Elfrid Payton

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Ntilikina, Payton, Garland

Despite the stance taken by the front office since the Kristaps Porzingis trade, the Knicks weren’t forced to deal their 24-year-old star last winter, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Porzingis may have made a trade request, but he had limited leverage for getting out of New York. A restricted free agent over the summer, Porzingis could have signed an offer sheet with another team that the Knicks would have had the option to match or he could have accepted New York’s one-year qualifying offer, a risky proposition considering his injury history.

Either choice would given management more time to make the changes in team culture that they have been discussing. Plus, they had the advantage of giving him more money and a longer contract than anyone else could have offered.

The Knicks’ return makes the deal look especially bad. The $70MM in cap space that the trade opened up was used on short-term contracts for complementary players after the top targets signed elsewhere. Dennis Smith Jr. has been in and out of the point guard rotation and doesn’t look like a future star. DeAndre Jordan, whom the Knicks hoped would help attract his close friend, Kevin Durant, wound up joining Durant in Brooklyn. That leaves New York with two future first-rounders as the payment for dealing what was supposed to be their foundation player.

Porzingis, who will make his first trip back to Madison Square Garden this week after facing his former team Friday, told reporters that the situation could have ended differently. “Of course, of course. Of course,” he said. “As I said, I have nothing negative to say, it’s in the past. I’m grateful for those years that I spent in New York. It’s a great experience.”

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • Frank Ntilikina seems firmly established as the team’s top point guard after a breakthrough performance in Dallas, observes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. The 2017 lottery pick had 14 points, six rebounds, four steals and three blocks as the Knicks grabbed a rare road victory. “Frank looked great,” Porzingis said. “… I know his work ethic, his mindset. I’m happy to see him play and play well and show the things he’s been capable of doing.
  • Ntilikina’s emergence leaves the future of the team’s other point guards in doubt, notes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton, who will miss his sixth straight game today with a hamstring issue, is looking like a questionable signing considering his history of health problems. Smith, who rejoined the team Friday after being away 11 days following the death of his stepmother, has shot a combined 1 of 11 in his last three games.
  • With the Cavaliers in town today, the Knicks will get a look at Darius Garland, whom they were considering taking if they had been able to find a deal to move back in the draft, Berman adds in a separate story.

Knicks Notes: Point Guards, Fizdale, Irving, Trier

Two games into the season, the Knicks‘ point guard situation remains as confused as ever, writes Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton earned a start Friday night after a strong performance in the season opener, but rookie RJ Barrett was used in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Barrett posted 16 points and six steals to help lead a comeback, but finished the night with five turnovers and only three assists.

“It was good. I feel like I can do that,” Barrett said of handling the point. “Coach trusts me. He has a lot of faith in me.”

Dennis Smith Jr., who appeared to be the point guard of the future when he was acquired from the Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis trade nine months ago, played just 4:31. Frank Ntilikina wasn’t used at all.

“(Smith’s) still in a struggle,” coach David Fizdale said. “I just gotta figure out how to get him out of it. I think he’s just overthinking things a little bit, but we’ll figure it out.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Fizdale continues to work through different combinations, which should be expected on a team with nine new players, observes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. The lack of cohesion was especially apparent on defense Friday as lapses enabled the Nets to hit 15 of their first 30 shots from beyond the arc. “We have depth, we’ve just got to get them all to play on the same night and get them clicking on the same night,” Fizdale said. “But that’s going to take time obviously. We’ve had three weeks together. But the fact we have the kind of grit that doesn’t lay down, those are two playoff teams we lost to on the road that we had a chance to win those games.”
  • The Knicks-Nets rivalry appeared more heated than ever after a pivotal free agency summer for both franchises, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who were thought to be New York’s top targets, both wound up in Brooklyn, and the Nets gave away Irving jerseys last night to emphasize the point.
  • Allonzo Trier doesn’t believe Irving’s comments about taking over New York City were meant to be inflammatory, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. “It wasn’t about the Knicks. It wasn’t about anything like that,” Trier said. “I didn’t take anything personally. Kyrie is a really good friend of mine. We spent a lot of time (together) in the summer. Great guy.’’

Knicks Notes: Popovich, Morris, Irving, Rotation, Payton

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t just upset at Marcus Morris. He was also ticked off at the Knicks organization concerning Morris’ free agent odyssey, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports. Morris backed out of a verbal agreement with San Antonio and inked a one-year, $15MM contract with New York. “Who signed him? I thought it was the Knicks that signed him,” Popovich said. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

However, Popovich has made peace with Morris, as the two embraced after the teams played each other on Wednesday. “That meant a lot. I didn’t know how he felt,” Morris said. “I spoke to him after I made my decision. So it was good to clear the air.”

We have more on the Knicks:

  • While the organization may have been disheartened by Kyrie Irving‘s decision to join the Nets, coach David Fizdale wasn’t caught off-guard by the All-Star point guard’s decision, Ian Begley of SNY TV reports. “Nothing surprises me anymore,” Fizdale said. “Guys are going to go where they feel is best for them,” he said. “He felt that that was best for him. I’m happy with the guys that we got.”
  • Fizdale admits he’s still a long way from settling on a rotation, Begley notes in the same story. “I’m sure it’s tough for them (not) being set in a rotation. At the same time, we’re not there yet,” he said. “Some teams have the luxury to know here’s my starting five, here’s my backups. Everybody can just dial into when they’re going to play every single night. But right now we don’t have that luxury.”
  • Elfrid Payton has apparently taken the lead in the starting point guard race after the opener, Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. Payton posted 11 points, eight assists and five steals with no turnovers as Dennis Smith and Frank Ntilikina struggled. Rookie RJ Barrett got the start in game one, but that experiment may be over, Berman writes. “By no means is this an indictment on anybody or stuck in stone,” Fizdale said. “I still want these guys to be fighting for that top spot.”

Knicks Notes: Point Guards, Rabb, Morris, Robinson

Nobody in the three-way battle for the Knicks‘ starting point guard spot played well enough to earn a start in tonight’s season opener, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina were all on the bench for the beginning of the game in San Antonio as coach David Fizdale opted to use rookie RJ Barrett at the point alongside Allonzo Trier.

“I just like that combination of RJ and Allonzo Trier to be out there,’’ Fizdale told reporters before the game. “The competition is still on and I’m still searching for combinations that are going to fit. Coming into this, I want to see how that looks. I’m going to keep putting it on them to really have to earn it and really force me to play you. None of this is in stone, but at the same time the competition is on.”

Payton, Smith and Ntilikina all struggled in the preseason, especially with shooting, while Trier stood out with an improved jumper. Berman suggests the decision could be seen as a slight against the front office, which signed Payton this summer and picked up Ntilikina’s fourth-year option earlier this week.

There’s more from New York:

  • Fizdale has previous experience with Ivan Rabb, who was signed today to a two-way contract, Berman notes in a separate story. Fizdale was Rabb’s first coach as a rookie in Memphis, although he was fired after 19 games. “Good kid, hard worker,” he said of Rabb. “Really skilled big. Rebounds the ball well. A high-IQ player. It will be good to get back with him and develop him.”
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich remains bitter about Marcus Morris‘ decision to back out of a commitment to San Antonio this summer and sign with the Knicks instead (video link from RJ Marquez of KSAT in San Antonio). Morris verbally agreed to a two-year, $19MM deal with the Spurs before changing his mind when New York was able to offer $15MM for one season. As expected, the San Antonio crowd booed him loudly before tonight’s game.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a look at how Mitchell Robinson was able to overcome a negative college experience and provide some hope for the future in New York.

Knicks Notes: Point Guards, Ntilikina, Fizdale, Free Agency

The preseason didn’t bring any clarity to the Knicks‘ search for a starting point guard, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Frank Ntilikina was supposed to have rediscovered his game after a strong summer of international competition, creating an intriguing battle with holdover Dennis Smith Jr. and free agent addition Elfrid Payton. However, nobody has stepped forward to claim the job. Ntilikina appears to be an “afterthought” again, according to Popper, as he sat out Friday’s preseason finale while Smith went 2-of-12 from the field and Payton had five turnovers.

“I don’t want to think about it,” coach David Fizdale said of the point guard competition. “I’ll tell you guys the next time I see you. No, they competed. They really competed hard. They’re making it tough on me. They’re making a tough decision for me.”

Popper suggests rookie RJ Barrett might be the best choice, even though he’s not a traditional point guard. Barrett was a standout throughout the preseason, even though he spent time at three positions.

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • The Knicks have until the end of the month to pick up Ntilikina’s fourth-year option at $6.3MM, but Marc Berman of the New York Post hears that a decision could be made before Wednesday’s season opener to avoid having it become a distraction.
  • In the same piece, Fizdale laments not having enough preseason games to adequately work out some important lineup decisions. The Knicks could have played up to six games, but management opted for four. In addition to the point guard battle, Fizdale has to determine whether Mitchell Robinson or Bobby Portis will be the starting center and he has to work out minutes at shooting guard with Wayne Ellington, Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson all in the mix, along with Barrett. “We understand where we are with a lot of new faces, but still are going out to compete to win,’’ Fizdale promised. “I don’t make any excuses. We’ll keep working through the chemistry and try to get wins.”
  • Contrary to their public statements, the Knicks’ front office was “stunned and depressed” when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving announced their decisions to sign with the Nets, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic.

Southwest Notes: Anthony, Harden, Westbrook, Belinelli, Payton

Carmelo Anthony has not been on an NBA roster since last November when his Rockets tenure abruptly ended after a 10-game stint. Ever since then, Anthony has been searching for one more opportunity to prolong his Hall of Fame career — which has yet to arise.

In an in-depth feature, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes examines Anthony’s situation from the day he was cut to the present. Carmelo’s story is one of a declining star who has struggled to adjust from his usual role of a primary scorer to a role player.

Holmes also spoke to several team sources who noted that Anthony’s reputation exceeded his current abilities, which put Houston in a tough situation.

Check out more Southwest Division notes:

  • The Rockets‘ major storyline this season will be the reunion of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, as observers keep a close eye on how the two former MVPs play together. Harden says both superstars will need to rely on each other for the team to succeed, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. “At the end of the day, we need each other,” Harden said. “This thing won’t work without each other.” 
  • In his second tour of duty with the Rockets, Ryan Anderson, primarily known as a long-range shooter, may see significant time at center, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. “It’s definitely a role we talked about here,” Anderson said. “I think it’s something I can be really effective at. This team can play in a lot of different ways. I think center could be a good title now.”
  • Knicks point guard Elfrid Payton said the Pelicans were interested in bringing him back but the situation in New York fit him better, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “They asked me to come back,’’ Payton said. “I just felt this was a better situation. It was a better fit. [The acquisition of Lonzo Ball] had no effect. I’m not afraid of competition.’’
  • Spurs shooting guard Marco Belinelli misses former assistant coach Ettore Messina, who left San Antonio this past summer to become the head coach of Italian team Pallacanestro Olimpia Milano, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes. “For sure, I miss him. He was very happy here in San Antonio, but I am really happy for him,” Belinelli said.

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Payton, VanVleet, LeVert

While Jaylen Brown and the Celtics have reportedly opened talks on a possible rookie scale extension for the fourth-year swingman, a new deal by the October 21 deadline is considered unlikely. As one Eastern Conference executive pointed out to Frank Urbina of HoopsHype, it’s easy to see why each side may be reluctant to get something done before the summer of 2020, when Brown can become a restricted free agent.

“The Celtics may be thinking that they don’t want to give a max deal to their third-best player, but Jaylen Brown may be thinking that he can be the top free agent next summer if he has a big year,” that executive said. “Brown could play his way into a max contract. He’s going to have a bigger role than ever before with Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Marcus Morris gone, and next summer’s free agent class is weak.”

As Urbina notes, that Eastern executive believes the Celtics should be comfortable at this point going up to about $20MM per year for Brown — or even higher if they feel like he’s in position to potentially secure a maximum-salary offer sheet next July.

“If you want him to be part of your core long-term and want to lock him in, it may make sense to give him more,” the exec said. “Boston may be comfortable saying, ‘We’ll give you something around $25MM [per year] now to sort of get a discount and not pay the max.’ And Brown really could be the top free agent available next summer, so I could see the argument for giving him the max.”

As we wait to see whether Boston can find common ground with the 22-year-old, here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • With Dennis Smith Jr. on the shelf due to a back strain, offseason free agent addition Elfrid Payton may be playing his way into the Knicks‘ starting point guard job, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. No matter who starts, it will be a big year for all three Knicks point guards — Smith will be extension-eligible next summer, Payton has a non-guaranteed 2020/21 salary, and Frank Ntilikina will be eligible for restricted free agency.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic explores whether the Raptors‘ one-year extension for Kyle Lowry will affect future negotiations with Fred VanVleet, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020. As Koreen notes, VanVleet has talked about wanting to be a starter, and there may be teams willing to offer him that role – and pay him like a starter – next summer.
  • After signing a three-year extension with the Nets this offseason, Caris LeVert is eager to prove he’s capable of becoming a star, writes Michael Lee of The Athletic. “I’m at the point where now I feel I can control how good I can be,” LeVert said. “I’m going to push myself every single day and see where that ceiling is. I don’t know where it is. I don’t like to put limits on myself.”

Eastern Notes: White, Poirier, Knicks, Wizards

Lottery pick Coby White has looked good in the first week of the Bulls‘ training camp, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Coach Jim Boylen said White can play either guard spot and appears to already have him penciled into the rotation. “We’ve added ballers to this team,’’ Boylen said. “Coby White, whether he’s a one, he’s a two, he’s a baller. … That’s what this roster is. We’ve got to do a good job using those guys and give them space and freedom to use what they have.’’

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • French center Vincent Poirier is looking to earn minutes with the Celtics through grit and determination, as he told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. Poirier signed a two-year contract to compete for a role with one of the East’s top teams after playing in Spain last season. “You have a couple of guys who make all the dirty jobs,” he said. “If not, you cannot win. You have to be great at what you can do, and what I can do is all the dirty jobs.”
  • Knicks coach David Fizdale has a dilemma on his hands regarding the point guard spot, as Barbara Barker of Newsday details. With Dennis Smith Jr., Elfrid Payton, and Frank Ntilikina vying for minutes at the position, choosing a starter may be the toughest decision of the preseason for Fizdale. Utilizing two point guards at the same time will be a serious consideration.
  • Developing good habits with a young roster is the first step toward improvement for the Wizards, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. Washington is trying to establish a better culture after the front office and roster changes that were made this offseason. “The season’s going to go quick and the bench is going shorten and Coach (Scott Brooks) is going to want guys who know what he wants and get it done,” guard Bradley Beal said. “So, as long as we’re able to keep those good habits up of being on time, being early, getting the work in and then applying it on the court and getting it done, that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Point Guards, Wooten, L. Thomas

The short-term deals the Knicks handed out after missing their top targets in free agency could lead to another disastrous season in New York, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Once the elite free agents were all off the board, the Knicks’ front office signed six players in a 24-hour span, mostly to one-year contracts. Coach David Fizdale has nine new players on his roster, creating a challenging environment to keep everyone invested in the team.

“The worry is chemistry issues and clashing as well as a rotation that will be tough to keep all happy,’’ a rival executive told Berman. “It could turn into every-man-for-himself – self preservation on full display.’’

The Knicks’ best hope to improve lies in their young core, Berman adds. Newly signed Julius Randle, who committed for three years at $63MM, is only 24, while Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith Jr. and rookie RJ Barrett all have the potential to improve. But if none of them can make the leap this year and Kristaps Porzingis revives his career in Dallas, Berman speculates that another front office shakeup could be on the way.

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • The starting point guard job is wide open again this year, Berman notes in a separate story. Smith will compete with Frank Ntilikina and newly signed Elfrid Payton in what Berman calls the best position battle in camp. The Knicks seemed to make a commitment to Smith after acquiring him in the Porzingis deal, but may have signaled a new direction by giving $8MM to Payton.
  • Kenny Wooten will be among the most intriguing players to watch in camp, Berman adds. All 15 roster spots appear set, but New York has an open two-way slot that Wooten will have a chance to claim. He is an athletic shot-blocker on an Exhibit 10 deal who could set himself up for a standard contract down the line.
  • Lance Thomas has moved across town to the Nets, but he would have been happy to remain a Knick, relays Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “It was a dream come true for me,” Thomas said. “My family is Knicks fans their whole lives. The opportunity I had to wear that uniform, to play in an arena of that magnitude — I had goosebumps every day I wore that uniform.”

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Kanter, De La Rosa

In the wake of Frank Ntilikina‘s impressive performance in France’s World Cup upset of Team USA, a series of New York beat writers and columnists are making the case that Ntilikina – the subject of trade rumors earlier this year – has earned a longer look from the Knicks this season.

Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News argues that the Knicks should exercise Ntilikina’s $6.2MM team option for the 2020/21 season (a decision is due on October 31) and give him a real chance to earn a role for this year’s squad. One scout suggests to Ian Begley of SNY.tv that Ntilikina is playing in the World Cup with a poise and confidence that he hasn’t showed yet in the NBA — if that confidence carries over training camp, it could bode well for his future in New York.

Meanwhile, Frank Isola of The Athletic writes that Knicks president Steve Mills hasn’t given up on Ntilikina despite the fact that the club has brought in several other point guards to compete for minutes. Elfrid Payton and other previous backcourt additions like Trey Burke are considered “[Scott] Perry guys,” says Isola, referring to New York’s general manager.

As we wait to see what the Knicks’ plan for Ntilikina is, let’s round up a few more notes on the team:

  • The differing opinions on Ntilikina within the Knicks’ organization aren’t unusual, given the organization’s current management structure, says Isola. League sources tell The Athletic that some of the scouts and executives brought in by Perry have clashed with the scouts and executives who worked under Mills and remain in the organization. “That’s always been the case,” a former Knicks exec tells Isola. “They keep a lot of people from different regimes and that causes some friction.”
  • After suggesting earlier this week that the Knicks’ ownership group is a deterrent for the team’s potential free agent targets, Enes Kanter clarified that he personally had a positive experience with James Dolan and doesn’t agree with players who avoid the team for that reason, tweets Begley.
  • Former Illinois big man Adonis De La Rosa is among the players working out with the Knicks this week in the hopes of securing a training camp invite from the team, a source tells Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype (Twitter link).
  • Knicks head coach David Fizdale issued an invite to Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski to make an appearance at the team’s training camp this fall, according to Adam Zagoria of Forbes. Coach K isn’t sure whether or not he’ll be able to attend, but said he expects former Blue Devil RJ Barrett to make a smooth transition to playing in New York.