Knicks fall in Denver on Jokic MVP flex, Rivers’ revenge game

It was one of those rare nights this rejuvenated New York Knicks team didn’t have it. Or it could be the Denver curse, too much Nikola Jokic, and retribution. Or just a combination of everything. 

Jokic, the MVP frontrunner, outscored the entire Knicks team in the first quarter, 24-12, as the Nuggets steamrolled to a 113-97 rout on Wednesday night.

It was the Knicks’ first loss in their West Coast trip after they opened it with two straight wins in Houston and Memphis.

Jokic took out the Knicks’ fight early as the Nuggets extended their mastery over the Knicks in Denver to 13 straight games dating back to 2006.

The Knicks came into the game as the hottest team in the league, winners of 12 of their last 13 games.

But Austin Rivers, the spurned former Knick, was hotter on this night. He had his revenge game.

Rivers, whose promising start with the Knicks cut short by the Derrick Rose’s signing, played his best game as a Nugget. He went off for a season-high-tying 25 points.

The Knicks trailed by as many as 31. They put up a token resistance in the third quarter when RJ Barrett hit back-to-back threes, cutting the large deficit to 16. But Rivers caught fire from beyond the arc.

After hitting one of his six three-pointers, Rivers looked towards the Knicks bench. Tension flared up in the fourth quarter when he and Julius Randle jawed at each other after a loose ball scramble.

The loss was a huge setback for the Knicks as the Atlanta Hawks (37-30) closed the gap after soundly beating the Phoenix Suns, 135-103, earlier in the night.

It will be a dogfight in the desert when the Knicks try to bounce back against the Suns on Friday night in Phoenix.

Jokic dominated the Knicks’ thin frontline with a complete line — 32 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks — in just under 30 minutes.

If there’s any silver lining, the Knicks saw how feisty and scrappy Argentinian guards are in anticipation of the arrival of Luca Vildoza.

Vildoza’s teammate at the Argentina national team and Euroleague rival Facundo Campazzo outplayed the Knicks backcourt. The 5-foot-10 Campazzo had a masterful performance, scattering 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists, five steals, and two blocks.

The 25-year old Vildoza, who is confirmed to join the Knicks, had succeeded Campazzo as the Finals MVP in the Spanish ACB league last year.

Immanuel Quickley led the Knicks with 18 points off the bench.

Randle, the freshly minted Eastern Conference’s Best Player of the Month, was a big letdown in his showdown against Jokic. He had a quiet night with only 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting. 

Barrett added 15. He missed his first seven shots in the first 20 minutes before hitting three triples in the third quarter. It injected some life into a lethargic Knicks’ offense. But it was short-lived.

Rivers finished what Jokic has started and delivered the final blows. 

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Why the Knicks were winners at the trade deadline

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The NBA trade deadline officially came and went Thursday, and it certainly did not disappoint as there was a record amount of activity around the league, according to ESPN’s Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski:

Despite all these trades, the New York Knicks stayed relatively quiet during the trade deadline. They were involved in one minor three-team trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers that sent veteran point guard George Hill to Philadelphia. The Knicks parted ways with guard Austin Rivers, who was sent to Oklahoma City, and forward Ignas Brazdeikis, who was sent to Philadelphia, in exchange for guard Terrance Ferguson, 7-foot big man Vincent Poirier, and a pair of second-round picks.

Both players should not make much of an impact with the team and probably will rarely even seen the court barring injuries. It has also been reported by Wojnarowski that the Knicks are planning to waive Poirier, so that means they will have an open roster spot they need to fill.

So, all in all, it was a quiet trade deadline for the Knicks. They were interested in a number of players and even made offers to a few, but in the end, the asking prices were too much, and the front office did not want to ruin the strong chemistry of the current group.

Some Knicks fans are upset the team did not make more moves and felt like this was a missed opportunity to gain assets at the very least. I’m here to tell you why the approach that the team took is not a bad one and why they should be considered winners despite their lack of activity.

What has been one of the biggest reasons for the agony and pain that being a Knicks fan has come with for the better part of the last 20 years? It’s that the Knicks too often get desperate and throw away all their assets for a quick fix that ends up not fixing much of anything. Now, I’m not saying the Knicks were in position to make a move that big during this trade deadline, but apparently, teams were asking a lot for the players the Knicks were interested in acquiring.

The fact that the front office showed discipline and patience and did not rush to make any irrational decisions out of desperation is a huge positive. Who’s to say that the previous regimes would have done the same thing? Because history says otherwise. They were more likely to (over)pay up and sacrifice key parts of the future in order to bring in a guy who they think would take the team to the next level when really it ends up setting the team back. Knicks fans should be thrilled that the team has a front office in place that finally seems to get it.

Another reason to be satisfied with the Knicks’ approach is because of a fact I pointed out earlier, which is that they maintained the chemistry of the current rotation. There is no doubt that this team’s chemistry is at an all-time high, as they play hard, unselfish basketball every game and play for each other. We see the camaraderie and positive relationships that the players have with one another time and time again. It is clear that this group enjoys being around each other, and that is translating to winning basketball being played on the court.

Disrupting that by making a trade to acquire a star player could’ve negatively affected that chemistry in a big way, and it could’ve had real consequences on the court as well. That’s not to say the Knicks are set to win a championship with their current roster, but they are having fun and are very much in the playoff hunt, so why would you want to risk jeopardizing that? This season was supposed to be about establishing a culture and developing the young guys anyway, so continue to focus on that while seeing if you can get into the playoffs, then in the offseason, you can worry about plugging holes and improving the roster.

And finally, I understand the argument that the Knicks did not take advantage of their resources and add enough assets at the deadline. That is true, and it is the one area where I would’ve liked to see them maybe be more involved in, as they could have taken on bad contracts for young players and/or more draft picks. But the fact that they didn’t is not the end of the world. The Knicks did add a pair of second-round picks, which is something, but this wasn’t the only chance they had to add assets.

The Knicks will be entering this offseason with loads of cap space, and as usual, there will be plenty of teams looking to get out of bad contracts. The Knicks will have lots more opportunities to gain assets over the summer if they so choose. Plus, if they brought in a guy before the deadline, once again, they would’ve had to worry about fitting them into the rotation somehow.

This trade deadline may have been disappointing for some Knicks fans who wanted to see a guy like Lonzo Ball in orange and blue, but take a deep breath and focus on the big picture. I wanted Ball too, but he didn’t get traded to any team, so that means he’ll be very much in play this offseason since we know he’s unlikely to re-sign with New Orleans. The Knicks won’t have to give up assets for him either, since he’ll be a restricted free agent.

So relax, my fellow Knicks fans. We finally have a competent front office and a fun and surprisingly good team to root for this season. Let’s ride them out the rest of the way and see if they can make the playoffs. Enjoy it. Cherish it. Take it all in. And then we’ll worry about improving the team over the summer.

Knicks trade Rivers, Brazdeikis in 3-way deal with Thunder, 76ers

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers knew his days with the New York Knicks were already numbered upon Derrick Rose’s arrival.

As expected, the Knicks traded Rivers to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of a three-way deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, as first reported by ESPN’s NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

Rivers first hinted about a trade for him last month he fell out of Tom Thibodeau’s rotation.

“They had told me after the game [Feb. 7 versus the Heat] that they were bringing Derrick in,” Rivers said. “I had already kind of heard stuff even before the season started that he was going to be coming here. My whole thing is, control what I can control. When they had told me he was coming, I said ‘OK,’ and obviously, there’s been stuff about me being moved to other places. With all this kind of up in the air right now, my thing is, as long as I’m a Knick, just to be professional. I don’t know what can happen today or tomorrow or next week or the week after that. Every day that I’m here I’m always going to be all in.”

The Knicks got Terrance Ferguson, a former Thunder first-round pick in 2017, in return. New York also sent Ignas Brazdeikis to Philadelphia and picked up Vincent Poirier and two future second-round picks.

Drummond to the Knicks?

Meanwhile, Kevin O’ Connor of The Ringer reported that the Knicks are a serious landing spot for Andre Drummond on Wednesday night. The Cleveland Cavaliers are still trying to find a trade for Drummond, a former two-time All-star and a four-time rebounding leader.

The Knicks only need $13.7 million in salary to trade for Drummond.

But a better scenario for the Knicks is if Drummond is bought out, they can lure him a multi-year deal which he will likely prefer than what contenders Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers can offer.

In this scenario, the Knicks can offer Drummond a pro-rated four-year, $64-million deal, according to The Athletic’s front office insider and former Memphis Grizzlies executive John Hollinger.

Drummond is a Mount Vernon native but considers Middletown, Connecticut, as his home, which is only a 15-minute drive from New Britain, Connecticut, where Tom Thibodeau hails.

Thibodeau coached Drummond in the 2014 FIBA World Cup as an assistant coach of the Team USA that won the gold.

Drummond also played for Thibodeau’s good friend, Jim Calhoun, in college. Thibodeau used to visit Calhoun’s practices in the Northeast. Drummond considers his UConn coach as one of his best friends.

The Knicks can also pivot to another asset accumulation move as a third team to use their $15 million cap space.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks News: One player who’s likely to be traded prior to deadline

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

The Knicks are preparing to take on the Washington Wizards on Tuesday evening, but with the trade deadline just a few days away, they could make a last-second move to bolster their squad. The expectation is that the Knicks won’t make a big splash, trading for a star player but rather waiting until free agency to sign one on their own instead of giving up draft capital. While they do have plenty of selections to choose from, they are taking a more conservative approach and building within their own foundation. New York feels as though they can get it done with their current team, as they recently fell 101-100 to the Philadelphia 76ers, a favorite in the Eastern Conference.

However, the Knicks actually might take an intriguing approach, trading away players for capital instead of parting ways with valuable assets.

As per Ian Begley of SNY, the Knicks could be looking to trade Austin Rivers in the coming days:

One transaction to monitor? A potential Austin Rivers move. If you listened to Rivers’ press conference a few weeks ago, he sounded like a player who expected to get traded. Even with all of the Knicks’ injury issues, Rivers has only played a total of 5:58 since the Rose trade. (He’s been inactive since the All-Star break due to paternity leave).

Having been connected to star players like Bradley Beal, Zach LaVaine, and even Lonzo Ball recently, it would be a surprise if they didn’t walk away with some sort of offensive support. There’s always a possibility they land Andre Drummond to supplement the center position, especially with Mitchell Robinson picking up a minor ankle sprain against Philadelphia on Sunday.

Trading away Rivers would be a beneficial move, considering he’s averaging just 7.3 points over 21 minutes this season. His impact has been minimal, playing uninspired defense and inconsistent offense. Early on in the year, he had a few streaky performances where he flashed potential, but he lacks that consistency on both sides of the ball head coach Tom Thibodeau demands. At the very least, he’s not dominant in any specific category.

Unless New York can strike a deal for Drummond that includes Rivers, they might only be able to get depth or draft picks out of a potential trade.

Knicks News: Austin Rivers becoming frustrated, Tom Thibodeau rips team in loss to Spurs

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The New York Knicks experienced a dose of reality on Tuesday evening, being blown out by the San Antonio Spurs 119–93. The Knicks had high hopes after taking down the Indiana Pacers two games before and the Detroit Pistons in their last victory. However, they found out shortly before the start of the game that Derrick Rose would be unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols.

With Rose out and Elfrid Payton still nursing an injury, the Knicks had to make a decision on who would start at PG. Ultimately, they elected to utilize Frank Ntilikina instead of Immanuel Quickley or Austin Rivers.

Rivers has been buried on the depth chart, not even scratching the surface against San Antonio, even as the game got out of reach. It seems as if Tom Thibodeau has put him in his doghouse, which means his future is undeniably uncertain.

Rivers wasn’t too optimistic regarding his future with the Knicks earlier this week: “I can’t control if I’m traded today, tomorrow or the next day. What I can control is how I am as a player.’’

The New York Knicks should consider dealing Rivers:

It is an unfortunate reality for Rivers, who signed a three-year deal with the Knicks this past off-season. His inefficiency scoring and inconsistencies with the ball in his hands quickly demoralized him and gave Thibodeau a reason to bench him in favor of younger options. At this point, Rivers might be a better trade candidate than an actual contributor moving forward.

Following the defeat, Thibodeau had stern words for his team, and this should serve as a wake-up call that better teams will not take it easy on this rising squad.

“You get what you deserve,’’ Tom Thibodeau said.

Thibs tried his best to keep the team together and progressive in the loss, but ultimately the size differential for the 2nd unit was too much to handle.

“I was trying to keep the second unit together as much as I could,’’ Thibodeau said. “And the size of their point guard [DeJounte Murray] also factored into it.’’

Power forward Julius Randle, who is considered the Knicks’ best player and scorer, coughed this came up as an anomaly.

Randle finished the game with just 14 points, well below his season average of 23.1. San Antonio did a good job of locking him down and minimizing his impact, which made it extremely difficult for New York to produce offensively.

“Probably the first game we had like this honestly,’’ Randle said. “Throw it in the trash and get back to work.’’

Knicks’ Austin Rivers thrown under the bus after Derrick Rose acquisition

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

The New York Knicks have been making gradual changes to their roster, notably the acquisition of Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson. Both have been influential in the team’s recent success, but other players have been left in the dust as a result of these moves.

For example, the moment the Knicks acquired Rose, shooting guard Austin Rivers took a backseat. Since February 9, Rivers has only made two appearances and spent just under five minutes on the court. An unfortunate byproduct of acquiring Derrick, who has a close relationship with Tom Thibodeau and offers a bit more offensive prowess than Rivers.

“I think that was an assumed thing already when Derrick came. So I already understood and I know that’s [Tom Thibodeau‘s] guy,” said Rivers. “He’s been with Derrick and Derrick’s a heck of a player so, again, we had our conversation there and that’s going to stay [in house].”

Rivers fully understands that Rose was ultimately going to earn more playing time, considering the former Houston Rocket is averaging 7.3 points per game this season while Rose is offering 10.9 over 21.3 minutes, a very similar number (minutes) to Rivers this far.

Derrick Rose is simply offering the Knicks more:

In addition, Rose is producing double the amount of assists, indicating a more vision-oriented player who can pick out transition runners and big men in the paint. Nonetheless, Rivers plans to remain focused and ready for another opportunity, which hopefully will present itself at some point.

“Every day that I’m here I’m always going to be all in,” he said. “I actually like all the guys on this team. We have great guys on this team. And because you never know. Maybe they might need me to play or whatever. Crazy things have happened. I’ve seen it all. So that’s kind of my attitude toward this. Just control what I can control, continue to get better, continue to stay ready.”

If there is one reason to be OK with this move, it’s that Rivers signed a three-year deal with the Knicks this past offseason, so he will likely have an opportunity in the near future. Rose is only signed for the rest of the 2021 campaign, and his primary focus should be mentoring Immanuel Quickley and preparing him to be the future point guard for the team.

3 New York Knicks players that could be traded

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

The New York Knicks are actively scouring the trade market for ways to improve their team, as they recently acquired Derrick Rose, sending point guard Dennis Smith Jr. to the Detroit Pistons. Smith Jr. was “all smiles” after being treated by the Knicks, and now they can finally move on from what was a massive mistake several years ago.

Rose has already shown his quality on the court, scoring 14 points over 20 minutes in his first game this season. The Knicks are currently 11-15, four games from .500. The most recent loss of the Miami Heat was disappointing, as they had a slight advantage going into the fourth quarter and blew a late lead, coming up short for a second consecutive night.

Once New York can close out tight games, it will make them a far more exciting team. One way they can improve their performance is to strike a trade for a premium asset. However, they would have to part ways with some of their current talent.

Three tradeable players for the New York Knicks:

1.) Elfrid Payton

One player that might draw some attention is Elfrid Payton, who is averaging 12.1 points per game and 3.7 assists. He was far more resourceful with the ball in his hands last year, averaging 7.2 assists per game, but his aggressive defense is why Tom Thibodeau continues to utilize him as a starter. There’s likely a team out there looking for a solid defender and reserve point guard to utilize in a rotational aspect. The Knicks are preparing to thrust Immanuel Quickley into the starting role at some point, which makes Payton expendable, especially since he’s on a one year contract.

2.) Frank Ntilikina

There’s always a need for a quality defender on the bench, but the Knicks have completely disregarded Frank Ntilikina over 26 games. He’s only made four appearances, and at 22 years old, a team out there will likely see the value in his fantastic defense.

There is still potential left offensively, but they have tried every which way to improve his scoring abilities. He has never averaged more than 6.3 points per game, and Thibodeau is looking for players who can put points on the board as well as dominate on defense.

I see the value that Ntilikina has, but at the end of the day, if Thibodeau isn’t going to utilize him, it is best to cash in on his value.

3.) Austin Rivers

The Knicks landed Austin Rivers on a three-year, $9.975 million contract this past off-season. While he started the year nursing an injury, he has provided a spark with his solid dribbling and off-ball movement.

He’s averaging just 8.1 points per game, which has value as a rotational player off the bench. At some point, he seems like he could be an adequate starter, but inconsistencies have dismantled his case. He is shooting a bit better from the field and three-point line, but nothing to be overzealous about.

Rivers is a player who could draw some attention on the market, and if the Knicks could package a few players together to land a more valuable asset, it might be worthwhile to explore a trade.

Knicks fail to sustain hot start, lose to Jazz

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

The New York Knicks went hot and cold in Utah, wrapping up their West Coast trip with a disappointing 108-94 loss to the Jazz Tuesday night.

Austin Rivers typified the Knicks’ Jekyll and Hyde performance.

Rivers was on fire in the first half with 25 points on a perfect 10-for-10 shooting. Then he went scoreless in the second half.

The Knicks appeared to be on their way to an encore of their Jazz massacre at The Garden when they erected a 15-point lead in the second quarter. They even held a 13-point lead at the break.

But it went downhill from there.

Mike Conley and Royce O’Neale picked up the slack with Jazz star Donovan Mitchell struggling to shoot.

Mitchell started the game 0-for-10 before finishing with nine points on 3-for-15 shooting.

But the Jazz drew double-digit scoring from five other players led by O’Neale and Conley.

Conley fired 14 of his 19 points in the third quarter, while O’Neale had nine of his 20 in the fourth quarter to seal the Knicks’ fate.

Rivers’ hot hands went cold after being hit with his third foul late in the second quarter. He was never the same again.

“Yeah, I just felt like in that stretch with the way it was going offensively, I thought we would do what we did, but it did cross my mind to leave him out there,” Tom Thibodeau replied when asked if he felt he should’ve gambled with Rivers despite nursing three fouls.

Rivers missed his four shots in the second half and had a mental lapse, fouling Conley late in the third quarter when he thought the Knicks still had a foul to give.

Conley’s two free throws sliced the Knicks’ lead to just a single point heading into the final quarter.

The Jazz took over from there.

A 10-0 start was all they needed to suck the life out of the weary Knicks, who were playing the tail end of a four-game road trip.

The Knicks finished the trip losing three straight after an impressive win against Golden State Warriors. They slid outside the top eight in the East with an 8-11 win-loss record.

Meanwhile, the Jazz have extended their league’s hottest win streak to nine, which started, ironically, after losing to the Knicks in New York in January.

Rudy Gobert was also instrumental in the Jazz victory with a monster performance (18 points, 19 rebounds, and four blocks).

Filipino-American guard Jordan Clarkson continued making an early case for the Sixth Man of the Year with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals off the bench for the Jazz.

RJ Barrett rebounded from his single-digit performance in a loss to Portland with 17 points on 7-11 (3-for-3 from 3) shooting from the field. Julius Randle had a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists), but the rest of the Knicks struggled.

Immanuel Quickley, who sizzled for a career-high 31 points against the Trail Blazers, had his worst shooting night going 1-for-11 for six points.

The Knicks will head home and host the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks’ Austin Rivers has answer for slumping team

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

After the New York Knicks started the 2021 season on a high note, winning five of six games during one stretch, they have since lost three in a row. This slump can only be attributed to a lack of chemistry and familiarity with Tom Thibodeau’s scheme. If you want to throw in a lack of talent, that would also work too.

The Knicks are dealing with significant injuries in the frontcourt, being forced to sign Taj Gibson as a supplement. Their defense has been lackluster, and their offense has completely taken a backseat. Over the last three games, they’ve given up more than 101 points in each and haven’t scored more than 89 points.

Most recently, against the Charlotte Hornets, star power forward Julius Randle scored just 11 points over 30 minutes, a disappointing performance. In fact, not a single Knick scored more than 19 points, with Kevin Knox representing their best offensive threat at 19. Knox has actually played quite well the past few games, shooting a career-best 40% from 3-point range and averaging 7.9 points over 21 minutes. Interestingly, the Knicks haven’t had the same starters for the first 10 games in at least 20 years, which is painfully awful.

The injection of new faces and coaches across-the-board was always going to catch up to New York, and they’re fighting through a tough stretch of games. They will face off against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday evening, who feature Kevin Durant. The Knicks are going to need big performances from their more reliable players, and one guy that has struggled the past two games is Austin Rivers.

However, Rivers has only made seven appearances this year and started in one game. He is averaging 28 minutes and 12 points per game, also passing the ball efficiently with 4.5 assists. He can be an influential player for the Knicks, but he simply doesn’t have the chemistry with his team yet. He acknowledges his lack of familiarity, stating:

“Our chemistry is not there yet, we’re still building,’’ said Rivers, who missed all of preseason and the first four games. “That’s why I’m saying be patient because I know it’s only going to get better and better. I haven’t had one practice this entire season. My first time playing with the team was against the Raptors [on Dec. 31]. So I’m still figuring it out.”

I do feel confident that Thibodeau will turn the team around — aggressive defense is his priority. Ultimately, as they continue to grow alongside each other and develop chemistry, we will see more consistent performances, but this is the building of something new and fresh, so there were always going to be speed bumps along the way.

Bullock’s injury forces Knicks to shake up starting lineup

Reggie Bullock of the New York Knicks

As the games keep on coming, the injury bug also keeps on hitting the New York Knicks.

Starter Reggie Bullock will not play Monday night in Charlotte due to a sore right hip, the Knicks announced.

Bullock has been averaging 28.7 minutes producing 8.5 points on 33.3 percent on threes, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists.

His outside shooting and defense will be sorely missed as Tom Thibodeau’s wing rotation is getting thinner.

The timing couldn’t have come at the worst time with the Knicks in the midst of a two-game losing streak. They have their plate full this week with a four-game schedule, including Monday night’s match against the streaking Hornets.

Bullock joins the Knicks’ injury list that also includes rookie Obi Toppin (strained right calf), Frank Ntilikina (sprained right knee), Alec Burks (sprained left ankle), and new signee Taj Gibson who is still undergoing health protocols before joining the team.

The Knicks are expected to bring Austin Rivers up to the starting unit to replace Bullock. But there’s also a chance that Kevin Knox will get the starting nod if Thibodeau opts to have a veteran leader on the floor for his second unit.

Meanwhile, Toppin is making progress with his recovery, although he hasn’t been cleared for contact.

“Right now, it’s 1-on-0, with some movement, jumping, change of direction, and that sort of thing,” Thibodeau said last Sunday.

“Then he’ll progress to 2-on-2, 3-on-3, and get to the point where he can get to 5-on-5 and get through practice,” he continued.

Toppin hasn’t seen action since the season opener.

Burks, on the other hand, is closing to re-evaluation later this week. The veteran wingman had been on a walking boot since Wednesday last week. He was initially given a 7-10 day timetable before he can be re-evaluated.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo