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LOS ANGELES -- After treating the crowd at Staples Center to a season-high 40 points in his first matchup against star rookie Zion Williamson, LeBron James strolled to the bench in the final moments of the Lakers' 118-109 win over the Pelicans and enjoyed a treat of his own: some Red Vines candy.
James snacked away while nearby fans shouted "Taco Tuesday" at the Lakers superstar who has made that slogan part of his lexicon. But on Tuesday, James served up yet another reminder this season that when the 17-season veteran faces promising young players who are hailed as future stars, he tends to still have the upper hand.
In a November matchup against Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, James scored 39 points (his second most this season) to go along with 16 assists and 12 rebounds. In a January matchup against Doncic, James dropped 35 points and 16 rebounds. And against Atlanta's Trae Young in November, James piled up 33 points and 12 assists.
"He's an incredible player," Williamson, who scored 29, said of James. "I mean, he handled business."
James has faced a fellow No. 1 overall pick 356 times -- and had the scoring advantage in 297 of those games, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It looked as if James had some extra fire for the matchup, as he tallied 17 fast-break points, his most with the Lakers and tied for the third most in his career.
"Satisfaction for me always comes in a win, no matter how well I'm playing," said James, who at 35 also became the oldest player with a 40-point game at Staples Center since the late Kobe Bryant scored 60 in his final NBA game at age 37 in 2016.
But James had plenty of praise for the 19-year-old Williamson, the top pick in the 2019 draft whom James called "very explosive" and "very quick for his size."
"He's playing exceptional basketball," James said. "I think every game he's going to get better and better, just having that experience. I think today's game is a perfect fit for his game. The high pace, the way they play, it fits his game. The speed, running up and down and playing at that speed, they move the ball."
Williamson made 8 of 18 shots from the field and notched his fifth straight 25-point game, tied with Doncic (2018-19) and Carmelo Anthony (2003-04) for the longest streak by a teenager in NBA history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
He also made a career-high 13 free throws on 19 attempts from the line.
"They try to get it up the court, and it reminds me of the Phoenix Suns back when Steve Nash was running it in that first eight seconds," James said. "So it works perfectly. And our game is such, so many possessions now and there's so much space, that it's perfect for our game. So he's doing exceptionally well with that."
Williamson bullied his way to the basket on several occasions, though his shot was blocked five times Tuesday, the most blocked attempts in his young career.
"It was fun. He's a great player. He's got a quick first step, very explosive," said Lakers star Anthony Davis, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds. "Second jump is unbelievable. There was some times we tried to foul him when he got by us and had an easy layup or dunk and he made free throws, so he's going to continue to get better and better. Obviously, this is his first year, they're fighting for a spot, but as time goes on, he gets more experience with the game, he'll be fine."
Said Lakers coach Frank Vogel: "In terms of Zion, I was crazy impressed with him when I watched him on tape, and my reaction is not any different in person. He's spectacular. He's a dynamic athlete. Even with our length and the terrific rim protection and size that we have, he was still able to get to the rim and score 29 points on us. He got 29 points. It's incredible what he's doing at such a young age so early in his career."
The Lakers are 18-0 when James scores 30 points this season. According to Elias, that figure breaks a tie for the most wins without a loss in 30-point games to start a season in NBA history.
"He's delivering special performances for us all season," Vogel said. "We don't take it for granted. We are where we are in large part of what he does on a night-in, night-out basis."
ESPN's Dave McMenamin and Andrew Lopez contributed to this report.
Marks said the decision was made after Irving had visited with a specialist the past few days.
"He's obviously upset about this, and we are here to support him, support the process moving forward with him and the rehabilitation," Marks said before the Nets' game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. "He saw specialists including our people at [New York's Hospital for Special Surgery] and it has been a group consensus that at this point in time, and this juncture, this is the best course of action."
Irving, who joined the Nets as a free agent last summer alongside Kevin Durant, played in just 20 games in his first season in Brooklyn. He missed 26 games over the span of nearly two months with a right shoulder impingement, before eventually returning in mid-January following a cortisone shot.
But after he missed the final five games before the All-Star break with a knee sprain he suffered in a nasty-looking fall in a loss to the Washington Wizards on Feb. 1, it was determined that it wasn't worth Irving playing through pain in the shoulder any longer, and that surgery was the right course of action.
What wasn't on the table, Marks said, was Irving getting another cortisone shot.
"I think we look at our players' long-term health as the No. 1 priority," Marks said. "Kyrie has been adamant like the rest of us that he would take one cortisone shot and see how it goes.
"We are looking at the big picture here. We are not looking at the next 2-3 months. We are looking at the next 2-3 years."
The possibility for surgery had been on the table during Irving's initial absence. At the time, it was decided that the better path was for Irving to get the cortisone shot and see how his shoulder responded, in the hopes of avoiding surgery altogether.
"A cortisone shot lasts as long as it can," Irving told reporters back on Jan. 4. "You either continue to get cortisone shots, which is obviously detrimental to your health and your muscles, or you go get arthroscopic surgery. For me, it's just about being able to go back out there after the right amount of rehab, the right amount of rest and recovery and see what we can do for the rest of the season and then reevaluate after a few months."
It turned out, however, that it would be another six weeks before he would be shut down for the rest of the way.
Thursday's announcement closes the door on a disappointing first season for Irving in Brooklyn. He played extraordinarily well at times, including scoring 55 points in his first game for the Nets in a season-opening overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but also spent the vast majority of the season watching in street clothes alongside Durant, who is out with a torn Achilles tendon and officially ruled out a return this season in an interview earlier this week with Bleacher Report.
Rather than figuring out how Irving fits next to Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris ahead of Durant's return next season, the Nets saw them together for only 19 games this season. Now, Brooklyn will have to try to make the playoffs without Irving. The Nets entered Thursday seventh in the East, two games ahead of the eight-place Orlando Magic and five games ahead of the ninth-place Wizards.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson admitted Irving being ruled out will force the Nets to start from square one in terms of piecing together their roster when their two stars return next season.
"I think that's the big thing," Atkinson said. "You wanted some time to work things out, work on our continuity and obviously work on the chemistry of the team and how we're going to use him. That's the disappointing part. We're not going to have that opportunity. We'll have to start fresh next season and figure it out quickly. But that is the disappointing part.
"I don't know if there's enough, especially when you throw Kevin into the mix. I think it's going to be a different structure, a different chemistry, different rotations."
That said, Atkinson was excited by the brief glimpses of what he saw from Irving, who averaged 27.4 points and 6.4 assists, on the court this season, and is looking forward to seeing more next season.
"I've said this before: He was better than I even thought, a better player than I thought, and I had tremendous respect for him in Cleveland and Boston," Atkinson said. "Faster than I thought, more skilled than I thought, a higher-level competitor than I thought, much more physical than I thought. I don't think people give him enough credit for how physical he is on both ends, how active he is defensively and what an attacker he is. That bodes really well for the future.
"I really love the player, and I feel like we have a really good relationship. So, we're in a good place there. Obviously, you want more reps, more time with him, but we'll have time with him in the offseason, too, to connect and, when he gets healthy, to work with him a little bit."
Marks said Irving is still evaluating his options and didn't say when he would have the surgery. But Marks did indicate that the rehabilitation process would allow Irving to be back before the start of next season.
"I think that is something that will have to be determined," Marks said of Irving's rehab timeline. "With all surgeries once somebody goes in there and takes a look at it then you evaluate how long the rehab is.
"This is something that he should be back in plenty of time to be working out this summer and obviously be ready for next season."
Like Atkinson, Marks was looking forward to having this season as an evaluation period for his newly built roster. The Nets signed LeVert and Taurean Prince to extensions before the start of this season, have to decide whether to do the same with Jarrett Allen before next season and have to deal with the free agency of Harris -- one of the NBA's best 3-point shooters -- this summer.
Marks will have to go into the summer and make those decisions without the benefit of seeing the full roster together on the court this season.
"I'd be lying if I said I wish all our guys weren't healthy for the whole time. It's been kind of a roller-coaster year," Marks said. "We've had Caris out as well. So we've had multiple guys who've had these strange, unforeseen injuries.
"But I have the utmost confidence in our performance staff, our doctors, all the specialists we've used as well. And also the guys. The guys have fought hard with their rehab and obviously that's led by Kevin over the course of the last four or five months while he's been a Net."
PHILADELPHIA -- After putting up 39 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 112-104 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, Joel Embiid declared he is the best player in the world, and that the aggression with which he played against Brooklyn was a carryover from the way he played in Sunday's All-Star Game in Chicago.
"For sure," Embiid said. "The All-Star Game was fun. Being there in the fourth quarter, doing my thing at the end of the game, I thought it was great.
"But the All-Star Game, just proving I'm here, I belong, and being the best player in the world, I just intend to keep coming out every single night and just play hard and trying to get wins and just go out and try to win a championship."
Thursday's game was a roller coaster of emotions -- and, in many ways, a microcosm of Philadelphia's regular season thus far. The Sixers jumped out to a 22-6 lead over the Nets, who found out before the game that All-Star guard Kyrie Irving will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, only for Brooklyn to roar back with an absurd 44-8 run from the 5:45 mark of the first quarter until there was just 3:09 left in the second.
At that point, when the Sixers called timeout after a basket by Nets guard Joe Harris made the score 50-30, a cascade of boos rained down upon them, and it looked as if they were well on their way to just their third home loss of the season.
"[I was] really just trying to find answers to some of the problems," Sixers coach Brett Brown said afterward.
Luckily for him and the Sixers, they had one very large solution: give the ball to Embiid, and get out of the way. Philadelphia eventually managed to climb out of the hole it dug for itself thanks to Embiid's extremely broad shoulders, as he took just one 3-pointer and instead spent the game mauling whomever the Nets tried to throw his way inside.
Embiid said that was a conscious decision. After he repeatedly bullied defenders Sunday in Chicago, he said he wanted to come out and approach Thursday's game with exactly the same mindset.
"I've got to do it," he said. "I've got to duck in. I've got to be aggressive. I had a couple offensive fouls, meaning three seconds and charge because of my duck-ins and how much I was in the paint.
"If I've got to get three-second calls and offensive fouls, so what? It's just about being aggressive."
Philadelphia needed every bit of that aggression, too, with fellow All-Star Ben Simmons sidelined due to back tightness and Al Horford, who finished with six points and three rebounds and was minus-26 in 18 minutes off the bench, continuing to struggle.
But thanks to 22 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists from Tobias Harris and 19 points from recently acquired Alec Burks -- including five of Philadelphia's nine points in overtime -- the Sixers did just enough to win.
"It just really taught us to keep our composure," Harris said of the wild back-and-forth swings throughout the game. "I said in the beginning, I really like the way that we handled the runs that they made and how they made them. We didn't hang our head. We kind of looked each other in the eye and said, 'We know we need to be better, we need to be more physical, we need to be better defensively and get stops.'
"And, once we did, we were able to get out in transition, run and get some easy ones. That just helped us crawl back into the game."
That included escaping from a six-point deficit late in the fourth quarter, after two DeAndre Jordan free throws made it 101-95 with 2:16 left. The Sixers outscored the Nets 8-2 over the rest of regulation, including Embiid making four free throws in the final 35 seconds and making a brilliant defensive play to force Spencer Dinwiddie to pass on a drive in the final seconds, and then blocking Wilson Chandler's potential winning layup to force overtime.
"Dinwiddie got a step, and I felt like I had to be smart, just showing myself but not overly commit to him and force him to pass the ball," Embiid said. "I just had to make him pass the ball and block a shot."
He did just that, and as a result the Sixers got a win. Now, though, the league's best home team will go on the road and face the league's best team -- the Milwaukee Bucks -- in Wisconsin on Saturday night.
So, after declaring he is the best player in the world, does Embiid see any added significance in facing Giannis Antetokounmpo on national television Saturday night?
"For sure. We beat them pretty bad in the first matchup, they got us the last one, so it's on us to go out there and try to beat them again."
For Philadelphia to do that, they'll need Embiid to keep playing this way. And, if the past few days are any indication, it appears he's ready to do just that for as long as the Sixers are playing.
"I felt like the first part of the season I was trying to make sure everybody was comfortable, tried to take a step back," he said. "But if we are going to go somewhere, I've got to be one of the guys [doing it]."
The Jazz are hoping Clarkson can deliver a boost to their bench scoring.
Exum, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, has struggled to stay healthy during his career but has shown glimpses of his elevated draft stock.
The Jazz will send second-round picks in 2022 (via San Antonio) and 2023 (via Golden State) to Cleveland, sources said. This was the NBA's first trade since the Houston-Oklahoma City deal that centered on Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul on July 11.
Clarkson arrives with a $13.4 million expiring contract. Exum has two years and $19.2 million left on his contract. The Cavaliers will create a $3.83 million trade exception, which they have one year to use, ESPN front-office insider Bobby Marks reported.
The Cavaliers plan to start uprooting veterans on the roster to gather more draft picks and young assets. Clarkson, 27, is averaging 14.6 points per game, including a season-high 33 points on 12-of-27 shooting in Friday's victory over Memphis.
The Cavaliers are projected to have more than $28 million in salary-cap space for free agency.
Cleveland general manager Koby Altman and Utah general manager Justin Zanik have a strong working relationship, which has included working together on three trades in the past three years. The Jazz acquired Kyle Korver for Alec Burks and two second-round picks in November 2018, and Utah and Cleveland worked with Sacramento on a three-way deal at the February 2018 deadline that included Cleveland trading Jae Crowder for Utah's Rodney Hood.
From NBA media reports
Dec 10, 2019 2:26 PM ET
The Blazers are in the midst of a season that, so far, has found success hard to come by. Yet to Portland star guard Damian Lillard, there's no reason to think of toiling anywhere else in the NBA.
Lillard took to The Players' Tribune to pen a piece about how loyalty has been a hallmark of his career and wants to carry that over to his time in Portland. In the piece, titled "Loyalty Over Everything," Lillard explains how he will do everything in his power to remain a Blazers for life.
"I’m saying, you think you know how deep this goes, but you have no idea," Lillard wrote. "When I say that I will never, ever switch up on the city of Portland, I mean what I say. When I say that I will never, ever switch up on this organization, I mean what I say.
"They might switch up on me. That’s business. That’s basketball. But I will never switch up on the city. I don’t want it easy. I’m drawn to the struggle. When I came here, we hadn’t won a playoff series since 2000. You had so many injuries to franchise guys like Brandon Roy and Greg Oden over the years, and it’s so tough to come back from that. Even going way back, you had All-Stars like Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton who didn’t choose to end their careers as a Blazer.
"Well, I’m going to be that. I’m going to carry that. I’m going to bring a ring to this city or go down swinging."
This isn't the first time Lillard has vowed his allegiance to the Blazers, doing so over the summer when he inked his super-max extension with the team that will pay him $196 million over four seasons. The No. 2 scorer in Portland history, Lillard said taking the franchise's scoring crown from Drexler has long been one of his career goals. Lillard is currently 4,545 points shy of Drexler for that mark, but is already the franchise's all-time leader in 3-pointers made and attempted and free throw percentage.
In his Players' Tribune piece, Lillard also references his series-clinching game-winners against the Houston Rockets (in the first round of 2014) and his 37-point 3-pointer against the Oklahoma City Thunder (in the first round last year). He says those shots -- dubbed by some as a bad attempt -- were just what he had in mind and all a part of his story.
"That’s what’s so funny to me, when people want to talk to me about the buzzer-beater against OKC, or the one against Houston -- like, 'That’s a bad shot.'
"You think I was improvising? You think I was panicking? You think I didn’t know exactly what I was doing?
"We didn’t grow up playing in a lab, bruh. We didn’t grow up getting boxes of shoes in the mail. We didn’t grow up with a trainer and a video team. That shot is 20 years old. I’ve been making it since 2001 on a milk crate on Beverly Ave."
The Blazers have struggled in 2019-20, though, getting off to a 5-9 start before opting to sign former All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony to a deal. After an 0-3 start with Anthony in the lineup, Portland won three straight -- but has since dropped three of its last four games. Anthony's deal was guaranteed for the rest of the season, but Portland is 9-15 to date and in 12th place in the competitive Western Conference.
Injuries have undoubtedly played a role in damaging the Blazers' high hopes this season. Last season's starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, is still recovering from left leg surgery. In addition, starting forward Rodney Hood tore his Achilles last Friday and will miss the rest of the season. Veteran big man Pau Gasol was added in the offseason, but never played a game for them because of a foot injury. In late November, he was waived by Portland and then rejoined it as an assistant coach.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard will offer guard Bradley Beal a three-year, $111 million maximum contract extension upon the All-Star becoming eligible to sign on Friday, Sheppard told ESPN.
"At the very first moment allowed, we are going to offer Brad the full max extension," Sheppard told ESPN.
Beal, 26, has until Oct. 21 to sign the extension, which would start with the 2021-22 season --- a decision that agent Mark Bartelstein indicates that Beal will need time to consider.
"There are moments in a career where there are big decisions to make, and Brad will work through everything and figure out the right thing to do," Bartelstein told ESPN. "There are nothing but great feelings for Ted [Leonsis], Tommy and Scott [Brooks]. They've treated Brad wonderfully."
The Wizards would also be willing to do a one- or two-year extension, Sheppard said.
If Beal passes on the extension, the Wizards have no plans to engage in trade talks with two years, $55.8 million left on his contract, Sheppard said.
As the franchise's newly promoted GM, Sheppard intends to sell Beal on a reshaped organization under his leadership. Sheppard cited Beal's willingness to wait a year in 2015 to sign his rookie extension to allow the franchise to keep its salary-cap space early in 2016 free agency.
"He's got two years left on his deal, and he's from Missouri and we are going to have to show him," Sheppard told ESPN. "We need to show him that we are about building this the right way, that we aren't going to have character-deficient guys around him. We are going to surround him with guys he wants to play with. He saw that right away in free agency with us bringing back Thomas Bryant."
Beal could be eligible to sign a five-year, $254 million supermax extension next summer if he earns All-NBA status in the coming season. Without the supermax, he's eligible for a four-year, $155 million max extension next year.
Once owner Ted Leonsis finalized Sheppard as the new GM, armed with a new supporting cast of executives and medical staff, Leonsis traveled to Chicago to lay out the organization's new vision to Beal's agent, Bartelstein of Priority Sports.
"I understand that it's a players' league," Leonsis told ESPN. "I do think that today's players are so intelligent, so smart and can smell inauthenticity from far away.
"I think they want owners and GMs, coaches and trainers -- everyone -- on the same page."
Beal averaged a career-best 25.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5 assists a season ago. In four trips to the playoffs in his seven-year NBA career, Beal has averaged 22.7 points in 40 appearances.
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NEW YORK -- This is not how things were supposed to play out for the New York Knicks.
For much of this past season, there was a steady drumbeat of anticipation that this summer would finally represent a sea change for the franchise. This was the year things were supposed to be different.
But it wasn't.
In the wake of their disappointment -- and following an apology to their fans -- the Knicks spent little time mourning their loss. Instead, in the span of about 20 hours, New York went out and spent $92 million in guaranteed money on short-term deals for six players: guards Elfrid Payton and Wayne Ellington and forwards Reggie Bullock, Julius Randle, Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson.
But the question remains: After missing out on their primary targets, was this a prudent course of action by the Knicks, or not?
For weeks now, the Knicks have been communicating the same message: They were going to chase the top-tier free agents. And if none of them was going to come, they were going to avoid handing out long-term contracts to lower-tier players.
It was a path that seemed informed by mistakes of years past (see: Joakim Noahin 2016 and Tim Hardaway Jr. in 2017). And from the moment free agency began, the Knicks seemed determined to stick to it.
When the franchise knew it wasn't getting anything more than a conference call with Durant and his business partner, Rich Kleiman, on Sunday, general manager Scott Perry made sure he was on a plane to Los Angeles to conduct several meetings with free agents the Knicks hoped to land in the event no stars arrived, including Randle and Bullock.
That helped allow the Knicks to line up all of these moves less than 24 hours into the free-agency period, setting up a roster that is now two deep at every position. They also brought in multiple veterans (Bullock, Ellington, Gibson) with strong reputations to help mentor New York's plethora of young talent, led by RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson.
While they're not All-Stars, the veteran additions should help the Knicks be more competitive. If there is anything events of recent free-agency periods have taught us, it is that players are interested in going to proven, good situations, where a positive direction is clear. Even the Los Angeles Lakers team LeBron James joined was coming off a 35-win season, more than double the win total of last season's Knicks.
As painful as it might be, the Knicks should look at the Nets as a blueprint. In the span of three years, Brooklyn went from a team with no young players, no draft picks and no hope into one beating New York out for Durant and Irving. The Nets did that by hitting a lot of singles and doubles, slowly improving their team and their position, setting themselves up to make the splash they did in free agency this week.
Are the Knicks going to be a playoff team next season? No. As a result, they should still get at least one more bite at another high lottery pick to continue remaking their roster. But even as that remains the case, they can start to take steps in the right direction. And in doing so, they can stop trying to rush the process along.
The idea that playing in Madison Square Garden -- or any of the other tropes presented through the years -- would lure players to New York has been proved false. Here is what will draw players to New York: competent management, a burgeoning talent base and winning basketball.
With their moves Monday, the Knicks maintained salary-cap flexibility, and gave their young talent a group of veterans to lean on and coach David Fizdale a roster he can mold into a recognizable style of play and identity that could prove attractive to players in the future.
Does that make losing out on Durant and Irving sting any less? No, of course not. But it does provide a road map for the Knicks to finally get themselves out of this never-ending abyss -- a process that should have started in earnest years ago.
Now it's time to see whether they can follow the directions.
Back in March, Knicks owner James Dolan was confident.
"Look, New York is the mecca of basketball," Dolan told The Michael Kay Show. "We hear from people all the time, from players and representatives about who wants to come. We can't respond because of the NBA rules, etc. But that doesn't stop them from telling us, and they do. I can tell you, from what we've heard, I think we're gonna have a very successful offseason when it comes to free agents."
And, in those four sentences, everything that has led the Knicks to this point over the past two years was laid bare for the world to see.
For the better part of a year, the Knicks have been selling a vision of hope for the future. The franchise finished with the NBA's worst record, leading fans in the tri-state area to spend the season watching Duke games and dreaming of Zion Williamson in blue and orange.
And Dolan wasn't the only one selling it.
"It's much more about the perception of the organization," Fizdale said after a morning shootaround in Boston on Dec. 8. "What I think we've done together with [team president] Steve [Mills] and Scott and Mr. Dolan and myself and all our staff is we changed the perception of how we operate and treat each other and what's important."
Instead, the Knicks didn't win the lottery -- something they had only a 14 percent chance of doing, thanks to the flattened odds from the NBA's 2017 lottery reform. Then they didn't come close to signing any stars, leading them to put out a statement Sunday night:
"While we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight's news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through the draft, targeted free agents and continuing to build around our core of young players."
That statement was a far cry from Dolan's comments a few months earlier.
So despite the prudence of the individual moves the Knicks have made since missing out on their primary targets, they don't deserve a free pass for their mistakes leading up to Sunday. They could have been cautious, and they could have stressed the unlikelihood of an impending superteam. Instead, they were brash and confident -- and it blew up in their faces.
Meanwhile, what happened this week can't be discussed fully without circling back to the decision to trade Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks in February. The Knicks have stressed ever since that doing so wasn't about clearing cap space this summer. The front office said it wanted to invest in players who wanted to be there, and that Porzingis did not. There were concerns about Porzingis' injury history, including the torn ACL he spent this past season recovering from.
And they did get enough of a return -- two future first-round picks, Dennis Smith Jr. and the shedding of multiple large, multiyear contracts -- that the deal, like the moves the Knicks made this week, can be justified in a vacuum.
But nothing at 2 Penn Plaza ever happens in a vacuum.
Remember: The Knicks haven't had a single first-round pick get a multiyear second contract with the franchise since Charlie Ward, who was drafted 25 years ago. That fact -- which demonstrates how bad the Knicks have been at identifying, developing and retaining talent in the draft -- shouldn't excuse New York from missing out on future draft compensation in salary-dumping trades.
Despite already having six first-round picks over the next four drafts, this team needs as many assets as it can possibly get. More first-round picks are more bites at the apple, more chips to throw into potential deals down the road. The Knicks could have gotten involved in the trades that sent Maurice Harkless to the LA Clippers (as part of the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade to the Miami Heat) and Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies (as part of the D'Angelo Russell sign-and-trade to the Golden State Warriors). Both the Clippers and Grizzlies landed future first-round picks for their trouble. The Nets made similar moves -- and drafted key pieces such as Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, among others, as a result.
Perhaps these picks will wind up having low value. But facilitating these bigger trades were shrewd moves by the Clippers and Grizzlies, acquiring useful players on expiring deals with room that wasn't going to be better spent elsewhere.
To remake this roster and dig out of this hole, the Knicks have to utilize every tool at their disposal. Climbing back to the top of the NBA won't be easy. Doing so while limiting their avenues of improvement will make it that much harder.