Phil Jackson likes Luke Kornet. Is it time for another three-headed monster?
"We liked Luke out of college," Jackson wrote in an email Thursday after the Bulls announced the signing of the seven-foot something center from Vanderbilt and the Knicks. "He had some injuries during his years at Vandy. I think he is a lot like the Wisconsin Badger who's related to Karen Stack, her nephew (Frank Kaminsky). He has a real touch. Defensively, he is challenged. But he gives effort… smart kid."
So don't blame the Bulls for trumpeting the signing.
The Bulls Thursday also announced they were bringing back defensive specialist guard Shaquille Harrison, who led the Bulls in steals last season and played briefly earlier this month with the Bulls Summer League team.
But also credit the Bulls for getting down to brass tacks with the addition of the sharp shooting big man, Kornet, who makes sweet sounds with his three-point shooting.
C'mon, did you think I was going to miss a chance to make some noise about that name?
The Bulls apparently feel optimistic as well about the addition of the four-year Vanderbilt center who has the unique distinction of being Vanderbilt's all-time blocks leader—he broke the one-game block record held by Will Perdue—and the all time NCAA leader in three pointers made by a seven footer. He also, along with Milwaukee's Brook Lopez, who plays a similar style now, are the only players in NBA history with similarly high rates of three-point attempts matched with blocked shots.
And with Kornet who may also be one of the few NBA players who is taller than officially listed.
Kornet is the son of former NBA forward Frank Kornet, who played with the Milwaukee Bucks from 1989-91 before playing overseas and in the basketball minor leagues. Frank Kornet told New York media Luke, who is listed at 7-1, probably is closer to 7-3. Though it is not uncommon for NBA big men to understate their height. Seven footers like Bill Walton and Kevin Garnett always believed seven feet all sounded freakish. So they asked to be listed at 6-11. It seems with Luke Kornet they just stopped counting with his commuting between the NBA and G-league.
Frank is a high school basketball coach in Nashville. Luke's mother, Tracy, is a highly regarded local TV anchor in Nashville.
Luke went undrafted in 2017 and was signed as a free agent two-way player by Jackson, then the Knicks president.
Luke primarily played for Westchester in the G-league in 2017-18. He joined the Knicks late that season playing sporadically. In the final game in Cleveland he scored 23 points with four three pointers. Last season, he averaged seven points in 46 games that included making seven three pointers in a loss in Milwaukee and a double-double in a victory over the Bulls in the penultimate game of the 2018-19 season.
Kornet appears like he will be a matchup fit to complement likely starting center Wendell Carter Jr., who is listed at 6-10, Lauri Markkanen and second round draft pick Daniel Gafford. Kornet's addition appears to add depth and versatility to a front court that was somewhat small with Carter. Gafford's explosiveness and Kornet's shot blocking should help with troublesome matchups.
Watch Luke Kornet's 2018-2019 highlights
The addition of Kornet, 24, fits the philosophy of this offseason of adding high IQ veterans. Like Thaddeus Young, Kornet was an academic all-American and a nominee for the collegiate national award for community service. Knicks coach David Fizdale has said Kornet had the highest basketball IQ on the team.
While Fizdale's predecessor, one time shooting guard Jeff Hornacek, admired Kornet's form.
"Every time he shoots the ball, you think it's going in," then coach Hornacek told New York media about Kornet. "We're encouraging him to keep shooting. It's a heckuva weapon if he makes those threes."
Kornet's lack of speed probably will keep him from being an NBA starting level player.
But in this so called modern NBA analytics-driven game, his three-point shooting for a big man is a welcome addition. He'll have difficulty switching on defense against smaller lineups, though the Bulls can neutralize that better these days with the addition of big guards and forwards, like Otto Porter Jr. and Tomas Satoransky. Plus, Markkanen is a seven footer.
Though Luke has NBA genes, he wasn't recruited much in high school as a 6-7 senior. He had no Division I offers as a senior and was preparing to try out as a walk-on at SMU.
"The plan was to figure out when they had tryouts and show up for that," Luke told Vanderbilt's magazine. "I was just getting ready to go to school there because I got some financial aid for academics."
Then after playing well in some AAU tournaments that summer, Luke began to receive basketball scholarship offers and chose to follow his father and mother and attend Vanderbilt.
"I always wanted to play in the NBA, but going into college I never thought it was a possibility," Luke admitted.
Luke didn't play much his first two years at Vanderbilt, and then as a junior suffered a meniscus tear. But as a senior he averaged 13.2 points, his first collegiate season averaging in double figures, and also made the SEC all-defense team for his shot blocking.
This Kornet isn't going to be linked with much jazz, but perhaps a nice Bulls ensemble is beginning to take shape.