.

“This year it is a special unit,” Smith said, via ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley. “We feel it. I think the defense as a whole feels it. We know it, and like I said over and over, you have to prove it now.”
The Ravens’ defense has leaped off the film during their two preseason appearances. It’s a unit that’s younger and faster than last season. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has brought heat this preseason and swarmed quarterbacks.

The Ravens boast the No. 1 defense in the preseason through two games. It’s a meaningless stat, but the method in which they’ve attained the ranking can translate to the regular season. They held the Washington Redskins’ first-team offense to minus-1 yard on two drives two weeks ago. Against Miami last week, the starting Ravens defense allowed just 44 yards.

As Hensley points out, owning the No. 1 defense in the preseason doesn’t necessarily translate to the regular season, with only one team in the past five years finishing in the top five for the season.

Pees, however, views it as a positive.

“To say it doesn’t mean anything, I think coaches tell you that,” Pees said. “I think that is crap. You want to go out there and you want to play well every day and every week no matter who is on the field. If it is the first team, the second team, the third team — whoever the heck that is — you want to play well. If you don’t want that, I don’t know why you are coaching, and I do not know why you are playing. Yes, I am pleased with it so far, but we just have to keep it going.”

Regardless of whether they keep that ranking through the end of the preseason — facing a ramshackle Buffalo Bills offense this week gives them a good chance — the traits shown by Baltimore have meshed with the offseason hype. It’s a unit that has speed at every level and players that hawk the ball. They boast the top safety duo in the NFL in Jefferson and Eric Weddle, which provides extreme flexibility.

If Pees keeps bringing the heat when the regular season begins, the Ravens’ defense will be one of the most entertaining units to watch in 2017.

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The 2017 NBA rookie class is bullish on Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr.

In a survey of 39 rookies conducted by NBA.com, Smith was voted most likely to win Rookie of the Year.

Smith, the No. 9 draft pick, received 25.7 percent of the vote, while No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball received 20 percent and top pick Markelle Fultz received 17.1 percent.

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Smith impressed scouts — and his fellow rookies, apparently — with standout athleticism and explosiveness in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he averaged 17.8 points per game. He figures to play significant minutes in his first NBA season.

It’s worth noting that this poll doesn’t have a strong history of predicting the eventual award winner. The players surveyed have correctly predicted the Rookie of the Year just once since 2007; Kevin Durant won the award that season. Last season, then-Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kris Dunn (now with the Chicago Bulls) was predicted to win the award, which went to the Milwaukee Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon.

Rookies were also asked to name their favorite player. Somewhat surprisingly, two-time MVP Stephen Curry didn’t receive a vote. The voting total for Durant, Curry’s Golden State Warriors teammate, decreased significantly from past surveys. Durant had been the rookies’ favorite player for the past three years, according to the survey.

This season it was LeBron James, followed by Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard. This is only the second time in eight years that James was named the rookies’ favorite player; 2012 is the other.

In other voting categories, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell was voted as the “biggest steal” in the draft based on where he was selected. Mitchell, who was picked 13th by the Jazz, also played well in summer league, scoring 24 points per game.

Phoenix’s Josh Jackson was voted as the top defender in the rookie class. The Kansas standout received 26.3 percent of the vote, followed by Golden State’s Jordan Bell (23.7 percent) and Mitchell (21.1 percent).

Lastly, Ball and Boston’s Jayson Tatum were tied in the voting for the rookie most likely to have the best overall career. Jackson and Smith tied for third in the category.

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In September, the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will each travel 6,000-plus miles across the Pacific to play two preseason games. The exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai — the NHL’s first venture into China — signal that the league might emulate a strategy the NBA initiated more than a decade ago. Growth opportunities in Asia, as the NBA has learned, are significant.

That’s why it’s perplexing — and, to many, disappointing — that the NHL is skipping the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

But the NHL isn’t just whiffing on a chance to expand its global footprint. The Olympic boycott is a momentum killer when it comes to promoting the league’s young talent, especially in the United States.

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“In the Olympics, the eyes of the world are on you, and it puts the NHL on the forefront,” Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano told ESPN.com. “People get to see the best of the NHL players. To get all these stars together for a congested two-week period? It’s an incredible way to market the game.”

Right now is an incredible time for hockey in the United States — but the Americans won’t get to show off.

USA Hockey officials note swelling participation across all levels of the sport, including a record 115,694 8-and-under players in 2016-17, a 27 percent increase since 2006-07. The NHL, meanwhile, is on the cusp of a renaissance of American talent. The U.S. hasn’t won an Olympic gold since 1980 — medaling just twice in the nine Games since — but not since the era of Brett Hull, Pat LaFontaine, Brian Leetch, Modano, Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight has there been a more exciting crop of ascending stars.
T.J. Oshie’s Olympic shootout heroics in Sochi vaulted him into the national consciousness. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
“The talent level now, it really reminds me of our group the mid to late ’90s,” said Modano, who won gold at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and silver at the 2002 Olympics with Team USA. “About 10 to 12 guys, all the same age, coming up together. We competed really hard against each other in the NHL but put our egos aside and loved getting the chance to play with each other to represent our country. It would be unfortunate for these guys to miss out on the Olympics, because I’d like to see what they’re capable of doing.”

Auston Matthews posted the most prolific rookie season (40 goals, 69 assists in 2016-17) for an American-born rookie, let alone in the 100-year history of the Toronto Maple Leafs — and he’s only 19. The Detroit Red Wings’ Dylan Larkin (who turned 21 last month) and the Buffalo Sabres’ Jack Eichel (20) are young, soon-to-be elite centers, while Johnny Gaudreau (23) led the Calgary Flames with 61 points last season and teammate Matthew Tkachuk (19) — eldest son of Keith — wasn’t far behind, with 48. The Columbus Blue Jackets boast two stud defensemen in Seth Jones (22) and Zach Werenski (20). Oh, and Chicago Blackhawks winger and three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Kane, the only American to win the Hart Trophy, is only 28.

“It is our responsibility to help market these guys and showcase them to the next generation of players,” Jim Johannson, a longtime USA Hockey executive who was named general manager of the men’s Olympic team on Aug. 4, told ESPN.com. “As much as we want to take credit for their success, there was a volunteer coach or a youth program who helped get them started. And the guys have done a great job in giving back to their communities and youth hockey.”

Or, as USA Hockey president Jim Smith puts it: “Look, I think every youth hockey player in this country knows who Auston Matthews is.”

Fair point, but the Olympics can serve as an introduction to casual fans — and even non-fans who tune in simply for the spectacle. Consider T.J. Oshie, the darling of the Sochi Games in 2014. The then-St. Louis Blues forward and Olympic fourth-liner converted 4 of 6 penalty shots in an overtime win against host Russia — which literally created his Q-rating. It also vaulted Oshie into a dizzying circuit — he got a shout-out from President Barack Obama, made multiple appearances on morning shows, even starred in a national ad campaign for Enterprise, and then finished the NHL season in the top 20 for NHL jersey sales for the first time in his six-year career. The list was released that April, less than two months after Sochi, so imagine how many Oshie jerseys were sold during that span.
“In the Olympics, the eyes of the world are on you, and it puts the NHL on the forefront,” says Hall of Famer Mike Modano, who won silver at the 2002 Winter Games with Team USA. Elsa/Getty Images
Olympic hockey has a built in-audience, and it has been trending up. The 2010 Olympic gold-medal game between the U.S. and Canada was the highest-rated hockey game — of any kind — since the 1980 Miracle on Ice. The Oshie extravaganza in 2014 (a 3-2 U.S. win over Russia) set records as the most-watched hockey game for NBC Sports Network. That game, by the way, occurred not in the medal rounds, but during pool play — and featured a 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday puck drop.

As the league tries to lure the casual fan, it doesn’t help that Eichel’s Sabres are mired in a six-year playoff drought, Larkin’s Red Wings are rebuilding, and Gaudreau, Matthews and Tkachuck are employed north of the border. Even though Matthews’ Maple Leafs are contenders, Toronto will be featured on NBC’s prime-time schedule just three times next season; the Flyers, who finished 11th in the Eastern Conference in 2016-17, have 16 prime-time dates.

“Anytime we can have NHL players play for us, we’re happy, but we understand there’s other factors at play and we have to accept that,” Smith told ESPN.com. “But when you hear people say this diminishes the Olympics — I mean, it’s the Olympics. It comes every four years. It doesn’t matter who is playing, it will be enjoyable to watch.”
USA Hockey is hamstrung. When asked about the NHL’s participation policy, USA Hockey officials repeatedly deferred to “respecting the league’s decision.” The two entities have a strong relationship; for example, the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative is oft-credited with helping raise youth-participation numbers.

“It was hugely important to remain aligned with [the NHL],” Johannson says. “They’re great partners in so many programs. The Olympics is just one part of the equation. Ultimately, it’s something the NHL and NHLPA are going to have to work out, but it’s a shared agreement upon them. I’m not trying to stay out of it, but to a degree I am — because that’s their business.”

And that business will not be on display in February.

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The New York Knicks and Houston Rockets have re-engaged on trade talks involving 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony, with the Rockets again canvassing third-team trade partners to construct a deal, league sources told ESPN.

Anthony remains steadfast that he only plans to waive his no-trade clause for the Rockets and refuses to expand his list to include more possible destinations, league sources said.

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Nevertheless, no pathway has emerged for a deal directly between the two teams, and finding a broader package to include forward Ryan Anderson and the three years and $60 million left on his contract remains problematic, league sources said.

Houston and New York made significant progress on a deal when Phil Jackson was Knicks president, but that changed with the hiring of new general manager Scott Perry, who has been far more particular about the package he’d want in return for Anthony.

The Knicks remain willing to start training camp with Anthony, 33, on the roster, and a real scenario exists in which the Rockets and Anthony remain patient that a deal could have to wait until the regular season is underway, league sources said. The Knicks want to trend younger, building around Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr., and Anthony playing a significant role could stifle their development.

Houston wants Anthony to join a lineup with James Harden and Chris Paul primarily to make a run in the playoffs together, and an in-season deal could still give them ample time to build chemistry for the postseason. Anthony and Paul are close friends.

Portland has kept an interest in Anthony, with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum continuing to recruit Anthony to consider the Blazers as an alternative to Houston, league sources said.

The Knicks have become willing again to make an Anthony deal before the start of training camp in September, especially after Anthony made it clear that the franchise’s hopes of getting him to embrace a return to the team — after months of Jackson’s pushing for Anthony to waive his no-trade — are fruitless.

The Knicks paused trade talks involving Anthony shortly after the hiring of Perry in mid-July, but they were unable to convince Anthony to reconsider his desire to be traded away — or add more teams to his wish list, league sources said.

Anthony had an earlier interest in waiving his no-trade for Cleveland, but that desire waned with Paul’s arrival in Houston and the upheaval surrounding Kyrie Irving’s and LeBron James’ futures with the Cavaliers.

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The New York Knicks have signed former No. 2 overall draft pick Michael Beasley to a one-year deal, the team announced Tuesday.

League sources told ESPN the deal is for the veteran’s minimum, which is $2,116,955, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Beasley, originally drafted by the Miami Heat in 2008, averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 16 minutes per game last season for the Milwaukee Bucks. He shot a career-high 54.5 percent from the field while taking 7.3 shots per game.

The Knicks are Beasley’s sixth team in 10 seasons.

It is unclear where the 6-foot-9 Beasley will fit on the Knicks’ depth chart. If the organization executes a trade of Carmelo Anthony, Beasley could play significant minutes at small forward for New York.

With Ramon Sessions also officially signing his deal, the Knicks have 15 NBA contracts on their roster and one player — Luke Kornet — on a two-way contract. Unless they release a player, New York will have room for just one more two-way contract.

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LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is returning Doc Rivers to the primary duty of head coach, freeing him of front-office responsibilities, the owner told ESPN on Friday.

Rivers, who held the title of president of basketball operations, will continue to have a strong voice in personnel and organizational matters and will partner with Lawrence Frank, the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations, Ballmer told ESPN. Frank will now oversee basketball operations, including general manager Dave Wohl.

Both Frank and Rivers will report directly to the owner. Frank and Rivers enjoy a strong personal and professional relationship, which has allowed for them to cement a shared vision on the franchise’s future.

“I’ve owned the team for three years now, and I really better understand what an owner’s responsibility is — and it turns out that running a franchise and coaching are two enormous and different jobs,” Ballmer told ESPN. “The notion that one person can fairly focus on them and give them all the attention they need isn’t the case. To be as good as we can be, to be a championship franchise, we need two functioning strong people building teams out beneath them. There needs to be a healthy discussion and debate with two strong, independent-minded people.

“There are different relationships that a player needs to have with the coach and the front office,” Ballmer added. “Doc put Lawrence in charge of the non-coaching aspects of the front office last year, and he’s done a fantastic job. I want each of them to dig in and do what they do best. Lawrence has come on so strong in that role, and that has helped us go down this path.”
Doc Rivers, left, and Lawrence Frank, right, announce Blake Griffin’s new contract. Rivers and Frank will partner in personnel and organizational matters for the Clippers going forward. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBA/Getty Images
The Clippers, operating in a post-Chris Paul reality, will have nine new players to incorporate into the roster this season. Los Angeles traded Paul to the Houston Rockets in June after the All-Star guard told them that he planned to leave the franchise in free agency.

“I want to have a world-class front office that identifies college and pro talent, that works with the agents and that has a long-range strategy that is based upon thinking through the analytics and options available to us,” Ballmer told ESPN.

Rivers and Ballmer promoted Frank to oversee the day-to-day operations of the front office a year ago, and Frank, a two-time head coach with the Nets and Detroit Pistons, has worked with Rivers to make hires and changes that better reflect a modern front-office structure. Rivers inherited a depleted front-office infrastructure, born of former owner Donald Sterling’s frugality, after leaving the Boston Celtics to join the Clippers as the franchise’s top basketball executive and coach four years ago.

The Clippers are the second organization to move away from the president-coach structure this spring. The Atlanta Hawks removed Mike Budenholzer from the president-coach role this spring, shifting basketball operations authority to new general manager Travis Schlenk. The San Antonio Spurs (Gregg Popovich), Pistons (Stan Van Gundy) and Minnesota Timberwolves (Tom Thibodeau) are the remaining organizations that have a coach with ultimate decision-making authority.

“Doc has won a championship, one of only a few coaches in the league to do so,” Ballmer told ESPN. “Two-thirds of our lineup will be new, and there’s a huge job to bring everybody along to fit together.”
The Clippers hired Rivers as president and coach in 2013, after he coached nine seasons in Boston. After a racially charged audio tape scandal that cost Sterling ownership of the franchise, Ballmer purchased the Clippers for $2 billion and ultimately signed Rivers to a five-year, $55 million contract extension to continue to as president and coach in 2014. Rivers guided the Clippers through a tumultuous time in the aftermath of the Sterling scandal, eventually leading the team to two Western Conference semifinals appearances. This offseason, the Clippers re-signed All-Star forward Blake Griffin and made a sign-and-trade deal with the Denver Nuggets to acquire forward Danilo Gallinari in July.

In four years as Clippers coach, Rivers has a 217-111 regular-season record and is 18-22 in the playoffs. In 18 seasons with Orlando, Boston and Los Angeles, Rivers has an 804-584 (.579) record and is 82-79 (.509) in the playoffs. He reached the NBA Finals twice as Celtics coach, winning the 2008 NBA championship.