William Wesley

Knicks Notes: McBride, Hart, Milton, Schedule

With Knicks All-Star guard Jalen Brunson nursing a left knee contusion, backup Miles McBride has been thrust into an iron man role, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes.

McBride has been on the court for at least 40 minutes in three of the last four games. After playing 47 minutes and 13 seconds against the Cavaliers on Sunday — when Brunson was injured during the opening minute — McBride logged 45 minutes and 38 seconds in a loss to the Hawks on Tuesday.

“I’m glad Coach (Tom Thibodeau) trusts me to be playing me those minutes. Just wish we would’ve got the job done,” said McBride, who signed a three-year extension in late December. “Honestly, I feel fine. I think I’m more mad about losing than worrying about how my body feels.”

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Wing Josh Hart is the league’s top rebounder among player who stand 6’7” or less. Hart is just 6’4” but he’s pulled down an average of 7.6 rebounds per game. “Josh is the king of stealing rebounds,” Donte DiVincenzo told Stefan Bondy of the New York Post. “He loves stealing them. But I don’t care. As long as we get it, he can steal them all day long.”
  • Shake Milton has looked for guidance from Knicks executive William Wesley during his career and that played a factor in his decision to sign with the Knicks, Ian Begley of SNY TV tweets. Milton became a free agent when the Pistons, who acquired the reserve guard at the trade deadline, bought him out. “He’s there anytime I need him. Whether it’s to talk, do whatever. He’s always there,” Milton said of Wesley.
  • The banged-up Knicks have three pivotal games coming up, Botte notes. Looking to avoid the play-in tournament, the Knicks face the Magic on Friday and the Sixers on Sunday and Tuesday. “Obviously, you don’t want to be in the play-in. You’d like to have that three or five days of rest going into the first round,” Hart said. The team is hopeful Brunson can return soon but frontcourt regulars Julius Randle, OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson remain out, though Randle and Anunoby have been cleared for basketball activities.

GM Scott Perry To Depart Knicks’ Organization

Knicks general manager Scott Perry will leave the organization once his contract expires this summer, Steve Popper of Newsday reports.

Perry joined New York’s front office in 2017. Current president of basketball operations Leon Rose, who was hired in 2020, gave him a contract extension two years ago.

However, Perry’s influence in the front office has waned as executive VP William Wesley and senior basketball consultant Gerrson Rosas have taken a bigger role in personnel moves.

Perry was instrumental in drafting RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson and signing Julius Randle as a free agent.

Perry has been a front office mainstay in the league since 2000, when he was hired by the Pistons. He was also an executive with Seattle in its last season before the franchise moved and had stints with Orlando and Sacramento. Before he was hired by the Knicks, Perry was part of the Kings group that drafted De’Aaron Fox.

New York Notes: Brunson, Stoudemire, Baldwin, Sotto

The Knicks’ top executive, Leon Rose, needs to go all out this summer to sign free agent Jalen Brunson, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post opines. The Knicks settled for Kemba Walker last summer instead of engaging in an all-out bidding war for Fred VanVleet. The same mistake can’t be made this time around, in Vaccaro’s view, so Rose must figure out a way to clear more cap space and give Brunson a competitive offer. Vaccaro also notes Brunson’s father, Rick Brunson, was Rose’s first ever client as a player agent.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • Amar’e Stoudemire clarified comments he made on ESPN shows regarding Kyrie Irving and the Nets organization in an Instagram post (hat tip to Chris Milholen of NetsDaily.com). Stoudemire told coach Steve Nash he was leaving his post as a player development coach due to his religious obligations prior to his TV appearances and has no issue with Nash or GM Sean Marks. He also said he wasn’t trying to blast Irving when he said Irving “hurt us” due to his lack of availability during the season. “You’re not going to turn me against Kyrie. You’re not going to turn me against the Nets. You’re not going to turn me against anyone. So you can forget about it,” Stoudemire said.
  • The Knicks have quietly added Vince Baldwin — a longtime Nike talent scout — as a “talent evaluator,” Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Baldwin has extensive contacts in the high school and college ranks and is close with Knicks senior executive William Wesley. The Knicks also hired Tim Hardaway Sr. as a scout without making an official announcement.
  • Center prospect Kai Sotto will work out for the Knicks on Monday, Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com tweets. The 7’3” big man from the Philippines spent last season in Australia’s National Basketball League, averaging 7.5 PPG and 4.5 RPG for the Adelaide 36ers.

Stein’s Latest: Nash, Hornets, Pacers, Wall, Turner, Mavs

The Nets‘ season could be over in a matter of hours, as the team faces an elimination game at home on Monday night, down 3-0 to Boston in its first-round series.

While a first-round sweep would be a disastrous outcome for a club that entered the season as a championship favorite and would certainly increase scrutiny on head coach Steve Nash, one source close to the situation tells Substack writer Marc Stein that he doesn’t expect Nash to become a fall guy for a disappointing playoff run.

As Stein and his source observe, Nash has faced an inordinate number of challenges during the 2021/22 season, including Kyrie Irving‘s vaccination decision, James Harden‘s trade request, and injuries to players like Kevin Durant and Joe Harris. Stein suggests that Nash shouldn’t avoid blame for the Nets’ struggles, but says there are many larger issues in play as well.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • A concern about player discipline both on and off the court was among the factors in the Hornets‘ decision to part ways with head coach James Borrego, league sources tell Stein.
  • The Pacers expressed some interest in Rockets guard John Wall early in the 2021/22 season, but it didn’t go anywhere and it happened before they acquired Tyrese Haliburton, according to Stein. In other words, Indiana is probably an unlikely offseason suitor for Wall.
  • After seriously considering trading Myles Turner during the ’21/22 season, the Pacers now hope to keep the big man long-term, sources tell Stein. Turner will be extension-eligible this offseason as he enters a contract year.
  • While some Jazz staffers were reportedly upset about seeing Knicks executive William Wesley and Julius Randle courtside at Game 1 of their series vs. Dallas, the Mavericks weren’t particularly bothered by it, since it “didn’t really change anything” in their view, Stein writes. The Knicks are believed to have interest in Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Mavs guard Jalen Brunson, and Dallas is aware of New York’s interest in Brunson. Of course, Brunson is an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Mitchell is under team control for at least three more years.
  • Some teams have asked the NBA to consider making qualification for the play-in tournament contingent on the Nos. 9 and 10 teams finishing within a certain distance of the No. 8 seed, says Stein. It’s unclear whether the league will tweak that rule going forward or leave the format as is.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Mitchell, Timberwolves, Murray

Down 2-1 against the Mavericks without shooting guard Luka Doncic, the lone All-Star for Dallas this season, the Jazz face a probable must-win Game 4 at home today, per Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jones considers the contest to be a critical moment for not just Utah’s season, but also for the future of its core roster: All-Star center and Defensive Player of the Year finalist Rudy Gobert, All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, pricey veteran point guard Mike Conley, and forward Bojan Bogdanovic.

“It’s a game that we gotta have,” Conley said of the Jazz’s mentality heading into the game. “We’re still a confident team. In no way, shape or form is this series over.”

“It’s up to us to adjust quicker on the fly on the court,” Gobert said. “We shouldn’t have to wait until halftime in order to start playing well. I like what we did in the second half. I like what we did defensively. The offense takes care of itself when we play that way defensively. Now, the question is can we have that mindset and maintain that mindset for 48 minutes?”

Jones contends that the Jazz should consider emphasizing small-ball lineups without Gobert during key stretches against Dallas today.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Several Jazz staffers were “surprised and upset” to see Knicks executive William Wesley and star power forward Julius Randle sitting courtside during the Jazz’s Game 1 matchup against the Mavericks, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Begley notes that All-Star Utah guard Donovan Mitchell and breakout Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson, an unrestricted free agent this summer, have long been rumored New York targets. Mitchell is in the first season of a five-year, maximum-salary rookie contract extension he signed with the Jazz during the 2020 offseason, and would have to be moved in a trade to join the Knicks.
  • After coughing up a 25-point second half lead, the Timberwolves eventually fell to the Grizzlies in Minnesota to lose a critical Game 3 of their first-round series on Thursday, 104-95. Memphis is now up 2-1. The Timberwolves can still make this a series despite the demoralizing defeat, opines Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Krawczynski says the Wolves need to clamp down on defense throughout the contest and get All-Star center Karl Anthony-Towns more engaged on offense, steering him clear of unnecessary fouls.
  • Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson, who missed back-to-back seasons with ACL and Achilles tears, appreciates Nuggets guard Jamal Murray‘s decision to not rush his return from his own ACL tear this season, writes Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “I would just tell Jamal to keep in mind the big picture. He’s got a decade of greatness ahead of him. No need to compromise that now,” Thompson said in a lengthy conversation with Singer. “Fans are kind of unrealistic. They don’t realize how much it takes to build back your muscle to be able to compete at this level. This is the best basketball in the world. You don’t want to put your whole future at risk just because of win right now.” Thompson, Heat guard Victor Oladipo and Bulls guard Zach LaVine, all have helped Murray navigate his rehab.
  • In the same piece, Singer notes that Murray has yet to be officially ruled out from returning, though the Nuggets are all but eliminated from the postseason now, with the Warriors leading in their first round series against Denver 3-0. “We’re never going to take any short-term view with any of our players, and any decision on Jamal’s return will be made collectively,” Nuggets president Tim Connelly said. “Jamal’s among the toughest and most competitive guys in our league and is eager to play, but organizationally, we can’t be irresponsible with his return. His best days are undoubtedly ahead of him.” 

New York Notes: Durant, Hunt, Tanking, Knicks Staff

The Nets had all kinds of issues this season — Kyrie Irving‘s refusal to get vaccinated, James Harden‘s desire to be traded to Philadelphia, Joe Harris‘ injury — but Kevin Durant believes his knee injury was the biggest reason they nosedived in the standings.

“To be honest, I feel like our season was derailed by my injury,” Durant said to ESPN’s Nick Friedell and other media members. “So, I’m not looking at it like we’re just not a good basketball team. It’s like there wasn’t a lot of continuity with me and Kyrie out of the lineup, that’s just what it is. When we’re all on the floor together, I like what we got.”

The Nets will have to fight their way out of the play-in tournament but Durant isn’t worried about the extra challenges ahead.

“I don’t care who we play. I don’t care that we’re in the play-in. Just tip the ball up, see what happens,” he said. “That’s all you can control. It’s too stressful thinking about we’re trying to dodge a team, lining up, just play the game. We’ll see what happens.”

We have more on the New York teams:

  • With Julius Randle shut down for the rest of the season, power forward Feron Hunt could see some action in the remaining Knicks games, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Hunt was signed last month to a two-way contract. In seven games with the G League’s Westchester Knicks, Hunt averaged 16.9 PPG. “We like who he is, so I want to get a chance to see him as well,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
  • The Knicks have won five of their last seven games, which won’t help their chances of winning the draft lottery. RJ Barrett would rather finish the season on a high note than go into tank mode, Steve Popper of Newsday writes. “This helps build momentum, trying to finish out the season strong and carry that momentum into next year,” Barrett said. “Every game is important for us as a team for guys to develop and see who we are and who we’re going to be.”
  • When the Knicks hire a replacement for assistant coach Kenny Payne, it will signal whether Thibodeau has regained autonomy over his staff, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News opines. As a condition of getting hired, Thibodeau agreed to take on Payne, Mike Woodson and Johnnie Bryant as his top assistants. One of Thibodeau’s hand-picked assistants, Darren Erman, moved to the front of the bench when Payne left to coach Louisville. If the Knicks add another assistant not associated with Thibodeau, it will signal that team executive William Wesley is once again exerting his influence.

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.

Knicks Notes: Barrett, Randle, Mitchell, Grimes, Walker

The Knicks are expected to pursue a roster shakeup this summer, but the Heat’s Jimmy Butler believes there’s already a future star to build around, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. RJ Barrett impressed Butler and his Miami teammates with a 46-point outburst Friday night.

“He had a helluva game, an all-around game at that,” Butler said. “We all know he’s capable of that. I don’t think anybody is surprised or should be surprised. He’s definitely going to be playing in this league for a long time and he’s going to be the face of the Knicks.”

Barrett is averaging a career-high 18.6 points per game in his third NBA season, but Bondy points out that he’s still a streaky shooter and has trouble beating defenders off the dribble. The question for the Knicks, Bondy adds, is what to do about Julius Randle, who needs to handle the ball often to be effective and isn’t an ideal complement to Barrett. Bondy notes that Randle and Barrett have only reached 20 points in the same game seven times all season.

There’s more from New York:

  • Executive vice president William Wesley has been lobbying owner James Dolan with a plan to acquire a star and is focused on Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, a source tells Steve Popper of Newsday. There are some New York connections for Mitchell, who is a former client of team president Leon Rose and worked closely with associate head coach Johnnie Bryant when he was in Utah. Popper points out that Mitchell will make $30.4MM next season and won’t hit the open market until 2025 at the earliest, and any deal the Knicks could offer would have to include almost every asset at their disposal.
  • Rookie guard Quentin Grimes, who suffered a subluxation of his right patella in Friday’s game, will be re-evaluated in two weeks, the Knicks announced (via Twitter). Grimes was at the team facility today and was “walking around pretty well,” tweets Ian Begley of SNY TV, who adds that Grimes’ response to physical therapy will determine how much time he has to miss. Surgery won’t be necessary, a source in Grimes’ camp tells Ashley Nicole Moss of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link), and he will likely be sidelined two to three weeks because of slight ligament bruising.
  • The medical procedure that Derrick Rose underwent on his left ankle Friday won’t affect Kemba Walker‘s decision to sit out the rest of the season, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. Walker made the decision in the belief that he wouldn’t have a spot in the rotation once Rose returned, but a source told Berman that he’s unlikely to change his mind and coach Tom Thibodeau also dismissed the possibility.

William Wesley Blaming Tom Thibodeau For Knicks’ Struggles

As we relayed this morning, the Knicks suffered a crushing 111-106 loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday, in which New York blew a 28-point lead, intensifying scrutiny on head coach Tom Thibodeau. The Knicks are just 3-13 over their last 16 games and currently hold a 25-34 record, 12th in the East.

A byproduct of losing is everyone wants to place blame. And I understand that,” Thibodeau said after the game. “We all have jobs to do. (The season) has not gone as well as it has. It didn’t go great last year until the end, right? Lock into what we have to do. Don’t get caught up in getting distracted. And focus on how we can do better. That’s where I want the focus to lie.”

Sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv that, in conversations with owner James Dolan, executive vice president William Wesley has been blaming Thibodeau’s coaching as a significant factor in the team’s struggles this season.

Thibodeau, the reigning Coach of the Year, was hand-picked by Wesley and president Leon Rose, and the three men have known each other for years, Begley writes. However, something is clearly amiss between the coaching staff and the front office.

Thibodeau was angry that the Knicks didn’t make trades ahead of the deadline last week and believed that a roster upgrade would have been beneficial, sources tell Begley. Thibodeau has been consulted with for personnel moves, and although his opinion is considered, New York’s front office has made several roster moves that didn’t align with Thibodeau’s thinking, per Begley.

In a separate article for SNY.tv, Begley states that he would be surprised if Thibodeau was fired before the end of the season — but confidence in the coach has clearly diminished within the organization.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News contends that the onus is on Rose to speak up with the embattled coach twisting in the wind. Sources confirmed Begley’s reporting to Bondy, that Wesley has Dolan’s ear and has been blaming Thibodeau for the team’s struggles. Wesley is also unhappy with Thibodeau’s reticence to play younger players.

The front office forced Thibodeau to add two assistant coaches — Johnnie Bryant and Kenny Payne — onto the staff as a condition of his hiring in 2020, sources tell Bondy. Should Thibodeau be fired, Bondy believes either of those coaches could named the next head coach.

Rose hasn’t spoken to the media since September, before the season started, and prior to that it had been more than a year since he’d spoken publicly, Bondy writes. He believes Rose needs to address the situation and back Thibodeau — or not — because the silence is leading to a lack of clarity on the team’s direction.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Fox, Perry, Arcidiacono

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has admitted to associates that he hasn’t been able to get Julius Randle to exhibit the same selflessness he had last season, an NBA source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. Randle’s downturn has been a major reason why the team has fallen into the race for the play-in tournament after finishing fourth in the East a year ago.

Many observers believe the $117MM extension that Randle signed during the offseason has changed his approach to the game, as he now feels that he has to take on a greater part of the scoring load to justify the contract. Berman also cites incidents where Randle has looked disinterested — he didn’t join a team huddle in a game last week and he has walked away from teammates who have been knocked to the ground rather than helping them up.

The Knicks are willing to consider everything heading into the deadline, sources tell Berman, even a deal involving Randle, who emerged as a team leader last season while capturing Most Improved Player honors. Berman suggests that Randle’s regression, along with his battles with fans and media, may convince team president Leon Rose that he’s no longer suited for a leadership role.

There’s more from New York:

  • The KingsDe’Aaron Fox may be a natural target for the Knicks, who have been searching for a point guard for years, Berman adds in the same piece. New York general manager Scott Perry drafted Fox when he worked in Sacramento, but Berman says it’s no longer clear how much influence Perry has in the organization. He doesn’t accompany the team on the road, and the only executive currently making road trips is William Wesley, who Berman said has surpassed Perry in the team’s power structure.
  • Derrick Rose needs to be active at the trade deadline to have any hope of turning this season around, argues Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. Vaccaro considers RJ Barrett, Rose, and Quentin Grimes to be the team’s untouchable players, along with Cam Reddish, only because the Knicks just gave up a first-round pick to acquire him. Everyone else, Vaccaro adds, should be available in the right deal.
  • Ryan Arcidiacono‘s 10-day contract expired over the weekend, Berman tweets. The Knicks will keep the roster spot open for now, which could be an advantage heading into the deadline. Arcidiacono didn’t see any game action during his time with the team.