Knicks president Phil Jackson’s intention for now is make amends with 7-foot-3 Latvian phenom Kristaps Porzingis and not look to trade him.
But if things don’t go smoothly in the next several months, Jackson may entertain trade offers again, knowing Porzingis will be entering the final year of his contract after next season. According to an NBA source, Jackson is concerned about Porzingis’ long-term viability with the organization after blowing off the exit meeting without notification. He regarded it as an act of insubordination.
Jackson and Porzingis will both be free agents in the summer of 2019. Porzingis is a restricted free agent and the Knicks can match any offer. Jackson, or his potential successor, current general manager Steve Mills, would be reluctant to bring Porzingis back if he’s an unhappy Knick.
The worry is this: Porzingis blowing off his exit meeting, then publicizing it to the media 2 ½ months before free agency as a protest to the Knicks’ chaos, could lead to future acts of rebellion that would hurt the franchise’s image to other players.
Judging from the amount of interest Porzingis attracted before Thursday’s NBA draft — The Vertical reported the other 29 teams all inquired about him — it may be better to explore trade options sooner rather than later if Jackson senses Porzingis is disgruntled with the rebuilding plan and movement toward the triangle offense.
Though Jackson was pounded by fans and in some media circles for listening to offers, he got a feel for Porzingis’ market value in case this relationship does not improve significantly. However, the downside of Jackson acknowledging a deal could be “what’s good for the club’’ was it widened the chasm between the two sides.
After being chosen by the 76ers with the No. 25 pick in Thursday’s draft, fellow Latvian Anzejs Pasecniks said of Porzingis: “I know he’s not happy. But he didn’t say anything about it. He’s just not happy. That’s all I know.”
Neither is Janis Porzingis, Porzingis’ brother and agent. His quote to ESPN after The Vertical report stated Jackson was indeed listening to offers served as disturbing to the organization.
“Despite how the Knicks are treating their players, Kris wants to stay in New York,’’ Janis Porzingis said. “He loves the city and he loves the fans and he wants to win with this team. If he’s going to be traded, he’s going to play out his contract and decide his future on his own.”
It marked the second time Janis talked about his brother playing out his contract and signing with a club of his choosing. There will be plenty of teams interested if the gym-rat Porzingis, 21, progresses into a two-way, inside-outside superstar force most NBA executives believe he will.
Most general managers, including Boston’s Danny Ainge, felt Jackson was not serious about trading Porzingis on draft night. Asking Boston for two solid rotation players — including Jaylen Brown whom Ainge called an untouchable Friday — and two lottery picks is outlandish for Porzingis.
“I really don’t think New York was genuinely going to move him,’’ Ainge told reporters. “That phone call was quick. I think Phil knows what he’s doing. It was a little blown out of proportion. Leave it at that. … It was more [media] talk.”
It’s never a good thing for a player when Jackson’s longtime confidant, Charley Rosen, starts writing about the merits of trading Porzingis, as he did for the website FanRag earlier this week. He noted durability issues, low-post deficiencies and stated “he routinely gets bullied at every turn.’’
Just ask Carmelo Anthony. The difference is, while Jackson wants desperately to remove Anthony from his rebuilding picture, he wants it to work out big time with Porzingis. Jackson’s greatest fear is it might not.