The Knicks have until October 15 to sign Kristaps Porzingis to a long-term extension, but the team isn’t planning to complete a deal at this point, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. While the Knicks feel good about how Porzingis’ rehab from his ACL tear is progressing, the club’s hope is to re-sign him when he reaches restricted free agency in 2019, rather than extending him now, Berman notes.
Waiting until next offseason would allow New York to carry about $10MM in extra cap room into the summer, which could come in handy as the team explores the free agent market. The club will have the right of first refusal on Porzingis as an RFA, so he won’t be able to walk unless New York lets him go.
If the Knicks wait until next year to lock up Porzingis, they could still offer him the same contract – up to five years and an estimated $158MM – and would avoid making him a designated rookie scale player, further maximizing their roster flexibility. Still, the approach isn’t without its risks.
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Porzingis hasn’t always seen eye to eye with Knicks decision-makers, and while the tension between him and the organization occurred when Phil Jackson and Jeff Hornacek were running the show, the current management group won’t want to risk alienating its potential franchise player.
Additionally, if Porzingis reaches restricted free agency, there’s nothing stopping him from turning down a long-term offer from the Knicks. He could theoretically sign a shorter-term offer sheet with another team or accept his qualifying offer — he’d still end up a Knick in either of those scenarios, but he’d be on track to become an unrestricted free agent sooner.
Still, the Knicks sound confident that the risks involved in waiting on a Porzingis deal should be worth the reward, given their relationship with the young big man.
“Our philosophy is that we’re going to stay connected with [the Porzingis camp],” GM Scott Perry said this week. “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.”
“He’ll never feel like he’s not a cornerstone part of what we’re trying to do here,” president of basketball operations Steve Mills added. “He understands that. We make that crystal clear to him and his representation.”