Knicks Rumors

NBA Explores Idea Of Bottom Eight Teams Conducting OTAs At Disney Campus

A report earlier this week suggested that the idea of creating a second “bubble” this summer for the NBA’s bottom eight clubs to conduct organized team activities appeared to be losing steam.

However, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, league officials made it clear in a Wednesday conference call that they’re still trying to figure out as solution that will allow those teams to stay active. One idea that has been discussed, sources tell Amick, is bringing those bottom eight teams to the NBA’s first bubble at Walt Disney World.

As Amick explains, we’re just over a week away from six of the 22 teams participating in the Orlando restart being eliminated, which would open up more space at the Disney hotels and basketball courts. Two weeks later, after the first round of the playoffs ends, eight more clubs will be eliminated, leaving just eight of the original 22 on campus.

That could create an opportunity for the NBA to invite the bottom eight teams – the Warriors, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Hawks, Knicks, Pistons, Bulls, and Hornets – into its “bubble.” Presumably, players, coaches, and staffers would quarantine in Disney hotels for several days before being cleared to participate in group workouts, practices, and perhaps even inter-squad scrimmages.

Amick cautions that this idea is just being considered for now, with nothing decided as of yet. A number of the hotel rooms being vacated by teams by the end of the first round of the postseason are expected to be filled by family members of players on the remaining clubs, who will be permitted to bring guests onto the campus around the end of August. So the NBA would have logistical challenges to overcome to bring such a plan together.

It also seems unlikely that all of those bottom eight teams would be enthusiastic about traveling to Orlando, quarantining, and spending a period of time at the Disney campus. The Warriors are known to prefer the idea of group workouts in their own market, and the Knicks have been averse to the idea of a second bubble because they have a number of free agents on their roster who likely wouldn’t participate (any organized team activities the NBA approves are expected to be voluntary, not mandatory).

Still, it’s worth noting that one of the NBPA’s primary concerns about OTAs for the non-Orlando teams is a belief that it’d be difficult to replicate the Disney safety protocols at another location. Bringing those teams onto the Disney campus would be the simplest way to ensure that those players are subject to the same safety protocols, so the union would have to consider such a plan. We’ll see if anything comes of it.

Stoute Confident In Recruiting Skills, Perry On Thibs

Knicks “branding manager” Steve Stoute is confident he can recruit stars to the team, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Stoute, who joined New York’s front office in January, mentioned in a recent conversation with The Breakfast Club show that he, team president Leon Rose and senior vice president William Wesley have strong relationships with some of the NBA’s top stars. Stoute anticipates they will be able to capitalize on these friendships, making the Knicks an attractive free agent destination once again.

“With having Leon in, World Wide Wes and myself, the three of us, we’re the best sort of team as it relates to being able to speak with free agents,’’ Stoute said of the Knicks’ new front office team.

Though every club’s cap situation is fairly up in the air following the anticipated revenue loss caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Knicks could have one of the lowest payrolls in the NBA next season, with only about $55MM currently committed to guaranteed salaries. The club could have even more cap flexibility in 2021.

  • While speaking in a recent press conference, Knicks GM Scott Perry detailed how new head coach Tom Thibodeau won him over during a series of Zoom interviews, according to a separate Marc Berman piece for The New York Post“During this process, it allowed me personally to get to know the man better and really see how our personalities could come together and mesh,” Perry said. “I felt really good about our time talking basketball. He’s got a lot of the same values about the game that I was raised in that came through clear to me throughout the process.’’

Second Bubble For NBA’s Bottom Eight Teams Now Appears Unlikely

A report one month ago suggested that the NBA appeared likely to create a second campus/bubble environment in Chicago for the league’s bottom eight teams. The idea was for those teams left out of the Orlando restart to spend some time with their players during the offseason, conducting mini-training camps and inter-squad games in a single location.

However, according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, there’s a growing belief that a second bubble site won’t happen. The Athletic’s duo reports that there’s also pessimism about those bottom eight teams getting to hold in-market minicamps for group workouts.

“There’s nothing happening,” said one general manager following a Tuesday call with the eight GMs and various league officials. “It’s a shame. It’s a huge detriment to these eight franchises that were left behind.”

With the NBA focusing on the success of the Orlando restart, discussions about plans for the bottom eight teams – the Warriors, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Hawks, Bulls, Pistons, Knicks, and Hornets – have been inconsistent. As recently as last week, there seemed to be momentum building toward a plan to allow those clubs to hold practices and workouts, but that momentum has apparently stalled.

According to Charania and Amick, the National Basketball Players Association has safety concerns related to the idea of a second bubble amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. There are also financial and logistical complications associated with creating a smaller-scale version of the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus.

Charania and Amick suggest that the NBPA is more open to the idea of creating smaller, in-market bubbles for teams to host individual mini-camps in their respective cities. But it sounds as if that won’t happen by mid-August as initially hoped, if it happens at all.

The eight teams left out of the Orlando restart believe they’re at a potential competitive disadvantage by missing out on the player and culture development that other teams are getting this summer, sources tell The Athletic. Those clubs are expected to continue pushing for some form of offseason team activities to re-engage players and coaches. For now, they’re only permitted to hold 1-on-0 workouts at their practice facilities, with limited coach involvement.

Thibodeau Has Front Office Allies

  • Tom Thibodeau has allies in the Knicks front office and that could lead to a better outcome than he had with the Bulls and Timberwolves, Steve Popper of Newsday contends. Leon Rose, the team’s president, is his former agent and new executive VP William Wesley also has a long-time business relationship with him. “I think that’s part of the equation obviously, my relationship with them,” Thibodeau said. “I’ve known them for over two decades.”

New York Notes: Nets, Crawford, Thibodeau, Forbes List

The Nets were overmatched in their first reseeding game Friday against the Magic, and it’s a trend that will likely continue throughout their stay in Orlando, writes Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. Brooklyn started out strong in the 128-118 loss, which dropped the team into eighth place in the East, but a lack of proven NBA talent was too much to overcome. The Nets are missing seven members of their regular roster.

“We need to embrace that stuff a little bit,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We’ll have to be extremely gritty, put a body on someone every single possession. That gave us more than 40 opportunities to shoot 3s and when teams do that you have to make them pay.”

There’s more on the New York teams:

  • Veteran guard Jamal Crawford was held out of Friday’s game and may not make his debut with the Nets tomorrow, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Crawford is listed as questionable for the contest with the Wizards because of conditioning issues. Brooklyn holds a six-game lead over Washington and can effectively clinch a playoff spot with a win.
  • Now that Tom Thibodeau is officially the new head coach of the Knicks, Jonathan Macri of Sports Illustrated looks at five of his former players who could potentially play for him in New York. He notes that when Thibodeau was hired in Minnesota, he brought in several of his ex-players from Chicago. In addition to Taj Gibson, who is already on New York’s roster and is waiting for the team to make a decision on his $9.5MM option for next season, Macri’s list includes D.J. Augustin, Zach LaVine, Jeff Teague and Dario Saric.
  • The Knicks are this year’s highest-valued NBA team on the annual list from Forbes. Despite seven straight losing seasons, the Knicks are third overall at $4.6 billion, trailing only the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. The Lakers rank fourth at $4.4 billion and the Warriors are fifth at $4.3 billion.

Tom Thibodeau Notes: Butler, G League, Knicks

The Knicks officially named Tom Thibodeau the new head coach earlier this week, ending a long search for the next person to hopefully propel New York back into title contention. Thibodeau, a former assistant coach with the Knicks, brings a winning pedigree, evidenced by his strong run as Bulls head coach.

Now that the Knicks’ future is clearer, Thibodeau’s hiring has and will continue to draw analysis and reaction from around the league. Like every coach, Thibodeau has faced his share of criticism while at the head coaching helm with the Bulls and Timberwolves.

Below you can check out some more news and reaction on New York appointing Thibodeau as the one to lead the Knicks into the future.

  • Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler, who developed from a bench player into the NBA’s elite, is among those most familiar with Thibodeau. Butler, coached by Thibodeau in Chicago and Minnesota, believes his former coach will help the Knicks. “He’s going to do great. He’s going to turn those young guys into some real players; some superstars, some All-Stars,” Butler said to ESPN’s Nick Friedell (Twitter link). “I know he’s been itching for this. I know he’s been preparing for it. When you talk about Thibs and the big stage, I think they go hand in hand.”
  • One policy change under Thibodeau that could change is how the Knicks utilize the G League, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. During his introductory press conference, Thibodeau said the team would like to have players who are not getting sufficient minutes with the Knicks see more floor time in Westchester with the G League squad. Berman notes that giving underutilized players significant G League minutes was a contentious issue between the former vice president of player development/G-League operations Craig Robinson and GM Scott Perry.
  • In an earlier post this week, we relayed some other tidbits on Thibodeau’s hiring, particularly hinting at him being open to changing his coaching style to give ample rest.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Pinckney, Zipfel, Payne

Tom Thibodeau was officially hired as the Knicks’ head coach on Thursday and calls it his “dream job,” according to Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press. Thibodeau was an assistant coach with New York under Jeff Van Gundy from 1996-2003.

“I think I experienced it during the ’90s that there’s no better place to be than Madison Square Garden,” he said. “And so I love challenges, I love that city, I love the arena, I love the fans and I’m excited about the team.”

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Thibodeau gained a reputation of riding his star players but he’s more open now to keeping them fresh, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. It’s easier to do that with so many teams employing load management strategies for their top players. “Those numbers (minutes) have gone down now. So you won’t be at that disadvantage where they have the best player out there and you don’t,” Thibodeau said. “Talking with sports scientists and athletic trainers, you’re always are monitoring that.”
  • Ed Pinckney, an assistant coach under Thibodeau with the Bulls and Timberwolves, is getting strong consideration to join the Knicks’ staff, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. He would be the team’s “big man” coach if hired. Pat Zipfel could be hired as an advance scout or bench coach, Berman adds. Zipfel also worked for Thibodeau in his previous head coaching stints.
  • University of Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne is under consideration as a potential addition to the coaching staff, Ian Begley of SNY reports. There are also discussions within the organization to hire a significant number of player-development coaches, according to Begley.

New York Notes: Crawford, Vaughn, Thibodeau, Knicks

Veteran guard Jamal Crawford hasn’t made his debut with the Nets yet, but feels comfortable enough with his new team that he’d be on board with the idea of sticking around for next season if Brooklyn wants to bring him back, he tells Steve Selby of The New York Post.

“That would be unbelievable for me ’cause (Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving) are two of my closest friends in the league, that I haven’t actually played with, but just have genuine friendship,” Crawford said. “I’m just trying to stay in the moment, be thankful for this opportunity.”

Although Crawford is enthusiastic about his new NBA home, he’s not expected to play in the team’s first seeding game on Friday against Orlando, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. The 40-year-old still needs to get his conditioning up to game speed, per head coach Jacque Vaughn.

  • As Joe Vardon and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic and Brian Lewis of The New York Post write in a pair of stories, the Nets appear to be giving Jacque Vaughn every chance to claim the team’s full-time head coaching position. However, Vaughn’s summer audition for a job coaching Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving next season will have to be done without those two stars, resulting in an unusual evaluation period for Vaughn and the Nets.
  • Knicks GM Scott Perry said on Thursday that new head coach Tom Thibodeau will have the autonomy to fill out his own coaching staff, but Thibodeau confirmed that the team’s front office will have some input in those choices, as Marc Berman of The New York Post relays. “I’m confident that we’re going to sit down, I’m going to listen (to) the people that they have, I’m going to recommend some people that I know. Some of them are going to be on both lists,” Thibodeau said. “I’m real comfortable with that. I think we’re going to get a great staff and I’m looking forward to getting started with it.”
  • In a separate story for The New York Post, Berman notes that new Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose said on Thursday that there’s “no timeline” for the team to move out of its rebuild and focus on contending. “We are taking it one day at a time,” Rose said. “We felt Tom was that coach who can take us with development to becoming a perennial winner. That happens one step at a time.”

Knicks Notes: Woodson, Assistants, Thibodeau, Harkless

Former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, who interviewed for the team’s top coaching position again this time around, is expected to rejoin the organization in some capacity, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

There were rumors during the Knicks’ coaching search that Woodson was a candidate to be hired as an assistant, so Charania’s report doesn’t come as a real surprise. Still, it’s worth noting that on a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Knicks GM Scott Perry said that Thibodeau will have the autonomy to build his own coaching staff, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News tweets. Perry added that the staff will be “diverse,” with a focus on player development.

Based on reports to date, it sounds like the support for Woodson has come from within the Knicks organization. If he ends up joining the team’s coaching staff, that should be confirmation that Thibodeau wants him on board as well.

Here’s more on the Knicks and their new head coach:

  • In addition to Woodson, Mike Miller, Rick Brunson, and Daisuke Yoshimoto are the names that Steve Popper of Newsday keeps hearing as possibilities for Thibodeau’s new coaching staff (Twitter link). Brunson and Yoshimoto both worked under Thibs in Minnesota.
  • Speaking to reporters today, Thibodeau cited three main reasons why he viewed the Knicks’ job as an attractive one, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Thibs praised the current roster, referring to it as “young and talented” with “room for growth”; he said he’s excited about the draft assets and cap flexibility the team has at its disposal; and he indicated that the presence of Leon Rose and William Wesley in the front office is also appealing.
  • Maurice Harkless, an unrestricted free agent this fall, isn’t sure whether or not he’ll be back with the Knicks in 2020/21, but he’s intrigued by the hiring of Thibodeau, calling him a “great coach,” writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Harkless hasn’t played for Thibodeau before, but met him earlier in 2019/20 when the veteran coach visited the Clippers.

Knicks Officially Hire Tom Thibodeau As Head Coach

The Knicks have made it official, announcing today in a press release that Tom Thibodeau has been named the franchise’s new head coach. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported on Saturday that the two sides were finalizing a five-year contract.

“Tom Thibodeau is a proven winner who gets the most out of the players and teams that he has coached,” Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose said in a statement. “He will bring leadership, accountability, and a hard-working mentality to our organization. We are excited to bring him back to New York and look forward to collaborating with him and his staff toward a successful future.”

An assistant coach with the Knicks from 1996-2004, Thibodeau also worked on coaching staffs in Minnesota, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Houston, and Boston before getting his first head coaching opportunity with the Bulls in 2010.

In five seasons as Chicago’s head coach, Thibodeau led the team to a 255-139 (.647) record and five consecutive postseason appearances. The Bulls won four playoff series and earned a spot in the Eastern Finals during that stretch.

Thibodeau later served as the head coach and head of basketball operations in Minnesota, leading the Timberwolves to their first postseason appearance in 14 years during the 2017/18 season. However, his time with the Wolves came to an abrupt end in ’18/19 following a messy divorce with star swingman Jimmy Butler.

Thibodeau didn’t coach during the ’19/20 season, opting to take the year off to visit with a number of teams and await his next opportunity. He was cited as a potential target for the Nets and Rockets as well, but with those teams still active and not guaranteed to be seeking new head coaches this offseason, Thibodeau was increasingly linked to the Knicks, the only club that has conducted a full-fledged coaching search so far this year.

Even as they interviewed 10 other candidates, the Knicks seemed focused on Thibodeau throughout their process. There was a time last week when it appeared as if talks between Thibodeau and the Knicks had hit a snag — Jason Kidd was said to be emerging as the new frontrunner, as veteran reporter Frank Isola confirmed in a recent radio appearance (8:35 mark). However, even then, Thibodeau was viewed as New York’s top choice, and was eventually able to reach an agreement with the club that reunites him with Rose, his former agent at CAA.

The team that Thibodeau inherits is in flux. The Knicks have a number of veteran players on non-guaranteed contracts for next season after striking out in their quest for a superstar player last offseason. They’re expected to be one of a handful of teams with significant salary-cap space this offseason and also have some interesting young pieces under contract, including center Mitchell Robinson and last year’s lottery pick, RJ Barrett.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to return to this historic franchise as head coach and work alongside a talented front office that I have great trust in and respect for,” Thibodeau said in a statement. “I know what New York is like when the Knicks are successful and there is nothing comparable. I look forward to being a part of what we are building here and can’t wait to get to work.”

The Knicks are counting on Thibodeau to develop those young players and instill a winning culture. New York was 21-45 this season and missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Dana Gauruder contributed to this story.