Storyline: Knicks Front Office

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The 33-year-old also declined to address comments from Mills, who was the GM when they signed Noah to a $72 million deal but distanced himself from the association. “I’m not throwing Steve Mills under the bus. Or talking s–t about him. I’m not talking s–t about Hornacek. That’s not my style. I take ownership in what I did, what I could have done better. And I know that there was 10 things that went wrong that year. But it is what it is, I’m in Memphis. And the Memphis Grizzlies beat the New York Knicks tonight.”

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What Mills can’t say publicly, because it would violate the NBA’s tampering rules, is that the Knicks are all in on free agent-to-be Kevin Durant. The Warriors superstar is and should be the Knicks’ number one free agent target. And for what it’s worth, according to several NBA executives who attended last week’s G-League Showcase in Las Vegas, the general consensus is the Knicks are still very much in play to land Durant. “Everyone says Knicks,” said one prominent player agent.

When president Steve Mills met with media Friday in a conference room at 2 Penn Plaza, he downplayed the urgency of 2019 free agency. Rolling over the cap space to 2020 or keeping space open to have flexibility to trade for a star are options. Rumors persist Anthony Davis will want out of New Orleans this summer, and the Knicks are said to be on his list. “We are in a position if we need to find a slot for a max salary we can do that,’’ Mills said. “Our focus is on the guys that we have right now, developing them, and also developing the environment, or the culture, that exists around our team.”

“Look, when I brought on Phil, the big question is, ‘Are you going to stay out of it?’ And I swore I would stay out of it, and I did. I stayed out of it. And it wasn’t until the very end that I had to make a decision that it clearly wasn’t working,” Dolan said in the interview with ESPN.com. “I think Phil knew it, too. I think he hoped I would have more stamina, but I didn’t. “… I think it was much more about this triangle thing. It was much more about his philosophy, that he couldn’t get the group to buy into it. And I think he got yessed a lot. I think they’d be underneath their breath going, ‘This is not a great idea,’ and he got into conflict with some players over it. But I think he tried hard to get his system in. I just don’t think he ever got it in.”

The specter of Kevin Durant’s wandering eye has the Knicks on red alert. Durant never gave Phil Jackson a Hamptons meeting in 2016. Across recent years, James Dolan’s Knicks no longer became the Big Apple of superstar’s eyes. Hiring Jackson as president didn’t seem to improve matters. “It’s much more about the perception of the organization,” Fizdale said at Thursday morning’s shootaround at TD Garden before the Celtics rematch at 8 p.m. “What I think we’ve done together with Steve [Mills] and Scott [Perry], Mr. Dolan and myself and all our staff is we changed the perception of how we operate and treat each other and what’s important. That’s the first step in getting people to come to New York. When they see we have a really tight ship, really take care of our guys, our guys get better and get a lot of attention. Hopefully all of those things, with the combination of the understanding we have Kristaps Porzingis there, too, this team isn’t necessarily what our record is when you put him in the mix. We have something free agents will like.”

Apparently he’s getting love from Dolan, who has stayed further in the background than any other season in recent memory. “Fantastic, he’s been so on board with everything we’re doing, he’s been so supportive and it’s been really nice building a relationship,” Fizdale said. “Mr. Dolan’s big thing is, are we sticking to our process? We are. That’s been the good part about it. Our situation with our roster is where we want it. Our star’s getting healthy. When the time comes for free agency and all of those things, I think we’re gonna be in a good position.”

Kleiman is better known as Kevin Durant’s agent and business partner. He’s the ambitious power broker who once claimed that he will one day run the Knicks. And that wasn’t something he wrote in an essay for his 10th grade English class. He tweeted it last February. (When you’re the agent and business partner for the NBA’s most coveted free agent you’re allowed to have such lofty goals.) “It’s true, I want to run an NBA team one day,” Kleiman said. “But I’m not after Steve Mills’ job.”

There was a non-fictional inspiration fueling her decision-making process, too, one that was far more personal for Jeanie: Her ex-fiance’ and former Lakers coach, Phil Jackson, who won five of his record 11 titles with Bryant at his side. Jeanie had learned from Jackson’s mistakes in New York, where he took that job as the head of the Knicks front office in March of 2014 and was fired three years later after, as she saw it, he fell prey to the internal politics that have plagued that franchise for decades. “He should’ve made sure (to control) who was surrounding him, because the people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back,” she continued. “And so, I had not thought of it that way (with the Lakers situation). I was trying to do the least amount of change.”

“Our philosophy is that we’re going to stay connected with [the Porzingis camp],” Perry said. “It’s a long-term thing. Obviously you mentioned the point of the cap space in July. But we just feel like we’re in a real good space with him, as well as he is with us. And we’re going to do the right thing by him and this organization.” Mills said they have made it clear to Porzingis the Knicks’ orbit still revolves around him. “He’ll never feel like he’s not a cornerstone part of what we’re trying to do here,” Mills said. “He understands that. We make that crystal clear to him and his representation.”

The Knicks made their declaration, drew their line in the sand regarding Jimmy Butler. “We’re not going to trade our draft picks,” team president Steve Mills told season ticket holders at the equivalent of a Knicks pep rally earlier this week. “We’re going to build this team the right way. What we’re not going to do is trade away assets to get a [free agent] that we can go get on our own later.” Usually, executives leave wiggle room. Plausible deniability. But that statement from Mills was absolute, broadcast on Facebook for the world to see. It also arrived just one day before Butler met with the Timberwolves to request a trade, telling their brass he prefers three destinations – the Knicks, Nets and Clippers.
7 months ago via ESPN

Many people in the organization saw Gaines and Jackson’s most trusted adviser during his tenure as president, which included three 50-loss seasons and external turmoil. It is unclear exactly why Gaines won’t return, though it’s worth noting he did not have strong ties to GM Scott Perry, who has made several new additions to the front office. Several people in the organization speculated that Gaines would not remain with the Knicks after this season once Perry and Mills began to shape the front office. Gaines’ status with the Knicks was first reported by The Athletic.

James Dolan, the owner that Knicks fans love to hate, may be laying the groundwork for a sale of the franchise. Shares in Madison Square Garden Co. soared on the news. Late yesterday Dolan announced he was exploring a spin-off that would separate the Knicks and the Rangers from the rest of Madison Square Garden. While Dolan would remain in charge of the teams, at least at first, putting them together in a separate public company would offer him the chance to whittle down his stake easily if he chooses. Dolan is understood to be more interested in music and building cutting-edge entertainment venues than sports. “He wants to be more Elon Musk than George Steinbrenner,” an analyst told Crain’s in an article last month.

It’s been a trying week, so let me treat you to something nice. Watch the stock price for The Madison Square Garden Company do a little jig over the last two days: What could explain this spike? Probably the announcement, late Wednesday, that James Dolan, chairman and CEO of MSG, is considering spinning the Knicks and the Rangers off into a separate company, which would smooth the path for an eventual sale of both teams, per a Crain’s report. This suggests that there may be a day, perhaps even in the not-so-distant future, when those teams are no longer owned by James Dolan. The aspiring bluesman, profiled by our own Dave McKenna in 2016, is said to be bringing his business life in alignment with his true passions.

“Life is what life is,’’ Bradley said when asked if Jackson didn’t have enough time with the Knicks. “Three years and he had a five-year contract. They decided to make a change. You move on. His spirits are great. He’s finally getting his body in shape. He loves L.A., loves San Francisco where a lot of his grandchildren are. He still talks to people in the game. “Right now he is under contract for the Knicks. [A return] is not in the cards now. After that, who knows?”

Jackson’s record as president (80-166 in three full seasons) should not hurt Jackson’s legacy as a great, Bradley said. “He’s not just a legend,’’ Bradley said. “The record speaks for itself. He’s the most successful coach in the history of basketball. He did it in two places with three different groups of people. When somebody else has that many rings (13 total, 11 as a coach), you can talk about them if they’re better. He had a remarkable run as coach — a clear idea how the game should be played. And he was able to convince three sets of players that this was the way to play.”
9 months ago via ESPN

Sources: Knicks president Steve Mills, GM Scott Perry and director of scouting Kristian Petesic are at the Excel agency’s Pro Day in NYC where Villanova’s Mikal Bridges and other players who have signed with the agency are working out. All NBA teams likely have representation at the Excel Pro Day. But it’s potentially noteworthy that Mills, Perry and Petesic were on hand to watch Bridges and other Excel players because many in the organization see Bridges as a potential option for New York, which has the ninth overall selection in the draft.

Almost a Knick? West strongly shot down the notion, which was in circulation earlier this season, that the Knicks made a run at hiring him as a front-office consultant before the Clippers did. “No truth whatsoever,” West said. But he did surprise me a bit by revealing that he fully expected to land with the Knicks in the 1960 draft. The Lakers had the No. 2 overall pick and selected West before the Knicks were forced to settle for Darrall Imhoff at No. 3. Referring to the intense fan interest and media scrutiny in New York, West said: “I always thought that would be an interesting place to be.”
9 months ago via ESPN

“Each Draft is unique in terms of the level of contributions from that particular class and group of players. We know that franchise players are extremely hard to come by. With that said, each draft features a healthy number of players who are capable of contributing to winning teams either as starters or in important rotational roles. Our goal is to draft players who fit our plan and our culture, and develop them to the best of our ability as we become a sustainable, winning franchise.” The Knicks finished with the 9th-worst record in the NBA and have a 6.1 percent chance of getting a top-3 pick during Tuesday’s draft lottery.

Tuesday, with general manager Scott Perry on the Chicago dais, the Knicks find out where they select in June’s draft. They didn’t move up last May, and odds are they stick with the ninth pick. And if they pass on point guards Collin Sexton and Trae Young, it will demonstrate a resolution to Ntilikina as their long-term future. The Knicks need a small forward. “I would caution just a little bit is that it all depends on who’s available when we get ready to select and how we have them tiered,’’ Perry said on ESPN Radio. “If there’s someone down there at a position you think you’re more strong at, but the player is clearly a better talent than the position of need, then you have that question: Do you go ahead and take the greater talent and then you utilize trades and free agency to bolster the position you need help, being small forward?”

Woodson also noted while with the Knicks he used a lot of two point-guard fronts — which is in vogue — with Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. “I had one of the great isolation players in the game in [Carmelo Anthony], so I’m going to try to get my best player some shots,’’ Woodson said of his isolationist rep. “But do the homework and look at the numbers on 3-pointers attempted and made.” Woodson said he had “a great meeting’’ with Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry. “Everyone’s just waiting,’’ Woodson said.

Mike Vorkunov: Van Gundy: “I love coaching. I love what I do now.” He talks around the Knicks job. Of James Dolan, he says: “I think the misconception of my time there was that Mr. Dolan wasn’t good to work for.” Says Dolan gave the team the resources to win when he was there.

Jeff Hornacek said that lineup decisions are made by he and his coaching staff without influence from management. “All we ever talked about was get all these guys some minutes,” Hornacek said of of his conversations with management about dividing playing time among young players like Trey Burke, Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay and others. Hornacek said the only directive from management was, “Play guys who are playing well, trying to find them all some minutes and get them experience and get them in games.” Hornacek recently inserted Trey Burke into the starting lineup in place of Emmanuel Mudiay.

In another bizarre episode Monday, after Kemba Walker tied it with 17 seconds left in regulation, Burke, feeling the hot hand, waved off Hornacek’s attempt to call a timeout. Burke then waved off the playcall — an attempt by Luke Kornet to set a pick — and ultimately botched the possession with a last-ditch, buzzer-beating airball. As Hornacek’s Knicks stint winds down to perhaps its final seven games, players may be displaying a level of rebellion that could be expected when led by a coach they know may not be back next season. The feeling around the league is Hornacek won’t be brought back by Steve Mills and Scott Perry and that the club may target Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson.

Robinson wouldn’t reveal specifics or give “the special sauce” of his developmental approach that he called “innovative” and “transformative.” But Robinson has little doubt it will work if the players put in the work. “What you’ll see when they come back next year there will have been some growth,” Robinson said. “Without deciding what that will be, look at every aspect of their development. Look at ballhandling, the strength and conditioning, look at shooting, looking at medical, his ability to play more minutes. That’s how you’ll be able to tell what he’s doing is working. It won’t be just because he’s making more shots. It’s a holistic approach. You’ll see our players getting better in the quantitative stuff in making shots and being able to play longer. But I think you’ll also see confidence and basketball IQ and able to handle different situations better.”

Enes Kanter, whose acquisition just before training camp was at least part of the reason Noah was completely cut out of the rotation, said he’s been in contact with his teammate and, “I guess he’s doing good. He’s just working out somewhere. “Jo’ is a good guy. I like him as a person on the court, off the court, he was really nice to me. He helped me a lot and just, we talk a lot with him. Like I said again, I’ve got no problem with anybody on this team. That’s the front office again, I’m just a player for the Knicks.”

With his team vying for a playoff spot despite trading off Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, Doc Rivers has done one of his best coaching jobs and still has strong supporters among the top people in the Clippers’ front office. If he stays on as coach, that could ruin the Knicks’ plans. There is a growing sentiment within New York’s hierarchy to hire Rivers, a former Knicks player, to replace Jeff Hornacek. Sources say Hornacek’s days in New York could be over once the season ends. It hasn’t been all of his fault, but he was brought to the Garden by former team president Phil Jackson and not the current regime headed by Steve Mills.

Jeff Hornacek’s contract is up after the 2018-19 season, and Perry has said that he and Mills will evaluate Hornacek — and all other aspects of the organization — after the season. Hornacek was hired by former Knicks president Phil Jackson, so it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if Hornacek is let go by the club’s new management after this season. […] Some players have privately grumbled about Hornacek’s rotations, according to sources familiar with the matter, but Hornacek was given the freedom to run his own offense and was handed an imbalanced roster and tasked with trying to fight for a playoff spot while developing young players.

Following Sunday’s loss to the lowly Atlanta Hawks, the Knicks are 23-31, and sit four games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 8 seed in the East. It looks like the Knicks will miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season dating to their 2013 loss to the Indiana Pacers in the second round. “I would definitely try to just acquire as many as assets for the future as I could,” longtime NBA agent Keith Glass told SNY.tv in reference to the Knicks. The Knicks are treating the trade deadline with an “opportunistic” approach, one source familiar with their way of thinking said.

According to multiple sources, Phil Jackson’s three-and-a-half-year reign included orders to his scouts to look for players who would make good, cerebral fits in the triangle — with the notion that athleticism is not a major priority. In fact, there’s a notorious remark Jackson uttered that backs that claim. “We keep insisting upon the type of players we want,’’ Jackson said at his season-ending press conference last year. “Behind the scenes, we are interested in developing and turning away from just, say: ‘This guy can jump out of the gym, this guy can do a triple-double game or dunk the ball.’ That is not what we are interested in. We are interested in skill players that know how to play together in team form.”

The New York Knicks and center Joakim Noah seem to be at an impasse that may be unrepairable. Noah and Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek were reported to have gotten into a very heated exchange that ended up with Noah being sent home. A league source familiar with the Knicks’ thinking suggested New York may be open to giving up their first-round pick this year to offload Noah without needing to buy him out or carry a monster cap hit. The prevailing thought was the Knicks wouldn’t be bad enough to land one of the gems of the draft class, and with so much youth on the roster now, a one year hit to jettison Noah seems to be at least under consideration.

Kristaps Porzingis, unlike the front office, isn’t so concerned about long-term assets. He wants the Knicks to be buyers at the trade deadline in hopes of boosting a push to his first postseason. “Playoff experience for myself, individually, would be huge at this point in my career — the sooner the better,” he said. “And for most of the guys. Most of the guys haven’t felt that playoff experience that everybody talks about — that the guys talk about that have been there.”

While Porzingis said his preference is to upgrade, he has little interest in being involved in the process. “I think they know I want to be in the playoffs and that’s the only thing on my mind,” said Porzingis, who is eligible for a $150 million contract extension this upcoming summer. “I’m not going to go in there and be like, ‘No, we’re tanking.’ Then there’s no reason to play. That’s the only thing I’m focused on. What I need to do on the court to play better, make my team win.”

Luka Doncic is the perfect versatile wing Knicks president Steve Mills craves. The 18-year-old is averaging 15 points in 23 minutes. “I played with him — he’s really a talented guy,’’ Willy Hernangomez said after a rare 18-minute outing in Golden State on Tuesday. “I think people in The States don’t understand how difficult it is to play in European League when you’re 19 years old and playing against 30-year-olds and be the best. Most of the players in college won’t do as well as he is doing in Europe. For him, he’s a top three in the draft this year. He’s my friend. I have a great relationship with him.” “He’s a 2, 3, he can play point guard and he’s really smart, talented,’’ Hernangomez said. “He can shoot. He will really improve because he’s a kid. If you know Petrovic, he was amazing. He’s kind of a player like him. All the European guys in the NBA are excited for him to play here.’’

As speculation about Jeff Hornacek’s job security ramps up, the coach said that he shouldn’t be judged on the team’s recent skid because these growing pains were part of a plan dictated by the front office. Jeff Hornacek also believes he has the backing of GM Scott Perry and president Steve Mills, despite being inherited by them as Phil Jackson’s hire. “We were talking about rebuilding and we got off to a good start because we had a lot of home games,” Hornacek said. “Scott and Steve, everybody’s still on the same page of trying to get our young guys opportunities. We’re still trying to win games. We still want to establish an identity where defensively we’re going to get after it all the time and we’re building toward that. It’s great to have their support.”

The first Frank Ntilikina-Dennis Smith showdown is in one week, Sunday in Dallas. As LeBron James so eloquently pointed out, Knicks president Phil Jackson bypassed Smith at No. 8 for Ntilikina, who is excelling most on defense. “Me and Frank are actually cool,’’ Smith told The Post on Friday in New Orleans. “At the draft — I’ve been playing with a lot of those draft guys since middle school — but I probably talked to Frank more than anybody else other than Markelle Fultz, then at the rookie photo shoot, too. Frank and I are cool.” “We’re going to go out there and compete,’’ Smith added of the showdown. “I wouldn’t expect anything else from him. No beef between me and Frank.”

Hornacek was set up to fail by Phil Jackson, just like his predecessor, Derek Fisher. The idea that an executive could force a coach to run the triangle was folly. For the first time Monday, Porzingis acknowledged it undermined Hornacek in the locker room. “He was maybe forced to run a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Do this, do that. And that’s when you can tell. As a player, you feel that. And when things are not going well, there are a lot of players who are saying, ‘Why are we doing this?'” Porzingis said. “When you believe in something — even if you’re not doing well — sooner or later those things start to work out.”
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February 17, 2019 | 9:04 pm EST Update
Jeff Zillgitt: If you care about such NBA All-Star things, Kevin Durant has passed Julius Erving & Bob Pettit for sixth on the all-time All-Star scoring list. Has a chance to pass Oscar Robertson for fifth place. LeBron James 343, Kobe Bryant 290, Michael Jordan 262, Oscar Robertson 246, KD 228