Knicks Notes: Baker, Kornet, Lee, Trier

It wasn’t easy for Knicks coach David Fizdale to part with Ron Baker, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Baker was waived yesterday to open a roster spot so that Allonzo Trier‘s two-way contract could be converted to a standard NBA deal.

“This was the hardest one I’ve ever been a part of,’’ Fizdale said. “Cutting Ron Baker was really rough. I talked to him today. He was fantastic. He’s Ron Baker. He’s a pro. He totally understood where we were. Obviously it goes without saying we’re resources to him. If anyone ever calls me on him I’ll have nothing but incredible things to say about him. I even joked to him a little bit when he’s finally done, spend some time with me and I may have a coach on my hands there.”

Baker spent more than two seasons in New York after making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2016. When Steve Mills took over as Knicks president last year, his first move was to use the room exception to give Baker a two-year, $9MM deal, but despite the team’s confidence Baker never developed into a consistent rotation player. He was averaging just 1.3 points and 9.7 minutes in 11 games this season.

There’s more today from New York:

  • Luke Kornet not only kept his roster spot Thursday, he received a promise from Fizdale for more playing time, Berman relays in a separate story. Kornet was considered a possibility to be released, but the Knicks want to see if the second-year power forward can develop into a reliable shooter from the perimeter. That potential was part of the reason they traded Willy Hernangomez last year. “I kept my mind set on doing what I could do — playing in the G League, getting better there,” Kornet said of the rumors that he might be let go. “There’s nothing you can control other than what you do on the court. I was completely committed to letting whatever happened happen.”
  • Courtney Lee is back after one game in the G League and might see an increase in playing time while Damyean Dotson deals with a sore shoulder, Berman adds. The Knicks would like to boost Lee’s trade value and unload his $12.76MM salary for next season.
  • The new deal with Trier may have at least slightly improved the Knicks’ prospects to land Kevin Durant, Berman notes in another piece. Durant became somewhat of a mentor to Trier when he was in high school in Oklahoma City and they have remained friends. Trier’s two-year contract is non-guaranteed for next season — and it could take away valuable cap space New York will need to make a full max offer — but Berman states that the front office intends to keep Trier as long as he continues to perform at his current level.

Silver Optimistic About G League Team In Mexico

The G League could have a franchise in Mexico by next season, relays Eric Gomez of ESPN. Speaking prior to Thursday’s Bulls-Magic game in Mexico City, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the move would be part of the league’s strategy to increase its presence throughout Latin America.

“We’re in the third quarter there,” Silver said about the possibility of the G League moving southward. He added that it will be “planting its flag in Mexico” very soon.

Last night’s game was the 27th since the NBA began its relationship with Mexico, and another between the Bulls and Jazz is set for Saturday. Silver cited the Arena Ciudad de Mexico, which holds 22,300 people, as a major attraction. He called it “a state-of-the-art arena” and indicated that the NBA would consider playing in other Latin American nations if they had similar venues.

“There were long lines of fans just waiting to get in,” Silver said.

The NBA hasn’t committed to any games in Mexico beyond this season, but Silver is optimistic that the relationship will continue. The league announced a new TV contract on Thursday to show its games on Televisa, a Mexican multimedia company.

“We’re committed to come back to Mexico for many years to come,” Silver added.

Joakim Noah: “Too Lit To Play In New York”

Excessive partying may have been responsible for Joakim Noah‘s downfall in New York, the former Knicks center says in an interview with Chris Vernon of Grind City Media (hat tip to Chris Iseman of USA Today).

Noah has looked much better since signing with the Grizzlies last week, averaging 6.2 points and 3.8 rebounds through five games. While those are modest numbers, they are far better than what he posted during two frustrating years with the Knicks.

“I remember after the first game (in New York) I probably had like 60 people in my house,” Noah said. “I’m too lit to play in New York City. Memphis is perfect for me.”

Noah, 33, admits he had the same party habits earlier in his career, but added, “We were lit in Chicago, but I was young. You recover faster, you know?”

Noah was a two-time All-Star and former Defensive Player of the Year with the Bulls before receiving a four-year, $72MM offer to join the Knicks in 2016. He battled injuries in his first season with the team, appearing in 46 games, then played just seven more last year before being suspended following an altercation with former New York coach Jeff Hornacek in practice.

The Knicks waived Noah before the start of this season, using the stretch provision on the remainder of his contract.

“It happened so fast,” Noah recalled. “One year I’m playing 35 minutes a game. And then injuries started piling up. I got this crazy deal with the Knicks, and then the next thing you know I’m not playing anymore. Get kicked off the team. It was a crazy time. I wasn’t sure I was gonna get an opportunity to play again.”

Noah believes he was able to save his career by leaving New York after being released and heading to California to dedicate himself to getting back into game shape. If he can rediscover the all-around skills he displayed in Chicago, Noah could be a valuable backup for the Grizzlies as they fight for a playoff spot.

“I got the call from Memphis. … I decided that this was a good fit,” Noah said. “I’m just really, really happy to be here.”

Robert Sarver: Suns Won’t Move Out Of Phoenix

Suns owner Robert Sarver delivered an important message to fans on Thursday, denying that he’ll move his team out of Phoenix if Talking Stick Resort Arena doesn’t undergo a $230MM upgrade.

“The Phoenix Suns are not leaving Phoenix,” Sarver said. “I am 100% committed, and have been for the last four years, to find a solution to keep them in downtown Phoenix where they belong.”

A Suns city council member told Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic that Sarver threatened to take the team to Seattle or Las Vegas if the new arena deal isn’t approved, but the council member has since walked his comments back on the two cities, according to Roberts. However, Suns CEO and President Jason Rowley acknowledged the possibility of moving the team somewhere else in the Valley or out of state only as a last resort.

Sarver purchased the Suns for $401MM back in 2004. The franchise has made the postseason just five times in that span, with their last appearance coming during the 2009-10 season. They have the league’s worst record at 4-24 through 28 games.

“I’m a strong proponent — as evident by the term sheet I signed last week — that we should renovate the Talking Stick Resort Arena and once again restore it to a world-class facility,” Sarver said. “In addition, it is important for the Phoenix Suns to build a first-class practice facility so the players of the Suns and Phoenix Mercury can continue to develop. I am 100% all-in on keeping this team right here where we stand, and I want to make sure that message comes across crystal clear.” 

Talking Stick Resort Arena — formerly known as the US Airways Center — has been the home of the Suns since 1992. The Phoenix city council will vote on January 23 on the proposal, which could also extend the Suns’ contract to play in the arena until 2032, according to Fox 10 Phoenix.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 12/13/18

Here are Thursday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

Bulls To Pull Jabari Parker From Rotation

The Bulls will drop Jabari Parker from their rotation, no longer giving the 23-year-old regular minutes this season, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.com.

Parker signed a two-year, $40MM deal to join the team this past summer in free agency, and his contract contains a team option for next season. The Bulls could – and almost certainly will – decline his option and send him him back to free agency in 2019.

There have been no discussions on a potential buyout between Parker and the Bulls, though that option could be increasingly possible as the deadline nears, Andrews adds. Head coach Jim Boylen originally showed confidence in Parker upon being promoted to replace Fred Hoiberg, testing the forward in different roles.

“Jabari has been great,” Boylen said, according to Andrews. “He understands. Jabari wants to make it about helping the team win. And that’s what I’ve asked him to do.”

In 28 games with the Bulls this season, Parker has averaged 15.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 31 minutes per game. He’s started in 17 of those games, seeing minutes at both the small forward and power forward positions.

Parker is expected to play in the team’s game on Thursday in place of Chandler Hutchison, who’s dealing with an illness, but likely won’t see consistent playing time moving forward.

Atlantic Notes: Korkmaz, Irving, Knicks, Leonard

Despite being unhappy with his playing time in October, Furkan Korkmaz has received more opportunities in the past few weeks with the Sixers. Korkmaz has played in 15 of the 76ers’ last 16 games, scoring 18 points in 34 minutes against the Nets on Wednesday.

Korkmaz admitted that he wasn’t ready to see significant playing time last season, but took leaps forward as an all-around basketball player during the offseason. There was an expectation entering the 2018/19 season that he would see more time on the court, as has been the case recently.

“At the time I was telling to people, even like my agent, my parents, my sister, it doesn’t matter who, I was telling them I want to play this year,” Korkmaz told Jessica Camerato, who profiled him for an in-depth Basketball Insiders story. “It was my goal. It was my second year … I knew that I wasn’t ready last year. I wasn’t ready. I knew that. I just worked hard, even when I got injured.

“But I feel like I improved a lot then, not as basketball, physically, as my body. I was saying to people, ‘I want to play,’ … I never got down mentally. I knew that my time will come, but I didn’t know when.”

Korkmaz, 21, was drafted by the Sixers with the No. 26 pick in 2016 after spending multiple seasons overseas. He’s scoring 5.8 points per game on 43% shooting from the floor, 34% from 3-point range and 86% from the charity stripe so far this season, and could earn more minutes as the season progresses if he doesn’t get traded.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

Magic, Pistons Interested In Markelle Fultz

The Magic and Pistons have expressed interest in trading for Sixers guard Markelle Fultz, who remains away from the team dealing with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, according to Dave Early of SB Nation’s Liberty Ballers.

Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press also relayed Detroit’s interest in trading for Fultz, speculating that a future first-round pick and salary filler likely wouldn’t get a deal done. Jose Calderon, Glenn Robinson III and Zaza Pachulia all become trade-eligible for the Pistons on Saturday.

The Magic have long been targeting a point guard and could offer Terrence Ross in a potential package. Ross will become a free agent on July 1, which would allow the 76ers to re-sign him on a separate deal or create cap space for a star talent. Orlando has a talented young core of Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba, with the team starting 11-year veteran D.J. Augustin in its first 27 games of the season.

The Suns have also monitored Fultz’ situation, although their interest has since cooled, according to the Liberty Ballers report. Phoenix prefers to find an established backcourt player in trade discussions to play alongside Devin Booker

Fultz would welcome a fresh start on a new team, The Athletic reported last month. He’s played in 33 games across two seasons since being drafted No. 1 overall by the Sixers in 2017, holding per-game averages of 7.7 points and 3.4 assists while shooting 41% from the field.

Nets Agree To Three-Year Extension With Spencer Dinwiddie

The Nets have reached a contract extension with Spencer Dinwiddie, the team announced on social media today. The deal is a three-year, $34MM agreement and contains a player option in the third season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Dinwiddie was eligible to receive a four-year extension in the range of $47MM, but opted to sign a shorter deal to reach free agency sooner, Wojnarowski adds.

Dinwiddie can decline his player option to test free agency in 2021. He’ll make approximately $10.6MM next season, $11.4MM in the 2020/2021 season and $12.3MM during the 2021/22 season, according to Wojnarowski.

That $10.6MM starting salary is equivalent to 120% of the NBA’s estimated average salary for this season, and is the maximum amount Dinwiddie could have received on an extension.

“The journey is just beginning. I’m thankful that the Brooklyn Nets believe in me enough to give me a home,” Dinwiddie wrote on social media.

Dinwiddie scored a career-high 39 points off the Nets’ bench in a win over the Sixers Wednesday, adding to his successful week with the team. He’s averaged 16.9 points, 4.9 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 29 games this season.

His new deal with the Nets will cut into their cap space for free agency next summer, greatly reducing their chances at opening two maximum-salary roster spots. Brooklyn originally signed Dinwiddie to a free-agent contract in 2016 after he spent two years in the G League. He was a finalist for the Most Improved Player award last season, and could be in consideration for Sixth Man of the Year this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Six Trade Candidates To Watch After December 15

As we’ve noted frequently on Hoops Rumors over the last several weeks, December 15 is a key date to watch on the NBA calendar, since it’s the day that most of the summer’s offseason signees become eligible to be traded. There are some players who won’t be trade-eligible until January 15 or other player-specific dates, but December 15 is the big one.

Of course, for many players signed during the offseason, that December 15 date will come and go without any fanfare. For instance, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are among the 85 players who become eligible to be dealt as of this Saturday, but it’s not as if we’ll have to start keeping an eye out for James- and Durant-related trade rumors this weekend.

There are a number of other players around the league, however, who may have to pay closer attention to the rumor mill as of Saturday. While most trades are completed a little closer to the deadline, as opposed to right after December 15, talks could start to get more serious within the next few days, and it’s certainly possible that we’ll see a deal or two completed before the end of the calendar year.

Here are six players who figure to become trade candidates once they become eligible to be dealt on Saturday, and are worth monitoring going forward:

  1. Trevor Ariza, F (Suns): Ariza’s has the ability to immediately slot into a three-and-D role for virtually any contending team. He also has an expiring contract and is on the NBA’s worst team, making him a quintessential trade candidate. The Lakers have been the team linked to Ariza most often within the last week or so, but they won’t be his only suitor. At least eight teams have already reportedly expressed some interest.
  2. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G (Lakers): Caldwell-Pope’s name surfaced in the Ariza rumors, which makes sense, since his $12MM expiring contract represents an ideal salary-matching piece. He has the ability to block any trade involving him though, so he likely wouldn’t sign off on heading to a team like the Suns. The Rockets, who have also been linked to Caldwell-Pope, are a more plausible landing spot, though there are a few other teams who could use KCP on the wing.
  3. Carmelo Anthony, F (Rockets): It has been nearly a month since the Rockets announced they were parting ways with Anthony, but he remains on the team’s roster. As I noted at the time, trading Carmelo would be more favorable than waiving him for Houston, so the club may be waiting until December 15 to see if a deal can be made. If no viable trade options surface, Anthony figures to be waived sooner or later.
  4. Michael Carter-Williams, G (Rockets): While Anthony has taken much of the criticism in Houston, the offseason signing of Carter-Williams hasn’t worked out any better. The former Rookie of the Year has played almost exclusively garbage-time minutes since the start of November and doesn’t appear to be on the verge of reclaiming a regular role. If Houston wants to use his roster spot on a player who could contribute more, MCW should be expendable.
  5. Anthony Tolliver, F (Timberwolves): Tolliver was expected to be a key reserve for the Timberwolves this season, but has played just nine total minutes since the Jimmy Butler trade. Tolliver expressed some concern about his role after his first DNP-CD, and while he hasn’t said much since then, it seems safe to assume he wouldn’t mind being sent to a team that would use him a little more. He could emerge as a trade candidate prior to the February 7 deadline.
  6. Michael Beasley, F (Lakers): If the Lakers intend to hang onto their young prospects, as is expected, then it’ll be their veterans on expiring contracts who are used as chips in any trades for short-term help. Beasley, who is on a one-year, $3.5MM deal, has only played 7.1 minutes per game in 10 contests this season, and is a good bet to be included in offers for players who would see more regular minutes for the Lakers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.