After finishing last season with the worst record in the NBA, the Bucks are benefiting from a change in culture, writes Mary Stevens of Basketball Insiders. New coach Jason Kidd has received praise from many players, including center Larry Sanders. “He’s a great coach. As good as a player he was, I think he’s a better coach,” Sanders said. “He really knows how to run a team. He’s putting all of us in a position to be successful.” Sanders, who last year signed an extension to remain in Milwaukee through the 2017/18 season, has helped the Bucks rank third in scoring defense (93.6 points per game allowed) through nine games.
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
The Heat’s new additions have yet to gel and the lack of defensive cohesion is upsetting the team, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.“This defensive system is built on trust, and we’re not there yet,” center Chris Bosh said. “I think that’s obvious. But guys have to take their positions, guys have to know their rotations. They have to know exactly what they’re doing when the ball goes to a certain place.” Despite their decline, the Heat are only giving up 97.8 PPG, which is the 12th-best mark in the league.
Knicks coach Derek Fisher believes the team’s current hardship will help the club down the road, writes Barbara Barker of Newsday.com. “Oftentimes it takes humbling experiences and adversity to soften the environment enough for guys to really grow. I think we have a lot of that going on in our group right now and it’ll pay off in the long run. Right now, we’re not getting the wins that we would like, but it’s gonna pay off,” said Fisher. The Knicks have started the season with a 2-8 record.
Even though the Knicks are struggling, finger-pointing within the locker room is no longer an issue, writes Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. Guard Iman Shumpert believes the team’s chemistry is better this season. “I know it was a problem last year. This year, [there’s] a confidence in the system and confidence in one another,” Shumpert said. “I think everybody trusted [each other] once we came to training camp; we could see that everybody worked their [butts] off this summer.”
The Knicks may be hampering the development of one of their brightest young assets by not giving Tim Hardaway Jr. enough minutes, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv opines. Hardway has thrived when playing over 20 minutes per game, and with the team struggling it would make sense to see what Hardaway can do in a larger role, adds Zagoria.
Here’s more out of New York:
Steve Kerr came as close to being the head coach of the Knicks as one can without actually signing a contract, Tim Bontemps of The New York Post writes. But Kerr hasn’t wondered what might have been, notes Bontemps, and the Warriors head man said, “I’ve been so busy, and I’m so happy here [in Golden State] that I don’t give it much thought. At the time, I knew my heart was here, in Golden State and in California.” With New York off to a 2-8 start to the year and Golden State sitting at 6-2, it would appear that Kerr made a wise decision.
The man who took the job that Kerr left on the table, Derek Fisher, is trying to distance himself as much as possible from the issues the team had with former coach Mike Woodson, writes Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. “I think in the past, there have been issues with more finger-pointing out as opposed to finger-pointing in,” Fisher said. “We are now having a locker room of guys that are pointing to themselves about how they can help us get better.”
Shooting guard Iman Shumpert has seemingly turned a corner offensively this season, averaging a career-high 12.4 points on 50.5 percent shooting through the first 10 games, Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal writes. But this new focus on offense is also taking away from Shumpert’s true value as a defensive stopper thanks to foul troubles that are plaguing him thus far, Herring adds. “His fouls are impacting us more than we would like, because we’re having to finish games with Shumpert on the bench,” Fisher said. “We have to find a way to work together to see if we can break that habit.” Shumpert has fouled out of two games already this season after having done so only three times in his first three seasons combined.
Earlier tonight we took a look at the latest out of the Nets organization, so it only makes sense to round up what’s happening with the other team in New York. We’ll examine some notes on the 2-1 Knicks below:
As expected, the Knicks and Iman Shumpert failed to reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension before the October 31st deadline passed, but the fourth-year guard is focused on helping New York win in the present rather than looking toward free agency next summer, as Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com transcribes. “I can’t think about [free agency]. We make the playoffs and I do what I’m supposed to do, things will happen,” said Shumpert. “I’m worried about winning games. Like I’ve said, that was the worst year of my life last year and I don’t ever want to feel that again.“
After a tough 2013/14 campaign of his own, Carmelo Anthony has sympathy for Kobe Bryant‘s situation as stud player surrounded by a lackluster supporting cast, writes Fred Kerber of the New York Post. “It’s tough. Nobody wants to go through situations like that,” Anthony said. “I know Kobe. He’s going to do what he has to do to compete and win basketball games. Is it going to be hard? Yeah, it’s going to be hard. But in his eyes, I don’t think anything is impossible.“
‘Melo had positive remarks for the directions that the Knicks organization is heading, notes Scott Cacciola of the New York Times. Although the All-Star forward wouldn’t specifically identify any personnel changes he was particularly fond of, he has a sense that this season will end better than last year’s disastrous campaign. “From Day 1 last year, the energy was just not right,” Anthony said, “We looked at that, and the organization looked at that, and made some great changes in that direction… I’m not talking about no players, man. I’m just talking about as a whole.”
THURSDAY, 1:59pm: Johnson suggests the potential remains that Friday’s 11:00pm Central time deadline will motivate Butler and the Bulls to strike a deal, but the Chicago Tribune scribe adds that the sides remain far apart in their proposals (Twitter link).
WEDNESDAY, 11:54am: Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler are unlikely to sign extensions with the Spurs and Bulls, respectively, before Friday’s deadline, a source tells Chris Broussard of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Leonard is reportedly seeking the maximum salary, and while a recent report indicated Butler and the Bulls were “millions apart” in talks, that sort of separation is not uncommon in the days leading up to the rookie scale extension deadline. Broussard also hears the Knicks won’t grant an extension to Iman Shumpert, advancing the reporting of ESPN colleague Ian Begley.
Bulls GM Gar Forman said earlier today that he’d met with Butler’s agent, Happy Walters, and that Butler’s left thumb injury wouldn’t affect negotiations, tweets David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. The injury is expected to keep him out no longer than three weeks, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune notes (Twitterlinks). It’s unlikely that the eye infection that plagued Leonard throughout the preseason and forced him to miss San Antonio’s opening night game Tuesday would affect an extension for him, either.
The Spurs and Brian Elfus, who represents Leonard, have reportedly met several times in the past few weeks but have made no progress, though the Spurs appear poised to match any maximum salary offer sheet that Leonard would sign in restricted free agency next summer. The reigning Finals MVP appears prepared to buck the tradition of San Antonio’s stars agreeing to discounts, though the Spurs could still prevail on Leonard to do so next summer even if they can’t convince him to take less in an extension by the end of Friday.
Butler expressed confidence just days ago that he and the Bulls would come to an extension, so presumably talks, which the swingman said a month ago were going in the right direction, have hit a snag. Chicago apparently had a preference to come to an extension rather than let Butler, who turned 25 last month, hit restricted free agency. The Bulls have about $60.2MM tied up for 2015/16, and Kirk Hinrich holds a nearly $2.9MM player option, so Chicago probably wouldn’t have the cap flexibility to replace Butler if he were to sign an offer sheet and Forman and company decided against matching.
A report from Marc Stein of ESPN.com 10 days ago indicated that the Knicks and Iman Shumpert were in active extension negotiations, but Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com continues to hear that the sides haven’t engaged in any talks, echoing his dispatch from a month ago. The Knicks upset Shumpert when they made him a frequent subject of trade talk last season, Begley writes, and a source close to the swingman tells Begley that Shumpert is in no mood to give New York a hometown discount should he hit restricted free agency next summer. Here’s more from around the Big Apple:
Nets GM Billy King confirmed the team will keep Jorge Gutierrezand Jerome Jordan along with the team’s 12 fully guaranteed contracts for opening night, tweets Andy Vasquez of The Record. Presumably, that means Cory Jefferson will stick around on his partially guaranteed deal, too.
Carmelo Anthony did his part to refute a report that indicated that marquee free agents don’t want to play with Kobe Bryant, telling reporters that he’d “love” to play with the Lakers legend, as Ramona Shelburne and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com note. Anthony also said that Bryant tried to recruit him to the Lakers this summer, but the Knicks forward can’t hit free agency again until 2018, and Bryant’s under contract through the summer of 2016.
Lionel Hollins said he never got to know Grizzlies owner Robert Pera before the team let Hollins go in 2013, as he tells Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. The new Nets coach added that timing played a key role in his decision to take the Brooklyn job this summer while the Lakers still had a vacancy. “I felt either one of those jobs would be fine,” Hollins says. “The Lakers still had Kobe and they could change the team at a moment’s notice because they only had three players under contract. So I thought that wasn’t a bad situation and I thought this was a good situation so when it came about, it was one that I was happy and I wasn’t going to wait on the Lakers when I had a job in hand.”
The deadline for teams to sign rookie scale extensions with their eligible players is two weeks from today, and while only six players came to deals last time around, that number has the potential to be much larger this year, notes Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Stein has more on many of those extension hopefuls that adds to the storylines we’ve been following throughout the offseason:
Iman Shumpert and the Knicks are also discussing an extension, Stein writes, countering a report from a few weeks ago that indicated that the sides hadn’t engaged in talks and that New York was content to let the swingman hit restricted free agency next summer.
Klay Thompson’s camp is considering the idea of going after an offer sheet similar to the one the Mavs gave Chandler Parsonsif Thompson and the Warriors don’t come to an extension this month, Stein hears. Parsons’ near-max deal runs three years and includes a player option and a 15% trade kicker. Rival GMs have expressed admiration for its structure and Rockets GM Daryl Morey pointed to the difficulty that trading such a contract would entail shortly after he decided against matching it. The player option would allow Thompson to hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2017, which is when Stephen Curry‘s deal is set to end, as Stein points out.
The Lakers have attempted to trade for Thompson in the past, Stein notes, though he doesn’t make any suggestion that they’re planning an aggressive push for the shooting guard if he becomes a restricted free agent next summer.
The Sixers might be the only franchise that is against revamping the NBA Draft lottery system, Tom Moore of Calkins Media writes. For any resolution to pass the league requires 75% of the teams to vote yes, which equates to 23 teams. Philadelphia’s Managing Owner Josh Harris commented on the possible change, saying, “It’s a change that flattens the lottery system. It would be a little bit worse for Philadelphia in the short run but long run, since we expect to be a consistent playoff or deep-caliber-playoff team, it’s actually better for us.” GM Sam Hinkie also added, “We are cognizant of being a good member of the league, but at the same time balancing that with what’s the right thing for Philly and the Philadelphia 76ers. We’re trying to draw that line the best we can.”
Here’s more from the east:
One of the main Celtics storylines this season will be whether or not GM Danny Ainge will trade Rajon Rondo. Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders believes that in addition to Rondo proving himself healthy prior to the trade deadline, the main determining factor will be the play of rookie Marcus Smart. Smart is expected to see major minutes early in the season with Rondo out for at least the first two weeks with a broken hand.
It isn’t likely that the Knicks will keep both Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. past this year’s trade deadline, Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops writes in his team preview. New York has a logjam at the shooting guard position, and though the team would prefer to unload J.R. Smith, other teams around the league are wary of taking on a player whom many think of as undisciplined, opines Scotto.
One of the main reasons that Danny Granger chose to sign with the Heat was their offensive system, Yi Tao of NBA.com writes. “I studied how hard it is to guard the three-point line when they’re moving the ball and spacing and everybody’s touching the ball,” Granger said. “It’s a very difficult offense to guard so now that I’m in it, I’m trying to learn it and hopefully I’ll be very efficient in it.”
It’s media day for 25 of the NBA’s 30 teams, thus making it one of the busiest news days on the NBA calendar. We’ll round up the latest from the Atlantic Division amid the rush:
Evan Turner‘s contract with the Celtics is for two seasons and he’ll make $3.278MM this year, the value of the taxpayer’s mid-level exception, reports Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (Twitter link). It’s fully guaranteed with no option clauses, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The C’s still have the capacity to give out an additional $2.027MM via their mid-level, but by keeping Turner’s money to the equivalent of the taxpayer’s amount, Boston isn’t subject to a hard cap of $80.829MM this season, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders points out (on Twitter).
Carmelo Anthony acknowledged that he would have had a better chance to win if he’d signed elsewhere, but told reporters, including Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com that it “wouldn’t have felt right” if he had left the Knicks for another team (Twitterlinks).
It doesn’t look like the Knicks are going to grant an extension to Iman Shumpert, but the fourth-year guard doesn’t seem dismayed, as Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal relays (on Twitter).
Lionel Hollins made his mission statement for the Nets clear when chatting with reporters late last week, Tim Bontemps of the New York Post writes. “I’d like us to be tougher,” Hollins said. “[Be] more aggressive, compete harder every moment that they’re on the court, persevering through everything. “I want them to be tougher mentally. There’s a lot that goes into being a good team, and that’s the type of foundation that we’re gonna lay.”
Earlier tonight, we learned that the Knicks have yet to reach out to Iman Shumpert about a contract extension as the Halloween deadline draws near. The news wasn’t terribly shocking for a couple of reasons. One, president Phil Jackson has his eye on bigger fish down the line and an extension for Shumpert would hinder their financial flexibility. Two, Shumpert’s name was all over the pages of Hoops Rumors last season. The old regime viewed him as a trade chip and, apparently, the new front office feels similarly.
The Knicks have reportedly been dangling Shumpert throughout this offseason as well and while the offers weren’t great, that could change very quickly with a strong start to the season. It’s not difficult to imagine things falling into place for the guard considering what he has been able to do when healthy and his eagerness to play in the triangle offense.
“There’s constant action going on,” Shumpert said of the Zen Master’s offense in August, according to Howie Kussoy of the New York Post. “I think I’ll be able to capitalize off that and I’ll be able to use my athleticism a lot more than standing in the corner.”
By the same token, one has to wonder if the Knicks might finally be ready to commit if Shumpert takes a significant step forward this season. Cap flexibility is important, but the Knicks might want to have the first right of refusal on Shump more than they realize right now. The Knicks might also come to the table with agent Happy Walters in the next four weeks and change to work out a deal after all, even though it appears to be something of a longshot at present.
How do you see things shaking out between the Knicks and the 24-year-old guard?
Iman Shumpert is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract and the Knicks have yet to reach out to discuss a new deal, league sources tell Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. The guard is eligible to sign a rookie scale extension between now and Halloween, but as of today it doesn’t sound like there will be any treat for the 24-year-old.
The feeling, Begley writes, is that the Knicks are content to let Shumpert enter next summer as a restricted free agent. The Knicks want to maintain as much financial flexibility as possible for the summers of 2015 and 2016 and a Shumpert extension would eat up cap space. Meanwhile, with a one-year, $3.7MM qualifying offer, New York can match any offer that comes his way.
The Knicks, of course, may not reach the point where they would consider a QO for Shump. The 2011 first round pick was the subject of trade rumors for much of last season and a source tells Begley that the Knicks shopped him through the summer. Things could change over the next few weeks, but it sounds like Shumpert will have to continue to deal with an uncertain future at MSG.