Kristaps Porzingis

Knicks Notes: Lineup, Hezonja, Porzingis, Lee

The Knicks are making a couple changes to their starting lineup, as Marc Berman of The New York Post tweets. Emmanuel Mudiay and Kevin Knox are set to replace Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson in the club’s starting five.

According to Berman (via Twitter), head coach David Fizdale referred to Mudiay today as the Knicks’ “best passer.” While Ntilikina has been effective as a defender this season, he has struggled to produce on the offensive end, and Fizdale is looking for more creation from the point guard spot, Berman notes.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Mario Hezonja represented the Knicks’ most significant free agent addition this past offseason, but he has struggled to hit his stride in New York — he’s shooting a career-worst 29.2% on three-pointers so far. Zach Braziller of The New York Post explores how the Knicks are trying to find the right role for Hezonja and get him going. “I think I’m falling into the same things that other coaches have tried to find: What is he?” Fizdale said. “What spot is best on the floor for him? Can he handle playing the four and the two from a position-less standpoint? Or does he just need to be slotted?”
  • In a separate article for The Post, Braziller relays comments Kristaps Porzingis made to GQ and observes that Porzingis sounds like someone who plans to return to the court well before the end of the season. “Now that it’s getting closer, I can taste it,” Porzingis, who continues to recover from last season’s ACL tear, told Alex Shultz of GQ. “I’m trying to stay patient. The day will come.”
  • The Knicks provided an update on Courtney Lee‘s health following a re-evaluation on Tuesday, tweeting that the veteran wing is progressing well and will begin running on the court this week. Lee is expected to be a prime trade chip for New York at this season’s deadline if gets healthy.

Porzingis, Fizdale Clear Up Rehab Confusion

A fairly innocuous update on Kristaps Porzingis‘ ACL rehab from Knicks head coach David Fizdale on Thursday prompted a response from Porzingis himself, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News relays.

After Fizdale suggested that Porzingis hadn’t made significant progress since training camp and was still just doing light jogging work, the big man – apparently frustrated by the perception that his recovery was moving slowly – published Instagram photos that showed him sprinting on an outdoor track.

Speaking today to reporters, including ESPN’s Ian Begley, Fizdale explained that he wasn’t aware Porzingis had started sprinting, since the 23-year-old has been working with his own physiotherapist and hasn’t been rehabbing exclusively in the Knicks’ practice facility. According to the Knicks’ head coach, he touched base with Porzingis this morning and they’re now on the same page.

“We had a great talk about it,” Fizdale said. “I think how he took (media reports of Fizdale’s comments on Thursday) was that people thought he wasn’t busting his hump, he took it personally. It got to him that people would think that. … I think maybe when he heard me say, ‘Hey, we’re taking it slow’ and all of that stuff — that’s what we’re doing — but at the same time he (doesn’t) want people thinking that he’s not busting his hump, because he’s killing it.”

While a slight misunderstanding involving a player and his coach hardly qualifies as a major story (even in New York), the communication between Porzingis and Fizdale, who quickly resolved the issue, is a good sign for a Knicks franchise that has been plagued by dysfunction in recent years. Under another coach, it’s possible that similar comments could have ballooned into a larger problem and created resentment between the franchise and its star, who will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2019. Fizdale wants to make sure that sort of thing doesn’t happen under his watch.

“With this group of people that we got here right now, our agendas are on point. Everybody’s coming from a good place. So why let things linger?” Fizdale said, per Begley. “That’s how stuff ends up festering into a real problem. It’s all usually some miscommunication or a misunderstanding and something you could’ve hashed out as an adult right there. So I stress that to all of these guys, handle stuff face to face. Eye-to-eye communication. Get it over with.”

Atlantic Notes: Burke, Carroll, Ainge, Porzingis

Knicks guard Trey Burke didn’t see any action in the team’s game against the Hawks on Wednesday, catching the 25-year-old by surprise. Burke. a six-year NBA veteran, has averaged 9.5 points per game in 11 contests this season.

“I’m just as surprised as everyone else,’’ Burke said, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. “I’m going to continue to stay ready and control what I can control.”

Knicks coach David Fizdale opted to use Emmanuel Mudiay more instead of Burke, who rooted for his team from afar. Mudiay registered 11 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes. For Burke, the sudden adjustment won’t change what he’s been doing throughout his career: Staying ready, waiting for his opportunity.

“I’m a competitor,’’ Burke said. “I’m ready to go every single game to help this team win. Of course it was frustrating but you can’t show that. I’ve been through the fire in this league. At this point, nothing can break me. Nothing can make me fold. I got to stick to what I’ve been doing. My faith will get me through all this. It has before and will again. If the opportunity presents itself again, I’ll be ready.’’

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets forward DeMarre Carroll expects to make his season debut on Friday against the Nuggets, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Carroll has missed the team’s first 11 games due to right ankle arthroscopic surgery. The Nets are officially listing him as “probable” for the game.
  • Danny Ainge doesn’t imagine retiring in the near future, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Ainge has served as the Celtics’ president and general manager for over a decade, and explained that he loves his current job. Ainge has constructed several contending teams during his 10 years with the organization, a list that will likely include this season’s roster.
  • There’s still no timetable in place for Kristaps Porzingis‘ eventual return, according to Steve Popper of Newsday.com. Porzingis tore his ACL in February and could miss the rest of the season depending on how his rehab goes. He’s made some appearances at Knicks games and practices, offering support to his teammates and coaches.

Knicks Notes: Rookies, Lee, Rebuild

The Knicks are sticking to their plan so far this season, focusing on player development over wins as they continue to rebuild ahead of Kristaps Porzingis‘ return and 2019 free agency. As Marc Berman writes for The New York Post, the Knicks may have found some diamonds from the 2018 NBA Draft, as Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier have all had their fair share of standout moments this season.

As Berman points out, the Knicks’ 2018 rookie class has grabbed a lot of attention for their highlight plays and impressive performances. Trier went undrafted out of the University of Arizona and is averaging nearly 11 points per game on 53.1% shooting from the field. Meanwhile, second-round pick Mitchell Robinson is averaging 5.4 points and 4 rebounds per game while hitting 66.7% of his shots.

Before going down with an injury, Knox was averaging 9.3 points per game and shooting 44.4 percent from beyond the arc as he projects to be a go-to scorer for years to come.

Having a successful rookie class is a key step in the Knicks’ plan to rebuild around Porzingis and a potential marquee free agency signing in 2019. So far, the 2018 rookies have been as good, if not better than advertised.

There’s more from the Knicks:

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Knox, Dotson, Hezonja

Knicks coach David Fizdale has enjoyed the presence of Kristaps Porzingis at practice and games, with Porzingis still months away from a potential return to the court after tearing his ACL in February.

Porzingis, 23, has mostly been away from the team rehabbing his injury, but was at Madison Square Garden when the Knicks took on Boston Saturday night. He sat on the bench supporting his teammates and was available for advice when needed.

“It’s good for his mindset,” Fizdale said, according to ESPN’s Ian Begley (Twitter link). “When you’re out that long and you’re dealing with injury and you’re dealing with, (you think) ‘if I don’t come back the same and man I can’t even play and these guys are having fun and competing’ and all of that. For him to be around helps. 

“It’s very easy to go into some depression if you stay away from the team when you’re going through something that big. So I think it’s really good for him. I know it’s good for us. The young guys look to him for advice. And for encouragement. And he sees the game very clearly. The film sessions have been fantastic with him. Just him taking over the film sessions and (saying) hey, we have to do this, do this. I know he needs that right now. To feel connected and like I said he’s been fantastic from that point. Totally engaged.” 

There’s more out of New York today:

  • Kevin Knox sustained a sprained left ankle in Saturday’s game against the Celtics, an MRI confirmed. Knox is set to be re-evaluated in one week and won’t make the team’s upcoming two-game road trip.
  • The sudden injury to Knox will free up minutes for young forward Damyean Dotson, Peter Botte of The New York Post contends. Dotson scored 20 points on 4-8 shooting last game, with coach David Fizdale later telling reporters, “I told him this. I told him all through preseason — I trust the kid — ‘You’re a player. You’re exactly what we’re looking for in a player.’ And he earned the right to get on the court. I’m really happy how he kept himself ready, real professional approach.”
  • Former Knicks executive Clarence Gaines Jr. ripped Mario Hezonja following the team’s loss to Boston, tweeting that Hezonja is a “huge liability as an individual defender” (link). Knicks general manager Scott Perry is a longtime Hezonja supporter, with Gaines Jr. being a former right-hand man to Phil Jackson during his time with the Knicks.

New York Notes: LeVert, Porzingis, Dinwiddie, Fizdale

Caris LeVert wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the Nets’ rotation heading into training camp, notes Michael Scotto of The Athletic, but through two games he looks like the early favorite for Most Improved Player. LeVert torched the Knicks for a career-high 28 points Friday night, including the game-winning shot. That followed a 27-point outburst against the Pistons in the season opener.

A month ago, LeVert was part of a large group in Brooklyn battling for playing time. He was competing with DeMarre Carroll, Joe Harris and Allen Crabbe at the wings and D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Shabazz Napier in the backcourt. LeVert’s transformation may be shocking to outsiders, but teammate Jarrett Allen said it has been building for a while.

“We saw it during the summer,” he said. “We knew it was coming, but coming out and playing like this not even we expected him scoring almost 30 points every night, but he’s coming out and showing all the work he’s done this summer is paying off.”
There’s more from New York City:
  • The rivalry between the Knicks and Nets may be more intense next summer than it is during the season, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Both teams should be in the running for lottery picks and both will have plenty of cap room to make a splash on the free agent market. Berman suggests that Brooklyn, which may be in position to offer two max contracts, could really heat things up by pursuing Kristaps Porzingis, who will be a restricted free agent after the deadline for an extension passed without a deal. The Nets can offer him a chance to play alongside fellow Latvian Rodions Kurucs.
  • If the Knicks can’t get a star to take a max offer, they could spend some of their money on Dinwiddie, Berman adds in the same piece. He notes that New York tried to work out a deal for the Nets guard in February, but decided the price was too high and opted for Emmanuel Mudiay instead.
  • David Fizdale’s relaxed exchanges with the media are a sign that a transformation has taken place among Knicks management, contends Harvey Araton of The New York Times. Owner James Dolan has produced a smothering environment among previous coaches, but Fizdale feels free to be open and honest in his assessment of players.

Knicks Notes: Burke, Porzingis, Noah, Ntilikina

Trey Burke is poised to open the season as the Knicks‘ starting point guard, which means he’s in line to lock in a partial guarantee on his salary for 2018/19. According to Basketball Insiders’ salary data, Burke’s $1,795,015 salary for the coming season is mostly non-guaranteed, with only a modest $100K partial guarantee. However, as long as Burke remains on the roster through the club’s first game of the regular season, that guarantee increases to $400K.

It’s safe to say that Burke has secured that $400K. As for whether he guarantees the rest of his ’18/19 salary, that won’t happen until January 10. The Knicks like what they see from the former ninth overall pick though, so unless he has an awful start to the season, it’d be surprising to see Burke waived before the rest of his contract becomes guaranteed.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • It wasn’t surprising that Monday’s rookie scale extension deadline passed without a new deal in place for Kristaps Porzingis. After all, Porzingis continues to recover from an ACL tear and the Knicks can maximize their 2019 cap flexibility by waiting to re-sign him. However, GM Scott Perry‘s response when asked if Porzingis was fine with his contract situation was a little curious, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. “That’s a question you’d have to ask him,” said Perry, who had previously stressed that both sides were on the same page.
  • Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News also notes (via Twitter) that Perry called the Knicks’ extra 2019 cap room a “byproduct” of not extending Porzingis, implying that it wasn’t the club’s primary reason for waiting on a deal. While this may simply be a case of Knicks reporters reading too much into a couple off-hand comments, Porzingis’ restricted free agency next summer will be interesting to monitor.
  • Perry said on Tuesday that he spent “a lot of time” trying to find a trade involving Joakim Noah before waiving him outright, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN.com. However, Perry was dead set against giving up any first-round picks, making a deal a long shot.
  • Head coach David Fizdale has high hopes for second-year guard Frank Ntilikina on the defensive end, as Howie Kussoy of The New York Post relays. “Frank’s going to guard everybody. You can already see where I’m going with him,” Fizdale said. “With Frank, I’m trying to develop a first-team all-defender.”

New York Notes: Lee, Porzingis, RHJ, Kurucs

While Courtney Lee would prefer to have the Knicks enter the season with serious playoff – or championship – aspirations, he’s willing to play the role of the veteran mentor on a young, rebuilding club, as Howie Kussoy of The New York Post details.

“When I first came in, I had guys like Mickael Pietrus, Keith Bogans, J.J. Redick, they did what I’m doing right now, they helped me a lot, they passed the torch to me, and it’s only right for me to do the same thing,” Lee said. “If that’s what’s asked of me, I gotta do that. Would I want to win right now? Of course. Everybody wants to win, but you gotta go through something to get to something, and that’s where we’re at right now.”

Lee also acknowledged that, at 33 years old, he’s not really a part of the Knicks’ young core and won’t have a guaranteed role if the team focuses on developing its young players. However, he believes he can still make an impact by being a “vocal leader” and a “player’s coach on the court.”

Here’s more on the two New York clubs:

  • Echoing what we heard in September, Ian Begley of ESPN.com tweets that the Knicks are not expected to reach a rookie scale extension agreement with Kristaps Porzingis in advance of today’s 5:00pm CT deadline. Assuming that doesn’t change at the 11th hour, Porzingis will be eligible for restricted free agency next summer.
  • Although the Nets didn’t gain traction in Jimmy Butler talks with Minnesota, they’ve already been “active in their pursuits of trades” this fall, as Shams Charania of Stadium details (link via NetsDaily).
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson‘s status for the Nets‘ first game of the season on Wednesday has been up in the air, but the forward is “trending in the right direction,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said on Sunday, per Greg Joyce of The New York Post. “I’ll definitely listen to the medical team and the performance team,” Atkinson said. “We can’t play him 40 minutes that first night, obviously.”
  • In a separate piece for The New York Post, Joyce takes a closer look at Nets second-rounder Rodions Kurucs, who is making a case for regular minutes to start his rookie season.

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Mudiay, Fizdale

Kristaps Porzingis has been part of the Knicks training camp despite the fact that he continues rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered last February. Despite his physical limitations, Porzingis remains an involved presence for New York, Steve Popper of Newsday writes.

“He’s on our staff now,” head coach David Fizdale said jokingly. “He’s helping put stuff in. I mean the guy is so engaged and helping the big guys. He gets it. He sees exactly what I’m trying to do. He’s doing a good job of grabbing Mitchell [Robinson], grabbing Luke [Kornet], our young bigs: ‘Hey, look at it this way.’ ‘Do this way.’ And when he’s not doing that, he’s passing for somebody. If he’s not doing that, he’s shooting or ballhandling or doing something on his own, where he can still be working on his skill set. But he’s staying very active and engaged.”

Porzingis, 23, was in the midst of his best season to date in 2017/18, averaging 22.7 PPG and 6.6 RPG in 48 games before the injury. While there’s no timetable for his return this season — and missing the entire campaign is a distinct possibility — Porzingis is making the effort to get acclimated to a new system in New York.

Check out more Knicks notes below:

  • The Knicks are encouraged by point guard Emmanuel Mudiay‘s recent weight loss and improved ball handling, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.  “I’m going out there and being aggressive and I know you have to take care of the ball,” Mudiay said. “He’s already said if you make a turnover, it’s on to the next play. Don’t really dwell on it.”
  • David Fizdale is entering his first season as Knicks coach and he’s already emphasizing a faster approach to the game, Berman writes in a separate story. Fizdale’s system is a stark contrast to the triangle system implemented by former team president Phil Jackson. “I really do think we can put a fast team on the floor,’’ Fizdale said. “We’re really athletic, just looking at the roster. We just have a very athletic team. We plan to play fast, but we’re going to share the game. There’s not going to be anybody that dominates the ball for us.’’
  • In a recent edition of Knicks notes, we relayed Porzingis’ ACL recovery, Allonzo Trier‘s impressive start to camp and more.

Knicks Notes: Trier, Porzingis, Hezonja, Kyrie

The Knicks are currently carrying rookie guard Allonzo Trier using one of their two-way contract slots, but promoting him to the 15-man regular season squad isn’t out of the question, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Trier has made a good early impression on head coach David Fizdale, who called the former Arizona standout a “good player” and praised his effort on defense.

Berman suggests that the Knicks will have 15 guaranteed contracts on their books once they buy out Joakim Noah. By our count, only 13 of those would be fully guaranteed — Trey Burke and Noah Vonleh have modest partial guarantees. While Burke almost certainly isn’t going anywhere, it’s not clear whether Vonleh is a lock for the regular season roster.

If New York wants to keep both Burke and Vonleh and promote Trier to the 15-man squad, Ron Baker and his $4.54MM guaranteed salary could be the odd man out. For now though, it doesn’t appear that there’s any urgency to get Trier signed to a standard contract — the Knicks could do so later in the season, when he’s nearing his 45-day NBA limit.

Here’s more out of New York:

  • When asked about his ACL recovery earlier this week, Kristaps Porzingis suggested that his rehab protocol has been a little unusual, since there are few – if any – precedents for a 7’3″ player returning from the injury. However, two medical experts who spoke to Berman of The New York Post say that they don’t think Porzingis’ height should have any substantial impact on his recovery process.
  • Despite three up-and-down seasons in Orlando, new Knicks forward Mario Hezonja is confident in his ability to be a difference-making player going forward. “There is no ceiling for me. And you know that,” Hezonja told Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News with a smile. “I know that but I’m not going to be rushing, I’m not going to be skipping steps. I’m not going to be thinking about it. It’s going to come. I just have to go step-by-step. Practice-by-practice, game-by-game.”
  • Kyrie Irving‘s comments on Media Day about being able to envision a long-term future in Boston won’t halt speculation about him moving to New York as a free agent in 2019, but they were still a blow for the Knicks, says Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post.