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Knicks GM Scott Perry, president Steve Mills see Kristaps Porzingis as free-agent magnet

The Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis speaks with the media

The Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis speaks with the media after his exit interview with Knicks management on April 14. Photo Credit: Richard Harbus

LAS VEGAS — Kristaps Porzingis may miss most or all of the coming season as he recovers from left knee surgery, but Knicks general manager Scott Perry and team president Steve Mills believe their cornerstone player will be a major lure for free agents in the summer of 2019 when they have salary cap space to add a max salary free agent.

In fact, Mills said Porzingis’ appeal became evident in the search that led to the hiring of coach David Fizdale. “When we were going through the coaching search, every candidate we interviewed wanted to have an opportunity to coach Kristaps,” Mills said.

“That’s why this was one of the more attractive jobs on the market. I believe players see who he is and what he would be like to play with.”

Porzingis made the All-Star team just before suffering his season-ending injury on Feb. 6, and Perry said players recognize that talent. “I think Kristaps is gaining the respect of many of his peers in this league,” Perry said. “We’re excited about that. We feel real confident about him being an important part of our building process.”

Porzingis will be eligible to negotiate a long-term contract extension this season, but it could be problematic for the Knicks before his rehabilitation is complete. Perry declined to say whether negotiations have begun.

“He’s part of our long-term plan,” Perry said of Porzingis. “We’ll get all that figured out at the appropriate time in terms of when we get into that negotiation. But we’re comfortable where we are with him, and we’ll work together to figure something out.”

There is no timetable for Porzingis’ return, but Mills said the team will know more when he arrives for training camp in September. In the meantime, Perry and Mills insisted the Knicks’ goal this season is to be competitive even without Porzingis.

“We want to have a mindset in the locker room that we want to compete to win every night,” Perry said. “Let’s see how quickly these young people develop and come together.”

As for the cap space the Knicks will have next summer, Mills downplayed it as a matter of circumstance rather than the focus of the organization’s plan. “When we laid out our long-term goals, you never heard us talk about the ultimate goal was to have cap room in 2019,” Mills said. “That’s a byproduct of the situation and how our salaries lined up. Our goal is to put together a group of guys that can build a Knick team that can be competitive long-term.”

New York Sports