Elfrid Payton

Suns Sign Elfrid Payton To One-Year Deal

AUGUST 10: The Suns have officially signed Payton, the team announced today (via Twitter).

AUGUST 9: Payton and the Suns have agreed to terms on a one-year contract, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). Gambadoro (Twitter link) confirms that the deal is for a veteran’s minimum salary, as he previously reported.

AUGUST 5: The Suns are close to an agreement on a one-year contract with free agent guard Elfrid Payton, Alex Kennedy of Basketball News tweets.

Evan Sidery of Basketball News broke the news on the Suns’ negotiations with Payton (Twitter link), while John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 confirms (via Twitter) that the club has made a one-year, minimum-salary offer.

If the contract is finalized, Payton would be signing up for a second stint with the organization. He played 18 games with Phoenix during the 2017/18 season.

Payton started 63 games with the Knicks this past season but his production declined after the All-Star break and he was benched during the first-round playoff series against Atlanta. Payton averaged 10.1 PPG and 3.2 APG in 23.6 MPG during the regular season.

The Western Conference champions have reached agreements with their top two point guards, Chris Paul and Cameron Payne, so Payton would slot in as a third-stringer behind that duo if the two sides finalize a deal.

Eastern Notes: Pacers, Knicks, Madar, Nets, Wizards

While it’s not out of the question that the Pacers will make a major trade this offseason, the team isn’t any rush to move Myles Turner or Malcolm Brogdon, the two names that pop up most frequently in Pacers-related trade rumors, writes J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star.

Of those two players, Turner is less likely to be dealt, according to Michael, who suggests that new head coach Rick Carlisle would like to try to figure out the best way to maximize the Turner/Domantas Sabonis duo. It’s possible Carlisle will split up the two Pacers bigs and have Turner come off the bench to start the season, Michael adds.

As for Brogdon, the Pacers have been trying to determine whether he’s the right long-term fit as the team’s point guard and leader, according to Michael. As Michael details, Indiana had some locker room issues in 2020/21 and president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard suggested at the end of the season that the club lacked vocal leadership. The Pacers may expect more in that regard from Brogdon going forward.

Here’s more from around the East:

  • The Knicks, who remain on the lookout for another point guard, have some interest in Dennis Schröder, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Berman also says New York contacted Elfrid Payton at the start of free agency, though it’s unclear if the club views him as a viable fallback option.
  • Yam Madar, the 47th overall pick in the 2020 draft, hopes to play for the Celtics this season, he told reporters on Tuesday. As Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweets, Boston’s plan is to see how Madar’s Summer League stint goes and to evaluate its options from there.
  • Nets star Kevin Durant is thrilled that Blake Griffin is set to return to the team for another season, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “To have Blake back, I’m so excited,” Durant said from Tokyo. “I mean, as soon as the season was over, I was telling him that we want him back and telling him that, you know, we should try to do it again. And I was glad to see it get done.” In a separate story, Lewis confirms that James Johnson‘s new deal with Brooklyn is worth the veteran’s minimum.
  • After recently announcing a new deal for NHL star Alex Ovechkin, the centerpiece of his other franchise, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis discussed the contrast between how things played out with Ovechkin and Russell Westbrook, per Emily Kaplan of ESPN. “We had a superstar player with the Wizards, he had an opportunity and wanted to be traded to the Lakers,” Leonsis said. “And I was dealing with that as we were announcing Alex. I couldn’t help but self-reflect on what a difference it is. Here’s a great player in Russell Westbrook, played in OKC, wanted to be traded, went to Houston, wanted to be traded, came to D.C., wanted to be traded and is now in L.A. He’s an unbelievably great person and an unbelievably great player. But that’s the difference between the NBA and the NHL, I suppose.”

Free Agent Stock Watch: Eastern Conference

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. With the playoffs in full swing, we take a look at players from the Eastern Conference:

Elfrid Payton, Knicks, 27, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $4.77MM deal in 2020

Payton’s postseason role was reduced to something rarely seen in any sport – the starting lineup cameo. He played a few ineffective minutes, then never returned to the court for two games until coach Tom Thibodeau completely gave up on him. Payton started regularly all season but his post-All-Star break woes drove Knicks fans nuts. They won’t have to worry about a repeat – Payton will be an unrestricted free agent. Payton has been a starter throughout his career but it’s hard to imagine him getting much more than the veteran’s minimum to fill out someone’s bench next season.

Evan Fournier, Celtics, 28, SF (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2016

Fournier was the biggest acquisition the Celtics made at the trade deadline and they leaned on him heavily against the Nets with Jaylen Brown sidelined. Fournier averaged 15.4 PPG on 43.3% shooting from 3-point range in 33.4 MPG. Solid numbers, but he’s not the type of player who can carry a team. Fournier is expected to seek a contract similar to the one he signed with the Magic five seasons ago but is he really a $17MM a year player? There’s a general sense that Fournier may have to settle for the mid-level exception or something slightly above that figure.

Duncan Robinson, Heat, 27, SF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3MM deal in 2018

Robinson pumped in 24 points in Game 1 against the Bucks, then petered out the rest of the series. That won’t hurt him in restricted free agency. The Heat have to make a lot of tough decisions this offseason – one of them will be how big an offer sheet they’d be willing to match to retain Robinson. First, they’ll have to extend a $4.7MM qualifying offer but that’s a formality. During last season’s playoff run to the Finals, Robinson averaged 11.7 PPG. He’s a career 42.3% 3-point shooter and he’ll be looking for a big payday after playing on a rookie contract.

Alex Len, Wizards, 27, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.7MM deal in 2020

Len has passed through a handful of organizations over the past four seasons. He’ll be on the move again as an unrestricted free agent. Len received 40 regular-season starts from the injury-depleted Wizards after getting waived by the Raptors. His playing time shrunk throughout the first-round series against Philadelphia – he played a grand total of three minutes in the last two games. Whether or not Thomas Bryant can effectively return from his knee injury next season, Washington needs to upgrade its frontcourt. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Ukranian-born Len explores European options.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Payton, Gibson, Barrett

The Knicks need a quick turnaround from Julius Randle to salvage their series with the Hawks, but coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t worried about his star forward, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Randle averaged 24.1 points per game during the regular season, but has been limited to 15, 15, and 14 points as Atlanta has taken a 2-1 series lead.

“Just be Julius. I don’t want him overthinking it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Let the game come to you. Sometimes you’re going to get your shots, sometimes you got to make the play. That’s what he’s done extremely well all year long. He’s our engine, he’s a fighter, he’s tough, he’s smart. He’ll figure it out.’’

The Hawks have frustrated Randle with changing coverages, a variety of defenders, and frequent double and triple teams. He hasn’t been able to get comfortable in the point forward role he has played all season, and the Knicks don’t have a dependable guard to run their offense.

“It’s been a team effort,’’ said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter. “He’s the head of the snake. When the team is playing at its best, he’s playing at its best. He’s making shots and creating for everyone else. We wanted to make it as tough as we could on him. We’ve thrown different guys at him. Defensively, it’s feel like every possession someone else gets a crack at him. We’re just trying to show help when we can and force him into tough shots.’’

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Derrick Rose is expected to remain the starting point guard for Game 4, Berman states in a separate story. Rose scored 30 points in 38 minutes Friday as former starter Elfrid Payton wasn’t used at all. Thibodeau admits it was difficult to break the news of the demotion to Payton. “You always have to do what you feel is best for your team,’’ he said. “Sometimes it’s matchups. Elfrid’s a critical part of the team. He’s had a very good year for us. It’s just also, like, what we’re looking at, and what we think gives us our best chance right now.”
  • Thibodeau made another lineup change in Game 3, Berman adds, starting Taj Gibson at center in place of Nerlens Noel, who has been dealing with an ankle that he “tweaked” in the series opener. Noel excelled in the reserve role, with 12 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. “It doesn’t matter, whatever Thibs wants me to do — come off the bench, play five minutes,” Gibson said. “Doesn’t matter. We got to find a way to come out with a ‘W.’”
  • The Knicks need more production from RJ Barrett, points out Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Barrett is shooting 13 of 38 in the first three games and is regularly missing open jumpers. “I see it,” he said. “I’m open. I just got to make it.”

Knicks Notes: Rose, Gibson, Payton, Second-Round Tickets

Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau may finally get to enjoy the playoff success that they should have had together in Chicago, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Rose’s career was upended by injuries after his MVP season in 2010/11, and the Bulls fired Thibodeau four years later. Now they’re trying to give the Knicks their first postseason series win since 2013.

New York was able to acquire Rose for a bargain price in February, sending little-used Dennis Smith Jr. and a second-round pick to the Pistons in return. There were concerns that Rose might get in the way of the team’s rebuilding process, but he has led them to the playoffs as an explosive scorer and a valuable veteran presence. He helped turn around Wednesday’s Game 2 win over the Hawks, coming off the bench to score 26 points in 39 minutes.

“One thing about Derrick I’ve noticed, when he’s in a familiar situation, in a situation that he’s comfortable in, he understands it’s family, he understands that it’s a good environment, a winning environment, he’s going to flourish,” said Taj Gibson, who was also with Rose and Thibodeau in Chicago. “And right now he’s around familiar faces he’s been in battle with for a long time.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Gibson, who wasn’t on an NBA roster when the season began, could be the Knicks’ starting center for tonight’s Game 3, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The team considered bringing Gibson to training camp, but opted to go with Omari Spellman instead. Spellman earned a roster spot, but when he was sidelined by a sore knee in early January, the Knicks waived him and added Gibson. The veteran big man played an important role in Game 2 while Nerlens Noel was limited by a sprained ankle, and he could be given a starting role if Noel isn’t ready tonight.
  • Elfrid Payton‘s playoff future appears to be in doubt after playing just five minutes Wednesday, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Payton remained in his starting role, but he never re-entered the game after being pulled for Rose midway through the first quarter.
  • The Knicks announced this morning that tickets for a possible second-round playoff series will only be sold to vaccinated fans, Berman adds in a separate story. The team wants to fill Madison Square Garden to its capacity of 19,040, which means no socially distanced seating will be offered.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Rose, Simmons, Kyrie, Tatum

The Knicks evened their first-round series at one game apiece with a win over Atlanta on Wednesday night. And, as Ian Begley of SNY.tv writes, two midseason acquisitions whom head coach Tom Thibodeau pushed to add played key roles in that victory. Derrick Rose scored a team-high 26 points in 39 minutes off the bench, while Taj Gibson was a game-best plus-23 in his 30 minutes.

Rose, who was acquired via trade, and Gibson, a free agent signing, both played for Thibodeau in Chicago and Minnesota before reuniting with him in New York. As Begley observes, they’re the veterans Thibodeau trusts the most, and the Knicks’ head coach didn’t sound surprised that giving them big minutes helped turn the tide in Game 2.

“I just wanted to change it up,” Thibodeau said of putting Rose and Gibson in the Knicks’ lineup to start the third quarter. “I thought we had to do something different and that’s why you have a bench. Those guys came in and played great.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Although Elfrid Payton technically started Wednesday’s game, it’s clear that Rose will be the point guard the Knicks rely on in this series, writes Paul Schwartz of The New York Post. Rose said he felt good after logging 39 minutes, while Payton was a minus-7 in his five minutes and didn’t play after the first quarter.
  • After receiving some criticism in Philadelphia for putting up just six points (to go along with 15 rebounds and 15 assists) in the Sixers‘ Game 1 win, Ben Simmons scored 22 points on Wednesday and addressed that negative feedback after the game. “I’m not trying to stick to anybody in Philly,” Simmons said, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. “I thought it was pretty hard to get 15 assists and 15 rebounds in the NBA in the playoffs. I thought that was pretty impressive. And we won. What y’all want? You want to win? For me, I’m here to win and I’m doing what I need to do to help my team win, whatever it is. I’m not trying to prove anybody wrong or anything like that. I’m trying to do my job to win.”
  • As the Celtics/Nets series shifts from Brooklyn to Boston, former Celtic Kyrie Irving said he expects to hear plenty of jeers from the crowd, but hopes that C’s fans “keep it strictly basketball,” per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “(Hopefully) there’s no belligerence or racism going on — subtle racism — people yelling s–t from the crowd, but even if it is, it’s part of the nature of the game and we’re just going to focus on what we can control,” Irving said.
  • During an appearance on Zolak & Bertrand on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston (audio link), Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he thinks there’s a good chance Jayson Tatum will play in Game 3 after suffering an eye injury on Tuesday. “The last I heard was that he was doing better and that Friday looks probable,” Stevens said.

Atlantic Notes: Payton, Randle, Noel, Williams

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau may be pulling the plug on struggling point guard Elfrid Payton, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. He played just eight minutes in Game 1 against the Hawks on Sunday. Thibodeau was noncommittal on how he’ll use Payton the remainder of the series.

“Regards to Elfrid, we always put the best players out there that will help us win the game,’’ he said. “So some guys are a bit better than others in situations, some guys may be going well. Whoever is going well, we have confidence in everyone on the roster.’’

Payton is headed to unrestricted free agency this summer.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks forward Julius Randle, a finalist for this season’s Most Improved Player award, is certain he’ll play better in Game 2, Peter Botte of the New York Post relays. He shot 6-for-23 from the field in the opener. “It’s the name of the playoffs, you make the necessary adjustments, and I look forward to that, and like I said, look forward to the next game,” he said. “Shots, opportunity, challenge, that’s what I’m encouraged by. When you’re trying to figure out how to solve a problem, it’s a process. For me, that’s what really makes this whole thing fun.”
  • Knicks center Nerlens Noel, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, suffered an ankle injury in the playoff opener and his status for Wednesday’s game is uncertain, according to Joseph Staszewski of the New York Post. “He tweaked his ankle, so we’ll see where he is [Tuesday],’’  Thibodeau said. The extra day should give Noel enough time to suit up for Game 2, Staszewski speculates.
  • Robert Williams presents the Celtics with a dilemma this offseason, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston notes. They could try to negotiate a modest rookie extension, which wouldn’t kick in until the 2022/23 season. If that doesn’t happen, his price tag could rise. Williams has had trouble staying on the court due to hip ailments but the 23-year-old big man might just be scratching the surface of his potential, Forsberg adds.

Atlantic Notes: Payton, Celtics, Barrett, Rivers

The Knicks still have some doubters to prove wrong in the playoffs this year, according to guard Elfrid Payton, as relayed by Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com. Payton, who started 63 games for New York this season, averaged 10.1 points, 3.2 assists and 23.6 minutes per contest. This will be his first playoff stint.

“I think we match up well against them,” Payton said of the team’s first-round opponents, the Hawks. “They have a lot of weapons over there, a lot of guys who can shoot the three; John Collins is playing well, (Clint) Capela is a force inside and they’ve got a good bench with Lou Will and (Danilo) Gallinari.

“I think we’re just a little bit deeper and a little bit more physical, and that’s going to make it tough for them. As far as the preparation, it’s been crazy. It’s my first playoffs, so… It’s kinda what I expected, but having so much time off, we were able to really dive into a lot of film and a lot of their tendencies.”

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • The Celtics are increasing their crowd capacity for Game 3 against the Nets on Friday, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). Boston will be at “near full” capacity for Game 4, which is set to commence next Sunday.
  • Knicks guard RJ Barrett revealed an interesting game plan for guarding Hawks star Trae Young, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News details. Barrett believes his team is better off forcing Young to score instead of making plays for his teammates (he averaged 25.3 points and 9.4 assists per game this season).
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has turned his star-studded team into winners, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Rivers holds several years of coaching experience and memorably guided the Celtics to a championship in 2008. He was also named the NBA’s Coach of the Year with Orlando in 2000.

New York Notes: Payton, Harden, MSG Capacity, KD

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has come out in support of starting point guard Elfrid Payton, despite the vet’s shooting difficulties during the final month of the regular season, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Popper notes that Derrick Rose and Alec Burks have been taking on an increasing amount of minutes at Payton’s position, especially late in games. Payton will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

“There’s things that Elfrid provides for us that are a big asset to our team,” Thibodeau said of the Knicks guard. “His size, his defense, those are important factors. … You don’t have to shoot well to play well.”

There’s more out of the Big Apple:

  • Nets All-Star guard James Harden has not been his normal high-scoring self during his first two games back from a hamstring strain, per Malika Andrews of ESPN. Harden, who was sidelined for five weeks, seemed optimistic despite averaging just 11.5 PPG in the contests. “My impact doesn’t have to show up on the stat sheet for us to win,” Harden said. “I think my job as a leader is to make sure everybody’s playing well. If I’m doing that, I can focus on myself last. That’s not a problem at all.” 
  • The Knicks are hoping to house approximately 13K fans when the playoffs kick off, tweets Ian Begley of SNY. “We’re incredibly excited to bring playoff basketball back to [Madison Square Garden, New York’s home arena] and to have the best fans in the league give us a true home court advantage,” team president Leon Rose said. As the fourth seed, the Knicks will be able to play four of their playoff series’ seven potential games at home.
  • The Nets will need sharpshooting All-Star forward Kevin Durant to also give his all on defense for the team to best sharpshooting All-Star forward Jayson Tatum and the Celtics during the teams’ first-round playoff series, says Zach Braziller of the New York Post.

New York Notes: Harris, Nets, Perry, Payton

In addition to having their Big Three ready to go for Game 1 of the first round of the postseason this Saturday, the Nets also anticipate having Joe Harris (left gluteal strain) available, writes Ryan Dunleavy of The New York Post.

“We expect Joe to be ready for the weekend,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said of Harris, who missed the last three games of the regular season due to his injury. “When he practices and how much he practices is to be determined, but I think he’s feeling better, looking better, and he went through our very light, half-speed practice and did his shooting (Tuesday), so all signs there are good.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Mike Mazzeo of Forbes takes a closer look at just how expensive the Nets‘ roster will get if and when the team signs Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving to contract extensions.
  • When general manager Scott Perry signed a new contract with the Knicks last May, it was just a one-year extension that locked him up through 2020/21. However, there’s an expectation that Perry will work out a new deal to stick with the team beyond this season, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on a recent episode of his Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip to RealGM).
  • As Marc Berman of The New York Post writes, Knicks point guard Elfrid Payton played some of his worst basketball of the season during the final few games of the regular season, raising questions about his postseason role. Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post argues that it’s time for the club to bench Payton, who averaged 1.8 PPG on 19.2% shooting in his last six contests (14.3 MPG).