Knicks management’s problematic status delaying fire sale

DENVER — Sunday marks the first day on which free agents who signed in July are eligible to be traded. The date has been well-anticipated because of the historic number of free agents this past summer.

With seven free-agent signees, the Knicks figured to hold Dec. 15 as a landmark date, but things have changed for them in the past nine days.

One team executive thinks the Knicks, and other teams, will wait longer to see what they have — at least until the trade deadline of Feb. 7 gets closer.

“That trade deadline is still there for a reason,’’ the executive said.

With Mike Miller in as interim coach over ousted David Fizdale, president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry are anxious to see how the roster looks with a new leader and game manager. It’s like a new season has arrived.

It’s also a factor that management is on shaky ground. Hence, making major trades could be a little more problematic.

Steve Mills
Steve MillsPaul J. Bereswill

Miller is 2-2 as head coach following the Knicks’ upset win at Sacramento on Friday night. If the team continues to succeed, trade values on their players will go up.

Another reason for waiting is the brass’ focus is on evaluating if Miller, who succeeded as their G-League coach, can make the transition to being an NBA head coach. So far, so good.

Mills will continue on the four-game western journey that concludes against the Nuggets on Sunday. Perry, meanwhile, stayed in California to do college scouting.

The Knicks have seven 2019 free agents and two point guards, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina, who have been on the trade block in the past. Smith has regressed, putting his trade value at its lowest ebb.

While Elfrid Payton has emerged as their top floor leader, the Knicks still have no idea who their point guard of the future is.

Hot-shooting Marcus Morris, who is on a one-year deal, is their most valuable pawn as a rental for a playoff contender. The Knicks believe he can garner a late first-round pick. Taking back a multi-year contract, however, is not ideal.

While the 2020 free agents do not make up a boon class, the club wants to maintain cap flexibility for a potential blockbuster trade.

The Knicks figure to eventually be active, because six of their seven free agents signed one-year deals. By the trade deadline, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to accrue a couple of second-round picks to package into a future blockbuster trade. Depending, that is, on how things go with Miller’s stint.


In his four games, Miller’s major defensive change has been switching less often on pick and rolls. On Friday, the Knicks finally wore down Sacramento in the fourth quarter, holding the Kings to 21 points as they shot 36.4 percent.

“We just locked into the details of the game,” Julius Randle said. “Not switching as much. Just getting into the ball, making it tough on their guards. The guards were doing a great job of pressuring them. We’re all communicating and doing our job.”

The Knicks’ assist-to-turnover ratio is also improving under Miller. The Kings didn’t have a steal Friday. It’s only the third time in Kings’ history they were without a steal. The Knicks committed just eight turnovers.

For more on the Knicks, listen to the latest episode of the “Big Apple Buckets” podcast:

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