Knicks had a good week — off the court

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - SPORTS EXTRA - By Steve Pop­per

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.

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