Dayton Daily News
In Porzingis deal, Knicks did better than some might think
Inside look at how it came about shows N.Y. did homework.
The New York Knicks’ sudden trade sending Kristaps Porzingis, their franchise player, to the Dallas Mavericks last week has raised a swirl of questions about the team’s motivations.
Good news: We have answers.
Porzingis was abruptly dispatched to Dallas last Thursday, along with Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke, for guard Dennis Smith Jr., two future first-round picks and the sizable expiring contracts of DeAndre Jordan and Wes Matthews.
Let’s dig into six of the biggest curiosities surrounding the departure of the Knicks’ beloved No. 6.
How can the Knicks be sure they got the best possible deal?
Steve Mills, the Knicks’ president, cited worries that Porzingis was growing detached from the organization as a key factor in the team’s decision to seek out trades for the best big man it has seen since Patrick Ewing.
It turns out that the Knicks spent much of January quietly canvassing the league for potential Porzingis deals, according to a person familiar with the talks who was not authorized to discuss them publicly. They tried — unsuccessfully — to trade for untouchables such as Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox.
But the Knicks knew all along the Mavericks had the wherewithal to meet many of their trade objectives and, just as crucially, Dallas was generally unfazed by the torn anterior cruciate ligament Porzingis suffered last February.
In Smith, Dallas had a recent top-10 pick to offer. The Mavericks also proved willing to give up two future first-round draft picks in a Porzingis deal while absorbing the contracts of Hardaway and Lee. The Knicks were able to shed both of those deals because Dallas had two huge expiring contracts to send back ( Jordan and Matthews) and had long been fond of Hardaway despite his defensive deficiencies.
It is a gamble, true, but it is also an undeniable haul.
How did the trade come together so fast?
The Mavericks’ interest in Porzingis had been an open secret to the Knicks for years. One Mavericks official estimated Dallas approached the Knicks “about a hundred times” before the team showed any willingness to discuss trading him.
The Knicks, for their part, had expressed interest in Smith all season. The teams, according to two people with knowledge of their talks, also discussed a Hardaway-forMatthews trade for weeks before Jan. 28, which both sides pinpoint as the first date the Knicks were open to discussing a Porzingis blockbuster. The parties, as a result, did not need long to build a trade framework.
It certainly did not hurt that the Mavericks made their lone Madison Square Garden appearance of the season two nights later. Knicks general manager Scott Perry and his Mavericks counterpart, Donnie Nelson, met before the game in a Garden hallway before taking their huddle behind closed doors and summoning Mills.
By night’s end, Smith had registered a triple-double in a resounding Dallas victory and the Mavericks were offering to seal the Porzingis deal by handshake, since Mark Cuban, the Dallas owner, was in the building. The Knicks, however, asked for more time.
The reason? Porzingis and his brother Janis, the player’s agent, had requested a Thursday morning meeting.
Did Porzingis really ask for a trade in that meeting?
When asked at a Monday news conference to address his reported desire to be traded, Porzingis passed.
“I would rather just focus on what’s ahead of me than looking back,” Porzingis said.
A person with knowledge of the meeting, however, said it was requested by the Porzingis brothers — after they had canceled a similar meeting in January — and that it lasted less than five minutes. Later in the day, according to the person, Janis Porzingis gave the Knicks a list of four teams he and Kristaps had deemed acceptable trade destinations.
The Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers were among those four teams, but Dallas was not. The Knicks, meanwhile, were told Porzingis was prepared to leave the team and continue his knee rehabilitation in Spain if he was not moved by Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
It was not long after receiving the four-team list that the Knicks notified the Mavericks they would do the deal.
Who won the trade?
It is simply not possible to answer this today. Not without knowing, for starters, how the Knicks will fare in free agency — and how Porzingis will bounce back from his knee injury.
But I can tell you this: In my discussions with rival team executives, I have heard from many more who praise the trade than those who question how much the Knicks received in return.
Also: The threat of the Knicks persuading Kevin Durant to leave one of the most dominant teams in league history, based on the latest vibes emanating from the Bay Area, has never felt more real to the Warriors themselves.