Leon Rose

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Rivers, Knicks, Flynn

Sixers guard James Harden was still an elite player in 2021/22, but his numbers began trending in the wrong direction and he appeared to have lost the explosive first step that defined his MVP-caliber seasons, writes Tommy Beer of BasketballNews.com.

With Harden set to turn 33 this summer, giving him a long-term, maximum-salary contract could cripple the Sixers and would be borderline “organizational malpractice,” Beer argues. Still, Philadelphia can’t afford to let him walk, since doing so wouldn’t actually open up any meaningful cap room and the team is under pressure to maximize Joel Embiid‘s prime.

As Beer outlines, it will be fascinating to see how those contract discussions play out this offseason, since both sides have some leverage concerns. The Sixers can’t afford to lose Harden, but it will be difficult for the former MVP to play hardball in negotiations, considering none of the teams projected to have cap room are expected to seriously pursue him.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has made it clear that the plan is for Doc Rivers to remain the head coach going forward, prompting Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com to consider whether that decision is the right one for the franchise.
  • Former Knicks center Eddy Curry has confidence in the abilities of executives Leon Rose and William Wesley to turn things around in New York, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Curry said Knicks fans shouldn’t focus on Rose’s lack of public statements and press conferences, since it’s “not his personality” to be in the public eye. “Regardless of how often you see him, you better believe he’s making things happen behind closed doors,” said Curry, who worked with Rose and Wesley during his playing career.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic wonders if Raptors point guard Malachi Flynn could benefit from a change of scenery and identifies some other players in a similar boat whom Toronto could target in a potential Flynn trade, including Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford, and Udoka Azubuike.
  • In case you missed it, we rounded up a series of Celtics notes earlier today.

Mavs’ Brunson Continues To Boost Value Ahead Of Free Agency

After enjoying the best year of his NBA career during the 2021/22 regular season, Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson has taken his game to another level so far in the playoffs, averaging 29.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 4.8 APG on .483/.409/.857 shooting in four games (38.5 MPG). He played a key role in helping Dallas take a 2-1 lead in the series without Luka Doncic before the All-NBA guard returned in Game 4.

According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, pro personnel scouts and executives polled by ESPN believe the floor for Brunson – an unrestricted free agent this summer – is now $20MM per year on his next contract. Some people believe the 25-year-old could get upwards of $25MM annually, MacMahon adds.

For his part, Brunson told ESPN that he isn’t thinking about his next contract with the Mavs engaged in a battle with the Jazz for a spot in the second round of the playoffs.

“Not at all. Not at all. I promise you,” Brunson said. “My dad, we’ll joke about it, but (my family knows) that I don’t want to talk about it until the season’s over. That’s really not going to help me right now. … I know it’s a weird situation. People don’t believe that I don’t talk about it, but it’s not a topic of conversation until I guess we get there.”

Brunson said he has “loved every second” of his time in Dallas, and it seems likely the Mavs will get the first shot at re-signing him. Although Brunson isn’t restricted, Dallas holds his Bird rights and can offer him more years and more money than any other suitor — additionally, team owner Mark Cuban has talked about wanting to lock up the point guard long-term. However, Brunson’s father Rick Brunson suggests the Mavs shouldn’t expect to get a team-friendly rate.

“We’ve got to figure out if Dallas wants him. Not words,” Rick Brunson said, per MacMahon. “Ain’t no discount. So don’t put it on us. Don’t tell me you love me. Show me.”

Here’s more on Brunson:

  • Brunson was eligible for a four-year, $55.6MM in-season extension in 2021/22, but the Mavericks didn’t offer it to him until after the trade deadline, according to MacMahon. By that point, Brunson had decided to wait until the offseason to sign a new deal. “I told him once the season is started, that’s it,” Rick Brunson said. “I told the Mavericks, ‘Once the season is started, there’s no contract talk,’ and I went back against my word. In January, I thought he did enough where he deserved (the extension). I said, ‘Hey, take the money, man.’ He wants security. He wants to live here. And (the Mavs) declined. He didn’t turn s–t down. Y’all declined first. When y’all came back to him (in February), we said, ‘Hey, we just want to finish out the season and go from there.'” Signing Brunson to a long-term extension in January would’ve made him ineligible to be traded this season, so the Mavs may have wanted to keep their options open.
  • The Pistons and Knicks are widely considered to be potential suitors for Brunson, as previous reported have indicated. League sources tell MacMahon that Detroit likes how Brunson fits alongside Doncic and believes he could play a similar role next to Cade Cunningham. Knicks president of basketball operations and former CAA agent Leon Rose, meanwhile, has several ties to the Brunson family — Rick was his first client and he previously represented Jalen. Now, Leon’s son Sam Rose is one of the agents who reps Jalen at CAA.
  • Despite those links to the Knicks, Rick Brunson insists the familial connections won’t be a deciding factor in his son’s free agency. “I’ve made it very clear to Leon, ‘I love you to death. Your son works for Jalen, represents Jalen, but this is about Jalen,'” Rick Brunson said. “… Leon wouldn’t never talk to me again (if Jalen signs elsewhere). The question I have, is it a good fit in New York? We don’t know, because we have to sit down and figure it out (and evaluate the) draft. July 1 is a long way away.”
  • Further complicating matters for the Knicks? League sources tell MacMahon that the Mavericks have no intention of accommodating a sign-and-trade scenario, so any team that wants to sign Brunson will likely need cap space to do so. That shouldn’t be a problem for the Pistons, but the Knicks would have to shed some salary to create cap room.
  • Interestingly, the Knicks had an opportunity to acquire Brunson in 2020, according to MacMahon, who says the Mavs were dangling a package of Brunson, the No. 18 overall pick, and the No. 31 overall pick that year in an effort to trade up for Tyrese Haliburton. Dallas was unable to find a taker, including the Knicks, who used the No. 8 pick that year on Obi Toppin.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Randle, Robinson, Fournier

In a rare media appearance, Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose spoke to MSG Network’s Mike Breen over the weekend about the state of the franchise, head coach Tom Thibodeau, and forward Julius Randle, among other topics. Rose acknowledged it was a “disappointing” season in New York, but expressed confidence that the team’s long-term plan is on track.

“Absolutely. We have to stick to the plan,” he said, per Steve Popper of Newsday. “We have to build one block at a time, be patient. We feel like we’re set up, you know, really well as far as like, we’ve got 13 draft picks over the next three drafts, four first-round picks. With regard to opportunities that may come along, we’re very flexible. We want to show patience, we want to show prudence in making those decisions and continuing to develop what we have.”

Rose said the Knicks fell short of their goal of being a playoff team, but added that he saw some positive signs from the club during the season’s home stretch. Following a seven-game losing streak that began in February and ended in March, New York went 12-7 the rest of the way and got solid production from a handful of young players.

Jericho (Sims) going against starting centers, the 58th pick in the draft,” Rose said, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Obi (Toppin), the last week or so has just taken it to another level, scoring a career-high the last game. Quentin (Grimes), who had already established himself in the rotation. (Miles McBride) getting minutes and doing a good job with it. (Immanuel Quickley) playing point guard and showing some signs.

“And RJ (Barrett) is only 21 years old. We have nine players on our team who are 24 years old or younger and Julius is only 27, so … we look at that like development is key. And just in this part of the season, we’ve seen some good development and just need to work and continue on and build on that.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Rose said that Randle “loves it here in New York (and) wants to be in New York,” according to Begley. The Knicks’ president also praised the job Thibodeau did in a challenging season. “I mean, again, he’s one of the best coaches in the NBA,” Rose said, per Popper. “So obviously none of us are happy with the results this year. But he’s a guy who prepares our team better than anybody. I feel that he’s done a good job under the circumstances.”
  • According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, Rose was “dead-set” against letting Thibodeau go during the season when at least two members of the front office recommended making a coaching change. Berman also hears from a source that some Knicks executives and players didn’t love the fact that the coaching staff didn’t hold Randle more accountable for his “miscues” throughout the season.
  • Randle and Toppin have talked about the possibility of playing together in small-ball lineups next season, as Peter Botte of The New York Post relays. “There are so many different things we can do when we’re both on the court,” Toppin said. “But we’ve definitely talked about it and hopefully we’re both back here next year and we can see that. I feel like we can definitely do some damage in the league if we’re on the court together.”
  • Although he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, Mitchell Robinson remains eligible to sign an extension with the Knicks up until June 30 and Rose hasn’t ruled out that possibility, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. “With Mitchell, there has been ongoing discussions throughout the year with his agent,” Rose told Breen. “And those discussions will continue, will continue for the remainder of the time until free agency.” The Knicks are limited to offering Robinson about $55.6MM over four years on an extension — they could go higher in free agency.
  • Knicks swingman Evan Fournier intends to represent France in this September’s EuroBasket tournament, tweets Katz.

Knicks Notes: McBride, Grimes, Draft, Mitchell, Hunt

Quentin Grimes absorbed most of Miles McBride‘s minutes after Grimes returned from a knee injury on Friday. However, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau will still try to find ways to play the rookie second-rounder despite having a more crowded backcourt, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

“I love what ‘Deuce’ has done. We’ll try to figure out how to work that out,” Thibodeau said of McBride. “He’ll probably be going back and forth. He’s done a really good job. We’ll see how this unfolds.’’

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Thibodeau is focused on his team but he’s finding some time to watch prospects in the NCAA Tournament, Berman adds in the same story. “I’ll get an opportunity to watch a little bit here, little bit there,’’ Thibodeau said. “Then, when the season’s over, I’ll go back and dig in a lot deeper. It’s an exciting time of year.”
  • There are some intriguing connections between Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell and the Knicks. Mitchell was previously represented by Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose, while New York assistant Johnnie Bryant was one of Mitchell’s favorite coaches in Utah, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News notes. If Mitchell comes to a point where he wants out of Utah or the Jazz are willing to trade him, Berman speculates the package would have to include RJ Barrett and multiple first-rounders.
  • Feron Hunt‘s two-way contract is a two-year deal, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. Hunt signed the contract on Friday. Hunt had 16 points and eight rebounds playing for the G League’s Westchester Knicks on Sunday.

Knicks Expected To Retain Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau is expected to remain the Knicks’ head coach beyond this season, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reports.

There has been rampant speculation regarding Thibodeau’s status during the team’s disappointing season.

There’s been some internal support to move on from Thibodeau and owner James Dolan had granted the front office permission to decide whether he remains the head coach, according to Fischer’s sources.

However, president of basketball operations Leon Rose has no plans to make a change — Fischer notes that Rose and Thibodeau been trusted allies since the hiring process in 2020. The Knicks interviewed 11 candidates before picking the former Bulls and Timberwolves head coach.

Thibodeau has three years left on his five-year contract.

Reports surfaced last month that Knicks exec William Wesley blamed the team’s ills on the head coach. However, Thibodeau has maintained a good relationship with Dolan, speaking with the owner following each game and often visiting the owner’s box.

While Rose is reclusive, rarely speaking to the media, Thibodeau has emerged as the team’s official spokesperson. That has helped his cause, Fischer adds.

There’s also no obvious veteran choice in the market to replace Thibodeau and the front office isn’t convinced associate head coach Johnnie Bryant would be a better option. Another current assistant, Kenny Payne, is a candidate to leave New York for Louisville’s head coaching job.

Stein’s Latest: Snyder, Popovich, Pistons, M. Robinson, More

There’s no indication that Quin Snyder, the NBA’s fourth longest-tenured head coach, is in any danger of losing his job with the Jazz. However, in his latest Substack article, Marc Stein says he has heard Snyder’s name come up more and more frequently as a potential Gregg Popovich successor with the Spurs.

Before he was hired by the Jazz, and before he served as an assistant for the Hawks, Lakers, and 76ers, Snyder jump-started his NBA coaching career by serving as the head coach of the G League’s Austin Toros – San Antonio’s then-affiliate – from 2007-10. According to Stein, the Spurs would “naturally relish” the opportunity to bring him back to the organization once Popovich retires.

Still, the Spurs’ decision on a successor for Popovich could be a ways off yet. Stein says, if pressed, he’d lean toward Popovich sticking with the Spurs for at least one more season rather than calling it a career later this year.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Stein is the latest reporter to state that the Pistons are believed to have strong interest in Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Several other outlets, including SNY.tv, The New York Daily News, and HoopsHype, have previously reported Detroit’s interest in Robinson.
  • According to Stein, there have been “rumbles in league coaching circles” that if the Knicks want to move on from head coach Tom Thibodeau this spring, president of basketball operations Leon Rose would have to be willing to be the team’s voice “out in front” of that decision. As Stein points out, Rose has operated almost exclusively behind the scenes since taking control of the Knicks’ front office, rarely speaking to reporters, which perhaps bodes well for Thibodeau’s job security.
  • Within his Substack article, Stein also explores the tough decisions facing U.S. players who had been playing for teams in Russia prior to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Many of those players have left in recent weeks, but some are being offered six-figure bonuses to return, according to Stein, who says there’s a belief in industry circles that several may soon go back to Russia, despite the criticism they’d face.

William Wesley Blaming Tom Thibodeau For Knicks’ Struggles

As we relayed this morning, the Knicks suffered a crushing 111-106 loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday, in which New York blew a 28-point lead, intensifying scrutiny on head coach Tom Thibodeau. The Knicks are just 3-13 over their last 16 games and currently hold a 25-34 record, 12th in the East.

A byproduct of losing is everyone wants to place blame. And I understand that,” Thibodeau said after the game. “We all have jobs to do. (The season) has not gone as well as it has. It didn’t go great last year until the end, right? Lock into what we have to do. Don’t get caught up in getting distracted. And focus on how we can do better. That’s where I want the focus to lie.”

Sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv that, in conversations with owner James Dolan, executive vice president William Wesley has been blaming Thibodeau’s coaching as a significant factor in the team’s struggles this season.

Thibodeau, the reigning Coach of the Year, was hand-picked by Wesley and president Leon Rose, and the three men have known each other for years, Begley writes. However, something is clearly amiss between the coaching staff and the front office.

Thibodeau was angry that the Knicks didn’t make trades ahead of the deadline last week and believed that a roster upgrade would have been beneficial, sources tell Begley. Thibodeau has been consulted with for personnel moves, and although his opinion is considered, New York’s front office has made several roster moves that didn’t align with Thibodeau’s thinking, per Begley.

In a separate article for SNY.tv, Begley states that he would be surprised if Thibodeau was fired before the end of the season — but confidence in the coach has clearly diminished within the organization.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News contends that the onus is on Rose to speak up with the embattled coach twisting in the wind. Sources confirmed Begley’s reporting to Bondy, that Wesley has Dolan’s ear and has been blaming Thibodeau for the team’s struggles. Wesley is also unhappy with Thibodeau’s reticence to play younger players.

The front office forced Thibodeau to add two assistant coaches — Johnnie Bryant and Kenny Payne — onto the staff as a condition of his hiring in 2020, sources tell Bondy. Should Thibodeau be fired, Bondy believes either of those coaches could named the next head coach.

Rose hasn’t spoken to the media since September, before the season started, and prior to that it had been more than a year since he’d spoken publicly, Bondy writes. He believes Rose needs to address the situation and back Thibodeau — or not — because the silence is leading to a lack of clarity on the team’s direction.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Harris, Carmelo, Rose, Allen

Sixers center Joel Embiid has been working out at the team’s practice facility, head coach Doc Rivers said on Monday, per Rich Hofmann of The Athletic (Twitter link).

He passed one of the tests, I think he has another big one today. Then after that, we have to decide what we want to do. But the fact that he’s out working again is huge,” Rivers said.

Embiid has been sidelined since contracting COVID-19 on November 8. Appearing on ESPN’s NBA Today with Malika Andrews, Adrian Wojnarowski says the Sixers are optimistic that Embiid could return as soon as Saturday, Nov. 27, versus Minnesota (video link).

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • The Sixers were missing four of the team’s five starters on Monday against the Kings but still managed to emerge victorious. Tobias Harris (strained hip) is the latest addition to the list of injured players, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Seth Curry (back stiffness), Danny Green (hamstring) and the aforementioned Embiid were also sidelined. Harris, Curry and Green are listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Warriors, while Embiid is out, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
  • Ex-Knicks star and current Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony believes the Leon Rose regime deserves more credit for the job they’ve done, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv. “It’s very hard to come in and do what they’re doing, what they started, what they created as far as starting from the ground up,” Anthony said. “When I say that, it’s getting everything out, clearing everything out, bringing in the right people. But not doing it in a frantic way, not doing it in [by] taking advantage of power. It’s just coming in, talking to people, getting to know people, understanding people, understanding what was happening before and being able to clean that up and build on that. I think people need to talk about that a lot more.” Team president Rose was Anthony’s agent prior to working for the Knicks.
  • Nets coach Steve Nash said part of the reason Jarrett Allen was traded last season was the team realized they probably couldn’t afford to keep him long-term due to luxury tax concerns, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “We loved him and wish him a lot of success, and happy for him to get a contract. I mean, the reality is he was probably out; we couldn’t probably resign him anyways,” Nash said. “Looking at the marketplace, he probably would’ve gotten a lot of money. And it would’ve been a huge cap hit compared to some of the priorities. So that was part of the decision in being able to let something like that go.”

Eastern Notes: Beal, Sheppard, Johnson, L. Rose, Washington

Wizards star Bradley Beal was “ecstatic” to learn that general manager Tommy Sheppard received a promotion and contract extension with the franchise, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes.

Sheppard, who was elevated to team president, has overhauled Washington’s roster to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards have opened the season with an impressive 11-5 record, which is vital toward keeping Beal happy and persuading him to reject any rival trade interest.

“I see Shep in here every single day,” Beal said. “He’s very in tune, he cares. He’s an awesome person and he loves the game. He just wants his team to do well, he wants his team to get better and he holds us to a certain standard. I respect it and I love it. I’m definitely happy for him.

“He’s just constantly working, he’s constantly checking on me, checking on everybody. He’s a great GM, I’m happy for him and his promotion and his next few years here.”

Here are some other notes from the East tonight:

  • Nets forward James Johnson has provided some defensive grit for the team, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Johnson, who signed with Brooklyn in the offseason, has seen increased playing time with Nicolas Claxton (illness) and Paul Millsap (personal) missing multiple games. “The biggest part about this team is just trying to find the identity and sticking to that,” Johnson said. “We have to have some kind of identity that when we’re going into a gym it’s not the Brooklyn Nets that’s on paper, it’s that hard-fighting, physical, tough win-it-out gang.”
  • Knicks president Leon Rose will deserve significant blame if the team can’t turn around a slow start to the season, Ian O’Connor of the New York Post writes. The Knicks hold a 9-7 record, but the club is just 4-5 at home. The vast majority of the roster is back from last season’s playoff group.
  • Hornets forward P.J. Washington (left elbow hyperextension) has been upgraded to doubtful for Monday’s game against the Wizards, the team announced on social media. Washington has missed nine straight games due to the injury. He returned to practice last Tuesday.

Knicks Notes: Point Guards, Perry, L. Rose, Selden

The Knicks‘ fortunes will depend largely on a pair of veteran point guards with a history of knee issues, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. The team addressed the position over the offseason by re-signing Derrick Rose and adding Kemba Walker after his buyout with the Thunder.

Rose didn’t have any physical problems after the Knicks acquired him in February. He played 35 games and the only time he missed was due to COVID-19. Walker, however, was slowed by an arthritic left knee all season and managed just 43 games for the Celtics.

“Health, I think it’s a big question for every team, and it’s important (Walker) feels good,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “(Kemba’s) been in. He’s doing a lot of work. And you got to trust him. He understands what he has to do to be ready for a season.’’

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks plan to continue their approach of gradually building a title contender and won’t look for shortcuts after the surprising success of last season, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Armed with more than $50MM in cap room, the front office concentrated on roster stability, re-signing much of the team’s core to long-term deals. “We wanted to bring enough of those guys back from last year that started to set a bar for us to get better,” general manager Scott Perry said. “And as you look around the league, teams that improve tend to have a lot of the same guys back. You’ve got to be able to have enough time to develop a core group of guys, so that was reflective of what we did this summer.”
  • Addressing the media Friday for the first time in 14 months, team president Leon Rose said there are certain advantages to being a former agent, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Rose came to the Knicks from CAA, where he used to be one of the NBA’s most influential dealmakers. “I think being an agent gives me a great perspective from the other side of the table, and allows me to have a greater understanding of the things we come up against every single day and the way the other people think,” Rose said. “So I think it’s a huge benefit.”
  • Wayne Selden‘s new deal with the Knicks is an Exhibit 9 contract, according to Spotrac. As Bondy explains (via Twitter), the non-guaranteed deal offers protections for the team if Selden is injured during training camp.