Mark Jackson believes Knicks could’ve ended title drought if he wasn’t traded

Mark Jackson, Knicks

New York-bred and former Knicks point guard Mark Jackson never won a championship during his 18-year NBA career. But he believes he could have won with his hometown team had he stayed longer.

“Well, I do believe that we win a championship,” Jackson said via SNY during Tuesday’s premiere of the NYC Point Gods documentary. “We had a great team. We had a process moving along. We advanced. We had the ultimate champs on the ropes. So I believe we win a championship if that team stays together. But I’m sure if you ask the opposition, they believe they win anyway.”

Jackson, the 1988 NBA Rookie of the Year, spent his first five seasons with the Knicks. During that span, Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls beat them thrice in the playoffs.

In Jackson’s final season with the Knicks, he averaged 6.7 points and a series-high 7.9 assists and they pushed the Bulls to seven games in the 1991-92 Eastern Conference semifinals.

“I believe if we stayed together, we beat (Jordan and the Bulls). We were up in the fourth quarter of a Game 7, with Michael Jordan on the team. So I’m not saying something that’s asinine,” Jackson said. “They were an all-time great team and had an all-time great player. But I believe we had a chance to beat him and I think that if we stayed together, we would have.”

But contrary to Jackson’s claim, the Knicks never led in the fourth quarter and the entire second half of Game 7, which ended in a 110-81 rout.

Four months later, the Knicks shipped Jackson to the Los Angeles Clippers in a three-team trade with the Orlando Magic for Doc Rivers, Charles Smith and Bo Kimble. The Clippers also received Knicks’ 1995 2nd round draft pick (Constantin Popa) and Magic center Stanley Roberts. Meanwhile, the Magic received the Clippers’ 1994 1st round draft pick (Brooks Thompson) and the Knicks’ 1993 1st round draft pick (Geert Hammink).

Entering his second season as the Knicks coach, Pat Riley sought Rivers’ veteran leadership and Smith’s low-post presence.

The trade immediately transformed the Knicks into the top defensive team in the league and reached the Eastern Conference Finals. But they fell to the Bulls anew, losing in six games after racing to a 2-0 lead. Smith will forever be remembered for failing to score in four attempts in the closing moments of Game 5 at the Madison Square Garden that could have given the Knicks a 3-2 series lead.

Rivers tore his ACL the following season and missed the Knicks’ 1994 NBA Finals run. He was subsequently traded after getting buried in the point guard depth chart upon his return. Smith never lived up to expectations in New York and was traded to San Antonio Spurs in 1996.

After Jackson’s departure, the Knicks reached the NBA Finals twice in 1994 and 1999 but lost both series to the Houston Rockets and Spurs, respectively.

Jackson’s only shot at winning a ring came in the 2000 NBA Finals. But the Los Angeles Lakers foiled Jackson and the Indiana Pacers in six games.

Jackson returned to the Knicks near the twilight of his career in 2001-2002 but it was a little too late as the team was already on the decline.

Two teams and two seasons later, Jackson retired with the lingering ‘what if’ and ‘what could have been’ thoughts about the Knicks.

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Knicks size up Duke’s Mark Williams; Nerlens Noel on trade block anew

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The uncertainty of the New York Knicks center rotation may lead them to take a flier on Duke’s Mark Williams.

Williams has visited five lottery teams, including the Knicks.

The 7-foot-2 Williams is the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year after swatting 2.8 shots per game and altering countless rim attempts. He is one of the five Duke players expected to get drafted and could be the third Blue Devil behind presumptive top-3 pick Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin to be called in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

His combination of size (nearly 7-foot-7 wingspan and 9-foot-9 standing reach), motor, and mobility have made him a projected late lottery pick. What’s stopping Williams from vaulting to the top of the draft is his limited range. But he’s almost automatic inside the paint (83.4 percent conversion rate at the rim, per Hoop-Math).

Overall, Williams shot 72.1 percent from the field, becoming the first Duke player to hit better than 70 percent on more than 100 field-goal attempts in a season since 1992, per Sports Reference’s men’s college basketball Play Index.

Both ESPN and Bleacher Report predict he would go to the Hornets either at No. 13 or No. 15. But with Mitchell Robinson’s looming free agency and the murky status of Nerlens Noel, it’s not far-fetched that the Knicks would take a hard look at Williams when they are on the clock on Thursday night.

Noel, limited to only 25 games due to an assortment of injuries, is reportedly on the trade block again.

“I have heard that Nerlens Noel is one of the players that the Knicks are the most active in discussing right now,” Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer said on his podcast.

Noel was almost dealt at the February trade deadline in a scuttled three-team trade with the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers. Jericho Sims’ emergence in the second half of last season had made Noel expendable.

If the Knicks could offload Noel, the Knicks will likely convert Sims’ two-way deal into a traditional contract to make him eligible beyond 50 regular-season games.

It could also mean the Knicks are likely to retain Robinson especially after the Dallas Mavericks have scooped up their starting center in Christian Wood and the Detroit Pistons reportedly eyeing Phoenix Suns’ disgruntled center Deandre Ayton.

If Ayton lands elsewhere, the Pistons, along with the Chicago Bulls, are expected to pursue Robinson. The Knicks have until June 30 to strike an extension with Robinson.

Williams, who has a similar skill set and a better offensive upside on a rookie deal, is a good fallback option for the Knicks.

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Report: Bulls interested in Knicks’ center Mitchell Robinson

An old Knicks rival has emerged as another threat aside from the Detroit Pistons to lure free-agent-to-be Mitchell Robinson out of New York.

Fresh from their first playoff appearance since 2017, the Bulls are keen on shoring up their defense around Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.

The 24-year-old Mitchell is perhaps the consolation prize if the Bulls miss out on a Rudy Gobert trade.

“Sources have also indicated the Bulls are a team with interest in Gobert (and other centers on the market, including Knicks free agent Mitchell Robinson),” The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor wrote on Tuesday.

Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported that a popular package being floated around by league executives revolves around Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams for Gobert.

The Bulls’ reluctance in adding Williams could lead them to pursue Robinson instead. While Robinson isn’t a three-time Defensive Player of the Year like Gobert, he has been a solid rim protector when he’s healthy and engaged. His price tag is much cheaper than Gobert, who will earn $38,172,414 next season.

Vucevic is entering the final year of a four-year, $100-million deal. He is eligible to sign a four-year, $118 million extension which would cripple the Bulls’ financial flexibility. That makes the 31-year-old, two-time NBA All-Star center a hot trade candidate this offseason.

But it would require a complicated sign-and-trade for the Bulls to swap Vucevic for Robinson, who is seeking more than the midlevel exception in his next deal.

Robinson has returned to New York after spending some time in Louisiana with Knicks personnel monitoring his offseason workouts. The Knicks have until June 30 to strike an extension with their young starting center. Robinson is eligible to sign a four-year, $55 million extension which the Knicks reportedly are reluctant to give.

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Knicks’ Julius Randle details heated exchange with Evan Fournier after first half collapse

julius randle, knicks, evan fournier

With the first half coming to an end on Thursday evening against the Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks stepped off the floor in disarray. After allowing 37 points in the first quarter and 32 points in the second quarter, Knicks’ forward Julius Randle and guard Evan Fournier were seen arguing as they walked off the floor in a heated exchange.

Both players suggested it was a form of communication, and that it benefited the team as a whole, coming out entirely different in the second half, mounting a 21 point comeback despite the loss.

“It looks like we’re arguing,” Randle said. “…. We went to the locker room (to) talk it out. We say regardless, at the end of the day we’ve got each other’s back and we’re in this together. That’s important.

Competitive communication is a positive, and it clearly helped the Knicks score 32 points in the third quarter, holding Chicago to just 20.

“…. You can have differences. You can communicate and talk and say what you see on the court. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to know that we’re riding with each other regardless.

Randle finished the game with 30 points, despite missing several clutch free throws down the stretch and turning the ball over in the most important moment. With fatigue building and a lack of awareness, Randle helped blow a second consecutive game, something the Knicks simply cannot afford to do after fighting their way back in both contests against Brooklyn and Chicago.

However, it is good to see the players showing competitive spirit, as Fournier indicated communication like this needs to happen, as letting things boil can lead to bigger issues.

“I think the key was communicating,” Fournier said afterward. “I would rather have that than not saying anything and hold grudges and stuff. So, stuff like that happens all the time and I’m glad it happened, because we played much better in that third quarter.”

The Knicks one will look ahead to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday afternoon at 1 PM. Denver has lost seven of their last eight games, recently falling to the Orlando Magic, arguably the worst team in basketball.

The Knicks have a fantastic opportunity to bounce back and get back on the win column after falling to .500 on the season.

Bulls 119, Knicks 115: Chicago stifles triumphant Knicks comeback

derrick rose, obi toppin, knicks

The New York Knicks faced off against the Chicago Bulls in a shootout on Thursday night, with the final score 119-115. Despite a resilient effort, the Knicks deserved to lose this game, finding themselves down 21 points in the first half before mounting an incredible comeback in the third quarter. Unfortunately, New York was unable to extract a victory, losing their second consecutive contest by four points or less.

The Knicks took a late lead for just a moment before DeMar DeRozan hit a number of shots to give the Bulls an advantage. In fact, DeRozan finished with 34 points, hitting 12-of-19 shots from the field and 10-of-11 free throws. He also contributed six rebounds and three assists.

DeRozan wasn’t the only Chicago star to post double-digit points, as Nikola Vucevic posted 27, hitting 10-of-18 shots from the field and 5-of-9 from three-point range. Zach LaVine, who shot lights out, recorded 27 as well, hitting 50% of his shots from the field and 3-of-6 from deep.

The Knicks found their groove in the second half partly because they began to understand Chicago’s game. With smaller players, the Knicks played physically and dominated the interior, as Julius Randle posted 30, hitting 14-of-21 shots from the field and picking up 12 rebounds.

The starting team as a whole played well for New York in the 2nd half, with Alec Burks contributing 16 points over 43 minutes and Evan Fournier posting 16, shooting 40% from three-point range. Fournier also earned four steals in the game, a high for both teams.

Off the bench, Obi Toppin scored eight points, recording two steals and four rebounds. While he allowed a few costly turnovers, he played with energy and made several defensive stops to keep the Knicks in the game.

Unfortunately, the difference in this game was the turnovers, as the Knicks posted 18, eight of which came in the first quarter. They managed to fight back in the second half, with Chicago turing the ball over 15 times.

Despite another resilient effort, New York will go home tonight with a somber feeling, exerting maximum effort but unable to secure victory. They will look forward to the Denver Nuggets, who should offer a better opportunity at victory compared to Brooklyn or Chicago. Their next game is on Saturday afternoon at 1 PM, so they have a bit of time to rest up before then.

3 keys for the Knicks to take down strong Chicago team at MSG

immanuel quickley, knicks

The New York Knicks are coming off a disappointing defeat to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday evening, littered with officiating controversy. After the contest, forward Julius Randle and head coach Tom Thibodeau spoke to the media, indicating their displeasure with some of the calls made (and not made), specifically against Randle, who didn’t earn the same equality as Kevin Durant and James Harden.

However, the Knicks will look to bounce back against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday at MSG.

Three keys for the Knicks to take down Chicago:

1.) Guard the perimeter

Chicago has lost three of their last five games but scored 133 points against Charlotte in their most recent victory. They shot 46.7% from three-point range and nearly 60% from the field, elite numbers from their starting team. Center Nikola Vucevic hit all six of his three-point attempts as Lonzo Ball connected on five.

With some of the best starters in the NBA, the Knicks will have a challenging task ahead of them, trying to limit their production. Small forward DeMar DeRozan is having an incredible season, averaging 25.9 points, 4.2 assists, and shooting nearly 50% from the field. With an impeccable mid-range game, limiting DeRozan will be a focal point.

However, New York can’t allow Zach LaVine to get hot from deep either, as he connected on 10 shots from the field against Charlotte. He’s shooting 38.4% from deep this season and averaging and 25.3 points per game.

The Knicks have stepped up considerably with their perimeter defense lately, and they need to maintain consistency moving forward.

2.) High energy play

The Knicks have had issues maintaining high energy levels, especially to start games and at the beginning of the second half. Against Brooklyn on Tuesday, they found themselves in a near 20-point deficit in the third quarter, having to crawl their way back slowly before ultimately losing in the final moments.

When the Knicks are playing with gusto and showing aggression, their efficiency on defense usually increases significantly. That is primarily why Obi Toppin has made an impact this year, providing a high work rate on both sides of the floor.

3.) Stifle DeMar DeRozan

As stated above, limiting DeMar DeRozan is a priority for New York. His ability to finish close to the basket and connect from mid-range makes him an incredibly difficult player to stop.

DeRozan likes to do a lot of the dirty work on his own, with 75.4% of his field goals made coming unassisted. Expect to see plenty of Julius Randle and RJ Barrett on DeRozan, who can easily tantalize the Knicks all on his own.

However, New York also has to be wary of Vucevic, who is a fantastic modern center who can shoot from range.

Do the New York Knicks have a problem playing lesser teams?

There isn’t much to be upset about with the Knicks’ performance to start the season. They sit at 5-2 and own victories over the likes of the 6-1 Bulls, the Celtics, and the 76ers. They’ve also suffered horrific losses to both the Magic and the Raptors.

The reason for both of these losses: simply getting outplayed. This doesn’t seem like just a fluke.

A Tale of Two Types of Performances

Last year, the Knicks thrived against teams below .500, going 24-10. Their efforts against these teams ended up being the reason they eventually sat 4th place in the Eastern Conference at the end of the season.

This year, they’re much improved, and their play against opponents they are more talented than should reflect that. However, this is not what we have seen.

Last night, the Raptors came into MSG without Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes and completely outplayed the Knicks. They started out hot and were up as many as 15, but in the final minutes of the second quarter and the entire second half, they looked lost.

New York turned the ball over 17 times, was outrebounded offensively by 6, and was outscored in transition 21-3. Additionally, there was little-to-no effort on defense as almost every Toronto possession ended with a great look. This all combined screams a lack of hustle on behalf of the Orange & Blue.

The same can be said about their other loss this season to the Magic. Nothing on the stat sheet jumps out at you as the reason why the Knicks lost that game, but lazy defensive possessions led to their demise. Terrance Ross doesn’t score 22 in the 4th quarter of that game if New York brings their usual intensity on D.

To date, the best win of the season for the Knicks was against the Bulls. In that game, not only did they outwork them on the boards, but they also outhustled them on all ends of the court. They turned the ball over 13 times but only surrendered 10 points off those turnovers. New York also had 5 more fast-break points than a Chicago team that scores 13% of its points in that category.

This performance just doesn’t compare to their losses.

Julius Randle Needs to Lead the Way

When Julius Randle plays well, the Knicks play well. It’s that simple. The reigning Most Improved Player sets the tone for everything his team does.

Last night he started the game out with one of the best quarters of his career. He put up 18 points with 4 threes, and the Knicks led by 8 at the end of the period. After that, he went silent. Watch just one example of the lack of effort shown by Randle. This play ended up setting the tone for the rest of the game:

The Knicks need their best player to play hard night in and night out, no matter the opponent. It’s understandable that he’s probably drained from going 35+ minutes a night, but this type of laziness isn’t just seen at the end of games.

The effort needs to be there all the time, or else the Knicks will continue to struggle against younger teams with less talent, who seem hungrier to win.

Hopefully, this doesn’t continue to happen enough to become a trend this season, and it all starts with the play of Julius Randle.

Kemba Walker silences doubters as Knicks end 15-game skid vs 76ers

Kemba Walker’s return to New York to play for his hometown Knicks was initially met with mixed reactions.

On the one hand, there was a palpable excitement that the Knicks’ biggest hole would finally be filled by one of the finest New York-bred point guards. But on the other hand, there was also cynical skepticism owing to the past injuries that are fast catching up with him.

Walker’s underwhelming first three games as a Knick only reinforced those doubts. But in an early matchup against one of the Eastern Conference heavyweights, Walker erased them with an All-Star caliber play.

After averaging only 10.3 points in the Knicks’ 2-1 start, the 31-year old Walker, a four-time NBA All-Star, scored a season-high 19 points on five three-pointers and five assists to power the Knicks to cruise to a 112-99 win over the Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks improved to 3-1 and snapped a 15-game losing spell to the Sixers since Carmelo Anthony’s final game with the franchise in 2017.

After missing his first three shots, Walker caught fire, leading the Knicks’ huge second-quarter surge. In a two-and-a-half-minute stretch, Walker’s 10 straight points blew up the Knicks’ lead to 20 at halftime after trailing by three at the end of the first stanza.

New York outscored Philadelphia, 39-16, in that pivotal quarter.

Walker picked up from where he left off, adding nine points after the first half. The Knicks enjoyed their largest lead, 83-56, on Walker’s back-to-back three-pointer that rocked the Garden.

“I was waiting for that moment,’’ said Walker of his breakthrough game in front of his family, friends, some college and high school teammates, and coaches. “I was waiting for that moment. It was the kind of moment I dreamed of when I was a young kid wanting to be in the NBA, watching the Knicks play, coming to a Knicks game, and seeing how the crowd goes crazy. That was a great moment for me.’’

After watching Derrick Rose closed out the Knicks’ first three games, Walker finally earned the minutes down the stretch and made sure there was no Sixers comeback, unlike their shocking loss to a young Orlando Magic two nights earlier.

“I wouldn’t say it was a relief but it definitely felt good. It was fun. Hopefully, we can have more moments like that,” said Walker who reiterated he had no qualms sitting on the bench down the stretch.

The Knicks returned to playing fun basketball with crisp ball movement that froze the 76ers’ defense.

Their 24 assists on 41 field goals, including 16 of 37 three-point attempts, were a testament to their unselfish play. They had a sizzling start, sinking 15 of their first 23 attempts from downtown.

Their 70 three-pointers made during their 3-1 start tied the 2020-21 Bucks’ record for most makes through the first 4 games of a season in NBA history, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Julius Randle did not have to do the heavy lifting as Walker led five Knicks players in double figures. All 10 players Tom Thibodeau used in the game scored at least four points.

Randle flirted with a triple-double (16 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists), while Evan Fournier came through with 18 points, four threes, and four assists. Derrick Rose again led the Knicks’ bench with 13 points.

“That’s what I love about our team. We have great depth,” Thibodeau said. “Tonight I thought the way Kemba played helped set the tone. Julius was unbelievable in terms of making plays early. That made us unselfish and we all got into a rhythm and we played hard.”

Even Sixers coach Doc Rivers was in awe of the Knicks’ much-improved offense.

“Clearly they’re a better offensive team because they have more shot makers. They have more playmakers,” Rivers said. “That’s one thing about Kemba and Fournier. They’re not just scorers. They’re playmakers and the more playmakers you can add to a team, the better. We didn’t have any playmakers tonight.”

The Sixers could have used one more playmaker and a defensive stopper in Ben Simmons. But the versatile All-Star is out indefinitely as he claims he is still not mentally ready yet to rejoin the team after an ugly fallout last summer.

‘Where is Ben Simmons?’ chants from a good Tuesday night Garden crowd added salt to the Sixers’ injury.

With one less headache, the Knicks’ defense focused on Sixers’ All-Star center Joel Embiid, who was questionable to play before the game due to knee soreness. A bulkier and much stronger Mitchell Robinson played solid one-on-one defense against Embiid. A perfectly timed occasional help defense from the weak side cut off Embiid’s passing lanes, forcing him to commit five turnovers. Embiid struggled with 14 points on 2-of-7 shooting and six rebounds in 31 minutes.

The Knicks also put the clamps on Seth Curry, who ended up with just four points on 2-of-6 shooting after exploding for 28 two nights ago in Oklahoma City. Tobias Harris led Philadelphia with 23 points.

It was the type of response Thibodeau was expecting from his team following their slip-up against the Magic.

“Long before the ball went up tonight, immediately after the [loss to Orlando], I could tell [we’d have a good game],’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We knew we didn’t play well. We got a real group of serious-minded guys. I could tell that night, the next day and last night, the gym was packed with people working. I knew this would be a good test for us.’’

Indeed.

But the tests keep on coming. On Thursday, they will face Thibodeau’s old team, Chicago Bulls, who are off to their best start since 1996.

Both the Knicks and Bulls’ hot starts have pushed the league to add their early showdown for the Eastern Conference’s top spot to NBA TV’s schedule. It could rekindle their rivalry in the 90s when Michael Jordan’s Bulls and Patrick Ewing’s Knicks were the fiercest playoff rivals in the Eastern Conference.

But following a feel-good win like this, Thibodeau warned his team about slacking off like how they played against the Magic in New York after crushing them in Orlando.

“It doesn’t stop,’’ Thibodeau said. “We can’t feel good about tonight. We go to Chicago to play an undefeated team that’s loaded and playing really well. We’ll have to play our best.’’

On the heels of Walker’s breakthrough game for the Knicks, his matchup against Lonzo Ball will also come with intrigue. Ball was on the Knicks’ radar for their starting point guard role as far as the February trade deadline last season.

Then the Bulls snatched Ball with a fat $85-million, four-year contract in a sign-and-trade with the New Orleans Pelicans last summer. On the other hand, Walker fell on the Knicks’ lap on a much cheaper $18-million, two-year deal after his contract buyout with Oklahoma City Thunder.

It will be another opportunity for Walker and the Knicks to shut down the outside noise.

“Those guys are playing really, really well. It’s gonna be a dogfight,” Walker said.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo