Carmelo Anthony not a central figure to Steve Mills’ Knicks

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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New/old Knicks president Steve Mills opened his introductory by saying the team was committed to building around:

“And,” Mills said before pausing and unwittingly building suspense, “fortunately for us moving forward, we still have all of our first-round draft picks.”

No mention of Carmelo Anthony.

Of course, Mills – who preceded, worked under and now succeeds Phil Jackson – faced numerous questions about Anthony. Mills was tight-lipped on many topics, none more so than the high-priced star.

The Knicks reportedly hope to urge Anthony, who possesses a no-trade clause, to expand his list of acceptable destinations beyond Houston and Cleveland. Anthony reportedly still expected to be traded to the Rockets (though Rockets owner Leslie Alexander selling the team might put a wrench into the works).

“Carmelo could easily be a part of our team next year,” said Mills, who stressed veterans will still be important as mentors in the new direction.

“We’re going to move forward. It may be with Carmelo. It may be without Carmelo.”

Asked about buying out Anthony, Mills gave a one-word answer: “No.”

Mills just didn’t sound too concerned about the 33-year-old who’s due $26,243,760 this season and $27,928,140 if he opts in next year.

“If Carmelo is with us, we will continue to develop our young players,” Mills said. “If he’s not here, we’ll continue to develop our young players.

“[It] will take longer to do. But I think it’s something that the fans of New York are ready for and will accept as long as the guys come together and play hard.”

Long-overdue patience or a way for Mills to retain job security even as the team loses? Probably some of both.

But as usual, the Knicks sound all-in on the plan as it’s introduced. They also introduced new general manager Scott Perry, who’s on a five-year contract.

Though it’s believed Mills will still hold final authority in running basketball operations, it still remains to be seen how he and Perry will balance power. Decipher Mills’ explanation however you’d like:

“I’m going to give Scott the room to make basketball decisions and make recommendations to me,” Mills said. “He’s going to have a chance to manage the coaching staff, manage the scouting staff and make recommendations as to where we should go as a basketball organization. I think we’ll be partners in that in the sense that he’ll come to me with his recommendation, and we’ll debate it back and forth. But, at the end of the day, I’m giving him room to make those decisions.”

Mills made one big move before Perry arrived – signing Hardaway to a four-year, $71 million contract. In his first public appearance since, Mills defended the shocking price tag by saying he believed Hardaway is a starting shooting guard – an exceedingly low bar for someone making $17.75 million annually.

Perry piped in: “We applauded the move from afar when I was in Sacramento at that time.” So a team run by Vivek Ranadive and Vlade Divac supported the signing? Cool, cool, cool.

Mills said he has spoken with Porzingis, who seemed unhappy late in Jackson’s tenure, a few times this offseason. Mills also said he would have selected Ntilikina, whom Jackson drafted No. 8, if he were drafting himself.

The new general manager praising a signing that occurred before he was hired. The new president defending the drafting of the old president, whose mess the new president and new general manager are left to clean up.

There’s all the usual intertangled drama in New York – even without considering Anthony, which Mills’ Knicks might not have to do for much longer.