Unlike Phil Jackson, Steve Mills at Least Has a Plan for Knicks Future
The New York Knicks and turmoil have gone hand in hand over the last few years under Phil Jackson’s reign as president of the team. Jackson became the team’s president in March of 2014 and his tenure was anything but smooth. Finally, after butting heads with both Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis, Jackson was removed from his position. Steve Mills, who was their general manager under Jackson, was promoted to the spot and is looking to turn around the fortune of the Knicks.
On Friday, Mills published a blogpost where he talked about the future of the Knicks and laid out the groundwork to building the franchise. According to Mills, it all starts with a question: “How can we build a Knicks team that possesses true unity of purpose, a group in which everyone so truly believes in one another that together we can create something unique, something special?” Simple enough question with much more complicated answers.
“Dogged defense. Crisp, unselfish ball movement. Scrapping for loose balls. These will be our hallmarks,” is what Mills said the identity of the team should be. He also discussed his relationship with newly appointed GM Steve Perry. “I will be challenging him to ensure the thought process is on the mark,” Mills said, “with the big picture in mind. I will trust his judgment.” Trust is important in this new role. Perry has experience, which Mills notes, and makes this transition a bit easier for everyone moving forward.
But the biggest takeaway, for me at least, was how Mills talked about the future of the Knicks and the players he mentioned as part of their youth movement, which is already underway with players like 2017 first round pick Frank Ntilikina (19), the return of Tim Hardaway Jr. (25), and rising star Kristaps Porzingis (22). In the post, Mills also named Willy Hernangómez and Ron Baker.
One man, however, was not mentioned: Carmelo Anthony. I mean, I am not shocked, but the end is definitely near for Melo in New York. He was even left out of the promo for announcement that full season tickets are available for purchase. Another clear sign that the Knicks are moving on from Anthony. If Mills is really intent on making this team younger, then the 33 year old Melo does not fit that bill. There have been rumors about trading Anthony for years and he played through it without much complaint, even when there were times where it was easy for him to lash out. He served the fans of New York well and I am sure he will be missed once he is finally dealt at some point this year.
Mills is new at this president thing, so it is important to give him some time, which I know is not something the playoff starved fans of the Knicks want to hear. They want the playoffs and a competitive team. But, more importantly, they just want good basketball. Mills might be inexperienced and did give Tim Hardaway Jr. a skeptically huge deal when he was the GM, but at least he has a plan. And in that plan he does lay out what he wants to accomplish on and off the court. If anything, that should at least put him in the good graces of the fans, who had to suffer through years of Phil Jackson saying he had a plan, but never actually detailing it or making any moves that were coherent in any way.
Knicks fans may be in turmoil now, but this is a step in the right direction. It was crazy to hear that Jackson was shopping Porzingis and that was probably the final straw for owner James Dolan on the Phil Jackson experiment. Embracing youth as a fan base is always an easy sell and dangling your best player in the trade market is a quick way to upset your fans. Just look at another team in New York: the Yankees. They smartly devised a plan and went about rebuilding instead of spending loads of money. The fans supported it fully and no one expected the youthful Yanks to be competitors this season, but that is what happened and it can happen to the Knicks too. If Porzingis, Hernangómez, and Ntilikina gel, then this team can compete for the playoffs sooner rather than later. And you go from there. But making the playoffs this season is not the goal. It is a process and it needs to be given time. It is important the Knicks do not hedge the future to make the playoffs this year, like Jackson did last offseason by signing older players to bad contracts - cough Joakim Noah cough - and growing pains are expected.
Key to all of this is the aforementioned Kristaps Porzingis. As he goes, the Knicks will go. At 7-foot-3, he is a tall dude. Also, he is a tall dude who does not play like a tall dude, at least offensively. He is a big-time shooter who can get hot at any point and when he does, boy is he fun to watch. He makes it look so easy and when he is going, so are the Garden fans. And he might not have the strength to play well in the paint on defense, yet, he is at the very least a good rim protector due to his ridiculous eight foot wingspan. He is the cornerstone of the franchise and a piece to build a team around.
Now, words are nice, but results are better. Mills has a plan for the Knicks and one that puts Porzingis front and center, as he should be. Mills said it all starts with a question. But will he have answers?