Ron Baker

Ron Baker To Miss 4-6 Months With Torn Labrum

Free agent guard Ron Baker will miss four-to-six months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right labrum, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The surgery was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Baker started the 2018/19 season with the Knicks, but the 25-year-old was waived after playing in just 11 games. He then signed with the Wizards for four contests and was released after two weeks.

Baker was also ruled out for the remainder of last season after suffering a torn labrum and dislocated shoulder, with that injury coming at the end of January. Baker’s estimated timeline could see him healthy by the start of free agency, which would allow him to sign with a team during the offseason or entering training camp in the fall.

Baker, who wasn’t selected in the 2016 NBA Draft, holds career-averages of 3.1 points, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals and 14.5 minutes per game.

Wizards Waive Ron Baker

Ron Baker‘s stay in Washington turned out to be a short one as the Wizards waived him today, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. His contract would have become fully guaranteed if he had remained on the roster past 5pm Eastern today.

It’s the second trip to the waiver wire in less than a month for Baker, who was waived by the Knicks on December 13. He joined the Wizards eight days later. Baker played four games for Washington, but didn’t score a point despite averaging 11.3 minutes per night.

The move leaves Washington with just 13 players on its roster. At least one more will have to be added by January 21 to get the team back to the NBA’s 14-player limit.

The Wizards will have a $170,915 cap hit on Baker’s salary and now face an $8.66MM luxury tax bill, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). However, the tax number will increase when an extra player is added.

Wizards Sign Ron Baker, Waive Okaro White

DECEMBER 21: The Wizards have officially signed Baker and waived White, the team announced today in a press release.

DECEMBER 19: The Wizards have agreed to sign Ron Baker to a new contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. In a related, albeit unnecessary move, Wojnarowski adds that Washington will waive forward Okaro White. Marc Berman of the New York Post adds that the Nuggets also had interest in Baker before he agreed to terms with the Wizards.

As it currently stands, the Wizards only have 14 players on their roster with standard NBA contracts, so they could have kept White and signed Baker. However, as we’ve noted on several previous occasions, Washington is extremely cognizant of their looming luxury tax bill, so it’s not surprising that they will waive White, the only player on the roster with a non-guaranteed contract, and keep their roster at 14.

Assuming that White is waived/Baker signs for the veteran’s minimum tomorrow (all that Washington can offer), and that White is not picked up off waivers, the Wizards will incur a cap hit of just over $957K for Baker and just under $248K for White, totaling approximately $1.2MM. The cap hit for White, had he remained on the roster past January 10, was for $1.19MM, so the ultimate tax difference is negligible.

Accordingly, the move likely comes down to roster fit and team need, and as Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports notes, the Wizards really need a guard more than a forward/big man right now, as further indicated by yesterday’s signing of point guard Chasson Randle and the surprisingly positive play from Sam Dekker.

Baker, 25, was recently waived by the Knicks to make room for the signing of former two-way standout Allonzo Trier. In his three NBA seasons with New York, Baker averaged only 3.3 points and 1.8 assists per game, but had become a fan favorite with his work ethic and hard-nosed play.

Meanwhile, White, 26, signed with the Wizards about a month into the 2018/19 season after spending the last couple of seasons in Miami. For his career, he’s averaged 2.7 points and 2.2 rebounds per contest.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Knicks Notes: Baker, Kornet, Lee, Trier

It wasn’t easy for Knicks coach David Fizdale to part with Ron Baker, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Baker was waived yesterday to open a roster spot so that Allonzo Trier‘s two-way contract could be converted to a standard NBA deal.

“This was the hardest one I’ve ever been a part of,’’ Fizdale said. “Cutting Ron Baker was really rough. I talked to him today. He was fantastic. He’s Ron Baker. He’s a pro. He totally understood where we were. Obviously it goes without saying we’re resources to him. If anyone ever calls me on him I’ll have nothing but incredible things to say about him. I even joked to him a little bit when he’s finally done, spend some time with me and I may have a coach on my hands there.”

Baker spent more than two seasons in New York after making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2016. When Steve Mills took over as Knicks president last year, his first move was to use the room exception to give Baker a two-year, $9MM deal, but despite the team’s confidence Baker never developed into a consistent rotation player. He was averaging just 1.3 points and 9.7 minutes in 11 games this season.

There’s more today from New York:

  • Luke Kornet not only kept his roster spot Thursday, he received a promise from Fizdale for more playing time, Berman relays in a separate story. Kornet was considered a possibility to be released, but the Knicks want to see if the second-year power forward can develop into a reliable shooter from the perimeter. That potential was part of the reason they traded Willy Hernangomez last year. “I kept my mind set on doing what I could do — playing in the G League, getting better there,” Kornet said of the rumors that he might be let go. “There’s nothing you can control other than what you do on the court. I was completely committed to letting whatever happened happen.”
  • Courtney Lee is back after one game in the G League and might see an increase in playing time while Damyean Dotson deals with a sore shoulder, Berman adds. The Knicks would like to boost Lee’s trade value and unload his $12.76MM salary for next season.
  • The new deal with Trier may have at least slightly improved the Knicks’ prospects to land Kevin Durant, Berman notes in another piece. Durant became somewhat of a mentor to Trier when he was in high school in Oklahoma City and they have remained friends. Trier’s two-year contract is non-guaranteed for next season — and it could take away valuable cap space New York will need to make a full max offer — but Berman states that the front office intends to keep Trier as long as he continues to perform at his current level.

Knicks Sign Trier To New Deal, Waive Baker

1:26pm: The Knicks’ new agreement with Trier is now official as well, the club confirmed in a press release. We went into more detail on Trier’s deal earlier today.

9:52am: The Knicks have officially waived Baker, the team announced in a press release.

8:55am: The Knicks and two-way player Allonzo Trier have reached an agreement on a new two-year contract that will give Trier a spot on the team’s 15-man roster, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). To create an opening on their roster, New York is expected to waive veteran guard Ron Baker, Charania adds.

A promotion to the 15-man squad had long been expected for Trier, who signed his two-way deal with the Knicks in early July after going undrafted out of Arizona. In 27 games (23.3 MPG), the rookie guard has averaged 11.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, and 1.9 APG with an impressive .470/.391/.816 shooting line. With his 45-day NBA limit fast approaching, Trier would have been relegated to the G League for the rest of the season if he had remained on his two-way contract.

The Knicks could have unilaterally converted Trier’s two-way deal into a standard NBA contract, but doing so would have made him a restricted free agent in 2019. Instead, New York will use its bi-annual exception to lock up the 22-year-old through the 2019/20 season, according to Charania (Twitter link).

[RELATED: How Teams Are Using 2018/19 Bi-Annual Exceptions]

The Knicks can offer a starting salary worth up to $3.382MM using the bi-annual exception, and it sounds like they did just that. Ian Begley of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter) that Trier will receive $7MM on his two-year contract, with a team option on the second season. Technically, a two-year BAE deal this year can have a maximum value of $6.93MM, so it appears that’ll be the exact amount of Trier’s new pact.

New York now won’t have its bi-annual exception available during the 2019 offseason, since it can only be used once in a two-year stretch. That shouldn’t be a big deal though, since the Knicks would lose it next summer anyway if they use cap room. That appears to be the plan, with Trier’s new salary for ’19/20 potentially cutting into that room a little.

Meanwhile, it looks like this will be the end of Baker’s time in New York. The former Wichita State standout joined the club back in 2016 and impressed the old regime enough in his rookie season to earn a two-year contract worth $8.87MM in 2017. That deal came as a shock at the time and doesn’t look any better in hindsight, as Baker has appeared in just 40 games for the Knicks since re-signing, averaging 2.1 PPG and 1.5 APG on .320/.286/.781 shooting in 12.3 minutes per contest.

Baker’s $4.54MM salary for 2018/19 is fully guaranteed, so it will remain on the Knicks’ cap. The team won’t have to carry any dead money in future seasons for the third-year guard.

New York will also create an open two-way contract slot as a result of Trier making the jump to the 15-man roster. Two-way players can be signed up until January 15, so there’s no rush to fill that opening immediately.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Knicks Notes: Lee, Trier, Knox, Ntilikina

Courtney Lee will be getting more playing time, but not at the NBA level, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Knicks are sending Lee, who has missed most of the season with a neck injury, to their G League affiliate in Westchester so he can rack up minutes in tomorrow night’s game against Lakeland.

The 33-year-year-old is averaging just 10.8 minutes in four games since returning to the lineup, stuck in a crowded backcourt on a team now committed to finding time for Frank Ntilikina. Lee admits he needs to work on conditioning and suggested the idea of spending time in the G League.

“It’s going to take a while to get reactivated to game-speed, game-like situations,” he said. “It’ll probably take couple of weeks to get back a rhythm and feel chemistry with the guys. I’ve been thrown out there with those guys and trying to play on the fly. Next couple of weeks, I’ll start to feel comfortable out there.”

Lee is scheduled to rejoin the Knicks following Wednesday night’s game. The team is hoping to build up his value in hopes of working out a deal before the February 7 deadline to get his $12.76MM salary for next season off the books.

There’s more news out of New York:

  • Rookie guard Allonzo Trier strained his left hamstring and won’t be re-evaluated until next week, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Trier, who is getting close to the 45-day NBA limit on his two-way contract, will remain with the team while he rehabs the injury, but the time won’t add to his service days. Berman notes that it will give the front office more time to decide what to do once he reaches the limit, whether it involves waiving Ron Baker or Luke Kornet or trying to work out a trade (Twitter link).
  • Coach David Fizdale has been using Kevin Knox at power forward more often to boost his rebounding numbers, which paid off Sunday as he collected 11 boards, notes Peter Botte of The New York Post. It marked the first double-digit rebounding night for Knox. “I’ve really been stressing to him rebounding and getting in the trench,” Fizdale said. “We do a lot of block-out drills, just trying to get him used to the physicality of the league, trying to fast-track him that way. And so he’s taken it to heart, and he’s going to get the ball.”
  • Ntilikina’s 18-point explosion in the second half Sunday night is a sign that he will eventually reward the Knicks’ patience, contends Shlomo Sprung of Forbes.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Burke, Knox, Cap Room

Frank Ntilikina‘s versatility may help him earn more minutes during his second NBA season, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Knicks showed a lot of faith in Ntilikina when they drafted him ahead of Dennis Smith last season, and it may be paying off. Berman calls him a bright spot in a difficult preseason, looking more powerful on his drives to the basket and more active on defense.

Ntilikina has been locked in a three-way battle for minutes at point guard, but new coach David Fizdale seems willing to use him at shooting guard and small forward as well. Trey Burke is expected to be the starter at the point, with Emmanuel Mudiay and Ron Baker battling for leftover playing time.

“They all showed the ability to run the team and guard their position well,’’ Fizdale said of the point guard contenders. “They’ve made it tough on me — which is good.’’

There’s more tonight from New York:

  • Knicks fans were thrilled about the prospects for rookie forward Kevin Knox, but the preseason showed he still has a lot to learn, Berman adds in the same story. Knox got into foul trouble Friday against the Nets and only played 12 minutes. It was his third straight poor game, but Fizdale remains committed to him as the starting small forward. “This is all learning for me,’’ Knox said. “Like he says all the time, I’m going to get my butt kicked a lot and I’m going to have a lot of mistakes. It’s part of a rookie year, you’re going to have ups and downs. It just shows how much confidence he has in me keeping me in the starting lineup.”
  • Even with today’s decision to waive and stretch Joakim Noah, the Knicks have some work to do before they can offer a max contract to a 10-year veteran like Kevin Durant, notes Kevin Pelton of ESPN. New York will have more than $57MM in committed salary next summer, and the team can subtract a non-guaranteed $7.6MM deal for Lance Thomas. However, Kristaps Porzingis will have a $17.1MM cap hold as a restricted free agent, and a likely lottery pick will reduce the cap by about another $6MM. That brings the Knicks’ cap space down to $32.5MM, short of the estimated maximum salary of $38.15MM that Durant can receive.
  • The Knicks were 28th in the league in 3-point attempts in the preseason and Fizdale says it’s a matter of personnel, tweets ESPN’s Ian Begley. “The way we’re shooting it, I don’t think that’s a great shot for us,” he said.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Fizdale, Thomas, Baker

The Knicks are set to give second-year player Frank Ntilikina a major defensive test in their next preseason game on Friday, a home contest against the rival Nets. Ntilikina, who’s known for playing most of his minutes at point guard, will have the chance to guard the power forward position when the two teams clash, head coach David Fizdale revealed.

“Brooklyn is fast-paced, they usually play four perimeters and a big guy. Why not? Let’s see it,” Fizdale said, according to Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “The fours that play in our league now … how teams are playing, they’re playing perimeter guys at that spot. Frank, that’s why I said he gives me so many options for having a ball-handler that can do multiple things and guard multiple people. So that’s where I think the flexibility comes in.”

The Nets typically play small at the four, with players such as DeMarre Carroll or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson likely to see minutes at the position. According to Joyce, Ntilikina wouldn’t be tasked with guarding bigger power forwards, but rather the small-ball prototype players such as Carroll and Hollis-Jefferson.

“You know what I think,” Ntilikina said. “Guarding anyone on the opposite end is good for me. It’s a challenge. I will do my best to deny them to score, to deny them to get what they want, to deny them to get comfortable. So yeah, if that’s the plan, let’s do it.

“It’s different, but at the end of the day, it’s basketball. Of course point guard doesn’t play like a four, but loving basketball and just being a student of the game, I want to be perfect at this. I want to be able to guard anyone.”

There’s more out of New York this week:

  • Lance Thomas has established himself as the team’s starting power forward for the time being, Ian Begley of ESPN tweets. Thomas appeared in 73 games last season, seeing 31 starts on the year.
  • Several teams called the Knicks last season with hopes of inquiring on the availability of Frank Ntilikina, but the team never showed any interest in trading him, Begley reports in a separate tweet.
  • Ron Baker has quickly earned the respect of David Fizdale this preseason, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “He’s a tough S.O.B.,’’ Fizdale said. Baker is entering his third consecutive season with the team and is on track to be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

Knicks Notes: Trier, Porzingis, Hezonja, Kyrie

The Knicks are currently carrying rookie guard Allonzo Trier using one of their two-way contract slots, but promoting him to the 15-man regular season squad isn’t out of the question, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Trier has made a good early impression on head coach David Fizdale, who called the former Arizona standout a “good player” and praised his effort on defense.

Berman suggests that the Knicks will have 15 guaranteed contracts on their books once they buy out Joakim Noah. By our count, only 13 of those would be fully guaranteed — Trey Burke and Noah Vonleh have modest partial guarantees. While Burke almost certainly isn’t going anywhere, it’s not clear whether Vonleh is a lock for the regular season roster.

If New York wants to keep both Burke and Vonleh and promote Trier to the 15-man squad, Ron Baker and his $4.54MM guaranteed salary could be the odd man out. For now though, it doesn’t appear that there’s any urgency to get Trier signed to a standard contract — the Knicks could do so later in the season, when he’s nearing his 45-day NBA limit.

Here’s more out of New York:

  • When asked about his ACL recovery earlier this week, Kristaps Porzingis suggested that his rehab protocol has been a little unusual, since there are few – if any – precedents for a 7’3″ player returning from the injury. However, two medical experts who spoke to Berman of The New York Post say that they don’t think Porzingis’ height should have any substantial impact on his recovery process.
  • Despite three up-and-down seasons in Orlando, new Knicks forward Mario Hezonja is confident in his ability to be a difference-making player going forward. “There is no ceiling for me. And you know that,” Hezonja told Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News with a smile. “I know that but I’m not going to be rushing, I’m not going to be skipping steps. I’m not going to be thinking about it. It’s going to come. I just have to go step-by-step. Practice-by-practice, game-by-game.”
  • Kyrie Irving‘s comments on Media Day about being able to envision a long-term future in Boston won’t halt speculation about him moving to New York as a free agent in 2019, but they were still a blow for the Knicks, says Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post.

Ron Baker Exercises 2018/19 Player Option

Knicks guard Ron Baker has exercised his player option for the 2018/19 season and will remain under contract with the team for one more season, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). The option will pay Baker a salary of $4,544,400.

Baker, 25, joined the Knicks as an undrafted free agent out of Wichita State at the start of the 2016/17 season. After impressing the team in his rookie season, the 6’4″ guard inked a two-year deal last summer, with New York utilizing its full room exception to lock him up.

In the first year of his new contract, Baker was limited to 29 games, due in part to a season-ending shoulder injury. He averaged 2.4 PPG and 1.6 APG with a .339/.333/.769 shooting line in 13.3 minutes per contest. Those modest numbers made Baker’s 2018/19 option a lock to be exercised.

Baker’s decision continues a trend of an increasing number of NBA veterans picking up player options rather than turning them down. During the 2016 and 2017 offseasons, only eight of 53 player options were exercised. However, Baker is already the seventh player to opt into a contract this spring, joining Jeremy Lin (Nets), Cory Joseph (Pacers), Wesley Johnson (Clippers), Wesley Matthews (Mavericks), Kosta Koufos (Kings), and Jason Smith (Wizards).