The Knicks and Kristaps Porzingis didn’t agree to an extension on his rookie contract by the deadline Monday, which will make him eligible to become a restricted free agent in 2019.
However, ESPN’s Ian Begley reports the move is not a sign of discontent on either side’s part, but rather a move designed to free up salary cap space. By not signing the extension now, the Knicks will have an additional $10 million in cap space to use chasing a top free agent.
New York will still have the option to re-sign Porzingis next offseason or match another team’s offer sheet. The Knicks still must clear more cap space to pursue one of the max free agents that will be available next year.
While Porzingis had expressed discontent with the Knicks’ direction in the past, most notably skipping his exit interview after the 2016-17 season, team officials believe he’s happy with the change in direction under new head coach David Fizdale.
“I’m always looking at it from a connection standpoint. And there is nothing that’s told me that there’s any disconnection,” Fizdale said (via ESPN). “He’s having fun with these guys, he’s engaging with me, with the staff. I just see a teammate out there, I see a guy that’s just trying to contribute in any way he can. And to me that says (he’s) a guy that’s engaged and locked in.”
The 7-3 star missed most of the second half of the 2017-18 season with a torn ACL, and is not expected to return to the court until at least December. The Latvian was averaging a career-high 22.7 points per game before his injury, along with 6.6 rebounds.