Trey Burke

Knicks Trade Kristaps Porzingis To Mavericks

The Knicks have traded Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Mavericks for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and two first-round picks, both teams announced in press releases Thursday.

News of this deal comes just shortly after word broke that Porzingis had met with Knicks management to express frustration with the direction of the organization, leaving the team with the impression that he wanted to be moved. While Porzingis’ preference to be dealt may have jump-started these talks, it didn’t take the Knicks long to find a potential deal they liked, suggesting that they may not have been fully invested in the relationship either.

“As is standard for this time of year, we were exploring various options on potential trades,” Knicks general manager Scott Perry said in a statement. “Considering the uncertainty regarding Kristaps’ free agent status and his request today to be traded, we made a trade that we are confident improves the franchise.”

From the Knicks’ perspective, moving on from Porzingis by attaching two unwanted multi-year contracts to him creates some tantalizing free agent possibilities for the franchise. By replacing Porzingis’ cap hold ($17.09MM), Hardaway’s salary ($18.15MM), and Lee’s salary ($12.76MM) with Smith’s modest $4.46MM salary on the 2019/20 books, the Knicks will reduce their commitments by approximately $43.5MM, which should open up enough cap room for two maximum-salary free agents.

The Knicks’ only players with guaranteed contracts for 2019/20 are Smith, Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, and Mitchell Robinson. Armed with those youngsters and a likely top-five pick, New York will enter free agency with the ability to potentially land two free agents from a group that includes Kevin Durant, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, and others.

Besides creating substantial cap flexibility, the Knicks will acquire Smith, a second-year guard who wasn’t happy with his role in Dallas. The ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft, DSJ saw his responsibilities dialed back due to Luka Doncic‘s emergence this season. Smith has still built upon some of last year’s numbers, averaging 12.9 PPG, 4.3 APG, and 3.0 RPG with a .440/.344/.695 shooting line. He now appears poised to take over point guard duties in New York, a year after the team passed on him to draft Ntilikina.

New York also acquired a 2021 unprotected first-round pick and 2023 protected first-round pick (1-10) in the trade agreement, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ian Begley reported.

“We feel like we did the right thing,” Knicks president Steve Mills said, according to Begley. “When you try to think about how you want to build your team for the long term, you don’t want to commit a max (contract) to a player who clearly says to you he doesn’t want to be here.”

Jordan and Matthews, who are on pricey expiring deals, likely don’t have a future in New York. Rival executives expect the Knicks to explore the trade market over the next week for potential deals involving those veterans, according to Jake Fischer of SI.com (Twitter link). Both Fischer and ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link) suggest that Jordan and Matthews will be intriguing buyout candidates if they’re not flipped by the Knicks.

Perry emphasized in a conference call Thursday that both Jordan and Matthews could have a positive impact on their young players for the remainder of the season, as relayed by Begley. This, of course, is provided they aren’t traded or bought out from their current deals. This statement drew a questioning response on social media from Knicks center Enes Kanter, another candidate to be traded by the deadline.

Meanwhile, the deal represents a huge swing for the Mavericks, who will pair Porzingis with Doncic with an eye toward keeping both players in Dallas for years to come. By taking on the multiyear contracts for Hardaway and Lee in exchange for Jordan and Matthews, Dallas will almost certainly give up its chance to create cap room in 2019, but will be on track to open up significant space in 2020, while Doncic is still on his rookie contract. Porzingis posted a clip of him shaking hands with Doncic after the trade became official, clearly excited for his new partnership in Dallas.

An All-Star a year ago, Porzingis averaged 22.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 2.4 BPG with a .439/.395/.793 shooting line in 48 games in 2017/18, displaying franchise-player potential. However, a torn ACL ended his season early and has sidelined him for the entire 2018/19 campaign so far. He’ll be a restricted free agent this summer, at which point he could sign his one-year qualifying offer, sign an offer sheet with another team, or negotiate a new deal directly with the Mavs.

[RELATED: Porzingis plans to tell Mavs he’ll sign qualifying offer?]

Dallas also created a $12.9MM trade exception in the agreement, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Additionally, Marks notes (via Twitter) that the two teams will have to account for Hardaway’s 15% trade bonus, which is currently worth $3.75MM. Assuming THJ doesn’t waive it, his cap hits will increase by $1.875MM annually for this season and next, and the Knicks will have to pay the bonus money.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Knicks Notes: Burke, Kanter, Ntilikina, Trade Deadline

Trey Burke is back in the Knicks‘ rotation, but it looks like a temporary situation until he either gets traded or Emmanuel Mudiay returns from a strained shoulder, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Burke, who began the season as the starting point guard, poured in 25 points Friday, but doesn’t appear to have a long-term future in New York.

The Knicks have committed to a youth movement and are looking to trade veterans Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter as well. Burke has an expiring $1.795MM contract and likely won’t be around next season no matter what happens at the deadline. A source tells Berman that Burke prefers to be dealt, but he insists he’ll be fine either way.

“As a basketball player, you look at other scenarios,” Burke said. “How I’d fit in other scenarios, in that system, in that situation. But I think the direction of this organization, I want to be part of that. I know that there’s still a lot I have to prove. That’s fine with me.”

There’s more today out of New York:

  • Kanter continues to seethe about being about not being used, even after an injury to starting center Luke Kornet, Berman relays in a separate story. Kanter sat out back-to-back games after Fizdale promised him a return to the rotation, with the coach explaining that he’s trying a versatile, switching style of defense that doesn’t fit Kanter’s game. “I was talking to one of my teammates … and I said I could get 30 and 30 (points and rebounds) tonight,” Kanter said after Friday’s loss to the Nets. “But I guess they didn’t want me to get 30 and 30.”
  • Mudiay’s injury provides Frank Ntilikina with a new opportunity to impress Knicks management, but foul trouble is getting in his way, Berman notes in another story. Ntilikina made his seventh start of the year at point guard Friday, but played just 18 minutes before fouling out. “I have to be smarter to avoid these fouls and know what moment when the refs are going to call it,’’ he said. “Fouls are going to come by being aggressive, but I have to control it.’’
  • The Knicks are in a tear-down phase with almost everyone on the roster available for trades, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. However, an Eastern Conference executive told him that recent additions such as Burke, Mudiay, Noah Vonleh and Mario Hezonja don’t carry much trade value.

Knicks Make Tim Hardaway, Courtney Lee Available

In an unsurprising development, the Knicks have made Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee available via trade in advance of the February 7 deadline, three sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times. The decision is largely financially motivated, Stein adds.

We’ve assumed for months that Hardaway and Lee would be on the trade block this season, since the’re both owed pricey salaries for 2019/20 and the Knicks would like to be players this summer for a group of free agents that includes Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Kemba Walker. A report earlier this week from Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic indicated that rival teams have inquired on Hardaway and Lee.

From the Knicks’ perspective, an ideal trade involving Hardaway or Lee would see New York acquire an expiring contract without having to attach an asset to either veteran to sweeten the deal. Stein suggests it’s unclear whether the Knicks will be able to find a suitable trade without attaching an additional asset — Vokunov said in his report that the front office has been averse to adding a sweetener.

Here are a few more Knicks-related notes and rumors:

  • Howard Beck of Bleacher Report says he gets the impression the Knicks would be willing to trade “just about everyone not named Kristaps (Porzingis) or Kevin (Knox)” if it helps clear the team’s books for this summer (Twitter link).
  • After Enes Kanter told the Knicks to play him or “get me out of here,” head coach David Fizdale responded to his veteran center and downplayed the idea that the situation will cause any distractions for the team. Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic has the full quotes from Fizdale.
  • Vorkunov also relays the latest comments from Kanter, who took exception with being grouped in with veterans like Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas when Fizdale informed those players – and Trey Burke – that their minutes would be cut. “I mean, Courtney and Lance, they’re 33, 34, whatever years old. I’m 26 years old. It’s not like I am old. You know what I mean?” Kanter said. “They treat me like I’m old. I’m not old. I’m 26 years old.” In Marc Stein’s report (linked above), he wrote that Kanter is expected to seek a buyout if he’s not moved by the trade deadline.
  • Tim Hardaway didn’t seem to love being thrown under the bus by Allonzo Trier in a Twitter direct message Trier sent to a fan. Responding to criticism from the fan for a defensive miscue vs. Houston, Trier retorted that Hardaway was supposed to have switched onto his man. “Oh, so he blaming other people, basically?” Hardaway said, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “At the end of the day I think it all falls down on the team. Team defense, you learn from it.” Trier apologized for the message today after it leaked.

Knicks Notes: Hezonja, Porzingis, Burke, Vonleh

Mario Hezonja is one of several Knicks players who have found themselves out of the lineup as part of coach David Fizdale’s revolving rotation, but he might be the only one who believes the experience was positive, relays Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com. Hezonja has played his best basketball since being given another chance, averaging 14.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG over the last three games while shooting 57.7% from the field.

“I think that stuff when I was out for a couple games really opened my mind even more about the game of basketball. It really benefited me,” Hezonja said. “It wasn’t really messing with my rhythm or any of that stuff.”

It’s still not clear if Hezonja is in the organization’s long-term plans after signing a one-year, $6.5MM deal last summer. However, he told reporters Thursday that he knows how the situation will play out and loves playing for the Knicks.

“This coaching staff, I wish I had them in my rookie year,” he said. “I’m not saying anything about what I had. It was just rough and unfortunate situation what happened to me. I wish they were my coaching staff in my rookie year. We’d be talking a different story right now. Yeah, I’m happy to be around them. …This is not a typical BS talk. ‘I’m only thinking about this, I don’t know what it’s gonna be.’ I know. This is it. I love this. I want to be in New York.”

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • It’s not a surprise considering the prognosis for his recovery from an ACL injury, but Kristaps Porzingis has officially passed the point where he could meet starter criteria for his upcoming restricted free agency, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. That means the qualifying offer the Knicks will have to make drops from $7.5MM to $4.5MM. His cap hold will be $17.1MM and he will qualify for a $158MM contract over five years with a starting salary set at $27.25MM.
  • Trey Burke is an obvious trade candidate given his expiring contract and his place on the team, but he tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that he tries to avoid thoughts of the upcoming deadline. Burke is already well traveled at age 26, being with his third team in six seasons, and is only seeing regular minutes because of an injury to Frank Ntilikina. “It’s something I look at as fool’s gold. It’s an illusion,” Burke said. “You can always put yourself in a playoff-team situation. What would it be like if I was with the Lakers? Or with Golden State? You can always do that as a player. It’s not reality until it happens.”
  • Several teams have already identified Noah Vonleh as a possible free agent target, a source tells ESPN’s Ian Begley.

Veterans Available For Trades As Knicks Emphasize Youth

The Knicks are fully committing to a youth movement, which means a smaller role in the future for Enes Kanter, Courtney Lee, Trey Burke and Lance Thomas, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic.

Kanter has been the most outspoken about his loss of playing time since being pulled from the starting lineup in December. He met with GM Scott Perry this week to express his frustration over the move, but didn’t ask for to be traded. Sources tell Vorkunov the Knicks have received calls from several teams that are interested in Kanter, but no deal appears imminent. He adds that there has been no discussion of a possible buyout of the remainder of Kanter’s $18.6MM contract.

“I don’t want no free money,” Kanter said. “This organization pays me money to go out there and play as hard as I can and just fight every possession. I don’t want any free money. When I’m out there, I’m going to give my everything. I’m going to give 100 percent every second.”

Kanter, who opted in to the final year of his contract last summer, is among seven Knicks who will definitely be free agents this summer. New York also has a team option on Allonzo Trier, while Thomas and Damyean Dotson have non-guaranteed deals for 2019/20.

The organization is using this season to develop the players it knows will be part of its future, such as rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson. That has marginalized some veterans, including Lee, who missed nearly the first two months of the season with a neck injury and has averaged a career-low 14.9 minutes per game since returning. With another year left on his contract at $12.76MM, Lee has been the subject of trade rumors for months.

“I’ve been in the league,” he said. “I’ve seen every situation. I’ve seen how people handle it. You gotta just stay professional, make sure you stay in shape, stay sharp and ready to play. Everything will work out for the better. If you complain and pout and stuff, that’s when all the other stuff doesn’t work out for the better. But stay positive; that’s all I can do.”

It has been a delicate balancing act for first-year coach David Fizdale as he tries to build up his younger players without alienating the veterans. No one has seen his role change more than Burke, who began the year as the starter at point guard, then was moved to a reserve role and has sometimes been out of the rotation. One of the team’s impending free agents, Burke had hardly played since returning from a sprained knee last month, but he got another opportunity when Frank Ntilikina left Friday’s game with an ankle injury.

“I don’t believe anything is permanent in this league,” Burke said. “When you’re young, you don’t really understand that. Things in this league can be very temporary. You go from one game not playing to the next game playing 30 minutes. You gotta be prepared for that change.”

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Burke, Jackson, Trier

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina suffered a strained tendon in his left ankle Friday night that could lead to a prolonged absence, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. X-rays were negative, but Ntilikina was in a walking boot after the game. Berman adds that an MRI is being considered to determine the full extent of the damage.

The injury occurred in the first quarter on a steal by the Lakers’ Josh Hart. Ntilikina explained that his foot “rolled” as he was stepping backward and trying to protect the ball.

“I’m trying to be positive and get that ankle to be OK real quick,” he said. “We’re going to see day-to-day. Thankfully the X-rays of the bones were OK. Now we’re going to see and do the best to get back on the court real quick.’’

While Ntilikina is sidelined, Trey Burke is expected to return to the rotation as the backup point guard. He had barely played since returning from a sprained knee eight games ago, but scored 16 points in 19 minutes against L.A.

There’s more today from New York:

  • The crowd at the Staples Center last night included Knicks owner James Dolan, who doesn’t usually accompany his team on the road, Berman notes in a separate story. Dolan was seated next to entertainment executive Irving Azoff, who encouraged him to hire Phil Jackson as team president five years ago. “He came in [the locker room] and gave everybody ‘dab’ like the coaching staff would do after a game,’’ Tim Hardaway Jr. said of Dolan. “He brought it in with us. He was just happy how we competed on both ends of the floor and said, ‘get the next one.’”
  • Jackson has stayed out of the spotlight since being dismissed in 2017, and former Knicks associate coach Kurt Rambis explained why in a radio interview, Berman relays in another piece. Rambis said Jackson, who is serving as a special adviser for the Lakers, is having trouble moving after knee and hip replacements. Jackson remains on the Knicks’ payroll through March, and sources tell Berman he plans to speak out about his experience in New York once his connections are completely severed.
  • The Knicks hold a team option on Allonzo Trier for next season and must exercise it by June 20, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Trier started the season on a two-way contract before agreeing to a two-year deal last month. He will make $3.55MM next season if the Knicks keep him on the roster.

Atlantic Notes: Butler, Graham, Knicks, Crabbe

The Sixers don’t have long-term concerns about signing Jimmy Butler to a possible five-year contract, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Butler is set to turn 30 in September, currently playing in his eighth NBA season.

“No concern, because of the way he takes care of his body,” Sixers GM Elton Brand said, according to Pompey. “But, of course, there’s other things that would have to happen before you discuss those kind of things… like he has to opt out of his contract. So I don’t want to talk about that yet.”

For most NBA players, production levels begin to decrease as they turn the corner and reach age 30. There have been some outliers in this case during recent years, such as four-time MVP LeBron James, but teams usually give added thought before offering lucrative, long-term deals to players who are on the wrong side of 30.

Butler, who was acquired by the Sixers in a trade last November, is holding per-game averages of 18 points, 4.7 rebounds and one steal with the team this season. He can turn down a $19.8MM player option for the 2019/20 season to enter free agency this summer and seek a new deal.

The Sixers’ offer to Butler could be a five-year, $190MM maximum contract, which would help solidify the team’s “Big 3” of Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for several seasons to come.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Nets swingman Treveon Graham will be available to play in the team’s game against the Grizzlies on Friday, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post (Twitter link). Graham last played for the Nets on Oct. 19, taking the last 11 weeks to rehab from a hamstring injury. He signed a contract to join the team this past summer in free agency.
  • Enes Kanter and Courtney Lee aren’t the only players who have seen their roles diminish on the Knicks in recent weeks, Marc Berman writes for The Post. Mario Hezonja, Trey Burke and Lance Thomas have also been given reduced time, with all five players becoming trade candidates for the Feb. 7 deadline, according to Berman. Knicks coach David Fizdale has prioritized playing younger talent this season, making the futures of some veterans uncertain.
  • Nets guard Allen Crabbe is set to miss more time than expected with his knee injury, Lewis writes in a different story for The Post. Crabbe last played on Dec. 12 due to general soreness and will be re-evaluated in 1-2 weeks, with surgery an unlikely option. “No, we haven’t gotten to that point yet,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I haven’t gotten to that point. It will be a re-evaluation in a week to 10 days and then go from there.”

Atlantic Notes: Hollis-Jefferson, Embiid, Smart, Burke

Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson suffered another groin injury on Saturday, but the severity of the issue isn’t worse than his strained right adductor from this past summer, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.

Hollis-Jefferson sustained the injury as the team played Milwaukee, with the 23-year-old heading to the locker room for examination and being ruled out of the game early.

“Yeah,” he said, “I felt a little strange feeling on a crossover going baseline. It just felt weird to me so I just wanted to be cautious and talk to our training staff, see what was going on.”

Hollis-Jefferson missed the entire preseason following his adductor injury on Aug. 4, making his debut nearly 12 weeks after the injury on Oct. 24. News of his Saturday’s injury not being worse than the problem in August comes as a relief for Brooklyn, a team already playing without talented wing Caris LeVert.

Hollis-Jefferson has started in 19 of 34 games this season, averaging 9.9 points per contest while playing his usual stellar defense. He’ll undergo further examination on Sunday with hopes of making a return in the near future.

“You know where your groin is, so I knew it was my groin,” Hollis-Jefferson said, according to Lewis. “But I’m no doctor, so I didn’t know “Oh, it’s this severe” or whatever the case may be. I knew it was my groin. A little sore. But we’ll go see [Sunday], check and see how it feels, how everything is.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division today:

  • Sixers All-Star Joel Embiid is quietly building a case for Defensive Player of the Year this season, Brian Seltzer of Sixers.com writes. Philadelphia sports an impressive 101.9 defensive rating when Embiid is on the court, turning into a different team when he’s protecting the rim. “I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again, he is the Defensive Player of the Year,” coach Brett Brown said. “When I look at our metrics, his impact on this team is overwhelming.”
  • Before the Celtics‘ game against the Rockets last week, coaches from both teams praised Marcus Smart for the intensity he brings on defense. Smart notched 11 points, three assists and a steal in the game, defending players such as James Harden and Eric Gordon“Just his ability to stick his nose into everything and stamina, strength, and then being willing to do all the dirty work,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of Smart, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “He’s one of the better defenders in the league. He’s like P.J. [Tucker] for us. They do what’s needed. And some people have noses for the ball, situations they can think they’re way out of defensively. He does that.”
  • Knicks guard Trey Burke has regained his love for basketball while playing in New York, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News writes. Burke started his career with the Jazz, a tumultuous time period he still reflects on today. “I’ve had to figure the league out,” Burke said. “I think individually it helped me kind of look myself in the mirror and re-evaluate what I needed to get better at and the areas I needed to grow in.”

Frank Ntilikina Unhappy About Christmas Benching

Whatever plans Frank Ntilikina had for Christmas Day, they didn’t include spending 48 minutes on the Knicks‘ bench. Ntilikina found himself back out of coach David Fizdale’s revolving lineup and he doesn’t sound happy about the move, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

“Did I know that I would not play today?” Ntilikina said after the game. “Coach makes his decision during the game. So you don’t know. You know that, right?”

Ntilikina hasn’t played well lately, posting a 3.6/2.2/2.4 line over his past five games while shooting 21.4% from the field and 18.2% from 3-point range. Still, the timing of Fizdale’s decision was odd considering team president Steve Mills just spoke last Friday about the need to raise Ntilikina’s confidence on offense.

Yesterday’s benching was particularly tough for Ntilikina because his mother flew in from France to watch him play on Christmas. The Knicks’ other options at point guard weren’t playing well, Berman notes, as Emmanuel Mudiay committed five turnovers and Trey Burke hit just one of seven shots.

This is the second absence from the lineup for Ntilikina, who had three DNPs earlier this month, and he seems to be growing frustrated about Fizdale’s approach to allocating minutes.

“I don’t know how long it will be [this time],” Ntilikina said. “I can’t predict each and every game in the future. One thing I can do is get ready for each and every one — which I will do. Practice hard, get ready physically and mentally for the next game.”

Fizdale explained to reporters that Ntilikina had been “struggling” and he wanted to give more time to Burke, who has been working his way back from a knee strain.

While none of the Knicks’ point guards has been outstanding, Ntilikina is the only one under contract for next season. Burke’s $1.795MM deal for this season won’t be fully guaranteed until next month, while Mudiay is headed for restricted free agency.

Knicks Notes: Free Agency, Porzingis, Knox, Burke

The Knicks don’t see an urgency to sign an elite free agent next summer and believe their rebuilding plan will be fine if they have to wait another year, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The organization’s priorities are landing a top-five draft pick, getting Kristaps Porzingis healthy again and developing rookies Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier, along with Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay.

The summer of 2019 has long been considered pivotal for the Knicks, who will have the cap space to compete on the free agent market for the first time in several years. There are plans in place to open up $38MM — enough to sign a 10-year veteran like Kevin Durant — if the opportunity becomes available, although Berman isn’t sure if those plans include a trade of Tim Hardaway Jr. But a source says the team won’t go that route unless it can land a “dramatic difference maker.”

President Steve Mills seemed to confirm that approach at a press conference Friday when he talked about saving cap room for 2020 and retaining the flexibility to acquire a star through trade. Berman adds that the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis has interest in playing in New York.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • The Knicks are hoping Porziginis can return sometime after the All-Star break so he can start to build chemistry with his younger teammates, Berman relays in the same story. However, the final decision will be based on his physical condition as he recovers from last season’s ACL injury. “The most important thing for us is to have Kristaps on the court when he feels comfortable being on the court and we feel comfortable he should be out there,’’ Mills said. “That’s more important than any timetable this season — or some point in the summer.” Team doctors plan to re-evaluate Porzingis’ condition in February.
  • Knox continued a troubling pattern in Friday’s loss to the Hawks, Berman notes in a separate piece. He made seven of eight shots in the first quarter, but none in the second half, which has been a familiar theme this season. “I expect him to be a big-time scorer, [but it’s] a real conditioning requirement to be a great scorer in this league,” coach David Fizdale said. “He has to learn as he gets stronger and in more physical shape to adapt to scouting reports and adjustments during the game.’’
  • Trey Burke is expected to return to the lineup for the Christmas Day game, but back-to-back DNPs this week suggest he’s not part of the Knicks’ plan for the future, Berman adds.