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Not in Knick of time, but Jackson’s exit better late than never


As a native New Yorker and lifelong Knicks fan, joyous occasions surrounding pro basketball have been scarce.

I was 11 and oblivious when they won their last NBA title. The two Finals since then left a slew of scars and bad memories. There was John Starks’ putrid 2-for-18 shooting in Game 7 against Houston (1994), and domination by San Antonio’s Twin Towers – Tim Duncan and David Robinson – in a five-game cakewalk (1999).

They haven’t advanced as far as the Eastern Conference finals since 2000 and the last three years have been particularly painful, an 80-166 record with dim prospects moving forward.

But on a schedule slightly shorter than Halley’s Comet, hope re-appeared in Gotham on Wednesday; Phil Jackson packed his rings and left.

“After careful thought and consideration, we mutually agreed that the Knicks will be going in a different direction,” team owner Jim Dolan said in a statement. “Phil Jackson is one of the most celebrated and successful individuals in the history of the NBA. His legacy in the game of basketball is unmatched. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the Knicks as both a player and an executive.”

Nice try, lumping Jackson’s tenure on the championship teams with his three-year stewardship of a laughingstock. But thanking Jackson for his work as president of basketball operations is like thanking Edward Smith for skippering the Titanic.

At least not every life/game was lost. Knicks fans are adept at celebrating small victories.

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G-League, not Arena League, should be an A-plus for DC


There’s nothing minor about the Washington metro area as a producer of basketball talent. The region isn’t too shabby in football, either. Major-college rosters in both sports are well-stocked with players from the DMV.

Two of Washington’s minor-league teams in those sports share the same owner. But they’re worlds apart.

When the Wizards’ entry in the NBA G League (formerly the D-League) begins play in 2018-19, it won’t feature the likes of Markelle Fultz (DeMatha High), selected No. 1 overall by the Philadelphia Sixers. However, Ted Leonsis’ yet-to-be-named team could face the likes of a Melo Trimble (Bishop O’Connell High), who last week signed with the Sixers as an undrafted free agent.

Visiting teams at the under-construction arena in Southeast D.C. might include NBA players such as Ty Lawson (Bishop McNamara High) or Jeff Green (Northwestern High) as they rehab injuries. Opponents also might feature future NBAers making a pit stop in the developmental league, as did Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jerian Grant (DeMatha).

DC’s Arena League team can only dream about similar connectivity. In more ways than one.

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No rest – or room – for the weary in NBA’s super-charged offseason


Baseball’s hot-stove league is a tin can over a campfire compared to the NBA’s microwave since the playoffs ended. The title chase has morphed seamlessly into the offseason, faster than Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert sullied his team’s three-year run.

One moment, LeBron James & Co. were celebrating their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. The next moment, general manager David Griffin was rewarded with unemployment instead of the promotion and sizable raise that sane owners would’ve offered.

On the left coast, Jerry “The Logo” West has returned to Los Angeles, this time with the hapless Clippers instead of the iconic Lakers. West’s close relationship with James has fueled speculation that the world’s best player might not wear purple and gold if he takes his talents to Hollywood.

Having accomplished his mission by winning a title for the homies – and with a burgeoning entertainment empire in L.A., where he owns a house – James wouldn’t have to explain leaving Cleveland a second time.

Every team in the East gladly would cover moving expenses, too. His relocation process would be much quicker than his aging process, which has conference contenders on hold until further notice.

The league tilts westward, but virtually all the drama in this 10-day offseason has occurred on the right side of the Mississippi.

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Battle of summer extravaganzas – fight vs. race – too close to call


It promises to be a spectacle of unprecedented proportions.

Two champions facing each other, but only one in his natural environment. A match that appears lopsided and an outcome that seems obvious. Widespread buzz and interest among the masses for a competition we never thought possible.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor? No, silly.

I’m talking Michael Phelps vs. Great White Shark.

Maybe you missed that bit of news last week, lost in the clamor about boxing’s Mayweather and MMA’s McGregor sealing a deal to meet on Aug. 26. Considering how the fight was first mentioned March 2016 – when McGregor revealed he was willing to box the undefeated, five-division champion – it’s understandable that their announcement scored a knockout over Phelps vs. Jaws.

But as dueling anomalies go, the events are closer to a draw.

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Well-deserved promotion gives Doug Williams what he sought


Doug Williams worked toward becoming an NFL general manager for two decades. He’d probably be one today if a different franchise issued his paychecks.

But the job matters more than the title. That’s why he proposed becoming Washington’s senior vice president of player personnel. Knowing what he knows about the Skins’ organization under president Bruce Allen, Williams figured this was the best route to his dream position.

The NFL offers only 32 opportunities to run a front office, either individually or in a power-sharing arrangement. Washington surely ranks near the bottom of desirable destinations but it has all the basics: a roster to fill with draft picks and free agents; scouts to unearth raw talent and hidden gems; and countless hours of game film – college and pro – to devour.

Everyone else can harp on Allen’s ability to overrule whenever and however he sees fit, but not Williams. He says everybody answers to somebody. Otherwise, he’s in charge, assuming a posture he longed to enjoy again.

“From the time I’ve been an athlete, I’ve been in a leadership role, basically,” Williams told reporters Tuesday. “… If you’ve got a good group of people you’re working with, it makes leadership a lot easier. I love being in this position and I’m looking forward to working with the guys that we have down the hall.”

Williams embodies a famous quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” If the praise heaped upon former GM Scot McCloughan bothered Allen, Williams is guaranteed to deflect and redirect any accolades.

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Reaction to Doug Williams in new job is not about him


Our initial impulse was to smirk and it had nothing to do with Doug Williams himself.

We didn’t belittle Williams’ promotion to Washington’s senior vice president of player personnel based on his resume. The derision wasn’t aimed at members of the Skins’ re-shuffled front office. The ridicule and mocking were guaranteed, whether an internal or external candidate was propped atop the hierarchy.

Without a change at the tiptop – i.e., owner Dan Snyder and president Bruce Allen – moves such as Williams’ elevation Tuesday (and former GM Scot McCloughan’s hiring two years ago) are bound to be scoffed at.

Allen and Smith fooled us momentarily with McCloughan, leading us to believe they saw the error of their era. The new hire was a bonafide football guy. He would bring the organization respect and credibility, terms that are punchlines more than characteristics associated with the Skins.

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Cousins’ contract talks particularly interesting to Carr, Stafford


The Fourth of July is Independence Day but Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins might have to wait an additional week this year before celebrating his freedom – in one form or another.

Either a contract extension will be reached, putting an end to countless discussions about his future with the Skins. Or he’ll play a second consecutive season under the franchise tag, virtually guaranteeing himself a roster spot with San Francisco, Los Angeles or elsewhere in 2018.

Is it wrong to suggest we should rejoice either way?

Any decision that allows us to retire this subject is worth a toast. Here here!

I have the feeling that members of Cousins’ camp ultimately will raise their glasses in anticipation of hitting the open market after the upcoming season. But Washington has until July 15 to reach a long-term deal with the quarterback.

Negotiations are drawing interest from far outside the DMV, particularly in Oakland and Detroit.

The Raiders and Lions are dealing with their own quarterback questions, though neither Derek Carr nor Matt Stafford have as much to prove. Oakland and Detroit know what they have under center, whereas Washington – despite two stellar seasons from Cousins as a starter – still seems uncertain.

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Nats’ Glover and Taylor used different timetables but arrive together


Once again, it’s time to check off some items on my “TIDU List” – Things I Don’t Understand:

***How Koda Glover grew into his role so quickly.

Just two years ago he was finishing at Oklahoma State. Now the 24-year-old is finishing Nationals games like a natural born closer. Glover has appeared in 22 games and yielded nary a run in 18 of them. Presented nine save chances, he has converted eight. And not just his stuff is nasty. He exchanged unpleasantries – and nearly blows – with Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig after a pressurized, game-ending strikeout Tuesday.

Time to resurrect “Natitude” just for Glover’s sake.

***Why Thad Matta wasn’t shown more respect.

Two Final Four appearances, five Sweet 16 appearances and five Big Ten titles ought to buy more than the shabby treatment Matta received Monday from Ohio State. Athletic director Gene Smith fired his men’s basketball coach two months later than necessary and compounded the indignity by having Matta sit with him at the news conference. “It’s time,” Smith said repeatedly. That very well could be true.

But mishandling the separation gave the Buckeyes a couple of black eyes.

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Lowering draft age and building minor league is right move for NBA


College basketball has been a major asset to the NBA, supplying a stream of players who are developed and marketed at no cost to the league.

The relationship is one-sided, as the pro version offers little that’s beneficial to the college game. Not that legitimate gripes should exist. Less than halfway through a 14-year, $10.8 billion broadcast deal for March Madness, the NCAA agreed with CBS/Turner on an eight-year, $8.8 billion extension that runs through 2032.

Business is booming for the NBA, too, with a nine-year, $24 billion contract from ESPN/Turner that began this season. Yes, TV ratings are a challenge in the era of cord-cutting, live streaming and the Twitterverse, but every league is facing that issue.

So, life is good for the NBA and NCAA … except the latter keeps fussing over “one-and-done” players. It’s not enough that prep players are ineligible to be drafted out of high school; college officials oppose stars’ ability to bolt after their freshman season.

“My sense is (the age-limit rule) is not working for anyone,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters last week. “It’s not working certainly from the college coaches and athletic directors I hear from. They’re not happy with the current system.”

Silver said the league and the NBA Players Association want to change the entry rule. However, the adjustment might not be to the NCAA’s liking.

Be careful what you complain about.

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At long last here, enjoy FInals as long as they last


Finally, the Finals are here.

NBA fans have waited a long time for this matchup. Since Kyrie Irving put a 3-pointer in Steph Curry’s mouth to win the title for Cleveland last year. Since Kevin Durant’s July 4 announcement that he was headed to Golden State. Since the Cavaliers and Warriors cruised through the regular season and three rounds of playoffs like Usain Bolt coasts in qualifying heats.

Now, after a week-long delay caused by the teams’ postseason efficiency, we can dig in. Cavs-Warriors III should be a scrumptious hoops feast, offering tasty treats for everyone no matter their preference.

Like the pace-and-space game that’s revolutionizing the NBA? The Warriors’ offense is one of the best when it’s clicking, chock-full of cutters, jumpers and soaring alley-oops when former Wizard JaVale McGee runs the floor. Like boxers throwing punches in bunches, Golden State can flurry in a hurry, challenging the scoreboard operator to keep pace.

Want to see scintillating one-on-one moves? Irving has an ever-expanding repertoire that can embarrass the clingiest perimeter defenders. He put on a clinic in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston, serving the Celtics 42 points that included 9-of-10 shooting in an 11-minute span. Curry had nightmares after watching that.

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