James Dolan

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Anunoby, Flynn, Sixers, Celtics

Appearing on CNBC on Monday (video link), financial analyst Jonathan Boyar said that there’s a belief Knicks owner James Dolan will explore selling his sports franchises after Madison Square Garden Entertainment finishes building the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas. The new Vegas venue is scheduled to open in 2023.

However, an MSG executive responded to that report with a quick and succinct denial, according to Knicks reporter Tommy Beer (Twitter link).

We have no plans to sell either of the teams,” the executive said of the Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic division:

  • OG Anunoby and Malachi Flynn are among the Raptors facing the most pressure in 2022/23, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. As Koreen outlines, if Anunoby can stay healthy and continues to develop on offense, he could become an All-Star caliber player, but he still has to stay on the court and show he deserves that bigger role. Flynn, meanwhile, is entering the third year of his rookie contract and may not be part of Toronto’s future plans if he doesn’t establish himself as a reliable backup this season.
  • Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer examines some lingering offseason questions facing the Sixers, including whether the team will get seriously involved in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes and how the NBA’s investigation into the team’s free agency moves might play out.
  • Jared Weiss of The Athletic takes a look at whether or not there will be regular minutes available in the Celtics‘ rotation for Payton Pritchard and/or Sam Hauser following the team’s offseason acquisition of Malcolm Brogdon. While Weiss believes both players are capable of contributing in Boston, he suggests they’ll have to earn their playing time.

Knicks Expected To Retain Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau is expected to remain the Knicks’ head coach beyond this season, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reports.

There has been rampant speculation regarding Thibodeau’s status during the team’s disappointing season.

There’s been some internal support to move on from Thibodeau and owner James Dolan had granted the front office permission to decide whether he remains the head coach, according to Fischer’s sources.

However, president of basketball operations Leon Rose has no plans to make a change — Fischer notes that Rose and Thibodeau been trusted allies since the hiring process in 2020. The Knicks interviewed 11 candidates before picking the former Bulls and Timberwolves head coach.

Thibodeau has three years left on his five-year contract.

Reports surfaced last month that Knicks exec William Wesley blamed the team’s ills on the head coach. However, Thibodeau has maintained a good relationship with Dolan, speaking with the owner following each game and often visiting the owner’s box.

While Rose is reclusive, rarely speaking to the media, Thibodeau has emerged as the team’s official spokesperson. That has helped his cause, Fischer adds.

There’s also no obvious veteran choice in the market to replace Thibodeau and the front office isn’t convinced associate head coach Johnnie Bryant would be a better option. Another current assistant, Kenny Payne, is a candidate to leave New York for Louisville’s head coaching job.

William Wesley Blaming Tom Thibodeau For Knicks’ Struggles

As we relayed this morning, the Knicks suffered a crushing 111-106 loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday, in which New York blew a 28-point lead, intensifying scrutiny on head coach Tom Thibodeau. The Knicks are just 3-13 over their last 16 games and currently hold a 25-34 record, 12th in the East.

A byproduct of losing is everyone wants to place blame. And I understand that,” Thibodeau said after the game. “We all have jobs to do. (The season) has not gone as well as it has. It didn’t go great last year until the end, right? Lock into what we have to do. Don’t get caught up in getting distracted. And focus on how we can do better. That’s where I want the focus to lie.”

Sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv that, in conversations with owner James Dolan, executive vice president William Wesley has been blaming Thibodeau’s coaching as a significant factor in the team’s struggles this season.

Thibodeau, the reigning Coach of the Year, was hand-picked by Wesley and president Leon Rose, and the three men have known each other for years, Begley writes. However, something is clearly amiss between the coaching staff and the front office.

Thibodeau was angry that the Knicks didn’t make trades ahead of the deadline last week and believed that a roster upgrade would have been beneficial, sources tell Begley. Thibodeau has been consulted with for personnel moves, and although his opinion is considered, New York’s front office has made several roster moves that didn’t align with Thibodeau’s thinking, per Begley.

In a separate article for SNY.tv, Begley states that he would be surprised if Thibodeau was fired before the end of the season — but confidence in the coach has clearly diminished within the organization.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News contends that the onus is on Rose to speak up with the embattled coach twisting in the wind. Sources confirmed Begley’s reporting to Bondy, that Wesley has Dolan’s ear and has been blaming Thibodeau for the team’s struggles. Wesley is also unhappy with Thibodeau’s reticence to play younger players.

The front office forced Thibodeau to add two assistant coaches — Johnnie Bryant and Kenny Payne — onto the staff as a condition of his hiring in 2020, sources tell Bondy. Should Thibodeau be fired, Bondy believes either of those coaches could named the next head coach.

Rose hasn’t spoken to the media since September, before the season started, and prior to that it had been more than a year since he’d spoken publicly, Bondy writes. He believes Rose needs to address the situation and back Thibodeau — or not — because the silence is leading to a lack of clarity on the team’s direction.

Knicks Notes: Reddish, Dolan, Randle, Robinson

The Knicks acquired young forward Cam Reddish from Atlanta this month but there’s no guarantee he’ll be part of the rotation, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

Reddish only played five-plus first-half minutes on Sunday. He might be tough to fit into the current rotation unless injuries crop up.

“The one thing is just trying to establish a routine,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “When we were playing well, we pretty much had a nine-man rotation. But when I have opportunities to get him in, I want to get him in. … He’s working really well in practice. You never know in this league, you can have an injury and the next thing you’re in there.”

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Team owner James Dolan will be paid a minimum of $26.5MM annually to remain in his roles as the head of MSG Sports and MSG Entertainment, having recently signed a new contract, according to The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov. Dolan, who also owns the New York Rangers, will remain the executive chairman of MSG Sports, the company which houses all of Madison Square Garden’s sports teams and holdings, and the executive chairman and CEO of MSG Entertainment, which owns the arena and MSG’s live entertainment business. His compensation is based on a combination of base salaries and equity grants, with the possibility to earn annual bonuses to be worth no less than 200% of those base salaries.
  • Julius Randle gave Dolan credit for paying the league-imposed fine after shunning the media for three weeks, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. Randle wasn’t made available to reporters for seven straight games and the league fined the team $25K. Randle finally addressed the media on Sunday. “Honestly, I appreciate Mr. Dolan. He’s great,” he said. “But the reaction was the team didn’t make me available. All I can do is my job as a player and the team didn’t make me available. And that’s it.”
  • Mitchell Robinson missed the team’s game in Cleveland on Monday due to a sprained left ankle, the team’s PR department tweets. Robinson was injured during Sunday’s victory against the Clippers.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Rivers, Harris, Oakley, Dotson

Doc Rivers has talked to Ben Simmons about the trade rumors surrounding the point guard but the Sixers coach wouldn’t reveal any details, Rich Hofmann of The Athletic tweets. Simmons has been mentioned prominently as the centerpiece of any package for the Rockets’ disgruntled star, James Harden, if Philadelphia pursues that avenue. “I can tell you that none of this started from us,” Rivers said. “I gave Ben a call (Thursday) night but I’m not going to share what we said. It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the business.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Joe Harris signed a four-year, $72MM contract in free agency but the Nets swingman isn’t guaranteed of having a bigger role, Mollie Walker of The New York Post writes. Harris averaged a career-best 14.5 PPG last season but that’s likely to drop with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving being the main options. “Obviously, right now, those guys are our focal point offensively,” Harris said. “That’s how we’re going to play our best basketball. That’s how we’re going to be most productive. I think, kind of across the board, a lot of other guys are going to have to adapt.”
  • Charles Oakley wants to add Knicks owner James Dolan as a defendant to his assault and battery lawsuit against Madison Square Garden, Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic reports. The former Knicks player was forcibly removed, arrested and banned from MSG in 2017. Previously, Oakley contended Dolan had ordered his removal. He is now alleging Dolan ordered the so-called assault. The federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the assault and battery claims in November after a lower court had thrown out the lawsuit’s 10 original claims, Kaplan adds.
  • Damyean Dotson wasn’t surprised the Knicks failed to make him an offer in free agency, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Dotson wound up signing a two-year deal with the Cavaliers, though only the first year is guaranteed. “It’s a whole new staff, management, coaches,” Dotson said. “The guys that drafted me, Phil Jackson, has been gone three years now. It’s a new wave. It wasn’t surprising.’’

Eastern Notes: Beal, Heat, Raptors, Dolan

Wizards star Bradley Beal is in the midst of a career-best season with the team, one that he’s confident can be sustained when the NBA returns in Orlando later this summer, Fred Katz of The Athletic writes.

Beal, who turns 27 later this month, averaged 30.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game this season. He shot 46% from the floor and 35% from downtown in 57 games, leading a depleted Wizards team throughout the campaign.

“I feel like something else clicked for me,” Beal said of this season, as relayed by Katz. “I honestly changed my way of thinking in the game. Playing the game, I was honestly just more aggressive. I just had the mindset that I’m the best player on the floor, and I’m gonna go showcase that.”

Washington dealt with various injuries this season and played without All-Star point guard John Wall, with Beal emerging as a much-needed leader throughout the year. The team is currently 5.5 games behind the No. 8 seed Magic and six games behind the No. 7 seed Nets for a potential playoff spot.

Here are some other notes from the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Heat coach Erik Spoelstra could be facing a difficult roster decision as the team prepares for the league’s restart in Orlando, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes in his latest mailbag. Barring an unforeseen change, Miami must choose 13 active players from its notably deep roster, a decision that could leave veterans such as Udonis Haslem inactive entering the postseason.
  • The championship feeling is still lingering for the Raptors, who won their first NBA title one year ago, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. The team still has several key players from its title run, including Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Toronto hopes to use that championship experience to their advantage during the resumed season this summer.
  • Knicks owner James Dolan‘s image has yet to change under brand consultant Steve Stoute, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Dolan was most recently criticized for a delayed statement on racial injustice problems in America, with the Knicks being the last team in the league to release a statement on the topic.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Nets, Dolan

The reigning NBA champion Raptors are riding high during 2019/20, boasting the second-strongest record (46-18) in the East. Team president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri will have a bevy of roster personnel choices to make during the 2020 offseason — one big one is whom to draft.

There are several intriguing switchable wing options that Toronto should consider with their first-round pick (currently projected to be No. 28) in the 2020 draft, per Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Arizona’s Josh Green, TCU’s Desmond Bane of TCU, Washington’s Jaden McDaniels, Colorado’s Tyler Bey, UCLA’s Chris Smith, and Barcelona forward Leandro Bolmaro are all viable candidates who may still be available when the Raptors are on the board.

There’s more from out of the Atlantic Division:

  • With All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant officially declaring themselves done for the rest of the 2019/20 season, the Nets look to have at least one roster spot left to fill when play resumes in Orlando, per Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Guards Justin Anderson, Henry Ellenson, Devin Cannady and veteran Iman Shumpert are among the leading prospects worth a look.
  • The muted response of Knicks owner James Dolan‘s internal memo addressing the George Floyd protests sweeping the nation did little to help the franchise’s reputation amongst NBA players, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst noted on First Take on Wednesday (video link). 
  • As the Raptors prepare to defend their title in Orlando, Blake Murphy of The Athletic addresses questions related to the team’s rest-of-season roster and rotation depth, plus possible offseason additions.

Knicks Notes: Offseason Activities, Calipari, More

As one of the eight teams not invited to Orlando to complete the 2019/20 season, the Knicks are anxious to have some form of offseason activities for their players this summer and/or fall, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

With the NBA prioritizing the restart of the season for now, the Knicks are waiting on the league to review a handful of the options on the table for its bottom eight teams. If the league moves forward with a specific plan, it will need to be approved by the NBPA.

According to Berman, the Knicks are hoping to at least get approval to hold a mandatory two-week camp between the October 15 draft and the proposed November 10 start of training camp. That would give the team a head-start on the 2020 preseason after seven-plus months of inaction.

As Berman details, the Knicks are also in favor of the proposed target date of December 1 for opening night of the 2020/21 campaign. There’s an expectation that the players’ union will want to push back that date a little, but New York and the other seven teams whose seasons are over will be eager to get next season started as soon as possible.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Within the New York Post article linked above, Berman suggests that John Calipari would challenge Tom Thibodeau‘s frontrunner status if he were to “throw his hat into the ring” for the Knicks’ head coaching job. However, Ian Begley of SNY.tv says interviews are expected to begin this week and notes that Calipari continues to reiterate he has no interest in leaving Kentucky. In other words, it seems pretty safe to cross Calipari off New York’s list of potential candidates.
  • The Knicks’ decision-makers were still finishing up their exit interviews with players as of Monday, a source tells Berman (Twitter link). Those conversations took place via video conference calls.
  • After some internal back-and-forth last week about the Knicks’ silence following the death of George Floyd, the team put out a statement today saying it stands with “all who act for a positive change.” Team owner James Dolan had initially told MSG employees in a pair of memos that he didn’t believe a public statement was necessary, even as the rest of the NBA’s teams issued statements of their own. ESPN’s Malika Andrews has more details.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Knicks, Dolan, Nets

Armed with the third-best record in the East and the fifth-best mark in the NBA, the Celtics and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge don’t have a strong preference about what format the league should take if and when it resumes its season, as Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald writes.

“It doesn’t really matter,” Ainge said. “There’s so many different opinions on what should be done. I think (commissioner) Adam (Silver) has a tough job keeping everybody happy — well, that’s an impossible job. But I think that I trust Adam will do the right thing, and whatever he decides, we’ll follow along.

“There’s not one thing that I’m adamantly dying for from the different plans,” Ainge continued. “I mean, there’s some I like a little bit more, but, listen, we all have to play under the same rules.”

Based on teams’ current records, the Celtics would face Philadelphia in the first round of the postseason, whether the NBA sticks to its usual East/West format or reseeds teams one through 16, regardless of conference. As the third-best team in the East, the C’s won’t be affected by any form of play-in tournament unless the league opts for a group stage format similar to soccer’s World Cup.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • A number of Knicks players and employees were “furious” that the team didn’t make a public statement about the death of George Floyd, according to Pablo S. Torre of ESPN (Twitter link), who passed along an internal memo sent to MSG employees by owner James Dolan explaining the team’s silence. Several Knicks players marched in protests or expressed their opinions on social media, tweets Adam Zagoria of Forbes. Meanwhile, Torre tweets that “dozens of disgruntled” MSG employees met today without Dolan to discuss his memo, prompting the Knicks’ owner to issue another message to his employees. Ian Begley of SNY.tv has the details on that.
  • Nets owner Joseph Tsai is continuing to pay hourly arena workers at Barclays Center, as Net Income of NetsDaily details. While Brooklyn’s season would almost certainly have been over by now, the arena also hosts the WNBA’s New York Liberty and dozens of other concerts and events that have been canceled due to COVID-19.
  • Jared Weiss and John Hollinger of The Athletic discuss how the Celtics should go about building around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown over the long term.

Coronavirus Notes: Paul, Dolan, Arenas, China

Chris Paul, president of the National Basketball Players Association, admitted to reporters in a teleconference today that nobody can be certain what’s going to happen with the current season, writes Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman (link via USA Today).

“This is a situation where no one knows,” Paul said. “The virus is actually in complete control. I seriously tried to answer things the best I could, but there are things where, it’s not like I’ve got the answers and I’m just not telling you.”

Today marks six weeks since the last NBA game was played, and the league was supposed to be conducting the first round of its playoffs. If the season does resume, Paul estimates players will have to train for two to four weeks to get ready. He expressed confidence that the league will give them the time they need.

“Whatever the amount of time is, just know that players will have the input because we’re the ones playing,” Paul said. “We don’t ever want to put guys in a  situation where their injury risk is higher.”

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

  • Knicks owner James Dolan has fully recovered from the virus and has registered to donate plasma antibodies to help with research, according to Larry Brooks of The New York Post. Dolan recently tested negative and is reportedly in good health. He had only mild symptoms and continued to work while quarantined.
  • A professor at MIT tells Michele Steele of ESPN that arenas can eventually be made as safe as public parks. Alex Pentland, head of the human dynamic lab, recommends having fans wear masks and filling only half the available seats, although family members could sit together. He also advises making all aisles one way and having fans in each section enter from a specified gate.
  • Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times talked to several American players about their experiences with the Chinese Basketball Association. Kyle Fogg said when he returned to China, he had his temperature taken several times by workers in hazmat suits. He and Ray McCallum Jr. were both quarantined to hotel rooms with armed guards posted outside to ensure they didn’t leave. “Everybody back home, they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re quarantined,’” McCallum said. “But I see on the news they’re outside. No.” The CBA remains on hold with hopes of starting play again in July.