New York Knicks Rumors

Poll: Who Will Win The Atlantic Division?

September 14 at 10:59am CDT By Eddie Scarito

The 2014/15 NBA regular season doesn’t officially begin until Tuesday October 28th, when the Spurs raise their Championship banner, and host the rival Mavericks. This is the time of year when most fans can still bask in the warm glow of hope, and every team is still undefeated. It’s also the time of year for predictions to start rolling in on how the upcoming season will shake out. Today we’ll be seeing who you folks think will win the Atlantic Division. Let’s take a quick look at the possible contenders…

Note: All projected starters taken from the respective team pages at ESPN.com.

Boston Celtics

The most compelling storyline in Boston this season will be if and when Rajon Rondo is dealt, and what pieces GM Danny Ainge is able to get back for his star player. This seems like another year of draft position jockeying in Boston, but there are some nice young building blocks in place for the future. The franchise is still very much in rebuilding mode, and isn’t expected to compete for a playoff spot this season. Instead the focus will be on developing those building blocks, players such as Marcus Smart, James Young, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller, and Kelly Olynyk.

The Celtics best outcome would be to deal Rondo after he establishes that he’s healthy, which would up the potential return, which in turn would hopefully include a lottery pick or two. The franchise is moving in the right direction, but this isn’t the year the team can compete for the top spot in the division. Better to spend another year near the bottom, score a better draft position, and aim for 2015/16 for bigger and better things.

Projected Starters:

Brooklyn Nets

It’s hard to predict what we’ll see out of Brooklyn this season. Health will be the make-or-break factor, and “if” will be the key word for the team. The team can be a factor in the Atlantic “if” Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson stay healthy. “If” Kevin Garnett still has anything left in the tank “if” he returns for another campaign. “If” new head coach Lionel Hollins can win over the locker room while implementing his hard-nosed defensive system. Quite a few question marks for a veteran team, and Brooklyn’s fans might not like how all the answers turn out.

Despite losing starting small forward Paul Pierce to the Wizards, there is still quite a bit of talent on the roster. If the team can get full seasons out of both Williams and Lopez, the Nets have a decent shot at taking the top spot in the Atlantic. A long playoff run is another story, and a deeper, more talented roster away from happening.

Projected Starters:

  • PG: Deron Williams
  • SG: Joe Johnson
  • SF: Andrei Kirilenko
  • PF: Kevin Garnett
  • C: Brook Lopez

New York Knicks

The Knicks are a franchise still transitioning from one regime to the next. There is a sense of hope in New York, thanks to the arrival of Phil Jackson as team president, and owner James Dolan’s promise to give Jackson the space he needs to shape the franchise in his image. It remains to be seen if Jackson can be successful as an executive, or if Dolan can keep his promise of being “hands-off.”

Also adding to the uncertainty of what to expect from the team is the arrival of rookie head coach Derek Fisher and the decision to implement the triangle offense. Fisher has plenty of experience as a championship player, but how quickly he can adjust to being a head coach who has to manage egos will be a big factor early in the season.

The roster has improved from last year’s campaign, Carmelo Anthony has re-signed, and Jackson made a number of interesting moves so far. The most important addition will be Jose Calderon at point guard. The Knicks suffered from some of the worst point guard play in the league last season, and though Calderon isn’t a strong defender, he is a solid distributor and his shooting efficiency should be enhanced by the triangle offense.

I expect a bit of a bounce-back year from the Knicks, but with all the new pieces on the roster, and the new system that is being taught, expect the team to start slow and improve toward the end of the season, similar to what we saw from the Nets last year.

Projected Starters:

Philadelphia Sixers

The Sixers intend to compete for the top spot next season, only it isn’t the Atlantic Division that they hope to win, but rather the top spot in next year’s NBA Draft. Whether you refer to it as tanking, or rebuilding, Philadelphia is going all in on its plan. The Sixers have stripped away almost every veteran player of note, and they have a very real shot at breaking the franchise’s own league record for losses in a season.

The most compelling aspects of the 2014/15 season in Philadelphia will be the development of Nerlens Noel, the recovery of Joel Embiid, and just how low the team can sink. While I applaud the Sixers’ attempt to speed up the rebuilding process by hitting bottom instead of laboring in mediocrity, it might not bear fruit this season. Next year’s best prospects are primarily big men, and Philadelphia has already spent two high draft picks on interior players. If a dominant wing or guard doesn’t emerge as a potential top pick, it could create an interesting logjam on the Sixers depth chart.

Unless the franchise gets into a situation like the one portrayed in the film “Major League,” and finds some way to defy every sane preseason prediction of a last place finish, another year of living in the Atlantic Division’s basement is most definitely in the cards.

Projected Starters:

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors were one of the league’s surprise teams last season, winning the Atlantic Division with a record of 48-34. They kept the core of the team intact and are in good shape to repeat as division champs. The Eastern Conference will be extremely competitive next season, and the Raptors could arguably be considered the third or fourth best team in the conference behind the Cavs, Bulls, and Wizards.

Health will be a big key, as Toronto isn’t an especially deep team at key positions. It will also be interesting to see if Kyle Lowry‘s big year was a fluke, the product of a contract-year push, or if he is indeed ready to be a franchise star. The continued development of Jonas Valanciunas will also determine just how far this franchise can go in the postseason. Toronto has enough talent to win the division and a playoff series, but more than that is probably wishful thinking.

Projected Starters:

Who do you think will take the Atlantic Division crown next season? Vote in the poll and feel free to expand on your choice in the comments section below.

New York Notes: ‘Melo, Jordan, Teague

September 13 at 6:15pm CDT By Cray Allred

Both New York NBA teams will be playing for new head coaches and an altered roster this season. Here’s a rundown for the Knicks and Nets:

  • Carmelo Anthony was angry following the Knicks disappointing 37-win season, as he tells Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. His displeasure with missing the playoffs led him to begin working out after a short two-week break, and he’s continued the ambitious training regimen ever since, spending time with teammates of late to get a head start on new coach Derek Fisher‘s triangle offense. “I haven’t been broadcasting it, man,” said Anthony. “But I’ve been at the facility for the last couple of weeks with the young guys, with the coaches, trying to figure out that triangle offense…When people say spots, I’m going to be all over the floor in the triangle. It makes it hard to guard, it keeps all eyes off of you. I’m looking forward to it, I’ve been saying it all summer. I can’t wait.”
  • Anthony voiced his support of the extended All-Star break that will take effect this season. “I love it, I’m a big fan of that. I wish it was two weeks,” said Anthony, who isn’t worried about the increased back-to-backs in the schedule necessary to accommodate a longer break. “We play too many games as it is. So another back-to-back is not gonna hurt.”
  • Reed Wallach of Nets Daily takes a look at Jerome Jordan‘s game, noting the Nets‘ camp hopeful has some traits that Brooklyn could use this season.
  • In the same piece, Wallach passes on a report of new coach Lionel Hollins‘ interest in Marquis Teague. Hollins’ support could curb any rumblings that the backup point guard’s guaranteed contract could be waived, while boding well for the prospects of Teague’s 2015/16 team option being picked up by the October 31st deadline, which didn’t appear likely before Hollins was hired.

Eastern Notes: Hawks, Harris, Celtics, Knicks

September 12 at 9:58pm CDT By Cray Allred

Sports attorney Doug Davis, son of entertainment fixture Clive Davis, is an early candidate to purchase the Hawks, reports Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Vivlamore credits the New York Post as first to reveal that the younger Davis is assembling a potential ownership group. Davis sent out a pair of tweets that hints at his interest in the team (H/T James Herbert of CBSSports.com). Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Former Hawk and current director of player personnel and GM for the Kings D-League affiliate Shareef Abdur-Rahim penned an open letter to Yahoo! Sports regarding the Hawks scandal. Abdur-Rahim recalls his time with Atlanta as a player as having little fan support, pointing out that African-American cheerleaders and fans weren’t the cause for a struggling franchise then, and aren’t now. “I personally interacted with both Bruce Levenson and Danny Ferry on multiple occasions; my experiences with both have always been pleasant,” said Abdur-Rahim. “However, their comments represent a lack of respect and sensitivity for individuals with different experiences and backgrounds than themselves. I pray both individuals learn from this situation and work to regain the trust of the great people of Atlanta.”
  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution finds it suspicious that the leaked scouting report on Luol Deng was released after the audio of the conference call was leaked, although he stops short of asserting it was doctored. Schultz thinks the purity of the report is ultimately beside the point, considering Ferry’s failure to filter the offensive comments before reading them in any case. The Journal-Constitution scribe is disappointed in the shifts in the story from team brass, and believes the damage control attempted by Atlanta will ultimately prove to be more harmful than a more transparent approach would have been.
  • Tobias Harris tells Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel that he wants to reach an agreement with the Magic on a rookie scale extension, but isn’t sure if a deal will be struck this fall. “Obviously, I want to be here,” said Harris. “I love the fans, the city of Orlando and the guys. Management knows I want to be here. It’s the perfect situation for me…I don’t know. That’s up to [Orlando].”
  • A group of Basketball Insiders writers previewed the upcoming season for the Magic, Celtics, and Knicks.

And-Ones: Deng, Knicks, Dragic, West

September 12 at 6:02pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The Luol Deng report from the RealGM scouting service that was the source of the racially charged statements that Hawks GM Danny Ferry said aloud in a June conference call contains several tidbits of collateral information on storylines surrounding Deng the past couple of years. One of the anonymous sources quoted in the report points to hard feelings Deng had toward the Bulls as they allegedly pushed him to play through injury and played hardball with an extension offer. The same source cites “major locker room issues” that existed between two Cavaliers during Deng’s tenure there, and while the names are redacted, many accounts have pointed to tension between Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. The report also pointed to interest in Deng from the Hornets, Suns, Mavs and Lakers around last year’s trade deadline. Aside from the most explosive racial comments, the report contains a few mild criticisms of Deng’s ability on the court and his persona off of it, but mostly serves to paint Deng as a valuable player and an upstanding character. While the fallout from the Hawks saga continues, here’s more from other corners of the league:

  • Knicks president Phil Jackson tells Scott Cacciola of The New York Times that he and owner James Dolan didn’t speak in August and have otherwise been having only a couple conversations a month as Dolan keeps his promise not to interfere. An agent said to Cacciola that when he appealed to Dolan when Jackson wouldn’t budge in negotiations, he found the owner unwilling to provide recourse behind Jackson’s back, and Dolan insists to the Times scribe that he won’t change his ways if the team starts losing this season.
  • Zoran Dragic acknowledged that playing in the NBA appeals to him but said he’s on his way to training camp with Spain’s Unicaja Malaga, as he told Gal Zbačnik of Kosarka.si (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Dragic’s contract with the team reportedly gives him until October 5th to find an NBA deal, and several teams appear to be in pursuit.
  • Delonte West has agreed to return to China on a one-year deal with the Shanghai Sharks, reports Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer (on Twitter). West, who hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2012/13 preseason, spent last year with China’s Fujian Sturgeons.

Eastern Notes: Knicks, Pistons, Cavs, Sixers

September 11 at 10:11pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

Team USA continued their run through the FIBA World Cup with a 96-68 victory over Lithuania earlier today. Kyrie Irving led the way with 18 points and four assists, James Harden and Klay Thompson added 16 points each, and Stephen Curry dropped 13. For Lithuania, Jonas Valanciunas led the way with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Here’s the latest from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Knicks have partially guaranteed the contracts of Travis Wear for $62K, and Langston Galloway for $31K, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link). Both players were recently signed to one-year, minimum salary deals.
  • The Cavaliers had the biggest offseason of any franchise with the return of LeBron James and the acquisition of Kevin Love. The crew at Basketball Insiders previews Cleveland’s upcoming season, and the consensus has them finishing first in the Central Division.
  • There’s a new regime in Detroit this season with the arrival of Stan Van Gundy. In their season preview, the majority of the staff at Basketball Insiders pick the Pistons to improve slightly and finish third in the Central Division this upcoming season.
  • The Sixers might “best” their 2013/14 total of 63 losses this upcoming season, according to Adi Joseph of USA Today. In his pre-season rankings, Joseph predicts Philadelphia will lose 74 games next season, which would eclipse the current NBA record of 73 losses set by the 1972/73 Sixers team.

Hawks Rumors: Wednesday

September 10 at 4:07pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports uncovered the recording of the meeting in which Hawks GM Danny Ferry made his fateful remarks about Luol Deng. We’ll pass along the revelations from that story amid the latest news surrounding the Hawks controversy, with any additional updates throughout the day at the top:

4:07pm update:

  • Commissioner Adam Silver cited Ferry’s otherwise upstanding track record in telling USA Today’s Sam Amick that he doesn’t think the Hawks should fire Ferry. “It’s a question of context,” Silver said in part. “… These words, in this context, understanding the full story here, the existence of the scouting report, the fact that he was looking at the scouting report as a reference when he was making these remarks, what I’m saying is – and frankly my opinion — is that this is a team decision in terms of what the appropriate discipline is for their employee. But if I’m being asked my view, I’m saying that, based on what I know about the circumstances, I don’t think it’s a terminable offense.”

1:54pm update:

  • Ferry read more statements in the meeting that impugned Deng’s character, as Wojnarowski transcribes. “… For example, he can come out and be an unnamed source for a story and two days later come out and say, ‘That absolutely was not me. I can’t believe someone said that,”‘ Ferry said on the recording. “But talking to reporters, you know they can [believe it].”
  • Ferry’s report also brought up concerns about Deng’s focus, Wojnarowski reveals. “… Good guy in Chicago,” as Ferry is heard saying. “They will tell you he was good for their culture, but not a culture setter. He played hard and all those things, but he was very worried about his bobble-head being the last one given away that year, or there was not enough stuff of him in the [team] store … kind of a complex guy.”
  • Wojnarowski suggests that the remarks Ferry made on the recording were his own, and not words he read from a report, as Ferry has claimed. However, that’s merely based on Wojnarowski’s own observation.
  • Co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. had sought Ferry’s ouster even before Ferry’s racially charged remarks in June that sparked the controversy, Wojnarowski writes. Gearon made an immediate audible reaction to Ferry’s comments about Deng, comparing them to the inflammatory remarks that led to Donald Sterling’s exit from the Clippers, as the Yahoo! scribe notes. An email Gearon sent in reaction to the one with racial overtones that prompted outgoing controlling owner Bruce Levenson to sell the team was more matter-of-fact, and it didn’t entail the sort of dramatic reaction that Gearon had to Ferry’s comments, Wojnarowski shows.
  • The league office is “livid” with Gearon, Wojnarowski writes, though the precise reason for that anger isn’t entirely clear.
  • The Hawks offered Deng a two-year, $20MM deal and a one-year, $10MM arrangement, and Ferry was the team’s greatest supporter for signing him, Wojnarowski hears. The salaries Atlanta offered are similar to the ones Deng will receive on his contract with the Heat.
  • Ferry has his boosters around the league, but many find him distant and unsympathetic and find it difficult to work with the Hawks front office, according to Wojnarowski.
  • The conversation covered many free agent targets, including Carmelo Anthony. Ferry said that Anthony “can shoot the [expletive] out of it, but he screws you up in other ways,” as Wojnarowski transcribes, though Ferry also saw value in giving him a lucrative deal.
  • At least one civil rights leader expressed frustration when the Hawks called off a meeting that was set for today with civil rights leaders in Atlanta, Charles Odumap of The Associated Press reports. The Hawks called the meeting a “priority” and indicated their intention to reschedule in a press release today.

Eastern Notes: Anthony, Monroe, Marion

September 9 at 6:46pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

Asked if the decision that LeBron James made to return to Cleveland influenced his call to re-sign with the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony told Michael Strahan in an interview for Adweek that he believes that it was the other way around, and that James took a cue from him. That conflicts with the timeline of events, since James announced he was going back to the Cavs before word of ‘Melo’s choice came out, but perhaps Anthony, a New York native, is referring to the 2011 trade that originally landed him on the Knicks. In any case, New York made a pair of much less heralded additions this afternoon, as we noted earlier, and we’ll pass along more on one of James’ new teammates amid the latest from the Eastern Conference:

  • Shawn Marion‘s contract with the Cavs covers just one season, according to Tom Withers of The Associated Press.
  • The NBA announced a two-game unpaid suspension for Greg Monroe, who pleaded guilty to driving while visibly impaired, a term for a type of drunken driving charge in the state of Michigan. He’ll sit out the first two games for the Pistons this season as a result.
  • The Pistons are adding Pat Garrity to their front office as director of strategic planning, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. He’ll assist president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Eastern Notes: Hawks, Knicks, Pistons, Stiemsma

September 8 at 1:10pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The Hawks lost an estimated $23.9MM on their basketball operations last season, a figure partially offset by $11MM in combined proceeds from luxury tax payouts and the league’s revenue-sharing plan, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports. The Bucks, who went for $550MM this spring, lost an estimated $6.5MM, but revenue sharing lifted them to a profit, Lowe also reveals. Still, the NBA and its television partners are expected to strike a deal that would give the league an average of more than $2 billion a year, up from $930MM in the current agreement, as John Lombardo and John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal report. The NBA is a hot property, but while outgoing owner Bruce Levenson has the controlling stake in the Hawks, he doesn’t have the majority share, Lowe notes. It remains to be seen whether the Hawks sale will reap a figure close to the $2 billion Steve Ballmer paid for the Clippers, the Bucks sale price, or an entirely different number, but as we wait to see, here’s more from the East:

  • Knicks owner James Dolan and team president Phil Jackson have agreed to keep the existing front office staff in place for a year, a source tells Marc Berman of the New York Post. The club hasn’t let go of any front office personnel since Jackson’s hiring, and the only addition has been Clarence Gaines Jr., who serves as an adviser to Jackson, Berman points out. Rick Fox said Sunday that he’d be interested in joining the organization, though there’s been no movement toward that end, as Berman chronicles.
  • Otis Smith confirms that he and Pistons president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy discussed making Smith the team’s GM, a job that instead went to Jeff Bower, but Smith told Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel that the timing wasn’t right (Twitter links).I don’t think I’m ready to go back to NBA,” said Smith, the former Magic GM who joined the Pistons as the coach of their D-League team.
  • Greg Stiemsma‘s one-year deal for the minimum salary with the Raptors is indeed partially guaranteed, according to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun (Twitter link).

Rockets To Acquire Jason Terry

September 8 at 1:00pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

SEPTEMBER 8TH: The trade will include Gee and Hopson, but not Powell, Feigen tweets.

AUGUST 31ST: 5:01pm: The picks that the Rockets are receiving come with some unlikely protections, notes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Houston would get the pick as long as it falls between the 31st and 50th selections. There is no protection for the Knicks’ 2016 pick, writes Feigen. The deal will take several weeks to complete, notes Feigen, and will include other non-guaranteed contracts, likely either Scotty Hopson, Josh Powell, or both.

4:25pm: The Kings will send Houston two second-round picks in deal, including the 2016 second-rounder that was acquired from the Knicks, Wojnarowski reports (Twitter link).

4:10pm: The Kings are finalizing a deal that would send Jason Terry and a future second-rounder to the Rockets for a package of non-guaranteed contracts, including Alonzo Gee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter links).

Terry had been acquired by the Kings at the trade deadline along with Reggie Evans, in exchange for shooting guard Marcus Thornton. Terry never played a game for the Kings, instead opting to rehab his surgically repaired knee in preparation for the 2014/15 season. Prior to the trade, Terry appeared in 35 games for the Nets, averaging 4.5 PPG and 1.6 APG.

Terry is on an expiring $5.85MM contract for next season, and he figures to see some minutes with the Rockets backing up both guard positions. Terry will likely be more motivated playing for a Houston squad that hopes to secure a high seed heading into next season’s playoffs, than a still-rebuilding team in Sacramento.

And-Ones: Exum, Douglas-Roberts, Levenson

September 7 at 9:42pm CDT By Zach Links

Scouts are still evaluating Dante Exum, one of the bigger gambles taken in the NBA Draft lottery.  The Jazz selected him without having seen him play against top-level competition and the jury is still out on Exum as a player as he shows his stuff in the World Cup, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes.  When asked what he’s learned about Exum so far, one Eastern Conference scouting director said, “Not much. He’s not ready for the NBA, that is for sure. But a lot of guys are not ready for the NBA and they have got to learn on the fly. He is no different. But he is not going to jump into the league and all of a sudden average 20 points a game. There’s just no way.”  Here’s tonight’s look around the NBA..

  • Chris Douglas-Roberts‘ deal with the Clippers is fully guaranteed, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (via Twitter).  That doesn’t come as a huge surprise since Ekpe Udoh‘s minimum salary deal is also fully guaranteed for the 2014/15 season.  CD-R averaged 6.9 points in 20.7 minutes per game and shot a career-high 38.6% from downtown last season.
  • Even before the Donald Sterling situation erupted, there was some talk that Bruce Levenson would explore selling his controlling interest of the Hawks, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
  • Whether Levenson’s fate is well-deserved or Orwellian is up for debate, but it’s clear this is a different world in the post-Sterling NBA, writes Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.
  • Supply and demand could keep Reggie Jackson with the Thunder, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman. Only four teams – the Mavs, Lakers, Knicks, and Heat – currently have a clear need and the necessary cap space to make a run at him next summer.  Jackson is after a sizable payday and a starting role, but that could be hard to find in the middle of an extremely talented free agent class.
  • The Jazz have several players in the World Cup, including Exum and stashed Brazilian talent Raul Neto, and Dennis Lindsey admits that he is somewhat worried about injuries and fatigue, writes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune.  At the same time, he feels that his younger players are also gaining valuable experience in international play.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.