R.J. Barrett

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Robinson, Barrett, Ownership

Knicks coach David Fizdale is already feeling the heat after a 1-5 start, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post writes. “Fire Fizdale” chants were heard from the home crowd as the team was getting blown out by Sacramento on Sunday. While the team plays hard, its interior defense is lacking and there are long stretches of inefficiency on both ends, Vaccaro adds. However, a coaching move would be costly. Fizdale has two more years remaining on his contract after this season.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Fizdale is making a mistake by prioritizing free agent signee Julius Randle over second-year center Mitchell Robinson, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News argues. Robinson is averaging just 19.2 MPG through six games, more than 10 minutes fewer than he averaged in the final 11 games of last season, Bondy notes. Fizdale moved Bobby Portis into the lineup at Robinson’s expense on Sunday in an effort to get the slumping Randle going offensively.
  • Fizdale bristled when reporters questioned why lottery pick RJ Barrett played 41 minutes in the blowout loss to the Kings, Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. “We’ve got to get off this load-management (nonsense),” he said.Latrell Sprewell averaged 42 minutes for a season. This kid is 19. Drop it already.” Barrett has quickly established himself as a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year award by averaging 18.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 3.3 APG in 35.7 MPG.
  • Silver Lake Partners — a firm known for its investments in Tesla and Alibaba — is seeking a big stake in the Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers before they’re spun off into a publicly-traded company, Josh Kosman of the New York Post reports.  Silver Lake owns close to 10% of Madison Square Garden and wants a bigger stake but only in its sports teams, Kosman continues. James Dolan will continue to control both teams for the foreseeable future, even as MSG spins off a majority of the teams’ value to current shareholders.

Knicks Notes: Smith, Ntilikina, Morris, Barrett

Dennis Smith Jr. has become the scapegoat for Knicks‘ fans in an 0-3 start, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Smith turned in his third straight ugly performance last night in the team’s home opener, missing all three of his shots in 11 minutes and falling to 1-of-11 for the season. He was 3-of-17 in two preseason games after returning from a back issue. Fans booed loudly when he was in the game and started a “We want Frank” chant in the second half, referring to little-used guard Frank Ntilikina.

Smith is being singled out because he was the key piece the team received in the January trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas. Porzingis has recovered from a torn ACL and is averaging 23.5 PPG in his first two games with the Mavericks. The trade also gave the Knicks enough cap room to sign two max-level free agents, but they missed on their top targets, further angering their fans.

“Our fans are passionate. I get it,’’ Fizdale said of the reaction to Smith. “The kid is obviously struggling. We’ll look at the situation and continue to adjust. (The fans) know what they like and what they want. It doesn’t do anything to my mindset. I’m going to coach this team.’’

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • Fizdale told reporters that Ntilikina will eventually get a chance to earn playing time and hinted that a shooting slump is keeping him out of the lineup, Berman adds in the same piece. The 2017 lottery pick has been on the court for three total minutes this season. “It’s three games in,’’ Fizdale said. “It’s not like 20 games into the season. But other guys will get opportunities. That’s how it will work. You either perform and get it done or you’re not. (Ntilikina is) overthinking it and pressing it. He’s mentally tough and he’s struggling right now, but he’ll find his way out of it.’’
  • Marcus Morris had an unusual free agent experience this summer, verbally committing to the Spurs before switching to the Knicks when they made a better offer. However, that could have been avoided if the Celtics had tried to keep him, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. “I guess that’s the business,” Morris said. “I thought I at least deserved a phone call, but it is what it is.”
  • At age 19, RJ Barrett looks ready for any challenge, including a game-deciding battle with Kyrie Irving, observes Steve Popper of Newsday.

Knicks Notes: Point Guards, Fizdale, Irving, Trier

Two games into the season, the Knicks‘ point guard situation remains as confused as ever, writes Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton earned a start Friday night after a strong performance in the season opener, but rookie RJ Barrett was used in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Barrett posted 16 points and six steals to help lead a comeback, but finished the night with five turnovers and only three assists.

“It was good. I feel like I can do that,” Barrett said of handling the point. “Coach trusts me. He has a lot of faith in me.”

Dennis Smith Jr., who appeared to be the point guard of the future when he was acquired from the Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis trade nine months ago, played just 4:31. Frank Ntilikina wasn’t used at all.

“(Smith’s) still in a struggle,” coach David Fizdale said. “I just gotta figure out how to get him out of it. I think he’s just overthinking things a little bit, but we’ll figure it out.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Fizdale continues to work through different combinations, which should be expected on a team with nine new players, observes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. The lack of cohesion was especially apparent on defense Friday as lapses enabled the Nets to hit 15 of their first 30 shots from beyond the arc. “We have depth, we’ve just got to get them all to play on the same night and get them clicking on the same night,” Fizdale said. “But that’s going to take time obviously. We’ve had three weeks together. But the fact we have the kind of grit that doesn’t lay down, those are two playoff teams we lost to on the road that we had a chance to win those games.”
  • The Knicks-Nets rivalry appeared more heated than ever after a pivotal free agency summer for both franchises, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who were thought to be New York’s top targets, both wound up in Brooklyn, and the Nets gave away Irving jerseys last night to emphasize the point.
  • Allonzo Trier doesn’t believe Irving’s comments about taking over New York City were meant to be inflammatory, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. “It wasn’t about the Knicks. It wasn’t about anything like that,” Trier said. “I didn’t take anything personally. Kyrie is a really good friend of mine. We spent a lot of time (together) in the summer. Great guy.’’

Knicks Notes: Point Guards, Rabb, Morris, Robinson

Nobody in the three-way battle for the Knicks‘ starting point guard spot played well enough to earn a start in tonight’s season opener, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina were all on the bench for the beginning of the game in San Antonio as coach David Fizdale opted to use rookie RJ Barrett at the point alongside Allonzo Trier.

“I just like that combination of RJ and Allonzo Trier to be out there,’’ Fizdale told reporters before the game. “The competition is still on and I’m still searching for combinations that are going to fit. Coming into this, I want to see how that looks. I’m going to keep putting it on them to really have to earn it and really force me to play you. None of this is in stone, but at the same time the competition is on.”

Payton, Smith and Ntilikina all struggled in the preseason, especially with shooting, while Trier stood out with an improved jumper. Berman suggests the decision could be seen as a slight against the front office, which signed Payton this summer and picked up Ntilikina’s fourth-year option earlier this week.

There’s more from New York:

  • Fizdale has previous experience with Ivan Rabb, who was signed today to a two-way contract, Berman notes in a separate story. Fizdale was Rabb’s first coach as a rookie in Memphis, although he was fired after 19 games. “Good kid, hard worker,” he said of Rabb. “Really skilled big. Rebounds the ball well. A high-IQ player. It will be good to get back with him and develop him.”
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich remains bitter about Marcus Morris‘ decision to back out of a commitment to San Antonio this summer and sign with the Knicks instead (video link from RJ Marquez of KSAT in San Antonio). Morris verbally agreed to a two-year, $19MM deal with the Spurs before changing his mind when New York was able to offer $15MM for one season. As expected, the San Antonio crowd booed him loudly before tonight’s game.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a look at how Mitchell Robinson was able to overcome a negative college experience and provide some hope for the future in New York.

Knicks Notes: Morris, Barrett, Ntilikina, Knox

Despite being called “unprofessional” by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Marcus Morris believes he made the right move in free agency, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Morris backed out of a two-year, $19MM commitment to the Spurs when the Knicks were able to increase their offer after Reggie Bullock‘s contract was reworked. Morris wound up getting $15MM for one season to come to New York, but he insists the decision wasn’t all about money.

“As far as my free agency, it didn’t go as planned,” Morris said at Monday’s Media Day. “A lot of those decisions came off of a lot of unknown sources and unknown situations. I kind of committed very early, [earlier] than I wanted to. New York became involved and I saw opportunity, East Coast, the Mecca, [I’m] from Philly. The biggest thing is … I know they embrace guys like myself. … I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a really surprising year for us.”

There’s more from New York this morning:

  • First-round pick RJ Barrett will have to earn his playing time this season, Berman writes in a separate story. Sources tell Berman that some Knicks players believe coach David Fizdale was too easy on last year’s lottery pick, Kevin Knox. Fizdale says he plans a tougher approach with Barrett, adding, “I think this team is more talented, I think we have more guys he has to fight with to get those minutes. But I think the kid is up for it. I think he’s the kind of competitor that embraces it.’’ Barrett said he welcomes the approach, as it’s the only way to improve.
  • Frank Ntilikina wasn’t on hand at Media Day and faces an uncertain future after the Knicks spent the summer trying to trade him, notes Steve Popper of Newsday. GM Scott Perry gave reporters a terse response when asked about picking up Ntilikina’s fourth-year contract option, which is valued at about $6.1MM. “We have until October 31 to do that and we won’t discuss any contract things in detail,” Perry said. “So that’s all I’m going to tell you right now.”
  • Knox spent much of the offseason watching videos of his rookie year and learning where he needs to improve, writes Scott Thompson of SNY.tv. Part of the change includes better decisions on when to shoot. “I just took a lot of tough 2’s, a lot of contested [and] bad shots that I took last year that I’m going to try to eliminate out of my game this year,” he said. “I think I was forced to take a lot of bad shots late in the shot clock, bad shot selection.”

FIBA World Cup Notes: Barrett, Drummond, Adebayo

RJ Barrett will not participate in the 2019 FIBA World Cup for Canada due to a mild calf strain, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The most recent No. 3 overall pick will join Team Canada for training camp and team activities in Toronto. Barrett represented his country over the last four summers and helped the squad qualify for the World Cup.

There’s also Team USA news. Here is the latest, via USA Basketball’s website:

And-Ones: Paul, Sylla, Tampering, Canada

In an interesting piece regarding Chris Paul‘s role as the head of the NBA Players Union, Tom Ziller of SB Nation opines that Paul’s reported insistence and hand in incorporating the Over-38 Rule into the 2017 CBA has now ironically landed him with one the most untradeable contracts in the NBA.

Paul, who is admittedly now under contract to make more money because of the rule change, is also stuck on the Thunder, a non-contending team, with no real way out until later this year when the latest crop of free agents become trade eligible.

Ultimately, Ziller opines that the tradeoff (non-contending team vs. an extra $45MM) was worth it for Paul, but wonders whether CP3, as union president, sacrificed the good of many (mid-level earners) for the benefit of few.

We have more odds and ends to report from around the basketball world:

  • Amar Sylla, the No. 23 prospect for the 2020 NBA Draft, has signed a three-year contract containing NBA out clauses with Belgian league champions BC Oostende, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes that many executives believe the penalty for tampering needs to be harsher, including the removal of first-round picks or even as severe as being barred from trading any picks for some amount of years in addition to the loss of picks. “Basketball operations needs to get hit the hardest, not an owner’s wallets,” said another executive.
  • Canada Basketball has announced the 29 players invited to attend the Senior Men’s National Team training camp ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. The list includes R.J. Barrett, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cory Joseph, Jamal Murray, and Tristan Thompson.

Atlantic Notes: Williams, Knicks, Horford, Barrett

Second-year Celtics center Robert Williams picked up some skills from former teammates Al Horford and Aron Baynes during his rookie season, as he explained in a recent interview with Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe.

“Al isn’t the fastest person, but one thing that always amazed me about him was any time he got the ball, even if you knew what he was doing, it’s effective as hell,” Williams said, as relayed by Himmelsbach. “I kind of took to that. He taught me how to really put an emphasis on my moves.

“And watching Baynes showed me the importance of just going straight up on defense instead of swiping down. Honestly, I don’t even always have to block it. Making them alter it is a great solution too.”

Williams, 21, is expected to see more playing time entering next season with Horford leaving Boston in free agency and Baynes being traded to Phoenix. He appeared in 32 games with the team last year, averaging just 2.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 8.8 minutes per contest.

The Celtics also signed eight-year veteran Enes Kanter in free agency, one of the league’s most skilled players on the low block and another player Williams could learn from.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic Division today:

  • The Knicks’ brass has been noticeably quiet since missing out on several top free agents in early July, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. New York was exceedingly confident that it could land two superstar talents on the open market this summer, but fell short to rival Brooklyn in pursuit of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
  • Veteran center Al Horford broke the hearts of Celtics fans by choosing to sign a four-year, $109MM deal with the Sixers in free agency. “It feels right,” Horford said while wearing his new jersey in a video posted to the team’s social media this week. Horford will help make up a deadly 76ers frontcourt that includes the likes of Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid.
  • R.J. Barrett ended summer league exactly the way the Knicks hoped, Berman writes in a different article for The Post. Barrett tallied 21 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists during a 103-87 win over the Wizards on Saturday, showcasing his talents on both ends of the floor.

Knicks Sign R.J. Barrett

The Knicks have signed R.J. Barrett to his rookie contract scale contract, according to the team’s Twitter feed.

Assuming he signed for 120% of the rookie scale, Barrett will take home $7.84MM during his first season in the league. Barrett is expected to play for the Knicks’ Summer League team in Las Vegas.

Barrett was excited to be drafted by the franchise and at the time, it appeared he would come into the league on a contender, as New York was expected to make a splash in free agency. Instead, he’ll be in a typical situation for a team drafting in the top five.

The No. 3 overall pick should have the opportunity to be one of the most productive rookies during the 2019/20 season.

Knicks Notes: Durant, Wilkes, Draft, Cavanaugh

The Knicks will do their homework on Kevin Durant before committing to a max offer, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The team will request access to Durant’s medical records and will evaluate his long-term chances for a full recovery from the ruptured Achilles he suffered in the NBA Finals.

New York’s front office recognizes that Durant will be 32 by the time he can play again in 2020/21 and may be dealing with a “load management” situation that will limit both the number of games he can play and his minutes in each one.

Sources tell Berman that the Knicks believe they’re still in the running for Kawhi Leonard, even though he seems more likely to stay in Toronto or go to one of the Los Angeles teams, and Kyrie Irving, who is rumored to be headed to Brooklyn.

There’s more from New York City:

  • After agreeing to sign UCLA forward Kris Wilkes to a two-way contract, GM Scott Perry said the team never expected him to be available, Berman relays in a separate story. Wilkes was projected as a second-round pick after leading the Bruins in scoring at 17.4 points per game. “Kind of surprised (Wilkes) didn’t get drafted, similar to Allonzo Trier last year,’’ Perry said. “Winning player, can score, 6-8, highly rated player coming out of high school. Exciting to add him to our mix and see how we can develop him.”
  • The Knicks were convinced about taking R.J. Barrett with the No. 3 pick, even though they worked out Darius Garland and Coby White shortly before the draft, relays Ian Begley of SNY.TV. Perry explained that the team was taking advantage of having the players in town. “You want to get a chance to see as many prospects as you can,” he said. “Learn more about them, learn their stories. Also further evaluate, you dot your final I’s and crossing the final T’s. So that’s what went into our thinking.”
  • Tyler Cavanaugh, who spent this season on a two-way contract with the Jazz, will join the Knicks’ Summer League team, tweets Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News. The 25-year-old power forward got into just 11 NBA games during the year, spending most of his time in the G League. He played 39 games for the Hawks in 2017/18, starting on a two-way deal before earning a standard contract.