Knicks president Steve Mills trying to add ‘calmness to what had been a little bit of a crazy environment’

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NEW YORK (AP) Carmelo Anthony is gone. Phil Jackson is gone.

The losing appears here to stay.

The New York Knicks have entered a rebuilding mode, with new president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry touting the team’s youth even before they had traded Anthony on the eve of training camp.

The young players might be ready to win in a couple years, but for now, it looks like another long season inside Madison Square Garden.

“The whole talk for us is it’s a start for us to instill a culture of playing as hard as you can, trying to play together as a team,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We don’t necessarily have these superstars that have been in the league for many years carrying our team. We’ve got to do it collectively.”

That will fall on players such as Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Willy Hernangomez, rookie Frank Ntilikina and center Enes Kanter, who was acquired from Oklahoma City in the trade for Anthony.

The Jackson-Anthony drama hung over the Knicks last season and into the summer, with the team president making it clear he wanted to move on from the All-Star forward. But before he could, the Knicks moved on from Jackson, who couldn’t build a playoff roster in his three seasons. Mills was promoted and he has taken aim at cleaning up the mess within the organization.

“Part of my job is to try to add some sense of calmness to what had been a little bit of a crazy environment that we’ve been going through,” Mills said. “So I think that we have a good group of people here.”

But it’s a group that looks incapable of defending, and it will be hard to outscore its ineptitude on that end without the 40 points per game the Knicks lost when they traded Anthony and let Derrick Rose leave.

So they could be even worse than last season’s 31-51 finish, but at least some of the dysfunction could be gone. Fans seemed fed up with it under Jackson, so maybe they’ll accept a team that loses quietly if they see growth on the court without the circus off it.

“They want to see effort, they want to see tenacity, they want to see hard work and they just want to see us not backing down from anybody,” Hardaway said. “The icing on the cake is winning ballgames. That’s what we want to do and that’s our goal, to win ballgames, and win as many as possible to see ourselves looking towards the end of the season where we can find ourselves in the postseason.”

Some things to watch with the Knicks:

KRISTAPS’ KNICKS: Porzingis left frustrated, blowing off his exit interview before returning to Latvia for the summer. The third-year forward came back as the face of the franchise, returning to New York the day Anthony left for Oklahoma City.

FRANK FROM FRANCE: Jackson’s last big move was drafting the 19-year-old Ntilikina with the No. 8 pick. It’s hard to tell yet what the Knicks have in the French point guard, who missed summer league with an injury and then most of preseason when he was hurt again.

HARDAWAY’S HERE: Mills’ first big move was to give Hardaway a $71-million deal to return to New York after Jackson traded the former first-round pick to Atlanta two years earlier. His game grew with the Hawks, and the Knicks believe he’s ready for a bigger role now.

SPEED IT UP: Jackson’s triangle system is mostly gone, with Hornacek saying the Knicks want to open up the offense more in hopes of getting more easy shots.

JOAKIM’S JOB: Joakim Noah‘s forgettable first season of a $72-million deal ended with him serving a suspension for violating the anti-drug policy. It continues into this season and it’s unclear where he fits after that in a center rotation that also includes Kanter, Hernangomez, Kyle O'Quinn and sometimes Porzingis.

 

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.

Cavaliers reportedly extend Dean Wade for three years, $18.5 million

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This could be a steal for the Cavaliers — Dean Wade could be the starting three for the Cavaliers by the end of this season and he’s got a genuine upside.

The Cavaliers have extended Wade for three years, $18.5 million, a story where multiple sources were on top of it, including Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wade’s counting stats aren’t eye-popping — 5.3 points a game and shooting 35.7% from 3 — but he is a quality wing defender who has improved as a floor spacer (sometimes setting picks and popping out). He’s a two-way player who has put in the work and could pass Isaac Okoro on the depth chart this season.

The Cavaliers have four All-Stars who will undoubtedly be starting for them — Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley up front — and the looming question is at the three. Wade has a chance this season to step into that role.

Which makes extending him at a little over $6 million a season a potential steal for the Cavaliers.

 

Warriors GM Myers reiterates he would like to extend Green, Poole, Wiggins

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Andrew Wiggins is entering the final year of his contract and the Warriors want to extend him. Jordan Poole is up for a contract extension and if it isn’t worked out by the start of the season he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Draymond Green is eligible — and wants — a four years, $138.4 million extension (the max they can give him).

Bob Myers said again this week that he wants to keep all three of those players — all critical parts of the Warriors run to a title last season — but financial reality could intrude upon that dream. Here’s what Myers said Thursday, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN:

“We want all of those guys,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference Thursday. “Can we get all of them? I don’t know.

“It depends on what the money ends up being. What the ask is what we can end up doing. We’re not at a point to make those decisions yet. Some of these decisions may be made in the next two weeks, some might be made in the next seven, eight months.”

The Warriors turned heads around the league paying more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax last season — and this season they will be in the same ballpark. Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has said even with the cash cow that is the new Chase Center, this is not a team that can spend $400 million. Some expenses are locked in, such as Stephen Curry and his $215.4 max contract extension. Klay Thompson is at the max for a couple of more years.

Poole is part of the future in Golden State — along with Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and maybe Jonathan Wiseman — and they can’t let him go. Wiggins was the Warriors’ second-best player in the postseason last year. That has led to some speculation Green could be the odd man out — something Myers has denied. Green will make $25.8 million this season but is  expected to opt out of the $27.6 million player option he has next season. It leaves the Warriors and Green with a choice.

Something’s got to give, but the Myers and the Warriors seem ready to kick that financial can down the road until next summer, and for this season get the band back together and chase another ring.

Poole would be the first up (there is an Oct. 17 deadline to extend him). Whatever happens, this will be an undercurrent of a story all season long in the Bay Area.

C.J. McCollum inks two-year, $64 million extension with Pelicans

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After helping New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, C.J. McCollum earned a two-year, $64 million extension with the Pelicans. He will remain under contract with the team through the 2025-26 season, and there isn’t a player or team option in the deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans traded Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick (turns into 2025 first-round pick that is top-4 protected), and two future second-round picks for McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell.

New Orleans now has their core of McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram under contract for the next three seasons.

The expectations will be high for the Pelicans for the next few years. After starting last season 1-12, first-year head coach Willie Green helped turn the team around, and they finished 36-46 before beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Their season ended after losing to the Suns 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 triples per game after the trade to New Orleans.

The return of Zion this season, along with the success of last year’s team, has the team expecting a return to the playoffs. Locking up their star guard in McCollum emphasizes that their rebuild is over. After missing the playoffs during their first three seasons in the post-AD era, they don’t expect to return to the lottery for a long time. The big question surrounding their potential success will be Zion’s health.