New York Knicks president Steve Mills said Monday that Carmelo Anthony could remain with the team this season, despite acknowledging that the organization would continue to pursue a trade involving the 10-time All-Star.
"We've been in contact with Carmelo's representatives. We've been in contact with other teams," Mills said Monday at a news conference to introduce new general manager Scott Perry. "Our view is if there's an opportunity that works for Carmelo and works for us, then we'll look at some kind of trade. But we also feel that Carmelo could easily be a part of our team next year.
"We're going to move forward so maybe with Carmelo or without Carmelo."
Mills also said that the Knicks would not pursue a buyout of the remaining years on Anthony's contract.
Anthony has a no-trade clause in his contract, and the Knicks have discussed potential trades of Anthony in recent weeks, with the Houston Rockets being a primary destination of late. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday that Anthony is still hoping to be traded to the Rockets, and Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported last week that the Knicks and Rockets were putting trade talks involving Anthony on hold for the moment, which Mills confirmed.
"I felt it was important for us to slow down, regroup as it related to the trade scenarios with Carmelo," he said. "So we made a decision to slow things down, let us regroup and get together and make sure what's best for the New York Knicks, and at the same time we'll do what's best for Carmelo."
Mills and Perry, who met with the media for the first time Monday, said repeatedly that the Knicks were focused on developing a young core of players that included Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez.
Anthony, 33, doesn't seem to fit that organizational directive, but Mills pointed out that the club's veterans will play an important role in helping to develop that young core.
"Carmelo's a great, great basketball player, and if Carmelo is with us, we will continue to develop our young players," Mills said. "If he's not here, we'll continue to develop our young players."
Mills and Perry are evaluating whether it's worth allowing time for Anthony's standing around the NBA to be rebuilt, as opposed to trading him at an all-time low, league sources told Wojnarowski.
The Knicks realize that the odds of persuading Anthony to simply forget trade talks and accept a return to New York are long, especially given how aggressively ex-team president Phil Jackson pushed to run Anthony out of town, those sources said.
Mills on Monday did not want to talk about how Jackson might have affected Anthony's trade value or the organization's relationship with the veteran forward.
"I think we will be a good developing team if Carmelo is part of the team. We'll be a good developing team if he isn't," Mills said. "We'll be in constant communication with Carmelo and his camp, and we'll come to some resolution that works well for both [of] us.''
Perry added that he is confident that if Anthony remained in New York, he'd be able to establish a "great working relationship" with the veteran forward.
As recently as last weekend, Anthony told friends that he expected to be traded to Houston, according to sources. Mills declined comment when asked whether he had a meeting scheduled with Anthony or his representatives to discuss the possibility of him staying in New York.
Mills and Perry will guide a Knicks team that has missed the playoffs in each of the past four seasons and has just one playoff series win in the past 17 seasons.
In addition to handling the Anthony situation, the duo is looking for a veteran point guard to pair with free-agent signee Hardaway Jr. and mentor rookie Ntilikina.
Mills' decision to offer Hardaway Jr., a restricted free agent, a four-year, $71 million contract raised eyebrows around the NBA. The new Knicks president explained his thinking Monday, saying that organization views Hardaway Jr. as a starting shooting guard and paid him as such.
"We watched him, in our opinion, grow over his time in the player development program that they had in Atlanta, so we decided he was a target," Mills said. "We felt like there are not that many opportunities in free agency that you have the opportunity to go after a 25-year-old."
Mills added that he would have drafted Ntilikina with the No. 8 overall pick if he had been the top decision-maker at the time. Jackson was still president during the draft and selected Ntilikina in part because he fit Jackson's system of play. That system of play, of course, will change now that Mills is in charge.
"He's a guy that fits in everything that we're talking about right now, today. He's a smart basketball player," Mills said.
Mills will give Perry latitude to make basketball decisions but made it clear that the decision-making process would be collaborative. It is believed that Mills will have final say on all basketball decisions for New York.
Perry will also be evaluating the front office in the coming days, and both he and Mills said they might make changes to the team's current personnel.
Mills' overall vision for the team seems sound -- and a departure from some previous approaches in New York that involved fixing things quickly.
"Focus on the young guys, take advantage of the fact that we have draft picks moving forward, and build an organization and build a team that centers on that group of guys growing together," Mills said. "It will take longer to do. But I think it's something the fans of New York are ready for and will accept as long as the guys come together and play hard and do the kinds of things we're talking about today."