Courtney Lee

Atlantic Notes: Wright, Okafor, Whitehead

Nearly a month after dislocating his shoulder injury, Delon Wright will make his return to the Raptors lineup, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun tweets. Wright last saw action on November 16.

Prior to the injury, Wright had been enjoying a solid season serving as a vital part of a Raptors second-unit that has yielded plenty of credit this season. While his absence was noticeable, third-string guard Fred VanVleet filled in admirably as the primary backup.

Wright, who had averaged 7.6 points and 2.6 assists in just over 20 minutes per game this season, is expected to be on somewhat of a minute restriction, Josh Lewenberg of TSN tweets.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Tonight is the night that recent Nets acquisitions Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas make their debut, Michael Grange of Sportsnet tweets. The pair, he adds, are expected to get a “healthy dose of playing time” in their first Brooklyn appearance.
  • The Celtics will be without Marcus Morris for at least a week. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweets that the forward who has missed four of the past five games with a lingering knee injury isn’t expected to be back until, perhaps, December 23 or Christmas Day.
  • Second-year Nets guard Isaiah Whitehead has changed his representation, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal tweets. The point guard and former Andy Miller client will now be represented by Sam Permut of Roc Nation.
  • The Knicks have thrived without Carmelo Anthony on board but veteran guard Courtney Lee doesn’t think that his absence is why the team is winning. “If Melo was here, we would’ve made that adjustment with him,” he told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “So you can’t just pinpoint it at him and say, ‘Well he left and we made these adjustments.’ The style of play was going to be different from last year regardless.

New York Notes: Lee, Porzingis, Crabbe, Russell

With Tim Hardaway Jr. expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks – and possibly longer – the Knicks’ performance during his absence may go a long way toward dictating the team’s approach to the trade deadline, writes Ian Begley of ESPN.com. If New York can tread water and remain in the playoff hunt during that time, the front office could stand pat or even attempt to bolster the roster in February. If not, perhaps the Knicks will become deadline sellers.

In the event that the Knicks do decide to move veterans, Courtney Lee is one player to watch. Lee, who scored 24 points on Wednesday, continues to draw interest from opposing teams, league sources tell Begley. Lee’s contract, which is guaranteed through 2019/20 at about $12MM per year, is somewhat onerous, limiting his trade value, but his shot-making ability (.465 3PT%) should certainly appeal to teams around the NBA.

Here’s more on the two New York teams:

  • Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis was represented by Andy Miller, who relinquished his certification as an agent this week, but his primary agent is his brother Janis Porzingis, who also works at ASM Sports. As such, Porzingis is expected to remain at the agency with his brother despite Miller’s situation, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.
  • Knicks owner James Dolan was named as a defendant in a civil suit filed against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Begley has the details at ESPN.com.
  • Nets guard Allen Crabbe was fined $15K by the NBA after throwing a ball at the basket stanchion on Monday (link via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today). Crabbe is set to earn more than $19.3MM this season, so the $15K hit to his salary is a drop in the bucket.
  • While Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson didn’t provide an official update on D’Angelo Russell‘s recovery timetable this week, his comments suggest that Russell’s return isn’t exactly imminent, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post details.

Knicks Notes: LeBron, Smith Jr., Cauley-Stein, Lee

LeBron James offered an assessment of the Knicks’ draft strategy after Saturday’s game in Dallas, relays Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. impressed James with 21 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks. The Cavaliers star told reporters after the game that Smith “should be a Knick,” indicating that New York should have taken him instead of Frank Ntilikina, who was selected one pick earlier.

“He’s an unbelievable talent [with] athleticism,” said James. “He’s very poised to be his age, can shoot the ball, penetrate. He’s only going to get better and better with the opportunity that he’s getting here. Dallas got a good one. I’ve been knowing that. I’ve been with him for so long now. I’ve been knowing his talent level.”

James is sure to be asked to expand on those comments when the Cavaliers visit Madison Square Garden Monday. MacMahon suggests the statements were part of a long-running feud with former Knicks president Phil Jackson, who angered James last year by using the word “posse” to describe his associates. The Knicks came to Ntilikina’s defense, with Enes Kanter tweeting, “Nope!! We love what we got…Thanks!!!”

There’s more this morning out of New York:

  • The Knicks received a better draft grade from Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, who told Howie Kussoy of The New York Post that the organization made the right decision in 2015 when it passed on him to select Kristaps Porzingis. Cauley-Stein was labeled as the best defensive big man in the draft and had a pre-draft workout for the Knicks. The team opted for Porzingis at No. 4, and Cauley-Stein went to Sacramento two picks later. “I thought I had a pretty good chance of coming here, but they ended up picking the right guy,” Cauley-Stein said. “This league’s all about situations. I went to a situation where I’m playing behind the best center in the league [DeMarcus Cousins], or I could’ve gone to somewhere where they don’t have a guy, and now you’re the guy, and you’re getting all the touches. That helps a lot.”
  • Coach Jeff Hornacek has wanted Courtney Lee to shoot more often since he signed with the team in the summer of 2016, Kussoy writes in a separate story. The 10-year veteran posted a 20-point performance Saturday night and is making a case to be the team’s second option. “He shot the shots he was supposed to,” Hornacek said. “He didn’t need to be wide open. He’s a great shooter. He can shoot it with guys in his face. That helps spread the court.”
  • Hornacek is an overlooked factor in the Knicks’ 7-5 start, according to Ian Begley of ESPN. He has the team sharing the ball, improving from 23rd to seventh in assist ratio, and working together on defense. “I think he’s done a great job,” said Jarrett Jack, who became a starter after New York lost its first three games. “I know for me, as someone who always has to be a kind of extension of the coach, me and him have been able to kind to develop a relationship where I can kind of read what he wants on the court and I can kind of relay it to the guys.” 

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Bledsoe, Kanter

Frank Ntilikina, who remains out of the lineup with a sprained ankle hears his name in the Eric Bledsoe trade rumors, but it’s not something he’s worried about, as Al Iannazzone of News Day relays. The No. 8 overall pick said it was “nice” that the Suns have interest in him, but his focus remains on getting healthy.

The Knicks spoke to the Suns about Bledsoe after Phoenix made it clear that it was shopping the point guard. GM Ryan McDonough apparently wants Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez for the Kentucky product, but Iannazzone hears that neither player is on the table at the moment in a Bledsoe talks. While whispers of Ntilikina being off-limits are circulating, the team hasn’t told the French point guard that he won’t be dealt.

“Not really. No,” Ntilikina said. “I’m focused on basketball and on how I can make my ankle be better and my game be better so I can be back on the court.”

There’s more the New York:

  • The Knicks have “gone out of their way” to include Ntilikina and Hernagomez when discussing their cornerstone players Iannazzone notes (same piece). The scribe can’t envision the team dealing either player away for Bledsoe unless Phoenix is willing to take on long-term money, like the contracts of Joakim Noah or Courtney Lee.
  • New York will have to address its surplus of centers at some point in the future, Iannazzone adds. Hernangomez is currently out of the rotation as he watched Kyle O’Quinn and Enes Kanter gobble up the minutes at the five. Joakim Noah will only be suspended nine more games after tonight’s tilt against the Nets and Kristaps Porzingis could use additional minutes at the center position.
  • Kanter, who arrived in New York via the Carmelo Anthony deal, has played well in his first two games with the club, scoring a total of 27 points in 46 minutes. The big man has also developed on-court chemistry with Porzingiz. However, Fred Kerber of the New York Post wonders if Kanter’s presence is hurting the team long-term, as the franchise may be better served to give Hernangomez more opportunities.

New York Notes: Ntilikina, Hernangomez, Dinwiddie

The Knicks are one of the teams that has been linked to Eric Bledsoe as the Suns explore trade options for their veteran point guard, with one report earlier today suggesting Phoenix would want both Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez in a deal with New York.

In his latest piece for ESPN.com, Ian Begley confirms that the Knicks are one of the teams that have reached out to Phoenix and adds that the Suns have indeed asked about both Ntilikina and Hernangomez. However, New York has been opposed to trading either player, sources inform Begley. The Knicks found the Suns’ asking price “outrageous,” a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post.

According to Begley, players like Kyle O’Quinn, Lance Thomas, and Courtney Lee have drawn some trade interest in recent weeks, but it seems unlikely that those veterans would be of much interest to the Suns, who are believed to be seeking younger players. Hernangomez would seem to be a logical target, considering he isn’t currently in the Knicks’ rotation. But despite playing O’Quinn and Enes Kanter ahead of Hernangomez, the club isn’t currently looking to move the big man, says Begley.

Here’s more on the Knicks and their cross-town rivals in Brooklyn:

  • Although the Knicks aren’t interested in trading Ntilikina, they haven’t been able to get him on the floor early in the season either, as Fred Kerber of The New York Post writes. Currently, Ntilikina is being nagged by an ankle injury.
  • With Jeremy Lin out for the season, young guard Spencer Dinwiddie has earned the opportunity to step up and take on a larger role in Brooklyn, says Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Dinwiddie, who joined the Nets as a free agent last December, is under contract through 2018/19, though his contract isn’t guaranteed.
  • It has been five years since the Nets moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn, prompting CEO Brett Yormark to reflect on that move in an interview with Pollstar Pro. NetsDaily has rounded up the highlights of that interview, passing along several quotes from Yormark, who admits the franchise didn’t handle the transition period as well as it could have.

Knicks Notes: Rotation, Hernangomez, Lee, Burke

Coach Jeff Hornacek is planning to use nine or 10 players in his rotation, which means some Knicks won’t get the playing time they’re expecting, posts Ian Begley on ESPN Now. Three starting slots seem to be set heading into Thursday’s opener, with Kristaps Porzingis at power forward, free agent addition Tim Hardaway Jr. at shooting guard and veteran Ramon Sessions at point guard because first-round pick Frank Ntilikina missed much of the preseason with an injuries.

Hornacek hasn’t decided whether to make Courtney Lee his starting small forward or go with a bigger option such as Lance Thomas, Doug McDermott, Michael Beasley or Mindaugas Kuzminskas. At center, Enes Kanter, Willy Hernangomez or Kyle O’Quinn are all in contention for the opening-night start, and Joakim Noah may join the rotation once he returns from his suspension. Begley suggests that Hornacek will have some disappointed players to deal with regardless of what he decides.

There’s more out of New York:

  • Hernangomez got the least playing time of the three centers during preseason, but that doesn’t mean the minutes will be divided that way going forward, Begley notes in another ESPN Now post. Hornacek wanted to see how Kanter, who was acquired from the Thunder three weeks ago, would fit with his new teammates. “We know what Willy can do with a lot of our players, especially [Kristaps Porzingis and others] that were here last year,” Hornacek said. “We’re trying to see Enes with that group.”
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post expects Lee to get the start on Thursday as Hornacek tries to add speed to his defensive unit. That means Lee will be matched up with former teammate Carmelo Anthony, who was traded to Oklahoma City last month. Hornacek plans to use different starters at the three spot depending on matchups, but Lee is confident he can guard anybody. “We got to do what’s best for the team,” he said. “If somebody’s starting at small forward that’s 6 [-foot-] 10 and starts posting me up, it only makes sense to get a bigger body on him. But if you put me on anybody, I’m going to fight him. I’m going to try to get the stop. That’s my job. Maybe I am blocking that 6-10 guy’s jump hook and I stay in.”
  • After waiving Trey Burke on Saturday, Knicks are hoping he will play for their G League affiliate in Westchester, Berman adds in the same story. Burke didn’t sign with New York until Wednesday, and Hornacek believes he needs more evaluation before giving him a roster spot. “Trey was probably in a tough position there coming in at the last minute,’’ Hornacek said. “The other guys are able to show some stuff. We like Trey, what we can do.”

Knicks Notes: Cap Space, Lee, Noah, Porzingis

The Knicks need to concentrate their rebuilding efforts on the draft rather than free agency, writes Ian Begley of ESPN. If Enes Kanter, Ron Baker and Kyle O’Quinn all exercise player options for next season, New York will have about $10MM available and almost all of that will be consumed by a $9.8MM cap hold for Doug McDermott. The Knicks have a Monday deadline to reach a rookie-scale extension with McDermott, but sources tell Begley that’s unlikely to happen. New York also has to factor in the cost of what is expected to be a high draft pick. Frank Ntilikina, who was the eighth overall selection this year, has a starting salary of $3.5MM.

The outlook is somewhat brighter for 2019, as the Knicks will enter that summer with about $50MM in guaranteed salaries. The team could give Kristaps Porzingis a rookie extension by then, which would add about $27MM, but with the Latvian star having a $17.1MM cap hold, it may make more sense to work out a deal in 2019. Add in a $4.8MM option that is expected to be picked up on Ntilikina, plus $1.6MM options on Damyean Dotson and Willy Hernangomez in addition to another draft pick, and Begley estimates about $19.5MM in available cap space, which isn’t nearly enough to compete for an elite free agent.

There’s more today out of New York:

  • One way to open cap space is through trades, and the Knicks’ front office seems willing to deal Courtney Lee, Begley notes in the same story. With three years and $55MM left on his contract, Joakim Noah is considered virtually untradable, but former team president Phil Jackson tried to include him when he talked to teams about Porzingis deals earlier this year.
  • Teams have contacted the Knicks about O’Quinn and Lance Thomas during the preseason, Begley adds. New York has a surplus of big men after acquiring Kanter from the Thunder in the Carmelo Anthony trade.
  • The Knicks aren’t making much effort to hide their desire to tank this season, with coach Jeff Hornacek comparing himself to Sixers coach Brett Brown, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. There is some concern that rebuilding will take its toll on Porzingis and may affect his desire to sign an extension in New York. “We’re building something and want to move forward as a team. We’re far from a championship right now,” Porzingis said. “We need to have a progression and move forward as a team and get better every year. I don’t know how long, if we do all the right things and grow, we’ll be there one day.’’
  • The Knicks unveiled Squarespace this morning as the new team sponsor, according to The New York Daily News. They are the 17th NBA team to add an official sponsor, and the uniform patches will debut in Friday’s game.

Knicks Rumors: Hill, Rubio, Lee, Baker, Griffin

George Hill appears to have emerged as the Knicks’ top free agent target, writes Ian Begley of ESPN.com. According to Begley, the team has been making an effort to unload some salary in order to make a competitive offer to a free agent point guard, and Hill has emerged as the name atop that list. Although the Knicks have made their interest in Hill known, they didn’t formally reach out to his camp during the early hours of free agency, says Begley.

Here are a few more Knicks-related rumors and notes:

  • The Knicks had some interest in trading for Ricky Rubio, but weren’t willing to part with a first-round pick for the veteran point guard, a source tells Begley.
  • If the Knicks are able to move a salary, Courtney Lee is the prime candidate, though Carmelo Anthony would be another option. We heard on Friday night that New York and Houston had discussed Anthony, but there’s currently no traction there.
  • Terms of Ron Baker‘s new deal with the Knicks aren’t yet known, but Begley says people in touch with the team expect New York to use an exception to re-sign Baker. That’s a little vague, but assuming the Knicks go under the cap, the exceptions available for Baker would be the room ($4.3MM), minimum ($1.3MM), and Non-Bird ($1.6MM).
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com provided an update on the Knicks’ front office situation on Friday, tweeting that if David Griffin were to join the franchise, he would likely become the general manager, with current GM Steve Mills ascending to president of basketball operations. It remains to be seen whether that situation would appeal to Griffin.

Atlantic Notes: C. Lee, Celtics, Raptors, Nicholson

A year after signing Courtney Lee to a four-year, $48MM contract, the Knicks are “absolutely open” to the idea of dealing him, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, who tweets that the club is “moving in a different direction.” Lee didn’t have a great first season in New York, but he’s still a capable three-point shooter, and his contract isn’t as much of an albatross as some of the other deals signed following 2016’s salary cap spike. He’ll be a player worth keeping an eye on if the Knicks delve into the trade market in the coming weeks.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic division:

  • Guerschon Yabusele, who was selected with the No. 16 overall selection in the 2016 draft, appears to be on his way to joining the Celtics, Olivia Healy of WEEI writes. Yabusele will miss this year’s summer league as he recovers from surgery, but Healy believes that the French native could find himself in Boston’s rotation next year due to his size and strength.
  • Gary Tanguay of CSNNE.com makes the case for why the Celtics‘ top – and only – target this summer should be Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, and why Danny Ainge should be willing to deal any pick and/or player to make it happen.
  • The Raptors find themselves at a crossroads this summer, according to Bobby Marks of The Vertical, who breaks down many of the crucial personnel decisions facing the team, as well as the increasing “cost of being good.”
  • Andrew Nicholson was a throw-in when the Nets sent Bojan Bogdanovic to Washington at the trade deadline earlier this year. Since Nicholson remains under contract for a few more seasons, Charles Maniego of Nets Daily explores whether Brooklyn can salvage some value out of the former first-round pick.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Knicks, Clippers Expected To Re-Open Trade Talks

Another early playoff exit for the Clippers may reignite trade talks with the Knicks involving Carmelo Anthony, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.

The teams had extensive discussions before the February deadline, but New York’s front office turned down several L.A. proposals. The difference this time might be shooting guard J.J. Redick, whom the Clippers were not willing to include before, but may be available now in a sign-and-trade.

Like many observers, Berman expects a shakeup in Los Angeles this summer. Chris Paul is almost certain to opt out and re-sign, and he would love to see the team acquire Anthony, a long-time friend. An offer centered around Redick and Austin Rivers might be enough to make it happen.

The 32-year-old Redick would replace Jamal Crawford in the package that the Clippers were offering in February. An 11-year veteran, he averaged 15.0 points per game this season and shot .429 from 3-point range. One of the top long-distance shooters in the league throughout his career, Redick would fill an obvious need in New York.

Rivers, 25, would fill another need with his defensive prowess and his flexibility to play three positions. He re-signed with the Clippers last summer and is under contract through next season, with a $12.65MM player option for 2018/19.

Berman estimates a new deal for Redick starting at $11MM, which would combine with Rivers’ $11.8MM salary to get the Clippers close to Anthony’s $28MM price (including a 15% trade kicker). Another Knick who might be included in the deal is Courtney Lee (more than $11.7MM next year), whom the Clippers asked about in February, so the trade could become much larger. L.A. doesn’t have a first-round pick to offer until 2021.

With a no-trade clause in hand, Anthony will have final approval on any deal. While the thought of joining Paul, DeAndre Jordan and possibly Blake Griffin on a contending team might appeal to him, Berman notes that personal matters could affect his decision. Anthony recently separated from his wife, LaLa, and may not want to move far away from his son.

While that will play out over the summer, it’s clear that the playoffs have changed the dynamics of the deal, just as Knicks president Phil Jackson predicted at his press conference last month.

“You lose in the first round, it didn’t work out, we gotta change some people on our team,’’ Jackson said. “So there may be some quick outs may change some people’s minds as to what they’re going to do.”

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