The Knicks brass and their players held court on Monday during their media day with high hopes, despite radical changes to their front office and the roster.
Gone are former team president Glen Grunwald and future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, and in comes newly hired team president and general manager Steve Mills and former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani.
During Mills’s first official press conference of his term, he spoke highly of the man he replaced, giving kudos for building a Knicks’ roster that he feels is good enough to win a title this season.
“Our goal is to win a championship this year. We feel like we need to build on the success we had last year,” Mills said, adding that he and the front office have the tough task of balancing winning now and building for the future. “While we have long-term goals, our near-time goal is the same as they’ve been. Our goal is to win a championship. We think we have a good chance to do that.”
Mills, who surprisingly was named to the position mere days before media day, said he believes the cupboard was not left bare by Grunwald and thanked him for his six years of service. While Grunwald will be kept on as an “advisor,” the new man in charge acknowledged the pressure sits square on his shoulders. That’s an understatement considering this is a pivotal season for a Knicks team that is chasing the two-time defending champion Heat, trying to hold off the hard-charging new-look Nets, are dealing with a bunch of new faces (again), the health of Amar’e Stoudemire (knee), the knee and head — and five-game suspension — of J.R. Smith and next season’s pending free agency of Carmelo Anthony looming over their heads.
The former Madison Square Garden executive who is now serving his second tour within owner Jim Dolan’s empire, said the first order of business he did as the new overseer was to pick up the contract option on head coach Mike Woodson for the 2014-15 season.
Woodson, Mills believes, is that man for the job. And while the coach showed gratitude for getting his option year picked up, he said it doesn’t give him any extra relief in thinking he has a year to play around with. Woodson said he, too, wants to win now.
“I don’t know if there was weight on my shoulders, but I’m excited Steve Mills and Mr. Dolan have given me the opportunity to come back another year. I’m extremely grateful,” said Woodson. “We all have the same [championship] mindset.”
Anthony, who appeared to look slimmer and in his best shape in years, didn’t want to put that type of expectation on his team.
“I’m not going to put the pressure on this team [saying] that it’s ‘championship or bust,’” said Anthony. “But we already know what it is. ... Everyone must step up but as leader of this team I need to make sure everyone is held accountable.”
Anthony didn’t say one way or another his preference to either play in the post as the team’s de facto power forward or go back to his natural small forward spot. But he did say whatever role his game takes on, he’ll be ready to contribute.
“I’m in my, what, 11th season? My game is not gonna change very much. It’s [pretty much] set in stone," Anthony said. “Whatever spot [Woodson] has for me, I’ll do it.”
Mills effused praise about Anthony’s willingness to take on whatever role and said the Knicks certainly want to see Anthony in orange and blue for the foreseeable future.
“We are fortunate to have a player like Carmelo on our roster,” Mills said. “He’s one of the superstars who don’t come around very often. While it is premature in the process, we have made it very clear we have every intention of making Carmelo a Knick for a long time to come.”
Knicks notes ...
»Anthony had no desire to talk about his pending free agency next summer.
“When that time comes, I’ll deal with that,” Anthony said. “I’m not going to go to the season thinking about my contract. I’m not doing that.”
»Shooting guard Iman Shumpert said he’s ready to start the season right now and is looking to be even more aggressive now that he’s completely healthy.
“I’ve had an awesome summer,” Shumpert said. “No lockout. It’s been the smoothest it’s been [during his career]. I hope it shows.”
Shumpert also said he’s great on defense but not because of his skilled athleticism or desire to be great on that end.
“It’s not like I love defense,” Shumpert said. “It’s that I want to score the ball so bad, I want to snatch the ball from you.”
»Smith, still recovering from offseason knee surgery, said he’s disappointed that his five-game suspension to start the season will loom over him.
“I’m more disappointed because I let my teammates down more than anything,” Smith said. “I let Mr. Dolan down.”
»Stoudemire, who had a “minor” offseason knee procedure, wouldn’t guarantee that he’ll play in the season opener, on Oct. 30 against the Bucks, or participate in any preseason games. Stoudemire, who acknowledged he’ll likely have a minutes restriction this season (“somewhere around 20-25 minutes”) gave a vague timetable on his return.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.