Kyrie Irving

Knicks wing Reggie Bullock
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Report: Knicks likely to guarantee Reggie Bullock’s salary for next season

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After striking out on stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard, the Knicks found a type last summer – marginal veterans who’d take big two-year contracts with the second season barely or completely unguaranteed.

The hope was giving New York a competitive team (failed), trade bait (failed so far) and flexibility. At least the flexibility will still come, with decisions on salaries for next season:

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Bullock’s modest option year is likely to be picked up, according to an NBA source.

Does Berman’s source have direct knowledge of the Knicks’ plan? The possibility is what makes this interesting.

Otherwise, anyone with a general understanding of the league could guess. This would be my guess, too.

Bullock is a good 3-point shooter with the size to defend wings (though he doesn’t consistently actualize that defensive potential). Those types of players are in high demand.

Since signing Bullock, New York has changed presidents from Steve Mills to Leon Rose. The Knicks might also seek to maximize their cap space. So, there was reason to suspect they might waive Bullock.

But it’s a weak free-agent class. Bullock should have positive value on a $4.2 million salary. With only one more season left on his contract, New York won’t be stuck long-term with the 29-year-old if something goes wrong. He’s worth keeping (and I nearly selected him in our mock expansion draft).

A parting reminder: The Knicks got Bullock at such a bargain only because he failed his physical. They initially planned to pay him twice as much.

Kyrie Irving donates $323,000 to Feeding America to help get families food during crisis

Nets star Kyrie Irving
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The novel coronavirus has hit New York City and surrounding areas harder than anywhere else in the United States, with more than 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 157 deaths in the state of New York alone. The “city that never sleeps” has been on lockdown as people try to control the spread of the coronavirus.

That means it’s hard for some people in that area to get food. Kyrie Irving wanted to help with that and made a $323,000 donation to Feeding America.

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Thank you all for the birthday love, I’m extremely grateful for the support. Seeing the effects of COVID-19 reach our loved ones, our schools, our jobs, and access to food has really impacted me. I am excited to partner with @feedingamerica and @lineagelogistics to launch the Share A Meal campaign to help marginalized communities get the food resources they require during this time, and to work with our local partner @cityharvestnyc to distribute 250k meals to my neighbors in need across the NY area. In addition to that I am donating $323k to Feeding America and @lineagelogistics will match $200k of what we raise together.  I am asking my fans, friends, family and partners to join me in helping our communities by donating at the link in my bio. Thank you to everyone on the front line working to keep all of us safe, healthy, and fed. Together we can change the world one small gesture at a time.

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If $323,000 feels oddly specific, well, it is. But the numbers have meaning, as Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck found out.

A shoulder injury cost Irving much of this past season and he underwent surgery to repair it before next season (whether he could return for the playoffs is an open question and depends in part on when the playoffs start). While things were not smooth blending with teammates, Irving averaged 27.4 points, 6.4 assists, and 5.2 rebounds a game and shot 39.4 percent from three.

Stan Van Gundy: No interest in the Knicks; Nets the better job

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In an interview on ESPN Radio former NBA head coach Stan Van Gundy made it clear he has no interest in coaching the New York Knicks.

Van Gundy gave several reasons for his lack of interest in the Knicks head coach opening. Chief among Van Gundy’s concerns, he said he considers the franchise to be dysfunctional. Van Gundy said “Everything I’ve seen in the last few years with that organization says that it’s extremely dysfunctional.”

Van Gundy also stated his younger brother Jeff, one-time Knicks coach, was another reason. Van Gundy stated “I’m not interested in the New York Knicks. No. There’s a family history there.”

Finally, as if twisting the sword, Van Gundy said he’d be more interested in the Brooklyn Nets opening. “Of the two the Nets are the better job. There’s no question about that right now,” Van Gundy said on ESPN Radio. “The organization has been more stable. They’ve won more games. They have more talent.”

Both the Knicks and Nets moved on from their head coaches during this season. New York fired David Fizdale in early-December. Brooklyn and Kenny Atkinson parted ways in early-March, just a week before the NBA suspended play.

The Nets job is expected to attract plenty of interest, as both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are expected to be healthy and ready go for the start of the 2020-21 season. The Knicks will have to sell potential hires on being part of their ongoing rebuilding efforts.

Could healthy Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant, others change course of June NBA playoffs

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This June — *knocks on wood* — we will have NBA playoff basketball. That may be the optimistic scenario (and it may be without fans in the stands), but we here at the NBC NBA page are optimistic people. We want to believe.

If a June postseason comes together, those playoffs will look a lot different from what we would have seen in mid-April — and that was already shaping up as one of the most wide-open, interesting playoffs in a decade.

The whole point of “load management” has been to keep guys healthy for the playoffs. This is government-forced load-management.

“If you give these guys a break going into the playoffs and you build the anticipation of the NBA coming back, you’re giving the best players in the world an extra two, three, four weeks off,” Matt Barnes said on ESPN’s First Take a week ago, at the time underestimating the length of the break.

“The energy in the playoffs is going to be off the charts. It’s going to be the best playoffs we’ve seen because everyone is fully rested and fully healthy.”

Fully healthy could be the key — players who would have been out, or at least slowed, due to injury, could be back at 100 percent. Here is a look at how a late playoff could be changed by health.

• A fully loaded Brooklyn Nets team. At the top of the list of potential game-changers is Kevin Durant. Durant did not set foot on the court for the Nets this season as he recovered from his torn Achilles (suffered in the NBA Finals), but that recovery seems to be going well.

Durant would not rule out playing in the Tokyo Olympics this summer, which would have required him on a court starting early July at USA training camp. So if the NBA playoffs get pushed back to a June start and run into August, would Durant suddenly be able to jump in?

Probably not. Durant’s business partner and manager Rich Kleiman was on ESPN radio and said of a return, “Honestly, not very realistic from my standpoint and not even spoken about.” Maybe that’s Durant’s camp keeping expectations down, although it’s more likely the truth and KD will not play until whenever next season starts. It would be asking a lot to have Durant come back, have some of his first games be high-level playoff games, and then have a short turnaround until the next season starts.

Kyrie Irving is the other Brooklyn wild card. He had shoulder surgery in February that was going to end his season, but if he could come back for a playoff push, that might interest Durant. With Durant and Irving, the Nets would be the most dangerous seven seed we’ve ever seen.

But most likely, the Nets stay focused on next season and keep their superstars on the bench in June.

Ben Simmons returns to a fully healthy 76ers team. Things were falling apart for the 76ers when the season shut down, they had gone 5-5 since the All-Star break with a bottom 10 defense, and both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons had missed time with injuries.

Embiid had returned for the last game before the shutdown when he had 30 points and 14 boards against Detroit. However, a little more rest gets him fully healthy for a postseason run where he will have to play a lot of minutes.

Simmons is dealing with a pinched nerve in his back and the 76ers hoped they could get him back for the playoffs. Now, he could be back and at 100 percent for the playoffs, serving as a needed ball handler and shot creator for Philly.

Is that enough to fix their Island of Misfit Toys roster? Probably not. Brett Brown will pay the price for that. But a fully healthy 76ers team is long, athletic, veteran, and dangerous in a playoff matchup. If Simmons and Embiid are fully healthy, the 76ers are a real threat.

Malcolm Brogdon could return to the Pacers. Indiana, sitting currently as the five-seed in the East, was already a sneaky-dangerous team who could get to the second round and push a team like the Bucks. They become that much more dangerous with Brogdon back. He likely was out for the season with a torn left rectus femoris (connecting the hip and quad), but if he can return with his 16.3 points and 7.1 assists per game, the Pacers just became a much tougher out.

Add to that the hiatus brings more time for Victor Oladipo to find his legs and his shot, and suddenly Indiana looks a lot more threatening.

• Boston will have a fully healthy Jaylen Brown back. The Celtics would have had Brown back anyway for the postseason, but he had missed games due to a strained right hamstring, and those can linger. Maybe that would not have been an issue in the playoffs, but now there are no worries. With Brown and Jayson Tatum, Boston may be the biggest threat to Milwaukee in the East.

• Orlando could get Jonathon Isaac back. Is this going to win the Magic a playoff series? No. But getting their breakout player back makes the Magic better — and more watchable. Isaac had been out due to a posterior lateral corner injury of his left knee as well as a bone bruise, and he was thought done for the season. Now, he could return. On offense he’s still a work in progress, but he averaged 12 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, both career bests. Isaac is already a game-changer on the defensive end, where he is a long, athletic, switchable defender averaging 2.4 blocks, and 1.6 steals a game. He’s had the kind of season that would get him All-Defensive Team votes, getting that kind of player back helps.

• Memphis will have Justise Winslow, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke all back and healthy. Much like the note on Orlando above, the fact that these three players will be healthy is not going to lift the eight-seed Grizzlies past LeBron James and the Lakers in the first round. Not a chance. But for a young team looking to build for the future getting their young core — along with a healthy Ja Morant — playoff game experience is a big step forward for them. Plus, it makes that first-round series a little more interesting to watch.

• Portland could have big men Jusuf Nurkick and Zach Collins back, but no postseason to play them in. The Trail Blazers sit as the nine seed in the West, 3.5 games back of Memphis. It is highly unlikely they are going to get to play enough regular season games to catch them and become a genuinely dangerous first-round team (you think the Lakers want to see Damian Lillard in the first round?). But indulge the what-ifs here: What we learned about Portland this season is just how much Nurkic means to the team, now he would be back, with Zach Collins playing either next to him at the four and/or as a backup five, depending upon the situation. Portland would be a lot more dangerous, but we likely don’t get to see that.

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

Joel Embiid in 76ers-Lakers
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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.”