Whether it’s winning the draft lottery, or signing Kevin Durant and a star companion, or making trades to ease into their massive salary-cap space, Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry won’t back off from the giant optimism displayed in a recent letter to season-ticket holders. “I firmly believe [in] what we’re doing, and we’re going to get there,’’ Perry told The Post on Wednesday. “One way or another, we’re going to get there.”
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“This is New York City,’’ Perry said. “It’s the greatest city in the world. There’s a lot of appeal here. Even though the team has struggled, it’s a definite attraction to becoming a player in this city who can help turn this organization around. I think that’s something that gives us excitement that it’s out there — the storied nature of this franchise and what the franchise meant to the NBA that still resonates.”
“We’re hopeful and we’re excited,’’ Mills said. “We’re excited because now we’re in position. There’s a lot of noise and a lot of guys are interested in New York. They like Fiz. They like some of the changes we made in the organization. We hear that from agents. We read it from guys getting interviewed about what guys feel about the Knicks. We hear that from other players. At least we’re in the game, and hopeful something really good happens. But we won’t know until it happens. It also gives us the opportunity that if things don’t happen in free agency, we’re sticking to our plan. We’re not going to sign the wrong players just because we have room and the fans have great expectations. They should have expectations we make the right decisions. It gives us the opportunities to eventually explore trades and take guys into [that] room.”
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.”
Mike Vorkunov: Enes Kanter wasn’t surprised by MSG’s “We want Kanter” chants. “They want me out there. They love me.” He thinks Knicks org. doesn’t like hearing them. “It’s a little embarrassing. Because after all this trade and everything that the fans still want me to go out there and play.” pic.twitter.com/wuVBEzJsPO
Adrian Wojnarowski: Reporting with @ZachLowe and @RamonaShelburne: In meeting with management today, Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis expressed his concern with the losing, franchise direction and an uncertainty that a culture is developing that will enable sustainable organizational success.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Porzingis wants to play for a winner in New York, but is searching for clarity on his future role with the team and Knicks direction. Porzingis — out with an ACL injury — can be a restricted free agent this summer.
In stating his evaluations of the current roster and the team’s dreadful record, Mills was more measured with his words. He is smart to call this season a rebuilding year, especially with Porzingis sidelined until at least February. Mills then lowered expectations in advance of this summer’s free agency. If the Knicks strike out, Mills can simply say we’re building through the draft. That’s a wise strategy.
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.
According to NBA sources, Knicks brass no longer views 2019 as a make-or-break free-agent summer. The 9-25 Knicks feel their plan can still go on even if they do not sign a big fish in July. Adding a potential top-five lottery pick, developing their three rookies — Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier — as well as former lottery picks Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay, and easing Kristaps Porzingis into action are deemed larger priorities.
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.”
“If we don’t make this a place the guys internally feel something good is happening and believe in what we’re doing, that’s not going to be attractive to people who are on the outside,’’ Mills added. “Our guys have to feel it and then they have to hear about it and see it in how our guys are interacting with us. The plan is that we develop an environment that free agents should want to be here.”
“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.”
The vexing issue facing the three-headed brain trust of Steve Mills, Scott Perry and Craig Robinson is not just who is the starting point guard of the present — Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay or Frank Ntilikina. It’s who — if any of the lottery trio — should be the PG of the future. “Trey’s about to make the staff and management have some decisions to make,” an NBA personnel director said.
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.”
At Thursday’s press conference, Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry said Porzingis understands the predicament. Brass has taken great lengths to convince him he’s still “The Franchise.” … The Knicks hope to re-sign Porzingis when he is a restricted free agent in 2019. That way, the team could climb over the salary cap. An extension now would take up precious cap room. Doing it next summer would open up $10 million in cap space.
“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.
Mike Vorkunov: Kristaps Porzingis is back in NY, Knicks president Steve Mills says at team town hall. He’ll go for more evaluations to figure out next steps. Mills: “Kristaps is doing well. He’s coming along well…KP’s engaged and we’re in a good place with him.”
Mike Vorkunov: Steve Mills says Knicks were comfortable with Mitchell Robinson as a person as opposed to others they interviewed. “We don’t want that dude with us,” Mills said of those. Fizdale: “We said that a lot.” BUT THEY WON’T NAME NAMES
Ian Begley: The Knicks are strongly considering adding former Orlando Magic scouting coordinator John Halas to the organization, league sources told ESPN. Halas worked with Knicks general manager Scott Perry in Orlando. Halas would likely be added to the Knicks’ scouting department.
Knicks scout Clarence Gaines Jr., who was a close adviser of ex-NYK President Phil Jackson, will not be back with the organization next season, league sources confirmed. Gaines Jr. was hired by Jackson in 2014 and served under Jackson as a Vice President of Player Personnel. His role shifted to that of a scout this season after Jackson was fired. Jackson said Gaines was instrumental in convincing him to draft Kristaps Porzingis in 2015
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.
Ian Begley: Knicks president Steve Mills said the club was impressed by what it learned on and off the court about Kevin Knox during his group workout. He said NYK was impressed by Knox being willing to compete in a group workout.
“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.”
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.”
Ian Begley: Knicks GM Scott Perry, speaking on ESPN’s NBA Draft Combine show, reiterates that the club plans to take the best player available with the ninth pick. Perry says if that player ends up being a wing, which is an area of need, “so be it.”
Knicks GM Scott Perry on the team’s ability to land an impact player in the draft: “I am confident we will be able to find a prospect who can help our team regardless of where we pick, as well as our scouting staff’s ability to maximize our draft position,” Perry said in a Q & A released by the Knicks ahead of Tuesday’s lottery.
“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?”
According to sources, Ntilikina’s skill as a pure point guard is something Mills and Perry have debated. Mills was part of the Phil Jackson braintrust that drafted Ntilikina eighth — ostensibly as a perfect Euro fit for the triangle offense that has been disbanded. According to a source, Mills was adamant Ntilkina being untouchable at Feb. 8’s trade deadline. But Perry, concerned about Ntilikina’s penetrating prowess, pushed to add Mudiay.
Mike Vorkunov: GM Scott Perry doesn’t want to narrow Knicks to drafting a wing (on ESPN Radio): “We’re going to be very open… We’re in the talent acquisition mode so we’ve got to get the highest level of talent that we can onto our roster and we’ll figure out the positions when we get there.”
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.
The Knicks are searching far and wide for their next coach. Team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry have done interviews on the East Coast and the West Coast and will meet with former Cavaliers coach David Blatt this week in Europe. While they’re overseas, they’re expected to scout some European players, including Slovenian guard Luka Doncic, who is projected to be a high lottery pick.
Knicks GM Scott Perry is planning to pair the European trip with a scouting side-trip, sources said. The Perry-Blatt meeting will be telltale to Blatt’s candidacy. Blatt has a strong history and relationship with Knicks president Steve Mills, and Mills has been an advocate for Blatt to become Knicks head coach when he worked with Phil Jackson and now Perry.
Diamond Leung: Stephen A Smith to Adam Silver on supporting Mark Jackson bc Knicks need a spokesperson: “I like Steve Mills & Scott Perry but they need a voice that speaks to the media every day & it can’t be one of the players & we both know it’ll never be James Dolan.”
Reddit user: What should the Knicks do to not suck forever? Daryl Morey: There is a common denominator to all their issues...
Ian Begley: Kristaps Porzingis was asked about having 4 NYK coaches in 4 seasons. “The situation is what it is. I’m sure the front office, they will make the right decisions. And to build something that can go a long way. I think they will make the right decisions so we have to trust them.”
Mike Vorkunov: Does Kristaps Porzingis want stability after 3 coaches in 3 years? “The situation is what it is. I’m sure that the front office will make the right decisions and to build something that can go a long ways. I think they’ll make the right decisions and we have to trust them.”
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.
Adam Zagoria: Perry and Mills say they’ve been in constant contact with Kristaps Porzingis through his ACL injury. “He’s in great spirits about how the rehab is going and about his prospects of coming back, so we feel good about that as well.” – Mills @SNYtv @theknicksblog
Adam Zagoria: Scott Perry not closing the door on a Joakim Noah return: “We won’t take any of those options off the table. “ Said he didn’t call Jo to notify him about coaching change.
Al Iannazzone: Another thing being by Knicks officials said is they want a coach who connect with today’s players. Communication was apparently a factor in firing Hornacek.
Mike Vorkunov: “I don’t think it was a complete shock to Jeff. We actually had a meeting with Jeff 2 weeks ago to review where we started the beginning of the season.” — Steve Mills, on firing Hornacek late last night.
Adam Zagoria: Scott Perry says #Knicks have already begun to get calls on the job: “This morning we started getting calls. We have not talked to the official candidates yet but we’ve gotten calls from their representatives.”
Ian Begley: On the draft, Perry says internally NYK may feel they have a need at certain positions over others but adds that they are in a ‘talent acquisition’ phase which might mean they lean toward taking the best player available. Understandably, he wasn’t giving definitive answer here
Al Iannazzone: Perry said no timetable is being put on naming a coach. They’re not saying before draft combine, etc. they’re going to do their due diligence
Alan Hahn: “Jim (Dolan) has given us the room to be patient….and that hasn’t been common in the past here.” – Steve Mills #Knicks
Mike Vorkunov: Scott Perry: “When you’re talking about building a winning team that is sustainable, patience is required… There are no quick fixes… I know that has been tried a number of times here in the past.” Says he and Mills will remain disciplined in team-building. #knicks
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.
The offseason will be important for the Knicks, and for Craig Robinson to implement his vision and plan to transform their players. Hired last August to be the Knicks vice president of player development and G League operations, Robinson said he really “didn’t get going until training camp” and that “the bulk of the development is done by then.” That was Robinson’s way of saying give it time before you judge him and his work.
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.”
Stefan Bondy: Steve Francis, in Player’s Tribune, summing up stint in NY: “It’s definitely not worth talking about those Knicks years. …It was a mess, man. It takes you 5 minutes of being in the locker room before you realize: Nope. No wins here. You can tell in a minute. It’s a culture.”
Ian Begley: Enes Kanter: “The Knicks are paying me money to win games, to go out there and compete and to try to win every game. The Knicks are not paying me to tank.” A reminder that management, not players, enact tanking. I’m sure teammates/coaches appreciate Kanter’s sentiment here
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.
Marc Berman: As we’ve already reported, Knicks GM Scott Perry still has his eye on his former first-round lottery pick, Elfrid Payton of Orlando.
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.
As Knicks brass eyes the future, there’s one striking attribute the club would like to accomplish: Get more athletic. Whether that can be achieved at Feb. 8’s trade deadline is still unclear. The attempts next week to alleviate their glut at center could accomplish that mission.
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.”
“You always want to win. We know it’s a process that we kind of got to grow into,” Hornacek said. “Players want to win every game. Coaches want to win every game. Management wants to win every game. But you also have to keep that big picture in mind and always think about are we making strides. Or are we just trying to win games and the strides stop? We always have to keep that in mind.”
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May 25, 2019 | 8:19 pm EDT Update
Darren Wolfson: The #Twolves will have healthy representation next week in Santa Monica and Thousand Oaks for a bunch of agency Pro Days, including getting to see Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura at Wasserman’s on Tuesday morning.