after Thursday’s hiring of former Memphis head coach and Heat assistant David Fizdale, the Knicks are prepared to open salary-cap space this summer in the unlikely event they get an inkling LeBron James has some interest in coming to the Garden this summer, according to an NBA source.
The easiest route for the Knicks opening max cap space: Enes Kanter opting out without a promise of a long-term contract from New York (he shouldn’t, but who knows?), Kyle O'Quinn opting out, trading Courtney Lee and unloading any other player.
Of course, even if Kanter clears the way, luring LeBron won’t be nearly that easy.
Why would LeBron want to join such a crummy team? Why would LeBron want to play for James Dolan?
Because of Fizdale?
That was far-fetched when tied to the Lakers, and it’s even less believable here. At least the Lakers will have cap space to lure an additional star and multiple promising young players. The Knicks with Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina and a bloated cap sheet don’t cut it.
LeBron has frequently praised Madison Square Garden and Fizdale. But it takes far more than an arena and a coach to lure a player of his caliber.
It never hurts to be prepared, and as easy as it is to mock the Knicks for leaking this story, we’d drag them mercilessly if LeBron somehow wanted to sign and they couldn’t make it happen.
But I just hope they hired Fizdale for other reasons than pursuing LeBron. They need a good coach, not a conduit to a pipedream.
Report: Knicks are Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s top choice for job
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer withdrew from the Suns coaching search, but that he was even involved with another opening while under contract with Atlanta is telling. It probably wasn’t about the Phoenix job being special. He’s also talking with the Knicks – and maybe that goes somewhere.
Mike Budenholzer is genuinely interested in the Knicks’ job, according to an NBA source who has spoken to the Hawks coach.
“New York’s his top choice,’’ the NBA source said. “If they offered him the job, he’d say yes. He wants to live in New York.’’
“Phoenix and the Knicks are trying to win every game,’’ said the NBA source who has spoken to Budenholzer recently. “There’s a good chance Atlanta is not looking to win games the next two years. This wasn’t Mike’s decision. He didn’t expect it. He doesn’t want to lose games.’’
Going to the Knicks to win? What a time to be alive.
But the Hawks are only one year into what appears to be a multi-year rebuild. Relative to that, New York is ahead.
The Knicks would probably also offer Budenholzer a raise and the Hawks compensation. Though dealing with James Dolan carries downside, this could be a financial boon to everyone else involved. It’s no wonder Budenholzer and the Hawks are both into this.
The big question is whether New York, which is casting a wide net, tabs Budenholzer. He doesn’t have a clear connection to Knicks president Steve Mills or general manager Scott Perry. But Budenholzer is a demonstrably good coach, and that ought to matter plenty.
Kristaps Porzingis wants Knicks to add veteran for playoff push
The Knicks are an unimpressive 22-28, four games out of the playoffs in the East as you read this, and according to fivethirtyeight.com have a 14 percent chance of making the playoffs this season. They are on pace to have a 37-45 record.
“Playoff experience for myself, individually, would be huge at this point in my career — the sooner, the better,” Porzingis said Monday, when asked his opinion about the Knicks’ approach at the Feb. 8 trade deadline. “And for most of the [Knicks] — most of the guys haven’t felt that playoff experience that everybody talks about — that the guys talk about that have been there. For myself, selfishly I would want to play in the playoffs but we’ll see what happens and how we can end the season.”
It would take a blockbuster deal to get the Knicks into the postseason. Currently, Indiana and Philadelphia are the seven and eight seeds in the East, and they are both are on pace to finish with 45-46 wins. To get to that level, the Knicks need to go at least 23-9 the rest of the way, and they would need to leapfrog Detroit — which just added Blake Griffin. All of which is to say, it’s tough to see the Knicks making the postseason.
The Knicks are more likely to be sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline, guys such as Willy Hernangomez, Courtney Lee, and even Enes Kanter are drawing some interest from other teams. Whether those teams step up with good enough deals to pry loose someone is another question.
The more interesting thing to watch is how the current Knicks front office handles a frustrated Porzingis heading into the off-season, where they will offer him a max rookie contract extension. Steve Mills and Scott Perry can’t handle it worse than Phil Jackson did a season ago.
Three Things to Know: LeBron James talks to Lonzo Ball and that means… nothing
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) The Cavaliers beat the Lakers… but who cares because LeBron James talked to Lonzo Ball. Everyone loves a good mystery. Apparently to the point of obsession. Thursday night the NBA got its big unanswered question to obsess over:
What did LeBron James tell Lonzo Ball after the game?
Somehow overshadowing the fact LeBron had a triple-double in leading the Cavaliers past the Lakers in an actual basketball game that counts, the topic of discussion has been LeBron pulling Lonzo Ball aside after the game on the court to talk to him, with LeBron wisely pulling his jersey up over his lips to foil lip readers.
This video will be analyzed like it was the Zapruder film.
When asked what he said, LeBron answered: “None of y’all business.” Good. It’s not.
LeBron is one of the few people on the planet who has been in Ball’s shoes — overhyped coming into the league, drafted and instantly thrown into the role of franchise savior. LeBron has lived up to the hype over his career, he’s been through the wars, and he has advice to pass along. LeBron also has praised Ball’s level-headedness and said he liked what he saw in the rookie’s game. Ball had 13 points and 11 assists Thursday to push a Lakers’ team that did not roll over for the Cavaliers, another game where Ball is showing improvement this season. LeBron likely said some variation of what he’s said publicly — “You have the talent kid, just put in the work, honor the game, and ignore the circus around you.”
That will not stop the speculation, rumors, and conspiracy theories. If the political world has proved one thing in the past year or two, it’s that logic and facts will not stop people from believing what they want to believe.
The “LeBron will come to the Lakers” rumors run so rampant that the man himself skipped talking to the media after shootaround or before the game Thursday just to avoid the ridiculousness. The rumors persist despite reports that call it a “longshot.” They persist despite logic — LeBron (and his agent Rich Paul) have made it clear that winning and chasing more rings will be the priorities in deciding where LeBron plays next season, and even if the Lakers could land LeBron and Paul George they are the third best team in the West right now. “But he bought a new home in Brentwood! He’s coming!” Ugh. One thing is for sure: LeBron is not basing his decision based on anything he saw in a December regular season game.
Still, the postgame conversation was fuel for the conspiracy theorists. Whatever. At least some on Twitter just had fun with it.
2) Kristaps Porzingis leaves Knicks game after tweaking knee, to be examined Friday. The scariest injuries are non-contact ones, so when the Knicks’ star forward Kristaps Porzingis went to the locker room Thursday night with one Knicks’ nation held its breath.
The good news after the game is that Porzingis was standing on his leg without a brace or crutch. Both he and coach Jeff Hornacek said it was not serious. Porzingis will be examined Friday and said he felt a little pain when his knee buckled, so the team is being cautious. Hopefully, this really is nothing, but don’t be shocked if Porzingis is out Saturday when Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder come to Madison Square Garden.
By the way, the Knicks beat the Nets behind 27 points from Courtney Lee.
3) Kevin Durant goes off for 36 points, 11 rebounds in another Warriors’ win. “Stephen Curry? We don’t need no stinkin’ Stephen Curry.”
Okay, the Warriors aren’t exactly saying that, but they also are 4-0 without the point guard who was having a monster season but went down with a sprained ankle. The main reason is Kevin Durant. (Well, that and a more focused defense.) Durant went off against the Mavericks, taking control of the offense as he has done since Curry went down, scoring 37 points plus grabbing 11 boards and dishing out 7 assists. The Warriors won comfortably 112-97.
That makes eight straight wins for the Warriors, who statistically are on pace for 67 wins according to Ben Falk’s Cleaning The Glass (if you just extrapolate out the Warriors current record it’s “only” 65 wins).
Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis’ X-rays were negative, he can return
Porzingis left tonight’s Knicks-Heat game after Winslow stepped on his ankle. Hopefully, the injury isn’t as bad as it looked. The close-up is particularly jarring.
At 10-10, the Knicks were at least hanging around the playoff race. Though I expected them to fade regardless, a serious injury for Porzingis could set them way back. They’ve been outscored by 11.4 points per 100 possessions when he sits (+4.5 when he plays).
Sometimes, these wind up being far more minor than they appear. But this also has potential to be the type of injury that changes New York’s plan for the entire season.