Frank Ntilikina

Fischer’s Latest: Gordon, Vucevic, Lowry, Redick, Ball, DeRozan

On the eve of the trade deadline, the Nuggets have become the favorites to pry Aaron Gordon away from the Magic, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Denver’s offer would include guard Gary Harris, a first-round pick, and either R.J. Hampton, Zeke Nnaji or Bol Bol.

Although the Nuggets seem to have the momentum, the Celtics are still “very engaged” in the process, according to Fischer. Boston’s proposed deal has involved Marcus Smart and a first-rounder, and it’s possible that a second first-round pick and the Celtics’ $28.5MM traded player exception could be used as well, with Evan Fournier also headed to Boston, says Fischer. Previous reports indicated that the C’s were looking to keep Smart out of the deal, offering a younger player in his place.

The Timberwolves, Rockets and Trail Blazers all remain interested in acquiring Gordon too.

Fischer passes on a few more trade rumors as the deadline draws near:

  • The Celtics are one of the few teams to express interest in trading for center Nikola Vucevic, but the Magic are putting a much higher price on him than Gordon. Orlando is asking for multiple first-round picks and a player who fits with their young core. Fischer expects Vucevic to stay with the Magic.
  • The Clippers, Lakers, Sixers and Heat are all still pursuing Kyle Lowry, but the Raptors‘ high price tag may prevent a deal from getting done. Fischer believes Philadelphia would have to offer two players from the group of Danny Green, Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey, while Miami would need to part with Goran Dragic, another large salary and either Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro. Both Los Angeles teams are limited by their lack of available draft picks.
  • J.J. Redick appears headed for a buyout as the Pelicans haven’t found a team willing to offer draft picks or prospects in return for the veteran guard. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report suggests a return to the Sixers is possible or maybe a reunion with former teammate Chris Paul on the Suns.
  • The Knicks are interested in Lonzo Ball and have the cap space to keep him in free agency, Pincus adds. The price could be Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox and possibly the Mavericks’ 2021 first-round pick.
  • Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan is also high on the Knicks‘ wish list, states A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Drummond, Robinson, Ntilikina

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has a reputation for preferring veterans over young players and other future assets, but he indicated the organization might not take that approach this year, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Knicks have exceeded expectations so far, holding a 21-21 record that has them tied for sixth place in the East. Although there’s temptation to add talent to end a long playoff drought, Thibodeau suggested the team is willing to take a long-term approach.

“It’s important for us to go step-by-step and not skip over things,’’ he said. “The whole goal this year is to build a foundation and the right type of habits. Wherever that leads us, it leads us. Our players have responded. In this league, you’re always looking for player development first, then look at the draft and free agency, then trades. You never stop working in all four areas. Every day it’s how can we make the team better. That’s where our focus lies with coaches, front office and players. We’re all tied together. We’re going to do what’s best for the Knicks.’’

Berman notes that two of the most prominent names the Knicks have been tied to — Rockets guard Victor Oladipo and Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball — will be free agents this summer and may be obtainable without breaking up the young core.

There’s more from New York:

  • Andre Drummond could be worth watching if he reaches a buyout with the Cavaliers, Berman adds in the same story, but there’s “mutual disinterest” between the Knicks and Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who plays the same position as Julius Randle.
  • Center Mitchell Robinson could be back Sunday after missing 15 games with a broken hand, but he may not rejoin the starting lineup right away, Berman states in a separate story. Nerlens Noel has been effective in his place, and Robinson may return on a minutes restriction. “I want to see how that goes,” Thibodeau said. “There’s great versatility there. Eventually, he’ll get back to starting. Whether that happens right away or down the road … I’m comfortable with both guys in that role. And I’m really comfortable with Taj (Gibson) as well. That gives us great depth at that position.”
  • Frank Ntilikina, who’s on the final year of his rookie contract and will have a $15.6MM cap hold if he receives a qualifying offer, seems to be the most likely Knicks player to be traded, according to Steve Popper of NewsdayAlec Burks, Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton all have expiring contracts, but an Eastern Conference scout told Popper their trade value is limited to a second-round pick apiece.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Griffin, O’Quinn, Ntilikina

Julius Randle has become not only an All-Star this season, but the leader of a Knicks team that’s firmly in the playoff race, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. When New York’s season ended early last year, Randle went home to work on his body and his game. That preparation helped him get ready for the demands of new coach Tom Thibodeau.

Randle leads the NBA in minutes played and hasn’t missed any of New York’s 37 games. He has career-high numbers with 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game and is shooting 40.8% from three-point range after hitting just 27.7% from beyond the arc last year. He has also become more vocal in his interactions with the media.

“I definitely think I’ve grown as a leader,” Randle said. “I definitely think I’m a person on our team that leads by example with how I approach how I work. I care about my teammates. I definitely think it’s something that guys look to me every night to bring my game a certain way. I try to the best of my ability to do that. Absolutely I embrace it. I work for it. I challenge myself and push myself to be able to do it on a nightly basis. I know I still have a long way to go and I can get a lot better as well.”

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks won’t make a play for Blake Griffin, who was bought out by the Pistons this week, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Randle already occupies heavy minutes at power forward, and the team doesn’t want to add someone who will take playing time away from first-round pick Obi Toppin. The cross-town Nets are considered the favorites to sign Griffin.
  • There have been internal discussions about bringing back center Kyle O’Quinn, who is currently playing in Turkey, Berman adds. With starting center Mitchell Robinson sidelined, the Knicks are looking for another big man to back up Nerlens Noel. O’Quinn played 29 games last season for the Sixers.
  • Ian Begley of SNY.tv spoke to representatives of two rival teams about Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina, who enjoyed a resurgence over the final five games of the first half. Injuries created an opportunity for Ntilikina, who responded by hitting eight of 12 three-point attempts over that stretch and displaying the defensive skills that prompted New York to make him a lottery pick in 2017. The two representatives agreed that if Ntilikina is traded, it’s more likely to be as part of a package, rather than by himself.

Knicks Notes: Rose, Ntilikina, Toppin, Quickley

Derrick Rose has shown Knicks fans that he can still ignite an offense, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. With Elfrid Payton injured, Rose stepped into the starting lineup Thursday and scored 18 points as New York put up 140 in a win over Sacramento.

“My confidence has always been there even though I’m not the same player, reckless or explosive player,” said Rose, who is averaging 11.8 PPG in eight games since being acquired from the Pistons. “I feel like I’m skilled. I felt like I’ve been working on my game prior to having — I mean, after all my injuries it’s about just showing it and adapting.”

Popper notes that one of the initial fears among fans was that Rose’s addition might take away minutes from rookie guard Immanuel Quickley. Instead, Rose has adopted a mentor’s role and they have often played together in the backcourt. Tom Thibodeau, who also coached Rose in Chicago and Minnesota, has watched his game progress over the years.

“I think his quickness is the same,” Thibodeau said. “And obviously I think as players get older, what they do is they get experience and they add things to their games. So he’s a lot different than he was when he was 22. And obviously, that athleticism is different now. But he also has the knowledge of all the experiences he’s been through.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Frank Ntilikina put up decent numbers Thursday after not playing in two months, but it won’t guarantee him more playing time, Popper adds in a separate story. Ntilikina posted seven points, three steals, two assists and a plus-17 rating in 23 minutes. However, Thibodeau is reluctant to expand his 10-man rotation, and Ntilikina is likely headed back to the bench when Payton returns.
  • An early injury and Julius Randle‘s breakout season have prevented Obi Toppin from making an impact as a rookie, but he may get to display his skills in the Slam Dunk Contest, Popper notes in another piece. Toppin was a prolific dunker in college and has been a fan of the event for years. “It’s been a lot of guys in the dunk contest that I’ve been watching through my life that have really good dunks,” he said. “If the time comes for me to be in it and they say I’m in the dunk contest I’ll have to do a lot of studying and hopefully come up with something nobody’s seen.”
  • The Knicks would benefit from inserting Quickley in their starting lineup, argues Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Thibodeau’s preferred starting unit has a negative net rating, but the number is much better when Quickley, rather than Payton, is on the floor with the four other starters.

New York Notes: Claxton, Ntilikina, Buyouts, Nash

Nicolas Claxton is providing a new element to the Nets, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. In his second game after recovering from a string of injuries, Claxton delivered 10 points,  four steals, three rebounds, and a block in 15 minutes against Orlando Thursday. He fills a role as an athletic, energetic big man.

“He’s somebody we believe in and think he’s got a lot of upside, continue to grow and just take it step-by-step,” Nets coach Steve Nash said  of Claxton.

We have more news on the New York City teams:

  • Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina looked surprisingly spry in his first appearance in nearly two months on Thursday, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Ntilikina had been buried on the bench, along with rehabbing a sprained knee and, more recently, being quarantined under COVID-19 contact tracing. Ntilikina received 17 minutes of action against Sacramento and delivered seven points, three steals and two assists in 23 minutes. “His defense was fantastic,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. Ntilikina is likely to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
  • Nash indicated the Nets will be active shoppers in the buyout market, Lewis tweets. A capped-out team, the Nets have been shuttling bodies in and out on non-guaranteed and 10-day contracts in order to fulfill NBA roster requirements. Brooklyn will likely seek to add depth at center.
  • Nash has gotten tougher on his team and that approach has helped the Nets reel off eight straight victories, Lewis writes in a separate piece. The coaching staff has doled out more constructive criticism and held players accountable for lapses. “I don’t know if we’re coaching them any harder, but we’re definitely trying to cut to the chase and make sure we are pointing out and improving and addressing issues,” he said.

Knicks Notes: Gibson, Ntilikina, McCollum, Live Fans

Veteran big man Taj Gibson sees a resilient quality in this year’s Knicks, which he credits to the coaching change, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Gibson, who also played for Tom Thibideau in Chicago and Minnesota, believes the coach has brought a toughness to the organization that wasn’t there before.

New York nearly let a 21-point lead slip away Sunday night, but managed to hold on for a narrow win over the Timberwolves. At 15-16, the Knicks are seventh in the East and solidly in the playoff race with the All-Star break approaching.

“Our coaching staff has been drilling guys from the beginning of the summer up to this point,” Gibson said. “The preparation beginning at shootarounds has been outstanding. It’s always tough to play 48-minute games, but the way we all huddle around each other, everybody top to bottom, hangs out, works out late with each other. Everybody understands the stakes. And guys want to win.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Frank Ntilikina is out of contact tracing, but the team isn’t planning to send him to the G League for playing time, Begley adds in the same piece. “I think we’ll take a look at it as we go,” Thibodeau said. “I like Frank being here. He’s done an excellent job; he’s got a great attitude, great approach. And even though he’s not playing, he’s adding a lot to our team right now.”
  • The Knicks are “monitoring” Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, who is rehabbing a broken foot, a source tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. However, Jonathan Warner of NBC Sports Northwest says Portland has no plans to move McCollum and speculates it would take an offer of multiple first-round picks plus a core player to get the Blazers’ attention.
  • Sunday marked the last game of the season with no fans in Madison Square Garden, notes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Under new regulations from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 2,000 spectators will be permitted at games starting Tuesday. “Even with the fake noises, it kind of sounds like the way it sounds when I watch it on TV,’’ Immanuel Quickley said. “It’s definitely a buzz even without fans. So I’m sure with fans, it’s going to be even more lively. So I’m excited to get the fans back in the building.’’

Knicks Notes: Randle, Barrett, Ntilikina, More

While Knicks forward Julius Randle has been viewed as a potential trade candidate for most of the last year, Ian Begley of SNY.tv (video link) says there “prominent members” of the organization that view Randle as part of the team’s young core going forward.

Having said that, Begley notes that the Knicks will still probably explore possible trades for Randle before this year’s deadline, if only to gauge his value around the league. Based on Begley’s report, it sounds like the team is more likely to consider incoming inquiries on the 26-year-old than to actively shop him themselves.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • RJ Barrett‘s role is worth keeping an eye on, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who observes that the second-year forward has logged 27 or more minutes just once in the Knicks’ last six games after leading the league in minutes played earlier in the season. Asked about Barrett’s dip in playing time, head coach Tom Thibodeau cited New York’s depth and a need to try different lineup combinations when the team falls behind early, as it did vs. Orlando on Wednesday.
  • While Barrett continues to start and play a rotation role, that’s not the case for another former Knicks lottery pick — Frank Ntilikina hasn’t appeared in a game since December 29. According to Berman, Ntilikina is still working on his conditioning after spending a week in the health and safety protocols, but isn’t a great bet to return to the rotation even when he’s back to full speed, as he appears to be “mostly trade bait” at this point.
  • Given the Knicks’ need for star power, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic considers 42 potential targets around the league, beginning with the presumably untouchable stars before moving onto some impact players who could be more realistic options, including Zach LaVine and Kyle Lowry.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Ntilikina, Collins, Drummond, Robinson

Julius Randle is in the midst of his best season since entering the NBA, punctuating that point on Monday as he led the Knicks to a win over the Hawks by pouring in 44 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. After the game, Randle’s teammates made it clear that they believe he deserves All-Star recognition for his performance this season.

“It’s hard not to put him in the game,” RJ Barrett said, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “What else does he have to do? The man is an All-Star.”

So far this season, Randle is averaging career highs in points per game (23.1), rebounds (11.0), assists (5.6), and three-point percentage (40.6%), among other categories. And while he has posted strong box-score numbers in the past, this version of Randle is making a greater “impact on winning,” according to head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“I think he’s making other people better,” Thibodeau said. “He’s played an all-around game. Strong on both sides of the ball. He’s played an unselfish game. He’s doing it in a number of different ways. Playing multiple positions. He’s a point forward, he’s a forward, he’s a center. He’s doing it all. The most important thing is the impact he’s having on winning. Hopefully it’ll be recognized.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • After missing the last week due to the NBA’s coronavirus contact tracing protocols, Frank Ntilikina has been cleared and is expected to join the Knicks for Wednesday’s game in Orlando, tweets Vorkunov.
  • The Knicks have yet to inquire on John Collins, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who says NBA executives believe the Hawks are unlikely to trade the big man unless they receive a “whopping” offer.
  • Cavaliers center Andre Drummond, who is expected to be traded in the coming weeks, would consider the Knicks a “good landing spot,” Berman writes in the same story.
  • A weekend report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicated that Mitchell Robinson would undergo surgery on his fractured right hand, but the injured center is getting one more consultation on Tuesday before making a final decision on that procedure, says Berman.

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Ntilikina, Langford, Nets Big Three

New Sixers head coach Doc Rivers deserves a lot of credit for the 18-7 Philadelphia’s current perch as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference standings, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rivers commands respect in the Sixers locker room due to his championship pedigree and prior success across head coaching stops in Orlando, Boston, and most recently Los Angeles. Sixers center Joel Embiid is enjoying his best season as a pro thus far, averaging career-bests in scoring (29.1 PPG), steals (1.4 SPG), and shooting (.547/.377.855).

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks reserve guard Frank Ntilikina is not traveling with New York for the team’s game against the Wizards tomorrow despite continuing to test negative for the novel coronavirus, according to Ian Begley of SNY. Ntilikina has been held out of team activities since Tuesday after contact tracing determined he had been close to someone who later recorded a positive test for COVID-19.
  • Celtics head coach Brad Stevens indicated in comments today that reserve guard Romeo Langford will not be back with the club until after the NBA All-Star break in March, per Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald (via Twitter). Langford had a right wrist surgery to address torn ligaments in his shooting wrist in September.
  • The Nets still hope to improve the on-court dynamic between their new Big Three of All-Stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden now that everybody is healthy, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “It’s funny,” head coach Steve Nash noted. “[It’s been] four weeks already, Kevin and [Irving] and James have played 5 ½ games, if you include the Raptors game, together.”

Knicks Notes: Rose, Rivers, Knox, Ntilikina, Beal, Oladipo

After making his Knicks debut on Tuesday, veteran guard Derrick Rose spoke about the “synergy” he shares with head coach Tom Thibodeau and admitted that reuniting with Thibodeau – and Knicks executive William Wesley – was his top choice when he decided he wanted to move on from the Pistons, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“Even though I couldn’t say that at the time, I just wanted to be comfortable,” Rose said. “Like I said, I’ve been knowing these guys ever since high school, eighth grade, high school, so coming here, like I said, it’s family. I never really thought about anything else but really getting here and understanding they wanted me to help grow the young guys they’ve already got here.”

One of those “young guys” Rose will get a chance to mentor is rookie guard Immanuel Quickley. In Rose’s debut, the two guards shared the court as part of New York’s second unit, which is a pairing Thibodeau expects will continue going forward. As Bontemps details, the Knicks’ head coach said after the game that Austin Rivers, who was replaced in the rotation by Rose, figures to be a “situational” player for the time being.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, and all of the Knicks’ first-round picks were off limits in the trade for Rose, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who says the Knicks want to save as many assets as possible for a possible bigger splash down the road.
  • The Knicks are among the teams keeping an eye on Bradley Beal and Victor Oladipo, Berman adds in the same story. There’s no indication that Beal will be moved by the Wizards anytime soon, but sources tell The New York Post that the Rockets are considered “amenable” to flipping Oladipo after acquiring him in January. A report last week indicated the Knicks still have interest in Oladipo after eyeing him in the offseason.
  • The Knicks announced plans today to allow approximately 2,000 fans at their home games beginning on February 23 (Twitter link). The announcement came on the heels of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo permitting large sports venues to reopen at 10% capacity, which will pave the way for the Nets to begin allowing fans at Barclays Center later this month as well, as Malika Andrews of ESPN writes.