Julius Randle

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Harris, Randle, Nurse

The Raptors face a bevy of intriguing choices ahead of the March 25 trade deadline, Blake Murphy of The Athletic notes. Murphy writes that, with the current contracts for both point guard Kyle Lowry and wing Norman Powell coming off Toronto’s books this summer, the team may be exercising caution ahead of the deadline when it comes to adding any player with a deal that lasts into next season or beyond.

Should the Raptors opt not to re-sign Lowry and/or Powell, they could have ample salary cap room to add new players. Murphy details the possible routes available for improving the team without Toronto exceeding the 2020/21 salary cap, and all impediments to dealing particular players in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers forward Tobias Harris did not make the cut for the NBA’s All-Star reserves tonight, despite some of the best play of his career for the East-leading Philadelphia. Harris’ father Torrel Harris, who is also Tobias’ agent, expressed his thoughts in a text to Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link). “It’s very disappointing that Tobias Harris was not selected,” Torrel said, noting that Tobias has played a key role in leading the 76ers to the top seed in the conference.
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post writes that Knicks forward Julius Randle finally achieved a longtime goal in becoming an All-Star for the first time with his selection to the 2021 East reserves tonight. “My goal was never just to play in the NBA,” Randle said ahead of his selection. “I just wanted to be the best player I could possibly be and reach my potential. And I try to push myself every day to do so. [Becoming an All-Star] would definitely be a milestone.”
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse will consider a variety of candidates to fill the vacancy left by assistant coach Chris Finch, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. Finch vacated his assistant position with Toronto for a head coaching opportunity with the Timberwolves yesterday. Giving more responsibility to current assistant coach Jama Mahlalela, adding G League assistant coach Brittni Donaldson, or signing someone else from an overseas club or another G League team could all be on the table.

2021 NBA All-Star Reserves Revealed

The 2021 NBA All-Star reserves have been revealed. Below is the full rundown of the 14 players scheduled to join the previously announced 10 starters for the March 7 contest in Atlanta. All-Star reserves are selected by the league’s head coaches.

Eastern Conference Reserves:

Notable omissions this season include recent Heat All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, two-time Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton, recent Hawks All-Star point guard Trae Young, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, recent Pacers All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis, and Sixers forward Tobias Harris.

Brown, LaVine, and Randle are making their All-Star debuts. Harden is the most decorated among the All-Star vets among the East reserves, as he will be appearing in his ninth All-Star contest.

Western Conference Reserves:

Lillard, who just barely missed out on a starting nod to Mavericks guard Luka Dončić, earns his sixth All-Star mention as he mounts a sleeper MVP campaign with the Trail Blazers. Paul will be playing in his 11th All-Star game, for a fourth different team (he did not earn an All-Star nod in either of his two Rockets seasons, but made it with the Clippers, New Orleans Hornets, and Thunder).

Snubs in the West include recent Suns All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker, Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, and 33-year-old Jazz point guard Mike Conley, the latter of whom may go down in history as the best NBA player never to make an All-Star team. Williamson, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, is a first-time All-Star. Last year, his teammate Brandon Ingram made his own All-Star debut.

Conley may still have his day in the sun, however. Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register notes that Lakers All-Star big man Davis, recovering from a right calf strain, will likely not be healthy in time to partake in the currently-planned All-Star game, and thus another Western Conference All-Star should eventually be named by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to replace the eight-time All-Star.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

And-Ones: I. Thomas, Hezonja, P. Gasol, All-Star Bonuses

Team USA won two games in convincing fashion over the weekend, defeating the Bahamas and Mexico in the FIBA AmeriCup qualifying tournament, according to an Associated Press story. The team, which advances to the September 2022 tourney, featured familiar names such as Joe Johnson, Brandon Bass and Isaiah Thomas, who was hoping to use the event to boost his chances for an NBA comeback.

Thomas, who hasn’t played competitively since being traded to the Clippers and waived last February, scored 19 points in Friday’s game and nine on Saturday.

“The world knows I’ve got what it takes. So, it’s just about showing that I’m healthy,” he said. “My skill didn’t go anywhere, it was just about getting a hundred percent healthy, which I am right now.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Mario Hezonja, who was in training camp with the Grizzlies, has reached a deal to play for Panathinaikos in Greece, writes Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The new contract will cover the rest of the season with an option for next year. The fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Hezonja played for the Magic, Knicks and Trail Blazers in five NBA seasons. He averaged 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 53 games with Portland last year.
  • Veteran center Pau Gasol denied rumors over the weekend that he’s close to signing with Barcelona, but Spanish national team coach Sergio Scariolo hasn’t given up hopes of seeing him play again, relays Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. “It’s a rumor, obviously we hope to see Pau on a basketball court again,” said Scariolo, an assistant coach for the Raptors. “Our desire is to see him still play at the top level and we will keep our fingers crossed.”
  • With the All-Star reserves set to be announced Tuesday, ESPN’s Bobby Marks takes a look at the five players whose contracts include bonuses for making the team. The largest, at $1.3MM, belongs to Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, who Marks believes is virtually certain to be selected. Jazz center Rudy Gobert, with a $1MM bonus, also seems like a sure thing. The PacersDomantas Sabonis ($1MM bonus) and the KnicksJulius Randle ($945K) face more difficulty because of the competition in the Eastern frontcourt. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who has been to six straight All-Star Games, would earn a $500K bonus for making it again, but he appears to have little chance of being chosen.

Atlantic Notes: Knox, Celtics, Joe, Randle

Knicks forward Kevin Knox could see an increased role with starting center Mitchell Robinson sidelined due to a fractured hand, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau has spent parts of recent practices testing different lineups, some of which included small-ball variations, according to Berman. The 21-year-old Knox is averaging 16.2 minutes in 23 games this season, lower than his previous two campaigns.

One thing Knox has added this year is three-point shooting, connecting on 37.9% of his shots, albeit on limited attempts. Those small-ball lineups would likely feature Obi Toppin at starting power forward and Julius Randle at center. New York currently holds a 14-16 record.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • With the Celtics playing the Pelicans on Sunday, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston examines three New Orleans players that could interest the team in a potential trade. Among those players is Josh Hart, whose versatility, size and shooting could bolster Boston’s depth at the wing positions.
  • Sixers rookie Isaiah Joe has learned from several veteran players this season, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. The 76ers added Dwight Howard to a veteran mix that already included Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid and others last offseason, giving Joe plenty of players to learn from. For the season, the 21-year-old is averaging 4.7 points, 1.2 rebounds and 12.9 minutes in 17 games.
  • The scrutiny that comes with playing in New York made Knicks star Julius Randle a better basketball player, Berman examines in a separate story for the New York Post. “I felt like I wasn’t playing my best basketball,’’ Randle said on J.J. Redick’s podcast, as relayed by Berman. “I don’t care what anyone says — there’s no tougher place to play than New York with the media and the fans who know and love the game. It’s a tough place to play. Anyone who loves the game is going to be sensitive about their craft. I was sensitive to it and really wanted to get better. My progression in my career was every year I got better. I took it personal and a challenge and think I’ve done that.’’

Knicks Notes: Randle, Barrett, Ntilikina, More

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

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

Here’s more on the Knicks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s more on the Knicks:

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

Knicks Notes: Randle, Quickley, Rose, Noel

With the addition of Derrick Rose to the Knicks‘ roster, nominal point forward Julius Randle (averaging a career-best 5.8 APG) will have to make changes to his game, writes Peter Botte of the New York Post.

“He’s gonna be extremely helpful,” Randle said of the Rose addition. “It gives us not just a veteran presence but a guy who can go out there and create plays, just a steadiness about him, just a confidence about him.”

Botte notes that thus far Randle and Rose’s minutes have been relatively staggered.

There’s more out of New York:

  • Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley, not even the first Knicks first-round pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has been impressing around the league thus far in his first season, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Though fans fretted that the arrival of a proven veteran scorer like Rose could cut into Quickley’s minutes, the rookie point guard has been playing alongside the former MVP in reserve lineups. “I’m learning a lot of stuff [from him],’’ Quickley said. “He’s a dog, an alpha dog, he’s a leader. It’s great to have somebody like that in my corner.’’
  • Rose is already proving a welcome addition to the Knicks, according to Peter Botte of the New York Post“He’s a great student of the game,” coach Tom Thibodeau raved about Rose, who has played for Thibodeau in all three of his head coaching stops thus far. “I think that is what has allowed him to adapt, grow and change.” Rose is averaging 14.7 PPG and 4.0 APG with New York, while posting an impressive shooting line of .548/.529/.778.
  • The injury that will keep starting center Mitchell Robinson sidelined for at least six weeks is creating a huge opportunity for backup big man Nerlens Noel, as Marc Berman of the New York Post details. “Mitchell is a big piece on this team,” Noel said. “Everything he brings to the table. I hope he has a speedy recovery. Until then, I’ll definitely man the defense, man the paint. Just make sure I’m playing at a high level for this team.”

Atlantic Notes: Quickley, Harris, Randle, Free Agency

Immanuel Quickley has quickly emerged as a bright spot for the streaky Knicks, becoming a high-scoring option off the bench in his rookie campaign. He added to his impressive start with a 25-point performance against the Cavaliers on Friday, helping New York end a three-game losing streak.

After a recent 31-point showing in a loss to the Trail Blazers, Quickley was connected with Portland’s perennial MVP candidate Damian Lillard. As Zach Braziller of the New York Post writes, Lillard provided some advice and insight to Quickley in the midst of his standout introduction to the NBA.

“I took everything away, honestly, from the type of person he is first of all, the type of player he is, [the] competitor [he is],” Quickley said. “Then really just giving me advice on obviously the point guard position, but what it takes to win in this league, what it takes to help your team win, how to bounce back from good games, bad games, staying even-keeled throughout the whole season.

“It was good to just have someone like to be able to go to, someone that’s been through a lot, Western Conference finals, the MVP [race], things like that.”

Check out more news and notes from the Atlantic division:

  • After his impressive start to the 2020/21 season, Tobias Harris is earning himself serious All-Star consideration, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Of note, the Sixers forward has shown defensive improvements while averaging 20.1 PPG with career bests in field-goal percentage (52.5%) and three-point shooting (46.2%).
  • Given Julius Randle‘s monstrous performance to begin this season, it’s time to stop viewing the forward as an athletic underachiever and more as an All-Star keeping a streaky team within playoff contention, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Randle showed up in great shape and has since been the Knicks‘ key to the offense, as an improved scorer, passer and defender.
  • The Nets will have to fill one of their two open roster spots by Sunday and it’s likely the team looks outside the organization to fill it, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “I guess it’s possible to sign one of our two-way guys,” Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash said. “But I think we’re probably looking to sign somebody on a free-agent deal here.”

New York Notes: T. Johnson, Durant, Randle, Gibson

Nets guard Tyler Johnson missed Thursday’s game against Philadelphia due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. According to Malika Andrews of ESPN (Twitter links), head coach Steve Nash said Johnson hasn’t tested positive for COVID-19 but is out due to contact tracing. In the early going of the 2020/21 season, contact tracing protocols have typically sidelined players for seven days, though Johnson’s exact timeline has yet to be confirmed.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York-based teams:

  • Nash told reporters on Thursday night that he thinks Nets star Kevin Durant (also out for contact tracing purposes) should be available to return on Sunday as long as he continues to test negative for the coronavirus (Twitter link via Andrews). Can’t wait for Sunday to come,” Nash said.
  • Entering the season, veteran Knicks big man Julius Randle looked like a prime candidate to be moved at the trade deadline. However, Randle’s All-Star caliber play so far (23.1 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 7.4 APG) may force the team to reevaluate its plans for him, says Steve Popper of Newsday.
  • Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype makes the case for why the Knicks signing Taj Gibson is a smart move. While Gibson will reportedly sign with the team, he’s still going through COVID-19 protocols and may not be on the roster in time to be activated for Friday night’s game vs. Oklahoma City, tweets Marc Berman of The New York Post.
  • In case you missed it last night, Kyrie Irving missed Thursday’s game for personal reasons and didn’t travel with the Nets to Memphis for Friday’s game.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors’ Start, Johnson, Thibodeau, Nets

The Raptors are struggling to cope with a slow start, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Fred VanVleet, who opted to re-sign with the club, admits that the 1-5 start has been tough to take.

“This is probably uncharted territory for most of us,” VanVleet said. “Just speaking for myself, I’ve never been a part of something like this. … There’s a boatload of problems and we’ve got to find ways to solve them.”

Pascal Siakam and free agent signee Aron Baynes have performed poorly in the early going.

“I think [Siakam] is gonna work himself back into it a little bit more, and I think we don’t worry about it,” Kyle Lowry said. “We can’t worry about him too much. We’ve got to figure it out and all of us come together.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Stanley Johnson has displaced Matt Thomas in the Raptors’ rotation, Bontemps tweets. Coach Nick Nurse wants more size on the wing and has been disappointed in the play of both Thomas and Terence Davis. Johnson, noted for his defense, played 11 scoreless minutes but contributed two assists and three steals in 11 minutes against Boston on Monday. Davis held his rotation spot, scoring 13 points in 17 minutes. Johnson exercised a $3.8MM player option prior to the season and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
  • Julius Randle has been the Knicks’ top player in their 4-3 start, and he gives plenty of credit to new coach Tom Thibodeau, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Randle said Thibodeau’s attention to detail has created a greater focus. “Thibs every day is on us,” he said. “He’s a great leader for us and given us a game plan we believe in every day and we’re coming into every game focused and locked into the game plan of what we need to do.”
  • The Nets are below .500 and won’t have Kevin Durant for as many as four games. But coach Steve Nash sees a silver lining, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “Plenty to clean up,” Nash said. “It’s early. We can’t lose our minds over it, and we can’t get overly frustrated. … And you know what? It’s good for us. It’s good to get a little tension. We’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable, so here we are.”