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Kristian Winfield: Dear Knicks, you're not getting Giannis Antetokounmpo

Kristian Winfield: Dear Knicks, you're not getting Giannis Antetokounmpo

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NEW YORK - The Knicks are planning to interview Jason Kidd as one of 10 or so candidates for their head coaching position. If Leon Rose's grand plan is to hire Kidd in hopes of poaching Giannis Antetokounmpo from Milwaukee, it's time for a new plan.

That may not be the plan at all. The Knicks are set to draft a point guard in this year's point guard-heavy NBA draft. Kidd is one of the greatest point guards of all time. He can mold New York's selection into a version of himself.

But Kidd's ties to Antetokounmpo are undeniable. He coached the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player of the Year from 2014 to 2018. When the Bucks fired him, Antetokounmpo volunteered his power within the organization to save Kidd's job.

Kidd declined the offer and was ultimately replaced by Mike Budenholzer after a 139-152 tenure in Milwaukee. The Bucks have won more games in the season-and-a-half Bud has run the show than any other team in the NBA.

Budenholzer, with many of the same core players Kidd had at his disposal, went 60-22 in Year 1 in Milwaukee. This season, his Bucks entered the coronavirus hiatus 53-12, five games ahead of the Lakers for the best record in all of basketball.

For those reasons, the Knicks should punt on Kidd and Antetokounmpo. Yes, Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent in 2021, but every indication has pointed toward him staying in Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo was in line to sign a five-year, $253 million contract (what would have been the largest deal in NBA history). Then the coronavirus pandemic rocked the United States and the NBA, suspending the season from mid-March until late July.

ESPN's Bobby Marks laid out a scenario where the projected salary cap for the 2021-22 season drops from $125 million to $109 million. Under those circumstances, Antetokounmpo's super max would be five years, $221.5 million.

But if he signs with a team other than the Bucks, he'd lose the fifth year on his deal and approximately $80 million over the life of the contract. That's only the financial side of the equation: It doesn't make sense for Antetokounmpo to leave a championship contender for a lottery team.

The only franchise-altering superstar who has done so in recent history is LeBron James, who left Cleveland for Los Angeles after being swept out of the 2018 NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors. James, though, had already won a championship in Cleveland and cemented his legacy with back-to-back rings in Miami. He went to Los Angeles for lifestyle purposes - and to win a fourth championship with Anthony Davis, which is very much in play this season.

Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, has yet to make it out of the East. His Bucks are the best team in the conference, and with James (and Kawhi Leonard) out of the picture, the East is Antetokounmpo's to dominate for years to come. He is only 25 years old, early into the prime of his career.

The Greek Freak's free agency is also in just one year. If he leaves the Bucks, it would be because they could not get over the hump in pursuit of a championship. The odds are stronger for him to join the Miami Heat - a team that does not project to have the cap space to sign him - than a Knicks team that would have to improve into a playoff team to earn Antetokounmpo's respect.

Here's a reminder: The Knicks have the sixth-worst record in the NBA.

Need another reminder? The Knicks haven't been to the playoffs since Antetokounmpo was drafted. Instead of trying to poach a star, how about trying to identify, draft and develop one?

If the Knicks believe Kidd is the head coach who can develop RJ Barrett into a legitimate starting two, develop Mitchell Robinson into a franchise center, mold their next point guard into a version of himself and drag New York out of the lottery, where they've been since Kidd last played for them, then they should hire him immediately.

But if they're only interested in Kidd because of the allure of Antetokounmpo in a Knicks jersey, well, they should remember the mistakes they made last summer, too.

It was swinging for the stars and landing in the forwards that made the Knicks the laughingstock of the NBA last summer. They traded Kristaps Porzingis for the cap space to sign not one, but two max free agents in hopes of signing both Kyrie Irivng and Kevin Durant.

The Knicks, of course, ended up with Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock, while the stars aligned across the bridge in Brooklyn.

The Knicks' other head coaching candidates include former Cavs coach Mike Brown, former Bulls and Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau, former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, former Spurs and current 76ers lead assistant Ime Udoka, Magic assistant Pat Delany, Bulls assistant Chris Fleming, Spurs assistant Will Hardy and Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley.

Whoever the Knicks hire, it should be about developing stars of the future, not shooting for stars in a different solar system.

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