New York Knicks

Atlantic Notes: Afflalo, ‘Melo, Okafor, Porzingis

The Knicks knew Kristaps Porzingis would perform well, but they had no idea he would burst out of the gates so spectacularly, GM Steve Mills told Zach Lowe of The pick is a potential game-changer for New York, as Lowe examines. Mills said to Lowe that agents have remarked of how players “feel really good” about the Knicks but want to see the team start to win, a sentiment that Arron Afflalo understands. The shooting guard with an $8MM player option for next season contends “the city isn’t enough for people,” but is convinced for himself that the Knicks are for real, as he explained to Lowe.

“I want to finish my career here,” Afflalo said. “Having a good young player and a winning team should help us get other guys.”

Afflalo has been sold on the Knicks for a while, as he and Mills said to Lowe that the Knicks and Nuggets had trade talks last season that would have fulfilled Afflalo’s desire to go to New York even amid last season’s 17-win debacle. See more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics went after the Hornets’ pick at No. 9 with the idea of flipping it to the Knicks, along with another first-rounder, for the No. 4 overall pick, which Boston would have used to take Justise Winslow, sources told Lowe for the same piece. Boston offered Charlotte four first-rounders for the ninth pick, as Lowe reported earlier, but the Hornets refused, putting the kibosh on the scenario in which Boston would have vaulted to No. 4. The Knicks listened to the idea, Mills admits, but a deal was never close, he told Lowe.
  • The Knicks have “never” thought about trading Carmelo Anthony, Mills insists to Lowe, who nonetheless hears skepticism from other teams that the subject hasn’t at least been the topic of internal discussion.
  • Knicks president Phil Jackson would have drafted Jahlil Okafor over Porzingis if he had the chance, a source said to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
  • Okafor’s off-court troubles are likely a shock to the Sixers, given the meticulous background checking they did before the draft on the center from Duke, a league executive told Berman for the same piece.
  • Porzingis decided against working out for the Sixers but wouldn’t have been opposed to playing for them, seeing it as an opportunity to perform in a low-pressure environment and viewing Nerlens Noel as a strong frontcourt complement to his game, a source close to Porzingis said to Berman.

And-Ones: Dunleavy, Mekel, D-League

Bulls small forward Mike Dunleavy Jr., who underwent back surgery in September, suffered a “setback” and his timetable for a return to the court is unclear, coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters, including Nick Friedell of Dunleavy re-signed with Chicago during the summer. Hoiberg, per Friedell, said there isn’t concern at this time that Dunleavy will have to miss the entire season or have another procedure on his back.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Former Mavericks and Pelicans point guard Gal Mekel has signed with European power-agent Misko Raznatovic, International Journalist David Pick tweets.
  • The Knicks have assigned Cleanthony Early to their D-League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Early has only seen 24 minutes of NBA action this season.
  • The Cavs have recalled Joe Harris from the Canton Charge, the team’s D-League affiliate, according to a team press release. Harris appeared in three games during his latest stint, averaging 22.7 points in 36.9 minutes per game.
  • Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders takes a look at the league’s landscape so far this season and the Hawks are among his underachievers. Greene believes one major reason for the disappointing start is that Atlanta still hasn’t found an adequate replacement for DeMarre Carroll.

Will Joseph contributed to this post.

Atlantic Notes: Okafor, Porzingis, Brown, Ross

Jahlil Okafor addressed his recent off-court trouble with a statement on Twitter that pointed the finger at himself (All four Twitter links). The Sixers rookie has overshadowed his strong early-season play with transgressions that made tabloid headlines.

“I hold myself to a higher standard than anyone else ever could and I’m not proud of some of my decisions over the last few months,” Okafor wrote. “I own my choices both personally and now publicly. At this point I am cooperating and respecting the process I have to go through. Going forward I don’t want to be a distraction for my team and am grateful for the support and guidance those close to me are giving. I am 100% focused on my responsibility to the League, my teammates and fans.”

See more on this year’s No. 3 overall pick amid the latest from the Atlantic Division:

Atlantic Notes: Okafor, Sullinger, Fisher

Jahlil Okafor was pulled over for driving 108 mph roughly three weeks ago, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Okafor was previously involved in two separate nightclub incidents, one in Boston and the other in Philadelphia. Coach Brett Brown addressed the latest news earlier this morning, as Pompey passes along (video via Twitter). “No differently than what we spoke about with the incident in Boston,” Brown said. “It’s part of our responsibility to help him.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The pairing of Okafor and Nerlens Noel hasn’t been successful this season, as the team is scoring just 90.2 points per 100 possessions with Okafor and Noel on the floor together. Despite this, the team isn’t giving up hope that the pairing can work, Pompey writes in a separate piece“That’s the challenge of growing two players together that are 19 and 21 years old,” Brown said. “We are only 17 games in. It’s a C, and we have to bring it up to a B-plus in the not-too-distant future.”
  • Through 16 games, Jared Sullinger has grabbed 20.7 % of available rebounds while on the floor, which is good for seventh in the league and coach Brad Stevens believes Sullinger’s success can be attributed to the big man’s awareness, Chris Forsberg of writes. “I think, positionally, he’s probably better defensively and that’s probably put him in a position to better rebound,” Stevens said. “As you get more aware, you get more experience, those things slow down for you about where you should be, and once you’re where you should be, talent takes over. And he’s in good defensive position often.” Sullinger will be a restricted free agent after the season.
  • Derek Fisher will coach his 100th game for the Knicks today and Marc Berman of the New York Post examines how the former player has progressed on the sideline.

Atlantic Notes: Porzingis, Okafor, Sixers, Hollins

Knicks‘ rookie Kristaps Porzingis believes he has the best possible mentor in team president Phil Jackson, writes Ian Begley of Jackson gambled the No. 4 pick on the 20-year-old Latvian and has offered a few coaching tips to help him along. Porzingis said Jackson “lets Coach [Derek] Fisher do all the work, but then he comes up to guys and tells little details about the offense, something maybe that all the other coaches didn’t see. Phil’s always there and he sees other things, and he’s very helpful for me. He’s always telling me little details and helping me with the game.”

There’s more news from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers need to do a better job of protecting Jahlil Okafor off the court, contends Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal. The rookie center has already been part of two dangerous altercations, allegedly getting in a street fight in Boston on Thanksgiving and having a gun pointed at his head in Philadelphia in October. Lloyd notes that when LeBron James returned to Cleveland last year, the Cavaliers quickly increased their security staff, which is made up of former law enforcement officials who can accompany players when they go out at night. Lloyd encourages the Sixers to do the same.
  • The Sixers have an abundance of young talent, but could use a stronger veteran presence, argues Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders. In a discussion of whether the franchise’s long-term plan is working, Hamilton said he likes the team’s youthful core, but worries that there are no veterans to teach good work habits and the ins and outs of being a pro. That need could be filled through free agency next summer, as Philadelphia has just $24.5MM committed for 2016/17. In the same piece, Ben Dowsett notes that the Sixers have 18 additional picks on top of their own in the drafts from 2016 through 2021.
  • Tonight’s pre-game comments from Nets‘ coach Lionel Hollins show that he still won’t take responsibility for the poor state of the team, according to “I don’t try to analyze everything,” Hollins said. “I see it and I know what it is. But what good does it do for me to stay up all night and analyze it and try to figure it out and try to make it different when we don’t have Kevin Durant and we don’t have [Russell] Westbrook, we don’t have LeBron James.”

Eastern Notes: Okafor, Johnson, Williams

Nets small forward Joe Johnson is struggling mightily with his shot, connecting on just 33.5% of his attempts, but the veteran is doing his best to contribute in other ways, writes Fred Kerber of The New York Post. “Just trying to do my job to the best of my ability, which I don’t think is necessarily about trying to score more,” Johnson said. “I think it’s all around, whatever it is to try to help this team win. We all have a role on this team and we have to play it to the best of our ability. I’m just trying to do my job. Some nights it’s pretty good, some nights it’s not so good.” Johnson is earning a whopping $24.895MM this season, and will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Here’s more from out of the East:

  • Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor expressed regret over the altercation he was involved in with a heckler while outside a Boston nightclub earlier this week, John Finger of relays. “It was definitely dumb on my part and something I’m embarrassed about,” Okafor said. “We’re still dealing with the league and with the team, but I’m not happy about it at all. We’re going through the whole process of what we’re going to do.
  • Combo forward Derrick Williams has not had his number called regularly by Knicks coach Derek Fisher, and notes that he and the coach have not discussed his changing role, which is becoming a source of frustration, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. “Yeah man, I feel that’s the reason I’m here, bring that spark off the bench,’’ Williams said. “You can’t control that. It’s up to the coaching staff. At the same time, it does get frustrating. I know I can help. But we have more games.’’
  • The Cavaliers assigned Joe Harris to the Canton Charge, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Harris’ third sojourn of the season to the D-League, as our tracker shows.

Atlantic Notes: Johnson, Turner, Williams

Raptors power forward James Johnson took to Twitter earlier this week to express displeasure with how he was being utilized, not a wise move for a player whose NBA career may depend on how he adjusts to a limited role with the team, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. Johnson, who is earning $2.5MM this season, is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, and appearing to be disruptive, especially after a team win, won’t help his value on the open market, Smith opines. The 28-year-old is averaging 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per contest.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers have been attempting to rebuild through the draft by bottoming out as a franchise, but the risk the team runs is that the process may become toxic prior to paying dividends, Nate Scott of USA Today writes. The franchise runs the risk of conditioning its players to lose, as well as potentially souring any free agent targets on coming to Philadelphia, Scott notes.
  • Derrick Williams has apparently fallen out of Knicks coach Derek Fisher‘s rotation, which doesn’t please the veteran, but he is trying to make the best of the situation, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “We got to sacrifice a little bit. We went on a little win streak. So you don’t want to complain when you’re winning. It just makes you look like a bad individual,” Williams said. “I’ve always been a team guy. I’m happy when we’re winning. [Wednesday], when I know I can play and I think I can help, it does get frustrating. But we have more games. So hopefully Friday [at home against Miami], things turn around a little bit.
  • With Philadelphia on the verge of setting the NBA record for futility to begin a campaign, swingman Evan Turner feels bad for his former franchise, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “I know Brett [Brown] is a great coach, and those players over there grind hard,” said Turner. “It’s not like they are sitting around doing nothing. Those kids grind, man. I know for sure they stay over the summer and work out together. So you feel bad in that sense, [because] it is a team working to be successful. It’s not like they are a bunch of high-paid players that have a crazy attitude about it.
  • The Raptors have recalled Delon Wright from their D-League affiliate, the team announced.

Eastern Notes: Batum, Clifford, James

Hornets coach Steve Clifford‘s new contract extension could enhance the team’s chance of re-signing swingman Nicolas Batum, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer notes (Twitter links). “He trusts me. He believes in me. So that could be a big factor,” Batum said when discussing his upcoming free agent decision. Batum was acquired from Portland this past summer in exchange for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson.

Here’s more from the East:

  • The first three years of Clifford’s extension are fully guaranteed, with the final season in 2019/20 a team option, Bonnell tweets.
  • The Cavaliers held a players-only meeting after their Wednesday night loss to the Raptors, and LeBron James and James Jones both chastised the squad for its inconsistent play and effort, Dave McMenamin of writes. “It’s all mindset,” James said after the game. “It comes from within. I’ve always had it; my upbringing had me like that. It’s either you got it or you don’t.” LeBron also noted that the Eastern Conference, which has been much-maligned for being mediocre the past few seasons, is greatly improved this year, McMenamin relays. “There’s always been a lot of shade thrown at our conference the last few years, so it’s great to see that our side is definitely picking it up and playing at a high level,” James said.
  • Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis is winning over the team’s fans, but he still hasn’t forgotten that his draft selection was met with boos when first announced, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. “It still sits inside of you a bit,’’ Porzingis said of the boos. “It’s not a good feeling when you get booed. But I don’t want to be good because somebody booed me. I want to be great player because that’s the way I am. It definitely gave me extra motivation.’’

Atlantic Notes: Porzingis, Scola, Brown

Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony is surprised by how quickly he and rookie Kristaps Porzingis have meshed together, with the No. 4 overall pick’s ability to stretch defenses blending perfectly with Melo’s preferred style of play, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News writes. “This early we didn’t think that this kind of the jelling and the chemistry we have so far would be there. We all thought this would take some time to kind of figure out,” Anthony told Bondy. “But anytime you can play with a stretch-four, it makes the game a little bit easier. And it’s easier to figure that out. When you have a stretch-four guy who can play the wing, and he’s 7’3″, you know where he’s at, you know what he can do. So that makes the game easier. It makes the chemistry process that much easier.

Here’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Porzingis has turned draft night boos from Knicks fans into game night raves with his solid play thus far, and he credits some advice that he received from Wolves veteran Kevin Garnett for helping him cope with the now-forgotten negativity he was garnering, Bondy relays in a separate piece. “He [Garnett] was like, ‘You use that as motivation, you let that drive you every day when you step onto the floor,’” Porzingis said. “And that’s what I’m trying to do. I don’t really focus on it, that’s not the only thing that drives me, but it still sits inside me on the floor. That was huge. That was a really cool moment.
  • The Sixers are off to a winless start to the season, but coach Brett Brown still needs to weigh the value of player development over chasing wins, a task that the team’s near-constant roster shuffling doesn’t make easier, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I have to coach basketball,” Brown said. “I have to do it where you walk the most incredible concoction. There’s a recipe you are always trying to figure out. I never coached more moving parts in my life.
  • The Raptors signed Luis Scola to a one-year, $2.9MM deal this offseason to provide depth, but the veteran is proving to be one of the team’s most important additions, Michael Grange of writes. “When you play well, you play more and when you play bad, you play less and that’s the way it should be,” Scola said of his new starting role. “It’s been pretty much what I expected. I knew if I showed up in good shape and did good things I’d have more opportunities and if I didn’t, I’d have less, and that’s what happened. The situation changes, I adapt, I prepare mentally for it and I just play.

Southeast Notes: Wade, Clifford, Porzingis, Oladipo

Dwyane Wade has been trying to preserve his body for the long run the past few years, at 33 years old he was still able to corral a one-year, $20MM deal from the Heat this past summer. Still, the 13th-year veteran has no aspirations of matching Kobe Bryant‘s 20 seasons in the NBA, as he tells Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports.

“That ain’t a goal for me. That’s a long time. I’m sure Kobe didn’t think he’d play 20 years. It’s amazing. And he’s been through a lot. He’s been through a lot of injuries but he’s still out there. And he’s still, you know, Kobe Bryant,” Wade said. “It’s amazing to see a guy who has played 20 years in the league. Makes me feel old, for sure, just watching him. I don’t know how many people come in with the goal, ‘I’m going to play 20 years.’ I think you take it step by step. For years I said, ‘I want to make it to 10.’ I made it to 10 and I was like, ‘I’m solid.’ Then, you keep going from there. But 20? No way.”

Bryant isn’t nearly as effective as he once was, and Lee’s piece examines what Wade, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are doing to ward off similar declines in their own games. See more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hornets coach Steve Clifford, fresh off agreeing to a three-year extension, thanked owner Michael Jordan and vice chairman Curtis Polk, as well as GM Rich Cho, whose relationship with the coach has reportedly been less than ideal“I like who I’m working for and wanted this to happen,” Clifford said today, according to the Hornets Twitter account.
  • Kristaps Porzingis said he sensed the Magic would have drafted him with the No. 5 overall pick if the Knicks had passed on him at No. 4, notes Marc Berman of the New York Post (Twitter link). Porzingis worked out for the Magic shortly before the draft, Berman adds.
  • New Magic head coach Scott Skiles has decided to bench former No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo in favor of Channing Frye, who was reportedly available on the trade market for little in return before the season, as Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel relays. Skiles stressed that the move isn’t punishment or necessarily permanent and said Oladipo handled the news well, Robbins notes. Oladipo is eligible for a rookie scale extension after the season.

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