According to SNY's Ian Begley, team officials said before the year they "believed that the Knicks were a playoff team and anything less than that was a disappointment."
Begley added the Knicks intended to evaluate their upcoming free agents more so on the team's overall performance rather than each individual's contributions.
The second point isn't necessarily a bad approach. A player who puts up empty stats on a terrible team may not be able to replicate his production on a contending team.
Explicitly outlining how management would judge its roster may have been counterproductive, though.
"They were definitely playing tight," a team source said to Begley. "(Some of the players eligible for 2020 free agency) were already worried about next summer."
The fact team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry also believed they put together a playoff-caliber roster remains baffling. It seemed obvious that signing four power forwards (Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris and Taj Gibson) was a recipe for disaster.
Mills even issued a statement after the Knicks failed to land Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, seemingly an acknowledgement that the franchise's bar for success had changed:
But only 10 games into the regular season, Mills and Perry gave a press conference addressing the team's 2-8 start, a move that effectively undermined head coach David Fizdale.
Less than a month after that press conference, Fizdale was out of a job.
More than anything, Begley's report underscores why the Knicks may require a change in the front office. Mills and Perry appear more focused on the short term rather than committing to the kind of long-term rebuild that's required to make the team a genuine contender again.