Knicks executives Steve Mills and Scott Perry have openly spoken this summer about sticking to their measured plan for the rebuilding of the franchise. When they laid out their latest insistence on avoiding a quick fix Monday at a Town Hall for season ticket holders it drew an ovation from the crowd.
Now it will be put to the test.
One day after holding a summit meeting with Tom Thibodeau, the coach and team president of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Jimmy Butler, according to an ESPN report, is seeking a trade and listing the Knicks, Nets and Clippers as the three teams he would agree to stay on and sign a long-term extension.
The front office duo of Perry and Mills have been clear that they are seeking to keep salaries in check, building with youth, until the summer of 2019 when they would be able to clear the space for at least one max contract player.
Butler is projected as one of those premier free agent targets, along with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson. Now, he could arrive sooner without the bidding process, if the Knicks would only alter their plan.
But they addressed this exact question and have insisted they will not be tempted.
“What we’re not going to do is take short cuts,” Mills said at the Town Hall. “We’re not going to trade our draft picks. We believe that New Yorkers will live with a plan and buy into a plan as long we can articulate it and we live it. I’ve seen when there’s something shiny that says change direction, we can go and get this guy. We’re going to lay out a plan and stick to it.
“We’re going to build this team the right way. What we’re not going to do is trade away assets to get a guy we can get on our own later.”
In an interview with Newsday last week, Mills, who has been a part of the Knicks struggles for nearly two decades in various roles, insisted that he had learned from the quick fixes the franchise often took.
“I’ve been around, I’ve seen a lot here at the Garden, and what I try to do is learn from what I’ve seen and what I’ve experienced,” he said. “I know those short term quick fixes, you’re planning one way and then all of the sudden you’re making a shift, it’s one thing if you’re right on the cusp of competing for a championship, but when you’re where we are to all of the sudden, pivot and go in a different direction I’ve just seen it go wrong too many times. I’m not going to be part of doing it that way.”
In July, sitting down for breakfast with Perry on the day that Kawhi Leonard’s wish to be traded from San Antonio went public, Perry was similarly adamant that he would not be swayed by the chance to grab a star at a high price, the sort of move the franchise made in 2011 when it put together a huge trade package together to obtain Carmelo Anthony just months after the Knicks could have pursued him in free agency.
“You know, obviously, we all have a human side,” Perry said. “But I’m very comfortable with our vision and plan. So it’s easy in that sense, that I have a great sense of confidence in where we’re heading. Daily, I can see the steps we’re taking. They may not be for the world to see with the huge names right now, but I can see the steps in the improvement that we’re taking right now. I know we’re heading on the right track. that gives me a lot more confidence, keeps my patience where it needs to be.”
Reports out of Minnesota stated that Thibodeau was planning on keeping Butler in place for now and chasing a playoff berth. Butler doesn’t have a no-trade clause, the list of potential landing spots based on his willingness to stay long-term - and all having the cap space to provide him with a max deal next summer. The one intriguing part of acquiring Butler now is that it would make a team like the Knicks or Nets more attractive to Irving in free agency. In the Knicks case they would have to match salaries with Minnesota to keep the cap space with Tim Hardaway Jr. the only player who makes sense, but would likely not be enough to get the Timberwolves to bite.The Knicks would be happy to part with Joakim Noah's contract in any trade, but he holds little value around the league.
Another consideration to a long-term commitment to Butler is that he is 29 years old, but in the last five seasons while logging minutes per game among the top four in the NBA he has only played more than 67 games once.