Kristaps Porzingis reportedly skipped out on his exit meeting with Knicks' brass, which isn't something one would expect the leader of a team to do. The man otherwise known as the "unicorn" may already be considered the forthcoming savior by some, but Phil Jackson doesn't believe he's ready to carry the Knicks just yet.
"No I don't. He's 21 years old. That's a big load for anyone to take on," the executive said when asked if Porzingis was ready to be New York's number one option.
Such a question was posed after Jackson revealed he will look to trade Carmelo Anthony and that the forward would be "better off somewhere else."
Frustration is mounting surrounding the disarray this team is in, which would appear to explain Porzingis' absence. With Jackson ready to continue exploring deals for Anthony, it would make sense for the Knicks to go back to basics and begin building from scratch, save for say, Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, and a few complementary role players. During this transition and Anthony's expected departure, Porzingis could be embraced and groomed as the starring attraction New York needs.
That would be the sensible move, but much during Jackson's tenure has left many scratching their heads.
Trading Anthony in the right situation would allow the Knicks to start fresh. What's more, the investments New York made on Joakim Noah and other notable veterans last summer obviously didn't translate to more wins. This should all give way to a youth movement and discourage the Knicks from spending big and committing to more veterans.
Jackson doesn't necessarily believe that to be true.
"I think you can do both together. We obviously have three draft picks, so we're going to bring in some young players," he explained. "We obviously have money for a contractual situation in the free agency, so we'd like to do a little bit of both."
Certain veterans can obviously add value in various situations. Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas could both be valuable trade assets as the Knicks target contenders looking for missing links ahead of next season. That said, each one could also provide a steadying presence and be positive influences on youngster prospects. Now that they're already in town, it might be best to simply utilize their talents and see what they can contribute to this new-looking situation. There's value in developing continuity.
As for acquiring new veterans, the Knicks' focus should be elsewhere. The team should not be making lucrative and/or long term commitments to veterans because an existing competitive core hasn't been put in place. These young Knicks have promise, but it will take time to establish the type of culture Jackson desires. Expensive veterans would fit better on teams looking to put themselves over the top. New York clearly isn't anywhere near that.
Lee and Thomas could absolutely help a transitioning team. Other veterans who may be more inclined to serve as mentors while playing out their final days on minimum contracts would also make sense. As they continue to figure things out, however, the Knicks should maintain short and long term cap flexibility and play their youngsters more.
That should also mean helping Porzingis continue to rise. Acquiring a veteran to essentially replace Anthony would deter what this team is trying to build for long-term success. Too much time has been wasted trying to build upon and improve a failing core. Trading Anthony should be an opportunity to build from the ground up, not cover existing wounds with band-aids and hope they stick.