Kenny Smith is no longer surprised the Knicks are not a magnet for stars.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving choosing the Nets over the Knicks this summer would have “shocked me five years ago, but not anymore,’’ the TNT analyst and Queens native said.
The current players, he said, aren’t aware of the history.
“I don’t think they understand — there has to be reeducation to certain players about the Knicks that they are the biggest stage,’’ Smith told The Post. “There’s certain players who grew up not knowing Patrick Ewing played for the Knicks. They know Carmelo [Anthony], but not with a great history here. There’s a generation of players that don’t understand the magnitude of what being a Knick is.”
As such, the Knicks didn’t hit a home run this summer.
“I said on air it’s going to be an interesting summer because someone is not going to be able to make a splash,’’ Smith said. “There’s going to be teams that have to approach it a different way. It turned out to be New York. They weren’t able to land a guy or two who can change a franchise.’’
Smith attended Knicks practice Friday in Tarrytown and was on hand for Saturday’s open scrimmage before 1,000 fans at Columbia University. Smith sat courtside with team brass as president Steve Mills’ guest.
Smith, the broadcasting superstar and former standout point guard for the Rockets, is a longtime friend of Mills’. Two years ago, Smith interviewed for the Knicks general manager job that went to Scott Perry. Smith said he’s studying the craft with eyes on landing a front-office job sooner rather than later. Smith is headed to watch Toronto and Golden State in their training camps next.
Smith has his own philosophy on building a contender. The Knicks have not yet followed the script.
“The league is different now,’’ Smith said. “You have to build a style of play that attracts guys who want to be traded or are free agents. You can’t always draft the best player. You have to attract them. The Nets attracted. Even if you’re not winning, you have to do things to attract.’’
The Knicks signed seven role players with their $70 million of cap space.
“Who’s their best player?’’ Smith said. “You’re not sure. That’s a bad thing. There has to be a best player that emerges. Who’s the best player on Denver? [Nikola] Jokic. Portland? It’s [Damian] Lillard. You know who that player is. It’s a measuring stick how good you can be.’’
Smith said Julius Randle may be “the front-runner’’ to be that standout, but the jury is out. Smith also feels the massive depth Knicks brass brags about can backfire, too.
“I would say 12 guys on their roster will say ‘I should play 25 minutes,’ ” Smith said. “Six of those guys are not going to play 25 minutes and they’re going to look at it as, well, why not? There aren’t many guys on that team who don’t feel they should play 25 minutes.’’
Indeed, coach David Fizdale has hills to negotiate.
“It’s going to be difficult,’’ Smith said. “No one’s allowed a long rope. Typically better players have a long rope and can make mistakes. Steph Curry turns the ball over twice in row and nobody on that bench is looking like I’m about to go in. That’s the hardest part for [Fizdale], keeping the morale of guys [up] who have short ropes.’’
To compete for a playoff berth, Smith says the Knicks need multiple guys who reach their potential. Now.
“I would say there has to be two guys that differentiate themselves this year for them to be a successful team,” Smith said. “If everyone has years that are par, they won’t be good. Some guys have to reach their goals of what they can be much quicker.”
The Knicks are on a six-year playoff drought but never dull.
“They’re the only team that can lose games for 10 years and people pay attention to,’’ Smith said. “No other than franchise in sport other than the Yankees and Lakers do people pay attention to even when they’re losing.’’