Nerlens Noel

Knicks Notes: Knox, Brazdeikis, Robinson, Noel

After a disappointing second NBA season, Kevin Knox is taking advantage of a fresh start with the Knicks‘ new coaching staff, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Knox has emerged as a dangerous outside shooter, making nine of his last 10 from beyond the arc.

“Looking at his career, when he’s taken good shots, he’s always made them. Or at least had a good chance to make them,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And when he’s eliminated the tough shots, it makes him a much better player. He plays with a lot more energy defensively. But I want him to get himself going — with his defense first, running the floor, rebounding and then spacing the floor. … Kevin has worked extremely hard to get himself ready for the season.”

Knox, the ninth player taken in the 2018 draft, turned in a strong rookie season, averaging 12.8 PPG in 75 games. But his playing time was cut from 28.8 to 17.9 minutes per game last year and his performance declined across the board. Knox is still only 21 and was counting on a strong preseason showing after the coaching change.

“It’s good, it’s always good to see the ball go through the net,” he said. “But with preseason over now, starting Wednesday we get the real games going, so I want to continue to get the work in, watch a lot of film, get a lot of shots up. It was great to see the ball go through the net these last two games, and hopefully I can continue with that confidence and play with it consistently like I’ve been playing.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Ignas Brazdeikis was in the G League for most of his rookie season and opportunities are still coming slowly, observes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Brazdeikis sat out the Knicks’ first three preseason games before playing 17 minutes Friday night. “I’m just working every single day to get better,” he said. “That’s the main focus is just developing my game. I’m still young. I’ve got to improve a lot. I’m not even close to the player I want to be.”
  • New York wasn’t able to upgrade its roster in free agency, so the focus turns to developing players into tradable assets, notes Steve Popper of Newsday. He adds that the Knicks weren’t able to find anyone willing to give up a draft pick for Dennis Smith Jr. or Frank Ntilikina and states that Mitchell Robinson might have the most trade value on the roster.
  • Nerlens Noel is seeking a new agent after ending his relationship with Rich Paul and Klutch Sports, tweets Alex Kennedy of Basketball News. Paul and the agency say it was an amicable separation (Twitter link).

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: Payton, Smith Jr., Noel, Toppin

Even though he became a free agent when the Knicks turned down his $8MM option, Elfrid Payton was confident he would be returning to New York, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Speaking to reporters today via a Zoom call, Payton indicated that he never seriously considered any other team.

“From the beginning we always had intentions of me coming back, so I wasn’t really I guess worried,’’ he said.

Payton was part of a maligned trio of point guards, along with Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr., who shared time at the position last season. After listening to offseason speculation that the team would find a replacement through the draft or free agency, Payton believes all three will approach the season with something to prove.

“I feel like we’ve been counted out,’’ he said. “So just go out there and compete and show what we can do. That’s definitely something we want to use as motivation, as if we didn’t already have enough. But that’s definitely something we’ve spoken about in the locker room, even in these short days that we’ve been together.” 

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • Smith is looking forward to a fresh start after a difficult 2019/20 season that began with the death of his stepmother, Berman adds in the same piece. Injuries and poor play limited him to just 34 games and a career-low 15.8 minutes per night. “I would say just understanding that nothing happens to you, it happens for you,’’ Smith said. “And I had to go through a lot of different things mentally — not even physically — mentally I had to go through a lot of different things to kind of understand that. But smooth waters never made (skilled) sailors, so I take it all in stride, and I’m going to keep getting better.’’
  • Mitchell Robinson may be the team’s center of the future, but he’ll have to compete with free agent addition Nerlens Noel for the starting spot, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Regardless of how playing time shakes out, Noel expects to adopt a teaching role. “I just want to mentor him any way possible,” he said. “Whatever position we play throughout the season will play itself out. I want to be a big brother to him and give him a lot of advice throughout the season.”
  • Lottery pick Obi Toppin is already impressing teammates with his athletic gifts, writes Ian Begley of SNY.TV. The rookie forward has been setting franchise records in agility, conditioning and athleticism drills.

Knicks Sign Nerlens Noel To One-Year Contract

NOVEMBER 25: The Knicks have officially signed Noel to his one-year deal, the team announced today in a press release.


NOVEMBER 21: Free agent big man Nerlens Noel has agreed to sign a one-year contract with the Knicks, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links), who hears from Noel’s agents at Klutch Sports that it’ll be worth $5MM.

A lottery pick in 2013, Noel is now with his fourth organization. He has served as a back-up to Steven Adams in Oklahoma City for the past two years and averaged 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season.

Noel, 26, is a former star at Kentucky and credits Knicks assistant Kenny Payne with helping him develop his game, tweets Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Payne left the Wildcats in August to join Tom Thibodeau’s new staff.

Free Agent Rumors: Beasley, Hernangomez, Green, Noel

Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports reported on Thursday (via Twitter) that the Timberwolves have made RFA wing Malik Beasley available in sign-and-trade discussions, with the Knicks among several interested teams.

However, a pair of Minnesota-area reporters have disputed that the Wolves are looking to move Beasley. A source tells Chris Hine of The Star Tribune that Beasley isn’t on the trade block and Minnesota wants to re-sign him, while Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link) hears from a source that there have been “no conversations” about moving the 23-year-old.

As Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News points out (via Twitter), the Timberwolves’ front office is extremely active and aggressive, and it’s probably safe to assume Beasley isn’t entirely off limits. But it also doesn’t sound like Minnesota is actively shopping him either.

Here are a few more rumors on free agents in advance of the new league year:

Cavs Rumors: Thompson, Free Agents, Drummond, No. 5 Pick

The Cavaliers would like to re-sign Tristan Thompson at the right price, but so far, discussions between the two sides have “centered on a number lower than Thompson would want,” according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Thompson had an $18.5MM salary in 2019/20 and presumably won’t want to see that number decrease too significantly going forward. However, that may simply be the veteran’s reality now, Fedor writes.

As Fedor points out, John Hollinger of The Athletic and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst have both recently suggested that Thompson may be no more than a minimum-salary free agent. It sounds like the Cavs will offer him more than that, so the big man may have to decide whether he wants to stay in Cleveland at that higher number or compete for a title elsewhere on a more modest deal. He appears unlikely to get a sizeable offer from a contender, Fedor notes.

If Thompson doesn’t re-sign with the Cavaliers, the team will probably have to dedicate a portion of its mid-level exception to signing a center. Fedor identifies Harry Giles, Aron Baynes, Thon Maker, and Nerlens Noel as some free agents who could be possibilities for Cleveland.

Here’s more from Fedor on the Cavs:

  • Sources tell Fedor that the Cavaliers were hoping to pursue Jerami Grant in free agency, but now expect him to be out of their price range. The team still aims to add athletic, defensive-minded players — Derrick Jones, Maurice Harkless, Kris Dunn, and Pat Connaughton are a few of the potential targets singled out by Fedor.
  • If and when Andre Drummond officially opts in for 2020/21, it’s possible the Cavaliers will view him and his expiring contract as a potential trade chip. However, Fedor’s sources believe Cleveland would have a better chance of moving Drummond at the trade deadline rather than in the offseason, so it sounds like the veteran center will spend at least part of the season in Cleveland.
  • Multiple members of Cleveland’s front office like Tyrese Haliburton, but after using their previous two lottery picks on guards, the Cavs seem unlikely to opt for Haliburton over an “equally-talented” prospect who fills a greater need. Fedor believes Deni Avdija, Onyeka Okongwu, Isaac Okoro, and Obi Toppin are – in no particular order – the best bets to be the Cavs’ pick at No. 5.

Doncic, Porzingis, SGA Among Players Out For Monday’s Games

Mavericks stars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis won’t play in Monday’s game against Utah, according to the league’s official injury report. Dallas will also be without starting forward Dorian Finney-Smith.

Doncic and Porzingis are both listed out due to “injury recovery” — right ankle for Doncic and left knee for Porzingis. Finney-Smith, meanwhile, is dealing with a left hip strain.

At 42-30, the No. 7 Mavericks are two games behind the sixth-seeded Jazz (43-27), so today’s game has seeding implications. If the Mavs lose, they’ll be locked into the No. 7 seed in the West. Utah, just a half-game behind the No. 5 Thunder, could still move up a spot or two in the standings, though the team may prefer to remain at No. 6 if it means avoiding the Rockets in the first round. Houston has eliminated the Jazz in the postseason in each of the last two years.

Donovan Mitchell has also been downgraded from questionable to out for today’s game due to a left lower leg peroneal strain, according to the Jazz (via Twitter).

Meanwhile, per the league’s injury report, the Thunder will be without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right calf contusion), Steven Adams (left lower leg contusion), Danilo Gallinari (left ankle injury maintenance), and Nerlens Noel (right ankle sprain), in addition to missing Dennis Schröder, who remains out for personal reasons after attending the birth of his child.

Those absences bode well for the Suns, who will need to remain undefeated in the bubble in order to keep pace in the race for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. As we detailed earlier today, Phoenix won’t technically be eliminated from postseason contention with a loss, but it would make the path to a play-in spot a whole lot more difficult.

Northwest Notes: Noel, Morris, Lillard, Dozier

Backup Thunder center Nerlens Noel missed the squad’s final scrimmage ahead of the NBA season restart in Orlando after accidentally not taking his daily COVID-19 test, according to Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. The Thunder would go on to win that scrimmage, 131-120, against the Trail Blazers. Any player who misses a daily coronavirus test is required to quarantine in his hotel for at least a day before rejoining his team.

Noel signed a new one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the Thunder last summer. He has proved to be a useful rotation addition for the club, averaging 7.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 1.0 APG in 55 games. The Thunder will play their first game of the league’s restart on Saturday against the Jazz.

Here are more notes from around the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets backup point guard Monte Morris notes that he was entirely asymptomatic while testing positive for the coronavirus, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “I never felt any kind of way in terms of symptoms,” he said. “I felt fine.”
  • All-NBA Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard will play in the team’s first restart game on Friday against the Grizzlies, per Jason Quick of The Athletic. Lillard missed the team’s final two scrimmage games against the Raptors and Thunder with a sore left foot. “I was able to do everything [normally],” he said after a private 45-minute solo workout Wednesday. “I feel fine. I’m ready to go for tomorrow.”
  • Nuggets bench guard P.J. Dozier cleared his quarantine this morning, according to The Denver Post’s Mike Singer (Twitter link). Singer notes that, with Dozier’s new availability, every non-injured Nuggets player can now suit up for seeding games. Dozier arrived in Orlando for the season restart on July 28.

Northwest Notes: Kings, Wolves, Whiteside, Noel

New Trail Blazers trio Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel are excited for their opportunity in Portland, according to Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. And their new teammates are looking forward to integrating them into the team’s system as 19-27 Portland competes for the eighth seed in the West.

The Trail Blazers are currently the No. 11 seed, just 2.5 games shy of the current eighth seed, the 21-24 Grizzlies. The 34 year-old Ariza appears the most likely new player to be incorporated into the current rotation. He is in the first of a two-year, $25MM contract he signed with the Kings in 2019.

“At this point, we’ve really simplified everything that we’ve done over the years, so… I don’t think it will be that hard to catch on to,” said star Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. “Like today at practice, they put in some of the sets that we’ve been running, the things that we do a lot and we didn’t have to stop practice to be like ‘Alright, this what we gotta do.’ [Ariza] just kinda remembered it, it was pretty simple for him.” 

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • During halftime of a seventh straight Timberwolves loss, irked coach Ryan Saunders berated his team, according to Chris Hine of the Minnesota Star Tribune. Much of that frustration was directed at disappointing $148MM wing Andrew Wiggins. “He was yelling at me a lot of the time,” Wiggins confirmed. “I needed it. The first half was a bad first half. I wasn’t aggressive.”
  • Though the Trail Blazers are clearly eager to cut more contracts to get under the luxury tax this spring, The Athletic’s Jason Quick suspects that GM Neil Olshey may have trouble offloading $98MM center Hassan Whiteside. Quick puts Whiteside’s odds of remaining in Portland through the February 6 trade deadline at 50/50.
  • Thunder backup center Nerlens Noel will miss tonight’s tilt against the Timberwolves due to a surgical procedure for a left cheek fracture, according to an ESPN report. The timeline on Noel’s absence will be updated next week. Noel, the No. 6 pick in 2013, has been productive in limited minutes for Oklahoma City, averaging 8.2 PPG and 5.2 RPG.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: Northwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Northwest Division:

Malik Beasley, Nuggets, 23, PG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $7.8MM deal in 2016
Beasley reportedly declined a three-year extension offer worth at least $30MM prior to the season. Oops. Beasley’s playing time has significantly dropped this season and so has his production. He’s averaging 6.9 PPG and just 1.0 APG in 16.0 MPG. Beasley has been a bigger factor on offense recently, reaching double figures in four of the last six appearances, but he never left the bench against Indiana on Thursday. The prime trade candidate probably needs a change of scenery to restore his value. Denver can make him a restricted free agent but that’s an increasingly unlikely scenario.

Noah Vonleh, Timberwolves, 24, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2019
Vonleh entices NBA teams with his physique and potential but no one has been able to tap into it. At age 24, the 2014 lottery pick has already played for five teams. The way things are going in Minnesota, he’ll probably be looking for a sixth team to take a chance on him. He’ll get you some rebounds but defenses don’t have to respect him on the offensive end. He hasn’t developed a three-point shot, which is a no-no for a young ‘four man’ these days. Injuries led to increased playing time for Vonleh the past two weeks before he sat out Thursday’ game with a back injury. It’s unlikely he’ll remain in the rotation when the T-Wolves get healthier.

Nerlens Noel, Thunder, 25, PF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2019
Seems like Noel has been around for quite awhile but he’s still just 25. He’ll never live up to his draft status (No. 6 pick of 2013) but in shorter bursts, Noel can be quite effective. Noel has been a force off the bench at both ends of the floor, averaging 7.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.4 BPG and 1.1 SPG in 18.7 MPG. He’s even making his free throws this season (79.7%). Noel knows his strengths and finds ways to contribute. He can have a long career in the league as a backup big.

Hassan Whiteside, Trail Blazers, 30, C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $98.4MM deal in 2016
Going strictly by the numbers, Whiteside is having a bounce-back season after a couple of uneasy years with Miami. During 14 games in December, Whiteside posted a stat line of 16.2 PPG on 63.2% shooting, 15.1 RPG, 1.8 APG and 3.4 BPG in 31.6 MPG. The flip side is that the Blazers have nosedived in the standings with Whiteside as their starting center. As a traditional post man who doesn’t shoot threes, Whiteside will have to take a significant pay cut next season. But his rebounding and shot-blocking prowess can’t be totally ignored.

Jordan Clarkson, Jazz, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $50MM deal in 2016
The NBA went five-plus months without a trade until Utah, seeking more bench scoring, acquired Clarkson from Cleveland for Dante Exum and two second-round picks. Utah is thrilled with the early returns. In his first four games in a Jazz uniform, Clarkson has averaged 15.0 PPG in 23.8 MPG. That lifted Utah to victories over Portland, the Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit. Represented by super agent Rich Paul, Clarkson should draw plenty of interest as teams look to fortify their benches in a weak market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.