Chris Paul

Knicks Notes: Coaching Job, Smith, Paul, Spike Lee

The Knicks would be wise to strike quickly regarding their head coach position, Steve Popper of Newsday opines. The Nets will also be seeking a head coach and several other franchises with better reputations than the dysfunctional Knicks could be in the market as well. Interim replacement Mike Miller has done an admirable job but if they’re interested in a coach not currently under contract, such as Kenny Atkinson, Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, they’ll need to beat other teams to that candidate.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Dennis Smith Jr. is close to returning from a concussion, Greg Joyce of the New York Post relays. Smith suffered the head injury on February 27 and has missed five games. He practiced on Saturday but did not play against Detroit on Sunday. In 34 games, the third-year guard is averaging 5.5 PPG and 2.9 APG. Smith is signed through next season.
  • Thunder point guard Chris Paul calls trade rumors regarding the Knicks “crazy,” according to an NBA Central video post. Frank Isola reported last week that New York has been “gathering intel” on Paul and might seek a trade for the veteran point guard, whose former agent is new Knicks president Leon Rose. Some members of the organization believe CP3 could provide strong leadership for the Knicks’ young roster and help to instill a winning culture, sources tell Paul’s onerous contract would wreck the team’s cap sheet for the summer of 2021 when high-profile free agents are expected to be on the market but the team’s need at point guard could override that, Popper notes.
  • Paul was disappointed Spike Lee wasn’t at the Thunder-Knicks last week due to Lee’s rift with owner James Dolan, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “I’ve known Spike for a while. I had spoken to him a couple of days ago and looked forward to him being at the game to watch me play because I hadn’t played (at Madison Square Garden) the last two years,” Paul said.

Knicks Eyeing CP3 As Possible Offseason Target?

A connection with new Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose may put Chris Paul on the team’s radar this offseason, according to a pair of reports.

Frank Isola of SiriusXM NBA Radio (Twitter link) cited sources who say that the Knicks have been “gathering intel” on Paul and may pursue him in the offseason. Meanwhile, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes that the All-Star point guard “adores” Rose, who was previously CP3’s agent.

After acquiring Paul from the Rockets last summer – along with multiple first-round picks – in a deal that sent Russell Westbrook to Houston, the Thunder reportedly explored flipping the veteran to another team. However, he was considered a negative trade asset at that time, due to the three years and $124MM left on his contract.

Oklahoma City opted to hang onto Paul and he has been impressive in his first season with the Thunder, staying healthy all year, earning a spot in the All-Star Game for the first time since 2016, and leading the club to a 38-24 record so far. That doesn’t mean that his contract – which still has two years and nearly $86MM left on it after this season – won’t still be considered onerous, but CP3 should have more value this offseason if the Thunder want to put him back on the trade block.

Paul wouldn’t exactly be a perfect fit for the rebuilding Knicks, considering he’ll turn 35 years old this spring. Acquiring him would also compromise the team’s cap flexibility for the summer of 2021, which is expected to feature a significantly stronger free agent class than 2020.

Still, the Knicks didn’t have much luck recruiting star free agents in 2019, so if they don’t use their cap room to acquire a player like Paul, they may simply end up spending it on lesser free agents again, or perhaps absorbing unwanted contracts. Attempting to fill their point guard hole by swinging a deal for an All-Star like CP3 could be a reasonable alternative — especially since it might not take a significant package to land him, if OKC wants to move off his contract and move forward with its rebuild.

Rockets Owner Talks Playoffs, Westbrook, Small-Ball

After averaging nearly 58 wins over the past three seasons, Houston is on a slightly more modest 53-win pace in 2019/20. However, after winning eight of their last 10 games, the Rockets are once again in position to claim home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason, having moved up to No. 4 in the Western Conference.

That recent strong play – along with the success of a new-look lineup that leans heavier than ever on small-ball – has Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta expressing confidence about the club’s outlook going forward. Speaking to Kirk Bohls of The Austin American-Statesman, Fertitta said he thinks the Rockets could be the No. 2 seed if not for a handful of hard-luck losses, adding that he’s “not worried about anybody in the West.”

As Fertitta explained, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s counting on the Rockets to make it to the NBA Finals, but he’s confident that the team is capable of beating any Western club in a seven-game series.

“I think Milwaukee is head over heels above everybody else,” Fertitta said. “We just need to get home court for the first and second rounds and see what happens.”

Here are a few more of Fertitta’s thoughts on how the Rockets stack up in the West, the blockbuster trade the team made last summer, and the extreme small-ball look:

On the Western Conference playoff picture:

“None of us fear L.A. (the Lakers) or the Clippers or Denver like we feared Golden State. It’s not like how we were scared of them. We could easily win the West this year or get knocked out in the first round. Both L.A. teams, Denver, Houston, we’re all excellent teams. Just comes down to somebody gets hot and makes a shot. Our chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”

On the Chris Paul/Russell Westbrook trade, and why Westbrook is a better match for James Harden:

“Everything worked out. I think Chris is having a great year at Oklahoma City. It worked out for both (teams). James and Russell came in the league at the same time, and they can talk to each other differently. One can say, ‘Screw you,’ and it’s no big deal. Chris was four years older. Four years in basketball is like a normal 10 to 15 years in business life.”

On the Rockets going all-in on small-ball:

“We basically changed out a guy who’s 6’10” to a guy who’s 6’7″, 6’8″. Are you really that much smaller? It makes the big guy for the other team go out on the perimeter. Did you see Rudy Gobert trying to keep up with Russell? Russell was running him around like crazy. It’s working.”

Thunder Notes: Gallinari, CP3, Dort, Roberson

The trade rumors that surrounded Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari throughout the 2019 offseason and at the start of the ’19/20 season died down to some extent as the team moved into playoff position. However, Oklahoma City appeared to come close to sending Gallinari to Miami at the trade deadline, with reports suggesting that failed extension talks between the veteran and the Heat playing a large role in scuttling the deal.

Moving from OKC to Miami would have meant leaving one playoff team for another, but Gallinari still was glad to stick with the Thunder, as he said during an appearance on the Daily Thunder Podcast.

“I really wanted to stay to stay here,” he said. “[It would be] tough to leave such a great atmosphere, great teammates, a group that is winning… I wanted to stay.”

Gallinari is on an expiring contract and projects to be one of the best free agents available this summer. Still, with so little league-wide cap room available, there’s a chance that Gallinari’s Bird rights will put the Thunder in the driver’s seat to hang onto the Italian forward. He suggested during his Daily Thunder appearance that he’d welcome that outcome.

“I hope so,” he said when asked if re-signing with the Thunder is in play. “It’s not the time now to talk with the team. But in the summer, it’s going to be interesting for me… Definitely, it could be a great option for me to stay here.”

Here’s more out of OKC:

  • In a Q&A with John Schuhmann of, veteran point guard Chris Paul said there’s “no chance” he’d want to become an NBA head coach after he eventually retires. “I don’t want to travel like that,” Paul said. “I want to be around the game as much as possible. I watch every game. But I want to be around my kids and family.”
  • As we noted on Monday, two-way player Luguentz Dort is building a strong case for a promotion to the Thunder’s 15-man roster. However, Dort himself is remaining patient and trusting the club’s approach, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. “Our organization, they know what they’re doing,” Dort said. “I’m really just staying patient and really just playing basketball.”
  • Cray Allred of Daily Thunder takes an in-depth look at Dort’s situation and potential next steps for the rookie and the Thunder.
  • Injured Thunder forward Andre Roberson has returned to Oklahoma City and rejoined the team as he continues his rehab process, per Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman. Roberson, who has spent multiple seasons battling knee injuries had relocated to Los Angeles in early December for rehab purposes.

Chris Paul: I Want To Play 20 Seasons

In the midst of a resurgent All-Star season, Thunder point guard Chris Paul said he aspires to play for at least another five seasons, NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman relays.

In 55 games this season, the 34-year-old is averaging 17.6 PPG and 6.6 APG for Oklahoma City while stepping up to be one of the league’s best late-game performers. As Feldman notes, the 15-year NBA veteran became the oldest player to make an All-Star team after not being selected for the honor the three seasons prior.

“Especially the way that my body feels now, I definitely probably at least want to play at least 20 years,” Paul said.

It would be a lofty but not impossible goal for Paul, as seven players in NBA history have played at least 20 seasons. That list includes current Hawks veteran Vince Carter (22 seasons), who is in the midst of his final season. Dirk Nowitzki (21 seasons), Kevin Garnett (21 seasons), Kevin Willis (21 seasons), Robert Parish (21 seasons), Kobe Bryant (20 seasons) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (20 seasons) also suited up for 20-plus campaigns.

A 10-time All-Star, Paul seemed to be at a crossroads this summer when the Rockets unloaded his hefty contract to the Thunder. Injuries and inconsistency hampered Paul during his two-year run in Houston. Then, upon being traded to the Thunder, it seemed unlikely he would even suit up for the team. At 34-22, Paul has helped the Oklahoma City to the current sixth seed in the Western Conference as a likely postseason squad.

While it remains to be seen what Paul’s future holds after 2019/20, his first year in OKC has erased any doubt that he can still be a valuable contributor to a postseason team.

USA Basketball Announces 44 Finalists For 2020 Olympic Roster

USA Basketball has formally announced a preliminary group of 44 players who are candidates to be part of the program’s roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The final roster will only consist of 12 players, so most of these finalists won’t actually play for Team USA at the Olympics. Some will likely withdraw from consideration, while others simply won’t make the final cut. However, these players have all expressed interest in being involved in the process.

“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“… Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

Although the U.S. men’s team has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the program had a disappointing showing at last year’s World Cup, finishing in seventh place. Team USA will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Tokyo this summer, with many players from that World Cup squad among the 44 finalists announced today.

Here’s the full list of players who are candidates to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Rockets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Celtics)
  22. Dwight Howard (Lakers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Lakers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Pacers)
  36. Chris Paul (Thunder)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
  38. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Klay Thompson (Warriors)
  41. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  42. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  43. Russell Westbrook (Rockets)
  44. Derrick White (Spurs)

Northwest Notes: Whiteside, Nuggets, Towns, Wiggins, Dort

The Trail Blazers will entertain offers for center Hassan Whiteside, a free agent after the season, and The Athletic’s Jason Quick estimates the chances of him being traded at 50/50. Quick also dealt with a few other Blazers-related topics.

Their recent trade with the Kings which involved five players and two second-round picks was a solid one, according to Quick, because the Trail Blazers saved approximately $12MM and upgraded at the wing with Trevor Ariza replacing Kent Bazemore. Portland is unlikely to deal its first-round pick because president of basketball operations Neil Olshey covets draft choices, even if the draft class is considered weak, Quick adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will continue to be without three rotation players when they face the Grizzlies on Tuesday, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets. Starting point guard Jamal Murray will miss his sixth straight game due to an ankle sprain while power forward Paul Millsap will sit out for the 11th consecutive game due to a knee injury. Backup big man Mason Plumlee will miss his fourth straight game due to a foot ailment.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins get the blame when things aren’t going well with the Timberwolves but the players around them need to do more, Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Guard Shabazz Napier told Youngblood that the role players need to do their jobs better. “This team is so used to KAT and Wigs doing all the work that when it doesn’t happen, we just stand around,’’ Napier said. “That’s how it is. We just gotta find ways to help them guys out. … We all, the role players, have to figure out, how do we help them out better?’’
  • Undrafted rookie guard Luguentz Dort has earned playing time with the Thunder for his defense while showing more of an offensive game, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman relays. Over the last five games, Dort is averaging 7.2 PPG and 1.8 APG while shooting 5-for-12 on 3-pointers and making seven steals. “You can’t tell me he’s a rookie,” guard Chris Paul said of the two-way player.

Northwest Notes: Crabbe, Paul, Blazers, Nuggets

As one of three Hawks veterans with a big expiring contract, Allen Crabbe entered the season as a trade candidate and it didn’t come as a huge shock when the team moved him last week. Still, the new Timberwolves swingman admits he was caught off guard by being dealt, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes.

“I was taken aback,” Crabbe said on Monday. “I didn’t hear anything leading up to this. … It definitely was a shock to me, but it’s not my first time being traded. It’s the business side. The only thing you got to try to do is pack up, get to your new team, get implemented and show up and go to work.”

It remains to be seen whether Crabbe will see an uptick in minutes – or in his team’s playoff odds – in Minnesota, but as a player who likes to shoot from outside, the 27-year-old believes the Timberwolves will be a good fit for his skill set.

“I mean, it’s a match made in heaven,” Crabbe said, per Hine. “They like to shoot threes, I love to shoot threes. So I can’t ask for anything better than that.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • When Chris Paul was first traded to the Thunder, there was an expectation that he wouldn’t be satisfied to stay in Oklahoma City. However, Paul has found happiness in OKC as the team has exceeded expectations this season, writes Rohan Nadkarni of Within Nadkarni’s feature, CP3 also made it clear he has no interest in waiving his 2021/22 player option to accommodate a trade: “No chance. That’s not happening. Nope.” Paul’s player option is worth $44.2MM for his age-36 season, so the idea that he’d give it up to be traded was never a realistic one.
  • As part of their trade with Sacramento, the Trail Blazers used Anthony Tolliver‘s outgoing salary to match Caleb Swanigan‘s incoming contract rather than taking on Swanigan using their disabled player exception, tweets Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights. As a result, Portland won’t create a $1.62MM traded player exception, but will still have its $2.86MM disabled player exception available. The DPE will expire on March 10, while the TPE would’ve been available for a year.
  • With Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap all banged up and the Nuggets not looking to rush them back, the team’s depth is coming in handy, according to Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. Players who have been in and out of the rotation – such as Juan Hernangomez, Malik Beasley, and Torrey Craig – have all seen regular action with those starters sidelined.

Sixers Have Interest In Robert Covington, Other Players

The Sixers are parsing the trade market for reinforcements who can shoot the ball. According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, Philadelphia has expressed interest in several role players, including Malik Beasley, Glenn Robinson III, Davis Bertans, E’Twaun Moore, and Andre Iguodala. O’Connor adds that the team has also inquired on Robert Covington, whom the team dealt away in the Jimmy Butler deal last season.

Most of those names, including Covington, are truly available. The price for Minnesota’s wing is expected to be high and with Philadelphia void of shiny assets, GM Elton Brand will have to get creative if he is going to bring back Sam Hinkie’s former gem.

Zhaire Smith is the young prospect the team is most willing to part with. Rivals teams have more interest in Matisse Thybulle, though Philadelphia is reluctant to deal the No. 20 overall pick. The franchise owns all of its own draft picks starting in the 2021 draft, so the Sixers could attempt to sweeten any deal with a future asset.

Other names on that list could be more obtainable than RoCo. It’ll be tough to pry Bertans from Washington, as the team can envision him as a long-term piece, but Iguodala, Moore, and Robinson are in obvious selling situations. Denver won’t be a seller at the trade deadline, but with a deep rotation and Beasley’s impending restricted free agency, the franchise is smartly assessing the market for the shooting guard.

Here’s more on Philadelphia.

  • O’Connor contends that the Sixers should consider making a bigger move for Chris Paul, swapping either Tobias Harris or Al Horford and additional salary for the 34-year-old point guard. However, the scribe hears that Harris and Horford, each of whom signed long-term deals this offseason, aren’t any more tradeable than CP3.
  • Trading Simmons doesn’t appear likely, in part because it would mean “putting all your superstar eggs in the Embiid basket,” and the big man has had a shaky injury history. O’ Connor wonders if Simmons would be the one the team decides to build around if forced to choose between the two.
  • Big changes will likely come with an early exit in the playoffs, though many around the game believe it would be Brett Brown who takes the fall in that scenario. There were rumblings that former team president Bryan Colangelo was planning to fire Brown and replace him with Villanova coach Jay Wright, but that was before Twittergate. Still, O’Connor hears from multiple sources that Brown didn’t have the best relationship with the locker room last season.

Stein’s Latest: KAT, Paul, Zion, Predictions

Reports surfaced this week that the Knicks and Warriors are among the teams monitoring Karl-Anthony Towns‘ situation in Minnesota, but the Timberwolves have no interest in trading their star center, Marc Stein of The New York Times writes in this week’s newsletter. Stein adds that team officials have told him repeatedly that they are building “everything” around Towns, and a trade is the last thing the organization is considering.

The Wolves have tumbled into 12th place in the West after a 10-8 start, and Towns’ injury is part of the reason for the slide. He is in the first season of a five-year, $190MM extension and there’s a new front office team in place run by Gersson Rosas, so there’s no hurry to make major changes.

Executives around the league expect Rosas to be active around the trade deadline, but that’s mostly because of his background with the traditionally aggressive Rockets. Stein notes that teams continue to express interest in acquiring swingman Robert Covington.

There’s more from Stein’s latest piece:

  • Stein has been skeptical that the Russell WestbrookJames Harden pairing could work, but states that the Rockets were forced to make a move because their relationship with Chris Paul was “irretrievably broken” after last season’s playoff ouster. Westbrook was one of the few available options whose contract matched up well with Paul’s.
  • Stein predicts the Pelicans will give serious consideration to keeping Zion Williamson sidelined for the entire season if he’s not healthy enough to return in January. There have been encouraging signs that he might be ready to suit up soon, and New Orleans would like to see how he fits alongside Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram before making long-term decisions on both players. However, Stein states that if Williamson goes another month without playing, the safest option may be to skip his entire first season and make sure he’s ready for training camp.
  • Among other 2020 predictions, Stein expects the PacersMalcolm Brogdon and the NetsSpencer Dinwiddie to be first-time All-Stars, the Bucks to fall short of 70 wins, the NBA Board of Governors to approve an in-season tournament as well as a play-in tourney for the final two playoff spots in each conference and Gregg Popovich to retire after coaching the U.S. Olympic team.