RJ Barrett

New York Notes: Toppin, Barrett, Claxton, Bridges, Simmons

Obi Toppin, who started in place of injured Julius Randle on Friday, had a heated exchange with RJ Barrett during the Knicks’ win over the Cavaliers on Friday night. However, the Knicks downplayed the incident afterward, Peter Botte of the New York Post reports.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau and his assistants had to keep Toppin away from Barrett during a third-quarter timeout. Toppin and Barrett hugged on the court shortly afterward.

“We’re brothers. And we’re good. We discussed it,” Toppin said.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • Nic Claxton signed a two-year, $17.25MM contract as a restricted free agent last summer. That contract is proving to be a bargain, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Claxton has started 72 games and leads the Nets in blocks and rebounds. Claxton hopes he remains with the franchise beyond next season. “It’s human nature. It’s just in our business, you never really know what’s going to happen as far as trades, contracts and everything,” Claxton said. “But I’ve been here four years, and Brooklyn has been a huge [time], played a huge role in my growth. And I would love to be here.”
  • Nets forward Mikal Bridges is on track to play 83 regular season games this season,  something that hasn’t been done since Josh Smith played that many games for Houston and Detroit in 2014/15, Nick Friedell of ESPN notes. Nets GM Sean Marks is impressed by Bridges’ durability during a time when players are frequently rested. “You look at how he plays the game,” Marks said. “Obviously, when he was playing in Phoenix, even dating back to college days, the length, the reliability — he’s nearing 400 games played in a row, it’s pretty unique in this day and age. And for somebody who actually wants to play at that clip is also certainly refreshing.”
  • With Ben Simmons declared out for the season by the Nets, Lewis interviewed a number of medical experts and Simmons’ agent to determine whether he’ll be healthier next season. Lewis also explored the question of whether Simmons might require surgery to resolve his back and knee issues.

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Harden, Nurse, Barrett

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown earned more than $2MM in bonus money on Thursday when he played in his 65th game of the season, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

As Marks explains, Brown’s contract with the Celtics includes a bonus of $518K for simply appearing in 65 regular season games. That was considered a likely incentive since he appeared in more than 65 contests last season. Brown’s deal also includes a $1.55MM bonus for making the All-Star team and playing in 65 games, Marks adds. That incentive was considered unlikely, since he wasn’t an All-Star a year ago.

Brown can earn an additional $1.1MM in incentives this spring based on certain individual honors and how far the Celtics advance in the postseason, Marks adds (via Twitter). Reporting from the time that Brown signed his contract suggests he’d have to earn an All-NBA spot and have the Celtics win at least one series to earn that bonus money.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Sixers star James Harden, who returned to action on Wednesday after missing four games due to Achilles soreness, admitted that the injury has been an issue for a while, per Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com. “I don’t know where it came from. It’s been bothering me for some months, I would say,” Harden said. “I just wanted to continue to play on it, and there was one point to where the last game I played, (it was) just really unbearable so I couldn’t even go out there.”
  • There has been no shortage of speculation from scouts, front office executives, assistant coaches, and other people around the NBA about the coaching situation in Toronto, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Smith cautions that there haven’t been “loud whispers” around the Raptors themselves, and any decisions involving head coach Nick Nurse wouldn’t be made until after the season. It’s very possible Nurse will be back for the final year of his current contract, according to Smith, who notes that roster construction and injuries may be more to blame for Toronto’s underwhelming season than Nurse’s performance.
  • RJ Barrett is prepared to play more minutes at power forward during Julius Randle‘s injury absence if the Knicks ask him to, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News relays. “I’ve done it before. I’m comfortable with it,” said Barrett, who has played mostly at the three this season. “With the way the NBA is now, it makes it kind of easier.”

Knicks Notes: Trade Chips, Brunson, Randle, Quickley

Given their excess of future first-round picks, the Knicks have long been viewed as a good candidate to make a trade for a star player — they seemingly got close last summer when they pursued Donovan Mitchell. In a recent Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested that the team could be even more ambitious heading into the 2023 offseason.

“Here’s what I think about the Knicks,” Windhorst said (hat tip to RealGM). “They have two handfuls of trade material, in my opinion. They can make, in my opinion, two big trades if they had to coming into this summer. They have the expiring contract of Evan Fournier, which can act as ballast in a trade. They have a bunch of younger players that people are interested in. And they have something like nine tradable first round picks.

“In my view, they can trade for two star-level players if they needed to. … In my opinion, they can hold Jalen Brunson, they can hold Julius Randle, and they can make two giant trades. Now, whether they can hold Brunson, Randle AND (RJ) Barrett and make two giant trades, that would depend on the players. But there is even a window that they can hold all three of those and make two giant trades.”

Windhorst went on to offer some caveats. He believes that a star (or two) may have to explicitly seek a move to New York in order for the Knicks to realistically be able to use their assets to land two impact players. He also acknowledged that, as well positioned as the Knicks are to pursue a blockbuster deal or two, actually making those deals won’t be easy.

“Leon Rose has put them in position,” Windhorst said. “Getting into position is not the hard part. Executing is the hard part. But he’s put them in position.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Three games after returning from a foot injury, Jalen Brunson was out again on Thursday in Orlando due to a right hand sprain, notes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Following the Knicks’ loss to the Magic, Brunson appeared to be sporting a hard plastic brace on his hand. “I think he’ll be evaluated when we get back (to New York), so we’ll see where he is,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said.
  • An All-NBA second-teamer in 2021, Julius Randle had a down year in 2022 but now once again looks like a legitimate All-NBA candidate, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Katz polled 39 media members on their All-NBA picks and found that Randle received the fourth-most votes among forwards, behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, and Jimmy Butler. As Katz observes, Randle could benefit from superstars like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard missing significant time due to injuries.
  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports spoke to Sixth Man of the Year candidate Immanuel Quickley about the strides he has made on both sides of the court during his third NBA season. Quickley will be eligible for a rookie scale extension beginning in July.
  • Randle received a technical foul for yelling at official Leon Wood at the end of the first half of Thursday’s loss. Quickley, who tried to calm down Randle, ended up nose-to-nose with his teammate as the two exchanged words (Twitter video link), but downplayed the altercation after the game, Botte writes for The New York Post. “Honestly, everybody’s trying to win. Heat of the moment. That’s basically what it is,” Quickley said. “We all want to win. We’re all trying to get dubs.”

Knicks Notes: Hart, Quickley, Toppin, Fournier, Barrett

Josh Hart appears open to a long-term contract with the Knicks, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype said in a discussion about the team with Ian Begley of SNY. Hart has been a perfect fit since being acquired from the Trail Blazers at the trade deadline, and he has quickly become a favorite of head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Hart has a $13MM player option for next season, but he’s expected to turn it down and test the market. Scotto said Hart enjoys being in New York and will likely get a three- or four-year offer from the team.

Begley adds that the Knicks wouldn’t have parted with a future first-round pick along with Cam Reddish unless they were confident that they could keep Hart. He notes that Hart has talked about his connections to team president Leon Rose as well as Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle and is looking for stability after being traded four times in his first six NBA seasons.

There’s more on the Knicks from Scotto and Begley:

  • Teams may have missed an opportunity by not trading for Immanuel Quickley earlier this season, per Scotto, who says there were rumors that New York would have taken a first-round pick in return. Quickley is now among the favorites for Sixth Man of the Year honors and may be in line for a rookie scale extension this summer. Begley suggests the Knicks’ offer will have to be “something significant” to get Quickley to accept, adding that he’s not likely to give them a “home team discount.”
  • Randle’s reemergence should make Obi Toppin a strong trade candidate, according to Scotto. The third-year power forward is playing just 14.6 minutes per game and will make $6.8MM next season. Begley states that the Knicks talked to several teams about Toppin before the deadline, including the Pacers, but no one was willing to offer the draft assets they wanted in return for the former lottery pick.
  • New York will also look for a taker for Evan Fournier, who will have a virtual $18.8MM expiring contract next season because there’s a team option for 2024/25. Fournier was brought up in trade talks with the Raptors involving OG Anunoby, but Toronto was asking for three first-round picks and the Knicks weren’t confident about re-signing Anunoby when he reaches free agency in 2024, Scotto says. The Lakers also had some interest in Fournier earlier in the season, Begley adds.
  • RJ Barrett hasn’t been in Thibodeau’s closing lineups recently, and Scotto believes the Knicks would be willing to use him as a trade chip if they chase a star player this summer.

New York Notes: Rose, Barrett, Bridges, Thomas

Responding to rumors that he’d be pursued by the Suns if he reaches a buyout agreement with the Knicks, point guard Derrick Rose told reporters on Saturday that he hasn’t “talked to anybody” about seeking a buyout.

“I haven’t even thought about it. I’m locked in to my thing right now. It’s kind of hard to think about something that I’ve never pursued and never talked about with them,” Rose said, per Peter Botte of The New York Post. “… Y’all heard something? I’ve just been locked in, doing my recovery. (I) talk to (head coach Tom Thibodeau) about the team, talk to (president) Leon (Rose) about the team, but other than that, I haven’t talked to them about (a buyout).”

Players who are waived on or before March 1 retain their playoff eligibility if they sign with a new team before the end of the regular season, so if Rose is going to be bought out it would probably have to happen in the next few days. However, the former MVP gave no indication that he’ll have a last-minute change of heart, pointing out that family considerations also factor into his desire to remain in New York — his son plays for the Gauchos AAU team in Manhattan, according to Botte.

“Exactly. He loves it over here. I’d probably have to talk it over with him, even before Thibs,” Rose joked.

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

  • After finding himself on the bench during the final eight minutes of a win over Washington on Friday, Knicks wing RJ Barrett bounced back nicely on Saturday, pouring in 25 points in 29 minutes and putting up a season-high seven assists. As Andrew Crane of the New York Post relays, Thibodeau praised Barrett’s play-making and “all-around play,” though he didn’t rule out the possibility of keeping the former No. 3 pick out of closing lineups going forward. “It’s going to be what goes well, but RJ’s obviously a very important part of the team,” Thibodeau said.
  • New Nets forward Mikal Bridges is viewing the trade that sent him from Phoenix to Brooklyn in the most positive possible light, as he tells Marc J. Spears of Andscape. “It’s kind of cool just be part of this and go through that whole trade process,” Bridges said, noting that he has always wanted to try living in New York. “Just midseason going to a whole other team, different concepts, people are different. It’s just a whole other city. It’s kind of cool to me, honestly, just see what you’re made of. I know it’s not easy and I’m not going to be the person that dwells on it and (is) upset about it. I just want to take action.”
  • Nets guard Cam Thomas saw his playing time dip a little after the trade deadline, but he logged 30 minutes in Friday’s loss to Chicago and may be needed to help kickstart Brooklyn’s slumping offense, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Thomas had a team-high 22 points and made 3-of-6 three-pointers.

Knicks Notes: Robinson, Randle, Barrett, Dolan

Mitchell Robinson didn’t need any time to adjust to being back on the court as he returned to the Knicks‘ lineup Friday night, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. In his first game since undergoing thumb surgery in January, Robinson had 10 points, 12 rebounds and posted a plus-12 rating in 28 minutes as New York rallied to beat the Wizards.

Now in sixth place at 34-27, the Knicks have been able to rise up the Eastern Conference standings without Robinson, who anchors the team on defense. His return gives New York a complete lineup as it tries to avoid the play-in tournament and possibly capture home court in the first round of the playoffs.

“Still have work that needs to be done, so I’m gonna take it day by day,” Robinson said. “Still trying to get better at stuff I’m normally already used to doing. So just gotta lock in and get better at it. We only got 22 games left (now 21) in 40-something days. So we’re gonna make the best of it and get it right.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Julius Randle played in the All-Star Game, but he looked much fresher on Friday than his more rested teammates, notes Steve Popper of Newsday. Randle scored 46 points and sparked a rally that led to the Knicks overcoming a 19-point deficit. “Just came out aggressive,” he said. “That time of the year. Just gotta lock in. Just lost in the game, man, so whatever the team needs, that’s what I’m gonna do.”
  • RJ Barrett played just 28 minutes against Washington and remained on the bench late in the game as coach Tom Thibodeau used Immanuel Quickley and Josh Hart to get better defense on the wing, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “A lot of it is flow of the game,” Thibodeau explained. “Like I said, I love our depth. We have a number of guys that are coming off the bench that are starters. There’s no dropoff. So whoever is going good, whatever the best matchup is, that’s what we’re going to go with. … So we need everyone. We’re asking guys to sacrifice. Some guys would like to start and they’re not starting. And some guys would like more shots and more minutes. That’s common. But everyone has to put the team first.”
  • Knicks owner James Dolan skipped a New York City Council hearing Friday on facial recognition technology, which he allegedly uses to keep his enemies from entering Madison Square Garden, according to Chris Sommerfeldt of The New York Daily News.

Bulls, Knicks Discussing Zach LaVine Deal

The Bulls and Knicks are discussing a deal involving high-scoring wing Zach LaVine, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports (Twitter link).

The two parties have been talking but they temporarily broke off those negotiations on Wednesday. They’re now actively discussing a potential LaVine trade once again, Cowley adds.

While multiple reports in recent weeks have indicated the Bulls are unlikely to move one of their core pieces at the deadline, it sounds like they haven’t ruled out that possibility.

There has been an internal debate within the Knicks organization about whether to include Immanuel Quickley in any trade discussions, according to Matt Moore of Action Network. The Knicks have also been linked to Raptors forward OG Anunoby, so the revived discussions with the Bulls could signal New York is willing to deal Quickley.

LaVine, who is averaging 23.6 points per game, is in the first year of a five-year, maximum-salary contract worth approximately $215MM.

The Knicks have already agreed to acquire Josh Hart from Portland but they could include any number of players, including Quickley, to make a LaVine trade a reality. RJ Barrett and/or Obi Toppin might also be logical trade pieces if the Knicks decide to make a blockbuster move.

Knicks Notes: Bey, Anunoby, Barrett

The Knicks are among the teams that has shown interest in Pistons forward Saddiq Bey, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Begley isn’t sure how far discussions between the two teams have gotten, but says Bey’s name is one that “has been talked about recently” as New York considers its trade options.

The Pistons are believed to be setting a high asking price for players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks, and Bey, so it may be tricky for the Knicks to find a deal that works for both sides. Still, as Begley points out, the two front offices have worked together many times in recent years — New York acquired Derrick Rose from Detroit at the 2021 trade deadline and the two clubs completed a pair of offseason deals in 2022.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Begley previously reported that the Knicks were open to offering multiple first-round picks for OG Anunoby, while a separate report indicated that at least one team was prepared to put three first-rounders on the table for the Raptors forward. According to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca, there’s a wide belief that the report was referring to the Knicks and that New York is the team willing to offer three first-rounders for Anunoby.
  • However, Grange cautions that even if the Knicks are willing to offer three first-round picks, those may not be “high-end” selections. New York controls protected 2023 first-rounders from Dallas (top-10 protected), Detroit (top-18 protected), and Washington (top-14 protected). None of those picks can ever land in the top eight and it may still be multiple years before a couple of them change hands. They wouldn’t be nearly as valuable as the Knicks’ own unprotected picks.
  • RJ Barrett didn’t play during the final seven minutes of regulation or at all in overtime on Tuesday as the Knicks fell to the Lakers, writes Andrew Crane of The New York Post. Barrett didn’t speak to reporters after the game, but appeared frustrated, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, while head coach Tom Thibodeau offered only a brief explanation for why he opted to close the contest with Immanuel Quickley instead of Barrett. “We were just looking for our group to get going,” Thibodeau said. “The group that was out there was what we went with.”
  • In case you missed it, the Knicks will send a player to the Rising Stars event at All-Star weekend in Utah. Quentin Grimes was one of 10 sophomores to earn a spot in the player pool.

Knicks Notes: Reddish, Quickley, McBride, D. Rose, More

There have been multiple reports on the Knicks‘ asking price for Cam Reddish in recent weeks, with at least one story indicating the team wants two second-round picks while another suggested that just one would do the trick.

According to Fred Katz of The Athletic, the Knicks have expressed to certain teams that they want a pair of second-rounders for Reddish, but sources from rival clubs believe New York would be amenable to accepting just one.

As Katz observes, the deal the Lakers and Wizards made for Rui Hachimura might actually hurt the Knicks’ market for Reddish, even though Hachimura is also a restricted free-agent-to-be and netted Washington three second-rounders.

Hachimura was a regular contributor in Washington, whereas Reddish hasn’t played for nearly two months. Additionally, the Lakers were viewed as a prime suitor for Reddish, but no longer seem like a probable landing spot for the fourth-year forward, reducing the Knicks’ leverage in trade discussions.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Elsewhere in his story on the Knicks’ trade deadline considerations, Katz confirms that the team has become increasingly resistant to the idea of trading Immanuel Quickley after having been open to moving him earlier in the season and cites league sources who say New York has “decisively” turned down inquiries on reserve guard Miles McBride. McBride isn’t currently a major part of the Knicks’ rotation, but the team likes him “for the long haul,” Katz explains.
  • If Derrick Rose remains on the roster through the trade deadline, buying him out and allowing him to sign with a contender is a possibility, according to Katz. But the Knicks have also discussed the idea of hanging onto the point guard into the offseason in case his $15.6MM team option for 2023/24 becomes a useful salary-matching asset in a trade for an impact player.
  • Reserve center Isaiah Hartenstein was happy to be able to contribute to the Knicks’ win over Cleveland on Tuesday with some key defensive plays in crunch time, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. “It’s big. It’s kind of what I came here for,” Hartenstein said. “I know for myself if I’m not playing as good as I’m supposed to be playing I feel like I’m kind of letting the fans down, the city down a little bit. But I’m just going to keep getting better because I know I can do it. So keep getting better and keep representing for New York.”
  • Head coach Tom Thibodeau likes what he’s seeing from a second unit that features Hartenstein, McBride, Quickley, and Obi Toppin playing alongside starter RJ Barrett, per Zach Braziller of The New York Post. “Huge. I mentioned it earlier that the bench was playing really well prior to RJ getting hurt, then Obi got hurt and we haven’t found our rhythm,” Thibodeau said. “Now I think we’re starting to find that rhythm again.”

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Knicks Rotation, VanVleet, Siakam

Kyrie Irving hasn’t been able to produce during the fourth quarter since Kevin Durant was sidelined by a knee injury, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. Against Boston on Thursday, the Nets star guard shot 3-of-10, missing all three 3-point attempts, in the last 12 minutes. Against the Thunder on Sunday, Irving had just two points on 1-for-4 shooting in the fourth quarter.

“I’m doing the best job I can. I wish I could make a few more shots within the minutes and be efficient,” Irving said of those Nets’ losses. “I know that’ll come, and I’ll continue to prepare the best way I know how and be a better example for the guys in the locker room.”

The Nets were without both stars on Tuesday. Irving missed the game against San Antonio with right calf soreness, Nick Friedell of ESPN tweets.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Immanuel Quickley have absorbed a vast majority of the minutes in Tom Thibodeau’s latest Knicks rotation, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic. The Knicks could use another source of offense if they continue with that rotation, which means a trade to address that need is a possibility. Houston’s Eric Gordon or a wing player could be the target.
  • With Fred VanVleet likely to decline his player option in order to become a free agent this summer, the Raptors are in a tricky situation regarding their point guard, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes. A hot streak by VanVleet could help them move him for a suitable package before the deadline. If the Raptors decide not to trade him, they had better be prepared to make a serious long-term commitment this summer, despite his off year.
  • If the Raptors can get an offer for Pascal Siakam like Utah did for Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, they should strongly consider it, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype opines. Toronto could seek multiple unprotected first-round picks, prospects, and good veterans on team-friendly deals for Siakam. Teams like Dallas, Phoenix, and Atlanta would be great fits for Siakam and could all make strong offers for him, Gozlan adds. That would facilitate a reshaping of their core group without an extended rebuild.