Julius Randle

Knicks players R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle
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Report: Julius Randle frustrated multiple Knicks, including R.J. Barrett, with ball dominance

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The Knicks have just two players with guaranteed salaries above $7 million next season – Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett.

At quick glance, it’s a fine tandem. The 25-year-old Randle is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. The No. 3 pick in the most recent NBA draft, Barrett is averaging 14 points, five rebounds and three assists per game.

But neither has met hopes individually this season.

Collectively, the issues could be even worse.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Nevertheless, some Knicks, including rookie RJ Barrett, were frustrated by Randle’s penchant for not distributing the ball quickly enough and overdribbling, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

“A lot of players felt like that with the exception of Elfrid Payton,’’ one NBA source told The Post.

Of course, Barrett was frustrated by an inefficient shooter who dominates the ball and commits too many turnovers. It’s exponentially more difficult to have two players than one like that, and Barrett was already filling that role. Imagine how teammates who must play with both feel.

Apparently except Elfrid Payton? He played with Randle on the Pelicans last season. Randle shot 34% on 3-pointers with New Orleans (27% the rest of his career, including 28% this year), which went a long way toward making Randle more suitable within a team offense. So, Payton has that experience.

Randle has talent, and that’s why he puts up numbers. His shot creation helps him raise a team’s floor. But – also considering his defensive shortcomings – it’s tough to see him fitting as a starter on a winning team.

Barrett is just a rookie, so there’s more hope he develops a style that fits better with other good players. Of course, even if he does, for it to matter, the Knicks would have to get better players.

For now, they’ve got an expensive Randle.

Book: Joel Embiid wanted to get to Lakers in 2014 NBA draft

Joel Embiid in 76ers-Lakers
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
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Joel Embiid has become so synonymous with the 76ers, he co-opted the moniker of Sam Hinkie’s bold plan – The Process – as his own nickname.

But Embiid was always so keen on Philadelphia.

As he entered the NBA in 2014, Embiid had ambitions of getting drafted No. 1 by the Cavaliers or by the Lakers, who held the No. 7 pick.

A reminder how the 2014 NBA draft began:

1. Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins

2. Bucks: Jabari Parker

3. 76ers: Joel Embiid

4. Magic: Aaron Gordon

5. Jazz: Dante Exum

6. Celtics: Marcus Smart

7. Lakers: Julius Randle

That June, Embiid worked out in Cleveland and impressed the Cavs, who were then run by David Griffin.

Yaron Weitzman in “Tanking to the Top:”

Smiles swept across the faces of Griffin and the rest of the Cavaliers brain trust. Griffin would later tell people that it was the best workout he’d ever seen. “He was like the second coming of Hakeem,” he’d say. His mind was made. “He told us there he was taking Joel No. 1,” said Francois Nyam, one Embiid’s agents at the time.

But Embiid was soon diagnosed with a fractured foot. For a player who already had medical concerns, that caused too much trepidation in Cleveland and Milwaukee.

Weitzman:

Griffin had a mandate from ownership to win and needed a player who could immediately help the team. Even if he wanted to take Embiid, the Cavaliers’ doctors wouldn’t give him the green light. The Bucks, meanwhile, had locked in on Parker, another Tellem client, at No. 2, and anyway, Embiid had no interest in playing there. “That place is corny,” he hold Nyam. What he really wanted was to fall to the Lakers at No. 7. He’d been living in Los Angeles and grown comfortable in the city. “Work your magic,” he told Tellem. Tellem knew there was no chance of Embiid plunging that far, so instead he and Nyam sold on Embiid on Philadelphia.

In fairness to the Cavaliers and Bucks, Wiggins and Parker looked like the top two prospects given Embiid’s volatile health.

But chasing immediate help at the top of the draft – which both Milwaukee and Cleveland sought – is a fool’s game. That’s the opportunity to land a long-term star. Besides, teams drafting that high are usually too far from winning to justify prioritizing quick help.

The Cavs were an exception, though they didn’t know it at the time. LeBron James returned later that summer, and they traded Wiggins for Kevin Love. LeBron and Love helped Cleveland win a title. A LeBron-Embiid pairing was probably never in the cards. But it’s worth imagining: Would LeBron have remained patient during his (seemingly) dwindling prime if Cleveland kept an injured Embiid for two-plus seasons? Would LeBron and Kyrie Irving have led the Cavs to great success, anyway? If he waited out Embiid’s early-career injury woes, would LeBron still have left the Cavaliers – including a blossoming Embiid – in 2018?

The Bucks had no LeBron complication. All they had is a raw rookie named Giannis Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee got practically nothing from Parker. An Antetokounmpo-Embiid pairing would have been so tantalizing. Instead, they’re now Eastern Conference rivals.

As for Embiid’s Lakers interest (which he, or at least his Twitter account, signaled at the time)… Embiid is far from the first draft prospect who wanted to join a premier team. Some make it happen. Embiid’s agent, Arn Tellem, famously steered Kobe Bryant to the Lakers in the 1996 draft. But the draft largely succeeds in funneling top prospects to the least-desirable teams.

Still, as Embiid and the 76ers look a little antsy with their current arrangement, Embiid’s fondness for Los Angeles is at least interesting. That was six years ago, and a lot has changed since. I’m certainly not predicting Embiid will ever join the Lakers. But it’s just a nugget of information I’ll keep in the back of my mind.

Disclosure: I received a promotional copy of “Tanking to the Top.”

Mock NBA expansion draft: Celtics, Nets, Knicks, 76ers, Raptors

Mock NBA expansion draft
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division. Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Atlantic:

Boston Celtics

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 7

Ineligible – 0

Analysis: Boston’s decisions are fairly cut and dry. Jayson Tatum, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams and Robert Williams are all on their rookie-scale contracts. Jaylen Brown will be starting a four-year contract extension. Kemba Walker was just signed to a max contract. Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are good values and key rotation players.

The toughest decision was on Gordon Hayward. Carrying a salary over $34 million, the Celtics are betting he’ll go undrafted and will return to the team. Everyone else was a fairly easy decision to leave unprotected.

Brooklyn Nets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: The Nets are keeping their big four in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. Jarrett Allen is still on his rookie-scale contract, so that’s an easy decision. With over $101 million on the books for just Durant, Irving, Dinwiddie and LeVert, Nicolas Claxton and Rodions Kurucs help bring some low-cost upside to the back-end of the roster.

DeAndre Jordan will likely go unselected, given his age and $30 million-plus owed through 2022-23. If Jordan is selected, Brooklyn can bank some potential luxury tax savings down the line. Taurean Prince was on the fence, but given his disappointing play this season, and lack of fit in a lineup featuring Durant, the Nets will take their chances he’ll be selected.

New York Knicks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 6

Ineligible – 1

  • Maurice Harkless

Analysis: The Knicks are clearing the decks for a run at free agency this summer. The expansion draft could only help along that way. New York is protecting their young players with upside, as well as Julius Randle, last year’s big free agent addition. The Knicks are also protecting Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier. Not out of fear of losing them, but in hopes that either of the expansion teams will select a bigger salary and take it off the New York cap sheet.

Dennis Smith Jr. was the only questionable player to leave unprotected, but $5.7 million is simply too much for a player out of the rotation. The other five players aren’t part of the future in New York, so that decision was easy.

Philadelphia 76ers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: Philadelphia’s decisions make themselves. The highly paid players are key rotation players. Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton are steals on minimum contracts. Matisse Thybulle is only entering year two of his rookie scale deal. Zhaire Smith was on the bubble, but he’s young enough, and under team control, that he’s worth protecting.

Al Horford is very unprotected. His signing simply hasn’t worked out for the Sixers. He’s a player Philadelphia is open to talking about a trade with either of the expansion teams. With an extra first-round pick, the 76ers hope to dangle it to entice a team to select Horford.

Toronto Raptors

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Raptors don’t have to expose any of their core rotation players in the expansion draft. Up front, Pascal Siakam just inked his contract extension, and OG Anunoby is still on his rookie scale deal. Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are all free agents. In the backcourt, Toronto can protect Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell, along with undrafted find Terence Davis. And Fred VanVleet is a free agent.

The leaves just a handful of players who don’t have a role for the Raptors. Toronto could even entertain offering a second-round pick to entice either expansion team to select Stanley Johnson and take his $3.8 million off the cap/tax.

Bradley Beal’s hot streak continues, scores 40 to lift Wizards past Knicks (VIDEO)

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WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal got back to his high-scoring ways with 40 points, lifting the Washington Wizards to a 122-115 victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night.

Beal overcame a slow start and surpassed the 25-point plateau for the 22nd time in 23 games. His string of 21 such games was snapped Sunday when he scored 23 in a loss to Miami.

The Wizards’ win meant the Heat will have to wait at least one more day to clinch an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Miami can do so with a home win Wednesday against Charlotte.

Beal scored 27 in the second half after connecting on five of his first 15 shots against the Knicks.

Shabazz Napier added 21 points for the Wizards.

Bobby Portis led the Knicks with 20 points against his former team, while Julius Randle added 16 before fouling out.

Both teams squandered big leads. The Wizards lost a 14-point lead in the first quarter, and the Knicks blew an 18-point advantage in the third.

The teams are out of the playoff hunt in the East, and it sounded as if there were more Knicks fans than Wizards supporters in the stands.

When it was announced late in the first quarter that a 3-pointer by Frank Ntilikina was overturned by replay review, there were more boos than cheers in the more-than-half-empty arena. Chants of “Let’s go, Knicks!” and “MVP” could be heard as rookie RJ Barrett shot free throws.

Three Things to Know: Looking at odds to win MVP, Rookie of Year, more

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) What are the odds? Examining the betting line for MVP, Rookie of the Year, more. With a little more than 20 games to go in the NBA season, the attention is shifting to the races for the NBA’s end-of-season awards…

Except some of them aren’t much of a race anymore. That includes MVP.

Let’s take a look at the current betting odds for the top races, with the odds coming via Draft Kings.

MVP
Giannis Antetokounmpo -670
Luka Doncic +800
LeBron James +900
James Harden +1200
Anthony Davis +5000
Nikola Jokic +5000
Kawhi Leonard +5000
Damian Lillard +5000

It’s Antetokounmpo and then everyone else in the odds, which reflects the attitude of voters I have spoken with. These odds also seem a little dated, the guy with the best chance to catch the Greek Freak right now — maybe the only guy — is LeBron (and he will need some luck, but he has the “carrying Kobe’s team” narrative). Doncic’s missed time due to injuries has knocked him down the board a little. Just a word of advice to people actually betting this: Don’t be tempted by the big potential payouts for Jokic or Davis, both have been good enough to make the top five, but if the bet is to win that’s not going to pay off.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Ja Morant -400
Zion Williamson +250
Kendrick Nunn +5000

This is a two man race, and it might not even be that. Yes, Zion Williamson is tearing up the league. Yes, Zion is the best player of this rookie class right now and (barring injury) will be the best in this class three years from now. Yes, we all love to watch him play.

But “availability is the best ability” and Zion can play, at most, 37 games (ultimately, he likely plays in a couple fewer than that). Morant — averaging 17.7 points and seven assists a game, leading a team expected to be one of the worst in the league to a potential playoff berth — can play in as many as 76 games, although that likely ends a few lower as well. If Morant plays 35 more games, he is the Rookie of the Year.

Matt Moore at the Action Network did a straw poll of 12 likely voters and only four said that maybe Zion could do something to catch Morant at this point. Much like when Joel Embiid didn’t win ROY because he only played in 31 games, Zion just missed too many games (and Morant has been very good).

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Anthony Davis -152
Giannis Antetokounmpo +275
Rudy Gobert +350
Brook Lopez +5000
Joel Embiid +5000

A month ago I might have said Rudy Gobert was well on his way to a three-peat, and he still might be, but the Jazz stumbling on defense of late has opened this race up. The Greek Freak and AD have legitimate chances to win it.

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
Dennis Schroder +130
Lou Williams +175
Montrezl Harrell +200
Derrick Rose +1000

Another race that seems wide open, especially if the two Clippers players split the vote. That could open the door for Schroder, who has gained a lot of momentum as people realize it’s not just Chris Paul having an impressive season for the surprisingly good Thunder. There is a sentimentality behind Derrick Rose and his best season in a long time, but how bad the Timberwolves have been does not help his cause.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Brandon Ingram +150
Bam Adebayo +300
Jayson Tatum +450
Luka Doncic +500
Devonte’ Graham +1000

Graham was running away with this award early, but he has come back to earth and the race is now wide open. With everyone tuning in to see Zion, people are realizing how good Ingram has been this season. Boston’s surge may help Tatum, and both he and Adebayo surged to become All-Stars this season. Our own Dan Feldman has made the case for Doncic.

Not listed in the odds was Coach of the Year, but my sense talking to voters and people around the league is Toronto’s Nick Nurse has a narrow lead in what is a very crowded field.

2) Miami Heat defense holds Giannis Antetokounmpo to 13 points, Heat upset Bucks. Milwaukee entered Monday night having win six in a row and on pace to win 70+ games. They had lost twice in their last 20 games.

Miami just shut them down. Bam Adebayo had a fantastic defensive game, leading Miami’s ability to take away the Greek Freak’s favorite moves and make him uncomfortable. The sharpshooting Bucks also went ice cold from three for the night, shooting 7-of-34 (20.6 percent), meaning the Heat did not pay for their attention to Antetokounmpo.

Miami had its usual balanced attack. Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder each had 18 points, Goran Dragic 15, and Adebayo had 14 points and 13 boards to go with his stellar defense.

The most talked about sequence in this game came late. First, Miami’s Dragic went up for a shot knee first and caught George Hill right in the, er, groin. Hill was down for a bit. On the next trip down the court Antetokounmpo gave Goran a check from behind, just to balance the scales.

3) Knicks get physical with small-ball Rockets and pick up win. From the first day the Rockets went all-in on small ball the counter-reaction has been “just go big” and bully them. Utah tried to do that, but the Jazz are slumping, Rudy Gobert seemed off (or was thrown off by the style of play), and the red-hot Rockets handled the Jazz with little trouble.

The first team to use size to bully the Rockets? The Knicks.

In the first game under new team president Leon Rose, the Knicks were physical and took the Rockets out of their game, ultimately leading to a 125-123 New York win. That ended Houston’s six-game winning streak. RJ Barrett led the way wtih 27 points.

The Knicks got 16 points and 16 boards from Julius Randle.

James Harden had 35 points and eight assists but shot 3-of-13 from three. Russell Westbrook had 24 points and nine rebounds but missed a mid-range shot that could have sent the game to overtime.

It was a good win for the Knicks, the question is can other teams follow the same model for success against these Rockets?