The New York Knicks hosted their annual Town Hall with season ticket holders and there were two major takeaways from the night.
A plan? For New York Knicks fans who might be a little confused right now, a plan is defined as a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something. Anyone can have a plan, but sticking to the plan is historically where this franchise has struggled.
Trying to explain a plan to past Knicks regimes would be like Jerry Seinfeld explaining reservations at a rental car place. They know how to make the plan. They just don’t know how to stick with the plan. Well, the triumvirate of Steve Mills, Scott Perry, and David Fizdale are starting to convince the rabid fanbase that this time, they mean it.
In fact, president of basketball operations, Steve Mills addressed this head on.
“I’m a New Yorker. I don’t want to see the things that happened in the past again.”
We’ve seen it — and heard it all before, but this time around feels different. Maybe it’s Fizdale’s charm or Perry’s no-nonsense demeanor, but something about this franchise feels different. Dolan is almost completely out of frame and there is an unmistakable scent of optimism in the air.
According to Mills, it’s not just fans who are feeling differently about the Knicks. There’s a growing sentiment around the league that the Knicks aren’t the same old broken franchise anymore. People around the league are taking notice. Mills said:
“In our circles that we travel and the people that we talk to, we know that there is a change in how people perceive us… We know that the players are talking about New York as a place that, things are different there now.”
But why does it feel different for fans? Another reason is that rather than simply relying on buzzwords and lazy cliches, the brain trust discussed specifics. Don’t be mistaken, the word “culture” was thrown around the room, but they didn’t rely on it like a crutch. That can work for a while, but eventually, the fanbase wants to hear and see more.
No Quick Fixes
This is where we finally got specifics. Mills and Perry couldn’t talk about specific players, but they gave fans enough to answer two of the biggest concerns. Fans are still second-guessing the decision to trade for Carmelo Anthony midseason when he was a free agent at the end of the season. The Knicks traded assets for an extra few games from Melo. Regarding this fear, Mills said:
“What we’re not going to do is trade away assets to get a guy that we can go get on our own later.”
Ok, you can close out that tab with Jimmy Butler for Joakim Noah in ESPN’s trade machine. All jokes aside, the Knicks sound committed to taking things slowly and avoiding the quick fix. Obviously, if the perfect deal fell into their lap with Jimmy Butler or another transcendent talent, they would rethink things. But that’s not happening.
Assets can be young talent or draft picks. Knicks fans have watched too many draft picks traded away in misguided efforts. Eddy Curry and Andrea Bargnani are two names that give Knicks fans agita. But Mills unequivocally stated:
“What we’re not going to do is take shortcuts. We’re not going to trade our draft picks.”
The Porzingis Problem
Kristaps Porzingis is back in New York. According to Mills and Perry, he’s engaging with the team and they feel like they’re in a great place with their franchise player. Fizdale discussed his trip to Latvia to meet Porzingis and start building a relationship.
“I couldn’t envision a better trip, connecting with our best player.”
He’s the future of the franchise in one ridiculously skilled body. There are no guarantees that the Knicks land a big fish in free agency. But they already have a player that is on the cusp of becoming a superstar. A Kristaps in the hand is worth two max free agents in the bush.
That’s why this season is so important. It’s imperative that the Knicks don’t rush KP back too soon. His long-term health should be No. 1 on the priority list this season. One fan asked an incredibly detailed question about Porzingis and if there is a possibility that he sits out the entire season. The question prompted Fiz to jokingly consider bringing her on as a coach before Mills gave his measured response.
“Our goal is to not do anything that jeopardizes KP’s future as being one of the foundational pieces of this team. So he’s gonna come back — he’s back. We’ll have some medical evaluations of him this week and we’ll start to develop what the right plan is for his plan to come back, but we are not going to do anything that jeopardizes, you know, the future of this franchise and we’re gonna be consistent and stay true to that.”
Mills leaves open all options with this answer. He doesn’t make anything clear. Porzingis could surprise everyone with an early return or he could sit out the entire season. There isn’t much information to glean from Mills here.
While we praise Mills for his honesty regarding draft picks and free agency, it’s impossible to blame him for being somewhat guarded concerning Porzingis. Knicks fans want to know when KP is returning so they can mark it on their calendars, but Mills has a priority to have his player’s best interests in mind. Until they know exactly what to do, there’s no sense in divulging information that could potentially change.
There were a number of interesting quotes and questions that emerged from the Knicks Town Hall. But there are two major takeaways from Monday night. First, the Knicks have a specific plan to steadily build a winning roster. They plan on keeping their young assets and holding onto their draft picks for dear life. Second, they know Kristaps Porzingis is the golden goose. Nothing works without him.
So far, so good for the new regime. Training camp, preseason, and the real thing are right around the corner. Talk is cheap, but this time everything sounds different.