Kristaps Porzingis

Knicks GM: No Interest In Tanking

The Knicks were widely viewed as a bottom-10 NBA team entering the 2017/18 season, but they’ve played .500 ball so far, and president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry would like to see team keep winning and contend for a playoff spot, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. As Berman details, Perry expressed a distaste for the idea of tanking, suggesting the Knicks won’t go down that road.

“I don’t think that’s healthy for any culture,” Perry said. “I think if you try to institutionalize losing, that’s hard to get out of your building.”

When the Knicks finally found a new home for Carmelo Anthony just before training camp opened in the fall, it signaled that the team had fully committed to its rebuild, lowering expectations for the coming season. A losing record and a top-10 pick for 2018 was considered a probable outcome. At the moment though, the Knicks hold the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, with a tiebreaker edge over the Sixers — both teams are 13-13.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Eastern Conference Playoff Race]

While the Knicks’ hold on a playoff spot is tenuous, the team’s lack of interest in tanking should send a positive message to the players on the roster, including Kristaps Porzingis. As Berman notes, the Knicks are aware that Porzingis wants to see signs of progress before he commits to a long-term contract with the franchise. The standout big man, who will be extension-eligible for the first time in 2018, believes making the playoffs is an “achievable” goal for the Knicks this season.

“I don’t believe in [tanking] either,” Porzingis told Berman, agreeing with Perry. “Every season you have to go with the expectations of making the playoffs. That’s the way to get better. If you do make the playoffs, that experience, you can’t change for nothing. Every player should as soon as you start you career. The sooner you get that, the more you’re prepared for the future. I’m really looking forward to making the playoffs.”

New York Notes: Lee, Porzingis, Crabbe, Russell

With Tim Hardaway Jr. expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks – and possibly longer – the Knicks’ performance during his absence may go a long way toward dictating the team’s approach to the trade deadline, writes Ian Begley of ESPN.com. If New York can tread water and remain in the playoff hunt during that time, the front office could stand pat or even attempt to bolster the roster in February. If not, perhaps the Knicks will become deadline sellers.

In the event that the Knicks do decide to move veterans, Courtney Lee is one player to watch. Lee, who scored 24 points on Wednesday, continues to draw interest from opposing teams, league sources tell Begley. Lee’s contract, which is guaranteed through 2019/20 at about $12MM per year, is somewhat onerous, limiting his trade value, but his shot-making ability (.465 3PT%) should certainly appeal to teams around the NBA.

Here’s more on the two New York teams:

  • Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis was represented by Andy Miller, who relinquished his certification as an agent this week, but his primary agent is his brother Janis Porzingis, who also works at ASM Sports. As such, Porzingis is expected to remain at the agency with his brother despite Miller’s situation, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.
  • Knicks owner James Dolan was named as a defendant in a civil suit filed against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Begley has the details at ESPN.com.
  • Nets guard Allen Crabbe was fined $15K by the NBA after throwing a ball at the basket stanchion on Monday (link via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today). Crabbe is set to earn more than $19.3MM this season, so the $15K hit to his salary is a drop in the bucket.
  • While Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson didn’t provide an official update on D’Angelo Russell‘s recovery timetable this week, his comments suggest that Russell’s return isn’t exactly imminent, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post details.

Atlantic Notes: Kanter, McConnell, Russell

Despite having missed the last two games with back spasms, Enes Kanter remains committed to trying to play Monday night, Al Iannazzone of Newsday writes. The 25-year-old wants to get back out on the court for the Knicks even if he’s not quite 100% ready.

I might not be a hundred percent, but I think I’m going to try and play,” the Knicks’ center said. “I play with pain probably 95 percent of the season every season. If they think it’s not going to affect me in the long run, I’ll play. It doesn’t matter.

Of course the Knicks won’t make any irresponsible decisions with their prized new big man. Kanter is averaging 13.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game so far this season.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • For the third straight year, Sixers guard T.J. McConnell is proving that he’s an overlooked – and underpaid – asset. Keith Pompey of The Inquirer writes that the 25-year-old guard proved himself all over again as a substitute starter for the injured Ben Simmons this weekend. McConnell makes just $1.4MM this season.
  • Although he remains inactive without a timetable, injured guard D’Angelo Russell will join the Nets on their upcoming road trip, Anthony Puccio of Nets Daily writes. The offseason addition will be called upon to help lead from the sidelines and stay engaged with the group.
  • With some of the best length in the NBA, Kristaps Porzingis could be a nightmare for opposing teams in the paint. Per Marc Berman of the New York Post, legendary big man Hakeem Olajuwon would like to mentor the 7’3″ Knicks forward whose current Dream Shake leaves much to be desired.

Knicks Notes: Noah, Porzingis, Jack, Hernangomez

For the second straight night, illness prevented Joakim Noah from making his season debut, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter were both held out of tonight’s game in Houston because of back spasms, leaving the Knicks short-handed in the frontcourt. Noah, who was suspended for the first 12 games of the season and hasn’t been used since returning because of a logjam at center, didn’t travel with the team because he has the flu. The Knicks thought about flying him to the game, but he wasn’t well enough to make the trip.

There’s more tonight from New York:

  • The Knicks appear to be shielding Porzingis from playing in back-to-back games, Berman writes in the same piece. The NBA no longer allows teams to hold star players out of games for rest, but this is the second time Porzingis hasn’t played in that situation because of an injury. He claims his back tightened up after Friday’s contest in Atlanta. “After the game, once I cooled down, that’s when I really was feeling tightness in my back and knew it wasn’t getting better but worse,” Porzingis said. “[After] the flight, I woke up this morning, sleeping in a different bed, it didn’t help. It just got tighter.”
  • The loss to the Hawks displayed some of New York’s glaring weaknesses, Berman notes in a separate story. Jarrett Jack, who signed with the Knicks shortly before the start of camp, had 14 assists Friday but couldn’t control Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder, who finished with 26 points. Jack wasn’t aggressive on pick-and-roll defense, according to Berman, and backup Frank Ntilikina was a non-factor. Interior defense was also a problem, Berman observes, as Willy Hernangomez and Kyle O’Quinn were slow on rotations.
  • Hernangomez, who has been limited mostly to “garbage time” this season, said he wasn’t familiar with that phrase before the year began, Berman relays in another story. Playing time remains an issue for the second-year center, who has appeared in just 10 games and is averaging nine minutes per night. “If I get those minutes, I will use it,’’ Hernangomez said. “I think I can play more minutes than garbage minutes. Every time I go on the court, whether starting or the last two minutes, I enjoy playing basketball.’’

Atlantic Notes: Covington, Siakam, Porzingis

While the common reaction may be to tout Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as prime examples of The Process paying off, Keith Pompey of The Inquirer writes that Robert Covington may be a better example.

Covington, now a coveted (and well-paid) three-and-D specialist, was an unpolished, lanky three-point shooter when the Sixers picked him up during the 2014/15 season. It was head coach Brett Brown who challenged him to round out his game.

The Process, Pompey writes, was about developing young players amid all the years of tanking so a completed project like Covington – who now averages 16.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, not to mention 3.7 threes per contest at a .491 clip – is as fine an embodiment as any of the Sixers’ transition.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • With D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin in street clothes, now is Isaiah Whitehead‘s time to earn playing time at the point guard position, Greg Joyce of the New York Post writes. “I think I’ve matured a lot since last year,” Whitehead says of the fluctuations in his role with the Nets. “I don’t think I would have been able to handle that last year. But I’ve matured a lot, knowing it’s for the better. … I think I reacted well to it.
  • Second-year forward Pascal Siakam has made an impact on Raptors games with his relentless energy level, Michael Grange of Sportsnet writes. “He don’t get tired,” teammate DeMar DeRozan says. “I don’t understand it. Y’all should see him before practice. He’s out there doing all types of drills, already sweating and everything. It’s crazy to see.
  • An eclectic offseason training regime can be credited, at least in part, with Kristaps Porzingis‘ emergence as a superstar this season, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. The Knicks big man trained with a professional boxer and went on a safari in South Africa.

Injury Notes: A. Davis, Thomas, Porzingis, Wall

Earlier today, we passed on the news that Sixers guard Markelle Fultz in making progress with his shoulder ailment. Here are a few more injury notes involving some of the NBA’s top players:

  • Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has cleared the concussion protocol and is probable for Monday’s game, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Davis was diagnosed with a contusion of the orbit bone above his right eye after a collision the third quarter of Friday night’s contest. He was removed from the game and didn’t re-enter.
  • Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas participated in some five-on-zero drills and worked on his shot today in practice, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com (Twitter link).
  • Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has swelling in his elbow caused by bursitis, but says it isn’t the reason for his recent shooting problems, according to Ian Begley of ESPN (Twitter link). “At the end of last season, it was really swollen; it was really, really big,” he said of the elbow. “But it was never really bothering me. Now this season, kind of fell on it a couple of times. It wasn’t bothering me either. In Sacramento, I fell kind of on the side. It was a new spot. It was much more sensitive. Now I’m doing treatment. Today’s the day I’m almost back to normal. I almost don’t feel it at all anymore.”
  • Wizards guard John Wall will miss today’s game with soreness in his left knee, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.
  • Warriors forward Kevin Durant suffered a sprained ankle last night and will sit out today’s game in Brooklyn, tweets Warriors PR.

Knicks Notes: Hardaway Jr., Ntilikina, Hornacek

The Knicks may have been onto something with Tim Hardaway Jr. all along. As Marc Berman of the New York Post writes, the shooting guard, whose four-year, $71MM contract was ridiculed at the time of signing, is starting to live up to his lofty contract.

Over the course of the past nine games, the 25-year-old has averaged 20.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Now, as Newsday’s Barbara Barker writes in her own feature, the swingman is stepping up as a valuable No. 2 option for the Knicks behind Kristaps Porzingis.

While the deal was initially panned when it was announced, Berman reasons that Steve Mills and the Knicks’ front office, leery of losing out on another coveted free agent, had to offer a big enough deal to discourage the Hawks from matching.

There’s more Knicks news today:

  • First-year point guard Frank Ntilikina has thrived for the Knicks on both ends of the ball. His impact thus far into his rookie campaign has been beyond what most predicted, Ian Begley of ESPN writes. “It’s great that a young guy comes into this league with more defensive principles than the offensive principles,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It’s hard to teach.”
  • The Knicks have more confidence in their offense now that Jeff Hornacek has been cleared to run his own plays, ESPN’s Ian Begley writes. “Our guys are feeling comfortable with what we’re running,” the coach said. “We’re going to get better at that. It’s a style most of those guys like to play. It makes it easier for them.
  • With Phil Jackson out of the picture, the Knicks’ front office is easing tension with Janis Porzingis. Marc Berman of the New York Post writes that the brother of Kristaps Porzingis, who also serves as the star’s agent, was recently seen amiably chatting with team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry.

Knicks Notes: LeBron, Smith Jr., Cauley-Stein, Lee

LeBron James offered an assessment of the Knicks’ draft strategy after Saturday’s game in Dallas, relays Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. impressed James with 21 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks. The Cavaliers star told reporters after the game that Smith “should be a Knick,” indicating that New York should have taken him instead of Frank Ntilikina, who was selected one pick earlier.

“He’s an unbelievable talent [with] athleticism,” said James. “He’s very poised to be his age, can shoot the ball, penetrate. He’s only going to get better and better with the opportunity that he’s getting here. Dallas got a good one. I’ve been knowing that. I’ve been with him for so long now. I’ve been knowing his talent level.”

James is sure to be asked to expand on those comments when the Cavaliers visit Madison Square Garden Monday. MacMahon suggests the statements were part of a long-running feud with former Knicks president Phil Jackson, who angered James last year by using the word “posse” to describe his associates. The Knicks came to Ntilikina’s defense, with Enes Kanter tweeting, “Nope!! We love what we got…Thanks!!!”

There’s more this morning out of New York:

  • The Knicks received a better draft grade from Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, who told Howie Kussoy of The New York Post that the organization made the right decision in 2015 when it passed on him to select Kristaps Porzingis. Cauley-Stein was labeled as the best defensive big man in the draft and had a pre-draft workout for the Knicks. The team opted for Porzingis at No. 4, and Cauley-Stein went to Sacramento two picks later. “I thought I had a pretty good chance of coming here, but they ended up picking the right guy,” Cauley-Stein said. “This league’s all about situations. I went to a situation where I’m playing behind the best center in the league [DeMarcus Cousins], or I could’ve gone to somewhere where they don’t have a guy, and now you’re the guy, and you’re getting all the touches. That helps a lot.”
  • Coach Jeff Hornacek has wanted Courtney Lee to shoot more often since he signed with the team in the summer of 2016, Kussoy writes in a separate story. The 10-year veteran posted a 20-point performance Saturday night and is making a case to be the team’s second option. “He shot the shots he was supposed to,” Hornacek said. “He didn’t need to be wide open. He’s a great shooter. He can shoot it with guys in his face. That helps spread the court.”
  • Hornacek is an overlooked factor in the Knicks’ 7-5 start, according to Ian Begley of ESPN. He has the team sharing the ball, improving from 23rd to seventh in assist ratio, and working together on defense. “I think he’s done a great job,” said Jarrett Jack, who became a starter after New York lost its first three games. “I know for me, as someone who always has to be a kind of extension of the coach, me and him have been able to kind to develop a relationship where I can kind of read what he wants on the court and I can kind of relay it to the guys.” 

Knicks Notes: Kuzminskas, Noah, O’Quinn, Porzingis

Mindaugas Kuzminskas is among several Knicks waiting for the team’s next move once Joakim Noah‘s suspension ends, tweets Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Noah is serving the last of his 20 games tonight, which means a roster change should happen soon. The Knicks have 15 other players under contract, so an opening will have to be created before Noah can be activated.

Kuzminskas, who was inactive for tonight’s contest, told reporters he is anxious to see what the team decides to do. He is making $3,025,035 in the final year of his contract, which may be a lot for the Knicks to absorb when Ramon Sessions, Jarrett Jack and Michael Beasley are all signed for the veterans’ minimum of $1,471,382. However, Kuzminskas has barely played this season, getting into one game for just two minutes of action. That follows a promising rookie year in which he averaged 6.8 points in 68 games.

There’s more news out of New York:

  • Noah isn’t sure how he will fit into the team’s logjam at center, relays Marc Berman of The New York PostEnes Kanter has taken over the starting job since being acquired in a trade with the Thunder, and Kyle O’Quinn has emerged as the primary backup. Willy Hernangomez has appeared in just six games, and playing time figures to get even tighter with four centers available. “All I can do is just be as ready as possible,’’ Noah said. “I feel like I’ve put myself in that position, grinding hard. Whatever my role is I’ll accept it. It’s tough, you know? We have a lot of very good players at our position.”
  • The front office has been making calls to measure O’Quinn’s trade value, Berman writes in the same story. He has been impressive with 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in a reserve role, and the Bucks may be interested after parting with Greg Monroe this week to obtain Eric Bledsoe.
  • Kristaps Porzingis isn’t just playing better this season, he’s enjoying it more, Berman notes in a separate story. Last year’s turmoil, which included Porzingis skipping his post-season exit interview then being shopped for potential trades, disappeared with the firing of team president Phil Jackson“Yes, it was a tough year,’’ Porzingis said Friday on WFAN. “We won a lot of games in the beginning because of our talent. I could tell right away it wasn’t going to keep that up for the whole season.  It started to go downhill, it wasn’t fun anymore.  It was not a very enjoyable season.’’

Kristaps Porzingis May Require Offseason Surgery

Kristaps Porzingis may require offseason surgery on his right elbow due to on-going bursitis, which is an inflammation condition. The big man has had the issue for years and might need to have his elbow drained or potentially undergo another sort of surgical procedure on it as soon as this summer, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

“When I hit it again it just swells up and it’s sensitive and I can’t stretch my arm,’’ Porzingis said of his ballooning elbow. “It bothers me a little bit, but not that bad. It’s always, I have to get the swelling down and then I’ll be fine again. But I think once the season’s over. I might have to do something about it. I just can’t keep going like this every year.”

Porzingis was absent from Wednesday’s loss to the Magic, but he believes he’ll be back on Saturday against the Kings. In addition to the elbow injury, he’s also dealing with an ankle ailment.

“Sometimes it’s smart when something’s hurting to maybe sit out one game and not later lose four games,’’ Porzingis said. “But in this case, I got to the point with the ankle I needed to give it a rest. Hopefully I’ll be ready next game.”

The injury appears to be the only thing slowing down the 22-year-old this season. In 10 games played this season, Porzingis is averaging 30.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game while shooting 51.2% from the field.

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