City Sports Report

Former Knicks may help Cleveland Cavaliers win NBA Championship

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Former New York Knicks players JR Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov returned to Madison Square Garden for the first time as members of the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday afternoon.  Smith and Shumpert were traded January 5, 2015, while Mozgov was part of the Carmelo Anthony trade that brought Melo to the Big Apple and sent Mozgov to Denver four years ago.  Smith scored 17 points on 7-11 from the field, nailing 3-5 from three, with 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks to help the Cavs defeat the New York Knicks 101-83 in a game that wasn’t that close.  Mozgov scored 7 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, and Shumpert came off the bench to add 4 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists, including a pass to Smith for a dunk that Cleveland head coach David Blatt said was worth “The price of admission.”

The Cavaliers, with a new Big Three of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, were predicted by many to be the best team in the Eastern Conference and a serious title contender.  (I wasn’t one of those people.)  With high expectations, the Cavs struggled out the gate, and after a loss in Phoenix to the Suns, the team was 19-20.

Since, the Cavaliers are 16-2, and are arguably playing the best basketball in the National Basketball Association.  Much of the credit needs to be given to the former Knicks, Smith, Shumpert, and Mozgov for adding much-needed athleticism to Cleveland.

Since joining the Cavaliers, Mozgov is averaging 10.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and shooting 59%, all of which would be career highs over a complete season.  Mozgov is a 7’1” athletic big who can protect the rim on defense, grab rebounds on both ends of the floor and finish on the offensive end.  Think of him as Tyson Chandler Lite, and I wasn’t happy when he was included in the trade for Carmelo Anthony.  Mozgov appears to be finally fulfilling his potential.

Believe it or not, JR Smith is actually playing more minutes with the Cavaliers then he was with the 10-win Knicks.  In 31.8 minutes per game, compared with 25.8 with the Knicks, Smith is averaging 13.0 points, while averaging 10.9 with the Knicks.  His ability to run the floor, defend, finish, and shoot the three ball as at least the fourth offensive option on the team makes the Cavs a lot more dangerous with the addition of the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year during the 2012-2013 season.

Though Iman Shumpert is coming off the bench and not playing as many minutes, he is playing the most efficient basketball of his career, shooting 49% from the field and 43% from three in Cleveland, compared to career averages of 40% and 35%, respectively.

Cavs head coach Blatt discussed the three former Knicks after the win.  “The three of them obviously have really changed the fortunes of this team, because of their particular skill sets, and more importantly because of the attitudes that they brought and the way they fit right in with our guys.  They are all good player and very good people and they all gelled with their teammates quickly, easily, and naturally.  We know the three of them can play, and they’ve shown that since they’ve come here.”

LeBron James spoke specifically about Mozgov after the win. “He is very physical and very smart as well.  His basketball IQ is very (good) and he does things that help our team.”

Shumpert spoke after the game.  “It was exciting.  I honestly wish Melo would have played.  That would have made it all the more fun.  It was exciting to come back and see the home crowd.”  Smith kissed the  court, and talked about the feeling of returning.  “I look at it as a place that I’ll always call home.  For me, actually being from New Jersey, growing up here, it was very emotional.”

The New York Knicks hosted their 16th Annual Knicks Bowl Monday, presented by Footlocker and to benefit the Garden of Dreams Foundation.  Knicks Bowl has raised more than $2.8 million for Garden of Dreams Foundation since its inception, and it featured the compete New York Knicks team, along with many famous friends of the players and Knicks alumni, including  Allan Houston, John Starks, Larry Johnson, Earl Monroe, Cal Ramsey, John Wallace, Felipe Lopez and more.  Log on to http://www.gardenofdreamsfoundation.org/ for more information and to get involved with Garden of Dreams Foundation.

Click here for the postgame interview with Shumpert and Smith 

Click here for pregame with Iman Shumpert

Click here for postgame with LeBron James

Click here for an exclusive interview with the father of JR Smith, Earl Smith 

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