CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In boardrooms and on blackboards, it is simple to map out a rebuilding plan. The Knicks made theirs more than a year ago, plotting out how they would hoard their young assets, players and draft picks and, perhaps most important, clear cap space to be big-time players when the free-agent class of 2019 went on the market.
But those plans that end well in theory don’t always come to fruition, so there are turning points. And the Knicks are facing one right now.
With the news, first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, that agent Rich Paul has told the Pelicans that All-Star Anthony Davis will not sign an extension and wants to be traded, the Knicks must consider just how good their plan is.
The Lakers are considered the favorite and the team Davis would like to be directed toward. Paul client LeBron James hopes to add another star. ESPN reported, however, that the Knicks will be aggressive in trying to acquire Davis.
One NBA source indicated that the Knicks will be interested in any talks but do not believe the Pelicans will move Davis before the summer.
“Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him a chance to win consistently and compete for a championship,” Paul told ESPN. “Anthony wanted to be honest and clear with his intentions, and that’s the reason for informing them of this decision now. ‘’
A statement by the Pelicans confirmed the report and emphasized that any move they make will be on their terms, not to appease Davis.
“This past weekend, Anthony Davis’ representatives informed us that Anthony does not wish to sign a contract extension with our team and subsequently has requested a trade,” the team said. “Although we are disappointed in this decision, our organization’s top priority is to bring an NBA championship to our city and fans and build our team for long-term success.
“Relative to specific talks of a trade, we will do this on our terms and our timeline. One that makes the most sense for our team and it will not be dictated by those outside of our organization. We have also requested the League to strictly enforce the tampering rules associated with this transaction.”
One NBA executive said he does not believe the Pelicans will rush to beat the Feb. 7 trade deadline. He said waiting until the summer would let them clarify the trade market by adding the Celtics, who can’t deal until July 1, and even see where teams such as the Knicks land in the draft.
Davis’ declaration about wanting out now gives teams besides the Celtics a head start in pursuing him. Restricted by the designated rookie extension contract, Boston cannot trade for Davis until July 1 because collective-bargaining rules won’t allow the contracts of both Kyrie Irving and Davis to be on a roster together. Irving will become a free agent July 1.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said: “He plans on playing out the season . . . A.D. is going to play as hard as he can once he gets well.”
Davis’ desire to compete for a championship pushes the Knicks, 10-39 and losers of 10 in a row, down the list. That is the problem they will face this summer as they try to lure Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Irving or even Kemba Walker to sign on.
Their pitch to free agents will include the 2019 lottery pick, with the dream that it will be Duke’s Zion Williamson; Kristaps Porzingis’ return from a torn ACL and some marginally promising young players.
There will be competition for the available stars not only in luring them from their own teams but having a better sales pitch that can promise adding them to another superstar. So the temptation for the Knicks to enter the trade talks is hard to resist because the plan no longer is a distant promise.
But any deal certainly would ask for this year’s first-round draft pick or Porzingis — or perhaps both — which would rob the Knicks of the assets they’re trying to assemble.
David Fizdale said the team has not changed its plan to avoid chasing the next shiny object and will not be deterred from the rebuild.
“Absolutely. We’re not going to panic,” he said. “This is our plan . . . We’ve got to get these guys a lot of experience and understanding, let them get their butts kicked some more and let them grow from it. We’re still stuck to our plan strategically that if it makes sense, then we’re going to make those moves. But if it doesn’t, we’re going to go keep forging ahead with growing our guys and developing it the right way.”
But patience can go on a long time when the Warriors are dominating the NBA and James is trying to assemble another superteam with the Lakers.
“Unfortunately for New York fans, you’ve got to have patience,” the Heat’s Dwyane Wade said Sunday. “I know New York fans are like, we’ve had patience. But you can’t win if you don’t have the right talent around.
“Look, in this league, to compete, you’ve got to compete against DeMarcus [Cousins], Steph [Curry], Klay [Thompson], Draymond [Green] and Kevin Durant. So you all can be patient. It’s going to be a while.”