Mike Vorkunov: News & Notes from Day 1 of Camp

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If you’re not a subscriber to The Athletic, I’d strongly consider it, if for no other reason than to read Vork’s stuff. He’s always good for a tidbit other writers may not have, and always comes with the advanced stats, if you’re into that sort of thing. One note from his piece from Day 1 of training camp: The last Knicks player on the practice court was Frank Ntilikina, who was shooting corner 3s with assistant coach Keith Smart.

On This Date: The Carmelo Anthony Era ends

September 25th 2017: The New York Knicks finally trade Carmelo Anthony

After many months of speculation, the New York Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony less than 48 hours before the start of training camp. This departure was a long time coming. Discussions marinated early in the 2016-17 season as Phil Jackson publicly sought to move Melo. After the Knicks fired Phil, there was a near agreement to send Melo to the Houston Rockets in a trade centered around Ryan Anderson. However, new GM Scott Perry urged the Knicks to back off on the trade. Continue reading →

On This Date: Knicks Re-Sign Melo to a 5 year Contract Extension

July 13th 2014: The New York Knicks re-sign Carmelo Anthony to a 5 year extension

The New York Knicks re-signed Carmelo Anthony to a 5 year extension worth $124 million contract that officially defined both Melo and Phil Jackson’s legacy with the organization. Melo came off a season where he averaged 27.4 points/game and a career high 8.1 rebounds/game in a career high 38.7 minutes/game. He also scored a Knick record 62 points against the Charlotte Bobcats.

When Phil Jackson joined the organization, one of the shared edicts between him and James Dolan was to bring a championship to New York. They both shared that it would be accomplished with Carmelo Anthony. While Melo temporarily pondered joining the Bulls and Lakers, he could not resist the 5 years and $124 million the Knicks offered him. Additionally, it was the addition of the no-trade clause that defined both Melo and Phil’s reputation with the organization.

Unfortunately, the contract proved to be a disaster for both the Knicks & Phil Jackson. Melo continued his scoring prowess with 24.2 points/game during the 2014-15 campaign, but knee soreness early on in the season eventually led to knee surgery shortly after the 2015 NBA All Star Game held in New York. To make things worse, Melo delayed the surgery beyond the All Star Game so that he could play in the game as a starter. That decision proved to be costly to Melo’s career.

Melo received another All Star starter berth during the 2015-16 season and averaged a career high 4.2 assists/game under the principles of the triangle offense. Unfortunately, the knee surgery limited a lot of Melo’s offensive touches to the perimeter. His ability to explode to the rim and get to the line were all but diminished.

Melo started the 2016-17 season with a 3rd head coach and another round of an overhauled roster. He came off 3 straight seasons where the Knicks missed the playoffs. With expectations to reach the playoffs high, the Knicks started the season at a near .500 record and within reach of the 8 seed. However, a public feud with Phil ultimately torpedoed the season and destroyed his relationship with the New York Knicks. This was the beginning of the end of Melo’s tenure in New York.

Months after Phil left the organization, the Knicks sought suitors for Melo. The no-trade clause severely limited their trading options as Melo desired to join a contender, particularly in Cleveland or Houston. The Knicks had the workings of a deal with the Rockets in early July, but called off the trade after Scott Perry joined the organization. Shortly before the beginning of training camp, Perry convinced Melo to accept a trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Knicks traded Melo 2 days before training camp to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and the 2018 Chicago Bulls 2nd round pick. The Knicks dealt McDermott at the trade deadline in a 3 team deal that netted Emmanuel Mudiay. The 2018 Bulls 2nd round pick became Mitchell Robinson.

Perhaps the shining point of Melo’s tenure in NY was being able to net Mitchell Robinson.

On This Date: Knicks trade Willy Hernangomez

February 7th 2018:  The New York Knicks trade Willy Hernangomez to the Charlotte Hornets

The Knicks traded Willy Hernangomez to the Charlotte Hornets for Johnny O’Bryant and two 2nd round picks in 2020 and 2021. Willy requested a trade a few days earlier after being stuck on the bench behind both Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn. To add insult to injury, the trade occurred only a day before Kristaps Porzingis, Willy’s friend dating back to the Sevilla days, tore his ACL. The Knicks immediately cut O’Bryant, who’s now playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague.

After making the All-Rookie 1st team in the 2016-17 season, there was hope that Willy would become the starter for the Knicks. However, those plans derailed once the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and the 2018 Bulls 2nd round pick that turned out to be Mitchell Robinson. Immediately after the trade, Willy had to compete with Enes Kanter & Kyle O’Quinn for minutes at the center position.

Unfortunately, Willy was not able to separate himself from Kanter to receive minutes. The Knicks valued Kyle O’Quinn’s defense to garner minutes regardless. Kanter, however, came into camp in the best shape of his life and showed to be a better offensive threat. Willy did not come into camp in tip-top shape.

Upon hearing of the trade, many fans had mixed reactions. Some thought that Hernangomez would have been an integral piece to our core and that we should have traded O’Quinn or Kanter instead. Others were more giddy about the 2nd round picks acquired and weren’t too high of Willy’s lack of defense and his trade request. (he was a backup after all)

In retrospect, this trade ended up as an overall win for the team. It’s far less likely that Willy will blossom the way Rod Strickland did when traded to the Spurs. Since he requested a trade, it gave the front office no choice but to trade him. For Steve Mills, it meant giving up on a player that he personally scouted when visiting Porzingis before the 2015 NBA Draft. The Knicks regained 2nd round picks in 2020 and 2021 that they ironically had given up to acquire Hernangomez in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Seeing a need at the center position, the Knicks drafted Mitchell Robinson who will likely have a higher ceiling and potential than Hernangomez. Willy’s received sproadic minutes in the 2018-19 season including several DNPs. He’s been decent on the offensive end, but inconsistent on defense.

How the Knicks ended up with both Robinson and Trier on draft night

This is a fascinating report by Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic about how the Knicks targeted both Mitchel Robinson and Allonzo Trier, two players that seemingly were undervalued by the rest of the league, and how they were somehow able to draft and sign both of them on draft night.


Trier says he was told by the Knicks that if he was still on the board [when they picked in the second round], they would take him. The Knicks didn’t make a promise to Trier, according to league sources, but did have him in strong consideration for the pick.

“I didn’t think I would get past there, honestly,” he said.

Instead, the Knicks chose Mitchell Robinson, who they had tried trading up into the first round for. A call from a member of the organization soon followed, with an explanation. The Knicks had a need to go big, Trier says he was told, and Robinson had dropped to them, though they still evaluated him highly and hoped to get him.

[via Mike Vorkunov]


The rest is history, as Trier fell out of the second round and back into the Knicks laps as an undrafted free agent.

Why this matters: I think this is important because it shows that the Knicks are scouting the right players. Of course, it is way too early to say that both Robinson and Trier will be long-term successes in this league, just as it’s too early to give up on Ntilikina or to criticize Knox’s slow start. However, from a value perspective in the draft, the criteria is a little different for Robinson and Trier. Finding a second round pick and undrafted rookie, who both display any kind of high ceiling promise is a win that any organization would take.

Fizdale doesn’t plan on sending Knox or Robinson to G-League

Kevin Knox is off to a slow start after an exciting Summer League. The 19-year-old rookie is shooting a dismal 32.5% from the field in 15 games. Meanwhile, Mitchell Robinson has shown more flashes of excitement, but he can’t stay out of foul trouble; it is his first time playing organized basketball in over a year.

Would it make sense to have Knox and/or Robinson spend some time in Westchester this season to fine-tune their skills?

David Fizdale doesn’t think so. As he told reporters before the Knicks game against Philadelphia:

I’m keeping both of them with us. We’re raising them as a village now with the group. Through whatever tough times they go through that’s what we’ve got to go through with them right now.”

“But I want them with our guys, playing with our guys, interacting with our guys, having successes and suffering with our guys.”


What does this mean?

On the surface, David Fizdale’s proclamation that we’ll see Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson with the big club for the remainder of the season is a good thing.

For one, it confirms that the pair will continue to get minutes on the court for the rest of the season, because if the choice was between getting minutes in Westchester or riding the pine in MSG, they’d get sent down. How many minutes is anyone’s guess, but the safe bet is that Knox will get a minimum of the 15-20 he’s seeing now, with that number likely to go up as the season progresses. As for Mitch, the same would be true if they played with Summer League rules, where you needed 10 fouls, not 6, for a disqualification.

So that’s a plus. It also means that the team remains committed to the overall, season-long goal of developing the young players, even at the cost of wins. Again, keeping the organizational eyes on the prize is a welcome change from years past.

Of course, the Knicks could go halfway in making a decision on where to play the two rookies by doing something they did last year in sneaking each player some time in the G-League in-between games with the big club. The problem with that is those type of minutes are usually reserved for players who aren’t getting enough minutes in the NBA. It’s already a marathon for rookies to get used to the NBA schedule (especially so for Mitchell Robinson who didn’t play organized basketball last year), so adding minutes to their load doesn’t seem to make sense.

If there is a downside, it’s more of a devil’s advocate position than anything else: if accountability really does reign supreme throughout the locker room, does a statement like this so early in the year take away a little of the bite that goes with that? Probably not. If anything, the kids can feel reassured that as long as they play hard and unselfishly, they don’t need to be looking over their shoulder if they make a mistake (which is probably good, because that would result in a strained neck before too long).

Lastly, it’s an indication that, barring a trade, New York will continue to face a roster crunch in the near future. The rotation is at 11 players over the last two games, and that’s not considering Courtney Lee, who is close to returning. Whoever’s going to wind up the odd man (or men out), it won’t be Knox or Robinson.