James Dolan

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.”

And-Ones: Dolan, Klutch Sports, Larkin, M. Williams

Knicks owner James Dolan continues to stand in the way of a new arena for the Clippers, even though he seems to know few details about the lawsuits he’s involved with, according to Stefan Bondy and Nancy Dillon of The New York Daily News. Dolan has filed several suits to protect his interests in the Forum, the authors allege, citing his testimony in a deposition in which he admits he doesn’t have much knowledge about the City of Inglewood, the contractual issues involved with the proposed arena or the mayoral candidate he supported in an effort to block the project.

The story states that Dolan made two attempts to convince Lakers owner Jeanie Buss to move her team to Inglewood, that he wasn’t aware Inglewood loaned his MSG company $18MM to buy the Forum or that his company was funding lawsuits that a community group has been filing against Inglewood. NBA commisioner Adam Silver tried to work out a compromise between Dolan and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, but Dolan allegedly refused.

MSG responded with a statement disputing the article and claiming it’s the latest example of “egregious, personal attacks” by The Daily News. “The fact is, there is widespread concern across the Inglewood community about the proposed Clippers arena – with thousands of Inglewood residents actively voicing their opposition since the day the project was announced,” the statement reads. “Residents have raised several, serious concerns – about the project’s ‘backroom’ dealings, its devastating environmental impacts, and the way it would overwhelm the surrounding neighborhood with traffic and force out residents.”

There’s more NBA-related news to pass along:

  • United Talent Agency will make a “significant” financial investment in Klutch Sports Group and will appoint agent Rich Paul as the head of UTA’s new sports division, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Paul, who represents some of the NBA’s top stars, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Ben Simmons, will branch out to the NFL and Major League Baseball as well, armed with a long list of Hollywood contacts and major brand labels that will allow him to provide athletes with career options once their playing days are over.
  • Shane Larkin, who last played in the NBA with the Celtics during the 2017/18 season, is negotiating a two-year deal to return to Anadolu Efes Istanbul, relays Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Larkin, the MVP of the EuroLeague Finals, will reportedly have an NBA out after the first year of his new contract.
  • Former Heat guard Matt Williams has signed with Donar in the Netherlands, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. Williams attended a free agent mini-camp with the Pistons last month.

Eastern Notes: Simmons, Dolan, Wizards, Hawks Workouts

Sixers guard Ben Simmons has been assessed a Flagrant One foul and fined $20K for striking Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry in the groin on Thursday, according to a tweet from the league’s PR department. The incident occurred during the second quarter of Game 3, which Philadelphia won 116-95. Simmons, who had 10 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in the game, was whistled for three common fouls.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Shareholders of Madison Square Garden Company have filed a suit against Knicks owner James Dolan, its executive chairman and CEO, for being grossly overpaid, Pitchfork.com reports. Over the last three fiscal years, MSG has paid Dolan $75.6MM, according to company filings. MSG’s peer companies have paid their CEOs an average of $17MM over the same period, according to the lawsuit. The filing also claims that Dolan “works at MSG only part time,” with much of his focus going toward touring and recording for his band JD & the Straight Shot. MSG has labelled the lawsuit “nothing more than corporate harassment.”
  • Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and Wizards interim GM Tommy Sheppard are potential candidates, along with Danny Ferry, for Washington’s top executive post, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said in a Wizards Talk Podcast relayed by NBC Sports Washington’s Caroline Brandt. Ferry, who most recently was interim GM with the Pelicans, interviewed for the job this week. Windhorst also indicated there’s at least one mystery candidate the Wizards will pursue. “There may be another name or two that I’m not willing to say just yet who may be on the Wizards’ list,” Windhorst said.
  • The Hawks brought in six players for pre-draft workouts on Friday, according to a team press release. Forward/center Nathan Knight of William & Mary, forwards Anthony Lamb (Vermont), Kouat Noi (TCU) and Killian Tillie (Gonzaga) and guards Andrew Nembhard (Florida) and D’Marcus Simonds (Georgia State) participated in the workout. Tillie is the highest-ranked prospect in the group, currently rated No. 82 overall by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

Lakers Briefly Explored Leaving Staples Center For Forum

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and business mogul Irving Azoff had discussions about the idea of moving the Lakers’ home arena from the Staples Center back to The Forum, according to emails obtained by Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times.

As Fenno details, it’s not clear how far those discussions actually advanced, but the Lakers have no plans to move out of the Staples Center when their lease expires in 2025. In fact, the franchise is believed to be discussing an extension for that lease, per The Times’ report.

Still, the messages obtained by Fenno – which began when Azoff reached out to Buss about the idea of “rebuilding” The Forum and moving the Lakers back there – are intriguing. Azoff, an associate of Knicks owner James Dolan, whose MSG Co. owns The Forum, testified in a deposition last year that Dolan would have been on board with the idea of selling the Lakers half of The Forum, according to The Times.

“MSG approached the Lakers about the possibility of returning to the Forum following the end of our Lease at Staples Center in 2025, but nothing came from the discussions,” the Lakers said in a statement on Wednesday.

Azoff’s proposal came just before the Clippers revealed plans to eventually move out of the Staples Center themselves and establish a new home arena in Inglewood. The Clippers’ proposed site is just a few blocks away from The Forum, and the team and city have been waged in a legal battle with MSG Co. The company has attempted to prevent the construction of a nearby arena, which would be a direct competitor for concerts and other events.

As Fenno details, emails between Azoff and Buss show the Lakers’ owner expressing surprise and skepticism at the Clippers’ plans.

“They are all crazy,” Buss wrote in one email. “This is a joke. Why would Adam let this happen?”

Presumably, the “Adam” in question is NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

When Azoff wrote back to say that Silver has “no vote” in the matter and added that there will be a long legal fight, Buss replied, “Didn’t Ballz (Clippers owner Steve Ballmer) see what we did to my brother (former Lakers head of basketball operations Jim Buss)?? He will have nothing but Clippers basketball. Whoopee.”

Since the Lakers don’t intend to leave the Staples Center and the Clippers’ lease runs through 2024, this battle isn’t expected to affect fans anytime soon, but Fenno’s report – which is worth checking out in full – provides an interesting glimpse behind the scenes at the fight over some L.A. real estate.

Atlantic Notes: Kawhi, Harris, Dolan, Stevens

Many of the players on the current Raptors roster weren’t a part of the team during its repeated playoff failures in recent years and won’t have that weight on their shoulders this spring. Plus, the fact that LeBron James is no longer in the Eastern Conference bodes well for a deeper postseason run for Toronto in 2019.

Still, as Sporting News’ Sean Deveney outlines, the Raptors will face a different sort of pressure this year, since their success in the playoffs figures to go a long way toward determining whether Kawhi Leonard sticks with the franchise beyond this season.

“I think the Lakers are out, but the Clippers are the ones who think they have a shot at him if they decide to go that route,” one front office executive told Deveney when asked to handicap Kawhi’s future. “You hear a lot, he still wants to be on the West Coast. But give that group in Toronto all the credit in the world. They’re making it a tough decision for him. It might come down to just, ‘All right, how did the playoffs go, and how far are we from a championship?'”

In an effort to make Leonard more comfortable in Toronto this season, the Raptors have carefully managed his workload, holding him out of the lineup once every week or two to make sure he’ll be at 100% by the time the postseason rolls around. So far, it’s working — the Raptors hold the No. 2 seed in the East, Leonard is fully healthy after missing all but nine games a year ago, and the star forward sounds pleased with how the plan has played out.

“We’ve been doing a great job of making sure that nothing flares up or gets out of control,” Leonard said this week, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). “It’s just been great. I’m just happy that I’m able to play… It’s amazing. I feel good and we have something to look forward to.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Within his look at several contenders for the 2019 NBA championship, Sam Amick of The Athletic writes that a source close to Tobias Harris has “raved” about Sixers general manager Elton Brand. While that doesn’t guarantee that Harris will re-sign with Philadelphia in free agency, it’s certainly a positive sign, Amick notes.
  • During a Tuesday radio appearance, Knicks owner James Dolan strongly hinted that the club has heard from certain players and/or agents, and suggested that he believes the Knicks will have a “very successful offseason when it comes to free agents.” While those comments raised some eyebrows, a lawyer familiar with the NBA’s tampering policy tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that Dolan worded them carefully enough to avoid running afoul of the league’s policy. “If an agent walks up to [president] Steve Mills and says, ‘Clear cap space, player X wants to come,’ and Steve doesn’t engage, then it’s not tampering,” the lawyer said. “It appeared Dolan was pretty careful to make it seem like that was the deal.”
  • Count former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers among those who isn’t ready to place the blame on Brad Stevens for Boston’s struggles this season. In fact, Rivers still has full confidence in the C’s despite their up-and-down year. “They’re going to be fine,” the Clippers’ coach said, per Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. “They are as good as anybody in the East and as talented as anybody in the NBA. And when the playoffs start, I think everybody will see that.”

James Dolan Talks Fan Incident, Free Agency, Porzingis

Knicks owner James Dolan was caught on video last Saturday at Madison Square Garden, confronting a fan who demanded he sell the franchise. The brief confrontation resulted in Dolan ejecting the fan from the arena and subsequently banning him from the venue.

The incident encapsulated a rough recent stretch for Dolan, the owner of the worst team in the NBA this season. Dolan has battled demands that he sell the Knicks and rumors that he’s considering it, defended his decision to ban New York Daily News reporters, and faced criticism for his stewardship of the franchise.

During an appearance on The Michael Kay Show on Tuesday, Dolan addressed the incident with the fan, his intentions with the team moving forward, and expectations for a major splash in free agency this summer.

Check out some of the highlights below:

On the incident with a fan at Madison Square Garden over the weekend…

“I do understand for the fans it’s about winning and losing and we haven’t been doing much winning. And there’s a real big frustration level there. We get it. I don’t like losing either. If you want to go right into [Saturday’s] incident, it’s pretty easy.

“It appears this gentleman and his friends planned to do this. Just before the game they cleared their profiles out. We have video which shows them moving from one side of the arena to the other and pointing at me, where I was walking, to set this ambush up and they did. As soon as they were done with it, it was immediately sold to TMZ. Not for nothing, I shouldn’t have taken the bait. I will say we had just lost, again, and believe it or not I get frustrated with it, too. … I don’t mind. You hear all kinds of stuff, but what is a problem is when someone becomes confrontational. These people clearly were there for a confrontation.”

On rumors of Dolan considering selling the Knicks…

“Just for the record, I am not selling the team. I am not quitting and neither is [president] Steve [Mills], neither is [GM] Scott [Perry] and neither are any of the players.”

On whether he thinks the Knicks will do well in free agency…

“Yes, I do think that. I think we offer a pretty good situation for [to acquire free agents]. One is a lot of them love New York, a bunch of them live in New York in the offseason. They know the team, they know [head coach David Fizdale] really well, they know [Mills] and [Perry]. Players want to go to a winner and they want to get paid. We’re definitely going to pay them. We think with them combined and the kids we’ve got today, we can build a winning team.”

On the departure of Kristaps Porzingis…
“I thought our guys tried really hard to integrate him into the organization and make him feel welcome here. When he came in and said to us, ‘I don’t want to be here, I’m going to leave the first chance I get and I want to get traded.’ That cast a die on what we had to do.”

Knicks Notes: Hezonja, Dolan, Scouting

Knicks head coach David Fizdale recently spoke about the challenges presented by having a roster packed with free-agents-to-be who might be tempted to focus on improving their stock for the summer rather than playing team-first ball. However, Mario Hezonja believes he’s been able to stick to Fizdale’s desired style of play despite his upcoming unrestricted free agency, as he tells Marc Berman of The New York Post.

“I don’t give a s–t that I’m a free agent,” Hezonja said. “I’m trying to help these guys as well. I don’t give a s–t about myself. I’ll be fine. Trust me. I’ll be fine. With my basketball skill, talent and abilities, I’ll always be fine. I just want to help these guys with stuff I’ve been through in my career in both Europe and here.

“I know it’s a very sensitive situation here with a lot of free agents and a lot of young guys I’m trying to help. If I see something in practice, I try to correct them. We have to continue to show togetherness and finish on a good note. A lot of teams don’t achieve playoffs they just give up.”

After playing well to finish the 2017/18 season, Hezonja turned down multiple two-year contract offers to join the Knicks on a one-year deal, but it has been a tough year for him in New York. He’s averaging 7.6 PPG with a career-low .277 3PT%, and the club has the worst record in the NBA. Nonetheless, the former fifth overall pick says he doesn’t regret his free agent decision, adding that he loves New York and hopes to extend his stay with the Knicks beyond this season.

“Even though it’s a bad, rough season individually and as a team, I feel I have [the] support of the city,” Hezonja said.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • James Dolan‘s latest public run-in with a fan – which saw the Knicks’ owner instruct MSG security to detain a customer who yelled at him to “sell the team” – is a reminder that Dolan is “thin-skinned and utterly clueless about the franchise he has run into the ground,” according to Frank Isola of The Athletic, who wonders whether Dolan’s baggage will have an impact on the team’s ability to attract star free agents.
  • Former Knick Charles Oakley is among those who would advise stars like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to avoid the club in free agency, as he tells Dolan. “If you want to be in New York, look at the Nets. [GM] Sean Marks has done a great job. The Nets have better pieces,” Oakley said. “You come to the Knicks … it won’t be easy.”
  • After attending the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament to watch Murray State point guard Ja Morant, Knicks GM Scott Perry will be at this week’s ACC Tournament to get a look at Zion Williamson and other top prospects, a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. President of basketball operations Steve Mills will also likely be on hand at the tournament, which will feature players like R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Nassir Little as well.

Knicks Notes: Dolan, Free Agents, Trier, Draft

Knicks owner James Dolan had an altercation with another fan today, according to Joseph Staszewski of The New York Post. Late in this afternoon’s loss to the Kings, a fan yelled “Sell the team!” to Dolan as he left his courtside seat. In a TMZ video, Dolan stops, calls the fan rude and allegedly threatens to ban him from Madison Square Garden. When the fan says he was just giving an opinion, Dolan responds, “No, it’s not an opinion, and you know what, enjoy watching them on TV.”

Dolan summoned security to handle the fan, who was questioned and instructed to leave. However, it’s not clear if he has been banned. The Garden released a statement explaining the incident that reads, “Our policy is and will continue to be that if you are disrespectful to anyone in our venues, we will ask you not to return.”

There’s more news out of New York:

  • An uncertain future has contributed to the Knicks posting the league’s worst record at 13-53, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina and rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson are the only players on the roster under contract beyond this season, and David Fizdale says the instability has made coaching difficult. “When you’re dealing with guys fighting for their contractual life, you’re always going to have an element of where a guy can be more focused on trying to get his,” Fizdale said. “Not that we’ve had a lot of that, but it’s just a natural thing that when you’re fighting for your life, you got nine guys out there [unsigned], to get all of those guys to say, ‘Hey, team first, every play, every time,’ is part of the trust building you have to have.”
  • Rookie guard Allonzo Trier is among those who are playing for a contract next year, although his recent performance should make it an easier choice for the Knicks to pick up his $3.55MM team option, Botte adds in a separate story. Heading into today, Trier was averaging 19.4 PPG over his past five games.
  • Knicks fans are counting on a high lottery pick as a consolation prize for the season, but Steve Popper of Newsday notes that the organization hasn’t gotten much out of its recent lottery selections. The most successful one has been Kristaps Porzingis, who was traded to the Mavericks, while the past two lottery picks, Ntilikina and Knox, have struggled to establish themselves as reliable players.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Mudiay, Middleton, Kanter

The Knicks are about to have an overcrowded situation at point guard, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Frank Ntilikina is close to returning from a groin strain and Emmanuel Mudiay has nearly recovered from a strained left shoulder. Mudiay practiced today, tweets ESPN’s Ian Begley, while Ntilikina was held out of practice and will be re-evaluated Friday.

When they’re cleared to play, both guards will be sharing time with Dennis Smith Jr., who took over the starting role after being acquired from the Mavericks in late January, and possibly Kadeem Allen, who has impressed coaches since being signed to a two-way contract last month.

Allen could be sent to the G League once everyone is healthy, Berman notes, or the Knicks may want to see more of what he can do at the NBA level. Mudiay could be the odd man out as he’s headed toward free agency and seemingly has little prospect of re-signing in New York now that the organization has committed to Smith.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • If Kyrie Irving is unavailable, New York might target Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in hopes of pairing him with Kevin Durant, Berman speculates in a separate story. Middleton had a 20-point performance in his first All-Star game, then sidestepped questions about free agency. “I’m having a great career so far — that’s all I’m worrying about,” Middleton said. “I’ll think about the summertime in the summertime. We have a lot more work to do, hopefully. We’re playing great basketball. That’s all I’m worrying about.” Because Middleton doesn’t necessarily project as a full max player, Berman suggests the Knicks could sign him and have money left over to keep DeAndre Jordan, who is a friend of Durant’s.
  • The Knicks might find it more difficult to lure Durant as long as James Dolan remains the team’s owner, states Frank Isola of The Athletic. A rumor that Dolan might have interest in selling the team was dismissed as “100% false” by MSG Co. on Monday. Isola notes that the organization’s long history of failure under Dolan could make Durant think twice about coming to New York.
  • Although his time with the Knicks didn’t end well, Enes Kanter would still endorse the franchise to any free agents who ask him, tweets New York sportswriter Brian Heyman. “It’s a very good organization. Good people. … Amazing city,” Kanter said. “So I think that they have a really good chance to get good superstars.”

MSG Denies Report Dolan Is ‘Courting Offers’ For Knicks

1:02pm: As was the case in December, MSG Co. has issued a statement refuting the idea that there are plans to sell the Knicks (Twitter link via Stefan Bondy).

“The story is 100% false,” the statement reads. “There has been nothing. No discussions. No plans to have discussions — nothing.”

12:13pm: After Knicks owner James Dolan indicated in December that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of selling the franchise, a new report suggests that he may actually be seriously considering that idea. As Tommy Beer of Forbes.com relays, Bill Simmons of The Ringer said in his latest podcast that Dolan is “courting offers” for the Knicks.

“Multiple people told me this, who know things,” Simmons said. “… It’s happening. It’s on. It’s go time. He’s courting offers for the Knicks. That’s what I heard at All-Star weekend from people I trust.”

Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News notes that there have been rumblings for months that Dolan has been considering the idea of a sale, but if he’s actively seeking out offers, that would be new territory.

Last year, Madison Square Garden Co. announced plans to separate the sports and entertainment aspects of its business, which means that the Knicks could be sold without Madison Square Garden being part of the deal. In that scenario, Dolan could theoretically retain control of the live entertainment business, including venues like MSG, the Hulu Theater, and Radio City Music Hall.

Simmons’ comments suggest that those aspects of the business may be of greater interest to Dolan than controlling the Knicks long-term.

“This is what I’ve pieced together,” Simmons said, according to Beer. “[Dolan] really cares about the buildings and the in-game/in-concert experience. And he wants to put even more money into that. The Knicks are just a pain in the a–, people s–t on him for it. He feels if he can just sell the Knicks for some crazy price, then he can put the money into that music/in-game experience stuff that he cares about. So, the Knicks are available.”

In the wake of his December comments stating that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of selling the Knicks, Dolan quickly released a statement clarifying that there were no plans to sell the team. Two months later, with rumors swirling again, it wouldn’t be shocking if he issues a similar denial. If he doesn’t, it would strongly signal that Simmons is onto something.

For what it’s worth, Forbes’ most recently NBA franchise valuations – published earlier this month – estimated the Knicks’ worth at $4 billion. The team ranked first on Forbes’ list of most valuable NBA franchises, and became the first basketball club to ever earn a $4 billion valuation.