The Knicks are nothing if not predictably unsettled. There are always more holes than answers.
An offseason has come and gone with no further clarity on Carmelo Anthony’s future or Kristaps Porzingis’ frustration. President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry have posted separate blog posts touting their qualifications and baseline goals, but there were no specifics on how they’d handle the team’s two biggest stars.
They’ll get another chance to explain Friday, alongside Jeff Hornacek, during an annual preseason press conference. So, in honor of Porzingis’ jersey number, here are 6 pressing questions for the trio in charge:
1) What is the plan for Carmelo Anthony if/when he reports to camp?
The team’s best player doesn’t want to be on the team anymore, and the team doesn’t want him around, anyway. Yet, they’re stuck like this and each would benefit from convincing the other that life together is even more unbearably awful. Stop me if this doesn’t make sense. The short version is that this is a mess. Already the Knicks have done everything they can to treat Anthony like an unwelcomed guest, leaving him off marketing promotions and the aforementioned State of the Team blog posts. Their stated goal is to emphasize and develop the young players, but it’s unclear what that means for the lone All-Star. Will he still be featured in the offense? Will he still play? Does he still have a parking spot?
2) Are they worried about Carmelo being a sabotaging distraction?
To hear some people in the Knicks organization talk about last season, Anthony led a successful revolt against the triangle. That’s an oversimplification, but this much is true: Anthony was so popular in the locker room that he was voted by Knicks players as their best teammate, which would only seem impossible if you listened to Phil Jackson imply he was a ballhog. So Melo can hold sway over this young group, for the cause or against it. He’s a pro but has to feel disrespected. The recipe has potential for toxicity.
3) Is it important for them to get Kristaps Porzingis back on board, and, if so, what can be done to that end?
Here’s a telling statistic: five months. That’s how long Porzingis stayed away from the Knicks, starting the day he skipped his exit meeting until his expected return Monday for training camp. In the interim, very little, if anything, was resolved. The Latvian’s concerns weren’t all alleviated with the firing of Phil Jackson. Much of that is because of a displeasure with Hornacek that evolved over last season, with the coach often singling out and yelling at Porzingis. Another issue was the chaos that enveloped the franchise, or the daily disorganization that stunted development. So now with Porzingis finally back in New York, how will the Knicks face the reality that they need him more than he needs them?
4) Who is starting at point guard?
More than likely we won’t get something definitive before training camp starts. But the answer will be an important clue into the immediate future of Frank Ntilikina. Two years ago at this time, the Knicks already pledged to start a 19-year-old rookie named Porzingis. Is Ntilikina, also 19, not as ready? It’s not like the Knicks acquired a star point guard in free agency (Ramon Sessions, Ron Baker, Jarrett Jack) who would be locked into big minutes.
5) What about Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah?
They committed a combined $124 million to these guys just one year ago, and already they’re out of the the vision for the future. Unlike Anthony, Noah and Lee each have three years remaining on their contracts. And the less they play, the further down goes their trade value (To be fair, Noah’s currently sits at zero, anyway). So are the Knicks comfortable with slashing their minutes so that Willy Hernangomez, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Ron Baker can develop?
6) Where sits the confidence in Jeff Hornacek?
We already know the answer because nobody is going to put a coach on the hot seat before training camp. But in reality, Hornacek works on shaky ground as the hire of the previous team president. He didn’t do himself many favors by losing the locker room and over 50 games last season.