Walsh gets a win, Knicks hire former Nugget GM Warkentien

Leave a comment

In a week where he needed one, Knicks president of basketball operations Donnie Walsh got a win.

The Knicks have hired former Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien as their director of pro personnel, the team announced Saturday. Since he was expected to be hired as a consultant so this is a much more entrenched position within the organization. Where he now fits exactly in the Knicks front office hierarchy with assistant GM Allen Houston is unclear, but he is not just on the periphery.

Officially he will report to Walsh (the de facto GM) and will work primarily on the draft and scouting, but he will also have a role in personnel decisions. Warkentien comes from Denver where he helped trade Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups among other moves. Warkentien’s reputation is as a guy who can find talent deep in the draft and someone who has good ties to players overseas.

Oh, by the way, Warkentien has a good relationship with Carmelo Anthony and his people. That doesn’t hurt.

With rumors floating around that Knicks owner James Dolan may not pick up the extension on Walsh’s contract (he has until April 30), having two trusted soldiers in Houston and Warkentien in the front office means some kind of continuity of decisions should remain in place if Walsh is allowed to walk. That is why this is a win for Walsh. (Although you could argue this gives Dolan more leverage to move Walsh out because others are there. Go ahead and argue it if you want, I prefer not to try to think like Dolan. It gives me a headache.)

Of course, all bets are off if Dolan brings Isiah Thomas back.

Former NBA player OJ Mayo to sign in China

(Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

When the Liaoning Flying Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association return to play, they’ll have a familiar face to NBA fans suiting up for them. Liaoning announced they are signing former NBA player O.J. Mayo to a contract for the remainder of this season.

Mayo has been out of the NBA since the end of the 2015-16 season. The scoring guard was banned from the NBA due to a violation of the league’s anti-drug policy. He was eligible for reinstatement at the start of the 2018-19 season.

Since being banned from the NBA, Mayo has signed to play with various clubs in Puerto Rico, Taiwan and with a team in China’s second division.

During his eight-year NBA career, Mayo played for the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks. The 32-year old guard holds a career average of 13.8 points per game on 43/37/82 shooting splits.

With Liaoning, Mayo may suit up alongside former NBA players Lance Stephenson and Brandon Bass. The club announced that Mayo will undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, after which they expect him to back up Stephenson.

Neither Stephenson nor Bass have returned to China following the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s unclear when either player will return, as the CBA has delayed their return to play until May.

Alabama’s Herbert Jones declares for 2020 NBA Draft

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

University of Alabama junior forward Herbert Jones announced via Instagram that he’s declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft:

View this post on Instagram

All Glory to God 🙏🏽

A post shared by Herb Jones 🛸 (@yung.ch0) on

Jones says he’s declaring while maintaining his eligibility.

In his third campaign with the Crimson Tide, Jones turned his best collegiate season. The six-foot-seven forward scored 7.9 points on 48.4% shooting. He also grabbed 6.4 rebounds per game. Jones was also one of Alabama’s best defensive players.

Alabama has also seen starting guard Kira Lewis and John Petty Jr. declare for the draft.

Lewis is expected to be a first-round pick, while Petty and Jones are considered to be late second-round talents.

Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji, DePaul’s Paul Reed declare for NBA draft

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nobody knows when the NBA Draft is going to take place — like everything with the NBA calendar, it is up in the air — but for college players whose season has ended now is the time to declare and throw their hats in the ring.

Two possible draftees did that Saturday.

Arizona center Zeke Nnaji was one.

The 6’11” Nnaji averaged 16.1 points per game on 57 percent shooting, plus grabbed 8.6 rebounds a game his freshman season at Arizona. In a good sign, he shot 76% from the free throw line, meaning he should be able to space the floor and hit midrangers (and maybe someday threes). He brings a lot of energy to the court, but is considered raw still on both ends of the floor and not an elite defender.

Nnaji is a bubble first-round pick.

The other player coming out is DePaul forward Paul Reed.

A projected first-rounder is a generous description by Charania, Reed is seen more as a second-round pick (and without a Draft Combine or workouts with teams it will be difficult to move up). He’s a 6’9″ power forward who averaged 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds a game this season. Reed shot the three well as a sophomore (40 percent) but regressed this past season. He’s athletic but needs to get stronger, and he needs to be able to fit into a role at the NBA level to last.

That said, he will likely get a chance somewhere to prove he belongs.

Knicks owner James Dolan tests positive for coronavirus

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The good news is he remains healthy and shows few symptoms.

Knicks owner James Dolan has tested positive for the coronavirus, the team has announced.

Dolan, 64, lives in New York, which has become the epicenter of COVID-19 cases in the United States. New York State alone has more than 52,000 cases and more than 700 deaths tied to the coronavirus.

Earlier in the day on Saturday, the Dolan Family Foundation announced it would donate $1 million to Madison Square Garden’s event staff who have not been able to work because the coronavirus has shut down events at MSG.

There have been 10 current NBA players and four members of team support staff that have tested positive for the coronavirus. Dolan is the first owner to test positive.

Our thoughts are with him and his family and hopefully he can stay healthy through this.