How Knicks are showing signs they’re headed in right direction

The New York Knicks want you to believe this front-office and coaching regime are better and different than the previous one, just like they wanted you to believe the previous one was better different from the one before that.

What makes this front office, led by president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry, and this coach, David Fizdale, the right group and why should you believe them given the “fool me once” cynicism that accompanies the franchise?

To convince the faithful (and perhaps skeptical) Knicks fan and the neutral (and perhaps skeptical) observer, it will take more than a season or two of prudent front-office decisions and on-court progress.

But there are signs the Knicks are at the very least intent on sticking to a plan, starting with a shared vision between the front office and Fizdale.


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There is a patient approach to building a team that can improve and possibly compete at the highest level of the Eastern Conference. They are not rushing after the next shiny object. They want Fizdale to establish a culture of hard work, player development and accountability.

Think about what Utah and Philadelphia have done over the past five seasons. Or what Brooklyn is trying to do or Atlanta, which is a few years behind Brooklyn in the process.

“We’re committed to not missing any steps,” Mills said at the start of the season. “We’re going to take this as a step by step process. We’re focused on the guys that we have on our roster. How can we build them? How can we develop them? We’re just going to continue on with our plan.”

That plan was tested during training camp when Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler requested a trade. The old Knicks might have gone all in on Butler, offering first-round picks for an All-NBA performer. The new Knicks didn't.

“We’re in a building mode. We need to draft players. We need to build through the draft. We need to develop our young players,” Mills said. “We feel comfortable organizationally where we’re going and what we’re developing here and when it’s time for us to go after free agents, we’ll be a place to attract free agents and we shouldn’t use our draft picks like that to go out and attract guys.

“We’re committed to following a plan and not just shifting and pivoting because we see something that we think is attractive and fast track something. I’ve seen that happen and go wrong too many times, and that’s not what we’re going to do.”

Perry backed that. “We really believe in this philosophy and the direction we’re taking this organization and we’re excited about it. … We check each other to make sure we stay on course.”

Now, can the front office and coach stick to that course over time?

The Knicks wanted to get more athletic, and they did in the draft with Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson and by signing undrafted rookie Allonzo Trier. They also are willing to take chances on lottery picks who were castoffs – Noah Vonleh and Mario Hezonja. Vonleh is in his fifth NBA season but just 23 years old and has three double-doubles this season. Perry, from his days in Detroit, is keen on players who blossom late.

They want to keep All-Star Kristaps Porzingis, who is recovering from a torn ACL, long term, but they held off on an extension because it will help preserve cap space next summer when the Knicks will room to sign a max player. The Kevin Durant-to-the-Knicks talk will persist, and there are league executives in the Eastern Conference who believe the Knicks are the front-runner if Durant leaves Golden State in free agency.

Fizdale is focused on player development and is embracing Knicks history by bringing former players to talk with the team – Bernard King, Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier and Bill Bradley among them so far.

The Knicks are 4-8 and probably won’t win more than 30 games. But that’s not the point, at least this season. They want to play hard, be competitive and learn what it takes to win games.

“We talk in NBA circles all the time, and we feel good that the view of the Knicks is different than it was before amongst players,” Mills said. “There’s a different vibe about how we’re trying to do things. We know it’s moving in the right direction.”

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