Masai Ujiri

Atlantic Notes: Fizdale, Knicks, Stevens, Ujiri

In David Fizdale, the Knicks landed a coach who was coveted by multiple teams with job openings this spring, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. We’ve previously heard that Fizdale turned down an offer from the Suns and met with Hawks ownership. A source tells Berman that Fizdale was also a “frontrunner” for the Hornets and Magic positions.

So why did Fizdale opt for the Knicks’ job? Former Nets guard Elliot Perry – a current Grizzlies broadcaster and Fizdale confidant – tells Berman that he believes the former Grizzlies coach wants the challenge of being on a big stage in New York.

“That’s the one thing I mentioned to him,” Perry said. “You’re never off stage in New York as [the Knicks’] head coach. You’re not always on the stage in Memphis. He wanted the challenge. He thinks there’s talent there. He thought it was a good fit.”

Let’s round up a few more items from out of the Atlantic, including another note on Fizdale…

  • In a piece for Newsday, Al Iannazzone examines why the Knicks felt that Fizdale was the right pick for their job, with one source downplaying the head coach’s tension with Marc Gasol in Memphis. “He gets along great with players,” that source told Iannazzone. “He’s a good developmental guy and is good at working with the players. He comes from Miami, where they put an emphasis on that. He’s still unproven as far as X’s and O’s. But he’s good with players.”
  • The Celtics are missing a pair of difference-making players on the court, with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving on the shelf, but the team also has a difference maker on the sidelines in Brad Stevens, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. “He knows each player like the back of his hand, so he’s going to put you in the right position, he’s going to put you in the right spot, to be great,” Terry Rozier said of his head coach.
  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri received a $25K fine from the NBA for walking on the court during halftime of Game 3 to “verbally confront” the game’s referees, the league announced today in a press release. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey expressed his displeasure with the officiating throughout the game, and Ujiri joined the act as the second quarter ended.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Ujiri, Porzingis

There’s no denying that the Nets were in a pickle when Sean Marks took over from Billy King as general manager of the franchise. In the time since, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes, the former Spurs‘ staffer has changed the culture of the franchise by consistently and patiently strategizing ways to improve.

Another transformative figure within the Nets organization is head coach Kenny Atkinson. O’Connor details Atkinson’s hands-on approach and willingness to get in the foxhole with his players.

The results speak for themselves. While the Nets don’t exactly strike fear in their opponents yet, they’ve managed to amass a solid cache of promising young players despite the previous regime having unloaded a bounty of picks in one of the worst trades in sports history.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ex-Celtics big man and current Heat forward Jordan Mickey gives his former boss the benefit of the doubt regarding his release from the team. Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe tweets that Mickey was surprised about being waived in the summer but that he trusts that Danny Ainge knows what he’s doing.
  • Give Masai Ujiri more credit for his work with the Raptors, Tom Ziller of SB Nation writes. The Raps’ president of basketball operations has turned a fledgling squad into a consistent playoff team and now a potential contender, all without bottoming out.
  • Desperate to build enough strength to avoid injuries, Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has been working with famous personal trainer Carlon Colker, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. The doctor and former MMA fighter has worked previously with Shaquille O’Neal and, uh, Justin Bieber.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Crabbe, Ujiri

Markelle Fultz, the first overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, has brought enthusiasm to Philadelphia, a city that has already been told to trust the process. The Washington product now joins a Sixers team that enters 2017/18 with a hopefully healthy duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid alongside veteran acquisition J.J. Redick ready to compete.

In Fultz’s mind, Philadelphia will not just be a fun team, it will be a competitive one, as the first overall pick said to CSNPhilly from Sixers Day Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy.

“We’re going to be in the playoffs this year, and I think everybody is willing to put forth their best effort and listen to the coaches and listen to the bench. We’ve got to just do whatever it takes to get there,” Fultz said. “That’s practicing even harder, that’s doing extra work in the gym by ourselves, I mean, we’re going to do whatever it takes.” 

Fultz, 19, also addressed several other topics, including his rehab from an ankle injury he suffered at the onset of the Las Vegas Summer League; LeBron James possibly joining the Sixers next season in free agency; and his relationship with fellow rookie and top two draft pick, Lonzo Ball.

Below are additional notes around the Atlantic Division:

  • A year after Trail Blazers matched the Nets‘ offer sheet for then-restricted free agent Allen Crabbe, the guard is now a part of the Brooklyn roster, Ethan Sears of the New York Post writes. Now, in an offseason where the Nets have pulled off calculated trades, Crabbe joins the team a year later and he expressed confidence in his new team at an introductory presser Thursday.
  • Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri spoke to Michael Lee of The Vertical to cover this year’s offseason for the team. Ujiri, who was mentioned as a possible GM candidate for the Knicks, proclaimed his team’s focus is to beat LeBron James and he discussed new Cavaliers GM Koby Altman‘s tough predicament.

Atlantic Notes: Lin, Nets, Valanciunas, Miller, Raptors, Jackson, Celtics

Jeremy Lin boldly stated that his Nets will make the playoffs this upcoming season while answering questions from fans in an Instagram Live video, relays A.J. Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today Sports.

“We’re making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else says to me,” said Lin. He went on to say, “We’re gonna do some serious damage next year… I’m pretty sure he’ll (D’Angelo Russell) start (at shooting guard), but it will be pretty interchangeable. And then when one of us is out of the game, the other person most likely will have the ball in their hands. It will probably be a little bit combo guard-esque.”

This offseason the Nets have added Russell, as well as DeMarre Carroll and Timofey Mozgov. Brooklyn will be coming off a season in which it finished 20-62, dead last in the NBA standings. Lin played in just 36 games due to injury, but averaged a furtive 14.5 PPG to go with 5.1 APG and 3.8 RPG. Furthermore, Lin managed to put up those strong numbers in a mere 24.5 minutes per contest.

  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri addressed rumors that the team is trying to unload center Jonas Valanciunas, via Josh Lewenberg of The Sports Network. Ujiri said that he believes in Valanciunas’ talent and values his offensive rebounding. While admitting that the team looked at trading Valanciunas when they were in the tax, the team is now “very comfortable” keeping JV.
  • Raptors guard Malcolm Miller underwent right ankle surgery, the team announced via press release (link via Twitter). Miller is expected to miss the next 12 weeks. He signed the team’s first two-way contract on July 9.
  • Also via Josh Lewenberg of The Sports Network, the Raptors president says the team will “add a couple of different players. Maybe they’re non-guarantees, I don’t know.”
  • The Celtics employed a creative use of the stretch provision on the contract of Demetrius Jackson, reports Bobby Marks of ESPN. A day prior to waiving the former Notre Dame guard, Boston exercised the 2019/20 non-guaranteed team option on Jackson. This allowed Boston to stretch the contract over seven years rather than five, lowering the cap hit per year to $92,857 instead of $130,000.

Nets Notes: Carroll, Free Agents, Aldrich, Draft Pick

Brooklyn GM Sean Marks got Raptors president Masai Ujiri to sweeten the deal involving DeMarre Carroll as they talked during Saturday’s games at the Las Vegas Summer League, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Toronto’s original offer involved just Carroll and a first-round pick, but Marks was able to convince Ujiri to send along a second-rounder and take back the $3MM contract of Justin Hamilton.

The deal provides needed cap relief for the Raptors, while giving the Nets a replacement for Otto Porter after the Wizards announced their intention to match Brooklyn’s four-year, $106.5MM offer sheet. The trade may not be finalized before Thursday while the Nets wait for the Wizards to conduct Porter’s physical and report the results to the league.

There’s more today out of Brooklyn:

  • With nearly $17MM left in cap space along with a $4.3MM room exception, the Nets will move on to other targets in free agency, Lewis adds. They were believed to be interested in Pistons’ guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but the Carroll trade prevents them from making a max offer. Caldwell-Pope turned down $80MM over five years from Detroit, but his options may be limited now as fewer teams have cap room to work with. Other possibilities for Brooklyn are C.J. Miles, Dewayne Dedmon, Nikola Mirotic or another restricted free agent in JaMychal Green. Coach Kenny Atkinson sees the value in having an older player around. “I do think [Marks and I] both agree that we don’t want to go in with a totally young roster,” he said. “We do need that veteran support. If it’s the right position where somebody can help us, it’s definitely something [to consider].”
  • Saturday’s deal may end the Timberwolves’ hopes of getting the Nets to take on Cole Aldrich’s salary, Lewis notes in the same piece. Minnesota wants to unload Aldrich, who will make $7.3MM in the upcoming season and nearly $6.9MM in 2018/19, to create enough cap room to sign Miles. However, Marks wouldn’t agree to the deal unless the Wolves threw in Oklahoma City’s 2018 first-rounder.
  • The second-rounder the Nets will receive in the Carroll deal will probably be the lower of the Magic or Lakers picks, according to a tweet from NetsDaily. Brooklyn already has the rights to the Pacers’ 2018 second-rounder if Indiana misses the playoffs.

Knicks Rumors: Ujiri, Griffin, Carmelo, Mills, KP

Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri was immediately identified as the Knicks’ top target to replace Phil Jackson when the Knicks parted ways with Jackson earlier this week, but it appears Ujiri won’t be going anywhere. As Ramona Shelburne of writes, the Knicks are no longer expected to ask for the Raptors’ permission to speak to Ujiri.

According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, one league source said that the Raptors would have asked for multiple draft picks, including a first-rounder, as compensation if the Knicks wanted to hire Ujiri. As such, the team appears to have shifted its focus to David Griffin and other candidates. Shelburne cites sources who say that Griffin has spoken to the Knicks, and is expected to have more discussions when New York moves to the next level of its search process. The club is currently assembling a list of candidates for the job.

Here’s more out of New York:

  • An NBA source tells Berman that the Knicks are unlikely to do anything with Carmelo Anthony until a new president of basketball operations is hired.
  • Current GM Steve Mills is expected to remain with the team no matter who is hired as president, according to Berman.
  • In a separate piece for The New York Post, Berman breaks down the free agency landscape for the Knicks, noting that the team may have more options with Jackson out of the picture.
  • According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link), Isiah Thomas isn’t considered a candidate for the Knicks’ job, but still has owner James Dolan‘s ear as an advisor. Kyler adds (via Twitter) that Ujiri and Thunder president Sam Presti were considered “pie-in-the-sky” candidates.
  • While the pre-draft Kristaps Porzingis rumors were viewed by some observers as Jackson sending a “message” to the young big man, several members of the organization besides Jackson were in favor of a trade, sources tell Ian Begley of Still, the possibility of a Porzingis trade will likely die if the team can get back on the same page with him.
  • The Knicks have strong interest in bringing back Justin Holiday, and some members of the organization consider George Hill a free agent of interest, according to Begley. Both Begley and Berman also identify P.J. Tucker as a probably free agent target for the club.

Knicks Rumors: Thomas, Ujiri, Griffin, Presti

10:42pm: The Knicks have since been in touch with Griffin and the ex-Cavs general manager will be among New York’s initial interviews, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets.

11:01am: Given how his first stint as the Knicks’ general manager went, Isiah Thomas would seem to be an extremely unlikely candidate to replace Phil Jackson for the team’s head front office job this offseason. Marc Berman of The New York Post confirmed as much on Wednesday, writing that Thomas wasn’t being considered.

However, at least one person close to the franchise isn’t so sure Thomas is entirely out of the running, according to Frank Isola of The New York Daily News, who says his source described the former Knicks GM as “a dark horse candidate” to fill the current opening (Twitter link). While that revelation may inspire some panic among Knicks fans, it’s worth noting that the “dark horse” descriptor suggests Thomas probably isn’t at the top of James Dolan‘s wish list.

Here’s more on the Knicks’ search for a new president of basketball operations:

  • The Knicks’ interest in Raptors president Masai Ujiri is real, but Ujiri is entering the second year of a five-year, $32MM contract in Toronto, says Sam Amick of USA Today. A source close to ownership of MLSE – the group that owns the Raptors – tells Michael Grange of Sportsnet not to even bother with the Ujiri rumors, but Grange hears from an NBA source that the Knicks will nonetheless be “coming hard” for the Raptors’ president.
  • Having received a second-round pick as compensation when Orlando hired away GM Jeff Weltman, the Raptors would certainly ask for even more compensation if the Knicks wanted to hire Ujiri, and New York would be very unlikely to consider that, according to Ramona Shelburne of
  • A league source informed ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that Jerry West intended to reach out to Tim Leiweke, who is running the Knicks’ search, to endorse David Griffin as a candidate for New York’s opening. According to ESPN’s report, Griffin has “long coveted” an opportunity like the Knicks’ job. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Knicks hadn’t formally reached out to Griffin or his agent, but had begun doing background research on him, per ESPN.
  • Thunder president of basketball operations Sam Presti has been internally discussed by the Knicks as a possible target, tweets Ian Begley of Like Ujiri, Presti is under contract with another NBA team and that club would likely require compensation, though the exact terms of his deal aren’t known.

Atlantic Rumors: Carmelo, Celtics, Sixers, Ujiri

Phil Jackson was the driving force behind the Knicks‘ push to trade Carmelo Anthony, but just because Jackson is no longer with the franchise, that doesn’t mean Anthony is a lock to play out his contract in New York, as Al Iannazzone of Newsday writes. With the Knicks embarking on a rebuild, Anthony doesn’t really fit into the club’s plans or its timeline, in Iannazzone’s view.

Meanwhile, Marc Berman of The New York Post hears that Jackson believed Anthony’s influence on Kristaps Porzingis was detrimental and that the veteran turned Porzingis against the Knicks’ triangle offense. Said one source: “Phil thought Carmelo was trying to sabotage him.”

While we wait to see how things play out with Anthony under new leadership in New York, let’s round up a few more Atlantic notes and rumors…

  • Although the Celtics are willing to move players and draft picks in a possible Paul George trade, the club wants to hang onto the “most critical pieces” of its draft pick stockpile, says Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. In other words, Boston is probably unlikely to include Brooklyn’s 2018 first-rounder in an offer to the Pacers.
  • In a pair of tweets, Derek Bodner clarifies the Sixers‘ return in Wednesday’s Shawn Long trade, reporting that Philadelphia received $100K in cash and the Rockets‘ own 2018 second-round pick. The $100K in cash was the maximum the 76ers could receive before July 1, since the team was up against its limit for the 2016/17 league year.
  • As of Wednesday evening, the Knicks hadn’t requested to speak to Raptors president Masai Ujiri, their reported top target to replace Phil Jackson, but if and when that happens, Ujiri will have a decision to make, writes Bruce Arthur of The Toronto Star. While Toronto would likely ask for significant compensation for Ujiri, the club would be willing to let him go if he wants to join the Knicks, says Arthur.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer explains why he doesn’t think a reunion with Andre Iguodala would make sense for the Sixers.

Reaction To Phil Jackson’s Firing

Phil Jackson is gone, but owner James Dolan’s next move will determine how soon the Knicks can rebuild, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. It’s not clear yet whom New York is targeting to take Jackson’s place, but the author points out that Dolan has a history of poor decisions when it comes to choosing someone to run his basketball team. An obvious choice, Bontemps notes, is former Cavaliers GM David Griffin, who couldn’t reach a new agreement in Cleveland.

GM Steve Mills will run the Knicks until a new president is hired, and Bontemps says he should start building the team around Kristaps Porzingis. He adds that Jackson’s feud with Porzingis, not the long-running one with Carmelo Anthony, is what led to today’s decision. Jackson shopped Porzingis around the league last week, and although there was plenty of interest, no offers were deemed acceptable.

Knicks Part Ways With Phil Jackson

8:37am: The Knicks have officially parted ways with Jackson, according to an announcement from the team. The club’s statement describes it as a mutual decision.Phil Jackson vertical

“After careful thought and consideration, we mutually agreed that the Knicks will be going in a different direction,” Dolan said. “Phil Jackson is one of the most celebrated and successful individuals in the history of the NBA. His legacy in the game of basketball is unmatched. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the Knicks as both a player and an executive.”

Former Raptors executive Tim Leiweke will assist the Knicks as an advisor during their search for a new head of basketball operations, per Marc Stein of (Twitter link).

7:54am: Dolan and the Knicks are targeting Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri for their top front office job, according to ESPN’s new NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Ujiri signed a multiyear extension with Toronto last September that tacked multiple years onto his contract beyond 2017/18, so if he’s interested in heading to New York, the Raptors would likely require compensation for their division rivals to let him out of his deal.

Ujiri, of course, has been on the other end of multiple notable Knicks trades, including the Anthony deal with Denver and an Andrea Bargnani swap with Toronto.

7:40am: The Knicks are expected to formally announce on Wednesday that they’re parting ways with president of basketball operations Phil Jackson, reports Ramona Shelburne of The news comes on the heels of a report late on Tuesday night that Knicks owner James Dolan was weighing Jackson’s future with the franchise.

According to Shelburne, conversations about Jackson’s future “accelerated” in recent days after the organization decided that it wouldn’t buy out Carmelo Anthony. Jackson has been vocal for most of the year about his desire to move on from Anthony, but with Carmelo unwilling to waive his no-trade clause and the Knicks not open to accommodating a buyout, the two sides were at a stalemate.

[RELATED: Knicks resisting engaging in buyout talks with Carmelo Anthony]

Since Anthony seemingly wasn’t going anywhere, and it had become clear that Jackson didn’t intend to remain with the Knicks beyond the two years left on his contract, it made more and more sense for the two sides to go their separate ways, as Shelburne details.

While the public feud with Anthony was a key factor in Jackson’s departure, he made several other questionable moves during his tenure as Knicks president, including signing Joakim Noah to a $72MM+ contract last summer and seriously considering trading Kristaps Porzingis after the young Latvian skipped his exit meeting at the end of the 2016/17 season.

The decision on Jackson’s future represents an about-face for Dolan. Despite the fact that some people close to him had been urging him to move on from Jackson for some time, per ESPN, the Knicks owner exercised his side of Jackson’s option earlier this year, locking him in for the final two years of his contract. Assuming the two sides didn’t reach some sort of buyout agreement, the Knicks will remain on the hook for a reported $24MM for Jackson’s final two years.

With Jackson no longer in the picture in New York, it’s possible that Anthony will become more open to a trade, having outlasted the team president and “won” the feud. However, it seems more likely that GM Steve Mills, who will run the show in the interim, will put less pressure on Anthony to waive his no-trade clause, allowing him to remain with the Knicks. I would expect that the team no longer intends to run the triangle offense going forward either.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.