Kristaps Porzingis trade shows how confident Knicks are about landing superstar free agent

The New York Knicks are going all in … for the summer.

By trading Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks in a deal that allowed them to get rid of the long-term contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee, the franchise’s revamped front office not only rid itself of the remnants of the Phil Jackson era but also made a declaration to the rest of the NBA world: Laugh now, cry later.

Kevin Durant is atop the Knicks’ wish list, a fact everyone around the NBA knows, and Kyrie Irving could be in play this summer, too — especially with some questioning his future in Boston.

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At the moment, the Knicks have the worst record in the league at 10-40 as a willing participant in the Zion Williamson sweepstakes. In some ways, this year’s edition has had the feel of Knick teams of recent years, disastrous outfits with little direction and only a pocketful of hope.

But with Scott Perry as general manager, things look to be a-changing at Madison Square Garden as the recruiter at heart is putting plenty of pressure on himself to deliver big game this summer — and clearly he must trust his intel about this July’s free agents, which could set in motion the biggest turnaround in NBA history.

And even more so, Perry is fighting against the reputation of the Knicks, a franchise big on appetite but small on results.

The trade of Porzingis and clearing of cap space put them in prime position to attract free agents this summer, even though playing with a presumably healthy Porzingis would’ve been a main attraction.

Once upon a time, it seemed as if Kristaps Porzingis would be a Knick for life. (AP)
Once upon a time, it seemed as if Kristaps Porzingis would be a Knick for life. (AP)

Porzingis clearly soured on the direction of the franchise, and if he wanted out, credit to the Knicks for keeping it quiet and moving him quickly as opposed to the melodrama the franchise has been known for the past two decades.

While the basketball world has been focused on the Anthony Davis saga, the Knicks were able to stealthily put this deal together, with both sides moving closer on Wednesday night when the Mavericks were in town.

The Knicks put together a similar, if not exact package, for Davis but were turned down by New Orleans, sources told Yahoo Sports, with the feeling that the Pelicans were willing to wait until the summer to revisit trading Davis. The Knicks believed they could sell Davis on the player development and extra cap space to recruit another star in free agency, unbothered by the belief he would be a one-year rental with a one-way ticket to Los Angeles.

New York has had the feeling Porzingis wasn’t on board with the organization for a while now and quietly had trade talks, sources told Yahoo Sports. It was already concerned with his injury along with the prospect of giving him a max contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports, and there were concerns off the floor as well.

The Knicks were worried about Porzingis’ brother, Janis, who’s been more involved in Kristaps’ affairs and wanted to make demands to the front office about acquiring certain players, sources told Yahoo Sports. When the front office pushed back, the doubts about Porzingis having a future in New York came into play.

Porzingis has been out all season, recovering from an ACL injury he suffered last February, and although he probably should’ve been ready to play already, there was no indication he was going to see the floor this season.

The Mavericks trust their medical staff and have no qualms about Porzingis potentially taking the qualifying offer and going into unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2020.

“Perfect swing,” a source close to the Mavericks told Yahoo Sports about the Porzingis situation.

And that’s what the Knicks are hoping to accomplish come July.

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