Knicks Rumors

Atlantic Notes: Oubre, Simmons, Dinwiddie, Towns

Sixers forward Kelly Oubre is back with the team and in “good spirits,” head coach Nick Nurse told The Associated Press and other media outlets. Oubre suffered a broken rib, lacerations and other assorted injuries when he was struck by a vehicle near his residence on Saturday.

Oubre will be re-examined at the end of the week and a timetable for his return could be set at that time, the AP report adds.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets coach Jacque Vaughn labeled Ben Simmons‘ latest ailment a “bump in the road,” Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets. “This is just a bump that’s in his road right now that happened. Its not like he wanted it to happen,” Vaughn said. “He was playing well and this happened. Everybody’s body is different. This is what he’s dealing with and we’ll support him while he’s dealing with it.” Simmons will be out at least another week due to a nerve impingement in his back.
  • Prior to Simmons being sidelined, Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie was struggling with his new role of playing off the ball. “He’s still wrapping his head around how he fits into the different lineups he’s been in, which is definitely understandable,’’ Vaughn said. “But that’s a part of growing together as a team. We’ll continue to learn about the best position to put him in. But he has an extreme ability to impact second group, first group, small and big lineup.’’ An unrestricted free agent after the season, Dinwiddie is averaging 10.7 and 4.8 assists per game this season, compared to 16.5 points and 9.1 assists after Brooklyn re-acquired him last season.
  • Would the Knicks be better off pursuing a Karl-Anthony Towns trade this season rather than down the road? The New York Post’s Jenna Lemoncelli relays comments made by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon and Brian Windhorst during a recent podcast, which noted that Towns’ salary jumps from $36MM this season to $49MM in the first year of his extension next season with ascending salary figures in future years.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Sixers, Porzingis, Poeltl

Nets guard Ben Simmons will remain sidelined for at least a little while longer due to a nerve impingement in the lower left side of his back, according to statements from the team and agent Bernie Lee (Twitter links via Brian Lewis of The New York Post).

As Lewis observes (via Twitter), Simmons required surgery in 2022 on multiple herniated disks on the right side of his back, then dealt with a nerve impingement. However, this issue is affecting the other side of his back and isn’t nearly as severe, Lee says. The club indicated an update on Simmons’ status will be provided in a week.

“He’s not experiencing anything similar to what he’s gone through in the past,” Lee said of his client, per Lewis (Twitter links). “And this is something that the expectation is that with the proper kind of rehab he’ll be able to resume his season in a short period of time without any issue.

“It definitely should be on the shorter side of things. It’s really a day-to-day kind of evaluation situation. What has to happen is the area has to calm down. Once it calms down there’s a period of reactivity that’s built into things.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Having acquired a handful of draft assets in their James Harden trade, how are the Sixers looking to use those assets on the trade market? President of basketball operations Daryl Morey spoke in a recent appearance on The Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast about what type of player the team would like to add. “I would say first off, they need to be pretty solid on both ends,” Morey said, per Marc Stein at Substack. “As you get into the playoffs, it gets very hard for your top guys to be elite one way. … The other thing would be we probably need them to have a bit of play-making — sort of connector, ball-movement aspects. We are a little short on that and it becomes more important in the playoffs as well.” As Stein notes, it’s perhaps no surprise, based on that description, that Raptors forward OG Anunoby “keeps coming up” as a potential 76ers target.
  • Rumors surfaced during his time with the Knicks that Kristaps Porzingis would be unhappy if he wasn’t treated as the “face of the franchise,” but the Celtics big man is satisfied with being a secondary option in Boston and says he was never focused on being the go-to guy. “Maybe it was falsely pushed,” Porzingis said of the old narrative, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. “I never felt that way because today’s league is, other than [Nikola] Jokic and [Joel] Embiid, it’s a guard league. It’s mostly guards and small forwards. So I knew that if I want to win, you’re going to have to play with somebody… It was never an issue for me.”
  • Raptors center Jakob Poeltl spoke to Oren Weisfeld of Yahoo Sports Canada about his first stint in Toronto, the experience of watching the team win a title without him in 2019, and what it’s been like to rejoin the franchise several years later.

Knicks Notes: Quickley, Thibodeau, DiVincenzo, Second Unit

Despite seeing his minutes take a dip thus far in 2023/24, Knicks reserve shooting guard Immanuel Quickley is still hoping for a hyper-efficient shooting season with New York, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post.

Quickley played 28.9 minutes per contest in 2022/23, en route to finishing second in the league’s Sixth Man of the Year voting. This season, he’s averaging 24.1 MPG.

“I want to try to get over 40 [percent] from 3, for sure,” Quickley said. “Overall [from the field], I want to be over 50 [percent]… If you set a goal for yourself, you’re going to try to get it. So I’m going to try to get it.”

Through his first six contests this year, the 6’3″ wing is averaging a career-high 15.1 PPG on .473/.326/.864 shooting.

There’s more out of New York:

  • Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau believes that three of his key reserves have starter potential, and has applauded their willingness to play off the bench for New York, Braziller adds. “The one thing we ask everybody is to sacrifice,” Thibodeau said. “You could make a case that Quick is a starter, Donte [DiVincenzo] is a starter, Josh [Hart] is a starter. They’re sacrificing that for the team.” Fewer minutes means fewer touches, and thus lower stats, and a reserve role also can reflect negatively on a player angling for his next deal. It’s a testament to the team’s buy-in that these wings are open to the gig.
  • New Knicks guard DiVincenzo is adjusting splendidly to his new role on the team’s bench, opines Braziller in a separate piece. “I think that’s pretty special,” teammate Quickley said of DiVincenzo’s fit on the New York bench. “When you can have guys connect and gel right off the bat without much time together is always a sign of something that can be special.” The 6’4″ wing is averaging 7.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, and 1.0 SPG in 19.4 MPG.
  • The Knicks have benefited from terrific production from their second unit, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. New York has been playing starter RJ Barrett alongside Quickley, DiVincenzo, Josh Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein. That lineup has compiled a +24.0 net rating across 20 minutes together. “I feel like no matter who’s in there… we have a system as far as what we do,” Quickley said. “And whoever’s in there, we all understand how we want to play. And that’s fast, get stops and run. That’s when we are at our best.”

Atlantic Notes: Robinson, Pritchard, Flynn, Oubre

Knicks center Mitchell Robinson is generating early buzz for Defensive Player of the Year, according to Steve Popper of Newsday (subscriber link).

As Popper writes, the 25-year-old effectively stymied No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama on national TV earlier this week, with the French phenom going 0-of-6 with Robinson as his closest defender. Robinson also made a strong national impression in last season’s playoffs, dominating the paint in New York’s first-round series against the Cavs, who feature a “heavily hyped” two-big lineup.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau is always eager to discuss how well Robinson has been playing, specifically pointing to his net rating, Popper adds. The Knicks are plus-7.6 when Robinson is on the court vs. minus-1.3 when he’s off, for a net rating differential of plus-8.9 — the second-best mark on the team among rotation regulars.

His defense is incredible,” Thibodeau said. “Excellent pick-and-roll defender. Rim protection. Defensive rebounding. Multiple effort guy. Really come a long way.

It’s been steady growth. I think when you look at it, to me, probably the most important statistic there is net rating. Scoring margin, net rating tells you impact on winning. So when you look at where he was four years ago to where he is today, it’s been great strides that have been made, and the impact on winning is the most important thing.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • Payton Pritchard signed a four-year, $30MM rookie scale extension just before the season started. The Celtics guard has been struggling to make shots early on in 2023/24, but head coach Joe Mazzulla assured him that he’ll continue to receive minutes as long as he’s impacting the game in other ways, and Pritchard finally had a breakthrough performance in Friday’s win against Brooklyn, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “He’s found a way to make a big impact the whole year, and to me, he changed the game for us tonight,” Mazzulla said. “And what we see is, like, it’s easy to look at the scoring of the bench and be like, ‘We’re not producing.’ But there’s so much other stuff that those guys do for us on a daily basis.”
  • Backup point guard Malachi Flynn struggled to find minutes under former head coach Nick Nurse, but that has changed under Darko Rajakovic, per Michael Grange of Flynn, who could be a restricted free agent in 2024 if the Raptors give him qualifying offer, admits he was pressing his first handful of games as a rotation regular, but Rajakovic’s patience in him appears to be paying off, Grange notes. “I think the first couple of games I was still kind of like hesitant, not being assertive,” Flynn said. “But I feel like the last maybe three or four games — and not even going off makes or misses, just going off how I’m feeling and how I’m playing — I think I’m a lot more comfortable and playing confident.”
  • Sixers wing Kelly Oubre made a strong defensive impression in last night’s win over Detroit, limiting Cade Cunningham to a subpar second half after he started the game strong, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “That’s what I bring to the game,” Oubre said of his defense. “That’s my bread and butter, so just trying to impact the game, and Cade definitely got off to a good start. I started on Ausar [Thompson], but Coach made that change to start the second half. Me guarding Cade and just wanted to pick him up full court, kind of make him uncomfortable a little bit because he’s such a talented player.” Oubre will be a free agent again next summer after signing a one-year, minimum-salary deal with the 76ers.

Largest Trade Exceptions Available This Season

As the NBA’s 2024 trade deadline approaches, it’s worth keeping in mind which teams hold traded player exceptions that could come in handy to grease the wheels on an in-season deal.

As we explain in our glossary, a traded player exception allows a team to take on salary in a trade without sending out any salary in return. The amount of the exception (plus $250K) is the amount of salary the team is permitted to take back without salary-matching – either in a single deal or in multiple trades – for one year.

[RELATED: Salary-Matching Rules For Trades During 2023/24 Season]

For instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception could acquire a player earning $4MM and a player earning $6.25MM without having to worry about sending out any outgoing salary.

In recent years, sizable traded player exceptions have served as wild cards that helped accommodate both pre-deadline and offseason deals. For example, after creating a $17MM trade exception when they sent Davis Bertans to the Thunder and moved down a couple spots in the 2023 draft lottery, the Mavericks used that TPE to acquire Richaun Holmes along with an additional first-round pick later in the night.

Many trade exceptions expire without being used, but as our tracker shows, there are many sizable ones available this season that could be useful when trade season begins in earnest.

Here are the 20 most valuable trade exceptions around the NBA for now, along with their expiry dates in parentheses:

  1. Atlanta Hawks: $23,019,560 (7/8/24)
  2. Brooklyn Nets: $19,928,571 (7/8/24)
  3. Brooklyn Nets: $18,131,946 (2/9/24)
  4. Washington Wizards: $12,354,400 (6/24/24)
  5. Washington Wizards: $9,800,926 (7/8/24)
  6. Miami Heat: $9,450,000 (7/8/24)
  7. Portland Trail Blazers: $8,778,377 (9/27/24)
  8. Portland Trail Blazers: $8,300,000 (2/9/24)
  9. Memphis Grizzlies: $7,492,540 (7/8/24)
  10. Miami Heat: $7,243,842 (7/8/24)
  11. Philadelphia 76ers: $6,831,413 (11/1/24)
  12. New York Knicks: $6,803,012 (7/8/24)
  13. Brooklyn Nets: $6,802,950 (7/8/24)
  14. Phoenix Suns: $6,500,000 (7/17/24)
  15. Boston Celtics: $6,202,500 (7/12/24)
  16. Washington Wizards: $5,379,250 (6/24/24)
  17. Phoenix Suns: $4,975,371 (2/9/24)
  18. Dallas Mavericks: $4,953,980 (7/8/24)
  19. Miami Heat: $4,700,000 (2/7/24)
  20. Houston Rockets: $4,510,000 (10/17/24)

Those Hawks and Nets trade exceptions are big enough to be genuine assets, but I wouldn’t expect either club to make full use of them during the season. Both Atlanta and Brooklyn are about $8-10MM away from the luxury tax line and would move even closer to becoming taxpayers if certain players on their rosters earn bonuses currently considered unlikely.

Neither team is close enough to title contention to warrant becoming a taxpayer this season unless it’s for a major, major acquisition, so don’t count on either the Hawks or Nets using a TPE to bring in a $15MM role player with no outgoing salary.

The luxury tax looms as an issue for some of the other teams on this list as well, but there are some intriguing TPEs to keep an eye on. Would-be contenders like the Sixers, Celtics, and Suns may consider using their exceptions to try to fortify their benches ahead of the postseason, while a rebuilding team like the Wizards – with nearly $30MM in breathing room below the tax – could be a dumping ground for an unwanted contract — as long as that contract comes attached to a draft asset or two.

Teams like the Lakers and Pelicans, who are just narrowly over the tax threshold and could duck below by trading a single player, are potential trade partners to watch for Washington.

It’s worth noting that some of these exceptions may be used in a deal that could otherwise be completed using salary matching. For instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception that swaps one $8MM player for another could use the exception to take on the incoming player and create a new $8MM exception using the outgoing player.

Eastern Notes: Randle, Johnson, Jaquez, Bouknight

After averaging 25.1 points per game on a .459/.343/.757 shooting slash line and earning a third-team All-NBA berth last season, Knicks forward Julius Randle got off to a very slow start in 2023/24, averaging just 13.7 points in his first six games, with an abysmal .271/.225/.618 shooting line.

Multiple sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Post that Randle, who dealt with a couple left ankle sprains late in 2022/23 which later required arthroscopic surgery, was playing through ankle pain during that tough stretch and refused the team’s requests to rest.

He’s too proud to sit,” a source told Bondy.

However, Randle’s ankle recently started to feel better, which has coincided with an uptick in production — he’s averaging 25.0 points on .425/.357/.786 shooting over the past two games, both victories. As Bondy writes, the 28-year-old will have three days of rest before the Knicks play again on Sunday.

Here are a few more notes from the Eastern Conference:

  • Nets forward Cameron Johnson is on the verge of returning to action after missing the past seven games with a left leg injury. He’s probable for Friday’s matchup in Boston, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Meanwhile, on the Run Your Race podcast with Theo Pinson, Johnson revisited the February trade that sent him from Phoenix to Brooklyn, as Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily relays.
  • First-round pick Jaime Jaquez is earning an increased role with the Heat, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald, who notes that more playing time could be available with Tyler Herro expected to miss multiple weeks with a Grade 2 right ankle sprain. In Wednesday’s matchup with Memphis, Jaquez played the entire fourth quarter, providing the team solid defense and recording eight points on 3-of-3 shooting, including a three-pointer that sealed the win late. “I just keep trying to make him trust me more,” Jaquez said of head coach Erik Spoelstra. “Keep making him proud. Try not to mess it up. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.”
  • Hornets guard James Bouknight has been cleared for basketball activities after a positive follow-up exam, per Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Bouknight, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last month, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2024 after the Hornets declined their fourth-year team option on the former lottery pick.

Knicks Notes: Embiid, Barrett, Robinson, Storylines

With all of their own first-round picks and swaps, plus some additional draft capital, the Knicks have been linked to multiple stars over the past year-plus, including Joel Embiid. The reigning MVP’s former Sixers teammate, P.J. Tucker, says Embiid is well aware of the rumors, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Post.

Of course, he hears it,” Tucker said Monday. “But you never know with these situations and how it’s going to play out, what guys are thinking, what’s happening behind closed doors. You never know.”

As Bondy notes, Embiid would have to request a trade for there to even be a remote chance of him landing in New York, and with the 76ers off to a 6-1 start, there’s certainly no indication that’s in the cards anytime soon. Tucker says any outside perception of dysfunction in Philadelphia is misguided.

It wasn’t like that all,” he said. “The media is going to spin it how you want. But Philly has got a good team. We had a good team. … I think all the noise was just that: just noise.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • RJ Barrett has played well in each of the past two games since returning from a left knee injury, which the team has called patellar tendinopathy. As Ian Begley of writes, Barrett says he’s going to have to play through some soreness “for a little bit,” with the injury a result of wear and tear rather than a specific incident. “I’m going to have to live with the pain,” Barrett said. “Got to be mentally tough, fight through it.”
  • Center Mitchell Robinson is averaging a career-best 12.4 rebounds through eight games, drawing praise from head coach Tom Thibodeau in the process. “I think the big thing is it’s not just the offense. He’s added the defensive rebounding, he’s been a monster on the boards,” Thibodeau said, per Peter Botte of The New York Post. “I think he’s the best offensive rebounder, we already established that. And then now he’s fourth in the league in rebounding. Every night he’s got bodies on him and he’s done a great job for us.”
  • Robinson’s incredible offensive rebounding prowess and improved “discipline and physicality” on defense are among the early-season storylines explored by Fred Katz of The Athletic, with Barrett also earning a spot due to his evolution as a decision-maker. Robinson’s defensive effort on Victor Wembanyama during Wednesday’s dismantling of the Spurs was particularly noteworthy, writes Steve Popper of Newsday (subscriber link).

Brunson: Clippers Have Lots Of Firepower

  • Harden will make his Clippers debut against the Knicks and Jalen Brunson believes they could be an offensive juggernaut, Stefan Bondy of the New York Post relays. “Another weapon for them,” Brunson said. “They have a lot of great players over there. Really impressive résumés and all that stuff, and their careers have been nothing short of spectacular. So, it’s a lot of firepower. We’ve just gotta be ready to go.”
  • Knicks wing RJ Barrett has missed the last two games with knee soreness. Coach Tom Thibodeau indicated that Barrett could return on Monday. “He said he’s feeling a lot better,” Thibodeau said. Barrett is averaging 21 points this season.

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Randle, Maxey, Oubre

All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum was initially frustrated at being selected by the Celtics in the 2017 draft, he admitted in a recent interview on NBC Sports Boston (Twitter video link).

“First of all, I didn’t even want to come because I didn’t think I was going to play,” Tatum said (hat tip to Jared Weiss of The Athletic for the transcription). “They had Gordon (Hayward), Jaylen Brown, Isaiah Thomas, and (Marcus) Smart, and I didn’t think I was good enough to be on that team. So, it didn’t even cross my mind how to close a game or how to finish. I was just more concerned about getting in the game and starting.”

It’s safe to say that he’s enjoying his time in Boston now. Still just 25, Tatum is already a five-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA selection, and has helped lead the Celtics to the playoffs across all of his six pro seasons, including the 2022 NBA Finals. At 5-0, the new-look Celtics are already the only remaining undefeated team in the league and Tatum just became the youngest player in franchise history to reach 10,000 career points.

Tatum is currently in the midst of a five-year, maximum-salary contract extension that will see him remain under team control through 2024/25. He’s eligible to sign a new super-max extension next summer.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • It sounds like Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is out of excuses for All-Star power forward Julius Randle‘s current slump, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. Bondy noted that Thibodeau’s latest postgame remarks, following a Friday loss to the Bucks, were a bit harsher than usual. “You can’t predetermine,” Thibodeau said. “You can’t say, ‘Well, I haven’t had a shot, so now I’m gonna take a shot.’ The game tells you what to do… If you’re open, you shoot. If there’s three guys around, you hit the open man. It’s really simple. It’s not hard.” Through six games, the 6’8″ big man is averaging just 13.7 PPG on .271/.225/.618 shooting for the 2-4 Knicks.
  • Although Tyrese Maxey is off to a stellar start, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse and reigning MVP Joel Embiid are hoping the rising guard will show more aggression in his offense, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He’s got to not get into those modes where he’s not being more aggressive,” Nurse said. “I’m not criticizing him. I’m just trying to keep imploring that needs to be more aggressive.” Embiid seems to feel similarly: “The key for him is just to be aggressive… and then let the game come to him. I think as the game went along, he let the game come to him, and made the right plays. He passed up a couple of shots that I think he should have taken.”
  • New Sixers wing Kelly Oubre is also off to a red-hot start for Philadelphia, Pompey adds in a separate piece. Pompey refers to the Sixers’ signing of Oubre to a veteran’s minimum deal as perhaps the club’s best free agent deal in years. “I know that I’m very hungry to prove myself in this league,” Oubre said. “Obviously, you know this summer was very stressful to me for me. So I had a lot of pent up energy for this season already built up.” Across five contests, he’s averaging 21 PPG on .536/.448/.857 shooting, along with 4.0 RPG.

James Harden To Make Clippers Debut On Monday

Star guard James Harden will make his first appearance of the 2023/24 season on Monday, according to Shams Charania and Law Murray of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports that Harden will make his Clippers debut in New York vs. the Knicks.

The expectation, per The Athletic’s duo, is that Harden will start alongside Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Ivica Zubac.

There had been some speculation that Westbrook might be moved to the bench to play the sort of sixth man role he did with the Lakers during the first half of last season. That would allow the Clippers to stagger their ball-dominant players a little more. However, it sounds like the team will look to make it work with a starting five that features a pair of former MVPs in the backcourt alongside star forwards George and Leonard.

Harden had yet to play this season for Philadelphia prior to Wednesday’s blockbuster trade that sent him to Los Angeles, but 76ers head coach Nick Nurse and Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue both told reporters that the 34-year-old looked great in practices, so he wasn’t expected to require an extended ramp-up period.

The Clippers last played on Wednesday and are in the midst of four consecutive days off, giving them ample time to get Harden up to speed. The club’s other newcomer, P.J. Tucker, played nearly 21 minutes on Wednesday, about 12 hours after the trade was officially finalized.