- Knicks GM Scott Perry had been pursuing Elfrid Payton for a long time before signing him in July, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Perry, who acquired Payton for the Magic in a draft-night trade in 2014, attempted to bring him to New York at the 2018 trade deadline. “I’m very aware of Scott’s interest,’’ said Payton’s father, Elfrid Payton Sr. “He’s showed confidence in him and always kept track of him when he left. He’s always someone who really believed in him. Somebody invested in you like that and knows you, that’s a big thing.”
The Knicks and Suns made offers to point guard Terry Rozier in free agency, and the former Celtic confirms to Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report that he seriously considered the possibility of signing with those teams before ultimately choosing the Hornets. According to Rozier, the involvement of Hornets owner Michael Jordan played a major part in his decision.
“Mike was overseas,” Rozier said. “And I can just picture him probably having a cigar in his mouth and the words he told Mitch [Kupchak], the GM, was like: ‘Get him over here. Do what you need to do to get him over here.’
“I’d be a fool if I was to go anywhere else or turn down that. I look at it as just a team, organization believing in me. Knowing that I want to prove myself in this league and giving me that chance is bigger than anything and [their willingness] to pay me a right amount of money, it was just big and the guy that was behind all that was Michael Jordan. It’s still surreal to me.”
As Abrams explains, a day before free agency opened in June, Rozier was expecting to be a Knick. That account lines up with a June 30 report, which suggested that the Knicks would turn to Rozier, Julius Randle, and Bobby Portis if they missed out on top-tier stars — New York eventually landed Randle and Portis, but not Rozier.
According to Abrams, the Suns offered a “bigger, better” contract than the one the Knicks put on the table, and Rozier was seriously considering accepting Phoenix’s deal even after the Hornets emerged as a viable possibility as part of a sign-and-trade that sent Kemba Walker to Boston. However, Jordan helped seal the deal for Charlotte.
Rozier’s free agency decision likely had a ripple effect on multiple teams and players. Elfrid Payton, who received an $8MM guaranteed salary for 2019/20 from the Knicks, may not have landed that sort of contract if the team had secured Rozier.
Meanwhile, after missing out on Rozier, the Suns shifted their focus to signing Ricky Rubio, who was strongly rumored to be a top target for the Pacers in advance of free agency. If Phoenix had instead landed Rozier, Rubio may have ended up in Indiana, and it’s not clear if the Pacers still would have acquired Malcolm Brogdon from Milwaukee.
The three-year, $56.7MM contract that Rozier received from the Hornets has been widely panned by NBA observers, but the veteran point guard tells Abrams that he has heard the criticism and looks forward to proving it wrong.
“I’d be lying if I told you there’s no pressure,” Rozier said. “But pressure’s part of the game. Pressure is something that I deal with on a daily basis, but I’m always finding ways to get past it. That’s not easy going in, replacing a guard like Kemba. He’s pretty damn good and the franchise’s leading scorer, like that’s crazy. But it’s something I’ve always wanted. I always live by if the opportunity come knocking, you gotta be ready to answer, and this is the opportunity for me, so I was born ready for this, and I’m not looking back.”
Peters, 21, averaged 11.9 points, 5.2 assists and two rebounds in 30.1 minutes per game during his junior season at Mississippi State last year, earning a spot with New York’s summer league team after going undrafted.
Peters is now set to compete in training camp with the franchise to start his professional career. The Knicks are coming off a busy offseason, signing players such Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, Marcus Morris, and others on new deals during the free agency period.
The Knicks have 15 players on guaranteed contracts, plus one on a two-way contract. Peters joins Amir Hinton, V.J. King, Kenny Wooten, and Kris Wilkes (two-way) as players who have reportedly reached deals with New York that have not yet been finalized.
The Knicks didn’t land the top stars they targeted in free agency, but management still believes the January trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Mavericks was the right move, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post.
New York acquired Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and a pair of first-round picks in that deal, but most importantly the team opened enough cap room for two max salary offers by unloading Porzingis, who would have been a restricted free agent, along with the unwanted contracts of Courtney Lee, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
The trade led to five months of speculation that Kevin Durant was serious about joining the Knicks and would bring another star with him, possibly Kyrie Irving. However, Durant and Irving opted for Brooklyn, while New York filled its roster with a collection of vets on short-term contracts.
The situation looks worse after Durant gave an interview this week in which he claims he never considered the Knicks. That comment drew some skepticism throughout the league, according to Berman, but New York’s front office stands behind the Porzingis decision regardless.
Sources tell Berman that a rift had been building between the two sides long before Porzingis met with the front office to request a trade. Management thought it would be a waste of time to try to convince the injured star to stay and was concerned that his cap hold would interfere with the team’s free agency plans.
The Knicks also never believed that Janis Porzingis, who serves as his brother’s representative, would let Kristaps play last season, even if tests showed he was fully recovered from an ACL injury. Janis’ priority was to protect the $158MM deal that Kristaps eventually got from Dallas.
Berman suggests that New York might have sought more young assets in the deal if it had a clue that free agency would turn out the way it did. Even so, the Knicks were happy to add Smith to their backcourt and believe the two first-rounders will eventually prove valuable.
Team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry have confidence in the players they signed after their top targets were off the board, Berman adds. Mills views this as the third season of the rebuilding plan, noting that the one-year deals offer plenty of flexibility to acquire the next star player who becomes available.
Berman points out that Anthony Davis will top the free agent market next July and his agent, Rich Paul, likes the prospect of bringing his client to New York if things don’t work out with the Lakers.
Head coach Gregg Popovich is strongly considering taking 15 players to Australia later this month in advance of the World Cup as opposed to cutting the roster down to a dozen players prior to leaving the country, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. FIBA regulations state that teams can only carry 12 players for the World Cup itself, though the remaining players could simply attend alongside the coaching staff and never suit up.
Here’s more surrounding the World Cup:
- Spurs guard Derrick White and Kings big man Marvin Bagley III are the strongest contenders to be promoted from the Select Team to Team USA’s primary World Cup roster, tweets Stein. Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher suggests (via Instagram) that White’s promotion has already happened, while Bagley’s is likely.
- Mitchell Robinson is dealing with a knee injury, as Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. The Knicks center initially suffered the injury over the weekend and returned to practice on Tuesday and re-injured it the following day. A source close to the situation describes the ailment as “just soreness.”
- Hawks guard Trae Young left Team USA’s training camp because of a minor eye infection, sources tell Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Young had been practicing with the Select Team.
- Chris Boucher has withdrawn from the World Cup for personal reasons, Josh Lewenberg of the TSN tweets. The Raptors big man had been practicing with Canada’s National Team.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports sat down with Nets forward Kevin Durant earlier this week to discuss several notable topics, including how the 30-year-old star perceives the opinion of some that the Warriors mishandled Durant’s return from a Grade 2 right calf strain. His response?
“Hell, no. How can you blame [the Warriors]? Hell, no. I heard the Warriors pressured me into getting back. Nobody never said a word to me during rehab as I was coming back. It was only me and [director of sports medicine and performance] Rick [Celebrini] working out every day. Right when the series started, I targeted Game 5. Hell, nah. It just happened. It’s basketball. S— happens. Nobody was responsible for it. It was just the game. We just need to move on from that s— because I’m going to be back playing.”
Durant also spoke about his choice to sign with Brooklyn, saying that the decision was not made until the morning of June 30, as he didn’t want to “disrespect the game” by putting his focus on the future during the season. Interestingly, he also said that he only considered the Warriors and the Nets as potential destinations.
Of course, speculation ran rampant throughout the entire 2018/19 season that the Knicks were a strong, if not primary contender to land both Durant and Kyrie Irving this summer. In response, Durant said “If I was leaving the Warriors, it was always going to be for the Nets. They got the pieces and a creative front office. I just like what they were building.”
There’s more from Durant’s interview with Haynes, which is worth a read in its entirety:
- Speaking on how some Toronto fans cheered and applauded his injury before several Raptors players signaled the crowd to stop, Durant smirked and said, perhaps with a suggestion of karma, “It will probably be the last time they will be in the Finals.”
- Durant had a difficult time watching the remainder of Game 5 from his hotel room, even turning the channel at one point before flipping back later to cheer on his teammates.
- Durant would not confirm that he will miss the entire 2019/20 season, leaving open the possibility that he could return before season’s end.
- Durant’s perspective on the entire injury situation is a positive one, saying “Yeah, I still think about that night… that one is definitely always going to be a huge part of my career because it’s the biggest stage and the type of injury I had. But now I look at it as me just going out there playing basketball, and I happened to get hurt. And now I’m just waiting to get back. I know it’s a huge deal to everybody else, but I just try to take it on the chin and keep it moving.”
One of the Knicks‘ two-way players from last season is headed overseas to continue his playing career, with VTB United League club Avtodor Saratov announcing (via Instagram) that they have signed Isaiah Hicks for the 2019/20 season (h/t to Emiliano Carchia or Sportando).
Hicks, who went undrafted out of North Carolina after helping the Tar Heels win a national championship in 2017, spent both the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons as a two-way player for the Knicks. In 64 G League contests with the Westchester Knicks, Hicks averaged 16.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 2.0 APG in 29.7 MPG.
The 25-year-old power forward also saw some game action with the Knicks during his tenure in New York, appearing in 21 NBA games and posting averages of 4.4 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 13.0 minutes per contest.
The Knicks opted not to tender Hicks a two-way qualifying offer earlier this summer, thereby making him an unrestricted free agent. Guard Kadeem Allen remains the Knicks’ only current two-way player, but it was reported back in June that rookie Kris Wilkes will earn the second slot for the 2019/20 season.
Team USA lost another star today as Julius Randle announced that he won’t be competing for a spot on the FIBA World Cup squad, tweets Brian Windhorst of ESPN. He cited an unspecified family issue for the decision.
Randle, who signed with the Knicks last month, was a late addition to camp, receiving an invitation 11 days ago along with the Celtics‘ Jaylen Brown after several high-profile players declined the opportunity. With competition for 12 roster spots to begin Monday, it’s not clear if there’s time to find a replacement for Randle.
A move was also made to the Select Team that will scrimmage against those players in Las Vegas. Torrey Craig of the Nuggets was chosen to replace Landry Shamet of the Clippers, who announced yesterday that he won’t be participating.
Players will report to camp tomorrow and the battle for roster spots will run through Thursday. The World Cup will take place from August 31 to September 15 in China.
- Point guards Trey Burke and Raul Neto could be useful members of the Sixers’ rotation but big man Kyle O’Quinn will have regain the form he showed earlier in his career with the Knicks to make a meaningful contribution, Mike O’Connor of The Athletic writes. O’Connor breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of the incoming reserve trio and how they’ll fit in.
- The fact that the Knicks didn’t re-sign any of their nine free agents reflects poorly on coach David Fizdale, the New York Post’s Marc Berman opines. The teams sold player development over the team’s win-loss record last season, yet didn’t consider any of those players worthy of another contract, Berman notes.
Appearing recently on “The Breakfast Club,” Carmelo Anthony‘s trainer Chris Brickley said that Anthony is still hoping to sign with an NBA team and is being realistic about what sort of role he could play, as Jack Maloney of CBS Sports relays.
“I think teams are afraid of, ‘I want to be the star,’ or ‘I want this.’ That’s not the case, though,” Brickley said. “‘Melo just wants to have a final season, farewell season, do what D-Wade did. Do the jersey swap. He had a great career, he’s a Hall-of-Famer. So hopefully that can happen.”
While Brickley’s comments were well-meaning, they could open up Anthony to unfair ridicule, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic, who says that Carmelo would be better served by speaking for himself. The 10-time All-Star should also be focusing on ways he can help a contending team rather than a farewell tour, Isola adds.
“Can he still play? That’s what teams want to know,” an NBA coach whose team had internal discussions about pursuing Anthony told Isola. “It can’t be about a farewell tour.”
The question of whether Anthony can add value to a playoff team is on the mind of various team executives, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. As Charania explains, those execs want to know if the 35-year-old would be willing to accept a role where he sits on some nights and thrives in other games, based on matchups.
“‘Melo could fill a spot on most second units, but what kind of role works for both sides?” one executive said to Charania.
Charania’s look at Anthony’s future includes several more interesting tidbits, so let’s round up up the highlights…
- If the Knicks had landed two star free agents this summer, they would have considered bringing back Anthony, league sources tell Charania. Now that the team has gone in a different direction, that no longer looks like a viable option. However, some executives believe that if Anthony doesn’t find another NBA home, he could sign a one-day contract to retire as a Knick.
- The Lakers are the only other team that currently looks like a potential suitor for Anthony, due to his friendship with LeBron James, but that’s viewed as an unlikely scenario, given the team’s depth at forward and on the wing. The presence of Kurt Rambis in the front office may be a factor as well — Charania notes that Rambis was with the Knicks during Anthony’s final “tumultuous” stretch in New York.
- Anthony’s camp had conversation with USA Basketball about Carmelo being part of Team USA’s World Cup squad in 2019. Both sides ultimately decided not to go in that direction though, says Charania.
- Last season, a team in the Chinese Basketball Association was prepared to offer Anthony a deal that would have paid him nearly $1MM for several weeks of work, a source tells Charania. However, those discussions never gained traction and multiple agents who do deals with clubs in China are skeptical that Anthony would go that route, Charania writes. If he were interested in playing in the CBA, Anthony would likely receive lucrative offers.