Steve Mills sat on a dais inside the gym at the Knicks’ Westchester practice facility Monday afternoon and delivered his vision for rebuilding the most pitiful organization in the NBA. With new GM Scott Perry to his right, Mills discussed the values he will emphasize as the team’s new president — “pride, work ethic, accountability” and “defense” — and spoke confidently about the team’s “core.” He mentioned four names: Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez.
Noticeably absent from the list was the Knicks’ highest-paid player, Carmelo Anthony, who Mills made clear is not part of the franchise’s long-term plans.
However, when asked if buying out Anthony’s contract is a possibility, Mills responded sternly. “No,” he said, without elaborating.
That means if Anthony is going to leave the Knicks and New York, he will be doing so through a trade. Anthony has a no-trade clause in his contract, but as the Daily News reported, he agreed to waive it to join the Rockets. Anthony had previously approached the Knicks before the NBA Draft in June to request a buyout but was denied.
“We’ve been in contact with Carmelo’s representatives. We’ve been obviously in contact with other teams,” Mills said Monday at Perry’s introductory news conference. “Our view is if there’s an opportunity that works for Carmelo and works for us, then we’ll look at some kind of trade. But we also feel that Carmelo could easily be a part of our team next year, and we have to understand how we’re going to play and what the expectations (are) of how we’re going to play and we’re going to move forward. So it may be with Carmelo or it may be without Carmelo.”
After James Dolan ousted Phil Jackson at the end of last month, Mills continued to pursue an Anthony trade while serving as acting team president. And as recently as Thursday, the Daily News reported that a four-team deal to send Anthony to Houston was “at the two-yard line.”
But with the Knicks reshuffling and retooling their front office with the addition of Perry, Mills opted to pull back on Anthony trade offers over the weekend. Mills getting cold feet was first reported by ESPN on Friday, and the 57-year-old executive confirmed those details Monday.
“We made a decision as we were getting closer to hiring Scott, that I felt it was important for us to slow down, regroup as it related to the trade scenarios with Carmelo,” Mills said. “So we made a decision to slow things down, let us regroup and get together and make sure we’re doing what’s best for the New York Knicks and at the same time we’ll do what’s best for Carmelo.”
Mills wouldn’t reveal how Anthony feels about his future, saying “it doesn’t make sense for us to speculate” on Anthony’s mindset.
But the Daily News reported over the weekend that Anthony is frustrated by the situation.
“From what I understand, Carmelo is under the belief that he’s going to the Rockets,” a source told the News.
The Knicks have no deadline for determining if they’re going to trade Anthony.
“There’s no set timeline for this,” Mills said.
Before his firing, Jackson bluntly stated on multiple occasions his desire to part ways with Anthony. Most recently on June 21, Jackson said it “might be time for him to find an opportunity to go somewhere else.”
Mills wouldn’t comment on whether Jackson’s words and actions burned bridges between the Knicks and Anthony.
“I’m not going to look back on what happened with Carmelo with Phil. What I know is that I’ve been in communication with Carmelo and Carmelo’s team following the season,” Mills said. “I think that we will be a good developing team if Carmelo is part of the team, and we will be a good developing team if he isn’t. But I think that we will be in constant communication with Carmelo and Carmelo’s camp and we’ll come to some resolution that works well for both of us.”
Added Perry: “I’m in a position just to look forward. I’m not in a position to really comment on what transpired prior to coming here. …Whatever happens will work best for both sides, and if he ends up being here, I’m confident we’ll have a great working relationship.”