Kurt Helin

Playing for Knicks “means the world” to Joakim Noah, according to his father


For those that don’t know, Joakim Noah‘s father was a tennis stud. Yannick Noah is a former No. 3 player in the world, he racked up 23 singles titles and 16 doubles titles in his career, and he remains the last Frenchman to win the French Open. Not shockingly, he’s been hanging out in Queens the last week at the U.S. Open.

That’s where George Willis of the New York Post caught up with Yannick to talk about his son, who grew up in New York and this season will play for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

“It means the world to him,” the elder Noah said of Joakim joining the Knicks. “We used to go to the Garden when he was a kid, watching games, watching Patrick [Ewing] play. To know that he’s going to play in the Garden, we feel so blessed. He’s preparing hard. He has a lot of hope and he can’t wait. And I’ll be there.”

Knicks fans will love him and treat him as one of their own. At least at first. If things go sideways in the Garden, all bets are off.

Some guys can get caught up in the distractions New York offers, but Noah will not have that problem, according to his father.

“He knows the city,” Yannick Noah said. “He was born here. It’s not like he’s coming from the countryside and he’s coming to New York City. He lived here for a long time. Of course, it can be dangerous for an athlete. But he knows and he’s so motivated. It’s a great opportunity for him. He’s going to give all he has for the city.”

If the Knicks can keep their starting five healthy they should be a playoff team in the East. But that’s a big if with Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and Noah — there have been a fair amount of injuries in that group in recent years. It’s also going to be interesting to see how that group will play in new coach Jeff Hornacek’s preferred up-tempo style.

But don’t be shocked if Noah has a bit of a bounce back year now that he’s at home. If he can just stay on the court.

Danilo Gallinari says he told Nuggets at deadline he didn’t want to be traded

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As the February trade deadline approached, the Clippers and Celtics were calling the Nuggets. Among the topics, stretch four Danilo Gallinari.

No deal happened, obviously. Gallinari is about to head to camp as a floor-spacing forward for Mike Malone as he tries to build on the culture change and youth movement started to happen last season in the mile high city. That’s the way the Italian wanted it — he told Denver he didn’t want to be traded, something he said at a recent press conference (as transcribed at Denver Stiffs).

“In Denver I am very well, there was a chance last year to go to some other team before the deadline in February, but I refused. If I return to Italy would be back to Olympia but with the intention of winning, I don’t like the idea of nostalgic revisiting”

(Translation courtesy of Bing Translation, and confirmed by individuals who were at the press conference)

To be clear, Gallinari could not block a trade, he does not have a no-trade clause in his deal. If Denver wants to move him, they can. However, it is possible the Nuggets went to him and asked if he wanted to be moved, if they should pursue these avenues, and he said no.

Later in the press conference, Gallinari talked about liking it in Denver.

“I’ve been in the United States for eight years, this will be my ninth season in NBA, I consider myself fortunate to have realized the dream of all children who play basketball. Now my goal is to win something in Denver, I’ve played there for five years now and I love it. I am very well and I hope to win with the Nuggets. Although “Super Teams” are now fashionable such as Golden State and Cleveland, to win in Denver this season will be very difficult for everyone.”

Winning will be difficult because this is such a young team. Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, and Juan Hernangomez are all 21 and younger. There is real talent in Denver, they could take some big steps forward in a couple of seasons (be patient Nuggets fans), but this season is going to be about development and growth.

Gallinari is the old man of the group, he’s not likely part of the long-term future. Which is why his name will continue to come up in trade rumors. He is set to make $15 million this season, with a $16 million player option next year (he probably will opt out to secure a longer deal). He’s an attractive target for a lot of teams.

Maybe Gallinari will change his mind. Or, maybe the Nuggets will find an offer they like so much they will not ask Gallinari what he thinks. But I’d be surprised if we don’t hear more Gallinari trade talk this coming season.

Report: Most Cavaliers assistant coaches still without contracts for next season

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Usually, when a team wins a ring, coaches and front office staff get more than a replica ring — they get job security. Longer deals, usually for a little extra scratch. They’ve earned it.

But that’s not what’s going on in Cleveland, according to the very-well sourced Chris Haynes (formerly of Cleveland.com but headed to ESPN this year). He posted the information in a Facebook video.

Haynes said that four of Tyronn Lue’s assistants — Phil Handy, Damon Jones, Jim Boylan, and James Posey — don’t have contracts and worked Summer League without pay. While the team did pick up the contract option of Larry Drew, that was a deal from when he was third down the bench, now he’s the associate head coach.

Lue is very frustrated, according to Haynes. He says that things have gotten to the “point of hostility.” Technically those coaches are free agents who could jump at other jobs. Lue was taken care of with an extension, but his lieutenants have been left hanging for months.

Lue should be pissed. When you win, you take care of people. That apparently has not happened. It doesn’t put the Cavs front office in a good light.

The issue likely will get taken care of in the next couple of weeks, and when training camp opens everyone will say all the right things about it not being and issue and this being behind them. It is a matter which by the start of the season should long be forgotten.

But it’s an odd way to begin the defense of a title.

51 Questions: How will Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler coexist?

Associated Press

We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off). Today:

How will Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler coexist?

Usually, when a team adds a player the caliber of Dwyane Wade — three titles, Finals MVP, 12-time All-Star — the first thought is “good move.” This is a guy who averaged 19 points a game last season, is dangerous with the ball in his hands, cuts well off the ball, and showed in the playoffs that he can still dial it up for a stretch and take over games.

But when the Bulls brought him in, along with Rajon Rondo, the reaction around the league looked more like Seth and Amy saying “Really!?!”

The Bulls had finally made the right move — they traded Derrick Rose, let Joakim Noah walk, and moved on from the teams crafted for the Tom Thibodeau era. The Bulls were Jimmy Butler’s team, and they could go out and get players that fit the up-tempo, selflessly share-the-ball style Fred Hoiberg wants to play.

Which is why Wade and Rondo had people saying “really?”

How is this anything but treading water? Given the chance to rebuild and think strategically, the Bulls front office went for a quick fix move that isn’t really a fix.

It’s fair to ask how Rondo, Wade, and Butler can coexist on a playoff team?

Butler, Wade, and Rondo are three guys who work best with the ball in their hands slashing to the rim. Three guys doing the same thing is defendable. Plus, NBA rules still allow just one ball on the court at a time.

Even more concerning, in a league where every team is clamoring for more shooting, more floor spacing, the Bulls core guys now are not dangerous threats from three. Rondo, Wade, and Butler combined to make 133 three-pointers last season — an aging Kobe Bryant made that many by himself (in just 66 games). C.J. Miles made more by himself. Rondo was the most accurate of the three at 36.5 percent, and if he lines up beyond the arc this season, opponents will give him the shot.

It’s not hard to imagine a defensive strategy against the Bulls: Pack the paint, clog driving lanes, go under picks, and if anyone except Nikola Mirotic wants to shoot the three don’t run them off the line.

And we haven’t even gotten to the defensive end of the court. Rondo and Wade are not near their vintage selves on that end, key contributors like Mirotic and Doug McDermott struggle to get stops, and Robin Lopez is solid as a backstop but can only clean up so many messes.

All that said, we may be overestimating the issues with the Bulls. Somewhat. Maybe.

If the Bulls can do what Fred Hoiberg wants and get out and run — get offense before the defense sets — the slashing skills of Wade/Butler/Rondo can be put to good use. Have them slash, have Moritic and McDermott run to the arc, and you have a fairly dangerous offense.

The problem is last year’s Bulls were not built for that, and in this “rebuild” I’m not sure the Gar/Pax front office solved that problem. The Bulls didn’t get much more athletic.

The Bulls have talent on the roster — Butler spent his summer winning a gold medal in Rio, Wade can still get a team buckets, and there is depth with Lopez, Mirotic (who should have a big season), Taj Gibson (unless he’s traded), Tony Snell, McDermott, Bobby Portis, and rookie Denzel Valentine (maybe the player most ready to step in and contribute in the last draft).

The good news for the Bulls is in the NBA, talent wins out most nights.

If Hoiberg can stagger the minutes of his three big names and get more shooting on the floor, if he can find some balanced lineups, the Bulls are going to put up points. We also forget, Wade is a crafty player off the ball who makes smart cuts and will get some buckets that way. There is potential.

There are also many questions. Can player-friendly Hoiberg get enough buy in with his system? Is there a system that Rondo hasn’t pushed back against? Will Rondo stat hunt at the expense of the team? Will the ball move, or will it stick when Wade or Rondo get it and decide to pound it and survey the floor for five-plus seconds? Will set defenses just play back, take away driving lanes, and force the Bulls’ three big names to shoot jumpers? How healthy will Wade’s knees stay, and how what will the Bulls’ Wade maintenance program look like? If the Bulls are scoring, can they get enough stops for it to matter?

Rondo, Wade, and Butler can coexist — these are three competitive guys, two of whom have rings and one who is willing to learn — but not in a “this team can put a scare in the Cavaliers” kind of way. More in a “with those three guys the Bulls could beat out enough of the Miami/Atlanta/Charlotte/Washington kind of teams to make the playoffs” kind of way. Maybe. If the Bulls come together for Hoiberg.

But is that the way that Gar/Pax wanted to rebuild around Butler? Really!?!



Grizzlies’ new coach David Fizdale didn’t want to take over rebuilding team


Most coaches take over a team that struggled the season (or seasons) before, often because said team didn’t have much talent on the roster. These are rebuilding projects that are going to take years, and likely involve more losing (although ideally with a few more wins each year).

Not David Fizdale. He has been a hot assistant coach expected to step into the big chair somewhere for years and he finally is getting his chance in Memphis. That would be the Grizzlies with Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Chandler Parsons. A team that made the playoffs last season (despite Gasol being injured the second half of the season) and won 50 or more games the three seasons before that.

Fizdale wanted it this way, he told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

“That was the only way I wanted it, to be honest with you,” Fizdale said. “I didn’t want to take over a restart. I’m not afraid to coach guys. But I am going to coach them to win and I am going to hold them to a high standard. I was OK with that. If I don’t have any other strength, I’m pretty good at building relationships. I don’t know if people were looking at that Memphis job the way it should have been looked at. A lot of guys in my situation very rarely get a situation with this many proven players.

“I saw an opportunity to take a team from being good to great. If I could have any situation, that was the one I wanted.”

Fizdale takes over for Dave Joerger, who was ready to move on (and is taking over a rebuilding project in Sacramento). But Joerger also can coach. Fizdale has his work cut out for him to lift this team up from good to great (Gasol and Parsons staying healthy would help).

But for a guy that came out of Miami, where that was the job up until a couple of years ago, maybe this is the best fit. It’s just good to see Fizdale — a guy who didn’t play in the league, a guy who earned his way up from the video room — get a chance. Him doing well might clear the way for other guys in those shoes.