Phil Jackson

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 ESPN.com’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.”

Carmelo Anthony Talks Phil Jackson, Trade, OKC

In advance of a Thursday night matchup against his old team, Carmelo Anthony spoke this week about the trade that sent him from the Knicks to the Thunder, with both Marc Stein of The New York Times and Fred Kerber of The New York Post passing along the forward’s thoughts. While Anthony says he holds “no grudge” against the Knicks, he acknowledges he wasn’t thrilled with the way Phil Jackson handled his situation earlier this year, calling Jackson’s behavior “hurtful.”

“I was always … going to put my trust in Phil,” Anthony said, per Kerber. “That diminished after a while. I’m out here doing everything I can, and I’m still getting stabbed in the back. I’m not trusting in that anymore. I’m trusting in these guys (teammates) that are out here. Whoever’s out here, this is who I’m dealing with.”

As Anthony explains to Stein, he had a nagging sense that Jackson was trying to force him out of New York, which dampened his devotion to the Knicks. Jackson – who was willing “to trade me for a bag of chips,” according to Carmelo – was eventually ousted as the club’s president of basketball operations. At that point, the Knicks went, in Anthony’s words, “from asking for peanuts to asking for steak” in trade talks.

With Jackson gone and Steve Mills and Scott Perry taking a harder line in trade negotiations, the odds of a deal with the Rockets declined. Still, Anthony felt that bridges had been burned in New York, and remained committed to finding a trade that worked.

“I think at that point it was too far gone,” Anthony said. “I already had in my mind that I wanted to win, that I wanted to move on. We didn’t think it would take as long as it did, but my mind was already made up.”

As for his eventual destination, Anthony admits to Stein that his 10-year-old son Kiran was among those who sold him on Oklahoma City as his new NBA home.

“My son has a basketball mind,” Anthony said. “So I will always throw little topics at him. He was like, ‘Dad, where you getting traded to?’ I told him, ‘I don’t know, where do you think I should go?’ He said: ‘You really want me to give you my opinion? I think you should go to OKC.'”

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, McDermott, Crabbe, Fultz

The last remnants of the Phil JacksonCarmelo Anthony feud were removed from New York with Anthony’s trade to Oklahoma City, writes Ian Begley of ESPN. Coach Jeff Hornacek calls the atmosphere “a new beginning,” and others expressed relief that the Anthony situation was resolved before the start of training camp. “Part of my job is to try to add some sense of calmness to what had been a little bit of a crazy environment that we’ve been going through,” said team president Steve Mills.

Now that the chaos that hung over the organization last season is gone, the Knicks must work to establish a new team identity. That figures to be built around third-year center Kristaps Porzingis, and Mills expressed confidence that the team can “make him feel good about being a Knick and make him feel good about the environment here.” That needs to happen quickly as Porzingis will be eligible for a long-term extension next summer.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Doug McDermott, who was acquired from the Thunder in the Anthony deal, will welcome a fresh opportunity in New York, his father, Creighton coach Greg McDermott, told Marc Berman of The New York Post. The 11th pick in the 2014 draft, the younger McDermott developed into a reliable reserve in Chicago, but saw his playing time cut after a deadline-day trade sent him to Oklahoma City. Greg McDermott said the adjustment wasn’t easy for his son. “It was difficult going into situation where you have to learn things on the fly,” he said. “Not only does the player have to learn the system and style, the coach has to learn about a player’s strengths and how best be utilized. It’s a hard to do at the end of February.”
  • The Nets plan to give Allen Crabbe whatever time he needs to recover from a sprained ankle, relays Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Crabbe was in a walking boot Thursday, but X-rays on the ankle turned out negative. With a revamped roster, Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson wants all of his players on the court to start building chemistry, but he understands the need to be cautious. “You’ve got to think 82 games. Honestly this is a setback,’’ Atkinson said. “Again, lack of continuity. You want to see him with different lineups … especially with a new player. So we’ll do the best we can showing him stuff. But it’s not the same.
  • Sixers rookie point guard Markelle Fultz won’t have to take on as much responsibility right away as Michael Carter-Williams did four seasons ago, according to Mike Sielski of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia has more talent and experience on its roster now to support Fultz as he gets accustomed to the rigors of NBA life.

Noah Admits Guilt Over Jackson’s Firing

Knicks big man Joakim Noah spoke out about his feelings of guilt regarding Phil Jackson‘s firing as team president, relays Marc Berman of The NY Post. Noah feels that his awful season in 2016/17 contributed to Jackson’s ouster.

“It’s tough, man, because I got a lot of love and respect for Phil,’’ Noah said. “He gave me an opportunity to play back home. Somebody I read all his books as a kid. I was just a big fan and still am. I have a lot of respect for him. It didn’t work out. That sucks. It’s something I have to live with. He believed in me, and I kind of let him down. That’s frustrating. He got a lot of blame that it was his fault. But we didn’t lose all those games because of Phil Jackson.’’

Noah also admitted that he lost his confidence last season and was not moving properly. He said that his drug suspension “hurt a lot of people” and that he has “to live with it the rest of his career.” 

Jackson lavished Noah with a whopping four-year, $72 million contract last offseason, but Noah’s first season at Madison Square Garden proved to be a nightmare. Jackson was fired in late June. The NBA veteran is now ready to put last season’s struggles behind him and be a model mentor to the team’s big men.

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Jackson, Smith Jr., Front Office Diversity

The Knicks recently exercised their team option to re-sign Kristaps Porzingis for 2018/19. However, if Phil Jackson were still calling the shots at Madison Square Garden, who’s to say what The Unicorn’s basketball future would look like, Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype writes.

According to Peter Vecsey, who received the first and to-date only quote from Jackson after his departure from the Knicks, Jackson was legitimately interested in trading Porzingis.

Vecsey said:  “People knew, they probably wouldn’t have accepted, but Phil was angling to try and trade Porzingis for the No. 1 pick to Boston and he would have taken [Lonzo] Ball. That’s who he was after. In the end, people might really like that.”

Vecsey adds that when Jackson began embarrassing Porzingis, owner James Dolan knew Jackson was no longer a suitable executive for the team.

Here are some more notes regarding the Knicks:

  • Prior to this year’s NBA draft, Dennis Smith Jr. dined with former team president Jackson and was encouraged to eat an octopus tentacle, relays Stefan Bondy of the NY Daily News. Although Smith reluctantly ate the exotic delicacy, the Knicks opted to draft Frank Ntilikina instead. Smith was selected by the Mavericks with the following pick. Smith was a standout performer at the NBA Las Vegas Summer League and has already inked a three-year endorsement deal with Under Armour.
  • Seventy years ago, the Knicks’ visionary coach Joe Lapchick pushed racial integration on a league that would merge with another to form the NBA three years later. Lapchick did so by fielding an all-black team that he pushed to have admitted to the league. Today, the Knicks are again at the vanguard of diversity, writes Harvey Araton of The New York Times. This time, New York is blazing trails in its front office, boasting the only African-American president-and-general-manager tandem in the NBA and proceeding to hire three more black front office executives in recent weeks.
  • For more news, notes, and rumors on the Knicks, be sure to check out their team page.

 

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