TORONTO - Steve Mills just celebrated his two-week anniversary as the Knicks' new president and general manager, and he likes what he sees from a roster he had no part in putting together.
Mills, who replaced Glen Grunwald, sees a group of competitive players and "impressive" depth at point guard and thinks Andrea Bargnani will really help the Knicks offensively. Mills said the Knicks have "the makings of something special."
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It's a far cry from when Mills last served as a top Knicks executive during some very lean years. But Mills, who was behind the hiring of Isiah Thomas, learned a lot from his previous tenure from 1999-2008 and appreciates the type of players he has now.
"What I learned is this team and this building and the history of this franchise mean a whole lot to a whole lot of people," Mills said before the Knicks' 100-91 preseason loss to the Raptors Friday night. "You have an obligation to try and build it up and make it as successful as you possibly can. What I'm committed to doing is doing everything I can do to help us win a championship."
Mills believes the Knicks are close because they have a superstar in Carmelo Anthony and players who are committed to winning.
"When I watch and am around the guys on this team and how they're all pros and watching the way Carmelo is helping [Iman] Shumpert, he's helping talk to Raymond [Felton] about a lot of things," Mills said. "We had teams where that wasn't there. That kind of chemistry and that kind of veteran leadership with young guys -- I've been around a lot of things where that wasn't there. This makes you understand and appreciate how important it is."
This is a huge year for the Knicks on and off the court.
Anthony is expected to opt out of his contract after the season. The Knicks' top priority is keeping him, but Mills also will try to position the Knicks to make moves this summer and next by shedding salary.
On the court, the Knicks believe they have enough to play for a championship. But if they struggle early or hit any road blocks, Mills said he would be patient.
"I clearly believe in Mike Woodson as a coach," he said. "I think we have great players here. You rarely come across a player like Carmelo Anthony. There are going to be bumps in the road along the way to anything. We'll be patient, but I think we have the makings of something special.
"I don't think we'll make harsh reactions when things get tough. We also have to stick to a plan to try and have something we're building toward the future. We won't overreact to situations."
Mills wasn't with the Knicks last season, but from his conversations with the coaches and players, he believes camp has been more competitive.
He praised Pablo Prigioni's work ethic and professionalism and said what the Knicks need right now is a backup center. Cole Aldrich is manning the post in the preseason and has a chance to make the team.
Mills also said he doesn't know when Amar'e Stoudemire will return from his latest knee surgery. Stoudemire has said it's possible he will return for opening night.
"I'm really not sure," Mills said. "We're bringing him along slowly . . . Every day we assess where he is, and hopefully we'll be at a point where he'll be ready at the start of the season."
Notes & quotes: Anthony led the Knicks with 24 points. Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. and Metta World Peace each had 13 and Bargnani added 10 . . . Woodson said he plans to sit Anthony, Felton and World Peace tonight when the Knicks play the Celtics in New Hampshire.