Dwane Casey will probably return as Raptors head coach next season even though the team got swept by the underdog Wizards in the playoffs, Eric Koreen of The National Post opines. Casey has one guaranteed year remaining on his contract and Koreen anticipates the team’s management will give him another chance unless a proven coach that GM Masai Ujiri likes, such as the Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau, becomes available. The Raptors will likely cut ties with all of their unrestricted free agents, a list that includes Landry Fields, Amir Johnson, Greg Stiemsma, Tyler Hansbrough, Chuck Hayes and Lou Williams, according to Koreen. The Raptors need to upgrade at the forward spots and improve defensively to become a serious contender, which is why no one on the roster is a lock to return next season, Koreen concludes.
In other news around the Atlantic Division:
- The Knicks need more veteran leaders in their locker room even if Carmelo Anthony becomes more of a vocal leader next season, according to Ian Begley of ESPN New York. The Knicks had several of those players, including Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby, in 2013/14 when they won 54 games, Begley points out. David West might fit that description if the Pacers forward declines his $12.6MM player option for next season, Begley adds.
- Brook Lopez‘s strong finish makes his decision on whether to exercise his $16.7MM player option for next season a difficult one, Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops.com reports. It might be wise for the Nets center to opt out and seek long-term security this summer, given his rising stock and injury history, Scotto continues. On the flip side, Lopez might be competing for offers with a number of other high-profile centers who will enter the market this summer, including Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler and Omer Asik, Scotto adds. One GM who thinks Lopez would put himself at too much risk for injury if he opts in tells Scotto that he believes the center would merit salaries around $16MM on the open market, essentially mirroring the value of his option.
- Luigi Datome made a point of praising the Celtics on his Facebook page Monday, Braden Campbell of Boston.com reports, a strong indicator he hopes Boston will re-sign him. Datome, who will be unrestricted free agent this summer, was dealt to the Celtics by the Pistons at the trade deadline. Datome, who praised everyone from the team’s management to arena workers, added in the Facebook post that he would value every proposal that comes his way this summer. He probably won’t get one from Boston, since Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has already expressed doubt that the team would have a roster spot available for Datome next season.
Satnam Singh Bhamara, a 7’1” 290-pound player from India, is considering declaring for the 2015 NBA Draft, Pete Thamel of SI.com writes. While the 19-year-old is unlikely to be selected this June, Bhamara is considered India’s best chance for producing its first NBA player, Thamel notes. Sim Bhullar became the first player of Indian descent to play in the NBA this past season, but Bhullar was born in Canada.
Bhamara will be represented by both Relativity Sports and WME/IMG, and his advisers felt the best course of action for the player would be to develop and refine his skills instead of attending a junior college, the SI scribe adds. “I do think he’ll end up in the NBA because I’ve seen his progress over the last four years,” said IMG Director of Basketball Kenny Natt. “I’ve been in the league and know how guys like Satnam are looked upon. He has size, strength and touch. He has good hands and can run the floor. Those are the types of things that NBA teams value.”
Here’s more from around the league:
- Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey‘s moves have resulted in Utah notching a record of 19-10 after the All-Star break, and the team being on the rise heading into the 2015/16 season, Doug Robinson of The Deseret News writes. Robinson points to the hiring of coach Quin Snyder, the selection of Dante Exum in the 2014 NBA draft, and matching the Hornets’ offer sheet to Gordon Hayward last summer as some of Lindsey’s recent successes.
- History is not on Thunder coach Scott Brooks‘ side in regards to retaining his job, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. Tramel points to a number of instances where long-tenured coaches were replaced mainly to provide a new voice for the players, and the teams experiencing an uptick in performance as a result.
- The Knicks‘ difficult season at least allowed Carmelo Anthony to have surgery without impacting his team’s postseason chances, a luxury ‘Melo wouldn’t have had if he signed with a different franchise last summer, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. “It was at a point if this was any other team he had to gone to, then they’d be taking away a lot of playoff hopes,’’ team president Phil Jackson said. “In our situation it was something he could do and we could accept it and move forward because next year was a real important year for him to come back and play at the highest level he can play at.’’
The triangle, the presence of Carmelo Anthony, and the past success that Phil Jackson‘s staff has enjoyed will be the selling points for the Knicks in free agency this summer, Jackson said today to reporters, including Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter link). Of course, that staff didn’t have much success this season, a 17-65 debacle for New York, and Jackson acknowledged that he doesn’t expect to suddenly win a title next year, notes Frank Isola of the New York Daily News (on Twitter). Instead, the Zen Master is shooting for a playoff berth and a winning record, as Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal relays (Twitter link). Here’s more from his chat about his plans for achieving that:
- The Knicks will look for defenders and a player who can get to the basket, Jackson said, as Begley notes in a pair of tweets. Jackson also suggested that the team sorely needs a rim-protecting big man, Herring adds (on Twitter).
- Jackson suggested he would be more likely to trade New York’s first-round pick if it falls to fifth, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post (Twitter link). There’s a 12.3% chance the Knicks end up with the fifth pick after the lottery, as the odds show. Should the Knicks keep their pick, a big man will be the priority, Jackson said, tweets Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. Jackson also indicated that he likes the depth of the draft through the top 15 prospects, as Zagoria passes along (Twitter link).
- Regardless of how the draft shakes out, Jackson doesn’t expect to end up with an immediate game-changer, as Herring relays (Twitter link). “[Our pick] isnt going to step on the court immediately and be an MVP,” Jackson said. “So a lot of our contingencies are on free agency. They have to be.”
- The Knicks may have to “sit on our hands” for a year as their top draft pick develops, Jackson suggested, as Zagoria chronicles in a full piece. “So we’re certainly not going to walk away from a situation like that even if it takes the fact that we might have to sit on our hands for a year in the growth process and watch Carmelo come back off an injury and then regenerate for another year after this, provide more support as we go forward,” Jackson said.
- Jackson seemed to convey a measure of displeasure about Anthony’s decision to play in the All-Star Game despite the ailing knee that kept him out the rest of the season, as Herring relays (Twitter links). Anthony “pushed himself” to play, Jackson said, according to Herring. “[Him playing in the All-Star Game] wasn’t that important to us, but it was important to him,” Jackson said.
- Jackson responded affirmatively when asked if he’d be OK with merely setting the foundation for the Knicks to win a championship rather than winning a title during his time with the team, Herring tweets. Jackson just completed the first year of a five-year contract, and there have been hints that he might not stay the entire term.
Carmelo Anthony admitted that he briefly had second thoughts this season about having re-signed with the Knicks last summer, but he says he hasn’t lost faith in team president Phil Jackson, as ‘Melo said today to reporters, including Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter link).
“I try to keep myself from thinking like that,” Anthony said of looking back on his decision. “But as a human being, those thoughts definitely come into play. You sit down at night and you’re thinking, ‘Did I really make the right decision?’ and just things like that,” Anthony said. “Not often did I think about that. There was one point in time this season where it was just cloudy and I didn’t really have any clarity; I was second-guessing what I did and the decision I made. But after that, I was smooth sailing.”
Here’s more out of New York:
- Anthony is prepared to help Jackson recruit, joking that his home office looked like a GM’s, as Peter Botte of the New York Daily News relays. He said he’s OK with the Knicks bringing in someone who’d make him the second option, Begley notes, and he added that while Jackson should explore trading the team’s lottery pick, he’d ultimately like to see the team keep it, observes Marc Berman of the New York Post.
- Knicks fans should be more concerned about what Jackson is able to accomplish this summer than the state of Anthony’s knee, Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com writes. “Now we really get a chance, and he really gets a chance, to put a stamp on what he wants this organization to be about,” Anthony said. “What he wants this team to be about, what players he wants in here. This is the time he steps up to the plate.”
- Coach Derek Fisher says that he would like to be more involved in the organization’s personnel decisions, Berman writes in a separate piece. “I would hope so,’’ Fisher said. “I’ve said before, Phil and [GM] Steve [Mills] have been very open in that regard in wanting my thoughts and opinion.’’
- One NBA executive said the Knicks’ biggest mistake this season was in how the team evaluated its roster, Fred Kerber of The New York Post writes. “To me their biggest mistake was they overrated players. They’ll probably point to Andrea Bargnani getting hurt, but he’s not good enough. Jose Calderon did not have the year they anticipated,” the exec said. “They’re continuing to try to put the triangle in. How many of those guys are going to be back?”
Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.
The relationship between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving was “rocky” at points earlier this season, Irving admits, but it’s grown into a bond that appears much stronger than the one between James and Kevin Love, as Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group details. Love and James say it doesn’t matter whether they become as tight as Irving and James are as long as they can develop a greater on-court connection, Vardon writes.
“People get so infatuated with the best of friends, things of that nature,” James said. “First of all, I’ve got three very good friends in this league, and that’s Carmelo [Anthony], and that’s C.P. [Chris Paul], and that’s [Dwyane Wade] Wade. And after that I have a bunch of teammates. I have guys I ride for every day. But Kyrie is a guy I understand how important he is to this team, how important he is. And the same with Kev as well.”
James and Love can opt out to hit free agency this summer, while Irving will enter year one of his five-year extension next season. Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS hears “some Brad Stevens chatter” in connection to the University of Texas coaching job (Twitter link). It’s unclear whether there’s interest on either side, though Texas athletics director Steve Patterson has spoken with NBA coaching agents of late, tweets Chris Mannix of SI.com. Davis identifies Avery Johnson as a possible sleeper for the job. Stevens is just finishing up the second season of a six-year, $22MM deal and there have been no indications that he wants to leave the Celtics. Further, the Celtics would probably deny him permission to go, as Ben Rohrbach of WEEI.com surmises (Twitter link).
- Alexey Shved loves playing for coach Derek Fisher and is open to re-signing with New York after his contract expires this summer, sources tell Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter link). The Knicks can make Shved a restricted free agent if they tender a qualifying offer of nearly $4.103MM.
- The Cavs have assigned Joe Harris to the D-League, the team announced. It’s the eighth time Cleveland has sent last year’s 33rd overall pick to its affiliate, though none of the seven previous assignments have lasted as long as a week, as our leaguewide assignments/recalls log shows.
The short-handed Bulls should be be getting some help soon, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Jimmy Butler is “real close” to returning to action. His elbow is improving and he could be back on the court this week.
There’s more news from the Eastern Conference:
- Thibodeau has no interest in a front office role, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Before tonight’s game in Detroit, Thibodeau was asked if he would like a dual position, similar to the Pistons‘ Stan Van Gundy, who serves as coach and president of basketball operations. Thibodeau replied, “I’m happy right where I am.”
- The Knicks‘ Carmelo Anthony tweeted Saturday that his recovery from knee surgery is “going well.” Team president Phil Jackson told Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com that Anthony has visited the practice facility to receive treatment on the knee, and the plan is for Anthony to begin workouts in June.
- Don’t expect Kendrick Perkins to be part of the Cavaliers‘ rotation, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. Lloyd says Cleveland acquired Perkins as merely an insurance policy, and he won’t see much action in the playoffs, barring injuries or foul trouble.
- The Magic’s Evan Fournier is hoping to return to action before the season ends, reports Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Fournier is dealing with a hip injury and hasn’t played since February 25th. “Hopefully, I’m going to be able to play soon.” he said. “Hopefully, 10 more days. I don’t know.”
Knicks president Phil Jackson made some comments regarding New York viewing free agents as the primary way it will rebuild the team, which lends some credence to the reports that Jackson was considering trading the Knicks’ 2015 lottery pick, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. “In the present day in the NBA, 19, 20 years old, coming into league, it’s really hard to project what that player will be like in his first contract situation,’’ Jackson said. “So what we’re trying to do what advancement can be made in the short term. How quickly we can get back in the hunt and right away to [compete] for the championship? We know what the first-round pick will mean to us, but we also know we will build the team on free agents. We have 190 players or so who will be free agents. That’s where our priority stands.’’
Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- Jackson did indicate that he would be willing to be patient with the growing pains of developing a lottery pick, Berman adds. “You get movers and franchise players from the draft,” Jackson said. “We’re rebuilding this team. You have do it that way.’’
- The Knicks’ president also relayed that the team isn’t looking to bring in 10 new bodies next season, which means a number of players who aren’t under contract for next season could be re-signed, Berman tweets.
- When asked to assess the state of the Knicks, Jackson admitted the season was a lost one, Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com relays (Twitter link). “It feels like it’s a project gone awry,” Jackson said. “This is where we wanted to be at the end of the year, not in the middle of the year.“
- The Knicks are hopeful that Carmelo Anthony will resume training this June, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com tweets. The timetable ‘Melo was given at the time of his surgery in February was that he would be out for four to six months, and the June time frame would be on the early side of that prognosis, Begley adds.
Now that the Sixers have waived JaVale McGee, the team is paying a total of eight players this season who are no longer with the franchise, John Smallwood of The Philadelphia Daily News notes. Out of this group that includes Jared Cunningham, Eric Maynor, Ronny Turiaf, Marquis Teague, Chris Johnson, Jorge Gutierrez and Andrei Kirilenko, only McGee has actually appeared in a game for Philly this season, Smallwood adds. “One of the ways we are trying to build our team is to transact with other teams,” GM Sam Hinkie said, “to try to help other teams to solve their problems and help other teams with the issues they have as a way to try to build our future.”
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- New Kings coach George Karl said that if he had had Phil Jackson‘s job with the Knicks, he would make it a priority to pair Carmelo Anthony, his former player, with an elite point guard, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com writes. “I would go get a great point guard and then find some good big guys. I think you have a stud scorer [in Anthony] — get me a brain, get me a quarterback and then fill in the pieces with maybe second-tier big guys,” Karl said. “The efficiency of big men in this league, there’s only about five or six of them.”
- Karl, who coached Anthony for parts of seven seasons in Denver, says that Anthony is at his best when paired with a strong point guard. Begley notes. “We had the most success when we had Andre Miller and/or Chauncey Billups — when we had a point guard that kind of orchestrated the rhythm of the offense,” Karl said. “And I just think, I’ve said for two years now, I think the NBA is a lot like the NFL. You get a quarterback and a good coach and you win games. And then the other pieces, you figure it out. I think Melo is still top three, top four, top five. I don’t know, some people put him in the top three. I personally wouldn’t put him in the top three. If he has a good orchestrator, he’s going to be a helluva scorer for you.”
- Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said that Chicago is still exploring its options regarding adding another player, Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com tweets. The Bulls currently have 14 players on their roster.
Celtics swingman Jae Crowder‘s stock has risen, fallen and risen again following his inclusion in the Rajon Rondo trade, as Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com examines. The 24-year-old’s contract is up at season’s end, but Forsberg suggests it’s likely the Celtics will tender the qualifying offer worth more than $1.181MM necessary to match offers for him this summer.
Here’s more from out of the Eastern Conference:
- There are many around the league who question Carmelo Anthony‘s decision to play 30 minutes in the NBA All-Star game after missing significant time for the Knicks while nursing his injured knee, Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders writes. Chauncey Billups, ‘Melo’s former teammate, was vocal in his disappointment with Anthony’s choice, Beer adds. “If you are hurt and you know you are going to shut it down, just get the surgery and make that commitment that the Knicks made to him and just get better and not worry about playing for the fans and the All-Star Game,” Billups said. “I thought it was poor judgment but to each his own.”
- Billups also believes that Anthony needs a strong leader to help guide him in New York, Beer relays. “My perception of him [is] he really needed my guidance, he needed my leadership,” Billups said. “I don’t know that he quite knew how to lead a team or a franchise, but at that time he was young. I can’t expect him to. He was already a great player, but he is best served when he doesn’t have to be the leader of the team.”
- Michael Beasley was not re-signed by the Heat last summer due to concerns with his defense, consistency and maturity, but Chris Bosh’s season-ending injury changed Miami’s thinking regarding the player, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes.
- Sixers coach Brett Brown, when providing a status update for injured rookie Joel Embiid, said, “It would be misleading to say anything that’s promising about him playing this year,” Tom Moore of Calkins Media tweets.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Michael Carter-Williams believes that Sixers coach Brett Brown did not approve of the trade that sent the point guard to the Bucks, according to Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News. The 2013/14 Rookie of the Year award winner felt it was solely a front office decision by GM Sam Hinkie, the story continued. “I think the ultimate thing that it comes down to is coach Brown coaches and Sam does the moves,” Carter-Williams said. “I think that’s what it comes down to and I think that’s the agreement and that’s all I really know. I think that if it was up to coach Brown, I don’t think I would have been moved, to be honest.” Carter-Williams was still surprised because he felt he was in the team’s long-term plans along with lottery picks Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, Cooney added in a tweet.
In other news around the Atlantic Division:
- Derrick Rose‘s injury history was a major reason why Carmelo Anthony chose to stay with the Knicks rather than signing with the Bulls when he was an unrestricted free agent last summer, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Anthony, who is out for the season with a knee injury, told friends last summer that there was no guarantee he would win a championship in Chicago because of Rose’s recurring health issues, according to Berman. Rose could miss the remainder of the season after suffering another knee injury.
- Kevin Garnett mentioned the uncertain ownership situation surrounding the Nets when he spoke about his decision to waive his no-trade clause and join the Timberwolves, notes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post.
- Isaiah Thomas could be the long-term answer for the Celtics as their starting point guard, Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com speculates. Thomas, who was traded by the Suns to Boston last week, has three years left on his contract and it could be more sensible to have him start alongside Avery Bradley and move rookie Marcus Smart to a sixth-man role, Forsberg adds.
- Knicks coach Derek Fisher is having a hard time adjusting to being a first-year coach of one of the league’s worst teams after playing for winning teams throughout his career, according to Fred Kerber of the New York Post. “I’m not comparing this to any other time in my basketball career. This is the first time I’ve been in this position,” Fisher said to Knicks beat reporters.