Knicks’ Leaders Talk Defense and Tiptoe Around Puzzle of Carmelo Anthony

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“I’ve been in communication with Carmelo,’’ Mills said. “I think we will be a good developing team if Carmelo is part of the team. We’ll be a good developing team if he isn’t. We’ll be in constant communication with Carmelo and his camp, and we’ll come to some resolution that works well for both us.’’

To some extent, Mills may have been posturing, as he does not want to make it look as if the Knicks are desperate to unload Anthony, which would make it harder to get anyone of value in return.

Mills did give a definitive answer about Anthony when he was asked if the Knicks might buy out the remaining two years of his contract, at more than $50 million, to guarantee his departure.

Phil Jackson appeared to support this option before he was recently ousted as the Knicks’ president, which allowed Mills to move up from general manager to succeed him and opened up a spot for Perry to join the organization. But Mills said Monday that the Knicks would definitely not buy out Anthony.

Photo

Carmelo Anthony checking into a game in April. The Knicks say they will not buy out his contract.

Credit
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

The Knicks, Mills made clear, want something in exchange for letting Anthony go, which left the situation unresolved. But other matters on Monday seemed more clear cut.

Although the Knicks were a poor defensive team last season, when they were 31-51, defense will be the team’s No. 1 priority in the coming season, Mills, Perry and Hornacek agreed.

Hornacek used the word “scrappy’’ to describe the style of play he wanted the Knicks to adopt and, he talked about his players diving for balls more than they did last season and taking more charges on the defensive end.

Mills kept talking up youth and athleticism and that key word of the day — defense. They were not necessarily the words that were stressed in recent seasons, when the emphasis was on the triangle offense so beloved by Jackson.

But they were the words on Monday as Mills, no longer Jackson’s No. 2, tried to carve his own path.

“Those are the things we need to do if we want to build a sustainable organization,’’ Mills said. “That’s what we have to do, and obviously we’re in a situation now where that hasn’t been the case.’’

As for Perry, 53, a veteran N.B.A. executive who most recently worked for the Sacramento Kings, Mills said he would have the leeway to make his own hires and put his own stamp on a front office that has struggled to make the Knicks competitive.

“I think we’ll be partners in that in the sense that he’ll come to me with his recommendations and we’ll debate it back and forth,” Mills said. He said Perry was someone with whom he had a rapport.

Perry described his new role as a dream job. His wife, Kim, and their daughter, Chelsea, who just moved to Brooklyn, sat in the front row and other family members were present, too.

“I have to pinch myself sometimes realizing I’ve received this opportunity,” Perry said.



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