Mitchell Robinson

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Simmons, Embiid, Knicks, Ntilikina

Nets superstar James Harden is ready to embrace the sacrifice needed for his team to succeed this season, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.

Harden, who was acquired by Brooklyn in a massive three-team trade on Wednesday, joins a Nets team already featuring two of the league’s best offensive players in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The looming question, of course, is whether the three talents will be able to co-exist going forward.

“Chemistry. Sacrifice,” Harden said, as relayed by Lewis. “We’re all elite, so depending on the game and what’s going on throughout the course of the game, that’s going to determine who gets the ball and who makes the plays.

“We’re all unselfish, we’re all willing passers and we play basketball the right way.”

Harden is currently listed as questionable to play in Saturday’s game against Orlando, with Irving set to miss the game due to health and safety protocols. The team could have its full Big 3 available for Monday’s showdown against the defensive-minded Bucks on TNT.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division today:

  • Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer explores the fit between Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, a pairing he believes is still questionable even with some added shooting. Simmons was prepared for the possibility of being traded by the Sixers in a deal centered around Harden this past week, but Houston made a deal with Brooklyn instead.
  • The Knicks considered extending the contract of Mitchell Robinson last offseason, perhaps showing how they value the 22-year-old, Ian Begley of tweets. Robinson’s game remains a work in progress, but he possesses the tools needed to be an intriguing player for the future. In 13 games this season, he’s averaged 8.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest.
  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau issued a brief injury update on Frank Ntilikina, who hasn’t seen action since Dec. 29 due to a knee sprain. “We have to be patient and let him work through that,” Thibodeau said, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post (Twitter link). “He’s making steady progress. It will probably be a little while longer.”

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Robinson, Ibaka, Toppin

Nets coach Steve Nash contends that the schedule for All-Star forward Kevin Durant‘s return from his COVID-19 protocol-necessitated quarantining is a “moving target,” according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. On Tuesday, Durant commenced his quarantine, per NBA health and safety protocols, after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The belief was that the quarantine would last seven days.

“My understanding is that it is a quarantine, so I don’t think there will be any on-court activity,” Nash said. “There’s negative tests, days from the contact tracing and all sorts of factors that go into it. So, I don’t really have an answer yet on how long.” The Nets crushed the Jazz 130-96 in their first test without Durant.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has been improving his efforts to avoid foul calls, Greg Joyce of the New York Post reports. “It’s actually, like, nobody wants to get yelled at by the coaches, so I’ve been just trying to maintain that the best way that I can,” Robinson said. “I’ve been working on it.” The young big man is averaging 3.0 fouls per game in 29.6 MPG, a marked improvement over his 3.2 fouls in 23.1 MPG during the 2019/20 season.
  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster apparently frustrated free agent center/power forward Serge Ibaka when the club offered him a number below what he was hoping for in an attempt to leave some cap space to re-sign starting center Marc Gasol, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Toronto bumped its one-year offer from $12MM to $14MM, but Ibaka apparently also did not want to continue being a backup to Gasol. Both players wound up departing for cheaper deals with Los Angeles title contenders, and the 1-5 (as of this writing) Raptors appear to be missing the two-way skill set of their championship frontcourt tandem.
  • Following an evaluation yesterday, Knicks power forward Obi Toppin will begin running and jumping as he continues to rehabilitate from a right calf strain, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link). After this, Toppin will subsequently move on to on-court workouts. The rookie hurt the calf in the club’s December 23 opening night bout against the Pacers. “He’s making good progress and we just have to be patient,” new head coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Atlantic Notes: Robinson, Rivers, Siakam, Barrett

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau praised Mitchell Robinson and his confidence, expressing optimism that a rise will come for the 22-year-old center, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes.

Robinson, who was drafted by the Knicks No. 36 overall in 2018, has started in all six of the team’s contests this season. Thibodeau was hesitant to name Robinson as a starter prior to the season, jumpstarting a competition between him and Nerlens Noel.

“Let’s talk about Mitch,” Thibodeau said. “He’s just, every day he’s growing and growing and growing. The way he’s working, studying, preparing for the games. you could see his confidence grow. He’s making multiple effort plays. He’s a hard guy to score over. And he’s really the anchor of the defense back there. And offensively there’s a lot of room for him to grow. He’s putting a lot of time in.”

As for when Robinson could take the next step in his improvement, the veteran coach gave a blunt response: “You guys haven’t seen it yet, but it’s coming.” Robinson has averaged 8.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game to start the season.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Sixers coach Doc Rivers has inspired others while reaching a new milestone in his career, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Rivers, a former head coach with Orlando, is now 10th on the all-time coaching regular-season wins list, though he remains focused on his current team and not on any career achievements. “I don’t look at what I’m doing, honestly. I’d love to say — I know it means something and I know it means a lot to people, but I just I don’t know,” Rivers said. “I’ve never been able to put myself in that place where I’m thinking about what I’m doing. I think I have fooled myself that I’m really young and I have a whole career to go, and maybe that’s why I don’t, but I do feel like I’ve got a lot to do and so I don’t think about it that often.”
  • Raptors star Pascal Siakam continued his struggles in the team’s 120-116 loss to New Orleans on Saturday, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. Siakam finished with just 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting, fouling out in less than 25 minutes. “He struggled, no doubt about it,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought he had a few decent plays and a few good drives in there, but he obviously struggled. Half-count off rhythm there at both ends a little bit, which is getting him in foul trouble and not letting him be able to finish some plays at the offensive end as well.”
  • Knicks guard RJ Barrett vowed to continue shooting despite being in a slump last week, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. Barrett turned his play around on Saturday, giving New York a 25-point performance on 8-of-15 shooting. He also finished with four threes, five rebounds and three assists in 42 minutes.

Atlantic Notes: Barrett, Thibodeau, Powell

Knicks guard RJ Barrett is in the midst of a miserable shooting slump, Marc Berman of the New York Post notes. The No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft has made just 19 of 72 field-goal attempts since scoring 26 points in the team’s opener. He’s also missed all 21 of his 3-point tries in the last four games. However, Tom Thibodeau said this week that Barrett contributes in many ways.

“He’s doing a lot of things for us defensively, moving well without the ball. He’s getting downhill,” the Knicks coach said. “There’s a lot of room for him to grow. … Just having a wing to do things he can do, his versatility is a big asset for the team and willingness to make plays for people.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Thibodeau has stuck with the same starting five in the first five games because he wants to establish chemistry and a coherent rotation, Berman writes in a separate story. “I think they’re familiar with each other,’’ Thibodeau said. “It’s a good balance of how they complement each other. We have three guys that can go off the dribble pretty effectively. We have shooting with Reggie (Bullock) and defense. And Mitch (Mitchell Robinson) is really coming on. So I like the balance of that group, especially with our bench.’’
  • The Raptors have played better with Norman Powell in the starting lineup but it creates other issues, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. In 90 career starts, Powell has averaged 13.3 PPG while shooting 41% from 3-point range. Toronto could go small by taking Aron Baynes out of the lineup but that would affect the second unit and reduce Alex Len‘s playing time, Smith adds.
  • ICYMI, virtually every Atlantic Division teams has checked in with the Rockets regarding disgruntled star James Harden. Get the details here.

Atlantic Notes: Robinson, Boucher, Celtics, Thomas

Knicks center Mitchell Robinson won’t complain if he continues come off the bench, with Tom Thibodeau currently opting to start Nerlens Noel over the 22-year-old, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

Noel, who signed with the team last month, recorded 10 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes of action on Friday. Robinson started in just seven of the club’s 61 games last season, though many thought he’d crack the starting lineup entering this campaign.

“It is what it is,” Robinson said. “I’m going to go out there and play hard. I really don’t mind starting or don’t mind not starting. I don’t have hurt feelings. I’m just going to go out there and just be the best me.”

Robinson averaged 9.7 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 23.1 minutes per game last season. Upon being asked if he truly cares about coming off the bench, he gave a clear response.

“Not really. As long as I can go out there and help my teammates I really don’t care if I start or not,” he said. “It’s early. I’m not going to sit down and pout about it. I’m not going to make a problem or whatever. As long as I get to play, I’m fine with that.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • The Raptors plan to utilize Chris Boucher as the first big man off the bench in most games this season, head coach Nick Nurse said, as relayed by Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). Boucher added nine points, four rebounds and three blocks off the bench in the team’s preseason win over Charlotte on Saturday, logging 14 minutes of action.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic examines the Celtics‘ upcoming season, previewing their rotation, making predictions and projecting the team’s record entering the campaign. When healthy, the C’s are expected to sport the same starting lineup they used during the postseason, having also added players such as Jeff Teague and Tristan Thompson in free agency to bolster the bench.
  • Raptors guard Matt Thomas displayed his versatile scoring ability against the Hornets in his first preseason action, Chris O’Leary of writes. Thomas added 16 points and five assists in the win, shooting 5-of-9 from the floor and 4-of-7 from deep.

Atlantic Notes: Thibodeau, Robinson, Noel, Lowry, Davis

Tom Thibodeau‘s impact on the Knicks was apparent in their preseason opener at Detroit on Friday, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. They were energetic on defense, forcing 22 turnovers and contesting shooters on the 3-point line. They also controlled the boards, out-rebounding the Pistons 54-41. The Knicks were relatively quiet in free agency, so their biggest upgrade is seemingly at head coach, Berman adds.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Free agent addition Nerlens Noel started ahead of Mitchell Robinson at center for the Knicks and the early returns were promising, Berman writes in a separate story. The two big men combined for 15 rebounds and four blocks, and Robinson also made four steals. “When you have two bigs that are like that, it’s a big bonus,” Thibodeau said. “And they’re very similar. I’m not sure who I’m going to start, but I like both of those guys, and I’m going to need them to play well to play well as a team.’’ Noel joined the Knicks on a one-year, $5MM contract.
  • Raptors guard Kyle Lowry will remain in the team’s temporary home in Tampa this weekend and miss games in Charlotte on Saturday and Monday, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star relays. The team didn’t give a reason for Lowry’s absence, so it’s unclear whether it’s related to the COVID-19 protocols. Lowry, who will make $30.5MM in the upcoming season, will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
  • Terence Davis‘ lawyer is seeking a dismissal of the criminal case against him, Rick Westhead of The Sports Network tweets. The Raptors guard was arrested in New York City in late October and faces seven charges. Davis allegedly hit his girlfriend in the face, then grabbed the victim’s phone and broke it during the incident. The woman’s son also allegedly got knocked down during the altercation. Davis made a court appearance remotely on Friday and was told he must “stay away” from his alleged victim but that he can have contact with his son.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Randle, Anthony, Robinson

The Knicks have 15 days to decide whether to extend Frank Ntilikina‘s rookie contract, but the 22-year-old guard still doesn’t have an established role with the team, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Given Ntilikina’s uneven NBA career so far and the logjam in the team’s backcourt, Berman believes a trade before the March deadline is more likely than an extension.

Ntilikina brushed off questions about a possible new deal, saying, “The business part is going to take care of itself. I’m here to get better every day, to get this team better.’’

Ntilikina’s chances to prove himself to new coach Tom Thibodeau might be limited. Elfrid Payton, who started the most games at point guard for the Knicks last year, re-signed during the offseason. Dennis Smith Jr. is also back, and New York added Austin Rivers in free agency.

“We have a lot of guards on this team, a lot of competitors, which is going to bring the best out of the team,’’ Ntilikina said. “We’re going to compete hard for minutes and the coach is going to decide what he wants to do. We have trust in him. He knows what he’s doing. He knows his job. So he’s going to put the best players together on the court.’’

There’s more from New York:

  • Julius Randle isn’t concerned that the Knicks used their lottery pick to add Obi Toppin, a player with similar skills who may eventually replace him at power forward, Berman adds in a separate story. Many observers don’t think Randle and Toppin can be effective playing together, but Randle insists they’ll find a way. “He’s an athletic player from what I know,’’ he said. “I haven’t seen much of him. But he can shoot it and run the floor. So I think we’ll be able to complement each other very well. The game is position-less now. To have many guys be versatile and do many things is great.’’ 
  • Team president Leon Rose reportedly had interest in bringing Carmelo Anthony, one of his former CAA clients, back to New York, but Anthony didn’t consider the move once it became clear the Knicks were going to continue with their youth movement, Berman writes in another piece“They are rebuilding and figuring out what’s in their near future,” Anthony said. “It was me personally wanting to be part of a situation I was already comfortable with (in Portland). I just finished playing with these guys two, three months ago. I felt it was the right fit at this point of time where I’m at right now this particular year.’’
  • Mitchell Robinson is moving on to his sixth agent as he enters his third year in the league, according to Berman. Robinson is leaving Klutch Sports to sign with the Wasserman Group.

Mitchell Robinson, Ben McLemore Receive Salary Guarantees

In moves that were little more than formalities, two more players have had their contracts fully guaranteed ahead of the 2020/21 season.

Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports tweets that Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has had his third-year, $1,663,861 contract guaranteed. Meanwhile, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports that Rockets shooting guard Ben McLemore has seen his $2,283,034 contract guaranteed after a solid 2019/20 performance in Houston.

Since being drafted with the 36th pick in 2018, the springy 7′ Robinson has quickly become a core piece for a rebuilding Knicks club. Robinson posted averages of 9.7 PPG and 7.0 RPG over 61 games for New York during his sophomore pro season, while connecting on a stellar 74.2% of his field goals.

The 27-year-old McLemore enjoyed a terrific year in Houston over the 2019/20 season, proving his mettle as a reliable 3-and-D role player for a competitive playoff club. McLemore averaged 10.1 PPG and 2.2 RPG for the Rockets. He also posted a solid shooting line of .444/.400/.746. Over 71 games for the club, he averaged 22.8 minutes a night.

Knicks Rumors: Cap Room, Oladipo, Barrett, Robinson

Ian Begley of reported last week that the Knicks are open to accommodating salary-dump deals with their cap room this fall, and in his preview of the NBA offseason, ESPN’s Zach Lowe confirms that the team has conveyed that it’s willing to be patient and gather assets using its cap space.

However, Lowe suggests it’s not clear what exactly the Knicks’ definition of “unwanted salaries” is, adding that they may want to take on players who can help the 2020/21 club without compromising future cap room. In other words, a deal that resembles the Clippers’ acquisition of Maurice Harkless last summer might be of interest to the Knicks — that was ostensibly a salary dump, with Los Angeles receiving a first-round pick for taking on Harkless, but the veteran forward also became a regular rotation player in L.A.

As for whether the Knicks are looking to spend big on any free agents, Lowe speculates that the Knicks may be willing to go that route only for a handful of players who are “under some age threshold and available at the right price.” It’s possible that young free agents like Fred VanVleet and Christian Wood – both of whom have been linked to New York – could fit that bill if bidding doesn’t go too high.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks have had interest in Victor Oladipo in the past, but may have shifted into “wait and watch” mode on the Pacers guard, according to Lowe. In other words, New York probably isn’t willing to give up significant assets for Oladipo without some on-court proof that he’s fully recovered from the quad tendon injury that sidelined him for a year.
  • New York has been reluctant to discuss RJ Barrett or Mitchell Robinson in any trade talks, sources tell Lowe. If the Knicks look to move up in the draft, I imagine teams would ask about one or both of those two players. However, they’re New York’s most obvious long-term cornerstones, so it’s no surprise that the team isn’t eager to make them available.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic profiles new Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose in an in-depth story. A report earlier this week indicated that Rose is earning $8MM on his new deal with the Knicks.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Draft, Point Guards, Robinson

Five coaching vacancies have been created since Tom Thibodeau agreed to terms with the Knicks on July 25, but he has no reason to regret his decision, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Thibodeau might have been a candidate to join the Nets, Sixers, Pacers, Rockets or Thunder, but a source tells Berman the coach is happy to be reunited with team president Leon Rose, his former agent with CAA.

“He took the job because he trusted Leon,’’ the source said.

Trust means Thibodeau will have input on important decisions such as the upcoming draft, where the Knicks own picks No. 8, 27 and 38. Thibodeau served as both coach and team president in Minnesota and is used to being involved in personnel moves.

“I think, as a head coach, the only thing you want is a voice,’’ Thibodeau told reporters Friday on a Zoom call. “I think a lot was made of a president’s title, but also, I had a GM and assistant GMs that did a lot of the day-to-day stuff that a normal general manager would do.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Finding a point guard will be the priority heading into the draft, but the Knicks are also taking a long look at Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, Berman adds in the same story. Okoro’s defensive skills could be a perfect fit for Thibodeau’s system.
  • Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. are both attending the Knicks’ mini-camp to show the new coaching staff what they can do, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Neither of the former lottery picks has been able to seize control of the starting point guard job. “We’re three days in, so I’m getting to know both guys,” Thibodeau said Friday. “I like what they’ve done so far. They got to continue to work. There’s oftentimes ups and downs for young players. There’s a learning curve they have to go through. Some experiences will be better than others.”
  • Mitchell Robinson isn’t participating in the mini-camp, but he impressed Thibodeau during individual workouts last week, Popper writes in a separate story. Robinson pulled out of the team sessions at the last minute due to “personal reasons” that the Knicks say aren’t related to COVID-19. “He’s an incredible athlete, Thibodeau said. “But we don’t want to put a ceiling on him. We want to continue to work on all aspects of his game and develop. He spent some time here earlier in the summer and we’re hopeful that we can get him back in and get to work with him so he can build on those skills, but obviously he’s a very important part of this team.”