Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Payton, Portis, Peters

The departure of former team president Steve Mills and the arrival of replacement Leon Rose will complicate Frank Ntilikina‘s future with the Knicks, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

As Berman explains, Mills had been Ntilikina’s “stoutest supporter” within the organization, having worked with Phil Jackson to draft the young Frenchman in the 2017 lottery.

Rose, on the other hand, comes from CAA, the agency that Ntilikina left in 2019 when he hired French agent Bouna Ndiaye. Although Rose didn’t directly represent the Knicks’ guard, he led CAA’s basketball department, and Berman hears that the agency was “angered” by Ntilikina’s departure.

Any decision Rose makes on Ntilikina’s future probably won’t be motivated by the 21-year-old’s history with CAA, but it’s not uncommon for new heads of basketball operations to move on from a number of the old regime’s draftees if those players haven’t established themselves as reliable contributors. With Ntilikina entering a contract year in 2020/21, he could be a trade candidate during the coming offseason.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Rose will also have a decision to make on another guard, Elfrid Payton, who is owed $8MM in 2020/21. Currently, only $1MM of that amount is guaranteed. While there are no assurances that the Knicks will bring Payton back at that price, Berman notes in a separate Post article that the veteran guard was one of the team’s most productive players in ’19/20. “I just feel the team has been a noticeably better basketball team with him healthy,” a Knicks source told Berman.
  • Bobby Portis‘ $15.75MM team option for 2020/21 appears unlikely to be exercised, according to Berman. Agent Mark Bartelstein contends that Portis was “really terrific” in the month leading up to the stoppage after adjusting to a new team and a mid-season coaching change. However, an NBA personnel director tells Berman, “I can’t imagine they can keep him (at that price).”
  • It’s possible the Knicks may have found an under-the-radar gem in guard Lamar Peters, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, who spoke with Peters about his first season in the G League. Although the former Mississippi State standout spent the year with the Westchester Knicks, New York doesn’t hold his NBA rights, so he could sign with a new team at any point after the current moratorium lifts.
  • In case you missed it on Wednesday, the Knicks are said to have some interest in Sixers general manager Elton Brand for a role in their front office. However, the 76ers reportedly like the job he’s done and don’t plan to let him go.

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