Mitchell Robinson

Lakers Notes: Ingram, Ball, George, Robinson

The Lakers are wasting an opportunity to prove they can be successful without LeBron James and may be getting a clearer picture of the value of Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, writes Bill Oram of The Athletic. L.A.is 1-4 since James suffered a strained left groin, and the team learned Friday that he won’t be re-evaluated for another week.

The most troubling game in that stretch was last night’s loss to the Knicks, who have been near the bottom of the East all season. With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Oram writes, Ingram became a one-dimensional player, making just one of five shots, while Ball tried to force passes and committed a couple of key turnovers.

“Brandon and Lonzo right now are our primary ballhandlers,” coach Luke Walton said, “and I think they led us in turnovers tonight. I’m not putting the blame on them, but that’s part of the responsibility of being a point guard, or being a primary ballhandler-slash-playmaker, is taking care of the ball and getting guys going, getting other guys easy looks.”

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • Ingram may be the next young talent sacrificed in the quest to build a super team in L.A., suggests Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. The Lakers have already parted with D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle to clear cap room, and it may become necessary to do the same with Ingram to have a shot at Anthony Davis. If the Pelicans hang onto Davis and he becomes a free agent in 2020, the Lakers can’t afford the $21.8MM cap hold Ingram would have as a restricted free agent. However, he could turn out to be a valuable trade piece if Davis turns down a supermax offer and New Orleans feels compelled to move him this summer.
  • Paul George got an unfriendly reception from Lakers fans this week, but he explained that he made a business decision to stay in Oklahoma City, relays Brett Dawson of The Athletic. There was hope last season that George might return to his native Southern California in free agency, but he decided he had a better situation with the Thunder. “The Lakers is one of the best, most historical franchises in the world,” George said. “It is what it is. I’m with another great organization.”
  • The Lakers gave strong consideration to taking Mitchell Robinson with their first-round pick last summer, but the rookie center believes he’s better off with the Knicks, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. With L.A. hoping to make the playoffs, Robinson thinks he might have spent much of the season in the G League rather than as an NBA starter.

Atlantic Notes: Musa, Horford, Atkinson, Robinson

Nets rookie Dzanan Musa will miss one month with a shoulder injury suffered last Sunday in a G League game, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Musa knew the injury would cost him time immediately, with the sharp pain quickly shooting through his arm.

“Oh yeah, because my arm just went off. I didn’t feel it for like five minutes,” Musa said, according to Lewis. “It was numb. [I couldn’t feel it], not at all. I felt like my arm was gone, so I was pretty afraid.”

The Nets released an official medical update on Musa last week, announcing that he’d begin rehabilitation immediately after being diagnosed with a shoulder subluxation. Musa has appeared in seven games with Brooklyn this season, spending most of the campaign with their minor league affiliate in Long Island.

Musa has held per-game averages of 20.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 16 NBA G League games this season, proving his worth as a young prospect. The Nets drafted him with the No. 29 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, making him the second-youngest player in franchise history.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division today:

  • Al Horford and Marcus Morris will make their returns on Sunday against the Hornets, head coach Brad Stevens announced. Horford will be on a minutes restriction and has missed seven straight games with patellofemoral pain syndrome in his knee, while Morris will return from a one-week absence due to knee soreness. The Celtics have lost three straight games and currently own a 18-13 record.
  • Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was fined $25K for verbally abusing game officials and failing to leave the court in a timely manner following his ejection on Friday, the NBA announced in a press release. The incident occurred in the fourth quarter of the Nets’ 114-106 loss to Indiana.
  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson is progressing in his rehab from a sprained left ankle, according to the team (Twitter link). Robinson has moved from an immobilization boot to an ankle brace and will be out at least one more week, with the 20-year-old missing the club’s last four games.

Knicks Notes: Free Agency, Porzingis, Knox, Burke

The Knicks don’t see an urgency to sign an elite free agent next summer and believe their rebuilding plan will be fine if they have to wait another year, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The organization’s priorities are landing a top-five draft pick, getting Kristaps Porzingis healthy again and developing rookies Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier, along with Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay.

The summer of 2019 has long been considered pivotal for the Knicks, who will have the cap space to compete on the free agent market for the first time in several years. There are plans in place to open up $38MM — enough to sign a 10-year veteran like Kevin Durant — if the opportunity becomes available, although Berman isn’t sure if those plans include a trade of Tim Hardaway Jr. But a source says the team won’t go that route unless it can land a “dramatic difference maker.”

President Steve Mills seemed to confirm that approach at a press conference Friday when he talked about saving cap room for 2020 and retaining the flexibility to acquire a star through trade. Berman adds that the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis has interest in playing in New York.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • The Knicks are hoping Porziginis can return sometime after the All-Star break so he can start to build chemistry with his younger teammates, Berman relays in the same story. However, the final decision will be based on his physical condition as he recovers from last season’s ACL injury. “The most important thing for us is to have Kristaps on the court when he feels comfortable being on the court and we feel comfortable he should be out there,’’ Mills said. “That’s more important than any timetable this season — or some point in the summer.” Team doctors plan to re-evaluate Porzingis’ condition in February.
  • Knox continued a troubling pattern in Friday’s loss to the Hawks, Berman notes in a separate piece. He made seven of eight shots in the first quarter, but none in the second half, which has been a familiar theme this season. “I expect him to be a big-time scorer, [but it’s] a real conditioning requirement to be a great scorer in this league,” coach David Fizdale said. “He has to learn as he gets stronger and in more physical shape to adapt to scouting reports and adjustments during the game.’’
  • Trey Burke is expected to return to the lineup for the Christmas Day game, but back-to-back DNPs this week suggest he’s not part of the Knicks’ plan for the future, Berman adds.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Knox, Robinson, Vonleh

Frank Ntilikina is the latest victim of coach David Fizdale’s changing rotation, never leaving the bench in Saturday night’s win over the Bucks, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. The Knicks were down a guard after Trey Burke sprained his right knee in the first minute of the game, but Fizdale never turned to Ntilikina, making it the first DNP-CD of his brief NBA career.

“It’s not frustration,” Ntilikina said after the game. “I think it’s motivation because as a competitor, you want to be out there on the court to help your team. My job and my mindset is to keep working harder to be able to get back on the court.”

Ntilikina has started 14 games this season, but has seen his playing time reduced while suffering through a shooting slump. Fizdale has remained supportive and issued a reminder that other players have found themselves in the same situation.

“As you could see with these guys, none of them are ever in the dungeon,” Fizdale said. “He was the example of my postgame speech because if you watch our bench tonight, he was the most energetic, the first one up, the first one rooting guys on, the one making sure people knew what they were supposed to do coming out of timeouts. And that’s not easy when you’re getting a DNP. But as you know and as they know, I will come back to him in no time. [Damyean Dotson] is a perfect testament of that.”

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • Kevin Knox responded to league-wide questions about his ability with a career-best performance Saturday, notes Kevin Kernan of The New York Post. Knox scored 26 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter, as New York knocked off one of the league’s best teams. “Fiz is always going to have confidence in me,” the rookie forward said. “He just wants me to keep playing hard. He talked to me about that the other day. It shows how much confidence in me to keep me out there the whole game.”
  • Fizdale is willing to endure the growing pains for Knox and Mitchell Robinson and won’t consider a trip to the G League for either one, Popper relays in a separate story“I’ve got a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old trying to figure out the NBA, the league that’s full of the absolute best players in the world, the best coaches in the world, doing it in the absolute toughest market in America,” Fizdale said. “Give them a break. These guys are learning on the fly.”
  • In an interview with Steve Serby of The New York Post, Noah Vonleh explains why he chose the Knicks in free agency.

Knicks Notes: Knox, Ntilikina, Porzingis, Robinson, Lee

The Knicks’ lottery picks over the last two years, point guard Frank Ntilikina and wing Kevin Knox, have been called soft by rival scouts and other league personnel interviewed by the New York Post’s Marc Berman. Knox was also labelled as selfish offensively, settling for long-range jumpers and refusing to move the ball. Ntilikina was knocked for lacking of acumen expected of a floor leader. Coach David Fizdale bristled at the criticism, according to tweet from Newsday’s Steve Popper. “Give them a break,” he said. “These guys are learning on the fly.” Knox said he’ll take the knocks in a constructive way, as Popper relays. “I love the criticism because that’s just going to help me go watch film and make sure I can get better at that,” Knox said.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Knox is eager to establish chemistry with Kristaps Porzingis, Berman reports in a separate story. Porzingis could return in late December from the ACL tear he suffered last season. “It will be great to get him on the court and get the connection going a bit see how it is to play with an All-Star,” he said. “It will be pretty fun when he gets back. Hopefully, we’ll connect.”
  • Fizdale said there’s no talk of sending Knox and fellow rookie Mitchell Robinson to the G League’s Westchester Knicks, Berman writes in another piece. “I’m keeping both of them with us,’’ Fizdale said. “Through whatever tough times we go through, that’s what we have to go through with them right now. But I want them with our guys, playing with our guys, interacting with our guys, having successes and suffering with our guys.”
  • Courtney Lee could make his season debut against the Bucks on Saturday, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic tweets. Fizdale said the veteran shooting guard is probable to play, Vorkunov adds. Lee has been sidelined with a neck injury.

New York Notes: Lee, Burke, Knox, Dinwiddie

Knicks shooting guard Courtney Lee expects to be cleared for full practice this weekend, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Lee has yet to make his season debut after straining his neck during training camp. He participated in limited contact drills last Friday. Getting Lee back on the court would allow the Knicks to showcase him for a potential trade. They have been exploring trades for Lee but he has drawn very little interest. Lee, who is making $12,253,780 this season, is signed through next season.

We have more on the Knicks and Nets:

  • Trey Burke‘s hot streak off the bench has clouded the Knicks’ point guard outlook while enhancing his trade value, Marc Berman of the New York Post notes. Burke has averaged 25.8 PPG over the past four games, forcing his way into the rotation after being benched three of the previous four games. Burke is competing with Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina for minutes. His $1.8MM contract doesn’t even become fully guaranteed until January 10th and he’ll be a free agent after the season. He could be moved for a draft pick if the team’s brass doesn’t view him as part of its future, Berman adds.
  • Draft picks Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson are coming off the bench at the moment but coach David Fizdale said he’s still searching for the right combination in the starting five, Berman relays in a separate story. Knox would prefer to start and Robinson was in the starting five until Fizdale went back to veteran center Enes Kanter this week. “We have so many young guys and we’re trying to find out strengths and tendencies and the suffering that comes with it because you’re doing that when you’re losing, figuring it out,’’ Fizdale said. “We’re trying to get to know these guys. Hopefully in the next week or two, we’ll start to get to know them better and settle in and maybe that will help us.”
  • Spencer Dinwiddie bristled at coming off the bench during the second half of last season, but the Nets point guard settled into that role this season, Brian Lewis of the New York Post reports. Dinwiddie, a free agent next summer, is averaging 14.9 PPG and 4.8 APG and could be a candidate for the Sixth Man award. “Any time your role changes drastically during the season, you have to adjust,” Dinwiddie told Lewis. “I knew what it was coming into [this] season, so it’s easy when you’ve got all summer and all that other stuff to know what your role is going to be. There wasn’t an adjustment; I already knew what time it was.”

Knicks Notes: Hezonja, Burke, Robinson, Trier

A cutback in minutes could ruin Mario Hezonja‘s return to Orlando on Sunday, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Hezonja, who spent three years with the Magic before signing with the Knicks over the summer, got his first DNP of the season last night in a loss to the Pelicans.

Hezonja has been the victim of an evolving rotation in New York, along with his own inconsistent play. He’s shooting just .397 from the field and a career-worst .280 from 3-point range.

“That’s just how the rotation is where it’s at,” coach David Fizdale said after the game.Trey [Burke] didn’t play [in two games] and he scored 24 for me tonight. I tell all the guys stay ready, it’s a revolving door. Everyone will get a chance to help our team. I think [Hezonja] will.’’

There’s more news out of New York:

  • Burke credits a change in attitude for Friday night’s scoring outburst, Berman relays in a separate story. He hadn’t shown the explosiveness that helped earn him a rotation spot after being signed from the G League last season, and says he wasn’t driving to the basket enough. “[I was] being conservative, letting the game come to me,’’ Burke said. “Not attacking immediately. Naturally I’m a scoring point guard. When I attack it’s not always for me to score, it creates for others to. I wasn’t doing that.”
  • Rookie center Mitchell Robinson showed off his shot-blocking prowess last night with seven rejections in 24 minutes, Berman adds in another piece. He ranks fourth in the league in blocks per 36 minutes at 3.7 and gets many of those with his left hand, a fact that his high school coach, Butch Stockton, takes credit for. “I taught him that,’’ Stockton said. “When he was in high school with us, I always stressed to him to block shots with his left hand. Most people you play against are right-handed. Mitchell can always spring better with his left hand up. His senior year he was the best shot-blocker in the country.’’
  • Two days after unveiling a new starting lineup, Fizdale changed it again in New Orleans, Berman tweets. The latest move involves rookie Allonzo Trier, who was inserted into the starting five in place of Noah Vonleh.

Knicks Notes: Kanter, Knox, Trier, Kornet

Knicks center Enes Kanter hasn’t had much to say since being demoted to the second team, but he expressed his feelings about the move on social media last night, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Kanter’s tweet was just a period symbol, which is evidently his way of expressing his speechlessness over losing his starting job to second-round pick Mitchell Robinson.

Kanter had 18 points and 14 rebounds in about 24 minutes off the bench Sunday against the Wizards, but was still replaced by Robinson with 5:36 left to play and the Knicks down six points. Washington pulled away as the rookie committed multiple fouls and drew a technical.

New coach David Fizdale has said the team is not “chasing wins” and will prioritize player development over its record. Kanter had been a locker room leader, but Berman notes that he has become more detached since the lineup change. He suggests it may be an ongoing “soap opera” as long as Robinson remains the starter.

There’s more today out of New York:

  • Fizdale promised a five-game run for his current starting lineup and doesn’t plan any changes now that the trial period is up, Berman adds in the same piece. Frank Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway Jr., Damyean Dotson and Noah Vonleh have joined Robinson as starters, and Fizdale likes the energy that group brings. Rookie Allonzo Trier has been helping to close out games because of his ability to create his own shots.
  • Kevin Knox, who is expected to eventually join that starting unit, is listed as a “game-time decision” tonight against the Bulls, Berman relays in a separate story. Knox has missed seven games with a sprained left ankle and Fizdale would like to see him in a five-on-five scrimmage before he returns to the lineup. Knox went through a three-on-three session with contact on Saturday. “My 19-year-old pro right now,” Fizdale said. “We’ll see how it goes. I told you I wanted him to play five-on-five. I know he feels great. At the same time, we have to make sure with that deal.”
  • The decision to assign Luke Kornet to the G League today could lead to an eventual roster move, Berman tweets. There’s speculation that Trier, a two-way player, will have his contract converted to a standard NBA deal when his 45 days are used up in December, while Kornet will be waived and re-signed to a two-way contract.

Knicks Notes: Rookies, Lee, Rebuild

The Knicks are sticking to their plan so far this season, focusing on player development over wins as they continue to rebuild ahead of Kristaps Porzingis‘ return and 2019 free agency. As Marc Berman writes for The New York Post, the Knicks may have found some diamonds from the 2018 NBA Draft, as Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier have all had their fair share of standout moments this season.

As Berman points out, the Knicks’ 2018 rookie class has grabbed a lot of attention for their highlight plays and impressive performances. Trier went undrafted out of the University of Arizona and is averaging nearly 11 points per game on 53.1% shooting from the field. Meanwhile, second-round pick Mitchell Robinson is averaging 5.4 points and 4 rebounds per game while hitting 66.7% of his shots.

Before going down with an injury, Knox was averaging 9.3 points per game and shooting 44.4 percent from beyond the arc as he projects to be a go-to scorer for years to come.

Having a successful rookie class is a key step in the Knicks’ plan to rebuild around Porzingis and a potential marquee free agency signing in 2019. So far, the 2018 rookies have been as good, if not better than advertised.

There’s more from the Knicks:

Knicks Notes: Robinson, Knox, Vonleh, Carmelo

Coach David Fizdale is committed to making rookie Mitchell Robinson his starting center, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Robinson has replaced Enes Kanter, who will enter the free agent market next summer, because Fizdale feels the second-round pick is a “superior natural defender” and he wants the whole team to have a defensive mindset. “He’s going to be our foundation, our anchor of our defense for the future,” Fizdale said. “Let’s get this guy going right now and really commit to the development of these guys and to what it’s going to take to get them to where they need to be for us to be the team we’re going to be later.”  By making an early commitment to a youth movement, Knicks appear to have gone into tanking mode early, sacrificing wins this season to improve their draft position.

We have more from the Knicks:

  • First-round pick Kevin Knox will likely return on Monday from a left ankle sprain, Berman writes in a separate story. Knox has only played three games and with Fizdale cancelling practice on Thursday, he won’t play against the Mavericks on Friday, according to Berman. Even if Knox practices on Saturday, he’ll likely be held out of playing Sunday against Washington because the team doesn’t want him playing back-to-backs right away, so he’ll return against Chicago on Monday.
  • Noah Vonleh has emerged as Kristaps Porzingis‘ fill-in as the starting power forward, Berman notes in another piece. Vonleh signed a partially guaranteed $1.6MM contract that doesn’t fully guaranteed until January 10th but he’s jumped ahead of Mario Hezonja, who signed a one-year, $6.5MM contract in the offseason, in the pecking order. Vonleh only has a cap hold of $1.62MM but he doesn’t want to look too far ahead. “I definitely want to be here in New York, but that’s up in the air,” he told Berman. “I have to focus on this season and go from there.”
  • Carmelo Anthony believes the franchise’s reputation scared away top-shelf free agents during his time with the team, as he told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News“The perception of the organization. I think it probably scared a lot of people away,” he said. “Scared some people away. Not knowing the nuances and the ins and outs of kind of what was going on, who is in charge, who is not. So it was more than just basketball when it came to people making those decisions.”