Steve Mills

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Raptors, Pelle, Anderson

Knicks management didn’t make any public statements during the preseason suggesting they expected to make the postseason, but Ian Begley of SNY.tv hears that the front office privately conveyed to players that anything less than a playoff spot would be a disappointment. According to Begley, Knicks players who can become free agents in 2020 were told they’d be judged more heavily on the team’s win-loss record than on their individual play.

As Begley explains, management may have been trying to motivate a roster that consisted of mostly young players or newcomers. If that was the plan, it has backfired, as the Knicks have fallen well short of those expectations.

Begley’s article is worth checking out in full for more details on the pressure the coaches and players have felt this season and how those preseason expectations influenced the decision to fire David Fizdale. In my view, if Steve Mills and Scott Perry legitimately believed the Knicks should be a playoff team, that should be more of an indictment of their ability to build and evaluate a roster than of the coaches’ or players’ performances.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • While there has been speculation since Kawhi Leonard‘s departure last summer that the Raptors could become sellers due to their expiring veteran contracts, their success this season has made that increasingly unlikely. President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri essentially confirmed as much this week when he said the Raps will “die trying” to defend their title, as Julia Kreuz of Sportsnet.ca relays. “If we do something (on the trade market), it’s out of the fact that we think this is giving us a chance, or a bigger chance, and right now I think we have that chance, if we continue to play ball and continue to figure it out,” Ujiri said.
  • Sixers two-way player Norvel Pelle reached his 45-day NBA limit when he was active on Wednesday night vs. Toronto, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Pelle is unsure what’s next for him, suggesting he’ll leave that up to his agent and the team. If he’s not converted to a standard contract – perhaps after the trade deadline – he won’t be eligible to suit up for the 76ers until after the G League regular season ends in late March.
  • The Nets‘ and Raptors‘ G League teams swapped a pair of players with NBA experience, as the Raptors 905 traded swingman Justin Anderson to the Long Island Nets for big man Henry Ellenson. Ellenson was a two-way player for Brooklyn earlier in the season, while Anderson was on a 10-day contract with the Nets this month. Kelsea O’Brien of Raptors Republic first reported the deal (via Twitter).

Knicks Rumors: Mills, Perry, Olshey, Coaches

Several members of the Knicks organization said this week that they expect president Steve Mills to be replaced at season’s end, or even earlier, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

The report is similar to one issued by Frank Isola of The Athletic last week. Isola suggested that Mills will be reassigned within the organization or let go altogether, but Begley hears from sources that the situation remains fluid. If the Knicks can turn things around this season, it may improve the odds that Mills sticks around, particularly since he still has years left on his contract beyond 2019/20, Begley writes.

The future of general manager Scott Perry is thought to be tied to Mills’ future to some degree, but not entirely. If Mills is dismissed during the season, the belief is that Perry would take over as the head of basketball operations on an interim basis, per Begley.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks’ vision for their next head coach is someone who has the “stature and ability” to have success in the New York market, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Team officials want someone who can lean on prior success and experience, which explains why high-profile executives like Masai Ujiri and Sam Presti have been cited as potential targets.
  • Marc Berman of The New York Post examines whether Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey might be another target for the Knicks, noting that the Blazers’ exec has strong New York roots. Olshey is happy in Portland, but a person close to him tells Berman that it may not be his last stop. “He’s got full autonomy here to run things as he sees fit and he’s pretty happy with his salary, I think,” that NBA official said. “He’s never going to be a huge fan of retiring in Portland as a city, so maybe this isn’t his final destination. But he’s not a big media guy even if he’s a big-city guy in some ways.”
  • According to Shams Charania, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson, and Tom Thibodeau are among the names on the Knicks’ current head coaching wish list. Ian Begley agrees that Jackson has support within the franchise, adding that Jason Kidd is someone else who has organizational support.
  • Carmelo Anthony, who spent seven-and-a-half seasons with the Knicks, is holding out hope that the team will retire his number, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. “I think anybody would want that, if you have the opportunity to get that,” Anthony said. “We’ll see what happens when that time comes. Hopefully, they hang No. 7 up there somewhere. We’ll see what happens.”

Knicks Rumors: Fizdale, Durant, Porzingis, Griffin

Before being hired by the Knicks in the spring of 2018, David Fizdale was a highly sought-after head coaching candidate, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, who suggest that Fizdale had offers from the Hawks and Suns and was the leading candidate for the Hornets‘ opening as well. However, Fizdale was focused on New York and turned down other offers even before he received any assurances from the Knicks.

A year and a half later, Fizdale is back on the market after a miserable start to the 2019/20 season. Leading up to his ouster, Fizdale knew that team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry were meeting with players to get their input on why the Knicks weren’t showing progress, sources tell Shelburne and Wojnarowski. Eventually, Fizdale told Mills and Perry that he understood if they felt he’d become part of the problem.

Mike Miller has taken over as the Knicks’ interim head coach and should keep the job at least through the end of the season, assuming players respond to him, per the ESPN duo. But there have already been talks at the ownership level about potentially hiring a new coach during the season if the club’s struggles continue. That would present a new series of complications, since Mills and Perry are now on the hot seat themselves, and it’s not clear whether they’d get the go-ahead to pick a new coach.

Shelburne and Wojnarowski touch on many more topics in their latest article, exploring many other factors that have contributed to the Knicks’ ongoing struggles in recent years. The piece is absolutely worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights:

  • Kevin Durant did “strongly” consider the Knicks as a free agent destination earlier this year, but when he and Kyrie Irving talked about teaming up, Durant never pushed the Knicks the way Irving pushed the Nets, sources tell ESPN. Shelburne and Wojnarowski also suggest that team owner James Dolan was wary about bringing aboard Durant and his torn Achilles after the Knicks’ experience with Amar’e Stoudemire.
  • The Knicks began gauging Kristaps Porzingis‘ trade value early in 2019, offering him to the Pelicans in an Anthony Davis package, per ESPN. When New Orleans showed little interest in that proposal, the Knicks began to wonder if league-wide interest in Porzingis may not be as high as they believed.
  • When Porzingis and his brother (and agent) Janis found out the Knicks were discussing a possible trade with the Mavericks, they hurried a meeting with the team, providing a wish list of four destinations (Nets, Clippers, Raptors, and Heat), according to Shelburne and Wojnarowski. The Knicks turned around and quickly finalized a deal with Dallas, perhaps not wanting to lose leverage when Porzingis’ request leaked. The series of events left more than a dozen teams around the NBA wondering why they didn’t have a chance to bid on Porzingis, and suggested one of two things to rivals, per Shelburne and Woj: Either the Knicks knew Durant and Irving were coming, or they didn’t know how to properly execute a franchise-altering trade.
  • After parting ways with Phil Jackson in 2017, the Knicks initially zeroed in on David Griffin, who told the organization he was interested only if he could become president of basketball operations and report directly to ownership. Dolan suggested he was “excited” about that idea, sources tell Shelburne and Woj. However, Griffin soon realized – particularly when word broke that the Knicks had signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71MM deal – that he likely wouldn’t have full autonomy and would have to report to Mills. He met with the club but withdrew his name from consideration shortly after that meeting.
  • The Knicks subsequently pivoted to Perry, a candidate “without the gravitas or leverage to demand a direct line to ownership.” Perry’s contract includes fourth- and fifth-year options that must be exercised this season, according to ESPN. It seems unlikely at this point that New York will pick up those options for 2020/21 and ’21/22.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Mills, Payton, More

More than 48 hours after news broke that the Knicks had parted ways with head coach David Fizdale, the team released a formal statement on Sunday night that expanded on its initial, bare-bones announcement from Friday — albeit not by much.

“The New York Knicks organization would like to thank David Fizdale for his leadership and professionalism over the past two seasons,” the new statement read. “He represented the organization with nothing but class. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Sunday’s press release included a longer statement from Fizdale himself, who thanked team president Steve Mills, GM Scott Perry, and owner James Dolan for the opportunity to coach the Knicks, and expressed gratitude to Knicks fans for their “passion and commitment.”

Typically, when a team issues a statement like the one New York did on Sunday, it’s attributed to the team’s head of basketball operations or owner. However, the Knicks’ press release on Fizdale notably didn’t mention Mills, as Marc Berman of The New York Post points out, which may be another signal that the team president is on shaky ground.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News explores potential replacements for Mills if the Knicks decide to make a front office change. The right move would be to hire an accomplished executive and grant him full autonomy, Bondy opines.
  • Sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv that the Knicks have been keeping an eye out for potential moves that would improve the current roster. While New York may be doing its due diligence, it’s hard to imagine the team would become a buyer in advance of the trade deadline. The front office’s uncertain future also complicates matters, as Begley observes.
  • Elfrid Payton, who is back from a hamstring strain, is on a minutes restriction for now, but looked like the Knicks’ best point guard on Saturday, Berman writes for The New York Post, noting that it may just be a matter of time before Payton reclaims the starting job.
  • Westchester Knicks GM Allan Houston pushed hard to have Mike Miller considered for the Knicks’ interim head coaching job once Fizdale was fired, according to Berman. Miller previously coached New York’s G League affiliate in Westchester.
  • Knicks fans deserved a better explanation from the team’s decision-makers for their head coaching change, argues Barbara Barker of Newsday. Mills and Perry didn’t hold a news conference over the weekend to discuss Fizdale’s dismissal.
  • Former Knick Carmelo Anthony addressed Fizdale’s firing and the perception that stars don’t want to play for the franchise. Steve Popper of Newsday has the details and the quotes from Anthony.

Knicks Notes: Mills, Ujiri, Smith Jr., Fizdale

Steve Mills’ absence from the media in the wake of David Fizdale’s firing is a sign of his own uncertain future with the organization, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Neither Mills nor general manager Scott Perry addressed reporters Saturday, leaving that task to interim coach Mike Miller. There have been no comments from management explaining why Fizdale was let go, except for a two-sentence press release issued Friday to announce the move.

Choosing Fizdale over 11 other candidates — including reigning Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer — and giving him a four-year contract were Mills’ most recent mistakes since rejoining the team in 2012/13, Berman notes. The Knicks are on their way to their seventh straight losing season in that time.

Berman is the latest to report that the Knicks plan to make a run at Raptors executive Masai Ujiri after the season ends. Owner James Dolan considered trying to lure Ujiri two years ago before promoting Mills to president, Berman states, but decided the price in draft compensation would be too steep. Sources tell Howard Beck of Bleacher Report that Ujiri is “intrigued” at the challenge of fixing the Knicks, but people close to him are warning against it. Ujiri turned down a lucrative extension offer last summer, according to Beck, and has an out clause in his contract that allows him to leave the Raptors under certain circumstances.

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • Knicks players have been told not to share the reasons for Fizdale’s ouster, Berman adds in the same story. “They gave us the reasoning,’’ Dennis Smith Jr. said. “You’ve got to appreciate them giving a reason, too, because they didn’t have to do that. So they gave us a reason, told us what they expect moving forward. I think everyone has to (keep it) private.’’
  • Fizdale’s fate was sealed when Mills and Perry held a post-game press conference on November 11, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN. That surprise session with the media followed a halftime meeting with Dolan during a blowout loss to the Cavaliers. It was determined at that point that a coaching change was coming, a source tells Andrews, and the only question was when.
  • Fizdale is receiving support from his fellow coaches in the wake of his dismissal. “I’m happy for Fizdale to be out of that terrible mess that he had nothing to do with,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni suggested something is missing in the organization, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “I hate it for Fizdale,” he said. “Good coach. Did a good job. It just didn’t work out and they can’t quite seem to get all the elements together.”

Knicks President Steve Mills On ‘Hot Seat’

After the firing of head coach David Fizdale on Friday, Knicks team president Steve Mills‘ days in his current role appear to be numbered, Frank Isola of The Athletic writes.

The Knicks’ recent whiffs, which include trading Kristaps Porzingis, failing to land a top tier free agent in the summer, and the dismissal of Fizdale — which came at Mills’ recommendation — falls squarely on the president, Isola writes. New York is currently undergoing an overhaul and that likely means Mills will be reassigned within the organization or let go altogether, sources tell the longtime Knicks scribe.

Should Mills be relieved of his duties as team president, the Knicks are likely to pursue current Raptors president Masai Ujiri. We relayed earlier this week that New York intends to pursue Ujiri, with a report suggesting there is real belief he may accept the role.

New York currently wields a 4-18 record, the worst in the NBA. Interim head coach Mike Miller is likely to finish the season as Knicks coach since any major hire would likely be made over the summer. However, given the team’s standing, most of the roster and front office are essentially auditioning for roles elsewhere for the remainder of 2019/20.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale Fallout, Potential Long-Term Replacements

The Knicks fired David Fizdale earlier today while also relieving Keith Smart of his duties as assistant coach. The move comes after a 4-18 start, which ties a record for worst in franchise history.

While Fizdale repeatedly told reporters that he had owner James Dolan’s backing, Jabari Young of CNBC.com hears from an agent who represents coaches around the league that the firing was “inevitable.” Assistant coach Mike Miller will now take over as the interim head coach with 60 games to go in the season.

Former Warriors coach and Knicks guard Mark Jackson has been linked to the team as a long-term candidate for the role (any major hire is likely to come in the offseason) and Young reports that Spurs assistant Becky Hammon would be interested in the job should the team be willing to offer her a long-term deal. Young mentions four or five years as the necessary length of the contract.

Young also mentions former Coach of the Year (2007) Sam Mitchell as a good candidate for the short-term, as Mitchell has a reputation for getting top effort out of players.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Jeff Van Gundy, Jason Kidd, and Tyronn Lue are among the former NBA coaches that Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic names as options for the Knicks. Vorkunov also lists several potential candidates without former head coaching experience, such as Jarron Collins, Stephen Silas, and Ettore Messina.
  • The firing of Fizdale won’t clean up the Knicks’ issues, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today explains. Zillgitt believes that the front office should shoulder the blame for putting together this roster and simply expecting Fizdale to produce results with it.
  • Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post argues that the Knicks should fire team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry. The regime put together a plan of signing big-name free agents and failed to deliver.

New York Notes: Ntilikina, Mills, Shumpert, Claxton

A starter in seven straight games, Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina is finally trending in the right direction, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv, largely because of his newfound mental approach to the game that began last season and continued this summer.

“I think the work I put in all summer and even last season while I was injured, allows me to be more comfortable and everything else in life be more comfortable here in this country, this situation as an NBA player, said Ntilikina. “And everything is set now, so my mind is all the way into basketball and do what it takes to get to the next level.

There’s more from the Big Apple this afternoon:

  • Lesser-used players like Theo Pinson and Dzanan Musa rewarded Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson with his trust in them during the team’s recent win over Chicago, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “That’s what we’re about,” Atkinson said. “We’ve got to trust these guys. They put in the work, they’ve been in our program a while so they understand what we’re doing. We can’t burn out our other guys, our top eight. We can’t play them 45 minutes. So, those guys’ contributions were huge.”
  • Stefan Bondy of the Daily News opines that allowing president Steve Mills to choose the Knicks’ next head coach (should David Fizdale be fired) is a silly proposition, as Mills has already failed time and time again to find the right candidate to lead the team moving forward.
  • Atkinson says the Nets are looking for new addition, veteran swingman Iman Shumpert, to fill a need with his perimeter defense, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “He fits a need right now. Perimeter defense, that’s always been his calling card. I … know him well, know the personality. He gets after it defensively. That will be his role for us.”
  • According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, at least one former Knicks player did not like how MSG fans booed his former teammate, Mavs’ forward Kristaps Porzingis. “I think everybody can think what they want but I feel bad for KP,” said Hornets’ big man Willy Hernangomez. “He’s my brother. We spent too many nights in this amazing arena. I understand what people [do]. The people always treated me good when I was here and appreciated. But I was sad when I saw that.”
  • SB Nation’s Nets Daily takes a look at how Nets rookie power forward Nicolas Claxton is set to earn additional minutes at the NBA level as a result of the recent poor play of teammate Rodions Kurucs. “We’ve got to get our best talent on the floor,” Atkinson said Friday. “I think (Claxton’s) a talented guy. We need to find a way to play him.”

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Randle, Smith, Bullock

The vultures are circling in New York. After a blowout 120-102 defeat to the lowly Bulls, the 2-9 Knicks are still reeling from press conference comments made by president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry on Sunday. Head coach David Fizdale‘s days in New York appear to be numbered.

On ESPN’s SportsCenter today, Adrian Wojnarowski speculated to Stephen A. Smith that a Fizdale firing felt like a fait accompli. Wojnarowski elaborated, noting that Fizdale could be the first member of the New York brain trust to be shown the door by owner James Dolan amidst this disastrous — though hardly surprising — start to the Knicks’ season.

Marc Berman of the New York Post postulates that Fizdale could be gone within the Knicks’ next 10 games if they don’t make a drastic improvement in the win column. ESPN Insider scribe Kevin Pelton suggests that the Knicks front office leaders, who were so quick to blame Fizdale for stumbling out of the gate, need to recognize the limitations of the team’s disjointed roster.

There’s more from New York:

  • About that roster — one of the Knicks’ best backcourt prospects, Dennis Smith Jr., has missed seven of the team’s past eight games due to the death of his stepmother. He returned to action yesterday, scoring zero points on 0-for-3 shooting from the floor. Once Smith settles in, the Post’s Greg Joyce thinks that his presence could positively affect the team’s dire point guard situation. Frank Ntilikina remained the starter yesterday in Chicago, but Smith could be a helpful scorer and facilitator in a bench capacity. Elfrid Payton, the starting point guard when the season began, remains out of commission with a hamstring injury.
  • An NBA personnel man who spoke to Marc Berman believes the Knicks are making a tactical mistake in treating Julius Randle like a No. 1 option. Berman observes that Randle, a good scorer and the team’s highest-paid player, lacks the chops to be a good team’s lead ball-handler. Fizdale himself addressed the big man’s decision-making, as Ian Begley of SNY reports. “For him, we’re just trying to build that habit of having more balance and when you decide to go and when you decide to work with getting someone else involved,” Fizdale said.
  • The Knicks’ depleted backcourt could eventually get some more help in the form of shooting guard Reggie Bullock, whom the team signed to a two-year, $8.2MM contract over the summer. According to Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com (Twitter link), Bullock has been progressing in his rehabilitation enough to partake in non-contact drills in team practice. He will be re-evaluated in early December. Bullock, a career 39.4% three-point shooter, underwent surgery for a cervical disc herniation in July.

Knicks Management Need To Show “Progress” To Keep Jobs

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the Knicks front office was laying the groundwork for the eventual firing of David Fizdale and that may not be the only change that could impact the team’s hierarchy.

Sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv that owner James Dolan had a heavy conversation with the team’s front office that left management under the impression that their jobs were in jeopardy unless the Knicks “showed progress” this season.

What does “progress” mean? It’s not clear what Dolan has in mind with regard to the improvements he wants to see. The conversation took place before the team’s 18-point loss to the Bulls and those kinds of outings don’t do much to provide Fizdale with more security.

Begley adds that in addition to Fizdale, team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry are also on notice. However, the pair of executives are expected to be given the remainder of the season regardless of what happens with Fizdale.

New York’s offseason was filled with failure with regard to its goal of attracting max free agents. The club was able to add non-star talent, though the collection of new players has led them to a record of 2-9 so far.