Elfrid Payton

Hawks Notes: Hunter, Reddish, Point Guard, Bogdanovic

Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter, who underwent a lateral meniscus arthroscopic debridement procedure earlier this week, won’t be back on the court for the team anytime soon. Addressing Hunter’s situation today on 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, general manager Travis Schlenk suggested that the 23-year-old will be sidelined until at least late March, and likely sometime in April.

“The doctors say, typically, on average, these things are seven to 10 weeks,” Schlenk said, per Mike Conti of 92.9 The Game. “And most of the guys are ready to go by eight weeks. So, we’re hopeful.”

The Hawks’ initial announcement on Hunter indicated that his status would be updated when he’s re-evaluated in two weeks. According to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link), the club hopes to have a clearer idea at that point about which end of the seven-to-10 week timeline is more likely to apply to Hunter.

Here’s more out of Atlanta:

  • Chris Kirschner of The Athletic explores what Hunter’s absence will mean for the Hawks in the short term and the long term, noting that the pressure on new starting small forward Cam Reddish will increase. Kirschner also expects Atlanta to play it safe with Hunter’s return timeline to help avoid any recurring knee issues.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Kirschner and John Hollinger discussed a few Hawks-related topics, including the hole at backup point guard that Rajon Rondo hasn’t adequately filled. Hollinger, who questioned Atlanta’s decision not to claim Elfrid Payton when New York waived him in November, suggested that Payton, George Hill, Delon Wright, and T.J. McConnell could be potential targets if Atlanta tries to shore up the position via trade.
  • Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was only able to play nine games for his new team before being sidelined by a right knee fracture, spoke to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the injury and his goal to return before the end of the first half. “Anything before All-Star would be really good for me, but I don’t want to put the pressure on it,” Bogdanovic said. “But I would like to play before the All-Star (break), if it was me, and if my body heals up.”

Eastern Rumors: Celtics, Knicks, Payton, Knox, Bulls

The Celtics appear to be in the market for an in-season upgrade to their roster, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who says he received “a flurry of texts” on Saturday night from executives around the league who suggested that Boston appeared to be up to something.

The Celtics haven’t completed any moves in the couple days since then, so there’s no indication at this point that anything is imminent — the team could wait until closer to the March 25 trade deadline to attempt to finalize a move. O’Connor notes that league sources have long stated that the C’s are looking to bolster their wing and frontcourt rotations.

Discussing the Celtics’ massive trade exception during a radio appearance last week, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge suggested the club’s top priority on the trade market will be “shooting with size.”

Here’s more from around the East:

  • The Knicks aren’t done exploring trade options after acquiring Derrick Rose from Detroit, says Ian Begley of SNY.tv (video link). According to Begley, at least one team in playoff contention has shown some interest in Elfrid Payton. Additionally, while New York didn’t want to move Kevin Knox in the Rose deal, that doesn’t mean that he’s untouchable “by any stretch of the imagination,” per Begley.
  • As long as the Bulls continue playing sub-.500 ball, Zach LaVine – whose contract expires in 2022 – will be the subject of trade rumors. However, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago argues that LaVine, whose scoring average this season is up to a career-high 27.4 PPG, continues to improve and that the team should seriously consider pursuing a contract extension for the standout guard in the offseason.
  • With multiple reports indicating that the Bulls could be a landing spot for Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype explains why a trade sending him to Chicago would make sense for both Ball and the Bulls.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Payton, Toppin, COVID-19

Tom Thibodeau deserves Coach of the Year consideration for the way he has transformed the Knicks, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. This afternoon’s win over Portland puts the team at 11-13, good for sixth place in the East a third of the way through the season. Bondy notes that every starter on this year’s team was also on last year’s squad, which began the season 4-18.

Thibodeau has instilled a defense-first mentality and has given more minutes to players who excel in that area. As a result, the Knicks are holding opponents to the lowest field-goal percentage in the league at 43.5%. They also allow the second-fewest points and have a defensive rating in the top seven.

“There’s not one particular thing when you look at the analytics — which everybody does — that there wasn’t one thing that really stood out other than the fact that teams do not shoot the ball well against them, which is ultimately the best metric to have,” said Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “What I see is a team that plays hard, they play physical, they’re active, they’re aggressive. They go after loose balls. They’re a hard-nosed defensive team.”

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:
  • One of Thibodeau’s most controversial decisions has been to stick with Elfrid Payton as his starting point guard ahead of high-scoring rookie Immanuel Quickley, notes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Quickley scored 31 points against the Blazers last month, but he remained on the bench for the entire first quarter today as Thibodeau relied on Payton to match up with Damian Lillard. “The big thing is the defense,’’ Thibodeau said of Payton’s contributions. “That’s the biggest tone-setter for us. The defensive component. That’s his strength and helps his team when he starts on the ball. And to keep us organized offensively and be opportunities with scoring opportunities.”
  • First-round pick Obi Toppin broke into a huge smile when asked about participating in a dunk contest if the league holds one along with its All-Star game, Berman adds in the same story. Toppin’s playing time has been limited in his first NBA season, but he was a prolific dunker in college. “The dunk contest, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,’’ Toppin said. “I don’t want to just give you all answers, but hopefully I might be able to be there. Maybe not. So we’re just going to have to wait and see.’’
  • While COVID-19 has caused havoc for many NBA teams, the Knicks haven’t had any players miss a game due to the virus, according to Steve Popper of Newsday.

Atlantic Notes: Payton, Raptors, LeVert, Johnson

Elfrid Payton remains the starting point guard for the Knicks ahead of breakout rookie Immanuel Quickley and veteran off-guard Austin Rivers thanks to Payton’s solid defense, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was diplomatically effusive in his praise of both Payton and Quickley, the latter of whom Berman notes has become a fan favorite. “I love both guys — they’re different and bring different things to the team,’’ Thibodeau said Sunday. “Elfrid, when you look at his defense and size, a lot of these guards, particularly point guards in the NBA today, they’re a load to deal with. Elfrid has a good understanding how to defend them.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets-turned-Pacers wing Caris LeVert was notified by Brooklyn GM Sean Marks during their 2020 offseason that he might be traded in 2020/21, according to J Michael of the Indianapolis Star“Sean was very honest with me from the first time the rumors came out. He told me don’t rule it out,” LeVert said. “I didn’t know it was going to happen. I just knew that it was a possibility and there was a lot of speculation.” 
  • With the Raptors having finally established a consistent rotation, the team is rebounding from an ugly beginning to its season, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Toronto is on a three-game win streak following a 2-8 start. “I think that we’re continuing to find out things about our team that are improving the team,” head coach Nick Nurse said yesterday. “Guys are comfortable with the guys that we’re putting out there and I think those guys have chipped in pretty considerably.
  • Hustling in practice has carved out a rotation role for Raptors reserve forward Stanley Johnson, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. “I think the important quality is that he’s maintained … a really strong work ethic day in and day out, which isn’t easy to do for somebody who’s been in the league for a while when you’re not hitting the court for really long stretches of time,” Nurse said. Johnson is averaging 14.7 MPG for Toronto in 11 contests.

Knicks Notes: Payton, Smith Jr., Noel, Toppin

Even though he became a free agent when the Knicks turned down his $8MM option, Elfrid Payton was confident he would be returning to New York, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Speaking to reporters today via a Zoom call, Payton indicated that he never seriously considered any other team.

“From the beginning we always had intentions of me coming back, so I wasn’t really I guess worried,’’ he said.

Payton was part of a maligned trio of point guards, along with Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr., who shared time at the position last season. After listening to offseason speculation that the team would find a replacement through the draft or free agency, Payton believes all three will approach the season with something to prove.

“I feel like we’ve been counted out,’’ he said. “So just go out there and compete and show what we can do. That’s definitely something we want to use as motivation, as if we didn’t already have enough. But that’s definitely something we’ve spoken about in the locker room, even in these short days that we’ve been together.” 

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • Smith is looking forward to a fresh start after a difficult 2019/20 season that began with the death of his stepmother, Berman adds in the same piece. Injuries and poor play limited him to just 34 games and a career-low 15.8 minutes per night. “I would say just understanding that nothing happens to you, it happens for you,’’ Smith said. “And I had to go through a lot of different things mentally — not even physically — mentally I had to go through a lot of different things to kind of understand that. But smooth waters never made (skilled) sailors, so I take it all in stride, and I’m going to keep getting better.’’
  • Mitchell Robinson may be the team’s center of the future, but he’ll have to compete with free agent addition Nerlens Noel for the starting spot, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Regardless of how playing time shakes out, Noel expects to adopt a teaching role. “I just want to mentor him any way possible,” he said. “Whatever position we play throughout the season will play itself out. I want to be a big brother to him and give him a lot of advice throughout the season.”
  • Lottery pick Obi Toppin is already impressing teammates with his athletic gifts, writes Ian Begley of SNY.TV. The rookie forward has been setting franchise records in agility, conditioning and athleticism drills.

Knicks To Re-Sign Elfrid Payton

NOVEMBER 29: The Knicks’ deal with Payton is now official, Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets.

NOVEMBER 27: Shortly after clearing waivers this afternoon, Elfrid Payton has reached a deal to return to the Knicks, his agents at CAA tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

New York waived Payton on Thursday and paid a $1MM partial guarantee on his previous contract rather than giving him the full amount of $8MM. Payton will receive $5MM for one season on his new pact, per Wojnarowski.

Given the reported price of Payton’s new deal, it’s possible the Knicks will look to fit him into their room exception ($4.77MM). In that scenario, the team would still have approximately $29MM in cap room to use, without Payton cutting into it. If he gets any amount over $4.77MM, he’ll have to be re-signed using some of that cap space.

Payton got the most use of New York’s point guard options last season, starting 36 of the 45 games he played. He averaged 10.0 points and 7.2 assists per game, but shot just 43.9% from the field and 20.3% from three-point range.

If they don’t make any more moves at the position, the Knicks will have the same three players at point guard as they did a year ago, with Payton battling Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. for playing time, and it will be up to new coach Tom Thibodeau to sort them out.

Free Agent Rumors: Teague, Payton, Beasley, Davis, Ibaka, Thompson

The Knicks have interest in free agent Jeff Teague as a starting point guard option, Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets.  Teague, who made $19MM annually over the last three seasons, averaged 10.9 PPG and 5.2 APG in 59 combined games with the Timberwolves and Hawks last season.

If the Knicks don’t sign the 32-year-old Teague, they may shift back to one of their own free agents, Elfrid Payton. Front office executive Scott Perry remain a fan of Payton despite his perimeter shooting issues, Berman adds. Payton averaged 10.0 PPG and 7.2 APG in 45 games with New York last season.

We have more free agent news:

  • The Bucks expressed interest in combo guard Malik Beasley before he chose to re-sign with the Timberwolves, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Beasley agreed to a four-year, $60MM contract with Minnesota.
  • Anthony Davis will return to the Lakers but he might not put that in writing until December, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports. Agent Rich Paul said there is no hurry for Davis to put his name to a contract and the signing could come just before or even during training camp.
  • After completing an agreement with Fred VanVleet, Raptors president Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster will meet with their other prominent free agent, forward Serge Ibaka, on late Saturday afternoon or evening, Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet tweets. As many as 10 teams have shown interest in signing Ibaka, who is coming off a career year and strong postseason run.
  • The Timberwolves have inquired about center Tristan Thompson, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. Minnesota is seeking some depth in the middle behind starter Karl-Anthony Towns.

Knicks Waive Four Players, Decline Options For Portis, Pinson

12:40pm: The Knicks have confirmed all the roster moves detailed below and added that they’ve turned down their team option on Theo Pinson, whom they claimed off waivers in June. Pinson’s option had been worth $1.7MM, but he’ll become an unrestricted free agent instead of remaining with New York.

The team projects to enter free agency with upwards of $38-40MM in cap room.

12:06pm: The Knicks will waive Elfrid Payton and Kenny Wooten and have decided not to pick up Bobby Portis‘ option for next season, tweets Steve Popper of Newsday. In addition, the team won’t make a qualifying offer to Damyean Dotson, who becomes an unrestricted free agent.

New York will also waive veteran forward Taj Gibson, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), and Wayne Ellington, tweets Marc Berman of The New York Post.

The decisions are designed to create cap flexibility, Popper adds (Twitter link). He notes that the team could opt to re-sign some of the players, but at lesser salaries than what they were scheduled to make (Twitter link).

Payton had a $1MM guarantee on his $8MM deal for next season. He started 36 of the 45 games he played last season, but the Knicks have indicated they want to find a new starting point guard. Gibson also had a $1MM guarantee on his $9.45MM contract, while Ellington receives $1MM of his $8MM deal. Wooten was on a two-way contract and didn’t appear in any NBA games.

The Knicks held a $15.75MM option for Portis, who averaged 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in 66 games last season, mostly as a reserve. Dotson, who got into 48 games off the bench and averaged 6.7 PPG, would have required a $2,023,150 QO.

Eastern Notes: Pacers, Knicks, Rondo, Hawks, Magic

The Pacers are adding Calbert Cheaney to Nate Bjorkgren‘s coaching staff as an assistant, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). An Indiana native who played his college ball for the Hoosiers, Cheaney spent 13 years in the NBA as a player. He has been an assistant for Atlanta’s G League affiliate for the last two seasons.

Cheaney is the latest addition to a new-look coaching staff that will also feature Kaleb Canales and Greg Foster, in addition to returning Pacers assistant Bill Bayno. Indiana recently issued a press release confirming that all three of those coaches will be part of Bjorkgren’s staff in 2021.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

Begley’s Latest: Gallinari, Green, Knicks, Wood, Portis

Some members within the Mavericks are interested in pursuing Danilo Gallinari once free agency opens on Nov. 20, according to Ian Begley of SNY. Dallas will likely join a significant number of suitors for Gallinari, with rival teams expecting that he’ll join a contender if the Thunder wind up trading Chris Paul.

Gallinari, 32, is one of the most intriguing forwards on the open market, averaging 18.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season with Oklahoma City. The Mavericks pursued Gallinari prior to last season’s trade deadline, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News, but backed away upon learning that he wouldn’t sign an extension with the team. Some members of the Knicks have also labeled him as a potential target, Begley notes.

In addition to Gallinari, Begley touched on a number of other topics related to free agency, including how teams such as the Lakers and Knicks are thinking:

  • The Lakers are willing to discuss trades involving Danny Green, Begley reports. Green, an 11-year NBA veteran, struggled with his shooting in the playoffs, connecting on 34% of his attempts from behind-the-arc. He’s a career 39% shooter from deep in the postseason.
  • Should the Knicks acquire Paul or Russell Westbrook in a trade, multiple teams expect the club to pursue veterans in free agency with hopes of making a playoff push this season, Begley notes. New York last made the playoffs during the 2012/13 season.
  • Rival teams interested in Christian Wood believe the Knicks have made him a No. 1 target for free agency, according to Begley. Wood averaged 13.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 21.4 minutes per game with the Pistons last season. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent.
  • Opposing teams also expect the Knicks to decline the $15.75MM team option on forward Bobby Portis, which would allow the 25-year-old to enter free agency. The current plan for New York includes retaining Reggie Bullock ($4.2MM partially guaranteed salary) and exercising the $8MM team option on guard Elfrid Payton, though Begley cautions this could change.