Sure, the Knicks want LeBron James. And they’ll make their pitch. But they’ll need more than the King to contend, and will need other players on roster to lure James anyway. And there’s always, you know, the simple fact that they should probably look into some backup plans in case their best pitch isn’t good enough for James to swing at.
Target acquired: Hawks shooting guard Joe Johnson.
ESPN reports that Knicks GM Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D’Antoni will fly to the west coast on Wednesday in anticipation of the Thursday midnight EST start of free agency. They’ll meet with Joe Johnson at 9PM Pacific time, then hop on a flight and catch up with Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix.
So, yeah. Two players who excelled under Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix will be the first two visited by the master of “Seven Seconds or Less” within the first three hours of the free agency period. Later in the day, they’ll meet with LeBron James.
If we’re examining realistic possibilities, the Knicks have an outside shot at James. Their roster isn’t in a place to contend, and other bidders will have that luxury. But Johnson and Amar’e present an interesting alternative. Both would likely be impressed with being stars of a New York team. Both have played together under D’Antoni in the past. Both can get buckets in efficient ways (though Johnson’s efficiency has begun to plummet).
Is Johnson worth the max contract? No, not at his age. Is this a championship contending core? Probably not. But it is a monumental step forward for a franchise that literally only recently finished up digging itself out of the hole Isiah Thomas put them in.
While D’Antoni’s system would be greatly improved with a dynamic point guard like Steve Nash, Johnson and Amar’e could run the pick and roll with devastating results. Johnson would need to adjust to being more of a facilitator, but hey, D’Antoni has been known to get through to players.
Johnson and Amar’e aren’t the biggest fish out there. But they’re still good catches, and if things were to fall just right, one or the other could help land LeBron.
J.R. Smith (slightly out of context): “We don’t start paying attention until after All-Star break.”
Raptors guard Delon Wright dislocated his shoulder, but at least he won’t need surgery.
Raptors media relations:
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The Raptors (11-5), off to a surprisingly strong start, are second in the Eastern Conference. They’ve bought themselves margin for error. All in all, a month-long absence for Wright isn’t so bad.
Wright had been a key part of an excellent all-bench unit that included Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby, C.J. Miles and Jakob Poeltl. Two-way player Lorenzo Brown has assumed Wright’s role, and Norman Powell – returning from his own injury – will provide a boost. Toronto can also stagger Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan more.
The chemistry of the bench mob was something to behold, but the Raptors should withstand this.
Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley underwent knee surgery – never a great sign.
The prognosis is about as bad as could be expected.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
This injury isn’t just a setback for this season. It could derail the Clippers’ long-term plan.
They’ve already lost nine straight, and Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic are injured. If they fall further out of playoff position, they could become sellers before the trade deadline, especially with DeAndre Jordan ($24,119,025 player option for next season) and Lou Williams ($7 million salary on expiring contract).
Health was always the major question with this team, and it won’t soften as Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari age through lucrative contracts.
The final year of Beverley’s contract is guaranteed for just $5,027,028 next season, and the 29-year-old will spend most of the summer recovering from this injury. That salary is probably low enough that the Clippers will keep him without hesitation.
Until then, down a couple point guards, the Clippers have no choice but to continue leaning more on Austin Rivers. That also means greater roles for second-round rookies Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell. That’s just too many players facing outsized responsibility.
The Pelicans, Grizzlies, Jazz and any other team competing for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference ought to feel better about their chances. They’re still competing with each other, and it’s doubtful all three make it. But Beverley’s injury helps clear the way.
The Clippers, who didn’t want to take a major step back after Chris Paul‘s departure, must confront an even more uneasy reality.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – one of the NBA’s best players – won’t help new Bucks teammate Eric Bledsoe in a revenge game against the Suns tonight.
Not only is Milwaukee missing Mirza Teletovic and John Henson (and Matthew Dellavedova and Jabari Parker), Antetokounmpo is out.
Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Antetokounmpo will miss Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns due to right knee soreness.
Antetokounmpo says his knee soreness is the same injury he dealt with in the off-season, which caused him to withdraw from the Greek national team.
“It feels good,” Antetokounmpo said after sitting out shootaround. “I’m just trying to be careful with it and not make any damage. That’s it, because it’s a long season and I’m trying to be careful.”
The Bucks have been outscored by 18.6 points per 100 possessions without Antetokounmpo this season (and are +2.3 without him). Phoenix isn’t good, but neither is Milwaukee without Antetokounmpo.
I don’t think Bledsoe will mind a chance to get more aggressive tonight, though.