The Knicks are a mess defensively. They have the fifth-worst defense in the NBA for the season, allowing 107.9 points per 100 possessions, and that has taken a step back to 110.3 per 100 during the current five-game losing streak. Assistant coach Kurt Rambis was given the task mid-season of taking over the defense, but with this roster — Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose are not exactly lock down defenders, and Joakim Noah is well past his Defensive Player of the Year prime if he could even stay healthy — it is like handing him a flank steak and asking him to turn it into a rib eye.
The Knicks are also just half a game out of the eight seed, and they know defense is the key to turning things around.
Which is why they are eyeing Phoenix’s physical wing defender P.J. Tucker in a trade, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.
There could, however, be some roster changes ahead. The trade deadline is less than two months away, and the Knicks, like every other team in the NBA, are looking at their options. It doesn’t seem as if any move is imminent, but some members of the Knicks’ front office have labeled Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker as a potential trade target, league sources told ESPN.com.
The club is in need of tough defenders, and Tucker has earned a reputation as a strong defender over his five-year career. This season, he ranks 22nd among 80 qualified small forwards in ESPN’s defensive RPM. That might not seem like an elite measurement, but Tucker would certainly seem to be an upgrade for a Knicks club in need of one.
The Suns should be active sellers at the deadline — Brandon Knight could be had — and moving Tucker could mean more run for Dragan Bender. Which is a good thing.
The challenge for the Knicks is they have to give to get — the rebuilding (even if they won’t admit it) Suns will want young talent in return. If I were the Suns I would ask for Willy Hernangomez, and if I were the Knicks I would counter with Mindaugas Kuzminskas. Would Phil Jackson trade picks for a rental defender like Tucker and a playoff push?
Tucker is the final year of a contract paying him $5.3 million, so the Knicks would have to spend this summer to keep him.
The Knicks may not get Tucker, but keep an eye out for them to go after someone who can defend on the perimeter as the trade deadline approaches.
Gordon Hayward still wasn’t particularly good last season. He never really looked all that comfortable playing with the Boston Celtics, and Brad Stevens’ insistence on playing him led to some reported rifts in the Boston locker room.
But Hayward is expected to come back at full strength this year, and it could be just in time for him to shine in light of Kyrie Irving‘s departure to the Brooklyn Nets.
His severely dislocated left ankle is now long behind him, and it appears that Hayward has been putting in the work necessary this summer. Speaking to Mass Live, Hayward said that he is starting to get more confident in his game.
Via Mass Live:
“Reps is what gives you confidence, so being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle’s feeling, or having to be cautious with it, has been really good, especially for my confidence,” Hayward said. “I think last year was a lot of hoping and not really knowing what was going to happen just because I didn’t have the reps… going into a summer training as hard as I want to, it’s a lot better for my confidence this year and expectations-wise as well.”
A healthy Hayward would really change the dynamic of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference this year. Losing Irving is huge, but Boston is going to have a real depth of talent on its hands if it can add Hayward to other wing talent Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart.
It seems cliche to point out at this point, but people have slept on how good Hayward was on both sides of the ball during his time with the Utah Jazz. He’s a complete player at the small forward position when healthy, and bringing back his superstar firepower could ease the pain of losing Irving to Brooklyn.
There are a lot of people surprised that this deep into the summer, with NBA rosters largely filled out, Carmelo Anthony isn’t playing somewhere. Whether on Team USA or training with new teammates for an upcoming NBA season.
Among those confused, former NBA draft pick Royce White, who was outspoken on the issue — and called out both LeBron James and Jared Dudley — in speaking with Fanatics View.
Dudley responded to this, not directly to White but to a retweet of this rant, and did so in Dudley’s calm, rational way. His Tweet has since been taken down, but it said:
“This isn’t Melo vs myself, That man is a 1st ballot HOFer… We all want to see him back in the league… Royce seems uninformed when he speaks and this situation in calling my name out. This league is not about who’s better then who it’s what’s players make for the best Team.”
Kendrick Perkins and Jameer Nelson had Dudley’s back.
Dudley/Perkins/Nelson are spot on here. The reason Dudley is on an NBA roster and Anthony is not is all about willingness to fit in and play a role. Dudley knows exactly how to do that, accepting limited minutes off the bench, staying ready, and when he comes in playing hard, being a pest, and knocking down threes. Anthony is unquestionably still a better scorer, but he was unwilling to accept a role in both Oklahoma City and Houston (and his game now is that of a role player/sixth man). Anthony says that’s different now, but GMs are risk averse in most situations. Teams that might have interest in ‘Melo are concerned about the possible distraction and disruption, and they wonder if that risk is worth what Anthony brings to the court right now. It was the same with Team USA.
Some team should — and one likely eventually will — give Anthony another shot. He deserves it. However, teams thinking about a deep playoff run tend to like their chemistry and are wary of disruptions, so nothing has come out yet. Even if Royce White and a lot of other people think it should have.
As trade rumors swirled around the Rockets, P.J. Tucker instead focused on a contract extension.
Well, the dust has settled in Houston. The Rockets dealt Chris Paul to build around a James Harden–Russell Westbrook backcourt.
Tucker still wants to stay.
Tucker, via Kelly Iko of The Athletic:
“It’s now,” he said of getting a new deal done. “It’s time for my extension right now, so we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. I’m optimistic, we’ll see.”
The most Tucker can earn in an extension is $30,985,560 over three years (or $19,891,964 over two years or $9,563,444 over one year). That’s a bargain based on how he has played lately.
Tucker’s versatile hard-nosed defense has been so important in Houston. He often holds the Rockets together on that side of the ball. Offensively, he fits well with his corner 3-point shooting.
But Tucker is also 34. Houston can’t depend on him remaining productive when on an extension that would begin at age 36.
There’s no urgency for the Rockets to extend him. He’s locked up two more seasons.
Practically, extending Tucker now would also mean guaranteeing his 2020-21 salary a year before necessary. Just $2,569,188 of his $7,969,537 salary that season is guaranteed. There’s a chance Houston might want to waive him in 2020.
Tucker is so good and so underpaid, even his largest-possible extension (which is based on his prior salary) could turn into a steal for Houston. That’s the only reason this conversation is happening. Because with most players so old and so far from free agency, an extension is a non-starter.
In 2014, the Clippers were playing the Warriors in a first-round series when then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist rant became public.
Among the most pressing questions: Would players boycott?
The Clippers were having one of their best seasons ever, and they were in the playoffs. Nobody knew how a boycott would affect the team.
Would the Clippers have to forfeit? Would the game just be rescheduled? Would players get punished? Would a boycott even be effective?
This was uncharted territory.
But apparently the Clippers weren’t in it alone.
Andre Iguodala, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
“I was all-in. Like shut down the whole season,” then-Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said. “Maybe that was too far, but as far as that game that day, you can reschedule it, you gotta sort this thing out, because there’s some deep-rooted stuff with him that had to be addressed.”
It’s far easier to talk about boycotting than actually doing it.
I get the outrage over Sterling’s comments. But we’ll never know what would’ve happened if NBA commissioner Adam Silver hadn’t take the drastic step of banning Sterling.
Clippers players protested with their warmup uniforms. That apparently helped send enough of a message for Silver to act.