Mikal Bridges is perfect fit for these win-now Knicks (2024)

Here’s the thing: the Knicks are no longer in position to wait for Giannis Antetokounmpo’s patience to run out in Milwaukee. They are no longer in a place where it makes sense to throw assets after older players like Kevin Durant or Paul George, no matter how much gas is left in the tank.

Joel Embiid? If that was an assumed option at the start of this year it can’t be any more, not after he spent another year plagued by injury, not after he expended as much energy becoming Public Enemy No. 1 in the playoffs as he did trying to eliminate the Knicks in them.

The Knicks are no longer working on spec. They are no longer about tomorrow, next year, three years from now. Everything they do now, better or worse, is for now. The Knicks are going for it. And on Tuesday, the picture of going for it officially became Mikal Bridges, imported from the Nets for Bojan Bogdanovic and a boatload of draft picks. It’s a steep haul for a player with a high ceiling coming off a disappointing season. It also makes all the sense in the world.

The Knicks are a team whose success is based on chemistry. That has been Leon Rose’s careful calibration the last few years, ever since he signed Jalen Brunson to kick-start them into contention. He’s had all these picks in his pocket, waiting for a chance to strike, and was determined to make sure the fit was right. That meant saying no to Donovan Mitchell. It meant allowing Dejounte Murray to go to Atlanta. It meant never getting involved with the Damian Lillard sweepstakes last year.

They weren’t fits. Josh Hart was. Donte DiVincenzo was. OG Anunoby was. And Bridges is. There were some who lament the exodus of so many draft picks, but draft picks — especially for good teams, who pick in the mid and low 20s — are decidedly unknown commodities. You can tell me two or three who rose from there to become All-Stars; I’ll give you a couple of dozen who are playing in Europe four years later.

We know what Bridges is. And we know how he plays on good teams, as evidenced by his blossoming in Phoenix and the way he played upon first arriving in Brooklyn before the Nets blew up.

And, of course, you know how he plays with the three other guys from Villanova, because we’ve seen them reach the highest highs together in college. We saw how first Hart, and then DiVincenzo, immediately re-bonded with Brunson. For most of last year it sure felt like Brunson and Hart were quietly wooing him on their podcast; Bridges was less subtle, all but blinking out in Morse code “TAKE ME WITH YOU” the two times the Knicks visited Brooklyn this year.

You swap known for unknown every time.

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Does this put the Knicks directly into Boston’s line of sight? Not quite. Not yet. First on the docket is getting OG Anunoby’s signature affixed to the bottom of a rich extension. That is Priority One for the Knicks, a commitment that doesn’t come without a strain of concern given Anunoby’s injury history but one they have little choice but to make given both the cost of bringing him here and the staggering success they enjoyed with him in the lineup.

Center has to be addressed. Unless Isaiah Hartenstein decides he wants to take a steep hometown discount he’s almost certainly gone. Are the Knicks ready to recommit to Mitchell Robinson? His name has been floated in some trade talk and he’s always been sensitive to such things. There may be damage to control, and another, cheaper version of Hartenstein to acquire.

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That’ll shake out in the days to come.

For now, #Knicksanova has never been more of a thing. The Knicks were already in for a penny — a few pennies, actually — on seeing if the Villanova basketball culture can translate up a level. Now they’re in for a pound. On a night when baseball’s Subway Series crackled all across nine innings at Citi Field, the big story turns out to be from the basketball Subway rivals, turns out to be Bridges heading west over the Manhattan Bridge and landing in his safe place.

We wondered for years what the Knicks were going to look like when Leon Rose was ready to finally cash in his assets. We have a pretty good idea now. No more working on spec anymore. This is about today. This is about right now.

Mikal Bridges is perfect fit for these win-now Knicks (2024)

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