Knicks: Mitchell Robinson’s monster game a proof he’s close to best shape

The New York Knicks are starting to get their defensive rhythm back. A big part of that is the resurgence of Mitchell Robinson, their 23-year old center, who is coming off a monster game in Minnesota on Tuesday night.

Robinson took advantage of Karl-Anthony Towns’ absence as he feasted underneath the rim. He scored 14 points on putbacks and slams, grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds, and fueled the Knicks’ 96-88 victory to move two games just below .500 (16-18).

“That was huge,” said Tom Thibodeau of Robinson’s play. “His activity at the rim, altering shots, multiple efforts, second-chance points, putting pressure on the rim. You can’t say enough about the way he played. I thought his rebounding and Julius’ rebounding were huge for us.”

Robinson had 12 defensive rebounds and six on the offensive glass. Julius Randle added 15 rebounds that made up for his poor 5 for 20 shooting. Their activity at the rim led to Knicks’ dominating the battle of the boards, 54-45, and in second-chance points, 23-11, that spelled the huge difference.

“I thought that we just need to come up with some energy, man,” Robinson said on the TV broadcast after the road win. “That’s it really, you know, hustle makes up for everything. And that’s what we just came up to do.”

Over his last six games, Robinson averaged 10.5 points on an astounding 30 of 33 shooting, 10 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, and 1.0 steal in 27.3 minutes. The Knicks have won four of six in that span. In three of the Knicks’ last four wins, they’ve held their opponents to 91 points or less. With Robinson anchoring their defense, the Knicks’ defensive rating during the previous six games surged to 107.2, tied for fifth with the San Antonio Spurs.

“It’s just conditioning,” Robinson told reporters after the game. “Once I’m conditioned, I can think better, I can play better. So, I’m just acting like I’m a high-energy guy. That’s mainly the key. You can’t really teach that.”

He took exception of a couple of plays in Minnesota where he wasn’t ready to receive a pass in traffic. But once Robinson cleans that up, that will take his offensive role to another level from just a lob or putback threat, opening up more space for the Knicks’ offense.

“I could feel myself getting in condition better like I’m running a lot. I think I still have to get stable and catch the ball like kind of messing a couple of passes but other than that, I feel like it’s working out great,” he said.

He added he’s past halfway to getting back to his old form before he went down with a broken hand and foot that sidelined him for eight months.

“It’s right there. I think I have to push a little bit more,” he said.

Thibodeau earlier demoted Robinson to the bench to work his way into game shape. But a week ago, he was reinserted to the starting lineup after Nerlens Noel contracted the COVID-19 virus. Robinson hasn’t looked back since his return to the starting unit.

With the league reducing the isolation protocols from 10 to six days, Noel will likely be back with the team sometime this week. While his play lately deserves a starting spot, Robinson has no qualms if Noel returns and retakes the starting job.

“If I start, I start. If I don’t, I don’t. I’m still coming with the same energy,” Robinson said. “You have your ups and downs so pretty much I’m just going to stay solid.”

Robinson’s current play is worth more than his $1.8 million salary during the last year of his rookie-scale contract. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent. But the Knicks can lock him up to an extension between now and the eve of next summer’s free agency. A four-year, $54-million contract extension is the maximum the Knicks could offer.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks: Is Fred VanVleet worth $22M per year?

New York Knicks, Fred Van Fleet

A big market bereft of a star point guard, the New York Knicks have everything except winning to lure one, whether in the free-agent market or via trade.

With a proven coach in Tom Thibodeau and a huge cap space, the Knicks are ready to make a big splash. The 22-million dollar question now is will Fred VanVleet be worth it?

One day after Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star point guard Chris Paul was linked to New York, a new rumor has emerged: the Knicks are expected to offer VanVleet a huge payday worth $22 million in annual salary.

VanVleet is coming off a career season as he continued his stellar rise since popping into NBA consciousness during the Toronto Raptors’ title run last year. As a full-time starter this season, the undrafted guard from Wichita State has averaged 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.9 steals, all career-highs. He shot just a shade under 40 percent from the deep. He’s also led the league in deflections with 4.2 per game, making him a coveted two-way player at the backcourt.

While the 26-year old guard has limitations, as shown in the Boston Celtics series, his basketball peak is still ahead of him.  He could come in right away as the no.1 option in a reconstructed Knicks offense or could go no.2 behind RJ Barrett.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported earlier that league executives believe that Malcolm Brogdon’s four-year, 85-million deal he got last summer will set the market for VanVleet.  And that’s within the range of the Knicks’ rumored offer.

But in an event that other top-tier free agents like Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis, Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz’s Mike Conley opting in, and New Orleans Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram re-signing, VanVleet could emerge as the top free agent in the market thereby setting up a bidding war for his services.

Back in December, when the NBA market was still healthy, ESPN’s Bobby Marks said that VanVleet was valued by one team between $25-$30 million per season.

“One team told me last week that they think he’s going to get between $25 million and $30 million per season,” said Marks on The Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective Podcast.

Should it become a full-blown bidding war, the Knicks have the most money to spend. But they are going to face competition against the Detroit Pistons, who, like them, have the cap space and coach Dwane Casey, VanVleet’s former coach in Toronto. The Phoenix Suns, who have emerged as one of the rising powers in the West, will also be in the mix while the Raptors can offer him not only the nostalgia of their historic title run but also the winning stability under Masai Ujiri’s leadership.

Online sportsbooks have the Raptors as the favorite to retain VanVleet’s services with -250 odds.  Any other team has +170 odds of landing him in the offseason.

One NBA agent who I spoke with believes VanVleet would stay in Toronto.

“I’d say no (on VanVleet coming to New York). I think Toronto keeps him,” the NBA agent told Empire Sports Media.

According to The Athletic’s Blake Murphy, there’s a scenario wherein the Raptors can sign VanVleet to a staggered four-year, $70-million deal while maintaining their cap flexibility for 2021.  It remains to be seen if VanVleet is willing to run it back with the Raptors on a discount, or he’ll bet on himself and go where the money is regardless of the situation.

“I’m a free agent, so I think about it every day. Basketball is pretty easy for me, so I can separate that when I’m on the court. It doesn’t affect the way I play, or the way I approach my professionalism every day. But, sure, Coronavirus gave me a new perspective on life and I’d like to think I already had a good perspective, but definitely put things in perspective,” said VanVleet after losing the series to the Celtics.

“So I’ll wait and see how free agency plays out, but at the end of the day, I’m not writing a cheque to myself, so I’ve just gotta wait and see what happens, and I’ll feel better about the year that I had. I wish it would have ended with a championship, but that didn’t happen for us,” he added. 
VanVleet waited for so long for this big moment to arrive.  It took him long years to rise from being undrafted to a marquee free agent, but he’s also one bad decision away from falling hard.
The Knicks can aggressively go after him, but sometimes making a splash on a marquee free agent without a solid team in place could make unwarranted expectations and make such a contract an albatross.
VanVleet and the Knicks have big decisions to make.

New York Knicks ‘all in’ on Fred VanVleet this offseason (Report)

The New York Knicks could have upwards of $40 million in cap space this offseason, which heavily depends on what they do with the 2020-21 team options they hold on multiple players. A soon-to-be free agent who has been linked and has yet again been connected to the Knicks is Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet.

According to Jonathan Macri of Knicks Film School, some members of the Knicks front office are “all in” on signing VanVleet.

According to a league source with knowledge of the Knicks thinking, some members of New York’s front office are “all in” on VanVleet as a free agent target, feeling that he is the best available player on the market. Despite speculation that the front office is not looking to add any long term money to the books, the source said they are planning on being involved in the sweepstakes for the combo guard this October.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Monday that the Knicks are one of a handful of teams expected to pursue the guard this offseason.

VanVleet is in his first year as a full-time starter. Across 54 regular season games he averaged 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 41.3 percent from the field and 39.0 percent from beyond the arc.

The Wichita State product averaged 21.3 points, 7.8 assists, four rebounds and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 52.7 percent from the field and 55.9 percent from beyond the arc in the Raptors’ first-round series sweep of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Knicks’ point guard depth chart includes 22-year-olds Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. and the recently acquired Jared Harper, who spent most of the 2019-20 season in the NBA G-League. Veteran Elfrid Payton has an $8 million team option for the 2020-21 NBA season.

The Knicks own three draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft: their own first and second rounder (8, 38) and the Los Angeles Clippers’ first rounder (27).

Why the New York Knicks should pursue Fred VanVleet

New York Knicks, Fred Van Fleet

The New York Knicks are in for a big offseason.

In the meantime, the Knicks are still looking for a new head coach, and are looking to add some talent to the roster. For example, Fred VanVleet can be a perfect addition to the team — he is a free agent this summer. If the Knicks sign VanVleet, they won’t have to worry about the point guard positions for a while. Why? Because VanVleet has proven to the world that he can be a great point guard, and also be a team leader. Ultimately, he did all of this with Toronto last year and won a championship.

VanVleet isn’t afraid of the big stage

Fred VanVleet has made a name for himself over the past two seasons, especially when the Raptors made the finals. To emphasize, VanVleet had the daunting task of guarding Steph Curry, the best point guard in the league.

As you can see, VanVleet isn’t afraid of anyone. He played Curry extremely well in the finals. Also, VanVleet hit some clutch shots in the finals and in the eastern conference finals too. I like the way he plays, he’s a scrappy player who is willing to do the dirty work. Also, he isn’t afraid of shooting the ball and catching defenders off guard with a crossover. Overall, I think VanVleet could handle the MSG crowd and the fans. I think he’s made for New York.

Fred had his best offensive performance in 2019, posting 17.6 points per game over 48 contests. In addition, he averaged 6.6 assists per game.

What VanVleet will do for the Knicks

If the Knicks can sign VanVleet this offseason, I think he can change the culture of Knicks Basketball. In Toronto, he was a  motivator and a vocal player which is something the Knicks need. A good point guard often has intangible traits that point toward leadership and control. The Knicks don’t have someone like that. Overall, if the Knicks don’t draft a point guard, they seriously should sign VanVleet. Notably, VanVleet has playoff and NBA finals experience. The Knicks need to make a change to this team and fast. Why not start with singing Fred VanVleet?

Brooklyn Nets: Why the Media Continues to Breakdown KD to Nets Decision

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

If you are a Brooklyn Nets fan in the Tri-state area, you are most likely in the minority. The majority of people in Manhattan are Knicks fans. Even the majority of people in their 20s in New Jersey are Knicks fans since many of their parents were Knicks fans, and many former NJ Nets fans swore off the franchise after their move to Brooklyn. It is 100% a fact that MSG is the Mecca of basketball and the Knicks are a more popular franchise, both now and historically than the Brooklyn/NJ Nets. These facts make it extremely difficult for Knicks fans and the NYC media to fully accept Durant’s choice to play for the Nets over the Knicks.

It has been close to 10 months since Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s announcement to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. While this shocked the entire NBA community, it had a lasting effect on New York Knicks fans and the local NYC sports media. Reasons were spun as to why KD chose the lesser popular franchise of the two; Durant and Irving couldn’t handle the spotlight at MSG, they didn’t want to take on the Knicks challenge, Kevin Durant is too sensitive, the list goes on. At the time, this was all conjecture as to why the Knicks whiffed on superstars (again). With all the information we know now, let’s break down the practical reasons as to why Durant might have chosen Brooklyn over NYC.

3 Reasons Justifying Durant’s Decision to Sign with Nets

The Ineptitude of the New York Knicks

In a recent interview with The Athletic, former Brooklyn Net Jared Dudley said that “if the Knicks are run halfway decent, they get KD and Kyrie. Like, (the Nets) literally had to do everything right and they got them.” (full article here) Dudley’s simplistic explanation makes perfect sense on the surface; the Nets, in the past 2-3 years, have been a better run organization than the Knicks. Coming off a surprising 2018-19 playoff appearance, the Nets appeared to be on the rise and growing a winning culture. The Knicks were coming off one of their worst seasons in franchise history, with no real leadership, both on the court and in the front office. Many Knicks fans will argue that no matter how messed up the front office is, the aura of the Knicks is still greater than 95% of other franchises in the NBA, but this decision proved that just being “the Knicks” will not bring in superstar level talent.

Kyrie Made the Decision (for KD) To Play in Brooklyn

Weeks before the decision, a report came out that James Dolan and the Knicks would not be interested in just retaining the services of Kyrie Irving, but would only want to bring him in if Durant joined. There were never any reports from the Nets claiming to be unhappy if they just signed Kyrie. Many feel this led to Irving’s dismissal of the Knicks and ultimately persuaded him to sign with Brooklyn. The media also felt that, because of Durant’s quiet disposition in the off-season, that Kyrie was the real decision-maker in the process. This assumption seems misguided since Durant is the more accomplished player out of the two. I believe he had had just as much of a desire to play in Brooklyn as Irving did, and he wouldn’t allow another player to make such a significant decision for him.

Durant’s Achilles Injury in 2018/19 Finals

According to Ian Begley of SNY, “some people in touch with the Knicks said members of the organization expressed confidence that Durant would have signed with New York if he hadn’t suffered the Achilles injury in the NBA Finals.” (full article here) What has never been explained, is how did the injury completely change his decision on where to sign? The Nets have boasted one of the better training and medical staffs in the league, so obviously from that standpoint, it makes sense a player coming off a serious Achilles injury would choose Brooklyn. But as to why members in the Knicks organization felt so confident Durant would have signed with NYK barring his injury, my question is why? How did they know that? The Nets had a roster that was much closer to championship aspirations than the Knicks did.

Final Verdict

There are several other reasons one can list to justify Durant’s decision, including Deandre Jordan’s negative experience with the Knicks, and eventual signing with Brooklyn shortly after KD and Kyrie made their announcement. Durant has expressed publicly that he did not give the Knicks much consideration in free agency and I find this to be the toughest pill for the New York media and Knicks fans to swallow, as stories continue to arise that support the contrary. At the end of the day, only Kevin Durant knows the real reasons as to why he chose to play for the Nets fans instead of the Knicks. And if you are Leon Rose and the Knicks, you have to ask yourself, how do we prevent this from happening again in the future?

Follow @firesidenets on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your latest Brooklyn Nets news and listen to the Fireside Nets w/ Spen & Nick podcast!

New York Knicks: And the final roster spot goes to…

The New York Knicks are still looking for the 15th man to round out their roster.  There have been rumbles of a few names being tossed around for this coveted spot.

The two players that have been connected to the Knicks the most have been Lance Thomas and Vince Carter.

The Knicks did not re-sign Thomas after last season, but are still throwing around the idea of bringing him back.  Thomas averaged 4.5 points a game and 2.5 rebounds last season.  He was suppose to take over the leadership role last season, giving the veteran presence but it seemed like that fell by the waist-side after the first few weeks of the season.

Carter, 42, is the oldest player in the league and entering his final season in the NBA.  He would be a better addition to add to this young Knicks roster.  Carter would be able to bring more veteran leadership to the Knicks.  He would be able to tutor these guys and give them valuable mentor-ship, similar to what DeAndre Jordan did for Mitchell Robinson.

Thomas tried to be that guy last season.  Carter would be the better fit for this team.  While he would not bring that offensively or defensively, it would be the tutelage that would be the main reason the Knicks bring him in.  What a better send off for a remarkable career then to end it in the Mecca.

New York Knicks: Melo deserves more credit

New York Knicks, Carmelo Anthony

The New York Knicks missed out on all of the top players in this year’s free agency.  Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving decided to team up for the Brooklyn Nets.  Kemba Walker went to Boston, Klay stayed in Golden State etc.

However, there was one players that did not shy away from trying to resurrect the New York Knicks.

Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony wanted to play for the Knicks, similar to newest Knick RJ Barrett.  Melo wanted to be the guy that came into New York and bring the team out of basketball purgatory.  To be honest, that takes some balls.

Anthony had to have some tough skin to come into New York and take all of the crap that he did.  Some will say that the Knicks eventually tried to run Anthony out of town and you would not be wrong.  The end was sad.

But, looking back on Melo’s Knicks career, take it for what it’s was worth.  So, have an open minded and just think that Anthony was the one who took the torch and tried to become a Knicks legend.  Whoever is able to come to New York, whether that be through the draft or trade, and bring the Knicks back to being a competitive team will be adored by the city.

Anthony was not afraid to take on that task.  He was able to bring the Knicks to the playoffs and win a series, which might as well have been the NBA championship.  Melo can be considered a legend for that.

Did Durant and Irving try to become Knicks legends?  Nope.  When you win for the Knicks you are an icon.  Melo was the only guy with the will and determination to be that player.

Although, while the end of his Knicks tenure was not the best, Anthony did what no other player has been willing to do in recent memory.  Will there ever be another superstar to come and try to do what Melo tried to do?  Only time will tell.

New York Knicks free agency update

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Former New York Knicks center Enes Kanter sees Kevin Durant playing in New York.  However, Kanter believes it will not be for the Knicks, but for the Brooklyn Nets with Kyrie Irving.

Kanter was on the The Herd with Colin Cowherd yesterday.  Kanter basically said that Durant will not be able to handle the harsh New York media.  He then expressed how much he loved New York and all that jazz.

Durant declined his 31.5 million dollar player option on Wednesday, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Irving was also in New York apparently looking for apartments.  Reports have surfaced that Irving likes the Nets ‘infrastructure’ as he struggled with that in Boston.  Him and Durant also met, allegedly, to discuss their future playing together.

The Knicks still have a very good chance at signing Durant.  Take this how you will, but Durant was in New York for his surgery and was seen around the city.

All signs appear to have Irving signing with the Nets and Durant is still a question mark.  Then Ice Cube came out and gave his two cents on the Durant/Irving free agency saying, ‘they might as well go to the Knicks. Go do it. Make history’.

Rumors will be circulating big time over the next free days.  Fans will speculate until they are blue in the face.  But, to be honest, we really do not know what is going on.  Durant & Irving can land with the Knicks, Nets or someone else.  We simply do not know.

Expect some early fireworks Sunday night and hope it is displaying blue and orange colors.

Kawhi Leonard coming to the New York Knicks is still a pipe dream

New York Knicks to pursue Kawhi Leonard.

The New York Knicks will get a chance to meet with Kawhi Leonard.  The Finals MVP has recently opted out of his contract with the Toronto Raptors.

Leonard has left 21.3 million dollars on the table for next year.  However, he is still ‘considering’ returning to the Raptors.

The Knicks will get an opportunity to meet with Leonard.  There have been reports that the Knicks will ‘aggressively’ pursue this off-season.  While fans remain optimistic, the chances of the Knicks landing Kawhi is slim.

It may even be the biggest pipe dream that the Knicks have had in a while.

Why would Kawhi want to come to the Knicks?  Despite being the mecca of basketball and the biggest stage, the Knicks are not appealing for Kawhi.

The team is rebuilding and far from contending for a championship.  Kawhi just won a NBA Title and Finals MVP.   He is in a good position to continue winning for the rest of his career, whether that is in Toronto or elsewhere.

The Knicks are also in a good position, but what Kawhi is looking for.  Their young talent is still growing, feeling out the NBA and learning to play together.  Kawhi is not interested in that.

The Knicks do have the most cap space in the NBA, 71 million, but money is not everything.  Competing and winning is more.

Leonard will either re-sign with the Raptors or go home to California, playing for the Los Angeles Clippers.

While it all sounds good that the Knicks will ‘aggressively’ go after Kawhi, we have to be realists.  The reality is that he is not choosing the Knicks.  He is not going from the best team to the worst team.  Fans should be happy that the franchise is even getting a chance to pitch Leonard.

The New York Knicks do not have a chance to sign Leonard.

New York Knicks off-season rumor hub

New York Knicks, James Dolan

This off-season has already took a bad turn for the New York Knicks.  Kevin Durant’s Achilles injury started the train going off the tracks.

However, despite was fans may want, the Knicks are still going to pursue Durant.  That 4 year max contract will now be a 3 year contract since he’ll miss all next season rehabbing, if he comes to New York.

All signs point to Kyrie Irving signing with the Brooklyn Nets.  Rumors were circulating that Irving was trying to recruit Durant to the Nets.  The Nets are one of the 4 teams that will purse Durant, others being the Knicks, Lakers and Clippers.

To be honest, no one really knows what Irving is thinking.  He might be able to co-exist with D’Angelo Russell.  It is Russell’s team and Irving will put up a pity party again, the same way he did with the Celtics.  The Knicks are still intending on going after Irving and Kemba Walker, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Irving also parted with his agent and is expected to sign with ROC Nation, who has connections with the Nets and Durant.  So, take that as you will.

The Knicks appear to be out of the running for Anthony Davis.  The leaders in the clubhouse seem to be the Lakers and Celtics.  However, Davis’ agent Rich Paul mentioned that Davis will not sign long-term with Boston.

Expect more rumors about Davis to come out today and tomorrow, but the Knicks most likely will not be involved.

The Knicks are also rumored to be “aggressively” going to pursue Raptors Kawhi Leonard.  Leonard to the Knicks is a total pipe dream.  There is no way that Leonard even considers the Knicks.  Leonard is currently on the best team in the East.  Why would be go to the worst team?  Unless, he works something out with other superstars.  Leonard will re-sign with Toronto or go to the Clippers.  Fans should not think that Leonard is actually a realistic option for the Knicks.