NBA Notes: Carmelo says Knicks 'right there'

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NBA Notes: Carmelo says Knicks 'right there'

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Some of the players were old, though the New York Knicks say their team is young in its development.

So they feel they need time, not an overhaul, to get further next season.

"We're just fine. I love our team just the way it is," point guard Raymond Felton said Monday. "When you start making too many changes, you can't build on something. If you're going to be successful, you're going to be good, a team has to be a team, has to be together for a while. This is our first year together."

Most of the ones who spoke Monday considered it a good one, though Iman Shumpert said not reaching the Eastern Conference finals made it a failure. To have done that, the Knicks would've needed to win Saturday at Indiana, then win a Game 7 that would've been played Monday at Madison Square Garden.

Instead, they were holding exit meetings at their training center, believing they're not far from being at the level of the Pacers or even Miami Heat, who open the East finals on Wednesday.

"We're right there," Carmelo Anthony said. "When you look back, recap this whole season, just some detail-oriented things that we've kind of got to fix, but we're right there. I believe we're right there as a team."

The Knicks finished 54-28, the second-best record in the East, and reached the second round for the first time since 2000. Their Atlantic Division title was their first since 1994 (see full story).

Pacers' West misses practice
INDIANAPOLIS -- Pacers forward David West is expected to play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at Miami, despite an injured right leg.

Team doctors held West out of Monday's practice with what coach Frank Vogel described as a calf strain or lower leg strain. He did shoot around with his teammates after practice ended. Vogel said doctors thought it would be best to give West a day off.

Pacers center Roy Hibbert had his right thumb taped after getting hit in practice. He finished the workout and it is not expected to keep him out of the Miami game on Wednesday night.

Backup forward Jeff Pendergraph did not attend Monday's workout to attend the birth of his daughter.

Indiana is making its first conference finals appearance since 2004 (see full story).

Jordan changing Bobcats' name
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A person familiar with the situation says Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is changing his team's name to the Hornets.

The person says Jordan will detail the timetable for the change to be completed at a press conference the Bobcats have scheduled for Tuesday. The person spoke to The Associated Press Monday on condition of anonymity because the name change has not been publicly announced.

NBA deputy commissioner and COO Adam Silver previously has said it would take "about 18 months" for the Bobcats to change their name. That means Charlotte could once again become the Hornets by the 2014-15 season.

The Hornets resided in Charlotte from 1988-2002 before then-owner George Shinn moved the franchise to New Orleans. The New Orleans Hornets recently changed their name to the Pelicans (see full story).

Sergio Rodriguez ready for 'opportunity' of 2nd NBA stint

Sergio Rodriguez ready for 'opportunity' of 2nd NBA stint

GALLOWAY, N.J. — It’s Round 2 for Sergio Rodriguez.

Ten years after beginning his first stint in the NBA, he is back as a veteran point guard on the Sixers. The green 20-year-old is now 30, with European and Olympic experience behind him. Rodriguez is looking to build upon his previous four NBA seasons, which culminated in 2010, in a leadership role in Philadelphia.

“It feels great,” Rodriguez said Thursday after the training camp morning session at Stockton University. “It’s a second opportunity for me.”

Rodriguez played three seasons for the Trail Blazers from 2009-10 and split his fourth year with the Kings and Knicks. He averaged a quiet 4.3 points, 2.9 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game. Rodriguez returned to his native Spain and found a higher level of success, including winning the EuroLeague title with Real Madrid, being named EuroLeague MVP, and competing in the Olympics. Last season Rodriguez averaged 10.9 points (40.9 percent from three), 6.2 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 24 minutes for Real Madrid. 

Head coach Brett Brown considers Rodriguez one of the top point guards that had played in Europe. 

“He just has a real gift for understanding, especially offensive tempo,” Brown said. “I think that his ability to run a pick-and-roll and figure out how teams are playing it and where they’re rotating from about a pass sooner, one dribble sooner so he can pick off rotations. He’s very gifted in that environment. I think he’s got a bounce to his game and a pace to his game that he will be absorbed in how I want to play well.”

Both Brown and Rodriguez anticipate challenges on the defensive end as Rodriguez re-acclimates himself in the NBA. He will be tasked with guarding some of the league’s toughest point guards, and will also be involved in numerous pick-and-rolls each game. 

After years of playing in Spain, Rodriguez has to get to know a new group of players. He considers the responsibility of a point guard to be getting his entire team involved, particularly with all the youth on the SIxers.

“I will try to feel comfortable for my teammates. For a point guard, you need to have the confidence that everybody is happy playing with you,” Rodriguez said, also noting, “Always the point guard has to run the show. Especially for this team, we have so many young players that need to develop and need to know how to win.” 

So far that is working.

“Sergio’s great,” Nerlens Noel said. “He’s a real vocal leader, even with that little accent he’s got. He makes it work. I think as the season goes along, we’ll continue to get on the same page and really start to mesh a little better.” 

Rodriguez left the NBA as a young guard and is now ready to make a comeback with years of experience. 

"I’m very excited to have this upcoming season and to be successful for my team, my teammates, the organization," he said.

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist.