Sussing out Sources

There's rumors everywhere you look (including here). Does any of it mean anything? I attempt to provide an answer.

News & Notes

  • The Lakers are now one win away from yet another Championship, and LeBron James is 48 minutes away from the fourth title of his career. He and Anthony Davis were stellar in the second half last night - James more on offense and Davis on defense, taking the assignment of slowing down Jimmy Butler - but LA also got big performances down the stretch from KCP and Rondo. Miami clearly missed Goran Dragic, who just broke your heart on the bench:

    I’ll put a Laker victory in perspective if and when they finish it off, but more than anything so far, this series has solidified for me that Anthony Davis is the most apt running mate LeBron has ever had in a title pursuit.

    He may not wind up with the best historical resume - Dwyane Wade still has that honor for the time being - and he may not even be the “best” depending on your personal priorities as a hoops fan and what you think of Kyrie’s particular skill set, but man, is he just about the ideal second banana in every way, shape and form, to the point that calling him a second banana is probably a bit unfair.

    Game 5 isFriday night.

  • Michele Roberts told TheAthletic yesterday that she expects free agency to begin no later than December 1, which would put it almost exactly two weeks after the draft. More importantly for Knicks fans, she expects the original expected salary cap number of $115 million - and not the projected carry-over number from this season of $109 million - to be in play next season, which she states will start no earlier than January.

    If that’s the case, opposing teams would be less inclined to dump salary, as many have been anticipating, but it also means that the Knicks would have more to spend, which, as we know, can be a gift or a curse.

    It’s also a sign that the league is fully expecting a season that is partially populated (and maybe eventually, fully populated) with fans, which she stated was a goal, along with an 82-game season and reduced travel.

  • According to Marc Berman, the Thunder would prefer Kevin Knox to be the young player sent to OKC in any potential Chris Paul trade, as opposed to Frank Ntilikina or Dennis Smith Jr. Perhaps they see what I saw in the film: a kid who showed incredibly encouraging signs during a rookie campaign in which he stunk, and then regressed under a regime that didn’t know what it was doing, but is still just 21 years old.

    Speaking of Knox…

Ask Macri

Something I didn’t get to over the last two days was Knox’s ideal position.

As a rookie, Knox stunk no matter where he played, but the team was slightly better with him at the four, where he spent 43 percent of the time according to Cleaning the Glass.

Last year, that number dropped to 13 percent, and the numbers are not what a lot of fans probably expect:

Digging a little deeper though, this is a sample size of just 266 possessions, which really isn’t enough to draw any meaningful conclusion.

That said, when Knox was at the three, many of those minutes came alongside Mitchell Robinson at the five and Bobby Portis at the four. That trio outscored teams by 1.9 points per 100 in 700 possessions together. Perhaps even more surprisingly, they did it on the strength of their defense, allowing only 106.5 points per 100 possessions.

Does that mean that Knox is actually a three? Not necessarily, but it does tell us that he benefited from the combination of Robinson’s rim protection/verticality and Bobby Portis’ shot creation/floor spacing.

Something to think about moving forward, assuming he’s on the roster next season, which I’ll touch on below.

Tweet of the Day

“Sources Say…A Lot Of Things”

So you know it’s a very Knicks-y news day when there are multiple Twitter threads pleading for help in determining which reporters are credible and which ones are full of shit.

The last 24-48 hours have been like that. We’ve gotten a few different reports filled with varying pieces of information (including a parody/troll account that duped Bondy, Begley, Popper, JB and yours truly into briefly thinking that Alonzo Trier was signing to play overseas next year).

It’s all a bit much, if we’re keeping it 100, and I can sense that the fan base is starting to get annoyed. Why?

  1. Who the hell knows what to believe anymore?

  2. I thought this regime was supposed to be tight lipped…what gives?

  3. Is this the same old, star-chasing Knicks bullshit, just wrapped up in shiny new wrapping paper?

I get all of these sentiments, and as someone who’s kind of on both sides of this thing, I more than feel your frustration.

So I decided to dedicate a newsletter to trying to sort it all out.

First things first: I’ve written a few times that Leon Rose is playing things close to the vest, to the point of admitting that even if I believe something is legit, it doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

I still think that. My impression is that only Rose and Rose’s inner circle truly knows what the priorities are, both internally and externally, and how far he’d be willing to go to bring in certain guys from the outside.

(I swear on my wife and kid that not five minutes after I wrote the above paragraph, JB Tweeted out the following in regards to what Ian Begley said on Locked on Knicks:

Great minds, clearly, sometimes think the same thing as the small one inside my head)

Here’s the catch though: just because Rose hasn’t let anyone know exactly what he’s thinking doesn’t mean that valid information hasn’t made its way out into the open. The Knicks, like any team, are constantly assessing their options. Conversations with other teams are consistently happening. Players are discussed. Agents may, I’d assume, be told about those conversations. Things get out.

But there’s a big difference between the topics of discussions trickling out and anyone having a clue as to Rose’s ultimate motives or desired endpoint. If you think walking this tightrope over a sea of bullshit is difficult as a fan, imagine being the person trying to sort fact from fiction as you hear it from the horse’s mouth. It is, admittedly, exhausting.

Making matters worse are two factors I believe to be unique to the Knicks:

  1. Thanks to who runs them, where they play, and the amount of cap space, young players and draft assets they have, they’re the only team in the league who can reasonably be linked to just about every name on the market.

  2. I still believe there is a dichotomy within the team between the people that actually make basketball decisions and those close with James Dolan.

Before anyone gets frightened, I don’t think Dolan has anything to do with running (or even influencing) basketball ops. If he does, I haven’t gotten whiff of it.

I do think he’s interested though, and I think he likes to know who’s being discussed. My guess - an educated guess, but a complete guess nonetheless - is that Rose & Co. keep him informed of names they are considering, and that he in turn will talk to his people within the organization, who then sometimes talk to outsiders.

Another guess: this is where much of what you hear comes from.

So what conclusion can be drawn? In my mind, not much.

Yes, if you hear a name reported in connection with the Knicks, the odds are that the player has actually been discussed. But, as I implied above, every team discusses almost every player at some point.

As for the more specific reports about particular packages for certain players, again, different scenarios get discussed on the regular. Case in point: Scoop B noted yesterday that the Knicks had a deal “lined up” for Chris Paul involving Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina and picks. But he later retweeted the following:

We can get pretty deep in the weeds here picking nits about the meaning of certain terminology when discussing trades, but unless you read “the Knicks have offered…,” I’d take it with a grain of salt.

The only thing I could get on the Paul front is that while conversations with the Thunder have definitely occurred, OKC’s asking price is more than the Knicks are willing to pay at this point. Whether that’s the rumored deal Scoop suggests, I can’t tell you, but the strong impression I’m receiving is that Kevin Knox is still valued within the organization, and they very much want to give him a chance to grow under this new coaching staff. That doesn’t mean he won’t be dealt, but in my estimation, they’re treating him as anything but a sunk cost.

I’m also hearing conflicting stuff on Oladipo, but my gut tells me there may be more smoke than fire right now.

There are other names I’ve heard bandied about - Jrue Holiday, for one, as well as Buddy Hield - but again, that doesn’t really mean squat. It’s just like the VanVleet thing: him being atop their free agency board is step-one in a five or seven step process that results in him ending up a Knick. There’s a long way to go.

In the end, here’s the takeaway that I’m personally taking from the sum total of everything I’ve heard: This is no longer business as usual for the Knicks, as in “let’s just get a name in the door and worry about the rest later.” Rose might not be talking to many people, but at least one person working under him doesn’t think the team is going to overpay for anyone this offseason, and that there is a level of care and precision at play that was nonexistent under the previous regime.

Does that mean Rose isn’t interested in getting stars in the door? Of course not. No one knows better than him that stars win. But the way it was recently described to me is that the primary goal is for New York to manage its assets more responsibly than they have in the past.

(“Not like a millennial at a casino” was the exact term, which is about the kindest thing anyone could say about Steve Mills at this point)

For the subset of fans who think Rose is dead set against adding an older player like Paul or giving up a single young guy/draft asset in a trade, I’ll happily go on record and say this is one thing the Rose camp hasn’t been able to completely contain. They want Paul.

But only at the right price. Ditto for any other interesting and potentially available player you want to name, as best as I can tell.

So sit back, grab a cold beer, and chill out (maybe wait till the afternoon, actually). The rumors are going to keep flying, and while there may be a grain of truth to all of them, don’t get yourself worked up. Until the front office gives us a reason not to trust them, trust them is what I’m going to do.

Hopefully not famous last words on my part.

That’s it for today! See everyone tomorrow for an analytical look at the upcoming free agency period. #BlackLivesMatter #VOTE