Mitchell Robinson

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Horford, Knicks, Raptors

Joel Embiid won’t be named MVP this season, but that might benefit the Sixers in the rest of the playoffs, writes Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com. After a Monday report stated that Nuggets center Nikola Jokic will win the trophy for the second straight season, teammate Georges Niang expects Embiid to be motivated to prove the voters wrong.

“I mean, obviously congratulations to the Joker. But obviously I think you know, Joel deserved it,” Niang said. “But like I’ve said before, now you guys get to see a pissed-off Joel. So, you’re welcome.”

Embiid, who finished second in last year’s MVP race, was a strong candidate again, leading the league in scoring at 30.6 PPG to go along with 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 blocks per night. Coach Doc Rivers was among Embiid’s most vocal supporters, but he admits there’s a strong field of candidates.

“Listen, his résumé was great, and not taking anything away from Jokic either because he’s a hell of a player,” Rivers said. “I do think this whole analytics-driven society, world is out of control at times. Some of the measures they use, like watch the damn game and decide is what I’ve always said. But at the end of the day, if Joel had won, which I thought he should have, there would have been criticism that way, if Giannis (Antetokounmpo) had won. Only one guy can win it, unfortunately.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics big man Al Horford, who wanted to show after an unsuccessful stint in Philadelphia and a stopover in Oklahoma City that he could still play, certainly proved just that on Monday night when he put up 30 points (a personal playoff high) in a crucial victory over Milwaukee, as Andrew Lopez of ESPN and Jay King of The Athletic write. Horford’s big game came at just the right time for the Celtics, who were the only team last offseason that showed interest in trading for him without insisting that the Thunder give up an asset in a deal, says Chris Mannix of SI.com.
  • In a discussion with colleague Fred Katz about the Knicks‘ offseason, John Hollinger of The Athletic says he’s not sure he trusts center Mitchell Robinson enough to invest heavily in him, and suggests it might be prudent for the team to delay its decision on RJ Barrett‘s future until 2023. Robinson will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, while Barrett will be extension-eligible.
  • It should be a fairly low-stakes summer for the Raptors, since all of their most important players are under contract, but there will still be some roster and contract decisions to make, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes in his offseason primer.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Eastern Notes: Robinson, Knicks, Hawks, Harris, Beal

The Knicks are among the teams monitoring what the Jazz will do this offseason, Ian Begley of SNY.tv reports. Begley suggests the team would express interest in Donovan Mitchell if he’s made available. The Jazz, in turn, could have interest in unrestricted free agent Mitchell Robinson if they choose to trade Rudy Gobert.

Robinson and the Knicks have until June 30 to reach a contract extension, but Begley says Robinson will likely enter unrestricted free agency, as two sides appeared far apart in negotiations before the trade deadline this season. Robinson, 24, is about two years younger than Mitchell, whereas Gobert turns 30 next month.

Here are some other notes from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hawks should be seeking a player this offseason that resembles Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, a source told The Athletic’s David Aldridge. Atlanta was one of the worst defensive teams in the league this season. Acquiring a defensive-minded forward would help when playing Eastern Conference contenders such as Milwaukee, Miami, Boston and Philadelphia.
  • Magic guard Gary Harris found his rhythm as the season came to a close, something that could help him in free agency, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Harris is set to become an unrestricted free agent. He averaged 11.1 points per game with Orlando this season, shooting 43% from the floor and 38% from deep. The 27-year-old has played eight NBA seasons.
  • Josh Robbins of The Athletic examines several Wizards-related notes in his latest mailbag, including whether the team should re-sign Bradley Beal and whether having Kristaps Porzingis makes Beal more expendable. Washington will be eligible to sign Beal to a five-year, $248MM deal. The 28-year-old’s scoring production regressed this season, as he averaged 23.2 points per game on 45% shooting, down from a career-high 31.3 points per contest on 48.5% shooting in 2020/21.

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: Rose, Grimes, Randle, Robinson

Hope seems to be fading that Knicks guard Derrick Rose will play again this season, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Coach Tom Thibodeau indicated over the weekend that Rose was making progress, but his tone was more pessimistic in a media session Monday night, pointing out that Rose still hasn’t been cleared for contact.

“The main thing is we want him to go step by step,’’ Thibodeau said. “He hasn’t taken contact on. He’s ramped up his conditioning but hasn’t taken contact on. That’s a big thing.’’

Rose hasn’t played since having surgery in December to remove a bone spur from his right ankle. He underwent a second procedure in late February after developing an infection in the surgically repaired area.

With just six games remaining and the Knicks having little chance to qualify for the play-in tournament, they may decide to play it safe with Rose. He’s under contract for two more years, although the 2023/24 season is a team option.

There’s more from New York:

  • Quentin Grimes had to miss a second consecutive game Monday with pain in his right knee, Berman adds. There may be concerns that he returned too soon after suffering a dislocation in the knee February 25.
  • Julius Randle played in the second game of a back-to-back Monday despite a sore quad, but he remained on the bench for most of the fourth quarter and finished with just five points on 1-of-9 shooting, Berman writes in a separate story. Randle, who has been engaged in feuds with fans and the media this season, was criticized by MSG Network’s Wally Szczerbiak for not celebrating on the court with his teammates after the game, but Thibodeau came to Randle’s defense. “You can play well when you didn’t shoot well. His 13 rebounds was huge,” Thibodeau said. “A lot of guys wouldn’t be playing. He wants to play. I have great respect for that.’’ 
  • Mitchell Robinson had his second straight impressive performance against the two teams that talked to the Knicks about acquiring him at the trade deadline, Berman notes. After blocking five shots Sunday against the Pistons, Robinson posted 16 points and 12 rebounds in last night’s win over the Bulls. Those could be two teams to watch when Robinson enters free agency this summer.

Knicks Notes: Sims, Robinson, Gibson, Westbrook

The Knicks may lose free agent center Mitchell Robinson this summer, so they’re seeing if they have a capable replacement already on the roster, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Rookie Jericho Sims, the 58th pick in last year’s draft, started the past two games and made all eight of his shots as New York picked up a pair of road wins.

Robinson is headed toward unrestricted free agency unless the Knicks sign him to an extension (which could be worth up to $55.6MM over four years) by June 30. He missed Wednesday’s game at Charlotte because of back pain and was used as a reserve Friday at Miami.

When healthy, Robinson has been New York’s starting center over the past two seasons, but the organization may not want to make a huge financial commitment to someone with his injury history and limited game away from the basket. If Sims can become a dependable center, that would ease the pain of losing Robinson.

“He’s been terrific since the summer,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said of Sims. “Just the way he approaches things. I think he’s growing, he’s learning, he puts a lot into it every day. And I think playing has been helpful for him, but it’s his preparation I think that’s helping him the most. He’s a lot more confident.’’

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks no longer have a realistic shot at reaching the play-in tournament, but coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t want to waste the rest of the season, per Steve Popper of Newsday. The team’s young players sparked a rally Friday against the Heat as New York overcame a 17-point fourth quarter deficit and improved to 7-4 in its last 11 games. “Honestly, really since the All-Star break, every game we’ve been feeling good about ourselves for real,” RJ Barrett said. “We’ve been playing great basketball. Even some of those losses, we’ve been playing amazing basketball since the All-Star break. You’re seeing it more and more, just trying to get better every day.”
  • Taj Gibson has improved as a three-point shooter this season, which could give the Knicks a reason to bring him back on his non-guaranteed $5.2MM salary for 2022/23, Popper adds. If Gibson isn’t retained as a player, he would definitely consider coaching. “For sure, because I love being around the game,” he said. “It comes easy to me. First thing, I love it. You’ve got to love watching film. I love just being around the guys. I love having the communication as far as just being on the court. And even in the workouts, I love being in the gym on off days with young guys and handling my business.”
  • Cross off New York as a potential trade destination for Lakers guard Russell Westbrook, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer said on a podcast with Marc Stein of Substack (hat tip to Brad Sullivan of Lakers Daily). Fischer talked to several people in the Knicks organization who told him they’re focused on building around the current core, rather than gambling on a veteran like Westbrook.

Knicks Notes: Fournier, Future, Randle, Robinson, Rose

Evan Fournier said it took him a little time to figure out his role with the Knicks, as Marc Berman of The New York Post relays.

I feel like it really took me a couple of months to figure out how I would be able to help this team,” Fournier said Wednesday night in Charlotte after breaking John Starks’ single-season record of 217 three-pointers. “I want to thank Thibs (coach Tom Thibodeau) for putting me in that position. That’s what he expected from me. It took me a couple of months to understand that.”

Fournier has been durable this season, appearing in 72 of the team’s 74 games. He’s started all 72 of those contests, averaging 14.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 1.0 SPG on .419/.394/.696 shooting.

I’ve always been an aggressive player, coming off curls and stuff,” Fournier said. “We have guys that do that already. My role was going to be different from the start. To find a reason and understand what’s expected of you when you’re new, sometime it takes a little bit. Since January, I feel a lot better and really understand my role and it’s been better since then.”

Berman thinks Fournier’s trade value has increased with his strong recent play. Since the start of January, Fournier is shooting 41.4% from deep on 8.7 attempts per game.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • New York got a glimpse of what the team could do without Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson in Wednesday’s 121-106 victory over Charlotte, Berman writes in a separate piece. After signing a long-term extension last summer, Randle’s erratic behavior and his dip in production has led to speculation that he might be traded this summer. Robinson, meanwhile, is an unrestricted free agent in 2022, and it’s not clear whether he wants to re-sign with the Knicks.
  • Derrick Rose hasn’t given up hope of returning to the court this season despite missing the past 45 games after undergoing a pair of ankle surgeries. With eight games remaining on the schedule, time is running out, but he’s making progress. “He did some in practice today,” Thibodeau said, per Berman of The New York Post. “He’s in the next phase right now. He still hasn’t taken contact.”
  • Within the same article, Berman writes that Randle is also inching closer to a return. He’s currently sidelined with a sore right quadriceps tendon, but was listed as a game-time decision before being held out of Friday’s game against Miami. He has missed three straight games with the injury.

Pistons Notes: Grant, Bagley, Hayes, Brunson, Robinson, Ayton, Draft

Jerami Grant‘s name was prominently mentioned in trade rumors prior to last month’s deadline. More recently, a report from The Athletic claims that the Trail Blazers will make a strong push for the Pistons forward in trade talks this summer.

On that subject, HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and The Athletic’s James Edwards III opined on a HoopsHype podcast that the deal will happen this summer. Grant, who will be entering the final season of his three-year contract, would plug a major hole at power forward for the Blazers. A first-rounder would likely be required in Portland’s package for the Pistons to make such a move, though Scotto isn’t convinced it would necessarily be a high lottery pick this season.

Edwards speculates that where the Pistons land in the lottery will impact their decision on Grant. If they’re able to select Paolo BancheroJabari SmithKeegan Murray, or Chet Holmgren, they’d be more inclined to deal him.

Scotto and Edwards also discussed a number of other Pistons-related issues:

  • The acquisition of Marvin Bagley III from Sacramento has gone well thus far and Edwards believes both parties are interested in a multi-year deal. Bagley will be a restricted free agent this summer. The Pistons view him as a second-unit standout due to his defensive shortcomings, Edwards adds.
  • Detroit isn’ ready to give up on point guard Killian Hayes, their 2020 lottery pick, says Edwards. Settling in as a reserve, Hayes has shown progress as a defender and his passing skills are superior.
  • The Pistons will likely make a push for free agents Jalen Brunson and Mitchell Robinson this summer, according to Scotto. He and Edwards agree that Detroit is less likely to go after top RFAs like Deandre Ayton or Miles Bridges.
  • Holmgren would probably top the Pistons’ draft wish list with Smith next in line, per Edwards.

Knicks Notes: Toppin, Point Guards, Jokubaitis, Barrett

With Julius Randle out for a second consecutive game on Wednesday in Charlotte due to a quad injury, forward Obi Toppin got another start for the Knicks and enjoyed perhaps his best game of the season. Toppin put up 18 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists on 8-of-11 shooting in 40 minutes, helping to lead the club to a 15-point win over the Hornets.

Toppin has made some strides in his second NBA season, but the former lottery pick has still had a fairly limited role, averaging 15.3 MPG in 63 games. However, head coach Tom Thibodeau liked what he saw from the 24-year-old on Wednesday.

“He made a number of good plays,” Thibodeau said, per Steve Popper of Newsday. “Running the floor, moving it side to side. Shot when he was open, drove it, made the extra pass. He had a great floor game and I think that helped us a ton.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Examining the Knicks’ options to address the point guard spot this offseason, Marc Berman of The New York Post makes a case for Tyus Jones as a potential target and suggests that a sign-and-trade deal with the Mavericks involving Jalen Brunson and Mitchell Robinson “isn’t far-fetched.”
  • Berman also reports that a couple members of the Knicks’ front office flew to Europe in February to visit with Rokas Jokubaitis, a draft-and-stash Lithuanian point guard who was selected 34th overall in the 2021 draft. The Knicks control Jokubaitis’ NBA rights and could explore bringing him stateside for the 2022/23 season.
  • In a separate story for The New York Post, Berman explains why the Knicks giving RJ Barrett a maximum-salary rookie scale extension this offseason shouldn’t be a lock, observing that the forward’s scoring efficiency has dipped this season. “A max extension is a tough call because physically he is gifted and has the capability of being extremely good on the defensive end,” one NBA coach said of Barrett. “The two things that matter most now is who is he playing with and his attitude towards making the right play. But if your volume shooter isn’t efficient, it doesn’t bode well for the team as a whole.”
  • Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post contends that there are no quick fixes for the Knicks and suggests the team still faces a “profound rebuild” in order to become a contender.

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Embiid, VanVleet, Robinson

Sixers coach Doc Rivers disagrees with the perception that his bench needs to score more, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Many league observers believe Philadelphia’s depth could be an Achilles heel, especially after the team gave up Seth Curry and Andre Drummond in last month’s deal for James Harden.

“All year, we were playing with five bench guys. I think that was too many for people,” Rivers explained. “Now, we are playing three bench guys. That’s not enough for people.”

Philadelphia’s bench consists of Shake Milton, Danny Green, Georges Niang and DeAndre Jordan, which likely isn’t better than other Eastern contenders such as Miami or Milwaukee. The team’s starting group certainly makes up for it, however.

“I think the biggest thing everyone is missing is since James has come, we play two starters with the bench,” Rivers continued, alluding to his new substitution pattern. “So when you do that, the bench guys aren’t going to score as much.

“The reason they aren’t going to score as much is because the two starters that are playing with the bench are probably scoring more when they are playing with the bench. So it does change it a little bit for sure.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers superstar Joel Embiid is eager to play in every game before the playoffs, but he understands the importance of being healthy, Pompey writes in a separate article for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid has been playing through a sore back. Philadelphia will need his production in the playoffs, as he’s currently averaging a career-high 30.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (right knee injury management) will miss the team’s game against Philadelphia on Sunday, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. VanVleet played nearly 47 minutes against the Lakers in an overtime game on Friday. He leads the team in minutes per game (38.2) and is in the midst of his first All-Star campaign.
  • Mitchell Robinson has provided a boost for the Knicks on the offensive glass, Pette Botte of the New York Post writes. The seven-footer has averaged just over four offensive rebounds per game this season, trailing only Grizzlies center Steven Adams“Huge … those effort plays, they inspire your team,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Our rebounding has been off the charts, that’s a big part of winning. You have to keep improving … keep fighting, scratching. Whatever we gotta do, we gotta do right now.”

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.