Miles Bridges

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Fizdale, T. Young, Bridges

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina has returned from France and will meet new coach David Fizdale for the first time today, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Fizdale said he wants to establish “great relationships with his players,” which is an area where management thought former coach Jeff Hornacek was lacking.

Ntilikina will participate in an informal workout today along with fellow point guards Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke, shooting guard Damyean Dotson and forward Troy Williams, who spent time in Memphis with Fizdale.

Ntilikina plans to remain in the United States for the rest of the offseason and will play with the Knicks’ summer league team in Las Vegas, Berman adds. He was held out of the league last year because of soreness in his left knee that occurred in the French League playoffs. Ntilikina has been working with a Knicks trainer while in France and has added muscle and weight.

There’s more this morning out of New York:

  • The Knicks are well stocked at point guard, but may be interested in Oklahoma’s Trae Young if he falls to No. 9, Berman adds in the same story.
  • Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is lobbying for the Knicks to draft Miles Bridges, Berman reports in a separate piece. GM Scott Perry talked to Izzo about Bridges during the season and plans to meet with him again next week. Also, assistant GM Gerald Madkins recently went to Lansing to discuss Bridges with the Michigan State coaching staff. Bridges was considered to be a lottery pick as a freshman last year, but decided to return to the Spartans for his sophomore season. “I see a guy who can play a lot of positions and defend them with his strength and rebounding,’’ Izzo said. “What I’d like to see him get better at? Continually improving getting shots off the dribble. He’s a phenomenal 85 percent free-throw shooter. I’d like to see him get to the line more. He’ll get better because he’s a gym rat — in there at 6:30 a.m., in there at night. How many guys love the game, how many guys like the game.”
  • Teams were limited to 30 minutes with each prospect at the draft combine, which Perry considers to be opening interviews, writes Chris Iseman of North Jersey.com. The Knicks will get more in depth when individual workouts begin. “With some of them, this may be the first round of interviews because I’m sure a number of the guys that we would interview here we’ll also bring to New York for a longer visit,” Perry said, “trying to get a better feel for who these guys are when we have them for 48 hours versus a 30-minute interview that we’re going to have at the combine.”

Knicks Notes: Smart, Porzingis, Delany, Draft

Grizzlies assistant Keith Smart is expected to become a top assistant on David Fizdale’s staff with the Knicks, tweets ESPN’s Ian Begley. Smart was an assistant with Fizdale for two years in Miami and came to Memphis with him when he was hired as head coach in 2016.

Smart, who appeared in just two NBA games as a player, began his coaching career in 2000. He has also been an assistant with the Cavaliers, Warriors and Kings and eventually became head coach of all three franchises, compiling a 93-170 career record.

J.B. Bickerstaff, who recently had his interim tag removed by the Grizzlies, has started interviewing potential replacements in anticipation of Smart’s departure, according to Begley.

There’s more today from New York:

  • Fizdale met Friday with Janis Porzingis, the older brother and agent for Kristaps Porzingis, relays Frank Isola of The New York Daily News. Fizdale is hoping to travel to Latvia this summer to talk with the Knicks’ star, who is currently rehabbing his left knee in Spain. Fizdale is working to repair a damaged relationship, Isola adds, as Porzingis has been losing faith in the front office, the Knicks’ medical staff and former coach Jeff Hornacek. In Friday’s meeting, Fizdale reportedly addressed his issues with Marc Gasol in Memphis and a reputation that he doesn’t deal well with foreign-born players.
  • Pat Delany, who also worked with Fizdale in Miami, could be another addition to the coaching staff, Isola adds. Delany has been with the Hornets the past four seasons.
  • Small forward is an obvious position of need for the Knicks, but they plan to approach the ninth pick in this year’s draft with a best-player-available philosophy, writes Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com. Wing players Miles Bridges and Kevin Knox met with the Knicks during the draft combine, but so did point guards Collin Sexton and Trae Young, even though New York drafted Frank Ntilikina in the first round last year. “There’s no secret that we can use help on the wing,” GM Scott Perry said. “But at the end of the day I think we’re still in that talent-acquisition mode. If that happens to be at No. 9 a wing player, great. If we feel the most talented guy clearly is at another position then we got to look at that direction as well.”

Combine Notes: Bridges, Sixers, DiVincenzo, Sexton

Michigan State wing Miles Bridges, a probable lottery pick, interviewed with the Bulls, Pacers, Kings, Cavaliers, Spurs, Nuggets, and Clippers earlier this week, and was set to meet with the Sixers, Hornets, and Knicks on Friday, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bridges is one of several intriguing prospects the Sixers are meeting with in Chicago this week, according to Pompey, who adds Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., Michigan State power forward Jaren Jackson Jr., and IMG Academy guard Anfernee Simons to that list. Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo was also scheduled to interview with Philadelphia on Friday, Pompey tweets.

Finally, Pompey has details on Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo, who has been impressing NBA evaluators at this week’s combine and says he’s received plenty of “positive feedback.” According to Pompey, DiVincenzo has had meetings with the Lakers, Magic, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Cavaliers, Spurs, Hawks, and Grizzlies in Chicago.

Here’s more on meetings taking place at the combine:

Knicks Notes: No. 9 Pick, Bridges, Porzingis

The Knicks stayed put at No. 9 after Tuesday night’s lottery, but general manager Scott Perry isn’t ruling out the possibility of landing a potential star in next month’s draft. Despite not having a top-three pick, Perry pointed to last year’s 13th overall pick Donovan Mitchell as a prime example of how impact players can slip into the second half of the lottery, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

“You never know. You look around and Utah had good success where they were,” Perry said. “A lot of times in the draft everybody has to be careful. A lot of it is fit, too. Some guys may get drafted in a particular place where it’s not a great fit initially or it is a great fit. … I think that’s the important thing for us — finding the personality whose game is the closest fit to how we want to play and what we want to be.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Mikal Bridges and Miles Bridges have frequently been mentioned as potential Knicks targets, given the team’s need for a wing. As Berman relays, Perry offered his first comments on the pair of Bridges on Tuesday: “We’re going to dive into both of those guys as we move forward. Both are very good basketball players who put themselves in position to be in consideration by a number of teams in the lottery. I can’t wait to meet both of those young guys to really get a feel for who they are and how they may and may not fit.”
  • Perry said the Knicks were happy to get a new head coach in place before the 2018 draft combine got underway. David Fizdale will participate in the club’s interviews with prospects in Chicago this week. “I think it’s extremely important to have the coach in house because the more we spend time with David and the more he gets a chance to spend with these guys we bring in to work out and see what players may or may not fit with how he’s going to coach the team and his personality,” Perry said, according to Berman.
  • Berman reported on Tuesday night that the Knicks would only seriously consider drafting a point guard at No. 9 if they felt their target was an “unquestioned upgrade” over their current options. Perry essentially confirmed as much when asked directly about the possibility, per Berman: “It would only make sense if you feel that guard is far and away better than what you have on the roster. And we haven’t been able to make that determination yet.”
  • Perry said the Knicks will have a better idea of Kristaps Porzingis‘ return date by August, writes Al Iannazzone of Newsday. Meanwhile, Berman hears from multiple sources that Porzingis has actually been doing much of his ACL rehab work with Real Madrid in Spain, rather than in his home country of Latvia as previously believed.

Draft Updates: Maye, Lewis, Sexton, Green

North Carolina junior forward Luke Maye will enter the draft but won’t hire an agent in order to retain his college eligibility, according to the team’s website. The first-team All-ACC selection averaged 16.9 PPG and 10.1 RPG.

“This is what the system is designed to do, which is provide players with an opportunity to workout with NBA teams and get feedback from those teams,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said in a statement.

The 6’8” Maye is not listed among the top 100 prospects by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

In other draft-related news:

  • New Jersey Institute of Technology forward Abdul Lewis will test the draft waters, Jeff Goodman of ESPN tweets. Lewis averaged 12.0 PPG and 8.8 RPG as a junior. The 6’10” Lewis played for South Alabama during his freshman campaign.
  • Alabama point guard Collin Sexton could be next season’s Donovan Mitchell, a late lottery steal, according to Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. Sexton could slide to the 8-13 range in the lottery and has star potential, Brigham continues. Michigan State sophomore swingman Miles Bridges and Missouri freshman big man Jontay Porter, the brother of more heralded Michael Porter Jr., could also fit the category of a major first-round bargain, Brigham adds.
  • Kentucky freshman guard Quade Green will return for his sophomore season, his mother to the Lexington Herald-Leader (Twitter link). The 6’0” Green averaged 9.3 PPG and 2.7 APG in 25.6 MPG as a freshman.

Miles Bridges Declares For Draft, Hiring Agent

Michigan State forward Miles Bridges is entering the 2018 NBA draft pool, he announced today (via Twitter). Bridges indicated that he’ll hire Rich Paul and Klutch Sports for representation, so the sophomore will officially forgo his remaining two years of NCAA eligibility.

[RELATED: 2018 NBA Draft Early Entrants List]

Bridges, a 6’7″ forward, was viewed as a possible lottery pick a year ago, but opted to return to Michigan State for another season rather than declaring for the draft after his freshman year. In 2017/18, the second-year Spartan didn’t take a significant step forward, but had another solid season, putting up 17.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 2.7 APG with a .457/.364/.853 shooting line.

Bridges’ spot on big boards hasn’t changed much over the last year — ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has him at No. 11 for now, which was the exact same ranking Bridges had on Givony’s board when he announced his decision to return to the Spartans last April.

In his latest mock draft at ESPN.com, Givony wrote that Bridges’ lack of improvement as a ball-handler has limited his ascent up draft boards, but called the young forward “arguably the best athlete in this draft” and praised his ability to guard virtually any position on defense. Givony had Bridges coming off the board at No. 12.

The Knicks, who will have a lottery pick, are said to have interest in the MSU standout.

New York Notes: Hornacek, Hicks, Crabbe

The Knicks will conclude their fourth consecutive 45+ loss season next month and the future of the team remains unclear. Outside of Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis — who is recovering from a torn ACL — it appears there are no locks for the roster or coaching staff after this season.

As Marc Stein of the New York Times writes in his newsletter (via CBS Sports), it’s likely that head coach Jeff Hornacek does not return next season despite having one year left on his deal. The organization has moved swiftly to distance itself from almost anything related to former president Phil Jackson, which could include Hornacek.

“It’s difficult to fault Hornacek for much of the chaos that has engulfed the Knicks during his two seasons in charge,” Stein writes. “But there’s no avoiding the fact he was a Phil Jackson selection, which could well doom him now that the organization seems intent on cutting every non-Porzingian tie to the Phil era as possible.”

The Knicks have gone 57-96 under Hornacek since last season, but injuries, poor roster creation, and a rebuilding effort hindered both the head coach and the team from being competitive. Early possible candidates to replace Hornacek are Mark Jackson and David Blatt, Stein notes.

Check out more notes coming out of New York:

  • Whether or not Hornacek is the head coach next season, he feels the Knicks should seek depth at small forward, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. Sources tell Bondy that the Knicks have scouted both Miles Bridges and Mikal Bridges as possible draft targets, which would echo Hornacek’s suggestion. “I think if you look around at the top teams that are in the league they have multiple guys that are in the 6’7″, 6’8″ range with length. We had a lot of guys that are in the 6’5″ ish range,” Hornacek said. “I think the longer guys you get, it gives you more opportunities to switch on defense, which if you look at the league today, the best teams are switching all the time.”
  • With the Knicks eliminated from playoff contention, the goal for the rest of the season will be auditioning young talent, which includes 23-year-old Isaiah Hicks. In nine games, Hicks is averaging just 4.4 PPG and 2.6 RPG, but he has impressed with his basketball IQ and athleticism, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Hicks is on a two-way deal and the Knicks will have to decide whether they want to re-sign him.
  • The Nets‘ record has hovered near the bottom of the league in recent seasons, but the organization has bought into the mantra of building a positive culture with promising talent. Allen Crabbe, who is finishing up a strong first season in Brooklyn, said he is willing to recruit free agents this offseason, Bryan Fonseca and Net Income of NetsDaily relay. “Oh yeah. Whatever I can do, just getting guys on board and looking at the vision that Sean Marks and coach (Kenny) Atkinson have for this organization moving forward, I think guys will buy in,” Crabbe said.

NCAA Tournament Filled With Draft Prospects

The NCAA tournament bracket was unveiled on Sunday and NBA draft prospects can enhance their resumes by leading their teams on a deep run. A majority of the projected first-rounders in Jonathan Givony’s current rankings on ESPN.com will be in action during March Madness.

Here’s a look of some of those storylines:

  • No player will be more closely watched than the projected top pick, Arizona freshman center DeAndre Ayton. He has remained eligible despite an FBI probe into his recruitment. The Wildcats, who won the PAC 12 tournament, were seeded No. 4 in the South region and will play Buffalo in the first round. A potential second-round matchup against Kentucky looms. The Wildcats have two players slotted as mid-first-rounders — swingman Kevin Knox (No. 12 overall) and combo guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (15).
  • Duke and Michigan State were ranked 1-2 at the start of the season and faced each other in November, with the Blue Devils prevailing. They could see each again in the Sweet Sixteen, a Midwest showdown that would feature a handful of first-round prospects, Duke’s frontcourt duo of Marvin Bagley III (4) and Wendell Carter Jr. (6) and shooting guard Grayson Allen (30), and Michigan State forwards Jaren Jackson Jr. (3) and Miles Bridges (11).
  • How good is Texas center Mohamed Bamba (5)? We could get a better idea if the Longhorns get past Nevada and face rugged Cincinnati, the South’s No. 2 seed which also features small forward Jacob Evans (24).
  • Alabama’s Collin Sexton, currently the top-rated college point guard at No. 8, will try to build off his big SEC tournament performance in the East Region. If the Tide gets past their opener, they’ll likely face top seed Villanova and its No. 10 prospect, small forward Mikal Bridges.
  • Oklahoma point guard Trae Young (9) and his team faltered down the stretch but still got in as the Midwest’s No. 10 seed. If they upset Rhode Island, the Sooners would likely face the Blue Devils in the next round.
  • Texas A&M big man Robert Williams (15) could improve his stock if his team, slotted No. 7 in the West, can get by Big East tournament runner-up Providence and then upset No. 2 seed North Carolina in the next round.
  • Miami (Fla.) shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV (13) might move into the Top 10 if he carries his team, seeded sixth in the South, into the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

And-Ones: NCAA Investigation, Max FAs, Playoffs

The FBI’s investigation into college basketball recruiting has resulted in the discovery of documents and bank records that meticulously detail apparent loans and payments issued from agency ASM Sports to current and former college players, Pat Forde and Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports report. As the Yahoo duo writes, the documents show an “underground recruiting operation” that appears to violate NCAA amateurism rules and could impact many of the top college basketball programs in the country.

While the FBI’s probe is more likely to shake up those NCAA programs, there could be a domino effect on the NBA. According to Forde and Thamel, current college players like Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr., all of whom could be lottery picks this June, are among those linked by the documents to benefits for either the athletes or their family members. We’ll be following the investigation to see whether it impacts eligibility for those top prospects, as it did for USC’s De’Anthony Melton.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • In the wake of Sports Illustrated’s report that described the Mavericks‘ business offices as a hostile environment for women, the NBA is establishing a confidential hotline for league and team employees to report concerns about workplace misconduct. Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press has the details.
  • Tom Ziller of SBNation identifies nine 2018 free agents who should be candidates for maximum-salary contracts, including a pair of restricted free agents.
  • Count LeBron James among those who isn’t fully on board with the idea of reseeding playoff teams one through 16 and removing conferences from the equation. Pointing out that the Western and Eastern Conference have both enjoyed successful runs at various times over the last few decades, LeBron suggests that making such a change would change “the landscape of the history of the game,” per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.
  • While James is opposed to significant changes to the playoff format, he was on board with the All-Star changes, as was his good friend Chris Paul. The Rockets guard didn’t play in Sunday’s event but said “from my seat it looked good.” As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. Paul was happy to spread around the credit for the format changes.

Knicks Notes: Mudiay, Ntilikina, Williams, Draft

It looks like the Knicks will have a new starting point guard when the season resumes Thursday, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Emmanuel Mudiay, acquired from the Nuggets in a three-team deal at the deadline, appears ready to take the place of veteran Jarrett Jack, who has started 56 games this season.

“Definitely means something to me. I’m not going to take it for granted,” said Mudiay, who has been practicing with the Knicks’ starters. “I came in as a lottery pick so I was kind of handed the spot and stuff like that. So the fact that I’m in that position again, it’s a blessing. Thank God for it. I just have to take full advantage.”

New York’s front office has ordered coach Jeff Hornacek to give more minutes to young players for the rest of the season, Bondy adds. The coach has already made the decision to remove Jack from the starting lineup and has talked to the 34-year-old about cutting his playing time. Jack will be a free agent this summer.

There’s more news out of New York:

  • The Knicks were grooming rookie Frank Ntilikina to be the starting point guard going into January, but a decline in his performance and the acquisitions of Mudiay and Trey Burke changed those plans, Bondy adds in the same story. Ntilikina will still see increased playing time, but it may come at the two-guard spot. “I think he hit a little bit of a wall. The energy, and his knee [was hurting],” Hornacek said. “Hey, these kids come from another country. Now, all of a sudden, they’re having to travel every other day, play in games, and do all this stuff and he just looked exhausted at some times.”
  • Troy Williams, who signed a 10-day contract with the Knicks this morning, is looking forward to the opportunity, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN. “Great opportunity, great fit,” Williams said. “Their interest level here was a little bit higher than everybody else’s.” Williams, who was waived by the Rockets last week, will concentrate on what he needs to do to extend his stay in New York beyond 10 days, adding, “Right now my main role is just being an extra athletic guy, run the court and defend.”
  • Begley examines the most important questions surrounding the Knicks for the rest of this season and beyond in an ESPN story. Topics include the future of Hornacek, who has one year left on his contract, how Kristaps Porzingis‘ injury will affect the team in free agency and the Knicks’ plans for the draft, where they reportedly like Michigan State’s Miles Bridges and Villanova’s Mikal Bridges if they stay in the middle part of the lottery.