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NBA PM: Phil Jackson States Goals as Knicks President

The honeymoon period has begun with Phil Jackson and the Knicks, but there’s a lot of work to be done at the end of the season… Kings re-sign Royce White.

Yannis Koutroupis



Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson talks about his team’s recent play, Kenneth Faried’s success and more in this exclusive interview with Basketball Insiders.

Phil Jackson Era Begins

Move over Carmelo Anthony, you’re no longer the New York Knicks’ biggest star. That distinction now belongs to Hall of Fame head coach Phil Jackson, who was officially introduced on Tuesday as the team’s new president.

For a franchise that has not been a serious title contender since the late 1990s, Jackson provides hope, credibility and most importantly a much needed change in direction. Knicks fans have become increasingly impatient and frustrated with the state of the team. Most of the criticism has landed on the desk of team owner James Dolan and rightfully so. He’s had full autonomy over personnel moves, but that now lies with Jackson.

“Willingly and gratefully,” Dolan said when asked about handing over complete power over to Jackson. “I am by no means an expert in basketball. I’m a fan, but my expertise lies in managing companies and new businesses. So I think I’m a little out of my element when it comes to the team, I’ve found myself in a position where I’ve needed to be more a part of the decision-making for a while. It wasn’t something necessarily that I wanted to do. But as chairman of the company, I felt obligated to do it. I’m happy now that we have the team of Phil and Steve to do that, and my whole job here now, is supporting them to win a championship.

“In addition to the tremendous respect I have for Phil regarding basketball, over the last several months, I have had the opportunity to get to know him personally and have developed a high regard for his character and passion as an individual. I am confident that he and Steve Mills have the right combination of complementary skills to make this franchise successful.”

At this point in the season, there’s very little that Jackson can do other than observe and evaluate as the Knicks try to chase down the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. He did drop the following hints over what kind of team he plans to build once the time comes to makes some moves.

“I think that this is an opportunity and that’s what I look at it as, not as a possible failure chance,” Jackson said. “It’s just a wonderful opportunity to do something that I love and that’s be with a basketball team, hopefully create a team that loves each other and plays with each other.

“We want to build a team. A team that doesn’t have ‘I’ in it, we’ve used that expression a few times as coaches but this is a franchise that developed a team in the 60s that was consistently playing team basketball for seven, eight years. The idea of developing a culture is a overwrought word in the NBA right now, but that’s what brought me here. Players need to know they are supported by the team and the coaching staff. I believe in system basketball. I came out of a system here. I believe that’s something we want to accomplish here.”

Jackson’s deal with the Knicks is rumored to be worth $12-15 million annually over the next five years. Among his biggest decisions this offseason will be over whether to offer the aforementioned Anthony a deal for the same duration. His camp will undoubtedly ask for the maximum salary available, which in his case is around $129 million. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith claims that Anthony is as good as gone because even with Jackson in charge, the likelihood of being a contender next year is slim. But if he leaves, it won’t be because he’s unwanted.

“There’s no doubt about Carmelo being one of the top scorers in the league, maybe the best individual isolation player in the game,” Jackson said. “I have no problems with committing to saying Carmelo is in the future plans … I was on record a year ago, as great a player as he is, still has another level he can go to. To get him with the team we create, he can get there.

“Carmelo’s had a load to carry this year, and he’s remarkable in that. He showed in last Olympics, coming off the bench and playing a role as a bench player on a magnificent team that won a gold medal, that he can play a role if he has to play a role. I think he’s a basketball player, and I think that’s what players want to do, to be able to cut, to pass, to be in different spots on the floor, to attack or to play and I think Carmelo will be just fine. I see no problem in it.”

It was in Jackson’s triangle offense that both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant transformed their games. Like Anthony, they were known primarily as scorers, but in the triangle they changed their legacies completely. They bought into the team concept, trusting their teammates and as a result won a combined 11 championships – all with Jackson on the sidelines. Anthony has already said he is willing to change his game if Jackson asks. But, approaching 30 years of age, Anthony is understandably antsy to play for a contender.

“I know you all know about the vaunted triangle offense,” Jackson said. “It’s been maligned in the past few years, but I believe in system basketball. Steve Mills came out of Princeton, I came out of a system we ran here in New York in which team ball was an important aspect of playing and we believe that’s what we want to get accomplished as we go forward from here.”

The popular belief right now is that while Jackson avoided making any definitive statements on current Knicks head coach Mike Woodson’s job security, he’s going to let him go at season’s end. Former Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerr, who currently is an analyst for Turner Sports, is regarded as the frontrunner to replace him. Kerr has never been a head coach, but is a Jackson disciple, winning three titles under him in Chicago. Because of his inexperience, it would be vital to surround Kerr with a veteran head coaching staff; both Jim Cleamons and Frank Hamblen, fellow Jackson disciples and triangle advocates who worked for him in Chicago and New York, would likely be offered positions on his staff.

Kings Re-Sign Royce White

The Sacramento Kings announced today that they have signed Royce White to a second 10-day contract.

He spent his first contract in the D-League with the Kings affiliate the Reno Bighorns. He played four games with the Bighorns, scoring 8.8 points, grabbing 4.3 rebounds and dishing out 2.8 assists in 24.8 minutes on average.

White, a 2012 first round pick of the Houston Rockets, has yet to play in his first NBA game. His rookie season consisted mainly of public feuding with the Rockets over treatment of his anxiety disorder. They traded him this offseason to the Philadelphia 76ers, who waived him prior to the start of the regular season.

There seems to be a good chance of that changing, though, as the Kings aren’t playing for anything at this point and might as well see how White fairs. His ability to play the game has never been questioned; he’s a special talent, but he has to prove that he can handle everything that comes with being a NBA player, including the rigorous traveling and serious time commitment.

March Madness is Here

The 2014 NCAA Tournament is about to get underway, and Basketball Insiders has the most in-depth coverage of March Madness you’ll find:

Want a preview of every single NCAA Tournament game? Click here.

Check out a breakdown of the tournament field by clicking here.

Who are this year’s Cinderella teams to keep an eye on? Find out here.

Who needs to do well in the tourney to help their draft stock? Click here to find out.

Can Wichita State win it all after going undefeated? An interview with their star.

Check back over the next few days for more coverage of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.


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NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future

Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.

James Blancarte



On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.

Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.

Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with athe season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.

Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.

“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”

Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.

“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”

Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.

“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.

While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.

“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.

Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.

There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.

“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”

Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.

“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”

Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.

“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.

Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.

“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.

When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.

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Tyronn Lue’s Health Concerns Latest Bump In The Road For Cavaliers

Spencer Davies outlines Tyronn Lue’s decision to take a leave of absence to deal with health issues and covers the reaction around the NBA.

Spencer Davies



The win-loss record is not where they want it to be.

The performances have not been up to par with what they expect.

With that said, one thing is for certain: There is no other team that will have been more battle tested going into the playoffs than the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Day after day and week after week, there’s always something going on with the team. Between in-house arguments, on-court miscommunication, roster turnover, and more, it has been one giant roller coaster of a season.

Monday morning, another twist was added to the ride. In a statement released by the Cavaliers organization, Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman announced that the head coach would be taking a leave of absence to address his health:

“After many conversations with our doctors and Koby and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.

“I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is. While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team.

“I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season. My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the Championship we are all working towards. I greatly appreciate Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, our medical team and the organization’s support throughout.”

There were multiple instances where Lue either missed part of a half or an entire game this season. The symptoms are definitely not to be taken lightly. According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Lue attempted to return to the bench Saturday night in Chicago but the team didn’t allow him to. Evidently, Lue was “coughing up blood” some nights.

Seeing it first hand after postgame press conferences, Lue was visibly exhausted and stress could likely be playing a part. He’s been fighting through the tough times the team has been going through and avoided stepping away twice this season.

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford had his own battle with health problems earlier this season and temporarily left the team for those reasons. He has attempted to reach out to Lue, a friend and former player of his.

Other head coaches around the league—Joe Prunty, Steve Kerr, and Luke Walton—have all gone to bat for Lue when discussing the rigors of an NBA schedule and the toll it takes.

Altman supports the decision for Lue to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

“We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues,” he said.

LeBron James is glad that Lue is going to take some time to get better.

“Obviously, health is the most important with everything in life,” James said Monday after shootaround. “Not surprised by it at all. I knew he was struggling, but he was never not himself. He was just dealing with it the best way he could, but he was never not himself when he was around.

“It doesn’t matter what’s going on here. We play a great sport, our coaches get to coach a great sport, and you guys get to cover a great sports. But health is most important right now and that’s what our coach is doing right now and we’re all in favor for it.”

The latest piece of news is a blow to the already injury-ridden Cleveland group. Assistant coach Larry Drew will take over duties until Lue returns.

The good news for the Cavaliers is that Kevin Love can potentially return to the mix as soon as Monday night against Milwaukee.

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NBA Daily: Calderón’s Late NBA Start

Jose Calderón might be the only player in the league who didn’t grow up dreaming of playing in the NBA.

Joel Brigham



There are a lot of different ways to get to the NBA, but most of them involve lifelong scouting and an unceasing dream to play in the world’s premier basketball league.

Cleveland Cavaliers guard José Calderón didn’t really have either of those things.

“I never even thought of the NBA when I was a kid,” Calderón told Basketball Insiders. “I grew up in a small town in Spain, and I played basketball because my dad played and I loved it. I was having fun, always playing with the older guys because I was good at that age, but I never really even thought about playing any sort of professional basketball.”

Having grown up in Villanueva de la Serena, Spain, Calderón watched his father play for Doncel La Serena, which was his hometown team as a child. He was something of a prodigy, having attended practices and games with his father from a young age, and as burgeoning teenager he left home to play professionally for the lower-level Vitoria-Gasteiz team.

“They wanted to sign me at 13 years old, and we didn’t even know that they could sign people that young,” Calderón remembers. “So I did that, and I tried to get better. I tried to advance into the older clubs, but I never really did think about the NBA at all, honestly.”

That changed as he got older, though, especially after Spain finished 5th in the 2002 FIBA World Championship and Calderón started to get some stateside recognition.

“After that summer, [my agent and I] got a call from Milwaukee asking about my situation, and asked would I think about coming to play over here. It was sort of a let’s-see-what-happens sort of situation, but I couldn’t at that time because I was under contract. That was the first time I was really approached.”

As his teammates from the Spanish National Team made their way to the NBA, Calderón grew increasingly intrigued.

“Pau Gasol obviously opened a lot of doors for us,” he said. “Raul Lopez came, too. I was just playing basketball, though. I didn’t know anything about scouts. Later, when we started to get the calls from Toronto, I started to realize how possible it really was. That’s when I thought, ‘Hey, why not?’”

Despite being eligible for a few drafts in a row, Calderón never did get drafted, which was fine by him. Growing up the way he did, Calderón never had any dreams of his hearing his name called by Commissioner Stern, so playing his way through most of his deal with TAU Vitoria was no big deal for him. He could take or leave the NBA.

“Not getting drafted was the perfect situation for me,” he said. “In my satiation, coming from Europe, I was already playing professionally for a good team and making some good money. That was perfect for me at the time, and I was happy to be a free agent at 23, choosing where I was going to sign instead of going in the second round and having to play for one team.”

He signed with the Raptors in 2005 since they were the most aggressive in recruiting him to the NBA. As a 23-year-old rookie, he wasn’t overwhelmed physically the way a lot of rookies are, but he did find his new league challenging in other ways.

“The hardest part was just having to start over,” he said. “You start over from zero. It doesn’t matter if the other players know you or don’t, you have to prove yourself all over again. You could be the MVP of Europe, but to get respect in the NBA you have to gain it on the court.”

The talent differential was immediately noticeable, as well.

“There are so many guys out there that are better than you. It’s not just like a guy or two; there are six, seven guys on the floor any given time that are better than you.”

That meant making some changes in the way that Calderón played. He was asked to do a lot more offensively for his EuroLeague team. Playing with so many talented scorers completely changed his approach.

“I went from taking 20 shots a game to doing something else, and as a point guard in the NBA I had to approach that point guard role even more, to make those guys respect my game, to make them want to play with me. I had to be able to pass the ball, to do something different from all the other players, so I became a fast-first point guard to make sure we always played as a team. That’s how I get to where I am as a professional.”

Now 36 years old, Calderón is one of the league’s oldest players, making it easy for him to look back at where he came from to transform into the player he is today.

“I’ve grown so much, but I was lucky to be given the opportunity,” he said. “When you arrive from Europe, whether you’re good or bad, it doesn’t always matter if you don’t have the opportunity. Toronto gave me the opportunity to play 20 minutes a night, and that’s a lot. I made a lot of mistakes, but they let me play through those mistakes. All those little things added up for me, and I learned a lot.”

He owns two silver medals and a bronze in the three Olympics he’s participated in over the course of his career, as well as gold medals in FIBA World Cup and EuroBasket, but he’s never won an NBA championship. Joining up with LeBron James improves those odds, but that’s the thing that would really put an exclamation point on an excellent career.

Calderón could have stayed in Spain and been fine. He jokes that while the NBA has been very good to him, he and his family could have stayed in Europe and he could have made good money playing basketball there. He’s been happy with his career, though, however unorthodox his journey here, and he hopes his most prestigious accolades are yet to come.

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