Kristaps Porzingis
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Dealing with the trade of Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t easy. Was this just another one of the New York Knicks many mistakes?

Chip Murphy

When I found out it happened, I was in an Uber. The driver had the “Michael Kay Show” on the radio and he was ranting about Kristaps Porzingis. “Who does this guy think he is?” Or some other typical sports talk radio blowhard nonsense.

I was working all day, so I hadn’t seen it. I checked my Twitter notifications and saw Adrian Wojnarowski’s handle not once, not twice, but five times.

Woj dropped a puny smoke bomb before setting off the nuclear device that shook the sports world on Thursday: Porzingis was meeting with New York Knicks management to express his concerns with all the losing.

It was troubling, but that’s what stars do on bad teams, right? They meet with management. It may even be a good thing that he’s concerned about the direction of the franchise or that he doubted the culture.

It was probably more about Porzingis being mentioned in trade rumors with Anthony Davis. It happens. The guy’s not even playing so how mad could he possibly be? I thought that. I’m that stupid.

So that wasn’t good. Woj tweeted about this meeting twice. That means there’s something to it. He keeps mentioning KP’s role too. And the future.

Less than two minutes later mere moments later panic set in. The GIF of the dog sipping coffee while his house is on fire comes to mind. This is fine. I’m okay with the events that are currently unfolding.

In apparently less than two hours, this meeting with management about the future started to sound like a trade demand. New York’s front office was left with the impression that KP wanted out and Woj had a list of suitors on the ready. That’s no coincidence.

The scene in “Bad Boys 2” when Martin Lawrence says “stuff just got real” (only he doesn’t say stuff) was the next image to take over my thoughts.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. While I attempted to compose myself in a stranger’s vehicle, I already started thinking: “Same old Knicks.” Then it happened.

Just as I was coming to terms with what seemed like a possible trade demand from my favorite player on my favorite team I was forced to glance at my phone again, it read: Adrian Wojnarowski Tweeted. Three words that can make or break a franchise.

I had to apologize to the Uber driver for cursing, but he understood. While exiting the car in disbelief, I asked the driver, “Did the Knicks actually trade Porzingis?” He responded, “Yeah man, the Knicks are a mess.”

Taking A Deep Breath

At that moment it was hard not to agree with my guy, despite his Volkswagen Passat. So I five-starred him, tipped him well, and then the rumor mill started churning.

It’s the NBA after all, and what would the NBA be without just a little more drama?

Knicks president Steve Mills told ESPN’s Ian Begley that Kristaps “didn’t want to be part of our group.” The unicorn didn’t believe in management’s plan, so they cut bait.

This was a stunner. One of the things that were so attractive about Porzingis is that he always seemed to embrace the spotlight of being a franchise player in New York and all the pressure that came with it. Turns out that wasn’t the case.

The Knicks spun a story that Porzingis was traded because he wanted out. They had no choice. According to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, that’s not the case. New York didn’t believe that KP was worthy of the maximum contract extension he would’ve required this summer.

According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, Janis Porzingis “has been more involved in Kristaps’ affairs and wanted to make demands to the front office about acquiring certain players.” A nosy brother combined with concerns about his ACL injury was enough for the Knicks to trade their best player.

Whatever the reason made it no less difficult to swallow. Porzingis was supposed to be the face of the franchise going forward, and he wasn’t some quick transaction via free agency or trade.

The Knicks drafted Kristaps Porzingis, and there was something about having your best player represent homegrown talent. It’s why Yankees fans were always so close to their “Core Four” group of stars during the World Series dynasty. All the winning didn’t hurt either.

He took the reigns from Carmelo Anthony. Despite all the criticism leveled Melo’s way, that couldn’t have been an easy task. The future Hall of Famer cast a giant shadow. One that was too big for Porzingis to accept.

As hard as this trade is to swallow, we’re not Porzingis fans; we’re Knicks fans. This trade brought back some quality pieces. Let’s look at what Porzingis fetched us in this blockbuster.

Taking Stock Of The New Stuff

The opinion on whether or not the Knicks were fleeced in this deal is pretty fascinating. According to the experts on NBA Twitter and the clowns on TV, it’s about a 50-50 split. Look for yourself if you don’t believe me.

You can’t evaluate anything until this summer. If New York whiffs on Durant then it’s one of the biggest failures in franchise history. Right up there with Jerome James and Eddy Curry.

Back to the assets. Everyone’s talking about the future first-round picks. The fact that the Knicks got them both unprotected is enormous, but their value is still a crapshoot. If Porzingis and Luka Doncic click those picks (in 2021 and 20213) may not land New York anyone in the lottery.

New York received three players back, two of whom are buyout candidates. Veterans DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews would have plenty of suitors in contending teams like the Houston Rockets and the Philadelphia 76ers.

For now, however, New York plans to keep both players on the roster. Head coach David Fizdale believes that Jordan can mentor Mitchell Robinson and Matthews can do the same for Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier.

Dennis Smith Jr. is the biggest get here. New York passed on him in the 2017 draft to take Frank Ntilikina, whose spot in the rotation is now ironically up in the air, and less than two years later they traded their best player for him.

Fizdale claims to have a plan for the former NC State star already. The coach wants to “put the ball in his hands a lot and get him out in the open court and get him a lot of space.”

Fiz wants this team to run more, but they haven’t had the personnel to do it. Smith gives him that guy. The 21-year-old is now the leader on the Knicks in drives, fast break points, and points off turnovers per game.

Maybe this trade wasn’t a disaster after all.

Realizing A Hard Truth

When the new regime took over, they told us that player development was the focus of the organization while citing “youth, athleticism, and defense” as specific examples. I imagine those are the kind of things the Yankees thought when they signed Derek Jeter, Andy Pettite, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada.

Less than two years later Steve Mills and Scott Perry had traded their 23-year-old star. An athletic phenom who at 7’3″ handles the ball like a guard, throws down putback dunks like Blake Griffin, and also happens to be the teams best defensive player.

As a lifelong Knicks fan, my reaction is always to blame the team. They’re nearly still in the wrong. I didn’t react well when the new regime dumped their best player for cap space and hope.

The trade that will shape the Knicks for years to come hinges on ping pong balls and the uncertainty of free agency. It’s hard to tell which scenario is more difficult to gauge. Kevin Durant is always a mystery, and Kyrie Irving is still off on another planet.

Then it hit me as I obsessively scrolled through Porzingis’ Basketball-Reference page.

I try to look at basketball as objectively as possible from an analytical perspective. This is the most challenging circumstance I’ve ever found myself trying to find an objective lens to look through. Then the nerd in me started to come out while I sifted through the data on one of my former heroes.

In three seasons Porzingis played 186 games and averaged 17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, and 1.3 assists on a slash line of .437/.361/.804. This guy had 20 something games of sheer dominance to open the 2017-18 season then fading before his ACL injury.

Slowly but surely I began talking myself into how this may not be an utter disaster. The Knicks had no choice. This wasn’t my franchise player. Did I just say that? I even started to miss Melo. That feeling passed quicker than The Flash. I said I was a nerd, didn’t I?

All joking aside, maybe Michael Kay was right. Who does this guy think he is? He is making trade demands after 20 great games. What’s he done? Superstars make trade demands — Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, etc.

If Porzingis is ever going to be a superstar, it won’t be in New York. The unicorn wanted out, and he got his wish.

I'm ESNY's Executive Editor for I cover the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Email: Chip Murphy covers the NBA for Elite Sports NY. You can find him on Twitter @ChipperMurphy.