Kenny Payne

Knicks Notes: Robinson, Drummond, Free Agents, Payne

Knicks players were crushed to learn that center Mitchell Robinson suffered another serious injury Saturday night, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Playing his second game back in the starting lineup, the third-year center got hurt midway through the first quarter when he tried for a steal attempt. Robinson landed awkwardly and wound up with a fracture in his right root. The Knicks announced the injury to the public, but didn’t tell the players until after the game.

“He worked so hard to get back,” RJ Barrett said. “To see him go down again, it hurts us, hurts the team. But we’re just — we’re gonna be with him every step of the way until he gets back.”

The timing is particularly bad for New York, coming on the same night that word leaked that LaMarcus Aldridge plans to signs with the Nets and Andre Drummond appears headed to the Lakers. The Knicks have cap room to use on the buyout market, but the two biggest names are already likely committed.

“He’ll be fine,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of Robinson. “He’ll have to go through rehab and stuff, but he’s been through that before, and just maximize his time that way. But you feel for a teammate. It’s part of the game, and you have to deal with it as best you can.”

There’s more from New York:

  • “One or two prominent voices” in the Knicks’ front office were in favor of pursuing Drummond before the organization cooled on the idea, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). He adds that the team had been hoping to use the rest of the season to evaluate how Robinson fits in Thibodeau’s system. If New York picks up Robinson’s $1.8MM team option for 2021/22, it would put him on track for unrestricted free agency in ’22. Begley states that Gorgui Dieng, Norvel Pelle and John Henson could be potential low-cost pickups for the Knicks, who have an open roster spot.
  • Assistant coach Kenny Payne will remain in New York, even though DePaul had strong interest in making him its next head coach, Begley tweets.
  • The Knicks were quiet at the trade deadline while teams around them in the standings made big moves, notes Steve Popper of Newsday. The organization has adopted a strategy of preserving its assets for the future, rather than gambling to make a playoff run this year.

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: Payne, Anunoby, Ibaka, Watson, Sixers

When the Knicks hired Kenny Payne away from Kentucky this week, it represented another instance of new executives Leon Rose and William Wesley bringing aboard someone with whom they have a preexisting relationship. However, Kentucky head coach John Calipari tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News that Payne was very capable of making the leap to the NBA with or without those connections.

“You got to understand, he’s been invited to four different NBA teams where they had their summer camp and did stuff and won there,” Calipari said of his longtime assistant. “And why do you think they’re bringing him there? Trying to feel him out. They want to see him teach, they want to see him interact. And those were some of the top franchises out there. I knew why they were doing it. And because we were paying him so much, none of them thought he would leave (Kentucky) to go to the Knicks. Now they’re pissed that they didn’t bring him in. …There were other franchises that would’ve (hired him).”

While Calipari may be right that other teams would have liked to hire Payne before New York did, it’s not clear whether those clubs would’ve been willing to pay the price necessary to bring him aboard. According to Bondy (Twitter link), Payne will earn over $1.5MM with the Knicks, making him one of the NBA’s highest-paid assistants.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Two of the Raptors‘ key rotation players, OG Anunoby (right knee soreness) and Serge Ibaka (right knee contusion), sat out again on Friday, but MRIs on their knees came back clean and head coach Nick Nurse believes both players will be ready to go when the playoffs begin on Monday, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link).
  • Raptors two-way player Paul Watson has had a chance to get some playing time in Orlando and took advantage in the team’s final seeding game on Friday, pouring in 22 points in 27 minutes and impressing Nurse.He’s pretty good. He can play,” Nurse said of Watson (Twitter link via Blake Murphy of The Athletic). “… He’s gonna be part of our future from what I can see so far.”
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer wonders if Ben Simmons‘ absence in the playoffs might give the Sixers an opportunity to answer some nagging questions about their roster. Even if Philadelphia is eliminated quickly, the team will get a chance to see what it looks like when it leans primarily on Joel Embiid rather than balancing its two stars, O’Connor writes.

New York Notes: Nets Guards, KD, DSJ, K. Payne

Both Tyler Johnson and Chris Chiozza will be free agents at the end of the 2019/20 season, as Johnson signed a one-year contract in June and Chiozza’s two-way deal is expiring as well. However, the two guards are making a strong case to be considered for next season’s Nets roster, as Tom Dowd of BrooklynNets.com writes.

The Nets’ rotation has been in a state of flux this summer due to injuries, opt-outs, COVID-19 cases, and some lineup experimentation. However, Johnson and Chiozza have often shared the backcourt as part of the club’s second unit, and the pairing has worked. Entering today’s game, Chiozza is averaging 9.2 PPG and 5.0 APG in six games during the restart, while Johnson has contributed 11.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 2.8 APG.

“I think it’s a great combination; two guards that can pass and shoot pretty well,” Chiozza said, per Dowd. “He’s a smart player so it’s easy to play with him. He knows how to move when I’ve got the ball and I feel like we get each other a lot if open shots.”

Meanwhile, veteran guard Jamal Crawford was supposed to be a backcourt contributor for the Nets this summer after signing as a substitute player, but has been limited to just six minutes due to a hamstring injury.

Despite not playing much, Crawford has provided great leadership for the Nets, including Caris LeVert, head coach Jacque Vaughn said this week (Twitter link via Brian Lewis of The New York Post). According to Vaughn, Crawford may not return before the seeding schedule ends, but the team remains confident he can contribute this summer.

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

  • When the Nets clinched a playoff spot, it assured injured star Kevin Durant of a $1MM bonus, as Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter). Because the bonus had been considered “likely” rather than “unlikely,” earning it this season won’t impact Durant’s cap hit for 2020/21.
  • Former lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. finds himself at a crossroads as he enters a contract year under new Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. One scout who spoke to Berman is curious to see how the team handles Smith in ’20/21. “He’s certainly not a Thibs kind of player, but let’s see how committed they are to getting him right,” the scout said. “You don’t want to force it because they traded (Kristaps) Porzingis for him. Knowing when to cut bait is important. There may be too many things to fix with him.”
  • New Knicks assistant coach Kenny Payne is primarily known for three things, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News: recruiting, relationships, and developing frontcourt players. As Bondy writes, the Knicks will hope that Payne can assist in their efforts to attract stars to New York.

Knicks Hire Kenny Payne As Assistant Coach

The Knicks have formally announced the first addition to Tom Thibodeau‘s new staff, confirming in a press release that they’ve hired Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne as an assistant. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the hiring.

Payne, who has been a member of John Calipari‘s Wildcats staff for the last decade, has strong relationships with new Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose and executive VP William Wesley, Wojnarowski notes.

“I’m thrilled that Kenny has joined my staff as an assistant coach. He has an outstanding ability to forge relationships with players and improve their skills,” Thibodeau said in a statement. “He knows what it takes to win and has learned from one of the best coaches there is in John Calipari. Kenny will be a tremendous addition to our organization.”

Before being hired by Kentucky in 2010, Payne was an assistant with the Oregon Ducks. He also played basketball professionally before beginning his coaching career, spending a few seasons with the Sixers from 1989-93.

As we noted over the weekend when discussing the Knicks’ interest in Payne, the longtime college assistant is known for developing big men, including Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns. He also worked with Knicks forwards Julius Randle and Kevin Knox while they were at Kentucky.

Mike Woodson and Mike Miller are among the other coaches rumored to be candidates to join Thibodeau’s staff.

Knicks Considering Mike Woodson, Kenny Payne As Assistants

Former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson and Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne are receiving strong consideration as Tom Thibodeau puts together his staff in New York, writes Adam Zagoria of Forbes.

The Woodson move appears to be “virtually done,” sources tell Zagoria, although nothing has been announced. Woodson has head coaching experience with both the Hawks and Knicks and led New York to its last postseason trip in 2013. He last coached as an assistant with the Clippers from 2014-18.

Woodson, 62, got an endorsement this week from former Knicks coach David Fizdale on Sirius XM NBA Radio.

“You know, it’s not an easy place to work, it’s not an easy place to coach,” Fizdale said. “There’s a lot of different things that swirl around the team and that’s just what comes with being the New York Knicks. And so because Woody successfully navigated that and really understands the dynamic of New York and New York City I think he’s really going to be of huge value to Thibs in that situation. And Woody can flat out coach and so that’s where he’s also going to help him is from that standpoint on his own accord.”

Payne is currently “weighing an offer” from the Knicks, tweets Jeff Goodman of Stadium. The 53-year-old has ties to both newly hired executive William “World Wide Wes” Wesley and team president Leon Rose. Payne is known for developing big men, including Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns. He also worked with Knicks forwards Julius Randle and Kevin Knox while they were with the Wildcats.

“KP is one of the best development coaches in the world,” Towns said last year. “KP is the horse beneath the jockey driving Kentucky basketball.”  

Mike Miller, who served as the Knicks’ interim coach after Fizdale was fired, is also being considered for a spot on Thibodeau’s staff, according to Corey Hersch of SNY.tv.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Pinckney, Zipfel, Payne

Tom Thibodeau was officially hired as the Knicks’ head coach on Thursday and calls it his “dream job,” according to Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press. Thibodeau was an assistant coach with New York under Jeff Van Gundy from 1996-2003.

“I think I experienced it during the ’90s that there’s no better place to be than Madison Square Garden,” he said. “And so I love challenges, I love that city, I love the arena, I love the fans and I’m excited about the team.”

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Thibodeau gained a reputation of riding his star players but he’s more open now to keeping them fresh, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. It’s easier to do that with so many teams employing load management strategies for their top players. “Those numbers (minutes) have gone down now. So you won’t be at that disadvantage where they have the best player out there and you don’t,” Thibodeau said. “Talking with sports scientists and athletic trainers, you’re always are monitoring that.”
  • Ed Pinckney, an assistant coach under Thibodeau with the Bulls and Timberwolves, is getting strong consideration to join the Knicks’ staff, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. He would be the team’s “big man” coach if hired. Pat Zipfel could be hired as an advance scout or bench coach, Berman adds. Zipfel also worked for Thibodeau in his previous head coaching stints.
  • University of Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne is under consideration as a potential addition to the coaching staff, Ian Begley of SNY reports. There are also discussions within the organization to hire a significant number of player-development coaches, according to Begley.

Jason Kidd Emerging As Frontrunner For Knicks’ Coaching Job?

1:17pm: Thibodeau is the Knicks’ first choice, but if he doesn’t reach an agreement with the team it could open the door for Kidd, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who hears from a source that Kidd “really wants” the job.

One source who spoke to Berman estimated that Thibodeau still has about a “65 percent” chance to end up with the job. Berman also reports that a final decision isn’t expected to be made until next week.


11:27am: Jason Kidd is emerging as a frontrunner in the Knicks‘ head coach search, a “plugged-in” source tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News.

According to Bondy, Kidd’s odds of becoming New York’s next coach increased after negotiations with presumed frontrunner Tom Thibodeau hit a snag.

Considered a player-friendly coach, Kidd is viewed by the Knicks as an asset for attracting top free agents. However, according to Bondy, some people within the organization aren’t entirely sold on the former Bucks and Nets head coach, given how his stints in Milwaukee and Brooklyn played out.

Bondy suggests that if the Knicks go with Kidd, the front office would want to pick “at least some” of his assistant coaches. A source tells The Daily News that Kenny Payne, Rod Strickland, and Mike Woodson – who all have close ties to new Knicks exec William Wesley – would be candidates to join the staff as assistants.

Bondy hears from a source that the Knicks and owner James Dolan have been unwilling so far to agree to Thibodeau’s contract requests. According to Bondy, Thibodeau remains a possibility for the open position, but one side or both would have to make concessions. Retaining interim coach Mike Miller hasn’t been ruled out either, Bondy adds.

Ian Begley of SNY.tv reported on Thursday morning that the Knicks weren’t currently engaged in negotiations with any of their head coaching candidates and hadn’t made a contract offer to anyone. That doesn’t necessarily contradict Bondy’s report — it’s possible the team had earlier negotiations with Thibodeau and never got to the point where an offer was made. It’s also possible negotiations took place in the last 24 hours, after Begley’s report was published.

Begley also indicated on Thursday that there’s a “strong likelihood” the Knicks will have conversations with multiple candidates next week, so it may still be several days before the team finalizes its decision. The club is expected to have a new head coach in place by the end of the month.