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New York Knicks veteran power forward Taj Gibson says players on the team loved ex-coach David Fizdale.

Gibson says he was able to say goodbye to Fizdale on Friday, who was crying.

Taj Gibson says was one of few players still around yesterday when Fizdale got axe. Hugged him. Saw him tear up but said Fiz still motivating him to end. “Guys loved him,” Gibson said.

— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) December 7, 2019

Fizdale coached the Knicks at practice on Friday and told reporters he wasn’t worried about his job security. A few hours later, Fizdale was fired by the top brass. Life sure does come at you fast when you’re in the NBA.

After missing out on stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency, the Knicks used their cap space on Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Gibson, Marcus Morris, Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock. That’s a lot of power forwards on one team and guys who don’t really move the needle.

How was Fizdale supposed to win games with the roster he had this season? Fizdale was the fall guy in New York. RJ Barrett, Bobby Portis and Gibson showed their support for Fizdale multiple times, so it is clear the players liked and enjoyed playing for him.

At this point, it probably doesn’t matter who is coaching the Knicks. Their roster just isn’t good enough to compete, and it doesn’t help that James Dolan is universally recognized as the worst owner in the NBA.

New York has the worst record in the East.

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Knicks shooting guard Wayne Ellington is out for Saturday’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers with a sore left Achilles, the team announced.

Ellington has appeared in 18 of the team’s 22 games this season, but is averaging just over 14 minutes per game in his first year with the Knicks. He’s in the midst of the worst year of his 11-season NBA career, averaging career lows in field goal, free throw, and three-point percentage, and has reached double-figures in points just twice.

Allonzo Trier, who fell out of the rotation during the second half of November, has appeared in the last two games and could see more minutes in Ellington’s absence. Damyean Dotson should also get more of an increased role when the Knicks tip-off against the Pacers at 7:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.

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Slowly but surely, Damyean Dotson has emerged to grab the Knicks backup shooting guard slot from Wayne Ellington and Allonzo Trier.

It wasn’t long ago Dotson was a complete afterthought in a crowded field after returning from offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and missing the preseason.

Dotson, a second-round pick by Phil Jackson in 2017, started the regular season out of the rotation. He played three minutes in the first four games — in three of those he didn’t play at all — after being the starting shooting guard to close last season.

But in recent games, Dotson is emerging with his hustle, speed, defense and ability to impact the game. In Monday’s 123-105 win over the Cavaliers, Dotson made a big impact offensively with a season-high 11 points, making 5 of 10 shots in 18 minutes. Dotson also had another of his hustle plays, grabbing a loose ball that was going to be a turnover and driving to the basket for a score.

“I didn’t play any training camp, didn’t play any preseason games,’’ Dotson told The Post. “If you were a coach, you’d be skeptical throwing me out there because you don’t know if I’m ready or not. I had to go through a few practices, short spurts in games, to get my rhythm back. I’m still not 100 [percent], but I’m working and trying to get there.”

Enlarge ImageDamyean Dotson
Damyean DotsonAnthony J. Causi
A former high school football player out of Houston, Dotson said he’s still getting his wind. He is considered the fastest sprinter on the team, just beating Dennis Smith Jr. in a race at practice.

“It was all part of the plan,’’ said Dotson, who couldn’t shoot most of the summer. “I still don’t think I‘m my normal self. I’m still getting rhythm back I can’t play as long as I want without getting tired.”

C Mitchell Robinson played with his sprained ankle on Monday, recording 16 minutes, seven points, four blocks and five fouls. Robinson sprained it again versus on Saturday. “I know with him, he’s going to be doing what he does,’’ coach David Fizdale said. “He’s going to fly around.’’… Fizdale admitted on the final Charlotte 3-point dagger by Devonte’ Graham on Saturday, Robinson was supposed to be up at the 3-point line. … Cavs forwards Kevin Love (back) and Larry Nance (thumb) missed the game.

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New York Knicks President Steve Mills’ job is reportedly in jeopardy following Friday’s firing of head coach David Fizdale.

According to Frank Isola of The Athletic, sources believe Mills will either be reassigned or fired because of the Knicks’ struggles during his tenure. Isola added that Knicks owner James Dolan is expected to attempt to lure Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri to the Big Apple once again.

At 4-18, the Knicks own the worst record in the NBA, and they will almost certainly miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.

In 2013, Mills was hired as the executive vice president and general manager of the Knicks. Following the departure of team president Phil Jackson, Mills was elevated to the role and Scott Perry was hired as general manager in 2017.

The Knicks have not had a winning record nor have they made the playoffs during Mills’ tenure. They are also on pace to win fewer than 20 games for the second consecutive season and the third time overall since Mills was initially hired as GM.

There was some level of optimism surrounding the Knicks entering the 2019-20 season since Fizdale was set to begin his second year as head coach and several moves were made in free agency.

New York failed to land any of the big fish available, such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant, so Mills, Perry and Co. instead decided to hand out multiple short-term contracts in order to open the salary cap space back up in the near future.

The Knicks signed guards Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock, and forwards Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson.

While Morris and Randle have both been productive, most of the signings have not worked out as hoped. Also, New York’s young players have not developed as quickly as many expected.

RJ Barrett is enjoying a solid rookie year with 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, but 2018 draft picks Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, and 2017 first-round pick Frank Ntilikina are all averaging less than nine points per game.

With most of New York’s young core failing to develop at an acceptable pace and the pieces assembled by the front office not fitting together properly, it seems like a foregone conclusion that someone will lose their job.

Perhaps Perry will receive the benefit of the doubt since he has only been in his role for two years, but with the Knicks playing mediocre basketball throughout Mills’ tenure, keeping him in an important position any longer may be a tough sell to Knicks fans.

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The New York Knicks’ G-League squad recently played their first game, and Ignas Brazdeikis finally received his first steady dose of playing time.
Ignas Brazdeikis‘ 30-point game for the New York Knicks’ summer league team teased yet another second-round success, following in the footsteps of Mitchell Robinson. All seemed well, until the Knicks filled their roster with veteran free agents, limiting an imminent role once the regular season began.

It is hardly unusual for second-round picks to not receive a full role off the bat. They are not all like Robinson, who shined from the start on a worst-record-in-the-NBA Knicks team. Some of them land in the G League for extra playing time, and that has happened with the Michigan product.

On Monday, Brazdeikis began what will likely be a continuous, back-and-forth trip from the Knicks to Westchester, except his first game happened at Madison Square Garden against the Lakeland Magic. He played 29 minutes, finishing with 15 points, two rebounds, two assists, three steals and five turnovers on 6-for-13 shooting and 3-for-5 on three-pointers.

Brazdeikis did not play in Wednesday’s game, but due to the main-roster Knicks traveling to Chicago, where he played two minutes in garbage time.

Look for more Westchester reps for the 20-year-old guard/forward, who will probably not crack the Knicks’ rotation anytime soon, barring a trade or several injuries, even with a 2-9 record, which has shown no sign of improvement. The steady playing time is positive, though, rather than just watching and doing light practices for the next five months.

More G-League notes
Dennis Smith Jr. returned to the court from missed time, at 0-3 from the field, two rebounds, two steals and a -22. He spent two weeks from the New York Knicks, understandably not staying in basketball shape in that time. That opened speculation of the third-year point guard playing in the G League, which coach David Fizdale apparently considered. However, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post, he opted against it:

“We thought about it, but we just felt like it wasn’t an injury that took him out,” Fizdale said Wednesday. “It was more from a conditioning standpoint. So what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna play him, try to play him in smaller doses to get him back in shape. Obviously he’s doing a lot of court work, three-on-three, two-on-two. Today he had a full practice, which was great. “I don’t see us sending him down. No, he’s back with us now.”

That means Smith will play through his on-court struggles on the main stage, inserting himself into a point guard discussion that includes Frank Ntilikina starting and an injured Elfrid Payton. As long as one misses time, playing opportunities will remain for Smith. Once everyone is healthy, however, that’s when Fizdale’s decision making goes under the microscope, again.

Outside of the NBA links, Andrew White III has played stellar basketball, averaging 29 points in his first two games on 65.6 percent shooting. He had 39 points in Wednesday’s win.

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New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett has given his sentiments regarding the team’s decision to fire head coach David Fizdale and assistant coach Keith Smart.

Barrett, the third-overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft, thanked his former coaches for everything that they have done for him as he started his young career with the Knicks.

“I appreciate everything coach Fizdale and coach (Keith) Smart have done for me,” Barrett shared, per Coby Green of SNY.TV. “They were the first ones to give me a chance in the league so I appreciate them. I spoke to coach Fizdale. Wished me the best.”

Rumors of the Knicks’ plan to fire Fizdale came out a couple of weeks ago, but after the team’s eighth-straight loss, they have decided that it was time to make some changes. Mike Miller has been appointed as the team’s interim head coach, thoug he suffered his first defeat on Saturday after the Knicks bowed down to the Indiana Pacers 104-103.

Barrett was also asked if he had any idea on whether the Knicks’ front office had other reasons for firing Fizdale, but the 19-year-old refused to give any details.

“Oh that’s private. I can’t talk about what management told me,” he shared.

It is unclear if Miller will be the team’s head coach for the remainder of the season, but one thing is for sure: Knicks fans will have to continue to endure the franchise’s mediocrity since it seems that it is where they are headed once again.

The Knicks currently have the worst record in the league at 4-19. However, they will have the chance to at least get a win, considering that two of their next three games will be against fellow cellar-dwelling teams: the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday and the Sacramento Kings on Friday.

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On Friday, the New York Knicks fired head coach David Fizdale just 22 games into his second season. Unhappy with the 4-18 start to the year, management decided it was time to move in another direction.

What that direction ends up being is anybody’s guess, but in the meantime they pegged Mike Miller as interim head coach. That name might not have the punch of a Mark Jackson or Becky Hammon, but Miller may turn out to be exactly what the Knicks need, and should be considered as more of a contender for the vacancy than a stopgap.

Miller hails from the G League, where he coached the Westchester Knicks – New York’s affiliate – for four seasons. In that stretch he made the playoffs three times and amassed a .540 regular season win percentage.

Miller took home Coach of the Year honors, voted on by fellow G-League head coaches and GMs, in 2017-18 following a 32-18 season in which the Knicks ranked third in defense and second in three-point percentage. He also oversaw the development of numerous G League success stories such as Luke Kornet, Kadeem Allen, Trey Burke, Billy Garrett, and Jimmer Fredette.

Prior to his Knicks stint, Miller served as an assistant with the Austin Spurs – San Antonio’s affiliate – for three years. The G League was Miller’s transition to the pros, but he had already spent over 20 years coaching at the college level, including as head coach for Texas State and Eastern Illinois.

He played collegiate ball as well, winning the 1984 Lone Star Conference Championship with East Texas State.

This resume should stand on its own – Miller is a tried-and-true basketball lifer. His teams emphasized defense and development, which his New York companions could use. But fans may remain iffy entrusting a coach they hardly know coming out of the NBA’s developmental league.

This could ultimately be in the Knicks’ favor.

First, Miller is already in tune to the organization. He’s been around it for four years and was an assistant for coach Fizdale this season. There should be few transition issues here, and other teams have found great success in hiring their head coaches out of the G-League.

Take Toronto, who won their first championship under Nick Nurse, who followed an extremely similar career path as Miller. Terry Stotts and Quin Snyder, coaches of the Portland Trailblazers and Utah Jazz respectively, each set off their coaching careers in the (then) D League.

Miller’s emphasis on development should be music to Knicks fans’ ears as well. This team is not going to win anything, at least this season, despite what management may be hoping for. This gives Miller a chance to show off his ability to grow young players. There have been too many instances of Kevin Knox or RJ Barrett off in the corner with nothing to do but watch their team’s veterans assume the offense for stretches at a time. Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson, two other intriguing prospects, weren’t receiving any playing time to start the season.

These hiccups for a franchise that wants to rebuild around its young core need to go, and Miller, not the fanciest retread name, is the man to make these changes.

Of course, the Knicks’ front office will have to see how Miller performs in his interim status before finalizing any decisions. Will he run a modern NBA offense after his Westchester teams finished last in three-point attempt rate in three of his four seasons? Can he correct some of Fizdale’s shortfalls such as a lack of identity, lack of creative play-calling and lack of opportunities given to developing pieces? All that is to be discovered.

Miller has a tough proposition in front of him: assume his first NBA head coaching role in the face of an unhappy franchise, a 4-18 hole to dig out of, veterans who want to compete and prospects who need development.

He may not be able to provide the Knicks everything that they want, but if he can come close, he deserves to be more than just the ‘interim’ head coach.

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Knicks forward and Brooklyn native Taj Gibson takes a shot at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: Describe your on-court mentality.
A: Intense … real locked-in. And I turn into a different person, other than when I’m outside. I may smile to my family that’s sitting in the stands for one second, then it’s cold turkey. I don’t really know anybody else.

Q: Describe what that person is like on the court.
A: I’m ferocious. I’m gonna hit you. My job is to protect my teammates, set hard screens and just play ferocious. Just whatever it takes — dive on the floor, dive on the ball. It’s kind of like an out-of-body experience. Whatever it takes to get the job done, you don’t really care.

Q: So, you can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take the Brooklyn out of the boy.
A: You can’t, you can’t. Because it’s a dog-eat-dog world on that court. Nobody’s gonna feel sorry for you, especially in the pros. You just gotta go out there and just … you gotta headhunt.

Q: Describe the gangs in Los Angeles.
A: When I got to L.A., I didn’t really understand it ’cause I was a kid from Brooklyn, New York, so the New York Gauchos and a good coach in Gary Simms — rest in peace — he was known for taking a lot of guys out of Brooklyn and helping them get to good prep schools, so they sent me to Stoneridge Preparatory in California. … New York had the gangs, too, but it wasn’t too extreme the way it was in California. It was intense, but if you can survive in New York, you can survive anywhere. I didn’t have any problems. The New York in me just kind of protected me.

Q: How tough was it in Fort Greene?
A: Fort Greene has always been tough. … Fort Greene Ingersoll Houses has always been tough. It was a lot of murders, a lot of killings. To this day, I thank my dad personally for some days making me stay in the house, ’cause there was a lot of stuff going on outside. I lost a lot of friends that were just … young, and never got a chance to grow. I think my parents deserve most of the credit for just knowing when to keep me inside and keep me locked in.

Q: How close were the friends you lost?
A: We were real close. One thing about Fort Greene, we’re a tight-knit group. Fort Greene is just tough, I can’t even explain it to you. It was either play basketball, you rap, you sell drugs or you just be in the streets. But lucky for me, I’d wake up early, and back in the day when you used to wake up early, the drug dealers would be out early, and I used to be outside, and my neighborhood was so dope because they never bothered me. The drug dealers never bothered me. Sometimes they would even rebound for me. They’ll be out early in the morning and they’ll hoop with me. They’ll make sure I get my shots, they’ll challenge me, they’ll play pick up, they’ll do everything.

Enlarge ImageTaj Gibson
Taj GibsonAnthony J. Causi
Q: What about all the fights you had?
A: When I first started coming outside, I used to get picked on every day.

Q: Why?
A: Maybe sitting up straight. Maybe talking too proper. Maybe coming out smiling too much. One thing about Fort Greene, they used to beat me up for the smallest things. I got beat up maybe over 50 times. Every day I came outside I had to fight somebody (laugh). Every day! It creates toughness in you, and after a while, you just deal with it.

Q: Was there ever a time that you feared for your life?
A: Of course. You always got a sense of just being a little wary about the gunshots and worry about your safety, but … I had a good friend of mine, his name is Charles Wynn, rest in peace. At the time he was the best player in Fort Greene, in my opinion, in my age group. He used to always tell me growing up, he said, “Man, you got one life to live.” He said, “Where we come from, life’s taken for granted. So every time you come outside and you play ball, it should be a smile on your face knowing where we come from.” I got drafted in 2009. He was at my draft party. I was telling him I was scared. I didn’t really know where I was gonna get drafted. I was kind of crying, I was just a little nervous. He told me, “Whatchu crying for?” He’s like, “Where we come from … this is nuthin’. We already went through the hard part.” And my other best friend, which is coming out of jail after doing 9¹/₂ [years], his name is Tameek Floyd. He gets out of Fishkill Correctional Facility Dec. 12.

Q: How soon after the draft was Charles killed?
A: It was maybe a year or so later. He got shot in Canarsie.

Q: And how do you know Tameek?
A: We grew up together. He took me to the New York Gauchos.

Q: Why was he in prison?
A: He got caught up in the streets [burglary]. He’s college educated — just made a bad decision and ended up having to do 10 years in jail.

Q: Have you visited him?
A: Every year, I got pictures. Every year. I’ve been going to Downstate Correctional Facility and then when he got transferred to Fishkill Correctional Facility, I’ve been going up there ever since. I go up there every weekend almost.

Q: Has he been following your career?
A: He calls me every day. We talk every day for the last 10 years.

Q: What does it mean to you that he’s getting out?
A: It means the world to me, because he’s my best friend. Just ’cause he’s locked up don’t mean I’m gonna change.

For more on the Knicks, listen to the latest episode of the “Big Apple Buckets” podcast:

Q: How often did you go to the Garden as a kid?
A: My dad used to take me there all the time. My dad used to work for a carpentry company, so just like everything else blue-collar, we’d sit up in the rafters all the way up top. After a long day at work, he’d take me.

Q: Who were your favorite Knicks?
A: John Starks and then Patrick Ewing, of course. And then when I got to the league, one of the first people I met was Patrick Ewing.

Q: What was that like?
A: It was amazing. He was real down-to-earth, he was real cool, and to this day, everyone I’ve seen, he always asks how’s my family, how’s my brother doing? He’s a good guy.

Q: What was the first time you played at the Garden?
A: The very first time I played at the Garden was … USC versus Derrick Rose and Memphis [December 2007]. It was nerve-wracking. It was unique because it was one of my first games back home. It was fun, I got to see my friends and family come to the Garden.

Q: Any favorite Knicks memories?
A: The four-point play from LJ [Larry Johnson]. I wasn’t at that game, but I remember watching it vividly ’cause back then most of the people back in New York used to have their TVs outside with extension cords and watching it in front of the building. I remember LJ hit the four-point play, and I remember [former Knicks assistant coach] Tom Thibodeau, to this day, my old [Bulls] coach is on the sidelines screaming the way he always be screaming, yelling.

Q: Why does this city love the Knicks?
A: You’ll probably have to ask my dad and the guys before me, it’s just tradition, it’s what you grow up on.

Q: Describe the rivalry with the Nets.
A: Right now we’re just focusing on us.


Taj Gibson’s biggest value to Knicks is all about teammate
Q: But it’s electric in the building when you guys play the Nets, right?
A: Yeah, yeah. I think the city just loves the competitiveness of the games, and I think it’s good for the city.

Q: Describe Frank Ntilikina.
A: I love Frank. Frank is eager to learn, he’s eager to get better. I think he’s taking the next step, which is understanding what he has to do to become a good professional basketball player in this league. When I first met Frank, he was just a totally different kid. He really didn’t understand it, I think, right then and there. He’s only scratched the surface.

Q: Mitchell Robinson.
A: Pure talent. He’s playing off of pure talent. He’s only scratched a little bit of the surface.

Q: How good can he be?
A: He can be All-World if he wants. He works extremely hard every morning with me, and he’s extremely competitive. And he listens. And you can’t teach those things.

Q: RJ Barrett.
A: Same thing like Mitch and Frank. Super-competitive, eager to learn, always willing to listen. He has a grown man frame already.

Q: What is your best single basketball moment, other than this interview?
A: Other than this interview was going to the [2011] Eastern Conference finals. Just knowing how hard it is to win basketball games in the NBA, but when you’re locked in with a group guys, to have a bond and you’re in the heat of the battle each and every night, especially going against everybody’s opinion on you, telling you you can’t do something, you can’t do this and you overachieve in it, that’s the best feeling in the world.

Q: What was it like beating Kevin Durant and Texas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2007?
A: It was cool. Understanding that you’re competing at a higher level. All these things and dreams as a kid growing up in Brooklyn, you wish to have. You wish to go play for a big school, you wish to go get a college education. You dream all these things while playing on the pickup run in front of your building … late nights when you’re outside shooting on the rim and it’s raining outside.

Enlarge ImageKnicks
Julius Randle celebrates with Taj GibsonGetty Images
Q: Describe the young Derrick Rose.
A: Fast, athletic, just a beast.

Q: Boyhood idol?
A: Ed “Booger” Smith and Omar Cook. They’re both from my neighborhood. They’re both real inspirational as far as just basketball in the whole New York City.

Q: Did you ever run into Bernard King or Albert King?
A: I saw Albert at the Brooklyn Nets game like year before last, and I was astonished ’cause I’ve been trying to meet them almost my whole life. And then I met Bernard during training camp. It was so surreal because I grew up in Fort Greene just always hearing about them, and almost every kid in my neighborhood is just trying to be just like them, so they were like an urban legend that you never got a chance to see.

Q: What did you say to Bernard?
A: It was just like, “Man, I’ve been hearing about you my whole life. A great feeling to finally get a chance to meet you.”

Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Biggie Smalls, Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy.

Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Casino.”

Q: Favorite actor?
A: Wesley Snipes.

Q: Favorite actress?
A: Halle Berry.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: Jay-Z.

Q: Favorite meal?
A: Snow crab legs.

Q: New York or Chicago pizza?
A: New York.

Q: Hobbies?
A: I like to go to museums on my day off. I want to help in my community, I want to bring jobs to my community, I want to build different things around my community and help the next generation move on.

Q: Superstitions?
A: Whatever brings me good luck, we try to remix it (smile).

Q: Has this been the career you imagined as a kid?
A: No, to be honest with you. I thought I was gonna be a carpenter or a firefighter. I really wanted to be a firefighter growing up. The local fire department in my neighborhood was the 110. I’ve been going to that fire station since I was a kid (smile). When I got a flat tire, you can always count on going to the fire stations for flat tires, get drinks of water, maybe have cookies and milk. Those are old memories I remember growing up in Fort Greene doing.

Q: But no regrets not becoming a firefighter?
A: I just got a little too tall for it, I guess (smile), but I really wanted to be a firefighter. My parents’ll tell you that. But my dad was a master carpenter, so that was always in the back of my pocket.

Knicks facing a bad Spurs team: ‘It’s actually hard to believe’

Q: What drives you?
A: My neighborhood. Knowing that I got people watching me. I got people just depending on me. I want to do the right thing for my neighborhood, set the tone for the next generation.

Q: How much longer do you want to play?
A: However many years the man above allows me to play. Every day I get up I have a smile on my face and I thank the man above, and I just go out there and I just play.
Q: What are you most proud of about your career?
Q: That I was a late first-round pick [26th overall by the Bulls in 2009], and I’m playing in the NBA a whole decade later (smile) after everybody in my draft class kind of weathered off.

Q: Did you want the Knicks to draft you?
A: Of course! I was talking to Allan [Houston] about it. Everything happens for a reason, and I’m here now, that’s all that matters.

Q: What’s it like for you being a New York Knick?
A: It’s amazing, man. Every day I come here I get to look at the retired numbers in the rafters. … I look at the logo on the main court … then I get to walk in the back, I see the weight room, I see all the festivities that’s at my disposal. It still feels like my first year in the NBA for me. I don’t take anything for granted. Every day I come into the gym I smile and I’m super-happy, I’m super-electric and I’m ready to practice.

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Last week, Newsday’s Steve Popper reported that the Knicks have their eyes on Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri to replace current New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations, Steve Mills. If they decided to fire Mills along with General Manager Scott Perry.

According to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, Knicks owner James Dolan is intrigued by the possibility of hiring Ujiri.

“Sources also say Ujiri would be intrigued by the challenge of fixing the Knicks, the chance to build something from scratch and, not insignificantly, by the opportunity to elevate his Giants of Africa philanthropy by working in the New York market,” said Beck.

“Influential voices in the NBA have strongly advised Ujiri not to take the job, if it’s ever offered, sources say. But those same sources say Ujiri might do it anyway, if the money is right, if he’s granted the necessary autonomy and if Dolan funds Giants of Africa as generously as the Raptors ownership group has, Beck said.

“Ujiri’s contract is believed to run through 2021 but with an out clause under certain circumstances. He turned down a lucrative extension last summer, sources said, leaving the impression that he wants to keep his options open.”

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The Interest Between Knicks and Ujiri is Real
I recently spoke to a high ranking official in the NBA, and the individual shared with me that “The Knicks would be a dream job for Masai Ujiri. It will also bring more eyes to his work with the Giants of Africa,” the high ranking official revealed.

Ujiri is the mastermind that shipped DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick to the Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. He also fired the 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey and decided to replace him with Raptors assistant Nick Nurse per, Kristian Winfield of SB Nation. Those two moves along with a trade deadline move for Marc Gasol helped the Toronto Raptors celebrate their first NBA Championship in franchise history earlier this year.

Knicks Fired Head Coach David Fizdale
On Friday, the New York Knicks decided to fire their head coach David Fizdale after a horrendous start of 4-18 this season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the news. Wojnarowski also reported that the Knicks fired top assistant Keith Smart and named assistant Mike Miller as interim coach.

According to a report by Marc Berman of the New York Post, Allan Houston, who is the GM of the Knicks’ G-League team, the Westchester Knicks was the driving force behind Mike Miller getting his chance to be the interim coach of the Knicks. Houston is the former assistant GM of the Knicks.

Per Berman, Houston lost power within the organization once former President of Basketball Operations, Phil Jackson was hired on March 18, 2014.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Jim Dolan. I have gotten to know Jim, and he is totally committed to delivering a winner for New York. I started my career as a Knick, and know what it feels like to win in this great city,” said Mr. Jackson. “I take the task of helping to deliver a winning team to our fans seriously, and I look forward to combining my vision of the game with Steve Mills’ abilities as a General Manager.”

“When Jim first asked me to join the Knicks this past fall, I said my goal was to be part of a winning organization,” said Mr. Mills. “With Phil Jackson aboard, we’ve taken a major step in that direction. I look forward to working with him.”

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In our first look this season at the early contenders for NBA Sixth Man of the Year, we find a mix of new faces and old standbys, but the top is familiar.
When it comes time to hand out the NBA honors sometime a couple of decades after the regular season wraps up (nope, still not a fan of the post-NBA Draft basketball Oscars show), the Sixth Man of the Year honor has almost exclusively rested within the purview of the scoring savants, the players that can come in and instantly start cooking at the offensive end.

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In the 37 years the NBA has awarded the Sixth Man of the Year, there have only been three winners who scored less than 10 points per game — Bobby Jones of the Philadelphia 76ers (9.0 PPG in 1982-83, the first year the award was handed out), Bill Walton of the Boston Celtics (7.6 PPG in 1985-86) and Anthony Mason of the New York Knicks (9.9 PPG in 1994-95).

So it’s been awhile since a bench player not known for offensive firepower has been the NBA Sixth Man of the Year. At the other end of the scale, there have been three winners who topped 20 points per game the year they won.

Eddie Johnson of the Phoenix Suns was the first when he averaged 21.5 points per game in 1988-89 and Ricky Pierce of the Milwaukee Bucks topped that with 23.0 points per game the next season — still the highest scoring average ever for an NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

Lou Williams of the LA Clippers, a three-time winner who has taken the trophy each of the last two seasons, is the other 20-point-a-game reserve, topping the mark each of the last two seasons — 22.6 PPG in 2017-18 and 20.0 PPG last year.

Williams is one of only three active players to have won the award. The others are Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets (2016-17) and Rockets star James Harden, a winner with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011-12.

In determining how many players who be placed on the ladder, we looked at the last five years of voting results. An average of 7.2 players per year received first-place votes on the last five seasons’ worth of ballots, so the ladder for this season will go seven players deep.

That means close but no cookie for former MVP Derrick Rose of the Detroit Pistons, rejuvenated Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers, Tim Hardaway Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of the Toronto Raptors and Davis Bertans of the Washington Wizards — all solidly in contention, but trailing the group listed below.

Meanwhile, second-year sensation Devonte’ Graham became ineligible for the list by starting Friday night for the Charlotte Hornets in Detroit. Graham now has 10 starts in 20 games; the criteria for NBA Sixth Man of the Year is that a player come off the bench in more games than he starts.