After a summer spent chasing talent — some pursuits were more successful than others — Knicks president Leon Rose expressed optimism that the Knicks are back on the correct path.
It has been exactly one year since Rose spoke to media that covers the team, and he continued that Friday, conducting a preseason interview with the team’s network rather than facing questions from reporters. He raved about the acquisition of free agent Jalen Brunson, downplayed the efforts to deal away just about anyone on the team in an attempt to trade for Donovan Mitchell that proved unsuccessful, and is pleased with the draft capital the team has stockpiled.
But his optimism still doesn’t convert to wins until the Knicks do it on the court. In his first year the Knicks finished in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, but last season they slumped to 11th place in the conference and a spot in the draft lottery — a pick he dealt away, packaging it to help unload contracts he brought in last summer.
“It is my job to evaluate and look at trades and things of that nature in order to improve the team,” Rose said in an interview with MSG’s Alan Hahn. “Like I said when I came in, we were going to be aggressive, we were going to be opportunistic. Our plan was to work with what we have through player development, look at what’s out there, and as a group try to get better every day. That’s what we tried to do.”
Asked about the pursuit of Mitchell, he said, “We went through that process there. Ultimately, at the end of the day, we made that decision to stay put, and we’re thrilled with where we are. Even taking a look at this summer, this past summer, we feel great about what transpired. One of our main goals was to try to create internal stability — signed RJ Barrett, first extension of a [Knicks first-round pick] since Charlie Ward. We retained Mitchell Robinson. Mitchell is another player who has been developed through the last few years. We felt very fortunate to be able to keep him.
“Free agency, we got the number one point guard in free agency this summer in Jalen Brunson. We feel really good about the summer. By not making a move, we are flush with draft capital, which, as you know, is great currency in the market and something that will help us get better as we move forward.”
Left unsaid there was that before signing Barrett to that four-year, $107 million contract extension, Rose and the Knicks' front office attempted to deal him to Utah for Mitchell. League sources indicated that the Knicks were open to trading Barrett in that deal and also were willing to shop Julius Randle, Evan Fournier and almost any combination of players and picks. Still, he insisted that he is optimistic about where the team is now and still open to finding deals to improve the team.
“Our goal is to improve and there’s different ways to improve,” he said. “Our primary focus has been on our internal player development . . . We’re very happy with the development that we’ve seen in our young players — as evidenced by the deal that we did with RJ, the deal that we did with Mitchell. That’s one aspect of it. The other aspect is looking to make moves, and having that type of capital is going to be very beneficial and helpful to do that . . . The shop is not closed. But we’re very pleased with where we are. We’re very pleased with the players on the team.”