New York Knicks

Kenny Wooten gets a chance with the Knicks

Kenny Wooten gets a chance with the Knicks

Five days after going undrafted in 2019 NBA Draft, Kenny Wooten Jr. has committed to the New York Knicks summer league team.

The former Duck will likely will be given a chance to make the main roster in training camp, according to the New York Post.

DID YOU KNOW? After his surprising decision to leave Oregon following his sophomore season, Wooten was not invited to the NBA combine, yet still was flown all over the country to conduct 12 pre-draft workouts.

AT OREGON

The 6-foot-9 rim protector’s athleticism is undeniable. In his two seasons at UO, Wooten ranks third all-time in Oregon history for blocked shots with 166, earning back-to-back All-Pac-12 Defensive team honors. His defensive contributions late in the 2018-19 season propelled Oregon’s push to win the Pac-12 Tournament and dance to the Sweet 16.

KNICKS’ NEEDS 

New York wanted to bring in more defensive-minded prospects and are getting a special athlete and rim protector in Wooten. Extremely active in the paint, Wooten is a menace in contesting shots. Wooten’s desire to be successful and develop in the g-league will help him find a spot on an NBA roster. It’s imperative he develops his offensive game to reach his NBA potential.

PRAISED FOR Wooten got an invite to the G League Elite Camp and showed off his athleticism and a vertical leap of 12’6”. His vertical explosion paired with his excellent timing makes for a dangerous shot blocking recipe. He excels at swatting the ball to teammates to keep the play alive. He doesn’t take a lot of bad shots and has good hands for catching alley-oops.

NEEDS TO WORK ON Wooten’s offensive game is raw. If he’s not catching and dunking, he doesn’t do much offensively and only totaled 33 assists in 70 college games. He must develop his shot and be able to space the floors.

HOMETOWN Manteca, Calif.

Enes Kanter, ex-Thunder player and almost a Laker, says he's "blessed" to be a Blazer

Enes Kanter, ex-Thunder player and almost a Laker, says he's "blessed" to be a Blazer

Enes Kanter had a decision to make in February.

Cut loose by the lowly New York Knicks (“They thought I was too old,” he said), Kanter was being pursued by several teams, including the Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

And while a good many players might have chosen Hollywood, sunshine and LeBron James, Kanter picked Portlandia, rainy days and Damian Lillard.

And with the way things have turned out with the two teams this season, he’s one very happy man about that choice.

“Now is the fun time,” he said. “The playoffs. Win or go home. It’s amazing. I’m super blessed. I could have been going on vacation yesterday.

“I looked at myself in the mirror yesterday and said, ‘I should feel very blessed to be with this team and this organization.’ It means a lot because this one of the classiest and one of the best organizations I’ve ever been a part of.

“If I went to LA, I probably would have gone nuts.”

It was a very close call, he said. A difficult decision.

“It was between Portland and LA,” Kanter said. “I didn’t know. It was 50-50. But then Dame texted me. And Neil (Olshey) texted me. This team wanted me.”

And it was a very fortuitous move by the Trail Blazers. Jusuf Nurkic was lost to a broken leg March 25 and Portland had a seasoned, experienced (583 regular-season NBA games and 27 playoff games) pro to start at center.

And it’s not as if Kanter hasn’t had some huge games at Moda Center in his life.

His NBA high game was the 33-pointer he had for the Thunder on April 6, 2016 in Portland. And he broke Dirk Nowitzki’s one-game scoring record with a 34-point, 13-rebound game while playing for the World team in the Nike Hoop Summit at Moda in 2010.

But now he’s in a Portland uniform matched up against his former Thunder teammates.

It’s safe to say that nobody in a Blazer uniform knows more about the team’s first-round playoff opponent than Kanter.

Kanter played 180 games for the Thunder through two and a half seasons with them, ending with the 2016-17 season.

During that time there were countless practice matchups with the OKC center, Steven Adams, whom he backed up.

Still friends to this day, Kanter fondly remembers those days going against Adams.

“He’s definitely one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Kanter said. “Obviously me and him were going against each other for two and a half years. He is very athletic. He has a very high basketball IQ. He reads the game very well.

“He is very important to them on defense. I think he’s their backbone.

“We know each other’s game. I know what he’s going to do and he knows what I’m going to do. But I think the next step is who is going to be more focused and who is going to bring the most effort.”

As a former member of the enemy team, Kanter said he might have some inside information about the Thunder.

“It’s my ex-team and I know a lot of the guys and know their games.  I said a couple of things to the assistant coaches,” he said. “But I think they already know those things. Everybody’s doing a really good job of scouting the other teams.”

Sunday afternoon, in Game 1 of the series, we will find out.

Noah Vonleh shows growth in Portland homecoming

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Noah Vonleh shows growth in Portland homecoming

In many ways Monday night in Portland was a homecoming for New York Knicks forward Noah Vonleh.

He dapped up old teammates, hugged former coaches, trainers and broadcasters, and finally when he left the visitors locker room he got to embrace his mother and grandmother.

Vonleh’s family moved with him to Portland when he was traded to the Trail Blazers in the summer of 2015. His mother and grandmother still live in the Portland area and his younger sister, Aaronette, is a standout sophomore on the West Linn basketball team.

“She’s a 6-4 DeMarcus Cousins,” Vonleh said giving a mostly serious scouting report before making his way out of the visitors locker room to meet with his waiting family members.

The fans inside the Moda Center, which was Vonleh’s home arena for two half seasons with the Blazers, greeted him with a loud ovation in his first game back in the building as a visitor.

Vonleh finished his reunion game 16 points and 14 rebounds, marking his career-best 13th double-double of the season and his 20th game with double-digit rebounds. He made 5-for-13 shots including 3-of-5 three-pointers, in a performance that demonstrated the strides he has made as a player since he was traded away from Portland and signed with the Knicks.

“I was getting some quality minutes when I was here (in Portland), starting a lot of games my first couple years,” said Vonleh, who signed with New York in offseason after spending the second half of last season with Chicago. “So just building that foundation and then free agency was a little tough. Getting that opportunity to go to New York with Coach Fiz and a bunch of young guys here I thought it’d be something special. And I just kept growing as a player.”

With the Blazers, Vonleh vacillated somewhere between intriguing project to solid role player miscast as a starter. He has broadened his arsenal with the Knicks where he has been given the free to launch from the beyond the arc and grab rebounds and dribble up the court on his own. His growth as a player even in just 40 games in New York has stood out to the Knicks coaching staff.

“His evolution,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said when asked what he appreciates most about the 23-year-old Vonleh prior to the game. “His openness to growing and being coached. His work ethic has been fantastic.”

With New York, Vonleh is averaging career-highs in points (8.9), rebounds (6.8) and assists (2.1) and playing a career-high 26.8 minutes a night. The 10-30 Knicks are firmly in a rebuilding phase, but there are plenty of nights when Vonleh looks like their best player. He says the freedom he has in New York has helped him expand and improve his game.

That improvement hasn’t been lost on Vonleh’s former teammates and coaches.

“It means a lot to me honestly,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “I’d like to think that we gave him a good base. I thought the work that our assistant coaches did with (him) in the time that he was here helped give a foundation for some success down the road.”

“I’ve been watching a lot of their games because I think he’s in a situation where he finally has the freedom to show what he can do,” added Blazers guard Damian Lillard. “And sometimes that opportunity is what guys need. So being with him so many years, you want to see that for him. I’m happy for him, really happy for him.”

When Vonleh came out on the court for pregame warmups he jumped right into a ball handling routine, neglecting to cross onto the Blazers half of the floor and say hello to Lillard and Blazers assistant David Vanterpool. Lillard immediately started harassing his friend and former teammate for his failed greeting. It was a fitting scene for Vonleh’s night in Portland. The reunion could wait until after the buzzer. For a player still sharpening his game, the work had to come first.

A Jake Layman double-double & Jusuf Nurkic putting in the practice time as Trail Blazers ease past New York Knicks

A Jake Layman double-double & Jusuf Nurkic putting in the practice time as Trail Blazers ease past New York Knicks

It’s supposed to be an easy night when a team with a 10-29 record drops into Moda Center.

But the New York Knicks are not your normal get-down-by-15-points-and-quit NBA team.

The Knicks play hard, no matter the score and they never surrendered when the Blazers put double-figure deficits on them in the second half. They played it physical and tough.

But the Trail Blazers took care of business and hiked their record to 24-17 at the halfway mark of their schedule with a 111-101 win.

“A lot of traps, hard hedges and stuff like that,” said CJ McCollum, who scored 17 points. “They play hard, they have a lot of talented guys and they continue to get better. Obviously, when they get (Kristaps) Porzingis back they’ll be a better team.

“They compete to the end of the game. Obviously, Noah (Vonleh) and those guys are hungry and they’re trying to prove themselves. They have guys in contract years trying to show they can play.”

THE BENCH STAYS READY

The Trail Blazers spread the playing time around Monday, with none of the five bench players who reached the court getting fewer than 21 minutes. Jusuf Nurkic led the way with 20 points and Lillard matched McCollum’s 17.

Jake Layman came off the bench in relief of Maurice Harkless, who played only 8:39 due to soreness in his left knee, and chalked up the first double-double of his career with 10 points and 10 rebounds, along with a career-high four assists.

“I just stay ready,” Layman said. “And stay aggressive.”

The continued solid play from Layman is going to be important for this Trail Blazer team who continues tweak lineups and rotations as Harkless deals with his knee injury. 

LONG PRACTICES PAYING OFF FOR NURK

The Blazers led by only one point at halftime but took control in the third quarter.

“You know, it’s easier said than done just to stop either one of those guys (Lillard or McCollum),” said New York Coach David Fizdale. “But it’s not like the rest of those guys are slouches out there.

“They’ve done a good job of developing their players. You know, their big fellow is a beast. He’s one of those skilled bigs who can do all of those things and so you know when you do get it out of one of their hands, it’s going to a capable guy.”

The "big fellow," Nurkic, suffered early foul trouble but hit seven of his nine shots. He’s becoming more skilled at the post by the game, having added a reliable left-handed finish to his already impressive repertoire.

“I would say I trust (the left hand) more,” Nurkic said. “Long practices.”

Coach Terry Stotts said, “He’s on a roll. He’s finishing around the paint. He’s making his free throws. And that’s not to mention what he’s been giving us at the defensive end.”

Portland is back in action Wednesday night in Moda Center against the Chicago Bulls.

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Blazers win over the Knicks

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usa today

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Blazers win over the Knicks

The Blazers did what they were supposed to do on Monday; They took care of business against one of the worst teams in the league. However, it wasn't as easy as the final score may make it look. The Blazers came out slow, allowing the Knicks to take the early in the early stages, and nearly trailed New York at halftime. Portland flipped the switch in the third quarter, starting the second half on a 9-0 run, and the rest was history. 

Here are some quick thoughts from our reporters on the scene...

Final Box Score: Blazers 111 - Knicks 101

Dwight Jaynes, Trail Blazers' Insider: Ugly game, which the Knicks need if they are going to have a chance to win. And New York hung in for most of three quarters. Blazers got points from a lot of people and good performance from Jake Layman in relief of Moe Harkless, who aggravated his sore knee again. Layman had a double-double.

Jamie Hudson, Trail Blazers' Reporter:  Early in this one, it seemed as though the Trail Blazers were playing down to their opponent. Plus, there was not very much energy in the Moda Center after one quarter. But, midway through the second, Meyers Leonard and Jake Layman had a good connection working that turned into two big dunks that seemed to get the team and the crowd going. With both Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins in early foul trouble there wasn't as much scoring in the paint that everyone has become accustomed to in the last few games. But, since the Knicks struggled to score in the second half, Portland avoided the trap game.

Mike Richman, Trail Blazers' Reporter: There was some basketball stuff that happened but the biggest headline of this game is Moe Harkless' lingering knee issues. He sat out the second half with left knee soreness. While a certain section of the fan base and maybe even some of my colleagues don't think that's a big deal, the Blazers are at their best when Harkless plays. His continued health issues limits Portland's ceiling.

***Be sure to check back here throughout tonight for locker room videos with Coach Stotts and the players, plus locker room reports from Jamie Hudson and Dwight Jaynes***

NEXT UP: The Blazers play host to the Chicago Buls on Wednesday, January 9th. Tip-off is set for 7:00pm with coverage beginning at 6:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for New York Knicks

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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for New York Knicks

As Portland continues its five game homestand all three of the remaining games on the docket are Eastern Conference teams who are in the bottom half of the standings, which means the Blazers can pick up some momentum with the Knicks, Bulls, and Hornets coming to town. Portland will look to improve on its 15-7 home record tonight vs. New York.

 

Before tonight’s game tipped off Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts and New York’s head coach David Fizdale gave updates to the media.

 

Blazers Injury Update: Maurice Harkless (left knee) and Evan Turner (left ankle) were listed as ‘probable’ for tonight’s contest. The Blazers announced that both Harkless and Turner are available for tonight's game.

 

Coach Stotts said he feels that being listed as ‘probable’ means there is a 75% chance that the player will play and a 25% chance he won’t play. Stotts added that teams around the league have a different definition of ‘probable’ and ‘questionable.’

 

Tonight will be a homecoming for Noah Vonleh, who played in Portland from 2015 to early 2018.

 

Stotts is happy to see Vonleh is getting an opportunity and consistent minutes with the Knicks.

 

“It looks like he has fit in well… They rely on him defensively. He’s getting a good opportunity,” Stotts said.

 

This season Vonleh is averaging 8.5 ppg and 8.7 rpg in 26.8 minutes played.

 

Hear from Coach Stotts right here:

 

The Knicks are going to be “focused” on Damian Lillard on the defensive end, but Coach Fizdale added that you have to respect the other players around Lillard.

 

Coach Fizdale also talked about how he has been pleased with Vonleh’s “evolution.”

 

“His three-point shooting, he’s ball handling, his post up game, his overall effort and focus defensively, his rebounding,” those are all areas of improvement from Vonleh’s game according to Coach Fizdale.  

 

Hear from coach Fizdale right here:

 

Rip City Rewind: Everything you might have missed as the Blazers beat the Knicks 118-114

Rip City Rewind: Everything you might have missed as the Blazers beat the Knicks 118-114

The Portland Trail Blazers will get no rest as they head into the second game of a back-to-back against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Before we move on to tonight’s matchup, let’s get you caught up with what you might have missed from the Blazers close victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

A win against the Knicks didn’t come easy for the Blazers, as Portland, trailing by 10, woke up in the third quarter to survive an embarrassing loss to New York. CJ McCollum scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, and 31 points on the night, to help the Blazers seal the deal in crunch time.

Dwight Jaynes wrote about Portland’s less-than-perfect game: Trail Blazers looking for wins “by any means necessary”

There was a Meyers Leonard-Nik Stauskas connection that went down last night. All of Stauskas first half assists went to Leonard while all of Leonard’s first half points came from Stauskas. Coincidence?

Jamie Hudson thinks not. She recapped the two players’ chemistry: The Sauce and the Hammer: An unlikely pairing that works just fine

Blazers insiders Dwight Jaynes and Jamie Hudson, and producer Peter Socotch shared some quick thoughts from the scene immediately after the game: Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Blazers win over the Knicks

Trail Blazers looking for wins "by any means necessary"

Trail Blazers looking for wins "by any means necessary"

NEW YORK –- CJ McCollum, who just happened to score 31 points, best summed up his team’s 118-114 win over the lowly (4-14) New York Knicks Tuesday night:

“We won. That’s the biggest thing right now. At the end of the season, nobody’s going to go back and say, ‘Oh, you only beat this team by two or three points.’ We just have to get wins by any means necessary.”

Exactly. It really doesn’t matter how it came about, the Trail Blazers survived 50.6 field-goal shooting by New York and their own 70.6 percent free-throw shooting, to come from 10 points behind in the third quarter and post a win that was a struggle all night.

“CJ got hot at the right time,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “We were kind of struggling. We went back to staggering (the minutes on the floor) of Dame and CJ in the second half and CJ took advantage of that opportunity when we really needed it.”

McCollum hit two long three-point shots from the left wing, a layup and then another three to help Portland extend what was a four-point lead out to 11. In the fourth quarter he scored 13 points on 5-8 shooting, including three of his four three-pointers.

With Lillard on the bench, he had the ball in his hands more and made the Knicks pay.

The Trail Blazers were full of praise for their pesky opponents.

“I thought the Knicks played a really good game,” Stotts said. “They played hard. They made a lot of shots and were very competitive. I don’t think their record shows how well they were playing.”

This one was close down the stretch and perhaps the biggest play of the game was an Evan Turner rebound and putback from the right side with 9.5 seconds to play that doubled his team’s lead from two to four.

“Evan’s tip at the end was big-time,” Stotts said.

Turner is experienced enough that it’s no accident when he ends up in the right place at the right time in a big moment.

“Shot clock was winding down. I had seen a couple of times during the game where I could have gotten a tip-in,” Turner said. “I figured on that shot there might be a bunch of mix-ups so I saw when Dame shot it that it could be a free ball. ‘Nurk’ should have gotten an assist on it – he tipped it to me. I just put it in.

“A big play and a big team win. Credit the New York Knicks – they played a tough, hard-fought game.”

Turner isn’t necessarily pleased with the way fouls are being called these days in the NBA. Maybe the whistles are blowing a little too often?

“What made it tough, we could have made it a 15-point lead but in the NBA you can’t touch any-damn-body. You really can’t. It’s getting ridiculous.”

The road trip gets nothing but tougher for the Trail Blazers, with two of the best teams in the league ahead – Milwaukee Wednesday night and Golden State Friday.

 

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Blazers win over the Knicks

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USA TODAY

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Blazers win over the Knicks

The Blazers trailed by as many as 10 points in the third quarter before storming back to lead by double-digits in the fourth. However, the Knicks wouldn't go away easily and this game ended up coming down to the wire. In the end, the Blazers did what they needed to do to pick up the victory. 

Here are some quick thoughts from our reporters on the scene...

Final Box Score: Blazers 118 - Knicks 114

Dwight Jaynes, Trail Blazers' Insider:  Blazers stole one. Knicks shot 51 percent and lost, in part because of Noah Vonleh's run of four straight missed fouls shots. Blazers had a big talent edge in this one and in the end, it doesn't matter how much you win by.

​​​​​​Jamie Hudson, Trail Blazers' Reporter: This young Knicks squad competes hard. It's difficult to believe they lost five straight before this game because they have wings who can knock down shots (although they haven't been able to do so consistently this season) and they don't back down. I'd say, with time this Knicks squad will grow and learn and then once Kristaps Porzingis is back from his ACL injury they will be fun to watch... But right now, the Blazers are the team that is fun to watch. This team continues to find its teammates. Portland finished with 24 team assists in the win.

Peter Socotch, Producer on the road: It wasn’t pretty, but the Blazers picked up the W behind clutch shots from their stars. I really liked the Leonard-Stauskas connection in the first half. All of Leonard’s points came from assists from Stauskas and all of Nik’s assists went to Meyers. It was nice to see Vonleh boom on his former team, too. Side note: MSG continues to have a top-3 worst media seats in the NBA

***Be sure to check back here throughout tonight for locker room videos with Coach Stotts and the players, plus locker room reports from Jamie Hudson and Dwight Jaynes***

NEXT UP: The Blazers take on the Bucks in the second of a back-to-back on Wednesday, November 21.  Tip-off is set for 5:00pm with coverage beginning at 4:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest.

Fizdale on Lillard and McCollum: "Two of the elite shooters in this league, elite playmakers"

Fizdale on Lillard and McCollum: "Two of the elite shooters in this league, elite playmakers"

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Knicks head coach David Fizdale address the media ahead of tonight’s Blazers-Knicks contest and both coaches had a lot to say about how their teams are progressing at this point in the season.

Coach Stotts attributes the quick start of his team to the “togetherness” and “character” of his players. Portland is currently number one in the Western Conference Standings with an 11-5 record.

Coach Stotts also discussed how Jusuf Nurkic’s defense this season has made such a big impact for the team’s defense overall.

“Young teams will make mistakes… But number one on our scouting report is they’re going to play hard,” Stotts said of the Knicks as he team prepares for tonight’s contest.

As for New York, the Knicks have been changing up its starting lineup this season.

Here’s tonight’s staring lineup vs. the Blazers—

Emmanuel Mudiay, Tim Hardaway, Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh and Enes Kanter.

This young Knicks team is “learning” and “growing” right now and Coach Fizdale feels that with continuing to learn, his team has not been winning as many games as everyone in New York wants, but he says the players “have to learn through some suffering.”

When talking about tonight’s matchup, Coach Fizdale has high praise for the Blazers…

“Two of the elite shooters in this league, elite playmakers,” Fizdale said about the Blazers backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Fizdale also added that the players around Lillard and McCollum “are really solid and they make them better.”  For the Knicks defense vs. Portland, “it tarts with the competition on the ball,” coach said.  

Once the Knicks get to about 25 games, that is when Coach Fizdale feels he will be able to solidify the Knicks rotation. Knicks Forward Noah Vonleh, who played for Portland from 2015 to early 2018, is averaging 7.7 points and 7.9 rebounds while playing 23.2 minute per game. Vonleh has started 10 of 17 games so far this season.

 

 

Coach Stotts

 

 

 

Coach Fizdale

 

 

You can find out more about tonight’s matchup on the Blazers Outsiders Pregame Show right here.