Knicks, Jazz reportedly still talking Mitchell trade despite Utah’s sky-high ask

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The Utah Jazz and New York Knicks are talking Donovan Mitchell trade again.

That doesn’t mean the sides are anywhere near a deal.

The renewed talks were confirmed by Marc Berman of the New York Post, but with a few new drops of information (both sides are playing the leaking game, trying to spin for fans). First, the Knicks recoiled at the initial ask from Utah’s Danny Ainge — and with good reason. From the Knicks perspective, they want to get Mitchell but want the flexibility to make more moves after they get him.

According to multiple industry sources, the Knicks were turned off by Utah team president Danny Ainge’s initial demands, when he asked in July for a package of seven first-round picks and players. Talks died, but recently there has been renewed back-and-forth…

Giving up all their eligible first-round picks, however, would leave the Knicks in a place that would prevent them — perhaps for years — from making another significant trade in order to take the next step…

“Getting from 47 wins to 57 wins, that’s harder than 37 to 47,’’ a coaching source said.

The Knicks were 37-45 last season. The Knicks believe a Mitchell and Jalen Brunson backcourt with most of their core — Julius Randle, Derrick Rose, etc. — would make them a top-six team in the East, according to the report. Maybe that’s true. The Celtics, Bucks, 76ers and Heat are a clear top four — on a different tier than everyone else — but after that the Knicks could be in the mix with Toronto, Atlanta, Cleveland and Chicago for those final two spots to avoid the play-in.

The question is what the trade package for Mitchell looks like. Utah wants a bigger haul than they got for Rudy Gobert — that was four first-round picks plus Walker Kessler, this year’s No. 22 pick, meaning they see it as five first-rounders (a trade that still has league executives shaking their heads at what the Timberwolves gave up). The Knicks technically can trade up to eight first-round picks (some highly protected) but don’t want to go near that high, more like four. Maybe that climbs to five, but it depends on what other players on the Knicks roster are included in the deal.

This leads to the one extra bit of speculation in Berman’s Post story — coach Tom Thibodeau would rather keep Quentin Grimes than R.J. Barrett when this trade is done.

There is belief around the league Thibodeau would prefer to give up Barrett in a deal than shooting guard Quentin Grimes, who is coming off a solid rookie year, and a summer league in which he looked quicker and more sculpted. Grimes is a better defender and 3-point shooter than Barrett.

Grimes is rumored to be a sticking point in the talks — the Jazz want him and the Knicks don’t want to give him up. Barrett, who is extension eligible, does not fit the rebuilding Jazz timeline plus will get relatively expensive in a year when he signs his new deal (if an extension is not reached before the start of this season, Barrett becomes a restricted free agent next summer).

Expect the Knicks and Jazz to work out a deal eventually — New York wants Mitchell and they have more picks to send to Utah than Miami or other potential destinations. This is the trade that makes the most sense, the sides are just arguing over the terms, and with training camps not opening until Sept. 26, there is no rush to get a deal done. Both sides can posture and leak info, but in the end they need each other to make this happen.

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

Pregame of Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.

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

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets
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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.