FOCO releases Brooklyn Nets 75th anniversary collection

FOCO released an exclusive Brooklyn Nets 7th anniversary bobblehead collection on Friday.

Whether you are an OG fan who rooted for the New Jersey Nets in East Rutherford or a new breed of a fan when they moved to Brooklyn, there is a bobblehead collectible for you.

The collection features past and present stars Jason Kidd, Kevin Durant, and James Harden.

A 10-time NBA All-Star, Kidd spent seven seasons with the New Jersey Nets and led them to two NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. Durant and Harden are part of the team’s current superstar trio. Oddsmakers have installed them as the favorites to win the title this season.

All three Nets players were recently named to the NBA’s 75 greatest players.

Each bobblehead stands on a diamond-themed base with the Nets logo front and center and an NBA 75th logo behind them while holding a diamond basketball.

Kidd’s bobblehead sport the throwback Nets home jersey of the 2000s. Durant and Harden are clad with the classic black and white Brooklyn jersey.

They are being sold on FOCO’s official website for only $75 each. The bobbleheads are limited to just 275 individually-numbered units making them a sought-after collectible.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Julius Randle, Knicks left fuming as Nets escape in rivalry game

In a rivalry game that had a lot of twists and turns, James Johnson emerged as the unlikely hero.

The defensive-minded forward Johnson canned a pair of pressure-packed free throws with 2.2 seconds left that allowed the Brooklyn Nets to escape with a 112-110 win over the New York Knicks Tuesday night at Barclays Center.

Kevin Durant wisely milked the clock and found a wide-open Johnson who drove to the basket and fished a foul from Knicks center Mitchell Robinson. Evan Fournier missed a prayer at the buzzer as the Knicks’ first game without Kemba Walker in the rotation had a promising start but ended in heartbreak.

Randle charged at the official fuming after the loss.

“I’m not going to talk about [the officiating], I’m going to talk about the game, what the players are out there doing,” Randle said. “I’m not going to talk about [the referees] because they clearly don’t understand the game.”

The rest of the Knicks points guards — Alec Burks, Derrick Rose, and Immanuel Quickley — took turns in guiding the Knicks’ offense. After a hiccup in the middle quarters, the Knicks looked poised for a win when they stormed back from a 16-point third-quarter deficit.

An Obi Toppin dunk gave the Knicks a three-point lead, 98-95, midway in the fourth quarter. Then Kevin Durant carried the Nets on his back, firing 11 points down the stretch.

After the game, Durant said he wanted to take Randle one-on-one for the last shot, but Rose who came to double him, scuttled his plan. Luckily for Brooklyn, Johnson was up to the task.

Durant started the game with an ugly 2 for 9 shooting from the floor. He came back with a vengeance in the second half. Durant had 21 points on 7 of 14 shooting, mainly against Randle, who was hit with a crucial technical foul with 1:36 left.

Durant sank the bonus free throw to extend the Nets’ lead to three. After a Randle-Durant back-and-forth, Evan Fournier fired a game-tying triple with 17.7 seconds left off the Knicks’ final timeout. It turned out to be the Knicks’ last stand.

Burks led the Knicks with a new season-high 25 points, eclipsing his 23-point game in his first start in Atlanta two nights ago. Rose dropped a 16-point, 9-assist gem off the bench in his return from sickbay while Quickley added 12 points.

The trio’s production negated James Harden’s 34-point performance that came with 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Harden went 9 for 10 from the line. Durant was a perfect 10 for 10. The Nets took 25 free throws, 13 more than the Knicks, which had New York coach Tom Thibodeau also upset during his postgame interview.

“My thoughts overall, we did a lot of good things. We didn’t close it out. I want to take a look at the film,” Thibodeau said. “There’s a big discrepancy in free throws. I can tell you that. Julius is driving the ball and he gets 2 free throws?”

Even with Randle taking only one-fifth of Harden and Durant’s free throw rate, he still came up with 24 points on 11 of 22 shots.

If there was another silver lining from this loss, it was Randle’s return to his All-NBA form.

Randle flirted with a triple-double as he added nine rebounds, eight assists, and two steals.

With 3:30 left in the second quarter, Randle held the ball at the right elbow. He sized up Durant.

A day earlier, Randle proclaimed Durant is the best player in the league.

“Have you even seen a 7-footer with that skill? He can do anything on the court,” said Randle after Monday’s practice. “No weakness.”

Hyped up in their matchup, Randle poked a hole in Durant’s armor.

Randle took a jab step. And in one quick motion with little hesitation, he lost Durant. Randle attacked the basket with Durant trailing. LaMarcus Aldridge came to help. It was too late.

Randle completed a three-point play off Durant’s foul. He added two more baskets off Durant.

The Knicks held a 61-60 lead at the half after blowing an eight-point lead in the opening quarter.

Randle dominated Durant in the first half. But Durant had the last laugh. And Randle went home fuming.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

NBA GMs pick Brooklyn Nets to win title, Kevin Durant to pick up second MVP

Despite the threat of Kyrie Irving sitting out Brooklyn Nets‘ home games due to his reluctance to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the NBA general managers still overwhelmingly picked them to win this year’s crown.

In the annual NBA GM survey released Tuesday, the Nets received 72 percent of the votes, with the Los Angeles Lakers coming in as a distant second with just 17 percent. Defending champion Milwaukee Bucks got 10 percent votes.

The NBA GMs are bullish on the Nets primarily because of Kevin Durant, who showed no ill effects of the devastating Achilles injury he suffered two years ago. They predict that Durant (37%) will pick up his second regular-season MVP award over Dallas Mavericks’ fast-rising superstar Luka Doncic (34%).

Durant is also the second most popular choice among GMs behind Stephen Curry as the player who forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments.

Quicker and more agile than most power forwards and taller than perhaps all small forwards, Durant possesses the combination of size, talent, and high basketball IQ that tips the scale for the Nets. The NBA GMs view Durant as the best small forward and the third-best power forward behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James.

Durant, who came a couple of inches away from eliminating eventual champion Milwaukee in the playoffs, was the GMs’ top choice as the player they would want to take a shot with the game on the line. He was also ranked third in the most versatile player poll and received votes for the best pure shooter in the league, a recognition that went to Curry.

Even with the looming absence of Irving, the Nets have insurance in James Harden, another MVP caliber guard. Harden was voted as the best shooting guard by the NBA GMs and also collected votes in the best passer poll.

The Nets also made several low-key offseason moves but are expected to have a pronounced impact on their championship aspirations. The addition of veterans Patty Mills and Paul Millsap, plus the return of LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin, gives Brooklyn the depth they never enjoyed last season. Nets’ GM Sean Marks’ efforts received the third most votes for the best overall moves this offseason from his peers.

The Nets are pegged to be the most fun team to watch this upcoming season.

With their Big 3 resting, the Nets were still fun to watch at the start of the preseason with their livewire rookie Cam Thomas leading the way. Last Sunday at the Staples Center, the Nets obliterated the LeBron James and Russell Westbrook-less Lakers, 123-97.

Thomas’ red-hot shooting from the Summer League spilled into the preseason as he finished with 21 points on 50 percent from the floor. The Net’s 27th selection received votes in the poll of the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft.

Mills, who is coming off a bronze medal run in the Olympics, was voted as the second-best underrated player acquisition in the offseason. The Australian guard also received votes in the poll of active players who will make the best head coach someday.

Steve Nash landed fourth on the list of coaches who run the best offense while he also received votes for the coach who is the best manager/motivator of people. David Vanterpool, whom the Nets added to Nash’s coaching staff in the offseason, was tied with Scott Brooks as the third-best assistant coach in the league.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Kemba Walker and Kevin Durant nearly signed with the Knicks: ‘pretty close’

Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant

Two years ago, Knicks fans were ecstatic about the idea of potentially landing one of the best players in the history of the sport, Kevin Durant. Despite coming off a serious injury, Durant has made a full recovery, earning an All-Star appearance last season with Brooklyn.

Over 35 games, Durrant averaged 27 points, 5.6 assists, 7.1 rebounds, and shot 43.7% from the field. He also connected on 45% of his shots from range, averaging 5.4 attempts per game. As one of the most elite scorers in NBA history, Durant also carried Brooklyn during the postseason, postings several games with 40+ points.

The Knicks could’ve used his prowess and production last season paired with Julius Randle. However, they were forced to take a more developmental route, plugging holes with journeyman players like Alec Burks and hoping that veterans like Derrick Rose could elevate the roster via trade.

The Knicks nearly had it all:

According to Marc Berman of the NY Post, the Knicks were ‘pretty close’ to landing both Kemba Walker and Kevin Durant during the 2019 offseason. Durant obviously chose the more quaint option in Brooklyn, nestling in the outskirts rather than taking on the big city lights of Manhattan.

Walker desperately wanted Durant to join him at MSG, filling the two max contract placements the Knicks had available. Unfortunately, Durant had his eyes set on Brooklyn, an up-and-coming team with a bit more swagger. Since Kyrie Irving decided to take his talents to Brooklyn, Durant quickly agreed on the same choice.

However, Walker evidently ended up with the Knicks on a two-year, $17.9 million deal this off-season. Taking a significant pay cut, Walker is looking to resurrect his career after playing in just 43 games last season due to a degenerative knee issue.

Kemba did average nearly 20 points last season, 4.9 assists, and shot 42% from the field. As a four-time All-Star, Walker is more than capable of leading an offensive playing elite level point guard. It’s just a matter of stay healthy and consistent throughout the entire 82 game season, and the Knicks assisted him with retaining Rose for three years as well.

While the team might not have a player as great as Durant, they have awesome depth with plenty of starting talent. If they can play together and balance out their strengths, there’s no question they can be a solid team that competes with Brooklyn next season.

Cam Thomas is eager to prove he’s more than a scorer I LSU star opens up about meeting with Tom Thibodeau, Knicks

LSU star Cam Thomas is an elite three-level scorer. Will the New York Knicks take a flier on him after a solid workout and meeting?

Cam Thomas is an irreverent scorer. He has irrational confidence reminiscent of the late Kobe Bryant, a cold-blooded scoring assassin in the NBA who went down to become an all-time great.

It’s not hard to see why he wears No. 24 because he grew up idolizing the late Laker legend. Now, he has shifted his eyes on Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker, a known Black Mamba disciple on top of his other current favorite NBA players.

“Throughout the NBA playoffs, I’ve been watching Devin Booker,” Thomas said on Monday during his NBA Draft media availability.

He’s been paying attention to his footwork, the way he glides in the perimeter, and creates space for himself and others. He watches how he launches his threes.

“I like to pick up some of his moves in the midrange and just really trying to look at his game because we play very much alike and similar,” Thomas said.

Aside from Booker, he’s watched a ton of Kyrie Irving and James Harden and a little bit of Bradley Beal. “I really watch those guys a lot and take from them the most,” Thomas said.

This draft class’ microwave scorer has paid attention to the star bucket getters while scouts have often compared him to Lou Williams, a role player whose instant offense off the bench won him three Sixth Man of the Year awards. While it has some weight to it after emerging as a prolific scorer in LSU and nothing much else, Thomas says he’s more than just a three-level scorer.

“I feel like those analyses were totally wrong. It’s just the system I was in. I feel like nobody really knows the room for [my growth] as a player. I’ll just keep going and prove them wrong. I feel like I can do that [in the NBA] because I’ve done it before,” Thomas said.

As LSU’s go-to guy, Thomas led all NCAA freshmen with a 23.3-point scoring average. It was the fourth-highest scoring average by a first-year player on the LSU team behind only Pete Maravich as a sophomore in 1967-68 (43.8), Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf as a freshman in 1988-89 (30.2), and Bob Pettit as a sophomore in 1951-52 (25.5). His 22 20-point games were the most 20-point games of any LSU player since Shaquille O’Neal in 1992. He had 16 games of at least 25 points, the most by an SEC freshman in the one-and-done era or since 2006.

But despite those accolades, Thomas isn’t viewed as a lottery pick because of his perceived tunnel vision. He averaged 3.4 rebounds and just 1.4 assists.

Thomas insists he has more to show, and that was just a product of the system he was in college.

“[I wasn’t able to show] really playing without the ball in my hand. I feel like I can do that at the next level,” Thomas said. “Again, getting my teammates involved. I really didn’t show that in LSU because my role is to be the primary scorer. I feel like when I get to the NBA, I have to show that first and then build from there.”

Thomas has always been a scoring machine. He left Oak Hill Academy as the program’s all-time leading scorer surpassing Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. But buried under those eye-popping 26.2-point and 31.5-point scoring averages in his two years there were the identical 3.4 assists he dished out per game.

“I feel really good about [my playmaking],” Thomas said. “Being a scorer kind of opens up for me to make plays for others because everybody worries about me putting the ball in the basket and scoring. Me just having that skill helps up my other skills as far as making plays for others. I just try to attack and get quick buckets.”

Sure, some teams need bucket getters. One of them is the Knicks, who struggled to score when they reached the NBA playoffs for the first time in eight years.

Thomas had the Knicks’ attention. He’s one of the many prospects they invited at their Tarrytown practice facility in New York. But they’re also one of the few teams Thomas met ahead of the NBA Draft. So far, Thomas has met with the Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets, and the Memphis Grizzlies aside from the Knicks.

“I met with the Knicks, which was my second workout like a few weeks ago. It went really well,” Thomas said. “I see myself fitting in with the Knicks because I was told they needed a bucket getter, a player who can make plays at the end of the shot clock in a game, it’s just a closer type so I see myself coming in, being the scorer I am, I can help the team.”

Thomas can provide an instant boost to a Knicks offense that relied heavily on Julius Randle last season. The LSU standout came away from that meeting, believing he could have a bright future with the Knicks if ever they pick him.

“Coach Thibs was in the meeting so we talked about the good stuff and it was really a good conversation. I don’t know everybody. But it was a good dialogue.” Thomas said. “I feel like I can fit in really well because he believes I can fit in his system and I feel like I can shoot so… we’ll see on Thursday.”

As he prepares for the NBA Draft on Thursday, Thomas continues to work on his game in between the teams’ workouts trying to improve on everything from scoring to rebounding and playmaking. But on top of that, he’s got two priorities.

“[I’m] just trying to get into shape as much as possible. You’re never in too much shape so I’d like to be in top shape so I can be on the court without being tired. Trying to lock in on the ball defensively, I keep working on that and just those two things. I wouldn’t call those weaknesses because it’s just mental stuff,” he said.

Thomas is a certified bucket getter, but he’s eager to prove he has more to offer.

While he has the late Laker legend’s scoring instincts, his irrational confidence comes from his strong work ethic and military discipline cultivated by his mother, Leslie Thomas, an army veteran.

“I put in a lot of work and for how much I’ve put in, I should be confident,” Thomas said.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Durant doesn’t dwell on ‘What If’, impressed with Bucks continuity

The NBA Playoffs’ most talked about sliding door moment never entered Kevin Durant’s mind when he watched Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy from his room in Tokyo, Japan.

Durant and his Brooklyn Nets were reduced to being a footnote of the Bucks’ title run this season.

Kyrie Irving sprained his ankle. James Harden played hurt. Durant came a couple of inches away from eliminating the Bucks. But alas, the basketball gods smiled on the Greek Freak.

“I’m not really [thinking about what could have been],” Durant said on Wednesday after Team USA practice. “You don’t play for moral victories. You only want to be the last team standing in the NBA Finals. We understand how good we are and not just go push the Bucks [to seven games].”

“Our goal is to win it. Unfortunately, we didn’t. Congrats to the Bucks, an amazing team who fought through a lot the last two years to get to this point. I have a lot of respect for them.”

The super team in Brooklyn, which was supposed to steamroll its way to the Nets’ first NBA championship, could not be healthy enough to stay together on the floor.

Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo bucked a hyperextended knee in the playoffs and capped off his dominant NBA Finals run with a 50-piece and five blocks.

Seven years ago, Antetokounmpo promised he would not leave the city without winning a championship. He followed through by signing the supermax extension. The Bucks’ front office repaid his loyalty with boom-or-bust moves, including the botched trade for Bogdan Bognadovic that cost them a second-round pick. The Jrue Holiday trade paled in comparison to the Nets’ all-in move to acquire Harden. But they beat the Nets to the draw in trading for Harden’s former Houston Rockets teammate PJ Tucker.

“It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else,’’ Antetokounmpo said. “I could go — I don’t want to put anybody on the spot — but I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship. But this is the hard way to do it, and this is the way to do it and we f—–g did it.”

Durant was never asked to react to Antetokounmpo’s postgame remark. But he came away impressed with how the Bucks build their championship team.

“It was good to see Milwaukee forming some sort of a dynasty with that team,” Durant said. “I know it’s the first championship. I know a lot of people will call you a dynasty after a few [titles]. The continuity of that team is something that is impressive. How they continue to keep building and adding and now they’re a champion. So you can appreciate that.”

The Bucks are guaranteed to have Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Holiday, and Brook Lopez together until the 2022-23 season. Durant will have another shot at the Bucks next season, provided Brooklyn’s Big 3 will be healthy.

But in a couple of days, he will have to set aside the rivalry and join forces with Middleton and Holiday at Team USA and welcome Phoenix Suns’ rising star Devin Booker, who could still be reeling from that stinging loss, squandering a 2-0 lead, to the squad.

“We got respect for these guys. That experience doesn’t happen to just anybody. You respect those guys that went through that journey,” Durant said.

“You see a young team like Phoenix, who everybody has been counting out in the last five to six years. And now they made themselves into a contender and hopefully become a contender moving forward in the West,” he added.

Durant has been both on the opposite side of the spectrum. Before becoming a multiple NBA champion with the Warriors, Durant, like Booker, lost a young team in Oklahoma City. So he knows the feeling.

But they need Booker to recover quickly. They need Middleton and Holiday to chill down from the euphoria of winning their first championship. They have a mission in Tokyo. A goal that looked vulnerable at the onset with the missing players due to COVID-19 issues and different circumstances.

“I think there will definitely be adjustments just with the quick turnaround. But those guys know what they’re getting into themselves when they made the commitment a few weeks back,” Durant said. “They had an understanding of what this journey is and they have an extra couple of weeks added on to their postseason now. We’re looking forward to those guys coming in and we understand that it will take a while for them to take their legs back under them, calm down from all the hype of the NBA Finals but we can’t wait to incorporate them.”

Durant has already moved on from a lost NBA season. His eyes are set on a different prize.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks News, 7/19: Julius Randle snubbed hard from Olympic team, Kevin Durant’s dad wanted him to be a Knick

knicks, julius randle

Despite winning the “Most Improved Player” award this past season, New York Knicks’ power forward Julius Randle didn’t earn much consideration from Team USA to qualify for the Olympic squad.

Randle earned himself his first All-Star caliber performance this year, averaging a career-high 24.1 points, 6.0 assists, and 10.2 rebounds per game. He shot 45.6% from the field and 41% from range, proving to be a bonafide star for a team that desperately needed a leader and dominant force.

There’s no question that Randle deserved an opportunity to play for Team USA, who instead rolled with center JaVale McGee, who offers more defensive prowess. Randle was also adequate on defense this past season, with the capabilities to play center, averaging nearly a steal per game and 0.3 blocks. While offense was obviously his MO, he averaged 37.6 minutes and played in 71 games, a reliable figure that deserves more praise.

According to Marc Berman of the NY Post, Team USA never offered Julius Randle a spot:

The U.S. Olympic team, in search of two replacement players for Tokyo, never made Knicks All-Star power forward Julius Randle an offer, according to multiple industry sources.

Kevin Durant ripped his father a new one when he asked him to take a meeting with the Knicks:

Matt Sullivan wrote in his book, “Can’t Knock The Hustle: Inside The Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with The Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow” that Wayne Pratt desperately wanted KD to be a Knick:

“KD texted his dad: What you think about Brooklyn?” Sullivan wrote in his new book. “Like his agent, KD’s occasionally estranged father, Wayne Pratt, was a Knicks fan. When Wayne told his son that he’d taken a video-conference call from the Knicks executives Steve Mills and Scott Perry, and that the Knicks were trying to turn away KD’s interest from Brooklyn before free agency had officially begun, the father-son text chain blew up with expletives. KD didn’t think it was on anyone to mess with his personal freedom.

“Plus, this Knicks meeting seemed to be a violation of the NBA’s rules against tampering, to “entice, induce or persuade” one player under contract to sign somewhere.”

After a frustrated Durant confronted his father, it led to a heated exchange.

“Let me explain one f****** thing to you, his dad responded,” Sullivan wrote. “Don’t you ever question my integrity. There’s nobody more important in this world when it comes to you THAN YOU.}

Well, why can’t I do something different?

The Knicks is Mecca, KD’s dad declared. If you want to do it, do it big! If you want to be a New Yorker, be a Knick!”

Despite Durant’s obvious desire to play for Brooklyn, it was the bright lights of MSG and prominent platform that scared him away from being a Knick.

“New York City was the Mecca of basketball, and KD wanted to live there. But he felt like Brooklyn was his vibe: “chill, on the low, all-black everything.” He’d been eyeing the Nets for years now, and they him,” Sullivan added. “Dad shot back: Are you doing this just for Kyrie cuz he your buddy?

No, KD replied. He was making this decision for himself.”

If Durant had chosen to sign with the Knicks two years ago, they would’ve had a fantastic duo with Randle and the perennial All-NBA. This season, he averaged 26.9 points, 5.6 assists, 7.1 rebounds, and shot 53.7% from the field and 45% from range over 5.4 attempts per game. Of course, Durant is one of the best players to ever live and arguably the best offensive weapon to ever step foot on a basketball court, but his desire to stay low-key and off the grid clearly played into his decision.

Hopefully, President Leon Rose can draw attention from big names this off-season, especially with plenty of money to throw around and a playoff appearance to present a convincing factor.

History suggests Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson is likely done for the season

Ben Simmons missed an entire season. Brook Lopez missed 100 games. Kevin Durant only played 27 games during the 2014-15 season.

History suggests that New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson could be facing an uphill climb in his recovery from his latest injury.

Lopez, Simmons, and Durant were the latest NBA players standing 6-10 and above who successfully recovered from a fractured fifth metatarsal in their foot or most commonly known as Jones fracture, which Robinson suffered last week.

Likely done for the season

On Monday, the Knicks announced that he had a successful surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. The team did not offer any timetable for his recovery.

Dr. Martin O’Malley, HSS’s noted NBA players’ orthopedic surgeon who performed the surgery on the three players mentioned above and likely on Robinson, begged off to comment on this story.

But a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist offered a bleak forecast of a Robinson comeback this season.

“If [Knicks] were being cautious, then yes [Robinson is likely done for the season]. Of course, it depends on the severity, but to undergo foot surgery this late in the season is typically season-ending. If he plays, it may be restricted play (minute restriction/load management). However, I don’t know if they’d want to do that with a young, dynamic player,” Dr. Ernest Eusebio told Empire Sports Media. 

Recovery time

The recovery can take an entire year, according to Dr. Eusebio, the founder of the Jersey City-based Wolves Performance & Lifestyle Collective, an all-encompassing high-performance consultancy providing solutions in Professional Sport, Entertainment, & Fortune 500.

“It could very well be 9-12 months until he returns to the court unrestricted, pending success of rehab & player’s ability to return to NBA shape,” he said. “[Knicks] said his surgery was successful, which could mean at best he may be back for the offseason in 4-6 months, but that does not necessarily mean playing time due to the nature of the game,” Dr. Eusebio said. “Full recovery is typically a 6-9 month window.”

Dr. Eusebio, who has worked with NBA, MLB, NFL athletes, and Olympians, is not discounting the possibility of a postseason return for Robinson, giving him a 3-4 month time frame for recovery.

“It would be amazing to see him late in the first round of the playoffs, and it wouldn’t surprise me with [Tom Thibodeau]. But I believe it’s more likely that he plays in the second round if the Knicks make it which will be a huge asset,” he added.

Pau Gasol was another 7-footer who had the same injury when he was 26. He returned in four months in 2006. But Memphis put him in a 25-minute restriction. Former Washington Wizards’ 6-11 forward Andray Blatche also broke his foot in late June of 2010 and was back in early October for the training camp.

What is Jones fracture?

Dr. Eusebio, who earned the “Best in Patient Care” award from the American Health Council in 2018, explained that the regional blood supply in that area isn’t the greatest. That’s why a surgical repair is necessary to return to high levels of performance.

“A fifth metatarsal fracture that requires surgery is more often than not a Jones fracture, which hints that a break may have occurred along the shaft of the bone, proximal to the base,” explained Dr. Ernest Eusebio.

Wikimedia commons

“This is an unfortunate injury to deal with as an explosive player due to the foot’s vital role in jumping and running. Rehab is usually initiated non-weight bearing, and as pain decreases and bone healing occurs, Mitchell [Robinson] should be progressively loading his foot and sports specific movements accordingly – which can take some time,” Dr. Eusebio added.

The average missed time in the NBA for this type of injury is roughly 39 games, according to sports injury expert and certified athletic trainer Jeff Stotts who operates the website instreetclothes.com, which breaks down typical sports injuries for the fans. But as history suggests, the recovery period is longer for big men.

If there’s one thing going for Robinson, it’s his age. The 7-foot-center just turned 23 Thursday.

Simmons was 20 when he broke his foot. Durant was 26 when he had Jones fracture and was coming off his MVP season. Lopez was the same age as Robinson when he suffered the injury.

Bad timing

The injury’s timing couldn’t come at the worst possible time as the Knicks are in the thick of a playoff hunt, and Robinson is eligible for a contract extension this summer.

Robinson, who has been durable in his first two seasons —only missing a total of 21 games—has already undergone surgery twice this season. The Knicks went 9-6 without him earlier in the season while recovering from a broken hand. They have lost their last two games since he went down with his latest injury, which he suffered in Milwaukee ironically against Lopez.

The Knicks have signed Norvel Pelle to a 10-day contract for their 14th roster spot as insurance if Nerlens Noel or Taj Gibson misses time. They have pivoted from Andre Drummond, who eventually signed with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, because they are still holding out hope on Robinson.

The Knicks front office wants to see more of Robinson, according to Ian Begley of SNY.

Can Robinson return to old form?

While it may take longer to recover, there’s no evidence to suggest that Robinson will not return his old form.

Lopez, Durant, and Simmons all survived and thrived after the injury. Only Rasheed Wallace, who was 38 and at the tail end of his career in 2013 with the Knicks, was forced to retire because of the same type of injury.

A study on NBA players who suffered Jones fracture from 1994 to 2013 has encouraging results for Robinson.

“Four of the 26 (15%) players did not return to play in a subsequent NBA game after the season in which a Jones fracture was sustained. Twenty-four of 26 (92%) athletes were treated with operative fixation, and three players (12%) underwent secondary reoperation. Recurrence of the injury was experienced by five players (19%),” said the study published online in 2015 in the national library of medicine.

Lopez and Durant were the fourth and fifth NBA players who had re-surgery. Durant even had a third surgery. Simmons avoided it after he underwent a bone marrow injection.

Robinson’s value takes a hit

Robinson has a $1.8 million team option, which the Knicks will likely exercise next season to make him a restricted free agent and buy them some more time to evaluate him.

Some teams were interested in trading for Robinson at the trade deadline, according to Begley. Those teams will likely take a wait-and-see approach after this latest setback in the young big man’s career.

Certainly, Robinson’s market value has taken a hit with his latest injury. But that should be further from Robinson’s mind as he needs to focus on his recovery. His performance after this injury will dictate his next contract—whether that will be with the Knicks or another team.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

All-Star send-off: Randle powers Knicks over .500 after Pistons rout

Julius Randle put on a show at The Garden before heading to Atlanta for his first NBA All-Star game.

Randle’s near triple-double powered the New York Knicks to their first winning record at the All-Star break in eight years.

The Knicks improved to 19-18, sitting at fifth place in the Eastern Conference after a wire-to-wire 114-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday.

This marks the first time the Knicks are above .500 this late in the season since they were the Eastern Conference’s second seed at the All-Star break in 2013, the last time they reached the playoffs.

After a disappointing road loss in San Antonio two nights ago, the Knicks vented their ire on the Eastern Conference-worst Pistons.

With Randle leading the way, the Knicks led from start to finish. The first-time All-Star already had a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) in the first half alone as the Knicks sat on a 13-point halftime lead, 59-46.

New York extended the lead to 19, heading into the fourth quarter. The undermanned Pistons put up a token resistance in the final period cutting the lead to nine, but RJ Barrett quickly restored a double-digit lead with a three-pointer.

Randle bullied his way to 27 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists, becoming the first player in Knicks history to have 800 points, 400 rebounds, and 200 assists at the All-Star break, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Aside from that milestone, the 26-year old forward also recorded his 10th game with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, the second-most in franchise history. He needs five more to tie the franchise record held by Bob McAdoo, which he did during the 1977-78 season.

“We’re growing as a team, growing as a unit,’’ Randle told Rebecca Haarlow after the game. “We got to go into the break and stay ready because the second half will be a beast. The first half was great for us, but we know we can keep improving and get better as a team, and we will.’’

The Knicks took care of business in the first half of the season, winning 12 games against losing teams and scoring victories against some playoff-caliber teams. They routed Golden State and Boston on the road and Milwaukee at home while beating Indiana twice.

But it will get tougher after the All-Star break.

The Knicks will play 26 of their last 35 games against playoff-contending teams, starting with a tough road trip in Milwaukee next Thursday followed by visits in Oklahoma, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia.

But before they get tested, this night was all about the Knicks punctuating a terrific first half of the season, which pundits never saw coming.

The Knicks’ turnaround wasn’t only about Randle. Collectively, this team emerged from the long years of dysfunction and incompetence.

They learned to play for each other under first-year coach Tom Thibodeau. Thursday night’s encore against the Pistons was another testament to that.

Derrick Rose missed his second straight game due to COVID-19 health and protocols, but Elfrid Payton returned to the starting unit with aplomb.

Payton directed the Knicks’ offense which became stagnant in their 119-93 loss to the Spurs earlier. He was active on both ends of the floor, collecting 20 points, six rebounds, four assists, four steals, and a block in a complete performance. Payton tied Reggie Bullock, who had 12 markers, for the night’s highest net rating with +17.

All five starters finished in double figures, with Barrett scoring 21 points on 9-of-13 shots. The Canadian swingman, chosen as one of the Rising Stars for the second straight year, added four boards and five dimes.

Nerlens Noel continued to provide a defensive spark with Mitchell Robinson (fractured hand) and Taj Gibson (ankle injury) still sidelined. He stuffed the stats sheet with 12 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, four steals, and two blocks while shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from the field.

Dennis Smith, Jr. returned to New York for the first time since he got traded for Rose and scored 12 points in a starting role. Another ex-Knick, Wayne Ellington, who spent last season in New York, led the Pistons with 17 points.

It was a fitting send-off for Randle, who was selected and praised by one of the All-Star captains, Kevin Durant, also the leader of the championship-caliber team in Brooklyn, just across the borough.

Bannering Team Durant are starters Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal, and Durant’s replacement Jayson Tatum.

Randle joins James Harden, Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, and Donovan Mitchell as reserves.

Randle will also compete in the Skills Challenge while Knicks rookie Obi Toppin hopes to end his dull first half with a bang in the Slam Dunk competition as a springboard to the second half of the season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Brooklyn goes all-in, net Harden in blockbuster 4-team trade

The Brooklyn Nets are going all-in!

The Nets pushed all their chips on the table to acquire Houston Rocket’s disgrunted superstar James Harden, forming a super team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Brooklyn gave up its young core led by Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, multiple first-round picks, and pick swaps in the blockbuster deal.

The trade expanded to include the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

The Rockets then shipped LeVert to the Pacers for Victor Oladipo. Allen and Prince were re-routed to the Cavaliers.

The final trade scenario looked like this, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania:

Nets acquired:

  • James Harden

Rockets acquired:

  • Victor Oladipo (via Pacers)
  • Dante Exum (via Cavaliers)
  • Rodions Kurucs (via Nets)
  • Nets’ unprotected first-round picks (2022, 2024, 2026)
  • pick swaps with Nets (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)
  • Cavaliers’ 2022 first-round pick (via Milwaukee Bucks)
  • future second-round pick (via Pacers)

Pacers acquired:

  • Caris LeVert (via Nets)
  • future second-round pick (via Rockets)

Cavaliers acquired:

  • Jarett Allen (via Nets)
  • Taurean Prince (via Nets)

‘It can’t be fixed’

The trade which Harden pushed so hard since the offseason escalated quickly after his zoom interview last night.

“We’re not even close, honestly, to, obviously, the defending champions (Lakers) and all the other elite teams out there,” Harden said. “I mean, you can tell the difference in these last two games.

“Chemistry, talent-wise, everything. It’s clear. I love this city. I’ve literally done everything I can. It’s crazy. I don’t think it can be fixed. Thanks.”

The Rockets eventually caved in to his trade demand.

Reunion in Brooklyn

Harden is now reunited with Durant, his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate.

The Nets got much-needed firepower after losing Spencer Dinwiddie to a season-ending injury. An uneven start forced the Nets to mortgage their future for the present. It didn’t help that Irving also went on leave due to personal reasons.

The trade, though, left the Nets’ bench gutted.

They have three more spots to fill. Look out for Jamal Crawford’s name to be linked to the Nets anew. Crawford played for the Nets in the Orlando bubble.

Moving on

The Rockets, meanwhile, can now move forward from the drama that engulfed the team up to this point.

Oladipo will team up with John Wall at the backcourt.

The Rockets endured a volatile offseason with Harden instigating a ‘holdout’ in the training camp. That caused him to miss the beginning of training camp and their first two preseason games. He was subsequently fined for violating the league’s health protocols.

On the other hand, the Cavaliers got an emerging young center in Allen. He will serve as their center of the future with Andre Drummond set to hit free agency.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo