When the New York Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis ahead of the trade deadline in February, they did so with this summer in mind. The move opened up two max salary slots and with plenty of stars on the market, the Knicks had dreams of returning Madison Square Garden to glory with two marquee signings. Instead, they wound up with Julius Randle and a bunch of role players.
There are plenty of reasons why the Knicks struck out this summer, and now we have the details in regards to one star they missed out on — Kawhi Leonard. According to a report from Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks had a meeting with Leonard lined up, but canceled it due to logistical reasons. They didn’t want to miss out on other free agents while waiting for a long-shot chance at signing the Finals MVP. Via the New York Post:
As it played out, when Kevin Durant turned up his nose at the Knicks, the club realized any chance of nabbing Leonard without KD was a long shot.
That plan was scratched by Knicks’ brass over logistics.
The Knicks had spent almost all of their $70 million cap space in the first 20 hours of free agency, knowing if they waited until the Leonard meeting Wednesday, the players they did sign could be off the market. It was too big a risk, knowing they likely would finish fourth behind the Raptors, Lakers and Clippers.
The optics of a headline stating they canceled their meeting with one of the best players in the league are certainly not good — especially combined with everything else that’s happened with this franchise lately. But to be honest, they probably made the right decision here.
With Durant and Kyrie Irving off to the Nets, Kemba Walker joining the Celtics and Anthony Davis traded to the Lakers, the Knicks did not have a great chance to sign Leonard. Their roster coming into the summer was not impressive and, even if Leonard showed up, they weren’t going to be title contenders. Leonard may have still given them a meeting out of courtesy, but it seems likely they would have been in fourth place after the Raptors and the two Los Angeles teams.
Knicks owner James Dolan and Co. have made all sorts of poor decisions to put the franchise in this position, but they didn’t need to compound them by chasing Leonard’s ghost.
Still, even if it was the correct decision given the circumstances, the idea of the Knicks calling Leonard up to tell him, “No, thanks” is pretty hilarious.