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Five Things to Know: Porzingis is out, changing Knicks plans for summer, next season

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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 — except last night was so insane here are the five things you need to know.

1) Kirstaps Porzingis tears his ACL, surgery upcoming and he is done for the season. “It sucks, man, it sucks.”

Tim Hardaway Jr. speaks for all of us as the news came down that The Franchise, The Unicorn, the Knicks best player and All-Star Kristaps Porzingis tore the ACL in his left knee on a dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo — and it looked bad the second he landed.

It was later determined to be an ACL tear, and Porzingis will have surgery. While no timetable was given, the recovery on those is generally 8-12 months, which means this likely stretches into the start of next season. As an example, Chicago’s Zach LaVine injured tore his ACL on Feb. 3 last season and only returned to action a couple of weeks ago in mid-January. Even when Porzingis gets back on the court, it will take him a little time to fully trust the knee again and be his old self.

The injury doesn’t change the calculus for this season, the Knicks had only a 2 percent chance of making the playoffs before Porzingis went down (according to fivethirtyeight.com). It will change plans for next season if KP misses the first couple of months of games, at the very least putting the Knicks in a hole to dig out of to make the postseason, and possibly keeping them out of the playoffs all together again. The injury could have the Knicks thinking more about the 2019-20 season than the next one. It also raises the question of if the Knicks still will give Porzingis the expected max contract extension they can this summer, something that was a given 24 hours ago. Because of Porsingis’ track record and the fact he’s a franchise cornerstone player they a most certainly do, but this gives them a little pause to think about it.

Now the Knicks move their focus to the summer, when they will try to add to the Porzingis/Hardaway core through the draft and trades (they are already capped out so free agency is not going to be a big market). Enes Kanter can opt out of his contract and the Knicks will want to bring him back (at what price will be interesting), and they have to figure out what to do with Joakim Noah, who is away from the team and will still be owed two years and $37.8 million (a trade is not on the table unless the Knicks want to throw a couple of first-round picks and other sweeteners in that deal).

2) Here’s a list of the All-Stars injured before the game this year — it’s depressing. On the night of the All-Star draft, we all praised LeBron James for putting together the better team, but it turns out maybe it was a curse. With the addition of Porzingis now, four players selected by fans or coaches for the All-Star game are going to miss it due to injury, and every one of them is on Team LeBron:

DeMarcus Cousins: Torn Achilles
Kevin Love: Broken hand
John Wall: Knee surgery
Kristaps Porzingis: Torn ACL

That sucks some of the fun out of the Feb. 18 game.

The NBA league office will announce Wednesday the replacement for Porzingis. It will be the highest rated player remaining from the Eastern Conference in the coaches voting. My guess is it’s Kemba Walker, but Ben Simmons is a possibility.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo had the dunk of the year. We can stop the voting now. It’s over. We know who won the dunk of the year — Antetokounmpo leaped over Tim Hardaway Jr. to finish an alley-oop. He Frederic Weised him. Remember Hardaway is 6’6″.

4) Cavaliers collapse vs. Magic, Isaiah Thomas calls team out, LeBron sticking around. Another game, another ugly Cavaliers loss. Early on in this one, LeBron James was engaged and active — something we haven’t seen a lot of the past month. He can still put this team on his back and carry it, as he has done for a couple of months this season already, and in the first quarter Tuesday the Cavaliers dropped 43 on one of the worst teams in the NBA in Orlando. Cleveland led by as many as 21.

But the third quarter was flat-out ugly, and the fourth was worse. Orlando scored 41 in the third the Cavaliers scored nine points in the fourth (and just 31 for the half). Orlando got the win, 116-98.

After the game, LeBron reiterated he is not waiving his no-trade clause, he is not going anywhere. This season.

“I’m here for this season right now to try and figure out a way we can still compete. I owe it to my teammates to finish this season out no matter how it ends up. I would never waive my no-trade clause.”

Also, Isaiah Thomas (after another rough game) called out the team saying they come apart when faced with adversity.

The Cavaliers keep finding new lows. But Dan Gilbert is back in charge of basketball operations, so no need to worry now *cough*.

5) Toronto beats Boston in what well could be an Eastern Conference Finals preview. Cleveland is vulnerable. Not just “they may not get out of the East” vulnerable, but “they may not make the Eastern Conference Finals” vulnerable the way they are playing right now. (There are a couple of months until the playoffs start, and the trade deadline is coming up, but the Cavaliers problems are systemic. And again, Dan Gilbert is back in charge of basketball operations. That is not a sign of hope.)

Is Boston vs. Toronto our Eastern Conference Finals? Maybe. Tuesday night was a little taste of that.

The Raptors handled Boston easily, 111-91, on a night Kyrie Irving returned to action but was off, and with him the Celtics offense was not right. Especially in the face of an underrated Raptors defense. On the other end DeMar DeRozan was playmaking, Kyle Lowry was engaged and attacking (23 points), Serge Ibaka was sharp, and the Toronto bench was superior. It led to an easy Toronto win.

No game in February is a true playoff preview, you can’t take much from that game into a potential Eastern Conference Finals, save for this — Toronto is legit. The Raptors have been good for years, but their isolation ball got them in trouble in the postseason. This is the best Raptors team of this run, and if you think they’ll just fold in the playoffs you’re going to be disappointed.

Jeremy Lin: I believe J.J. Redick

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76ers guard J.J. Redick explained then apologized for saying what sounded like a slur for Chinese people, claiming he was tongue-tied.

Nets guard Jeremy Lin:

Lin’s Asian-American heritage helps make him very popular with the same people most offended by Redick. Lin vouching for Redick will likely go a long way in diffusing tension.

Hornets dropping GM Rich Cho, will reportedly pursue Mitch Kupchak

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Update: Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that the team will not extend the contract of General Manager Rich Cho. The Hornets will begin a search for a new general manager immediately.

“I want to thank Rich for all of his hard work with the Charlotte Hornets organization through the years and wish him and his family the best in the future,” said Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan. “Rich worked tirelessly on behalf of our team and instituted a number of management tools that have benefited our organization. We are deeply committed to our fans and to the city of Charlotte to provide a consistent winner on the court. The search will now begin for our next head of basketball operations who will help us achieve that goal.”

 

Last spring, the Hornets exercised their option on general manager Rich Cho for this season. It wasn’t exactly a strong vote of confidence without a contract extension.

Now, it’s becoming even more clear he’s a lame duck.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Cho has had plenty of hits and misses as general manager, including a year with the Trail Blazers. But the misses have added up in Charlotte. The Hornets’ next general manager will inherit:

Kemba Walker helps, but he can’t do it alone. This bloated payroll leaves little flexibility for roster upgrades – necessary to lift Charlotte into strong playoff contention. Walker will become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, and affording him could be tricky.

This is not a good job (relative to the other 29 NBA general manager jobs, of course).

Hornets owner Michael Jordan certainly plays into that. In one of the biggest gaffes of the Cho era, Charlotte rejected the Celtics’ offer of four first-round picks for the No. 9 pick in the 2015 draft, just to pick Frank Kaminsky. (Boston wanted Justise Winslow.) Was that Cho’s call or Jordan’s?

Cho takes the fall, though. That’s how this works.

Jordan’s ownership also means he gets to pick the replacement. It’s surely not a coincidence he’s leaning toward Mitch Kupchak (who played at North Carolina) and Buzz Peterson (who played with Jordan at North Carolina).

Kupchak fizzled late, but his overall tenure with the Lakers was a success. Has the game passed him by, or did recency bias unfairly paint him unfavorably? We might get to find out.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban: I told players we’re better off losing

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban admitted the Mavericks tanked last season, but said they wouldn’t this season until they’re eliminated.

Apparently, he’s loosening the restriction – and getting even more brazen about discussing it.

Dallas (18-40) is not officially eliminated, but with the league’s third-worst record, it’s only a matter of time.

Cuban on Julius Erving’s podcast, House Call with Dr. J:

I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night. And here we are, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, “Look, losing is our best option.” Adam would hate hearing that, but at least I sat down, and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again. This was a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me.

But being transparent, I think that’s the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability.

This is why it’s not completely accurate to say players don’t tank.

Sure, they don’t go on the court and try to lose. Some would have their job for the following season jeopardized by a higher draft pick.

But when management wants to lose, that flows throughout the entire organization, including to players. Workers don’t perform as well when their boss prefers failure. A feeling of apathy (or wore) sets in, intentionally or not.

The message isn’t always this direct, and it’s practically never publicly revealed like this. Cuban marches to his own drum, and he’s absolutely right: NBA commissioner Adam Silver – who disliked last year’s comments – certainly won’t like these.

However Silver responds, Cuban can at least take solace in being right. The Mavericks are better off tanking, and telling the players can build trust. They would have figured it out for themselves, anyway.

Kevin Love says about a month until he’s back on court with new-look Cavaliers

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LOS ANGELES — Kevin Love had some of the best seats in the house for the new-look Cavaliers and their 2-0 push before the break, and he wants back on the court to be part of it.

“I’m probably about two weeks out from getting this movable cast off for good, and then from there about a few weeks after that before I get back,” Love told NBCSports.com about his recovery from a fractured left hand. “So I have a good amount of time, about a month.”

Love was in Los Angeles all last weekend, where he had been voted onto the All-Star team by the coaches for the fifth time, but for the second consecutive year had to sit out due to injury. Love seemed to be at all the events in his former home Los Angeles — working with Kevin Hart for the “Closer Than Courtside” with Mountain Dew Kickstart, at the Beats by Dre party in Hollywood, and courtside for the All-Star Game itself sitting next to Kyrie Irving and LeBron James — but not on the court where he wants to be.

When he does get back on the court, it will be a very different team in Cleveland he’s playing with — and he thinks that’s a good thing.

“Just clearing out… I shouldn’t say that, just getting new faces and getting new energy in the locker room has been big for us,” Love told NBC Sports Saturday. “Even in the last two games, you can just see the energy is different, you can see guys are really competing on both ends of the floor, and that bodes well for us the second half of the season.”

The changes were needed.

“It might not have been a bad thing to get some fresh faces in there and guys from situations where they really wanted to win,” Love said during media day. “I think first and foremost, seeing those (new) guys in Atlanta, they didn’t play, but they got there right after the trade and they just said they want to win.

“You can tell when somebody says it, you can tell when somebody means it. They really meant it and it felt good to have that there.”

In Los Angeles, Love was having fun working with the other guy who seemed to be everywhere all weekend, comedian Kevin Hart. Love was working with Hart on the Mountain Dew Kickstart “Closer Than Courtside” Contest – a nationwide search to find Hart new “CourtsideKick” where fans tell Hart on social media why they think they’re courtside ready for a chance to sit with him during the NBA Playoffs.

“I’ve been drinking Code Red Mountain Dew, and Baja Blast forever,” Love said of this partnership. “My friend and I were just talking about how long we’ve been drinking Code Red, which is kind of a throwback flavor now.”

He’s just drinking it with his right hand. His left — his off, non-shooting hand — is still in that soft cast.

But having been down the injury road before, Love knows what it takes to get back.

“Just look at it from an optimistic point of view,” Love said of his mental process. “Even last year I missed the New Orleans All-Star Game because I just had my knee scoped, so just knowing that I’ve been there before, knowing that I’ve had success coming back, and just getting over that mental hurdle of coming back from an injury.

“Looking at it glass half full, it’s my left hand, so I can still do a ton of stuff out there on the floor and be ready to play in a month.”

A ton of stuff includes both cardio work and being able to do some strength and lifting with bands so that when the cast does come off his return to the court is faster. Once he gets there, Love expects that even with the new players he’ll be back in the same roles playing both the four and a lot at the five with these smaller, speedier lineups.

“I know we will supplement different guys in the lineup,” Love said. “I’ll hopefully be able to come back quite easily, I’ll have my legs under me — like I said, just because it’s my left hand — and I’ll be able to get back into rhythm here really fast.”

The Cavaliers hope so, too.