Appearing on The Full 48, Howard Beck’s podcast, new Celtics center Enes Kanter offered a theory for why the Knicks haven’t had much success in the free agent market in recent years despite a big market and plenty of cap room. According to Kanter, an ownership group led by James Dolan is considered a deterrent by players around the NBA.
“I’m not blaming anybody. I had an amazing time with the Knicks,” Kanter said, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “But other teammates I talked to or if they’re on different teams, they always said, ‘Amazing city, MSG is amazing. Everything is so good. But the ownership.’ They always keep saying, ‘But the ownership.’
“… I can tell. I don’t get into it too much. The players, when we get in the locker room, we talk about what’s going on. And the players always see how the management or how ownership treat other players, treat other players around.”
The Knicks spent most of the 2018/19 season gearing up for free agency, trading rising star Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas in a pre-deadline deal to create enough cap room to sign two maximum-salary players in July. However, the club struck out on its top targets and ultimately used that room to sign veterans like Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, and Wayne Ellington.
Other than Randle, no free agent signed by the Knicks this offseason has more than one fully guaranteed year on his new contract, so the team will have the flexibility to be active again in free agency in 2020 and/or 2021. Still, based on his comments to Beck, Kanter didn’t sound confident that the perception of the franchise will shift overnight.
“I always tell (players), the Knicks are amazing. It’s the Garden, it’s the Mecca. If you win in New York, you’re the king of the world,” Kanter said, per Bondy. “Some of the players are I guess scared to come here and don’t even want to deal with that.”