Knicks president Steve Mills said formerly disgruntled Kristaps Porzingis is thrilled at the team’s direction. He expects Porzingis to draw a marquee free agent in 2019 like “a magnet,” as the franchise essentially sits out this summer’s frenzy.
With brass again making no indication they’ll even attempt to have a meeting with LeBron James on July 1, Mills said Thursday on ESPN Radio it’s still all about 2019 when he estimates the club to have cap space for a maximum contract.
“We’re not going to be players this year,’’ Mills said. “If we sign guys, it will be for one year. We feel it’ll put us in a position where stars are going to come to us (in 2019).”
“KP is a magnet,” Mills added. “We know he’ll make this attractive to players.”
Celtics PG Kyrie Irving, expected as their prime free-agent target in 2019, is already on record stating he told Porzingis he’d like to play with him one day.
Mills said Porzingis is feeling sky high after the Knicks hired David Fizdale and added Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson as draft choices. He talked about Porzingis’ timetable, expecting him back this season and even suggesting a nine-month absence is not out of the question — which would have him returning in mid-November.
In the interview with Stephen A. Smith, Mills also said Fizdale and player developmental director Craig Robinson will visit Porzingis in Europe in mid- to late July after the summer league.
“KP is really excited with what’s going on,” Mills said. “He and I text all the time — texting him videos of guys working out in the gym. He was as excited as we were about Knox and Mitchell Robinson.”
Mills was delighted when Knox told him Porzingis had FaceTimed him the night of the draft. “This kid is stepping into leading a bit and connecting with teammates,” Mills said.
That’s a far cry from last summer when Porzingis blew off his exit meeting with team brass and sulked in Latvia, as upper management and former coach Jeff Hornacek failed to even pay him a visit during the European championships.
Porzingis is due his contract extension this summer, but the Knicks need the extra cap room to sign a max free agent in 2019. If they sign a max free agent and reach the cap, they are allowed to go over the barrier to re-sign Porzingis when he’s a restricted free agent. The feeling is Porzingis understands the cap finances.
Asked if he’s concerned Porzingis will want to bolt, Mills said, “No. We’ve worked really hard in rebuilding the relationship with KP. For Scott (Perry) and me, it’s been with his brother. We had to make his agent Janis feel he was part of the group and understand what we’re doing as a team and where we’re taking this thing. We communicate with (Porzingis). We know (Porzingis) feels good directionally where we’re going. You see that in his social media stuff. He’s back on board with how we’re going. We feel really good about his future with us.”
Sources have indicated for months Porzingis could be back around Christmas, but owner James Dolan made cryptic remarks recently to The Post about Porzingis possibly missing the whole season.
“We expect him to be back this season but we’re not going to rush it,” Mills said. “He’s too important part to our future. We’re not going to rush his return. It’s too early to know. Seven months into this injury, we’ll have a better idea whether it’s nine months, 12 months …”
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