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Jeff Hornacek: Triangle offense 'probably' was a turnoff for free agents last summer

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said he thinks the triangle offense might have been a hang-up for potential free agents last summer but feels good about the team's future free-agent hopes because Kristaps Porzingis will be a draw. Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

GREEENBURGH, N.Y. -- Jeff Hornacek was answering questions about free agency from reporters after New York Knicks practice on Friday. The topic of the triangle offense came up, and Hornacek acknowledged what seemed obvious at the time: Last year's free agents were wary of the Knicks because of the triangle.

“I think it probably was,” Hornacek said when asked if the triangle was a "hang-up" for potential free agents last summer. “I think we truly believed that we could blend it [into Hornacek’s preferred offense]. And we found out that probably wasn’t great.”

In his first season as the Knicks' coach, Hornacek, at the suggestion of then-team president Phil Jackson, tried to blend elements of the triangle offense into the offense he ran with the Phoenix Suns. It didn’t work well for the Knicks, who lost 51 games in 2016-17 and missed the playoffs. It also impacted the way free agents looked at the Knicks last summer.

“Most of the teams, if you look around the league, most of the teams play the same way. There’s not a lot of difference in how teams play,” Hornacek said. “It’s getting certain guys, with their abilities, to put them in those positions [to succeed].”

Regarding free agency going forward, Hornacek believes the Knicks will receive greater consideration from players because of Kristaps Porzingis.

“You’ve got to look at, ‘Are we ready next year?’ With KP coming back probably a little later, no. But the pieces are being laid down,” Hornacek said. “You have Porzingis, and a lot of guys around the league have talked about wanting to play with him. They know he’s a great player. And what we were able to do without him this year, getting a lot of guys experience, they see the pieces. And sometimes that’s all it takes is one guy, one year and then another guy another year, and then you’re all right. So I think that’s the selling point. ... I think it’s a great city to play in.”

If Enes Kanter opts in to his $18.6 million contract for 2018-19, the Knicks will likely have a tax-payer's exception to use (worth $8.5 million annually) as their highest offer in free agency this summer. So, barring a trade, they won’t have the chance to sign a star player. But Hornacek doesn’t believe the Knicks, who have missed the playoffs for five straight seasons, are "far off" from contention.

“I don’t think it’s a five-, six-year process,” Hornacek said. He added, "If you look at down the road, I don’t think it’s that far off. You have a cornerstone piece in KP, you have some other really good players already on the team.”

Of course, it’s unclear whether Hornacek will be the one coaching any players the Knicks add this summer. Hornacek has one year remaining on his contract and was not hired by Knicks GM Scott Perry, so it would not be a surprise if Perry and team president Steve Mills decided to part ways with the coach after this season.

Mills and Perry have said they will evaluate everything -- including the coaching staff -- following the season.