In the hours leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, the main question on the mind of New York Knicks fans wasn’t which prospect the team would select with the eighth overall pick. Nor was it whether Knicks owner James Dolan would find time to treat concert-goers at City Winery to any Johnny Cash covers later that evening. (Spoiler alert: he did!) No, the one thing every Knicks fan wanted to know: would they really trade 21-year-old franchise centerpiece Kristaps Porzingis, as president of basketball operations Phil Jackson had been suggesting the team might make in the run-up to Thursday’s draft?
The mere suggestion that Jackson might jettison the lone bright spot from the last two dark and chaotic years of Knicks basketball, whether over a missed exit interview or out of a desire to kickstart a rebuild necessitated by the sins of management in pretty much every area but drafting Kristaps, left Knicks fans furious and apoplectic. And it drove one fan to take extreme measures, expressing his opposition to the idea of trading away the 7-foot-3 Latvian star in very big, very bright lights:
The Garden right now ???????? pic.twitter.com/6dLbXsaWOz
— Cycle (@bycycle) June 23, 2017
Couldn't have said it any better… right in front of MSG. pic.twitter.com/4V0HjKYKx8
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) June 23, 2017
During Thursday’s draft, a gigantic digital billboard displayed the text “DON’T TRADE PORZINGIS” on the corner of 33rd Street and 7th Avenue, directly across from Madison Square Garden. (The smaller print: “We are not affiliated with Porzingis. We just want him to stay.”)
The message came courtesy of Cycle, and specifically from Knicks fan Rob Perez, who hosts a digital basketball show called “Buckets” for the culture website. As Perez explained via Periscope, the billboard was his way of putting his money where his mouth was — making sure that Jackson and the rest of the decision-makers at MSG couldn’t possibly avoid the voice of this particular fan.
It’s not a lonely voice …
— Aaron Dodson (@aardodson) June 23, 2017
— Michelle (@mich_dev) June 23, 2017
— NYKTalk (@TalkKnicks) June 23, 2017
— Robert ???????? (@Djrobbyrob205) June 23, 2017
— Bruce Wayne (@Castle_of_Brian) June 23, 2017
… and — for the time being, at least — it’s a voice that was heard.
The Knicks did not trade Porzingis on Thursday night, much to the delight of concerned New Yorkers. They stayed put at No. 8, selected intriguing French guard Frank Ntilikina, made a couple of selections in Round 2, and called it a night. (Maybe they were tuckered out.)
From Ian Begley of ESPN:
On the trade front, New York had discussions with the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics, among other teams, about a potential Kristaps Porzingis trade. Center Joakim Noah was involved in many of those discussions, per sources. Jackson declined to discuss the Porzingis trade talks on Thursday, instead choosing to focus on Ntilikina.
“This isn’t the time to talk about that. This is the time to talk about our draft pick,” he said.
How close any prospective deal between the Knicks and Celtics actually got remains unclear, but Boston president of basketball operations Danny Ainge suggested that rumors Jackson was asking for the moon and stars in exchange for Porzingis might not have been far off.
“I don’t comment on trade rumors. I will say this; it was a little blown out of proportion. But I’ll leave it at that,” Ainge told reporters on Thursday night. “A lot more talk by you guys.”
Ainge on Porzingis: "I really don't think NY was genuinely going to move him, That phone call was quick. I think Phil knows what he's doing"
— Jay O (@MrTrpleDouble10) June 23, 2017
Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen. For now, though, Knicks fans get to breathe a little bit easier, knowing that Porzingis is still on the roster … and that their message, in no uncertain terms, has been delivered.
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