Knicks Film School Podcast: Rebecca Haarlow

Jon is joined by MSG Network’s Rebecca Haarlow. They talk about her growing up as a Bulls fan, what a typical game day looks like, why this team is different from any other she’s been around, and why Knicks fans should feel hopeful about the direction they’re headed. They also touch on Frank, KP, Mudiay, Vonleh, and of course, Coach Fiz. Not one to miss.

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News Summary: Enes Kanter’s wild night in Milwaukee

What happened: The night started with David Fizdale replacing Kanter with Luke Kornet in the starting lineup. Kanter responded with a tweet to suggest he was not happy with the decision. Kornet responded by pouring in a career-best 23 points, on seven, count ’em, seven three-pointers!

Then what happened: Kanter said he would address the lineup decision after the game, but that issue took a backseat to the questionable ejection he received after a skirmish with Giannis Antetokounmpo.

  • Giannis was knocked down on a drive attempt to the basket leading up to the altercation. After the referees reviewed the play, both players received technical fouls (on a play no common foul was issued), and Kanter received a second technical for taunting. You can read the reasoning behind the technicals given by the crew chief after the game here. Kanter received three stitches from the play leading up to the incident.

How did KP get involved? Bucks assistant Darvin Ham was a bit aggressive in trying to separate the two players, which annoyed Kristaps Porzingis, who was watching from home.

  • Kanter: “He texted me and I talked to him on FaceTime. He can be quiet but he supports us 100 percent. He’s always supporting us and it means a lot to me.’’ [Marc Berman | New York Post]
  • Kanter: “I could’ve just pushed him back and started another fight. But I don’t think the NBA wants that. He’s not my assistant coach. He’s not my friend. He’s not nobody. He should be fined.” [Steve Popper | Newsday]

The NBA reviewed the incident between Kanter, Giannis, and Ham and issued no fines. The NBA said Ham “acted as a peacemaker to separate the players. We determined that no further action is needed for any party.” [Marc Berman |New York Post]


Noah Vonleh, the Giannis stopper

Ok, so nobody stops Giannis Antetokounmpo, but Noah Vonleh has done a pretty good job of slowing him down over the four games the Knicks have played Milwaukee this season.

You might ask how this is possible considering the MVP candidate is still averaging 31.3 points on 52.9% shooting vs New York?

  • What the stats say: Giannis is shooting 52.1% on possessions he is guarded by Vonleh, who has defended him more than any other defender in the league. This is a drop from the 58.1% he shoots vs everyone else. Vonleh has also forced 7 turnovers and blocked 3 shots. He might not be shutting him down, but he is making a difference on the defensive end. [NBA.com/stats]
  • Why this could matter: Noah Vonleh is a free agent after this season and the Knicks don’t hold any Bird rights to sign him to a significant deal over the cap. If the team wants to preserve cap space to chase a star, it might be difficult to keep him in New York. However, before worrying about what happens in July, they could look to acquire extra assets from an Eastern Conference playoff team looking for someone they can put on Giannis in key situations. The Knicks could always trade him as a rental and bring him back over the summer, but with more assets to show for it.

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Kanter unhappy with bench role

Enes Kanter lost his starting spot to Luke Kornet over the last two games. He has not been shy in voicing his displeasure.

  • Kanter: “I don’t understand. This is too early in the season to shut me down. My goal is to go out there and try to be an All-Star this year. That was my goal. But now, look at the situation. You can’t do anything about it. You’ve got to stay positive. Just got to stay positive.” [Ian Begley | ESPN]
  • When pressed about his feelings on the Knicks prioritizing player development, Kanter said, “Ask me after the [Nuggets] game. I’ll have a better answer. … We’ll just talk about it after the game.” [Marc Berman | New York Post]

Should the Knicks be playing Kanter? Using the difference in points scored vs allowed per 100 possessions when Kanter is on the court vs off the court, you can project his impact on team wins. This season, the Knicks have played like a 15-win team with Kanter on the floor, versus a 27-win team when he is off the floor. The team’s net rating is 6.2 points LOWER when he plays versus when he doesn’t. [Cleaning the Glass]

  • If you are reading this blog, you know his limitations on defense; Kanter is also a limited player on offense, as a scorer out of the post or on put-backs. Regardless how you feel about the Knicks prioritizing youth over veteran playing time, it is debatable whether Kanter makes the Knicks better.

Meanwhile, Lance Thomas and Courtney Lee were reportedly told “a while ago that the organization was prioritizing ‘development,'” which I take to mean playing young players over veterans. [Stefan Bondy | New York Daily News]

  • Fizdale said there was a team-wide discussion Monday before its film session where the frustrations of the veterans who have seen their playing time decrease were addressed.” [Chris Iseman | The Record]

Mitchell Robinson back soon

Mitchell Robinson is hoping to return for the Knicks’ January 4th match-up with the Lakers, although it is more likely he won’t return until the final two games of the current west coast trip, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

  • Robinson: “Hopefully the last two games or before I’ll be playing. I would like to play [against the Lakers]. I don’t like sitting down. I just want to play.” [Marc Berman | New York Post]
  • The Knicks are 0-7 since Robinson left the lineup with a sprained left ankle. He recently shed a walking boot that he had been wearing during his recovery process. He injured himself falling awkwardly on December 14 vs Charlotte, the last game the Knicks won.

Knicks blown out in Utah

The Knicks nearly faced their largest halftime deficit in franchise history during their blowout loss to Utah. A Tim Hardaway Jr. three-pointer saved them from that dubious feat. The Knicks found themselves down by 37 points at halftime (their largest halftime deficit ever is 40 points).

  • Fizdale: “[The Jazz] came out with force. We came out dead. We had no legs, no life, no nothing, couldn’t make shots, couldn’t get stops. It was a total avalanche.” [MSG Networks]
  • Knicks assistants Keith Smart and Kaleb Canales gave it to the team at halftime. The Knicks responded with a better second half, but it’s hard to evaluate when the score was so out of hand.

Frank dunks over Gobert

This was literally the only highlight of the game.


Mudiay discusses troubles in Denver

Emmanuel Mudiay was not on speaking terms with the Denver media upon being traded to the Knicks. He tells the New York Daily News that questions about his struggles and benching became repetitive.

  • Mudiay: “I kind of shut down for a little bit. That’s just the honest truth. I was young. I’m still young. But you have to kind of go through certain things.” [Stefan Bondy | New York Daily News]
  • Mudiay admitted he was out of shape when coming to New York last season, finding his solution in giving up fried food. [Stefan Bondy | New York Daily News]

Dotson part of future?

The Knicks have a strong interest in Dotson as a part of their future, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

  • Dotson has a non-guaranteed amount of $1.6MM that the Knicks have until July 15 to decide on.
  • Since his 2019 salary is only about $800,000 more than a min roster charge, there is not much cap savings in letting him walk. It would seem to make sense to keep a young player with a strong work ethic, rather than looking to replace his production, at such a cheap price, with someone else.

Luke Kornet starts again

Luke Kornet received his second consecutive start in Utah. He connected on four more three-pointers in the Knicks loss, after making seven in his first start.

  • Utah took advantage of the Knicks’ defense by putting Kornet in situations where he was forced to defend 1-on-2 out of drop coverage, as Gobert finishing most plays with dunks. The Knicks guards had trouble keeping the ball-handler in front of them on pick and rolls.
  • The Knicks tried to adjust in the second half. They had Kornet show high on the initial screen to prevent penetration. He would then quickly recover back to his man. This worked in isolated situations, but didn’t in others. The Knicks’ off-ball defenders had trouble bumping or “holding” the roll man to allow Kornet enough time to recover.

In his first start: Kornet became the first seven-footer to connect on 7 three-pointers in a Knicks uniform, according to Basketball-Reference. He also joined a small list of seven-footers across the entire NBA to connect on 7 threes. The others are Channing Frye, Brook Lopez, Lauri Markkanen and Dirk Nowitzki. [Kevin Pelton | ESPN]

  • What starting means: Hopefully it means that Fizdale is starting to figure out that as much as Kanter racks up points and rebounds from post-ups and put-backs, he adds very little value as a pick-and-roll player in the offense, and becomes a net negative due to his defense. Kornet helps the Knicks stretch the floor up to the 5 position, providing a major threat to pop out of pick-and-rolls, and he is also a stable defender near the rim.

David Fizdale likes what Kornet can do for the Knicks’ defense.

  • Fizdale once said Kornet “couldn’t jump over an envelope” in complimenting his ability to protect the rim despite his lack of athleticism. Kornet responded, “I was actually thinking about how many envelopes I could jump and then putting them in his office.” [Marc Berman | New York Post]
  • How was Kornet’s defense vs Milwaukee? Milwaukee is the best team in the NBA scoring near the rim. In Kornet’s first start, the Knicks held them to 61.1% near the rim (which would rank 22nd). Part of this is a result of Vonleh’s defense on Giannis, and Kornet was beat convincingly by Brook Lopez on a few possessions, but overall, he helped the Knicks stay even on defense against a tough match-up.

Knicks Film School: How the Knicks are getting creative for Kevin Knox

Kevin Knox is scoring in a variety of ways on his way to averaging 20.4 points and 6.5 rebounds over his last eight games. He is scoring in transition, knocking down threes, and driving to the rim with an increased intensity.

As I was looking through the film to see what Knox has been doing differently during this scoring stretch, and you can read more about that here, I came across a few interesting plays that offer a glimpse of how Fizdale is being more creative in getting Knox involved in the offense.

Let’s take a look.


Setting up Knox from dummy action

During Knox’s breakout game against Charlotte, I noticed the offense using “fluff” action, or making it appear they were going to run one of their preferred actions to get Knox the ball coming over the top, only to run something different that resulted in an open look for the rookie.

EXAMPLE 1: The Knicks start in a dribble hand-off (DHO) look, but they really want their primary action to start by focusing the defense on the mismatch in the post between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Tony Parker. Once the Hornets react to this mismatch by sending help, the Knicks anticipate this and create an open look for Knox when his man helps the helper.

The only reason the Knicks show this DHO action to start the play is so Knox can move his man with him toward the top of the key and closer to where he would help the helper when Hardaway Jr. gets the entry.

As the Knicks move the ball to the other side of the court and make the entry to Hardaway Jr., Knox slowly creeps to the three-point break where he will find himself wide open to receive the pass from THJ for the open look.


EXAMPLE 2: Again, the Knicks set their offense as if they are going to run something different than what they ultimately show. Mudiay and Vonleh set themselves in position to set the stagger screen for Knox, fooling the Hornets, and in particular, Malik Monk, into thinking Knox will be coming over the top to receive the ball from Tim Hardaway Jr.

Instead of Knox coming around the stagger screen, as the Hornets expect, Knox cuts to the basket. With Dotson on the far corner, THJ handling the ball high on the perimeter, and Knox’s two remaining teammates set-up for the screen near the three-point line, the floor is spaced so there are no defenders to help inside.

You can see Monk is completely fooled below, as he is so concerned with fighting his way to the top where he expects Knox to be after running around the screens, he doesn’t even realize Knox is under the basket waiting for a pass until it is too late.


You can watch both plays in motion in the video below.

Knicks Film School Podcast: NBA Draft with Jonathan Wasserman

Jon is joined by Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman. They discuss his latest mock draft, including why he has Ja Morrant going to the Knicks, just how much better Zion Williamson is than everybody else, and who New York might take if they don’t want a point guard. Then they talk a little Knicks, including where Kevin Knox goes from here and whether Frank Ntilikina will ever make it in the Big Apple.

LISTEN: iTunesStitcher

Make sure you check out Jonathan Wasserman’s updated mock draft with the Knicks slotted third:

Kevin Knox is thriving with Allonzo Trier’s touches

Let’s pretend the Knicks most recent loss to Milwaukee didn’t happen for a second.1

Instead, I want to take a step back and look at what happened in the previous 14 games, which wraps around an important point in time for when Kevin Knox started scoring the basketball in bunches.

The ninth overall pick, who was notoriously booed by a select group of fans who wanted the team to select Michael Porter Jr. on draft night, is looking much more like he did in Summer League, except, this time, the competition is real.

The Kentucky product averaged 20.3 points and 6.6 rebounds on 43.3 percent shooting over the 7 games leading up to Christmas. Pretty impressive stuff.

However, there is another way to look at Knox’s recent stretch beyond counting back the number of games on the calendar. You can cite the same statistics and replace “last 7 gameswithsince Mario Hezonja has seen his minutes reduced and Allonzo Trier has been out of the lineup.”

Kevin Knox is scoring more than 20 points per game since Fizdale drastically reduced Hezonja’s minutes and when Allonzo Trier was absent from the Knicks lineup with a sore hamstring. On the night Trier first sat and Hezonja found himself riding the bench, Knox poured in 26 points on December 9 vs Charlotte.

In the 7 games proceeding Knox’s breakout night, Hezonja was averaging 20 minutes per game. This is only two minutes less than what Knox was averaging at the time. Since Knox replaced Hezonja in the starting lineup, he is averaging 36.8 minutes, while Hezonja is down to 11.5 minutes, most recently receiving DNPs vs Atlanta and Milwaukee.

And this is where Allonzo Trier’s absence comes into play. Leading up to the injury, Kevin Knox played alongside Allonzo Trier more than any other teammate.

So while Knox’s minutes have ticked up at the expense of Mario Hezonja, his added offensive production is the product of receiving touches and shot attempts that were previously reserved for Iso Zo.

Knox’s touches each game have jumped from 37.6 in the seven games leading up to Trier’s injury to 55.1 over the seven games Trier was out of the lineup. Knox also increased his shot frequency by eight more shot attempts per game, which is interestingly around the same number of shot attempts Trier was averaging in the seven games before he got hurt.

But it’s not just volume that is helping Knox’s numbers. He is also much more efficient, of late. His 43.3 percent shooting accuracy in the games Trier sat out is a drastic increase over the 33.8 percentage he shot in the seven games prior to Trier’s injury.

And where does that increased efficiency come from?

Driving to the hoop… the same thing that “anonymous scouts” criticized Knox for not doing enough; the same thing Knox, himself, knows he needs to do more of to get his offense going.

In the seven games Trier was out with an injury, Knox averaged 5.4 drives per game, which is nearly double the 2.8 drives per game he averaged before that point in time. He is also finishing 46.2% of his shots resulting from drives during this current scoring stretch, versus only 27.0% prior to that, according to NBA.com.

Drives are supposed to exclude fast break opportunities, but it’s hard to know, for sure, if NBA.com is accurate in stripping out the semi-transition plays that result in “drives” for Knox. This could partially explain why his numbers have increased during Trier’s injury. The Knicks are more likely to run with Mudiay at point guard and Knox playing alongside him.

That said, it’s the halfcourt game where the added touches Knox receives when Trier is not playing are helping him the most. Without Trier as the lead ball-handler, the 2018 lottery pick finds himself in more situations, particularly at the top of the key, that allow him to drive to the rim, either to pull up short for his patented little floater, or finish the play with a lay-up or dunk.

This is not to say Allonzo Trier is a bad offensive player, but to suggest that Trier’s dominance of the ball can turn Knox into a spectator when he should be taking more command of the basketball.

If we now look at the Knicks loss to Milwaukee on Christmas, we can see how Knox played with Trier back in the lineup. And guess what? Knox still took plenty of shots, 20 to be exact, but 19 of those came when Trier was off the floor.

If David Fizdale wants Kevin Knox to continue to develop as a lead option in the offense, it might make sense for him to stagger Knox and Trier’s minutes as much as possible. This comes from playing Knox less minutes at the four, often resulting in a lineup that finds room for Trier alongside two other guards, and more minutes at the three, with a player like Noah Vonleh, who helps create plays for Knox with his screening ability rather than taking away opportunities by demanding more touches, like Trier.

Knox might eventually become a great modern day four, but the composition of the current roster is pleading for Fizdale to play him with players who help him drive to the hoop and become a lead scorer instead of playing him with ball-dominant players who take away valuable touches for his development.

Knicks Film School Podcast: Midseason Prospect Review

Jon goes on a short rant about something that annoyed him from last week before he’s joined by Knicks Film School’s draft expert, Spencer Pearlman, to check in on all the top prospects. Spencer gives an in depth look at why Zion Williamson is his unquestioned #1, why RJ Barrett isn’t his #2, and why if he were the Knicks and had the second pick, he’d take someone few people are talking about. They also discuss Ja Morant, Cam Reddish, Nassir Little and several other players who could wind up in New York.

LISTEN: iTunes / Google

What the Knicks do if they don’t sign a superstar in 2019 could define this front office

While the Knicks have put themselves in position to make the necessary moves to offer a max contract to a free agent this coming summer, the front office is not looking to throw a big contract at just anybody, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Berman reports the Knicks are “opposed to giving a 2019 free agent a max-like deal ‘unless that player would be a dramatic difference maker to the team’s fortunes.'”

Some could take this to suggest the Knicks are slowly moving the goalposts for the upcoming summer. In fact, I think Stefan Bondy summarizes it perfectly here:

The Knicks have set expectations and positioned themselves to make a run at a max player in 2019. This has come at the cost of potentially straining their relationship with Kristaps Porzingis by delaying his contract extension and incurring an added cap cost by stretching Joakim Noah through 2021.

But this is life in the NBA. You don’t build a championship team without taking on risk. And risk carries the possibility of loss.

If the Knicks end up empty-handed in the 2019 superstar sweepstakes, what they do next will define how much loss they actually realize from taking on the risk to chase Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the likes this summer.

This is why Berman’s report (backed by recent comments from Steve Mills) that the Knicks are willing to pass on extending a max offer to a player if they don’t feel like he is a true difference maker is a positive sign.

2019 represents a litmus test for the Mills-Perry front office that has been saying all of the right things when it comes to rebuilding the team through the draft and being careful in how they spend future cap dollars.

If July 1st comes around and a Woj notification pops up on our phones to report the Knicks have agreed to a max deal with say, Kemba Walker, no offense to the Bronx native, but many in New York will be singing the “same ol’ Knicks” song.

The last time the Knicks entered a summer optimistic about their free agent chances and with “max-like” money to spend, they ended up with Amar’e Stoudemire.

It’s okay if the Knicks want to move the goalposts on free agent expectations, as long as when they get to July, they don’t suddenly call an audible and give up on their patient approach to overpay for a player just because they have cap space to burn.

Remember, while the Knicks took on some risk by waiting to re-sign KP and stretching Noah, there were legitimate reasons to make both decisions independent of 2019 cap space.

Noah admitted to having less than ideal focus during his time in New York, and he was not the type of veteran the front office wanted around a young core that includes many players who aren’t even old enough to drink.

Kristaps Porzingis is recovering from a major ACL injury that might have him out of the lineup for the entire season. Perhaps waiting to offer a gigantic extension until he is back on the court and healthy is a wise choice in its own right.

What Berman’s report suggests is that the Knicks are not looking to repeat mistakes of the past in 2019.

Based on the current cap projection of $109 million for the 2019-20 season, the Knicks can create close to $30 million in space by renouncing their own free agents, waiving Lance Thomas, and waiting to sign Kristaps Porzingis until after they have made all of their other signings.

If the Knicks want to create “max-like” space this summer, it will leave their options extremely limited in keeping any of the players who are not already signed through next season. In fact, to create enough room to sign Kevin Durant, who is a 10+ year veteran, they would need to move an additional $8-9 million off their books.

Mills explained in a press conference with reporters on December 21 that the team is still evaluating the players on their roster and that they “feel like there are more people than just the three rookies [they] can grow around.”

This is an important point in the context of whether the Knicks end up signing a max-like player. It seems to suggest that the team is open to bringing back some of their successful reclamation projects, such as Emmanuel Mudiay or Noah Vonleh. As explained earlier, this would be difficult to do if they use all of their cap dollars on a max contract.

In other words, it’s not max player or bust for the Knicks in 2019; it’s max player, if it’s Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard, or it’s use their cap space to sign players they believe they can build around ..

OR, and this is the part of the strategy that has not been reported or commented on, but perhaps most important, it’s use their cap space to sign players who they can later trade for a star player.

We saw Philadelphia do this with Robert Covington. They signed him to a four-year $46.9 million contract and then traded him a year later for Jimmy Butler.

In the chase for cap space, people forget how often star players change teams via trade. Young players on reasonable contracts are just as valuable, in fact, considering they add value to your team before you trade them, they are more valuable than empty cap space.

If the Knicks don’t land a superstar free agent next summer, and instead overpay for a non-max player, they would only limit their ability to land a star in the future.

If they choose to pass on signing a non-max player to a “max-like” contract, they keep their options open. It would allow them to preserve future cap dollars while investing a portion of their space in signing young players to reasonable contracts.

At this point, even after failing to reach their goal of signing a superstar, they would be maintaining their ability to attract one in the future. And they would be showing us that two fundamental things are different than how the organization has operated in the past.

  • First, the team would be continuing to accumulate assets in the form of draft picks (remember, they will add another lottery pick to their roster in 2019), cap space, and young players on reasonable contracts. In 2010, the future of the team was heavily contingent on the players they signed as big ticket free agents.
  • Second, they will have proven that all of the promises and words they have told us over the past year ring true. They have avoided trading draft picks for stars they can sign later. They have put themselves in a position to sign a star this coming summer. And if they don’t sign a star, they would have successfully pivoted their approach without making a panic move.

The Knicks have set their own expectations by taking on risk to sign a superstar in 2019. But it’s a risk worth taking. And if they don’t sign a superstar, but then successfully pivot their approach, times will truly be different at 2 Penn Plaza.

Steve Mills elaborates on Joakim Noah decisions

In a press conference with several reporters, Knicks President Steve Mills made his most direct statement about the decision to waive and stretch Joakim Noah by making it clear that signing him wasn’t his idea and there was more than just financial reasons for why they cut him loose when they did.

“There was a reason why we thought that this was the best thing for the culture and the environment of our team,” Mills said, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. “When the speculation was why don’t we handle Joakim one way and we decided to handle it a different way, there was a reason why we handled it the way we decided to handle it.”

Joakim Noah admitted during an interview with Chris Vernon that he was “too lit” for New York City, alluding to his partying routine.

“I can look back on it and say I thought I was ready for New York City, and I wasn’t. It’s something I have to live with … I remember after the first game, I probably had, like, 60 people at my house,” Noah explained to Vernon.

“I’m lit. I’m too lit to play in New York City. Memphis is perfect for me. Chicago … we were lit in Chicago, but I was young. You recover faster, you know?”

The Knicks decided to waive Noah in September. The final year of his contract is stretched over three seasons, providing the Knicks with near-term cap savings in 2019 at the expense of an extra cap hit over the subsequent two seasons.

According to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, both Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina were told not to go out with Noah when he was still with the team.

The Knicks are trying to build a safe environment for a roster filled with many players who aren’t even old enough to drink. While the losses have piled up this season, the team appears to be a tight-knit group under coach Fizdale.

As the Knicks have moved on from Noah, Mills made it seem like signing him wasn’t something he was on board with from the beginning.

“Obviously I’m disappointed it worked out the way it worked out,” Mills said, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. “I don’t know that, had it been just my decision, I don’t know that I would have signed him.”

Mills was general manager of the team when the four-year, $72 million contract was signed. However, Phil Jackson was clearly running the show at the time. It is believed that Clarence Gaines also advocated for the signing. Of course, it was Gaines who is credited for pushing the Knicks to select Kristaps Porzingis.

Noah signed a contract with Memphis after being waived by the Knicks. He has played eight games for the Grizzlies, recently missing time from a sore heel.

Kristaps Porzingis is progressing, but his return is not imminent

Ten months after Kristaps Porzingis fell to the Garden floor with a torn ACL in his left knee, the team has announced that he is making progress in his rehabilitation, but a return date is not imminent.

The full statement from the team is below:

Kristaps Porzingis underwent recent evaluation by the team’s medical/training/performance staff.  The evaluation confirmed that Kristaps’ knee is healing well, and he has made good progress with rehabilitation. Once he reaches the remaining rehab benchmarks, he will advance to on-court team drills and activities.  He will be re-evaluated in mid-February. 

Mid-February will mark the one-year anniversary of Porzingis’ injury. The timetable for players returning from ACL injuries tends to be in the 12-month range; however, each case is different, and with Kristaps Porzingis truly a unicorn in body type, it is difficult to evaluate his injury in comparison to others.

We learned from one of KP’s Comeback videos in June how the plan from the beginning was to take it slow with his recovery process, as his own fitness coach recognized that his body mechanics need to improve to reduce the risk of future injuries.

Steve Mills provided additional detail on Porzingis’ recovery at a press conference with reporters before the medical update was released.

“What he’s done is he’s progressed to the point where he’s able to do some one-on-one,” Mills said, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. “Actually work on the court with our coaches. There’s still some benchmarks that we need to look at to see when he could move to the next phase of his on-court development, on-court progression. But he’s at the point now where he’s able to do 45-minute sessions on the floor with our coaches to go through a bunch of on-court activities.”

There is ongoing debate by basketball observers on whether it is prudent to bring back Porzingis at all this season.

Some fans would prefer they take it slow with the budding superstar and let the team’s record fall where it may in the lottery standings without him.

Others believe it makes sense to have him return, at least for a short stint of games, in order to prove to potential free agents that he is healthy and ready to team up with another star to become a competitive force in the Eastern Conference, although when Mills was asked about this point in today’s press conference, he said it was not part of the consideration.

If Kristaps Porzingis meets the necessary benchmarks during his reevaluation in mid-February, I would expect it will still take some time for him to actually return to the court, so it’s safe to say that we probably won’t see #6 on the Garden floor until March, the earliest.

 

How can the Knicks add John Jenkins to their NBA roster?

John Jenkins has been tearing it up for the Westchester Knicks this season, averaging 27.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists, while shooting a scorching hot 51.6 percent from the field.

His impressive play might have you wondering whether the Knicks can call him up to the big club. Let’s examine their options.

First, it’s important to mention that the G-League isn’t quite like the minor leagues that exist in other sports. Players on G-League rosters only belong to their parent club if they are also on an NBA deal with that team, or if they are signed to a two-way contract. Otherwise, most G-Leaguers have no actual connection to their parent club’s roster; they are free to sign with any NBA team.

So while Jenkins plays for the Knicks G-League affiliate, that doesn’t grant them any special permissions in adding him to their NBA roster.

Jenkins is not on a two-way contract, and he is ineligible to sign a two-way contract since he has more than three years of NBA service.

For the Knicks to add the Vanderbilt star to their roster, they would need to sign him to an NBA deal the same way they would any free agent.

Of course, before thinking about signing Jenkins, the Knicks would need to waive or trade an extra player to create an open roster spot, the same way they did for Allonzo Trier at the expense of Ron Baker.

Keep in mind that any player who is owed more than $50,000 in guaranteed money2 cannot be waived and then signed to a two-way contract or waived and then assigned to the club’s G-League affiliate for the rest of this season. This means the Knicks can’t exchange Jenkins’ Westchester spot with a current NBA roster player, such as Luke Kornet. If the Knicks waive Kornet, since he has more than $50,000 guaranteed on his contract, he would be ineligible to join their Westchester team for the remainder of the season. Simply assigning a player to Westchester, as the Knicks have done with Kornet and Courtney Lee, doesn’t create an open roster spot either.

If an open roster spot is created (through trade or waiving a player), the Knicks would then need to use a salary cap exception to sign Jenkins since they are currently operating over the cap. New York used up their bi-annual exception on Allonzo Trier and have what translates into a league minimum value remaining on their mid-level exception. They can also sign any player to a league minimum contract.

It’s unlikely Jenkins would demand more than the league minimum salary at this point, so that shouldn’t be a problem. It’s creating the open roster spot that would delay the Knicks from signing Jenkins, if they are inclined to do so from his Westchester play.

Of course, the Knicks do have another option to sign Jenkins and that is to wait until January 5th and try him out on a ten-day contract, similar to what they did with Troy Williams last season. This would provide them a trial period before deciding whether they want to sign him for the rest of the season. It would also buy them more time to open up a roster spot via trade as we creep closer toward the trade deadline in February.

Zion Williamson teases Knicks fans in Garden debut

Four lottery picks were on display at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, but the buzz in the building surrounded Duke’s freshman Zion Williamson, who many Knicks fans are hoping will become the team’s first top lottery prize since Patrick Ewing.

Williamson started off the night with a highlight-reel dunk, on his way to posting 17 points and 13 rebounds in 25 minutes before fouling out with under four minutes to play.

Knicks President Steve Mills was in attendance, as were Emmanuel Mudiay and Kevin Knox.

After the game, local reporters were ready to ask Zion about playing for the Knicks.

“This is the Garden,” Williamson said, via Jeff Borzello. “A lot of greats have come through here. My favorite great to come through here was probably Bernard King because my stepdad talked about him a lot how he just put the ball in the basket. … I had to go watch his highlights. He could really score the basketball. He was incredible how he did it.”

Williamson was asked directly about maybe someday playing for the Knicks, a question he ducked by looking at his teammate before asking RJ Barrett if he wants to play for the team that calls Madison Square Garden home. The potential number one overall pick then gave the appropriate answer by stating he would be happy to play for the Knicks or any team that drafts him.

Duke turned the hyped night into a win over Texas Tech. However, both Cam Reddish (1-7) and RJ Barrett (7-22) struggled from the field, while committing a combined 12 turnovers. The best player on the floor might have been the lottery pick projected to be drafted behind the three Duke prospects, and that was Jarrett Culver from Texas Tech. Culver had 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in the loss.

Report: Knicks have expressed preliminary interest in Jabari Parker

The Chicago Bulls are reportedly shopping Jabari Parker, who fell out of Jim Boylen’s rotation last week. According to Ian Begley, the Knicks are one of the teams that has expressed preliminary interest in the forward who is due to make $20 million this season, with a $20 million team option for 2019-20.

Ian Begley adds to his report by speculating that the Knicks would remain steadfast in their approach to not give up any future first round picks in any trade proposal.

The allure of Parker is the amount of money he makes this season, along with his team option for next season, would give the Knicks the opportunity to exchange a large sum of salary without taking back any 2019 commitment.

Both Chicago and New York are over the cap, but neither team is a taxpaying team. Under the rules of the CBA, the Knicks would need to trade a minimum of $15 million in salary to acquire Parker, which is $5 million less than his cap hit of $20 million.

This means New York would need to add a little less than $3 million to Courtney Lee’s contract to make a deal work that involved the veteran wing who is due to make $12.8 million in 2019, an amount the Knicks would like to get off their books.

Of course, the Knicks could also look to trade a player like Tim Hardaway Jr. and make the trade work one-for-one, but with Timmy due to make north of $18 million through 2020-21, it might cost the Knicks an extra asset to accomplish that kind of deal.

As things stand right now, if the Knicks renounce all of their own free agents, with the exception of Kristaps Porzingis, they are still about $8-9 million short of having max space to make an offer for Kevin Durant. Of course, there are a lot of avenues the team can pursue in opening up that remaining cap need, but it is worth considering when looking at a potential Jabari Parker trade.

Parker has battled injuries throughout his career. The former number two overall pick has not played in more than 51 games since 2015-16. He has already suffered two ACL injuries while in Milwaukee. This season, he is averaging 15.2 points and 6.9 rebounds on 45.5% shooting in Chicago.

If the Knicks were able to acquire him while providing themselves with salary relief in 2019, he also gives them the option to keep him through next season if they strike out in free agency. They could then re-load with cap space in 2020, while adding forward depth to their roster for the 2019-20 season.

Film School: Kevin Knox shows off his offensive repertoire vs Philadelphia

Kevin Knox became the first Knicks rookie since Patrick Ewing to post at least 15 points in six consecutive games when he scored 21 points in the Knicks loss to Philadelphia.

As much as Knicks fans talk about Frank Ntilikina’s confidence (or lack thereof), it is something everyone has been tracking with Kevin Knox, too. The 19-year-old has a challenging set of expectations to manage in basketball’s biggest market. The lottery pick had a breakout Summer League, followed by an early season injury and slow shooting start that had some doubting his game.

As crazy as it sounds, it might take more than a few weeks for a teenager to get acclimated to the NBA, and we are starting to see Knox do that now. Over his last 10 games, he is averaging 17.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists on 41.4% shooting. He is shooting 43.6%, including 41.2% form three over his last five games.

His offensive repertoire came together in his performance against the Sixers. He was knocking down threes, scoring in transition, and driving, both left and right, to the hoop.

We are seeing a more confident Kevin Knox that can be measured through his scoring numbers, but if you watch how he is racking up those points, you can see he is starting to learn how he can score in an NBA offense.

Last night didn’t exactly start like it would be an efficient shooting night for Knox. He was blocked on his first two attempts, but I liked what I saw on his very first shot.

Knowing where to be on the floor to look for your shot is an under-appreciated skill that comes natural to NBA players who have been in the league for a while. It’s something that every basketball player knows how to do in a comfortable environment – I know the spot on my driveway where nobody can stop me. But translating what was once comfortable in high school or college to the professional setting, where the offense is different, defenses are more complex, and defenders are quicker and longer, is not an easy task.

It’s why it’s no coincidence that Knox is making more shots as he is becoming more comfortable at finding his place to shoot in the Knicks offense.

While Ben Simmons made a great recovery to block the shot above, in a somewhat broken play, I like how Knox read the situation and maintained his position in the corner to get the “open” look until the super tall Australian came out of nowhere.

Below is another example of Knox finding the right spot on the floor to shoot. Mudiay draws the double in the post, keeps his dribble, and patiently waits for a Knick to get open. Watch how Knox starts in the corner and rotates up to create a passing lane for Mudiay. This subtle movement is the difference between getting an open look and Mudiay never seeing him.

Here’s another example that didn’t turn into points, but I almost like these plays more because they show how Knox is doing the right things beyond what is shown on the score sheet.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. The dunk attempt was sick. But look at the cut before he gets the ball. This is what makes the entire highlight attempt possible.

As promising as it is to see Knox finding scoring options without the ball, we saw him do what he does best with the basketball last night, too.

Fizdale likes it when his wings move the ball in transition, and that’s why Kevin Knox’s rebounding becomes so important. When he gets the ball off a miss, he finds better shots.

In fact, Knox connects on 41.4% of his two-point attempts on possessions following an opponent miss, versus only 28.6% on possessions after an opponent make, per PBP Stats.

As we see in the example above, and common sense will tell us, it is easier to score in transition when defensive match-ups aren’t always clear and the spacing is already set for an athletic player like Knox to make a play to the rim. Knox finds the rim on 29.9% of his shot attempts after an opponent miss, versus only 17.9% after an opponent make.

When the Kentucky product is running the floor in transition, points are going to come.

As I said earlier, what impressed me most about Knox’s performance against Philly was the range of ways in which he scored. He made threes, he scored in transition, and he did what we saw him do in Summer League, and that is, drive to the hoop out of half-court sets.

We know he can drive right and the caveat that always comes with that is whether he can do the same thing going left. The play below is a promising sign of his progression driving left, where his handle is often too high and prone to turnover. Notice how he is forced to gather the basketball on the swipe, but still keeps his composure, drop steps, and converts on the little floater.

While nobody should have overreacted to Knox’s slow start to his rookie campaign, it’s important not to overreact the other way: just because he has played well for a stretch of games doesn’t mean he is going to be the next great Knick.

So this is where incremental development comes in. The Knicks are losing a lot of games, but we can watch to see how the young players are developing in different aspects of their game. And we are seeing promising signs in Knox, from learning where to locate his shots, to taking advantage of transition opportunities, to improving his ability to drive in both directions to the hoop.

KFS Draft Watch: Ty Jerome Midseason Scouting Report by Zach Milner

By Zach Milner

Ty Jerome (Virginia) is a 6’5 guard who is a potential 2019 draftee. Even though he is not as athletic as other 2019 prospects, and doesn’t have many highlight plays, he still stands out by being one of the most important, and smartest, players on one of the top college basketball teams.

This video goes over Jerome’s strengths and weaknesses (or things he should improve on). After watching the video, you will see why he’s an important player that teams will love because of all the little things he does. He’s a pest on defense and has a very high IQ. He also moves really well without the ball and is one of the best spot-up shooters in all of college. In addition to his off the ball production, he’s still able to handle the ball and create for teammates out of the pick and roll.

In June, Ty Jerome should hear his name called by an NBA team. While there are certain teams that could maximize his skill-set, his IQ and diverse skills will make it easy for him to fit on any team.

If you enjoyed this video, please subscribe to my channel for more to come.

Twitter: @ZachMilner13

Thanks to Spencer (Twitter: @FrontOfficeEye) for helping me gather some of these clips. He’s also a great basketball mind who puts out great content on Twitter.

All stats are from December 19, 2018

What Ron Baker signing with Washington means to the Knicks’ cap

Ron Baker will sign a new contract with the Washington Wizards, only a week after being waived by the Knicks, per Adrian Wojnarowski. Denver was another team reportedly interested in the Wichita State combo guard.

Baker played two seasons + change for the Knicks, signing a two-year, $8.9 million deal in 2017 that still has the Knicks absorbing his $4.5 million cap hit for the remainder of this season.

Despite Baker finding a new home, the cap hit remains the same on the Knicks’ books.

New York will be allowed to set-off a small amount of the money he receives from Washington, but that amount only impacts the actual salary the team pays, and not the cap hit. The Knicks can set-off one-half the difference between Baker’s new salary and the minimum salary for a one-year veteran minimum salary. So peanuts.

Baker will face his former team for the first time in London on January 17.

More details to come as they become available…

Brian Windhorst and Tracy McGrady discuss the Knicks’ 2019 free agent possibilities

Former New York Knick and current Los Angeles Lakers center Tyson Chandler said the Knicks can sign a “big time” player in the summer of 2019. The Jump then analyzed which intriguing free agents can potentially join Kristaps Porzingis at Madison Square Garden next season.

ESPN insider Brian Windhorst and Hall-of-Famer Tracy McGrady both agree with Chandler’s assessment that the Knicks can land a big time player.

Windhorst thinks the Knicks are hoping for the “combo” of getting a high draft pick and a top free agent this summer. He adds that the spread of possibilities for the Knicks ranges from winning the lottery, trading the pick for Anthony Davis, AND signing Kevin Durant to finishing 9th in the lottery and ending up without any impact player.

It’s going to be a roller coaster leading up to July!

Tim Hardaway Jr. playing through plantar fasciitis

Tim Hardaway Jr. is battling planter fasciitis, which involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes (plantar fascia)2, according to David Fizdale.

Fizdale told reporters that the Michigan alum will “manage” the injury moving forward and will play when the Knicks face Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Hardaway Jr. had missed Monday’s game from what was called a sore heel on the injury report.

Planter fasciitis is not typically an injury that players recover quickly from. The Knicks plan on assessing Hardaway Jr.’s pain threshold in deciding how often to play him.

“He’s going to tell us,” Fizdale was recorded saying by The Record. “We’re going to treat it. The more he can tolerate, that’s how much what we’ll go with it. When he can’t take it anymore, that’s when we’ll give him rest.  One of those injuries is a real tender injury because you do everything with your heel.  He’s been battling for us. That’s why I love him.”

It is a bit curious why the Knicks, at 9-23, in a rebuild season, are looking to have their top scorer, who is due to make over $36 million over the next two seasons, play through a plantar fasciitis injury. Hardaway Jr. has suffered many bumps and bruises throughout the season, a few times taking hard hits to the head during games, only to keep on playing.

When Fizdale was asked if he has thought about shutting Timmy down, he responded “No,” according to Mike Vorkunov. “I gotta score some baskets. I can’t shut down Timmy. We need Timmy.”

Hardaway Jr. is averaging 21.0 points per game on 39.5% shooting (including 35.8% from downtown). After a strong start to the season, his shooting and defense have both regressed. Perhaps this plantar fasciitis injury explains why.

Tyson Chandler believes Knicks have chance to land top free agent

Tyson Chandler was in Brooklyn as the Lakers faced the Nets on Tuesday night, so the local reporters took the opportunity to ask him about the Knicks. Chandler called Madison Square Garden home for three seasons between 2011-2014, playing on the 54-win team that represents the best Knicks team of the 21st century.

“I like David Fizdale. I like what he’s doing,” Chandler was recorded saying by Barbara Barker of. Newsday. “I honestly think it’s a matter of time. I think they have the potential to land a big-time free agent to pair with [Kristaps] Porzingis and after that it could be a matter of time.”

Chandler was traded from the Knicks in 2014 as one of Phil Jackson’s first moves after taking over as president of the organization. The former Defensive Player of the Year thinks the environment around the team has changed since then.

“It’s definitely changed,” he said. “You have some good guys over there. That always helps. The Knicks went through a tough time. The Phil Jackson era was a tough time. Before that was a tough time. Then, when me and [Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire] were there, it was a fun time. They just have to get back to that again. It just takes one little piece to switch things up.”

Knicks lose (win?) tank battle with Suns

Monday night was a tale of two halves for the Knicks. They came out playing loosy-goosy, as they say, defending just well enough and scoring mostly at will, and went into halftime with a 66-59 lead. Then the Knicks stopped playing defense, and ultimately lost 128-110.

Well, they attempted to play defense…they just did it really, really poorly. There was a spark missing on that end, and it didn’t take long to realize that with a little bit of effort, they could basically get anything they wanted against New York. There was no one player to blame for the defensive woes, although at the same time, no one stood out either.

There were, of course, a few vaguely bright spots, but none brighter than the most improbable of success stories this season…

  • Emmanuel Mudiay had his second 30-point game in as many outings finishing with 12 on 21 shooting, including 2-6 from deep. Offensively, he is playing like one of the better point guards in basketball. He seems to have achieved the balance between guiding the offense and looking for his own shots. He pushes the pace whenever he gets an opportunity. Defensively, obviously work to be done, but he has without question injected himself into the conversation about the Knicks future.
  • Kevin Knox started off hot, netting 13 first quarter points, but finished with only 17 on 16 shots to go with only four rebounds. He was aggressive early and seemed to fade after that. You’re guess is as good as mine as to why.
  • Frank Ntilikina, on the other hand, was aggressive for the whole game. The only problem was that the shots weren’t falling. He finished 3-of-11 for nine points. Despite the stat line, you had to be at least a little encouraged by the assertiveness he showed on both ends (of the Knicks many defensive culprits tonight, he was not one of them). Despite sharing his minutes with both Mudiay and Burke, he had control of the offense for much of the time he was on the floor, and perhaps more importantly, was active off the ball, which will be key for his development.
  • Courtney Lee had an ok little audition as the starting shooting guard, getting 12 points on eight shots. Hopefully someone in the league with a need for shooting and no designs on having cap space this summer was watching.
  • Lee was starting because Tim Hardaway Jr. was out with a bum heel. Ironically, the Knicks had maybe their worst defensive effort of the season despite being without perhaps their worst defensive player. Not sure what to make of that.
  • Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier, and Damyean Dotson also missed tonight’s game.
  • Trey Burke was 2-for-9 from the field and still looks out of sorts. Gold star if you can cogently phrase what role he should have on this team moving forward.
  • That’s it. Everyone else was pretty bad. Or really bad. Somewhere in that gray area.

Knicks will look to rebound against the last team that truly whooped their butts, the Philadelphia 76ers, on Wednesday night. It will be very interesting how they respond.