Kurt Rambis

Knicks Fire Jeff Hornacek

The Knicks have dismissed head coach Jeff Hornacek, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Wojnarowski, team management informed Hornacek of its decision upon returning to New York late Wednesday night following the Knicks’ win in Cleveland. The club has since confirmed the move.

Hornacek, who previously coached the Suns, was hired by the Knicks in 2016. He took the reins from interim head coach Kurt Rambis., who stayed on as an assistant until he was also relieved of his duties today, per Marc Berman of The New York Post (Twitter link). In two seasons with the franchise, Hornacek led the Knicks to a 60-104 record (.366), missing the playoffs in consecutive years.

Having been hired by former Knicks president Phil Jackson, Hornacek was considered to be on the hot seat for much of the 2017/18 season. Expectations for the Knicks weren’t high entering the year, particularly after the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City in September, so the team’s 29-win showing wasn’t necessarily a major disappointment. Still, there was a belief that the new regime – led by president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry – would want to bring in its own head coach to lead the next stage of New York’s rebuild.

It’s not yet clear if there’s a frontrunner to replace Hornacek on the Knicks’ bench, but a few potential candidates – including Mark Jackson, David Blatt, and David Fizdale – have been mentioned multiple times over the past couple months. The Knicks plan to contact those three veteran coaches, league sources tell Wojnarowski.

In a piece for The New York Daily News on Wednesday, Frank Isola identified Doc Rivers, Jeff Van Gundy, and Jerry Stackhouse as other possible options to replace Hornacek. Wojnarowski confirms (via Twitter) that Stackhouse is on the Knicks’ list of candidates to contact.

Isola also cited a source who named current Knicks VP of player development Craig Robinson as a “long-shot candidate” to move to the head coach position. While that scenario seems unlikely, Robinson was formerly a college head coach at Brown and Oregon State.

Hornacek is the fourth head coach fired by an NBA team during the 2017/18 league year, joining Earl Watson (Suns), Fizdale (Grizzlies), and Jason Kidd (Bucks). Phoenix, Memphis, and Milwaukee have hired interim coaches for now, but figure to conduct full-fledged searches soon, so the Knicks may have to compete with those clubs as they look to schedule interviews.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Knicks Rumors: Carmelo, P. Jackson, Porzingis

After a year of non-stop drama, there’s an air of optimism and hopefulness surrounding the Knicks that was noticeably absent during last season’s Phil Jackson vs. Carmelo Anthony standoff, writes Ian Begley of ESPN. While the Knicks have had played well, with a 16-14 record so far, their on-court success isn’t the only thing contributing to the positive mood within the organization, as one team source tells Begley.

“Everyone just seems a little lighter,” the source said. “The drama Phil created with Carmelo really affected the team and the joy factor.”

In an in-depth piece for ESPN, Begley revisits that Jackson-and-Anthony saga, highlighting some of the incidents and confrontations that ultimately led to both men leaving the franchise. Begley’s feature is worth checking out in full, especially for Knicks fans, but here are a few highlights:

  • Some members of the organization knew back in summer 2015 that they wanted to trade Anthony, and by the following year, that sentiment was shared by virtually all of the Knicks‘ top decision-makers, says Begley. “The feeling in meetings was almost unanimous: They felt he just wasn’t a winning player,” one source said. “They thought they could turn everything around if they just moved him.” Anthony was aware of this stance, despite some of those execs insisting they were still on his side, which was a big reason why he soured on the organization.
  • Jackson regularly interrupted Knicks practices and overrode Jeff Hornacek‘s instructions to ensure that the triangle offense was being implemented properly, despite two veteran players telling him directly that the system wasn’t working, per Begley.
  • Jackson presided over mindfulness meditation training with the Knicks during his last year in New York, as he had done with his previous teams. However, some Knicks players didn’t take it seriously — during the final sessions, Anthony would sometimes pretend to be asleep when Jackson told the players to open their eyes, witnesses told Begley.
  • During a March 12 loss to the Nets last season, Anthony and assistant Kurt Rambis blew up at each other during halftime. Anthony told Rambis that “this place is a f—ing joke,” and Rambis questioned Carmelo’s effort (in equally colorful language), according to Begley.
  • After Kristaps Porzingis skipped his exit meeting in the spring, Jackson discussed possible trades involving the young big man. While those discussions were framed by some as Jackson teaching Porzingis a lesson, there were members of the front office in favor of moving the Latvian at the time, sources tell Begley.
  • For a portion of the summer, Anthony strongly believed that he’d end up in Houston, expressing a belief that LeBron James would eventually join him and Chris Paul on the Rockets. Although the Rockets tried to make a deal, discussing one three-team iteration that would’ve involved Jabari Parker and the Bucks, it ultimately didn’t work out, resulting in the trade that sent Carmelo to the Thunder.

Atlantic Notes: Hayward, Saric, Rambis

Among the biggest things that Gordon Hayward will have to adjust to when suiting up for the Celtics this year is the big market environment, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald writes.

Ever since rumors started to swirl that Boston may be the ultimate landing spot of the 2017 free agent (thanks in large part to Celtics head coach Brad Stevens), Hayward started to notice just how much attention he was generating in New England.

It is different, and that’s something that’s different for me because I’ve flown under the radar since I’ve been in high school,” Hayward said. “Going into making this decision [to join the Celtics], we talked about how there’s going to be more of a spotlight.

Hayward averaged 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Jazz last season. This year he’ll look to mesh well with a Celtics team dead-set on competing for the Eastern Conference title.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Despite a solid string of performances when given the opportunity to lead the Sixers, Dario Saric is poised to come off the bench for the squad at the start of the 2017/18 season. As Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, there were spacing issues when Saric played alongside Joel Embiid last season and it’s hard to envision a good fit for him with the rest of Philly’s expected starters on defense.
  • After a dismal 2016/17 season, Kurt Rambis has been relieved of his unofficial duties as the Knicks‘ defensive coordinator, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Rambis remains an associate head coach with the team, however.
  • Unsurprisingly, the Sixers have not engaged with Nik Stauskas about a possible contract extension, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Despite that, the shooting guard would be open to remaining with the team beyond this season.

Knicks Notes: Beasley, Anthony, Rambis, Jack, Triangle

The Knicks unveiled one of their latest signings, journeyman Michael Beasley, during a press conference at their Westchester training facility on Tuesday. Beasley, a former second overall pick from the 2008 draft class, is confident as he joins his fifth team in six seasons, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

Beasley, 28, averaged 9.4 PPG and 3.4 RPG in 56 games (six starts) with the Bucks last season. It was Beasley’s first season playing more than 55 games since his 2012/13 campaign with the Suns. Beasley feels that if Carmelo Anthony stays, and the rest of the team performs up to expectations, the Knicks can be a “five, six seed” in the Eastern Conference.

Tim Hardaway Jr., Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and myself — those are four guys that can score 25 points per game,’’ Beasley said. “Then you add in Lance Thomas, Kyle O’Quinn, Joakim Noah — let’s not forget about that All-Star,” Beasley said. “It’s up to us to put it together just like it was up to them last year. Whatever happened last year is what happened. But I’m here now, and I’m going to do everything I can to get everyone on the same page, even if that page is beating me up every day in practice.”

As we wait to see whether Beasley and the Knicks can deliver on his optimistic forecast, here are a few more Knicks notes:

  • In a separate story, Berman of the New York Post, dubbing Beasley as a possible Anthony replacement, notes that Knicks assistant coach Kurt Rambis played a role in bringing Beasley to New York. Beasley played under Rambis in Minnesota, and he confirmed that his former coach “had a lot to do” with him joining the Knicks, per ESPN’s Ian Begley (Twitter link).
  • After missing most of the last two seasons, 13-year veteran Jarrett Jack signed a deal with the Knicks last week. As Al Iannazzone of Newsday writes that the veteran likes the Knicks’ 2017 first-round pick, Frank Ntilikina. “He’s a solid kid, man,” Jack said. “Really, really can play. Really long arms, really active defensively. Great size. Just looking forward to giving him all the game that I’ve gotten over these 13 years.”
  • Berman of The New York Post writes that early indications are that the triangle offense may be a thing of the past, as expected after Phil Jackson‘s departure. The aforementioned Jack, who spoke to reporters about his experience at voluntary workouts, said that coach Jeff Hornacek has not mentioned the offensive scheme once.
  • Whether Anthony stays or traded elsewhere, his Knicks future is a no-win situation, Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders writes.

Porzingis To Spend Summer In Latvia; Anthony May Resist Trade

Kristaps Porzingis, who made a statement about the Knicks organization by skipping his exit interview Friday, plans to spend most of the summer in his native Latvia, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

Porzingis’ move was seen as a protest against the “unprofessionalism and routine chaos” that he has encountered during his two seasons with the team, Wojnarowski writes, noting that he may not return to the United States until just before the start of camp.

His stance appears to represent the prevalent feeling in the locker room. Many players are saying privately that they don’t want to be involved in summer tutoring sessions in the triangle offense that are planned at the Knicks’ practice facility. Wojnarowski describes the atmosphere as an “open rebellion” against team president Phil Jackson’s philosophy.

It also appears that Jackson’s statements on Friday urging Carmelo Anthony to accept a trade this summer have backfired. Wojnarowski writes that the Knicks plan to reopen trade talks before the draft in June, but Anthony has become more determined to spend two more years in New York and try to outlast Jackson. With the Knicks picking up Jackson’s option this week, both he and Anthony have two seasons left on their current contracts.

Jackson’s press conference was the latest addition to the chaos that has left Porzingis disillusioned. He developed a good working relationship with coach Derek Fisher as a rookie, Wojnarowski writes, but Fisher was fired midway through last season, partly because of a dispute with Jackson over the triangle and the best way to use Porzingis in the offense.

Jackson appointed Kurt Rambis as interim head coach and wanted to give him the job permanently, but opposition inside and outside the organization forced him to hire someone else. He chose Jeff Hornacek, who had recently been fired by the Suns and had little leverage to oppose the triangle or force out Rambis, who remains as an assistant.

Reaction To Phil Jackson’s Press Conference

Feedback continues to pour in from Phil Jackson’s press conference on Friday, and almost all of it is negative. The Knicks president covered numerous topics in his first meeting with reporters since training camp, including the future of coach Jeff Hornacek, Derrick Rose‘s desire to stay with the team and whether Kristaps Porzingis is ready to be a franchise player. But the headlines revolved around the ongoing Carmelo Anthony dispute, with Jackson saying Anthony would be happier elsewhere.

Here’s a sampling of reaction from the media:

  • Jackson is undermining Hornacek by announcing plans to do more “mentoring” next season, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Jackson suggested that he would rather still be coaching than handling front office duties and blames a vacation he took for the team falling apart. He also defended his triangle offense and insisted that any failures were caused by resistance from players “at the top,” which sounds like another swipe at Anthony.
  • Jackson is blaming everyone but himself for the Knicks’ failures, charges Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Jackson “emerged from his ivory tower,” Bontemps writes, and insulted Anthony, undercut Hornacek and alienated Porzingis, who skipped his exit interview on Friday. Bontemps also blasts Knicks owner James Dolan, who had a chance to cut ties with Jackson this week, but instead picked up his option for two more years.
  • Jackson’s remarks toward Hornacek means the coach will be on a “short leash” starting next season, claims Marc Berman of The New York Post. Hornacek will be on the second year of a three-year contract and will be sharing control of the team with Jackson and assistant coach Kurt Rambis, another triangle advocate who served as interim coach before Hornacek was hired. Jackson cited “some disconnect at times with this team” at the press conference, and Berman states that discontent grew in the locker room as the season soured.
  • The Knicks’ offseason may turn out to be worse than the regular season, suggests Al Iannazzone of Newsday. In 49 minutes, he writes, Jackson managed to lower Anthony’s trade value and scare off any prominent free agents who may have been considering New York. Iannazzone sums up Jackson’s strategy as making sure the triangle is emphasized and turning over the roster one more time.

Atlantic Notes: Rambis, Atkinson, Whitehead, Olynyk

A day after taking over as the Knicks‘ defensive coordinator, Kurt Rambis told Marc Berman of The New York Post that the team’s roster shakeup is part of the problem. New York has given up more than 100 points in every game this season, so head coach Jeff Hornacek appointed Rambis on Tuesday to solve the problem. “We got 10 new guys, so everything is a work in progress,’’ Rambis said. “If we had everybody healthy and everybody here and playing, it still was going to be a process and take some time. Just simple terminology. It may be the same defensive action, but everyone calls it something different. So it’s just getting everyone knowing the same terminology and play calls, so everybody’s on the same page. Everybody’s got to be on the string. It takes all five guys to stop a pick-and-roll situation in this league. Everyone’s got to be communicating well. Right now we’re not connected.’’

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Kenny Atkinson’s motion offense is making a difference for the Nets, according to NetsDaily. Through its first seven games, Brooklyn has increased its pace of play more than any other team and is leading the league with 333 passes per game. Per 48 minutes, the Nets are averaging 6.2 more possessions each game than they did a year ago. Atkinson has also placed a greater emphasis on shooting 3-pointers, and the Nets are now taking 39.5% of their shots from long distance, compared to 21.8% last season.
  • Nets rookie point guard Isaiah Whitehead was diagnosed with a concussion, the team announced today. Whitehead will go through the NBA’s concussion protocols and will be sidelined until his symptoms are gone. Losing Whitehead was part of the reason that the Nets re-signed Yogi Ferrell this afternoon.
  • Celtics center Kelly Olynyk is seeing his first action of the season in tonight’s game with the Wizards, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNMidAtlantic. This is the first time on the court since last year’s playoffs for Olynyk, who underwent surgery on his right shoulder in May. “He’s a good player,” coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s helped us win in the past. He brings a skillset on offense and an understanding on defense that will benefit us.” Boston has been shorthanded in the front court with Al Horford recovering from a concussion and Jae Crowder out for at least another week with a sprained ankle.

New York Notes: Rambis, Randle, Foye, Nets

As we passed along earlier today, Knicks president Phil Jackson is reportedly unhappy with the team’s offense, which hasn’t incorporated many elements of the triangle. While Jackson and some of the Knicks players appear to be at odds over the triangle, it’s the team’s defense that has been the real problem — New York ranks dead last in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions, and hasn’t held any of its opponents under 102 points in a game so far. We’ve got some details on how the Knicks plan to tackle that area of concern, along with some other notes out of New York:

  • The Knicks have put assistant coach – and former interim head coach – Kurt Rambis in charge of their defense, reports ESPN’s Marc Stein (Twitter links). According to Stein, the club’s assistants weren’t assigned any specific areas of emphasis to start the season, but have asked Rambis to focus on defense after a troublesome start.
  • Point guard Chasson Randle was “all but assured” of a regular-season roster spot with the Knicks, but a fractured orbital bone last month led to his preseason release. Marc Berman of The New York Post takes a closer look at the current situation for Randle, who says he has contemplated playing overseas but still hopes to return to the Knicks when he’s healthy.
  • Summer signee Randy Foye received a modest one-year contract from the Nets and wasn’t necessarily viewed as a significant addition. However, with Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez sidelined, Brooklyn will be very happy to see Foye return from a hamstring injury and make his Nets debut, writes Howie Kussoy of The New York Post. “It just gives us some stability, some leadership, defense and I think it’s gonna help us [and] help our young guys,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said on Monday. “He looked good in practice. [It’s] welcome news.”

Rambis Suggested Hornacek As Knicks’ Head Coach

Knicks president Phil Jackson says interim coach Kurt Rambis first suggested hiring Jeff Hornacek as the team’s head coach, according to Charley Rosen of TodaysFastBreak.com. In the latest installment of “The Phil Jackson Chronicles,” Jackson states that Rambis and Hornacek had a working relationship that began when they both played for the Suns.

“It was Kurt Rambis who first suggested Jeff,” Jackson recalled. “They had played together in Phoenix for several seasons so Kurt had a good read on Jeff. The Suns’ coach was Cotton Fitzsimmons who had been an assistant at Kansas State under Tex Winter. So Cotton knew the triangle, ran pieces of it and believed in system basketball. It was there that Jeff teamed up with Kevin Johnson in a two-guard offense, which is how the triangle is formatted.”

Jackson had been impressed by the job Hornacek did in his two and a half years as head coach in Phoenix. In mid-May, Jackson held a six-hour meeting with Hornacek in Los Angeles, diagramming plays and discussing offensive and defensive philosophies.

“I liked the way he saw the whole game and how every part was interrelated,” Jackson said. “Jeff also said that he believes in visualization, that a shooter should visualize the ball going through the hoop every time he shoots. I could easily visualize him coaching the Knicks, and I was sold.”

Jackson and Hornacek flew back to New York for a private dinner with GM Steve Mills, but the media learned about the meeting and reported Hornacek’s hiring well before it occurred. Jackson says he wishes that hadn’t happened because the story broke before he could inform the other candidates who interviewed for the job.

Knicks Expected To Retain Kurt Rambis As Assistant

The Knicks are currently in negotiations with Kurt Rambis on a new contract that would give the former interim head coach a spot on Jeff Hornacek‘s staff in New York, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.com. The deal hasn’t been finalized yet, but it sounds as if both sides are comfortable moving forward with Rambis as a Knicks assistant.

Rambis, who was considered for the Knicks’ head coaching vacancy, ultimately lost out on the position to Hornacek, raising some doubts about his future with the franchise. However, sources tells Begley that Hornacek has signed off on making Rambis a part of his staff. Rambis had one year remaining on his previous contract with New York, but the two sides have decided to work out a new agreement.

While Phil Jackson, who publicly endorsed Rambis’ inclusion on the Knicks’ coaching staff earlier this week, was believed to be pushing for his former Lakers assistant to stick around, Hornacek was given the authority to make the final calls on his assistants, and is on board with the plan. “Nothing is being forced down Jeff’s neck,” one source tells Begley.

According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com, Hornacek and Rambis, who were teammates as players with the Suns, have a long-standing friendship, with each coach having considered the other for a spot on his staff in the past — Rambis offered Hornacek a job with the Timberwolves, while Hornacek discussed bringing Rambis onto his staff in Phoenix.

Hornacek is also expected to add former Suns assistant Jerry Sichting to his staff in New York, says Begley.