NBA NOTEBOOK: The Knicks and Raptors might have both struck gold with blockbuster deal,


It’s been barely more than a week, but the Knicks and Raptors’ trade headlined by OG Anunoby, RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley has looked like a rare win-win for both sides.

We’ll start with New York, where Anunoby has slid right in and brought his elite defense to Tom Thibodeau’s squad.

In a way, the Knicks took a step sideways to take a step forward.

They’ll miss Barrett and Quickley’s scoring (at least a little), and Anunoby lacks some of the offensive repertoire of the former, who’s he’s directly replaced in the lineup. 

But he’s also an elite defender, and a better shooter than Barrett from deep. The spacing he’ll command should provide a cleaner fit next to Jalen Brunson and (for now) Julius Randle.

Looking even further ahead, his three-and-D, non-ball-dominant style is the type of profile the Knicks would want on their roster if (when?) they try to cash in Randle, picks and other assets for a megastar. If Anunoby is likely not ‘the move’ that gets them to title contention, he could certainly be ‘the move before the move.’

OG Anunoby has made an instant impact for the Knicks since he was traded to New York

OG Anunoby has made an instant impact for the Knicks since he was traded to New York

Meanwhile, RJ Barrett (left) and Immanuel Quickley (right) seem to be enjoying life in Toronto

Meanwhile, RJ Barrett (left) and Immanuel Quickley (right) seem to be enjoying life in Toronto

The immediate results of his acquisition have been promising, as the London-born swingman, who made the NBA’s All-Defense second team last season, has helped the Knicks to a perfect 4-0 record since he joined.

His tremendous +85 point differential in New York has also demonstrated his impact on both ends thus far, while Toronto, meanwhile, seem to be betting that Barrett and Quickley can thrive in expanded roles.

Quickley, last year’s Sixth Man of the Year runner-up, had to perennially fight for minutes from Thibodeau despite his scoring plaudits, but he’s already been handed the keys to the starting point guard position in his new team.

His 33-minute, 26-point, five-assist effort in the win over Memphis last week could be a glimpse into his future with an expanded runway – one the Knicks likely couldn’t have given him with the similarly diminutive Brunson manning the team in the backcourt.

It’s also easy to imagine Barrett, a former No. 3 overall pick who never quite met expectations, finding new life in his home country of Canada.

The ex-Knicks duo could enjoy more featured roles as the Raptors look to pivot towards youth

The ex-Knicks duo could enjoy more featured roles as the Raptors look to pivot towards youth

He’s averaged about 18 points per game for his career, but became a clear third fiddle and sometimes awkward fit after the Knicks traded for the ball-dominant Brunson.

If the Pascal Siakam trade rumors come to fruition and he is dealt away from Toronto, then Barrett could have the chance to prove himself in a more featured role alongside Quickley and Scottie Barnes.

Any trade carries risk, but Toronto should be happy with the promising package it got for a good, not great player in Anunoby, and the Knicks should be thrilled to acquire some championship-level defense.

Darvin Ham asking to be fired with latest remarks

NBA coaching is hard. But it’s also a massive privilege.

There are 30 seats at the table to lead a team in the biggest basketball league in the world, and perhaps none of those seats – maybe the Celtics or Knicks – are more desired than the Lakers.

So when I heard Darvin Ham’s comments after the Lakers’ loss to the Grizzlies on Friday – their 10th in 13 games at the time – my jaw honestly dropped. 

‘I’m tired of people living and dying with every single game we play,’ he complained. ‘It’s ludicrous… come on, man. It’s a marathon.’

Darvin Ham, the Lakers' head coach, is feeling the pressure with his team struggling of late

Darvin Ham, the Lakers’ head coach, is feeling the pressure with his team struggling of late

What did you expect when you took this job?

It’s not as if you’re coaching a small-market team or a young squad in a rebuilding phase. You got hired to coach a now 39-year-old LeBron James for one of the most decorated franchises in all of sports. The time for ‘living and dying’ is now! Did you expect Lakers fans not to care?

On top of all of that, Ham is not a long-tenured coach like, say, Gregg Popovich or Steve Kerr, who could probably get away with such a remark.

He’s in just his second season with the Lakers, has a 61-58 regular season record and there is a ‘deepening disconnect’ between him and the rest of the roster, according to The Athletic.

So congrats, coach. You may have just handed in your resignation.

Clip of the week: A telling – and honest – admission from Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is not what he once was. 

He’s averaging his fewest points per game since his sophomore year, and is also struggling badly from the field – shooting below 43 percent for just the second time in a season that he began healthy.

He’s fully aware of this, and admitted after a win vs. the Magic on January 2 that a conversation with coach Steve Kerr put him more at ease about where his career is at. 

‘Sometimes I forget just how successful, how lucky I’ve been to be a part of championship teams, All-Star games, gold medals. I want to get back to that level so badly, you could kind of get in your own way,’ he said.

‘Rather than forcing it, we had a conversation about just enjoying this last chapter of my career,’ he continued. ‘How lucky I truly am to be still playing this game. Doing it at a high level. Being a better mentor to the young guys. Having my energy right every game.’

It’s sad to hear Thompson acknowledge that he’s nearing the end, but that sort of self-awareness is not always present among (former) stars and could actually prolong his career – even if it’s not exactly in the role he’d want it to be. 

If he has his ‘energy right,’ to use his own words, there’s no reason he can’t carve out a Ray Allen-esque spot-up shooting role for years to come.





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