Phil Jackson leaves ‘awful’ Knicks game early to walk dog

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Remember when there was concern Phil Jackson would be too removed to effectively run the Knicks? With health and family tying him to California, how much time would he actually spend in New York?

Everyone figured at least he’d at least have no trouble seeing the Knicks when they played in Los Angeles twice a year, though.

But we didn’t count on the Knicks’ ineptness making them so difficult to watch.

Billy Witz of The New York Times:

With 8 minutes 54 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Phil Jackson had seen enough. He texted his fiancée, Jeanie Buss, and agreed to meet at the loading dock inside Staples Center where their car would be waiting. The Knicks were losing by 26 points.

“It was awful, huh,” Jackson, the new Knicks president, said with a slight grin as he exited a luxury suite in the corner of the arena and took an elevator down to the floor level.

When Jackson exited the elevator, he stopped to use the bathroom. Then he made his way down familiar corridors, through a door and to his car. An attendant held the driver’s door open for Jackson. Buss was in the passenger seat.

What did he have planned for the rest of the night?

“I think I’ll walk the dog,” he said.

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Jackson obviously needn’t watch every second every Knicks game in person to do his job, but doing so obviously wouldn’t hurt – and might even help.

I don’t understand why so many people leave games early, this case included.

At every game, it’s as if people race to see how quickly they can determine the game’s result. Then, they head to the exit.

Why? Where is everyone rushing?

I understand some people must work the next day and would prefer to get extra sleep, but I guarantee that’s not the reason everyone leaves early. I suspect many just get bored and what to go somewhere else, even if it’s sitting home and doing nothing. There’s no point in beating the traffic if you’re getting a head start toward nowhere.

But this is Jackson’s job, so he surely didn’t leave it early in order to prepare for it.

What was so bad about the Knicks’ game? Jackson, via Witz:

“Fifty-one points,” Jackson, in a dark blue suit and a striped tie, said as he arched his eyebrows. “When it’s 35 points you start to get worried. When it’s a 51-point quarter, that’s really awful.”

Ah, yes. The Knicks allowed 51 points in the third quarter, the most by any team in a quarter in the last four years and second-most in the last 23. I can understand that’s disconcerting, and I don’t want to beat up Jackson over what’s, at most, a minor issue.

But wouldn’t it be better to stay and evaluate how the Knicks react? Wouldn’t their body language on the bench inform you of their attitudes? Wouldn’t their on-court demeanor tell you something about their competitiveness?

Jackson can watch the end of the game on film if he chooses, but so can league’s other decision-makers. Jackson’s job is to find an edge that helps the Knicks return to the playoffs.

I doubt he’ll find it walking his dog.

Rumor: Raptors trying to trade up in draft for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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The Raptors have major problems in the playoffs annually.

Is a coaching change enough to fix them?

Toronto already fired Dwane Casey and promoted assistant Nick Nurse after a highly successful regular season. Perhaps, major roster turnover could follow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander projects to be a late lottery pick. The Raptors have no selections in this draft. So, acquiring one high enough to pick the Kentucky point guard would take plenty.

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are stars. Toronto’s bench is stocked with solid young players. O.G. Anunoby is very promising.

So, the Raptors have pieces to move. The only question how much they’d package for a draft pick.

Toronto already has Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright at point guard. But Lowry is 32, and VanVleet will be a restricted free agent this summer. If they really believe in Gilgeous-Alexander, the Raptors should try to get him.

All that said, this is the time of year rumors – both credible and not – fly. So, it’s worth remaining skeptical while still considering the validity of what reputable reporters like Stein convey.

Luka Doncic, Donte DiVincenzo, Jerome Robinson among NBA draft invitees

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Of course DeAndre Ayton will attend Thursday’s NBA draft. The Suns will likely draft him No. 1 overall.

But what about more marginal first-round prospects?

The NBA’s draft invite list is an important tool in judging their stock. The league wants to avoid players sitting in agony until their names are called. So, the NBA works to invite only the prospects most likely to get picked high in the draft.

The full list of invited players (which the league notes is subject to change):

Luka Doncic will go high in the draft, and though how high is still uncertain, his inclusion on this list says nothing about his stock. It just speaks to whether we’ll see him Thursday night. His attendance will depend at least on when Real Madrid’s season ends, though the NBA is apparently confident enough to list him.

Jerome Robinson has climbed draft boards since the season ended. He must be impressing in workouts and interviews.

Donte DiVincenzo is a bit of a surprise selection, as he’s not widely viewed as a first-round lock. Perhaps, the league is looking to capitalize on his popularity stemming from a breakout NCAA tournament championship game.

This will only reinforce the idea Chandler Hutchinson received a promise. Otherwise, he’s a surprise invitee.

Among the top players not attending: Kevin Huerter (Maryland), Jacob Evans (Cincinnati), Troy Brown (Oregon) and Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech). Though they could go higher than players listed here, that says something about Huerter’s Evans’, Browns’ and Okogie’s stock, too.

Report: Rudy Gay opting out of Spurs contract

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants to leave the Spurs, but he’s at their whims.

This doesn’t mean Rudy Gay will depart San Antonio, but he’s taking control of his future.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Gay’s option-year salary was $8,826,300.

I doubt Gay, who turns 32 this summer, will draw such a high starting salary on his next contract – though I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. He could likely get a multi-year deal with a higher total value.

Or he could chase a ring elsewhere.

Remember, Gay gave up money to leave the Kings last summer. No matter how much the Leonard situation should make us rethink the Spurs’ culture, San Antonio probably isn’t “basketball hell.” Still, the Spurs clearly don’t look as appealing as they once did, and Gay has shown how much he values team quality.

Gay is coming off a nice season, and San Antonio might try to re-sign him. Danny Green has a $10 million player option for next season, which will swing whether the Spurs have the flexibility for a bigger move this summer.

Report: LeBron James’ camp likes Collin Sexton

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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In 2014, LeBron James tweeted his fondness for Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier. The Heat traded up to get Napier in the draft, but LeBron left for the Cavaliers that summer, anyway.

Could history repeat itself, this time in Cleveland?

LeBron has already talked up Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, but maybe LeBron and his camp want the Cavs to take a different point guard – Alabama’s Collin Sexton – with the No. 8 pick.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, via Jordan Zirm of ESPN Cleveland:

The Cavaliers should take the best prospect available. Worrying about what LeBron might want makes a mistake only more likely.

LeBron might stay in Cleveland, but as 2014 showed, it won’t be because of a draft pick. If he stays, it very well could be by opting into the final year of his contract. His player-option salary ($35,607,968) is slightly higher than his projected max salary as a free agent (about $35.35 million). If LeBron opts in, the best chance of keeping him long-term is building a better team around him.

That means taking the best prospect at No. 8 or trading the pick for someone who can help LeBron win now. If the top prospect is Sexton, that’s fine. But the Cavs are fare more likely to appease LeBron by getting the pick right in the long run rather than choosing the prospect he wants now.