Tom Thibodeau

Thibodeau: Randle “Fresh And Ready” For Camp

Julius Randle will be “ready to go” in training camp after undergoing offseason ankle surgery, head coach Tom Thibodeau told Steve Aschburner of

Randle had arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle in early June. Randle was nagged by an ankle ailment late in the regular season and the postseason.

“Just steady progress. He’s had a very good offseason,” Thibodeau said of Randle. “He’ll be fresh and ready to go.”

Thibodeau touched on several other topics in the interview with Aschburner:

  • Thibodeau is glad that Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart played for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup and hopes that experience will help them during the upcoming Knicks season: “I think it’s great for younger guys when you look at the history with the Olympics, the World Cup and Team USA. When Derrick Rose came back, that year he won the MVP. He was 22 years old. The fact that it’s a different style, I like that too, because you’re adapting. You can learn from playing that way and playing against international players. It allows you to hit the ground running in training camp, too.”
  • The veteran head coach gives the front office high marks for targeting Donte DiVincenzo in free agency. The Knicks signed him to a four-year deal. “Adding Donte is great for us. He’s a great team guy and he’ll fit in seamlessly.”
  • Thibodeau believes he’s a much different coach than he was in Chicago at the start of his head coaching career during the 2010/11 season: “In the ‘90s, a wing pick-and-roll was played basically one way. Now there’s spacing, there are slips and go-screens. You have to adapt to how the game is changing. And defensively, you understand what’s hard to guard, so you implement that into your offense.”

And-Ones: Title Threats, Ennis, Storylines, Top Coaches

Which team is the Nuggets’ biggest impediment to a second straight title? ESPN’s panel of experts believes the Bucks, Warriors, Suns and Celtics are all potential threats to a Denver repeat. As for just making the playoffs, the Mavericks, Bulls, Timberwolves and Pelicans are among a group of teams that can’t afford to fall short of postseason participation or else risk major rebuilds or superstar demands for trades.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard Tyler Ennis has signed with Italy’s Gevi Napoli Basket, according to a team press release. A first-round pick in 2014, Ennis has not played in the NBA since the 2017/18 season, when he appeared in 54 Lakers games. In recent years, Ennis has played mainly in Turkey. He also had a stint with the Raptors’ G League team.
  • The trade demands of James Harden and Damian Lillard, along with Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s future with the Bucks, are some of the storylines that will be closely followed this NBA season, The Athletic’s Sam Amick writes.
  • Who are the top five coaches in the NBA? Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times tackles that subject, ranking the Heat‘s Erik Spoelstra and the Spurs Gregg Popovich first and second. The third choice may surprise some people. Cowley rates the Knicks Tom Thibodeau at that spot due to his ability to take downtrodden franchises and make them playoff teams.

Atlantic Notes: Mazzulla, Bridges, Thibodeau, Rajaković

Despite moving 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and key reserve forward Grant Williams in separate summer trades, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla intends to employ similar defensive principles in 2023/24, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

Himmelsbach adds that newly acquired big man Kristaps Porzingis has always been a solid defender around the rim, and can aid Boston at that end of the floor, too.

“With Marcus gone, we don’t want our defensive identity to go out the door as well, so we have to really emphasize that at the start of training camp,” Mazzulla said. “I think what Kristaps can bring to us defensively, and the additions some of our other guys can bring to us defensively, I want to make sure that’s where we hang our hats this year.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • As the Nets’ No. 1 option, small forward Mikal Bridges is striving to hone his play-making this offseason, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscriber link). “Yeah, you could do [drills] … but it’s more of a mindset, and having that mindset coming in and watching film,” Bridges said of how he intended to improve. “That’s the biggest thing, to have that mindset of playmaking.”
  • The 2023/24 Knicks roster has been constructed with an eye towards the preferences of head coach Tom Thibodeau, under whom the team has had its most success in years, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Braziller notes that the trade addition of Josh Hart and the signing of Donte DiVincenzo, two defensively versatile wings, plus the subtractions of talented-but-raw forwards Cam Reddish and Obi Toppin, all seem to be in line with Thibodeau’s ethos to team-building.
  • In an interview with Sportski zurnal (as translated by Eurohoops), new Raptors head coach Darko Rajaković explained how he has always had major goals in mind with regard to his coaching career. “Since the beginning of my coaching career, I have always been very ambitious, but at the same time I knew that a coaching career is not a 100-meter race, but a long marathon,” Rajaković said. “I have only just run half a marathon, I still have a long way to go. I am currently in my 27th year of coaching. of work and I hope that I will stay in coaching for as long as possible. I’m enjoying it and it’s nice.”

Atlantic Notes: Reed, Simmons, Thibodeau, Keels

Paul Reed said that he didn’t expect the Sixers to match the offer sheet he received from the Jazz earlier this month, per Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire.

The three-year, $23MM contract was designed to be more onerous for Philadelphia than Utah because it puts the Sixers in danger of exceeding the luxury tax threshold and the final two years become guaranteed if Reed’s team advances past the first round of the playoffs. President of basketball operations Daryl Morey decided the gamble was worth it to hold onto a promising young talent like Reed.

“I didn’t know what was gonna happen to be honest,” Reed said. “I was a restricted free agent, so they had an opportunity to match. Then I seen they signed Trez (Montrezl Harrell) and (Mohamed) Bamba, my agent was like, ‘It’s probably not likely that they match,’ but when they matched, I was real surprised.”

As Reed noted, Philadelphia now has a logjam of centers behind Joel Embiid. But new head coach Nick Nurse has a expanded role in mind for Reed that will go beyond playing in the post.

“He talked about molding me into a Pascal Siakam-type player,” Reed said. “Somebody who can kind of do it all. Shoot the ball, drive, pass, but right now, it’s all about focusing on my shot mechanics. That’s the start.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets guard Ben Simmons is “as healthy as he has ever been since his last year in Philly,” a source tells Marc J. Spears of Andscape (video link from NBA Today). The source also said Simmons is in the “final stage” of preparing for the upcoming season and has been able to pass every health benchmark the team has set so far. Simmons has been dealing with back and knee problems over the past two years, along with mental health issues, and only played 42 games last season.
  • Assuming the Knicks have another successful season, owner James Dolan will likely talk with coach Tom Thibodeau, team president Leon Rose and other members of the front office about contract extensions, according to Ian Begley of (video link). Thibodeau is heading into the fourth season of his five-year contract, and much of the management team is on the same timeline, Begley adds.
  • The Knicks will retain the G League rights to Trevor Keels, who was waived on Wednesday, Begley tweets. Keels had a two-way contract last season and appeared in three NBA games.

Evan Fournier Would Still Be “Very Surprised” To Be A Knick In 2023/24

Evan Fournier, who said in May that he didn’t expect to be back with the Knicks in 2023/24, has remained with the team through the draft and free agency. However, in an interview with Yann Ohnona of French outlet L’Equipe (subscription required), Fournier suggested he’d still be “very surprised” to open next season with the Knicks.

Given that he’s on a sizable expiring contract, Fournier would be a useful salary-matching piece in any major trade, so the Knicks will presumably be reluctant to simply cut him if no such deal materializes before the season begins. However, the 30-year-old – who started the first seven games of last season and then appeared in just 20 the rest of the way – certainly doesn’t sound like a player who’s excited about the idea of staying in New York.

Fournier’s comments to L’Equipe, as translated and relayed by and Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, are candid and honest. The veteran swingman spoke about the experience of being benched last season, his relationship – or lack thereof – with head coach Tom Thibodeau, and what might be next for him.

Here are a few of the highlights:

On how he reacted to being pulled from the Knicks’ rotation last season:

“You want to spit on everyone. You have hatred. Derrick Rose (who was also benched) and I looked at each other and said to each other: ‘What the hell are we doing here?’ During the five-on-five practices, we were on the side like some prospects. Uncool times. And when I realized that wouldn’t change, I took things more slowly. I focused on myself and didn’t let the rest get to me anymore.”

On his rapport with Thibodeau:

“I have nothing to say because I have none. When he took me out of the (starting lineup), he just told me he was going to try something else. Then before the first game of a road trip, he announced to me that I was leaving the rotation, and ciao.”

On his current trade value:

“If you want to trade me for a good return, why didn’t you use me? I was coming off a season where I was the fourth-best 3-point shooter in the league (in total makes). Why not take advantage of it? Now they won’t get anything interesting and that’s normal because I couldn’t show anything (on the court).”

On what sort of effect staying with the Knicks would have on his career:

“If I stayed, it would be a disaster, sportingly, for my career, everything. A year without playing, I can manage. Two… that would be terrible.”

On whether he’d be interested in teaming up with fellow Frenchman Victor Wembanyama in San Antonio:

“I want a spot where I can have fun again, where I can be myself. Would their game be more suited to me? It’s not the Spurs of 2014 anymore but playing for (Gregg Popovich), learning from him, it would be a pleasure and an honor, for sure. … Being with Victor, looking at the (2024) Olympics, being able to start connecting on the court, that would be great.”

Knicks Rumors: Fournier, George, Toppin, DiVincenzo, McBride

Evan Fournier‘s representatives are working to find a trade involving their client, a source tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News (Twitter link). As Bondy notes, the news is hardly surprising, given that Fournier spoke after the Knicks‘ season ended about his expectation that he wouldn’t be back with the team in 2023/24, despite being owed a guaranteed salary of $18.9MM.

Finding a taker for Fournier won’t be easy for his reps, given that the veteran wing doesn’t have positive trade value even though he’s on a pseudo-expiring contract (his deal includes a 2024/25 team option). The Knicks will almost certainly have to package him with more valuable assets to get anything worthwhile in return.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks and Clippers have been in touch about a possible Paul George trade, sources tell Ian Begley of (Twitter link). However, the star forward is unlikely to be moved, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who says the Trail Blazers also expressed interest in building a deal around the No. 3 pick and George, and failed to gain any traction. The Clippers remain focused on building their roster around George and Kawhi Leonard, Fischer says.
  • Begley believes that the Knicks and Obi Toppin‘s camp may work together to find him a new home this offseason, unless the team makes other moves that open up more regular minutes for the former lottery pick (Twitter video link).
  • According to Fred Katz of The Athletic, Toppin and Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau had an “intense verbal altercation” following Game 4 of the club’s playoff series vs. Miami after the forward was held out of action for the entire second half. However, Katz clarifies that there doesn’t seem to be any lingering resentment related to that incident, and says the team didn’t show any interest in moving Toppin at the 2023 trade deadline. Katz also polled 15 executives about Toppin’s potential value on a rookie scale extension — 10 of those respondents suggested an annual salary between $10-15MM.
  • Several “influential” people within the Knicks organization are fans of swingman Donte DiVincenzo, who is expected to reach unrestricted free agency this offseason, per Begley.
  • Knicks guard Miles McBride has generated some interest from rival teams, according to Begley, who adds that McBride’s minimum-salary team option for 2023/24 looks like a lock to be exercised with or without a trade.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Robinson, Grimes, Thibodeau

After the Knicks were outrebounded and outhustled by the Heat in Game 4 of their second round series, Julius Randle raised concerns about his team’s drive and effort level, writes Nick Friedell of

“Maybe they want it more,” Randle said. “I don’t know. That’s been who we are all year and we got to find a way to step up and make those plays, keep the season alive.”

Randle added that the Knicks, who face a 3-1 deficit, need to “look within” before Game 5 as the series shifts back to New York and ask themselves “how bad do you want it?”

According to Friedell, Randle’s comments signal the extent to which the Knicks’ confidence has been shaken in the last week, as the team doesn’t seem to have an answer for Jimmy Butler and a veteran Heat squad.

Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post suggests that if Randle is right – or New York believes he’s right – the series is all but over. However, Vaccaro notes that some of Randle’s teammates expressed more optimism about the Knicks’ ability to reestablish the sort of physical, high-effort playing style that made their season a success.

“We’ve got to get back to being the tough, physical team that we’ve been, take care of the defense boards and take care of the ball better,” RJ Barrett said. “If we can clean that up we have a good chance.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Mitchell Robinson‘s struggles vs. Bam Adebayo and the Heat continued on Monday, says Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Miami racked up 13 offensive rebounds (seven in the fourth quarter) while Adebayo had 23 points and 13 rebounds. Robinson knows the team needs more from him to have a shot at a comeback. “S–t, got to box out. We got to limit them to one shot,” he said. “I didn’t do a good job of it today. And I got to be better.” For what it’s worth, Robinson was the only Knicks with a positive plus-minus in Game 4 (+1).
  • A starter for much of the season, Quentin Grimes came off the bench in the first three games of the second round and didn’t play more than 26 minutes in any of those contests. He returned to the starting five and logged nearly 42 minutes on Monday, but couldn’t provide the team with a major spark, Braziller writes for The New York Post.
  • Grimes told reporters on Monday that the Twitter user who identified himself as Grimes’ manager and griped about the second-year wing’s role after Game 3 is a close friend, but not his manager. “He doesn’t speak for me. He wants to win as much as I do,” Grimes said, per Braziller. “He just tweeted something that he probably regrets. But he doesn’t speak for me at all, for sure.”
  • Erik Spoelstra has been outcoaching Tom Thibodeau so far in this series, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post, who notes that Thibodeau has never defeated Spoelstra in the postseason, losing two playoff series to the Heat when he coached the Bulls. “He’s been putting on a clinic,” a veteran Eastern Conference scout said of Spoelstra, per Lewis.

And-Ones: Boomers, Awards, Thibodeau, Butler, Gilbert

All but one of the 11 Australian players in the NBA have been named to the extended Australian Boomers squad for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Olgun Uluc of ESPN reports. The exception is a notable one — the Nets’ Ben Simmons, though there’s a possibility he’ll be added ahead of the selection camp.

Simmons recently expressed interest in playing for Australia in this year’s World Cup.

Some of the NBA current or past players who made the 18-man list include Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Josh Green, Jock Landale, Matisse ThybulleJosh Giddey, Dyson Daniels, Xavier Cooks and Thon Maker. The team will eventually be pared to 12 players.

We have from around the basketball world:

  • It’s going to be a busy week in terms of NBA awards announcements, the league’s communications department tweets. The All-Rookie team will be revealed on Monday, the All-Defensive Team will be unveiled on Tuesday and the All-NBA team will be announced on Wednesday. The Teammate of the Year award will be announced on Thursday.
  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is looking for ways to slow down red-hot Jimmy Butler and the Heat. ESPN’s Nick Friedell takes an in-depth look at the relationship between Thibodeau and his former player.
  • Nick Gilbert, son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, has died at the age of 26, according to ESPN’s News Services. Nick Gilbert had a lifelong battle with neurofibromatosis (NF1), which causes noncancerous tumors to grow on the brain, spinal cord and skin. He became well-known to NBA fans for being Cleveland’s good luck charm at the draft lottery, as the Cavs twice got the top pick when he was the team’s lottery representative.

Atlantic Notes: Brunson, Butler, Celtics, Embiid

Knicks star point guard Jalen Brunson continues to deal with the sore right ankle that caused him to be listed as questionable ahead of New York’s second game against the Heat.

Brunson ultimately played and performed well in the Knicks’ 111-105 Game 2 win. He scored 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 shooting from the charity stripe. His status for Game 3 in Miami, however, remains murky.

Per Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link), head coach Tom Thibodeau claimed Brunson “didn’t do much” in the team’s practice Thursday, and is considered “day-to-day.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Given the uncertain availability of Heat All-NBA swingman Jimmy Butler, the Knicks are gearing up to play against two iterations of Miami on Saturday, per Peter Botte of The New York Post: one with Butler and one without him. “The good thing about the situation that we just went through is we played one game where he played and one game where he didn’t play,” Thibodeau said. “So we know style of play, what he brings, how they’ll be different when he plays. We also know how they’ll play when he doesn’t play.”
  • The Celtics worked hard to earn a 121-87 blowout victory over the Sixers to even their series to a 1-1 record, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Boston point guard Marcus Smart, the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year, made it a priority to lock down Philadelphia’s backcourt. “Our defense has been slipping,” Smart said, “and we just wanted to come out and get back to what we do best.”
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said today that MVP center Joel Embiid‘s knee is responding well following his return to the floor for a Game 2 loss to Boston, per Rich Hoffman of The Athletic (Twitter video link). “Just his speed that he reached, his explosions, they were very close to normal,” Rivers said. “That was great for us to see and more importantly, great for him to be able to do it and see that he can do it, and have very little swelling or anything like that.” Embiid scored 15 points, blocked five shots and pulled down three boards in 27 minutes of action, playing in his first game back from an LCL sprain.

Heat Notes: Vincent, Butler, Love, Herro

Gabe Vincent‘s performance in Wednesday’s close-out victory over the Bucks should help make him a popular free agent this summer, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. The Heat guard had 22 points and six assists and delivered two clutch plays that contributed to Miami’s improbable win. He sank a three-pointer with eight seconds left that cut Milwaukee’s lead to one point and threw the pass that Jimmy Butler converted to send the game to overtime.

Vincent also shut down All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, limiting him to 4-of-11 from the field while defending him. He held Bulls star Zach LaVine to 1-of-7 shooting in their play-in game, and Jackson notes that Vincent has been one of the league’s best defensive point guards throughout the season.

“Guys were feeding him a bunch of confidence at the shootaround (before Game 5), telling him we needed him to score, be aggressive, be assertive,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “When Jimmy and Bam (Adebayo) are telling you that, you feel like you can conquer the world.”

There’s more on the Heat:

  • Tom Thibodeau, Butler’s first NBA coach, will try to find a way to limit him as the Knicks prepare to host Miami in Sunday’s series opener, notes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Thibodeau believed the rookie had a bright NBA future when he first arrived in Chicago, but he’s surprised by the level Butler has been able to reach. “I’ll be honest — I didn’t see this,” Thibodeau admitted. “I saw the things that stood out were his toughness, his competitiveness. He played a lot of power forward (in college). But when you look at him, you say OK, I felt like we were getting a rotation player. I didn’t know how good he would become.”
  • Kevin Love is enjoying his first playoff experience since he reached the NBA Finals with Cleveland in 2018, per Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. The 34-year-old big man was confident that he picked the right team after his buyout with the Cavaliers. “I wanted to come. I wanted to win. I wanted to be a part of winning. I wanted to be a part of this and help make these guys’ lives easier,” he said. “And I felt like in a lot of cases I was able to do that. But I was definitely, even in my 15th year, trying to find my way. Us being here, advancing to the second round, beating a one seed after being in the play-in, yeah, I think it checks a lot of boxes. Obviously we have a lot of work to do, but, again I felt like I could still play, still contribute, and potentially be a part of something special.”
  • Tyler Herro‘s absence may be more significant in the second-round series than it was against the Bucks, Winderman suggests in another Sun Sentinel story. Winderman notes that Herro averaged 23.0 PPG against the Knicks during the regular season, and his creativity was vital in breaking down New York’s defense.