Kevin Knox

Steve Mills, Scott Perry Discuss Knicks’ Offseason

The Knicks are entering their most crucial offseason in years, but president of basketball operations Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry told reporters on Wednesday that they’re not necessarily feeling pressure to turn the team into an instant contender overnight with a series of major additions.

As Marc Berman of The New York Post relays, Perry said that the Knicks don’t view this summer as the “end-all or be-all,” noting that it will be more about taking steps in the right direction and avoiding major mistakes.

“What I look at is this summer presents an opportunity for us to get better,” Perry said, per Steve Popper of Newsday. “And so whether we get better through whatever the free-agent signings may or may not be, whatever the drafting process yields us, whatever potential trade may come our way, our goal is to get this team better over the offseason so there’s a better product on the floor next season. And that’s what we’re committed to.”

Here are a few of the most noteworthy comments from Mills and Perry, as detailed by Berman and Popper:

Mills on his expectations for the summer:

“We feel good about the summer. We feel we’re in a position that it gives us an opportunity. We hope we get lucky and we land free agents. And if not, we’ll keep building the way we’re building. The space gives us an opportunity to be flexible in terms of how we deal with trades. We can take guys into our [cap] room in the trade process, it gives us the flexibility to continue to build the team the way we’ve been building it. But it gives us an opportunity to make it better in a way with free-agent or trade prospects.”

Mills on what happens if the Knicks can’t use their cap room to land two star free agents:

“I don’t feel pressure to deviate from our plan if we don’t get two big free agents. I don’t feel that kind of pressure. The pressure is for us to continue with the process and build this team the way we’re saying we’re going to build it.

“… The worst thing we can do is react to doing the wrong thing because we’re disappointed something didn’t happen exactly the way we want it to happen this summer. That could be thing that could derail us from doing what we committed to our fans, what I committed to Jim (owner James Dolan) in how I would build this team.”

On why the Knicks are confident in their appeal after a 17-65 season:

Perry:
“This is New York City. It’s the greatest city in the world. There’s a lot of appeal here. Even though the team has struggled, it’s a definite attraction to becoming a player in this city who can help turn this organization around. I think that’s something that gives us excitement that it’s out there — the storied nature of this franchise and what the franchise meant to the NBA that still resonates.”

Mills:
“There’s a lot of noise and a lot of guys are interested in New York. They like Fiz (head coach David Fizdale). They like some of the changes we made in the organization. We hear that from agents. We read it from guys getting interviewed about what guys feel about the Knicks. We hear that from other players. At least we’re in the game, and hopeful something really good happens. But we won’t know until it happens.”

Here are a few more Knicks-related items stemming from Mills’ and Perry’s comments:

  • According to Berman, Mills said that in this year’s exit interviews, every player on the Knicks’ roster expressed a desire to return to the team — one even said he’d come back for less money.
  • Perry didn’t rule out the possibility of shopping a top-three draft pick if the Knicks luck out in the lottery, per Berman. “Once the draft process plays out, your phone rings a lot of times,” Perry said. “I can’t sit here and tell you exactly what would happen in that scenario.”
  • As Berman writes in a separate story, the Knicks sound more bullish on Kevin Knox‘s future than Frank Ntilikina‘s. However, they’re not ready yet to pass judgment on either player, noting that Ntilikina is still 20 years old and Knox is 19.
  • In an appearance on ESPN Radio, Mills insisted that the Knicks weren’t tanking or trying to lose games on purpose in 2018/19, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. While that may technically be true, it’d be hard to argue that the front office was trying to put the roster in position to win as many games as possible this season, which is entirely understandable during a rebuild.

Knicks Notes: Roster, Robinson, Durant, Ewing

Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Damyean Dotson are the only current Knicks who should definitely be on the roster next season, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Knox showed enough promise at age 19 to hold onto, Robinson was a second-round surprise who became the league’s second-best shot blocker and Dotson is a part-time starter with an affordable contract.

Popper lists Dennis Smith Jr., who was acquired in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, as a question mark, noting that his fate could depend on whether the Knicks are in position to draft Ja Morant or sign Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker in free agency. Also questionable to return, according to Popper, are Frank Ntilikina, Allonzo Trier, Lance Thomas and Luke Kornet. Popper expects the rest of the roster to be overturned, including DeAndre Jordan, whom he speculates will be too pricey to re-sign as a back-up center.

There’s more today from New York:

  • Coach David Fizdale believes Robinson would be a lottery pick if last year’s draft were redone, relays Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com. Fizdale admits he didn’t know much about Robinson when the Knicks grabbed him with the 36th pick, but he quickly blossomed into a force in the middle, swatting 2.44 shots per game. “I think we can all agree if we had to restructure the draft right now, I don’t think he’ll go 36,” Fizdale said. “I think he’d be in that top 10 pretty easily.”
  • LeBron James‘ disappointing first year with the Lakers should make Kevin Durant think twice about whether he wants join the Knicks, states Frank Isola of The Athletic. For all of Durant’s talent, he has a reputation as a highly sensitive player who might not adjust well to the atmosphere in New York. Isola suggests that he will only consider the Knicks if he can find another top-level free agent to join him.
  • Fizdale played a pivotal role in easing tensions between Patrick Ewing and the Knicks after years of a strained relationship, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Ewing will represent the team at next month’s draft lottery.

Beck’s Latest: Lakers, Clippers, Nets, Knicks, LeBron, Durant

In his latest article for Bleacher Report, Howard Beck looks ahead to an upcoming offseason that figures to feature a four-team, big-market battle for many of the NBA’s star free agents. The Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Nets aren’t the only four clubs that will have the cap space necessary to add one or two maximum-salary players, but they’re the clubs most frequently cited as top destinations for those stars.

While the Knicks and Lakers are popular choices to land marquee free agents, Beck asked 10 executives and scouts to evaluate and rank those four New York and Los Angeles teams based on basketball considerations( such as roster, coaching staff, front office, and ownership), and seven placed the Nets and Clips in the top two. Eight ranked the Knicks last.

As Beck explains, the Lakers and Knicks are viewed with skepticism because of doubts about their young prospects, a lack of faith in the Lakers’ management duo of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, and the poor reputation of Knicks owner James Dolan.

“Brooklyn and the Clippers have a decided advantage over the two marquee names because they’ve done far more in the last few years to position themselves to be sustainable than either New York or the Lakers,” one veteran GM told Beck.

Still, many Lakers and Knicks rivals wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see those clubs do well in free agency, given the history and “mystique” attached to the two franchises.

“If the Knicks and Lakers get the guys, it means mystique and market really will matter more [than which franchise is run the best],” one GM said. “That’s terrifying.”

Here’s more from Beck’s piece, which is worth checking out in full:

  • LeBron James tells Beck that this will be a “critical summer” for him and the Lakers, and he fully intends to help with recruiting stars to Los Angeles. “I will be as active as I need to be for this franchise to get better. That’s why I came here. I came here to win,” James said. “And obviously, we need to get better, as far as our personnel. We have an opportunity to get better. And there’s a lot of talent out there, and a lot of guys that can help our franchise. So I’ll be as active as I need to be for us to get better and go from there.”
  • One assistant GM is skeptical that any star wings or point guards will want to team with LeBron, suggesting that the team will have to focus on star bigs. Rivals also view the Lakers as behind the curve in areas such as analytics, sports science, and player development, according to Beck. Still, the “glamorous sheen” attached to the franchise can’t be overlooked. “The Lakers can show up with a dead body in the room and not get arrested,” a rival official said. “It’s just the nature of the business we are in that they are perceived in this holy-grail-type situation.”
  • According to Beck, rival executives around the NBA are nearly uniform in their belief that Kevin Durant will end up with the Knicks this summer. While no one knows for sure yet, “virtually everyone believes he’s leaving the Warriors,” Beck writes.
  • Beck adds that it’s also “considered a given in NBA circles” that Durant and Kawhi Leonard won’t seriously consider the Lakers.
  • Despite a widespread belief that the Knicks will land Durant, people around the NBA have far more praise for their cross-town rivals, Beck writes. “I think they’ve turned around the Brooklyn era,” a scout said of the Nets. “They’re one or two steps ahead of the Knicks.” Another executive offered the following assessment: “Who would want to go play with the Knicks? Who are your teammates? [Kevin] Knox isn’t even that good.”

Knicks Notes: Free Agency, Knox, Ntilikina, Robinson

Today’s game with the Clippers barely mattered to the Knicks; it’s the summer battle over free agents that’s going to be important, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. There have been whispers around the league that New York is in good position to land Kevin Durant and another elite free agent after clearing tons of cap room with the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

However, the Clippers could be the toughest obstacle in the Knicks’ way. They can already offer one maximum contract and might have plans to unload enough salary to hand out another. Plus, as Berman notes, they have a playoff team already in place, while New York is at the bottom of the league standings. The battle of owners — the gregarious Steve Ballmer vs. the enigmatic James Dolan — may be the biggest mismatch of all.

“I’m not going to give you my spiel, man,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said when reporters asked how he would sell free agents on L.A. over New York. “Come on. Other than the weather, we’re going to stop there. No, I don’t talk about free agency a lot.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Getting their 60th loss wasn’t the worst thing that happened to the Knicks this afternoon, Berman adds in a separate story. Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina, lottery picks from the past two seasons, left the game with injuries a few minutes apart. Ntilikina aggravated a groin strain that kept him out for 24 games before he returned Friday. It could mark the end of his time in New York, as the Knicks are expected to make him available in trades this summer. Knox suffered a sprained right ankle, but coach David Fizdale called it “day to day” and said he’s optimistic that it won’t be a long-term issue.
  • The Knicks’ lack of a veteran core has exposed Knox’s weaknesses as a main option for the offense, observes Steve Popper of Newsday. Fizdale contrasts his situation with Tayshaun Prince‘s, who had limited skills as a rookie but was surrounded by veterans in Detroit. “Kevin’s warts show, because everybody else is screwing up, too,” Fizdale said. “So we can’t tuck him away and hide those things right now. But I think going through this is as good as going through it with veterans, because this fast-tracks you.”
  • Mitchell Robinson has already set a Knicks’ rookie record with 137 blocks, and Fizdale believes he can develop into a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, relays Peter Botte of The New York Post.

Atlantic Notes: Gasol, Brown, Knox, Fizdale

The Raptors‘ big deadline acquisition was veteran Marc Gasol, bolstering Toronto’s frontcourt entering the final stretch of the regular season. Thus far, Gasol has seen nearly equal time as a starter (six games) and as a reserve (seven games).

In those 13 games, Gasol has averaged 9.4 PPG and 6.2 RPG for the Raptors, well below his career rates. After spending his first 10-and-a-half seasons in Memphis, the big man is still getting used to his new team and teammates, as Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet.ca writes.

“It’s an adjustment. I think it’s an adjustment for me, an adjustment for my teammates, for the coaches,” Gasol said. “You know, you play a certain way and it’s hard to change certain things on the fly. But you can’t try to force the issue. You have to organically improve and I’m here to work and do my best with a very positive mindset every day. It’s about what’s best for the team and how we can take another step at both ends of the floor.”

While the three-time All-Star figures out his role, the Raptors are focused on the postseason, clinching a spot in the Eastern Conference last week. Heading into that stretch, Gasol’s experience will be a factor but he does not want the attention to be solely on him.

“I don’t want to make a big deal out of it,” Gasol said. “Whatever role you’re given, it’s about having a good mindset. It’s not so much about starting — it’s about finishing games. It’s about the team playing well, and contributing to that. I know now that I’m going to have to start for the next few games, probably. And that contributes to a routine and a habit and a little bit of consistency. That helps you get that out of your mind. But I definitely don’t want to make a big deal out of it.”

Check out more Atlantic Division notes below:

  • Jaylen Brown has embraced his role off the bench to the Celtics‘ benefit despite being a starter and the team’s second-leading scorer a season ago, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes. “He’s done a good job of embracing that,” Boston head coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s done a good job of not letting that affect his aggressiveness or his game.”
  • It has been an up and down season for Knicks rookie Kevin Knox who had been in a slump since December. Knox is appreciative of the rebuilding Knicks’ patience with his development but head coach David Fizdale has a strategy to help him improve, Marc Berman of New York Post writes.“His strength is going to be a big, big thing, fine-tuning his shooting, solidifying his post game,” Fizdale said. “Obviously, defensively I’m going to be all over him about taking another step forward, about being a playmaker, a shotblocker, a guy who can take a challenge one on one and really slide his feet against the best attackers.”
  • Speaking of Fizdale, earlier we relayed the head coach’s confidence in the Knicks doing well with free agents this summer.

New York Notes: Dinwiddie, LeVert, Knox, Ntilikina

The Nets are looking forward to having three of their most productive players together for the stretch run, writes Mike Mazzeo of The New York Post. Spencer Dinwiddie will return to action tonight after thumb surgery sidelined him for about a month. The trio of Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert, who recently came back after missing three months with a dislocated right foot, have only been on the court together for 90 minutes all season.

“D’Lo is obviously playing at a high level. Caris is working his way back into form,” Dinwiddie said. “They’re going to do what they do, and our focus and our sights are set on the playoffs and trying to win as many games as possible, trying to be that team that not only makes it but strikes a little fear into some of those top seeds’ heart.”

Dinwiddie will be available for back-to-back games, coach Kenny Atkinson said, but his minutes will be limited at first and will gradually increase. The Nets were 6-8 while he was injured.

There’s more NBA news out of New York:

  • LeVert doesn’t want to blame the injury for the struggles he has encountered since returning, Mazzeo relays in a separate story. The Nets guard was off to a career-best start before getting hurt, averaging 18.4 PPG in his first 14 games. In the seven games since coming back, his scoring has dropped to 8.9 PPG. “Three months is a long time to be out, but I don’t want to put it all on the injury,” LeVert said. “I feel like I could have had better energy and defensively and maybe sparked something offensively. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it was.”
  • Knicks rookies Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier continue to exceed expectations, but first-round pick Kevin Knox‘s shooting woes are concerning, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Knox has hit just 5-of-28 shots in his last two games, continuing a problem that caused him to lose a starting job in the preseason. “I want him to stay aggressive,” coach David Fizdale said. “We’re not going to get caught up in the percentages right now. He’s taking shots he can make. So keep taking them.’’
  • After missing more than a month with a strained groin, Frank Ntilikina may return during a three-game road trip, Berman adds in another story. Ntilikina could be cleared for practice tomorrow, which would mark the first time he has played alongside Dennis Smith Jr. Ntilikina had taken over the Knicks‘ starting point guard role before being sidelined, but that position now belongs to Smith.

Knicks Notes: Kanter, Randolph, Fizdale, Thomas

A reported Enes Kanter for Zach Randolph swap with the Kings would fulfill the Knicks‘ desire to move the veteran center without taking back a contract that runs past this season, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

The trade makes sense on several levels, Berman notes. Kanter is unhappy with his reduced playing time in New York and should welcome a deal to a contender. Knicks GM Scott Perry formerly worked in Sacramento and signed Randolph to his current deal. Randolph, who hasn’t played all season, might be bought out to free up a roster spot or he could return to action under David Fizdale, his former coach in Memphis.

Berman adds that the Knicks were surprised by Kanter’s comments last week about his ongoing feud with Turkish leaders as an explanation for his decision not to accompany the team on its upcoming trip to London. A team official said Kanter was having visa issues, but he later denied that was the reason for staying home.

There’s more news out of New York:

  • Team owner James Dolan supports Kanter’s decision to skip the London trip, Berman adds in the same piece. The Kings and Knicks aren’t close to a deal yet, a source tells Berman, with Sacramento appearing to be more reluctant.
  • The Knicks finished the first half of the season with just 10 victories, but Fizdale remains confident that better things are coming, Berman writes in a separate story“Individually, I think guys are getting better,’’ Fizdale said after last night’s loss at Golden State. “Small areas of the game we’re getting better. It’s not all collective and not showing in a full game. I do see great strides in our young guys. I see Emmanuel [Mudiay] constantly gaining confidence, and [Noah] Vonleh continues to grow in his evolution. Kevin Knox over the course of the first half has shown great strides. Him and Damyean Dotson.” Draft lottery concerns may work against Fizdale’s prediction of more wins in the second half. The league’s three worst teams will share the best odds at the No. 1 pick, and the Knicks rank third in our latest Reverse Standings.
  • Lance Thomas has signed with CAA and agents Leon Rose and Rich Felder, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. His $7.58MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed.

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Thomas, Durant, Knox

The Knicks will wait until February to make a decision on Kristaps Porzingis‘ playing status, but teammate Lance Thomas tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that the Latvian star can’t wait to get back on the court. Porzingis is still recovering from an ACL tear last February, and Thomas offers behind-the-scenes insight into his rehab efforts.

“He’s working really hard, man,’’ Thomas said. “He’s in there before everybody. He’s there when everybody leaves. While we practice, he just has that itch. You can just tell — seeing us compete so hard in practice. He comes to me and says, ‘Man, I can’t wait. I got the itch.’ He grabs a basketball on the side and starts dribbling it. He’s working really hard. I know he’s very anxious getting back on the court.”

Team president Steve Mills provided an update on Porzingis’ condition Friday, explaining that he has started doing 45-minute, one-on-one drills with coaches. The team plans to gradually increase his activity level until he can participate in full practices, hopefully before re-examining him in mid-February. He is expected to have a minutes restriction of about 20 per game if he does return.

“I would love to [play with him this season],’’ Thomas said. “He’s been [my] teammate since he’s been in the NBA. I would love nothing more than to be able to lace it up with him again. He also needs to do what’s best for him. It’s an injury you don’t want to mess around with, especially the type of year he had right before it, an All-Star caliber year. We want to make sure he comes back and he’s confident with all his movements and mentally carefree.”

There’s more today from New York:

  • The Knicks are preparing to make an aggressive run at Kevin Durant next summer, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic. Isola states that Durant will be the team’s top target in free agency, and several league executives at last week’s G League Showcase believe New York will be in the running to sign him. Isola’s comments come as part of an examination of Mills and how he has been able to survive with the organization.
  • Kevin Knox appears to have worked through his first experience with the “rookie wall,” writes Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press. Knox has rediscovered his scoring touch, pouring in 20.3 PPG over the past seven games. “I knew at some point it was going to kick back in for him, I just didn’t know when, and now we’re seeing the kid that we thought we had,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “The kid’s talented. He’ll hit some more pitfalls this year, that’s just part of the deal, but the one thing that’s encouraging is that he’s starting to see things a lot more clear and do some things that can be determined as big-time.”
  • The Knicks are the latest franchise to emphasize the importance of players getting enough sleep, relays Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic.

Knicks Notes: Free Agency, Porzingis, Knox, Burke

The Knicks don’t see an urgency to sign an elite free agent next summer and believe their rebuilding plan will be fine if they have to wait another year, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The organization’s priorities are landing a top-five draft pick, getting Kristaps Porzingis healthy again and developing rookies Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier, along with Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay.

The summer of 2019 has long been considered pivotal for the Knicks, who will have the cap space to compete on the free agent market for the first time in several years. There are plans in place to open up $38MM — enough to sign a 10-year veteran like Kevin Durant — if the opportunity becomes available, although Berman isn’t sure if those plans include a trade of Tim Hardaway Jr. But a source says the team won’t go that route unless it can land a “dramatic difference maker.”

President Steve Mills seemed to confirm that approach at a press conference Friday when he talked about saving cap room for 2020 and retaining the flexibility to acquire a star through trade. Berman adds that the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis has interest in playing in New York.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • The Knicks are hoping Porziginis can return sometime after the All-Star break so he can start to build chemistry with his younger teammates, Berman relays in the same story. However, the final decision will be based on his physical condition as he recovers from last season’s ACL injury. “The most important thing for us is to have Kristaps on the court when he feels comfortable being on the court and we feel comfortable he should be out there,’’ Mills said. “That’s more important than any timetable this season — or some point in the summer.” Team doctors plan to re-evaluate Porzingis’ condition in February.
  • Knox continued a troubling pattern in Friday’s loss to the Hawks, Berman notes in a separate piece. He made seven of eight shots in the first quarter, but none in the second half, which has been a familiar theme this season. “I expect him to be a big-time scorer, [but it’s] a real conditioning requirement to be a great scorer in this league,” coach David Fizdale said. “He has to learn as he gets stronger and in more physical shape to adapt to scouting reports and adjustments during the game.’’
  • Trey Burke is expected to return to the lineup for the Christmas Day game, but back-to-back DNPs this week suggest he’s not part of the Knicks’ plan for the future, Berman adds.

Knicks Notes: Lee, Trier, Knox, Ntilikina

Courtney Lee will be getting more playing time, but not at the NBA level, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Knicks are sending Lee, who has missed most of the season with a neck injury, to their G League affiliate in Westchester so he can rack up minutes in tomorrow night’s game against Lakeland.

The 33-year-year-old is averaging just 10.8 minutes in four games since returning to the lineup, stuck in a crowded backcourt on a team now committed to finding time for Frank Ntilikina. Lee admits he needs to work on conditioning and suggested the idea of spending time in the G League.

“It’s going to take a while to get reactivated to game-speed, game-like situations,” he said. “It’ll probably take couple of weeks to get back a rhythm and feel chemistry with the guys. I’ve been thrown out there with those guys and trying to play on the fly. Next couple of weeks, I’ll start to feel comfortable out there.”

Lee is scheduled to rejoin the Knicks following Wednesday night’s game. The team is hoping to build up his value in hopes of working out a deal before the February 7 deadline to get his $12.76MM salary for next season off the books.

There’s more news out of New York:

  • Rookie guard Allonzo Trier strained his left hamstring and won’t be re-evaluated until next week, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Trier, who is getting close to the 45-day NBA limit on his two-way contract, will remain with the team while he rehabs the injury, but the time won’t add to his service days. Berman notes that it will give the front office more time to decide what to do once he reaches the limit, whether it involves waiving Ron Baker or Luke Kornet or trying to work out a trade (Twitter link).
  • Coach David Fizdale has been using Kevin Knox at power forward more often to boost his rebounding numbers, which paid off Sunday as he collected 11 boards, notes Peter Botte of The New York Post. It marked the first double-digit rebounding night for Knox. “I’ve really been stressing to him rebounding and getting in the trench,” Fizdale said. “We do a lot of block-out drills, just trying to get him used to the physicality of the league, trying to fast-track him that way. And so he’s taken it to heart, and he’s going to get the ball.”
  • Ntilikina’s 18-point explosion in the second half Sunday night is a sign that he will eventually reward the Knicks’ patience, contends Shlomo Sprung of Forbes.