RJ Barrett

New York Notes: Randle, Barrett, Millsap, Ntilikina

Knicks All-Star big man Julius Randle recently discussed a variety of subjects with SNY.tv’s Ian Begley, including his career-best 2020/21 campaign, Mitchell Robinson‘s progression and more.

Randle, 26, is coming off an excellent season with New York, averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and six assists per game. He also shot 46% from the field and 41% from deep during those contests.

“My process, honestly, it stays the same,” Randle said. “I try to keep the main focus, the main focus. And that’s, (taking) everything day by day. Whether it’s a workout, whether it’s a film, whatever it is, I just try to give everything that I can when I’m doing what I’m doing. And I kind of let the chips fall where they may.

“I trust the work and the process of everything that I’ve done. And I have faith and belief that that’s going to pay off. I know what I sacrifice, I know what I do to prepare. And regardless of success or failure, I try not to change. I don’t know what the expectation is (for our team). I can’t even tell you what to expect from me. I just know that I’m just gonna keep improving, getting better as a player. That’s just where I stand with it.”

There’s more out of New York tonight:

  • In the same interview with SNY.tv, Randle praised the rapid improvement of Knicks guard RJ Barrett. Like Randle, Barrett also had a productive 2020/21 season, averaging 17.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. “RJ’s going to be a really good player,” Randle said as part of a larger quote. “What is he, 21? I don’t know how old he is. He’s young as hell (laughs). He’s a really good player, and I can relate as far as what he’s done, and what I’ve seen from him so far in this offseason is he just keeps improving. That’s really what it’s about.”
  • Nets big man Paul Millsap is switching jersey numbers from No. 4 to No. 31, according to NetsDaily (Twitter link). Millsap, a 15-year NBA veteran, signed a free-agent deal to join the team last month.
  • Former Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina bid farewell to the team and its fans on Sunday, posting a short video on social media (Instagram link). Ntilikina was the team’s No. 8 pick in the 2017 draft. He recently signed with the Mavericks after spending four seasons in New York.

Knicks Notes: Sexton, Knox, Barrett, Lillard, Oubre

Kevin Knox could be an important trade asset if the Knicks try to get Collin Sexton from the Cavaliers, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Knox hasn’t done much over the past two seasons, but Cleveland general manager Koby Altman was very interested in the forward heading into the 2018 draft, Berman notes. The Cavs opted for Sexton with the eighth pick, and New York took Knox at No. 9.

The Knicks have a couple of connections that could help in negotiations with Cleveland, Berman adds. Chief strategist Brock Aller was a front office executive with the Cavaliers when they drafted Sexton and he remains close with Altman and owner Dan Gilbert. Sexton has the same agent as Knicks rookie forward Obi Toppin, another candidate to be sent to Cleveland in a possible deal. They are both represented by Austin Brown of Creative Artists Agency, the firm that Leon Rose ran before becoming president of the Knicks.

There’s more from New York:

  • Ian Begley of SNY.tv confirms the Knicks’ interest in Sexton, but cites sources who say the Cavs want a useful veteran in return. New York doesn’t have any veterans with a multi-year contract, so a third team might be necessary to get a deal done. Sexton will be eligible for an extension worth up to $168MM over five years, which would cut into the Knicks’ cap room.
  • Begley adds in the same story that teams in contact with the Knicks have gotten the impression that the club has little interest in trading RJ Barrett. A previous report stated that Barrett isn’t untouchable, but would likely only be available in a deal for a superstar.
  • One superstar who could end up being available this offseason is Damian Lillard. While it’s not clear if the Knicks would offer Barrett in a package for the Trail Blazers point guard, Berman says the team figures to be amenable to including at least three first-round picks in an offer. If Lillard does look to leave Portland, he’d likely be intrigued by the Knicks in part because assistant coach Johnny Bryant is one of his mentors from Oakland, Berman adds.
  • If the Knicks are able to trade for a point guard, that frees up their considerable cap room to be used elsewhere, Berman adds in a separate story. One option is Warriors forward Kelly Oubre, who is expected to lose his starting job when Klay Thompson returns. The Spurs and Heat are reportedly also interested in Oubre.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic identifies six free agents he believes the Knicks should consider, including point guards Goran Dragic and Spencer Dinwiddie and sharpshooters Duncan Robinson and Malik Monk.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Eastern Notes: David, Pistons, Rose, Nored, Barrett

The Pistons have hired George David as the franchise’s assistant general manager, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic (Twitter link).

David will report to general manager Troy Weaver, who was hired by the organization in June of 2020. David was previously with the Pistons for nearly two decades, serving in a variety of roles. This includes being the assistant GM from 2012-14.

Detroit owns the No. 1 pick in the draft and finished this season with a 20-52 record, the worst in the Eastern Conference and second-worst in the league.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Ian Begley of SNY examines the main factors of Derrick Rose‘s impending free agency. Rose helped propel the Knicks to playoff status this season, averaging 14.9 points, 4.2 assists and 26.8 minutes in 35 regular season games. He’ll be entering his 13th NBA season.
  • The Pacers are finalizing a deal with Ronald Nored to join Rick Carlisle‘s staff, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Nored most recently served as an assistant coach with Charlotte from 2018-21, though he’s been involved in coaching and player development since 2013.
  • Knicks swingman RJ Barrett isn’t considered untouchable by the franchise this offseason, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. However, Barrett – who is coming off an impressive season, averaging 17.6 points per game at just 21 years old – only figures to be available if the opportunity arises for New York to acquire a superstar.

Rosters Announced For Olympic Qualifying Tournaments

Four qualifying tournaments to determine the final four teams in the men’s basketball pool at the Tokyo Olympics are set to tip off on Tuesday. In advance of the Olympic qualifiers, the 24 teams involved have officially set their 12-man rosters, according to a press release from FIBA.

More than two dozen current NBA players are participating in the tournament, and 11 of the 24 teams competing for Olympic spots have at least one current NBA players on their respective rosters. Of those clubs, Team Canada has the biggest contingent of NBA players — eight of the 12 players on Nick Nurse‘s squad finished the season on an NBA roster. Turkey is next with four NBA players.

The four qualifying tournaments will take place in Serbia, Lithuania, Croatia, and Canada. Only the winner of each six-team group will advance to Tokyo. Those four winners will join Japan, Nigeria, Argentina, Iran, France, Spain, Australia, and the U.S. in the 12-team Olympic tournament.

The teams that move onto the Olympics may tweak their rosters for Tokyo, depending on the availability of certain players. For instance, if Greece were to win its qualifying tournament, perhaps Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo – who remains active in the playoffs for now – would make an effort to join the team in Tokyo next month.

Here are the NBA players on the OQT rosters:

Belgrade, Serbia

Kaunas, Lithuania

Split, Croatia

Victoria, Canada

There are also many former NBA players among the 24 rosters, including Mario Hezonja (Croatia), Milos Teodosic (Serbia), Jan Vesely (Czech Republic), Timofey Mozgov (Russia), and Anthony Bennett (Canada).

To view the full rosters, be sure to visit FIBA’s official site and click through to each team from there.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Payton, Gibson, Barrett

The Knicks need a quick turnaround from Julius Randle to salvage their series with the Hawks, but coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t worried about his star forward, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Randle averaged 24.1 points per game during the regular season, but has been limited to 15, 15, and 14 points as Atlanta has taken a 2-1 series lead.

“Just be Julius. I don’t want him overthinking it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Let the game come to you. Sometimes you’re going to get your shots, sometimes you got to make the play. That’s what he’s done extremely well all year long. He’s our engine, he’s a fighter, he’s tough, he’s smart. He’ll figure it out.’’

The Hawks have frustrated Randle with changing coverages, a variety of defenders, and frequent double and triple teams. He hasn’t been able to get comfortable in the point forward role he has played all season, and the Knicks don’t have a dependable guard to run their offense.

“It’s been a team effort,’’ said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter. “He’s the head of the snake. When the team is playing at its best, he’s playing at its best. He’s making shots and creating for everyone else. We wanted to make it as tough as we could on him. We’ve thrown different guys at him. Defensively, it’s feel like every possession someone else gets a crack at him. We’re just trying to show help when we can and force him into tough shots.’’

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Derrick Rose is expected to remain the starting point guard for Game 4, Berman states in a separate story. Rose scored 30 points in 38 minutes Friday as former starter Elfrid Payton wasn’t used at all. Thibodeau admits it was difficult to break the news of the demotion to Payton. “You always have to do what you feel is best for your team,’’ he said. “Sometimes it’s matchups. Elfrid’s a critical part of the team. He’s had a very good year for us. It’s just also, like, what we’re looking at, and what we think gives us our best chance right now.”
  • Thibodeau made another lineup change in Game 3, Berman adds, starting Taj Gibson at center in place of Nerlens Noel, who has been dealing with an ankle that he “tweaked” in the series opener. Noel excelled in the reserve role, with 12 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. “It doesn’t matter, whatever Thibs wants me to do — come off the bench, play five minutes,” Gibson said. “Doesn’t matter. We got to find a way to come out with a ‘W.’”
  • The Knicks need more production from RJ Barrett, points out Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Barrett is shooting 13 of 38 in the first three games and is regularly missing open jumpers. “I see it,” he said. “I’m open. I just got to make it.”

New York Notes: Randle, Rose, Barrett, Harden, Griffin

After another poor shooting night, Julius Randle expressed confidence that he and the Knicks will turn things around in the first-round series against Atlanta, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Randle missed 13 of 15 field-goal attempts in Game 3 on Friday.

We just got to adjust, just got to adjust and we will,’’ he said. “It’s on me. I just got to find a way to read the outlets quicker.’’

Impending free agent Derrick Rose was the main source of offense after being inserted into the lineup in place of slumping Elfrid Payton. Rose believes the team has been frustrated by its lack of offensive execution.

“When we’re not making shots, we still have to play with that sense of urgency,’’ Rose said.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • RJ Barrett has also been in an offensive funk in the series, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post notes. The Knicks shooting guard is averaging 11.3 PPG and shooting 32.6% from the field during the series. “I’m getting a lot of wide-open shots,” he said. “I need to make them.”
  • James Harden saw a silver lining in the Nets’ Game 3 loss to Boston on Friday, according to Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Harden believes the team had been lulled into a false sense of security after winning the first two games at home. “This probably was good for us,” Harden said. “Especially after our last game when we played so well. This was a good reminder for us that things aren’t going to be so easy.”
  • The Nets slowly worked Blake Griffin into their mix after signing him this season and general manager Sean Marks said the team has been pleasantly surprised how much he has left in the tank, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne writes. “We knew what we were getting in terms of veteran and high-IQ player,” Marks said. “So it was about being able to maximize what he’s got left, career-wise. And from the first day we got him, we could see, ‘OK, there’s some more there.'” With the superstars carrying the team in the playoffs, Griffin is averaging a modest 5.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.0 APG in the first-round series against Boston.

14 NBA Players On Canada’s Preliminary Olympic Qualifying Roster

Team Canada has yet to secure a place in the men’s basketball event at the Tokyo Olympics, but the club should have a loaded roster as it looks to lock up a spot in a qualifying tournament next month.

Canada Basketball issued a press release today announcing its 21-player preliminary roster for the Olympic qualifier, and the group includes 14 players who finished the season on NBA contracts. Here’s the full list:

Of the seven players who didn’t play in the NBA this season, one (Bennett) is a former first overall pick, another (Nicholson) was also a first-round selection, and a third (Alexander) has NBA experience. Bell-Haynes has played in the G League, while Doornekamp, Ejim, and Nembhard all have extensive experience representing Canada in past international competitions.

Still, a few noteworthy names are missing from the list. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is recovering from a torn ACL and won’t be able to participate. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is also dealing with an injury, announcing on Instagram that rehabbing the plantar fasciitis in his right foot will prevent him from representing Team Canada.

Raptors big man Chris Boucher is a third notable omission. According to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link), Boucher is focused on rehabbing a knee sprain and wants to make sure he’s 100% healthy heading into 2021/22. He also has a somewhat uncertain contract situation — his $7MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed, though I’d be shocked if he’s not retained.

Even without Murray, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Boucher, Canada Basketball is in position to run out a roster stacked with NBA talent and led by former NBA Coach of the Year Nick Nurse.

While the final roster will depend in part on which players are available, none of the 21 players on the preliminary are on teams expected to still be alive for the conference finals. However, a club like Powell’s Mavericks or Barrett’s Knicks could surprise.

Team Canada will compete against Greece, China, Uruguay, Turkey, and the Czech Republic in a qualifying tournament in Victoria, British Columbia between June 29 and July 4. If the club wins that six-team qualifier, it will be part of the 12-team field in Tokyo and would be a legit contender for a medal.

Atlantic Notes: Payton, Celtics, Barrett, Rivers

The Knicks still have some doubters to prove wrong in the playoffs this year, according to guard Elfrid Payton, as relayed by Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com. Payton, who started 63 games for New York this season, averaged 10.1 points, 3.2 assists and 23.6 minutes per contest. This will be his first playoff stint.

“I think we match up well against them,” Payton said of the team’s first-round opponents, the Hawks. “They have a lot of weapons over there, a lot of guys who can shoot the three; John Collins is playing well, (Clint) Capela is a force inside and they’ve got a good bench with Lou Will and (Danilo) Gallinari.

“I think we’re just a little bit deeper and a little bit more physical, and that’s going to make it tough for them. As far as the preparation, it’s been crazy. It’s my first playoffs, so… It’s kinda what I expected, but having so much time off, we were able to really dive into a lot of film and a lot of their tendencies.”

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • The Celtics are increasing their crowd capacity for Game 3 against the Nets on Friday, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). Boston will be at “near full” capacity for Game 4, which is set to commence next Sunday.
  • Knicks guard RJ Barrett revealed an interesting game plan for guarding Hawks star Trae Young, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News details. Barrett believes his team is better off forcing Young to score instead of making plays for his teammates (he averaged 25.3 points and 9.4 assists per game this season).
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has turned his star-studded team into winners, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Rivers holds several years of coaching experience and memorably guided the Celtics to a championship in 2008. He was also named the NBA’s Coach of the Year with Orlando in 2000.

Knicks Notes: Vildoza, Thibodeau, Payton, Barrett

Although Argentinian guard Luca Vildoza will join the Knicks soon, he may not start playing until next season, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The team signed Vildoza to a four-year, $13.6MM contract this week, but coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t have much to say about him during a session with the media before Friday’s game.

“It’s going to take some time for him to get over here,” Thibodeau said. “Our scouts really liked him. We’ll have time to evaluate him over the summer.” He later added, “There’s a whole process that he’s going to have to go through, so it’s going to be more of a summer thing.’’

Thibodeau’s statements seem to indicate that he will stick with Elfrid Payton as his starting point guard, Berman adds, even though Payton hasn’t been effective lately. He was a minus-23 in Friday’s loss to Phoenix and has posted negative ratings in seven of the past 12 games. Still, Thibodeau likes the size and agility Payton brings on defense and doesn’t want to damage his confidence heading into the playoffs.

Sources told Berman that Thibodeau’s attitude toward Vildoza is a show of support for his current players, who will each miss out on a $200K bonus because the Knicks reached the salary cap floor by signing Vildoza. It will take time for Vildoza to get immigration clearance because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s not certain when he will join the team.

There’s more from New York:

  • In an interview with Gigantes del Basket, Vildoza said he has always dreamed of playing in the NBA, relays Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. “For me it’s like living a dream,” he said. “I don’t like leaving in the middle of the season. … (But) it’s a unique opportunity that may never happen again, I didn’t want to miss it.”
  • RJ Barrett‘s improved shooting in his second NBA season has contributed to the Knicks’ turnaround, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Barrett spent the offseason focusing on his shot after being disappointed with his performance as a rookie. “You just have to keep working,” Barrett said. “If you can just get the results you want that easily, everybody would be where they want to be.”
  • The strong defensive mentality that Thibodeau has installed is drawing comparisons to the best teams in Knicks’ history, states Steve Popper of Newsday.

Knicks Notes: Toppin, Core Duo, Thibs, Payton

Knicks rookie Obi Toppin was able to carve out more minutes on Saturday as All-Star Julius Randle‘s backup thanks to his improved long-range shooting touch, as he went 3-for-4 from deep, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Toppin scored nine points in 8:38 of game action for a 120-103 New York victory over the Raptors. He earned a commendation from Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“Obi has been practicing great, I thought he played great tonight,’’ Thibodeau said. “He puts a lot of time into his shooting. He’s coming back at night. He’s grooving his shot so I think he’s gaining confidence. He’s practicing well too when we do practice. His concentration has improved. So he’s an important part of the second unit.’’

There’s more out of New York:

  • After the Knicks whiffed on signing free agent superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving during the summer of 2019, the team has recovered admirably with an intriguing core duo, per Steve Popper of Newsday. New York pivoted by signing forward Julius Randle to a now-bargain three-year, $63MM deal that summer and selecting RJ Barrett with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has helped strengthen that core. “I wanted to see where he was conditioning-wise, get to know him a little bit,” Thibodeau said of Randle. “He’s our engine, and he’s been a great leader right from the start.”
  • Knicks second-year forward Barrett supports coach Tom Thibodeau as a Coach of the Year contender for the 2020/21 season, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. With Thibodeau’s addition, the Knicks are currently riding a season-high nine-game win streak to a 34-27 record and own the East’s No. 4 seed. Thibodeau has clearly been instrumental in the development of Barrett and Randle. “We all believe in Thibs,” Barrett said. “He’s done a tremendous job in how he’s turned everything around. The way he has us playing hard every single night and we’re getting wins. The whole staff, every day, we’re working hard, just pushing us. It’s a great feeling. I’m sure the fans see how hard we’re working and having them in the Garden has been great overall.’’
  • Starting Knicks point guard Elfrid Payton is losing playing time to key reserves Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Yesterday, Payton logged his second-lowest minutes total (14:44) in a game in which he was available this year. Vorkonuv wonders if Thibodeau will at some point switch out Quickley or Rose to start, though both players have been excellent bench cogs.