Free agent and former Knicks forward Kyle O’Quinn has come to terms with a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Indiana Pacers.
O’Quinn’s free agency began two weeks ago when he declined a $4.2 million player option with New York.
He joins a Pacers team that finished the season 48-34 and took the Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers to seven games in the first round. O’Quinn adds depth to the center position as a backup for Myles Turner.
O’Quinn averaged 7.1 points and 6.1 rebounds on 58% shooting for New York last season.
While I’m not surprised O’Quinn picked another squad, the price is eyebrow-raising. You’d figure to leave his hometown it’d require more than a $300k raise. However, with New York’s the emphasis on youth, O’Quinn may have gotten the impression he wasn’t in New York’s long-term future. Also, we can’t overlook Enes Kanter deciding to opt-in greatly impacted the money New York has to work with.
Over the last few seasons, O’Quinn has been of our hardest worker and arguably the most consistent bench player. He was the only one who possessed the physical toughness we’ve sorely lacked for years. His game will be missed.
24 hours removed from the last game of the season, the Knicks are back on the head coach market. The team announced this morning that head coach Jeff Hornacek and associate coach Kurt Rambis have been fired.
Knicks President Steve Mills confirmed the news in a statement to media this morning.
“Jeff is a true professional who has worked tirelessly for this organization the last two seasons,” said Mills. “We sincerely appreciate his efforts and considerable contributions to the team and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
The Knicks also confirmed the release of associate head coach Kurt Rambis, marking the departure of the last remnants of Phil Jackson’s tenure as Knicks president.
“Kurt has been a big part of the Knicks over these last four seasons, as both associate head coach and interim head coach,” added Mills and General Manager Scott Perry. “We thank him for his dedication to New York and wish him the best moving forward.”
Hornacek posted a record of 60-104 over his two seasons in New York.
I’m not one of those people who blames all of the Knicks’s woes at Hornacek’s feet. However, back to back 50+ loss seasons and the lack of respect he’s garnered in the locker room make this a necessary move.
The public spats with Noah, Porzingis and O’Quinn, not to mention his previous contentious player history in Phoenix, reveals a guy who struggles with leading players. And more troubling was a shaky offense predicated on long two-pointers, weak three-point shooting, and even worse three-point defense (dead last in the league).
Now comes the more scary proposition — can the Knicks nail their next head coach pick? Can we finally get someone that not only preaches sound defense, but also has a modern offense that emphasizes ball movement and three-point shooting? We’ll soon find out if Mills and Perry can break the cycle of futility we’ve had since the 50+ season in 2012. This is without question our most important offseason since the Amar’e signing in 2010.
Kristaps Porzingis’s journey back to health is off to a good start. The Knicks star posted a photo on Instagram showing him walking with a protective brace around his surgically repaired left knee. Porzingis is barely a week removed from ACL surgery, but it’s good to see him locked in on the 9-12 month recovery time ahead of him.
Frankly, this entire timeframe is going to be filled with stress for us Knicks fans. There’s never been a player with KP’s height, style, and talent that’s suffered an ACL tear. We have no idea if he’ll come back without missing a beat or diminished physically. All we can hope for is that his youth lends to a full recovery.
If the Knicks needed further proof of how far they have to go, the Warriors provided a somber reminder last night at MSG. New York fought on even terms in the first half for a one point lead at halftime (64-63). The defending champs then went off in the third quarter, outscoring the Knicks 39-18 on the strength of repeated three-pointers from Steph Curry (21 points) and Klay Thompson (26 points) to take a 125-111 win. This was an expected domination, but New York’s focus on youth development provided some encouraging backcourt moments.
WHAT GOT INTO MUDIAY?: Once again, Emmanuel Mudiay got the start at point guard. Surprisingly, his outside shot was cooking in the first half to the tune of 3 three-pointers in the first half. In 31 minutes, he scored 20 points (8/15, 3/5 from 3) and dished out 7 assists. When his shot is going, it helps tremendously in spacing the floor and allowing for other guys to get open shots.
Unfortunately, when the Warriors upped their second half defense, Mudiay came back down to earth. I’m not big on PG’s that can’t shoot consistently. For me to have any interest in Mudiay staying past this season, we need to see a consistent shooting efforts like this in the next 20+ games.
NTILIKINA FINDING THE GROOVE: Even if Frank ends up being our future PG, I feel this time playing off-guard is proving essential to his NBA development. It’s forcing him to look for his shot and not defer on drives. He shot 50% (6/12) in 28 minutes, making this one of his better shooting performances this year. He had a few defensive blunders when trying to deal with GSW’s ball movement, but that’s expected when facing arguably the best passing team in the league.
BURKE’S FINE PLAY CONTINUES: Trey Burke’s Allen Iverson impersonation continued in the first half with him actually outplaying Curry. He took the former MVP off the dribble several times for dazzling drive and jumpers. His 18 points on 8/15 shooting was strong, but Curry woke up in the second half and exploited him on PnR and pullups, goading Burke into a four-point play and several demoralizing threes in that back-breaking third quarter run.
WE NEED 3-PT SHOOTERS!: Games like this show how badly we’re behind the times when it comes to outside shooting. The Knicks finished 10/25 from behind the arc while the Warrior hits 15 threes, essentially accounting for the point disparity. When Lance Thomas (3/4) and Mudiay (3/5) end up being your best shooters, it says a lot about your team’s ability to compete.
The Knicks get an extended break until Friday when they begin a West Coast trip against the Clippers.
Get well soon, KP. That was my first thought watching this Valentine’s Day abomination at Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks blew a 27-point lead (season-high for the entire NBA) and a 37-point performance from Tim Hardaway Jr. (32 in the first half) to drop their eighth straight game.
WHEN THE BLEEDING STARTED: Hardaway had a flamethrower in the first half. It was nice to see him get out that shooting slump and look for high percentage shots. A Hardaway three put NY up 68-41 with 2:56 left in the half.
Then came the collapse. From that point until late in the third, the Wizards would outscore the Knicks 42-15 and eventually tie it at 83 with 3:32 left. The main catalyst was Bradley Beal, who shot 14/22 and finished with 36 points. New York would shoot just 22% (5/23) in the third and get outscored 39-15.
New York did better in the fourth, but as usual couldn’t get crucial stops when it mattered.
HORNACEK FINALLY GETS A CLUE: Look, we know this season’s lost. But at least try to develop our long-term young guys. Hornacek claimed he’d play with the rotations after the All-Star break to get Frank Ntilikina, who only played 11 minutes, more time. Trey Burke didn’t even see the court this game while old vet Jarrett Jack lodged 28 minutes.
I get it — Horny wants to save his job and believes the best way to achieve that is riding proven vets like Courtney Lee and Jack. My guess is upper management intervened to ensure the season’s second half has the youth focus.
The Knicks fall to 23-36 and return after the break on February 22 against the Magic.
Be forewarned — it’s only going to get more ugly from here on out. The Knicks were in Philly last night and delivered another stinker of a second half to lose 108-92. I would love to say “trust the process,” but outside of hoping for a high lottery pick, this looks like a team without direction.
BACKCOURT WOES: In my recap of the Indy loss, I mentioned some concerns about the Mudiay-Ntilikina backcourt, namely being that neither can shoot. They combined for 3/11 and just 2 assists in 40 minutes of play. Frank was especially awful in that he didn’t score (0/4) or get any assists in his 21 minutes. In today’s game, you can’t expect to be competitive with these type of numbers.
More alarming was the fact Trey Burke only got four minutes. This was a game where I would’ve liked to see if he could’ve given us an offensive spark. Ironically, Jarrett Jack proved to be our most productive PG, tallying 11 points in 18 minutes. However, his failure to get even one assist shows how bad the offense was.
2ND HALF SURRENDER: After going down by as much as 12, the Kicks managed to only trail by two (55-57) at the half. But our usual glaring defensive holes didn’t give you much hope for improvement. The Sixers were shooting 61% (57% from three). We went down early in the third due to relying on crappy long jumpers, and then started to get killed by transition buckets from Ben Simmons and Robert Convington.
The Knicks made their usual faux runs and even tied it late in the third before Philly started to pull away. We got outscored 13-22 in the fourth and the miserable evening was capped by backup TJ McConnell notching his first-career triple double.
HARDAWAY STILL LOST: Junior’s shooting woes continued last night. He was 4/16 and a putrid 0/8 from downtown. Not to mention he got killed repeatedly on screens. His confidence is in the toilet right now and I’m beginning to wonder if he’s feeling any ill effects from the leg fracture.
“I wish I could make a fucking shot,” Hardaway fumed in the post game. “I am frustrated. Kind of in a slump right now. Just got to try to shoot my way out of it. Can’t harp on it. You can’t keep on letting it go. I mean, it’s too many games in a row now. I’ve got to figure it out. My teammates are doing a great job of encouraging me every step of the way. I’m not going to lie and sit here and laugh about it. It’s frustrating. Pissing me off.”
POSITIVES: Kanter had his umpteenth double double of the year with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Courtney Lee was our lone spark of the bench with 18 points on 50% shooting (3/4 from downtown). Beasley shot 9/17 to finish with 22 points.
The Knicks have now dropped seven straight and sit at ninth in the “tankathon” sweepstakes. We face the Wizards Wednesday night at MSG.
Losses are to be expected in the wake of the devastating ACL injury last week to Kristaps Porzingis. In the meantime, us fans will have to look for hope where we can find it. Last night it came in the debut of Emmanuel Mudiay, who had a double double (14 points, 10 assists) and played most of his 29 minutes alongside Frank Ntilikina.
Hornacek’s rotations looked the best it has in weeks with aging starter Jarrett Jack only getting 8 minutes, allowing the young guards to work through mistakes and build chemistry. Ntilikina (12 points,+8) looked more comfortable playing off-ball and allowing Mudiay to push the pace and initiate offense.
However, the big concern remains Mudiay’s shaky jumper (5/14 FG). There were several times where he passed up on open shots to try and get closer to the rim. This allowed defenders enough time to close out and force the offense to reset. He can get away with that against the second units of decent teams like Indy. But against starters or good teams, it remains to be seen how detrimental his lack of shooting will be to our backcourt and overall offense.
Outside of the backcourt, Kyle O’Quinn (14 points, 9 rebounds) and Enes Kanter (17 points, 11 rebounds) delivered their usual gritty efforts. O’Quinn was an early fourth quarter spark and at one point scored 7 straight points (including his first trey of the season) to bring the Knicks within 10 after trailing by 20.
Unfortunately, the Knicks just couldn’t get stops when it mattered. They repeatedly gave up offense rebounds late in the fourth and couldn’t contain Victor Oladipo, who came on strong from a slow first half to drop 30 points in a 121-113 Pacers win.
We’ll see if the Mudiay-Ntilikina tandem can repeat their chemistry tonight at the Garden against the 76ers.
If only we could play the Nets the rest of the season. Riding monster efforts from Kristaps Porzingis (28 pts, 6/8 from 3) and Enes Kanter (20pts 20 rebs, 5 asts), the Knicks completed a 4-game season sweep of the Nets 111-95. After falling behind 3-0 in the opening minute, the Knicks never trailed and go whatever they wanted on offense.
KP’s CAREER NIGHT: Porzingis set a personal record with six three-pointers. The Nets were a step-slow in respecting the Unicorn’s range and he never lost his early rhythm. With Kanter dominating the post, this gave the offense a potent inside-outside punch that kept the floor spread.
PROTECT KANTER AT ALL COSTS: Listen, I want all talk of trading this guy to stop. Defensive issues aside, he’s one of the more talented big men we’ve had in years. His offensive rebounding (5) sucked the life out of Brooklyn when they attempted to make runs. Going 8/10 from the floor and looking for teammates (5 assists) makes this one of Kanter’s best games of the season.
DEFENSIVE EFFORT: Although Brooklyn was held to 42% shooting, there was still glaring issues that can’t happen against credible teams. The Nets got multiple open threes but couldn’t convert. It was more alarming that several opportunities like this came in the fourth quarter when the Knicks’s 25-point lead had been slashed to 10.
On the positive side, the Knicks were after it when it came to passing lanes and preventing drives. Frank Ntilikina looked solid at two-guard with Trey Bruke manning the point. Frankie was a +10 off the bench with 8 points, 5 assists and one steal.
The Knicks return tonight with a tough road game against the Celtics.
Give Enes Kanter an inch and he’ll take a mile’s worth of space in your head. Devin Booker found that out last night as he let Kanter goad him into a second tech while his Suns were outhustled at home 107-85. After three games that saw us give up over 120 points, it was a great change of pace to see the team playing with some fire and demoralizing another squad. We can also expect this game to start the rumblings for a new starting point guard.
KANTER GOES OFF: With Phoenix missing their best defender in Tyson Chandler, Kanter was able to dominate. Greg Monroe is not known for his defense nor rebounding and couldn’t do anything with Kanter, who led the team with 20 points and 10 rebounds. He was active in rolling to the basket and got several easy layups and dunks. But his biggest play came with four minutes remaining in the third when he blocked Devin Booker. He let Booker know about it and the Suns guard, who was already was struggling on 4/12 shooting, shoved Kanter in frustration.
Booker had received a tech earlier in the game for a flagrant 1 on Tim Hardaway, who he pushed in the back on a fast break. The Kanter shove proved costly as Booker was tossed with his second tech. Without Booker, the Suns offense got even more anemic and the Knicks lead was 81-67 entering the fourth.
TREY BURKE BUILDS HIS CASE: There might be something to Trey Burke’s physically resembling the second coming of Allen Iverson. He scored 15 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, looking unstoppable at mid-range and getting to the basket. The pace picked up considerably with his floor presence and the Suns were prevented from the quick double-teams on KP and others we see when Jarrett Jack is in the lineup.
I’m not ready to jump the gun just yet on Burke starting. However, if he keeps this up for five more games, Coach Hornacek has a no-brainer of a decision to make.
QUIET BUT EFFECTIVE KP: Porzingis didn’t have a monster game, but the Unicorn was impactful on both ends. He shot an efficient 6/11 from the floor, prowled the paint with three blocks, and broke the game open in the third on a fast break dunk that made it 67-51. I’ve noticed that KP plays more relaxed when others have their offense going. I was impressed to see him quickly passing out to reset the offense when good post-up positioning wasn’t there.
STARTERS GET IT DONE: Four starters hit double figures and everyone had monster plus-minus numbers: Lee +27, Jack +23, Kanter +22, Hardaway +19, and KP +15. The third quarter, where the Knicks outscored the Suns 28-18, essentially put the game out of reach.
THE ROAD TRIP ENDS: Going in, most of us believed this extended road trip would decide the season. That’s not quite the case since our 3-4 record keeps us in limbo. The playoffs are still within reach but so is a high draft pick. No matter which direction we go, my concern remains that are young guys (KP, Frank, Dotson etc.) continue to develop and not get stagnant at the expense to playing time for guys who aren’t in our long-term future.
The Knicks are back at MSG on Tuesday January 30 against the Nets.
With the scored tied at 92 late in the fourth, it looked like our beloved Knicks were setting us up for another heartbreaker. Ahead 90-77 with 4:48 remaining, New York gave up a 15-2 run and were desperate to regain the momentum. The refs had swallowed their whistles and allowed the Mavs to administer prison ball tactics. Who would be our savior?
Look no further than Jarrett Jack. On the day when his contract was guaranteed for the rest of the season, Jack would use a Porzingis screen to come down a wide open lane to hit a floater to take the lead for good at 94-92. I give Jack a lot of grief on the defensive end, but on this night he was a key contributor, notching 12 points and 8 assists.
NTILIKINA LOCKS IN: The narrative of this game centered around the matchup between Frank and the man the Mavs selected right after him in the draft, Dennis Smith Jr. It was pretty anti-climatic as the two rarely matched up. However, Frank’s stat line in 25 minutes shows how versatile his contributions were (7 pts, 7 rebs, 5 asts, 2 blks). Wait until this kid develops a consistent jump shot. Matter of fact, I hope he was paying close attention to Jack’s floater. He sorely needs that in his repertoire.
PORZINGIS WAKES UP: It appears playing in front his idol Dirk Nowitzki is exactly what the doctor ordered for KP’s recent woes. The league’s favorite unicorn scored 29 points, grabbed 8 boards, and was a perfect 8/8 from the line. But there was a persistent problem on Sunday. KP only shot 9/25, and a big part of that was the refs allowed the Mavs, mainly Wes Matthews, to get very physical without a worry about fouls.
I feel like the word is out that KP is a “soft” player who can’t generate consistent offense under physical play. There is some truth to that as KP hasn’t yet shown the ability to score consistently when guys get up under him. It’s something he needs to counter by working the refs and making quicker decisions with the ball. His late isos on the block and perimeter become easier to guard in crunch time. Luckily, we won’t have to see much more of that when Hardaway is back next week (fingers crossed…).