The Knicks haven’t issued a timetable for Kristaps Porzingis’ return from a torn ACL, but their owner didn’t rule out the franchise player missing all of next season.
Porzingis is two months removed from surgery to repair his left ACL. When Porzingis spoke last week before his exit interview, he was vague about his return and his rehab. The first in a series of YouTube videos detailing his workouts and return will be released Thursday.
But Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan revealed the most important details to this point about Porzingis’ return.
“I’ve been told everything from December to him being out for the season, so I don’t know what to expect on that,” Dolan said in an interview with the New York Post. “But we can’t just sit on our [expletive] while he’s away. We need to develop a team and then integrate him into it when he comes back.”
That officially puts Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry on the clock. The Knicks’ two top basketball executives are conducting a coaching search for Jeff Hornacek’s replacement.
Hornacek, who was hired by former Knicks president Phil Jackson, was fired last week after a 29-53 finish — the team’s fourth straight season with at least 50 losses. Hornacek was 60-104 in two years. Mills, Perry and Dolan were critical of how Hornacek communicated and related to players.
“I think Hornacek had the same kind of issue that Phil did in that he didn’t grasp how different the players are now in the way they think and deal with management and the coaches,” Dolan said. “I think he was way behind on that.
“But I think Jeff is a good coach and he’ll do well when he’s hired by another team.”
The Knicks began the interview process Tuesday, meeting first with Jerry Stackhouse. They interviewed their former point guard Mark Jackson and ex-coach Mike Woodson on Wednesday in Los Angeles. David Fizdale is expected to interview with Mills and Perry either Thursday or Friday.
Reportedly, the Knicks also will sit down with TNT analyst Kenny Smith, a surprise name because he has no coaching experience. David Blatt, who coached in Turkey this season and was Mills’ college teammate at Princeton, is scheduled to interview next week.
Because Mills and Perry have stated they want someone who can relate to today’s NBA players, they could hire a younger, less-experienced head coach such as Fizdale, Stackhouse or Jackson and provide them with an experienced assistant in Woodson or Blatt.
The Knicks have spoken to Jeff Van Gundy’s representative, but it doesn’t appear that he’s a strong candidate.
“The old-style coaching doesn’t work,” Dolan told the Post. “A coach who tries to do everything himself isn’t going to be successful.
“The coaching search for the Knicks is similar in a lot of ways to the Rangers. I think the teams are in similar spots. We’re looking for people to develop players and to create a winning team. We have our lists of candidates, but the lists are still open.”
After picking a coach, the Knicks will focus on the draft — they should have a top 10 pick — and free agency. They would like to keep their spending down to have the cap room for a 2019 free-agent class that includes Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker.
They also need to make a decision about Porzingis, who is eligible for an extension this summer worth roughly $157 million over five years.
Dolan called Porzingis “a great player . . . We just have to build around him.”
But the most prudent thing may be for the Knicks to wait until next summer to give him the extension. It could upset Porzingis and his camp, but it would give the Knicks about $10 million more to spend in that fateful and potentially franchise-changing free agency next summer.
“I want to do what I can to build a team here that can win the championship,” Dolan said. “That’s the objective behind everything we do.”