Nerlens Noel

Atlantic Notes: Grimes, Noel, Anunoby, White

Knicks rookie guard Quentin Grimes practiced on Thursday and could play against Washington on Friday, Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Grimes is “champing at the bit” to suit up after not playing since mid-February due to a subluxation of his right patella.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • It’s unlikely Knicks center Nerlens Noel will play again this season, according to Berman. He’s currently sidelined by plantar fasciitis in his left foot, part of a lost season for Noel. The big man, who re-signed with the team on a three-year, $27.7MM contract last summer, has only appeared in 25 games this season due to a variety of ailments and a bout with COVID-19.
  • Raptors forward OG Anunoby‘s fractured finger is “getting better every day”, according to coach Nick Nurse, but it’s still not fully healed. Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. Anunoby, who has been out since February 16, was limited in practice on Wednesday and won’t play on Friday.
  • Derrick White admitted to Sports Illustrated’s Michael Pina that he’s still adjusting to his new team after being traded from San Antonio to the Celtics. White still hasn’t been able to shake a season-long 3-point shooting slump. “I got off to a horrible start this season,” White said. “I’m not super worried about it, just knowing that I’m going to get good looks because there’s going to be a lot of attention on other guys. I’ve just got to step up and knock it down.”

Knicks Reportedly Missed Out On Chances To Trade Alec Burks

The Knicks had several opportunities to trade Alec Burks ahead of last month’s deadline, but the deals fell apart because New York kept pressing for additional draft assets, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

Among the proposals was a three-way trade involving the Lakers and Raptors that would have sent Burks and Cam Reddish to L.A., Talen Horton-Tucker and Nerlens Noel to Toronto, and Goran Dragic and the Raptors’ 2022 first-round pick to New York, sources tell Fischer.

Those talks reportedly collapsed because the Knicks insisted on getting more draft picks, which doesn’t surprise one unidentified Eastern Conference executive who spoke to Fischer.

“They are always trying to squeeze out an extra second-round pick here and an extra second-round pick there,” the executive said.

Since the failed trade, Reddish has been lost for the season with a separated shoulder, while Dragic – traded instead to San Antonio – reached a buyout with the Spurs and signed with the cross-town Nets. The Knicks are still without a reliable point guard and are expected to pursue one in free agency this summer, with the Mavericks’ Jalen Brunson likely to be a prime target.

Burks has been filling in at point guard after injuries to Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose, but New York approached the deadline searching for an alternative. Burks, who will turn 31 this summer, is under contract for a little more than $10MM next season and the Knicks hold a team option on his $10.49MM salary for 2023/24.

Knicks Rumors: Robinson, Noel, Fournier, Randle, Kemba, Reddish

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype spoke to five executives about Mitchell Robinson‘s value as the Knicks center nears unrestricted free agency and came away the impression that a deal in the mid-level range ($10MMish) might be on the low end for Robinson this offseason. Generally speaking, the projected range for the big man was closer to $12-13MM per year, according to Scotto.

As Scotto notes, Robinson doesn’t have a perimeter game and has dealt with a series of injuries in his first four NBA seasons, but his ability to protect the rim on defense and finish around the basket on offense makes him valuable. The Knicks will presumably want to avoid losing him for nothing in free agency, which could give him some leverage in contract negotiations.

“One executive told me, ‘I think the Knicks re-sign him and maybe overpay to do so to keep him as an asset. It’ll be a tough negotiation given what they gave Nerlens Noel,'” Scotto told Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News on the HoopsHype podcast.

One exec told Scotto he could see Robinson getting $15MM per year if there’s outside competition for his services. Bondy has heard the Pistons and Mavericks mentioned as possible suitors, and Scotto agrees that the Pistons will be in the mix, especially if they’re unable to seriously contend for a higher-level target like Suns RFA Deandre Ayton.

Here’s more on the Knicks from Scotto and Bondy:

  • Scotto has spoken to multiple executives who believe Nerlens Noel could be back on the trade block this summer after popping up in trade rumors prior to last month’s deadline. Bondy, meanwhile, notes that Evan Fournier was one of the names the Knicks were “kicking around” before the deadline, indicating that he’ll probably still be a trade candidate going forward. “Given the right opportunity and price, he’s a guy they’d move on from,” Bondy said.
  • Bondy downplayed the Julius Randle trade rumors that surfaced prior to the deadline, suggesting the Knicks never really considered selling low on the veteran forward this season. “There might have been some calls here and there, but nothing ever got serious at all,” Bondy said.
  • Both Scotto and Bondy expect the Knicks will be able to find a taker for Kemba Walker this summer, though Bondy acknowledges they likely won’t get much back for him. “One GM told me he was concerned about trading for Kemba because of his knees and his limited availability on back-to-back games,” Scotto said.
  • Although Bondy believes the Knicks are open to trading Cam Reddish, he’s skeptical it will happen, since the team would be reluctant to essentially admit that giving up a protected first-round pick for him was a mistake. Reddish probably won’t sign an extension this offseason, but he’ll likely stick with the Knicks for at least another year, Bondy says.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Noel, Jordan, Raptors

The Nets would have to go on a major winning streak to escape the play-in tournament. Winding up in that extra round could have major offseason consequences, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Coach Steve Nash could find his job in jeopardy, despite all the obstacles he’s been forced to deal with this season. The roster could be overhauled, as Lewis notes only six players have guaranteed contracts for next season and two others can opt out of their deals.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks center Nerlens Noel did not play on Sunday due to plantar fasciitis and he could be out for an extended period, according to The New York Post’s Marc Berman. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Noel would not play until he recovered from the foot ailment and got some regular practice time. Noel has played in just 25 games due to an assortment of knee, hamstring and foot injuries. He signed a three-year, $27.7MM contract last summer with a team option for the final year.
  • DeAndre Jordan said his prior relationships with coach Doc Rivers and starters James Harden and Tobias Harris, plus the need for a backup center, made the Sixers an easy choice after he cleared waivers, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. Jordan heaped praise on his former Clippers coach, Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets“He’s the best coach I’ve ever had, he’s more than a coach to me … when a new player comes to a team, it’s always everybody trying to get them to feel acclimated, but with Doc, he’s gonna curse me out like I’ve been here all season,” said Jordan, who played 10 minutes in his Sixers debut on Monday.
  • The Raptors’ loss to the Cavaliers on Sunday makes it seem almost inevitable that Toronto will wind up in the play-in tournament, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Canada writes. The defeat dropped Toronto three games behind Cleveland, which sits in sixth place in the East and also holds a tiebreaker advantage over the Raptors.

Knicks Notes: Fournier, Slump, Noel, Robinson

The Knicks held a lead early in the fourth quarter on Sunday vs. Philadelphia, but ultimately lost by 16 points, prompting Evan Fournier to try to diagnose the cause of the club’s late-game struggles, per Greg Joyce of The New York Post.

“Our togetherness down the stretch is not good enough,” Fournier said. “By togetherness I mean we are not tied together enough. Down the stretch, like I said, we have no confidence, so we are second-guessing at times. It should be second nature — boom, boom, boom, this is what we’re doing. As long as we are not doing that, it’s going to be hard to close out games against teams that are good. It keeps happening and that’s what’s so frustrating.”

As Joyce points out, the Knicks’ fourth-quarter net rating in their last 10 games is an abysmal -34.9, easily the worst mark in the NBA. The offense, which has a fourth-quarter rating of 85.9 in those 10 games, has been especially bad — Portland has the league’s next-worst fourth-quarter offensive rating during that stretch, at 100.0. Joyce believes having a veteran point guard like Derrick Rose running the show would help.

“I feel like we’re in a position right now where we are down two or down three, teams get on a run, it’s like, ‘Oh s–t, again,'” Fournier said. “Maybe just a good win would help us more, more confidence would help.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • While Nerlens Noel has technically been active for the Knicks’ last couple games and could theoretically have played, he’s “far from 100% healthy,” a source tells Ian Begley of SNY.tv, who provides some additional info on Noel’s plantar fasciitis. The injury first flared up on February 7, Begley adds, noting that it’s unclear whether the big man will get back to 100% before the end of the regular season.
  • The Knicks have had talks throughout the season with Mitchell Robinson‘s agent Thad Foucher about a possible contract extension for the young center, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said during a TV appearance on Sunday (video link). A source tells Begley that in one of those conversations prior to last month’s trade deadline, the two sides were “not close” on the proposed terms. New York can offer up to about $55MM on a four-year extension, but presumably hasn’t gotten nearly that high.
  • Robinson, who griped earlier in the season about “literally running for cardio,” still appears dissatisfied with his limited involvement on offense. Replying to a tweet from a fan on Monday night, Robinson wrote, Everyone knows when everybody gets involved and the ball moving and everyone touching the ball, the energy and effort goes to another level. Let me ask you this and be 100% with your answer: How would you feel just running up and down the court for 48 or even for 20 minutes?”

Eastern Notes: Rose, Cavaliers, Noel, Bucks

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau refused to answer whether he expects Derrick Rose to return in March from a minor ankle procedure, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post (Twitter link). ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday (via Twitter) that Rose could return in one or two weeks.

“Yeah, I wish I could answer that, but I can’t,” Thibodeau said. “Obviously, he needs some time right now. You just have to sort of let him go through it and be patient with it.”

Rose’s procedure addressed a skin infection in the area of his December ankle surgery, according to Wojnarowski. Rose has only played in 26 of the Knicks’ 61 games this season. The team ranks 12th in the East with a 25-36 record and has lost five straight games.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • The Cavaliers are looking to re-establish their defensive identity entering March, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic writes. Cleveland most recently put forth a strong defensive performance against Washington, winning the contest 92-86. “To be honest with you, I was less concerned about the results and more concerned about the effort and the performance,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “If we do the things and play the way that we play, I can live with whatever the results are. I just thought that our past two games, we weren’t ourselves. So win or loss, if we’re ourselves, and the best version of ourselves, we can live with that.”
  • Knicks center Nerlens Noel has been dealing with plantar fasciitis since before the All-Star break, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. Noel hasn’t played in the team’s last six games. He’s appeared in 25 games this season (11 starts), averaging 3.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per outing.
  • The Bucks season-long struggles showed up against the Nets on Saturday, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. Nehm believes the team’s third-quarter performances have been a major issue. Milwaukee lost the third quarter 43-34 and dropped the contest 126-123. “To be honest, man, sh–, they just kicked our butt in the third quarter,” Bobby Portis said. “They scored 43 points. I mean we scored enough just to keep it close, but I mean that’s been our kryptonite the whole year. I’m kind of just tired of talking about it, bro. I don’t know what we can do, what we’re going to do. … we’ve been talking about this since December, man, and in a couple of days, it’s gonna be March, so we gotta figure that out, and soon, man. The season’s about to be over.”

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Williamson, Sims, Anunoby, Morey, Harden

The speculation over Zion Williamson‘s future with New Orleans has Knicks fans dreaming of acquiring the 2019 top pick. Williamson’s former coach and current TV analyst Stan Van Gundy scoffs at the notion that big-name players want to go to New York, Ethan Sears of the New York Post relays.

“No matter how many times people have proven they don’t want to play for the Knicks, the Knicks have this idea that everybody in the league wants to play for the Knicks,” Van Gundy said on the Dan Le Batard Show. “Now, what is the last time it actually happened that somebody came and tried to get their way to New York? Like, never in the last 20 years? But still the Knicks and Knicks fans think everybody is trying to get to the Knicks. I’m not saying [Zion] won’t end up there — there’s all kinds of ways people can end up somewhere — but this idea that everybody wants to be a New York Knick, I mean if that were the case, then they wouldn’t be as bad as they’ve been for the last 20 years.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau played rookie center Jericho Sims ahead of Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson on Friday, which may signal a shift in philosophy, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Thibodeau typically relies on veterans, so it was unusual to see a late second-round pick get 18 minutes of playing time. “We’ll see how it unfolds. Taj did a good job for us,” Thibodeau said. “Nerlens did a good job for us. Jericho, the opportunities that he’s had, he’s played well. So just let him get in there; let him gain some more experience.”
  • Raptors forward OG Anunoby will get a second opinion on his injured finger, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. An X-ray revealed that Anunoby had a fractured right ring finger and would miss some games. The trip to the specialist will presumably clarify a recovery timeline.
  • James Harden, who made his Sixers debut on Friday, wanted to play with Joel Embiid “for a long time,” president of basketball operations Daryl Morey told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne“James is a basketball genius,” Morey said. “And he’s been wanting to play with Joel for a long time. I think he’s always thought Joel was, like, the perfect guy to pair with him.”

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Defense, Raptors, Knicks Injuries

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated explores how the Celtics have turned their season around and evolved into contenders. Mannix admits he thought the Celtics were toast in December, but since Jan. 1 they’ve gone 17-7, including winning nine of their last 10 games entering the All-Star break.

The Celtics have been dominant defensively, especially the starting unit. Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Robert Williams  hold a 88.8 defensive rating, which is the top mark among all five-man groups that have played at least 150 minutes, Mannix writes.

I’ve had a lot of good teams here defensively. But this group has a chance to be unique,” former coach and current president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said.

The Celtics have also drastically improved their ball movement and are averaging far more passes and assists per game since the start of 2022, Mannix notes.

Here are a few more notes from the Atlantic Division:

  • Head coach Ime Udoka says the Celtics are excited to add Malik Fitts and Kelan Martin (both on 10-day deals), but will continue to monitor the buyout market in order to see who might become available (Twitter link via Keith Smith of Spotrac).
  • There’s no telling where the Raptors might finish in the standings, and head coach Nick Nurse doesn’t mind that unpredictability, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we finished in the top three and it wouldn’t surprise me if we finished seventh and I wouldn’t care about either of those spots, to be honest,” Nurse said Wednesday. He actually thinks there might be an advantage to finishing in seventh place and participating in the play-in tournament. “There’s a little, maybe, benefit of playing in that seventh spot,” Nurse said. “Get a couple games before you actually get into the (playoffs) and I think it might give you a game or two buffer of not giving one away right away.” The Raptors are currently 32-25, seventh in the East, only a half-game behind the sixth-place Celtics.
  • RJ Barrett (left ankle sprain) and Nerlens Noel (sore left foot) are both listed as questionable Friday for the Knicks, while Derrick Rose is doubtful as he continues to recover from right ankle surgery (Twitter link from Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel). Rose was a full participant in practice Wednesday and is inching closer to a return.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Rose, Barrett, Noel, Samanic

In their last game before the All-Star break, the Knicks had one of their worst losses of the season, letting a 28-point lead slip away against a Brooklyn team that was playing without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons.

Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News contends that the ugly loss will only intensify the scrutiny on head coach Tom Thibodeau, who mismanaged his timeouts earlier in the week against Oklahoma City and faced criticism for keeping RJ Barrett on the court in the final moments of an out-of-reach game last Tuesday (Barrett injured his ankle with less than a minute left and the Knicks down by 15).

While Bondy says “the temperature on the coach’s seat only got hotter” on Wednesday, forward Julius Randle dismissed the idea that the players are tuning out Thibodeau’s message.

“Coach is amazing. I’m riding with Coach every day,” Randle told reporters after the game (video link via Ian Begley of SNY.tv). “He challenges us and prepares us very well every day. His message is still ringing clear in the locker room. We’ve just got to execute.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • There’s optimism that point guard Derrick Rose will be able to return to action for the Knicks immediately after the All-Star break next week, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Rose has been unavailable since December 16 due to an ankle injury, but Wojnarowski says it looks like the former MVP should play next Friday vs. Miami, barring any setbacks.
  • Thibodeau expressed confidence on Wednesday that Barrett will return right after the All-Star break too, telling reporters that the forward was “pretty close” to being ready but that the team wanted to give him an extra week to get back to 100%, per Steve Popper of Newsday.
  • The prognosis wasn’t as positive for Nerlens Noel, who has been bothered this season by knee soreness and has missed the team’s last five games. Asked if Noel may ultimately require surgery, Thibodeau didn’t rule out the possibility, as Popper relays. “Yeah, it’s ongoing, so they’re checking that,” Thibodeau said. “Hopefully it responds better as we go.”
  • Thibodeau is viewing the All-Star break as a “chance to reboot” for the Knicks, according to Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. “Everything is on the table now. Everything has to be merit-based. You earn what you get,” the head coach said. “You look at everything. How are we going to manage this. If a guy is playing good, he plays. If the team is functioning well he should play. The team has to come first for everyone.”
  • The Knicks’ signing of Luka Samanic to a two-way contract hasn’t worked out, as the big man’s season has been marred by a left heel injury, Marc Berman writes for The New York Post. With Samanic still sidelined, it’s unclear if the team will consider making a change to that two-way slot for the rest of the season, says Berman.

Leftover Deadline Rumors: Raptors, Rockets, Lakers, Nuggets, Knicks

The Raptors considered a series of potential trade scenarios before they agreed to send Goran Dragic and a draft pick to San Antonio for Thaddeus Young, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.

According to Grange, Toronto had hoped the Hawks would make Bogdan Bogdanovic available, viewing the veteran wing as someone who could help the team in both the short- and long-term. However, Atlanta didn’t budge on Bogdanovic, forcing the Raptors to look elsewhere.

The Raptors inquired on Pistons forward Jerami Grant and Kings forward Harrison Barnes, sources tell Grange, but the price tags for those players were high. As previously reported, there were also discussions about a three-team deal that would’ve sent Talen Horton-Tucker and Nerlens Noel to Toronto, but Grange suggests those talks never gained serious traction.

Here are a few more leftover rumors on trades that didn’t get made on deadline day:

  • The Rockets never made real progress on a John Wall trade with the Lakers, who were unwilling to attach a first-round pick to Russell Westbrook, but a few days before the deadline, Houston got much closer to moving Wall to another team, a source tells Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. That proposed deal ultimately fell through, per Feigen, who doesn’t specify which team the Rockets were talking to.
  • During a TV appearance, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (video link) said one concept that “could have been discussed” by the Rockets and Lakers before the deadline, “depending on who you believe,” was a swap of Westbrook, Horton-Tucker, and draft capital for Wall and Christian Wood. It doesn’t sound like those talks, if they even occurred, advanced at all.
  • After agreeing to acquire center Jalen Smith from Phoenix, the Pacers explored flipping him to a new team, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Fischer says the Nuggets were among the clubs in the mix for Smith, but Indiana didn’t find a deal it liked and ended up hanging onto the third-year big man.
  • The Knicks didn’t make a deal on deadline day, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Sources tell Steve Popper of Newsday that the club was willing to move just about anyone on its roster, but had trouble finding trade partners for many of its top trade candidates, including Kemba Walker and Noel. According to Popper, his sources suggested there was a “universal lack of interest in the Knicks’ talent and contracts.”