Knicks head coach resigns suddenly

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Knicks head coach resigns suddenly

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike D'Antoni resigned as coach of the New York Knicks on Wednesday, a person familiar with the decision said. Yahoo Sports first reported the surprising news, which comes with the Knicks in the middle of a late-season slide that could cost them a playoff spot. New York has lost six in a row for the second time this season and has fallen into a tie for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The decision came just hours after star Carmelo Anthony denied there was a rift with D'Antoni. The Knicks have struggled since Anthony returned from a groin injury 10 games ago. There was speculation that he and D'Antoni did not get along, though the All-Star forward said Wednesday he supported the coach "100 percent." D'Antoni put the Knicks through a morning workout Wednesday, seemed in good spirits and said players were, too. He acknowledged the media frenzy around the sinking team but believed the Knicks would handle it. "You battle against it and I think we're cohesive enough to battle through this and we expect to do that," he said. He was preparing to coach the Knicks against the Portland Trail Blazers later Wednesday, but Mike Woodson is expected to handle that role instead. And certainly there's already speculation that the Knicks will try to lure a big-name coach such as Phil Jackson or Kentucky's John Calipari next season. D'Antoni's departure comes less than a month after he seemed rejuvenated by the emergence of Jeremy Lin, the undrafted point guard from Harvard who came off the end of the bench and proved to be the player who could properly run the offensive system. But the success didn't last once Anthony returned, with the Knicks going 2-8 in a season that D'Antoni said should see them contend for a championship. Never able to duplicate his success in Phoenix, D'Antoni was headed to his third losing season since signing a 24 million, four-year contract in 2008 that made him one of the NBA's highest-paid coaches. He never won a playoff game in New York, where the Knicks were focused on the future during his first two years and made numerous changes that didn't give him much of a chance to compete. But they spent big this season, bringing in Tyson Chandler to play between Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, while adding players such as Baron Davis and JR Smith during the season, and D'Antoni acknowledged Wednesday morning it was his responsibility to make everything work. New York returned to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2004 and had its first winning record in a decade, losing to the Boston Celtics in the first round. But the Knicks radically changed the team in the offseason, waiving point guard Chauncey Billups through the amnesty clause to free up salary cap space to sign Chandler, and they sputtered through January while trying three point guards to replace him. D'Antoni finally turned to Lin on Feb. 4 and the Knicks took off, winning seven games in a row and looking like a threat to the top teams in the East. But it all came to a halt when Anthony returned, reinforcing the notion that his desire to get the ball in isolation didn't fit in D'Antoni's offense that focused on pick-and-rolls and quick ball movement. D'Antoni averaged 58 wins in four full seasons in Phoenix before he was hired to replace Isiah Thomas on May 13, 2008. The Knicks got off to a quick start in his first season but broke up the team three weeks into it, trading Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford in separate deals on the same day. New York would make a series of moves over the first two years, all with an eye toward clearing salary cap space for the summer of 2010. D'Antoni always supported the plan, even as it came at the cost of his won-loss record. He was 267-172 when he arrived in New York but went 121-167 here. The Knicks finished in the top 10 in scoring in each of his first three seasons while racking up the three highest 3-pointer totals in team history. But his offense-first style was never a natural fit in New York, where fans craved the hard-nosed, defense-first approach of the 1990s teams of Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason and John Starks. Worse for D'Antoni, he lost his biggest backer in the front office when team president Donnie Walsh opted not to return after last season. D'Antoni became a coaching star in Phoenix, reaching two Western Conference finals. He won a Coach of the Year award and was named an assistant coach to Mike Krzyzewski with the U.S. national team. But the Suns let him talk to other clubs about their jobs after losing to San Antonio in the first round of the 2008 playoffs. He chose the Knicks over the Chicago Bulls, citing his comfort with Walsh, who had just been hired, and his desire to live in New York. After two years in transition, the Knicks appeared to be a team on the rise after landing Stoudemire in the summer of 2010 to give New York its first superstar since Ewing. But the Knicks didn't stop there, trading four of their top six players to acquire Anthony from Denver last February before the trade deadline. The high price, paid when Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan reportedly overruled Walsh, put enormous pressure on D'Antoni and Anthony to make it work, and they never really could. Anthony was shooting a career-low 40 percent and at times his frustration was evident, such as Monday's loss in Chicago. Asked about that Wednesday, D'Antoni said: "I'm sulking over on the bench, too. So I can understand the frustration. We've just got to a better job of blending things that we want to do and we haven't done that." Now someone else will.

Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

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AP

Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

PITTSBURGH – There are certain trends through which the Blackhawks tend to go sometimes. They can be so-so against teams on the bubble or out of the postseason. But face a playoff-bound team and the Blackhawks usually come with a top-notch game.

Exhibit A on that came on Wednesday.

Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane each had two-point nights, and Marian Hossa scored his 25th of the season as the Blackhawks beat the Penguins 5-1 on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks snapped a three-game winless streak and now have a nine-point lead over the Minnesota Wild in the West.

Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 32 shots. Richard Panik scored his 22nd goal of the season. Bryan Rust had the Penguins' lone goal at 5:46 of the third.

The Penguins, much like the Blackhawks, entered this one with 103 points. The Penguins were without several injured players, including Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Trevor Daley. Still, it's the Penguins, and you can never take them lightly.

[Buy Blackhawks tickets right here]

The Blackhawks got the early lead, then really pounced in the final five-plus minutes of the first period. The Blackhawks got stellar set-up passes from Patrick Kane, Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz and finishes to accompany them. Two of their goals (Marcus Kruger and Hossa) came in the final minute of the first period for that 4-0 lead.

The Penguins had the first six shots of the third but the Blackhawks would score on their first of the period when Tanner Kero, taking the turnover from Justin Schultz, finished on a breakaway.

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

As far as first impressions go, Bastian Schweinsteiger made a good one on Wednesday.

The Chicago Fire's new German star smiled at every opportunity, said all the right things about playing hard and wanting to fit in with his new team and even elegantly danced around some 'tricky' questions.

Schweinsteiger opened by thanking fans for showing up to greet him at O'Hare on Tuesday and later said he has plenty left to give on the field.

"I'm 32 years old, I'm ready," Schweinsteiger said. "Of course I need more training sessions to have the right rhythm where I want to see myself. I want to use every minute to feel how it is, how the teammates are playing, which kind of runs they make, which kind of rhythm they have. So to know each other better, that is very important for me step-by-step and I hope you will get results soon because I don't like to lose or to draw."

The German's addition is a big deal to the Fire because he is a big name player who is drawing more attention to the team. That means the Fire will have to win more to capitalize and show the team is deserving of the extra attention.

Despite that extra attention, words of adoration from general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic saying he "can be the icon of the MLS in the future," Schweinsteiger said he is ready for the attention, but does not want to stand apart from his teammates.

"I had a lot of pressure in my career," Schweinsteiger said. "When you play a World Cup final or a Champions League final and the third time you have to win against Borussia Dortmund there is a lot of pressure on your shoulders so I can handle that. I don't want to say I'm a key player of Chicago Fire. Every player on the pitch has to be a key player and has to take the responsibility on the pitch and I would like just to get comfortable with myself and into the team so much as I can."

Talking about the importance of winning and showing humility? Check.

[Watch or listen to Bastian Schweinsteiger's full press conference here]

As for some of those 'tricky' questions, he was able to stay clean there as well. Will you root for the Cubs or Sox?

"First of all I like the Fire the most, of course," Schweinsteiger said.

Well played, Bastian.

But what about this one: Is the World Cup a realistic expectation for the Fire?

Sorry, what was that? Schweinsteiger smiled politely, said he didn't understand the question and avoided getting egg on his face while the Internet exploded in laughter that he was asked about the chances a club team winning an international competition.

Schweinsteiger is the new face of the Fire and that face smiled, waved and shook hands on Wednesday amid all the pageantry.

Media savvy? Check.

As for how he will perform on the field, that's to come soon. Paunovic only gave a subtle hint as to whether Schweinsteiger will play in Saturday's home match against Montreal.

"Obviously he is going to be available," Paunovic said. "We are not going to reveal our plans here, but we still have a talk to have and discuss how he feels and more things about the team and how we want to play. Be ready, just be ready. We'll see."