Enes Kanter

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.

Kanter: Knicks’ Ownership A Deterrent For Free Agents

Appearing on The Full 48, Howard Beck’s podcast, new Celtics center Enes Kanter offered a theory for why the Knicks haven’t had much success in the free agent market in recent years despite a big market and plenty of cap room. According to Kanter, an ownership group led by James Dolan is considered a deterrent by players around the NBA.

Dolan hasn’t had an active role in basketball decisions in recent years, but he has still repeatedly made headlines based on run-ins with fans and vendettas against media outlets, among other issues.

“I’m not blaming anybody. I had an amazing time with the Knicks,” Kanter said, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “But other teammates I talked to or if they’re on different teams, they always said, ‘Amazing city, MSG is amazing. Everything is so good. But the ownership.’ They always keep saying, ‘But the ownership.’

“… I can tell. I don’t get into it too much. The players, when we get in the locker room, we talk about what’s going on. And the players always see how the management or how ownership treat other players, treat other players around.”

The Knicks spent most of the 2018/19 season gearing up for free agency, trading rising star Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas in a pre-deadline deal to create enough cap room to sign two maximum-salary players in July. However, the club struck out on its top targets and ultimately used that room to sign veterans like Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, and Wayne Ellington.

Other than Randle, no free agent signed by the Knicks this offseason has more than one fully guaranteed year on his new contract, so the team will have the flexibility to be active again in free agency in 2020 and/or 2021. Still, based on his comments to Beck, Kanter didn’t sound confident that the perception of the franchise will shift overnight.

“I always tell (players), the Knicks are amazing. It’s the Garden, it’s the Mecca. If you win in New York, you’re the king of the world,” Kanter said, per Bondy. “Some of the players are I guess scared to come here and don’t even want to deal with that.”

Atlantic Notes: Stevens, Feaster, Donaldson, Ainge

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will have a new-look roster to work with this season, writes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, and while replacing All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving with fellow All-Star Kemba Walker will be the easy part, replacing defensive stalwarts Al Horford and Aron Baynes should prove a bit more challenging.

Another question is who starts — Gordon Hayward or Jaylen Brown? Do both of them start, with Marcus Smart back on the bench? According to Stevens, it really doesn’t matter, as long as the lineups mesh together.

“We’re obviously going to have to figure out lineups that work best together,” Stevens said. “Everybody is going to make a big deal over who starts, but we all know who the five guys are that are going to play the very most on our team, and everybody can probably write that down right now, and then it’s a matter of who fits best. They’re not all in the same position, but we’ve got to figure out who’s going to play the big spot and with which groups.”

Enes Kanter figures to get most minutes at center starting out, but young big Robert Williams could push for more playing time as the season progresses. The Celtics will also rely on Daniel Theis and Vincent Poirier for frontcourt depth.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • According to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston, the Celtics have hired Allison Feaster as director of player development. Feaster is a former WNBA player and Harvard graduate who also worked in the G League.
  • Raptors data analyst Brittni Donaldson has been promoted to an assistant coach on the staff of head coach Nick Nurse, per a tweet from Stadium (Twitter link).
  • In a piece for NBC Sports Boston, Blakely writes that Danny Ainge is concerned with Stevens happiness this season, saying “My biggest concern through all of this was, I want my coach to be happy who he’s coaching and that’s the hardest job. I’ve been at this business a long time. It’s…you gotta have fun. You really have to have joy. That doesn’t mean every minute is going to be happy. Everybody is going to face adversity and challenges and trials through the course of a season. But, it still has to be fun.”

Atlantic Notes: Burke, Kanter, Carmelo, M. Richardson

Trey Burke may have just a partially guaranteed training camp contract with the Sixers, but he’s overflowing with confidence that he can win a roster spot, relays Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The 26-year-old guard is expected to battle fellow free agent addition Raul Neto for playing time behind Ben Simmons and possibly a place on the team. However, Burke envisions a much larger role for himself.

“I think throughout stretches of the game we (Burke and Simmons) can play together and I can be out there with the starting lineup at times,” he told reporters. “That is the competitor in Trey Burke. That is who I am and what I bring to Philadelphia.”

Burke – whose minimum-salary contract reportedly has a $405K partial guarantee – hasn’t enjoyed a consistent role like that since his second season in the league. He was been with four teams in the past four years, splitting last season between the Knicks and Mavericks.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics signed Enes Kanter with the expectation that he will shoot more from the perimeter, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Kanter’s first step was to get together with Gordon Hayward, whom he played with in Utah, and a few more of his new teammates. “When I was in Boston, I played with (Hayward) in two-on-two action and I feel like he’s gained more confidence,” Kanter said. “When he played, he wasn’t scared of anything. It was me, Gordon, Jaylen Brown and Tacko (Fall). I was guarding Tacko. He’s good, man, and I love him. His personality is amazing, real good character. He’s a hard worker. I’m definitely really excited to play with him.”
  • Kanter made an appeal for someone to sign Carmelo Anthony during an appearance Wednesday morning on FOX Sports 1’s “First Things First” (Twitter link). “So you’re telling me a guy like ‘Melo can’t make a 15-man roster on 30 teams? It’s definitely crazy,” Kanter said. “Melo belongs in the NBA and he can still get 15-20 points.”
  • Malachi Richardson will play in Israel this season, but he tells Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops that he hasn’t given up on his NBA dream. “I think I just have to show teams who I am,” he said. “Just being able to go and play and just showing, ‘OK, this is why he was a first-round pick.’” Richardson played 22 games for the Raptors last season before being traded at the deadline to the Sixers, who waived him the next day.

Blazers Notes: Hood, Kanter, McCollum, Aldridge

Shooting guard Rodney Hood surprised the Trail Blazers by accepting the $5.72MM taxpayer mid-level exception, Jason Quick of The Athletic reports.

Portland was hoping to bring back center Enes Kanter at that number, but he balked. Blazers GM Neil Olshey thought Hood wanted more in free agency but was pleasantly surprised by Hood’s decision.

Olshey then shifted gears to finding a starting-quality center and got involved in the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade to Miami, winding up with Hassan Whiteside by dealing Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard.

We have more on the Blazers:

  • Backcourt partners CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard are now locked up long-term after McCollum signed a three-year, $100MM extension and they’re excited about that prospect, as he told Quick in a separate story. “It’s a special time,” McCollum said. “(Lillard and I) talked about being in Portland, making a staple here and winning a championship here, and all those things. We’ve crossed off a lot of goals individually and collectively, but I think that both of us being here for the long haul, and both of us being able to grow together and win together is something that people will remember for a long time.”
  • Pau Gasol, who recently signed with the Blazers, said former Spurs teammate LaMarcus Aldridge has spoken highly of Portland and may want to play there again, Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report tweets. Aldridge said last season he and Lillard had spoken about the prospect of becoming teammates again. Aldridge’s $24MM contract for the 2020/21 season is not guaranteed, so it’s conceivable that could occur as soon as next summer.
  • If you missed the details on McCollum’s extension, you can find it all here.

Eastern Notes: Kanter, Pistons, Tyndall

Veteran big man Enes Kanter decided to sign with the Celtics with hopes of competing for an NBA championship next season, he explained to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype.

Kanter, 27, opted to leave the Blazers after spending the second half of last season with the organization, joining a Boston team that has the likes of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward on the active roster.

“The reason I went [to Boston] is for a championship,” Kanter told Kennedy. “I feel like the team is really young and willing to learn and we have an amazing group of guys. I feel like we can beat any team on any floor. All we have to do is just be good friends and stay together. Let’s just go have fun! It’s definitely going to be a very, very exciting season.”

Kanter registered major interest from a handful of teams at the start of free agency, but he and agent Mark Bartelstein worked quickly to reach an agreement with the Celtics. He’ll likely be named the team’s starting center for the 2019/20 season.

“It’s my ninth year in the league and I understand that, for many people, the money is important. For me, the most important thing is being with a team that you’re really happy on and playing with a team that’s competing for a championship,” Kanter said. “That’s was the big thing for me. For everybody else, the money matters [more]. For me, the No. 1 thing was winning.

“After I got released by the New York Knicks, I would always hear, ‘Boston Celtics, Boston Celtics, Boston Celtics,’ but I never really got a chance to talk to them. When free agency started and the clock hit 6 pm ET, I actually talked to Danny Ainge. He told me about his plans and everything. Then, the second time he called me, I answered the phone and it wasn’t him. It was Kemba Walker and he was on Danny’s phone. Kemba said, ‘Hey, my man, are we doing this or not?’ Then, he talked to me about the team and everything. That showed me what kind of leader he is, and that made me very happy. That was one of the biggest reasons [I signed with Boston].”

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • The mother of former Grand Rapids Drive forward Zeke Upshaw has reached a private settlement in her federal lawsuit with the NBA and Pistons franchise, according to T.J. Quinn of ESPN.com. Upshaw tragically passed away after collapsing near the end of a G League game in 2018, with his mother Jewel filing a wrongful death lawsuit in the months that followed. NBA officials released the following statement on the matter: “Jewel Upshaw, the National Basketball Association, and the Detroit Pistons announced today that they have resolved their prior dispute and the litigation claims against the National Basketball Association and the Detroit Pistons pending in federal district court have been dismissed. The NBA and Pistons express their sympathies to Jewel Upshaw and the rest of Zeke’s family on his tragic passing.”
  • The Pistons are expected to name Donnie Tyndall as new head coach of the Grand Rapids Drive, according to Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days. Tyndall has spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the Raptors 905, helping win a league championship under Jerry Stackhouse in 2017.

Celtics Notes: Kemba, Kanter, Fall, Green

As the Celtics introduced offseason additions Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter at a press conference today, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told reporters, including A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link), that landing Walker and Kanter was his “Plan A” heading into the offseason.

While it’s hard to believe that a franchise so frequently linked to Anthony Davis would have considered Walker and Kanter its top priorities, Ainge’s comments make more sense if you assume he’s talking about Boston’s plan on June 30. By that point, the Lakers had already agreed to acquire Davis and the C’s had a good idea that Kyrie Irving and Al Horford wouldn’t be back.

In fact, Ainge said today that the Celtics started to get a sense as early as March or April that Irving may not be back in Boston for the 2019/20 season (Twitter link via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston).

“I was obviously thinking a move in a different direction at that point, thinking of the different options,” Ainge said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com.

We have much more on the Celtics today, so let’s dive in…

  • Kanter said today that a recruiting call from Walker (via Ainge’s phone) helped convince him to join the Celtics. Kemba was one of the biggest reasons I came here,” Kanter said, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe (Twitter link).
  • The Celtics attempted to work out sign-and-trade deals with the Sixers and Nets for Horford and Irving, respectively, but both teams wanted more draft pick compensation than Boston was comfortable with, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Turning those free agent departures into sign-and-trades might have allowed Boston to retain more cap flexibility or pick up an extra asset or two.
  • Having agreed in June to sign Tacko Fall to an Exhibit 10 contract, the Celtics haven’t indicated yet that they intend to alter their plans for the rookie following his impressive Summer League performance. However, his showing in Las Vegas certainly caught the team’s eye. We want to take his development very seriously,” Ainge said of Fall (Twitter link via Himmelsbach). “He’s a high priority for us to develop.”
  • Another Summer League standout, Javonte Green, is drawing significant interest overseas, according to Himmelsbach, who tweets that it’s probably unrealistic to expect the wing to become an affiliate player for the Maine Red Claws.
  • After rescinding Daniel Theis‘ qualifying offer over the weekend, the Celtics still had a tiny bit of cap room to sign a rookie to a contract longer than two years, ESPN’s Bobby Marks noted (via Twitter). However, making their deals with Theis, Kanter, and Brad Wanamaker official today eliminated that cap room.

Celtics Sign Enes Kanter To Two-Year Deal

JULY 17: The Celtics have officially signed Kanter, the team announced today (via Twitter).

JULY 1: The Celtics have agreed to terms with free agent center Enes Kanter on a two-year deal with a second-year player option, his manager Hank Fetic announced today (via Twitter). According to Ian Begley of SNY.tv (via Twitter), Kanter’s new contract will be worth nearly $10MM, so it projects to fit into Boston’s room exception.

Kanter, 27, has spent time with the Jazz, Thunder, Knicks, and Trail Blazers since entering the league as the third overall pick in the 2011 draft. Last season, he was bought out with the Knicks in February and signed in Portland for the rest of the season. In 67 total games, he averaged 13.7 PPG and 9.8 RPG in 24.5 minutes per contest.

Kanter boosted his stock down the stretch by taking over as the Blazers’ starting center after Jusuf Nurkic broke his leg. Kanter averaged 11.4 PPG and 9.7 RPG in 16 postseason contests. Portland agreed to acquire Hassan Whiteside in a trade with Miami earlier today, signaling that the club didn’t expect to bring back Kanter.

Having agree to acquire Kemba Walker using their cap room, the Celtics had been on the lookout for a big man with their $4.8MM room exception. They were linked to Kanter and Kevon Looney on Saturday, though Looney’s agent tells Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald (Twitter link) that he didn’t hear from the C’s.

While Kanter will help improve the Celtics’ interior scoring and rebounding numbers, he’s not considered an elite defender, so the team will have some work to do in its frontcourt to make up for the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Rumors: P. Gasol, Mavs, Wolves, Wright, More

Pau Gasol, whose contract with the Bucks is up, continues to recover from a procedure on his left foot, but he wants to continue his NBA career next season, he tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

“My recovery from surgery has been smooth and I expect to be fully cleared for basketball activities in early August,” Gasol said. “I cannot wait to start training again.”

Gasol, who is an unrestricted free agent, is the only one of Milwaukee’s free agents who has yet to reach an agreement this week. There has been no indication that the Bucks are seeking a reunion.

Here are a few more free agency notes and rumors:

  • The Mavericks are among the teams that have expressed “strong interest” in Delon Wright, league sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Darren Wolfson of SKOR North tweets that the Timberwolves have also inquired on Wright. Wright is a restricted free agent, so the Grizzlies would have the chance to match an offer sheet.
  • The Timberwolves continue to kick the tires on free agent point guard T.J. McConnell, according to Wolfson, who tweets that the Sixers, Heat, Lakers, Grizzlies, Suns, Wizards, and Pacers have also checked out McConnell. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (via Twitter) notes that McConnell could be a target for Miami if the team trades Goran Dragic.
  • The Thunder are among the teams that have expressed some interest in veteran guard Jodie Meeks, a league source tells Brett Dawson of The Athletic (Twitter link). Dawson’s report came shortly before Oklahoma City agreed to terms with Alec Burks, so it’s not clear if the club remains interested in Meeks.
  • In a text message to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link), Enes Kanter explains that he considered re-signing with the Trail Blazers, but didn’t feel as if they gave him enough time to make his decision. Kanter agreed to a two-year deal with Boston.

Free Agent Rumors: Middleton, Butler, Kanter, Temple

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the quietness surrounding the free agency destination of Bucks’ All-Star forward Khris Middleton is because interested front offices are universally presuming that Middleton is going back to Milwaukee on a “monster” five-year deal.

Middleton, 27, is eligible to sign a five-year, $189.904MM maximum-salary contract with the Bucks, while rival suitors can only (relatively speaking, of course) offer up to $140.791MM over four years.

Echoing Stein’s sentiment from rival front offices, Gery Woelfel of Woelfel’s Press Box reports that Middleton is expected to re-sign with Milwaukee, adding that Brook Lopez and George Hill are also considered good bets to return.