The Knicks acquired Maurice Harkless because his contract was needed to complete the deal that sent Marcus Morris to the Clippers, but his performance since the trade has made him a strong candidate to return next season, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Harkless started eight of the 12 games he has played since coming to New York and has impressed the team with his strong defensive play and his desire to be a Knick. New team president Leon Rose had been hoping to closely evaluate Harkless over the final 16 games of the season, but the league’s hiatus may eliminate that opportunity.
“It was a chance for him to showcase to the Knicks and to see if he wanted to be here,” a source told Berman. “He always wanted to be a Knick.”
Harkless is in the final season of a four-year, $40M contract. Berman expects him to get more than the minimum in free agency.
There’s more this morning from New York:
- Owner James Dolan was exhibiting some mild symptoms before being tested for coronavirus, per Berman. Dolan sat courtside for a March 8 game against the Pistons, who had one of the first players to test positive for the virus in Christian Wood. No Knicks players were tested before returning to their homes because they asymptomatic.
- The best chance for Taj Gibson to return to the Knicks is for Tom Thibodeau to become the next head coach, Berman notes in a separate story. Gibson is a favorite of Thibodeau, who has coached him with the Bulls and Timberwolves, but his $9.5M salary may be more than the organization wants to spend on a backup big man. Gibson has a $1M guarantee if he is released. “Taj was solid on the court, but he was even better in the locker room,’’ a source said. “He helped (Mitchell Robinson) understand the pro game and how to carry yourself if you want to play in the NBA and have an impact.’’
- Jonathan Macri of Sports Illustrated lays out an ideal scenario for the Knicks’ offseason, which involves trading Julius Randle, moving on from Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr., drafting a point guard, trading veterans for draft picks and hiring Kenny Atkinson as head coach. As a bonus, Macri suggests signing former Knick Danilo Gallinari in free agency, speculating that a two-year guaranteed offer might be enough.