Knicks president Glen Grunwald held a conference call on Thursday and implored the fanbase to stay patient, as a plan is in place.
Despite the fact the Knicks haven’t really added any new faces this offseason, save for Andrea Bargnani, and the realization that the Nets stole the back pages with their blockbuster trade, Grunwald reasoned the Knicks are taking the slow and steady path to build upon last season’s 54-win campaign.
“[Free agency] is unpredictable. The market is playing itself out. We have a number of players interested in playing with us. I’m pretty optimistic that we’ll add some good players,” said Grunwald, adding that the roster is almost set. “We have 10 players under contract at this time. Basically our core rotation is set. We just need to add some depth to our bench. … Maybe we want to hold open a roster spot so someone can earn that final spot like Chris Copeland did last year after training camp.”
Copeland is no longer with the Knicks after he signed with the Pacers. The 29-year-old player had a small cult following in New York after he unexpectedly made the final roster last season and worked his way up the rotation.
Grunwald said he’s happy for Copeland’s success and hoped the team could’ve resigned him, but ultimately the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) hindered the Knicks from keeping their gem.
“He was a priority. We’d have liked to bring him back, but we had to make a tough decision because of the CBA,” said Grunwald. “Chris went out and earned that contract and we wish him the best going forward.”
Going forward for the Knicks means finding a way to fill Copeland’s perimeter scoring, and Grunwald thinks Bargnani more than compensates. The former overall No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft, Bargnani has career averages of 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game, while shooting 43.7 percent from the field (36.1 percent on 3-pointers).
While those numbers don’t dazzle, especially for a former top pick, Grunwald said Bargnani can certainly duplicate, and likely surpass, Copeland’s output because the veteran big man will likely log more minutes than Copeland did last year, as it took nearly the entire regular season for Copeland to garner head coach Mike Woodson’s full trust.
“In some sense that’s right,” Grunwald said when asked if the Bargnani addition was essentially swapping Copeland’s roster spot. “We did not have any Bird Right’s with either Pablo [Prigioni] or Cope, so we had to use that taxpayers’ mini mid-level exception in some fashion. We were hoping that there wouldn’t be any teams that would be able to come up with the right contract for Cope, but Indiana did a great job of that and it made it very unlikely that we’d get both [Prigioni and Copeland] back.”
Kenyon Martin is another unsung player who helped the Knicks down the stretch. The feisty power forward is currently a free agent, but is definitely on the Knicks’ radar for a possible return. Free agent power forward and New York native Elton Brand reportedly declined to accept the Knicks’ veteran’s minimum to finish his career at home, which may actually help Martin’s return, said Grunwald.
“Kenyon had a great year for us and we’re very thankful for that. We’re evaluating all options and Kenyon is certainly in that consideration,” said Grunwald.
The Knicks will also need to find another point guard to help starter Raymond Felton and his backup Prigioni, who also spent time last season starting alongside Felton.
“We need another player that can play point guard. We’ll see how Shump [Iman Shumpert] does in the summer league,” said Grunwald. “But we’ll still probably add another point guard, and we definitely need more depth up front with the bigs.”
In order to add more depth in the future, the Knicks will have to do so without the help of the draft. The Bargnani trade jettisoned their 2016 first-round pick (which will be the worst of either their own pick or the Nuggets’ pick from the Anthony trade) and a pair of second-round picks (2014 and 2017).
New York has long been known to mortgage the future and cast off draft picks to get what they want. And since they have little to no more room in adding a player via trade or a sizeable free agent contract, Grunwald has had to be creative with roster additions.
“Obviously you’d like to have a lot of draft picks, but at the same time we needed to use those draft picks to acquire good players,” he said. “We’ve been able to, over the course of the years, add some good players, even if it’s not through the draft. … A plan is in place.”
Knicks notes …
»The NBA set the upcoming season’s salary cap at $58.7 million, slightly up from last season’s cap of $58 million. The luxury tax threshold was also set at $71.7 million, with harsher penalties starting this season for teams that exceed it. The Knicks will have surpassed that amount with just their Top 5 earners.
»The mid-level exception for non-taxpayers is $5.15 million and $3.2 million for teams over the tax. The Knicks have already used half of that exception in the resigning of Prigioni. There’s also an additional mid-level exception worth $2.7 million for teams with room under the salary cap. The Knicks obviously don’t fit under that umbrella.
»In previous seasons, teams paid $1 for every dollar over the tax level. This upcoming season, however, teams over the tax will pay $1.50 for every dollar in the first $4.99 million over the tax level, $1.75 for every dollar between $5 million and $9.99 million over the tax, $2.50 for every dollar between $10 million and $14.99 million over and $3.25 for every dollar between $15 million and $19.99 million. The tax rate increases another 50 cents for each additional $5 million after $20 million. The Knicks are among the six teams informed by the league office that they exceeded their tax bill, which stands at $9.962 million. That’s the fourth-highest toll. The Lakers are tops with an astounding $29.259 million price tag.
»Bargnani’s deal won’t help the Knicks’ tax cause as he’s still owed $22 million on the remaining two years of his contract.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.