It's Knicks Media Day out in Tarrytown, NY, and it's also the first time team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry discussed their free agency moves.
The result wasn't what Knicks fans were hoping for, as the superstars like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and others found their way to different teams. However, Mills and Perry had multiple plans in place if something like this were to go down.
So the roster that they have put together with training camp kicking off tomorrow is one that they did envision when prepping for free agency.
"Free agency is a process that there's certain parts of it you can't control," Mills said. "We had a plan in place, we had a roster that we thought we could end up with and the guys that you're going to meet later on today, those are guys that were part of what we planned on doing."
It was also a plan that owner James Dolan did review before Mills and Perry went out to execute it.
"Jim knew we were going to have a successful free agency period, and we feel like we did that," Mills explained. "He was on board with what we were doing and one of the rosters that he saw well in advance of free agency looks like one we're going to put out on the floor this year."
It may not be the ideal roster, but the Knicks gave themselves tons of flexibility by signing players like Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris, Wayne Ellington and others to two-year deals with only one year guaranteed. Only Julius Randle, their biggest signing among the lot, has more than one year guaranteed and his three-year deal has two years guaranteed.
However, Mills admitted there were players that could have filled one of the two max slots the Knicks had that were interested in the team, but didn't fit what they wanted to build in New York.
"There were a lot of max-type players that we could have met with that were interested in coming here," Perry said. "We had a certain way we wanted to build this team and this is how we chose to build it."
"There were a lot of max-type players that we could have met with...we had a certain way we wanted to build this team" - Steve Mills pic.twitter.com/vXe0ST1a5N- SNY (@SNYtv) September 30, 2019
The Knicks, then, will have a roster full of players vying for minutes, and looking to prove they deserve to wear a Knicks uniform after this season. And that's exactly what the front office wants to see.
"We are looking to get better every single day, starting tomorrow. We're going to compete on a daily basis," Perry said. "Every night we go out there to play, we're playing to win. ...I expect us to be better, an improved basketball team.
"Obviously I think we upgraded our talent and I hope some of these guys will be here longer term based on how that plays out. But that's going to play out organically through the season.
"All these guys want to be here, they want to win and they're focused on the team."
Here's what else Perry, Mills and head coach David Fizdale spoke about during their media day press conference...
Fizdale loving his new roster depth
With the free agent additions, Fizdale is liking how each position has better competition than it did just a year ago. For example, multiple power forwards were signed because, as team brass pointed out, only Mitchell Robinson was under contract this season.
That's going to create tons of competition at training camp, and Fizdale is looking forward to each group getting after it.
"We have great versatility now and I felt like we are at least two to three deep at every position," Fizdale said. "That only helps you when you get into the gym and those guys start to go after each other. They're going to push each other to get better every single day. The fact that none of them have been heralded as superstars, they understand that they're going to need each other to win games."
Doesn't sound like Knicks were interested in Melo
As he has all summer long, Carmelo Anthony has been working out with players and teams, looking for his new home in the NBA. He did have a workout with his former team in the Knicks, but Mills didn't get much more into that other than to say that former players have always come back in the offseason.
"We followed what's been going on with Carmelo," Mills said. "They called last time and asked if he could workout with our team one day, which we always have our former Knicks come...I wish Carmelo the best."
Fizdale knows what he wants from his point guard
It should be expected that Dennis Smith Jr. is coming into camp as the team's starting point guard, but Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina are also vying for that title. Payton had a career year with New Orleans last season, and if Ntilikina can carry over his solid FIBA World Cup performance with France over to training camp, the former first-round pick could be in the conversation as well.
Fizdale dished on what he's looking for from that group this season.
"I think it's going to be great competition," he said. "Between [Payton], Dennis and Frank -- those guys will be fighting each other every single day for those minutes. Really at that position I'm looking at are they defending their position at a high level? Are they pushing our pace? Are they organizing us while staying aggressive and being the floor general for our team?"
Knicks liked what they saw from Frank
Speaking of Ntilikina, team brass was watching him closely as he made his way to Europe to play with his national squad. Ntilikina played very well with France, and it caught the eyes of many Knicks fans when he was a vital part in taking down Team USA.
"Very happy to see how he performed over in the World Cup," Perry said of Ntilikina. "Watched a number of his games very close. Think you can see him gaining confidence, which is a very important thing. You hope that carries over in here at the start of training camp. He's gotten a little bigger and stronger. We actually visited with him when we were out in Las Vegas before he went to the World Cup and [we could] see he's starting to fill out."
The Knicks also have a decision to make regarding Ntilikina's contract, as they must pick up his rookie deal option for another season by the end of October if they wish to do so. But Perry didn't want to touch on that just yet.
"We have until Oct. 31 to do that, and obviously we won't discuss any kind of contract things and details," he said. "So that's all I can tell you right now."
So far, so good with RJ Barrett
A big spotlight will be on the Knicks' No. 3 overall pick in RJ Barrett this season, and from what they have seen from him thus far, Mills and Perry are confident he will be ready for the bright lights.
Barrett's Summer League debut with the Knicks wasn't his best play, with his jumper especially struggling early on. However, the Knicks didn't see him sulking or beat down because of it. Instead, he was contributing in other ways and that is a quality Mills loved to see.
"We saw what you saw on the court with RJ in the Summer League, but we were with him every day off the court," he said. "And the one thing: his confidence never wavered. So for him to be able to hit that wall a little bit and then never lose faith in himself and try to figure out what he could do to help the team, I think that was a very good sign for us and him for his development."
Perry added: "He's tough mentally and he's going to need to rely upon that because we all know when you're a rookie in this league, you're going to be challenged."