NY Post: Knicks signing Taj Gibson, releasing Omari Spellman in frontcourt fix

From Marc Berman and Peter Botto:

After discussing reunions with big men Taj Gibson and Tyson Chandler, the Knicks appear to have settled on the one with multi-team ties to coach Tom Thibodeau.

The 6-foot-9 Gibson, who played for Thibodeau in Chicago and Minnesota, is expected to re-sign with the Knicks, according to a source, after they declined his $10 million team option in November. The Knicks have opened the season 5-3 despite operating with razor-thin depth up front due injuries to rookie Obi Toppin, Nerlens Noel and Omari Spellman, but they are likely to waive Spellman to facilitate Gibson’s return.

According to a person close to Gibson, 35, he’s been in Los Angeles since the start of the season and has worked out for seven teams, including the Wizards. The shortened free agency didn’t help Gibson as teams filled up their rosters quickly.

“He’s in shape,” the person said. “There’s no hard feelings. He knows it’s a business.”

According to an NBA source, the Knicks also had held internal talks about bringing back Chandler, a key to their 2012-13 team that won the Atlantic Division when current assistant Mike Woodson was head coach.

I imagine the end scene of Officer and a Gentlemen with Taj and Thibs reuniting. I’m unclear which one is Debra Winger in this scenario.

It’s funny that they even considered Chandler. Taj is pretty done, but Chandler is beyond done, I’m shocked that he’s still trying to keep playing. Dude won a title and made a ton of money, what more does he have to prove?

Gibson is a fine back-up back-up center. And luckily, Mitch has played so outstandingly that we don’t have to worry about Gibson suddenly starting over Mitch, which was my only concern about bringing Gibson back earlier.

Spellman…well, what can you say? Dude showed up way out of shape. It was pretty embarrassing on his part.

NY Daily News: Coach Tom Thibodeau hoping new format gives Knicks a shot at playoffs

Not a whole lot of news, so this is what we’ve got. From Stefan Bondy:

Just based on the number of openings, the Knicks have a greater chance this season at competing for a playoff spot. And Tom Thibodeau hopes his club takes advantage of the new format.

The league has adopted the play-in structure for 2020-21, which means the Nos. 7-10 seeds in each conference will hold a round-robin tournament after the season. One spot is guaranteed to either the No. 7 or 8 seeds, so it’s really a competition between three teams for the final playoff position.

“I think it makes it interesting,” Thibodeau said. “Obviously where we are, hopefully we’ll have a shot at that. It’s something that we have to work towards.”

The Knicks are again expected to fall into the lottery following a quiet free agency season, but finishing in the top-10 is certainly easier than the top-8. The format, which was first used over the summer in the Orlando bubble, is geared toward keeping more teams involved in the playoff race while dissuading tanking. Of course, the Knicks have been so bad lately that they haven’t finished in the Eastern Conference’s top-10 since 2014.

So it’ll require improvement from Thibodeau’s squad just to elevate into the play-in games.

“For us the important thing is to confront what the facts are. So we have a lot of ground to make up,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to work each day to close that gap. if we do that good things will come. There has to be the proper amount of patience, but sometimes too much patience isn’t a good thing. So we’ve got to move this thing along and everything has got to be about the team. Sacrifices have to be made. We have to figure out, develop our plan, and then we’ve got to work our plan.”

Again, it’s a slow newsday and the last thread had too many comments.

Since we have to have all poll content, here we go:

Do you think that the Knicks will make it into the Round Robin Tournament?

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SNY.com: Knicks feel ‘less inclined’ to trade for Russell Westbrook and his massive salary, looking for long-term cap flexibility

From the great Ian Begley:

After three days of free agency, the Knicks still have $18 million in cap space. And it doesn’t seem like they’re in a hurry to use it.

Even after Sunday’s Ed Davis trade, teams were under the impression that the Knicks remain open to providing cap relief to general managers looking to offload salary.

They’ve already done it twice in separate transactions with veteran Ed Davis, acquiring three second-round picks and two young players (Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman).

Depending on how the Charlotte-Gordon Hayward signing plays out, the Knicks could help the Hornets shed any salary needed to complete the transaction via sign-and-trade. Of course, New York would want to acquire an asset from either Charlotte or Boston in exchange for providing the cap relief.

The Knicks could also sit tight during the rest of the free agency period and use the cap space at the trade deadline to absorb a contract from a team looking to clear money in free agency.

Begley threw in some commentary at the end that I think will ring true with us here at Knickerblogger:

Based on what we’ve seen over the past few days, New York is taking a patient approach in Year 1 under Rose. That could mean another long season for the Knicks in 2020-21. Based on current roster composition, it seems like the young Knicks (RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, etc.) will have an opportunity to play a ton and learn on the job. That hasn’t been the case in year’s past.

Obviously, fans looking for a big acquisition in the 2020 offseason were disappointed with the first few days of free agency. The Knicks should have another chance to land a star in the summer of 2021. New York can have significant cap space that summer and will have two first-round picks in what should be a strong draft. (In all, they have eight first-round picks and 11 second-round picks in the next six drafts)

So the waiting game may continue for long-suffering Knicks fans. But Rose & Co. didn’t do anything in free agency that the franchise may regret in a couple years. That alone seems like a step in the right direction.

Agreed.

ESPN.com: New York Knicks agree with Nerlens Noel, Elfrid Payton on 1-year deals

From ESPN.com:

Free-agent center Nerlens Noel and point guard Elfrid Payton have each agreed to a one-year deal worth $5 million with the New York Knicks, their agents told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Noel, who is represented by Rich Paul and Lucas Newton of Klutch Sports, has jumped around the league since being taken sixth overall by the Sixers in the 2013 NBA draft. He was traded midway through his third season in Philadelphia, spent 1½ seasons with the Mavericks, and then signed a free-agent deal with the Thunder in July 2018.

The 26-year-old appeared in 61 games (seven starts) for OKC in the shortened 2019-20 season, averaging 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in 18.5 minutes.

He remains one of the game’s better shot-blockers; his 2.9 swats per 36 minutes this past season ranked sixth in the league.

Payton, who is represented by Aaron Mintz and Ty Sullivan of CAA, returns to the Knicks after averaging 10.0 points and 7.2 assists per game for them last season.

Wow! They actually got Noel! They needed a point guard, so bringing Payton back was fair enough, but Nerlens Noel? One of the most underrated players in the NBA? On the Knicks? On a one-year/$5 million deal? WOW!

As part of our all-poll content, here ya go…

What was the dumbest decision of the Gordon Hayward 4 years/$120 million?

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NY Post: Angry James Dolan cuts check for Malliotakis campaign after Max Rose trash-talk

From Jon Levine:

Hell hath no fury like James Dolan scorned.

The controversial Knicks boss is pouring cash into the effort to help GOP Congressional candidate Nicole Malliotakis beat incumbent Democratic Staten Island Rep. Max Rose — all because Rose recently trash-talked his ownership of the perennially losing New York Knicks.

“Max Rose thinks he can make our team and my ownership his political platform,” Dolan wrote in a personal email to friends last week that was obtained by The Post. “I need to let him know that we will not stand for this. The best way to do this is to help his opponent. He is in a tight race for the US Congress in Staten Island. … Please join me in helping Nicole defeat Max Rose for Congress.

“It will help send a strong message to all NY politicians that the Knicks will not be their political ticket to reelection. The most you can donate is $2,800,” Dolan added. “I cannot do this alone due to the limit on campaign contributions.”

But he sure is trying.

A $50,000 check from MSG Sports was cut Tuesday to “The Governing Majority Fund,” a PAC run by former Reps. John Faso and Jeff Denham, Dolan confirmed. The PAC’s mission is to help Republicans take back the House.

“Faso said Dolan got pissed off at Max Rose because he said something about the Knicks being a sh–ty team and then Dolan turned around and wrote a $50,000 check to his PAC,” a source close to Faso told The Post.

James Dolan is the gift that keeps on giving.

NY Post: Knicks hire Kentucky’s Kenny Payne as first addition to Tom Thibodeau’s staff

From Brian Lewis:

The Knicks confirmed Kenny Payne as the first addition to Tom Thibodeau’s new coaching staff, prying away John Calipari’s longtime right-hand man and bringing him from Kentucky to the Garden.

“I’m thrilled that Kenny has joined my staff as an assistant coach. He has an outstanding ability to forge relationships with players and improve their skills,” Thibodeau said in a statement. “He knows what it takes to win and has learned from one of the best coaches there is in John Calipari. Kenny will be a tremendous addition to our organization.”

Payne had spent the past decade working under – and winning with – Calipari, promoted to associate head coach in 2014 and helping the Wildcats to the first 38-0 season in college basketball history just a year later.

But the 53-year-old also has longstanding relationships with not only Knicks president Leon Rose, but senior vice president William Wesley.

Rose had been Calipari’s agent at CAA, where Wesley also worked. And Payne’s ties with “World Wide Wes” stretch back decades, all the way to his days playing for Louisville.

This is a fair enough move. Payne’s a well regarded coach. Hard to worry too much about the assistant coaches on the teams. Let’s just get to the lottery!

Kentucky Herald Leader: UK or Knicks for Payne? ‘It’s hard to even fathom leaving Kentucky,’ he says.

From Jerry Tipton at the Kentucky Herald Leader:

Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne acknowledged Saturday that the New York Knicks have expressed an interest in hiring him as an assistant coach.

“All I can say is it’s not an easy decision,” he said of the UK-or-Knicks basketball crossroads he might face. “And, hopefully, it gets resolved one way or the other here soon.”

Jeff Goodman of The Stadium reported on Twitter that Payne was considering an offer to join the Knicks, who recently hired Tom Thibodeau as the new head coach. The Knicks are also considering hiring a former player, Mike Woodson, as an assistant coach.

“They reached out to Coach Cal (John Calipari) for permission to talk to me,” Payne said of the Knicks. “That’s the most I can say.”

The Knicks have also spoken to his agent, Payne said.

“But I have a great job for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “And all I can tell you is that I’ve been blessed to be able to be in a position to help a lot of people. It’s more than just basketball with me when you’re in a position to help families.”

It’s nice to see the Knicks thinking outside of the box like this.

In other news, Kemba Walker did an interview where he said that, at one point, the Knicks were a priority for him, back when he thought “another player” (obviously Kevin Durant) was coming to New York. That Durant injury sure did throw a proverbial monkey wrench into the Knicks’ plans.