- Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek believes that Tim Hardaway Jr. is suffering from something similar to plantar fasciitis in his left foot, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Hardaway Jr., who removed himself from last week’s loss to Toronto and sat out of yesterday’s practice, plans to play through the pain in spite of the risk. “It could help if he rests,” Hornacek said. “But Tim wants to play. He’s a tough kid. He’s a competitor. He feels that he’s got enough for us that he can go.”
Here are Sunday’s G League assignment and recalls from around the NBA:
- The Cavaliers assigned center Ante Zizic to their G League affiliate, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. The big man has seen limited action for the big league club this season.
- The Lakers have recalled Ivica Zubac and Josh Hart from South Bay Lakers, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum Sportsnet tweets. In his latest two-game stint with Los Angeles’ G-League affiliate, Zubac averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per contest.
- The Knicks have assigned Damyean Dotson to their G-League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, per the team’s Twitter feed.
- The Heat have recalled Derrick Walton Jr. from their G-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the team announces via press release. Walton will continue to shuffle back and forth between the two clubs, as he’s on a newly established two-way deal.
- The Hawks have recalled Nicolas Brussino, Tyler Dorsey, and Miles Plumlee, from the team’s G League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, according to a team press release.
- Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has cleared the concussion protocol and is probable for Monday’s game, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Davis was diagnosed with a contusion of the orbit bone above his right eye after a collision the third quarter of Friday night’s contest. He was removed from the game and didn’t re-enter.
- Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas participated in some five-on-zero drills and worked on his shot today in practice, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com (Twitter link).
- Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has swelling in his elbow caused by bursitis, but says it isn’t the reason for his recent shooting problems, according to Ian Begley of ESPN (Twitter link). “At the end of last season, it was really swollen; it was really, really big,” he said of the elbow. “But it was never really bothering me. Now this season, kind of fell on it a couple of times. It wasn’t bothering me either. In Sacramento, I fell kind of on the side. It was a new spot. It was much more sensitive. Now I’m doing treatment. Today’s the day I’m almost back to normal. I almost don’t feel it at all anymore.”
- Wizards guard John Wall will miss today’s game with soreness in his left knee, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.
- Warriors forward Kevin Durant suffered a sprained ankle last night and will sit out today’s game in Brooklyn, tweets Warriors PR.
Michael Beasley got a chance to show he can still contribute Friday night as he produced 10 points and six rebounds in the fourth quarter, but performances like that have been rare since he joined the Knicks, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Beasley has appeared in 11 of the team’s 15 games and is seeing just 13 minutes per night. His averages of 5.4 points and 2.7 rebounds are the lowest of his career.
“I think everybody wishes they played more — except the guys playing 45 minutes a night,’’ Beasley said. “But I’m not here to say what I need or want personally. Whatever the team needs. If they need me to play 40 minutes, I’ll play it. If they want me to clap on the bench, I’ll do it.”
Beasley, who signed for the veterans’ minimum in August, had his name floated as a waiver possibility when Joakim Noah returned from his suspension this week. The Knicks decided to part with Mindaugas Kuzminskas instead. Playing time may be an issue for Beasley all season, as New York is emphasizing defense and Lance Thomas is excelling on that end of the court.
There’s more tonight out of New York:
- Tim Hardaway Jr. has been dealing with pain in his left foot since Wednesday, Berman relays in a separate story. The Knicks’ top free agent addition of the summer played through the problem Friday before being forced to leave with three minutes left. He isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for the team’s next game Monday. “It’s been lingering the last 36 hours,’’ Hardaway said. “When I woke up Thursday, it’s just nagging pain. Normally I like to play through it [with] no excuses. I try to grind it out. I wasn’t feeling good so I came out and make sure it’s OK. It’s all good.’’
- The Knicks early-season success stems from the freedom coach Jeff Hornacek has with Phil Jackson no longer around, notes Al Iannazzone of Newsday. After the former team president was fired over the summer, there was no longer an emphasis on the triangle, allowing Hornacek to implement a faster, more free-wheeling offense. Iannazzone adds that Hornacek was allowed to mix his offense with the triangle at the start of last season, but around the All-Star break he was ordered to use the triangle exclusively. “He’s running his own stuff without anybody coming in and telling him what to do or how to do it,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “I think from the top down you can feel that there’s more confidence in what we’re doing.”
- Hornacek is getting credit throughout the league for the Knicks’ improvement, relays Ian Begley of ESPN. Despite an 8-7 start, New York remains a long shot to end its playoff drought. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives the Knicks just a 12.7% chance of making the postseason.
The Knicks have played three games since Joakim Noah was reinstated from a 20-game drug-related suspension. The former NBA Defensive Player of the Year has been inactive for all three contests. With three centers ahead of Noah on the Knicks’ depth chart (Enes Kanter, Kyle O’Quinn, and Willy Hernangomez), he is patiently waiting for an opportunity that may never come, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.
Noah, 32, signed a four-year, $72MM deal with New York last offseason. That contract has become arguably the most untradeable deal in the NBA, given his declined skillset, recent drug suspension, and high salary. Head coach Jeff Hornacek said he will not change the Knicks’ lineup to insert Noah into the rotation anytime soon. Thus, the former Bulls center has accepted the reality of his predicament.
Noah played in 46 games for the Knicks last season, averaging 5.0 PPG, his lowest total in a season where he played at least 30 games. While he does provide some value on defense and he grabbed 8.8 RPG last season, Noah’s best bet to play is if the Knicks cut their losses and stretch him — which we wrote is a possibility earlier this week.
The Knicks may have been onto something with Tim Hardaway Jr. all along. As Marc Berman of the New York Post writes, the shooting guard, whose four-year, $71MM contract was ridiculed at the time of signing, is starting to live up to his lofty contract.
Over the course of the past nine games, the 25-year-old has averaged 20.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Now, as Newsday’s Barbara Barker writes in her own feature, the swingman is stepping up as a valuable No. 2 option for the Knicks behind Kristaps Porzingis.
While the deal was initially panned when it was announced, Berman reasons that Steve Mills and the Knicks’ front office, leery of losing out on another coveted free agent, had to offer a big enough deal to discourage the Hawks from matching.
There’s more Knicks news today:
- First-year point guard Frank Ntilikina has thrived for the Knicks on both ends of the ball. His impact thus far into his rookie campaign has been beyond what most predicted, Ian Begley of ESPN writes. “It’s great that a young guy comes into this league with more defensive principles than the offensive principles,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It’s hard to teach.”
- The Knicks have more confidence in their offense now that Jeff Hornacek has been cleared to run his own plays, ESPN’s Ian Begley writes. “Our guys are feeling comfortable with what we’re running,” the coach said. “We’re going to get better at that. It’s a style most of those guys like to play. It makes it easier for them.“
- With Phil Jackson out of the picture, the Knicks’ front office is easing tension with Janis Porzingis. Marc Berman of the New York Post writes that the brother of Kristaps Porzingis, who also serves as the star’s agent, was recently seen amiably chatting with team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry.
Joakim Noah hasn’t played since his 20-game PED suspension expired Saturday, and Marc Berman of the New York Post writes that the Knicks will probably waive the veteran center at some point and use the stretch provision on the final two years of his contract.
“We want him to be involved,’’ coach Jeff Hornacek said Wednesday after sitting Noah for the second straight game. “[He wants] to be involved. We don’t know when the time will come when he’s active.”
Hornacek’s dilemma is that he now has four centers competing for playing time. Enes Kanter, acquired in the Carmelo Anthony trade, has taken over the starting spot, with Kyle O’Quinn playing well as the backup. Willy Hernangomez is already upset about his reduced minutes after being part of the rotation last season.
Hornacek said it’s “possible” that he may find a way to use all four centers, but added, “I’m not looking to do that right away.”
Any move with Noah probably won’t happen soon, Berman notes, as there is no advantage in terms of cap space in using the stretch provision now. The Knicks have a September 1 deadline if they want to take the $37.8MM Noah is owed for the final two seasons of his deal and stretch it over five years.
Noah would receive a little more than $7.5MM per season, giving New York roughly $11MM in extra cap room for next year and $12MM for 2019/20. The Knicks could opt to seek a buyout or waive him without stretching the contract, which would provide little to no cap relief over the next two seasons, but would remove his salary from the books by July of 2020.
Although Noah has minimal trade value, Berman mentions Timberwolves coach/executive Tom Thibodeau as someone who might be interested. Thibodeau coached Noah for several years in Chicago, including when he was a first team All-NBA selection in 2013/14.
For now, Noah is reduced to a mentor’s role in New York, working mainly with Kanter and Hernangomez. Hornacek said the NBA’s requirement that teams have an inactive list for each game makes it difficult to find playing time for Noah.
“It’s a tough spot,” the coach said. “He’s a great team guy. He sees how we’re playing. He’s still part of the team if inactive or not. He doesn’t want to rock the boat but he is competitive and wants to be out there to help us.”
The Knicks were expected to be among the worst teams in the league this year and they began the season with three straight losses. Since then, New York has won seven of ten contests and the team’s up-and-coming talent is confident in the long-term future of the franchise.
Ntilikina believes squad has tremendous chemistry, as evidenced by Enes Kanter coming to the 19-year-old’s defense during a slight skirmish against the Cavs on Monday night.
“We’ll fight together in all our games,” Ntilikina said. “It was good to have them right here and they know I’ll be here for them. That’s just how we are.”
Here’s more from New York:
- LeBron James took an indirect shot at Ntilikina early this week, telling reporters that No.9 overall pick Dennis Smith Jr. should be a Knick. Ntilikina, who went one spot ahead of the Mavs’ point guard, took the comments personally, as Begley relays in the same piece. “For somebody to go in the media and say something about him — or say it wasn’t about him — I mean, he took it personally. And that’s what all competitors do,” teammate Courtney Lee said.
- Willy Hernangomez hasn’t seen much action this season, appearing in a total of seven games, and he admits that the lack of playing time has impacted his confidence, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News relays. “I just need a couple of games playing and my feeling will come back. I know the things I can do well. It’s been harder for me, but I just have to be patient. Things change fast,” the center said.
- Joakim Noah was inactive in his first game back from his 12-game suspension, though he remains involved with the Knicks as the team’s “defensive captain,” Bondy adds in the same piece.“The guys have voted for some players to kind of step up and speak,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He’s behind the bench now so he can continue the talk defensively with the guys. I talked to him about doing that and make sure he’s not just sitting back there but he’s involved. He’s not the only [captain]. There are several guys in different roles. That’s just Jo’s role, on the defensive side.”