Emmanuel Mudiay

Atlantic Notes: Russell, Giannis, Knicks, Mudiay, Irving

For D’Angelo Russell, getting traded from the Lakers to the Nets in 2017 was a blessing in disguise. Russell has excelled with the team this season, leading the Nets in points, assists and minutes played through 59 games so far.

“I came here with open arms,” Russell said, as relayed by Leo Sepkowitz of Bleacher Report. “I always knew I could do what I’m doing, it’s just all about opportunity in this league. For [Nets GM] Sean Marks and those guys to come get me and make it happen here, give me the opportunity to help myself thrive, I think it was more than necessary.”

Russell, who has held averages of 20.3 points, 6.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game in his first All-Star season, then went on to call the trade the “best thing that happened” in his career.

The Lakers, of course, moved Russell to Brooklyn as part of a salary dump that included the contract of Timofey Mozgov, and saw several of their young players featured in rumors around the trade deadline this month.

“I can’t imagine what they’re trying to block out,” Russell said, later adding, “if [the Lakers] didn’t let me go then, they were gonna let me go now, and I’d be going through what they’re going through. Best thing that happened in my career.”

Russell understood why the Lakers made the move, but immediately became motivated to lead a team in Brooklyn. The Nets now hold the sixth-best record in the East at 30-29, surprising many league observers and fans with their success.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Every NBA team except the Knicks scouted Giannis Antetokounmpo as a prospect in Greece, according to Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “Scouts started flying to Greece,” Antetokounmpo’s agent Giorgos Panou said. “Every day at practice, at games, executives, GMs, assistant coaches — every team came. Twenty-nine teams, except the Knicks, New York Knicks.” The Knicks have since refuted this claim, as relayed by ESPN’s Ian Begley (Twitter link).
  • Speaking of the Knicks, Emmanuel Mudiay is unsure of his current role with the team’s new rotation, Marc Berman writes for The Post. New York traded for starting point guard Dennis Smith Jr. earlier in the month, likely taking minutes away from Mudiay. “That’s out of my control,’’ Mudiay said. “That’s something you have to ask [coach] Fiz. I’m going to support my teammates.”
  • Celtics guard Kyrie Irving will be joined by team physical therapist Brian Dolan and personal trainer Robin Pound during the All-Star break in Charlotte, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes. Irving will continue rehab from a strained right knee suffered against the Clippers last Saturday, but his status for Sunday’s All-Star Game with Team LeBron has yet to be announced.

Knicks Notes: Burke, Kanter, Ntilikina, Trade Deadline

Trey Burke is back in the Knicks‘ rotation, but it looks like a temporary situation until he either gets traded or Emmanuel Mudiay returns from a strained shoulder, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Burke, who began the season as the starting point guard, poured in 25 points Friday, but doesn’t appear to have a long-term future in New York.

The Knicks have committed to a youth movement and are looking to trade veterans Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter as well. Burke has an expiring $1.795MM contract and likely won’t be around next season no matter what happens at the deadline. A source tells Berman that Burke prefers to be dealt, but he insists he’ll be fine either way.

“As a basketball player, you look at other scenarios,” Burke said. “How I’d fit in other scenarios, in that system, in that situation. But I think the direction of this organization, I want to be part of that. I know that there’s still a lot I have to prove. That’s fine with me.”

There’s more today out of New York:

  • Kanter continues to seethe about being about not being used, even after an injury to starting center Luke Kornet, Berman relays in a separate story. Kanter sat out back-to-back games after Fizdale promised him a return to the rotation, with the coach explaining that he’s trying a versatile, switching style of defense that doesn’t fit Kanter’s game. “I was talking to one of my teammates … and I said I could get 30 and 30 (points and rebounds) tonight,” Kanter said after Friday’s loss to the Nets. “But I guess they didn’t want me to get 30 and 30.”
  • Mudiay’s injury provides Frank Ntilikina with a new opportunity to impress Knicks management, but foul trouble is getting in his way, Berman notes in another story. Ntilikina made his seventh start of the year at point guard Friday, but played just 18 minutes before fouling out. “I have to be smarter to avoid these fouls and know what moment when the refs are going to call it,’’ he said. “Fouls are going to come by being aggressive, but I have to control it.’’
  • The Knicks are in a tear-down phase with almost everyone on the roster available for trades, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. However, an Eastern Conference executive told him that recent additions such as Burke, Mudiay, Noah Vonleh and Mario Hezonja don’t carry much trade value.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics Trades, Mudiay, Fultz, Noah

The Celtics are unlikely to make a big move prior to this year’s trade deadline, NBC Sports’ Tom Haberstroh reports in a story relayed by NBC Sports Boston’s Darren Hartwell. With Indiana losing Victor Oladipo for the season, the Celtics have less incentive to make a drastic change. They’re hoping Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown bounce back during the second half of the season, then will look to trade for Anthony Davis during the offseason.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks point guard Emmanuel Mudiay will be sidelined at least two weeks with a left shoulder strain, the team’s PR department tweets. Mudiay suffered the injury against Houston on Wednesday and the original prognosis was confirmed by an MRI. Mudiay is averaging 14.7 PPG and 3.9 APG.
  • Markelle Fultz traveled with the Sixers on their current road trip but the second-year guard has not been cleared for basketball activity, Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets. It’s not anticipated that Fultz will be cleared during the trip and thus he’s limited to physical therapy as he works his way back from thoracic outlet syndrome.
  • Joakim Noah takes responsibility for flopping with the Knicks after signing a four-year, $72MM contract, as he told Frank Isola of The Athletic. Noah is playing for the Grizzlies after getting released by New York. “I think these are all life lessons. It was a tough time for me mentally,” he said. “Failing like that on a stage I really wanted to do well on. I take responsibility. It took me a while to digest that.”
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic runs down a wide variety of trade scenarios for the Raptors, though they’re also unlikely to make a big move.

Knicks Notes: Mudiay, Robinson, Sprewell, Fizdale

Knicks coach David Fizdale lamented the lack of “a closer” after Thursday’s one-point loss in London, but Emmanuel Mudiay is confident that he can eventually fill that role, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Despite battling illness, Mudiay put on a stellar performance with 25 points and seven rebounds against the Wizards. He has emerged from a three-way battle to establish himself as the team’s best point guard and now hopes to become the number one option in crunch time.

“I’m confident in that,” Mudiay said. “That’s one thing, I’m not afraid of the moment.”

The Knicks will have a decision to make this summer on Mudiay, who is headed for restricted free agency. He is averaging 14.8 points and 4.0 assists per game and has been the starter since November, but he still could become expendable as New York tries to preserve as much cap room as possible in its quest for an elite free agent.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • Rookie center Mitchell Robinson returned to the court Thursday for the first time in about a month after dealing with a groin injury, Berman adds in the same story. He only played 10 minutes, but his coach is happy to have him back. “We look different with him,” Fizdale said. “If you’re an avid fan watching the game, you see a huge difference in our athleticism. Is he screwing up stuff? Of course. Especially because he’s missed so much time. His timing is off and conditioning was a factor. But all that said, I thought he had a really good impact on this game today.”
  • Former Knick Latrell Sprewell represented the organization in London and would be interested in serving as a mentor if the team wants him to, relays Steve Popper of Newsday“If they ask me, I’m definitely open to it for sure,” Sprewell said. “Anything I can do to have these guys get better, I’m willing to do that for sure.”
  • The Knicks are mired near the bottom of the East with a 10-34 record, but Fizdale sees a much brighter future next season, tweets ESPN’s Ian Begley. “In the mix, improved,” he said this week of his vision for next year. “Obviously, we’ll get a good draft pick at some point. Obviously, free agency will be at a premium.”

Knicks Notes: Kanter, Randolph, Fizdale, Thomas

A reported Enes Kanter for Zach Randolph swap with the Kings would fulfill the Knicks‘ desire to move the veteran center without taking back a contract that runs past this season, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

The trade makes sense on several levels, Berman notes. Kanter is unhappy with his reduced playing time in New York and should welcome a deal to a contender. Knicks GM Scott Perry formerly worked in Sacramento and signed Randolph to his current deal. Randolph, who hasn’t played all season, might be bought out to free up a roster spot or he could return to action under David Fizdale, his former coach in Memphis.

Berman adds that the Knicks were surprised by Kanter’s comments last week about his ongoing feud with Turkish leaders as an explanation for his decision not to accompany the team on its upcoming trip to London. A team official said Kanter was having visa issues, but he later denied that was the reason for staying home.

There’s more news out of New York:

  • Team owner James Dolan supports Kanter’s decision to skip the London trip, Berman adds in the same piece. The Kings and Knicks aren’t close to a deal yet, a source tells Berman, with Sacramento appearing to be more reluctant.
  • The Knicks finished the first half of the season with just 10 victories, but Fizdale remains confident that better things are coming, Berman writes in a separate story“Individually, I think guys are getting better,’’ Fizdale said after last night’s loss at Golden State. “Small areas of the game we’re getting better. It’s not all collective and not showing in a full game. I do see great strides in our young guys. I see Emmanuel [Mudiay] constantly gaining confidence, and [Noah] Vonleh continues to grow in his evolution. Kevin Knox over the course of the first half has shown great strides. Him and Damyean Dotson.” Draft lottery concerns may work against Fizdale’s prediction of more wins in the second half. The league’s three worst teams will share the best odds at the No. 1 pick, and the Knicks rank third in our latest Reverse Standings.
  • Lance Thomas has signed with CAA and agents Leon Rose and Rich Felder, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. His $7.58MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed.

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Lee, Mudiay, Porter

The Knicks have treated the re-signing of Kristaps Porzingis as inevitable, given his pending restricted free agency, but the idea that Porzingis will have no leverage in the process is “bogus,” according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, who points out that star players can “maneuver themselves out of undesirable situations” even when they’re under contract.

Even if Porzingis doesn’t go the extreme route – accepting his one-year qualifying offer and becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – he could make things difficult on the Knicks by demanding a shorter-term deal (three years with a fourth-year player option) or signing an offer sheet with another club. In that scenario, the Nets would be a team to watch, per Bondy, who writes that GM Sean Marks is high on Porzingis and has a history of pursuing RFAs.

A five-year, maximum-salary deal with the Knicks would allow Porzingis to maximize his earnings and would give him long-term security. However, some people around the NBA believe the Knicks may try to include injury protection language in their offer, says Bondy. That way, if Porzingis has recurring issues related to his ACL recovery, the team would be protected to some extent. The youngster views himself as a max player though, according to Bondy, so New York could risk creating discord by offering less than that.

As we wait to see how Porzingis’ free agency plays out, here’s more on the Knicks:

  • While Enes Kanter has expressed frustration and met with GM Scott Perry about his reduced playing time, another veteran – Courtney Lee – has been taking his diminished role in stride, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Lee has been a DNP-CD in three of the Knicks’ last four games, but is keeping a positive outlook. “I believe in karma, man,” Lee said. “Not going to come in here and be negative. Not going to pout. Not going to be a distraction because you never know when something could happen, then I get out there and I just play miserable and that’s all because I wasn’t being a professional. Just stay positive and stay ready for whatever happens.”
  • In a separate Newsday story, Popper explores how Emmanuel Mudiay‘s confidence has increased since he was dealt from Denver to New York last year.
  • Within a story about Courtney Lee, Marc Berman of The New York Post provides a tidbit related to the 2018 draft, citing sources who say the Knicks passed on Michael Porter Jr. last June in part because they were told he wouldn’t play in 2018/19. However, Berman now hears there’s still a chance Porter will make his NBA debut for the Nuggets later this season.

Knicks Notes: Kanter, Dotson, Hardaway, Mudiay

Knicks center Enes Kanter sounded off on his reduced playing time following a miserable night in Utah, relays Marc Berman of the New York Post. Kanter was pulled from the starting lineup earlier this season to give a more prominent to rookie Mitchell Robinson. With Robinson injured, Kanter remains a reserve as the team tries out little-used Luke Kornet.

The frustration overflowed last night following an 0-for-6 performance in which Kanter didn’t enter the game until nine minutes had elapsed and the Knicks were already trailing by 14 points.

“I understand we want the young guys to get better, but it’s very painful to watch it out there,’’ Kanter said. “I’m essentially positive and try to help the young guys get better. It’s too early in the season to shut me down. My goal this year was to go out and be an All-Star, but now look at the situation.’’

Kanter stopped short of asking for a trade, but he fears his minutes will be cut even further once Robinson returns. After opting in last summer, Kanter has an $18.6MM expiring contract that could be attractive to a contender.

There’s more this morning out of New York:

  • In addition to the on-court frustration, Kanter learned Saturday that the NBA won’t be taking action against Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham for his role in a fracas this week, Berman adds. Kanter had called on the league to fine Ham for allegedly pushing him from behind during an altercation with Giannis Antetokounmpo. An NBA source told Berman that Ham “acted as a peacemaker to separate the players.”
  • The Knicks envision Damyean Dotson as part of their future, Berman writes in a separate story. The team has until July 15 to guarantee his $1.6MM contract for next season and seems likely to do so. New York has received calls about him from other teams, including Detroit and Brooklyn, notes Berman, who speculates that having young wings like Dotson and Allonzo Trier could make the Knicks more willing to deal Tim Hardaway Jr. to help open cap space for a run at Kevin Durant.
  • As Emmanuel Mudiay prepares for Monday’s return to Denver, he tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News that things got so bad late in his tenure there that he stopped talking to the media. Mudiay never developed into the player Nuggets hoped when they took him with the seventh pick in 2015, and he was benched prior to the February trade that brought him to New York. “It was just the best decision at the time for both of us,” Mudiay said of the deal. “So it’s not like, I want to prove y’all wrong or blah, blah, blah. It’s just certain things had to happen and it worked out best for both sides.”

Frank Ntilikina Unhappy About Christmas Benching

Whatever plans Frank Ntilikina had for Christmas Day, they didn’t include spending 48 minutes on the Knicks‘ bench. Ntilikina found himself back out of coach David Fizdale’s revolving lineup and he doesn’t sound happy about the move, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

“Did I know that I would not play today?” Ntilikina said after the game. “Coach makes his decision during the game. So you don’t know. You know that, right?”

Ntilikina hasn’t played well lately, posting a 3.6/2.2/2.4 line over his past five games while shooting 21.4% from the field and 18.2% from 3-point range. Still, the timing of Fizdale’s decision was odd considering team president Steve Mills just spoke last Friday about the need to raise Ntilikina’s confidence on offense.

Yesterday’s benching was particularly tough for Ntilikina because his mother flew in from France to watch him play on Christmas. The Knicks’ other options at point guard weren’t playing well, Berman notes, as Emmanuel Mudiay committed five turnovers and Trey Burke hit just one of seven shots.

This is the second absence from the lineup for Ntilikina, who had three DNPs earlier this month, and he seems to be growing frustrated about Fizdale’s approach to allocating minutes.

“I don’t know how long it will be [this time],” Ntilikina said. “I can’t predict each and every game in the future. One thing I can do is get ready for each and every one — which I will do. Practice hard, get ready physically and mentally for the next game.”

Fizdale explained to reporters that Ntilikina had been “struggling” and he wanted to give more time to Burke, who has been working his way back from a knee strain.

While none of the Knicks’ point guards has been outstanding, Ntilikina is the only one under contract for next season. Burke’s $1.795MM deal for this season won’t be fully guaranteed until next month, while Mudiay is headed for restricted free agency.

Knicks Notes: Free Agency, Porzingis, Knox, Burke

The Knicks don’t see an urgency to sign an elite free agent next summer and believe their rebuilding plan will be fine if they have to wait another year, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The organization’s priorities are landing a top-five draft pick, getting Kristaps Porzingis healthy again and developing rookies Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier, along with Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay.

The summer of 2019 has long been considered pivotal for the Knicks, who will have the cap space to compete on the free agent market for the first time in several years. There are plans in place to open up $38MM — enough to sign a 10-year veteran like Kevin Durant — if the opportunity becomes available, although Berman isn’t sure if those plans include a trade of Tim Hardaway Jr. But a source says the team won’t go that route unless it can land a “dramatic difference maker.”

President Steve Mills seemed to confirm that approach at a press conference Friday when he talked about saving cap room for 2020 and retaining the flexibility to acquire a star through trade. Berman adds that the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis has interest in playing in New York.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • The Knicks are hoping Porziginis can return sometime after the All-Star break so he can start to build chemistry with his younger teammates, Berman relays in the same story. However, the final decision will be based on his physical condition as he recovers from last season’s ACL injury. “The most important thing for us is to have Kristaps on the court when he feels comfortable being on the court and we feel comfortable he should be out there,’’ Mills said. “That’s more important than any timetable this season — or some point in the summer.” Team doctors plan to re-evaluate Porzingis’ condition in February.
  • Knox continued a troubling pattern in Friday’s loss to the Hawks, Berman notes in a separate piece. He made seven of eight shots in the first quarter, but none in the second half, which has been a familiar theme this season. “I expect him to be a big-time scorer, [but it’s] a real conditioning requirement to be a great scorer in this league,” coach David Fizdale said. “He has to learn as he gets stronger and in more physical shape to adapt to scouting reports and adjustments during the game.’’
  • Trey Burke is expected to return to the lineup for the Christmas Day game, but back-to-back DNPs this week suggest he’s not part of the Knicks’ plan for the future, Berman adds.

New York Notes: Hardaway, Russell, Lin, Mudiay

After a strong start to the 2018/19 season, Knicks’ guard Tim Hardaway Jr. has seen his game go a little stagnant over the last month or so. And according to Stefan Bondy of the Daily News, we now know why, as it has been reported that Hardaway is dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot and will have to manage the pain moving forward this season.

As Bondy notes, Hardaway missed the Knicks’ loss against the Suns on Monday to ease some inflammation he was having, but he returned tonight to score 27 points against the Sixers, albeit in a losing effort.

As numerous previous injuries have demonstrated, playing on plantar fasciitis prolongs the recovery because the only cure is rest. Knicks’ head coach David Fizdale says that Hardaway has been coping with the pain “for a while,” but Hardaway says the pain only began a few games ago, so it’s difficult to know when the pain actually started.

“I’ve never had (plantar fasciitis) before, just heard a lot of things about it, that if you keep playing on it, it could get worse,” Hardaway told Bondy. “So around this time last year (with the Knicks) I had an injury and I was out a month-and-a-half. Almost two months. So I just want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Hardaway’s status and pain tolerance will be something to keep an eye on as the Knicks’ season moves forward.

There’s more out of the Big Apple:

  • Nets’ point guard D’Angelo Russell is beginning to look like a player who was taken with the No. 2 overall selection in the NBA Draft, and his teammates and others within the organization are starting to take notice, per NetsDaily. Russell is embracing Brooklyn and becoming a team-first player as he looks to become a leader and cash in on a big payday this summer.
  • In a piece written by Brian Lewis of the New York Post, former Nets’ and current Hawks’ guard Jeremy Lin opens up about the pain he felt when he was traded to Atlanta from Brooklyn. Speaking on his meeting with head coach Kenny Atkinson after learning of the trade, Lin said he was hurt and that the trade was unexpected, but that he ultimately understood it was a business decision and he’s grateful for the time he spent in Brooklyn.
  • Since being promoted to the starting lineup about a month ago, Knicks’ point guard Emmanuel Mudiay has been a bright spot for an otherwise underwhelming team, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Mudiay has done a good job of improving his conditioning, but his defense is still a work in process. If he continues to get better this season, however, the Knicks could very well look at bringing him back next season and beyond.