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Don’t be fooled by rumors that the Knicks might be able to get star players

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This ain’t our first rodeo.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers
Maybe they were discussing a future super team in New York. Probably not, though.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The latest rumors that the Knicks could land superstars mostly lack substance, and the best way for Leon Rose’s refreshed front office to attract great players is to focus on improving the culture of the franchise and building a foundation.

The latest lads to be linked to New York are Damian Lillard and Devin Booker, although the reporting isn’t exactly ironclad. The Lillard stuff, for instance, appears to be based on the fact that he recently said there were rumors about him being traded to the Knicks years ago. As for Booker, the main draw is that he’s with Rose’s former firm, Creative Artists Agency, so the thinking goes that if the Phoenix Suns fail to improve he’ll want out, with the Knicks as a possible destination.

Most of the hubbub can be seen in this piece from Marc Berman of the New York Post. In it, he writes the following sentence without attributing the information to any kind of source whatsoever.

If scoring point guard Lillard asks for a trade, it’s believed the Knicks or Lakers would be his choices.

Based on how it’s written, we have no clue who this information is believed by. It could be Berman personally. Or maybe he’s heard whispers from league sources that one of the best players in the NBA wouldn’t mind playing in a major market like New York or Los Angeles. He didn’t tell us, so we don’t know.

Lillard has generally appeared happy in Portland, where he gets to play alongside fellow stud C.J. McCollum. It would be extremely surprising to hear that he not only wants out of Portland, but is hoping to land in New York to play on a team that has won seven total playoff games in the last 20 years. Meanwhile, last year Lillard reportedly locked in a massive extension with the Blazers that would keep him under contract through the 2024-25 season.

Back to Booker, who was an All-Star for the first time this year and is currently set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024. The Suns have been quite bad since drafting Booker in 2015, but the franchise also employs 2018 first overall draft pick Deandre Ayton, so there’s some talent to build upon. And this year the team was 26-39 when the coronavirus brought things to a halt, which is more victories than the Suns had amassed in any of Booker’s previous seasons. So they might be getting better.

Here’s what Berman had to say about Booker:

Recent rumblings are Booker could get tired of the perennial losing in Phoenix, which is run by a thrifty owner in Robert Sarver.

Just like with Lillard, we have no clue where these rumblings come from. And while there is a connection in that Rose once represented the score-happy combo guard back when he was an agent, it’s silly to bank on such a relationship bringing Booker to New York.

Maybe we can talk when there’s more meat to chew on, but according to this recent piece from SNY’s Ian Begley, the idea that the Knicks are going to trade for Booker is literally laughable to certain sources.

But is a trade for Booker realistic? I asked one opposing executive for their thoughts and they sent back a straightforward reply: “LOL”

Lillard and Booker join a growing list of star talents who could reportedly wind up on the Knicks. Hi Chris Paul and Karl-Anthony Towns! And oh yeah, hey there Carmelo Anthony.

The truth is that the Knicks are still in stage one of their rebuild, and the new front office has plenty of work to do. The franchise has tried to take shortcuts in the recent past — the original Carmelo Anthony trade and the signings of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are two obvious examples. Shortcuts rarely work.

If Lillard or Booker became disgruntled and the price was right, then Rose should obviously go after them. But the reality is that the Knicks need to continue building on the current foundation of R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, not to mention players like Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox. Figure out who should stay and who should go, let your scouts help you figure out who to target in the draft and free agency, and be prepared if a trade opportunity presents itself.

But don’t make your plan be landing superstars. It’ll just wind up embarrassing the team and setting the franchise back.