Knicks fail to sustain hot start, lose to Jazz

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

The New York Knicks went hot and cold in Utah, wrapping up their West Coast trip with a disappointing 108-94 loss to the Jazz Tuesday night.

Austin Rivers typified the Knicks’ Jekyll and Hyde performance.

Rivers was on fire in the first half with 25 points on a perfect 10-for-10 shooting. Then he went scoreless in the second half.

The Knicks appeared to be on their way to an encore of their Jazz massacre at The Garden when they erected a 15-point lead in the second quarter. They even held a 13-point lead at the break.

But it went downhill from there.

Mike Conley and Royce O’Neale picked up the slack with Jazz star Donovan Mitchell struggling to shoot.

Mitchell started the game 0-for-10 before finishing with nine points on 3-for-15 shooting.

But the Jazz drew double-digit scoring from five other players led by O’Neale and Conley.

Conley fired 14 of his 19 points in the third quarter, while O’Neale had nine of his 20 in the fourth quarter to seal the Knicks’ fate.

Rivers’ hot hands went cold after being hit with his third foul late in the second quarter. He was never the same again.

“Yeah, I just felt like in that stretch with the way it was going offensively, I thought we would do what we did, but it did cross my mind to leave him out there,” Tom Thibodeau replied when asked if he felt he should’ve gambled with Rivers despite nursing three fouls.

Rivers missed his four shots in the second half and had a mental lapse, fouling Conley late in the third quarter when he thought the Knicks still had a foul to give.

Conley’s two free throws sliced the Knicks’ lead to just a single point heading into the final quarter.

The Jazz took over from there.

A 10-0 start was all they needed to suck the life out of the weary Knicks, who were playing the tail end of a four-game road trip.

The Knicks finished the trip losing three straight after an impressive win against Golden State Warriors. They slid outside the top eight in the East with an 8-11 win-loss record.

Meanwhile, the Jazz have extended their league’s hottest win streak to nine, which started, ironically, after losing to the Knicks in New York in January.

Rudy Gobert was also instrumental in the Jazz victory with a monster performance (18 points, 19 rebounds, and four blocks).

Filipino-American guard Jordan Clarkson continued making an early case for the Sixth Man of the Year with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals off the bench for the Jazz.

RJ Barrett rebounded from his single-digit performance in a loss to Portland with 17 points on 7-11 (3-for-3 from 3) shooting from the field. Julius Randle had a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists), but the rest of the Knicks struggled.

Immanuel Quickley, who sizzled for a career-high 31 points against the Trail Blazers, had his worst shooting night going 1-for-11 for six points.

The Knicks will head home and host the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks forward Bobby Portis on the Utah Jazz’s radar

New York Knicks, Bobby Portis

New York Knicks sweet-shooting forward Bobby Portis has a better chance of landing in Utah next season than Julius Randle according to Jazz insider Ben Anderson of KSL Sports.

The Knicks fanbase had been rocked by a rumored swap between two CAA clients Randle and Conley last week but it appears the Jazz are more interested in the other Knicks forward.

“I haven’t heard anything like that (Randle-Conley trade rumor) here.  It’s far more likely the Jazz would chase Bobby Portis if he becomes a free agent,” Anderson told Empire Sports Media.

Last summer, the Knicks have outbid the Jazz and several playoff teams for Portis, who was fresh from his most productive season in the NBA back then.  Portis was one of the four big men signed by the Knicks after getting spurned by marquee free agents led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Portis, who signed a $31-million two-year offer sheet, didn’t pan out in New York with sporadic playing time under two different coaches.  In 66 games this season, Portis averaged 10 points, five rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 21 minutes while shooting 36 percent from deep.

The Jazz have indicated last week that they will be targeting athletic floor-spacers.

“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,” Utah Jazz VP Dennis Lindsey told reporters via Zoom.

And Portis fits the bill.

With a team option of $15.75 million, the Knicks have to decide whether to bring Portis back or waive him.  The new Knicks coaching staff led by Tom Thibodeau and his associate head coach Johnnie Bryant, who came from the Jazz, will have time to evaluate Portis during the team’s three-week mini-camp in their Tarrytown practice facility beginning today.

When asked if the Jazz will be interested in moving Conley’s contract for Randle and Portis, Anderson replied with a resounding no.

If the Knicks decide to waive the 25-year old Portis, the Jazz can use their mid-level exception which is currently pegged to start at $9.7 million but could end up lower due to the revenue loss as a result of the pandemic.  The Jazz also has its bi-annual exception of $3.8 million which again could become lower pending the new salary cap.

The Jazz insider added that “nothing is concrete (with regards to plans of trading Conley) but the Jazz will always listen to offers.”

It is more likely that the Jazz will be looking to run it back with a healthy Bojan Bogdanovic next season and hopes to re-sign unrestricted free agent Jordan Clarkson and fill out their roster using their salary-cap exceptions.

The Jazz have given up two first-round picks along with Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, and Grayson Allen for Conley last summer. Unless they can get a first-round pick back and a veteran who can move the needle, Conley will not go anywhere.

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.

 

New York Knicks: Trading Julius Randle ‘number one priority,’ Utah Jazz interested (Report)

According to Knicks Fan TV, the New York Knicks‘ number one offseason priority is trading Julius Randle, and the Utah Jazz are a potential buyer.

“Number one priority this offseason for the Knicks will be trading Julius Randle. They are going to look to trade Julius. And the first trade rumor that I’m hearing is Julius Randle to the Utah Jazz for Mike Conley and draft considerations.”

Randle, 25, is one season through a three-year, $62 million contract with the Knicks. Randle averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game while shooting 46.0 percent from the field this season.

The 2019-20 NBA season was Mike Conley’s first run with the Jazz. He averaged 14.4 points, 4.4 assists and 0.8 steals per game while shooting 40.9 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from beyond the arc. Conley is entering the final season of a five-year, $153 million deal.

The Knicks could have upwards of $40 million in cap space this offseason depending on what they do with the handful of team options they hold on veteran players (Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock). A Randle-for-Conley trade would add roughly $13 million in payroll for the Knicks next season.

Conley, 32, would presumably become new Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s starting point guard. They could subsequently select a wing/forward such as Florida State’s Devin Vassell or Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, who each reportedly interest the Knicks, with the eighth pick in this year’s NBA Draft. New York also owns the 27th and 38th selections in the upcoming draft.

From Utah’s perspective, Randle could start in-between a healthy Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert or serve as the team’s sixth man. They could then pursue a lead guard in the offseason to start next to Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz lost to the Denver Nuggets in seven games in the first round of the NBA playoffs this season.

New York Knicks primary target for 2020 free agency

Could the New York Knicks pursue Anthony Davis next offseason?

While it’s certainly a bit early to consider free agency next season, it’s always fun to contemplate who could be available for the New York Knicks, especially after missing out on both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The top players on the market next year will be Anthony Davis, Mike Conley, and Draymond Green. The Knicks could go after one, if not several of these players, but convincing them that Madison Square Garden is more appealing than the Barclay’s center will be the tall task at hand.

The youth evolving for the Knicks is the key to luring superstars to the franchise. Players like RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and more hold the keys to being a successful franchise with NBA Final hopes down the line, but it could be sooner rather than later.

Davis, who was traded for the remainder of his contract (one year) to the Los Angeles Laker, will perform on a stacked team already housing the league’s best player in Lebron James. Adding Davis to the mix will make the virtually unstoppable, which will only increase his monetary value for the next free agency period.

The New York Knicks set themselves up correctly for next offseason:

The Knicks smartly built contracts around veterans with an out after their first season, which allows them to clear cap if need be to pursue a top player like AD.

(via SNY’s Ian Begley)

Depending on how the Knicks spend their money during the summer of 2020, they could also have a sizeable amount of cap space heading into the summer of 2021.  The 2019-20 free-agent class could include Anthony Davis if he doesn’t sign an extension with the Lakers, and could also include restricted free agents Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown.

Davis may elect to sign on with the Lakers for the long haul considering the talent already on the roster, but if the Knicks seem like they’re headed in the right direction, Davis can step into a position to succeed where Carmelo Anthony ultimately failed, despite fantastic offensive production for years.

 

 

New York Knicks should avoid Russell Westbrook at all costs

New York Knicks, Russell Westbrook

With reports of the Oklahoma City Thunder interested in potentially finding a trade partner for star point guard Russell Westbrook, it presents the question – should the New York Knicks consider a deal?

With seven first-round draft picks over the next five years, they have plenty of ammo in the scenario that Westbrook is actually available and an option. The Knicks only have Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina as primary point guards, both are unproven and inconsistent.

Westbrook is a superstar that is one of the most dynamic scorers in the league, but the Knicks should stay far away from him for several reasons.

1.) Their draft picks are too valuable

Following the youth agenda idea, the Knicks are in a position to build upon the foundation they’ve already established with Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, RJ Barrett and more. Giving away potential influential players for a high-price option doesn’t make much sense.

Averaging $41.3 million per season doesn’t bode well for a team that just signed multiple players in free agency. The Knicks don’t need his cap hit on the books to succeed, in fact, they’re likely better off without his production and monetary hit.

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2.) He will stunt the growth of the other players

The Knicks should be focused on developing their youth and giving them ample time and experience to refine their abilities. Putting a known ball-hog on the floor will only create a distraction and take the ball away from the players that need to work on their game.

Offensive players like Barrett and Knox need to continue building upon their confidence and skills at a young age and putting Westbrook in a position to take that opportunity away only hurts the overall success of the team and organization. In addition, he’d be on the book for four years.

The Knicks are better off waiting until next offseason to pursue free agent players like Anthony Davis, Mike Conley, Draymond Green, and Andre Drummond as they will all be signable without having to give up draft assets.

Holding on to picks and utilizing cap space should be the priority for a franchise focusing on their youth.