Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
As noted on Friday, the spotlight is on Knicks president Steve Mills in the wake of David Fizdale's firing.
We detailed here where things stood with Mills and general manager Scott Perry prior to the Fizdale firing.
If Mills and Perry are let go after the season, Masai Ujiri will be one of the top candidates on the Knicks' wish list.
We covered why that would make sense here, following up on a report from The Athletic.
Will the Knicks have a shot at landing Ujiri? That's unclear. But once the Knicks started struggling last month, multiple Madison Square Garden people in positions of influence have been 'obsessed' with - and 'enamored' by - the Raptors executive, per SNY sources.
In order to land Ujiri, it will probably take significant money and full autonomy.
Whether Knicks owner James Dolan will grant that kind of autonomy remains to be seen.
By and large, Dolan has stayed out of meddling in daily basketball decisions with the Knicks since he hired Phil Jackson as team president.
So blaming Dolan - and not the executives who made the basketball decisions - for everything that's gone wrong with the Knicks is misguided. That thinking gives too much of a pass to the executives involved.
But Jackson certainly didn't have full autonomy - in the truest sense - under Dolan. He wanted to add someone to the team's medical/training staff and received push back on that decision. More recently, executives who interviewed for the Knicks' executive vacancy after Jackson's firing were under the impression that they had to work under Mills as team president. Mills, of course, eventually ascended to the presidency and Perry was brought on as general manager.
So, if Mills is fired or reassigned at the end of the season, it would be wise for Dolan to offer full autonomy to anyone he covets as his next team president. Agents of executives say it's highly unlikely that any exec with a strong pedigree - Sam Presti (who has fans at Madison Square Garden), R.C. Buford or anyone else - would consider the job without that assurance.
Again, would Ujiri consider the Knicks? Several reports, including one from Newsday, suggest that he would be open to listening, particularly because it would benefit his charitable work. But one person in touch with Ujiri recently came away with the impression that he wasn't too excited about the idea of joining the Knicks. Of course, things change and a big contract/full autonomy could be enough to lure Ujiri or other top executives.
The question is, will Dolan be willing to make that offer?
One other note: despite the ugly results this season, the Knicks job is an attractive one to executives around the league. That's true because of what the Knicks have done since Perry joined Mills as GM.
With Perry on board, the Knicks have had solid drafts, kept their first-round draft picks and avoided signing cap-clogging deals.
Fans who wanted the Knicks to land top free agents last summer - or who view the Kristaps Porzingis trade as a failure - won't find solace in that, but it's a fact. Because of that, and the market, this Knicks job is viewed as an attractive one around the league.
Silence from the front office: Usually, when an organization fires a coach, the executives come out and speak to the media. That didn't happen on Saturday. Interim coach Mike Miller conducted his pre-game press conference but Mills and Perry didn't address the media and explain their decision to the fan base. It was odd.
Last month, Mills and Perry talked to the media after a loss to Cleveland to tell the fan base that they were frustrated. That press conference happened after a game, which is rarely - if ever - a time and place where executives speak to the media. That press conference was presumably done at the request of James Dolan, who was understandably upset about the team's play. The silence from Mills and Perry may have been at Dolan's request as well, but we're just speculating there. Management spoke to players about the reasons for the firing, but the players didn't disclose those reasons publicly. What we do know is that Mills and Perry feel as if they are under a lot of pressure in the wake of the Fizdale firing, per an SNY source. As explained above, their jobs depend on how the Knicks play moving forward under Miller.