Knicks emerging as prime-time destination for stars

It wasn’t simply 2019 when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving blew off the Knicks without a meeting. Kemba Walker of The Bronx didn’t need one both.

Kawhi Leonard barely had the Knicks on his radar, although would’ve sat down with ex-president Steve Mills as a courtesy. Leonard’s “Uncle Dennis” of New Jersey is an outdated pal of Mills.

The free-agent freeze prolonged to final November, even after Tom Thibodeau was named head coach. Don’t consider the Knicks wouldn’t have supplied Toronto’s level guard Fred VanVleet 4 years, $85 million. He didn’t even take the Knicks’ name. How was that Twelfth-place convention end, Freddie?

Gordon Hayward, Jerami Grant, Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic didn’t have a look at New York as a chief destination both. Imagine New York being seen as an afterthought to Charlotte, Detroit and Atlanta.

That was the ugly fact — one which didn’t sit properly with proprietor James Dolan. And now it’s modified.

There are not any assurances, nevertheless it appears to be like like Manhattan could possibly be a prime-time basketball destination once more for gamers, in response to a number of brokers and executives polled.

Thibodeau fulfilled his promise to alter the tradition. A 41-31 report and making the playoffs as fourth seed within the East modified the picture. All season, coaches raved in regards to the robust and bodily Knicks’ protection.

Even a 4-1 first-round wipeout to the Hawks doesn’t have the identical stench a month later. Many select to recollect the deafening pitches of the Garden than routs within the closing three video games.

After all, these Hawks are two video games from the NBA Finals. And the Knicks performed the Hawks once they had been at their healthiest — with D’Andre Hunter an X think about shutting down Julius Randle within the sequence. Hunter by no means bought to the second spherical.

Damian Lillard (l) and Kawhi Leonard could find the Knicks to be an attractive destination should they leave their respective teams.
Damian Lillard (l) and Kawhi Leonard may discover the Knicks to be a lovely destination ought to they go away their respective groups.
Getty Images

“They made an enormous step ahead,’’ mentioned one group govt. “And they had been an thrilling group to observe.’’

John McEnroe mentioned final week that he’s been to a ton of reside sporting occasions, however Game 2 in opposition to the Hawks was amongst his top-five loudest occasions. Chalk a part of that as much as the joys of followers lastly being unmasked and shoulder to shoulder in a packed area.

B.J. Armstrong, Derrick Rose’s agent and former Bulls teammate of Michael Jordan, was able to fly in from the West Coast if there have been a Game 7.

“Just from the TV, you may hear how loud it was,’’ Armstrong mentioned. “It sounded prefer it was ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’ ’’

Thibodeau profitable NBA Coach of the Year solely helps within the Knicks’ hope of attracting free-agent difference-makers come Aug. 1.

When employed practically a yr in the past, Thibodeau was nonetheless listening to backlash from his Minnesota firing and speak of his old-school dealing with of the Timberwolves’ younger gamers.

Tom Thibodeau
Tom Thibodeau
Corey Sipkin

Not everybody benefitted from Thibodeau’s teaching this season. Dennis Smith Jr., Kevin Knox, Austin Rivers and Frank Ntilikina didn’t. But his recipe labored once more, and he smashed one other playoff drought.

“I think having Thibodeau there will help the Knicks a great deal in free agency,’’ former Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “He has a great reputation connecting with players and, of course, winning.”

Team president Leon Rose and govt vice chairman William Wesley, each former brokers, had been employed due to connections and relationships. But nothing beats profitable.

Credit Rose for nonetheless believing in Thibodeau as one of many sport’s greatest coaches.

The Knicks are not an eyesore. Randle confirmed he’s an All-NBA expertise. RJ Barrett confirmed All-Star potential. Starring for Team Canada (22 factors in Tuesday’s Olympic qualifier) will solely assist the Knicks’ picture.

Rookie Immanuel Quickley confirmed glimpses of being a Lou Williams-type sixth man. And Derrick Rose confirmed he nonetheless has it, even when it needs to be a backup subsequent season.

If Portland superstar Damian Lillard makes a trade demand, count on the Knicks to be on his want checklist. Wesley employed Johnnie Bryant as an assistant coach, and he’s one among Lillard’s Oakland, Calif., mentors. The Knicks consider that shall be a think about Lillard wanting New York.

The failure to draw stars to New York dates to 2010, when LeBron James took to South Beach after a reported unsettling assembly with Knicks president Donnie Walsh.

When David Fizdale was employed as Knicks head coach, it was with the promise he would convey stars — probably James, his man from Miami.

James bought Fizdale again on the Lakers’ bench for subsequent season. And maybe the Knicks possibilities of Fizdale netting James was nearer than marketed in 2018.

In a current interview, Lisa Robinson of Vanity Fair cited sources that James was amenable to Fizdale’s Knicks over the Lakers.

“LeBron wanted to come to New York,’’ Robinson mentioned on a current podcast. “And I’ve actually good sources about this, that he was serious about coming to New York, however that his spouse needed to be in Los Angeles, needed the youngsters to go to high school in Los Angeles, and that simply kiboshed the entire thing.’’

James isn’t a free agent this summer time and is certain to Los Angeles. But Leonard, severe knee harm or not, is a free agent and will go away L.A. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Dennis Schroder all are anticipated to maneuver on.

This time, the once-downtrodden franchise has its Manhattan make-up on and deserves a reputable look.

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