Vildoza, Jokubaitis make Knicks debut as last guaranteed spot still up for grabs

With rookies Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride signing their rookie contracts Friday, the New York Knicks have now filled 14 guaranteed spots in their roster.

The NBA Summer League in Las Vegas could prove to be the battleground for the last remaining roster spot between two Euroleague guards.

Luca Vildoza arrived in Sin City Friday night, still feeling the effects of jetlag. While Rokas Jokubaitis, the Lithuanian guard, who models his game after Goran Dragic, reportedly looked impressive in practice.

Both Euroleague players will be essentially fighting for that 15th spot in the Knicks roster.

“I’m trying to work hard. I’m trying to show myself. I’m trying to get better every day. I just want to show who I am,” Vildoza told reporters Saturday in his first media availability since the Knicks brought him for a partially guaranteed four-year deal last May. “If after that, I can’t get with the team, that’s okay. At least I gave everything.”

The Knicks have until the opening night of next season to guarantee Vildoza’s salary.

Vildoza is coming off a lackluster play in the Tokyo Olympics, where Argentina could only show one win in four games and got trashed in the quarterfinals.

“To be honest, we didn’t play as we know it. We played terrible. To be honest, I was missing a lot of shots I usually don’t miss. I was without confidence. Now, I’m trying to get back to where it was,” Vildoza said.

The 25-year old Argentine guard averaged 7.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.3 steal playing behind Facundo Campazzo and Nico Laprovíttola. His shot looked shaky, converting only 31 percent from the floor and just 3 of 18 3s.

On the other hand, Jokubaitis has recently signed a four-year deal with Barcelona with an NBA escape clause. He was initially expected to be a draft-and-stash prospect. But the 36th overall pick isn’t discounting the possibility that he could come right away if he plays outstanding basketball in the NBA Summer League.

“Right now the plan is to go to Europe, but you never know in basketball because basketball is a sport where anything can happen,” Jokubaitis said during his zoom call Thursday in Las Vegas.

The 6-foot-4 Jokubaitis has secured clearance from Barcelona to play three Summer League games. He averaged 7.0 points and 2.5 assists in 31 Euroleague games last season for his Lithuanian club Zalgiris.

Vildoza joined his first practice with the Knicks Summer League team Saturday. He said he will be ready if ever he gets playing time when the Knicks open their campaign against fourth overall pick Scottie Barnes and the Toronto Raptors Sunday at 4:30 pm ET (ESPN2).

“It was actually very tough. I was trying to figure out the sets. In Europe, I usually play similar sets. I think I’m gonna get into the team as I know. But I was tired, to be honest. I didn’t sleep very well last night. The jetlag was very tough,” Vildoza said of his first practice with the Knicks. “But I am okay today (Saturday). I’m really happy to be here. That’s the only thing that matters.”

Vildoza is the flashy guard who is a streaky shooter, while Jokubaitis said he brings calmness and acts like a second coach on the floor.

Both Euroleague players are eager to prove themselves worthy of a spot. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Las Vegas.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Brooklyn Nets V Milwaukee Bucks Game 5 ticket prices down with Kyrie Irving OUT

kyrie irving, brooklyn nets

The Brooklyn Nets are preparing to take on the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 in Brooklyn on Tuesday evening, but star point guard Kyrie Irving will sit out with an ankle injury.

With the series tied at two apiece, Brooklyn will have to rely on  Kevin Durant to carry the load, a player who has proven his excellence over the past decade. Durant is more than capable of carrying the team in the absence of Irving and Harden, but any more injuries could stir a bit of trouble for a team that lost a two-win lead in the series over the weekend.

Reserve PGs, Mike James, and Tyler Johnson, will supplement the loss of Irving, with an expected healthy dose of Landry Shamet. Of course, losing a player like Irving, who averaged 26.9 points, 6.0 assists, and shot .506 from the field during the regular season is significant.

GET YOUR CHEAP GAME 5 TICKETS HERE!

Game 5 Ticketmaster pricing data:
  • Tickets in the 200’s level start at $80.
  • Tickets in the 100’s level start at $189.
  • Tickets in the lower level start at $256.
  • VIP Seats start at $818
  • Floor Seats start at $3,579

Non-vaccinated section ONLY AVAILABLE HERE!

The prices for the game have plummeted since the beginning of last week, dropping to below $80 for the 200 levels. To enjoy the game from the lower level, tickets start at $256, and VIP seats are under $1000.

New York Jets invade metropolitan postseason proceedings

New York Jets, Joe Douglas

The New York Jets proved to be good luck charms for fellow metropolitan professionals competing in the weekend’s postseason fare.

The New York Jets need some help in toppling a New England-based opponent, having dropped ten consecutive contests against the Patriots. Fortunately, the team was able to do conduct some offseason research over the weekend.

The respective championship quests of both the Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders enjoyed a bit of a boost with Jets players in attendance on Saturday night. Each team is in the second round of their league’s postseason proceedings and both of them have had to deal with opponents of Massachusetts origins.

Offensive representatives once again descended upon Nassau Coliseum to watch the Islanders’ 4-1 triumph over the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of the NHL’s East Division title series, knotting the best-of-seven series at two games apiece. Much like their prior visit to Uniondale, offensive lineman Dan Feeney stole the show by celebrating Islander goals by raucously finishing off his beer.

Feeney was joined by several of his new offensive teammates, including fellow metropolitan newcomers Zach Wilson and Michael Carter. The scorers were once again clad in customized Islander jerseys bearing the names and numerals they’ll wear on the gridiron.

The players appear to be far more effective talismans for an Islanders team seeking its first Stanley Cup hoist since 1983; head coach Robert Saleh took in Game 3 of the series on Thursday night, but Boston prevailed in a 2-1 overtime decision.

An hour away in Brooklyn, Joe Douglas was on the scene for the Nets’ second-round opener against the Milwaukee Bucks. The showdown against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. was set up through a 4-1 series victory over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference’s quarterfinal round.

Jets/Nets fan @jaregss and his group were lucky enough to snap a photo with Douglas on their way out of the arena, with the Jets’ general manager clad in a shirt paying tribute to renowned wrestler Bret “Hitman” Hart. Many Nets fans, hungry for their first NBA title, were more than happy to welcome the Jets’ general manager to the cause.

Brooklyn dealt an appropriate blow to the Bucks in the first game of the series, as they overcame the medically-induced absence of James Harden to earn a 115-107 victory.

The Jets’ new friends both return to postseason action on Monday night. The Islanders ship back to Boston for a pivotal fifth game in the quarterfinal round (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) while the Nets look to take a two-game lead in the Borough of Churches (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The Brooklyn Nets enjoyed a dominant regular season, but the postseason offers a different beast

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

The Brooklyn Nets have been smoking hot this year. Roaring to life this season and setting the league on fire with their explosive superstars, the Nets have flat-out dominated teams with their offensive fortitude and have not slowed down. Despite having one of the most inconsistent starting lineups throughout the season due to injuries, mid-season trades, and personal, off-court circumstances, the Nets still managed to somehow muster a stellar 48-24 record on the season, clinching second overall in the East to secure a big playoff berth.

But what remains to be so impressive about the success of this team is how it has been executed through not only their core big three but also from their various different role-players as well. To see returning superstar Kevin Durant average a deadly stat line of 26.9 ppg, with 6.7 rpg and 5.6 apg in 35 games played, from Kyrie Irving becoming only the 9th player in NBA history to achieve a ‘50/40/90’ shooting performance on the season, to Joe Harris who shot 50.5% from the field and 47.5% from 3-PT range in 69 games, to Jeff Green’s, Bruce Brown’s and Landry Shamet’s ability to do all the little things this team needs on the floor, the Nets found various ways to win throughout the entire season, using just about everyone on their roster to achieve that goal.

However, despite all the success this team has accomplished under first-year head coach Steve Nash, the biggest, lingering obstacle left for the Nets to hurdle, comes down to how they are able to translate their seasonal success into the playoffs. Playoff basketball is gritty and intense, where not only do you face some of the best teams and players in the NBA, but you face them 4-7 games straight per round, home and away. And that level of flawless basketball that teams need to produce in order to win becomes that much harder to execute on a daily basis, especially when up against strong defensive teams who know what to watch for and adjust to after playing their opponent a couple of times in a row.

Although the Nets have great experience and talent all over their team, there are three major factors they will need to surmount if they want a chance to make their first Finals appearance in 18 years. And considering the severity and magnitude of these hurdles, it seems unlikely that the Nets will be able to get past the Eastern Conference Finals and could potentially come up short in the Semifinals. Though the Nets have proven that nothing is impossible, overcoming all of these challenges in the playoffs is simply far too grand and difficult of a feat, even for a team that’s as strong as the Nets. Without further ado, here are the three major concerns the Nets face in the playoffs:

3. Lack Of Chemistry Between Big Three: Though injuries are hard to avoid, lack of chemistry is a presiding reality with the Nets big three that could prove to be very costly during the playoffs. Playing a total of eight games together during the regular season along with two playoff games under their belts so far, Durant, Irving, and James Harden have not played a whole lot together, which has hindered their ability to garner a resilient chemistry level between the three of them. This might not be so problematic for a big three-unit that has a greater role-playing presence than the Nets do. But because the Nets have three mega scorers and ball-possession-oriented superstars, the balance between the need to score and unselfish play amongst each other is vital for them to strengthen and maintain, which doesn’t seem realistic to achieve during such a small window of time. Naturally, this concern will only get better with more playing time together, particularly since starters tend to play significantly bigger minutes during the postseason as well. However, great chemistry is developed with time, and this big three has not gotten much of that. Just take a look at the Miami Heat when they assembled their big three; they played a lot more games together and still came up short in the Finals back in 2011. Same thing with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big three prior to winning their first championship in 2016; they didn’t win their first title with their big three until a year after they all joined the same team. If none of these epic franchises could muster a title in their first seasons with their respective big threes, it’s hard to envision that being any different with the Nets this season.

2. Poor Defense: Quite frankly, this is debatably the biggest issue for the Nets. Outside of Durant, Harris, Green, Brown, and Nicholas Claxton, the Nets don’t have anyone else who really plays good perimeter or interior defense, and it showed all season. Finishing the year in 21st overall in points allowed with a hefty total of 114.1 per game, the Nets also allowed their opponents to shoot just about 46% from the field and over 35% from the 3-PT line (ESPN). Though DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin do provide decent support inside, playing behind guards like Irving and Harden is a very difficult task, considering how often both guards struggle with keeping their opponents in front of them. Achieving regular-season success with a defense as poor as this is one thing. But when it comes to the playoffs, more or less the Finals, defense is what wins games, and the Nets don’t have much to show for on that front. If they come across teams like the 76ers, the Bucks, and even the Hawks or Knicks, the Nets are going to have to figure out how they not only can outscore their opponents every night but, in the process, will have to do so against some of the best defenses and defensive players in the league. And even for a big three as good as this one, that’s a huge challenge and a lot of pressure to take on every time they step on the court.

1. Tough Eastern Conference Opponents: You would think this wouldn’t be a major concern for the Nets, considering they are the second overall seed in the Eastern Conference. But, believe it or not, the Nets have a handful of opponents that could thwart their run to the Finals. If all goes well against the Celtics, the Nets would be in line to face the winner of the Miami Heat/Milwaukee Bucks series. With Miami down 3-0, it appears that the Nets will be in line to face the Bucks, which is a very concerning matchup. Losing back-to-back games against Milwaukee towards the end of the season, the Bucks have an offense that is debatably just as good as the Nets and was number one in points per game this season (ESPN). In addition, they also have much better defensive players in guys like Giannis Antetokoumpo, Jrue Holiday, P.J. Tucker, Brook Lopez, and Khris Middleton. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. If the Nets manage to get past the Bucks, there’s a very good chance they’ll be in line to face the 76ers, a nightmare matchup for any team. Possessing the deepest, most complete and well-rounded lineup in the NBA, the 76ers simply have it all. From an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, to a defensive player of the year candidate in Ben Simmons, to then an outstanding two-way threat in Tobias Harris, along with 3-PT snipers in Seth Curry, Danny Green, and Furkan Korkmaz, the Nets really don’t have an answer against this team. If the Knicks or the Hawks perchance make it past the 76ers, the Nets will certainly have better odds to make their first Finals appearance. But even then, both the Hawks and Knicks bring the offensive skill and defensive fortitude to overthrow the Nets, presenting Brooklyn with a difficult finish either way.

In short, there’s a lot that has to go right for the Nets to make it to the Finals this year, more or less win their first title. With a chemistry level that lacks the essence of time and a defensive scheme that desperately needs toughness and better skill both inside and out, the Nets will have a hard time surpassing deeper and stouter teams within their own conference and certainly want to avoid a long series with both the Bucks and the 76ers. If they somehow survive against the Bucks and avoid the 76ers, the Nets potentially have a shot at making a Finals appearance. However, despite all their success this season, the magnitude of these core concerns are far too large and imposing for the Nets to fix during the stretch of the postseason. And an early exit in the playoffs seems inevitable.

Indefinite ban meted on Knicks fan for spitting on Hawks’ star Trae Young

trae young, knicks, hawks

A New York Knicks fan has been banned indefinitely from watching at the Madison Square Garden after he was caught on TV spitting on Atlanta Hawks’ star Trae Young.

The Knicks apologized to Young and the Hawks organization for the unfortunate incident that transpired with 8:34 left in Game 2 on Wednesday night.

“We investigated the matter and determined that this patron, who is not a season ticket holder, did indeed spit on Trae Young, and for that reason, he is now banned from The Garden indefinitely. We apologize to Trae and the entire Atlanta Hawks organization for this fan’s behavior. This was completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our venue. We have turned the information over to the appropriate authorities,” the team said in a statement released on Thursday.

Young’s father went to Twitter to call the attention of the league and the Knicks on the incident.

It was the second incident on Wednesday night involving a fan attacking a player. A Philadelphia 76ers fan was also banned indefinitely for throwing popcorn on Russell Westbrook while he was on his way to the locker room.

The NBA immediately released a statement on Thursday to address the two separate incidents.

“The return of more NBA fans to our arenas has brought great excitement and energy to the start of the playoffs, but it is critical that we all show respect for players, officials, and our fellow fans. An enhanced fan code of conduct will be vigorously enforced in order to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all involved,” the league said in a statement.

The NBA Fan Code of Conduct is as follows:

  • Players and fans respect and appreciate each other.
  • Guests will be treated in a professional and courteous manner by all arena and team personnel.
  • Guests will enjoy the basketball experience free from disruptive behavior, including foul or abusive language and obscene gestures.
  • Guests will consume alcoholic beverages in a responsible manner. Intervention with an impaired, intoxicated, or underage guest will be handled in a prompt and safe manner.
  • Guests will sit only in their ticketed seats and show their tickets when requested.
  • Guests who engage in fighting, throwing objects, or attempting to enter the court will be immediately ejected from the arena.
  • Guests will smoke in designated smoking areas only.
  • Obscene or indecent messages on signs or clothing will not be permitted.
  • Guests will comply with requests from arena staff regarding arena operations and emergency response procedures.
  • Guests will comply with all COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
  • List of prohibited items at NBA arenas can be found here.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Why the Knicks were winners at the trade deadline

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The NBA trade deadline officially came and went Thursday, and it certainly did not disappoint as there was a record amount of activity around the league, according to ESPN’s Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski:

Despite all these trades, the New York Knicks stayed relatively quiet during the trade deadline. They were involved in one minor three-team trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers that sent veteran point guard George Hill to Philadelphia. The Knicks parted ways with guard Austin Rivers, who was sent to Oklahoma City, and forward Ignas Brazdeikis, who was sent to Philadelphia, in exchange for guard Terrance Ferguson, 7-foot big man Vincent Poirier, and a pair of second-round picks.

Both players should not make much of an impact with the team and probably will rarely even seen the court barring injuries. It has also been reported by Wojnarowski that the Knicks are planning to waive Poirier, so that means they will have an open roster spot they need to fill.

So, all in all, it was a quiet trade deadline for the Knicks. They were interested in a number of players and even made offers to a few, but in the end, the asking prices were too much, and the front office did not want to ruin the strong chemistry of the current group.

Some Knicks fans are upset the team did not make more moves and felt like this was a missed opportunity to gain assets at the very least. I’m here to tell you why the approach that the team took is not a bad one and why they should be considered winners despite their lack of activity.

What has been one of the biggest reasons for the agony and pain that being a Knicks fan has come with for the better part of the last 20 years? It’s that the Knicks too often get desperate and throw away all their assets for a quick fix that ends up not fixing much of anything. Now, I’m not saying the Knicks were in position to make a move that big during this trade deadline, but apparently, teams were asking a lot for the players the Knicks were interested in acquiring.

The fact that the front office showed discipline and patience and did not rush to make any irrational decisions out of desperation is a huge positive. Who’s to say that the previous regimes would have done the same thing? Because history says otherwise. They were more likely to (over)pay up and sacrifice key parts of the future in order to bring in a guy who they think would take the team to the next level when really it ends up setting the team back. Knicks fans should be thrilled that the team has a front office in place that finally seems to get it.

Another reason to be satisfied with the Knicks’ approach is because of a fact I pointed out earlier, which is that they maintained the chemistry of the current rotation. There is no doubt that this team’s chemistry is at an all-time high, as they play hard, unselfish basketball every game and play for each other. We see the camaraderie and positive relationships that the players have with one another time and time again. It is clear that this group enjoys being around each other, and that is translating to winning basketball being played on the court.

Disrupting that by making a trade to acquire a star player could’ve negatively affected that chemistry in a big way, and it could’ve had real consequences on the court as well. That’s not to say the Knicks are set to win a championship with their current roster, but they are having fun and are very much in the playoff hunt, so why would you want to risk jeopardizing that? This season was supposed to be about establishing a culture and developing the young guys anyway, so continue to focus on that while seeing if you can get into the playoffs, then in the offseason, you can worry about plugging holes and improving the roster.

And finally, I understand the argument that the Knicks did not take advantage of their resources and add enough assets at the deadline. That is true, and it is the one area where I would’ve liked to see them maybe be more involved in, as they could have taken on bad contracts for young players and/or more draft picks. But the fact that they didn’t is not the end of the world. The Knicks did add a pair of second-round picks, which is something, but this wasn’t the only chance they had to add assets.

The Knicks will be entering this offseason with loads of cap space, and as usual, there will be plenty of teams looking to get out of bad contracts. The Knicks will have lots more opportunities to gain assets over the summer if they so choose. Plus, if they brought in a guy before the deadline, once again, they would’ve had to worry about fitting them into the rotation somehow.

This trade deadline may have been disappointing for some Knicks fans who wanted to see a guy like Lonzo Ball in orange and blue, but take a deep breath and focus on the big picture. I wanted Ball too, but he didn’t get traded to any team, so that means he’ll be very much in play this offseason since we know he’s unlikely to re-sign with New Orleans. The Knicks won’t have to give up assets for him either, since he’ll be a restricted free agent.

So relax, my fellow Knicks fans. We finally have a competent front office and a fun and surprisingly good team to root for this season. Let’s ride them out the rest of the way and see if they can make the playoffs. Enjoy it. Cherish it. Take it all in. And then we’ll worry about improving the team over the summer.

Why the Knicks should acquire Eric Bledsoe from the Pelicans

eric bledsoe, new york knicks

I don’t think Eric Bledsoe necessarily makes the Knicks much better. He’s a score-first guard, averaging only 5.1 assists per game, but there’s a caveat with Bledsoe. According to Ian Begley, the Pelicans are willing to attach a first-round pick to move off of his contract, and they have spoken to the Knicks about this. Anytime there’s a big contract that involves getting picks alongside it, the Knicks should be all over it. They have an arsenal of picks and a good team, and Bledsoe, in spite of his struggles this year, is a solid NBA player. He’s not horrible, and the veteran point guard can make the team better while bringing them a first-round pick as well.

Assembling Picks and Assets

The Knicks aren’t going to be able to just throw cash at everyone in hopes someone comes around, they also are going to need assets to make a trade. Look at all the best teams in the league, which one of them has no stars they spent draft capital on to acquire VIA trade? Anthony Davis, James Harden, Paul George, Chris Paul, the list goes on and on. The Knicks need to be ready with picks to deal for a star if they hope to build a championship team of their own. They have Randle and Barrett, but they’re gonna need more than that to win. Eric Bledsoe’s remaining three years are a small price to pay for a pick when you consider the Knicks’ cap space.

Eric Bledsoe Could Be a Player To Buy Low On

In 2020, Bledsoe’s been subpar, no other way around it, but in his prior two seasons, he was a pretty good point guard. His stats from 2018-2019 are pretty encouraging:

57.5% TS%
33.4% 3P%
10.1 RAPTOR WAR per 2,400 Minutes Played
15.5 PPG
+4.7 On-Off

Is he an elite player? No, and that’s why the Pelicans want to sell him with a pick during his rough season. Can he be an improvement over a guy like Elfrid Payton? Yea, he’s not a great shooter, but Payton shoots 25% from 3, so I’ll take the higher percentage on nearly 3 more attempts at point guard (with a similar amount of assists) over Payton. He’s a really solid guard, and he provides better spacing and plays at the position than we have right now.

Biggest Roadblock in the Deal

If you were to acquire Bledsoe, what do you do with Payton? As many people pointed out in my Lonzo Ball article, who’s actually going to take Payton? He has to greenlight any trade, and you have to figure out where you’d play Bledsoe. RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and Derrick Rose (when he returns) should keep every minute they have now, so you have to figure out what to do with Elfrid Payton. The Knicks would have to either deal him in this trade and hope Payton greenlights a deal to his former club or try to release him. It’s a tough situation, and it’s what will be a looming question that I’ll admit I can’t answer well.

If the Knicks can figure out the Elfrid Payton ordeal and these talks for Eric Bledsoe continue, I think it’s fair to say the Knicks should 100% pounce on this opportunity and improve as a team for now and for the future.

Deciding the fate of Knicks players on the bubble ahead of the trade deadline

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

The All-Star weekend is officially in the books as teams are now fully focused on the second half of the NBA season. The New York Knicks are in a really good spot for a change, as they sit at the 5th seed in the East with a record of 19-18.

The fact that they are in the playoff race, let alone a game above .500 this late into the season, is nothing short of remarkable considering the expectations heading into this year. This is a huge testament to the work of head coach Tom Thibodeau and the rest of the coaching staff, as they have this Knicks team playing hard every night and outworking their opponents, especially on the defensive end as they currently rank second in defensive rating at 108.8.

Usually once the trade deadline rolls around Knicks fans are already scrolling through mock drafts and familiarizing themselves with prospects in the upcoming draft. The Knicks themselves are usually trying to sell guys for draft compensation or searching the bargain bin for anyone they can take a chance on.

This year is totally different, as the Knicks will probably look to be buyers over the next few weeks, and as usual, they have been connected to almost every name out there. This also means a number of guys on the team already have been connected to trade rumors as well, so we could possibly see a roster that looks significantly different once the March 25th deadline passes. With that, let’s dive into a few current Knicks who are on the bubble and see if they are likely to remain in orange and blue, or if their time as a Knick could be over rather quick (how did I do, Clyde?):

Four players the New York Knicks could decide on at the March 25 deadline: 

Austin Rivers

I really feel bad for Austin Rivers. I do. He went from being a guy who immediately cemented himself as a vocal leader on the team and had Knicks fans excited, to a guy who fell out of the rotation and hasn’t seen the court in weeks unless it’s garbage time.

That being said, Rivers has been playing very inconsistently for much of the season. He is a hot-and-cold type of player and is a very streaky shooter. It seemed that Rivers was trying to do too much when he was on the court, and he was failing to find the guys around him when they had open looks far too often.

After the Derrick Rose trade, it seemed like the writing was on the wall for Rivers. The second unit has largely performed much better with Rose, and even when Rose was out the last couple of games due to health and safety protocols Rivers still didn’t see any playing time.

Rivers can still be a valuable trade piece because of his experience, veteran presence, and team-friendly contract. There should definitely a few teams who are interested in bringing in a guy like Rivers to bolster their scoring off the bench, including the team coached by his father, who had also shown interest in him during the offseason along with the Knicks. The Knicks might be able to get themselves a second-round pick or two for Rivers if they move him, and it is all but guaranteed at this point that they will do so.

Prediction: Gone

Kevin Knox

Kevin Knox has suffered a similar fate to that of Rivers, as the 2018 ninth overall pick has also fallen out of the rotation and has only seen the court sparingly recently. In just over 15 minutes played he’s averaging only 5 points, 2 rebounds and under 1 assist per game.

Early on in the season Knox showed an improved shooting touch, particularly from behind the three-point line, although Coach Thibodeau must not have liked what he saw from him in other areas of his game and phased him out of the rotation pretty early on.

The Knicks have reportedly been shopping Knox, although they were unwilling to part ways with him in the Rose trade last month. Nevertheless, it’s likely that team president Leon Rose and the rest of the front office were looking to save Knox for a future trade down the line, and I doubt he is untouchable now by any means.

Knox still could provide some value to a team looking to take a chance on a young guy and see if they can try and unlock something that the Knicks were not able to. He could also be an attractive throw-in piece as part of a bigger trade, but no matter what the trade looks like the likelihood is that Knox’s time as a Knick is coming to an end.

Prediction: Gone

Frank Ntilikina

Ah, the beloved French Prince. A man who will forever unite and capture the hearts of Knicks fans across the globe. After his early-season injury and COVID scare, we thought Frank Ntilikina was pretty much done as a Knick as he was forced to the bench alongside Knox and Rivers once he returned. But alas, an opportunity presented itself once injuries struck, and Ntilikina was the one Thibodeau called on to step up to the plate, which shows that he trusts him.

Ntilikina has done a solid job this season overall, especially since he returned to the rotation the last few games before the All-Star break. He hasn’t lit up the scoreboard, but that’s never been his game. He’s shot the ball selectively but more efficiently this season, and he’s continued to affect the game greatly with his suffocating defense. The offense as a whole has also seemed to flow better when he’s on the court, as he’s been able to help move the ball around while doing a good job of getting his teammates involved.

Could this mean that maybe the Knicks won’t trade Frank after all? He is a free agent after this season, and it was thought that the Knicks were looking to move on from him. They could possibly look to trade him and then re-sign him in the offseason. However, the Knicks would lose his Bird Rights, and they might want to see if he continues to improve the rest of the season. He would probably be affordable to re-sign as well, which would be appealing.

This is really a toss-up, it can go either way, but I’m going to lean towards the Knicks holding onto him and the Frank Ntilikina experiment continuing… for now.

Prediction: Stay

Elfrid Payton

We now go from the most beloved Knick to the most criticized Knick. Elfrid Payton seems like a great guy and is a solid player, he just can’t catch a break with Knicks fans. He isn’t a starting point guard, and even though he hasn’t been terrible he hasn’t been great either. He’s been good getting to the basket and even in the mid-range with a strong floater game, but his inability to shoot the ball has limited what the Knicks have been able to do offensively. He’s held his own defensively as well, but he’s been underwhelming getting his teammates involved as he’s averaged a career-low 3.7 assists this season.

Fans have been calling for Derrick Rose to replace Payton as the starting point guard ever since he came on board, but Thibodeau keeps standing by Payton and it doesn’t seem like he’s planning on taking him out of the starting role. That being said, you never know with Thibodeau, and Rose has played well as the starter in the games Payton missed with a hamstring injury.

When you combine that with guards like Ntilikina and rookie phenom Immanuel Quickley coming off the bench, it makes Payton more expendable. Plus, there have been rumblings of Payton drawing some interest from other teams. But, at the end of the day, while it is possible that Payton could moved at the deadline, there has been nothing that gives off the impression that it’s likely to happen.

Prediction: Stay

New York Knicks: RJ Barrett’s offensive versatility is causing problems for opponents

New York Knicks, RJ Barrett

New York Knicks’ former third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft is emerging as one of the tougher players on the young Roster. RJ Barrett’s ability to distribute and score in a variety of ways is valuable for Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks. Reid Goldsmith, the managing editor for The Knicks Wall, tweets about RJ Barrett’s performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers during a blowout victory inside an empty Madison Square Garden. RJ Barrett’s 24-points was described as “light” by The Knicks Wall in the following tweet.

Some fans are considering RJ Barrett a hero due to his recent play. The 20-year old has improved this season on both ends of the court. Even Tom Thibodeau couldn’t hold back from giving Barrett praise for his solid play. Tom Thibodeau is running the offense through Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. This was anticipated through an article shared on Twitter last July after Tom Thibodeau’s hiring.

Intensity and toughness is what Tom Thibodeau’s teams are all about. Former Duke star Barrett knows all about those characteristics due to being the son of a former international professional basketball player Rowan Barrett Sr. The RJ Barrett and Tom Thibodeau pairing is looking like a very good match. Both have the desire and thirst for winning basketball in New York City.

Overall, the young Knicks roster is on the cusps of becoming a competitive team due to a winning head coach and hard-working personnel. The Knicks already have an identity, as they currently lead the NBA in least points scored against and opponent three-point shooting percentages. The Knicks are still improving on both ends of the court, therefore, the overall upside is still intriguing for not only this year but for the next 2-3 years as well.

Brooklyn Nets: Key observations after 3 games

Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant

The Brooklyn Nets may not be undefeated, but after going 2-1 in their first three regular-season games, Nets fans should be extremely excited about what they’ve seen thus far.  The first two games were a breeze. Their game on Sunday night against the Charlotte Hornets? Not so much. Let’s take a closer look at how the Brooklyn Nets have performed this early in the season and what they will need to do moving forward in order to win the East and potentially an NBA title.

The Good

In their first two games against Golden State and Boston, the Nets averaged 124 points while limiting their opponents to less than 100.  We can get into the offense in a minute, but their smothering defense allowed them to pull away in both games. Against Golden State, they held Steph to 7/21 from the field and held the Golden State Warriors to 30% from 3pt land and 37% from the field. The Nets shot 32 free throws compared to the Warriors 23, and the game was over by halftime. All 5 starters were a +20 or more, and the Kyrie (26 points) and KD (22 points) tandem on offense were virtually unstoppable. Caris came in and poured 20 off the bench, and every single player that saw the floor scored, with the exception of Tyler Johnson.

Against Boston, the story was much of the same. While the 1st half was much closer than the Golden State game, the Nets held Boston to just 23 points in the 3rd and 18 points in the 4th before pulling away in the 4th quarter. The Nets’ length on defense made life miserable for Jayson Tatum, who finished 9-22 from the field with 20 points. The only other two Celtics players in double figures were Jaylen Brown with 27 and Marcus Smart with 13. The Nets held the Celtics to 29% from three-point range. On offense, Kyrie and KD continued their dominance, scoring respectively 37 and 29. LeVert was the only other Net in double figures with 10, and Joe Harris finished with 9. The intensity and execution the Nets demonstrated from start to finish prompted an extremely complimentary quote from Marcus Smart, who said:

The Bad

Obviously, as talented as this Nets team is, nobody believed they would go 72-0. It was only a matter of time before they lost a game and truly showed us some of their flaws. Many just didn’t think it would come against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night. From the jump, the Nets looked a step behind and lacked the intensity they played within the first two games. The Nets had 19 turnovers compared to the Hornets 12, lost in the rebounding category by 6, and failed to score more than 30 points in any quarter. The Hornets not only out-played the Nets, but they also out-hustled them, too, getting to almost every loose ball and grabbing 13 offensive boards. The Nets were unable to slow down Hayward, who led the Hornets with 28 points going 12-30 from the field, and P.J. Washington was a nightmare on the glass, grabbing 12 rebounds to go along with 14 points. Even Kyrie’s former teammate in Boston, Terry Rozier, finished with 19 points and a highlight-reel slam dunk over Kevin Durant.

Down 16 points in the 4th quarter, Brooklyn showed their resilience by cutting the deficit to just two points with less than 20 seconds remaining. Durant, who finished with 29 points, had a chance to tie the game off a baseline mid-range jumper over Biyombo, but much like the rest of the game, it didn’t go the Nets’ way and rimmed out. Kyrie poured in 25 points and 6 assists but had 4 turnovers as well. Joe Harris, who the Nets have gotten involved in the offense very early on in their first three games, finished with 13 points going 5-12 from the field and 3-7 from the three-point range. Brooklyn’s 2nd unit, led by Caris LeVert, who was a -12 on the court, was extremely disappointing in this one and let the Hornets take a commanding lead early in the 4th. To sum it up nicely, the Nets didn’t show up for this one.

The Unexpected

No professional sports season goes the exact way a team plans it will. Unforeseen events occur, and the coaches/GM/players make adjustments throughout a season. Heck, if you want a good example of this, just look at the NFC East in the NFL! The Brooklyn Nets are no different and are in the midst of seeing several unexpected events play out.

Easily the worst post-game news to come from their game against Charlotte was the loss of Spencer Dinwiddie. After going down in the 3rd quarter, it was announced shortly after the game that Dinwiddie had suffered a partially torn ACL in his right knee, requiring surgery, and he would be out the rest of the season. This is a huge blow for the Nets, as Dinwiddie had started each game this season as the #2 guard next to Kyrie, and it seemed as though he was started to play better in his new role.

With Dinwiddie getting hurt, that led to an opportunity for a Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot or “TLC,” who had been buried on the depth chart and hadn’t even received much time with the second unit. TLC got Dinwiddie’s minutes in the 4th quarter and was fantastic, playing great defense and going 4-4 from the field (3-3 from three-point range) and finishing with 11 points. If anything good could come out of this awful news regarding Dinwiddie’s knee, it is that TLC might be a guy Nash will want to give more minutes to, especially since Taurean Prince and Landry Shamet have both struggled mightily in the first three games.

Overall Summary

What we have learned so far:

-KD and Kyrie are BACK. There is not a better duo in the East than those two. They can each get to wherever they want on the court and complement each other’s games very nicely. On the last play of the Charlotte game, fans saw a Kyrie/KD pick and roll, resulting in KD’s miss to tie the game. That play may become deadly as the two become more familiar playing with one another.

-The Nets 2nd unit isn’t as dominant as we assumed it would be. LeVert has had 2 back-to-back mediocre games and needs to do a better job of leading the team when KD/Kyrie is not on the floor. Taurean Prince has been flat out awful, and Shamet has been disappointing. Jarrett Allen has been the most consistent player in the 2nd unit.

-When the Nets don’t play with urgency and focus on defense, they could be beaten by any team in this league.

-Head Coach Steve Nash has not quite mastered these rotations just yet

What we still don’t know:

-Who will start in Dinwiddie’s place; will it be Caris LeVert? Landry Shamet? Or did TLC earn the chance to start?

-Are the Nets still interested in trading for James Harden?

-Will Deandre Jordan eventually get demoted to the 2nd unit so Jarrett Allen can start?

-Will the Nets begin to rest KD and Kyrie soon to manage their playing time?

The Nets (2-1) play the Memphis Grizzlies (0-2) at home tonight at 7:30 pm EST. Kevin Durant will be sitting out this game.

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