GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Steve Mills inherited what he thinks is a championship-caliber roster this season, and a big part of his job as Knicks president and general manager will be creating an environment that's appealing to players currently on the team and stars from other teams.
In other words, the Knicks don't want Carmelo Anthony to go anywhere and they want to get him help as soon as possible.
But Anthony, who can opt out of his contract after the season, said he's not thinking about that and won't talk about his future. He doesn't want anything to interfere with this season. "I'm not going to go through the season thinking about my contract," he said Monday at media day. "I'm actually under contract now, so I'm not going to think about what I'm going to do. I'm not doing that. When that time comes, I'll deal with it. Until then, my focus is really on being here, being a Knick, doing what I have to do to, hopefully, win a championship."
The Knicks will hold their first practice Tuesday and collectively believe they can be better than last season's 54-win, Atlantic Division title team.
When healthy, the Knicks have scoring (Anthony, J.R. Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Raymond Felton) and more defensive-minded players than at the start of camp last season (Tyson Chandler, Metta World Peace, Iman Shumpert, Kenyon Martin).
"While we have long-term goals, our near-time goals are the same as they've been," Mills said. "Our goal is to win a championship. We think we have a good chance to do that."
Hired Thursday to replace Glen Grunwald, Mills had no input in the roster. But he made his first "official" move Monday, announcing that the Knicks have picked up the option on Mike Woodson's contract for 2014-15.
Mills said Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan hired him to "rebuild the basketball organization into the best basketball organization in the NBA." Mills said he will use his business acumen and "analytics" to help create a structure for developing and evaluating the players the Knicks have and figuring out what they need.
Mills plans to lean on Allan Houston, Mark Warkentien and John Gabriel for personnel decisions, but he also might bring in someone else. The Knicks could be major players in the 2015 free-agent market but could try to clear room to have flexibility in 2014.
"Jim and I talked a lot about making this a place where people want to come," Mills said. "That's really important to have a culture and atmosphere around this organization that players we have feel like they want to play here, they can get better here, and players who aren't here, this is a place they want to play."
It starts with Anthony.
The Knicks can start negotiating an extension with him in February, although it's more likely he will opt out and seek a maximum deal. The Knicks can pay him up to $34 million more than any other team.
"He obviously loves it here. We're going to do everything we can to make this a great place for him, Mills said.
Said Woodson, "There is no doubt that we want Melo in a Knick uniform, but first things first," Woodson said. "We've got to figure this season out. Expectations will be high again this season, and that's OK, it should be that way. And our goals are not going to change. Our ultimate goal is to win a title."
The Dolan family owns
controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns