The New York Post’s Marc Berman (via Twitter) thinks it was a bad sign for C.J. Leslie’s chances of making the Knicks roster after the rookie forward didn’t receive any playing time during tonight’s pre-season game against the Wizards. On the other hand, Berman and Newsday’s Al Iannazzone both made note that Knicks head coach Mike Woodson was particularly pleased with training camp invites Toure Murry and Ike Diogu (Twitter links). It should be noted that Murry and Diogu are playing on non-guaranteed contracts, while Leslie has a partially-guaranteed deal.
Here are some more links to pass along out of the Atlantic Division:
- ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor writes that unless the Knicks are clearly the best option for a chance to win a ring, Carmelo Anthony would be foolish to not test the waters in free agency next summer. O’Connor argues that opting out would put pressure on GM Steve Mills to come up with a viable championship vision and abandon the idea of relying on J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani as the next best options on offense.
- Raptors head coach Dwane Casey tells Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun that he wants the second unit to be able to increase leads or hold serve when they enter the game, and added that Landry Fields‘ ability to knock down shots – in addition to the other intangibles he brings to the table – would be a huge plus for the team.
- Casey also had this to say about training camp hopeful Julyan Stone: “He reminds me of a younger Nate McMillan with that long, lanky body that can defend. He showed that he can play,”
- Though ESPN had originally reported that Allen Iverson plans to officially announce his retirement before the 76ers host the Heat in their home opener, a team spokesperson could not confirm the report (Tom Moore of Bucks County Courier Times).
Following blowout losses in Golden State and Denver, the Knicks' current five-game road trip managed to get even worse when Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler left last night's game against the Nuggets with knee injuries. While Chandler downplayed the severity of his left knee contusion and could play tonight, Anthony will head back to New York to get his troublesome right knee drained. Here's more out of the Atlantic Division:
Led by Jrue Holiday, the 76ers remain three games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Significant help in the form of another all-star caliber player could be on the way within the next several weeks, as Andrew Bynum has continued to make progress toward his goal of possibly returning to practice next week, notes Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com. The 7'0 center has been plagued by bone bruises in both knees since the start of the season. With that aside, here are more news and notes from the Atlantic Division:
- Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York reports that Nets GM Billy King will meet with owner Mikhail Prokhorov on Wednesday to discuss P.J. Carlesimo and the job he's done so far as the interim head coach. While Carlesimo has done an exceptional job after replacing Avery Johnson, Prokhorov is said to still be enamored with going after big names such as Phil Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy in the offseason.
- According to A. Sherrod Blakeley of CSNNE.com, Celtics guard Rajon Rondo will get a second opinion on his ACL injury from Dr. James Andrews, who is considered be arguably "the best orthopedic surgeon in the business."
- Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun lays out the Raptors' top five pressing issues as they inch closer to the deadline, calling their interest in Rudy Gay the "most likely to come to fruition" rumor, examining the return of both Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas from injury, Terrence Ross' progression into coach Dwane Casey's crunch-time lineup, and the continued acclimation of Landry Fields. With regard to Bargnani, Ganter thinks that Casey may have to provide a significant role at the expense of Ed Davis' minutes in order to showcase the 7-footer's health.
- Eric Koreen of the National Post doesn't think that Gay is the cure-all answer for the Raptors, who still have many other important questions to answer regardless of whether they land him or not. Among those question marks involve the franchise's commitment to GM Bryan Colangelo, the need for more significant roster moves, and the struggles of point guard Kyle Lowry.
- Doc Rivers doesn't appear too concerned about his players making an adjustment without Rondo, saying that a "no-point guard system" is something that the second unit has already found success with, writes Greg Payne of ESPN Boston.
- Mike Woodson will place a higher priority on getting Knicks three point sharpshooter Steve Novak more involved in the offense, says Ian Begley of ESPN New York.
8:16pm: Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun tweets that if the Raptors sign Pietrus, the team would let go of either Dominic McGuire or Alan Anderson. Wolstat also notes the Raptors nearly signed Pietrus last year, but were turned off by the results of a physical, since he was recovering from an injury at the time (Twitter link).
5:55pm: The Raptors are "strongly considering" free agent swingman Mickael Pietrus as they look to fill holes created by injury, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The team is in the market for a small forward, with Landry Fields and Alan Anderson out up to a month, according to Stein (Twitter link). Any deal would have to be for the minimum salary, since the team used its room exception to sign Aaron Gray over the summer.
Pietrus' agent, Bill McCandless, said in July that his client wouldn't sign for the minimum, and it seems he's stuck to that assertion. It's unclear whether there's mutual interest between Pietrus and the Raptors. The team was reportedly considering him earlier this month as well, but nothing came to fruition. Pietrus also reportedly turned down an offer this month from the Spurs, though there was confusion about whether any offer was made. The Lakers have recently expressed interest in him, too.
Toronto has a full roster, with 15 players all on fully guaranteed deals, as Stein points out, so someone would have to go, with the team still on the hook for his salary. The team's three smallest salary commitments are to wing players Dominic McGuire, Quincy Acy and Anderson, so letting one of them go wouldn't do much to address their depth. The team is only paying Anderson the two-year veteran's minimum of $854,389 on a one-year deal, so he'd seemingly be the most likely of that group to go, since he's on the shelf. John Lucas III has the next lowest salary, making $1.5MM this year with a team option for next season.
If the Raptors don't sign Pietrus, the alternative free agent small forwards aren't quiet as enticing, with Damion James and Terrence Williams probably the most appealing options. Check out our complete list of remaining free agents here.
HoopsWorld.com has a new roundtable feature in which several of the site's writers weigh in on who they believe is the biggest disappointment thus far in the 2012/13 season. Here are the highlights:
- Lang Greene pinpoints Roy Hibbert, signed to a four-year, $58MM contract this summer, as a major reason why the Pacers are underperforming early in the season.
- Alex Kennedy believes that the Raptors' strategy of targeting Landry Fields to make it harder for the Knicks to land Steve Nash backfired. He points to Fields' disappointing start to the season as a reason why the signing is a failure for Toronto.
- Stephen Brotherston writes that Ersan Ilyasova has regressed following what appeared to be a breakout season last year with the Bucks.
- Bill Ingram is frustrated by the continued inconsistent play of JaVale McGee following his re-signing with the Nuggets this summer.
- Derek Page points out that Pau Gasol's offensive efficiency has dropped this season, even more so than expected following the Lakers' addition of Dwight Howard.
- While there is still time for him to mature, Joel Brigham writes that Jeremy Lin has been a disappointment since signing with the Rockets.
We've already had one update out of the Eastern Conference today, with ESPN.com's Marc Stein reporting that the Raptors have Mickael Pietrus on their radar. Let's round up a few more Friday morning items from the East….
- Evan Turner spoke to Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News about the adjustment from "standing out to fitting in" that he'd made since being drafted second overall by the Sixers in 2010. "I want to get minutes on the court and help the team out," Turner said. "Sometimes people don't think that's something that a guy who was the second pick would do. But here that's what I'm seen as and that's what I'm going to do to the best of my abilities."
- Landry Fields got off to a terrible start with the Raptors, but given his elbow issues, it's unfair to call him a bust at this point, writes Stephen Brotherson of HoopsWorld. According to Brotherson, it will be at least another month or two before the team will really be able to tell what kind of player it signed.
- In his latest mailbag, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel says a defensive-minded point guard is still something the Heat could use.
- Sam Smith has his own mailbag up at Bulls.com, heavy on Chicago content. Among the highlights: Smith writes that every indication he's gotten to date indicates the Bulls don't plan to amnesty Carlos Boozer next summer.
- Although he acknowledges it won't happen, Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio suggests the Heat should consider trading Dwyane Wade, since a team like the Kings or Hawks would give up plenty of young talent and assets for the perennial All-Star, and the Heat could win without him (all Twitter links).
Of the 17 players that competed during the 2002 NCAA title game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Indiana Hoosiers, three would go on to become first round picks during that year's NBA Draft: Chris Wilcox
(eighth overall), Jared Jeffries
(11th), and the championship game's leading scorer, Juan Dixon
(17th). Today, while Wilcox and Jeffries have guaranteed contracts, Dixon finds himself on the outside looking in, tirelessly determined to make a comeback. Connor Letourneau of The Diamondback
uncovers how Dixon's trying experiences as an international player contributed to his maturation process and what a return to the NBA would mean for the 34-year-old guard.
You'll find the rest of this evening's miscellaneous notes from around the league below:
- Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com thinks that the chances of the Kings remaining in Sacramento after this season (and possibly several more) continue to increase because of little movement in talks of going anywhere else. Without much momentum between the Maloofs and the potential destinations that have been mentioned (Anaheim, Seattle, Virginia Beach) nor anything that indicates a possibility that the team will be sold, Howard-Cooper writes that it bides more time for the city to find a way to keep the Kings for now.
- Eurohoops.net tweets that Panathinaikos of Greece has signed Jason Kapono.
- John Reid of NOLA.com reports that Matt Carroll has not yet reported to the Hornets since Tuesday's trade involving Hakim Warrick going to the Bobcats. Head coach Monty Williams says that there have been ongoing discussions between Carroll's agent and GM Dell Demps but did not elaborate on the specifics. The team hopes to give an update on the situation tomorrow.
- Yahoo's Marc J. Spears relayed a quote from today's press conference in which Mike D'Antoni said he'd like to get the Lakers to play "Showtime basketball."Arash Markazi of ESPN LA tweets that D'Antoni's coaching debut will likely be on Sunday against the Rockets.
- Nagging injuries have become a cause for uncertainty and concern for Heat superstar Dwyane Wade, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
- Dan Bickley of AZCentral sports says (via Twitter) that Charles Barkley would be interested in becoming the Suns GM if owner Robert Sarver were to make such an opportunity available in the near future.
- The Raptors officially posted an injury update on their team website regarding Alan Anderson, Landry Fields, and Kyle Lowry. Anderson will remain out for another three to six weeks and Lowry for one to two weeks, according to the press release. There is no timetable set in place for Fields' return.
The Knicks boast three of the league's top 10 preseason scorers, including Carmelo Anthony, who leads the NBA at 21.3 points per game. Teammates J.R. Smith and Amare Stoudemire come in third and 10th respectively, while Brook Lopez of the crosstown rival Nets is sixth. Lopez is also sixth in another preseason category, and that's a part of our roundup of items out of the Atlantic Division.
- After his rebounding rates declined in each of the last three seasons, Lopez is the league's sixth-leading rebounder in the preseason, averaging 9.0 boards in 27.0 minutes per game. If he keeps it up, Zach Harper of CBSSports.com believes there will be much less reason to think the Nets overpaid him with the four-year, $60.826MM contract he signed this summer.
- The Knicks made a strong recruiting effort to land Ronnie Brewer, who signed a minimum-salary deal with the team in July. The 27-year-old swingman turned down larger offers from other teams to do so, as he told HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy (Sulia link). "At the end of the day, it didn’t come down to money," Brewer said. "It came down to the best situation for me, as a person and as a player. I wanted to go somewhere I could win and have success. I wanted to go to a situation where playing basketball would be fun and I would enjoy doing it."
- Raptors guard Landry Fields said a personal issue hampered his play on the court for the Knicks last season, and isn't surprised the Knicks let him and Jeremy Lin go over the summer, given the team's unwillingness to stand pat, as Marc Berman of the New York Post documents. "The last two years with the Knicks, it’s been such a roller coaster pretty much. I’m used to that. If things were consistent, that would surprise me."
- Courtney Lee's improved defense and diversified offensive game have been pleasant surprises for the Celtics so far, writes Frank Dell'Apa of the Boston Globe.
The latest news and notes from around the NBA on Friday evening:
- Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports that James Harden's contract situation is in danger of becoming a distraction at Thunder training camp.
- Al Iannazzone of Newsday.com catches up with former Knick Landry Fields, who is excited for a fresh start in Toronto. Fields signed a three-year, $20MM contract with the Raptors this summer.
- Stephen Brotherston of HoopsWorld.com has a feature on Shelvin Mack, who is fighting for backup point guard minutes in Wizards training camp.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel talks to Bucks forward Tobias Harris, who is hoping to land a starting job this season.
In this morning's round-up of Celtics items, we linked to ESPN The Magazine's 2012/13 NBA projections, which included the Celtics as a No. 4 seed in the East, behind the Knicks (No. 3). While those ranks are somewhat surprising, the team that ESPN and Basketball Prospectus placed directly behind the top-seeded Heat is even more of a shock: The Hawks will be the East's second-best team, according to the magazine's predictions. We've got updates on Atlanta and a few other Eastern Conference clubs, so let's check them out….
- If and when John Jenkins and Mike Scott officially earn spots on the Hawks' roster, they'll be the team's only draft picks in the last five years besides Jeff Teague to do so, says Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- It's been over three months since Ray Allen officially left the Celtics for the Heat, but the veteran's free agent decision is still a hot topic in both Boston and Miami. Allen appeared on WMEN in Miami recently and said he felt the Celtics put him in a position where he had to leave (link via Sports Radio Interviews). Celtics coach Doc Rivers, meanwhile, says he's over Allen's departure but is still "disappointed" with the way it played out (link via the Boston Herald).
- Landry Fields told reporters, including Al Iannazzone of Newsday (Twitter link) that he lost some of his confidence and comfort level after the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony and needed a change of scenery.
- It appears Ersan Ilyasova's new long-term contract with the Bucks has him feeling more comfortable in Milwaukee, writes NBA.com's Steve Aschburner.
- The Cavaliers aren't expected to make their final roster cuts for a few days yet, but it appears one of Donald Sloan or Jeremy Pargo has the upper hand in the backup point guard battle — coach Byron Scott just won't say which, according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal (via Sulia).
- Sam Smith fields Bulls questions on Nate Robinson, Kirk Hinrich, and others in his latest mailbag at Bulls.com.