Knicks’ Immanuel Quickley receives 6th Man of the Year votes

immanuel quickley, knicks

New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley’s late surge did not go unnoticed.

Quickley, who had two triple-doubles in the Knicks’ final five games, received two third-place votes in the NBA Sixth Man of the Year race, eventually won by Miami Heat’s Tyler Herro.

Courtesy of NBA

The former Kentucky combo guard averaged 16.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his last 22 games. Quickley shot 43.7 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep during that hot stretch on four three-point attempts.

Quickley’s inclusion as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate bodes well for his future. He came into the NBA drawing comparisons to Lou Williams, a three-time Sixth Man of the Year.

Quickley has shifted his play from just a spark plug off the bench to a potential starting point guard, attested by his impact on winning when given starter’s minutes. The Knicks went 11-5 in games where Quickley played at least 30 minutes, producing 18.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and a scorching 41 percent from the outside on 7.5 attempts.

In his second season, Quickley sustained his scoring (11.4 from 11.3 points per game) from his rookie year and made a marked improvement in rebounding (2.1 to 3.2 rebounds) and playmaking (2.0 to 3.5 assists).

The Knicks have an interesting summer ahead. They have to decide what to make do of Quickley’s growth in his second year. Are they ready to give him the keys to their backcourt? Or swing for the fences and pursue Dallas Mavericks’ breakout star Jalen Brunson or perhaps Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell if he suddenly becomes available.

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Knicks lurking as Donovan Mitchell leaves door open after Jazz early exit

New York Knicks, Donovan Mitchell

In January, Fox Sports’ Ric Bucher reported a potential Donovan Mitchell homecoming to New York.

“They’re a first-round exit from Donovan being in New York,” an Eastern Conference scout told Bucher.

Fast-forward to late April, Mitchell’s future looms over the Utah Jazz after a first-round defeat at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, who only had Luka Doncic for half of the series.

The speculations raged when the Knicks brass, alongside their star power forward Julius Randle, was front and center in the series opener.

Naturally, much of Mitchell’s postgame presser after another early postseason exit centered on his future with the team that drafted him.

When asked directly if he wanted to be in Utah, Mitchell had a succinct answer.

“Yeah,” Mitchell said, then quickly moved on to express the pain of another early playoff exit. “Yeah, I think we were given a chance to win. I think we fell short of our goal. This hurts. I’m not going to lie.”

After averaging 25.5 points on an inefficient 39.7 shooting from the field, Mitchell blamed himself for Utah’s downfall and a dreadful 20.7 percent shooting from deep in the first round. He credited the Mavericks’ ace defensive stopper Dorian Finney-Smith for making his life miserable in the series.

“This wasn’t my best year. As a fanbase and an organization, there are plenty of places to look, but I think it starts with me. I think if you want to put that blame or whatever you want to call it, it starts with me,” Mitchell said. “This will be a summer for me to put the work in and get back where I was.”

“I wasn’t where I wanted to be ultimately, and that’s what I take responsibility for. I know it’s a team sport, and there’s a lot of factors that go into it, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to be better.”

Mitchell’s future with the small-market team has been the favorite trade machine topic, especially after his fragile relationship with his co-star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, surfaced after the pandemic broke out. After they buried the hatchet in the training camp before last season, the cracks in their relationship resurfaced again in thinly veiled swipes at each other in postgame interviews at various points of the season.

Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik tried to put out the fire that is causing smoke to billow around the league during his end of the season presser Friday.

“They’ve given themselves to this team. They’ve given themselves to each other. All outside narratives are just a bunch of noise,” Zanik said. Internally, I see it every day. These guys care about each other.”

But Mitchell feels exasperated with the same results every year. When asked if he still believes the Jazz can win a championship with their current core, he couldn’t say directly that this team has run its course, but the tone was unmistakable.

“Honestly, I don’t know. And it’s nothing against the group. I just think we’ve come up short,” Mitchell said. “I think I would like to think that we can find a way, but by the same token, that’s not up to me.”

Mitchell and Gobert are likely headed to splitsville this summer as new Jazz CEO Danny Ainge will try to reshape the roster. Both the Jazz stars are entering the second year of their five-year extension. Between them, the Jazz would prefer to build around Mitchell, the flashy scorer from Westchester County in New York, unless he asks out.

“My mindset is to win,” Mitchell said. “Right now, I’m not really looking at that. I answered (Deseret News’ Sarah Todd’s) question, and you could take that. But for me, I just want to win, yo. Like, this hurts. And like I said, I’ll think about it in a week and go from there. But right now, I’m not thinking at all about that.”

Will Mitchell change tune a week from now?

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Strong Knicks contingent among curious crowd in Jazz Game 1 win over Mavs

Trade target Donovan Mitchell and free-agent target Jalen Brunson went mano-a-mano in a riveting showdown in front of a strong New York Knicks contingent.

Mitchell scored 30 of his 32 points in the second half to power the Utah Jazz to a 99-93 win over the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks Saturday in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series.

Brunson kept the Mavericks competitive even without Doncic, pouring in 24 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Mitchell added six rebounds and six assists. The Jazz star shot 10 of 29 from the field and made 10 of 11 free throws in a productive outing after starting cold, missing all his four shots in the opening quarter.

Among the curious spectators were executive VP William Wesley, assistant general manager Allan Houston and director of international and pro scouting Makhtar Ndiaye.

Dallas native and enigmatic Knicks star Julius Randle huddled with them at halftime. Former Mavericks and Knicks guard Dennis Smith, Jr. also joined them.

They got what they bargained for as Mitchell and Brunson showed out. Both players have been linked to the Knicks for quite some time now.

In January, Fox Sports’ Ric Bucher reported a buzz around Mitchell’s murky future with the Jazz, who have been disappointing in the playoffs after strong regular-season campaigns in recent years.

“They’re a first-round exit from Donovan being in New York,” an Eastern Conference scout told Bucher.

Mitchell, a Westchester native, and son of a New York Mets executive, still has four years left on his rookie max extension after this season.

On the other hand, Brunson is set to become a free agent this summer. The former Villanova star has deeper ties within the Knicks organization than Mitchell. Brunson’s father was Knicks president Leon Rose’s first client and also played for the franchise. He was also part of Tom Thibodeau’s coaching staff in Minnesota.

After a disappointing season that ended in a return trip to the NBA Lottery, the Knicks’ moves in Rose’s third offseason will be heavily scrutinized.

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Tom Thibodeau explains why Knicks lost to Jazz

In only the second game since 1953, and the only seventh game in NBA/BAA history, where both teams scored on 17 two-pointers or fewer (per Basketball-Reference), the Utah Jazz kept the New York Knicks off the glass to run away with a 108-93 win Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

The Jazz hit only 17 two-point shots while the Knicks made only 15. But the bigger story was the Jazz held the Knicks, the third-best rebounding team in the league, to only 37 rebounds (nearly 10 below their average). It was only the 11th time the Knicks failed to grab at least 40 rebounds this season. And the biggest story of the night was Donovan Mitchell, a Westchester native and a Knicks trade target, put on a show.

“The thing is, they’re a really good team. So you got to play for 48 minutes. We didn’t do that,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We fell short.”

Indeed, they fell short as Mitchell scored six of his game-high 36 points down the stretch to save the Jazz from a collapse after the Knicks’ bench cut a 10-point deficit and pulled within four, 93-89, with 5:19 remaining.

The Knicks held Rudy Gobert to a single-digit rebound for the first time since Feb. 20, but the Jazz still outrebounded them by a dozen, 49-37.

Gobert finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, and four blocked shots. Despite a rare off-night from Gobert by his standards, he still outclassed Knicks centers. Mitchell Robinson again shrunk against one of the elite big men in the league. He could only produce four points and three rebounds in more than 25 minutes. Rookie center Jericho Sims was scoreless and grabbed six rebounds in more than 21 minutes.

“I thought it was one of the few times I just felt we didn’t rebound the ball well tonight. There were a lot of 50-50 balls that we didn’t get to. We knew they were going to shoot a lot of threes. Covering the elbows is important, and they beat us to those,” Thibodeau said. “That hurt us. That got them going. If you don’t rebound, it’s going to be hard to win.”

The Jazz made 17 of 46 three-pointers, with Mitchell going 7 of 12. The Knicks kept in step, sinking 16 of 40, with Evan Fournier and RJ Barrett combining for 9 of 18 three-pointers. But the Knicks could not survive Julius Randle’s stinker — 13 points on an ugly 6 of 21 shooting and 1 of 6 from deep. Randle did grab a game-high 11 rebounds, but he was a step slow that epitomized the Knicks’ overall play.

After Barrett and sophomores Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin conspired in an 8-2 run that gave the Knicks a shot at scoring an upset, Randle and the rest of the starters came in, and it went downhill from there. Randle missed a wide-open layup, committed a turnover, and a foul sandwiched by a Fournier foul to kill any hopes of completing a Knicks comeback.

Mitchell took over for the Jazz.

“When you have a guy like [Donovan] Mitchell, who’s going to require a lot from you — you’re going to be blitzing. [Rudy] Gobert can put a lot of pressure on the rim and then [Jordan] Clarkson as well. He’s a big-time scorer,” Thibodeau said.

“When the two of them are on the floor, you got two guys that you really got put two on to, which will spread you out, and that probably hurt us some with the rebounding because you’re in rotation. It requires high energy, and I felt like, as a team, we were behind tonight.”

The Filipino-American guard Clarkson added 23 points, 18 in the first half, off the bench.

The loss snapped the Knicks’ two-game win streak and kept them five games behind the 10th seed Atlanta Hawks with 11 games left. The Knicks will host the Hawks Tuesday in a match that could seal their inevitable fate this season.

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As next contract looms, Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson faces acid test vs Rudy Gobert

All eyes will be on Donovan Mitchell when the Utah Jazz visit the New York Knicks Sunday night in a critical matchup for both teams.

Mitchell, the native New Yorker who grew up in Westchester County, has been perpetually linked to the Knicks ever since they pried away Johnnie Bryant, his mentor in Utah, and Walter Perrin, the draft guru who moved heaven and earth to trade up for the Jazz star on draft night.

But while Mitchell will be the apple of the eye of most Knicks fans on Sunday, their own Mitchell — Mitchell Robinson — will have an acid test that may decide his future with the team.

Robinson’s future is hanging over the Knicks’ cloudy season. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent as his camp, and the Knicks couldn’t agree to an extension. They have until June 30 to strike a deal, and this matchup against the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert will carry much weight.

Gobert was absent when Robinson dominated whatever was left in the Jazz frontline last month. Robinson went off for a career-high 21 rebounds, 19 points, three blocks, and two steals in a performance worthy of a lucrative multi-year extension.

That’s the Robinson conundrum. Against backup bigs, he is a dominant force. But against elite big men, he still has a lot to prove.

Robinson had a zero-point dud against Bam Adebayo nearly three weeks after his career night in Salt Lake City. He also fouled against Karl-Anthony Towns in January, producing only six points and eight rebounds in a Knicks’ loss. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic toyed around him also last January. His four-point and six-rebound effort was a head-scratcher.

On Sunday night, Robinson will brace for a big test. Gobert is coming off four straight monster games. His last two led to Jazz’s back-to-back win.  He had 14 points, 20 rebounds, and four blocks against the Bulls last Wednesday. Gobert gobbled up the Los Angeles Clippers two nights later with 16 points, 19 assists, and two blocks.

For his part, Robinson came up big Friday night against the Washington Wizards. He churned up 15 points and 12 rebounds after a pair of duds against Brooklyn and Portland. Robinson played a pivotal in the fourth quarter, where the Knicks built a 15-point lead and held on for a three-point win. He scored seven points, made all three free throws, and grabbed three rebounds.

“Huge, huge, huge,” Thibodeau said of Robinson’s performance against the Wizards. “Making those two free throws, those effort plays inspire your team. Our rebounding has been off the charts. That’s a big part of winning.”

The Knicks have won five of their last seven games, with Robinson producing four double-doubles. He had five over their last eight games. The Knicks have been the top defensive team in the league over their last seven games, netting 102.6 defensive rating in that span. Robinson was a huge part of it, and the Knicks’ found a stable backup in rookie Jericho Sims, who is holding up his own.

“Mitch has great feet. I think there are situations that allow us to switch. We can trap. Jericho has great feet. And I thought Jericho’s minutes were very productive,” Thibodeau said.

Sims averaged 2.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in only 14.8 minutes over the Knicks’ last seven games. But the Knicks have been winning the Sims minutes, outscoring their opponents by 7.1 points. In contrast, Robinson has a negative 1.0 net rating despite his big numbers: 8.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks.

Robinson and Sims will take turns on Gobert. But Robinson, with his next contract hanging in the balance, is expected to show up with a big chip on his shoulder.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks could land Donovan Mitchell in forced trade, according to scout

New York Knicks, Donovan Mitchell

The regression of Julius Randle has put the New York Knicks in a tough spot moving forward. Sitting three games below .500 on the season, New York was embarrassed by the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, going down by 30 points at one point in the game.

This year, Randle has played a big part in the Knicks’ struggles, shooting a measly 30.7% from three-point range and averaging just 18.7 points per game, down 5.0 from his All-Star campaign last year.

If Tom Thibodeau wants to take a step forward and contend for a playoff spot, the Knicks will need to make a significant move at the trade deadline. However, they could also view the return of Derrick Rose in several weeks as a catalyst they need at point guard to propel them into a more advantageous spot.

There is a scenario where the Knicks make a huge attempt to grab one of the best young players in the league, Donovan Mitchell.

“They’re a first-round exit from Donovan being in New York,” an Eastern Conference scout told Ric Bucher of Fox Sports.

The scout indicates that the Utah Jazz are a first-round exit away from Mitchell, forcing his way to another team. Being from New York and the attractiveness of Madison Square Garden may be enough to sway Mitchell to force a trade between the two teams.

Mitchell is currently on a five-year, 163 million deal that expires in 2026. The contract is actually quite healthy for the first four seasons, landing at just above $30 million, similar to Julius Randle.

Theoretically, the Knicks could swap Randle and other assets for Mitchell, who’s having a far more dominant season at 25 years old. Coming off two consecutive All-Star appearances, the Utah star is averaging 25.5 points, 5.2 assists, 1.6 steals, and shooting 34% from deep on 9.5 attempts per game. He’s also connecting on 45% of his shots from the field, and he’s nearly a 90% free-throw shooter.

There’s no question that Mitchell has sustained success longer than Randle and is only earning a smidge more than the Knicks star power forward. However, it would likely cost an arm and a leg to acquire him, parting ways with solid young talent in the process. Essentially, New York would be gutting their team, but they would have a bit of money available depending on the contract, say get rid of.

Acquiring Mitchell is a pipe dream, but one that would turn the Knicks into an instant contender.

Knickerbocker swagger: Rivers delivers in another Knicks comeback

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau watched Austin Rivers grew up with the swagger of a Knickerbocker.

It runs in the blood.

Austin’s father and Thibodeau’s good friend, Doc Rivers, played two-plus years in New York.

On Wednesday night, Thibodeau watched the younger Rivers flaunt that swagger in his first game as a Knickerbocker in The Garden.

Rivers delivered dagger after dagger in a scintillating fourth-quarter show. His 14 straight points in the final 4:16 sucked the life out of the Utah Jazz in a 112-100 come-from-behind win.

“I’ll tell you one thing he’s never lacked. He’s never had a lack of confidence,” Thibodeau told reporters, recalling one episode in Boston when he was Doc’s assistant coach.

“When we had all these Hall of Fame guys. I think [Austin] was still in high school. And when he comes up to visit his dad, he wants to play all of them one-on-one. One day, in particular, Kevin Garnett wouldn’t want anyone to score on him. So he’s coming out to practice, and he sees Austin. And Austin wants to play. Austin really believed he could beat him. That’s the mindset that he has. He never lacked the confidence,” Thibodeau continued.

That’s what the Knicks lacked in the past seven years — confidence.

Rivers has injected that to these gritty Knicks that have suddenly become emboldened.

Before the season, Rivers preached that their job is to make New York attractive to stars and make the Knicks great again.

But with the core of last season’s lottery team infused only with a pair of rookies and veteran role players led by Rivers, these Knicks were hardly given a chance.

Rivers talking about playoffs during the media day was as crazy as the idea of him beating Garnett one-on-one.

Then the Knicks routed Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, 130-110.

People dismissed it as an aberration—just a part of the weird day in the NBA where upset became the recurring theme.

And it looked like it was after the 17-point loss to the Toronto Raptors in Rivers’ season debut.

Even after they found themselves at the wrong end of history, Rivers’ confidence remained intact. He went to Instagram to assure the anxious Knicks fans.

Rivers has since walked the talk.

“He understands what it takes to win,” Thibodeau said of Rivers. “He understands the difference between the first three quarters and the fourth quarter and the intensity that’s involved.”

The next three games saw Rivers delivering clutch plays in the fourth quarter. But none were bigger against the Jazz.

With the game tied at 96-all, Rivers scored on a floater and a barrage of three-pointers that could have rocked The Garden if fans were allowed.

“Oh man, I can’t imagine. I can’t wait! They’re gonna be here soon enough. We just keep building and get better for them,” Rivers told Rebecca Haarlow in the postgame interview.

The Knicks (5-3) keep on building and grinding, showing the grit and heart that defines the city of New York.

For the second straight game, they stared at another huge deficit and fought their way back.

The Jazz led by as many as 18 in the opening half before the Knicks cut it down to a dozen halftime deficit.

New York native Donovan Mitchell, French big man Rudy Gobert, and Filipino-American guard Jordan Clarkson each had 10 points in the first half.

After allowing the visitors to shoot a staggering 42.1 percent from three and 53.5 percent overall, the Knicks tightened their defense after the break.

“Everybody is all-in. At halftime, when we were down, everybody just said ‘chip away.’ We have so much spirit. Coach [Thibs] just doesn’t let us quit,” Rivers said.

“EP (Payton) was huge in the second half. Julius (Randle) was huge. RJ (Barrett) stepped up. Reggie (Bullock) hit big shots. Kevin (Knox) played great defense. I can go down the line. Mitch (Robinson) was great. It’s a total team effort,” Rivers added.

The beauty of this Knicks team is the sum of all its parts.

Mitchell Robinson once again anchored the Knicks’ defensive wall in the second half. He continued to hold the fort sans his backup Nerlens Noel (sore knee, ankle sprain).

The youngest starting center in the league held his ground against Gobert stuffing the stats sheet with nine points, 13 rebounds, two assists, three steals, and three blocks.

Gobert, who had 14 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks, was rendered ineffective in the second half scoring only on two field goals.

The Knicks were also able to slow down the usually prolific Mitchell. The Jazz star was a measly 4 for 14 after the break that was emblematic of their offensive woes.

The Knicks’ suffocating defense choked the Jazz to just 24.4 percent from three and 35.4 percent overall in the brutal second half.

After watching rookie Immanuel Quickley close out the game in Atlanta on the bench, Payton got his turn.

The Knicks starting point guard played sharp throughout (22 points, eight assists, +/- 25). Thibodeau stuck to a seven-man rotation to close out the game after Quickley went scoreless in six minutes in the opening half.

Thibodeau referred to Julius Randle as their engine. And he played exactly like that, especially in the third quarter where the forward pumped in 14 points. RJ Barrett and Payton contributed eight apiece during that 15-point turnaround.

Randle bucked his worst first quarter to still finish with All-Star numbers — game-high 30 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists.

Reggie Bullock, who was questionable until the warmup, chipped in 12 points, 10 coming in the second half.

“I’ve been on bad teams before. This is not one. I can promise you that. I don’t know where we’ll end up, we have so much work to do, it’s really early in the year, but I do know the spirit is different,” Rivers told reporters after the game. “The willingness to work and learn is different.”

Rivers’ last sentence encapsulates the swagger of these Knickerbockers.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks: Kevin Knox will have to earn playing time

New York Knicks, Kevin Knox

Nothing is given.  Everything is earned.

That’s how Kevin Knox‘s life under new head coach Tom Thibodeau.

The former lottery pick has started to come along in the New York Knicks‘ Bubble-like organized team activity thanks to the culture of accountability that Thibodeau has set.

“I think the first step is preparation.  That’s where you get your confidence from.  How he practices every day that will allow him to continue to develop.  He’s played very well here. He shot the ball very well.  He’s put a lot of time into that,” Thibodeau said of Knox’s performance in the Knicks’ Bubble.

Knox was oozing with potential when he was selected as the ninth pick in the 2018 Draft ahead of the likes of his Kentucky teammate Shia Gilgeous-Alexander, and Michael Porter, Jr.

Those three players who were picked after him have made great strides, while Knox has yet to pan out after a promising rookie season. The 21-year old Knox was hounded by inconsistencies and got buried on the bench in his sophomore year. That killed whatever momentum he has built in his rookie year as his confidence dipped.

“I think it’s the same thing.  I think there’s been ups and downs for him.  Hopefully, he continues to learn from those experiences,” Thibodeau said.

With the new Knicks front office zeroing in on player development, Knox has been rejuvenated, especially with the arrival of former Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne. But even with Payne now on his corner, Thibodeau has made it clear that Knox has to earn his minutes.

“Everything will be based on performance.  It’s how you practice first.  You have to practice well with the team before you can begin to talk about playing time.  And when you’re playing in the game, everything will be based on performance,” Thibodeau said.

It’s a make-or-break year for Knox, who has been the subject of trade rumors. Thibodeau’s message is clear: shape up or get shipped out.

New York Knicks: Randle-Conley swap unlikely as Jazz don’t want to compromise spacing

New York Knicks, Julius Randle

It appears the reported interest of the Utah Jazz on New York Knicks‘ forward Julius Randle will remain just a rumor.

Dennis Lindsey, the Utah Jazz VP of Basketball Operations, indirectly shut down the rumor involving Randle. He told reporters on Wednesday that their priority in the offseason is to bring in athletic defenders and floor spacers around their franchise cornerstones Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.

“Anybody who could obviously have defensive integrity at their position, can be an active, athletic defender will be someone that would interest to us, especially if they don’t compromise the spacing,” Lindsey told reporters via Zoom.

Earlier this week, a Randle for Mike Conley swap and draft considerations was floated around.

But the profile of the Jazz targets this coming offseason doesn’t fit Randle who became a subject of scrutiny in his first year in New York.

Randle, who signed a three-year deal worth $63 million, regressed this season as his ball-dominant and post-up style of play irked the fanbase and even some of his teammates according to an April report.

His three-point shooting dipped from 34.4% to 27.7% this season although that can also be attributed to his ill-fitted role as a leader in a team that lacked talent and floor spacers. His defensive rating of 111.6, 230th among forwards, isn’t something that can move the needle for the Jazz who went from having the second-best defensive rating in 2018-19 to 13th this season.

In the same interview, Lindsey also indirectly said that they will do everything to keep Mitchell and Gobert in Salt Lake City.

Mitchell, who was also linked to the Knicks because of his New York roots and CAA ties with the new team President Leon Rose, is expected to sign with the Jazz long-term as per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports earlier.

“I’m limited on what I can say in regards to extensions and renegotiations per NBA rules. With that said, we’re extremely pleased at who both of those players are as people,” Lindsey said.

Gobert’s $106-million, four-year contract extension he signed in 2016 is set to expire after next season while Mitchell is eligible to get a $170-million max contract extension over five years.

“It’s really, really hard to get core franchise-level talent in any market, big or small, but it’s exponentially hard to get that level of talent that has a high level of character and competitiveness. As I’ve mentioned before, we’re working to add players of Rudy and Donovan’s physical talent and competitive makeup and so by definition, we’re going to want to keep those types of players moving forward,” Lindsey added.

 

Quin Snyder excited for Johnnie Bryant’s impact in New York Knicks

Johnnie Bryant, New York Knicks

Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder raved about his assistant Johnnie Bryant ahead of his move to the New York Knicks.

News broke out last Tuesday that Bryant, 35, has agreed to a deal to become Tom Thibodeau’s associate head coach.

Snider said the whole Jazz organization is excited for Bryant.

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“I’m happy for Johnnie and his family. It’s an opportunity that he’s earned and deserved. We’re really excited for him,” Snyder said. “He’s been someone who’s been with me since I got to Utah.”

Bryant has worked his way up to become one of the brightest young coaches in the game.

Tactically, he’s learned [a lot] in the game and on the bench. He’s great on the court with players and you see him develop guys. It’s something we take pride in with our program. Johnnie’s been a big part of that,” Snyder added.

Bryant, who played at the University of Utah, has built his resume around his solid player development acumen.  Prior to joining the Jazz in 2012, Bryant was running his own training gym (Bryant Sports Academy). Former Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin was so impressed with the work he’s done with Ronnie Price and Paul Millsap and his son Tyrell Corbin that he invited him to join his staff.

Two years later, Snider replaced Corbin.

Bryant continued his work under Snider, helping Gordon Hayward become an All-Star.  After Hayward left for Boston, he took then-rookie, Donovan Mitchell, under his wing, and the results bolstered his credentials even further.

His close relationship with Mitchell fueled speculations that the Connecticut native could soon find his way home.

Jazz radio announcer David Locke said that Bryant will be a big loss for the organization.  But more than that, his move will make the Jazz fan base uncomfortable because of his close relationship with their team’s rising star.

“It’s gonna be scary. Donovan and Johnnie are guys.  That’s the relationship there,” Locked told KUTV’s Dave Fox.

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Mitchell is expected to sign a lucrative contract extension with the Jazz this offseason.  But even if he doesn’t, he will still become a restricted free agent in 2021 where the Jazz can match any offer from other teams.  Unless Mitchell forces his way out, there’s not a chance the Knicks can get him in the next three to four years.

More than the lure of Mitchell, Bryant’s hiring will greatly impact the player development of the Knicks’ young core, especially RJ Barrett.