[Knicks Director of Player Personnel, Harold Ellis] dispatched a team scout to watch Tyrius Walker in January, and the point guard dropped 47 points. The Cavaliers and Kings had come to watch him in practice, but only the Knicks brought him in for a pre-draft workout. When Walker went undrafted, the Knicks signed him to their Summer League roster.
On the first day of practice this week, Ellis walked into the Thomas & Mack Center gym and found Walker wearing No. 30. He didn’t know whether it was a coincidence or intentional. He had worn that number at Morehouse before it was retired. Now, he’ll watch Walker play for the organization he works for, linking two Morehouse greats for at least the next week.
Fizdale: “I’m excited for Dot. He ended the season on that bang with the 30-point game and 11 rebounds. He’s had a heck of an offseason. The kid is just a grinder. He’s tough as nails. I’ve given him the ultra green light to let that thing go. I want him getting four or five 3s a game if he can. But what I’ve been really impressed with is how much pride he’s taken in detailed work. The focus on the details of the offense, the details of the defense. He’s really looked in on that stuff. I’ve been really impressed with that.”
David Fizdale on second-year wing Damyean Dotson, who shot 32.4 percent on 3-pointers (68 attempts) with the Knicks and 38.5 percent (78 attempts).
Q: Scott Perry says his Orlando experience taught him to have veterans around a young team. You don’t have many vets. Concerned about that?
Fizdale: “We’ve talked about it. There’s still a possibility, there’s still time to do some things and plug some gaps with some quality leadership and veteran leadership. But at the same time you gotta be right with that. You can’t bring in a guy who is looking for more than we can give. Because that could end up tearing your locker room apart.
So we’re going to be real specific with who we surround these kids with. Make sure they’re quality people, high character guys who come every day and do their job. Guys that aren’t trying to eat the young, and try to put people around that’s going to help develop these guys.”
When the Magic renounced Mario Hezonja’s rights in October – a rare move for a fifth overall pick still on his rookie contract – the bust label was applied with vigor. But then he changed some minds toward the end of last season when given more minutes, and now the Knicks believe their big free agent signing is ready for a breakout.
“It’s so easy to write a kid off after a couple years. But any one of you and me when we were 18 to 21 were jerks. Let’s be real about that,” David Fizdale said. “So a lot of times we discard these players and this kid still has a lot of things as you showed at the end of the year. Although he had struggled, it finally started to pick up […]
“I told him, ‘I want to give you a clean slate,’” Fizdale said. “No judgment. I’m not going to look back at your past for any negatives. I want to start from scratch and develop you and play you.”
The Post has learned Michael Beasley has yet to hear from the Knicks since free agency opened July 1.
When combo forward Mario Hezonja agreed to terms on a one-year, $6.5 million deal that day, Beasley fell completely off the radar. Beasley had been invited by team president Steve Mills and coach David Fizdale on a float for the Gay Pride parade days before free agency. The Knicks still have a $3.4 million bi-annual exception and still could have signed Beasley to a $3 million non-Bird exception.
With the moratorium ending at noon and the Knicks set to announce Hezonja as a Knick, Beasley is said to have two teams in the mix.
“He’s disappointed with the Knicks, though he understands that they are going young,” said one NBA source who has spoken to Beasley.
By Nick Scolaro
The success of the Knicks’ rebuild will be largely contingent on thorough player development. Will they be able to utilize Westchester to their advantage during that process?
With rumors circulating about Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving wanting to play together in the East, a lot of Knicks fans have started to wonder: could the Knicks create enough cap space for TWO max players next summer?
Technically, yes. Anything is possible. But how they would actually get there requires varying degrees of difficulty and rests on how much faith you put in the Knicks’ ability to trade multiple players without taking back any 2019 salary.
Surprisingly, Mark Jackson’s candidacy hasn’t gained much traction. It’s noteworthy no other club with a vacancy interviewed Jackson, whose Golden State axing in 2014 left a sourness.
It is believed one concern is the coaching staff Jackson might construct. Jackson has been out of the coaching loop four years and warred with two of his Warriors assistants, Brian Scalabrine and Darren Erman, now flourishing as defensive coordinator in New Orleans.
Budenholzer had two years and approximately $13 million remaining on his contract. He will get it all, which is a lump Hawks owner Tony Ressler did not want to swallow. But if Budenholzer is hired by another organization, which is expected — he’s currently a candidate for the New York Knicks’ job — his new salary will shrink the Hawks’ financial obligations.
Travis Schlenk doesn’t provide a lot of detail, but it is clear that the decision to part ways happened over several conversation during the past few weeks. This wasn’t something they were thinking about during the season. Schlenk emphasized “it wasn’t negative on either side” but it was time for both sides to move on.
A common point I noticed in the interview questions and in print from Atlanta reporters was the decision to let Budenholzer speak to other teams:
This split was driven by Budenholzer, but it’s not like the Hawks handled it perfectly, either. Schlenk allowed the coach to interview for other jobs. By doing so, he created a situation that made the organization look silly — and looking silly is the last thing the Hawks need. They majored in silly under previous ownership. After two weeks of this drama playing out publicly, and with no clear resolution in sight, Ressler and Schlenk likely understood something had to be done to end the embarrassment.
So why did the Hawks agree to part ways without compensation?
Ressler and Schlenk would have liked to leverage another team’s interest in Budenholzer to get draft pick compensation. But the longer this dragged on, the less time it would give the two to begin interviewing other candidates.
“I talk to Emmanuel all the time,’’ [Larry] Brown told The Post in a phone interview. “I loved the kid. He’s been injured a lot during the course of his career and only played eight games in China. But I don’t think Emmanuel has ever been in the greatest shape of his life. That position you have to be an elite athlete and in unbelievable shape. I don’t know until he got to the NBA if he has ever been coached the way he needed to be coached.”
Jean-Micheal told The Post after the February trade that brought his brother from the Nuggets that he believes Emmanuel would be a lot further along in his development if he had spent his freshman year in 2014-15 at SMU with Brown, who stepped down as coach in 2016.
“I just think if you can get him for a second-round pick and bring him to New York, surround him with people like Scott, who isn’t afraid to tell him what he needs to do, I think he’s got a great opportunity with Frank and the way Trey has improved,’’ Brown said. “Those are three darn good guards. They have an unbelievable upside. It’s all about Emmanuel being in great shape because he has a great feel for the game. When I watched him in high school, I thought if he came to SMU we had a chance to win a national championship.’’
“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”
Atlanta owner Tony Ressler and general manager Travis Schlenk met Budenholzer on Tuesday night in Atlanta and ultimately decided that a separation was the best course for everyone, league sources said.
And the reaction from people who follow the Hawks?
The Knicks’ list of candidates for their coaching vacancy continues to grow. They’ve interviewed Celtics’ lead assistant coach Jay Larranaga, according to a league source.
They received permission to speak to Larranaga and met with him last week, the source said.
One of Larranaga’s strengths is a Knicks’ focus now: player development. He spent two seasons coaching the Erie BayHawks, which was the Knicks’ Developmental League affiliate before they purchased their own team in 2014. Jay’s father, Jim, is the head coach at the University of Miami.
The Knicks’ list of eight interviewees could expand, but there will be no interview with Villanova stud coach Jay Wright.
According to an NBA source, the Knicks will not speak to Wright to conclude an exhaustive coaching search that has now taken them to Europe for David Blatt.
According to an industry source, at least two NBA teams reached out to Wright’s reps, one believed to be the Knicks.
Two weeks ago, Perry all but confirmed he had reach out to Wright when asked if he saw a coach in the NCAA Tournament who intrigued him.
“I saw some exciting basketball during the NCAA Tournament,” Perry said smiling. “We’re not going to address any names, whether it’s college or pro, but it’s going to be an open search. Having been a former college coach, I always kind of keep an eye on those ranks anyway, so we’ll see.”
Scott Perry and Steve Mills have made clear that they are looking for a coach who would be part of the decision-making process, working as a team with the management group. Budenholzer was President & General Manager of the Hawks before stepping down last year.
How much say would he want in personnel matters if he came to New York? That could be a sticking point.
Budenholzer obviously wants out of Atlanta. His displeasure is related to losing personnel power to Schlenk last year, and Schlenk’s subsequent decision to rebuild via the draft. Remember, there were no head coach openings in the NBA after last season, so Budenholzer had little choice but to stay with the Hawks if he wanted to be a head coach in 2017-18.
Reports say Budenholzer became disenchanted with the Hawks over personnel matters.
“He had control in Atlanta then lost control. So that’s a question. Can he deal within a system where he’s not the final decision-maker?” the rival exec said.
“They probably never should have given him control to pick players and make those decisions. That’s not in his realm,” the Western exec said. “But he was in a perfect situation with new ownership. He had just done a fabulous job, it was a contract year so he could ask for what he wanted. But around the league, people think he is an excellent coach.”
Perry has consulted with Brown since acquiring point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who nearly played for Brown at SMU before opting to play professionally for a year in China. Brown stepped down at SMU in July 2016 at age 75.
It was unclear why Mike Budenholzer would want out of Atlanta with two-years and $14 million remaining on his contract, but we now might have a hint.
Mike Budenholzer is genuinely interested in the Knicks’ job, according to an NBA source who has spoken to the Hawks coach.
“New York’s his top choice,’’ the NBA source said. “If they offered him the job, he’d say yes. He wants to live in New York.’’
Budenholzer would be the anti-tanking hire. The Knicks have talked about taking a patient approach with their rebuild; but based on this quote, if they hire Bud, you would have to believe the organization is on the same page as him in terms of wanting to win sooner rather than later.
Budenholzer appears so disillusioned with the current Hawks’ philosophy, it’s difficult to imagine him returning. Atlanta is adopting the blueprint set by the “Trust The Process’’ Sixers
“Phoenix and the Knicks are trying to win every game,’’ said the NBA source who has spoken to Budenholzer recently. “There’s a good chance Atlanta is not looking to win games the next two years. This wasn’t Mike’s decision. He didn’t expect it. He doesn’t want to lose games.’’
Rod Strickland forced a trade out of New York when Mark Jackson was infringing on his playing time. It would be interesting if the two re-united as Knicks coaches all these years later.
Borrego, 41, is considered one of the top young assistant coaches in the NBA, and his time together with Perry with the Orlando Magic has played a part in his ability to interview for the Knicks’ job. Borrego made a strong impression on Perry in a 30-game stint as interim head coach in the 2014-15 season.
Borrego was the runner-up to Fizdale in the Memphis Grizzlies’ search process two years ago and made a strong impression on the Houston Rockets in meetings before they hired Mike D’Antoni. Borrego has turned down college head-coaching opportunities to remain on coach Gregg Popovich’s staff and pursue the chance to be an NBA head coach.
Knicks GM Scott Perry is planning to pair the European trip with a scouting side trip, sources said. The Perry-Blatt meeting will be telltale to Blatt’s candidacy. Blatt has a strong history and relationship with Knicks president Steve Mills, and Mills has been an advocate for Blatt to become the Knicks’ head coach when he worked with Phil Jackson and now Perry.
Nevertheless, Perry has no relationship with Blatt and would need to be convinced that they could work together — and that Blatt, 58, could be an asset in connecting with players and ultimately recruiting free agents to New York. Blatt’s credentials as a European coach are unmatched, and his season-plus with the Cavaliers included a 83-40 record and trip to the 2015 NBA Finals.