Frank Ntilikina

Leonard Trade Rumors: Lakers, Kings, Knicks, Celtics, Odds

It would be a tight squeeze financially but the Lakers could conceivably acquire Kawhi Leonard in a trade and sign both LeBron James and Paul George as free agents, according to Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com. Leonard’s desire to be traded from the Spurs, with Los Angeles being his preferred destination, was made public on Friday. The trade would have to be completed before any free agent signings and the Spurs would have to be willing to take back Luol Deng‘s bad contract, Pelton continues. A package of either Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma might be enough to entice the Spurs to do that, though a third team might be needed in order to match up salaries. The Lakers could then sign James and George, and fill out the roster using their room mid-level exception along with veterans agreeing to minimum contracts, Pelton adds.

In other notes involving Leonard trade chatter:

  • The Kings could be a darkhorse to land Leonard, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports tweets. Sacramento is desperately seeking a star-level talent and is willing to part with the No. 2 pick in the draft to get one, according to Mannix.
  • The Knicks would have to part with Kristaps Porzingis to have any chance of securing Leonard, Marc Berman of the New York Post speculates. The only other major assets the Knicks possess are their lottery pick (No. 9 overall), their potential lottery pick in 2020 and last year’s lottery selection, point guard Frank Ntilikina. But the Knicks could only trade one of those picks under CBA rules and they’d also have to give up another big salary to make the trade work, Berman notes.
  • The Celtics are expected to express interest in Leonard in their quest to land superstars, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe reports. However, a league source told Himmelsbach that the timing of the leak might actually be a negotiating ploy to secure a five-year, $219MM maximum extension from the Spurs.
  • The Lakers are the heavy favorites to land Leonard, according to the Bovada Sportsbook as relayed by Adam Zagoria of the New York Times (Twitter link). The Lakers are less than even money at 5-7 to have Leonard in their opening-night lineup. The Celtics are rated at 15-4, a little less than 4-1, to acquire Leonard. The Sixers and Spurs are next as 5-1 proposition, followed by the Cavaliers and Clippers at 10-1.

New York Notes: Young, Ntilikina, LeVert, Lin

The Knicks are scheduled to host Oklahoma point guard Trae Young for a private workout at the organization’s practice facility on Tuesday, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. We relayed earlier this week that the Knicks were one of a “handful” of teams Young will work out for privately.

Young has long been linked to the Knicks, but the chances of him being available when the team picks ninth are unlikely. Nonetheless, Berman wrote a feature in which Young’s style of play and attitude are highlighted as a match for the bright lights of New York City.

“After two years,’’ said Sooners assistant Chris Crutchfield, “he’ll be an NBA All-Star. One, he’s quick with the ball. Two, he can really, really shoot it. And three, he can pass it. Based on the way the NBA is designed with defensive rules, it’s ideal for a guy like Trae to have success. If you don’t guard him at 35 feet he may shoot it. If you do, he’s going to go by you.’’

Berman compares the Knicks’ interest in Young to the team’s 2009 interest in Stephen Curry, who was selected by the Warriors one spot before New York picked. There is concern that comparisons to Curry may impact Young’s career early, but he appears to be welcoming the pressure.

Check out more Atlantic Division notes:

  • Frank Ntilikina returned to the United States from his native France this week with a new look inspired by his desire to improve as part of the Knicks future, Berman writes“I’ve added some weight and muscle,” Ntilikina said. “I spent a lot of time working on my body in France. I’m getting better and more comfortable with my skills and body. I had the chance to maximize my time and work on my body, which I didn’t have time to do during the season.”
  • Nets forward Caris LeVert spent time in India this week working with young kids as part of the Basketball Without Borders program, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. LeVert said he enjoyed going to Taiwan last year for a camp hosted by teammate Jeremy Lin and that he wants to see more of the world.
  • Speaking of Lin, his season ended on opening night when he ruptured the patella tendon in his knee. Lin reflected on how faith helped him overcome the grief of an injury ending his season, Net Income of NetsDaily writes. “The injury was like the last straw for me. This was the biggest setback in my life. It took place at the moment of my life’s most anticipated and highest peak,” Lin said. “I’m 30 years old. As a basketball player, I’m 30 years old already entering the end of the line.”

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Fizdale, T. Young, Bridges

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina has returned from France and will meet new coach David Fizdale for the first time today, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Fizdale said he wants to establish “great relationships with his players,” which is an area where management thought former coach Jeff Hornacek was lacking.

Ntilikina will participate in an informal workout today along with fellow point guards Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke, shooting guard Damyean Dotson and forward Troy Williams, who spent time in Memphis with Fizdale.

Ntilikina plans to remain in the United States for the rest of the offseason and will play with the Knicks’ summer league team in Las Vegas, Berman adds. He was held out of the league last year because of soreness in his left knee that occurred in the French League playoffs. Ntilikina has been working with a Knicks trainer while in France and has added muscle and weight.

There’s more this morning out of New York:

  • The Knicks are well stocked at point guard, but may be interested in Oklahoma’s Trae Young if he falls to No. 9, Berman adds in the same story.
  • Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is lobbying for the Knicks to draft Miles Bridges, Berman reports in a separate piece. GM Scott Perry talked to Izzo about Bridges during the season and plans to meet with him again next week. Also, assistant GM Gerald Madkins recently went to Lansing to discuss Bridges with the Michigan State coaching staff. Bridges was considered to be a lottery pick as a freshman last year, but decided to return to the Spartans for his sophomore season. “I see a guy who can play a lot of positions and defend them with his strength and rebounding,’’ Izzo said. “What I’d like to see him get better at? Continually improving getting shots off the dribble. He’s a phenomenal 85 percent free-throw shooter. I’d like to see him get to the line more. He’ll get better because he’s a gym rat — in there at 6:30 a.m., in there at night. How many guys love the game, how many guys like the game.”
  • Teams were limited to 30 minutes with each prospect at the draft combine, which Perry considers to be opening interviews, writes Chris Iseman of North Jersey.com. The Knicks will get more in depth when individual workouts begin. “With some of them, this may be the first round of interviews because I’m sure a number of the guys that we would interview here we’ll also bring to New York for a longer visit,” Perry said, “trying to get a better feel for who these guys are when we have them for 48 hours versus a 30-minute interview that we’re going to have at the combine.”

Knicks Looking For “Unquestioned Upgrade” If Drafting PG At No. 9

The Knicks didn’t move up in the lottery and ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has the team selecting Collin Sexton in his post-lottery mock draft. However, a source tells Marc Berman of the New York Post that they have yet to decide whether the Alabama product is an “unquestioned upgrade” over the point guards already on the roster.

The team selected Frank Ntilikina with the No.8 overall pick last summer. “Frank’s a better defender,’’ one NBA personnel director said. “And Collin can struggle with his shot.’’

New York’s preference is to take a small forward, though Berman notes that’s only the case if prospects are seen as equal. The available prospect with the highest upside may be the pick regardless of the player’s position.

The Knicks also have Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke in-house. Neither appears to be the point guard of the future in New York, though both should be near-locks to make the roster next season.

The option of passing on Sexton might not even present itself, as Alabama coach Avery Johnson believes Sexton will rise in the draft after working out for teams. “Nine range?’’ the former NBA player and coach said. “If they saw what I have seen, I’m not trying to promote my player [because] my reputation is on the line also. But if they’ve seen what I’ve seen, I don’t see how he gets past five.’’

Atlantic Notes: Ntilikina, Redick, Sixers Offseason

With David Fizdale as the new head coach, one important storyline to watch will be how he helps teenage point guard Frank Ntilikina develop, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Ntilikina was the Knicks’ first-round pick (eighth overall) under the previous administration last year and his development will be key to New York’s future.

The Frenchman averaged 5.9 PPG and 3.2 APG in 78 games this season while showing potential on the defensive end. Fizdale made a series of media appearances, praising Ntilikina’s potential and being eager to coach him. In particular, Fizdale touted Ntilikina’s ability on both sides of the ball during an interview with ESPN.

“I see a possibility with a two-way player,’’ Fizdale said. “The kid takes real pride in defending. He’s got big-time wingspan. He’s a combo guard. We get him where he’s knocking down that three-ball every single time with his feet set, his shot always looks pretty good. I think he’s too unselfish. But he has the competitive streak I really like.”

Check out more Atlantic Division notes below:

  • J.J. Redick will be an interesting free agent to watch this summer after he was an important veteran presence for a young Sixers team. Frank Urbina of HoopsHype looks at four potential destinations for Redick this summer, including the Lakers, Cavaliers, Spurs, and reunion with the Sixers.
  • Dennis Chambers of Basketball Insiders writes that after a strong season that included a first-round postseason win and a strong effort versus the Celtics, the Sixers will need to be persistent. Chambers writes that Philadelphia’s young stars will need to develop their skill sets and that the organization will need to recruit outside talent.
  • In an earlier post of Atlantic Division notes, we relayed the Celtics’ strong play in the postseason, Fizdale’s tough upbringing in California, and fired Raptors coach Dwane Casey’s emotional farewell to Toronto.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Woodson, Ntilikina, M. Bridges

Knicks coach David Fizdale is confident he can make New York a popular free agent destination again, but he knows it will take time and success, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Fizdale isn’t addressing questions about the top free agent on the market, LeBron James, whom he worked with for four years as an assistant coach in Miami, but he knows the city can be a strong selling point if the Knicks get competitive again.

“[Free agents] are not just going to go there to live in New York City,’’ Fizdale said. “You’re going there to be in a culture. When you start showing that through action, players are going to come. New York is a special place.”

During a series of media appearances, Fizdale promised that once that culture is instilled, the team will be able to attract “the right players here to take us to another level.’’

There’s more tonight out of New York:

  • During an appearance on MSG Network, Fizdale singled out Clippers assistant Mike Woodson as one of his most important influences, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN. Woodson, who hired Fizdale as an assistant in Atlanta, has expressed interest in joining Fizdale’s staff if Doc Rivers isn’t retained in L.A. “Mike Woodson was really the person who instilled a work ethic,” Fizdale said. “Understanding that no matter what’s going on around you, you have to bring a certain work ethic and really check your ego at the door because when you’re going through 13-win seasons, 26-win seasons [in Atlanta] and getting to places like that, there’s no room for ego.”
  • Fizdale is excited to begin working with last year’s first-rounder, Frank Ntilikina, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Ntilikina saw time at both backcourt positions last season, which isn’t an issue for Fizdale, who envisions “positionless basketball” with Ntilikina possibly sharing the court with fellow point guards Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke.
  • Fizdale made a couple of eye-opening comparisons during an appearance today on WFAN, Bondy tweets. He said he coached players like Mudiay before, citing Dwyane Wade and Tyreke Evans as examples, then compared Lance Thomas with Draymond Green.
  • Villanova’s Mikal Bridges would enjoy having Madison Square Garden as his home court if he gets drafted by the Knicks. In an interview tweeted by DraftExpressContent, Bridges says he enjoyed the surroundings during the Wildcats’ frequent trips to the Garden. “Great atmosphere, great venue, lot of great things happening here,” he said.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Hernandez, Mudiay, Kanter

Building a productive relationship with Kristaps Porzingis and devising a plan for his three point guards are among the questions facing new Knicks coach David Fizdale, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Fizdale plans to travel to Latvia in the near future to meet with his franchise player, who is rehabbing his knee injury there.

Juggling the minutes of Emmanuel Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke will be a challenge for the ex-Grizzlies coach, Berman continues. Learning from his mistakes in Memphis, particularly in the way he dealt with veteran center Marc Gasol, is another thing Fizdale must do in order to be a success in New York, Berman adds.

In other Knicks-related news:

  • Former Magic assistant coach Jay Hernandez is a name to watch as Fizdale selects his staff, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets. He has a solid reputation in player development and player relationships after working with several NBA players as a trainer, Scotto adds.
  • Mudiay said the coaching change has energized the team, as he told Berman in a separate story. “Nobody has played with him yet over here except Troy Williams. But I’m not the only one excited. Everyone else is, too,’’ he said. Mudiay believes Fizdale, a point guard during his playing days, can help with his development.
  • Center Enes Kanter, who exchanged barbs with LeBron James this season, playfully challenged the Cavaliers superstar to sign with the Knicks during a Twitter Q&A session, Ian Begley of ESPN relays. “You really want to be king of New York? Come and prove it. I’ll see you July 1st, brother,” Kanter said in the Twitter video. James is expected to opt out of his contract this summer but the Knicks are an extreme long shot, considering their salary-cap issues and their rebuilding status.

Knicks Notes: Burke, Jack, Ntilikina, Fizdale

Trey Burke has worked on shedding the “draft bust” label this season in the Knicks organization, starting with a strong G League season and now as the team’s primary point guard. In 34 games (7 starts), Burke has averaged 12.6 PPG and 4.5 APG while seeing the court for 20.9 minutes per contest.

Burke took part in a Q&A with Steve Serby of the New York Post to discuss his career rebirth, on-court mentality, and impressions of New York. Burke discussed his career at length, revealing that he lost confidence after the Jazz took Dante Exum in the 2014 NBA Draft, was frustrated by his scarce playing time in Washington, and took a two-week break from basketball that helped him rediscover his love for the game.

“No, no, I never thought about that,” Burke said of considering retirement. “I did start losing love for the game, which was scary, because it never really happened. That’s when I gave myself some time away from the game as well, gave myself about two weeks away from it, and I worked harder than I ever worked in my life last summer. And it feels good to be reaping some of the results right now. That’s how I know the best is yet to come, ’cause I plan on having another summer as great as last one.”

Check out more Knicks notes below:

  • Jarrett Jack, the Knicks‘ veteran point guard who has been on the bench since the All-Star break, has found his way back into some games recently. Fred Kerber of the New York Post relays Jack’s appreciation for losing streaks and how they shape a team. “But can you do that when stuff isn’t going your way and what shows where your true character lies?” Jack said. “People might think I’m crazy, but I love the losing streaks and the downside of the season because it really shows who you are, collectively, individually.”
  • The Knicks have stressed the importance of maintaining and building strength to rookie Frank Ntilikina. Marc Berman of the New York Post writes that head coach Jeff Hornacek is pleased with Ntilikina’s physical progression and how it is positively helping his performance.
  • As we relayed earlier, Heat guard Dwyane Wade advocated for David Fizdale as a potential head coaching candidate for the Knicks if the organization parts ways with Hornacek.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Redick, Ntilikina, Nets

First overall pick Markelle Fultz missed 68 games due to injury and at one point, it seemed that his entire rookie year would be lost to a phantom shoulder ailment. Instead, Fultz has returned and given a spark to the Sixers the last seven games.

Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer relays that Fultz was “hurt” with the situation because he was not able to play.

“It wasn’t anything about expectations or anything,” Fultz said. “I just felt like something I loved doing I couldn’t do anymore, and it hurt for a little while.”

The 19-year-old has now appeared in 11 games this season and posted modest numbers of 6.8 PPG and 3.4 APG. However, simply being part of the team — which sits in third place in the Eastern Conference with a 49-30 record — has Fultz excited for the remainder of the regular season and beyond.

“I feel like I can help them hopefully by picking up the energy and, when they come out and feel down, just picking them up,” Fultz said. “And for me, when I’m not feeling good, they are doing the same thing for me.”

Check out more Atlantic Division notes below:

  • In a separate story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that having a healthy Fultz play alongside Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons presents an interesting lineup scenario for the Sixers. While the duo has shared the backcourt for small increments since Fultz’s return, coach Brett Brown has liked what he has seen in a small sample.
  • J.J. Redick has been part of playoff teams every season in his career but now his focus is on winning a championship, Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. The Sixers are in third place and Redick thinks the team is good enough to go far in the postseason. “I don’t want to put a ceiling on our team this year,” Redic said.  “I think this group has the potential to win the Eastern Conference. Whether that’s this year or three years from now, having guys like Ben [Simmons] and Jo [Embiid], you have a chance. Those guys are that good.”
  • Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina has gained eight pounds over the course of the season and it has reflected well in his play, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.
  • Michael Scotto of The Athletic (subscription required) writes that Nets coach Kenny Atkinson sees the Sixers rebuilding model as a point of reference for the Nets. In the lengthy read, Scotto breaks down Atkinson’s view of Philadelphia and how Brooklyn views some of its young players as de facto lottery picks.

Knicks Notes: O’Quinn, Ntilikina, Mudiay, Burke

Kyle O’Quinn is the latest Knicks center to have a dispute with coach Jeff Hornacek, although the reason hasn’t been explained, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Knicks canceled Saturday’s practice, so reporters weren’t able to find out more about the incident, which happened when O’Quinn was removed from Friday’s game. Q’Quinn appeared to be making angry comments toward Hornacek on the bench, possibly related to a defensive mistake.

Veteran center Joakim Noah got into a heated exchange with Hornacek at a practice in February and has been on a leave of absence ever since. Berman notes that Q’Quinn should be grateful to Hornacek, who played a large role in New York’s decision to keep him and trade Willy Hernangomez to Charlotte. O’Quinn can opt out of his nearly $4.26MM contract for next season and test the free agent market this summer.

There’s more today out of New York:

  • It’s time to insert rookie Frank Ntilikina into the starting lineup and see if he can handle the responsibilities that come with it, contends Al Iannazzone of Newsday. Hornacek may have been considering that move on Friday when he used Ntilikina and Trey Burke to start the third quarter in place of Emmanuel Mudiay and Courtney Lee, who started the game. “The coach knows that’s his job to do all that stuff,” Ntilikina said when asked about being a starter. “Us as players, our job is just to be ready when he calls our name.”
  • Mudiay may be squandering his chance in New York, Iannazzone adds in the same story. The seventh player taken in the 2015 draft was considered a bust in Denver, but got a second chance with the Knicks after a deadline-day trade. He was handed the starting point guard job, but is falling out of favor and played less than five minutes Friday. Mudiay said Hornacek didn’t provide an explanation about his reduced role. “That’s on him,” Mudiay said. “Whatever he wants to do. That’s out of my control.”
  • Burke credits the time he spent as a backup to John Wall in Washington last season with helping him revive his career, Iannazzone relays in a separate piece. Burke was able to watch one of the NBA’s top point guards up close and adopted much of Wall’s approach to the game. “His motor, the way he attacked each and every game, it was like he never gasped for air,” Burke said. “His approach night in and night out and just the way he took it to every guard. It didn’t matter if it was a lower-tier guard or if it was a superstar guard, he played the same way.”