Knicks intent on rebuilding and not afraid to say it
New York — Steve Mills just wanted his clothes. He ended up getting an earful.
The man delivering Mills’ dry cleaning one day this summer wasn’t happy with the Knicks’ draft, and he let the team president know it. That’s what happens in New York, home of a frustrated fan base.
Still, Mills believes fans are on board with the Knicks’ plan for patience, one that seems to guarantee that a 45-year drought without a title will last at least a few years more.
“I grew up here and I just have a different point of view. I talk to a lot of fans, I talk to people on the streets all the time. I think people here will let you rebuild,” Mills said.
“They will let you rebuild as long as you are true to what you say, and you lay out for them what you’re going to do. I just, in my gut, believe New Yorkers are OK with that.”
Perhaps that’s because they’ve seen the Knicks try every other way, from blockbuster trades to splashy signings, and it hasn’t worked. So building through the draft and developing players slowly might be the right route — even if it’s a slow road.
“We see the potential that a lot of us players have, but I mean there’s nothing wrong with rebuilding,” rookie forward Kevin Knox said.
The No. 9 pick in June — the one the dry cleaning delivery guy didn’t like — had a strong summer and looks capable of being one of the league’s top first-year players. With the Knicks figuring to struggle while All-Star Kristaps Porzingis remains sidelined by a torn left ACL, they could end up with another high pick next year. Then they should have money to sign a significant free agent, and they believe an improvement in the franchise’s reputation since Mills replaced Phil Jackson and hired general manager Scott Perry and coach David Fizdale will position them to attract one.
“We’re not really worried about rebuilding or nothing like that,” Knox said. “We know we have a lot of young guys, it’s going to take time but that’s not going to affect us from going out every night and playing hard and competing.”
Some things to watch with the Knicks:
Fiery Fizdale?: Fizdale was fired in Memphis last season after clashing with star center Marc Gasol. He said maybe he pushed too hard with a veteran team that he thought had a short window, but he probably will be more patient with a younger team whose time isn’t now.
Patience with Porzingis: The 7-foot-3 forward hurt his knee in February and neither he nor the team will offer a timetable for when he might return, saying only that it won’t be until he’s 100 percent sure he’s ready.
Mystery man: The Knicks used their second-round pick on Mitchell Robinson, who didn’t play in college last season, opting to prepare for the draft. The Knicks felt they needed more athleticism and hope the 7-foot former high school All-American who led the Summer League in blocked shots can provide some.
High achievers, or underachievers? The Knicks signed Mario Hezonja and Noah Vonleh, both former top-10 picks who haven’t averaged in double figures in any season. The Knicks had already last season signed Trey Burke and traded for Emmanual Mudiay, also past top-10 picks who had struggled.
No Noah: A remaining piece of business for the Knicks is finalizing the terms of their divorce with Joakim Noah, who has two years left on the $72 million deal he signed in 2015. He hasn’t been with the team since clashing with former coach Jeff Hornacek last season, and the Knicks have been holding out hope of a trade.
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