Julius Randle

Knicks, Julius Randle Plan To Discuss Extension In Offseason

The Knicks and standout forward Julius Randle plan to talk during the offseason to see if they can come to an agreement on a contract extension, sources tell Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

As Windhorst writes, the fact that Randle’s $19.8MM salary for 2021/22 is only partially guaranteed for $4MM made him – coming into this season – a possible trade candidate or even an eventual release candidate. However, the 26-year-old’s performance in 2020/21 has changed the equation considerably.

In 65 games, Randle has averaged 24.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 5.9 RPG with a .461/.420/.809 shooting line in a league-high 37.3 minutes per contest. He earned his first All-Star nod and has led the Knicks to a top-four seed in the East with just six games left in the regular season.

Since Randle signed a three-year contract in July of 2019, he’ll become eligible for a veteran extension this summer, two years after his initial signing date. A new deal could tack on up to four extra years, beginning in 2022/23, though the starting salary would be limited to 120% of his ’21/22 cap figure. A “maximum” four-year extension for Randle would have a base value of $106.44MM.

As Windhorst notes, that would be a nice payday for Randle, but it’s significantly less than his maximum salary as a free agent — he might be in line for an even more lucrative contract in 2022’s free agent period if he has another All-Star caliber season next year.

A shorter-term extension for Randle that gives him some additional financial security while still putting him on track to reach the open market during his prime years would also be an option for the two sides, Windhorst notes.

Sources tell ESPN that extension talks between Randle and the Knicks this summer may ultimately come down to how badly the former lottery pick wants to remain in New York. Right now, Windhorst says, that desire is strong.

Atlantic Notes: Randle, Raptors, Nesmith, Harris

A major factor in the blossoming of Knicks forward Julius Randle into an All-Star has been his improved passing, contends Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Randle is averaging a career-best 5.9 APG this season.

Vorkunov credits Randle’s excellent aptitude for last-second passes, frequently distributed nanoseconds before he lands from his jumps. The extended timing is designed to attract defenders away from his passing targets. “A lot of coaches hate that,” Knicks reserve guard Derrick Rose said. “But I’m somebody [who has] been doing it for a while, too. As long as his turnover ratio isn’t greater than his assist ratio, I feel like it’s alright. He makes smart decisions. He’s delivering the ball.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors already appear to be playing with an eye towards next season as their play-in tournament odds continue to shrink, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet. One sign is the team’s willingness to experiment. To wit, head coach Nick Nurse has tried new center Khem Birch as a fast-break ball handler of late. The club is 26-38, three games behind the 10th-seeded Wizards with just eight games left to make up ground.
  • After the Jazz defeated the Raptors 106-102 yesterday, the Knicks will officially at least make the league’s play-in tournament, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. This will mark the team’s first postseason appearance since 2013.
  • Though the Celtics anticipated that rookie first-round draft pick Aaron Nesmith could be an instant contributor as a shooter, he has made more of an impact with his hustle on both ends of the floor. A. Sherrod Blakely of the Boston Sports Journal examines the disparity between Nesmith’s anticipated skill set at the next level and the reality thus far. “I’m happy for him because it seems he has found a role with those guys now,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “It’s not the role we thought it would be or the role the Celtics thought it would be, but give him credit, he’s figured out a way to get on the floor which is huge for a rookie.”
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said on Saturday that he appreciated the recent performance of Jalen Harris in limited minutes, and hopes to find more time for the rookie guard during the season’s home stretch, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports.

Knicks Rumors: Offseason, Randle, Toppin, Powell

The Knicks took a patient approach to the 2020 offseason, opting not to pursue impact players like Russell Westbrook via trade or Fred VanVleet via free agency, per Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, and that approach has paid off so far this season. Many of the lower-cost veterans New York did add, including Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel, have played key roles on a team that is currently 34-27, fourth in the East.

Given this year’s success, there will be a “cohort” of New York’s front office eager to push to add more impactful talent during the 2021 offseason, Fischer writes.

“Now the goal posts have been moved,” a person with knowledge of the situation told Bleacher Report. “Thibs (head coach Tom Thibodeau) isn’t going to want to rebuild. He has a lot of power, and there’s some momentum.”

While Thibodeau and other Knicks decision-makers may want to be aggressive in free agency, the club could again opt to take more of a middle ground, according to Fischer. One potential route would be re-signing Burks and Noel to one-year contracts and attempting to add an impact outside free agent, such as Kyle Lowry, on a short-term deal. Fischer hears that Lowry is expected to seek a multiyear commitment, but perhaps a lucrative one-year offer from the Knicks could entice him.

Fischer’s deep dive into the Knicks’ present and future includes many more interesting tidbits. Here are some highlights:

  • There’s some skepticism around the NBA that Julius Randle‘s increased three-point efficiency is sustainable (he’s making 41.6% this season after entering the season as a 29.5% three-point shooter). And Fischer says the Knicks did, at least briefly, consider the possibility of trading Randle earlier this season when his value was on the rise. However, he hasn’t tailed off at all after his hot start. “Everyone knew Randle was a good player, but nobody thought he could be the best player on a playoff team,” one assistant GM told Fischer. “Now I’d vote for him second-team All-NBA, and there’s no question he should be Most Improved.”
  • Given Randle’s success this season, that assistant GM who spoke to Fischer wondered how much the Knicks’ enthusiasm for Obi Toppin – who plays the same position as Randle – might have waned in recent months. “You can’t really play him and Randle together,” the assistant GM said, speculating that the rookie could become a trade candidate. “There’s no runway for him to be successful there.”
  • The Knicks’ play this season has increased the appeal of the organization as a free agent destination in the eyes of agents, Fischer writes. “If you wanted to be part of a good organization and win, you couldn’t possibly send anyone there (before this year). And that’s changed with Thibs and (assistant coach) Kenny (Payne),” one agent said to Bleacher Report. “Even in the draft, if we had someone who wanted to go there and was maybe an immature kid and needed good people around them to grow them as a pro, you couldn’t send him there.”
  • Fischer reiterates that Lonzo Ball, a restricted free agent this summer, has some big fans within the Knicks’ front office, and reports that Norman Powell is another free-agent-to-be who may draw interest from the club. Thibodeau is known to like Powell, sources tell Fischer.

Knicks Notes: Toppin, Core Duo, Thibs, Payton

Knicks rookie Obi Toppin was able to carve out more minutes on Saturday as All-Star Julius Randle‘s backup thanks to his improved long-range shooting touch, as he went 3-for-4 from deep, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Toppin scored nine points in 8:38 of game action for a 120-103 New York victory over the Raptors. He earned a commendation from Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“Obi has been practicing great, I thought he played great tonight,’’ Thibodeau said. “He puts a lot of time into his shooting. He’s coming back at night. He’s grooving his shot so I think he’s gaining confidence. He’s practicing well too when we do practice. His concentration has improved. So he’s an important part of the second unit.’’

There’s more out of New York:

  • After the Knicks whiffed on signing free agent superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving during the summer of 2019, the team has recovered admirably with an intriguing core duo, per Steve Popper of Newsday. New York pivoted by signing forward Julius Randle to a now-bargain three-year, $63MM deal that summer and selecting RJ Barrett with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has helped strengthen that core. “I wanted to see where he was conditioning-wise, get to know him a little bit,” Thibodeau said of Randle. “He’s our engine, and he’s been a great leader right from the start.”
  • Knicks second-year forward Barrett supports coach Tom Thibodeau as a Coach of the Year contender for the 2020/21 season, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. With Thibodeau’s addition, the Knicks are currently riding a season-high nine-game win streak to a 34-27 record and own the East’s No. 4 seed. Thibodeau has clearly been instrumental in the development of Barrett and Randle. “We all believe in Thibs,” Barrett said. “He’s done a tremendous job in how he’s turned everything around. The way he has us playing hard every single night and we’re getting wins. The whole staff, every day, we’re working hard, just pushing us. It’s a great feeling. I’m sure the fans see how hard we’re working and having them in the Garden has been great overall.’’
  • Starting Knicks point guard Elfrid Payton is losing playing time to key reserves Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Yesterday, Payton logged his second-lowest minutes total (14:44) in a game in which he was available this year. Vorkonuv wonders if Thibodeau will at some point switch out Quickley or Rose to start, though both players have been excellent bench cogs.

Knicks Notes: Playoff Seed, Fans, Success, Randle

The red-hot Knicks carried a seven-game winning streak into their game against Atlanta on Wednesday. They sit in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference with new aspirations of getting home court advantage in the opening round, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. If they finish fourth, they’ll achieve that goal.

“We have a mentality there is no seventh, eighth seed for us. It’s strictly focused on the 4-5-6 and making sure we have a solid spot,” center Nerlens Noel said. “We worked really hard this season. It would be tough to put in that much work in and have a play-in thing. We have to take advantage of the position we’re in now and finish strong through this last stretch of the season so we’re in position to have one of those locked-in spots.”

We have more on the Knicks:

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that indoor capacity for both the Knicks and Nets can increase from the current 10% to 25% for the playoffs, Steve Popper of Newsday tweets. The relaxed restrictions will kick in May 19, though the Knicks might have a play-in game on May 18.
  • The team’s season has already been a massive success regardless of how the rest of the campaign plays out, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes. Julius Randle has proven he can carry a team offensively, Immanuel Quickley has shown he’ll a long-term backcourt starter, and coach Tom Thibodeau’s offensive and defensive schemes have given the franchise a much-needed identity.
  • Randle has reached another potential bonus, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Randle has appeared in 58 games and if the Knicks get a top six spot in the Eastern Conference or reach the first round via the play-in tournament, he’ll add another $945K to his bank account. He’s already earned a $945K bonus for being an All-Star.

Atlantic Notes: Blake, Thibs, FVV, Randle

Nets power forward/center Blake Griffin‘s role will increase with recently-inked starting center LaMarcus Aldridge now retired, as Peter Botte of the New York Post details.

“It’s not so much about, ‘It’s my time’ or anything like that. It’s just, when your name is called and when you’re asked to do something, you be ready and do it,” Griffin said of his increased opportunities with the Nets. “And that’s sort of our mindset here is everybody has their part. You’ve got to stay ready and execute when you’re called.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is striving to keep his club dialed in with the playoffs in sight, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Thibodeau has guided the Knicks to six straight victories during the season’s home stretch. The club is now 31-27, the No. 6 seed in the East, and just 0.5 games behind the fourth-seeded Hawks for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. “We try not to get wrapped up in any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said after winning the team’s fifth straight game Friday. “If we’re taking care of all the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. Just stack good days.”
  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, in the first season of his new four-year, $85MM contract with Toronto-by-way-of-Tampa, has criticized the NBA’s treatment of a truncated 2020/21 season in the midst of a pandemic, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “It’s pretty much all about business this year on every level and it’s hard to hide it, you know what I’m saying?” VanVleet said. “The NBA is a great balance of like the pure love and joy of one of the best sports in the world mixed with a billion-dollar industry, and I think this year the industry side has taken precedence over some of the love and the joy.”
  • All-Star Knicks forward Julius Randle is proving his doubters wrong with a career season at age 26, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Randle, who appears to be well worth the three-year, $63MM deal he signed with New York in 2019, detailed how he has improved his approach for the improved Knicks. “It’s not just about the weight room and the court. I’m going to handle that,” Randle said Friday. “But my mentality and my mindset was just different. So I changed that aspect as well. And the results are showing.” Randle is averaging 23.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 6.0 APG for the Knicks, all career-bests. He is also connecting on 41% of his 5.1 three-point attempts per game.

Atlantic Notes: Tolliver, Knicks, Birch, Randle

Veteran power forward Anthony Tolliver will join the Sixers on Wednesday, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Tolliver officially signed a 10-day contract on Monday and will provide some frontcourt depth, at least in short run. Philadelphia has home games against two of the league’s top teams this week, the Nets on Wednesday and the Clippers on Friday.

We have more Atlantic Division news:

  • The Knicks’ image is improving around the league and that could help them land high-level free agents going forward, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. The Knicks have become a more attractive destination now due to their improved play this season, as well as the front office additions of former player agent Leon Rose and well-connected William Wesley.
  • Khem Birch has fulfilled a childhood dream by signing with the Raptors, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports writes. Birch grew up in Montreal and was a fan of Canada’s NBA team. “We always supported them just because they’re the home team,” he said. “My dad used to always complain about the team, yell at the TV and stuff. And now I’m on the team, so this is just a surreal moment.” Birch signed with Toronto for the rest of this season after being let go by Orlando and clearing waivers.
  • The Knicks faced the Lakers on Monday and Julius Randle admits he always looks forward to playing his former team, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. Head coach Tom Thibodeau feels that the team’s leading scorer is a much different player now than he was in his days in L.A. “Every year he’s gotten better and better. I think he’s learned a lot from each season,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what I like about him and his game.”

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Randle, Johnson, Payne

34-year-old Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is hoping to ink at least a two-year, $50MM contract this summer, no matter where he lands after the trade deadline, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Heat and the Sixers, at present, are the two clubs most often connected to Lowry in trade chatter. Though Lowry is not eligible for an in-season contract extension, he may be hoping for a wink-wink understanding from whichever team deals for him. Nothing could be officially agreed upon until free agency commences this summer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that the Raptors are engaged in potential trade conversations for both Lowry and Toronto shooting guard Norman Powell, and that these chats may last up till the Thursday trade deadline. Woj adds that the 76ers are looking at other guard options beyond Lowry or Powell, including Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball and injured Thunder guard George Hill.

The Raptors, losers of nine straight, appear fairly set on dealing Powell, rival team executives have relayed to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (via Twitter). Powell has an $11.6MM player option for the 2021/22 season that he has outperformed with his play this season.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • At the end of a 101-100 overtime defeat to the Sixers, Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle got into a verbal altercation with a referee. The league fined Randle $15K for the incident, according to an official NBA press release.
  • Nets reserve guard Tyler Johnson could see expanded minutes with All-Star guard Kyrie Irving and role-playing guards Landry Shamet and Spencer Dinwiddie all unavailable, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. All-Star guard James Harden, who was listed as questionable by Lewis with a neck injury, is playing through it to thrilling effect tonight against the Trail Blazers, per Malika Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link). “[Head coach Steve Nash] and I haven’t really talked about minutes per se, but it’s a game-to-game basis,” Johnson said earlier this evening. “I think right now during this little stretch while we’ve got some guys out, we don’t fully know what it is we’re going to do right away.
  • Knicks assistant coach Kenny Payne could be a leading contender for the newly-vacant DePaul University men’s basketball head coaching gig, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. “I think all my staff is terrific and they’ll be recognized,” head coach Tom Thibodeau raved. “So anytime someone has an opportunity to advance we’ll certainly allow them to interview.” Popper adds that Payne is not the only Knicks assistant coach up for a potential new opportunity as a college head coach, as Johnnie Bryant may be under consideration as Utah’s new head coach, and Mike Woodson may be up for the opening in Indiana.

Atlantic Notes: Griffin, Nurse, Curry, Toppin

Blake Griffin is close to making his Nets debut, coach Steve Nash told the media on Friday (hat tip to NetsDaily.com). Griffin is traveling with the team on its current road trip. “He looks good, is improving, and is working hard off the floor as well,” Nash said. “I think he is addressing all of the things he needed to address to land safely back in the game and transition into our team, which is not always easy. … He has to adapt to the way that we play, new teammates, new system, and new style.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors coach Nick Nurse hinted that his team’s troubles go beyond COVID-19 related absences, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. With OG Anunoby returning on Friday, the Raptors have all of the players who were under the league’s healthy and safety protocols back in action. Toronto lost to Utah on Friday, its seventh straight defeat, and Nurse seemed to indicate the team needs more help. “We’re getting our (butts) kicked at the rim on both ends, not rebounding,” he said. “I mean the ship has got holes all over the place that we’re trying to patch up.”
  • Sixers guard Seth Curry will miss at least two games due to a sprained left ankle, Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets. He’ll be re-evaluated after Sunday’s game against New York. Philadelphia plays Sacramento on Saturday.
  • Knicks lottery pick Obi Toppin has seen his playing time drop in recent games, Barbara Barker of Newsday notes. Toppin has played single-digit minutes in his last four outings and has gone scoreless the last three games. Julius Randle has averaged 40 MPG over that stretch, which has led to Toppin’s lack of activity.

USA Basketball Expands Finalist List for Olympic Roster

Fifteen players have been added to the list of finalists for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. The group will eventually be pared down to 12 players who will participate in the Olympic Games, which are set for July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will serve as coach for the U.S. team, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Villanova coach Jay Wright and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce as his assistants.

No tryouts will be held this year. Instead, USA Basketball will choose the final roster by early summer. Training camp is scheduled to being in early July before the conclusion of the NBA playoffs.

“With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, it’s important that we continue to remain flexible and consider all players who can contribute to our efforts to field the best USA team possible,” USA Basketball men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “These additions we are announcing today will help ensure that we are doing that. Having a larger player pool than what we normally have is critical because of all of the uncertainties we face about availability. But for USA Basketball to receive the commitment of so many outstanding players remains an indicator of the great honor of representing your country means to these men.”

The new names under consideration are:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  2. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  3. Jerami Grant (Pistons)
  4. Blake Griffin (Nets)
  5. Jrue Holiday (Bucks)
  6. DeAndre Jordan (Nets)
  7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)
  8. Julius Randle (Knicks)
  9. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Fred VanVleet (Raptors)
  12. John Wall (Rockets)
  13. Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
  14. Christian Wood (Rockets)
  15. Trae Young (Hawks)

Forty-two players remain from the original list, which was announced in February 2020:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Nets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Lakers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Hornets)
  22. Dwight Howard (Sixers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Cavaliers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Rockets)
  36. Chris Paul (Suns)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Pistons)
  38. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  39. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  40. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  41. Russell Westbrook (Wizards)
  42. Derrick White (Spurs)

Two players removed from that list are Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic that Smart turned down an invitation because of injury concerns due to having a short offseason and playing late into consecutive seasons (Twitter link).