Kenny Payne

Knicks Notes: Randle, Payne, Mitchell, Anthony

The Knicks may want to find a taker for Julius Randle, but they haven’t been willing to part with any first-round picks in a potential trade, Fred Katz of The Athletic writes in his latest mailbag column.

Randle is about to enter the first season of the four-year, $117MM extension that he signed after receiving second-team All-NBA honors in 2020/21. That price tag makes it difficult to move him without some other assets attached. Randle is also coming off a disappointing season that featured not only a decline in production, but frequent battles with fans and the media. Katz notes that Randle finished last in effective field goal percentage last season among 112 players rated by Basketball-Reference, and the Knicks were worse by nearly 10 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court.

However, Katz believes Randle’s production was affected by the rest of the roster. Katz says New York had the worst point guard play late in the season of any team that wasn’t trying to tank, and the addition of Jalen Brunson, and possibly Donovan Mitchell, should have a positive effect on Randle.

There’s more from New York:

  • Former Knicks assistant Kenny Payne, now the head coach at Louisville, is credited with helping Randle become a star, but he may have been sending counterproductive messages last season, a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. While head coach Tom Thibodeau wanted Randle to share the ball more often, Payne was allegedly pumping up Randle’s ego and telling him he was still “the man.” Berman speculates that Randle would benefit from a deal for Mitchell, especially if the price includes Obi Toppin, whom Knicks fans often chanted for when Randle was on the court, and Evan Fournier, whom Randle clashed with in their first season as teammates.
  • The Knicks need to be careful that they don’t overpay Utah for Mitchell, argues Steve Popper of Newsday. He notes that although several other teams have expressed interest in Mitchell, nobody has been willing to meet Danny Ainge‘s asking price. Popper points out that the Knicks’ backcourt is already better than it was last season through the addition of Brunson and the return of Derrick Rose.
  • Carmelo Anthony has interest in returning to New York, where he played from 2011 to 2017, Jake Fischer said on his “Please Don’t Aggregate This” podcast. However, Fischer adds that the Knicks may not share Anthony’s desire for a reunion.

Knicks Notes: Payne, Coaching Staff, Mitchell, Quickley

Knicks assistant Kenny Payne went through several tearful goodbyes before leaving the team to become the head coach at Louisville, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Payne had close relationships with many players and front office members, and it wasn’t easy to let go.

“Over the last few days, (Knicks executive VP) William Wesley and (team president) Leon Rose and myself cried six, seven times a day for me to get out of there to come here,” Payne said Friday at his introductory news conference at Louisville. “So, this was not an easy deal for me to just walk in here.”

Payne was an assistant at Kentucky before joining Tom Thibodeau’s staff in 2020 and recruited Julius Randle to play for the Wildcats. Immanuel Quickley also played for Payne at Kentucky and calls him “Pops” because he’s like a second father.

“It’s bigger than basketball when it comes to K.P., and that’s why he’s so special,” Randle said. “And that’s why he has so many great relationships around the league with so many players because he’s gonna push you on the court, but everything he does is out of love.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Thibodeau has lost two of his top two assistants in two seasons, with Mike Woodson leaving last year to become head coach at Indiana University, Katz adds. Thibodeau didn’t indicate whether he plans to fill Payne’s position before the end of the season, but he did wish him well. “You’re always trying to work on developing (young coaches) knowing that there’s going to be opportunities for other guys to get head coaching jobs and that sort of thing,” Thibodeau said. “So if you hire good people you anticipate that those things will happen.”
  • Jazz star Donovan Mitchell will play his only game of the season at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, but many fans — and some front office members — are hoping he’ll eventually wear a Knicks jersey, per Steve Popper of Newsday. A source told Popper last month that Wesley would like to build the team around Mitchell, but acquiring him would be difficult even if Utah does eventually put him on the market. Mitchell still has three years and about $98MM left on his contract, and the Knicks don’t have a lot of tempting trade assets.
  • Quickley has adjusted to this season’s rule changes and has been getting to the foul line as often as he did as a rookie, Popper states in the same piece. Quickley was 9-for-9 on free throws Friday after going 7-for-8 Wednesday. “I’m watching a lot more film and just seeing how everybody else is getting calls,” he said. “You know, I had to adjust just like everybody else. I am not consciously trying, but if I see somebody out of position, I feel like I can get them, and then I’ll try and do that.”

Knicks Notes: Payne, Barrett, Kemba, Rose, Fournier

Knicks assistant Kenny Payne has officially been hired as the new head coach of the University of Louisville’s men’s basketball team, the program announced today in a press release. Payne received a six-year deal and will make $3.35MM annually, with his new contract going into effect on Monday, per Brett Dawson of The Louisville Courier-Journal.

During Payne’s introductory press conference on Friday, Louisville athletic director Josh Heird thanked Knicks management, noting that the team didn’t want to lose Payne but understood the hiring was “bigger than basketball” (Twitter link via Dawson).

Payne, meanwhile, said that he and Knicks executives Leon Rose and William Wesley have been crying “six, seven times a day” within the last little while about his decision to leave the team (Twitter link via Dawson).

“We are beyond thrilled for Kenny Payne that he will have the opportunity to coach his alma mater, Louisville,” Rose said in a statement issued today by the Knicks. “We wish him nothing but the best and thank him for his contributions over the past two seasons.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • With RJ Barrett set to become extension-eligible for the first time this offseason, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News wonders if the former No. 3 overall pick has earned maximum-salary consideration, or at least something close to it. For his part, Barrett said that getting a long-term commitment from the Knicks has long been a goal for him. “I’ve been trying to play my butt off and do everything out there to achieve that,” he said.
  • In addition to not seeing any more game action this season, Kemba Walker isn’t around the Knicks at all and isn’t working with team trainers, head coach Tom Thibodeau confirmed this week. A source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that Walker is doing some of his training in New York and some in his former home of Charlotte, where his mother still lives.
  • Derrick Rose (ankle) still hasn’t received clearance to practice, creating uncertainty about whether he’ll be back before the end of the regular season, Berman writes in the same New York Post story.
  • While Evan Fournier‘s first season in New York hasn’t been a huge success, the Frenchman is on track to set a franchise record, Berman observes in a separate New York Post article. With 201 made three-pointers this season and 13 games left to play, Fournier is just 17 threes away from passing John Starks and establishing a new single-season Knicks record.

New York Notes: Dragic, Irving, Thibodeau, Payne

With James Harden traded away and Kyrie Irving unavailable for most of their remaining games, the Nets were able to stabilize their backcourt by signing Goran Dragic, who had been inactive for most of the season, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Dragic, who hadn’t played since November 13, signed with Brooklyn following a buyout with the Raptors. He quickly got into game shape and moved into the rotation.

“Physically I’m good. So I got in shape in one week; it’s crazy,” Dragic said. “The last game (Sunday against the Knicks) I played 38 minutes. I even talked to (coach Steve Nash) and tell him ‘Steve, that’s too much.’ But he’s like ‘Yeah, we don’t have nobody else, a couple of guys are hurt.’ So, do whatever it takes for the team. I still have to have to catch my rhythm, but I’m just happy to be out there and to help and try to organize everybody and put the right situation and try to make it easier.”

Nash was hoping to ease Dragic into the lineup, but circumstances have dictated otherwise. Seth Curry and Cam Thomas are both dealing with injuries that forced them to miss tonight’s game and Irving will only be eligible for three more games during the regular season, so there’s not much choice but to rely on Dragic.

“We’d like to keep him in a range though that is a little more reasonable, especially in some of these stretches where he’s playing four in six nights,” Nash said. “It’s not easy to throw him out there after having three or four months without playing and play over 35 minutes consistently, so we’ve got to try to protect him if we can. But we’re in a little bit of desperation here with guards out of the lineup.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Nets fans hoping that New York City’s vaccine mandate might be lifted soon, allowing Irving to participate in home games, were let down today by Mayor Eric Adams, per Kevin Sheehen, Bernadette Hogan and Sam Raskin of The New York Post“I’m focused on 9 million people,” Adams said. “And so, I am not looking at one person, I’m looking at my city not closing down again, not having to deal with this crisis again.”
  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau brushed aside speculation about his future with the team during tonight’s pre-game session with the media, tweets Marc Berman of The New York Post“I don’t worry about any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said in response to a report this morning that he’s likely to return next season. In a column that ran today, Berman supports keeping Thibodeau, arguing that a coaching change wouldn’t solve the team’s biggest problems.
  • Knicks assistant Kenny Payne will be hired Friday as the new head coach at the University of Louisville, sources tell Jeff Borzello of ESPN.

Knicks Expected To Retain Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau is expected to remain the Knicks’ head coach beyond this season, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reports.

There has been rampant speculation regarding Thibodeau’s status during the team’s disappointing season.

There’s been some internal support to move on from Thibodeau and owner James Dolan had granted the front office permission to decide whether he remains the head coach, according to Fischer’s sources.

However, president of basketball operations Leon Rose has no plans to make a change — Fischer notes that Rose and Thibodeau been trusted allies since the hiring process in 2020. The Knicks interviewed 11 candidates before picking the former Bulls and Timberwolves head coach.

Thibodeau has three years left on his five-year contract.

Reports surfaced last month that Knicks exec William Wesley blamed the team’s ills on the head coach. However, Thibodeau has maintained a good relationship with Dolan, speaking with the owner following each game and often visiting the owner’s box.

While Rose is reclusive, rarely speaking to the media, Thibodeau has emerged as the team’s official spokesperson. That has helped his cause, Fischer adds.

There’s also no obvious veteran choice in the market to replace Thibodeau and the front office isn’t convinced associate head coach Johnnie Bryant would be a better option. Another current assistant, Kenny Payne, is a candidate to leave New York for Louisville’s head coaching job.

New York Notes: Simmons, Durant, Payne, Sims

A pair of outside orthopedic specialists who spoke to Brian Lewis of The New York Post expressed skepticism that Ben Simmons will play for the Nets this season due to his ongoing back issues. However, head coach Steve Nash remains confident that Simmons will return, telling reporters on Tuesday that he has “extremely high hopes” about seeing the three-time All-Star before the end of the regular season.

“He’s just doing his rehab, strengthening,” Nash said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “We’re still doing that side of things rather than court work right now.

“… The biggest thing we’ve tried to do is to have him be involved in everything. The traveling is the one caveat where sometimes you’re weighing the cost-benefit of him on airplanes and buses and different beds. When he’s with us we want him in every meeting, in every walkthrough, in every film session, whatever it may be so he’s around the group. We’d love for him to travel, be with the team all the time, but we have to weigh that scenario as well.”

The Nets have just 14 games left on their regular season schedule, and presumably would be reluctant to bring back Simmons in the middle for a play-in game of in the middle of the playoff series if he hasn’t gotten at least a few regular season reps under his belt.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Nets star Kevin Durant missed too much time this season to be a legitimate MVP candidate, but John Hollinger of The Athletic believes Durant could be the league’s current “Most Dangerous Player” — in other words, the player opponents fear most in a short-term situation like a fourth quarter or playoff series.
  • The University of Louisville appears to be zeroing in on Knicks assistant Kenny Payne as its top head coaching candidate, sources tell Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated. Forde cautions that nothing is definite yet, but says if talks between the two sides go well, Louisville could announce a deal with Payne before the end of the week.
  • With the Knicks leaning more on rookie center Jericho Sims as of late, Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post suggests that the possibility of losing big man Mitchell Robinson in free agency this offseason might be more palatable than it initially appeared. After appearing in just 18 of New York’s first 59 games and averaging 6.5 minutes per contest, Sims has played in the team’s last nine contests, logging 13.9 MPG. He had arguably his best game in Sunday’s loss to Brooklyn, scoring six points on 3-of-3 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds in a season-high 23 minutes.

Knicks Notes: Reddish, Grimes, Payne, Brunson

The Knicks were willing to give up a first-round pick for Cam Reddish, but he hasn’t seen much playing time in his first two weeks with the team, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Reddish got another DNP Friday night in Milwaukee and has appeared in just two games as coach Tom Thibodeau has followed through on his statement that Reddish will have to earn his minutes.

“We like who (Reddish) is. We like the talent. And right now — it’s a long season,” Thibodeau said. “We traded someone who wasn’t in the rotation, so you can’t keep adding to it without taking someone out. We can have injuries, so just have to be patient and work our way through it.”

Bondy states that although Thibodeau works closely with team president Leon Rose, the Reddish deal seems to be the latest instance where they have different views of a player’s value. Bondy adds that Reddish’s situation may not change for the rest of the season unless the team makes another trade by next week’s deadline.

There’s more from New York:

  • An easy way to shake up the Knicks is to move rookie guard Quentin Grimes into the starting lineup, suggests Steve Popper of Newsday. Popper notes that Grimes is the team’s best three-point shooter at 40.3%, he’s better defensively than starting guards Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, and he plays with the toughness that Thibodeau likes. “If a rookie can play you’re going to see it right away,” Thibodeau said of Grimes. “Each time he goes through the league he’s going to pick up more and get to know the players better and the teams better. The anticipation factor and experience factor get into it more. There is trial and error. The second time around he’s been really really good.”
  • Knicks assistant Kenny Payne is considered the favorite to become the next head coach at Louisville, Popper adds in the same piece. Payne played for the Cardinals and spent 10 years as an assistant with Kentucky before coming to the NBA.
  • The Knicks have “touched base” with the Mavericks about guard Jalen Brunson, Ian Begley of said on a recent podcast (hat tip to Grant Afseth of According to Begley, there’s a team that plans to offer Brunson more than $20MM a year in free agency this summer, which might make Dallas more willing to part with him.

Knicks Notes: Robinson, Drummond, Free Agents, Payne

Knicks players were crushed to learn that center Mitchell Robinson suffered another serious injury Saturday night, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Playing his second game back in the starting lineup, the third-year center got hurt midway through the first quarter when he tried for a steal attempt. Robinson landed awkwardly and wound up with a fracture in his right root. The Knicks announced the injury to the public, but didn’t tell the players until after the game.

“He worked so hard to get back,” RJ Barrett said. “To see him go down again, it hurts us, hurts the team. But we’re just — we’re gonna be with him every step of the way until he gets back.”

The timing is particularly bad for New York, coming on the same night that word leaked that LaMarcus Aldridge plans to signs with the Nets and Andre Drummond appears headed to the Lakers. The Knicks have cap room to use on the buyout market, but the two biggest names are already likely committed.

“He’ll be fine,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of Robinson. “He’ll have to go through rehab and stuff, but he’s been through that before, and just maximize his time that way. But you feel for a teammate. It’s part of the game, and you have to deal with it as best you can.”

There’s more from New York:

  • “One or two prominent voices” in the Knicks’ front office were in favor of pursuing Drummond before the organization cooled on the idea, according to Ian Begley of (Twitter link). He adds that the team had been hoping to use the rest of the season to evaluate how Robinson fits in Thibodeau’s system. If New York picks up Robinson’s $1.8MM team option for 2021/22, it would put him on track for unrestricted free agency in ’22. Begley states that Gorgui Dieng, Norvel Pelle and John Henson could be potential low-cost pickups for the Knicks, who have an open roster spot.
  • Assistant coach Kenny Payne will remain in New York, even though DePaul had strong interest in making him its next head coach, Begley tweets.
  • The Knicks were quiet at the trade deadline while teams around them in the standings made big moves, notes Steve Popper of Newsday. The organization has adopted a strategy of preserving its assets for the future, rather than gambling to make a playoff run this year.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Randle, Johnson, Payne

34-year-old Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is hoping to ink at least a two-year, $50MM contract this summer, no matter where he lands after the trade deadline, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Heat and the Sixers, at present, are the two clubs most often connected to Lowry in trade chatter. Though Lowry is not eligible for an in-season contract extension, he may be hoping for a wink-wink understanding from whichever team deals for him. Nothing could be officially agreed upon until free agency commences this summer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that the Raptors are engaged in potential trade conversations for both Lowry and Toronto shooting guard Norman Powell, and that these chats may last up till the Thursday trade deadline. Woj adds that the 76ers are looking at other guard options beyond Lowry or Powell, including Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball and injured Thunder guard George Hill.

The Raptors, losers of nine straight, appear fairly set on dealing Powell, rival team executives have relayed to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (via Twitter). Powell has an $11.6MM player option for the 2021/22 season that he has outperformed with his play this season.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • At the end of a 101-100 overtime defeat to the Sixers, Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle got into a verbal altercation with a referee. The league fined Randle $15K for the incident, according to an official NBA press release.
  • Nets reserve guard Tyler Johnson could see expanded minutes with All-Star guard Kyrie Irving and role-playing guards Landry Shamet and Spencer Dinwiddie all unavailable, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. All-Star guard James Harden, who was listed as questionable by Lewis with a neck injury, is playing through it to thrilling effect tonight against the Trail Blazers, per Malika Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link). “[Head coach Steve Nash] and I haven’t really talked about minutes per se, but it’s a game-to-game basis,” Johnson said earlier this evening. “I think right now during this little stretch while we’ve got some guys out, we don’t fully know what it is we’re going to do right away.
  • Knicks assistant coach Kenny Payne could be a leading contender for the newly-vacant DePaul University men’s basketball head coaching gig, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. “I think all my staff is terrific and they’ll be recognized,” head coach Tom Thibodeau raved. “So anytime someone has an opportunity to advance we’ll certainly allow them to interview.” Popper adds that Payne is not the only Knicks assistant coach up for a potential new opportunity as a college head coach, as Johnnie Bryant may be under consideration as Utah’s new head coach, and Mike Woodson may be up for the opening in Indiana.

Atlantic Notes: Payne, Anunoby, Ibaka, Watson, Sixers

When the Knicks hired Kenny Payne away from Kentucky this week, it represented another instance of new executives Leon Rose and William Wesley bringing aboard someone with whom they have a preexisting relationship. However, Kentucky head coach John Calipari tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News that Payne was very capable of making the leap to the NBA with or without those connections.

“You got to understand, he’s been invited to four different NBA teams where they had their summer camp and did stuff and won there,” Calipari said of his longtime assistant. “And why do you think they’re bringing him there? Trying to feel him out. They want to see him teach, they want to see him interact. And those were some of the top franchises out there. I knew why they were doing it. And because we were paying him so much, none of them thought he would leave (Kentucky) to go to the Knicks. Now they’re pissed that they didn’t bring him in. …There were other franchises that would’ve (hired him).”

While Calipari may be right that other teams would have liked to hire Payne before New York did, it’s not clear whether those clubs would’ve been willing to pay the price necessary to bring him aboard. According to Bondy (Twitter link), Payne will earn over $1.5MM with the Knicks, making him one of the NBA’s highest-paid assistants.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Two of the Raptors‘ key rotation players, OG Anunoby (right knee soreness) and Serge Ibaka (right knee contusion), sat out again on Friday, but MRIs on their knees came back clean and head coach Nick Nurse believes both players will be ready to go when the playoffs begin on Monday, per Josh Lewenberg of (Twitter link).
  • Raptors two-way player Paul Watson has had a chance to get some playing time in Orlando and took advantage in the team’s final seeding game on Friday, pouring in 22 points in 27 minutes and impressing Nurse.He’s pretty good. He can play,” Nurse said of Watson (Twitter link via Blake Murphy of The Athletic). “… He’s gonna be part of our future from what I can see so far.”
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer wonders if Ben Simmons‘ absence in the playoffs might give the Sixers an opportunity to answer some nagging questions about their roster. Even if Philadelphia is eliminated quickly, the team will get a chance to see what it looks like when it leans primarily on Joel Embiid rather than balancing its two stars, O’Connor writes.