Lance Thomas

Knicks Notes: Roster, Robinson, Durant, Ewing

Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Damyean Dotson are the only current Knicks who should definitely be on the roster next season, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Knox showed enough promise at age 19 to hold onto, Robinson was a second-round surprise who became the league’s second-best shot blocker and Dotson is a part-time starter with an affordable contract.

Popper lists Dennis Smith Jr., who was acquired in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, as a question mark, noting that his fate could depend on whether the Knicks are in position to draft Ja Morant or sign Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker in free agency. Also questionable to return, according to Popper, are Frank Ntilikina, Allonzo Trier, Lance Thomas and Luke Kornet. Popper expects the rest of the roster to be overturned, including DeAndre Jordan, whom he speculates will be too pricey to re-sign as a back-up center.

There’s more today from New York:

  • Coach David Fizdale believes Robinson would be a lottery pick if last year’s draft were redone, relays Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com. Fizdale admits he didn’t know much about Robinson when the Knicks grabbed him with the 36th pick, but he quickly blossomed into a force in the middle, swatting 2.44 shots per game. “I think we can all agree if we had to restructure the draft right now, I don’t think he’ll go 36,” Fizdale said. “I think he’d be in that top 10 pretty easily.”
  • LeBron James‘ disappointing first year with the Lakers should make Kevin Durant think twice about whether he wants join the Knicks, states Frank Isola of The Athletic. For all of Durant’s talent, he has a reputation as a highly sensitive player who might not adjust well to the atmosphere in New York. Isola suggests that he will only consider the Knicks if he can find another top-level free agent to join him.
  • Fizdale played a pivotal role in easing tensions between Patrick Ewing and the Knicks after years of a strained relationship, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Ewing will represent the team at next month’s draft lottery.

Knicks Notes: Durant, Thomas, Mudiay, Letter

Rich Kleiman is an NBA agent with only one client, but he’ll get plenty of attention this summer, especially in New York, writes Stefan Bondy of The Daily News. If Kleiman, a native New Yorker, can deliver Kevin Durant to the Knicks, he might be in line for a front office job as well, as a commission.

Kleiman and Durant go into detail about their relationship in newly released episodes of the ESPN series, “The Boardroom.” Durant says he was seeking guidance with his career in 2007 when he met Kleiman at a concert. They became friends, but their business partnership didn’t happen until 2013, making Kleiman his third agent in five NBA seasons. Durant also explains that he left the Thunder for the Warriors in 2016 because he wanted “another challenge,” possibly offering hope to the Knicks that he might view this offseason the same way.

“For us, it was stepping into a new chapter,” Durant said. “Let’s see how much we can conquer this totally, all the way around, not just on the basketball court, but as much as we can do in the community, as much as we can do for our businesses as well and obviously me as a basketball player.”

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks are two losses away from the worst season in franchise history, bringing back bad memories for Lance Thomas, who was part of the team that set that record in 2015, Bondy adds in a separate story. “Nobody in any competitive setting likes to lose,” Thomas said. “But it takes a tough-minded individual to keep focus and to make sure things are done the right way to change things around. Myself, I’ve just been constantly working and pushing the guys to have the mindset I have.”
  • Coach David Fizdale is dropping hints that Emmanuel Mudiay has played his last game for the Knicks, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Fizdale kept Mudiay on the bench Friday with a sore shoulder and said afterward that he didn’t want to take the chance of Mudiay aggravating the injury with free agency upcoming. “I think about these guys’ careers from the standpoint of, we’re not going to the playoffs, this kid has now established himself and put himself in position to have an offseason where multiple teams are going to want to talk to him,’’ Fizdale said. “I don’t want to risk that after that he’s done so much to get to where he is.” The Knicks have other plans with more than $70MM in cap space, and Dennis Smith Jr. appears to be the point guard of the future unless Kyrie Irving comes to New York.
  • The letter the Knicks sent to season ticket holders touting the team’s free agent prospects was a mixture of optimism and caution, Steve Popper of Newsday.

Knicks Make Tim Hardaway, Courtney Lee Available

In an unsurprising development, the Knicks have made Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee available via trade in advance of the February 7 deadline, three sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times. The decision is largely financially motivated, Stein adds.

We’ve assumed for months that Hardaway and Lee would be on the trade block this season, since the’re both owed pricey salaries for 2019/20 and the Knicks would like to be players this summer for a group of free agents that includes Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Kemba Walker. A report earlier this week from Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic indicated that rival teams have inquired on Hardaway and Lee.

From the Knicks’ perspective, an ideal trade involving Hardaway or Lee would see New York acquire an expiring contract without having to attach an asset to either veteran to sweeten the deal. Stein suggests it’s unclear whether the Knicks will be able to find a suitable trade without attaching an additional asset — Vokunov said in his report that the front office has been averse to adding a sweetener.

Here are a few more Knicks-related notes and rumors:

  • Howard Beck of Bleacher Report says he gets the impression the Knicks would be willing to trade “just about everyone not named Kristaps (Porzingis) or Kevin (Knox)” if it helps clear the team’s books for this summer (Twitter link).
  • After Enes Kanter told the Knicks to play him or “get me out of here,” head coach David Fizdale responded to his veteran center and downplayed the idea that the situation will cause any distractions for the team. Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic has the full quotes from Fizdale.
  • Vorkunov also relays the latest comments from Kanter, who took exception with being grouped in with veterans like Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas when Fizdale informed those players – and Trey Burke – that their minutes would be cut. “I mean, Courtney and Lance, they’re 33, 34, whatever years old. I’m 26 years old. It’s not like I am old. You know what I mean?” Kanter said. “They treat me like I’m old. I’m not old. I’m 26 years old.” In Marc Stein’s report (linked above), he wrote that Kanter is expected to seek a buyout if he’s not moved by the trade deadline.
  • Tim Hardaway didn’t seem to love being thrown under the bus by Allonzo Trier in a Twitter direct message Trier sent to a fan. Responding to criticism from the fan for a defensive miscue vs. Houston, Trier retorted that Hardaway was supposed to have switched onto his man. “Oh, so he blaming other people, basically?” Hardaway said, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “At the end of the day I think it all falls down on the team. Team defense, you learn from it.” Trier apologized for the message today after it leaked.

Knicks Notes: Kanter, Randolph, Fizdale, Thomas

A reported Enes Kanter for Zach Randolph swap with the Kings would fulfill the Knicks‘ desire to move the veteran center without taking back a contract that runs past this season, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

The trade makes sense on several levels, Berman notes. Kanter is unhappy with his reduced playing time in New York and should welcome a deal to a contender. Knicks GM Scott Perry formerly worked in Sacramento and signed Randolph to his current deal. Randolph, who hasn’t played all season, might be bought out to free up a roster spot or he could return to action under David Fizdale, his former coach in Memphis.

Berman adds that the Knicks were surprised by Kanter’s comments last week about his ongoing feud with Turkish leaders as an explanation for his decision not to accompany the team on its upcoming trip to London. A team official said Kanter was having visa issues, but he later denied that was the reason for staying home.

There’s more news out of New York:

  • Team owner James Dolan supports Kanter’s decision to skip the London trip, Berman adds in the same piece. The Kings and Knicks aren’t close to a deal yet, a source tells Berman, with Sacramento appearing to be more reluctant.
  • The Knicks finished the first half of the season with just 10 victories, but Fizdale remains confident that better things are coming, Berman writes in a separate story“Individually, I think guys are getting better,’’ Fizdale said after last night’s loss at Golden State. “Small areas of the game we’re getting better. It’s not all collective and not showing in a full game. I do see great strides in our young guys. I see Emmanuel [Mudiay] constantly gaining confidence, and [Noah] Vonleh continues to grow in his evolution. Kevin Knox over the course of the first half has shown great strides. Him and Damyean Dotson.” Draft lottery concerns may work against Fizdale’s prediction of more wins in the second half. The league’s three worst teams will share the best odds at the No. 1 pick, and the Knicks rank third in our latest Reverse Standings.
  • Lance Thomas has signed with CAA and agents Leon Rose and Rich Felder, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. His $7.58MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed.

Veterans Available For Trades As Knicks Emphasize Youth

The Knicks are fully committing to a youth movement, which means a smaller role in the future for Enes Kanter, Courtney Lee, Trey Burke and Lance Thomas, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic.

Kanter has been the most outspoken about his loss of playing time since being pulled from the starting lineup in December. He met with GM Scott Perry this week to express his frustration over the move, but didn’t ask for to be traded. Sources tell Vorkunov the Knicks have received calls from several teams that are interested in Kanter, but no deal appears imminent. He adds that there has been no discussion of a possible buyout of the remainder of Kanter’s $18.6MM contract.

“I don’t want no free money,” Kanter said. “This organization pays me money to go out there and play as hard as I can and just fight every possession. I don’t want any free money. When I’m out there, I’m going to give my everything. I’m going to give 100 percent every second.”

Kanter, who opted in to the final year of his contract last summer, is among seven Knicks who will definitely be free agents this summer. New York also has a team option on Allonzo Trier, while Thomas and Damyean Dotson have non-guaranteed deals for 2019/20.

The organization is using this season to develop the players it knows will be part of its future, such as rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson. That has marginalized some veterans, including Lee, who missed nearly the first two months of the season with a neck injury and has averaged a career-low 14.9 minutes per game since returning. With another year left on his contract at $12.76MM, Lee has been the subject of trade rumors for months.

“I’ve been in the league,” he said. “I’ve seen every situation. I’ve seen how people handle it. You gotta just stay professional, make sure you stay in shape, stay sharp and ready to play. Everything will work out for the better. If you complain and pout and stuff, that’s when all the other stuff doesn’t work out for the better. But stay positive; that’s all I can do.”

It has been a delicate balancing act for first-year coach David Fizdale as he tries to build up his younger players without alienating the veterans. No one has seen his role change more than Burke, who began the year as the starter at point guard, then was moved to a reserve role and has sometimes been out of the rotation. One of the team’s impending free agents, Burke had hardly played since returning from a sprained knee last month, but he got another opportunity when Frank Ntilikina left Friday’s game with an ankle injury.

“I don’t believe anything is permanent in this league,” Burke said. “When you’re young, you don’t really understand that. Things in this league can be very temporary. You go from one game not playing to the next game playing 30 minutes. You gotta be prepared for that change.”

Atlantic Notes: Butler, Graham, Knicks, Crabbe

The Sixers don’t have long-term concerns about signing Jimmy Butler to a possible five-year contract, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Butler is set to turn 30 in September, currently playing in his eighth NBA season.

“No concern, because of the way he takes care of his body,” Sixers GM Elton Brand said, according to Pompey. “But, of course, there’s other things that would have to happen before you discuss those kind of things… like he has to opt out of his contract. So I don’t want to talk about that yet.”

For most NBA players, production levels begin to decrease as they turn the corner and reach age 30. There have been some outliers in this case during recent years, such as four-time MVP LeBron James, but teams usually give added thought before offering lucrative, long-term deals to players who are on the wrong side of 30.

Butler, who was acquired by the Sixers in a trade last November, is holding per-game averages of 18 points, 4.7 rebounds and one steal with the team this season. He can turn down a $19.8MM player option for the 2019/20 season to enter free agency this summer and seek a new deal.

The Sixers’ offer to Butler could be a five-year, $190MM maximum contract, which would help solidify the team’s “Big 3” of Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for several seasons to come.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Nets swingman Treveon Graham will be available to play in the team’s game against the Grizzlies on Friday, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post (Twitter link). Graham last played for the Nets on Oct. 19, taking the last 11 weeks to rehab from a hamstring injury. He signed a contract to join the team this past summer in free agency.
  • Enes Kanter and Courtney Lee aren’t the only players who have seen their roles diminish on the Knicks in recent weeks, Marc Berman writes for The Post. Mario Hezonja, Trey Burke and Lance Thomas have also been given reduced time, with all five players becoming trade candidates for the Feb. 7 deadline, according to Berman. Knicks coach David Fizdale has prioritized playing younger talent this season, making the futures of some veterans uncertain.
  • Nets guard Allen Crabbe is set to miss more time than expected with his knee injury, Lewis writes in a different story for The Post. Crabbe last played on Dec. 12 due to general soreness and will be re-evaluated in 1-2 weeks, with surgery an unlikely option. “No, we haven’t gotten to that point yet,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I haven’t gotten to that point. It will be a re-evaluation in a week to 10 days and then go from there.”

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.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Thomas, Butler, Theis

Any dreams the Knicks may have had about teaming up Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving next season appear to be dead, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. The Sixers are considered likely to re-sign Butler to a long-term contract after acquiring him from Minnesota in a deal that should become official tomorrow. That follows Irving’s declaration last month that he intends to remain with the Celtics when he hits free agency.

Butler and Irving are friends and there was talk earlier this year that they might be interested in teaming up in New York, with Butler “liking” an Instagram comment that suggested such a move. New York would have needed to trade for one of them, then sign the other next summer. The Knicks were on the list of teams that Butler gave the Timberwolves when he first made his trade request, but they never seemed interested in making a deal.

The Knicks’ options to land a franchise-changing star in free agency are beginning to dwindle, Braziller notes, and their success may depend on getting Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard to consider New York.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks forward Lance Thomas had been experiencing knee pain for weeks before deciding to have surgery on Thursday, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN. “Lance is our leader and we just [want to] get him back feeling good and get him back in that locker room with his voice,” coach David Fizdale said. Thomas will be re-evaluated in about a month, with Kevin Knox and Mario Hezonja expected to get more minutes while he’s sidelined. Fizdale may also use bigger lineups with Noah Vonleh at power forward (Twitter link).
  • Sixers center Joel Embiid got a positive report on Butler when he reached out to Timberwolves stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, relays Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Even though Butler clashed with both players during his time in Minnesota, they expect him to be a positive influence in Philadelphia. “They thought that he was going to be good for us,” Embiid said. “They thought that we were definitely going to get along. He wants to win. Wiggs told me that he thought that we were going to win the East for sure.”
  • Celtics center Daniel Theis, who has been sidelined with a plantar fascia tear since October 27, hopes to return next week, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

Lance Thomas Undergoes Knee Surgery, Out At Least Four Weeks

Knicks forward Lance Thomas has undergone arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his left knee, the team announced today (Twitter link). Thomas, who had the procedure completed on Thursday, will begin rehabbing immediately and will be re-evaluated in four weeks, per the Knicks.

Thomas, 30, has never put up big numbers during his time in New York, but has evolved into an important locker-room presence for the club, earning praise from new head coach David Fizdale for his leadership.

After starting the first five games of the 2018/19 season, Thomas came off the bench over the last couple weeks and had seen his minutes cut back even before being sidelined by his knee injury. For the season, he has posted modest averages of 3.9 PPG and 2.2 RPG in 15.2 minutes per contest, shooting just 34.1% from the field and 29.4% on three-pointers.

With Thomas expected to miss at least a month and the Knicks already prioritizing the development of their younger players, the veteran forward may not have much of a role when he returns. Thomas has a pseudo-expiring contract, since his $7.58MM salary for 2019/20 is non-guaranteed, so it’s possible he becomes a trade candidate before February’s deadline.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Fizdale, Thomas, Baker

The Knicks are set to give second-year player Frank Ntilikina a major defensive test in their next preseason game on Friday, a home contest against the rival Nets. Ntilikina, who’s known for playing most of his minutes at point guard, will have the chance to guard the power forward position when the two teams clash, head coach David Fizdale revealed.

“Brooklyn is fast-paced, they usually play four perimeters and a big guy. Why not? Let’s see it,” Fizdale said, according to Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “The fours that play in our league now … how teams are playing, they’re playing perimeter guys at that spot. Frank, that’s why I said he gives me so many options for having a ball-handler that can do multiple things and guard multiple people. So that’s where I think the flexibility comes in.”

The Nets typically play small at the four, with players such as DeMarre Carroll or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson likely to see minutes at the position. According to Joyce, Ntilikina wouldn’t be tasked with guarding bigger power forwards, but rather the small-ball prototype players such as Carroll and Hollis-Jefferson.

“You know what I think,” Ntilikina said. “Guarding anyone on the opposite end is good for me. It’s a challenge. I will do my best to deny them to score, to deny them to get what they want, to deny them to get comfortable. So yeah, if that’s the plan, let’s do it.

“It’s different, but at the end of the day, it’s basketball. Of course point guard doesn’t play like a four, but loving basketball and just being a student of the game, I want to be perfect at this. I want to be able to guard anyone.”

There’s more out of New York this week:

  • Lance Thomas has established himself as the team’s starting power forward for the time being, Ian Begley of ESPN tweets. Thomas appeared in 73 games last season, seeing 31 starts on the year.
  • Several teams called the Knicks last season with hopes of inquiring on the availability of Frank Ntilikina, but the team never showed any interest in trading him, Begley reports in a separate tweet.
  • Ron Baker has quickly earned the respect of David Fizdale this preseason, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “He’s a tough S.O.B.,’’ Fizdale said. Baker is entering his third consecutive season with the team and is on track to be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.