John Calipari isn’t employed by the Knicks, but he’s close with president Leon Rose and executive vice president William “World Wide” Wesley and knows as much about their overall strategic plan as anyone.
And Calipari says Knicks fans shouldn’t be disappointed that they failed to land any big name free agents — no Gordon Hayward, no Fred VanVleet and no D.J. Augustin — because they are building toward the future and won’t sacrifice the present.
“Let me say this about the Knicks not signing anybody, the Knicks are not going to do anything now to try to win 10 more games now and screw up the next 15, they’re not gonna do it,” Calipari said Monday on a Zoom call in response to my question about the Knicks free-agency moves.
“That’s my opinion, that’s not talking to Leon, that’s not talking to Wes, not talking to Scottie [Perry], none of those guys. I’m just telling you, I knew early on, Leon and [the others] talked to me about what they were trying to do and how they were going to do it and if they could snatch somebody that could help them win [they would]. But they’re not going to do it to where it hurts the next seven years.”
So while the Lakers loaded up for a run at a repeat with the additions of Marc Gasol, Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews and Montrezl Harrell to go along with LeBron James and former Kentucky star Anthony Davis, the Knicks could be headed for yet another lottery in 2021.
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That gives them the chance to “Fade for a Shot at Cade” in the 2021 NBA Draft lottery. Cade Cunningham is the 6-foot-7 freshman point guard at Oklahoma State who is the projected No. 1 pick in 2021.
“Cade is a transcendent talent,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton told me for The New York Times NYT . “He could be an N.B.A. guy now. I mean, he’s got real, real ability. Those are the type of guys that can truly elevate your program from being a middle-tier team to being a national contender.”
As far as the current Knicks, they now have four of Calipari’s former players in Nerlens Noel, Julius Randle, Kevin Knox and Immanuel Quickley, a former five-star point guard who was taken No. 23 in Wednesday’s NBA Draft.
“I think what you’re going to find out is mentally a guy who’s ready, who’s on a mission, is a gym rat, is a culture guy, great faith,” Calipari said of Quickley. “Great family that unconditionally loves him and he knows it and he’s comfortable in his skin. They made a great one, it was a helluva pick, I’ll tell you.”
They will join former Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne, who was brought on board to help with player development under head coach Tom Thibodeau. Marc Berman of The York Post has dubbed the team “Orange and Bluegrass,” and Calipari says he will be tuned in to a lot of games.
“Yeah, I will be watching a lot of Knicks games,” Calipari said. “Leon is a dear friend, Wes is a dear friend, Kenny is like my brother and now you’ve got some of my guys there.
“Nerlens was a great pickup and let me tell you why. Now it’s time for the breakthrough for him. What they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to do it, they’re not trying to do anything to hurry. They’ve got a terrific coach, a proven coach, a playoff coach and now they just gotta build within. And they’re going to start doing it.”
Calipari said Payne will help “build confidence” for both Randle and Knox.
“Kevin Knox, let’s see how good he can be and that’s why you want a Kenny Payne with you,” he said.
The Knicks also now have two former Duke guys after signing Austin Rivers, Doc’s son, to go with R.J. Barrett, the No. 3 overall pick a year ago. Rivers agreed to a 3-year, $10-million deal but only the first year is guaranteed, per SNY’s Ian Begley.
“What I like is my guys now have an opportunity on the biggest of big stages to go prove themselves and now I think what you’re going to find out, they’re going to be disciplined because that’s what Thibs is,” Calipari said. “They’re going to play defense because that’s what Thibs is.
“It isn’t going to be fancy, that’s not who he is. It’s going to be we’re going to get this done, we’re going to play fast but we’re making good shots. I think the guys that he has, they’re going to make a step.
“Do they need more to make the next step? Yeah, they do. It’s a players’ league. You have three All-Stars, you’ll be one of the last four teams standing. You have no All-Stars, you know it’s hard to get in the playoffs. It’s just hard. Now it’s can you develop All-Stars with the guys you have? Can you then bring in? That’s what they’re doing so I think the Knicks will be fine.”
The Knicks, of course, haven’t won a title since 1973 and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2013.
“The Knicks are on a different path,” Calipari said. “You may not see right away overnight the results that you [want]. Listen, it took us a while to get here. It’s going to take a while to get us where we want to go. But it took us a while to get where we are. It didn’t happen in a year.
“So let this thing play out and in the end, I think everybody is going to be pleased.”
Source: Forbes – Business