The Knicks lost out on their marquee trade target this offseason when the Utah Jazz traded All-Star Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month — and the shooting guard tossed salt in the wounds of Knicks fans on Wednesday, saying he was on the verge of moving to Madison Square Garden.
The New York native was dealt from Utah to Cleveland for three unprotected first round picks, along with two pick swaps in a surprise development that robbed the Knicks faithful of their widespread desire to see him wearing blue and orange next season.
That came after months of rumors and speculation that Mitchell would ultimately be traded to New York.
When asked how close he was to being a Knick, Mitchell grinned and gave a short answer.
“Very close,” he said on ESPN’s “NBA Today” program.
The Knicks reportedly offered a massive trade haul in July, which included RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Robinson and a trio of unprotected first-round picks in exchange for the 26-year-old, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Later iterations of their offer included some amount of picks, along with Toppin Immanuel Quickley.
The Jazz rebuffed all the Knicks overtures, and instead opted to accept the Cleveland deal.
When the Cavs introduced their new star, he made no secret of his previous belief that he would end up at MSG.
“I thought for sure I was going back home, I’m not gonna lie about that,” Mitchell said. “Who doesn’t want to be home next to their mom? I haven’t lived at home since eighth grade. So, it would’ve been nice.”
Mitchell’s family lives in the tri-state area, including his father, who works for the New York Mets front office.
Pairing Mitchell with newly-signed point guard Jalen Brunson would have given the Knicks one of the best backcourts in the NBA, and made them an instant playoff contender — but it was not to be.
The 26-year-old star has never missed the playoffs, and averaged 23.9 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds last season in Utah. He has been named an NBA All-Star three times.
Now, though, he said he’s excited “to join these phenomenal guys [in Cleveland] and add to it.”
“That, for me, is what I’m truly excited about.”