The Knicks didn’t land the top stars they targeted in free agency, but management still believes the January trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Mavericks was the right move, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post.
New York acquired Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and a pair of first-round picks in that deal, but most importantly the team opened enough cap room for two max salary offers by unloading Porzingis, who would have been a restricted free agent, along with the unwanted contracts of Courtney Lee, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
The trade led to five months of speculation that Kevin Durant was serious about joining the Knicks and would bring another star with him, possibly Kyrie Irving. However, Durant and Irving opted for Brooklyn, while New York filled its roster with a collection of vets on short-term contracts.
The situation looks worse after Durant gave an interview this week in which he claims he never considered the Knicks. That comment drew some skepticism throughout the league, according to Berman, but New York’s front office stands behind the Porzingis decision regardless.
Sources tell Berman that a rift had been building between the two sides long before Porzingis met with the front office to request a trade. Management thought it would be a waste of time to try to convince the injured star to stay and was concerned that his cap hold would interfere with the team’s free agency plans.
The Knicks also never believed that Janis Porzingis, who serves as his brother’s representative, would let Kristaps play last season, even if tests showed he was fully recovered from an ACL injury. Janis’ priority was to protect the $158MM deal that Kristaps eventually got from Dallas.
Berman suggests that New York might have sought more young assets in the deal if it had a clue that free agency would turn out the way it did. Even so, the Knicks were happy to add Smith to their backcourt and believe the two first-rounders will eventually prove valuable.
Team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry have confidence in the players they signed after their top targets were off the board, Berman adds. Mills views this as the third season of the rebuilding plan, noting that the one-year deals offer plenty of flexibility to acquire the next star player who becomes available.
Berman points out that Anthony Davis will top the free agent market next July and his agent, Rich Paul, likes the prospect of bringing his client to New York if things don’t work out with the Lakers.