The Knicks sign DaQuan Jeffries to a training camp contract. 

Meet Rudy Gobert’s worst nightmare

By Russell Richardson

On Wednesday, Shams Charania of the Athletic reported that the New York Knicks are signing DaQuan Jeffries to a training camp deal.

Mark your calendar: Training camp opens September 27.

Since joining the league in 2019, the undrafted Jeffries has played with the Sacramento Kings (21 games), the Houston Rockets (13 games), and the Memphis Grizzlies (three games). Over 47 NBA contests, the 6’5”, 230 lb. forward averaged 3.8 points and 1.9 rebounds. He’s also had brief stints with the San Antonio Spurs and the Atlanta Hawks.

Although slow of foot and not super athletic, the 25-year old has been praised for his shooting form, his 6’11.25” wingspan, huge hands, and brick-house physique. He should provide great competition in training camp scrimmages and could earn a spot on the G-League roster. 

DaQuan also did this to Rudy Gobert:

Before joining the NBA, Jeffries spent one season at Oral Roberts and two at Tulsa. He steadily improved over his collegiate career. In his senior year as a Tulsa Golden Hurricane, he averaged 13 points, 5.6 boards, and 1.2 blocks in 28.1 minutes, started 31 games, and shot 37% from deep on four attempts per contest.

That season, Jeffries won the State Farm College Slam Dunk Contest at the Final Four and was selected for the Third-team All-American Athletic Conference in 2018-2019. New York loves dunkers!

In 2021-22, he played 16 games with the College Park Skyhawks of the G League. He averaged 14.3 points on 48% shooting from the floor and produced this 35-point explosion against the Wisconsin Herd.

The Oklahoman is represented by Erik Kabe and Bill Duffy of BDA Sports Management / WME Sports, not CAA (in case you were speculating). Welcome to the Knicks, Daquan! Enjoy the lobs.

2022 FIBA EuroBasket Update: France and Lithuania advance to the next round.

Evan and Rokas fight on in the 41st edition of the international classic.

By Russell Richardson

After the FIBA World Cup and the Olympics, FIBA EuroBasket is the top international basketball event, and at this year’s EuroBasket, two representatives of the New York Knicks are battling in the Group of Death.

Knicks fans are keeping an eye on Group B, which includes France, with New York’s shooting guard Evan Fournier, and Lithuania, with draft-and-stash prize Rokas Jokubaitis. Both teams have qualified for the round of 16 in their quest for Euro gold.

As of this writing, Lithuania stands at 2-3, with victories against Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and losses to Slovenia, France, and Germany.

France has fared better with a 3-2 record. After a surprising tournament-opening loss to Germany, Les Bleus proceeded to defeat Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Lithuania. 

 Against Lithuania, Fournier sizzled with 27 points in 27 minutes for France. His most important shot of the night was a three-pointer that broke a 64-64 tie and ignited a 7-0 run down the stretch that sealed the victory. 

“I thought I was a little bit more involved offensively tonight and that helped me find my groove, find my rhythm,” Fournier said.

The match was also noteworthy because it was the second of a back-to-back, which rankled the Knicks’ swingman, the Pride of Saint-Maurice. Fournier had made news by publicly petitioning FIBA to stop scheduling these back-to-back games in the tournament.

“It’s the EuroBasket and we have back-to-backs. Back-to-backs are very hard. And back-to-backs in the NBA and back-to-back in the EuroBasket is two different things,” Fournier told Eurohoops. 

A captain of the French National team, the 29-year-old Fournier argued that players need time between games to recover and the current schedule sometimes leaves them with less than 24 hours to do so. “Every game is more important. From the very first minute until the last one you play very hard. Physically, it’s a big challenge. We are about to have our second back-to-back. So four games in five nights? It’s tough.”

Despite the tough slate, Evan is conducting himself admirably at the Euro. After a lackluster opening against Germany, he has increased his averages to 15 points and three assists in 29 minutes per game.

In the France v. Lithuania contest, Evan’s fellow Knickerbocker but Euro adversary, Rokas Jokubaitis, scored 14 points on 6-for-13 shooting in 28 minutes.

The Knicks acquired the 21-year-old Jokubaitis in the 2021 NBA Draft. This year, he won the prestigious EuroLeague Rising Star Award and played well in a reserve role for FC Barcelona, the 2022 Copa del Rey champions.

In 30 games for Barca, the 6’4”, 194 lb Rokas averaged 7.8 points and three assists in 17.8 minutes. The lefty (yes, another one!) hit 57% of his threes on 1.2 attempts per game.

After his encouraging performance with Barcelona, in a competitive ACB Liga, many Knicks fans were eager to see how the young guard would perform against NBA competition. We may need to temper our expectations and practice patience with this prospect, however.

Jokubaitis appears to be struggling somewhat at the Euro tourney. He has averaged 8.4 points and 3.8 assists in 25.5 minutes per game and connected on only 31% from downtown (4-of-13). He has gone 8-for-10 from the charity stripe, at least.

On the Lithuanian squad, Rokas is competing alongside such NBA players as Jonas Valanciunas (New Orleans Pelicans) and Domantas Sabonis (Sacramento Kings). 

We’ll have to wait at least another year before we’ll see the play-making Lithuanian at Madison Square Garden. In May, Marc Berman reported in the New York Post: “Despite his progress, The Post has learned the Knicks are heavily leaning toward letting him stay in Spain for next season. That would give the 21-year-old Lithuanian another year to polish his game and get stronger.”

Knicks fans, try to catch Rokas in action on your TVs while you can. On Saturday, Lithuania will play Spain and France faces Turkey. Good luck in the rest of the tourney, fellas.

Jalen Brunson is a New York Knick

Ring the bells! 

By Russell Richardson

In one of the most anti-climactic events of recent basketball history, the New York Knicks have signed Jalen Brunson

The 6’1”, 190lbs point guard has so many ties to the organization—his dad’s an assistant coach, the head coach and team president are nominal uncles, the team president’s son is Brunson’s agent—that to not sign him would have been considered one of the all-time Knicks’ follies (and there have been plenty). By getting its man, New York has its first bona-fide starting point guard since…Raymond Felton?

According to various sources, the deal is $104M for four years, with a player option on the final season.

Clearly, Leon Rose & Co. want to win games and reach the playoffs. Aside from all the personal connections, the Knicks sought the 25-year old Brunson because he’s a winner.

Jalen tasted glory as a top collegiate player who won two National championships with Villanova (2016, 2018). If you haven’t checked the awards section of his college-basketball reference page, go give it a look. 

Despite his championship credentials and a multitude of distinctions, the Wildcat remained on the 2018 NBA Draft board until the Dallas Mavericks selected him with the 33rd pick. 

One could argue that Dallas won that draft, given that they also scored superstar Luka Dončić, the third pick, in a trade with Atlanta. Since then, Brunson has largely lived in Luka’s shadow but proved this year that he could shine with or without Dončić. This season, in 17 Luka-less games, Jalen averaged 20.4 points, 3.9 boards, and 7.5 dimes in 34 minutes per contest.

During the playoffs, Jalen, who is lauded for his composure, shone even brighter. Over 18 post-season games, he averaged 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in just under 35 minutes per game. In a playoff game against the Jazz, he logged a career-high 41 points on the way to bouncing Utah from the tournament and sending their organization into a spiral of gloomy self-reflection. Any takers for a moderately-used Rudy Gobert?

Brunson played a significant role in Dallas over-performing and reaching the Western Conference Finals. After their Game 5 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Mavs’ general manager Nico Harrison called re-signing Brunson their “top priority.”

Huh. Well, for an organization that claimed to prioritize their budding star, botching the Brunson deal looks a major gaffe on Dallas’ part. As explained by Marc Stein in the latest episode of The Mismatch, the Mavs came into this season knowing that Brunson was eligible for a four-year extension, with compensation up to $56 million. Dallas chose to wait and see if a trade was possible. Both the trade deadline and the playoffs came and went without an extension, and the exceedingly patient Brunson decided to test the open market—wisely so, given that he’ll now earn double the amount for which Dallas could have locked him in.

Devil’s Advocates will claim that his departure creates more opportunity for Spencer Dinwiddie as a ball handler, and that the recently-inked center Christian Wood can recoup any points lost in the Brunson exit.

Whatever. Their loss, our gain!

During his breakout fourth NBA season, Jalen averaged 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists.  He shot 84% from the free-throw line, 50% from the field, and 37% from deep on 3.2 attempts per game. (He’s a killer from the corners.)

With New York, Brunson is expected to serve as the primary ball-handler. Some fans will argue that Immanuel Quickleyhad earned the right to run the point, but Brunson is superior playmaker, has better vision, and will facilitate more IQ scoring. Plus, if Derrick Rose continues to play well in reserve and stay healthy, the Knicks will have true depth at the point guard position for the first time in years.

Naysayers will protest the deal as an overpay, but given Brunson’s talent, his age, and what the league pays other point guards, I’m cool with the numbers. C’mon, Terry Rozier will make $21.4M this season, Malcolm Brogdon will make $22.6M.

Sure, over in What-If Corner, there’s a sale on such chestnuts as, “What if Brunson’s a bust?”, “What if Uncle Leon and Grandpa Thibs can’t separate business from family?”, and “What if Thibs won’t play Jalen and IQ together?” 

But, as tempting as exploring those and other questions might be, for now I choose to guzzle the optimism juice until the can runs dry. Today, my favorite sports team has a talented new player in perhaps its most important position. That’s a cause to celebrate. Ring the bells!

NBA Draft roundup!

Hey folks! I’ve been mostly writing over at postingandtoasting.com, but today’s article had an overlap with another writer, so I’m posting mine here. Enjoy.

The 2022 NBA Draft will be held this Thursday at 7:30 p.m., and until then, the New York Knicks rumor mill will be grinding out heaps of content for your consumption. Luckily, I’m here to curate for you.

On Monday, Zach Braziller reported in the NY Post that Big Ten Player of the Year Johnny Davis (6’5”, 196 lbs, Wisconsin) feels positive about the prospect of playing for the Knicks.

“I feel that Tom Thibodeau is really high on defensive guys, so I feel like if I was to get drafted by the Knicks I could come in and make an impact immediately on the defensive end especially,” he said over Zoom on Monday.

In his sophomore season, Davis averaged 19.7 points, 8.2 boards, and 2.1 dimes. His 30% three-point shooting is a concern, but the talented wing finds other ways to score, and he gives good effort on defense.

The Knicks spoke with Davis at the Draft Combine in Chicago, but he did not have the pleasure of working out at their Tarrytown facility.

Don’t expect Johnny to wilt in the glare of New York’s bright lights. With a Taco Bell ad already in the can, the dude is already working on being a star.

Later in his article, Braziller reported that, unlike Davis, Mark Williams (7’2”, 243 lbs, Duke) did have an individual work out for the Knicks. In his sophomore season, the Blue Devil center averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks. 

With unrestricted free agent Mitchell Robinson still not re-signed and Nerlens Noel in a witness protection program, New York might deem it prudent to shore up its depth at the five.

“It went well. I feel like I went after it,” Williams said. “Every drill we did, I feel like I did pretty well. As far as fit, the things I bring to a team immediately, just a guy who’s going to run the floor, catch lobs, defend and protect the rim, want to win. Ultimately, [those are] the biggest things I can bring from Day 1.” 

Meanwhile, over at the Daily News, Stefan Bondy was talking Jaden Ivey(6’4”, 205 lbs, Purdue). 

According to Bondy, Ivey has not been in contact with the Sacramento Kings, who hold the fourth pick, which is where many Draft watchers rank the guard. 

“It’s not a conscious decision,” he said. “I never really made the decision not to talk to Sacramento. It just kind of happened.”

Reportedly, the Kings are open to trading the pick, and Ivey mentioned the Knicks as a team that could land him. As Bondy pointed out, “Ivey is represented by CAA, which is closely associated with the Knicks because it counts team executives Leon Rose and William Wesley as former employees.”

At CAA, Ivey shares an agent with another Knick, Julius Randle. Bondy quoted him as saying:

“Obviously a tremendous opportunity. A tremendous organization in the New York Knicks,” Ivey said. “Obviously I’d be honored to be able to play there. I think they recently just played the playoffs (in 2021). I feel like I can complement that organization and help them win if they drafted me.”

Moving up for Ivey sure seems like a long shot, but he’s a talent worthy of making the attempt. For the Boilermakers last season, he averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. Think of him as a taller, broader version of Ja Morant. Intrigued?

Another name in Knicks news is Tari Eason (6’8”, 215 lbs, LSU). An exciting wing, Eason averaged 16.9 points and 6.6 rebounds last season. His recognitions include: 2020-21 AAC All-Freshman – 1st Team, 2021-22 All-SEC – 1st Team, and 2021-22 SEC Sixth Man of the Year. 

Rather than moving up in the draft, the Knicks could trade down for a mid-round player like Eason. Then they’d get their man and maybe another draft pick, too. Leon Rose & Co. jumped up and down the draft boards the past two years. Don’t be surprised if they do so again. 

Finally, there’s AJ Griffin (6’6”, 222 lbs, Duke) still hovering in the wings. The ACC All-Freshman averaged 10.4 points and 3.9 boards in 39 games this season. Forbes reports that the Ossining, NY native would be thrilled to don the blue and orange.

“Obviously, I grew up here and I think that would just be a fun time in New York. I know the plays and I know most of the players. It would be really, really, really good. I don’t know what emotions I would be feeling about that [getting drafted by the Knicks.] I just know it would be exciting. I played at MSG two times last year, it’s just an experience like no other. It would just be an amazing experience.”

Griffin is a promising prospect whose injury history has scared some teams off. If his knee troubles are behind him, Griffin could be an electric player in the NBA.

As a fellow Blue Devil, he has talked with RJ Barrett a time or two. On the subject of playing with RJ, AJ said, “I think just from watching him play and how he plays I think we could be good together.”

Griffin’s last workout was with the Knicks and he called it “great.” In addition, he worked out for San Antonio, New Orleans, Portland, and Indiana.