There are obvious goals ahead: First the start of training camp, then at the end of October the start of the regular season.
For players such as J.R. Smith who had offseason surgery — to his left patella tendon, and to fix a tear in the lateral meniscus of the same knee — the goal is to be ready by those dates.
But the Knicks the reining Sixth Man of the Year healthy in April, May (and they hope June), not Oct. 30 to take on Milwaukee (the Knicks season opener). So they don’t want to rush him.
Still, Smith wants to be back when the season tips off and hopes he can make it, he told ESPNNewYork.com.
“It’s still too early to tell from what I hear — from the doc and all that,” said Smith, whose current rehab consists of pool workouts and riding the exercise bike. “I hope so. I want to be there opening night. I want to start the training camp off with my team and with my teammates.”
That timetable is on pace with what the doctor said after the surgery.
Remember Smith signed a new three-year, $17 million deal with the Knicks this summer (the surgery was announced days later).
Smith will play through pain — he did it last season, which is why the major knee surgery was needed. Smith started feeling knee pain last training camp but kept playing all season.
“I hate sitting out and I hate to be the guy in the gym watching everybody else play. So I wanted to play through it no matter what,” he said. “The doctors told me to sit out and wait, sit two, three games during the season last year, and I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to play as many games as I could. I ended up playing 80 out of 82, which isn’t so bad.”
The Knicks are going to need a repeat season out of Smith (maybe even more consistent) if they are going to live up to their goals of being a contender in an East that got better around them.
Three Things to Know: Kawhi Leonard is back, but Spurs have work to do fitting him in
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. We’re coming to you a little later in the morning in than usual due to the breaking news about the 2021 All-Star Game going to Indiana.
1) Kawhi Leonard is back with the Spurs, but loss to Mavericks shows they have work to do fitting him in. There were moments when Kawhi Leonard looked like his fearsome self Tuesday night: Tipping a rebound to himself then knocking down a midrange jumper off it, draining a pull-up three in transition, hitting some runners as he attacked off the pick-and-roll. Leonard was back, a bit rusty as one would expect, but had 13 points in 15 minutes against the Mavericks on Tuesday night.
That was the good news. Leonard also showed a lot of rust, as is too be expected, and he didn’t play after midway through the third quarter after he hit his minutes limit near 15.
Kawhi acknowledge he has considerable rust to shake. Asked how long it will take him to return to top condition, he said, “I’m not sure. I didn’t play 30 minutes tonight, so I don’t know where my conditioning is by playing 16 minutes. But I felt good playing 16 minutes."
There’s going to be an adjustment period on offense. Through the first 27 games of the season, everything flowed through LaMarcus Aldridge while he was out there. Gregg Popovich promised Aldridge over the summer they would use him more and in spots where he was more comfortable, but that was easier to do when he was their best player on the floor. Now Aldridge and Leonard — and the rest of the Spurs — have to figure out a new dance. That will take a little time.
LA on whether he and Kawhi can work out things offensively: “I’m not worried about that. I’m just trying to win games. We are both going to play well, both of us are going to try to help us win, so I’m not worried about that." #Spurs
The good news is the Spurs racked up so many wins to start the season, they have plenty of cushion to lose a few — like to a feisty Dallas team on Tuesday 95-89, in a game where the Spurs offense looked out of synch for long stretches — and be just fine. As always, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs are looking at the big picture.
2) Young Knicks, Lakers put on a show in Madison Square Garden. Knicks win in overtime. ESPN trained its cameras on the rising stars of the NBA Tuesday night — and those teams have been the most entertaining ones this season. We know that the Warriors and Cavaliers will be playing late into May (and probably June), but both are picking their spots right now.
The Lakers and Knicks are trying to figure it out and get better every night. There’s an energy around teams like those two (and Philadelphia, who we get to in our third thing) that we don’t see from the big guns right now. These teams are just fun to watch, and they put on a real show in Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, a game that went to overtime before the Knicks pulled out the win. There was Kyle Kuzma‘s three to force OT, Lonzo Ball looking more and more comfortable ( 17 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists), Knicks rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina not looking like a newbie with 13 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds, and finally there was a whole lot of Kristaps Porzingis, who dropped 37 points and had five blocks on the night. The end of the game was just back-and-forth entertainment.
The Lakers aren’t making the playoffs, and the Knicks could but likely will not stick around long if and when they do, but during the regular season teams like these on the rise are the fun ones to watch.
3) Joel Embiid dropped 28 and 12 on the Timberwolves, but Game of Thrones theory is more interesting. I think Joel Embiid is right about Game of Thrones… oh, wait, we should probably talk about basketball first for a bit. Embiid is really good at that, too.
Embiid went head-to-head with Karl-Anthony Towns in a showdown of the best young bigs in the game Tuesday, and Embiid came out on top. Towns finished the night with 19 points (6-of-16 shooting) and 16 boards, but Embiid dropped 28 points (also on 16 shots) and had 12 rebounds and 8 assists. Plus, Embiid led his team to the win (with a little help from J.J. Redick‘s 25).
“I’ve studied the whole show,” he says, and it’s clear to Embiid that Kit Harington’s character, Jon Snow, will not end up on the Iron Throne.
“That’s what everybody thinks is going to happen,” Embiid says. “But the whole show has been that you don’t know what’s going to happen. Jon Snow will not be the king.”
The show seems to be pointing toward some kind of Daenerys Targaryen/Jon Snow power sharing structure when it ends after next season, but Embiid is right in that what the show does is not reward the characters that the audience likes or thinks will do their jobs well. Just ask Ned Stark… well, you could ask him if his head were still attached. There are some serious twists still to come. Personally, I want to see Sansa Stark on the throne with Arya Stark next to her, but that’s not going to happen either. Which is the best part of the show.
Embiid is right — Game of Thrones trolls its fans. And Embiid knows trolling, so I trust he’s right on this.
Adam Silver is in Indiana for a 4 p.m. (local time) press conference where this will be officially announced. It’s done.
Indianapolis can handle this, no problem, it got rave reviews (from media members I spoke to, at least) when hosting the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four. It also brings the All-Star Game to the coolest NBA building, Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
A number of other cities — Houston, Orlando, and San Francisco among them — had been in the running for the 2021 game.
The 2018 All-Star Game next February will be in Los Angeles. After that, it heads to Charlotte in 2019, then Chicago in 2020. It looks like the game will stay in the Midwest for the following year in 2021.
Kristaps Porzingis went off against Lakers: 37 points, 5 blocks (VIDEO)
I’d say the Lakers didn’t have any answers for Kristaps Porzingis Tuesday night, but no team has an answer for Kristaps Porzingis when he is on.
And he was on vs. the Lakers: 37 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocked shots. He also hit five triples (on just eight attempts). Check out the video above.
Kristaps Porzingis is the first Knick with at least 35 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks in a game since Patrick Ewing in 1996. Patrick never hit 5 threes in one of those games though. Per @TommyBeer, Porzingis is the first player in NBA history to have that combination w/5 3PM.
There’s so much transparent marketing happening with LaVar Ball that it’s often not worth the server space to type up what he says and post it. The father of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball is so breathlessly unexciting in his pitch for relevance in comparison to the actual happenings of the NBA, the irony of which is not unnoticed here.
Still, Mr. Ball has infrequently stepped out from his professional Uncle At a Barbeque cosplay to criticize the Lakers and coach Luke Walton. Mr. Ball has made it clear he thinks Lonzo should play more often, and in fourth quarters. That hasn’t been productive for either side, and it appears that the team has asked Mr. Ball to pull back on openly criticizing Walton.
According to a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the team and Mr. Ball met to discuss their relationship in November.
The meeting, which took place within the past few weeks, was called by Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.
LaVar Ball confirmed the meeting took place, telling ESPN, “It was the best thing, man. Everybody’s going to try to make it an ego thing, like I’m trying to tell them what to do or they’re trying to tell me to tone it down. It’s not about that. It’s about coming together and to get a solution to this problem.
“It may sound crazy to other people, but I really just want the best for Lonzo, and the best for Lonzo is going to be what’s best for the organization. Because if everybody winning, we good.”
“I’m going to say whatever I want to say, however I want to say it,” Ball said. “And they said, ‘LaVar, come and talk to us first.’ So that’s fine too.
“But I am going to say, to plant a seed, ‘Let’s look for this now.’ They may not want to hear that, but it’s going to be successful if you listen to what I’m saying on that fact that I know what it takes for my son to run like this.”
Mr. Ball’s influence on his son is unique, but the team is far more than an avenue for Lonzo to play basketball. Indeed, Lonzo is not even one the best two or three players on the Lakers. The organization needs to function at a professional level and doesn’t need Mr. Ball to achieve that. Sidestepping any Whataboutism in the face of sketchy NBA decisionmaking — Phil Jackson, the Bulls front office, any Billy King trade, Isiah Thomas, etc. — it’s not immediately clear that Mr. Ball agrees.
It’s got to be a hassle for Walton to have to deal with this type of thing. The team started enforcing an existing rule a rule recently that stops members of the media from congregating in the same area where NBA friends and family are after a game, but it’s unlikely that will stop reporters from ambulance-chasing Ball any time soon.
Asked a thoughtful LaVar a bit about this postgame myself. Here’s some of what he said:
“Behind closed doors we’ve got a great communication. People are going to try to twist what I’m saying, what (Lakers) are saying. But it’s not going to happen.” https://t.co/vQ5Cx5L1Vl
Lonzo has remained in LA, which is exactly what Mr. Ball wanted when his son went to UCLA. The younger Ball has struggled a bit, but he’s part of an energetic young core that’s on the up in a tough conference. Lonzo is even leading the team in assists. But Mr. Ball persists in stepping where he’s unqualified, presumably as a means to continue his guerilla marketing campaign (or perhaps motivated by it). LaVar doesn’t realize his work is done — Lonzo is a Laker — and he should let 16 championship trophies in the No. 2 TV market in the country take it from here.