Tom Thibodeau

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Brunson, Mitchell, L. Rose, Barrett

Knicks president Leon Rose expressed his support for head coach Tom Thibodeau in a recent interview and he backed it up in a letter sent to season-ticket holders this week, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. There was reportedly some desire for a coaching change among the front office during the season, but Rose’s letter leaves no doubt that Thibodeau will return.

“Our coaching staff is at the heart of our young core’s development and confidence to compete at the highest level, as well as our vets’ ability to produce in their roles,” Rose wrote. “We have seen multiple players take leaps over the last two seasons under Coach Thibodeau’s tutelage and commitment to playing the right way.”

Thibodeau was named Coach of the Year in 2021 after leading the Knicks to a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. Although the team fell out of the playoffs this year, it posted a 12-7 record to finish the season with several veteran players unavailable.

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks had a large contingent at today’s playoff game between the Mavericks and Jazz, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Executive vice president William Wesley was there, along with front office members Allan Houston and Makhtar N’diaye and the scouting staff. Julius Randle met the group as well. The Knicks are known to have interest in Dallas guard Jalen Brunson in free agency, and there have been reports that they would make a trade offer for Utah’s Donovan Mitchell if he ever becomes available.
  • Rose will likely make at least one significant move this summer to shake up the roster, Ian Begley of SNY.tv. predicts in a column for Yahoo Sports. Begley notes that owner James Dolan has given Rose the financial freedom to make whatever changes he believes are necessary, so it would look bad for Rose if next year’s roster is virtually the same.
  • It may be difficult for the Knicks to finalize a rookie-scale extension with RJ Barrett during the offseason, per Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. Barrett is eligible for a deal that would start around $37MM in the 2023/24 season. Gozlan believes the team will try to get him to take a starting salary in the $25MM range, similar to the extensions for Jaylen Brown and Jaren Jackson Jr. If Barrett doesn’t reach an agreement, he’ll be on track for restricted free agency next summer.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Randle, Robinson, Fournier

In a rare media appearance, Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose spoke to MSG Network’s Mike Breen over the weekend about the state of the franchise, head coach Tom Thibodeau, and forward Julius Randle, among other topics. Rose acknowledged it was a “disappointing” season in New York, but expressed confidence that the team’s long-term plan is on track.

“Absolutely. We have to stick to the plan,” he said, per Steve Popper of Newsday. “We have to build one block at a time, be patient. We feel like we’re set up, you know, really well as far as like, we’ve got 13 draft picks over the next three drafts, four first-round picks. With regard to opportunities that may come along, we’re very flexible. We want to show patience, we want to show prudence in making those decisions and continuing to develop what we have.”

Rose said the Knicks fell short of their goal of being a playoff team, but added that he saw some positive signs from the club during the season’s home stretch. Following a seven-game losing streak that began in February and ended in March, New York went 12-7 the rest of the way and got solid production from a handful of young players.

Jericho (Sims) going against starting centers, the 58th pick in the draft,” Rose said, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Obi (Toppin), the last week or so has just taken it to another level, scoring a career-high the last game. Quentin (Grimes), who had already established himself in the rotation. (Miles McBride) getting minutes and doing a good job with it. (Immanuel Quickley) playing point guard and showing some signs.

“And RJ (Barrett) is only 21 years old. We have nine players on our team who are 24 years old or younger and Julius is only 27, so … we look at that like development is key. And just in this part of the season, we’ve seen some good development and just need to work and continue on and build on that.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Rose said that Randle “loves it here in New York (and) wants to be in New York,” according to Begley. The Knicks’ president also praised the job Thibodeau did in a challenging season. “I mean, again, he’s one of the best coaches in the NBA,” Rose said, per Popper. “So obviously none of us are happy with the results this year. But he’s a guy who prepares our team better than anybody. I feel that he’s done a good job under the circumstances.”
  • According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, Rose was “dead-set” against letting Thibodeau go during the season when at least two members of the front office recommended making a coaching change. Berman also hears from a source that some Knicks executives and players didn’t love the fact that the coaching staff didn’t hold Randle more accountable for his “miscues” throughout the season.
  • Randle and Toppin have talked about the possibility of playing together in small-ball lineups next season, as Peter Botte of The New York Post relays. “There are so many different things we can do when we’re both on the court,” Toppin said. “But we’ve definitely talked about it and hopefully we’re both back here next year and we can see that. I feel like we can definitely do some damage in the league if we’re on the court together.”
  • Although he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, Mitchell Robinson remains eligible to sign an extension with the Knicks up until June 30 and Rose hasn’t ruled out that possibility, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. “With Mitchell, there has been ongoing discussions throughout the year with his agent,” Rose told Breen. “And those discussions will continue, will continue for the remainder of the time until free agency.” The Knicks are limited to offering Robinson about $55.6MM over four years on an extension — they could go higher in free agency.
  • Knicks swingman Evan Fournier intends to represent France in this September’s EuroBasket tournament, tweets Katz.

New York Notes: Durant, Hunt, Tanking, Knicks Staff

The Nets had all kinds of issues this season — Kyrie Irving‘s refusal to get vaccinated, James Harden‘s desire to be traded to Philadelphia, Joe Harris‘ injury — but Kevin Durant believes his knee injury was the biggest reason they nosedived in the standings.

“To be honest, I feel like our season was derailed by my injury,” Durant said to ESPN’s Nick Friedell and other media members. “So, I’m not looking at it like we’re just not a good basketball team. It’s like there wasn’t a lot of continuity with me and Kyrie out of the lineup, that’s just what it is. When we’re all on the floor together, I like what we got.”

The Nets will have to fight their way out of the play-in tournament but Durant isn’t worried about the extra challenges ahead.

“I don’t care who we play. I don’t care that we’re in the play-in. Just tip the ball up, see what happens,” he said. “That’s all you can control. It’s too stressful thinking about we’re trying to dodge a team, lining up, just play the game. We’ll see what happens.”

We have more on the New York teams:

  • With Julius Randle shut down for the rest of the season, power forward Feron Hunt could see some action in the remaining Knicks games, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Hunt was signed last month to a two-way contract. In seven games with the G League’s Westchester Knicks, Hunt averaged 16.9 PPG. “We like who he is, so I want to get a chance to see him as well,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
  • The Knicks have won five of their last seven games, which won’t help their chances of winning the draft lottery. RJ Barrett would rather finish the season on a high note than go into tank mode, Steve Popper of Newsday writes. “This helps build momentum, trying to finish out the season strong and carry that momentum into next year,” Barrett said. “Every game is important for us as a team for guys to develop and see who we are and who we’re going to be.”
  • When the Knicks hire a replacement for assistant coach Kenny Payne, it will signal whether Thibodeau has regained autonomy over his staff, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News opines. As a condition of getting hired, Thibodeau agreed to take on Payne, Mike Woodson and Johnnie Bryant as his top assistants. One of Thibodeau’s hand-picked assistants, Darren Erman, moved to the front of the bench when Payne left to coach Louisville. If the Knicks add another assistant not associated with Thibodeau, it will signal that team executive William Wesley is once again exerting his influence.

Eastern Notes: Beal, Irving, Fultz, Thibodeau

Wizards star Bradley Beal isn’t opposed to receiving interest from rival teams, he said on Draymond Green‘s podcast, as relayed by James Herbert of CBS Sports. Beal will be eligible to sign a five-year, $245MM contract with Washington this summer if he turns down a $36.4MM player option and becomes a free agent.

“I’m kind of embracing everything,” Beal explained, “so I’m not upset about the rumors, I’m not upset about, you know, teams wanting me. I feel like that’s a good thing, right? We put in the work and we’re wanted by a lot of people, not just where we’re at.” 

Beal has seen his name surface in trade rumors, but the 28-year-old hasn’t requested a trade and Washington hasn’t appeared willing to deal him. Beal’s production dipped this season, but he still managed to average 23.2 points and 6.6 assists per game on 45% shooting from the floor.

“It’s kind of funny. I’ve never been a free agent,” he said. “It’s kind of reminding me of college recruiting. Like I hear every single game somebody’s recruiting me. Someone’s like tagging on me, whether it’s another player or whether it may be a coach or whoever it may be, somebody’s chit-chatting: ‘B, what you want to do this summer? What you doing this summer?'”

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference:

  • In an Insider-only story for ESPN.com, Kirk Goldsberry considers what Kyrie Irving‘s full-time availability will mean for the Nets and their title chances. As Goldsberry notes, while Irving certainly makes Brooklyn’s offensive attack more dangerous, the team’s defense remains a question mark.
  • Magic guard Markelle Fultz is starting to feel more comfortable just one month after his return, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Fultz missed more than a year due to a torn ACL, making his debut on February 28 against the Pacers. He most recently finished with 16 points, three assists and three steals in 19 minutes against the Kings on Saturday, showing potential on both sides of the ball.
  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is offended by claims that he’s stunted Obi Toppin‘s growth by not giving him enough minutes, plus that he mistreated Kemba Walker, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Thibodeau also lashed out at some social media critics and writers. “It’s a team, not an individual thing,” he exclaimed. “Can’t pick up a box score after and say, ‘How many people are watching to the end of the game’ to really know exactly what happened in the game. I see a lot of opinions, but I don’t see guys doing the work to actually study it.’’ 

New York Notes: Dragic, Irving, Thibodeau, Payne

With James Harden traded away and Kyrie Irving unavailable for most of their remaining games, the Nets were able to stabilize their backcourt by signing Goran Dragic, who had been inactive for most of the season, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Dragic, who hadn’t played since November 13, signed with Brooklyn following a buyout with the Raptors. He quickly got into game shape and moved into the rotation.

“Physically I’m good. So I got in shape in one week; it’s crazy,” Dragic said. “The last game (Sunday against the Knicks) I played 38 minutes. I even talked to (coach Steve Nash) and tell him ‘Steve, that’s too much.’ But he’s like ‘Yeah, we don’t have nobody else, a couple of guys are hurt.’ So, do whatever it takes for the team. I still have to have to catch my rhythm, but I’m just happy to be out there and to help and try to organize everybody and put the right situation and try to make it easier.”

Nash was hoping to ease Dragic into the lineup, but circumstances have dictated otherwise. Seth Curry and Cam Thomas are both dealing with injuries that forced them to miss tonight’s game and Irving will only be eligible for three more games during the regular season, so there’s not much choice but to rely on Dragic.

“We’d like to keep him in a range though that is a little more reasonable, especially in some of these stretches where he’s playing four in six nights,” Nash said. “It’s not easy to throw him out there after having three or four months without playing and play over 35 minutes consistently, so we’ve got to try to protect him if we can. But we’re in a little bit of desperation here with guards out of the lineup.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Nets fans hoping that New York City’s vaccine mandate might be lifted soon, allowing Irving to participate in home games, were let down today by Mayor Eric Adams, per Kevin Sheehen, Bernadette Hogan and Sam Raskin of The New York Post“I’m focused on 9 million people,” Adams said. “And so, I am not looking at one person, I’m looking at my city not closing down again, not having to deal with this crisis again.”
  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau brushed aside speculation about his future with the team during tonight’s pre-game session with the media, tweets Marc Berman of The New York Post“I don’t worry about any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said in response to a report this morning that he’s likely to return next season. In a column that ran today, Berman supports keeping Thibodeau, arguing that a coaching change wouldn’t solve the team’s biggest problems.
  • Knicks assistant Kenny Payne will be hired Friday as the new head coach at the University of Louisville, sources tell Jeff Borzello of ESPN.

Knicks Expected To Retain Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau is expected to remain the Knicks’ head coach beyond this season, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reports.

There has been rampant speculation regarding Thibodeau’s status during the team’s disappointing season.

There’s been some internal support to move on from Thibodeau and owner James Dolan had granted the front office permission to decide whether he remains the head coach, according to Fischer’s sources.

However, president of basketball operations Leon Rose has no plans to make a change — Fischer notes that Rose and Thibodeau been trusted allies since the hiring process in 2020. The Knicks interviewed 11 candidates before picking the former Bulls and Timberwolves head coach.

Thibodeau has three years left on his five-year contract.

Reports surfaced last month that Knicks exec William Wesley blamed the team’s ills on the head coach. However, Thibodeau has maintained a good relationship with Dolan, speaking with the owner following each game and often visiting the owner’s box.

While Rose is reclusive, rarely speaking to the media, Thibodeau has emerged as the team’s official spokesperson. That has helped his cause, Fischer adds.

There’s also no obvious veteran choice in the market to replace Thibodeau and the front office isn’t convinced associate head coach Johnnie Bryant would be a better option. Another current assistant, Kenny Payne, is a candidate to leave New York for Louisville’s head coaching job.

Stein’s Latest: Snyder, Popovich, Pistons, M. Robinson, More

There’s no indication that Quin Snyder, the NBA’s fourth longest-tenured head coach, is in any danger of losing his job with the Jazz. However, in his latest Substack article, Marc Stein says he has heard Snyder’s name come up more and more frequently as a potential Gregg Popovich successor with the Spurs.

Before he was hired by the Jazz, and before he served as an assistant for the Hawks, Lakers, and 76ers, Snyder jump-started his NBA coaching career by serving as the head coach of the G League’s Austin Toros – San Antonio’s then-affiliate – from 2007-10. According to Stein, the Spurs would “naturally relish” the opportunity to bring him back to the organization once Popovich retires.

Still, the Spurs’ decision on a successor for Popovich could be a ways off yet. Stein says, if pressed, he’d lean toward Popovich sticking with the Spurs for at least one more season rather than calling it a career later this year.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Stein is the latest reporter to state that the Pistons are believed to have strong interest in Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Several other outlets, including SNY.tv, The New York Daily News, and HoopsHype, have previously reported Detroit’s interest in Robinson.
  • According to Stein, there have been “rumbles in league coaching circles” that if the Knicks want to move on from head coach Tom Thibodeau this spring, president of basketball operations Leon Rose would have to be willing to be the team’s voice “out in front” of that decision. As Stein points out, Rose has operated almost exclusively behind the scenes since taking control of the Knicks’ front office, rarely speaking to reporters, which perhaps bodes well for Thibodeau’s job security.
  • Within his Substack article, Stein also explores the tough decisions facing U.S. players who had been playing for teams in Russia prior to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Many of those players have left in recent weeks, but some are being offered six-figure bonuses to return, according to Stein, who says there’s a belief in industry circles that several may soon go back to Russia, despite the criticism they’d face.

Tom Thibodeau Isn’t Worried About Job Security

Amid speculation that Tom Thibodeau’s job may be in jeopardy as the result of a disappointing Knicks season, the coach told reporters Wednesday that his relationship with the front office is fine, writes Greg Joyce of The New York Post.

A report last week stated that executive vice president William Wesley has been blaming Thibodeau’s coaching decisions for recent losses, particularly the defeat against the Nets in the final game before the All-Star break when New York squandered a 28-point lead. But Thibodeau said he’s not feeling any heat from management and he doesn’t play attention to media rumors.

“I talk to Wes all the time,” he said. “I don’t respond to rumors or any of that stuff. I know the drill here. I’ve been here before, so I don’t worry about any of that stuff.”

After grabbing the fourth seed last season, the Knicks stumbled into this year’s All-Star break at 25-34, 12th in the Eastern Conference and three and a half games out of the final spot in the play-in tournament. Since his hiring, management has talked about a close working relationship with Thibodeau, but there have been signs this year that it may be fracturing. The latest involves Cam Reddish, who Thibodeau has kept out of the rotation after the team sent a first-round draft pick to Atlanta to acquire him last month.

Thibodeau, who has three more years remaining on his five-year contract, emphasized that his relationship with the front office has remained solid despite the losing.

“I talk to (team president Leon Rose) every day, talk to Wes every day,” Thibodeau said. “So that doesn’t change.”

Joyce also noted that Thibodeau talked last week about making lineup changes to try to spark a team that is 3-13 over its last 16 games. However, he didn’t mention any potential changes on Wednesday, other acknowledging the decision to shut down Kemba Walker for the rest of the season.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Sixers, Knicks, Durant, Simmons

Five-time Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid admitted that he considered quitting basketball entirely during his rookie year, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid was drafted by the Sixers in 2014 with the third pick out of Kansas, but didn’t suit up for Philadelphia until the 2016/17 season. Surgeries for a navicular bone in his right foot delayed Embiid’s NBA debut for two years while he grieved the death of a family member off the court.

“You look back at my first year after the surgery,” Embiid said. “Obviously, I lost my brother at that time, too. Going back to Cameroon, I really wanted to stop playing basketball and really retire because at that point you just had surgery, and everybody is talking about ‘You’re not going to make it’ or ‘You’re never going to play in the league,’ and, obviously, the loss of my brother was big. I wanted to give up. I almost did. It was hard.”

The 28-year-old has since become one of the most dominant centers in the NBA, and is currently building a convincing MVP case with a terrific and mostly healthy season thus far. He is averaging 29.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG and 4.5 APG through 46 games this season. Embiid boasts shooting splits of .495/.369/.813.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • While the identities of four Sixers starters are fairly clear heading into the home stretch of the 2021/22 NBA season, the team has several options for the fifth starting role, per Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice. With James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris and Embiid entrenched in the club’s starting lineup. Neubeck considers whether they’d be best complemented by the defensive attributes of Matisse Thybulle, the corner three-point shooting of Danny Green or Furkan Korkmaz, or the size advantage of Georges Niang.
  • With a 25-34 record, the Knicks face an uphill battle to even make the play-in tournament this season. Fred Katz of The Athletic wonders at what point second-year New York head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose job may be in jeopardy this summer, may opt to prioritize developing the team’s youth over less-than-meaningful victories. Katz also theorizes about the potential markets awaiting 2022 unrestricted free agent center Mitchell Robinson, and forward Cam Reddish, whom the Knicks could either opt to extend this summer or allow to reach restricted free agency next year.
  • Nets team president Sean Marks expects stars Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons to join the team on the hardwood fairly soon, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post“Depending when they go, we’ve got to see how they respond to days like [Tuesday], and we’ll go forward with this,” Marks said. “It’s probably going to be tough, to be honest, to be playing in the next three or four days. But we’ll see how it all plays out.”

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Thibodeau, M. Robinson, Raptors

Despite being one of the NBA’s marquee franchises, the Celtics haven’t hosted the All-Star Game since Bill Russell played for the team, back in 1964. According to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, the team may be interested in changing that. Sources tell Washburn that the Celtics’ ownership group is taking steps to submit an application to host the event.

As Washburn writes, the Celtics don’t own the TD Garden outright, which is a logistical hurdle that must be overcome, and the locales for the next two All-Star Games – Utah in 2023 and Indiana in 2024 – have already been set. But the fact that Boston is taking steps toward applying is noteworthy, according to Washburn, who says the ownership group’s interest level in hosting the game has long been “tepid” until now.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Marc Berman of The New York Post argues that Tom Thibodeau shouldn’t be the fall guy for a disappointing Knicks season, observing that the front office made multiple roster moves Thibodeau wasn’t gung-ho about, including adding Kemba Walker and letting Reggie Bullock walk in free agency. Thibodeau also reportedly wasn’t exactly pushing for last month’s Cam Reddish trade. “They haven’t collaborated with him like they did last year,” a coaching source tells Berman.
  • Sean Deveney of Heavy.com spoke to one rival general manager who thinks Mitchell Robinson‘s next contract will be in the range of the full mid-level exception, projecting a three-year, $33MM deal. The Knicks center, who is currently extension-eligible, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic looks at some of the questions facing the Raptors for the rest of the 2021/22 season, including how important Precious Achiuwa and Dalano Banton are to the franchise, both in the present and future. As Koreen notes, Achiuwa and Banton have played well enough to warrant regular roles, but they don’t contribute much in the half-court offense, which has been Toronto’s biggest Achilles heel.
  • Within the same story, Koreen suggests the most likely outcome for the Raptors‘ open 15-man roster spot is that two-way player Justin Champagnie is promoted to fill it.