Knicks had a good week — off the court
DETROIT — It was a good week for the Knicks. Not on the court, of course, where they have continued to chase the record for the worst season in franchise history. But if you are keeping score in the realm that the Knicks are counting on — the future of their rebuild — they went 3-0 recently.
First, Anthony Davis announced that he wanted out of New Orleans and placed the Knicks on a short list of teams he would consider signing with longterm. Then he was not dealt before the trade deadline, leaving the opening for the Knicks to chase him this summer. Then Kyrie Irving arrived at Madison Square Garden the day after Kristaps Porzingis was dealt away, creating the massive cap space that could be utilized to sign an elite free agent, such as Irving, and walked back his preseason promises to remain in Boston for years to come.
And finally, Kevin Durant spoke. After eight days of silence, he finally sat down on a stage and, well, ranted. But the part that was most interesting to the Knicks was his declaration, “I have nothing to do with the Knicks. I don’t know who traded Porzingis. That’s got nothing to do with me. I’m trying to play basketball.” That sounded a lot like a child announcing he didn’t break the lamp, which the parents hadn’t accused him of breaking.
So all are prime targets for the Knicks’ summer chase, whether by trade, in the case of Davis, or free agency, where Durant and Irving are among the headlining names on the market and still teasing the Knicks.
Now, they didn’t exactly show the form that will someday be held up as a how-to case study in public relations classes. Davis drew a $50,000 fine from the NBA for his agent telling ESPN that he wanted to be traded. Irving caused a bit of whiplash in Boston for fans and executives who listened to his speech in October declaring how he was signing on forever and ever. And Durant, well, that’s a tricky one.
Before we get to what’s next, let’s pause for a disclaimer. The Knicks cleared $70 million-plus in cap space to chase free agents or, as they call it, financial flexibility, but let’s just say they are attracting those buyers for a team that on the used car lot of basketball looks a lot more like a Ford Pinto than a Tesla. For the Knicks to trade for Davis, dangling their 2019 lottery pick as bait, they will have to perform salary-cap gymnastics to make it work now that they have dumped every large contract. And there is the caveat that if they give up the firstround pick and assorted young pieces to trade for Davis, that means taking in his contract and having just Davis and one max-salary free agent rather than getting the pick and two free agents.
Back to Durant. Is he going to leave the best team in basketball? Will he leave a five-year, $221 million supermax deal that only the Warriors can offer and head to a new team for a max of four years and $164 million? And would he do it with the Knicks, where he can pair with another max free agent and ... well, not a lot else.
The Knicks are in the game, which is a lot better than what can be said about most nights on the court, and that’s something for a franchise that hasn’t had a lot of wins on or off for years.