Kristaps Porzingis

Atlantic Notes: Porzingis, Kurucs, McCaw, Tsai

Kristaps Porzingis has missed nearly an entire calendar year since he suffered a torn ACL but his recovery is going well, Newsday’s Steve Popper writes. The Latvian is expected to miss the Knicks‘ four-day trip to London next week when the team faces the Wizards, but Porzingis’ recent practices have been encouraging.

“I don’t see a drop,” head coach David Fizdale said. “That I don’t see. I haven’t seen him move in a way that makes me go “uh-oh.” I think we’re going about it the right way. His body looks great. He looks strong, he’s defined. It’s just a matter of time, and when we get him, we’ll be happy.”

As we relayed on Friday, Porzingis has passed the point of meeting the starter criteria for restricted free agency this summer. Thus, the Knicks’ qualifying offer drops from $7.5MM to $4.5MM. His cap hold will be $17.1MM and he will qualify for a $158MM contract over five years with a starting salary set at $27.25MM.

The Knicks, currently 10-32 in the Eastern Conference, are setting themselves up for a top-five draft pick this summer. A healthy Porzingis would go a long way to helping New York compete next season.

Check out more Atlantic Division notes:

  • Fellow Latvian Rodions Kurucs has fared well for the Nets after being selected 40th overall in the second round this past summer. Kurucs has been solid on both sides of the ball and eclipsed both his and the team’s expectations, Chris Milholen and Net Income of NetsDaily write.
  • Patrick McCaw‘s first few months of the season have been eventful. He sat out the start of the year as he looked to maximize his earnings from the Warriors as an RFA, then signed an offer sheet with Cleveland. However, days later, the Cavaliers waived him. After signing with the Raptors, he’s thrilled with the new opportunity, Laura Armstrong of The Toronto Star writes.
  • Nets minority owner Joseph Tsai is reportedly close to acquiring the WNBA’s New York Liberty, the AP’s Doug Fienberg reports. Tsai purchased 49% of the Nets in April 2018 and the James Dolan-owned Liberty — which were placed for sale in November 2017 — are close to being added to his portfolio.

Knicks Notes: Hezonja, Porzingis, Burke, Vonleh

Mario Hezonja is one of several Knicks players who have found themselves out of the lineup as part of coach David Fizdale’s revolving rotation, but he might be the only one who believes the experience was positive, relays Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com. Hezonja has played his best basketball since being given another chance, averaging 14.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG over the last three games while shooting 57.7% from the field.

“I think that stuff when I was out for a couple games really opened my mind even more about the game of basketball. It really benefited me,” Hezonja said. “It wasn’t really messing with my rhythm or any of that stuff.”

It’s still not clear if Hezonja is in the organization’s long-term plans after signing a one-year, $6.5MM deal last summer. However, he told reporters Thursday that he knows how the situation will play out and loves playing for the Knicks.

“This coaching staff, I wish I had them in my rookie year,” he said. “I’m not saying anything about what I had. It was just rough and unfortunate situation what happened to me. I wish they were my coaching staff in my rookie year. We’d be talking a different story right now. Yeah, I’m happy to be around them. …This is not a typical BS talk. ‘I’m only thinking about this, I don’t know what it’s gonna be.’ I know. This is it. I love this. I want to be in New York.”

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • It’s not a surprise considering the prognosis for his recovery from an ACL injury, but Kristaps Porzingis has officially passed the point where he could meet starter criteria for his upcoming restricted free agency, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. That means the qualifying offer the Knicks will have to make drops from $7.5MM to $4.5MM. His cap hold will be $17.1MM and he will qualify for a $158MM contract over five years with a starting salary set at $27.25MM.
  • Trey Burke is an obvious trade candidate given his expiring contract and his place on the team, but he tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that he tries to avoid thoughts of the upcoming deadline. Burke is already well traveled at age 26, being with his third team in six seasons, and is only seeing regular minutes because of an injury to Frank Ntilikina. “It’s something I look at as fool’s gold. It’s an illusion,” Burke said. “You can always put yourself in a playoff-team situation. What would it be like if I was with the Lakers? Or with Golden State? You can always do that as a player. It’s not reality until it happens.”
  • Several teams have already identified Noah Vonleh as a possible free agent target, a source tells ESPN’s Ian Begley.

O’Connor’s Latest: Spurs, Porzingis, Sixers, Wolves

The Spurs are viewed by front office sources around the NBA as a team with “significant interest” in Kristaps Porzingis, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Porzingis will be a restricted free agent this summer and while the Knicks are expected to retain him, they may be pushed by rival suitors if they’re unwilling to put a fully guaranteed maximum salary offer on the tables themselves.

Of course, as O’Connor acknowledges, San Antonio isn’t particularly well positioned to make Porzingis a lucrative long-term offer. Even if they waive and stretch Pau Gasol, who has a partially guaranteed salary for 2019/20, the Spurs will have about $96MM+ in guaranteed contracts on their books for next season.

That $96MM+ figure doesn’t account for San Antonio’s first-round pick or any other cap holds. Assuming a projected salary cap of $109MM, the team would need more than $27MM in room to offer Porzingis his maximum salary. In other words, even if the Spurs’ does have serious interest in the Knicks’ young big man, they’d have to reshape their roster substantially to go after him — New York’s top competition for Porzingis may ultimately come from elsewhere.

Here’s more from O’Connor:

  • While Jimmy Butler‘s issues with the Sixers‘ offensive system appear real, league sources tell O’Connor that the All-NBA swingman has “developed a good relationship” with Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. On Monday night, we passed along Butler’s comments on Brett Brown and the coach’s system.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns said on Monday that no one saw the firing of Tom Thibodeau coming, and it seems that doesn’t just apply to the Timberwolves‘ players — sources tell O’Connor that the decision came as a shock to many in the organization, and some staffers are “in limbo with no idea about what will happen next.”
  • According to O’Connor, league sources believe Fred Hoiberg will be a top candidate for the Timberwolves‘ permanent head coaching position, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Sunday. However, there have been no formal conversations between Hoiberg and owner Glen Taylor about the job, and the club is expected to wait until the offseason to make any decisions on its full-time coach and general manager. For now, coach Ryan Saunders and GM Scott Layden will remain in those roles.

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Lee, Mudiay, Porter

The Knicks have treated the re-signing of Kristaps Porzingis as inevitable, given his pending restricted free agency, but the idea that Porzingis will have no leverage in the process is “bogus,” according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, who points out that star players can “maneuver themselves out of undesirable situations” even when they’re under contract.

Even if Porzingis doesn’t go the extreme route – accepting his one-year qualifying offer and becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – he could make things difficult on the Knicks by demanding a shorter-term deal (three years with a fourth-year player option) or signing an offer sheet with another club. In that scenario, the Nets would be a team to watch, per Bondy, who writes that GM Sean Marks is high on Porzingis and has a history of pursuing RFAs.

A five-year, maximum-salary deal with the Knicks would allow Porzingis to maximize his earnings and would give him long-term security. However, some people around the NBA believe the Knicks may try to include injury protection language in their offer, says Bondy. That way, if Porzingis has recurring issues related to his ACL recovery, the team would be protected to some extent. The youngster views himself as a max player though, according to Bondy, so New York could risk creating discord by offering less than that.

As we wait to see how Porzingis’ free agency plays out, here’s more on the Knicks:

  • While Enes Kanter has expressed frustration and met with GM Scott Perry about his reduced playing time, another veteran – Courtney Lee – has been taking his diminished role in stride, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Lee has been a DNP-CD in three of the Knicks’ last four games, but is keeping a positive outlook. “I believe in karma, man,” Lee said. “Not going to come in here and be negative. Not going to pout. Not going to be a distraction because you never know when something could happen, then I get out there and I just play miserable and that’s all because I wasn’t being a professional. Just stay positive and stay ready for whatever happens.”
  • In a separate Newsday story, Popper explores how Emmanuel Mudiay‘s confidence has increased since he was dealt from Denver to New York last year.
  • Within a story about Courtney Lee, Marc Berman of The New York Post provides a tidbit related to the 2018 draft, citing sources who say the Knicks passed on Michael Porter Jr. last June in part because they were told he wouldn’t play in 2018/19. However, Berman now hears there’s still a chance Porter will make his NBA debut for the Nuggets later this season.

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Thomas, Durant, Knox

The Knicks will wait until February to make a decision on Kristaps Porzingis‘ playing status, but teammate Lance Thomas tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that the Latvian star can’t wait to get back on the court. Porzingis is still recovering from an ACL tear last February, and Thomas offers behind-the-scenes insight into his rehab efforts.

“He’s working really hard, man,’’ Thomas said. “He’s in there before everybody. He’s there when everybody leaves. While we practice, he just has that itch. You can just tell — seeing us compete so hard in practice. He comes to me and says, ‘Man, I can’t wait. I got the itch.’ He grabs a basketball on the side and starts dribbling it. He’s working really hard. I know he’s very anxious getting back on the court.”

Team president Steve Mills provided an update on Porzingis’ condition Friday, explaining that he has started doing 45-minute, one-on-one drills with coaches. The team plans to gradually increase his activity level until he can participate in full practices, hopefully before re-examining him in mid-February. He is expected to have a minutes restriction of about 20 per game if he does return.

“I would love to [play with him this season],’’ Thomas said. “He’s been [my] teammate since he’s been in the NBA. I would love nothing more than to be able to lace it up with him again. He also needs to do what’s best for him. It’s an injury you don’t want to mess around with, especially the type of year he had right before it, an All-Star caliber year. We want to make sure he comes back and he’s confident with all his movements and mentally carefree.”

There’s more today from New York:

  • The Knicks are preparing to make an aggressive run at Kevin Durant next summer, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic. Isola states that Durant will be the team’s top target in free agency, and several league executives at last week’s G League Showcase believe New York will be in the running to sign him. Isola’s comments come as part of an examination of Mills and how he has been able to survive with the organization.
  • Kevin Knox appears to have worked through his first experience with the “rookie wall,” writes Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press. Knox has rediscovered his scoring touch, pouring in 20.3 PPG over the past seven games. “I knew at some point it was going to kick back in for him, I just didn’t know when, and now we’re seeing the kid that we thought we had,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “The kid’s talented. He’ll hit some more pitfalls this year, that’s just part of the deal, but the one thing that’s encouraging is that he’s starting to see things a lot more clear and do some things that can be determined as big-time.”
  • The Knicks are the latest franchise to emphasize the importance of players getting enough sleep, relays Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic.

Atlantic Notes: Kurucs, Celtics, Bolden, Ntilikina

As the Nets have played well in recent weeks, one of the bright spots has been the play and development of Rodions Kurucs, the 20-year-old rookie selected in the second round of the 2018 draft. As Greg Joyce writes for The New York Post, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson believes that there is more to come for Kurucs.

Kurucs is coming off a career-high 24 points against the Pacers, a game in which he often spent his time on the floor guarding Victor Oladipo. As Joyce points out, Atkinson thinks that his recent play isn’t a flash in the pan situation, as he has been impressed with the rookie’s awareness on the floor.

Kurucs received his opportunity to start when Allen Crabbe went down with an injury, but with the way Kurucs is playing, it will be tough for the Nets, winners of eight of the past nine games, to take Kurucs out of the starting lineup.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

Knicks Notes: Free Agency, Porzingis, Knox, Burke

The Knicks don’t see an urgency to sign an elite free agent next summer and believe their rebuilding plan will be fine if they have to wait another year, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The organization’s priorities are landing a top-five draft pick, getting Kristaps Porzingis healthy again and developing rookies Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier, along with Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay.

The summer of 2019 has long been considered pivotal for the Knicks, who will have the cap space to compete on the free agent market for the first time in several years. There are plans in place to open up $38MM — enough to sign a 10-year veteran like Kevin Durant — if the opportunity becomes available, although Berman isn’t sure if those plans include a trade of Tim Hardaway Jr. But a source says the team won’t go that route unless it can land a “dramatic difference maker.”

President Steve Mills seemed to confirm that approach at a press conference Friday when he talked about saving cap room for 2020 and retaining the flexibility to acquire a star through trade. Berman adds that the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis has interest in playing in New York.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • The Knicks are hoping Porziginis can return sometime after the All-Star break so he can start to build chemistry with his younger teammates, Berman relays in the same story. However, the final decision will be based on his physical condition as he recovers from last season’s ACL injury. “The most important thing for us is to have Kristaps on the court when he feels comfortable being on the court and we feel comfortable he should be out there,’’ Mills said. “That’s more important than any timetable this season — or some point in the summer.” Team doctors plan to re-evaluate Porzingis’ condition in February.
  • Knox continued a troubling pattern in Friday’s loss to the Hawks, Berman notes in a separate piece. He made seven of eight shots in the first quarter, but none in the second half, which has been a familiar theme this season. “I expect him to be a big-time scorer, [but it’s] a real conditioning requirement to be a great scorer in this league,” coach David Fizdale said. “He has to learn as he gets stronger and in more physical shape to adapt to scouting reports and adjustments during the game.’’
  • Trey Burke is expected to return to the lineup for the Christmas Day game, but back-to-back DNPs this week suggest he’s not part of the Knicks’ plan for the future, Berman adds.

Knicks To Re-Evaluate Kristaps Porzingis In February

The Knicks have issued a medical update on injured big man Kristaps Porzingis, announcing today in a press release that Porzingis’ knee is healing well and he’s making good progress in his rehabilitation. However, he won’t be returning to the court anytime soon. According to the club, Porzingis will be re-evaluated in mid-February.

As Ian Begley of ESPN.com tweets, president of basketball operations Steve Mills said today that the Knicks feel good about Porzingis’ progress, but he’s “still a ways away.” The 23-year-old has been participating in 1-on-0 workouts with coaches and was shooting threes and dunking in a workout, Begley adds. Despite the team’s enthusiasm about his rehab process, Mills didn’t guarantee that Porzingis would play before the end of the 2018/19 season, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic.

The Knicks’ Porzingis update doesn’t come as a shock. The club is off to a 9-24 start and is almost certainly lottery-bound, so there’s absolutely no need to rush the young forward/center back into action following last season’s ACL tear. If he plays this season, it will almost certainly happen sometime after the All-Star break, and he’d likely see very limited minutes.

In the event that Porzingis plays down the stretch, it would be less about winning games and more about getting his feet back under him after a year-long absence — and giving potential free agent targets a reminder of the player they could join in July.

Porzingis will be a restricted free agent during the summer of 2019, and the Knicks are expected to do whatever it takes to lock him up long-term.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Hezonja, Wall, Dotson

Before getting his third consecutive DNP-CD on Thursday night, Frank Ntilikina offered some terse answers when asked about his role, perhaps conveying a little frustration, as Marc Berman of The New York Post relays. Meanwhile, head coach David Fizdale made some ominous comments when asked about his lineup decisions involving Ntilikina and other Knicks.

“I got a front office that supports me in that,” Fizdale said. “We have to know who’s moving forward out of this group. And it won’t be every single player on this roster, unfortunately. That’s the nature of the business. We have to come out of this year knowing who those guys it’s going to be moving forward with us.”

After Thursday’s game, in which the Knicks surrendered 128 points, Fizdale acknowledged that maybe he should’ve given a strong defender like Ntilikina the opportunity to play, per Steve Popper of Newsday.

“I can always look at him,” Fizdale said. “It ain’t like he’s out, though. Again, it’s going to be a long season. Frank will be getting his opportunities again.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Fizdale said on Thursday that Mario Hezonja is still in New York’s starting lineup because of his effort on defense, as Popper notes. Berman of The New York Post passes along a tweet from former Knicks executive Clarence Gaines Jr. questioning Fizdale’s explanation, while sources also told Berman that Hezonja was happier during his Orlando days when he was in the starting five.
  • Following up on a pair of reports from earlier this week, Ian Begley of ESPN.com says (via Twitter) that the Knicks haven’t had any internal discussions about a possible trade for John Wall and haven’t heard from the Nets or Pistons about Damyean Dotson. Berman previously reported that people around the league believed the Knicks were gearing up to make a push for Wall and said that Detroit and Brooklyn had shown the most interest in Dotson.
  • Lance Thomas is getting close to returning to action, but – like Courtney Lee before him – may have a hard time carving out major minutes in a crowded rotation, Berman writes for The New York Post. Thomas and Lee look like potential trade candidates this season, so New York may make an effort to showcase both players.
  • Ten months after Kristaps Porzingis suffered his ACL tear, there’s still no set timetable for his return to the court, according to Berman.

Knicks Notes: Knox, Ntilikina, Porzingis, Robinson, Lee

The Knicks’ lottery picks over the last two years, point guard Frank Ntilikina and wing Kevin Knox, have been called soft by rival scouts and other league personnel interviewed by the New York Post’s Marc Berman. Knox was also labelled as selfish offensively, settling for long-range jumpers and refusing to move the ball. Ntilikina was knocked for lacking of acumen expected of a floor leader. Coach David Fizdale bristled at the criticism, according to tweet from Newsday’s Steve Popper. “Give them a break,” he said. “These guys are learning on the fly.” Knox said he’ll take the knocks in a constructive way, as Popper relays. “I love the criticism because that’s just going to help me go watch film and make sure I can get better at that,” Knox said.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Knox is eager to establish chemistry with Kristaps Porzingis, Berman reports in a separate story. Porzingis could return in late December from the ACL tear he suffered last season. “It will be great to get him on the court and get the connection going a bit see how it is to play with an All-Star,” he said. “It will be pretty fun when he gets back. Hopefully, we’ll connect.”
  • Fizdale said there’s no talk of sending Knox and fellow rookie Mitchell Robinson to the G League’s Westchester Knicks, Berman writes in another piece. “I’m keeping both of them with us,’’ Fizdale said. “Through whatever tough times we go through, that’s what we have to go through with them right now. But I want them with our guys, playing with our guys, interacting with our guys, having successes and suffering with our guys.”
  • Courtney Lee could make his season debut against the Bucks on Saturday, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic tweets. Fizdale said the veteran shooting guard is probable to play, Vorkunov adds. Lee has been sidelined with a neck injury.