NBA Rumors: Latest on Knicks Leadership Issues; Pacers and Cavs Trade BuzzDecember 13, 2021
Nearly two months into the NBA season and, for some teams, dissatisfaction is mounting. With playoff expectations under duress, talk is growing louder in the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers camps.
For the Pacers, a rebuilding effort feels imminent after a 12-16 start to the year. For the Knicks, a 1-6 run over their last seven games is spurring doubt.
The trade deadline is set for February 10 and all players signed as free agents this offseason become eligible for trades on December 15. So movement is bound to be coming.
Here are what the situations are looking like in New York and Indiana, with the former's leadership in question and the latter's roster on the precipice of serious shakeups.
Knicks Not Sold on Julius Randle's Leadership
At 12-15, the Knicks are slipping further away from the playoffs and toward the draft lottery. According to the NY Post's Marc Berman, there's now concern that "locker-room leadership has started to become an issue."
And at the center of that locker room is Julius Randle, who Berman's source describes as an "occasional loner."
With Kemba Walker out of the rotation and Taj Gibson relegated to a minor role, the Knicks don't have many leaders who see court time. Complementary gunslingers Evan Fournier and Alec Burks don't quite fit the bill either.
That leaves Randle, whose 2020 renaissance sparked hopes that he could bring the team's mojo. Unfortunately, as his on-court production tumbles, it seems that his more intangible value is also unimpressive. It remains to be seen what that means for New York, but nothing propels trade talk more than unfulfilled expectations.
If the Knicks keep slipping in the standings, one can imagine calls for change growing louder.
Indiana Interested in Injured Collin Sexton
The Pacers are historically a rebuild-averse organization. The team hasn't drafted in the top 10 since 1989, and their most recent pick, Chris Duarte, is 24—an obvious win-now selection.
But Indiana isn't looking so hot this season and people believe the team is now looking to blow it up. Former centerpieces Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis are reportedly unhappy, while the highly touted Caris LeVert isn't safe from trade chatter.
According to The Athletic's Joe Vardon, "rival executives believe the Pacers might engage in substantial deals before the deadline." And the clearest target we have is the Cleveland Cavaliers' Collin Sexton, who Indiana "likes" as a "terrific scorer."
Sexton is out for the year with a knee injury and a restricted free agent this offseason, but he's 22 years old and has already proved himself an adept bucket-getter. At the moment, it's unclear how likely a deal is to be made, but Sexton has earned Indiana's attention and seems to be the caliber of player they're interested in rebuilding around.