RJ Barrett’s defensive gem fuels Knicks’ surge to the top of the East

Work hard until your idols become your rivals.

New York Knicks defensive stalwart RJ Barrett was only 12 years old when DeMar DeRozan hit his first game-winning shot in the NBA in 2013.

Eight years later, Barrett leaned on his memory bank to thwart DeRozan’s potential game-winner as the Knicks survived Chicago Bulls’ late push and gave them their first loss of the season, 104-103, Thursday night on the road.

With 4.8 seconds remaining and the Knicks hanging on to a single thread of what was once a comfortable 13-point lead, DeRozan took the inbound pass then faked a hand-off to Zach Lavine. The misdirection forced DeRozan’s defender Evan Fournier to switch with Barrett, who momentarily lost his defensive ground. But when Barrett saw the new Bulls gunner turn to the corner, he already knew what was about come next.

“I’ve watched [DeMar] so much growing up in Toronto. He’s always been one of my favorite players — the pride and joy of Toronto. So, I’ve seen that shot fake a lot,” Barret said after the gut-wrenching win. “He’s a great player. Thankfully, I was able to stay down and Mitch (Robinson) came over to help.”

Barrett did not bite DeRozan’s fake. He stayed in front of DeRozan and challenged the shot with the help of Robinson. It resulted in an airball at the buzzer that sucked the life out of the United Center.

The Knicks improved to 4-1, the franchise’s best start since the 54-win Carmelo Anthony-led team in 2013. Their latest squeaker also forced a four-way logjam at the top of the Eastern Conference with their victim, Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets.

Barrett had his most complete game of the young season, backing up the earlier talk of his desire to become a top two-way player and crack the First Team All-Defense.

The 21-year old Barrett aggressively attacked the paint on offense and finished with a season-high 20 points. On the other side of the ball, he had a big hand in holding the Bulls’ top two scorers DeRozan and Zach LaVine, to a combined 14-of-35 shooting.

The last defensive sequence proved that Barrett is up to his personal challenge.

“RJ [Barrett] was huge scoring-wise but his defense was over the top,” Tom Thibodeau said. “He was disciplined on that last play. DeRozan’s great at utilizing the shot fake and [Bulls] are a really good team. So, I’m proud of how hard we fought.”

The Knicks had a terrific game for 46 minutes until their offense bogged down. Their veterans lost their composure down the stretch as the Bulls charged back with a 12-0 run.

Kemba Walker had a key turnover. Julius Randle missed a tip-in and two crucial free throws that paved the way for the cardiac ending.

The Knicks turned to their defense to hammer out their second straight win and remained unbeaten on the road. They will continue their road trip on Saturday in New Orleans.

“A win is a win. That’s all that matters at the end of the day. Like coach [Thibodeau] said, find a way to win. “I’ll knock them down next time, but I’m just happy to get a win,” said Randle referring to his missed free throws.

Despite Walker’s late turnover, there were clear signs that the new Knicks starting point guard is starting to get more comfortable. For the second straight game, Walker hit five three-pointers and topped the 20-point scoring mark and usage rate. He led the Knicks with a new season-high 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

The spacing and Randle’s facilitating helped Walker pick up steam in the last two games.

Randle played decoy for most of the night as the Bulls’ defense collapsed on him. He missed eight of his 11 shots, but he found other ways to impact the game.

“I just mentioned to the guys about Julius playing a great game without shooting well. His rebounding was off the charts. The playmaking was phenomenal,” Thibodeau said.

Randle scored 11 points, pulled down 16 rebounds, and came one assist shy of a triple-double.

On the night Joakim Noah received a retirement tribute from the Bulls, his former teammates Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson led the Knicks bench to spoil Chicago’s celebration. Rose had 12 points on 50 percent shooting while Gibson added six points, six rebounds, and three blocks.

The trio was part of the most successful Bulls team in the post-Michael Jordan era. DeRozan joined recent All-Stars LaVine and Nikola Vucevic in the franchise’s latest attempt to revive their glory years.

The Knicks are also forging their path back to relevance following their fourth seed finish last season and the addition of Walker and Evan Fournier.

The game lived up to the hype as the return of the Knicks-Bulls rivalry with playoff intensity that boiled down to the last play.

For all the talks that the Bulls are the better team and the Knicks defense would suffer from the departure of Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton, Barrett’s emphatic performance drowns the outside noise.

“It doesn’t matter what anybody says. I know who I am. This team believes in me so, that’s really all that matters,” Barrett said.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Report: Knicks had eyes on DeMar DeRozan, but went in a vastly different direction

New York Knicks, DeMar Derozan

The New York Knicks have had an exciting off-season full of free agent acquisitions and draft selections, but during the dog days of the rumor mill, the front office was connected to nearly every option on the market.

One player, the Knicks, had interesting, DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs, ended up signing a lucrative deal with Chicago. However, the Knicks had their sights set on the shooting guard, who predominantly feasts in the paint rather than feature as a sharpshooter from the perimeter.

According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks were intrigued by DeMar DeRozan in free agency, electing to go in a very different direction.

“Turns out, according to two NBA sources, [Knicks GM Scott] Perry was leaning toward a bolder pursuit, that of San Antonio standout swingman DeMar DeRozan. He made the All-Star Game his last three seasons in Toronto before being traded to the Spurs in 2018. DeRozan, though, would have cost more per season. According to the sources, DeRozan had sincere interest in the Knicks, but instead ended up with a generous deal in Chicago – a three-year, $85 million package. The Knicks inked [Evan] Fournier for four years, $78 million (with bonuses) while retaining a team option for the final season.”

DeRozan has averaged 20+ points consecutively since 2013, earning four All-Star appearances during that time frame. He dominates in the paint, using his physicality and savvy style. He shot nearly 50% from the field last year but only attempted 1.2 three-pointers per game. Nonetheless, the Knicks’ interest might’ve created a few problems for power for Julius Randle, who plays a very similar style of basketball with added shooting prowess.

Instead, the front office went in an entirely different direction, signing Evan Fournier to a four-year contract instead. Fournier couldn’t be more opposite compared to DeRozan, averaging 17.1 points last year, but attempting 6.7 three-pointers per game, hitting on 41.3% of his shots from range. He features as a spot-up shooter who can also create opportunities for himself, while DeRozan uses his 6’6″, 220-pound frame to find his way close to the basket.

Ultimately, Fournier’s qualities likely fit the Knicks’ style much better, who want to be a high percentage three-point shooting team while adding defensive value. Fournier will draw attention away from the paint, and Randle, who will remain the team’s top player as the Knicks, took a more conservative approach this off-season when it comes to signing bonafide stars.

At the end of the day, the Knicks might’ve dodged a bullet avoiding DeRozan and letting him sign a fruitful deal with Chicago.

Report: Knicks and DeMar DeRozan have mutual interest, Evan Fournier a target

New York Knicks, DeMar Derozan

The New York Knicks have their eyes set on a few quality free agent targets this August. With legal tampering starting at 6 PM on Monday evening, two players that have been connected to New York are DeMar DeRozan and Evan Fournier, who serve complementary purposes.

According to Ian Begley of SNY, the Knicks have their eyes set on a few solid players this free agency period:

“There is mutual interest between the Knicks and DeMar DeRozan.”

“There continues to be mutual interest between the Knicks and Evan Fournier.”

What would the two bring to the Knicks?

1.) DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan is an aging veteran at 32-years-old, but he still has plenty of value to offer a team like the Knicks. He averaged 21.6 points, 6.9 assists and shot nearly 50% from the field last season. While he doesn’t offer much as a three-point shooter, he’s great at driving to the rim and providing depth at point guard. He can serve as a quality small forward who plays aggressive defense, fitting Tom Thibodeau’s mold to perfection.

Ultimately, the Knicks need more efficient scorers, and DeRozen is coming off a five-year, $139 million deal, averaging nearly $28 million per season. He might garner a contract in the $20 million AAV range, which the Knicks can afford. He would be a welcomed player in New York, given his long-term positive health history and efficiency getting to the basket.

2.) Evan Fournier

Fournier is coming off a season with the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics, being traded at the deadline. He can serve as a small forward and shooting guard, similar to Reggie Bullock, who could be on his way out with interest from the Los Angeles Lakers. The former first-round selection averaged 17.1 points, 3.4 assists, and shot 46% from the field last season. However, his biggest strength is his three-point shooting, averaging 41% over 6.7 times last year. He’s also a career 80% free-throw shooter.

The French-born player is seeking a four-year, $80 million deal, according to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. That would put him at $20 million per season, similar to DeRozan (projection). Those two players alone would take up the majority of New York’s available funds, and neither are traditional point guards.

The Knicks’ interest will likely boil down to one of the two, and given DeRozan might be looking for a shorter deal at his age, that might be the more efficient signing.

Who would you prefer the Knicks to land? Comment here or below!

NBA Free Agency Primer: Will Knicks remain conservative or make a splash?

The New York Knicks remain a mystery despite a playoff run that purged the long years of misery. But if there’s anything we’ve learned from Leon Rose’s leadership after a year of operating in the shadows is that patience is a virtue.

There’s already a pattern we can deduce from the way they approached last summer’s free agency and last Thursday’s NBA Draft.

Last summer, the Knicks created over $40 million in cap space, yet their signings didn’t scream sexy and fancy. Instead, they went after grimy stuff and made them shiny once the sexy names like Gordon Hayward went off the board.

Last week, we saw the same kind of maneuvering from the Knicks in the NBA Draft when they took a calculated conservative approach once their targets were off the board. They got away with Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride, two rookies who could become rotational pieces after the once-grimy stuff they stumbled upon last summer sign fancy deals somewhere else.

They followed up that conservative Draft Day by exercising their $1.8 million team option on Mitchell Robinson and waiving Norvel Pelle and Frank Ntilikina. Now, they are armed with the most significant cap space — $52.6 million — in the NBA landscape this summer.

All moves are indicative of one thing — creating the largest cap space as much as possible.

The thing is, the Knicks also want the shiny stuff like the rest of the league. Even their two-time NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau pleaded for stars, whether from free agency, trade market, or at the very least, organically developing one through the draft. But after returning to relevance with a first-round playoff appearance, the third option is no longer viable. And it’s no longer as impossible as it was a few years back for the Knicks to land a star via free agency.

Rose moves in mysterious ways. He may be silent, but the Knicks’ actions are pretty telling. His silence is synonymous with the Knicks’ patience.

Based on their recent actions, here is my educated guess on what the Knicks free agent board look like:

Top Targets

Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard remain this summer’s biggest prizes despite overtures that they will re-sign with their respective teams, Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers. Things can change quickly in the NBA.

The Knicks can easily slot one of them to their cap space and possibly work a trade to dump salaries if both A-list stars want to team up in New York. The operative word here is “if.”

Backup plan

If Paul and Leonard opt not to move, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will dictate this summer’s free agency. Both former All-Stars are on their last legs, and reuniting in a contender would be a dream come true for the best of buddies.

Pat Riley has his eyes set on Lowry via sign-and-trade and DeMar DeRozan for the Miami Heat’s full MLE.

The Knicks have all the cap space in the world to scuttle those plans and immediately solve their glaring holes in the point guard and wing spots while still having the option to have either Derrick Rose and Reggie Bullock or both of them re-sign via their Bird rights.

Lowry and DeRozan starting alongside Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Robinson with Rose and Bullock leading the bench with Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin will make them more formidable than last year’s overachieving roster.

This move makes them a bona fide playoff contender for the next couple of years while they continue to organically develop their young core and angle of the next disgruntled star.

Place holders

Just like last year, the Knicks could always go back to the route of signing underrated players to shorter deals to preserve cap flexibility. If Stephen Curry, Jimmy Butler, Bradley Beal, and Zach LaVine won’t sign an extension this year, next summer’s free-agent market will be loaded.

And there’s always the allure of the trade market as Damian Lillard’s clock in Portland has begun ticking or even Beal if he sees the Wizards heading to a rebuild rather than contending soon.

But having the cap space to absorb the exorbitant contract of a disgruntled star isn’t enough for the Knicks to become a major player in the trade market. They can use this free agency to get solid pieces that can help them in the present and become salary fillers in a blockbuster trade in the future.

If the Knicks decide to punt this summer again, here are some names to watch outside their own free agents:

(starting salary range based on ESPN’s projection)

PG: Spencer Dinwiddie ($18-20M), Lonzo Ball ($18-20M), Dennis Schroder ($16-18M), Devonte Graham ($12-14M), Reggie Jackson ($10-12M), Cameron Payne ($8-10M)

SG: Norman Powell ($18-20M), Evan Fournier ($14-16M), Danny Green ($8-10M), Malik Monk ($6-8M)

SF: Duncan Robinson ($14-16M), Josh Hart ($10-12M), Kelly Oubre, Jr. ($10-12M), Carmelo Anthony ($4-6M)

C: Richaun Holmes ($12-14M), Andre Drummond ($10-12M), Javale McGee (veteran minimum)

The Knicks have all the tools to upgrade — cap space, stable organization, family environment, and a team on the rise. They will strike when the opportunity arises. This summer gives them a small opening to get that shiny stuff and not settle with the grimy one that needs elaborate work. But they are also disciplined and wise to acknowledge when they couldn’t crack that opening wide enough.

Let’s see if the patience the Knicks have shown so far finally pays off.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Report: Knicks intrigued by Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMar DeRozan, but do they make sense?

Brooklyn Nets, Spencer Dinwiddie

The Knick seem to be in the fold for almost every high-profile free agent this off-season. With August gearing up to be an exciting month, the NBA draft should give a good indication of where the organization is heading.

Whether they target a point guard or shooting guard to fill a need, President Leon Rose will likely tailor his free agency strategy around their selections.

The most recent rumors indicate interest in Brooklyn Nets PG/SG Spencer Dinwiddie and SG DeMar DeRozan from San Antonio.

According to Ian Begley of SNY, the Knicks are interested in both Dinwiddie and DeRozan:

With that in mind, DeMar DeRozan and Spencer Dinwiddie are two players on the Knicks’ radar in at least some of their free agency scenarios.

Dinwiddie, a former second-round pick in 2014, played just three games last year after suffering a torn ACL. During the 2019 season, Dinwiddie featured in 64 games, averaging 20.6 points, 6.8 assists, and shot 41% from the field. It was his best season by far, but given his lackluster three-point shooting, the Knicks would have to be content with his style — driving to the rim.

The unrestricted free agent is confident he will bounce back from the ACL tear, having rehabilitated from a similar injury at the collegiate level. Overpaying for him should be a last resort. There are several healthier options that would be more beneficial.

As for DeRozan, who is also an unrestricted free agent, his talents might fit well in New York. DeRozan averaged 21.6 points, 6.9 assists and shot nearly 50% from the field last season. He has been traditionally healthy throughout the course of his career, earning four All-Star appearances over 12 seasons. As a primary shooting guard, DeRozan prefers operating in the paint while also contributing on defense.

As an experienced veteran, DeRozan has a few years of quality basketball left his bones. Signing him to a two-year contract could prove to be a positive move, but his lack of three-point shooting stands out. The Knicks do have Immanuel Quickley to fill that role, so bringing in DeRozan would give them a force in the paint and a quality passer to kick the ball out to the corners where the shooters can capitalize. DeMar would also demand attention from opposing teams, opening up the floor for Julius Randle.

Knicks News: Interest in DeMar DeRozen, competition for Derrick Rose building

New York Knicks, DeMar Derozan

With plenty of money to spend during free agency, the New York Knicks have her eyes set on a number of different targets. Just about every solid player available has been connected to New York in one way or another, and the latest is swingman DeMar DeRozan, who’s coming off a five-year, $139 million deal with the Toronto Raptors and then the San Antonio Spurs.

DeRozan is a 31-year-old veteran on the verge of 32. With the ability to play shooting guard, small forward, and power forward, DeRozan is a fantastic scorer, averaging 21.6 points, 6.9 assists, and shooting 49.5% from the field this past year. He doesn’t offer much as a three-point shooter, so expecting him to dominate in the paint, driving to the basket — a team like the Knicks would value bully-ball inside and solid defense. Having played power forward this past season with San Antonio, he would likely have to return to his shooting guard status, which is his traditional position.

The Knicks could be intrigued by his services, given his experience with some great teams and scoring prowess.

According to The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears, several teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, and Chicago Bulls, are all interested in DeMar DeRozan’s services.

The New York Knicks could have competition for point guard Derrick Rose:

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago coined Derrick Rose as a secondary target for the Bulls but is a possibility after a successful season with the Knicks.

Rose is coming off a successful season with New York, averaging 14.9 points, 4.2 assists, shooting 48.7% from the field. He also connected on a career-high, 41% from three, showcasing that he has plenty of gas left in his tank.

If the Knicks are looking to retain most of their cap space for next year, signing Rose to a one-year extension could be a perfect move, if he’s willing to settle on a short-term deal. Bringing back Rose would allow the Knicks to draft a young point guard with upside, who the veteran can mentor and groom for the future. This would be a perfect scenario to allow Derrick to stay in New York, a place he fancies, and to extract the most from Argentinian native Luca Vildoza.

For example, a combination of point guards, including Rose, Davion Mitchell, and Vildoza, could inspire success moving forward. One way or another, the front office needs to allocate resources toward the PG spot, and bringing back Rose would be a welcomed reality for most fans.

What do you think about the idea of signing DeMar DeRozan and retaining Derrick Rose? Comment below!

Knicks could target DeMar DeRozan in trade with Spurs

New York Knicks, DeMar Derozan

All has been quiet on the Western front for the New York Knicks regarding a potential trade before Thursday’s deadline. However, I wouldn’t rule out any last-second acquisitions, with reports indicating that Austin Rivers could be on the move. It would be quite interesting to see the Knicks part ways with a player instead of bringing a star-caliber athlete in, but there are a few options they could entertain in the coming days.

Of course, they have been connected to Pelicans’ Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick, but another name has entered the fold with the San Antonio Spurs reportedly open to dealing DeMar DeRozan.

Per Bleacher Report:

The San Antonio Spurs have made it clear that LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are available via trade, according to league sources. Gregg Popovich, of course, announced Aldridge and San Antonio’s mutual interest to part ways, yet the rumblings surrounding his destination have remained quiet.

While Aldridge is likely off the table, considering he plays a very similar position to All-Star Julius Randle, DeRozan could be an intriguing option for New York, considering he’s averaging 20.6 points over 34.2 minutes this year. He’s also averaging 7.4 assists and 4.5 total rebounds, and as a versatile player who can feature at multiple positions, he could be a perfect fit. Having earned two All-NBA accolades and four All-Star appearances in his career, DeRozan hasn’t reached either since the 2017-18 season.

That doesn’t mean he lacks value, as he clearly provides offensive prowess and efficiency while on the floor. He’s connecting on .498% of his shots from the field, his second-highest in his career. He’s averaging 1.8 three-point attempts, his highest since the 2017-18 season, and connecting on .310%.

If San Antonio isn’t demanding a massive haul, I actually think DeMar could be a solid fit with the Knicks. At 31 years old, I believe he still has a bit of juice left, and the Knicks could surely use a bit more offensive production after losing three recent games to the 76ers and Nets by no more than six points.

Rumor: New York Knicks could pursue DeMar DeRozan in free agency

New York Knicks, DeMar Derozan

The New York Knicks have struggled to attract attention from star players in the NBA, ranging from Kevin Durant to Kyrie Irving. Both signed with the Brooklyn Nets last off-season, passing on a superior Knicks franchise, some might say.

However, with the firing of Steve Mills several months ago in favor of former CAA super-agent Leon Rose, the team is headed in a different direction. Rose has fantastic connections with players across the league, including ones that categorized as stars.

The Knicks desperately need more offense of efficiency, and bringing in a player like DeMar DeRozan could fit the bill.

What would DeRozan bring to the New York Knicks?

DeRozan hasn’t averaged less than 20 points per game since the 2012–13 season. He will be 31 years old next year, which indicates a potential drop off in efficiency. However, his scoring remains consistent and effective, averaging 22.2 points per game this past season before the shutdown.

Luring a fringe-star like DeMar would be a huge add for the Knicks, but his age would force them into a short term agreement. Two-three years max would be likely contract for the current San Antonio Spurs.

The Knicks have a strong young core consisting of RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson. Building around them is a necessity. They also have multiple first-round picks 2020 and a ton of long-term cap space.

If DeRozan declines his player option to stick with the Spurs, he could cash in with a team like New York. An opportunity to sign an All-Star would be a huge development for the Knicks, and one they desperately need after missing out on several big-time players last off-season. His player option is worth about $28 million for the 2020-21 season.

IIf DeRozan is able to secure a similar amount with the Knicks over multiple years, it would benefit him the most considering his age. There’s a case to be made that signing the Spur would be a stepping stone in the overall development of the team’s image. With star players ignoring the Knicks all together last year, a player of his magnitude might change the course of their history rather quickly.

Would DeMar DeRozan be a good fit for the New York Knicks?

New York Knicks, DeMar Derozan

The New York Knicks will have a lot of roster decisions to make this offseason. This upcoming free agency won’t be as star-studded as 2019, but there will be plenty of impact players available. One of them might be DeMar DeRozan.

DeRozan has a 27 million dollar player option for the 2020-21 season, but recent reports suggest that DeRozan may not be happy in San Antonio and could enter free agency.

Could he be a good fit for the Knicks?

A dynamic offensive threat, DeRozan has been one of the best scorers in the NBA since coming into the league. However, DeMar will be 31 years old at the start of next season, and the signing may have the stink of a classic Knicks move: Signing a star that’s past his prime. Or is he?

DeRozan is having a better season than many people would think.

DeMar’s current 22.2 points per game may not but as high as years past, but he’s done it with tremendous efficiency. DeRozan is shooting a career-high .526% from the field. Not only has his scoring been efficient, but he’s also become an underrated passer as well. After averaging over 6 assists last season, DeRozan is putting up 5.6 assists per game in 2020.

DeRozan’s numbers indicate a high-impact offensive player. Even though his numbers have been terrific this season, it is hard to expect them to be the same 2-3 years from now. DeRozan is a player who relies a lot on his athleticism to score, and it could be his downfall in the near future. His half-court game and lack of 3-point shooting wouldn’t mesh well with Knicks’ rookie R.J. Barrett.

Given their recent failures, it’s hard for the Knicks to get picky with talented players in free agency. DeRozan could have a positive impact on the team and perhaps even make it a more attractive place to play. That being said, the Knicks are probably better off trying to spend their money on younger players and building through the draft.