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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

NBA Insider looks back at 2016 and ahead to 2017

Derrick Rose #25 of the New York Knicks

Derrick Rose #25 of the New York Knicks passes the ball in the second half against the Orlando Magic at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 in New York City. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

As we turn the page on another year, we look back at 2016 and ahead to 2017 for the Knicks and the NBA.

KNICKS’ TOP

2016 STORYLINES

1. Derek Fisher fired

Phil Jackson’s decision to fire Derek Fisher after a season and a half was stunning. But the Knicks were struggling, there wasn’t much communication between president and coach, and Fisher was moving away from playing the triangle offense. Fisher’s off-court actions and comments didn’t help his cause.

2. Rose Garden

Jackson pulled off a surprise blockbuster deal the day before the draft, acquiring former MVP Derrick Rose from the Bulls. His injury history made it a risky move, but Rose, a fierce competitor, has been relatively healthy, and he has the ability to attack the rim and put defenses in tough spots.

3. Meet the new coach

Another out-of-the-blue move was hiring Jeff Hornacek. Smart move — the players are happy — but he needs to get them to defend harder and more consistently.

4. Had their Phil

Jackson has created headlines with comments about LeBron James having a posse and Carmelo Anthony being a ball-stopper, followed by his recent split with Lakers co-owner Jeannie Buss. Everything Jackson does and says is newsworthy, but it sometimes takes away from his team’s performance. He finally has built a team that could make the playoffs, but he has an opt-out after this season, so his future will remain something to watch.

5. Hey, Jo

Jackson wanted a proven, selfless center and gave Joakim Noah $72 million over four years to be that. The former Defensive Player of the Year has the experience and toughness to help the Knicks in stretch-run games and the playoffs.

WHAT TO WATCH

FOR IN 2017

1. Porzingis the All-Star?

Kristaps Porzingis has a legitimate shot at making the All-Star team. He’s very popular among fans and the media and his peers respect him. It will be interesting to see if the Knicks have one or two All-Stars this season. If it’s only one, will it be Porzingis or Anthony?

2. A playoff berth

If they stay healthy, the Knicks should be one of the eight teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They believe they will be a dangerous team once they get there, and they could be. But they need to find more offensive balance and need to give a much more consistent effort on defense. Hornacek said they “cruise” too much. That has to change for them to be a real threat.

3. Melo’s no-trade clause

Whether it’s in February or after the season — depending on how the Knicks do — Anthony’s no-trade clause could become a topic again. His future could be tied to how far the Cavaliers and Clippers go this season, because he might be willing to waive the clause to play with LeBron James or Chris Paul.

NBA’S TOP 2016

STORYLINES

1. All hail the King

James led the Cavs back from a 3-1 deficit to dethrone the record-setting Warriors, giving Cleveland its first pro championship in 52 years.

2. Durant to the Warriors

Kevin Durant created fireworks on the Fourth of July when he announced he was leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State.

3. 73-9

That was the Warriors’ regular-season record last season, the best in NBA history. But the record didn’t mean as much to the Warriors when they couldn’t get the one win they needed in the Finals.

4. Peace reached

After the NBA reached an agreement on a new $24-billion television deal, the players and owners knew they had to come to terms. The new CBA will take effect July 1 and will run through the 2023-24 season.

5. Farewells

Some NBA royalty hung up their sneakers in 2016. Kobe Bryant got a farewell tour after 20 seasons. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett announced their retirements after the season.

WHAT TO WATCH

FOR IN 2017

1. Cavs-Warriors III

Perhaps only injuries to some special players could prevent these two teams from meeting again in June.

2. More movement

Only a handful of teams have a legitimate shot at winning the championship this season, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some make moves to either get closer or clear some space for an offseason spending spree. Rudy Gay is expected to be on the move. Could DeMarcus Cousins be, too?

3. Clips could get clipped

After starting 14-2, the Clippers have sputtered, going 8-11 before Saturday night, and they might need a deep playoff run to keep this group together another year. Paul and Blake Griffin can opt out of their contracts and become free agents in July, so this is a situation to watch.

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