The NBA trade deadline is fast approaching on Thursday, and the Knicks find themselves fading further from playoff contention following their two most recent road losses in Boston and Milwaukee.
While the Knicks sat four games behind No. 8 Philadelphia in the East on Saturday, Enes Kanter echoed Kristaps Porzingis’ plea last week to keep the team together for an increasingly improbable playoff push.
“I think right now, our only goal is making the playoffs,” Kanter said after practice, ahead of Sunday’s game against Atlanta at MSG. “Whatever guys they move or they don’t move, my thing is just focus on the playoffs.
“Obviously, I like every guy on our team. I would want to play with all the guys for the rest of my season and career because they’re just good locker room…Obviously, it’s a business in the end. It’s not my call, so I’m just playing for this team. I think the GM and the president are going to make the best decisions for us. I don’t even want to pay attention to who’s going to go or not, because in the end, I like every guy. I have no problem with anybody.”
While the Knicks are likely to encounter problems finding a taker for banished center Joakim Noah’s remaining contract, veterans such as Kanter, Courtney Lee and Kyle O’Quinn certainly could be attractive to contending teams at the deadline.
Kanter, who can opt out of his $ 18.6 million contract for next season this summer, was moved from Utah to Oklahoma City at the 2015 deadline and then again to the Knicks right before training camp this season in the Carmelo Anthony deal.
“Especially this time of the year, it’s tough because you’ve got to move all your stuff. You’ve got to pack and everything. You’ve got to a different city. It’s always awkward and weird,” Kanter said. “But it’s a business. It’s part of it. If it happens, it happens. If not, we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.
“I think there’s been a lot of talk on social media and stuff — he’s going to move, he’s not going to move. He’s going to stay, he’s not going to stay. I don’t think we should pay attention to that. I think, right now, we’re about to make the playoffs or not. I don’t think guys should pay attention to that because it’s going to take away the focus from the season. Let’s go out there and play basketball. Let’s have fun with our teammates.”
The Knicks mostly have been a fun team to watch at home this season with a 16-9 record entering their Super Bowl Sunday matinee against the Hawks, but they have dropped 21 of 28 games away from the Garden. That mark includes a last-second loss to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in Milwaukee on Friday night in which Tim Hardaway Jr. missed 13 of 14 shots from the floor and two crucial free throws with the game tied in the final minute.
“For us as coaches and players, this is our team. That’s how we approach it,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “I know it’s extremely hard on the players this time of year. Some guys, maybe veteran guys, have been through (the trade deadline) year-in and year-out. They know the drill.
“I always tell them most of the time your name is out there you usually don’t get traded, because the GM’s and those guys are trying to keep everything quiet. You just got to play. It’s a hard thing. They’re all human. They’re all wondering what’s going to happen next week. But try to do their best when out there.”