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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

NBA Insider: Jeff Hornacek sees Knicks plan as being patient

Head coach Jeff Hornacek of the New York

Head coach Jeff Hornacek of the New York Knicks reacts in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Carmelo Anthony may not see Phil Jackson’s vision, but Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek seems to get it. He said it’s about being patient.

That’s not something that’s reassuring to Knicks fans, who have had to endure losing year after year, or the soon-to-be 33-year-old Anthony, who carries that burden more than anyone else as the face of the franchise.

When the Knicks stood pat at Thursday’s trade deadline, it led to more questions than answers. Anthony was one who questioned the franchise’s plan because he expected something to happen — just not involving him.

Hornacek said the plan — for the time being — is to see if the Knicks can pick up the offense and get on a run.

Of course, that was the plan in November, December and January, too. The fact that they’re still talking about learning the triangle offense in late February, with only 24 games remaining, has to be alarming.

“Management has confidence in these guys that they can get going if they end the season well,” Hornacek said away from the usual media scrum. “Phil always says, ‘My teams in L.A. and Chicago, it took a good year for those guys to really grasp [the offense].’ I think they’re being patient with the guys we have, trying to figure it out.

“We’d all like to win a lot more than we are, but I think the vision is still that this can work but we have to be patient with it.”

But the Knicks were looking for deals, making and taking offers for nearly everyone besides Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez. Derrick Rose was close to being moved to Minnesota for flashy Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, but talks fell apart.

The inactivity led to the belief that the Knicks would unofficially start tanking to get a higher lottery pick in a point guard-heavy top of the draft and give Porzingis and Hernangomez more opportunities to develop. Hornacek said that’s not the plan — yet.

“No one’s told me that,” he said. “We’re still playing it like we’re trying to get better at all this stuff with the guys we have. There will be a lot of things. Derrick’s contract is up at the end of the year. A decision will come.

“If we all of a sudden catch on to this stuff and it looks like it’s getting better and better, maybe Derrick gets signed back and they keep the guys together and grow from that. But if it doesn’t look like it’s catching on, maybe it’s the other thing. That’s something for Steve [Mills] and Phil to evaluate.”

It’s likely that decisions already have been made on Rose, some of the Knicks’ other pending free agents and some players under contract (Anthony). Even if the Knicks go on an improbable run, they still need to make major changes — and they will.

TRADING DAY

WINNERS

Raptors: Improved their defense, versatility and toughness by adding a starter (Serge Ibaka) and rotation player (P.J. Tucker) and parted with only Terrence Ross, Jared Sullinger and three draft picks (one first).

Rockets: Adding super-sub Lou Williams gives them more firepower. They also made some minor moves to clear cap space that they must use to sign a defensive player or rim protector.

Cavaliers: They didn’t deal, but no Eastern Conference team changed dramatically enough to knock off the Cavs if they stay healthy. They reportedly will sign Deron Williams and give LeBron James the experienced backup point guard/playmaker he wanted.

Pelicans: They gave up little to get the league’s best center, DeMarcus Cousins. They could make the playoffs if coach Alvin Gentry can make it work with Cousins and Anthony Davis.

Thunder: In Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, Oklahoma City got two players who can help right now and complement Russell Westbrook.

Mavericks: They view Nerlens Noel as Tyson Chandler lite, and got him from the 76ers for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a protected first-round pick that will end up becoming two No. 2s.

Lakers: It’s Magic Johnson’s show now, and in his first move, he got a first-round pick for Williams. Magic’s personality could help the Lakers draw marquee free agents. Everyone loves Magic, who can relate better to players than fired Laker bosses Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.

LOSERS

Knicks: They should have done something, anything, everything they could to get something for Rose, a free agent after the season, or some of their expendables to bring in some new blood.

Bulls: They traded Gibson and McDermott to Oklahoma City and didn’t get back a first-round pick in the package. They also added to their point guard glut, acquiring Cameron Payne.

Pacers: They were hoping to put better talent around Paul George to improve their chances of keeping him. That didn’t happen.

Clippers: All the talk about them needing to do something resulted in silence at the deadline.

76ers: Jahlil Okafor and Noel were the two main players they were trying to move. They couldn’t find a deal that worked for Okafor and gave up Noel for essentially two second-round picks.

Kings: They got little for Cousins, and GM Vlade Divac made it look worse by saying “I had a better deal” earlier. Bottom line, the Kings continue to look like a dysfunctional franchise.

Celtics: They didn’t pull off anything despite having a boatload of assets, including the Nets’ pick in a point guard-rich draft. They already have Isaiah Thomas. So you expect them to be active this summer, trying to land a star again.

ALL-STAR DUD

It’s time to re-imagine All-Star Weekend.

The Rising Stars Challenge is unwatchable. The Slam Dunk contest was a bore. And the All-Star Game was worse than the Rising Stars Challenge.

At one point Steph Curry opted to lie down in the paint to avoid getting run over or posterized by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s dunk. There was a lot of lying down in the 192-182 West victory. There were two blocked shots the entire game. The teams totaled 226 points in the paint, many of them in transition, in which 213 points were scored.

Players and coaches want change.

“I think going forward, the All-Star experience will probably get a little harder in terms of defense,” said Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, who referred to the defense as “a little matador.” He understated it.

West coach Steve Kerr said maybe the NBA should “incentivize” the players, and suggested money going to charities. Something has to change.

New York Sports

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