Nerlens Noel

Knicks Notes: Henson, Robinson, Noel, Thibodeau

John Henson‘s 10-day contract with the Knicks expired overnight and the team doesn’t plan to sign him for another 10-day stint, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who notes (via Twitter) that the big man injured his calf on the second day of his deal and didn’t get a chance to play at all.

With Henson no longer under contract, the Knicks have an open spot on their 15-man roster and could create a second one if they don’t re-sign Norvel Pelle after his second 10-day deal expires next Wednesday night. Pelle made a case on Wednesday for a rest-of-season contract, as he was a plus-19 in just 13 minutes in New York’s victory over New Orleans.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks haven’t played any worse with Mitchell Robinson sidelined this season than they have with him in the lineup, prompting Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News to wonder how heavily the team should be willing to invest in Robinson on his next contract.
  • Nerlens Noel has played a major part in making up for Robinson’s absence. Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report takes a closer look at Noel’s resurgence and how it could impact the former lottery pick’s upcoming free agency.
  • Like Mark Cuban‘s Mavericks, Tom Thibodeau‘s Knicks may have to earn their playoff spot in a play-in tournament despite a possible top-eight finish. However, Thibodeau is more enthusiastic than Cuban about the merits of the play-in tournament, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. “I think we have to let it play out first and then assess it again,” Thibodeau said. “But I think a lot of a lot of teams being involved in important games, I think that that’s good for the league. I think you’re always concerned about that. And so let’s see we’ll how it plays out but the initial thought of it I think is very good.”
  • Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy pointed to the “extra training camp” that Thibodeau and the Knicks got last fall as one reason for the team’s surprise emergence this season, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. The teams that weren’t invited to the Walt Disney World bubble last summer were granted up to two weeks of organized team activities in September and October — that was Thibodeau’s first real chance to get familiar with his players, though it’s worth noting the roster was overhauled to some extent after that.

Knicks Rumors: Robinson, Bell, Maker, Cousins, Whiteside

The Knicks‘ contract with Mitchell Robinson allows the team to retain the young center in 2021/22 for just $1.8MM, assuming his option is exercised. But in that scenario, he’d become an unrestricted free agent in ’22. New York could assert more control over Robinson’s free agency by turning down the team option and issuing a qualifying offer to make him restricted this summer.

Now that a broken foot is likely to sideline Robinson for the rest of the 2020/21 season, Marc Berman of The New York Post cites league sources who believe the Knicks’ decision has become simpler — the club doesn’t have enough information yet on Robinson to send him to free agency so soon, those sources say, arguing that picking up his option for ’21/22 is the right move.

Exercising Robinson’s team option would still allow the Knicks to negotiate a possible extension during his contract year. In that scenario, they could go as high as about $54MM over four years with a straight extension offer, or even higher with a renegotiation-and-extension. However, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tells Berman that he’d be surprised if New York is that aggressive in extension talks.

“Coming off a serious injury, I’m not paying him what Christian Wood got in Houston,” Marks said, referring to Wood’s three-year, $41MM contract with the Rockets. Marks suggests something in the three-year, $30MM range would be more realistic.

One source tells Berman that he believes the Mavericks will have interest in Robinson if and when he reaches free agency.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • With Robinson out, the Knicks will probably add a center for “insurance” purposes, per head coach Tom Thibodeau, Berman writes in the same story. Berman confirms a previous report that John Henson and Norvel Pelle are among the options being considered by the club and says New York has also had internal talks about Jordan Bell, Thon Maker, DeMarcus Cousins, and Hassan Whiteside.
  • Cousins appears likely to join the Clippers for at least 10 days, while Whiteside – a buyout candidate – remains a King for now. Berman notes that the Knicks’ brass likes the team’s chemistry and would want a player who fits “seamlessly” into the locker room, so Cousins and Whiteside may be lower on the wish list for that reason anyway.
  • While the Knicks seem likely to add a center, Nerlens Noel believes he and Taj Gibson are capable of handling the five in Robinson’s absence, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. “I feel like we have it covered, but that’s not my department,” Noel said. “That’s (the front office’s choice). … If Coach, management wants to add another piece, that’s all up to them. I definitely feel we’re comfortable with what we have. “We have depth in Kevin (Knox) and Obi (Toppin) staying available at the four, five spots and that helps as well, so I like the versatility we have.”

Free Agent Stock Watch: Atlantic Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. 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 Atlantic Division:

Bruce Brown, Nets, 24, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.92MM deal in 2018

The Pistons uncovered a diamond in the rough when they selected Brown with the 42nd overall pick in 2018. Brown quickly became a starter due to his defensive prowess, so it was surprising when Detroit’s new GM Troy Weaver dealt him in the off-season. He’s become an increasingly important role player on the star-laden Nets with his all-around contributions.

In the last six games prior to the All-Star break, Brown averaged 18 PPG, 6 RPG and 3 APG. He becomes a restricted free agent after the season – if he receives an offer sheet, can Brooklyn afford to keep him given all its salary commitments? The way Brown is playing, the Nets can’t afford to let him go.

Nerlens Noel, Knicks, 26, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $5MM deal in 2020

The Knicks have displayed dramatic improvement in part because players have settled into their roles. No one needed to tell Noel that he’d be the fifth option on the offensive end when he signed a one-year deal in the fall. The sixth pick in the 2013 draft had already carved a niche in the league as a post defender and rebounder.

With his team’s other centers, Mitchell Robinson and Taj Gibson, sidelined prior to the break, coach Tom Thibodeau relied heavily on Noel to patrol the middle. Noel averaged 40 MPG in the last four games prior to the break and the Knicks won three of them. Noel ranks fourth in the league in blocks despite playing just 22.2 MPG. He’ll continue to be valued for his strengths when he enters the free agent market again this summer.

Aron Baynes, Raptors, 34, C (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $14.35MM deal in 2020

The Raptors sit three games below .500 and are contemplating whether to trade long-time star Kyle Lowry. A big reason for their first-half struggles was the poor play of their middle men. Baynes seemed like a quality addition coming off a season with the Suns in which he posted career highs in points, rebounds and assists. It hasn’t worked out that way. Among qualified centers, Baynes ranks dead last – 62nd overall – in ESPN’s PER calculations.

The good news for the Raptors is that Baynes’ $7.35MM salary for next season isn’t guaranteed. He’s posted best numbers the last few games but it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Baynes will ever see that money.

Jeff Teague, Celtics, 32, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2020

Teague started on some good teams in Atlanta earlier in his career but he’s bounced around the league the last few seasons. Seeking a chance to play for a contender, Teague signed a veteran’s minimum deal with Boston to provide insurance behind Kemba Walker and his gimpy knees. He’s generally been a non-factor, though he perked up during the Celtics’ four-game winning streak heading into the break. With Marcus Smart returning to action and rookie Payton Pritchard earning steady minutes, Teague will likely find himself scrounging for playing time during the second half of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Noel, Sixers, Tatum, Raptors

Already missing Mitchell Robinson due to a broken hand, the Knicks may also have to get by for a little while without Taj Gibson, who sprained his ankle on Saturday and was inactive on Sunday. However, Nerlens Noel‘s play at the five has helped ease the team’s depth issues up front, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

“I definitely don’t want anyone hurt on this team,” said Noel, who has started the Knicks’ last eight games at center. “But I’ve taken that spot and made a focal point to man this team and be the anchor on the defensive end and do the small little things to help us win. I think I’ve been at a high level.”

Asked on Sunday about the possibility of adding another center to the roster, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau deferred to president of basketball operations Leon Rose, but said the club has “more than enough on the roster” to get by. As Berman notes, Julius Randle saw some action at center on Sunday, with rookie Obi Toppin playing alongside him at the four.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • While much of the recent Sixers-related trade speculation has centered on Kyle Lowry, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer wonders if Rockets guard Victor Oladipo might make sense as an alternative for Philadelphia. At $21MM, Oladipo’s salary would be easier to match than Lowry’s $30.5MM cap hit, and the slumping Rockets may be more inclined than Toronto to sell.
  • In addition to being promoted to the All-Star starting lineup as a result of Kevin Durant‘s injury, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum expects to participate in either the skills challenge or the 3-point contest prior to the All-Star Game next Sunday, but he won’t do both, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at potential options for the Raptors if they pursue a center on the trade market, zeroing in on Kings big man Richaun Holmes as an ideal target for Toronto, given his modest salary and impressive impact.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Quickley, Rose, Noel

With the addition of Derrick Rose to the Knicks‘ roster, nominal point forward Julius Randle (averaging a career-best 5.8 APG) will have to make changes to his game, writes Peter Botte of the New York Post.

“He’s gonna be extremely helpful,” Randle said of the Rose addition. “It gives us not just a veteran presence but a guy who can go out there and create plays, just a steadiness about him, just a confidence about him.”

Botte notes that thus far Randle and Rose’s minutes have been relatively staggered.

There’s more out of New York:

  • Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley, not even the first Knicks first-round pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has been impressing around the league thus far in his first season, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Though fans fretted that the arrival of a proven veteran scorer like Rose could cut into Quickley’s minutes, the rookie point guard has been playing alongside the former MVP in reserve lineups. “I’m learning a lot of stuff [from him],’’ Quickley said. “He’s a dog, an alpha dog, he’s a leader. It’s great to have somebody like that in my corner.’’
  • Rose is already proving a welcome addition to the Knicks, according to Peter Botte of the New York Post“He’s a great student of the game,” coach Tom Thibodeau raved about Rose, who has played for Thibodeau in all three of his head coaching stops thus far. “I think that is what has allowed him to adapt, grow and change.” Rose is averaging 14.7 PPG and 4.0 APG with New York, while posting an impressive shooting line of .548/.529/.778.
  • The injury that will keep starting center Mitchell Robinson sidelined for at least six weeks is creating a huge opportunity for backup big man Nerlens Noel, as Marc Berman of the New York Post details. “Mitchell is a big piece on this team,” Noel said. “Everything he brings to the table. I hope he has a speedy recovery. Until then, I’ll definitely man the defense, man the paint. Just make sure I’m playing at a high level for this team.”

Knicks Notes: Robinson, Noel, Beal, Quickley

The Knicks may use some small-ball lineups while center Mitchell Robinson is sidelined with a fractured hand, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. The team is planning a group effort to replace Robinson, who anchors the defense with 1.5 blocks, 1.2 steals, and 8.4 rebounds per game. Nerlens Noel will likely become the starter, with Taj Gibson seeing increased playing time, but coach Tom Thibodeau is willing to use Julius Randle in the middle beside Kevin Knox or Obi Toppin.

“It’s always part of what we can do,” Thibodeau said. “I think in looking at what Mitch provided and what Nerlens provided, I thought that was a strength, and then maybe what Taj provides, as well. But I think Obi is playing at a high level right now, and that second group has a lot of speed and they can get up and run the floor.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Noel was the team’s starting center during the preseason while Robinson was learning Thibodeau’s system, and the coach is confident he can slide back into that role, Popper adds in a separate story. “Any time a player like Mitch goes down, you don’t replace him individually,” Thibodeau said. “You have to do it collectively. And that’s where we feel good about our team. I think Taj, going in, his experience will help. Nerlens has done a terrific job for us. We want to make sure we maintain the defensive component of our team and I think those two guys can do that.”
  • The Knicks have plenty of assets on hand and the new front office is willing to package several of them in return for a star player, sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. One possible target is Wizards guard Bradley Beal if he changes his mind about wanting to stay in Washington. An unidentified general manager tells Bondy it would likely take three first-round picks, two pick swaps, a young player and an expiring contract to land Beal. Rockets guard Victor Oladipo and Bulls guard Zach LaVine have also been mentioned as possibilities if the Knicks don’t want to pay that price.
  • John Wall keeps close tabs on fellow Kentucky players and is impressed by the progress of Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. “He’s someone I respect,’’ Wall said. “I’m very happy for him to get the opportunity. I’m glad he’s showing people he’s more than just a shooter. That’s a lot of what people thought. The way he runs the point-guard position has been good. It’s going to be good to go against him.”

Knicks Notes: Robinson, Thibodeau, Team Value, Noel

Knicks center Mitchell Robinson dismissed concerns about a tweet he sent out and then deleted Tuesday, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link). The message read, “One day they’ll let me play,” which led to speculation that Robinson is unhappy about his role on the team. However, he insisted today that it had nothing to do with basketball.

“It was really kind of a personal thing,” Robinson said. “At the same time I don’t really want talk about that. It’s something that’s going on in my life.”

Coach Tom Thibodeau seemed unconcerned about the message when reporters asked him about it, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. He said he hasn’t talked to Robinson about the tweet and isn’t interested in addressing it.

“I don’t know what you guys are talking about (with the tweet). I guess you have to ask him,” Thibodeau said. “But I talk to Mitch every day. He gets here early, stays late. Work in practice. I have a number of meetings with him. So I’m talking to him a lot about what he has to do to help our team win.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Austin Riverscomments this week about players being fatigued are a familiar issue on Thibodeau-coached teams, notes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Thibodeau is known for having a short rotation, but he rejected the idea that it’s a problem. “The schedule is the schedule,’’ he said. “It’s balanced. Sometimes it’s in your favor. … You could probably find an excuse for every game. That’s what you have to guard against. You have to have the mental toughness to get through anything you’re facing.’’
  • Although the Knicks have been mostly bad for the past 20 years, they continue to be the NBA’s most valuable franchise, according to Brendan Coffey of Sportico. The team has an estimated worth of $5.42 billion in Sportico’s latest valuations, well ahead of the Warriors and Lakers, who have been much more successful on the court. “You’ve got market, brand and legacy,” explained Sean Clemens, sport banking principal at Park Lane, a San Francisco bank. “The Knicks, along with the Lakers, are always viewed as the iconic brand no matter what happens on a sports-competitive level year over year, decade over decade.”
  • Knicks center Nerlens Noel has signed with agent Chris Gaston in advance of free agency this offseason, Bondy tweets. Noel was previously represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports.

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.