Knicks president Steve Mills opened up on Sunday about the Kristaps Porzingis trade, going into detail about why the team felt it had to act quickly and what they needed in return.
While the Knicks have been criticized in some circles for acting as quickly as they did while trading Porzingis, Mills said the team didn't want to let things go beyond the Feb. 7 trade deadline out of fear that the team would lose leverage.
"We felt the 7th was really important because if we let this go beyond the 7th, the leverage completely shifted," Mills said Sunday during an in-game interview on MSG. "We would not have control of the situation. We weren't sure what Kristaps was gonna come in and tell us. We didn't know if he'd come in and tell us he wanted to be traded, or he may have come in and said he wanted to do a one-year contract with a player option, which would then have made him untradable and he would have had all the leverage."
And Mills said Porzingis and his brother made their position clear during a meeting on Thursday.
"They made it clear to us that he did not want to play for the Knicks, that he was not going to re-sign with us as a free agent. And we in one way thanked him for the clarity because it gave us the information we needed to know."
Before the meeting, Mills said he and GM Scott Perry "started to get a feel that everything wasn't going as well as we would have liked with Kristaps" and began making preparations for a potential trade, with "about eight potential scenarios that we thought would be great for us if we made the decision that we were going to trade Kristaps."
In that vein, Mills said there were three things the Knicks needed back in any trade of Porzingis.
"We wanted to get a rookie player that was still in his scale contract, we wanted to add additional draft picks to the draft picks we currently have, and then give ourselves financial flexibility that we could become a player in free agency. But just a chance to have the flexibility to move forward."
The Knicks got all three of the above from the Mavericks, with Dennis Smith Jr. (rookie player still in his scale contract), additional draft picks (first-rounders in 2021 and 2023) and financial flexibility (they rid themselves of the contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee).
In the last year, the Knicks had put off extending Porzingis -- in part to keep extra room under the cap so they can target external free agents this summer -- but Porzingis was still in line for a huge payday after the season if he wanted it.
Now that he has been dealt, Porzingis is expected to accept the one-year qualiftying offer from the Mavs after the season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Meanwhile, the Knicks now have enough cap space to attempt to sign two max free agents this summer, when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will be among the stars available. And between now and then, the team could still conceivably trade for disgruntled Pelicans star Anthony Davis.