R.J. Barrett

Knicks Notes: Barrett, Ivey, LaMelo, Morris

Steve Nash didn’t get to watch his godson, RJ Barrett, play last night because of an injury, but he has faith that Barrett will develop into a franchise cornerstone for the Knicks, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News.

“(Barrett’s) shown very much of what I thought he’d show. He’s an incredibly talented, well-rounded basketball player. He does a bit of everything. I think he will evolve into a great playmaker because that’s a natural ability for him that he doesn’t necessarily get to shine in at this stage of his career and on this stage of this team,” Nash said. “That’s exciting for Knicks fans that he still produces, he’s versatile, he can score. He’s growing defensively. And for me, he’s a natural playmaker and that hasn’t been a part of his upside yet that’s highlighted. So for the franchise, that’s exciting.”

Barrett was a primary ballhandler in college, but the Knicks quickly gave up on their experiment of using him at point guard, Bondy notes. Still, his usage rate is high at 23.2% and he is often utilized as a secondary initiator of the offense.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • The Sixers expressed interest in hiring New York assistant Royal Ivey after the end of last season, but the Knicks blocked the move because they thought Ivey might help attract Kevin Durant in free agency, Bondy adds in a separate story. Ivey is a close friend with Durant and was a former teammate in Oklahoma City. A source tells Bondy that the Knicks refused to allow the Sixers to interview Ivey, but did give him a pay raise.
  • The Knicks never made it to Australia to see LaMelo Ball in person before he was shut down for the season with a foot injury, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The front office was planning a trip this month, but Berman points out that it might not matter because president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry may not be with the team by draft time.
  • The Knicks will be wasting an opportunity if they don’t trade Marcus Morris by the deadline, contends Tommy Beer of Forbes. Morris is enjoying his best statistical season, averaging 19.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 3-pointers per game, but may not be a long-term fit at age 30. Not only would the Knicks be better off with whatever assets they can obtain in return, Beer adds, trading Morris takes away any chance they will overpay to re-sign him this summer.

RJ Barrett Sprains Ankle, Will Be Re-Evaluated In One Week

JANUARY 17: X-rays were negative on Barrett’s sprained right ankle, according to the Knicks, who announced today that the rookie will be re-evaluated in a week (Twitter link).

JANUARY 16: The Knicks’ season continues to go downhill. No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett left tonight’s contest against the Suns with a right ankle injury and did not return.

After the contest, coach Mike Miller said he didn’t know the severity of the injury, which was initially diagnosed as a sprain, as Ian Begley of SNY.tv tweets. Begley adds that the rookie had crutches in his locker.

Barrett’s development has been a bright spot for the 11-31 Knicks. The rookie was averaging 14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per contest entering tonight’s tilt with the Suns. He has struggled with his efficiency, though over his prior six contests, he made 46.3% of his looks.

Knicks Notes: Trade Rumors, Bullock, Ellington, Smith Jr.

Another rocky start in New York has led several Knicks to begin seeking a way out, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Sources tell Begley a few players have said privately that they hope to be dealt before the February 6 trade deadline arrives.

That was always a danger for a team that signed so many players to short-term contracts this summer. Of the seven free agents who came to New York, only Julius Randle has any money guaranteed beyond this season. Management has admitted that it prioritized roster flexibility and future cap room after missing out on its top targets in the free agent market.

Begley expects the team to explore trading options on everyone except rookie guard RJ Barrett and possibly second-year center Mitchell Robinson. He notes that several teams, including the Timberwolves, have expressed interest in Dennis Smith Jr.

There’s more from New York:

  • Two much-needed shooters are expected back in the lineup soon, Begley adds in the same story. Reggie Bullock practiced yesterday with the Knicks’ G League team and is close to making his season debut after having cervical disc herniation surgery in July. Wayne Ellington, who has missed the past 10 games with an Achilles issue, may be ready for Saturday’s game at Washington.
  • Efforts to trade Smith will be complicated by an oblique injury that could sideline him for several games, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Smith started feeling discomfort during an extra workout after playing just seven minutes Monday. There’s no word on how much time he might miss with the injury, which is more common among baseball players. “He pulled something in his oblique while he was playing,’’ interim coach Mike Miller said. “It wasn’t a collision. It was just some kind of movement when he did something, it pulled something. … He’s been testing it and going through treatment as best he can. We’ll just have to see day-to-day how he feels.”
  • Robinson credits an agreement he made with former coach David Fizdale for turning his season around, relays Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Any time Robinson commits a reach-in foul during a game, he has to run laps during practice as punishment. “Who wants to keep running all day in practice?” Robinson said. “Why not jump vertical? It worked out pretty great.”

Knicks Notes: Payton, Ntilikina, Barrett, Fizdale

Interim coach Mike Miller made his first change to the Knicks‘ starting lineup last night, inserting Elfrid Payton at point guard in place of Frank Ntilikina, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. It’s a move that seemed inevitable, as Payton’s role has increased since Miller took over for David Fizdale seven games ago. Ntilikina provides better defense, but Payton speeds up the offense and gets everyone involved.

“Elfrid had 10 assists and two turnovers,” Miller said after the game. “The one thing we’ve seen him do consistently here as he’s come back from his injury is he’s helping other people and you have that facilitator and that guy that does it and he’s taken that role and he’s done a very good job with it. I’ll be repetitive, but we’ve continued, when we’ve needed it and when the game calls for it, we’ve used all the guards.”

Popper adds that giving Payton more minutes might be a strategy to drive up his trade value. He’s about to turn 26 and has no guaranteed money beyond this season. The Knicks’ future at point guard may still revolve around the 21-year-old Ntilikina and 22-year-old Dennis Smith Jr., who both need playing time to develop.

There’s more this morning from New York City:

  • Executives around the league tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv that Ntilikina still has trade value and could bring back a late first-round pick if the Knicks decide to deal him. The organization appeared determined to move on from Ntilikina before the draft, but Begley believes that’s less certain now.
  • RJ Barrett may be the last chance for the current Knicks management team to have a success story, Popper adds in a separate piece. The third player selected in this year’s draft, Barrett has been through an up-and-down start to his rookie season, as this week demonstrated. His 27-point outburst Tuesday against the Hawks was sandwiched between a 3-for-12 shooting night in Denver and a 1-for-10 performance in Miami. “We’re looking at a rookie coming in,” Miller said. “He is really mature. Mentally, he is very mature. He’s prepared for this, handles these things. Physically, he puts the work in, handles himself. From teammates to staff, everyone knows what he can do. It’s part of the learning.”
  • The Knicks’ treatment of Fizdale will make it more difficult for the team to attract a big-name coach in the future, contends George Willis of The New York Post. Numerous coaches around the league have spoken up in defense of Fizdale, who was fired after less than a season and a half.

New York Notes: Chandler, Smith, Barrett

Nets forward Wilson Chandler will be eligible to return to action for Brooklyn after Saturday’s matchup against the Raptors as his 25-game suspension for violating the NBA’s drug program will conclude. However, in the months leading up to his impending return, the veteran wasn’t sure it would ever happen.

In a detailed feature, ESPN’s Malika Andrews spoke to Chandler about his time on the sidelines, serving his suspension. Chandler, 32, admitted that he considered retirement.

“You start to think about, ‘Is it really worth it?'” Chandler said. “Not because you don’t want to play, but because you’re in a dark place.”

Chandler explained the process of finding out about his suspension and immediately reaching out to management, teammates, family and friends. At times, the well-traveled veteran secluded himself. But the Nets always saw him as part of the team and waived veteran Iman Shumpert this week to open up the necessary roster spot. Now, Chandler is preparing for his season debut and that’s his focus.

“You know,” Chandler said, “I’m a little nervous. It’s been a while since I’ve played.”

Check out more notes involving New York’s basketball teams:

  • Speaking of Chandler, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson is excited to use the forward upon his return, Mollie Walker of the New York Post writes. “He has a tremendously simple game and that’s a good thing, and understands the system,” Atkinson said. “He was playing with us today, and it’s like seamless. He’s one of those 4, 3, 2s, doesn’t matter, he can play any of those positions. Last thing is defense. We talk about losing Shump, but we’re gaining a guy that is a really good defender in this league.” 
  • With the dismissal of Knicks head coach David Fizdale, Mike Miller‘s presence as head coach has given Dennis Smith Jr. new lease on life at point guard, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina are also in the point guard mix, but Smith will see regular action, Miller said. “Dennis is a downhill player,” Miller said. “He’s good at it. We want guys to see that and continue playing aggressively.’’
  • While there have been flashes of brilliance, RJ Barrett‘s rookie season with the Knicks has been something of a roller coaster. But as interim coach Miller put it, if Barrett is going, so are the Knicks, Steve Popper of Newsday writes. “I’m feeling good,” he said. “As long as RJ is RJ we can compete.”

New York Notes: Hezonja, Dinwiddie, Miller, Barrett

Forward Mario Hezonja wanted to return to the Knicks but they never made him an offer in free agency, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Hezonja wound up taking a two-year, minimum salary deal with the Trail Blazers.

“That free agency was ‘call me and I’m coming back (to the Knicks),'” Hezonja said. “I don’t care (that) there’s a lot of perception people make about playing in New York. But I had never had problems with you guys (media). Media was great always great. Everyone from the front office was great to me. Fans are the best in the world. … I loved every single thing about my entire time out there. It didn’t work out in the summer.”

We have more on the New York teams:

  • Spencer Dinwiddie has played so well as the Nets’ starting point guard that coach Kenny Atkinson will have a pleasant dilemma when max player Kyrie Irving returns to action, Brian Lewis the New York Post writes. The Nets are 9-3 with Dinwiddie in the lineup, compared to 4-7 before a shoulder injury sidelined Irving. “It’s a good [situation]. It just adds to our depth and adds to our talent, and I just see it as a good thing,” Atkinson said. “Now I’m thinking about what is that going to look like rotation-wise. What does that look like with Spencer: Start or come off the bench? So those are good problems. I’m excited — our staff is excited — about making that work.”
  • New Knicks coach Mike Miller focused Monday’s two-hour practice on changing the team’s defensive coverage, Berman writes in a separate piece. Miller is looking for more consistent effort from the struggling squad. “We were working on the things that we need to do and really get a good feel, continue to work with our consistency of how we play possession to possession,’” Miller said. “That’s what our focus is. … Let’s lock in these areas where we’ve shown we can be pretty good. Let’s do it for longer stretches.”
  • Knicks rookie RJ Barrett has to adjust a coaching change in the early stages of his career but he’s taking it in stride, Steve Popper of Newsday relays. “This is a business,” Barrett said. “We’re pros. Stuff will happen. We have a whole season to go and move on.”

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.