By John Schmeelk
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Knicks president Steve Mills, general manager Scott Perry and coach Jeff Hornacek held a news conference Friday, three days before the team reports for training camp. Here’s what we learned:
1. Melo Status Quo
Mills and Perry were very honest about Carmelo Anthony’s status. Here’s the deal: The Knicks tried but failed to trade him this summer. They could not find a deal that worked for them that Anthony would approve. They will continue to try to put that trade together and will deal him if they can. For now, Anthony will be a member of the Knicks, and the team expects him to act like the professional he has been the last couple of years. Anthony was explained the situation, and he understands it.
Hornacek added that Anthony’s role won’t change and that he will start. The coach is going to try to win as many games as he can and he, rightfully, thinks playing Anthony in a big role gives them the best chance to do it. The situation with Anthony is exactly what it was all summer. If he does not expand his list of trade destinations, he will be in New York. The ball will be in his court when he reports Monday for media day.
The trio who spoke Friday were much more cagey about Kristaps Porzingis, echoing the same thing they said earlier in the summer. They said he had been texting back and forth with them all summer and did not want to comment on him missing his exit meeting after last season and the reasons for it. Hornacek said he would not comment on the reports that he had a strained relationship with Porzingis, only saying they have a good relationship.
The Knicks were also happy with the way Porzingis — and Willy Hernangomez and Mindaugas Kuzminskas — played in the EuroBasket tournament and how Porzingis grew into a leadership role with the Latvian team. The plan seems to be to let him grow in his role with the Knicks this year as well. The question is whether that can happen the way they want it to with Anthony still on the roster.
3. Bye Bye, Triangle
Hornacek was asked if the triangle is dead, and he did not give an unequivocal “yes.” He did, however, point out that the Knicks plan to run more, spread the floor more and play a style that players enjoyed playing more. He might not have said the triangle is gone, but his answer about the offense indicates that it is no longer in the plans.
The second-year head coach spoke a lot about the team improving defensively, which is obviously a prerequisite for the Knicks making any meaningful improvement this season. He said he hoped the addition of a couple of defensive players would have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the roster. More importantly, Hornacek spoke about “defensive schemes that will put them in better position” and “things guys will enjoy and understand.”
Hornacek added that he knows the team won’t be great defensively right away but they will hold the team to that standard and expect improvement as the season goes along. Hornacek has never coached an excellent defensive team, so it will be interesting to see if he can move the needle in that direction this season.
5. Frank Ntilikina
Hornacek said he was happy with what point guard Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks’ first-round draft pick in June, has done in scrimmages and mentioned how long his arms are. Hornacek also said Ntilikina had never done much balance and other strength training before, which indicates the Knicks probably think the 19-year-old can become more athletic and explosive with more work with their training staff. That will be a process and won’t happen right away. Hornacek said Ntilikina would compete to start at point guard. All three also pointed out that Jarret Jack and Ramon Sessions are important as veterans who will not only start if needed, but also mentor Ntilikina in how to play point guard in the NBA. Hornacek said both are ready and willing to accept that role.
• Joakim Noah has been cleared medically to play after offseason shoulder surgery, and the team had to slow down his rehab in the summer so he didn’t do too much too soon. Now that he’s healthy, we’ll see if he has anything left in the tank. Noah will serve the remainder of his PED suspension over the first 12 games this season.
• At the news conference and in Perry’s MSG blog, he stressed patience and that bringing the Knicks back to respectability will be a process. He also stressed flexibility in putting the team together moving forward. The words are good. Now it is time to execute it.
• Media day for the players is Monday, with practice Tuesday. With the reduced number of back-to-back games, everything is earlier this year. The first exhibition game is Oct. 3 against the Nets, and the season opens Oct. 19 at Oklahoma City.
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