How Rich Paul’s alleged misrepresentation led Nerlens Noel to Knicks

Nerlens Noel proved to be a valuable piece to the New York Knicks last season, especially after starting center Mitchell Robinson went down with two significant injuries.

The Knicks went 25-16 when Noel took over the starting spot over the injured Robinson. Noel’s career-best 2.2 blocks per game anchored the team’s defense which boasted the league’s best rim protection (60.5 percent in opponent’s rim field goals) that helped them made the playoffs for the first time in eight years. He added 5.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in 24.2 minutes, his most playing time since his sophomore year.

Noel’s efforts got rewarded with the biggest contract yet of his career – a partially guaranteed three-year, $32 million deal to remain with the Knicks. But that contract pales in comparison to what Noel could have earned back in 2017 free agency.

Noel, then a restricted free agent, turned down a $70 million, four-year extension offer from the Dallas Mavericks after super-agent Rich Paul allegedly told him that he was “a $100 million man” during Ben Simmon’s birthday party in 2017. He claimed that Paul induced him to sign the one-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer instead and seek the max contract in 2018 free agency.

Noel’s 2017 fumble remains one of the league’s cautionary tales, and it is the bone of contention in a messy legal battle between the Knicks center and Paul.

The decision to reject the Mavericks’ $70 million offer “placed Noel at serious professional and financial risk,” claimed the 2017 cease and desist letter issued by the legal counsel of Happy Walters, Noel’s previous agent, to Paul and Klutch Sports.

The letter claimed that it was contrary to Walters’ advice alleging that Paul’s motivation was the desire to collect lucrative commissions from a future deal.

It was one of the salacious details of the amended lawsuit Noel filed against his former agent. The move was in response to Paul filing a grievance to the National Basketball Players Association claiming that Noel failed to pay him $200,000 in commission from his previous one-year, $5 million deal with the Knicks in 2019. 

Noel said in the lawsuit that Paul virtually played no role; hence he is not entitled to his commission. Noel claimed that on the second night of the 2020 free agency, Leon Rose, the Knicks president, called Steven Dorn, Noel’s friend, and adviser. Rose asked Dorn who was Noel’s agent as the Knicks were interested in signing him. Dorn directed Rose to Paul and eventually agreed on the one-year deal that proved to be a smart move that led to his current multi-year contract.

Noel is seeking financial damages after losing $58 million in total salaries between 2017 and 2020, allegedly due to Paul’s lousy advice and gross negligence as his agent. In the lawsuit, Noel claimed that Paul and Klutch Sports have a history of mismanaging and ignoring smaller clients and are only focused on their marquee names citing Norris Cole and Shabazz Muhammad as examples.

Cole had an $8.4 million career earnings in six seasons, while Muhammad collected around $10.5 million in five seasons in the league.

Noel claimed that Paul started to sour on him when he suffered a thumb injury that limited him to a career-low 4.4 points in 30 games during his second season with the Mavericks.

Noel said he entered the free agency with Klutch Sports failing to provide any plan or strategy. He was left with no choice but to sign a two-year minimum deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The former lottery pick claimed that Paul allegedly ignored calls from other teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers (which he learned from his former coach Brett Brown) in 2019 and the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets in 2020.

In 2019 free agency, the 76ers traded for Al Horford and gave him a partially guaranteed four-year, $109 million deal. They also signed veteran center Kyle O’Quinn to a one-year minimum deal.

Noel signed another minimum deal with the Thunder.

In 2020 free agency, the Clippers signed Serge Ibaka to a two-year, $19 million deal while the Rockets added DeMarcus Cousins for the $2.6 million veteran minimum deal.

The Knicks snagged Noel for a $5 million deal which proved to be a bargain for what he provided last season.

If Noel had stayed with Walters, he would have accepted the Mavericks’ $70 million offer in 2017 and formed an interesting frontcourt tandem with former Knick Kristaps Porzingis. But Paul’s alleged poaching and misrepresentation somehow steered him towards the Knicks. And Noel’s misfortunes finally ended in New York.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Reunion with Frank Vogel? Lakers interested in Monta Ellis

After working out with the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, Monta Ellis has received another interest from a contender in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles Lakers have reached out to Ellis‘ business manager Derrius Nelson of Dagger Basketball Agency, who quickly arranged a conference call with his client Monday.

“I told them that Tae is not big on being a star anymore. He’s been there already,” Nelson told Empire Sports Media. “His [possible] addition can make them one of the best LA Lakers teams to go down in history. With Tae being there, it would be crazy!”

“Derrius, that’s why I’m calling because I know what type of player Monta is. I was a huge fan of him; his [past] works and the time he put in the NBA override a lot of guys that’s been coming to work out because he is reliable,” the Lakers representative was quoted as saying to Nelson. 

Ellis has previously played under Lakers coach Frank Vogel in Indiana. In his lone season under Vogel, Ellis averaged 13.8 points and 4.7 assists.

Vogel appreciated Ellis’ transformation from a big-time scorer into more of a playmaker, embracing the Pacers’ ball movement during their time together.

“He came in here with the reputation of being a big-time scorer, and we’ve been overwhelmed with his ability to pass the basketball [and] to create. That’s what’s been most impressive to me, so I think we’re using him more in that regard rather than just asking him to go score,” Vogel said in 2016.

He settled in nicely with his then newfound role as the veteran leader of a young Pacers team that featured a 25-year old Paul George entering his prime. Ellis was instrumental in helping the Pacers pushed the more experienced Toronto Raptors to seven games in the first round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs. He averaged 11.6 points and 4.3 assists in that series.

“I think it’s who he is,” said Vogel. “First of all, he’s got great will and determination to win. I think he recognizes that we’ve still got a fairly young team — a team where a lot of guys are either young or in new roles. He’s helped a lot of these guys with his experience — sharing his experiences.”

“Monta is at a point in his career where scoring 25 points or 20 points isn’t the most important thing to him. What’s most important to him is winning every night. That’s a blessing and welcome thing for a head coach — to have a guy who is just going to go out and do whatever it takes to win a game. If he scores four points and we win, he’s happy. If we need [him] to go out and get 20, 25 points to help us win, that’s what he’s going to try and go out to do. I love that he’s all about winning right now,” Vogel added.

But after Vogel’s contract was not renewed at the end of the season, Ellis quickly fell out of favor as the Pacers decided to go in a different direction. Nate McMillan was hired to lead the rebuilding process. A season later, the Pacers traded away Paul George and stretched Ellis’ remaining years of his contract.

Now 35, Ellis said in a previous exclusive interview with Empire Sports Media that he still has it. He trained under top NBA trainer Joe Abunassar to prepare for this comeback attempt, and so far, it yielded two workouts and possibly three more with the Lakers one of them.

Five years since their first team-up, Ellis and Vogel’s paths could meet again, with the Lakers stacking up veterans for another possible title run. Currently, the Lakers have 13 players on guaranteed contracts. They also have two players in undrafted rookies Mac McClung and Chaundee Brown on Exhibit 10 deals and a pair of two-way players in rookies Joel Ayayi and Austin Reeves. 

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Full Circle: Monta Ellis trains with Joe Abunassar for NBA comeback

A year before Impact Basketball was born, Joe Abunassar took a trip to Jackson, Mississippi, to see the city’s top high school prospect.

Abunassar was one of the first few people who saw and nurtured Monta Ellis’ basketball gifts.

Ellis, the 2005’s Mr. Basketball USA, a McDonald’s All-American and a two-time 4A state champion in Mississippi, packed his bags and stayed with Abunassar at the famed IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, to prepare for the 2005 NBA Draft. 

A few months later, the former Lanier High School star became the 40th pick, and it was just a matter of time before he showed the NBA what Abunassar saw in him. 

More than a decade and a half after their first meeting, Ellis and Abunassar were back on the court again, just like the old times.

“He was in shocked that my kids are now in college,” Abunassar told Empire Sports Media on a zoom call. “When Monta first came to me, they were three and four, two, four years old. We spent a lot of time just catching up.”

Dagger Basketball Agency’s Derrius Nelson, Ellis’ business manager, reunited the 13-year NBA veteran with the trainer who helped him jump straight to the NBA from high school in the hopes that they could rekindle that magic again.

The 35-year old Ellis is attempting to make an NBA comeback, and after spending a week at Impact Basketball, teams have started to call Abunassar to check if the 2007 NBA Most Improved Player still has some juice left. The top NBA trainer said he’d fielded phone calls from four to five teams asking how Ellis did. He will send out tapes of the workout to several NBA teams.

According to a league source, the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets are two of those teams who are interested in bringing him for a workout.

“Most of the teams who knew he was here was simply asking me what do I think, how was Monta,” Abunassar said.

“I think what teams are doing now are figuring out when and where they will bring him in. My goal is just to get him to a place where he could work out. They can make their own decision because the thought of being away for 3 to 4 years is a little different but when you see him in the gym and see the things that he’d been doing here then maybe it’s a little bit closer to maybe this is something that will be good to our team.”

After some catching up, they buckled down to work. Ellis proved to Abunassar that he still has a lot left in his tank.

“The basketball part was easy. We just got into court and we have this good chemistry. He has a lot of respect for me and it goes both ways. I respect how he approached his career and really how far he’s come from the young guy in Jackson that I used to have to get on a little bit to work,” Abunassar said.

The NBA trainer was impressed by how to fit Ellis was, considering that he hasn’t played competitive basketball in a long time.

“His fitness level was very good. From a trainer’s perspective, the years that he didn’t play actually saved his legs a little bit. So talking about how old he is, you have to kinda subtract those years he didn’t put a wear and tear on his body,” said Abunassar. He is at the fitness level that I expect what a veteran (player) would have this time of the summer. Certainly not ready to play 82 games but you know they can’t be that but just give them the right time. But his body is lean and fast, his conditioning was very, very good. Of course, I pushed him to go at a higher level every day knowing that we have three to four weeks left before training camp begins so that he could gain a little bit more of what we would call basketball fitness.

A fresh and reinvigorated Ellis worked out with several NBA players in Abunassar’s gym, including Dallas Mavericks’ Josh Green and Memphis Grizzlies’ lottery pick Ziaire Williams.

Abunassar saw Ellis still has it all after watching him score the ball in a myriad of ways — handoff, playing off the pick and roll, playing fast, playing off angles — in simulation drills against the defense in NBA speed. They mixed individual drills — shooting, running, sprinting, ball handling — with live-action playing 5 on 5, some 3 on 3, and 2 on 2.

“There’s not much teaching at this stage of his career. It’s just really about getting in reps, getting him back to the things he’s really good at doing,” Abunassar said of the workout.

“You know, the NBA is simplified with attacking hand off, dribble hand off series, off closeouts and transitions other than the two or three guys maximum on each team who handles the ball so much like the Chris Pauls, the James Hardens, Luca Doncics. When Monta comes back, I don’t expect him to be the primary ball handler. So we worked out that a lot – attacking closeouts and making 3s and just doing it efficiently and doing it with the NBA speed and defense.”

After one of their daily workouts, Ellis and Abunassar just sat on the baseline and talked for about an hour, reflecting on how the game has changed since he left and how far he’s come in his career. They talked about what teams are looking for at this stage of his career, goals, family, and son, who is into basketball and one day will also train with Abunassar.

Ellis has fully embraced the reality that his days as primary ball handler and scorer are over.

“Nowadays, a team would rather take 19-20 years old who have a chance to be good than a 33-year old who is good. It’s just the way teams are building their rosters. It’s something I tell guys that when you come back, you have to come back as a different guy,” Abunassar said. “You’re not the same guy when you left. Figure out what the team needs. Figure out what win games. You look at some of the teams who picked up key veterans like PJ Tucker last year. Guys like that who are a key piece to a championship team or a winning team. Just figure out exactly what you can provide.”

“So, let’s say Monta, who was a high-level scorer, goes to Dallas or to whatever team that is stacked, I’m just picking a team [to illustrate]. But to have guys like Doncic who scores a lot and Tim Hardaway Jr., so it’s not like he’s gonna come in and be the top two scorers. And secondly is to get your body to elite shape. That’s always the biggest concern for teams. Can their bodies withstand the long season or just good for 20 games?”

Ellis proved he can still handle the rigors of an NBA lifestyle. Abunassar marveled at his warrior mentality and work ethic, which didn’t slow down all these years.

“It’s interesting that during his third or fourth day that he was here, he’s received a lot of pounding to his body and he’s little fatigued. Monta was able to power through the workouts and pushed through while some of the young guys folded up. That’s just a different mentality. He wouldn’t have done what he did in the NBA without that approach,” Abunassar said.

That mentality has pushed Ellis to turn from a second-round pick whose size and position was a big question mark to the Most Improved Player of the Year during his sophomore year. He became one of the most exciting scorers in the league peaking at 25.5 points per game during the 2009-10 season. He also transformed from an explosive scorer to a dynamic playmaker with two seasons averaging 6.0 assists per game. In six of his 13 seasons, he averaged more than five assists per game.

What Abunassar saw last week was a better version of Ellis.

“I think what we proved when he was here last week is that he still has the ability to score the ball at a high level. Obviously, he’s older and more mature. Maybe a little more experienced, more efficient. He was a great scorer back in his prime years. What he showed here is he still has that ability to score the ball in a very efficient manner. I think the biggest bonus is the experience, the maturity, the professionalism and the understanding of all the little things that some of the young guys don’t understand yet,” Abunassar said.

Ellis has embraced being an NBA veteran sharing his wisdom and tricks of the trade to the younger guys during his week-long training. Abunassar said Ellis talked to the younger players and gave them tips on how to play and attack angles, among other things.

“I think his influence on the young guys are terrific as well. Every team is looking for a good veteran. Guys who understand their roles and guys who could come up in big games and guys who could put in 15 points in 15 minutes. That’s something Monta can do,” Abunassar said.

In an earlier interview, Ellis said he’s in the best shape of his life both physically and mentally, two things that he failed to put together during his last stop in Indiana.

“I think if he can get into a camp and show what he can still do, he has a great chance,” Abunassar said.  “The good thing about Monta is he’s not doing it for the money. He wants to play. He’s willing to go in and let teams see him on how he looks. People forgot how good Monta was – how he could score the ball, how efficient he was. His approach and attitude, his passion for the game.”

That was on full display to the younger NBA players who were in Abunassar’s gym last week. Ellis not only loves the game but also the grind behind it.

“One of his comments before he left was how much is your willingness to the training part of it,” Abunassar said. “I think that is critical because everybody loves playing game. But how much do they love about the work that’s gonna have to go into it in to get back to the fitness level and get their body right. He told me that he missed the work more than anything. He really enjoys the process.”

Time flew so fast. Abunassar’s kids have grown so much. His Impact Basketball is now 15 years old. Ellis is no longer the 18-year old skinny, naive kid Abunassar met in one of his training trips around the country. He’s now a 35-year battle-scarred veteran on and off the court. But some things never change.

“It’s really a pleasant experience to have him back. He’s always been. He’s always been one of my favorite guys – that simple Jackson, Mississippi Monta Ellis who is not complicated and who loves basketball,” Abunassar said. “We have a lot in common.”

Abunassar is more than a trainer to Ellis. They are kindred spirits. Ellis’ basketball career has come full circle with Abunassar. They are hoping their second partnership could forge another path to the NBA.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

For The Love Of Basketball: Former star Monta Ellis pursues NBA comeback

It’s been four years since Monta Ellis stepped on an NBA court.

The Indiana Pacers still owe him $2.25 million this coming season, the last of the stretch provision they applied when they waived him and his $11.2 million salary in 2017.

“I believe I still have a lot in my tank. I can still play five years,” Ellis told Empire Sports Media on a zoom call.

Ellis was under the heat in a soccer field somewhere in Dallas, Texas, the entire zoom call. He was at the sidelines cheering for his kid in a soccer game last weekend.

Not long ago, his weekend schedule is focused on him — either practicing with his team or playing in an NBA city.

These days, it’s no longer about himself. Away from the spotlight and the dizzying NBA lifestyle, Ellis has grown as a man, a husband, a father, and a coach. But deep inside, he still yearns to be in the middle of the action watching how the NBA spacing could cater to his uptempo game.

At his prime, Ellis was a wrecking ball who blitzed his opponents with blazing speed and athleticism. A former McDonald’s All-American, he entered the NBA straight from high school as the 40th pick in 2005. He spent his first six and a half years with the Golden State Warriors improving each year. Soon after, the 2007 Most Improved Player became their franchise player. He was until he got traded to the Milwaukee Bucks at the trade deadline in the 2012-13 season to make way for rising shooting star Stephen Curry.

That broke his heart, and he lost himself in the process.

Ellis still led the Bucks to a playoff appearance — his first since 2007 — but got swept in the first round. He went to Dallas, where he found a home and became the first player other than Dirk Nowitzki to lead the team in scoring during his time there. He was instrumental in the Mavericks’ two playoff runs, averaging 26.0 points in a first-round loss to James Harden and the Houston Rockets in 2015. But ultimately, Ellis left the Mavericks for financial security after not picking up his $8.7 million player option.

Larry Bird and Frank Vogel convinced Ellis to sign a four-year, $44 million contract despite Sacramento Kings offering four million more. The Pacers sold him the vision of becoming Paul George’s running mate.

“For him to get one last really big deal, to me, was a no-brainer,” Dirk Nowitzki said when he left. “I would’ve liked to kept him [in Dallas], but you know how it is in this league. Once people hit free agency, it’s tough to call.”

It proved to be Ellis’ undoing as his career started to go downhill. And when the Pacers traded away George and started a rebuild, the writings were on the wall.

Ellis tried to work out a buyout with Pacers. But when they couldn’t agree, the Pacers waived him.

“The 2017 Monta Ellis had a lot of things going on mentally that started to affect me physically. That’s one of the reasons why I walked away from the game. It wasn’t that I couldn’t play the game anymore,” Ellis told Empire Sports Media.

“It’s just felt like that my mental health was way more important. I felt like my family and kids needed me more. There’s a lot of things that affected me off the court. I haven’t had a father in my life and I have to balance fatherhood with my NBA professional life. It was challenging.”

Ellis took care of his battle off the court because he felt that held him back on the court.

“So, my family was the most important to me. I had to get my household, my family in order and get my mind back. So once my mind got back, I started lifting and running and my body started to feel good. I was able to release that mental pressure and really get back and re-focused,” Ellis said.

“So, the 2017 Monta Ellis, he was balancing a lot of things. I didn’t feel like it was healthy for me and for the team as well. If they couldn’t get into the Monta Ellis flow, I had to get away from it. I did that and it was a good decision because I’m in a better mindset. My wife and kids, they were happy to get to see me more, be around more. That was the blessing.”

It was indeed a blessing. But it was also a curse.

When Ellis felt he’s ready for an NBA comeback, the league has moved on from him.

But he’s not yet losing hope. Ellis is determined to find his way back to the NBA as he did with his life.

These days, he keeps himself in shape by working out four days a week, coaching his kids and other kids in his AAU program, Ellis Elite. He still trains with an NBA trainer while waiting for the right opportunity.

“We’ve been training four days a week. We take Fridays off. He works out in Michael Johnson Performance – the top athlete’s performance institution here in Dallas. So he does that two-hour workout every Monday, Wednesday Friday, the whole four years he was out of the league. You could check Michael Johnson’s record,” long-time NBA trainer Djamel Jackson told Empire Sports Media.

Jackson, who has trained Mo Williams, Julius Randle, Draymond Green, Jeremy Lin, Emmanuel Mudiay, Isiah Austin, Rashad Butler, Terrance Ferguson, Malik Newman, saw up close how Ellis had grown a lot as a person during his NBA hiatus.

“I have been working with kids all my life. There’s certain patience that you develop, you become compassionate. Once you get a little older, some of the things that you love or you walked away from, you kinda appreciate a little bit more. He got young kids. He got young sons that are really good basketball players. Being able to watch their pops in the league a couple of more years will help lift them up. He definitely has grown as a friend, as a father, as a player. Once you get a little older, you kinda get to mature,” Jackson said.

Derrius Nelson, a FIBA-certified agent and an NBA scout from Serbia-based DaggerBasket Agency, is now Ellis current business manager. They have spent many nights talking about what-ifs and mapping out a way back to the league. Nelson got Ellis a $2 million offer to play in China, but Ellis turned it down because he wanted to be with his family during the pandemic and stay closer to the NBA.

Ellis acknowledged the mistakes of his youth, and he had made amends. He’s been working hard for that elusive second chance.

“I’ve been trying for a couple of years. I just got nobody take a chance on me, bringing me for the training camp to show what I can still do. The way how I walked away from it kind of hinder that a little bit because they didn’t know the mindset I was in, the things that were going on,” Ellis said. “But it is what it is. If I have an opportunity to do it, it is what it is. If I don’t, I’ll still be a husband and a father and I have an AAU program. I’m good either way. But to come back, to be able challenge myself and do the thing that I haven’t done in a while, that will be a big challenge that I am willing to accept if it comes.”

While the NBA is getting younger, the league’s older guys and Ellis’ contemporaries are still killing it and milking money. Kyle Lowry, 35, just signed a new $90 million deal with the Miami Heat. The Phoenix Suns locked up Chris Paul, 36, to a whopping four-year, $120 million. And then there are minimum veterans like Carmelo Anthony, now set to chase a ring with his old buddy LeBron James.

Ellis wants to come back for the challenge, not the money, at this point in his life. After all, he’s earned more than $100 million throughout his career.

“I don’t play the game of basketball for the money. Like, it’s good to get the money. I wanted to make a better life for my family and the NBA allowed me to do that. My focus is, my thing is just do what I can do, control what I can control and put everything in God’s hands,” Ellis said.

All Ellis wanted is an opportunity to show that he still has it and can help a team win.

“My main thing is, just bring me in and give me a look. Like you could make the decision on me. I just want a shot. I ain’t asking for a contract to get $5 million, $10 million, or even $1 million. All I’m asking is give me a look. That’s all and let my game speak for itself. I just want an opportunity, a workout, and that’s not the end of the world, that’s not gonna hurt anybody,” Ellis said.

Ellis built a reputation as a shotmaker and playmaker. Though he was knocked for his defense, the numbers and some eye tests suggest otherwise.

Ellis knows his days as a go-to guy are over. He’s willing to accept whatever role a team has for him to win.

“That’s a team decision if that was to happen. Whatever role that was. Whatever the coach asks me to do. I can’t control that situation. Being at the age that I am, I haven’t played in a while so being the time I was away from the game, I can’t come in and play the role that I want. It’s all about the team giving me an opportunity and what’s the best fit for them. And I gotta play that role the best way possible,” Ellis said.

Ellis played with pace in the NBA. But there wasn’t so much space during his prime. While his athleticism has started to fade with age, his wisdom grew with experience.

“It’s still basketball. It’s all about defending and putting the ball on the hoop and making plays for others,” Ellis said. “The NBA is very, very young now. So, it’s more athletic, faster, and I have always played a fast game.”

Ellis was just a 31 percent three-point shooter throughout his career, but he will not be jacking up shots as he used to be. His ideal role in a potential NBA return is to break down the second unit’s defenses to score or make plays for his teammates in sporadic minutes. But Jackson revealed how Ellis has worked on his shot not just to prepare for a potential NBA comeback.

“That’s the one that has definitely gotten better. As he aged, he’s gotten better. And he’s working with kids. So, when you’re teaching kids how to shoot, it matters that you learn how to shoot better. It could go around the low 40s, and you know, with the spacing, the new rules, and his knowledge of the game, as you get older, you get better,” Jackson said.

“The NBA tells us, the system tells us that as you get older, you get better and smarter because you know how to beat younger guys.”

Jackson believes playoff teams could use someone like Ellis on their bench to provide leadership and scoring.

“Any team right now — the league is now so young — the (Los Angeles) Lakers or Brooklyn (Nets) but aside from those teams, every team needs some veteran help. Every team I think needs at least 4-5 veterans. The league is just too young right now,” Jackson said.

The Lakers have been stacking up on veterans. The Nets could pair him with Patty Mills in their backcourt off the bench. A Mavericks homecoming could also be a perfect marriage with him as another shotmaker and playmaker to come off the bench when Luka Doncic takes a breather. The Portland Trail Blazers, who are at a crossroads with Damian Lillard’s future hanging in the balance, could use Ellis as a scoring punch and a veteran leader off the bench.

“That would be a role that I am willing to accept. I could do a lot within that role to help a playoff team. I still got a lot of gas in my tank. My body is healthy. My mind is focused. I could definitely help a playoff team with the skills and the knowledge of the game I have right now,” Ellis said.

It’s been four years since Ellis last played an NBA game. A lot has happened since. But the most important thing is he found himself again and the joy of playing basketball. He found his way back to his life. Now, he wants to find a way back to the NBA.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks: One analyst believes Luca Doncic heading to New York is ‘feasible’

luke doncic, knicks

Could the New York Knicks turn their attention to Luca Doncic after Dallas crumbles?

While the New York Knicks’ attention might be on Damian Lillard and prying him away from the Portland Trailblazers, the Dallas Mavericks have imploded this week, firing their general manager and watching their stoic head coach, Rick Carlisle, walk despite having two years left on his contract.

Dallas now faces significant issues, opening up the door for a potential Luka Doncic departure, which still remains unlikely. Doncic is currently under contract for the next two seasons, as the Mavericks can execute a club option in 2022, but if Luca refuses to play with management set to overturn, he could force his way out of Dallas and to a team with the necessary capital to acquire him.

Now, is there even the slightest chance the New York Knicks could be implied for a player as lucrative as Luca?

Jay Williams believes it’s “feasible” that Doncic could come to New York, given the draft capital they currently possess. However, Dallas owner Mark Cuban would have to sign off on this move, which is extremely unlikely considering Doncic represents the entire franchise.

Last season, Doncic averaged 27.7 points, 8.6 assists, 8.0 rebounds, and shot .479 from the field and .350 from three-point land. The 21-year-old Slovenia native is the poster boy of the NBA, and he might not even be able to maneuver his way out of his current contract.

It is well known that Doncic grew up a Knicks fan, but his disdain for the Mavericks franchise would have to run so deep he’s willing to risk a lucrative super-max deal. Forcing his way out of the organization would be an astronomical development, and considering he was just named an All-NBA First Team player, he is eligible to sign a super-max extension on August 6. The prospective deal would amount to more than $200 million over five seasons, a difficult number to turn down in hopes of joining a team he desires.

Doncic sounded disappointed that his head coach parted ways with the team early, but as of now, he seems dedicated to the club as he prepares for the Olympics in Tokyo with the Slovenia National Team.

While the Knicks might have the ammo to unload if he ultimately forced his way out, this remains a pipe dream and nothing more.

Knicks dodge a bullet as Kristaps Porzingis turns into most expensive role player

julius randle, knicks

Two years ago, the New York Knicks were the butt of the joke for trading away a rising star Kristaps Porzingis.

The Dallas Mavericks won the trade via landslide in the eyes of the majority. But after watching Porzingis turned into the most expensive role player in the league during the playoffs, it appears the former Knicks’ regime had the right foresight.

For two years, Porzingis has failed miserably to live up to the expectations that came with the $158 million contract extension he signed with the Mavericks after the trade. His health and diminishing on-court production has raised more concerns than playoff success for the Mavericks.

After averaging just 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in another Dallas’ first-round exit this season, Porzingis sounded as disgruntled as he was in New York.

“Good question,” Porzingis told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon on how does he feel about his fit with the franchise moving forward.

“How do I feel? I mean, I’m good. I tried to put in the work, tried to work hard. I do my part, listen to the coaches, what I’m asked to do, and that’s it. I try to keep it simple for myself so I’m not overthinking, and I try to focus on what I can control. That’s being a better basketball player, going into the offseason hungry. I want to get better physically [and] on the basketball court. I’m going to put that work in to get better, and then the rest of the stuff will resolve itself.”

For Porzingis, it’s simple. But for the Mavericks, it’s a complex one.

It’s the same question that the Knicks have correctly answered in the past.

Porzingis may have cost Dallas just a few expendable players and picks that nowhere near the top of the Lottery in that trade, but the big contract they gave Porzingis is now considered around the league as an albatross according to an ESPN report.

Tim Hardaway, Jr., viewed as a throw-in in the Porzingis deal, has played better than Porzingis. But the Mavericks may not afford him after going all-in with Porzingis and with Doncic’s supermax extension looming on the horizon.

While the Knicks missed out on superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, which is why they made the swing in the first place, the consolation prize, which turned out to be Julius Randle and significant cap space, roughly $50 million, this summer wasn’t that bad at all.

Randle’s All-Star and Most Improved Player rise this season fueled the Knicks’ rebuild that reached the playoffs for the first time in eight years. The Knicks were also able to flip Dennis Smith Jr. into half-season of Derrick Rose’s magical renaissance. They have also used that cap space to rent Marcus Morris last season and converted him into Draft steal Immanuel Quickley.

The Knicks could still use the Mavericks picks (21st in this year’s Draft and a top-10 protected first-round pick in 2023) they got from the Porzingis’ deal to acquire a star or another solid core piece via trade.

It’s working out well for the Knicks. Not so much for the Mavericks, who paid a premium for a unicorn that has turned out to be an albatross.

Two years since the trade, the tables have been turned. The Knicks have transformed into a franchise on the rise while Porzingis became the butt of the joke.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Randle’s summer comes to the fore after his 44 lifts Knicks to 5th straight win

julius randle, knicks

Returning to the place where the seed of his transformational season was planted, Julius Randle’s game sprouted like a tall bamboo.

His seventh season is turning out to be his best one yet, but it also had its shares of lows, including a 25-percent shooting nightmare in a loss to his hometown team Dallas at the beginning of the month.

Randle bent but didn’t break. Just like bamboo.

On Friday night, Randle’s most important summer came to the fore as he scored a season-high-tying 44 points to carry the New York Knicks to a 117-109 win over the Mavericks.

“He prepared himself for this. You can’t overlook that,” Tom Thibodeau said of Randle’s performance. “I knew when I saw him the first time in the summer—the type of shape that he was in. I’ve had a number of players throughout my career that prepared themselves extremely well in the offseason so they can handle the workload they’re gonna have.”

After a disappointing first season with the Knicks, Randle went home to Dallas last summer, determined to erase that stigma, and paced himself to become a true alpha.

He trained thrice a day. Like he never did before.

The result was a breakthrough All-Star season leading a surging Knicks team that keeps on surprising.

The Friday night shocker was the fifth straight victory for the Knicks that represented their longest winning streak since an eight-game run in 2014. More importantly, the win pushed them three games above .500 (30-27) and just half-game from climbing up to fourth seed in the East currently held by both Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks (30-26).

Randle was determined from the start, hitting his first four shots, including going 3-for-3 from the 3-point line.

He outplayed Luka Doncic, a generational talent and the new face of his hometown team, and Kristaps Porzingis, the former Knicks’ franchise player reduced to just a role-playing skilled big man.

Through three quarters, Randle already had 35, and the Knicks led by four, 83-79.

“I was locked in and focused,” said Randle, who has scored at least 30 points in his last three games. “I always love playing at home in front of my friends, in front of my family. I never take those moments for granted.”

Randle has now scored at least 20 points in his last six games against his hometown team.

But it wasn’t just an all-Randle show for the Knicks.

RJ Barrett took over at the start of the fourth quarter. After a pair of duds, Barrett returned to form, scoring 13 of his 24 points in that pivotal quarter.

With Randle, Doncic and Porzingis all taking a breather, Barrett took advantage and scored eight straight points as the Knicks built a nine-point lead, 91-82.

Frank Ntilikina, who played spot-up minutes with Alec Burks out due to the health and safety protocols, hit a three-pointer that extended the Knicks lead to a dozen, 94-82.

“We were trying to match up, taking Julius out when they took out Doncic. We felt we needed another scorer out there. That group got on a run, RJ got on a run. We went with it. I thought Frank gave us good minutes. We needed another defender out there, and I thought that was important,” Thibodeau explained.

Derrick Rose also played a significant role leading the Knicks bench with 15 points and five assists.

The Mavericks came charging back and cut the lead into half, 101-95, on a Doncic layup with 4:27 left.

Then Randle finished what he started, scoring his last nine points the rest of the way.

Randle went 16-for-29 from the floor in 41 minutes and added 10 rebounds and seven assists to become the first Knicks player since Bernard King in 1985 to have at least 40 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in a single game.

Randle also became the first Knicks player since Carmelo Anthony in 2013-14 to have multiple 40-point games in a single season.

Porzingis led the Mavericks with 23 points and 12 rebounds but was only 8-for-20 from the field. Nerlens Noel returned from a one-game absence due to a sore ankle and did a good job defensively against Porzingis.

Noel pulled down 10 rebounds and swatted away three blocks, and scored six points for good measure.

The Knicks defense also reduced Doncic to a playmaker instead of his usual go-to-scorer role. He tied his career-high 19 assists but bled for 22 points on 16 shots.

Randle was the brightest star in Dallas this Friday night.

He was a man on a mission, leading the hottest team in the NBA. Before this 44-point explosion, he haunted his former teams—LA Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans—with 34 and 32 points, respectively.

The Knicks will meet the Pelicans again on Sunday at The Garden.

For sure, Zion Williamson and the Pelicans will try to break Randle.

They could bend him but cannot break him. And every time he bends, it’s just a matter of time before he springs back like bamboo.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo