New York Knicks team president Steve Mills believes the perception of the club among NBA players has changed recently.
“In our circles that we travel and the people that we talk to, we know that there is a change in how people perceive us,” Mills said at an event for fans on Monday night. “… We know that the players are talking about New York as a place that, ‘Things are different there now.’ If we do all the things that we’re supposed to do over the course of the year, we’ll be in a good place [to attract free agents].”
The Knicks plan to have enough cap space to attract at least one max free agent in the summer of 2019. Players expected to test free agency next summer include Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker.
The Knicks have won just one playoff series in the past 18 years and garnered negative attention for several off-court issues in recent seasons, including ex-Knick Charles Oakley’s physical removal from Madison Square Garden and the public unraveling of the relationship between ex-team president Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony.
But Mills is optimistic that he, general manager Scott Perry and new head coach David Fizdale can establish a winning culture in New York.
“What we’re not going to do is take shortcuts,” said Mills, who was general manager under Jackson. “We’re not going to trade our draft picks. … 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.”
Mills and Perry also said that Kristaps Porzingis‘ rehab from surgery to repair a torn ACL is going well. Porzingis is in New York and will be evaluated this week to determine the next steps in his rehab.
Mills was asked by a fan on Monday if it was best for Porzingis to miss the entire 2018-19 season.
“Our goal is not to do anything that jeopardizes KP’s future as being one of the foundational pieces of this team,” Mills said. “…. We’ll have some medical evaluations of him this week, and we’ll start to develop [what] the right plan is for him, his plan to come back. But we’re not going to do anything that jeopardizes the future of this franchise. We’re going to be consistent and stay true to that.”
Porzingis is eligible for a five-year, $157 million extension prior to the season. It’s likely the Knicks will wait until next summer to sign Porzingis to the extension to create an extra $10 million in cap space next summer.
“KP is engaged, and we’re in a good place with him,” Mills said.