GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — LeBron James never came. Carmelo Anthony might be interested in coming.
The New York Knicks aren’t interested in discussing either.
After two years of working solely on ways to rebuild the team through free agency, even at the cost of winning games, team officials believe it’s time to put the focus back on the court.
The roster is almost entirely changed, and they believe it could be a winning one.
“As a coaching staff, I know we’re really excited about who we have and not even thinking about looking down the hallway, see what else is going on,” coach Mike D’Antoni said Wednesday. “We’re very content at the people we can put on the floor this year.”
The Knicks will open training camp Friday at their practice facility with 10 newcomers, as they were one of the league’s busiest teams over the summer after a 29-53 season.
They hoped to land James and one other superstar, but he decided on Miami instead. Still, they picked up perennial All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire, whom team president Donnie Walsh called “as good a player as we’ve had here in a long time.”
The Knicks also believe former Charlotte Bobcats point guard Raymond Felton is the floor leader they need; are high on Anthony Randolph, the centerpiece of a trade with Golden State, and are intrigued by center Timofey Mozgov of Russia.
New York also expects the continued improvement of forward Danilo Gallinari, so Walsh said some players in this group will be around when the Knicks finally start winning again after a franchise-worst nine consecutive losing seasons.
“I do think that with the group of players we have here right now, you’re going to go forward with a lot of these guys,” Walsh said. “And it’s not going to be anybody I can tell you right now, but there are guys here that are going to be guys that you’re going say, ‘Yeah, we want to keep this guy for a long time.’”
Or perhaps some will be offered in hopes of landing Anthony.
The All-Star still hasn’t signed a contract extension with Denver and can become a free agent next summer. The New York native reportedly has the Knicks atop his wish list, though the Nuggets could opt to trade him before next summer to avoid losing him for nothing.
Walsh refused to say if he had or would contact the Nuggets, though the New York Times reported Monday that a Knicks official said New York was told during preliminary conversations that it didn’t have the assets Denver was seeking if it did decide to trade its star.
The Knicks can’t offer a first-round pick until at least 2014, since they sent their 2012 choice to Houston last season and NBA rules prevent teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive years. So Walsh can only offer what he has on his roster now if he’s looking to deal.
“I don’t really want to get into trades, talking about trades, because it’s fruitless,” he said. “There are trades you’d make and there are trades you wouldn’t make, and that’s about as good as I can do.”
If some of the key signees meet expectations, the Knicks could be good enough to reach the postseason even without a move. Stoudemire flourished in D’Antoni’s system in Phoenix, and Felton appears to be an upgrade at point guard, a necessity if the offense will ever look like it did with the Suns.
“I think any team, you can go wherever you go, the point guard’s critical. Doesn’t matter my system, your system, his system, doesn’t matter,” D’Antoni said. “You’ve got a really good point guard, you’re going to be pretty good and the coach is going to look pretty good. If you don’t, then you’re going to struggle some nights and I think Raymond has an ability to win basketball games and that’s what he’s here for.”
Walsh said the Knicks will start training camp without guard Kelenna Azubuike, who came with Randolph and Ronny Turiaf in the trade that sent All-Star David Lee to Golden State. Azubuike is still recovering from a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, which Walsh called one of the worst injuries a basketball player can face.
Eddy Curry also is expected to be on the court after sitting out most of the last two seasons because of injuries and other personal issues. He still hasn’t arrived in New York and Walsh said he hasn’t spoken with the center, keeping a vow not to bother Curry and trust he was working out.
Curry has never seemed a good fit for D’Antoni, anyway. The coach believes the rest of the roster is, saying this team has more athleticism than his first two in New York.
“There’s going to be some athletic plays seen in the Garden that we haven’t seen for a while,” D’Antoni said. “Now whether that means we’re good or not, we’ll have to see. But I think we should be exciting.”
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