Donovan Mitchell’s trade stalemate can’t lead to Knicks mistake
Every time Donovan Mitchell has been spotted in and around New York City over the past few months, it’s the basketball equivalent of the summer flame that’s sure to grab your attention just long enough and just often enough. to get your heart beating regularly.
Mitchell took BP and threw the first pitch before a Brooklyn Cyclones game in July, and there were some faints in the stands at Maimonides Park. Mitchell attended a Mets-Yankees game at Citi Field in July, and when fans spotted him, they cooed some more. He checked in at Rucker Park last week, took pictures with the kids and you could almost see their pulse racing.
Good, Mitchell, a Knicks fan, is touring the big city.
“Donovan,” Rick Pitino told The Post’s Marc Berman on Tuesday, “would love to be a Knick.”
But Mitchell remains a Utahn. He remains a member of the Jazz. Danny Ainge and Leon Rose have been dancing a deliberate dance for the past seven weeks or so, making offers, making counter-offers, building momentum some days and inevitably dissolving that surge days later.
They are now at an impasse.
And it makes sense that they are at an impasse.
Ainge and Rose are at different times in their front office journeys. Ainge has been doing this for three decades; Rose for three years. Ainge built a team from the dust in Boston that snagged a 17th championship banner, and left enough building blocks that they almost won an 18th this summer; Rose had some early speed with the Knicks, then endured a stifling sophomore slump.
But both men are equally motivated to win this deal, and both have important reasons why. Ainge has already been lending a hand, he’s starting to clean up bridges in Salt Lake City, and so his main trade is young players and draft picks. Rose arrived with a reputation that he was going to be the magnet to attract stars to New York. Mitchell is such a star.
But Rose also knows he has to both identify and cling to the line he can’t and won’t cross, no matter how fit Mitchell would be at the Garden. As a basketball and poker player, Ainge is Amarillo Slim. He cheated one of his oldest friends, Kevin McHale, on his way to building the Celtics. He must see Rose as an easy target, even from 2,171 miles away.
And Rose can’t afford to be that brand. He can’t afford to be seen as the driver of the turnip truck. This is his first legitimate look down. It’s important to him to make Mitchell a Knick, but it’s not imperative. There is a difference. You can be aggressive without handing over the entire store; there is also a difference.
Rose doesn’t need to search for a precedent for this. Wherever you come across the Carmelo Anthony Meter – and I’ve long said it was a precious and important moment with the Knicks – almost everyone can agree that the Knicks were played by the Nuggets, handing Denver a blank check when a little patience would have given the same player.
It’s not quite the same. Mitchell is not a pending free agent, so there will have to be some sort of deal. But it has to be the right kind of deal. Mitchell and Jalen Brunson, alongside RJ Barrett and a rejuvenated Julius Randle, of course feel like four-fifths of a team that could present a lot of intrigue in the future, but that would only become real if the Knicks retained the ability to reasonably acquire this. fifth Beatle when they identify him.
From 30,000 feet, it’s hard to imagine the Jazz finding a better trading partner. The Knicks have, in abundance, what Utah craves. The Jazz have the player that New York covets. Ainge can make a good deal and feel good about herself and make Rose feel good about herself too. There is no obligation to push anyone around. Rose must know that. Don’t shove the flop. Wait for the river. Check, check, check.
Even Amarillo Danny should be able to respect that.