GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Julius Randle said he first heard the news on Tuesday that Steve Mills was no longer going to be the Knicks president from . . . Steve Mills.
“I didn’t expect it, honestly, waking up,” Randle said on Wednesday. “But I’m not surprised by anything. It’s the NBA. It’s my sixth year. I’ve seen a lot in my short six years or whatever it is. I don’t get surprised by anything anymore. I talked to him. He was the one who broke the news to me.”
Mills apparently reached out to every Knicks player on Tuesday after it was announced that he was being let go. General manager Scott Perry, who remains on the job, addressed the team as a group before Wednesday’s practice.
Or at least most of the team. An illness is spreading through the Knicks’ locker room ahead of Thursday’s game against Orlando. So far, it has affected Reggie Bullock, Mitchell Robinson, Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier. The latter two are not expected to be available Thursday.
Who else is available for the Knicks against the Magic will be determined by 3 p.m. on Thursday. That’s the NBA’s trade deadline, and Perry is working the phones to see if he can improve his 15-36 club.
Marcus Morris is the most likely to be moved from the roster that Mills and Perry put together after the Knicks struck out on landing any big names in free agency.
The fallback plan included Morris, who was signed to a one-year deal and is thus very tradeable, and Randle, who got three years and $63 million and said he wants to stay.
“I would love it,” Randle said. “I came here to be a part of this team, to try to help change the culture and reshape the organization, you know, turn things around. Try to get back to winning ways. I would love to continue to be a part of that vision that not only I have, but the other guys who brought me here. We’ll see.”
Point guard Elfrid Payton said all the turmoil surrounding the Knicks isn’t seeping into the locker room.
“Things like that are always tough,” Payton said. “This isn’t my first time losing a coach, this isn’t my first time losing somebody in the front office. So it’s just something you have to deal with. It’s a business at the end of the day. And you just try to do your job.”
The Knicks have won two in a row and are 11-18- under interim coach Mike Miller, who replaced the fired David Fizdale on Dec. 6. Miller is the only member of Knicks management who has addressed Mills’ departure.
"Let me say this: First, I really want to thank Steve for everything,” he said. “When I was hired here five years ago to work for the Westchester Knicks, my final interview was with Steve and I had a chance to talk to him. In my five years here I've enjoyed working with him. He's been so helpful to me and given me opportunities within this organization and to grow as a professional. So I appreciate everything Steve has done."
Rookie RJ Barrett — who practiced and said it’s possible he could return from an ankle injury on Thursday — may have summed up the feelings of most of the players about front office and trade deadline matters they have no control over.
“I’m a basketball player,” he said. “I have no clue what’s going on.”