Phil Jackson

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Knicks, Brown, Crabbe

The Sixers need to make some hard decisions this offseason on where top pick Markelle Fultz fits into their future plans, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer argues. Now that they’ve established themselves as a playoff team, they have to decide how to get as deep as possible in future seasons with Fultz playing a bigger role. If Fultz isn’t a playoff-caliber two-guard by this time next year, the dream of a championship season could be dashed, Murphy continues. Ideally. Fultz will soon establish himself as a legitimate third option but they have guard against the possibility it never happens, Murphy adds.

In other news and musings around the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry have taken a much more thorough, well-thought-out approach to their coaching search, unlike predecessor Phil Jackson, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. The amount of candidates interviewed has reached double digits and the duo has traveled across the country and over the Atlantic Ocean in order to find the right fit, Berman continues. They don’t pretend to know everything and that’s a stark contrast to Jackson, who stopped listening and learning, according to Berman.
  • Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown vows to play Game 2 of the series against the Sixers on Thursday, as he told A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports. Brown, who was a game-time decision in the opener, is nursing a right hamstring injury. “I’ll be back. I’m playing,” he told Blakely, though he added, “I’m basically trying to come back in two days from a two-week type injury.”
  • Nets guard Allen Crabbe promises to improve his efficiency and production in his second season with the club, according to Crabbe averaged a career-best 13.2 PPG and set the team record for most 3-pointers made, but his long-range percentage dropped from 44.4% to 37.8%. “I didn’t have the consistent season I wanted to have,” Crabbe said. “But I got one year under my belt [in Brooklyn] and I know where I can be effective on this team and what I can bring – what I can do. Just go into off-season and come back a completely different player.”

James Dolan Talks Porzingis, Jackson, Hornacek

Kristaps Porzingis‘ recovery timeline following his ACL surgery remains somewhat unclear, but he almost certainly won’t be ready to start the 2018/19 season, and his absence could extend far beyond opening night. Speaking to Larry Brooks of The New York Post, Knicks owner James Dolan admitted that he still doesn’t have a clear idea of when Porzingis might be ready to return.

“I’ve been told everything from December to him being out for the season, so I don’t know what to expect on that,” Dolan said. “But we can’t just sit on our ass while he’s away. We need to develop a team and then integrate him into it when he comes back.”

With the Knicks facing a big offseason that will see them name a new head coach and make the necessary roster moves to move forward in their rebuilding process, Dolan spoke to Brooks about a number of topics. While he touched on the team’s plan going forward, the Knicks owner also revisited the past, discussing a pair of former Knicks employees in Phil Jackson and Jeff Hornacek.

Here are a few of the most notable comments from Dolan:

On hiring – and eventually firing – Jackson as president of basketball operations:

“The entire market wanted to me to hire him and when I did, the entire market said it was a great move. The only thing was, everyone said that I shouldn’t interfere with him. Three years later, everyone wanted to know when I was going to do something about Phil. The same people who told me not to interfere wanted me to interfere. But that’s OK. I just think that Phil underestimated the job.”

On why Hornacek was fired:

“I think Hornacek had the same kind of issue that Phil did in that he didn’t grasp how different the players are now in the way they think and deal with management and the coaches. I think he was way behind on that. But I think Jeff is a good coach and he’ll do well when he’s hired by another team.”

On the Knicks’ current coaching search:

“The coaching search for the Knicks is similar in a lot of ways to the (NHL’s New York) Rangers. I think the teams are in similar spots. We’re looking for people to develop players and to create a winning team. We have our lists of candidates, but the lists are still open.”

Atlantic Notes: Okafor, Jackson, Mills, Covington

The Nets led the Wizards by 40 points at one point in Friday’s win in Brooklyn but recently acquired big man Jahlil Okafor never left the bench. Okafor only played in two games with the Sixers before he was traded to the Nets. The team will not deviate from their plan of using Okafor until he’s in optimal physical shape, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.

The Barclays Center fans chanted “We Want Okafor!” in the late stages of the game. Head coach Kenny Atkinson said it was tempting to send Okafor into the game but the team’s plans for Okafor are long-term.

“Yeah, I heard it, and I respect the fans and I understand they want to see him,” Atkinson said. “I think we’ve stated from the beginning there’s a plan for him. We’re going to stick with the plan. It was tempting, but again I think we want to put him in the best position to succeed. So we’re going to stick with the plan. I think that’s a little more down the line.”

Okafor, 22, has appeared in just one game with Brooklyn since the trade, posting 10 points and four rebounds in a loss to the Raptors on December 15.  General manager Sean Marks has not given a definitive date on when Okafor should be in shape but estimated the former third overall pick is possibly two weeks away from regular playing time.

Check out other news from the Atlantic Division below:

Knicks Rumors: Carmelo, P. Jackson, Porzingis

After a year of non-stop drama, there’s an air of optimism and hopefulness surrounding the Knicks that was noticeably absent during last season’s Phil Jackson vs. Carmelo Anthony standoff, writes Ian Begley of ESPN. While the Knicks have had played well, with a 16-14 record so far, their on-court success isn’t the only thing contributing to the positive mood within the organization, as one team source tells Begley.

“Everyone just seems a little lighter,” the source said. “The drama Phil created with Carmelo really affected the team and the joy factor.”

In an in-depth piece for ESPN, Begley revisits that Jackson-and-Anthony saga, highlighting some of the incidents and confrontations that ultimately led to both men leaving the franchise. Begley’s feature is worth checking out in full, especially for Knicks fans, but here are a few highlights:

  • Some members of the organization knew back in summer 2015 that they wanted to trade Anthony, and by the following year, that sentiment was shared by virtually all of the Knicks‘ top decision-makers, says Begley. “The feeling in meetings was almost unanimous: They felt he just wasn’t a winning player,” one source said. “They thought they could turn everything around if they just moved him.” Anthony was aware of this stance, despite some of those execs insisting they were still on his side, which was a big reason why he soured on the organization.
  • Jackson regularly interrupted Knicks practices and overrode Jeff Hornacek‘s instructions to ensure that the triangle offense was being implemented properly, despite two veteran players telling him directly that the system wasn’t working, per Begley.
  • Jackson presided over mindfulness meditation training with the Knicks during his last year in New York, as he had done with his previous teams. However, some Knicks players didn’t take it seriously — during the final sessions, Anthony would sometimes pretend to be asleep when Jackson told the players to open their eyes, witnesses told Begley.
  • During a March 12 loss to the Nets last season, Anthony and assistant Kurt Rambis blew up at each other during halftime. Anthony told Rambis that “this place is a f—ing joke,” and Rambis questioned Carmelo’s effort (in equally colorful language), according to Begley.
  • After Kristaps Porzingis skipped his exit meeting in the spring, Jackson discussed possible trades involving the young big man. While those discussions were framed by some as Jackson teaching Porzingis a lesson, there were members of the front office in favor of moving the Latvian at the time, sources tell Begley.
  • For a portion of the summer, Anthony strongly believed that he’d end up in Houston, expressing a belief that LeBron James would eventually join him and Chris Paul on the Rockets. Although the Rockets tried to make a deal, discussing one three-team iteration that would’ve involved Jabari Parker and the Bucks, it ultimately didn’t work out, resulting in the trade that sent Carmelo to the Thunder.

New York Notes: Baker, Mozgov, Hardaway Jr.

After emerging as one of the few bright spots on a chaotic Knicks team last season, Ron Baker‘s role has shrunk dramatically of late. As Marc Berman of the New York Post writes, after starting the season sluggishly, head coach Jeff Hornacek has run with Jarrett Jack and Frank Ntilikina at the point guard position.

Baker famously landed an $8MM, two-year contract over the course of the summer after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Last year, his rookie campaign with the Knicks, Baker averaged 4.1 points and 2.1 assists per game.

While Hornacek seems to have an affinity for Baker due to their similar college backgrounds, the 24-year-old Knicks guard hasn’t seen on-court action since October 24.

There’s more from New York this evening:

  • The Knicks knew that they needed to go big if they wanted to submit an offer sheet for Tim Hardaway Jr. that the Hawks wouldn’t just match, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. At the end of the day, Atlanta’s supposed threshold for matching was significantly lower than the $71MM that he signed for.
  • The Nets are making a concerted effort to rest Timofey Mozgov after a busy offseason, a Nets Daily report states. Mozgov, who played 20 games with Team Russia this summer, has sat out of action since November 14.
  • Former pupil Steve Kerr defended some of Phil Jackson‘s executive decisions, Anthony Rieber of NewsDay writes. The Warriors head coach pointed out that his former Bulls coach was wise to draft Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina during his tenure with the Knicks, giving him credit for hiring Jeff Hornacek as well.

Knicks Notes: Beasley, Hardaway, Hornacek, Playoff Odds

Michael Beasley got a chance to show he can still contribute Friday night as he produced 10 points and six rebounds in the fourth quarter, but performances like that have been rare since he joined the Knicks, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Beasley has appeared in 11 of the team’s 15 games and is seeing just 13 minutes per night. His averages of 5.4 points and 2.7 rebounds are the lowest of his career.

“I think everybody wishes they played more — except the guys playing 45 minutes a night,’’ Beasley said. “But I’m not here to say what I need or want personally. Whatever the team needs. If they need me to play 40 minutes, I’ll play it. If they want me to clap on the bench, I’ll do it.”

Beasley, who signed for the veterans’ minimum in August, had his name floated as a waiver possibility when Joakim Noah returned from his suspension this week. The Knicks decided to part with Mindaugas Kuzminskas instead. Playing time may be an issue for Beasley all season, as New York is emphasizing defense and Lance Thomas is excelling on that end of the court.

There’s more tonight out of New York:

  • Tim Hardaway Jr. has been dealing with pain in his left foot since Wednesday, Berman relays in a separate story. The Knicks’ top free agent addition of the summer played through the problem Friday before being forced to leave with three minutes left. He isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for the team’s next game Monday. “It’s been lingering the last 36 hours,’’ Hardaway said. “When I woke up Thursday, it’s just nagging pain. Normally I like to play through it [with] no excuses. I try to grind it out. I wasn’t feeling good so I came out and make sure it’s OK. It’s all good.’’
  • The Knicks early-season success stems from the freedom coach Jeff Hornacek has with Phil Jackson no longer around, notes Al Iannazzone of Newsday. After the former team president was fired over the summer, there was no longer an emphasis on the triangle, allowing Hornacek to implement a faster, more free-wheeling offense. Iannazzone adds that Hornacek was allowed to mix his offense with the triangle at the start of last season, but around the All-Star break he was ordered to use the triangle exclusively. “He’s running his own stuff without anybody coming in and telling him what to do or how to do it,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “I think from the top down you can feel that there’s more confidence in what we’re doing.”
  • Hornacek is getting credit throughout the league for the Knicks’ improvement, relays Ian Begley of ESPN. Despite an 8-7 start, New York remains a long shot to end its playoff drought. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives the Knicks just a 12.7% chance of making the postseason.

Knicks Notes: Hardaway Jr., Ntilikina, Hornacek

The Knicks may have been onto something with Tim Hardaway Jr. all along. As Marc Berman of the New York Post writes, the shooting guard, whose four-year, $71MM contract was ridiculed at the time of signing, is starting to live up to his lofty contract.

Over the course of the past nine games, the 25-year-old has averaged 20.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Now, as Newsday’s Barbara Barker writes in her own feature, the swingman is stepping up as a valuable No. 2 option for the Knicks behind Kristaps Porzingis.

While the deal was initially panned when it was announced, Berman reasons that Steve Mills and the Knicks’ front office, leery of losing out on another coveted free agent, had to offer a big enough deal to discourage the Hawks from matching.

There’s more Knicks news today:

  • First-year point guard Frank Ntilikina has thrived for the Knicks on both ends of the ball. His impact thus far into his rookie campaign has been beyond what most predicted, Ian Begley of ESPN writes. “It’s great that a young guy comes into this league with more defensive principles than the offensive principles,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It’s hard to teach.”
  • The Knicks have more confidence in their offense now that Jeff Hornacek has been cleared to run his own plays, ESPN’s Ian Begley writes. “Our guys are feeling comfortable with what we’re running,” the coach said. “We’re going to get better at that. It’s a style most of those guys like to play. It makes it easier for them.
  • With Phil Jackson out of the picture, the Knicks’ front office is easing tension with Janis Porzingis. Marc Berman of the New York Post writes that the brother of Kristaps Porzingis, who also serves as the star’s agent, was recently seen amiably chatting with team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry.

Atlantic Rumors: Johnson, LeBron, Stauskas, Raptors

Sixers veteran big man Amir Johnson isn’t pouting about sitting out the team’s loss to the Warriors on Saturday, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Johnson, who signed a one-year, $11MM contract in the offseason, was actually appreciative that coach Brett Brown forewarned him that he would not play for the first time this season.  “I can’t do anything but respect having a coach come up to you and letting you know when you are going to get ready,” Johnson told Pompey. “With me being a vet, I always stay ready.” Johnson and Richaun Holmes are sharing time as center Joel Embiid‘s backups. Johnson isn’t concerned how his lack of playing time could impact him in the free agent market next summer, Pompey adds.

In other news around the Atlantic Division:

  • Cavaliers forward LeBron James wasn’t criticizing rookie guard Frank Ntilikina but rather taking a potshot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson with his comments regarding Mavs rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr., according to’s Dave McMenamin. James said over the weekend that Smith “should be a Knick,” referring to Smith going one pick after the Knicks selected Ntilikina. James clarified his remarks on Monday, emphasizing he didn’t mean to disparage Ntilikina’s ability. Ntilikina still apparently took offense to James’ comments, giving the perennial All-Star a shove during their teams’ game on Monday night, the Associated Press’ Brian Mahoney tweets.
  • The Sixers will be without backup guard Nik Stauskas for at least a week. He’s out with a sprained right ankle, Pompey tweets, and will be reevaluated in 7-10 days. That leave the Sixers a little thin in the backcourt. Jerryd Bayless is out indefinitely with a wrist injury.
  • The Raptors’ offensive issues have led to poor transition defense, as Doug Smith of the Toronto Star notes. The Raptors have made just 33.5% of their 3-point attempts while hoisting up an average of 31.1 per game. That leads to long rebounds and poor floor balance, a major reason why the Raptors rank 27th by allowing an average of 13.4 fast-break points per game, Smith adds.

Knicks Would Have Pushed For George Hill If Not For Jackson’s Ouster

When they host the Kings on Saturday, the Knicks will get a first-hand look at a point guard who they may very well have signed if not for the front office overhaul in New York. Former Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson had made George Hill his top free agent target before he was ousted, a league source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post.

According to Berman’s source, Jackson believed Hill would be capable of mastering the triangle offense, and would serve as an excellent mentor for rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina. Hill, who is friends with Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah, was prepared to discuss contract terms with the Knicks on July 1, Berman writes. With Steve Mills running the show in Jackson’s place by that point though, the club’s interest in Hill was minimal.

At this point, the Knicks’ offseason interest in Hill under Jackson isn’t all that relevant, but it makes for a fascinating “what-if,” since it would have set off a chain reaction that impacted other free agents. Hill ultimately signed a three-year deal worth $57MM with the Kings. If he had received a competitive offer in that range from the Knicks, the team would have almost certainly been out of the running for Tim Hardaway Jr., who may have ended up accepting a more modest contract offer to return to Atlanta.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that Scott Perry, the Knicks’ current general manager, was with Sacramento when the Kings signed Hill. If he had joined the Knicks immediately after Jackson’s dismissal, perhaps New York would have gone just as hard after Hill as Jackson intended to. Perry was hired by the Knicks in mid-July.

As it stands, the Knicks can make the case that they made the right decision in pursuing Hardaway over Hill. Even though Hardaway’s contract was widely panned and may still prove to be a misguided investment, he’s probably a better fit for the Knicks right now than Hill. Jarrett Jack has performed well as Ntilikina’s mentor at point guard, and has done so on a much more affordable contract than Hill’s. Meanwhile, Hill’s 7.8 PPG and .406 FG% in the early going with the Kings are his worst marks since his rookie season in 2008/09.

Knicks Rumors: Jack, Porzingis, McDermott

Knicks starting point guard Jarrett Jack feels pressure to remain productive because he doesn’t have a guaranteed contract, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports. New York has won five of its last six, coinciding with Jack replacing Ramon Sessions in the lineup. Jack’s $2.33MM contract doesn’t become guaranteed until January 10th, so he can’t become complacent, as he told Bondy. “It keeps you on your toes, forces you to stay sharp – knowing you can’t take any day or any situation for granted,” Jack said. “I know a lot of the owners would love to have it that way in the collective bargaining agreement.” The Knicks will have to make a roster move when Joakim Noah‘s PED suspension ends on November 13th in order to retain Jack in the short run. Trading Kyle O’Quinn or Willy Hernangomez is a possibility, according to Bondy. They could also eat a guaranteed contract, with Sessions, Michael Beasley and Mindaugas Kuzminskas as the likely candidates in that scenario, Bondy adds.

In other news concerning the Knicks:

  • Kristaps Porzingis admits that former team president Phil Jackson’s comments about his readiness to be a franchise player motivates him, as he told ESPN’s Ian Begley and other media members. Jackson said in his postseason press conference last spring that Porzingis wasn’t ready for that role or to be the featured player on offense. Porzingis is currently the league’s second-leading scorer at 30.2 PPG. “The challenge is never too big for me,” Porzingis said. “I always accept the challenge and that’s why I knew coming into this season [if Carmelo Anthony] was not going to be here, then I’m going to have to be that guy and that’s why I was just [spending] 24 hours in the gym. I was preparing for this, preparing myself physically, and I’m just happy that I’m capable of playing at this level right now.”
  • Doug McDermott anticipated he would fit into coach Jeff Hornacek’s up-tempo offense when the team acquired him from the Thunder in the Anthony trade, Alex Squadron of the New York Post writes. McDermott has settled into his role as an offensive sparkplug, averaging 7.0 PPG and 1.6 APG in 20.0 MPG while shooting 49% from the field. “I’m just accepting it right now, coming off the bench,” McDermott told Squadron. “Playing that 20 minutes per game. Just coming in, being aggressive. They want me to be aggressive scoring the ball.”