The most detailed tick-tock of the Jan. 31 trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis from the Knicks to the Mavericks revealed that it wasn’t nearly as sudden as it seemed, that Porzingis had expressed his disgruntlement with New York and that the Knicks front office had already tentatively discussed potential trade packages prior to the start of the season. But one question remained: Why did the trade finally happen when it did? The Times report said only that the Knicks became “open” to a trade on Jan. 28. What happened on that date? This would explain it.
At an event on Wednesday, Knicks president Steve Mills said that Porzingis stated firmly that he would not re-sign in New York, and demanded a trade within a week or he would go to Europe. (Presumably only until his free agency, but it would have dinged the Knicks’ leverage in any trade talks and thus added an accelerated deadline to trade him well ahead of the league’s deadline.)
“He walked into my office ... and said, point-blank said to us, ‘I don’t want to be here. I’m not going to re-sign with the Knicks. And I’m going to give you seven days to trade me or I’m going back to Europe.’ So fortunately for us, that process that we talked about starting in September, we had a number of deals lined up. We started the trade calls as soon as he walked out of the office.”
Porzingis hasn’t yet commented on Mills’s version of events, but they fit with what we already knew: that the Knicks had at least a general sense of what they could get for Porzingis even before they decided to pull any trigger. The seven-day deadline also would serve to explain the Knicks’ apparent haste to get something done; Marc Stein previously reported that the Knicks accepted the Mavericks’ offer without taking it to other teams to see if they could beat it.
Whether the trade was a good one for the Knicks won’t be known until the free agency dust settles; moving Porzingis for the cap space to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is very different from moving Porzingis to get, say, Khris Middleton or Tobias Harris. But everything that’s come out since the trade at least makes it clearer why the Knicks had to make a trade at all.