Report: Knicks violated league rules with improper pre-draft workouts

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The Knicks have tried desperately to escape their recent past, but it comes back to haunt them again and again.

The latest — a Knicks scout and confidant of Isiah Thomas has run improper pre-draft workouts for the past four years, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

Knicks director of East Coast scouting Rodney Heard coordinated and conducted the sessions, three players who were involved in some of the workouts told Yahoo! Sports – including one May 2007 session that resulted in a devastating knee injury to Kansas All-American Brandon Rush(notes). A tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in Rush’s right knee forced him to withdraw from the 2007 draft and required surgery plus six months of rehabilitation.

In addition to the Rush session – which was an apparent violation of NBA bylaws forbidding teams from working out players before the annual predraft camp – Heard may have broken more rules by conducting predraft workouts with additional players during restricted time periods in 2007 and for excessive sessions in 2009 and 2010.

That goes up through this year with workouts involving Ekpe Udoh and Tory Jackson (a Notre Dame player who went undrafted) according to the report.

Heard denied everything, saying it was all lies (but the report has multiple people at these workouts saying they did take place). Thomas could not be reached for comment. Current team president Donnie Walsh denied all knowledge of these workouts.

This is big.

The league is going to investigate itself, but this report lays out the path and the people to talk to and will likely lead to some kind of sanctions against the Knicks. There have been front office suspensions and lost draft picks in the past, on much smaller incidents.

This could lead to the forfeiting of draft picks the Knicks have. And they don’t have those to spare thanks to Thomas, who traded away so many that the Knicks can’t trade a pick until 2014.

The Knicks do have a first rounder this season (they can’t trade it because you can’t trade first round picks in consecutive years) and that is the kind of thing that could be forfeited under penalties, further setting back rebuilding efforts.

Two steps up and one step back for the Knicks.

Watch Michael Jordan’s best highlight from each of his playoff runs (video)

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I’ve become a sucker for this highlight format.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

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Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.