The New York Knicks are coming off a franchise-worst 17-65 season, but hope was on the horizon thanks to a high draft pick and a boatload of cap space.
New York landed a top-three draft prospect in Duke forward RJ Barrett, but the possibility of adding superstar free agents looks bleaker by the day with every rumor seriously connecting top free agents seemingly anywhere but New York.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith added to that pile when he told Max Kellerman on First Take that he hears "no one anticipates [the Knicks are] going to get anybody" and specifically mentioned Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard as a free agent who won't even take an in-person interview with the team.
"The New York Knicks, from what I'm hearing, it's bad enough no one anticipates they're going to get anybody...I'm hearing the New York Knicks might not even get an interview in person. If they get something, it'll be phoners. I haven't spoken to the Knicks, I don't know if that's true. But I'm hearing a phoner! Phoners, Max! Phoners."
Free agency begins on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET, and the Knicks may be the odd team out on top stars.
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant and Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving seemed destined for the Knicks at one point. B/R senior writer Ric Bucher said KD to the Knicks was a done deal in April, and Smith said that Durant and Irving were both going to the Knicks in May.
That looks more remote by the day, with Brian Lewis of the New York Post saying that Irving looks headed to the Brooklyn Nets and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that four teams (Warriors, Knicks, Nets, Los Angeles Clippers) are on Durant's radar.
Leonard is almost certainly going to Toronto or Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets seem like they're in the lead for guard/forward Jimmy Butler, per a report from Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
The bottom line is the Knicks are bringing up the rear in the free-agent race, and if they swing and miss on top stars, then Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported that the team will roll over the cap space into next season and continue the rebuild for one more year.