Joel Embiid to the Knicks? Why patience remains a priority in New York

It’s that time of year again, the period when all the hottest names are gone from the NBA’s free agency market, where the only gossip that lingers is about the big stars who want to be traded.

The news cycle goes the same way every year. Around this stage last summer, the Donovan Mitchell saga was gathering momentum. The New York Knicks were at the center. Today, others play similar leading roles. Damian Lillard is still a Portland Trail Blazer, but maybe he won’t be around at the start of the season, but maybe the Blazers won’t settle for an unworthy package from the Miami Heat, so who the hell knows how that will end? James Harden is still a Philadelphia 76er, and given that Daryl Morey takes magic eye drops that prevent him from blinking at first, that saga might as well last until Harden’s beard reaches his ankles.

And then there’s the other news from Philly, the direct comments that reigning MVP Joel Embiid made last week, ones that once again bring the Knicks into the periphery of the conversation.

“I just want to win a championship — um, you know, whatever it takes,” Embiid said in an interview with UNINTERRUPTED CEO Maverick Carter that was taped a week ago but only started making the rounds on the Internet earlier this week. “I don’t know where it’s going to be, whether it’s in Philly or elsewhere.”

So naturally, the basketball world gravitated to its comfort zone: a sensational frenzy. After all, that’s how following the NBA works.


Amick: Why Embiid’s “anywhere else” comments mean far less than Sixers’ next move

A great player says something that can mean everything, and the rest of us on the outside think 14 steps into the future.

OK, so if the Sixers end up having to trade Harden for, say, LA Clippers, and Philadelphia doesn’t get much back, and Embiid gives it a shot with this revamped squad, and the team slips from third place in the East last season to the bottom of the playoffs, and Embiid starts to believe that a championship is not coming from the Philanways, then nothing else could happen in the future. ing to a league-changing trade?

But of course pontificating goes further than that.

And considering there’s a team just 100 miles away that’s been star-hunting ever since the current administration took over, and whose president is Embiid’s former agent, it’s only logical to think of the ever-patient team in Manhattan, the team that made a few small tweaks to its rotation this summer but otherwise kept a 47-win team intact.

Of course, we are all monstrous, rogue people. There’s little point in overanalyzing a sentence in a July interview from a hype-competitive person who wants to win big but has never even made it past the second round. After all, it’s not like Embiid ended his quote with a suggestion that he could go “anywhere else” and then dropped the mic only to walk off the stage.

“I just want a chance to get it,” Embiid continued. “I want to see what it feels like to win the first one and then think about the next one. It’s not easy, but it takes more than one or two, three guys. You have to have good people around you and myself, you know, every single day I work hard to be at that level so I can produce and make it happen.”

Embiid has told people close to him for years that he values ​​the idea of ​​a one-team legacy. There is a long way between vague comments about the mysterious country “everywhere else” and an official trade request.

However, that is why the Knicks have been monitoring the situation with Embiid in Philadelphia.

New York has played a balancing act ever since Leon Rose took over the front office in 2020. It’s built with the idea of ​​trading for, not signing, a star, but it hasn’t been trigger-happy either. The Knicks aggressively pursued Mitchell last summer, but it was clear they had a cap on what they were willing to offer. If they didn’t, Mitchell would be in his home state right now, not Ohio.

Other All-Stars have trickled in and out of the rumor mill over the years, including this summer. New York reached out to the Chicago Bulls about shooting guard Zach LaVine, but the asking price for the two-time All-Star was “huge,” a league source told Athletics, which is precisely why LaVine remains in Chicago. The Knicks and Bulls, according to league sources, never got close.

There are the Karl-Anthony Towns rumors floating around, if only because they’re easy. Towns is a CAA client and was once represented by Rose himself when Rose ran CAA’s basketball division. We know the deal now: The Knicks are going after the CAA folks. They did it with Jalen Brunson and Isaiah Hartenstein and Josh Hart and when they drafted Obi Toppin. They extended Julius Randle. They charged Mitchell. So people project every CAA client onto them.

But it’s not like the Minnesota Timberwolves are trying to tear their team down. According to league sources who have talked business with them, the Wolves have also set a sky-high price for Towns. And according to another league source, despite what the constant speculation might tell you, the Knicks have expressed no interest in trading Towns.

They wait. Patient. For the right fit.

They now know they already have one star on the roster in Brunson. Therefore, the organization has adopted an intuitive approach. The Knicks ask one question about every high-profile player they consider acquiring: Does he fit well with Brunson? If the answer is no, then he is not worth the huge return it would take to acquire him. That’s why we haven’t heard a peep about the Knicks and Lillard, even though New York was a constant in the Lillard hypothetical years ago. If Lillard and CJ McCollum couldn’t make it work defensively, then he and Brunson could lead to bloodshed.

But an MVP in Philadelphia? A 29-year-old who has topped 30 points a game two years in a row? A rim protector capable of holding down an entire defense all by himself when he’s on full throttle? A pick-and-roll partner for Brunson or RJ Barrett or Immanuel Quickley who wouldn’t be a destroyer? A low-post dynamo still so skilled away from the basket that he mimics the niche, two-handed pump fakes of Sam Young? (If you don’t know about Sam Young’s pump fake, you’re missing out on the biggest two-handed deek in sports.)

It’s one that fits with Brunson. It’s one that could fit with the Knicks. And he already has a close relationship with Rose.

The Knicks all have their own first-round picks to trade. They own four proteges from other teams: the Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons. None of these picks can top as elite, but they are worth… something. They have enticing young talent such as Barrett, Quickley and Quentin Grimes. The Knicks could put together a trade package that includes up to four unprotected first-rounders, up to three first-round swaps and four more picks from other teams, as well as a young up-and-comer or two. Evan Fournier also provides an expiration salary.

Other teams could hypothetically top New York’s offer. The Brooklyn Nets, for example, could trade up to six unprotected first-round picks. But would a star whose priority is winning a championship prefer to be the man on a rebuilding team or the final piece of a hopeful contender?

That’s why the Knicks have been so patient. They’re not just waiting on Embiid. The plan is bigger than that. They hope for not just -one star, but the right star. And if Embiid were ever to leave Philadelphia — whether before February’s trade deadline or next summer or before the deadline after that — he would fit the description.

(Top photo of Julius Randle and Joel Embiid: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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