Knicks GM: No Interest In Tanking

The Knicks were widely viewed as a bottom-10 NBA team entering the 2017/18 season, but they’ve played .500 ball so far, and president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry would like to see team keep winning and contend for a playoff spot, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. As Berman details, Perry expressed a distaste for the idea of tanking, suggesting the Knicks won’t go down that road.

“I don’t think that’s healthy for any culture,” Perry said. “I think if you try to institutionalize losing, that’s hard to get out of your building.”

When the Knicks finally found a new home for Carmelo Anthony just before training camp opened in the fall, it signaled that the team had fully committed to its rebuild, lowering expectations for the coming season. A losing record and a top-10 pick for 2018 was considered a probable outcome. At the moment though, the Knicks hold the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, with a tiebreaker edge over the Sixers — both teams are 13-13.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Eastern Conference Playoff Race]

While the Knicks’ hold on a playoff spot is tenuous, the team’s lack of interest in tanking should send a positive message to the players on the roster, including Kristaps Porzingis. As Berman notes, the Knicks are aware that Porzingis wants to see signs of progress before he commits to a long-term contract with the franchise. The standout big man, who will be extension-eligible for the first time in 2018, believes making the playoffs is an “achievable” goal for the Knicks this season.

“I don’t believe in [tanking] either,” Porzingis told Berman, agreeing with Perry. “Every season you have to go with the expectations of making the playoffs. That’s the way to get better. If you do make the playoffs, that experience, you can’t change for nothing. Every player should as soon as you start you career. The sooner you get that, the more you’re prepared for the future. I’m really looking forward to making the playoffs.”

Community Shootaround: Eastern Playoff Race

A shaky start to the season by the Cavaliers and a season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward on opening night created some uncertainty back in October about the Eastern Conference playoff picture this season. However, as we near the two-month mark of the 2017/18 campaign, the top of the standings in the East look like what we’d expect — the 23-5 Celtics lead the way, followed by the Raptors (17-7) and Cavs (19-8).

After those top three teams, there are a couple more familiar contenders. The Bucks (15-10) took a roundabout route to fourth place in the East, starting off slow and then catching fire after acquiring Eric Bledsoe. As for the Wizards, they’ve been a little underwhelming, with their 14-12 record tying them for sixth in the conference. But once John Wall gets fully healthy, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Washington make a strong second-half run.

Outside of those five teams, the Eastern Conference playoff race is a bit less predictable. The Pacers, who were expected to be a lottery team, are currently riding a four-game winning streak to a 16-11 overall record, good for fifth in the conference. The Pistons (14-12) and the Knicks (13-13) round out the current playoff picture in the East, though neither team has played its best ball lately — Detroit, in particular, has struggled, having lost its last six games.

The Bulls and Hawks are out of the playoff race entirely, as they battle for the best odds at 2018’s first overall pick. The Hornets (9-16), Magic (11-17), and Nets (10-15) are probably long-shots for the postseason too, though they could hang around within striking distance of that No. 8 seed. The current lottery teams that represent the greatest playoff threats are the Sixers (13-13) and Heat (12-13), who have been inconsistent, but have real upside.

We’ve still got a lot of basketball to play before playoff seeds are determined, but based on what you’ve seen so far this season, which eight teams do you expect to make the postseason in the East? Are the Pacers for real? Can the Pistons and/or Knicks hang on to a top-eight seed? Will the Sixers and/or Heat crack the top eight, or will another lottery team make a run at a playoff spot? And when it comes to seeding, will the Celtics hang onto the No. 1 spot?

Jump into the comment section below to weigh in on the Eastern Conference’s race for the playoffs and let us know what you think!

And-Ones: Top International Leagues, Seattle, Ball Brothers

While the NBA as a league is as popular as ever, the gap between the best league in the world and the plethora of international options is shrinking. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla recently broke down the world’s top leagues in a must-read feature for any hoops fans curious about the basketball scene outside of the NBA.

Fraschilla ranks EuroLeague as the best non-NBA league. It’s the continent-wide league of top clubs from domestic leagues in countries like Spain and Turkey. The league is very financially stable, Fraschilla writes, noting that approximately 100 EuroLeague players are making as much or more money than the bottom 100 players in the NBA.

Fraschilla highlights Spain’s Liga ACB, the Turkish Basketball Super League and Russia’s VTB United League as the top pro leagues based in a single country.

Other leagues mentioned in the feature include Australia’s National Basketball League and the Chinese Basketball Association, both of which are growing in popularity of late.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • It’s official, Tim Leiweke‘s Oak View Group is investing to refurnish KeyArena in Seattle. Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports breaks down the latest in the pacific northwest city’s pursuit to reclaim an NBA franchise.
  • Professional basketball hasn’t always succeeded in Mexico. Most recently, Nathaniel Janowitz of ESPN writes, the Capitanes de Ciudad Mexico of the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional have tried to win over hoops fans in the country’s capital.
  • Both LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball have an agent, Jeff Goodman of ESPN writes, so neither will be eligible to play college basketball. As Bleacher Report’s David Pick writes, their chances of playing in a competitive league overseas aren’t exactly great either.

Southeast Notes: Batum, Fournier, Graham

If you’re wondering why Nicolas Batum hasn’t been his regular self for the Hornets since returning to the court, it’s because of lingering pain associated with the torn tendon in his left elbow, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.

Batum elected to forego potential season-ending injury in October when a specialist said that it would be possible to recover through rehabilitation. Batum returned to the Hornets after six weeks. In the 12 starts since, he’s averaged 10.1 points on 37% shooting from the field and just 22% from downtown. Last year, in contrast, he averaged 15.1 on 40% and 33%.

Since I got back, I’ve not been 100 percent yet. Not even close to 100 percent. It’s always there. Every contact: I grab someone, or someone grabs me, or someone hits me,” the versatile Hornets forward said. “I get [pain] every game.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Magic are creeping toward a playoff spot but George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel says that’s not exactly a good thing. The scribe notes that the team has shown signs of relative competence but also mediocrity, the latter a one-way ticket to the dreaded middle-ground between success and actually landing a top lottery pick.
  • Plenty has gone wrong for the Hornets this season but the club has reason to be optimistic about Treveon Graham, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The versatile wing, who can slide into a forward spot if necessary, could have an impact on how the team handles the coming few, injury-plagued weeks.
  • An MRI has revealed that Evan Fournier‘s ankle is sprained. The Magic guard hasn’t played since Wednesday, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel writes, but he considers himself to be day-to-day.

Central Notes: Mirotic, Jordan, Parker

Not only does the return of Nikola Mirotic give the struggling Bulls an extra offensive weapon,  he provides a calm confidence that the young team can benefit from. Nick Friedell of ESPN writes that Mirotic has set the bar high upon his return, taking particular pleasure in the fact that the 5-20 team is 2-0 since he returned to the court.

Friedell adds that Mirotic has been playing particularly well alongside frontcourt teammate Bobby Portis. Together the pair who’s training camp skirmish made national headlines is rocking a 115.6 offensive rating with a 103.8 defensive rating. The pairing alone has yielded 59 of the Bulls’ 223 points over the last two games and they’ve only been on the floor together for 24 minutes.

The Bulls may be in the midst of a rebuild, not particularly committed to any specific player, but Mirotic has shown plenty of potential when asked to take on a large offensive role. From March 22 on last season, Mirotic averaged 17.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in just under 30 minutes per game.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The fact that DeAndre Jordan hired an agent with a close connection to Jason Kidd could give the Bucks an advantage in any trade negotiations with the Clippers, Ken Berger of Bleacher Report writes. Agent Jeff Schwartz represented Kidd for much of his playing career.
  • A big three on Saturday night could help Jae Crowder bust out of his shooting slump, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. The Cavaliers forward has struggled from long-range, particularly in the fourth quarter, and has ceded some minutes to reserve Jeff Green. “Y’all know I’ve been struggling. It feels good to finally see one go down, especially late in the game,” Crowder said. “I’ve made quite a few of those in my career, but I haven’t made them like I wanted to here. I just want to build off this win.”
  • If Jabari Parker‘s future with the Bucks is uncertain given his health, contract status and the emergence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, one team that could be in play to acquire him is the Jazz. Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News details Parker’s connection to the The Church of Latterday Saints which has famously strong roots in Utah. Parker, it’s worth noting, had BYU in his top five potential colleges coming out of high school.

Atlantic Notes: VanVleet, Nets, Booker

The Raptors will have a welcomed dilemma on their hands when Delon Wright returns from a shoulder injury. Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes that initial third-string point guard Fred VanVleet has made a strong case for regular minutes.

VanVleet has become an integral part of the lineup the Raptors have been closing games with during their current five-game streak. The gritty, undrafted guard has been providing skills that Dwane Casey loves while shooting an impressive 8-17 from beyond the arc.

I think we have the opportunity with Delon, Fred, Norman Powell,” starting Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said of the fluctuating lineups. “We’ve got guys who can play basketball and guys who are very talented and play extremely hard. You never know, whoever has it going is going to finish the game.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets opted to take a flyer on Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas this week but the aspect of the trade that they’re most excited for could very well be the second round pick, Zach Lowe of ESPN says (via Nets Daily). General manager Sean Marks has been busy the last few years, acquiring second-rounders to replenish those that his predecessor traded away.
  • The latest addition to the Sixers considers himself to be a bigger version of a current fan favorite. Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype recently caught up with Trevor Booker and asked him what he thinks he’ll be able to contribute to his new team. “I’ll bring a lot of passion; I’m a passionate player. I’m a guy that’s going to be aggressive, provide energy and be a pest on defense. I’m pretty much a bigger T.J. McConnell.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 12/10/17

Here are Sunday’s G League assignments and recalls from across the NBA:

  • The Spurs announced on Sunday that guard Derrick White has been assigned to the team’s G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs. Through six games with San Antonio, White averaged 1.5 PPG and 1.5 RPG in less than eight minutes per game.

Heat Notes: Bosh, Spoelstra, Winslow

The Heat experienced some déjà vu during their game against the Nets in Mexico City on Saturday as former champion Chris Bosh was in attendance for the team’s 101-89 victory. It was a welcome sight for many of Bosh’s former teammates and coaches, including Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel writes.

“We’ve been in touch. He looks good,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “His family, his kids are doing well. I love CB. He’s Heat family for life but man it’s strange. You see him and it’s like you go back to 2012 just like that. You realize how fast times goes by in this league.”

Bosh has not played in nearly two seasons after his issue with blood clots was ruled career-ending following a medical review by the NBA and the players’ union earlier this year. Bosh reached a unique agreement with the Heat in July where his salary would longer count against the team’s salary cap after he was waived.

We noted last month that Bosh was “keeping his options open” regarding his future as an active player. However, given his medical complications, it remains a longshot that an NBA team will give him a chance to resume his career.

Check out other Heat news below:

  • Also from the Sun Sentinel’s Shandel Richardson, Heat forward Justise Winslow has taken a demotion to the bench in stride and is finding success in that role. “I didn’t really take it as a bad thing or a good thing,” Winslow said. “For me, I just see it as an opportunity to be even more of a playmaker with that second group especially with the great spot up shooters we have in Wayne [Ellington] and Tyler [Johnson].”
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes that Erik Spoelstra thrives under stability with the Heat, something David Fizdale and other recently dismissed coaches have not been afforded. Spoelstra has been the head coach in Miami through the era of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Bosh, and in recent years during a rebuilding stage. He feels that teams will need patience to compete and that stability with coaches is critical.

Pacific Notes: Ball, Walton, Teodosic, Iguodala, Jackson

Outside of a few standout performances, Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball‘s first professional season has been inconsistent at best. The Lakers’ season has mirrored Ball’s inconsistency as the team is 10-15, good for 10th place in the Western Conference. If the franchise and Ball want to achieve success, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant believes the 20-year-old point guard needs to improve now.

Speaking to Chris McGee on Spectrum SportsNet’s ‘Connected With’, Bryant said that Ball and the Lakers cannot wait and plan for several years to see improvements. Instead, Ball — and several of his young teammates — needs to take initiative and improve on his own accord.

“He needs to get better now,” Bryant said (via ForTheWin’s Nick Schwartz). “Kuzma, better now. Randle, better now. Players, you want that now. We never thought, ‘OK, we’re going to win four years from now. We really thought this is our year. We’re going to get this done. We’re going to push, push, push, push, push to get better now.’ And in the process of having that impatience, you develop. If you’re just patiently going about it, you’ll never get there. For players, it’s kind of patient impatience.”

In 25 games, Ball is averaging 8.6 PPG, 7.1 APG and 6.8 RPG. However, Ball has struggled on offense, shooting .321% from the field and .246% from beyond the arc.

Check out other news from around the Pacific Division:

  • In a well-written and well-crafted feature, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk dissected Luke Walton’s transition from player to assistant coach to head coach. Walton, currently in his second season as head coach of the Lakers, has learned under legend Phil Jackson, current Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, and his legendary father, Bill Walton. As Youngmisuk writes, all three men have shaped the way Walton conducts himself as head coach.
  • While Andre Iguodala is 33 years old, his ability to impact a game on both ends of the floor has made him invaluable to the Warriors. Head coach Steve Kerr said that, in particular, Iguodala’s defense reminds him of Scottie Pippen, Mark Medina of The Mercury News writes.
  • While Clippers rookie Milos Teodosic is close to returning from a plantar fascia injury to his left foot, the team is still unsure when he will be back, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports. “He’s close, I’ll say that,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “Watching him yesterday, I just didn’t think he was ready. But he’s close. It’s a tough one.”
  • Suns rookie Josh Jackson said his adjustment from college to the NBA has gone well, Dennis Chambers of Basketball Insiders writes.

Weekly Mailbag: 12/4/17 – 12/10/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

Do you think the Lakers could trade Luol Deng before the deadline? Or what do you think they can get if they trade Julius Randle? — Ralph Lakers, via Twitter

Other than making him very wealthy, the Lakers didn’t do Deng any favors when they signed him to a four-year, $72MM contract in 2016. L.A. gave up on Deng midway through last season and he has only gotten into one game this year, so he has become a forgotten man other than his drain on the team’s cap. His contract is such a liability that it he would be hard to trade even if he were still productive. After making $17.19MM this season, he is owed $18MM next year and $18.81MM in 2019/20. If the Lakers can find a team willing to absorb all that salary, they’ll have to throw in a lot of sweeteners in terms of draft picks and maybe young players to get the deal done. It’s more realistic to expect the organization to use the stretch provision after this season and spread that remaining money over five years. Cap room is the number one goal in L.A., so any Randle deal will bring back expiring contracts and maybe future draft picks, but nothing that’s going to affect the team’s ability to offer two maximum contracts next summer.

Should the Thunder target a guy like Lou Williams? Generating offense has been a problem for this team, so maybe adding a spark off the bench could help. — Duhhkari Sanchez, via Twitter

This would be contingent on the Clippers deciding to break up their team. As bad as things have gone during a 10-15 start, they are only two-and-a-half games out of a playoff spot, so decisions on Williams, DeAndre Jordan and others are still a few weeks off. If Williams is available, he would be an excellent pickup for Oklahoma City. A finalist for the Sixth Man award last season, he specializes in bringing instant offense off the bench and would take some of the scoring load off Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Williams is in the middle of his best season at age 31, averaging a career-high 19.7 points through 24 games. The Lakers traded him to Houston at last year’s deadline for a first-round pick, and the Clippers would probably seek the same price.

What are the odds Marc Gasol gets the trade he’s looking for, and if he does, what are the odds it’s to a winning franchise? — Danny, via Twitter

Gasol will turn 33 next month, so it doesn’t make sense for anyone but contenders to pursue him. The issue is whether the Grizzlies should keep him any longer or trade him and start a youth movement. Gasol will make $24,119,025 next season and has a player option worth $25,595,700 for 2019/20. If he stays on the roster with Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons, Memphis won’t have any cap flexibility for the next two seasons. Chris Mannix of the Vertical reported last month that teams have called about Gasol, but the Grizzlies have turned them all down. Much like the Clippers, they are off to a bad start but aren’t completely out of contention at 8-18. If the losing continues, Memphis may have to take a hard look at its financial situation and resign itself to a Gasol trade by February.

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