Phil Jackson acknowledged that he has received calls and is listening to offers for Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks president didn’t dismiss the notion that he would move the 21-year-old forward for the right price.
Jackson also said that he has been informed that Carmelo Anthony would rather stay with the Knicks than waive his no-trade clause, but there would be more conversations in the near future.
Appearing on the MSG Network’s pre-draft show, Jackson addressed the Porzingis’ situation for the first time. It was clear Jackson was bothered by the fact that Porzingis blew off his exit meeting in April, and basically opened the door for teams to bring him their best offers.
“We’re getting calls,” Jackson said. “As much as we value Kristaps, and what he’s done for us, when a guy doesn’t show up for the exit meeting everybody starts speculating on the duration or his movability from a club so we’ve been getting calls.
“We’re listening but we’re not intrigued yet at this level. But as much as we love this guy we have to do what’s good for our club.”
Jackson said he would consider trading the 7-3 Porzingis —
a unique talent who many view as a future All-Star and franchise player — if the deal moves their rebuild along much quicker.
“What does it bring?” Jackson said. “Does it bring us two starters and a draft pick or something that’s even beyond that is something we have to look at as far as going down the road. We know what he is, he’s a unicorn, and he’s special.”
Jackson said he’d never had a player in all his years as a coach ever miss an exit meeting, and that it “was kind of surprising” that Porzingis did because he characterized their relationship as “real good” before that.
Although no Knicks official has spoken directly to Porzingis since the end of the season — they met with his brother Janis — Jackson sounds confident that they can repair their relationship.
“They say no worries,” Jackson said. “He’s working hard. There’s plenty of pictures on the internet about him working hard and working at it, so we’ll get him back.”
As far as Anthony is concerned, Jackson reiterated what he said at his end of season news conference. He thinks it’s best for Anthony to try and play for a contending team. The Knicks, who are 80-166 under Jackson’s watch, aren’t close to contending. Jackson added that the Knicks haven’t been successful with Anthony, and they’re going for a youth movement.
But it sounds as if Anthony may need some more convincing, and Jackson seems eager to try and change Anthony’s mind.
“We expressed the fact that we’ve done a lot of things to try to put teams together that could win,” Jackson said. “We haven’t been successful. It might be time for him to find an opportunity and go somewhere else. He’s come back and said he’d just as soon stay. We’re trying to start growing from the youth aspect of it.
“There will be conversations after the draft and after free agency as teams start reorganizing their rosters. So there’ll be other conversations in the process.”
The Knicks have the eighth pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, as well as the No. 44 and 58 selections. Jackson said they likely would take a guard or small forward with their lottery pick.
Jackson didn’t rule out trading the pick. If he could use it to move up to grab Kansas’ forward Josh Jackson, the Knicks might do that. If they stand pat, they could be picking between Kentucky’s Malik Monk, French guard Frank Ntilikina and North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr.
The 6-5 Ntilikina because of his size and versatility to play and defend both guard positions may be the best fit for the triangle. Monk is more of a shooting guard, but the pure scorer might be hard to pass up if he’s there. Smith Jr. is a point guard who can break down opponents and attacks the basket.
The Knicks have also expressed some interest in Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell, Duke shooter Luke Kennard and North Carolina swingman Justin Jackson. But eight would seem high to take any of them.
One wild card is Arizona 7-footer Lauri Markkanen, who met with Jackson Monday night. Markkanen is a “stretch four” because of his ability to spread the floor with shooting. If they took Markkanen it likely would mean they could be moving on from Porzingis.
Jackson said he hopes to draft a player at eight who can eventually be a starter, and urged fans who have become frustrated with him to be patient.
“I think we know what we’re doing,” Jackson said. “Although it’s not been apparent in our record the last couple of years. We’ve grown from within. We have young players that are on their move up. It takes time to rebuild with youth.
“I think they have confidence in the fact that we’re going to have good players, we’re going to have a good team and we’re going to be on the court competitive.”