Timberwolves asked Nets for Kevin Durant before Rudy Gobert trade

The Utah Jazz’s haul for three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, set the bar higher for the much-anticipated mega-blockbuster trade for Brooklyn Nets‘ disgruntled superstar Kevin Durant.

The Jazz received Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Leandro Bolmaro and 22nd overall pick Walker Kessler plus four first-round picks — unprotected firsts in 2023, 2025, and 2027, a pick swap in 2026 and a top-four protected pick in 2029.

But none of Utah’s acquisitions is an All-Star player or a rising star, which Brooklyn desires in any potential deal for Durant.

Before the Timberwolves pulled the trigger on the blockbuster trade for Gobert, they inquired about the Nets’ asking price for Durant. They balked at the heavy price tag, especially with the 33-year-old Durant about to enter the twilight of his career.

“The Wolves also made several calls to Brooklyn on Kevin Durant, sources said, but the Nets were asking for established All-Stars and a mountain of picks. Minnesota was unwilling to part with either Edwards or Towns in a KD-centered deal, so there was no traction,” Jon Krawczynski wrote

It will take twice the size of the package that the Timberwolves gave up for Gobert to acquire Durant.

On top of Durant’s list of preferred landing spots are the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns, who have a bevy of All-Stars on their rosters.

The Heat have three All-Stars: Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry and Bam Adebayo, plus rising star Tyler Herro. But Adebayo could not be part of a potential package unless Ben Simmons is traded elsewhere. Collective Bargaining Agreement bylaws do not allow a trade for a player on a designated rookie max extension if one is already on your roster. In this case, the Nets already have one in Simmons.

The Suns have two All-Stars in Devin Booker, Chris Paul and a bevy of young players on the rise in restricted free-agent Deandre Ayton,  defensive stalwart Mikal Bridges and sharpshooter Cam Johnson.

Will the Heat and Suns be bold enough to swing a deal and part ways with some of their core which helped them reach the NBA Finals in the last two seasons?

With Durant locked in a four-year extension deal starting next season, the Nets can take their time until the godfather offer becomes available.

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Report: New multi-year deal with Knicks looming for Mitchell Robinson

mitchell robinson, knicks

While a starting-caliber lead guard is on top of the New York Knicks‘ priority, Mitchell Robinson should not be far behind.

The Knicks are reportedly ready to offer a multi-year extension to keep Robinson in New York.

“The Knicks are widely regarded as a team looking to shed a number of contracts (such as those possessed by Alec Burks, Kemba Walker and Nerlens Noel) to create salary-cap space for the potential free-agent pursuits of Dallas’ Jalen Brunson and perhaps even (gasp) Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving. Yet Monday night also delivered the strongest rumbles I’ve heard to date that a new multiyear deal to keep Mitchell Robinson in New York is looming,” Marc Stein wrote.

The Knicks have until June 30 to lock up Robinson to an extension, or they would risk losing him in the open market. The former second-round pick who blossomed into a rim-running center and a defensive stalwart with the Knicks is eligible to sign an extension worth up to $55.6 million over four years.

While it was widely reported after the trade deadline that there is a wide gap between Robinson’s asking price and what the Knicks are willing to pay, all signs point to a resolution.

The Knicks’ reported plan to trade Noel this summer is a clear sign that they are looking to retain Robinson. They remained heavily invested in Robinson as they continued their annual practice of sending team personnel to monitor Robinson’s offseason workout in Louisiana.

Robinson also expressed his desire to remain with the Knicks in not-so-subtle signs on his social media account. First, he wore a “New York or Nowhere shirt during his visit to his high school principal. Then, he followed that up with a social media post of New York with an interesting caption, “home.”

Robinson’s market has shrunk after the Dallas Mavericks traded for Houston Rockets’ big man Christian Wood. Teams needing a center are reportedly eyeing Utah Jazz’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert or Phoenix Suns’ restricted free agent Deandre Ayton. It’s getting clearer that Robinson is only a fallback option for teams with cap space like the Detroit Pistons.

Robinson is back in Louisiana working out with his trainer Marcell Scott, Jr., with a focus on his free throw shooting. Their goal is to improve Robinson’s free throw shooting percentage to 80. Last season, Robinson shot 48.6 percent.

A tall task. But if Robinson can dramatically improve in that area, it will be worth the extension.

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Report: Bulls interested in Knicks’ center Mitchell Robinson

An old Knicks rival has emerged as another threat aside from the Detroit Pistons to lure free-agent-to-be Mitchell Robinson out of New York.

Fresh from their first playoff appearance since 2017, the Bulls are keen on shoring up their defense around Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.

The 24-year-old Mitchell is perhaps the consolation prize if the Bulls miss out on a Rudy Gobert trade.

“Sources have also indicated the Bulls are a team with interest in Gobert (and other centers on the market, including Knicks free agent Mitchell Robinson),” The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor wrote on Tuesday.

Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported that a popular package being floated around by league executives revolves around Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams for Gobert.

The Bulls’ reluctance in adding Williams could lead them to pursue Robinson instead. While Robinson isn’t a three-time Defensive Player of the Year like Gobert, he has been a solid rim protector when he’s healthy and engaged. His price tag is much cheaper than Gobert, who will earn $38,172,414 next season.

Vucevic is entering the final year of a four-year, $100-million deal. He is eligible to sign a four-year, $118 million extension which would cripple the Bulls’ financial flexibility. That makes the 31-year-old, two-time NBA All-Star center a hot trade candidate this offseason.

But it would require a complicated sign-and-trade for the Bulls to swap Vucevic for Robinson, who is seeking more than the midlevel exception in his next deal.

Robinson has returned to New York after spending some time in Louisiana with Knicks personnel monitoring his offseason workouts. The Knicks have until June 30 to strike an extension with their young starting center. Robinson is eligible to sign a four-year, $55 million extension which the Knicks reportedly are reluctant to give.

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Knicks Mock Trade: Landing Rudy Gobert in a blockbuster deal

New York Knicks, Julius Randle

The New York Knicks desperately need to shake things up this off-season if they want to put together a competent team that’s capable of reaching the postseason. This year, they witnessed significant limitations on both sides of the ball, especially with Julius Randle regressing.

Injuries provided a bit of inconsistency, and the Knicks’ youth players didn’t get as much playing time as they probably should have given Tom Thibodeau’s strategy, but adding an elite defensive player in Rudy Gobert fits the mold perfectly for the identity Thibs is building.

After ranking as one of the best defensive teams in basketball back in 2020, the Knicks’ efficiency plummeted to 11th. Gobert would be a huge plus, and opening up a bit of salary relief would be beneficial, especially if the front office has Jalen Brunson from the Dallas Mavericks in mind.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at a mock trade scenario that could present adequate value.

Knicks mock trade with the Utah Jazz:

Knicks give up:

-Evan Fournier

-Derrick Rose

-Cam Reddish

-2023 1st rounder

-2023 1st rounder (Dallas)

NBA Analysis originally came up with this specific mock trade, which seems to be reasonably fair given the Knicks can’t afford to add any more youngsters to the equation, and Gobert is a match made in heaven for Tom Thibodeau.

This season, Fournier averaged 14.1 points and shot 39% from deep. Fournier set the single-season record for the Knicks in three-pointers made, but that doesn’t make him a good defender.

Fournier proved to be a massive liability on the defensive side but was a solid scorer for the majority of the season. The Knicks might be looking for more consistency on defense, but unloading his contract would be the critical move here.

Moving on from Cam Reddish seems to be probable at this point since he only averaged 6.1 points over 14.3 minutes of play. Trading for Cam made little sense at the time since injecting a small forward into a team that didn’t utilize that position was odd. He made little to no impact, so we should expect the Knicks to include him in potential trade offers.

Trading Derrick Rose would hurt every Knick fan’s heart, but at 33 years old and battling a few injuries last season, it might be time too to inject more young talent into the position. Brunson would obviously fit the bill, and since Rose averaged just 12 points last year and played in 26 games, the team needs a bit more reliability at the point guard position.

Giving up at least one first-round pick from this year is something the Knicks have to do. Adding more young talent to the roster is normally a benefit, but they are struggling to get their current players enough time to develop as it is.

Jazz gives up:

-Rudy Gobert

Acquiring Gobert immediately injected arguably the best defensive player in basketball into the Knicks’ lineup. This would be a dream come true for Thibodeau, but it would all but guarantee the departure of Mitchell Robinson.

Gobert averaged 15.6 points, 2.1 blocks, 0.7 steals, and 14.7 total rebounds, a career-high this season. Gobert is only 29 years old, meaning he’s in the prime of his game and ready to make a significant impact on the biggest stage — The Mecca.

However, he comes with a sizable contract, five years, $205 million. Rudy is projected to earn $38 million next year,  but he’s well worth the money at his age. His contract will consistently increase until 2024, when it caps out at $43.8 million before a 2025 player option kicks in.

Taking on a contract of this size is something the Knicks need to think long and hard about, but his value is unparalleled as a defensive player. If New York’s young players can rise to the occasion and offer great play at a cost-controlled price, this team could be ready to compete within the next two years.

Tom Thibodeau explains why Knicks lost to Jazz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mitchell took over for the Jazz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks: Evan Fournier claims Nerlens Noel is better than Rudy Gobert in one aspect

Nerlens Noel made a timely return for the New York Knicks from his knee injury Saturday afternoon as Mitchell Robinson went down with a head concussion.

Noel produced only two points on two free throws, but his impact was more pronounced on the defensive end with six rebounds and three shot blocks. His huge block on Christian Wood ignited a 9-2 Knicks run in the fourth quarter that transformed an 89-86 deficit into a 95-91 lead. The Knicks never looked back and pulled away for a 107-99 win that improved their record to 9-7 and 4-5 at home.

“Nerlens gives you elite rim protection, great decision-making. [He’s] a multiple-effort guy. So you couldn’t ask for anything more from your center,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He doesn’t give up on plays. He doesn’t give in. So that’s huge.”

Evan Fournier, who broke out of his shooting slump with 19 points, can’t help but marvel at Noel’s elite defense. Fournier had played with All-Star centers Nikola Vucevic with the Orlando Magic and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert with the France national team. But Noel, he said, is better than Gobert in one aspect on the defensive end.

“Nerls is different defensively against any other big [men] I’ve played with,” Fournier said, “in a sense that he’s really able to impact the ball on a pick and roll with his quick hands. He’s very fast so he can recover to the big that’s actually behind him. So he’s very different.”

“When I think about it, even Rudy (Gobert) when I played with him in the [France] national team, you know he’s actually in the paint. He’s not necessarily up to the task like Nerls can do. [Nerlens] has a special talent on that end. It’s glad to have him back.”

In the last playoffs, Gobert’s perimeter defense, or lack of it, was exposed when the Utah Jazz fell to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round.

Last season, Noel did not receive any votes in the Defensive Player of the Year race despite averaging a league-third best 2.2 blocks and 1.1 steals. The Knicks re-signed Noel to a $32 million, three-year deal with the last year as a team option despite the snub.

But an assortment of injuries from hip to knees has limited Noel to just five games this season, and he had another close call against the Rockets when he received an elbow from Wood in the third quarter.

With a bloodied mouth, Noel proved sturdy and wound up playing 29 minutes. He welcomed the physicality in his return.

“It’s the way basketball should be played in some sense,” Noel said. “Just being able to play and not worry about the whistle. There’s definitely a level that you have to match as well. So, we just got to know what we’re getting into every night.”

Noel will have a challenging task in the second night of a back-to-back schedule as the Knicks flew to Chicago without Robinson while Taj Gibson is still questionable to play due to a sore groin. Even without Vucevic (out due to health and safety protocols), the Bulls thrived backup center Tony Bradley, who is producing 5.4 points and 5.6 rebounds as a fill-in starter.

Noel will have his hands full guarding the pick and roll and providing elite rim protection on Sunday night in Chicago. The Bulls employ the deadly pick and roll duo of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, who combine for at least 16 points off those game actions. DeRozan ranks 10th in the league in pick and roll possessions with 9.1 per game, while LaVine is not that far behind with 8.1 per game.

Noel needs to replicate or better his effort in the Knicks’ gut-wrenching win over the Rockets. The 6-foot-10 beanpole center impacted the game on both ends of the floor. He did little things that contributed to the win, like setting screens that helped Alec Burks shoot a career-high-tying six three-pointers.

“Me and AB (Burks), there’s no pick and roll [tandem] like us,” said Noel while seated beside Burks in the postgame interview. “I just have the mindset of setting screens. Don’t change anything. Whatever you need me to do, I’m just gonna do what I have to do and read the game.”

With the Knicks’ frontline getting thinner again, Noel’s health will be crucial as well. But the eight-year veteran center said his knee was in a decent place.

“It wasn’t the best place but I felt good enough to go out there and give what I had,” he explained. “It felt great [to be back]. I have far too much anxiety just sitting there watching as much as I have. I really want to be out there with my guys.”

The Knicks’ frontline situation bears watching as they enter a brutal stretch in their schedule where they will play their next 12 games against playoff contenders, starting with the Bulls.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knickerbocker swagger: Rivers delivers in another Knicks comeback

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

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

It runs in the blood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rivers has since walked the talk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rivers’ last sentence encapsulates the swagger of these Knickerbockers.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo