Sasha Vujacic

And-Ones: ‘Melo, Batum, Hield

Carmelo Anthony wasn’t at the Knicks triangle seminar this week after all, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post and Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, despite an earlier report that he was. Some say the seminar was mandatory and others called it voluntary, Isola hears, adding that one player said team president Phil Jackson only invited a few Knicks. Anthony is believed to be receiving therapy on his left knee, Berman writes, and the triangle sessions were mostly review, a source told the Post scribe, who downplays the significance of ‘Melo’s absence. Still, 10 other Knicks took part, Berman hears, including Kristaps Porzingis, who’s recovering from a shoulder strain and recently had a routine visit at the Hospital for Special Surgery, notes Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com (ESPN Now link). The other attendees, according to Berman, were Jerian Grant, Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway, Tony WrotenSasha Vujacic, Jose Calderon, Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn and Kevin Seraphin.

See more from around the NBA:

  • Nicolas Batum isn’t definitively out for the rest of the Hornets‘ first-round series against Miami, tweets Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, dispelling an earlier report, but he’s unlikely to return unless it goes at least six games, Bonnell says. Batum is poised for free agency this summer.
  • Indiana freshman small forward OG Anunoby won’t enter this year’s draft, the school announced (Twitter link). He was a late second-round prospect for this year, according to Chad Ford of ESPN.com, who ranks him the 50th, but the 6’8″ 18-year-old has first-round potential for next year, as Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress slots him 20th in his 2017 mock draft. Anunoby saw limited action this season, putting up 4.9 points in 13.7 minutes per game.
  • Long-shot draft prospect Moustapha Diagne will enter this year’s draft, but he’ll do so without an agent so he can retain his college eligibility, a source told Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). The 6’8″ 20-year-old from Northwest Florida State, a community college, is a former Syracuse commit, Rothstein notes, and he was 68th in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index coming out of high school last year. Neither Ford nor Givony ranks him among the top 100 draft prospects.
  • Top-10 prospect and former Oklahoma shooting guard Buddy Hield has signed with agent Rob Pelinka of Landmark Sports, a source told Darren Rovell of ESPN.com (ESPN Now link).

Knicks Notes: Wroten, Vujacic, Jackson

Knicks team president Phil Jackson acknowledged that New York needs to improve its backcourt this offseason, but he also noted that the help may come from within the organization rather than spending on the free agent market this summer, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. The executive admitted that Jose Calderon is “entering the latter part of his career” and raised the possibility that Tony Wroten, who isn’t likely to play again this season after reportedly agreeing to a deal with the Knicks, could very well be the team’s staring point guard in 2016/17, Berman relays. “My idea of chasing a point guard where it becomes just an obsession isn’t necessary,’’ Jackson said. “It’s not necessary. We can play the game without that. But we still need good performers.

With the salary cap set to increase dramatically this summer, there will be plenty of teams with money to spend on free agents, but Jackson believes players will view the Knicks as an attractive destination despite their recent struggles, Berman relays. “Everybody’s going to be flush with money. It’s going to be a seller’s [player’s] market,’’ Jackson said. “We have a definite idea how to help this team. I don’t think they’re secrets or mysteries. We’re just going to do just fine in free agency.

Here’s more from New York:

  • Jackson accompanied the team on its recent road trip in order to evaluate the team’s pending free agents, noting that he wants to retain a number of them without mentioning anyone by name, Berman notes in the same piece. The executive did indicate that shooting guard Sasha Vujacic probably wouldn’t be a part of the team’s future, the scribe adds. Lance Thomas, Langston Galloway and Kevin Seraphin will be free agents after the season, while Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams hold player options on their deals for 2016/17.
  • The team president’s insistence on running the triangle offense because of his history with it in Chicago and Los Angeles ignores the fact that Jackson is virtually the only coach to have had success with it in the NBA, Chris Mannix of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports writes. The scribe also opines that the team’s No. 1 priority should be developing rookie Kristaps Porzingis and ponders why Jackson hasn’t looked to the Mavericks and the way they use Dirk Nowitzki on offense as a guide for how the Knicks should design their attack to maximize the talented rookie’s abilities.

Knicks Rumors: Early, Fisher, Porzingis

Knicks forward Cleanthony Early, who was wounded in a December 30th shooting, probably won’t return to the court until after the All-Star break, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The second-year player was shot once in his right knee during a robbery. Team president Phil Jackson and GM Steve Mills haven’t made any public comment on the incident, but an unidentified friend of Early’s told Berman that the recovery is progressing well. “He’s feeling better and he’s going to be fine,’’ the friend said. “It was the best possible outcome, and it’s not going to have any effect on his career. There was no structural damage and no infection, so he didn’t need surgery. That was the beautiful thing, not needing surgery. Thank God — his knee could’ve been blown out.’’

With an opening already on the roster, Early’s absence has left the Knicks with just 13 available players, and Berman writes that the team is “exploring several options” to add someone via a 10-day contract. The Knicks are examining the players waived because of this week’s deadline for guaranteed contracts and were keeping an eye on the D-League showcase that ends today. Jimmer Fredette, part of the Knicks’ D-League franchise in Westchester, was considered, but coach Derek Fisher wants a better defender, according to Berman.

There’s more this morning from the Big Apple:

  • The Knicks’ near-miss Friday in San Antonio and their overall competitiveness during a challenging stretch shows that Fisher has developed an effective combination, Berman writes in a separate piece. Their recent success, Berman notes, coincides with Fisher’s decision to cut his rotation to nine players and limit the playing time of Kyle O’Quinn, Kevin Seraphin, Sasha Vujacic and Lou Amundson.
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had good things to say about rookie Kristaps Porzingis, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Porzingis is averaging 13.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game halfway through his first NBA season. “They were very astute in figuring out what he might be down the road,” Popovich said. “His agility, his sense of the game, his skills, are quite significant. I think he’s going to be a great player.”
  • New York’s best opportunity for improvement next season will come through free agency, contends Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The Knicks will have approximately $20MM in cap space this summer and won’t have their first-round pick because of the 2013 Andrea Bargnani trade.

Atlantic Notes: Afflalo, Porzingis, Marshall

Arron Afflalo‘s ability to score and his smooth transition to the triangle offense have proven him an effective offseason addition for the Knicks, observes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Still, Afflalo’s time in New York could be short-lived, since he can turn down a player option worth $8MM and hit free agency again next summer.

“He’s been really valuable,’’ coach Derek Fisher said. “He has that attacking, aggressive mindset that is contagious. You need guys on the floor who have to play in the moment, willing to make the plays and take the shots.’’

See more on the Knicks amid our check around the Atlantic Division:

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: Lopez, Summers, Grant

While it may appear that Knicks coach Derek Fisher has begun to replace rookie Jerian Grant in the team’s rotation with Sasha Vujacic, the coach insists it is more about keeping the veteran ready rather than the coaching staff losing faith in the struggling Grant, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. “I’m trying to give us a spark, see if he can make a shot or two, bring some energy and tenacity to the game,’’ Fisher said. “We’re going to need Sasha through the course of the season. It’s important not to have guys have a down vibe by sitting and watching too much. You got to get some action.’’

Fisher did acknowledge that teams have figured out how to defend Grant, who will need to figure out a way to counter the adjustments teams have made against him, Berman adds. “People watch us play, the same way we watch them play,” Fisher continued. “Some guys have made adjustments to how they’re defending him. He’ll learn how to still do what he does best in terms of getting penetration.’’

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors assigned rookie Delon Wright to the Raptors 905, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This is Wright’s first D-League trip of the season.
  • Nets center Brook Lopez was mentioned in numerous trade rumors connecting him to the Thunder last season. When asked what it would be like playing in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Lopez said, “It would have been interesting. You can ask them about it tomorrow and report back to me,” Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com relays (ESPN Now link). The big man did note that he was happy in Brooklyn, Mazzeo adds.
  • Knicks camp cut DaJuan Summers, who plays for the team’ D-League affiliate, has suffered an injury to his left Achilles tendon and will miss the remainder of the season, the Westchester Knicks announced (Twitter link). The 27-year-old appeared in three D-League contests this season and was averaging 25.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.

Atlantic Notes: Vujacic, Harper, Celtics

One benefit of the Knicks signing Sasha Vujacic is his knowledge of the triangle offense, which he is ready to share with the other members of the team, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com writes. “Of course, of course. I was always someone that helped players on the court. We have a lot of rookies and a lot of younger players –- I still consider myself young by the way -– so we have a great mix of guys and I’m looking forward to teaching them and giving them help,” Vujacic told Begley. “I don’t want to be a teacher because we have a coach that will lead us towards something [but] if there’s going to be anything needed for me to show or do I’ll be more than happy to do so.

Here’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks team president Phil Jackson is looking for the veteran to be a game-changing shooter off the bench for the team this season, Begley adds. “Except for a 10-day contract with the Clippers in 2014, Sasha hasn’t played in the NBA for four years, but at age 31 he still has plenty of game,” Jackson said. “He’s a classic streak-shooter who, when he’s zeroed in, can totally change a game in three minutes. He’ll be a significant force for us coming off the bench.
  • Justin Harper‘s one-year deal with the Nets is for the league minimum and is non-guaranteed, Eric Pincus of Basketball insiders relays (Twitter link).
  • In a look at the Celtics‘ 2015 draftees, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com believes that Jordan Mickey will make the biggest impact this season, noting that at some point, injuries or inconsistent play by those ahead of him on the depth chart will create an opportunity for him to log significant minutes. Blakely also notes that if R.J. Hunter can demonstrate himself to be an adequate defender and shoot with a relatively high level of confidence, he could easily wind up as the biggest steal of this year’s draft.

Phil Jackson On Williams, Afflalo, Vujacic

Phil Jackson has endured his share of criticism since becoming team president of the Knicks, but he defended his offseason additions in the latest of his interviews with Charlie Rosen for ESPN.com. The Knicks failed to land a superstar in this summer’s free agency, instead taking a piecemeal approach with their cap space as they used it on Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams and others. The executive made his lengthiest comments about Williams, who, according to Jackson, is confident that he already knows the triangle because of the time he spent watching Jackson’s Lakers in the 2000s and videos he found more recently on YouTube.

The entire piece is a must-read, especially for Knicks fans, and we’ll pass along a few highlights here:

On Derrick Williams:

“I mean, there’s no doubt that Derrick has the talent, size and strength to be a more-than-capable NBA player. However, his development has been hindered by several factors. From the start of his pro career, being the second overall draft pick has been like an albatross around his neck, something that he, and lots of other people, felt a lot of pressure to live up to. I told him that right now he’s an NBA player and it no longer makes any difference where he was drafted. He just has to learn how to play the game the right way. That means developing a defensive mindset, developing an intermediate game and improving his long-range shooting.”

On Arron Afflalo:

“Some NBA watchers have questioned whether or not Arron has anything left as he nears his 30th birthday, but I’m positive that he does. He has a gym in his Las Vegas home and he works out religiously. Actually, he’s such a hard-worker that he holds his teammates accountable if they try to cut corners in any way. I look for Arron to be a leader on this team. He wanted us and we wanted him, so Arron and the Knicks is a very good match.”

On Sasha Vujacic:

“Except for a 10-day contract with the Clippers in 2014, Sasha hasn’t played in the NBA for four years, but at age 31 he still has plenty of game. He’s a classic streak-shooter who, when he’s zeroed in, can totally change a game in three minutes. He’ll be a significant force for us coming off the bench.”

And-Ones: Brand, Gordon, Knicks

Free agent big man Elton Brand, 36, who’s contemplating retirement, told Jane Lerner of The Journal News that he has not received “the phone call,” and remains noncommittal toward his future. Brand, who played for the Hawks last season, had been connected to the Mavs earlier this summer.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Drew Gordon, who played mostly in the D-League and appeared in nine games with the Sixers last season, inked a deal with France’s Chalons-Reims, according to the team’s site (h/t Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). The forward averaged 13 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game with the D-League’s Delaware 87ers. Gordon, 25, was waived by the Sixers in December.
  • Kristaps Porzingis, whom the Knicks drafted No. 4 overall, approved of the team’s signing of fellow European player Sasha Vujacic, a veteran and former member of the Lakers, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. “I played against him,’’ Porzingis said. “Very experienced. He’s a cold-blooded shooter. He doesn’t care. He loves the pressure. He’s great. Those situations will help the team in those important moments. For me, it will be great having him. His experience and being European, he can teach me a lot on how hard he works. He’s a hard worker.”

Knicks Notes: D-League, Antetokounmpo, Seraphin

One of the main reasons that the Knicks fired Kevin Whitted as coach of their D-League affiliate, and also did not retain his replacement, Craig Hodges, is because the team’s front office was not pleased with the development of Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Marc Berman of The New York Post relays (on Twitter). Antetokounmpo, who recently inked a partially guaranteed two-year deal with New York, appeared in 47 games for Westchester last season and averaged 13.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists.

Here’s more from New York City:

  • Antetokounmpo’s deal with the Knicks includes a partial guarantee of $75k for the 2015/16 campaign, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Pincus also confirms that Sasha Vujacic‘s one-year pact is fully guaranteed.
  • Kevin Seraphin brings with him to New York a solid midrange game, with the big man nailing almost 45% of those attempts, but his true offensive value is that he’s effective playing with his back to the basket, which is a big plus in the triangle offense, Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal writes. The 25-year-old is also a solid rim-protector, but his propensity to get into foul trouble needs improvement, Herring adds.
  • Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com ran down Seraphin’s numbers from last season, as well as analyzed the center’s strengths and areas in need of improvement. One immediate area of concern for the Knicks regarding their recent signee is his lackluster rebounding production from a season ago, Begley notes.

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