Are Knicks rebuilding? Derek Fisher: ‘Was Atlanta rebuilding last year?’

3 Comments

NEW YORK (AP) — When Phil Jackson went looking for players last summer, the best ones available had the same thoughts about joining the New York Knicks.

No thanks. No way.

Jackson should know as well as anyone that a team needs multiple stars to win championships, as he did in all of his 11 championship-winning seasons as a coach. Now as a team president, he still has just Carmelo Anthony.

But though that may mean the Knicks aren’t championship material, they believe Jackson did well enough to make them winners, not just rebuilders coming off the worst season in team history.

“If rebuilding for us is based on the fact that we don’t have a certain caliber of player on our roster quote-unquote other than Carmelo, so people assume that we’re rebuilding,” coach Derek Fisher said. “But was Atlanta rebuilding last year when they didn’t have that quote-unquote player on their roster?”

“So it just depends on who your team is and we think that our group, as we figure some things out, will be more competitive than maybe what people think.”

Players such as LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan and Greg Monroe couldn’t be enticed to come to New York, but Jackson found interest in another tier of players. The Knicks signed Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams, Kyle O'Quinn, Kevin Seraphin and Sasha Vujacic, players who don’t stand out individually but might fit nicely on a team.

“We want to win, so we didn’t go out and sign six rookies,” Fisher said. “We signed quality veteran players because we’re trying to win right now.”

Jackson said before last season he thought the Knicks could compete for a playoff spot, and they ended up going 17-65. He’s staying away from predictions this time, as did Anthony when he reported for training camp after missing the second half of last season following knee surgery.

But Anthony was adamant that they could be competitive by just a few days later, and is seeing progress as they approach the season opener.

“We’re moving in a good place,” he said. “Some good things that we’re doing, some things that we can get better at, that we will get better at with some time.”

Here are some things to watch with the Knicks:

PORZINGIS’ PROSPECTS: Jackson used the No. 4 pick on 20-year-old Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-foot-3 forward from Latvia who has range well beyond the 3-point line. Knicks fans are optimistic but cautious, recognizing his potential but fearing the bust factor after getting little or nothing from Europeans Frederic Weis and Andrea Bargnani.

FOCUS ON FISHER: Fisher had a miserable first season as coach and a rocky start to the second after missing a practice following an altercation with former teammate Matt Barnes in Los Angeles. He insists he’s focused on his job, but his team could keep further pressure off him by playing well.

CARMELO’S COMEBACK: Limited to a career-low 40 games last season before left knee surgery after the All-Star break, Anthony has looked sharp and completely recovered during the preseason. Many of the players Jackson added play power forward, which could allow Anthony to spend more time at his natural small forward spot and take less of a pounding.

JACKSON’S JOB: Jackson, at Fisher’s request, plans to spend more time around the coaching staff this season to offer his expertise, saying perhaps he stepped back too far last season in his first full year as an executive.

WATCHING WILLIAMS: The second overall pick in the 2011 draft has averaged just 9.3 points playing for Minnesota and Sacramento, but looked comfortable while providing some surprising scoring punch during his first preseason with the Knicks.

Sacramento Kings turning former arena into coronavirus surge hospital

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If you’re old enough, you might remember Arco Arena as the home of the Sacramento Kings when they were a playoff team. Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojaković, and company pushed the Shaq/Kobe Lakers to seven games in 2002 and won huge playoff games in the arena. Arco was where Jason Williams was dropping dimes without looking, and arena which later became known as the Sleep Train Arena, Power Balance Pavilion, and eventually the current Natomas Arena.

Now, it’s about to be a coronavirus surge hospital.

The Kings are making the arena available and it will house about 360 beds, the team announced on Friday. The team also is donating $250,000 to support area community organizations providing services to families in need in the area, plus donating 100,000 medical masks to state and local health agencies.

“On behalf of the entire Kings family, our hearts are with all who have been affected by this pandemic,” said Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé in a statement. “California always leads the nation and the world, and we applaud Governor [Gavin] Newsom’s strong and decisive leadership to keep Californians healthy and safe during this crisis…

“Our community has always come first, and that is more important now than ever,” Ranadivé continued. “The Kings are proud to help by providing additional space to accommodate a predicted surge in patients. We are also donating masks to help keep people healthy, and critical resources to area organizations that are addressing food insecurity and other issues as a result of the coronavirus. I have always been in awe of the resilience and ingenuity of the American people and firmly believe that together, we will defeat this invisible enemy.”

The Kings moved to the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento in 2015 and since then their former home and practice arena has mostly sat vacant. The Kings’ G-League team practices there at times, but like the rest of basketball they find their season suspended.

Hopefully, this arena helps save some lives in the California capital. That would be the most important thing ever to happen in the building.

WNBA postpones season

WNBA
Ashlee Espinal/NBAE via Getty Image
Leave a comment

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban backed off his belief that the NBA could resume in May.

It’s just already clear, amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’ll be unsafe to hold professional basketball games that soon.

WNBA release:

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released the following statement:

“As developments continue to emerge around the COVID-19 pandemic, including the extension of the social distancing guidelines in the United States through April 30, the WNBA will postpone the start of its training camps and tip of the regular season originally scheduled for May 15.  While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees.

Many top female players – including Los Angeles Sparks guard Sydney Wiese, who tested positive for coronavirus – play overseas during the WNBA offseason. That frequency of travel makes it even riskier for WNBA teams to gather any time soon.

The WNBA will still hold its draft April 17, conducting proceedings virtually. That could provide lessons to the NBA as it determines how to handle its draft.

Joel Embiid, 76ers owners pledging $1.3M for fighting coronavirus

76ers owner Josh Harris and Joel Embiid
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Joel Embiid just showed up 76ers owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer by pledging to pay team employees who were set to have their pay cut. Amid widespread backlash, the 76ers backtracked on their salary-reduction plan.

Now – with a portion of Embiid’s coronavirus-related donation unallocated and Harris and Blitzer looking to change the narrative around them – those three are working together.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid, Sixers managing partner Josh Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer are contributing a combined $1.3 million to Penn Medicine, establishing a funding campaign for COVID-19 antibody testing of frontline healthcare workers.

According to a Penn Medicine press release, “The pledge from Embiid, Harris and Blitzer will provide a much-needed boost for efforts to quickly identify health care workers who may have immunity to the new virus.”

This is great.

Some Utah Jazz employees laid off as part of cutback across owner’s businesses

Steve C. Wilson/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Philadephia 76ers came in early, trying to force 20 percent cutbacks in salaries across the franchise’s staff. That lasted less than 24 hours before the backlash hit, the net worth of the team’s primary owner, Joshua Harris, was trending on Twitter, and the decision was reversed.

That stopped other owners from making a similar move or laying employees off for a while, but not long after the top 100 earners at the NBA League office — including Commissioner Adam Silver — were given a 20 percent pay reduction. The worsening economic crisis caused by the coronavirus shutdown of the United States is pushing NBA owners to act.

On Friday, the Utah Jazz — owned by the Larry H. Miller Group, which in total has more 80 different companies under its umbrella — sent this message to Adrian Wojnarowski ESPN:

“Due to the impact on our customer-facing businesses from this unprecedented pandemic, the (Miller Group) …. unfortunately had to make difficult decisions to reduce a small percentage of our workforce. Over the past several weeks, we have worked to manage and reduce costs, including executive compensation, and have reached a point where we have had to say farewell to a limited number of our valued employees.

“We have connected with our associates with outplacement services and aligned them with employers who have immediate hiring needs. We remain focused on helping our communities stay healthy.”

Reports out of Utah say these are layoffs that hit a lot of people and could be permanent.

It’s not fair, but little is fair right now. As noted, this is not just a layoff of some Jazz employees but also people at other businesses across the Larry H. Miller company.

Expect other NBA owners to follow suit soon, too. Not all, but some. Like owners of businesses of all sizes, they have been both hit hard in the short term and see a looming recession beyond the coronavirus. They will be looking to save money.