Mike Conley Jr. is expected to be the top free agent point guard this summer and will be on the Knicks’ radar. But the Grizzlies remain confident that he will stay in Memphis.
Ed Stefanski, Memphis’ executive vice president, player personnel, said on SiriusXM NBA Radio that the Grizzlies “didn’t even think about” moving Conley before the Feb. 18 trade deadline because they believe they can retain him.
“Correct,” Stefanski said. “We have all intentions of bringing Mike back. He’s made it known that he loves Memphis. Will he go on the recruiting trip? Sure. Mike will go out there. But we’ll be right there. When it’s all said and done, I believe Mike will be back in a Grizzlies uniform.”
Ex-Nets coach Lionel Hollins, who coached Conley with the Grizzlies, said leaving Memphis “might be the best move” for his former player during an interview with SiriusXM.
Hollins brought up that Memphis is a small market team and they may not want to pay the money some other teams could offer Conley to avoid paying luxury tax. But Memphis can pay Conley the most money, and Stefanski said that’s an advantage the Grizzlies “are going to use.”
Stefanski also pointed to the fact that the Grizzlies have been able to re-sign past free agents, including Marc Gasol last summer. The Knicks were interested in Gasol but he never really considered them.
“The one thing I found is the players love Memphis,” Stefanski said. “They become part of the community, the fabric of it. We’ve had players for a while in Memphis. They don’t like leaving Memphis. The same thing happened last summer with Marc. We envision the same thing with Mike and we intend to do everything we can to re-sign Mike in a Grizzlies uniform.”
The Knicks may have to look elsewhere, but they still have to pick their pitch to Conley. They also need to make some procedural moves to open up more cap space.
They’re expected to be roughly $19 million under the cap, which means the Knicks can’t offer a max deal. If they were to use the stretch provision on Jose Calderon — who is owed $7.7 million next season — it would clear about $5 million more.
Carmelo Anthony’s future will have a huge impact on the Knicks’ cap and whether free agents want to call Madison Square Garden home.
If Anthony agrees to waive his no-trade clause and the Knicks move him for young players and draft picks this offseason, the Knicks will be in a full-blown rebuilding situation. Veterans who want to win now could decide New York isn’t the right spot for them.
They could come to that decision anyway since the Knicks haven’t been a legitimate title contender in some time.
Kurt Rambis isn’t satisfied with just winning.
Rambis was critical of the team’s overall performance after his two victories as Knicks interim coach. Following the Knicks’ one-sided win over Orlando Friday, Rambis said he wasn’t happy with some shots Kristaps Porzingis took.
He’s also been open and honest about Jimmer Fredette’s role with the team. Even though the fans want Fredette to play, Rambis rightfully said the sharpshooter has to outperform Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant in practice. He also said Fredette “got pushed around a little bit,” during a practice.
This is the opposite of Derek Fisher, who was rarely critical and often dismissive with the media. Rambis is old school, and tells it like it is more often than not.
On Porzingis, Rambis said, “He’s talented. There’s no getting around that. And he’s going to be great. At some point in time, he’s just going to be phenomenal. But he’s still going through a growth process himself and there were some shots out there that I just flat-out didn’t like. They were just poor shots.”
Rambis went on to say they want Porzingis to work in the post more because “that’s where eventually he’s just going to be unstoppable.”
Amar’e Stoudemire hasn’t faced his old team since the Knicks bought him out last February, but that could change Sunday.
The Heat and Knicks play for the last time at the Garden. Stoudemire was inactive for two of their other three meetings and didn’t play the third. But heading into the weekend, he started in Miami’s past 14 games and appeared in 18 straight.
If Stoudemire plays, and starts, he deserves a big ovation from the MSG crowd. It’s hard to predict how many more times he will play here. He helped make the Knicks competitive and a playoff team after signing with them in 2010. Injuries marred what could have been.
When the Knicks were in Miami in November, Stoudemire sounded as if he didn’t know much longer he would be playing. Could this recent stretch of good health change his outlook?
Dirk No-farewell tour
Dirk Nowitzki is two months older than Kobe Bryant and still going relatively strong. But Nowitzki knows he’s nearing the finish line. But he told Sports Illustrated that when he does decide to leave, he doesn’t want a long drawn out goodbye like Bryant, or retired Yankee legends Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera.
“I don’t want people to high-five me everywhere I go or make this a big deal about me,” Nowitzki said in the article “What Jeter did or what the closer, Mariano Rivera, did — every ballpark you get some gifts, you know, sausages in Milwaukee? No chance I’d ever do that. I’m not the guy who will say, ‘This is my last year. When I’m gone, I’m gone.”