Steve Mills, fired as Knicks president Tuesday, oversaw a dark time in team history — in two separate stints as a team executive. Here’s a look at his biggest mistakes:
The Kristaps Porzingis trade
Porzingis was still with the Knicks just over a year ago. The face of the franchise was unhappy, but had little leverage to force his way out as a restricted free agent. Still, Mills and GM Scott Perry, parted with their 7-foot-3 star. The haul from Dallas made the decision even worse. In exchange for one of the most uniquely gifted players in the league, the Knicks got Dennis Smith Jr., the rentals of DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews, plus two first-round picks unlikely to be in the lottery. By also sending away Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke, the Knicks cleared enough cap space to sign two max free agents in the summer, giving hope to an otherwise indefensible deal.
The free-agency debacle
Even with one of the most lauded free-agent classes of all time, the Knicks struck out last summer. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving landed the most devastating blows by signing with the Nets, with the Knicks reportedly unwilling to give the former MVP — coming off a ruptured Achilles — a max contract. The Knicks ended up making a series of low-impact, low-profile, short-term signings — Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock — which Mills hilariously claimed was the Knicks’ plan all along.
The Isiah Thomas saga
In Mills’ first tenure as a Knicks executive, he recommended the team bring aboard Hall of Fame guard Isiah Thomas as team president in 2003. In Thomas’ five-year stint, the Knicks had no winning seasons. Thomas was also sued for sexual harassment by Anucha Browne Sanders, who worked directly under Mills. According to Browne Sanders, Mills ignored her complaints and threatened her with slander, which he denied in court. Madison Square Garden was found liable in 2007 and Browne Sanders was awarded $11.6 million in damages.
The Tim Hardaway signing
After replacing Phil Jackson as team president in 2017, Mills’ first big move was bidding against himself by signing Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71 million contract, when no other team was willing to offer anything near that amount. To unload Hardaway’s massive salary less than two years later, the Knicks had to include Porzingis in a trade to the Mavericks.
Hiring David Fizdale
After lasting less than two seasons in his first stint as a head coach in Memphis, Fizdale beat out 10 candidates to lead the Knicks in 2018. Fizdale would get fired in his second season as a head coach again after going 21-83 with the Knicks.
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