Knicks Were Right not to ‘Mess With Karma’: Veteran Coach

Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo scored 25 points in the team's overtime win on Sunday.

Getty Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo scored 25 points in the team's overtime win on Sunday.

The Knicks and Bulls were in overtime Sunday afternoon, when an Eastern Conference player buzzed in via text. The Celtic dressing room apparently wasn’t the only such NBA locker facility tuned in to the game.

A seed was on the line for the Knicks. Win, and they were second. Lose, and No. 3 was theirs.

“Does NY really want 2? Should they want 2? I don’t think so.”

My first thought was an extra round of homecourt advantage, but, according to the guy on the other end, I was thinking too far into the future.

Phoning him later for his reasoning, he said, “At 2 you get Philly or Miami. Three gets you Indiana. Indy’s good but I’d rather them than Philly or Miami. If Philly’s healthy, they’re probably the second best team in the conference. And Miami always seems to get scary in the playoffs. They win series they’re not supposed to.”

The Knicks pulled the game out, meaning they will get the winner of the Sixer-Heat play-in game in the first round beginning Saturday. Milwaukee gets the Pacers in the 3-6 series beginning Sunday.

So should New York have done some creative resting in their 82nd game?

“No. Never,” a veteran coach told Heavy Sports on Monday. “You never want to screw with the basketball gods. Say you kick that game against Chicago away, and it’s real obvious. Then you’ve got Indiana sitting there going, ‘Oh, you wanted us? Oh, OK. We’ll see you.’ You just gave them a little edge, a little extra motivation.

“And New York can’t be letting its players know they’re worried about anybody. You play for the higher seed because you want homecourt in the second round. If you’re worried about beating Philly or the Heat, then what are you even doing there? And (the Knicks) should have confidence with the way they’ve been playing even without (the injured Julius) Randle.

“But you should always be playing to win, unless you’ve got your spot locked in and you’re resting people. You never want to mess with karma.”

Jayson Tatum Watch: Let the PG do Their Job

A recent column here touched on the Celtics’ need to get away from late-game isolations that hurt them in a couple of losses and stick with the kind of ball movement that has led them to the best record in the league.

One league executive told Heavy a key to watch for is whether Jayson Tatum is bringing the ball up the floor, which invites pressure and ends up taking something away from him — even if the reason he does it may actually be to conserve energy.

“It’s when he gets tired,” the exec said. “When you’re fatigued a little bit, you turn and get the ball and you walk up at your pace. If you don’t get the ball, then you have to run. You’re required to run the court. … They’ve got point guards. Every one of them should dribble the ball up the court so he doesn’t have to. But that means he’s got to run.

“Remember the Finals against Golden State? He was bringing it up, and they were pressuring him. I think that took something out of him and out of their offense. He’s too important to have him doing that job, too, unless he’s got the ball and sees an opening for transition.”

Phoenix Suns: Mortgage Already Coming Due for Mat Ishiba

Phoenix slipped into the sixth seed in the Western Conference by beating Minnesota Sunday while New Orleans was losing to the Lakers. The Suns and Pelicans finished with identical 49-33 records, but Phoenix had the tiebreaker by winning two of three against NOLA this season.

The Suns had hoped for much better after adding Bradley Beal to Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, but injuries were a major factor in the club failing to get the kind of traction it desired.

Owner Mat Ishbia is banking on the Suns’ high-priced talent paying off.

“He’s gonna cost himself a s***ton of money under the new collective bargaining agreement,” an opposing exec told Heavy. “He just is. If he wants to pay it, that’s fine. The point is that he’s mortgaged everything on this current group here, and once this runs its course … that is, when KD starts to slow down — and he hasn’t yet; he’s still very good — they’re going to be in a tough situation.

“But if any one of KD, Beal and Booker gets hurt, they don’t have anything behind. They’ve got almost nothing in the till. They’ve traded away their stuff for five years. So then you’re sort of consigned to the free agency methodology, which is, by far, the most expensive way to do business.

“Now, it makes sense when you think you’re on the cusp and you push all your chips to the center of the table. That’s fine. That makes sense. It’s different when you have to try to retool through free agency. All of a sudden you’re paying 110 cents on the dollar to get a competent team. It’ll be interesting to see how they navigate that.”


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