Three Things to Know: Is Leon Rose the guy who can turn the Knicks culture around?

Getty Images

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Will following the Warriors’, Lakers’ paths turn around the Knicks? The Knicks tried the superstar player route (Isiah Thomas). They tried the superstar coach route (Phil Jackson). They tried the company man route (Steve Mills). None of those have turned around the fortunes of James Dolan’s floundering Knicks. Instead, it has led to fans chanting “sell the team” at Dolan during a recent game (something that apparently got under his skin, WAY under his skin).

The Knicks also tried the smart, trusted, experienced NBA executive route (Donnie Walsh) and the team got out of its salary cap mess and made the playoffs. Then Dolan fired him.

With the Knicks’ top basketball job open, again, there was a lot of interest in another trusted executive, Masai Ujiri of Toronto. However, to pry him out of a comfortable spot north of the border would have required months of a delicate dance, with no promise of success on the other side. Dolan wasn’t going to be that patient, so he went with another power broker, this time following the path of the Warriors (Bob Myers) and Lakers (Rob Pelinka) in hiring a powerful agent. The Knick are going to hire CAA’s Leon Rose to run basketball operations (the official hiring will take some time because Rose has to divest from his lengthy list of clients first).

The real question Knicks fans want to be answered is simple: Can superagent Leon Rose — with William “World Wide Wes” Wesley by his side — be the guy that turns Knicks’ culture and organization around?

The answer is not that simple.

How we got here is interesting (and a matter of speculation). There was a split in the front office heading into the trade deadline, according to Ian Bagley of SNY.TV: The side that wanted to trade Marcus Morris for picks/young players to go with R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, the side that wanted to build patiently. Then there was the side that wanted to trade Morris for a player or players who could help the team win more now, hence the rumors about the Knicks being in talks with the Warriors about D'Angelo Russell.

The slow build side won out, which is the smart choice. The Knicks now have seven first-round picks in the next four years. If there’s good scouting in place, if the Knicks get a little luck with the lottery ping-pong balls, this is a path to success down the line. Picture the Lakers, who got lottery luck (three No. 2 picks), then developed those players (how well is up for debate), which built a base where LeBron James believed he could come and win. Next, some of those young players were traded to become Anthony Davis, and the Lakers were contenders. A different version of the same model happened over in Brooklyn, where a culture was built, young players were developed into a team that made the playoffs last season, and that became a place stars such as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant wanted to play.

In both cases, a foundation was built that could be turned into superstars. The Knicks remain one of the handful of franchises that can recruit and win a race for a superstar free agent. Rose (and Wesley) are the kinds of power brokers players will listen to, guys who can get meetings with the franchise-changing free agents and convince them to come to play in the Garden.

But first, a culture change needed to happen, and then a foundation of talent needed to be built up. The Nets and Clippers did that work. For the Knicks it will require patience, smart hires on the basketball side, good drafts, hard work, and a little bit of luck.

Are Leon Rose and William “World Wide Wes” Wesley up for the task? Maybe. Sometimes hiring an agent works (Myers), sometimes it doesn’t (Lon Babby in Phoenix). If James Dolan doesn’t want to do the long dance to land an experienced star executive (Ujiri, OKC’s Sam Presti, Houston’s Daryl Morey, etc.), then this is a good hire. Rose is smart and driven and could succeed in this role

But my gut reaction is, “James Dolan still owns the team.”

2) Small-ball Rockets beat Lakers behind 41 points from Russell Westbrook. If you’re a Laker fan, on the day you watched your team stand pat while your rivals — and yes, the Clippers are now rivals, not little brothers — get better by adding Marcus Morris, this Tweet is all you care about from Thursday night.

As long as he comes out of retirement, the Lakers are going to land Collison and that’s a quality addition. The Lakers can get some small wins on the buyout market, too.

However, it was small ball that won on the court Thursday night. Houston beat the Lakers 121-111.

At the trade deadline, the Rockets sent out Clint Capela, got Robert Covington, and went all-in on small ball — if lame-duck coach Mike D’Antoni is going out, he’s going out on his own terms — and for a night in Los Angeles it paid off. Covington had 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting and was a team-best +16 — this is what he does. Covington puts up nice raw numbers, but he defends well and fits in the gaps on offense and at the end of the night the team is just better when he is on the court.

It also helps to have Russell Westbrook go off for 41 points.

By the way, it’s our loss that LeBron James never entered the Dunk Contest.

3) The rosters for Team LeBron and Team Giannis in the All-Star Game are set. No trades, no fireworks, no surprises this year. Of course, LeBron James selected Anthony Davis first (at least this year it’s not to recruit him). Of course, Giannis Antetokounmpo selected teammate Khris Middleton first among the reserves. There were jokes about James Harden‘s willingness to pass and more, but no real fireworks as the sides for All-Star Game were chosen.

Still, this playground-style team choosing by the captains is more fun than East vs. West or USA vs. the World formats. The league found something that worked.

Here are your All-Star teams:

Team LeBron (coached by Frank Vogel)
LeBron James
Anthony Davis
Kawhi Leonard
Luka Doncic
James Harden

Damian Lillard
Ben Simmons
Nikola Jokic
Jayson Tatum
Chris Paul
Russell Westbrook
Domantas Sabonis

Team Giannis (coached by Nick Nurse)
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Joel Embiid
Pascal Siakam
Kemba Walker
Trae Young

Khris Middleton
Bam Adebayo
Rudy Gobert
Jimmy Butler
Kyle Lowry
Brandon Ingram
Donovan Mitchell

The NBA All-Star Game will be played Feb. 16 at the United Center in Chicago. You can catch it on TNT starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension


Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’


No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.

Highlights from Clippers preseason win fueled by Luke Kennard


No Kawhi Leonard. Or Paul George. Or John Wall, Norman Powell, Reggie Jackson and Nic Batum. The Clippers decided to rest six key rotation players in their preseason opener in Seattle against Maccabi Ra’anana, a game played in Seattle.

All those guys are expected to suit up Monday when the Clippers play the Portland Trail Blazers in a preseason game also in Seattle, the first NBA exhibition game played in the city since 2018.

Against Maccabi, it was the Luke Kennard show as he had 16 points.

The Clippers also got 14 points and 13 boards from Moses Brown. As a team, the Clippers cruised and put up a few highlights.

The Clippers have great depth, which should allow them to survive a season where both Leonard and George are expected to get their share of load management nights off. Leonard missed all of last season coming off a torn ACL, and George played in just 31 games due to a few injuries, including a shoulder issue. Still, the Clippers finished eighth in the West with a 42-40 record and had a top 10 defense in the league.

Adding Leonard and George to that mix is why the Clippers are considered title contenders out West. Monday night against the Blazers we should get our first look at the real Clippers team for this season. But Los Angeles is 1-0 this preseason.

Report: Udoka used ‘crude language’ with female subordinate prior to improper relationship


The Boston Celtics handled the Ime Udoka investigation and suspension by the corporate handbook: They kept the woman’s name out of the news, kept details confidential (not even telling the players much for legal reasons), and acted swiftly and decisively.

But as the team on the court starts defending its Eastern Conference title, there has been a concern that details leaking out about the investigations — and responses to those leaks — could turn this into a season-long drama and distraction for the team. That first started on Friday when Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported this:

The independent law firm probe into Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka found that he used crude language in his dialogue with a female subordinate prior to the start of an improper workplace relationship with the woman, an element that significantly factored into the severity of his one-year suspension, sources told ESPN.

Those investigative findings — which described verbiage on Udoka’s part that was deemed especially concerning coming from a workplace superior — contribute to what is likely a difficult pathway back to his reinstatement as Celtics coach in 2023, sources told ESPN.

A few thoughts here.

• “Crude language” is just part of a more detailed and damning report, league sources have told NBC Sports. There is much more uncovered by the independent investigation, including about the power dynamic in play. It was enough that the Celtics thought the best move was to suspend for an entire season a coach loved by players who led the team to the NBA Finals (it’s not something the Celtics organization did lightly).

• As Wojnarowski and others have noted, it’s increasingly unlikely Udoka returns to coach the Celtics next season, even if that is not yet official.

• While some pundits and people around the league have said Udoka is “done,” the NBA has seen unexpected turnarounds before. Never say never in this league.

• About the only sure thing is that this story is not over.