GREENBURGH, N.Y. — While opening night may be gathering the attention of Knicks fans, the planning of the franchise is set on the future and when Monday’s deadline to extend the contract of Kristaps Porzingis passed, it may have made sense, but it didn’t come without risk.
And when general manager Scott Perry addressed the issue it didn’t exactly ease the nervousness.
The Knicks could have signed Porzingis, who is rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament that could sideline him for the entire season, to a massive extension like the Minnesota Timberwolves did with Karl-Anthony Towns. Instead, they let the deadline pass, saving cap space for next summer while also risking the possibility of losing the franchise centerpiece.
“First and foremost, Kristaps Porzingis is a special and unique talent,” Perry said. “He is someone that is extremely important to this franchise. He is someone that as we continue to strategically build this team he’s very much a part of it. The goal is to continue to work very close with he and his representation on making him be a part of the New York Knicks for the long term.”
Porzingis can be a restricted free agent next summer, which is only a problem if he opts to not sign anywhere next summer, instead playing out one more year and then becoming an unrestricted free agent. If he signs with another team next summer, the Knicks could keep him by matching the offer. The Knicks have made it clear that they want Porzingis to be a part of the future and that doing it this way allows them to add more help for him, possibly opening a max salary slot next summer for a free agent.
So is Porzingis on board?
“That’s a question you’d have to ask him,” Perry said — while Porzingis is rehabbing and not speaking to the media. “But I think Kristaps and his representation, they are very — he’s rehabbing very well. We’re pleased to see the progress that he’s making with that. Again I think one of his goals where we are lined up is that this team be in a position to be very competitive moving forward.
“I’m not going to get into predicting anything about the future. I would just reiterate that I think his representatives as a group and we have a shared goal of making the Knicks a very good basketball team going into the long term . . . I think our conversations are in a good place. And again, he is extremely important to us going forward. I think we’re both in a comfortable space right now. We’ll just keep working throughout the course of the season.”
The Knicks don’t know if they’ll see Porzingis on the floor this season, but the product may still have some bearing on the decision of the injured star. In releasing Joakim Noah Saturday, the team put $6.4 million on the cap for each of the next three seasons — a $13-million savings for next summer based on the final year of Noah's contract. That may entice a star to join Porzingis, but what they see on the floor and what kind of progress is in line may settle it.
Getting Porzingis on the floor with them would certainly make the product better.
“He’s progressing nicely,” Perry said. “What we’ve said all along is we’re not going to rush it — rush the process. We’re going to allow his rehabilitation to dictate the next steps in that. One thing that has really been very positive and encouraging, too is that he’s been out each and every day in practice showing the type of leadership and engagement with his teammates and I think that is important for his presence here long term . . . Kristaps will come back when he is both mentally and physically ready to play.”
KNICKS STARTING LINEUP
Trey Burke PG
Tim Hardaway Jr. SG
Frank Ntilikina SF
Lance Thomas PF
Enes Kanter C