Julius Randle

Olympic Notes: Grant, Johnson, Finals Trio, Randle, McGee

Bradley Beal won’t be able to participate in the Olympics due to health and safety protocols, but Team USA has Jerami Grant back on the roster, Joe Vardon of The Athletic tweets. The Pistons forward exited protocols and played 12 minutes in the team’s final tuneup, an 83-76 win over Spain on Sunday. Team USA will begin its quest for gold this Sunday against France.

We have more Olympic news and observations:

  • Gregg Popovich and managing director Jerry Colangelo raised some eyebrows when Keldon Johnson was promoted from the Select Team as an injury replacement. The Spurs wing is justifying that decision, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst notes. Johnson supplied 15 points in 17 minutes against Spain. “Keldon Johnson just played a solid basketball game,” Popovich said. “He shot it when he was open and when he did go to the bucket he was very physical.”
  • For the Olympic team’s sake, it would best for the Finals to end with a Milwaukee victory on Tuesday, Vardon writes. Devin BookerKhris Middleton and Jrue Holiday will join Team USA after the Finals are completed and it’s fair to wonder how much they’ll have left in the tank both physically and emotionally. Popovich hopes he can ease them into the Group play. “In some ways, it might depend on if everybody else is healthy, and if they’re not then they got to play,” he said. “We’ve gone over lots of scenarios, but we haven’t figured it out yet.”
  • Knicks All-Star Julius Randle was never offered the chance to join the U.S. team as an injury replacement, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Instead, Team USA opted for role players in Johnson and center JaVale McGee, who gives the team a much-needed shot blocker. “We decided that was the most logical and appropriate choice,’’ Popovich said. “Given the choices we had, (McGee) fit the best.”

Olympic Notes: Team USA, Randle, Simmons, Okogie, Senegal

USA Basketball has officially announced its 12-man roster for the Tokyo Olympics, and there are no surprises in the group. The 12 players on the squad are the same dozen that were reported earlier this month.

While it remains to be seen which players will emerge as the go-to crunch-time options for Team USA in Tokyo, Joe Vardon of The Athletic suggests that it’s easy to envision a starting lineup consisting of Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Draymond Green, Damian Lillard, and either Devin Booker or Bradley Beal, based on comments made on Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo on Monday.

As Vardon details, Colangelo spoke about virtually every player selected for the 12-man roster, explaining the Jerami Grant was selected for his “versatility,” while Kevin Love‘s past international experienced played a major part in his selection. According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, Colangelo said that Knicks forward Julius Randle was one of the players who just missed the cut.

“Regardless of who you select, there’s always a few names that come up regarding why they aren’t there,” Colangelo said. “Randle was right there. He was one of our considerations. Especially when some of the injuries took place and we lost a few players.”

Here’s more on the Olympics and the qualifying tournaments, which get underway today:

  • As expected, Sixers guard Ben Simmons has opted against representing Australia at the Tokyo Olympics, the program confirmed in a press release. Simmons is focusing on his individual development this offseason, agent Rich Paul told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). “I have spoken with Ben and whilst we wanted him to be a part of our team, we understand and support his decision and he has made it clear that this is something that he wants to be a part of in the future,” Australia head coach Brian Goorjian said. “… The best thing for everybody right now is for him to go on and develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas for his next season in the NBA, but the Boomers are always here for him.”
  • Timberwolves wing Josh Okogie has confirmed he’ll be part of the Nigerian team that competes in the Olympics next month (Twitter link). Nigeria’s preliminary roster included 49 names, which the program will have to pare down to 12 for Tokyo.
  • Senegal has withdrawn from the qualifying tournament in Serbia due to “COVID-19 related disruptions,” tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. As a result, Senegal will forfeit games to Puerto Rico and Italy, who will both advance to the next round of the qualifier.
  • Team Canada’s eight NBA players are easily the most of any team in the qualifiers, but they’ll need to rely on more than talent as they face international teams that have developed stronger chemistry, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

NBA Announces 2020/2021 All-NBA Teams

The NBA has officially announced the All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams for the 2020/21 season, with Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way as the lone unanimous selection for the First Team.

Antetokounmpo and Nuggets‘ MVP Nikola Jokic were the two top vote-getters, combining for 998 out of a possible 1,000 points, with Warriors guard Stephen Curry following shortly behind. Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic rounding out the top five.

The full All-NBA teams are listed below, with their vote totals in parentheses. Players received five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote, so Giannis scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Among the players who just missed the cut were Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (69), Wizards guard Russell Westbrook (44), Nets guard James Harden (41), Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (37) and Heat center Bam Adebayo (32). A total of 12 other players received votes. The full results can be found here.

Today’s announcement has major financial implications across the league. Tatum, who received more votes than Kyrie Irving but still fell 20 votes short of a final forward spot, will lose out on a projected $32.6MM on his rookie scale extension, as his next deal will start at 25% of the cap instead of the 30% he would have received if he’d been named to an All-NBA team. Likewise, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, Kings guard De’Aaron Fox and Adebayo will all receive starting salaries worth 25% of the cap on their respective extensions as a result of missing out on All-NBA honors.

Doncic, having been named to his second consecutive All-NBA First Team, will be eligible for a 30% extension that would be worth a projected $201MM+ and is almost certain to be offered this summer. Doncic has previously made clear his intentions to sign the extension when offered. It will go into effect for the 2022/23 season.

Embiid is now eligible for a super-max contract extension, which would run for four years, starting in 2023/24, and would be worth a projected $191MM, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. It’s unclear whether the Sixers will immediately put this extension on the table this offseason.

Bradley Beal‘s deal will not change with his first career All-NBA selection, as he is already eligible for a 35% contract extension on his next deal. Jokic, having been named MVP previously this week, also sees no change in his possible future super-max extension, which will be worth approximately $241MM.

Hoops Rumors readers accurately picked 12 of this season’s 15 All-NBA players in our poll. Devin Booker, Adebayo, and Tatum were your picks who didn’t make the official list.

Knicks Notes: Offseason, Randle, Rose, Cap Room

The Knicks exceeded expectations all regular season long, but the magic didn’t extend into the playoffs — the team’s season came to an end on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, as a 103-89 Hawks victory secured a 4-1 series win for Atlanta.

Despite the postseason disappointment, the Knicks built a strong foundation during the last several months for what comes next, head coach Tom Thibodeau said on Wednesday, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

“I couldn’t ask for any more from the team,” Thibodeau said. “They were a joy to be around every day. I have great respect for the effort they put forth, their togetherness. We fell short in the end. We’ll look at it. We’ll learn, grow. We know the challenge will be greater next year.”

As Begley observes, the Knicks will have a pair of first-round picks in the 2021 draft and could create up to $60MM in cap room, so they’ll have the assets necessary to improve their roster. Play-making and shooting will be priorities, with point guard among the positions the team will be looking to upgrade, Begley adds.

Before the offseason begins in earnest though, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the Knicks’ season, says Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. No NBA team outperformed preseason expectations by a great margin than the Knicks, who made the playoffs for the first time in eight years and provided their fans with some optimism for the future.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Michael Scotto of HoopsHype talked to eight NBA executives and five scouts about the Knicks’ next move with Julius Randle, who will be extension-eligible this offseason. Several of them suggested they’d prefer to wait on a new deal for Randle, following his career year in 2020/21. “If they go another year under his current contract to let him prove that this year wasn’t a fluke, they’ll still have Bird Rights and can always give him an extra year more than other teams when he’s an unrestricted free agent,” one executive said to Scotto.
  • The Knicks will have to decide whether re-signing their own free agents, pursuing outside free agents, or being active on the trade market represents the best use of their potential cap room, writes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link). The most likely approach will probably involve combination of the three.
  • In a pair of stories, Marc Berman of The New York Post explores the likelihood of each of the Knicks’ free agents returning and specifically examines Derrick Rose‘s future. “I would love to come back,” Rose said after Wednesday’s loss. “Who wouldn’t want to play for the Knicks or be in New York? I would love it, but at the same time, I know it’s out of my hands and they may have bigger plans.”
  • Despite the Knicks’ success this season, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News suggests the team’s roster still has more questions than answers.

Knicks Notes: Toppin, Quickley, Ntilikina, Randle

Obi Toppin has been the Knicks‘ more productive rookie in the playoffs, while Immanuel Quickley is struggling to find his game, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Toppin is coming off a career-best 13-point outburst in Game 4, and there’s talk of playing him and Julius Randle together to help turn the series around.

“I just really feel like I’ve just been locked in, studying a lot of film, paying attention to every little detail possible that I need for each game,” Toppin said. “I feel like the more details I know on the defensive side, I feel like the offensive side will just come to me if I just play my basketball and play team basketball.”

As a lottery pick, Toppin was expected to be a difference maker right away, but Quickley, who was taken at No. 25, had the better regular season, averaging 11.4 points per game and becoming a regular part of the backcourt rotation. His shot has deserted him in the playoffs, as he’s hitting just 29.6% from the field and scoring 4.5 PPG.

“I love it when people count me out,” Quickley said. “I feel like that’s how my whole life in basketball has been, when people say you can’t do something or you’re not good enough or that’s not possible. I feel like that kind of drives our team as well. When we came into this season, everybody was expecting us to be in the lottery.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Derrick Rose will likely remain in the starting lineup for Game 5, but coach Tom Thibodeau sidestepped a question about playing Frank Ntilikina, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Ntilikina has only been used for three defensive possessions throughout the entire series. “I think Derrick is proven to be a very good player in this league for a long time,’’ Thibodeau said. “As a team we have to play better. We know that. In terms of Frank, he’s an important part of the team.”
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic examines the adjustments the Hawks have made to slow down Randle, who averaged 37.3 PPG against them in the regular season. Randle, who is in the playoffs for the first time in his career, has been forced to deal with two and sometimes three defenders every time he catches the ball.
  • A fan accused of throwing a beer at the Knicks’ bench during Game 2 has been permanently banned from Madison Square Garden, Berman writes in a separate story.

Knicks Notes: Trade Deadline, Randle, Bullock, Vildoza

The Knicks didn’t make any significant upgrades at the trade deadline and it may be coming back to haunt them in their opening-round series against Atlanta, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. New York trails 3-1 in the series and there’s no hint of a comeback. Coach Tom Thibodeau was hoping for an upgrade, with Norman Powell high on his wish list, but management viewed this season as a stepping stone while protecting their ample cap space for a potential summer bonanza.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Julius Randle has yet to return to his regular-season form and now it may be too late, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News notes. Randle is shooting 27% from the field in the series after winning the league’s Most Improved Player award. “This is all a learning experience,” he said. “I need to get better individually, we need to get better as a team.”
  • Reggie Bullock went scoreless in 34 minutes during Game 4 and Thibodeau attributes that to Bullock guarding Trae Young, Steve Popper of Newsday relays. “We’re asking him to do a lot,” he said. “He’s in a lot of actions offensively, but he’s guarding Trae. You’re using a lot of energy there.” Bullock will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
  • Luca Vildoza is out of quarantine but didn’t join the team in Atlanta, Mark Berman of the New York Post tweets. The Knicks signed the Argentinian guard to a four-year deal in early May but, according to Thibodeau, he’ll be added to the mix next season. “For later in the summer,” he said.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Payton, Gibson, Barrett

The Knicks need a quick turnaround from Julius Randle to salvage their series with the Hawks, but coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t worried about his star forward, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Randle averaged 24.1 points per game during the regular season, but has been limited to 15, 15, and 14 points as Atlanta has taken a 2-1 series lead.

“Just be Julius. I don’t want him overthinking it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Let the game come to you. Sometimes you’re going to get your shots, sometimes you got to make the play. That’s what he’s done extremely well all year long. He’s our engine, he’s a fighter, he’s tough, he’s smart. He’ll figure it out.’’

The Hawks have frustrated Randle with changing coverages, a variety of defenders, and frequent double and triple teams. He hasn’t been able to get comfortable in the point forward role he has played all season, and the Knicks don’t have a dependable guard to run their offense.

“It’s been a team effort,’’ said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter. “He’s the head of the snake. When the team is playing at its best, he’s playing at its best. He’s making shots and creating for everyone else. We wanted to make it as tough as we could on him. We’ve thrown different guys at him. Defensively, it’s feel like every possession someone else gets a crack at him. We’re just trying to show help when we can and force him into tough shots.’’

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Derrick Rose is expected to remain the starting point guard for Game 4, Berman states in a separate story. Rose scored 30 points in 38 minutes Friday as former starter Elfrid Payton wasn’t used at all. Thibodeau admits it was difficult to break the news of the demotion to Payton. “You always have to do what you feel is best for your team,’’ he said. “Sometimes it’s matchups. Elfrid’s a critical part of the team. He’s had a very good year for us. It’s just also, like, what we’re looking at, and what we think gives us our best chance right now.”
  • Thibodeau made another lineup change in Game 3, Berman adds, starting Taj Gibson at center in place of Nerlens Noel, who has been dealing with an ankle that he “tweaked” in the series opener. Noel excelled in the reserve role, with 12 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. “It doesn’t matter, whatever Thibs wants me to do — come off the bench, play five minutes,” Gibson said. “Doesn’t matter. We got to find a way to come out with a ‘W.’”
  • The Knicks need more production from RJ Barrett, points out Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Barrett is shooting 13 of 38 in the first three games and is regularly missing open jumpers. “I see it,” he said. “I’m open. I just got to make it.”

New York Notes: Randle, Rose, Barrett, Harden, Griffin

After another poor shooting night, Julius Randle expressed confidence that he and the Knicks will turn things around in the first-round series against Atlanta, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Randle missed 13 of 15 field-goal attempts in Game 3 on Friday.

We just got to adjust, just got to adjust and we will,’’ he said. “It’s on me. I just got to find a way to read the outlets quicker.’’

Impending free agent Derrick Rose was the main source of offense after being inserted into the lineup in place of slumping Elfrid Payton. Rose believes the team has been frustrated by its lack of offensive execution.

“When we’re not making shots, we still have to play with that sense of urgency,’’ Rose said.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • RJ Barrett has also been in an offensive funk in the series, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post notes. The Knicks shooting guard is averaging 11.3 PPG and shooting 32.6% from the field during the series. “I’m getting a lot of wide-open shots,” he said. “I need to make them.”
  • James Harden saw a silver lining in the Nets’ Game 3 loss to Boston on Friday, according to Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Harden believes the team had been lulled into a false sense of security after winning the first two games at home. “This probably was good for us,” Harden said. “Especially after our last game when we played so well. This was a good reminder for us that things aren’t going to be so easy.”
  • The Nets slowly worked Blake Griffin into their mix after signing him this season and general manager Sean Marks said the team has been pleasantly surprised how much he has left in the tank, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne writes. “We knew what we were getting in terms of veteran and high-IQ player,” Marks said. “So it was about being able to maximize what he’s got left, career-wise. And from the first day we got him, we could see, ‘OK, there’s some more there.'” With the superstars carrying the team in the playoffs, Griffin is averaging a modest 5.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.0 APG in the first-round series against Boston.

Knicks Notes: Randle, T. Young, Noel, Robinson

Julius Randle isn’t just the NBA’s Most Improved Player, he’s also “a Thibs guy.” That’s how Knicks teammate Taj Gibson described Randle to Nick Friedell of ESPN in explaining how he was able to raise his game under coach Tom Thibodeau.

Randle averaged career highs this season with 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists and is a strong candidate for All-NBA honors. He also appeared in all but one of the team’s 72 games.

“When you’re a Thibs Guy that just shows that he can count on you,” Gibson explained. “Ups and downs, highs and lows, you know that he believes in you and he believes that you can go in there and help the team overcome — through injuries, through it all. It’s being a tough-minded guy, fight for the team.”

Thibodeau traces Randle’s improvement back to a meeting they had shortly after the new coach was hired last July. Thibodeau said Randle showed up in exceptional shape and expressed a willingness to be coached.

“You could see how highly motivated he was,” Thibodeau said. “And then when we had our short bubble, just his willingness to come in and work and lead and I could see how hungry he was. I felt like this was the guy that could help set the tone for us.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Knicks players aren’t buying into the idea of Trae Young as the newest villain at Madison Square Garden, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Hawks guard hit a game-winning floater in the final second of Game 1, then put his finger to his lips as a sign for the crowd to be quiet. “That’s basketball, man,” Derrick Rose said. “He came in, we played a great game and the crowd is supposed to do that, his reaction is supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to amp up and bring that atmosphere and that environment to where it is right now. I mean, that’s what I’m used to.”
  • Nerlens Noel will be in the starting lineup for tonight’s Game 2, the Knicks announced (via Twitter). Noel landed awkwardly and limped off the court midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Thibodeau said Noel “tweaked his ankle” and was a limited participant in practice, Berman adds in a separate story.
  • Center Mitchell Robinson remains “several steps away” from returning after surgery on his right foot, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Addressing reporters before tonight’s game, Thibodeau said Robinson hasn’t been cleared for practice, adding, “We’re not taking any chances with him.”

Julius Randle Named 2020/21 Most Improved Player

All-Star Knicks forward Julius Randle has been named the Most Improved Player of the 2020/21 NBA season, the league announced in a press release.

Randle was listed as one of three finalists for the award last week, along with Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. and Porter’s former teammate, current Pistons forward Jerami Grant.

Randle received 98 of 100 possible first-place votes from polled reporters and journalists, while Grant netted the other two. Rockets center Christian Wood and Bulls guard Zach LaVine rounded out the top five vote-getters.

JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors supplies the full voting results here (Twitter link).

Randle, who was drafted with the seventh pick out of Kentucky in 2014 by the Lakers, posted impressive numbers with Los Angeles and later the Pelicans, but has secured a true home while blossoming into an All-NBA talent under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.

Across 71 of a possible 72 games, the 26-year-old averaged 24.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 6.0 APG, all career-bests, while leading New York to its first playoff berth in eight seasons. The 6’8″ forward also posted a slash line of .456/.411/.811 during the 2020/21 regular season.

Thanks to the improvement of Randle and RJ Barrett and the game-planning expertise of new head coach Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks didn’t just make the postseason under Randle’s leadership — they also nabbed the No. 4 seed in the East with a 41-31 record, clinching home court advantage in the ongoing first round of the playoffs.

Randle, who inked a three-year, $63MM deal with the Knicks in the summer of 2019, will be eligible for a veteran extension this summer, ahead of the non-guaranteed final year of his deal. If Randle and the Knicks agree to a maximum four-year extension, such a deal could carry a $106MM+ base value, with added incentives.

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram won the award last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.