Emmanuel Mudiay

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Highly touted 2020 NBA Draft prospect R.J. Hampton to play in Australia

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The NBA is working toward lowering its age minimum.

In the meantime, other leagues are recruiting top players out of high school. College basketball is trying to maintain its monolith status. The Australian National Basketball League is offering “Next stars” contracts that guarantee about $78,000 U.S. gross. The NBA’s minor league affiliate is offering Select Contracts with a $125,000 salary.

Score one for Australia.

Top-10 2020 NBA draft prospect R.J. Hampton on ESPN:

Next year, I will be going overseas to play in the Australian basketball league with the New Zealand Breakers.

Players generally don’t publicly disclose under-the-table payments or low grades/test scores. So, we don’t know why players like Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay bypassed college basketball. But Hampton is believed to be the first elite American player without college-eligibility issues who still chose to play overseas out of high school.

Will Hampton start a trend? Probably not. The end of the one-and-done rule appears imminent. Players like him will just go straight to the NBA.

But this is definitely an unconventional route for Hampton, and the NBA – teams scouting for the draft, league and union leaders negotiating a future system – will pay attention.

Knicks Frank Ntilikina reportedly wants to be traded, switches agents

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When the Knicks acquired Emmanuel Mudiay last season — a player Denver just released outright — Mudiay instantly jumped past Frank Ntilikina on the point guard depth chart. Then, when the Knicks traded for Dennis Smith Jr. at the deadline (part of the Kristaps Porzingis deal), the future of Ntilikina in New York was thrown into uncertainty.

Ntilikina sees that, wants out, and is getting a new agent as well, reports Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina dropped CAA as his agency last season and planned to sign with French agent Bouna Ndiaye, the Daily News has learned.

Ntilikina, who was drafted eighth overall by Knicks in 2017, is on the trading block and desires a relocation, a source told the News. The Knicks declined offers to move Ntilikina at the trade deadline in February, acquired another point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., and Ntilikina quickly decided to change agents.

Ndiaye represents several French players in the NBA, including Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier.

The Knicks are expected to try to trade Ntilikina, either at the draft or next summer. Mostly other teams will view him as a way to save money — if teams do not pick up his 2020-21 option by Oct. 31 he comes off the books after this next season — but also Ntilikina played good defense and other teams may try to take a flier on him.

Heat beat Knicks in Wade’s final Madison Square Garden game

Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — Dion Waiters scored 28 points, Dwyane Wade added 16 in his last game at Madison Square Garden, and the Miami Heat beat the New York Knicks 100-92 on Saturday night.

Wade had back-to-back baskets in Miami’s 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter after the game was tied through three. He shot 6 for 16 and added seven rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench.

Hassan Whiteside finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Heat, while Kelly Olynyk chipped in 12 points and 11 rebounds. Goran Dragic had 10 points and 10 assists.

The Heat have won six of their last eight games and hold a half-game lead over Orlando for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference.

Emmanuel Mudiay scored 24 points for the Knicks, who have lost six straight and 14 of 15.

New York, which has lost eight straight games at home, seemed like it was going to spoil Wade’s last visit to one of his favorite arenas.

But he followed Whiteside’s basket with two of his own before Whiteside made two free throws to make it 87-79 with 9:29 to go.

The three-time NBA champion received a nice hand from the Garden crowd when he walked to the scorer’s table for the first time midway through the first quarter. Wade was then greeted with a standing ovation when he checked into the game with 4:37 left in the period.

New York honored Wade’s 15-year career with a video tribute with 2:47 remaining in the opening period after a Miami timeout.

Wade then drove to the basket for his first points of the night.

Wade’s tribute video included a warm message from coach David Fizdale, who won two NBA titles as a Miami assistant coach from 2008-16.

The Knicks coach recalled a game Wade won while both teams on the court couldn’t get anything “right.”

But Wade found a way to put the Heat over Chicago in double overtime.

“He stole the ball at the end of the game and made a running halfcourt shot to end the game. It was literally a bloodbath. I’ll never forget that night,” Fizdale recalled. “We’re battling like crazy. And somehow he figured out how to get us a win.”

 

LeBron James gets blocked on game-winning shot attempt vs. Knicks (VIDEO)

AP
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LeBron James is not having a great first year with the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s now on a minutes restriction, and the team has been mired in controversy surrounding potential trades for Anthony Davis on the way to missing the playoffs.

It’s called James’ public persona into question for many, and Sunday night’s failure at Madison Square Garden felt like the perfect encapsulation of what it’s been like for LeBron.

The play of the game came with just 2.3 seconds left. New York Knicks guard Emmanuel Mudiay had previously sunk two free throws to give his squad the lead, 124-123.

On the ensuring possession, James had the ball on the left mid-post with New York’s Mario Hezonja  guarding him. James went up for the shot, which Hezonja promptly blocked.

Via Twitter:

Space Jam 2 can’t get here fast enough for ol’ LeBron.

Three Things to Know: Where does Boston rank among the East’s top teams?

Associated Press
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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) Where does Boston rank among the East’s top teams? Things didn’t look promising Tuesday. The Celtics were the preseason favorite to be the top seed in the East because they had depth, they were going to have versatility because of that depth, because their young players were going to keep improving, because they were going to have a star with the ball in his hands taking them to the next level, and because we knew their defense was going to be good.

Turns out that actually describes the Milwaukee Bucks. And the Toronto Raptors.

Those are two teams who have beaten the Celtics since the All-Star break — Toronto blew Boston out on Tuesday night, turning and 18-0 second-quarter run into a 118-95 victory.

It’s led to a lot of questions about where Boston really fits in the pecking order at the top of the East. And there are no easy answers.

In Boston’s wins against Toronto earlier in the season it was the Kyrie Irving show but he seemed passive Tuesday, which led Boston to a more balanced attack this time around — and it backfired. They shot 6-of-30 from three and could not find an offensive groove. It was ugly. That happens, there are bad games and the Raptors are an elite team. What was concerning was the way the Celtics seemed to just roll over and accept their fate Tuesday night.

What’s concerning is this team has still not gelled 61 games into the season.

Also concerning: The look on Irving’s face.

Most concerning, however, is through their past 10 games the Celtics have a bottom-10 defense in the league. This was supposed to be Boston’s calling card, and while Boston has the fifth best defense in the NBA for the season we have not seen that of late. Their strength isn’t there to bail them out on the nights the shots don’t fall.

Which leads to the questions: Just how good are the Celtics? Where do they rank in the East?

If the playoffs started today, they wouldn’t even have home court in the first round. On the season, Boston is 2-10 on the road against teams better than .500. Still, there seems to be an internal level of confidence in the Celtics’ locker room. After a recent loss Kyrie Irving said this was just the regular season and when it came time to focus, when they drilled down on matchups against one team in the playoffs, the Celtics would be fine. Essentially, a flip the switch moment.

Can they really? Right now, the signs are not promising as teams start to gear up for their playoff run.

2) Denver turns out to be a matchup nightmare for Oklahoma City. Remember above I wrote we thought Boston would have depth, be versatile, their young players were going to step up, their star was going to lift them to the next level, and their defense was going to be good? That also describes the Denver Nuggets this season. Oh, and they have Isaiah Thomas.

That Nikola Jokic has stepped up to an All-Star — and likely All-NBA — is not a surprise, he’s been on that trajectory for years. What is a surprise is just how good Denver’s defense has become — top 10 in the NBA on the season, and in the last five games they have allowed less than a point per possession (97.7, best in the NBA in that stretch).

That includes handling the Thunder 121-112 Tuesday night. Jokic led the way with 36 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists, and he heard MVP chants from the Denver faithful.

Paul George was putting up some highlight plays, but it wasn’t enough.

It is very possible these teams meet in the second round of the playoffs, and if that happens I’d be worried if I were a Thunder fan. Through three meetings this season, the Thunder have led for 12 minutes of game time, the Nuggets for 85. Ouch. Regular season games do not project postseason ones nearly as well as fans want them to, but when one team seems to have the other’s number that is a sign.

3) Break up the Knicks, they have won three of four. Tanking for Zion? There will be none of that in Madison Square Garden…

Well, there kind of is. The Knicks do have the second-worst record in the NBA, giving them as good a shot as anyone at landing the top pick in the draft and the rights to the Duke superstar (a 14 percent chance, but that’s as good as it gets with the new lottery odds).

New York, however, is not limping into the end of the season. Orlando came into Madison Square Garden having won 8-of-9 and is fighting for a playoff spot in the East, but New York got great play from their bench and got the win 108-103. Not one Knicks starter scored in double figures, but Emmanuel Mudiay had 19 points off the bench, Allonzo Trier added 18, and the biggest stud of the night was rookie Mitchell Robinson who had 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 blocks.

The Knicks are still going to have great lottery odds (they would need to make up three games on the Bulls — who have played well as of late also — to fall out of the bottom three and not have their 14 percent odds at the top slot). However, it’s good for the franchise to see the team’s young players show some grit down the stretch.