Everything You Wanted Know About the Knicks But were Scared to Ask (Chi-Town All Star Break Edition)
I answer questions about Steve Mills’ firing, Scott Perry and Mike Miller’s future, Leon Rose’s ascension, the return of CAA, and the nature of James Dolan
It’s been a minute since I did one of these and wouldn’t you know it, A LOT happened! New President of Basketball Operations! CAA’s back! Mook’s been traded! Playoff push! All these things have been discussed to “adnauseam” in the Knicks “Twittersphere.” So allow me to try to filter out what’s been mentioned and all the ways I feel about it after analyzing each situation.
Without delays, let’s get started:
What do you think about Steve Mills’ firing?
Here was my reaction when the news broke about Mills’ firing.
Hit the damn music.
If you’ve been following this website, you know that I’ve been calling for Mills’ removal of his position as President of Basketball Operations for a while now. It’s not like he didn’t have it coming. Regardless of whether or not his intentions were pure, there were going to be consequences of his poor track record. You can’t maintain a position of power and have little progress for nearly seven years. That’s unacceptable. His track record after the firing is 178–320. That’s right: 320 losses. 0 playoff appearances. Many lottery appearances and no player development program to help said young players grow under your watch (mind you this is not counting his years in the 2000s when he was President and Isiah Thomas was the General Manager…I’ll spare Knicks fans the painful memories). It gets better. The best prospect they’ve drafted was sent to Dallas and while he’s clearly not the same player after his injury, it’s abundantly clear that Kristaps Porzingis is a talented NBA All Star-caliber player who’s functioning in a better environment. And Mills traded him…for essentially cap space. Nothing. Just air.
That’s Steve Mills’ legacy ladies and gentlemen. There’s no other way around it. He was just bad and Dolan waited too long to fire him.
What about Scott Perry? I thought you wanted him to be fired too?
Yes and I still do. Scott Perry himself is just as guilty for the poor roster construction as much as Mills is. He doesn’t get a pass just because he didn’t make the kind of moves that would cripple a franchise for many years to come. You could give him credit for acquiring first round picks over the years and I guess finding RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson — the latter being a surprise find — but ultimately he hasn’t shown much to have an understanding of how to effectively build a roster or focus on player development.
How come the Knicks didn’t pull the trigger on the D’Angelo Russell trade?
As much as I would’ve liked the Knicks to go after D’Angelo Russell it probably was best for them to avoid adding him to the team. There are multiple reasons why making a splashy trade for an All Star caliber point guard would not have been beneficial to the team (at least as of now). As you saw from last week, a new regime is coming (again). There’s no telling what the new President or GM would want from the team or how they would like to construct the roster. As of now, the Knicks have multiple first round picks, cap space, and decent young prospects that have time to either be developed or traded. This is a good starting point and the last thing you want to do is disrupt that by making a rash decision that could jeopardize all that. Think about the incident with David Griffin when Steve Mills immediately signed Tim Hardaway Jr. before Griffin got a meeting with Dolan about the General Manager position. You don’t want to repeat those mistakes again.
Also, there was no telling what the Warriors wanted in regards to Russell. Some fans are willing to give up the farm for D’Lo but I wonder if they’ve learned anything from the “Melo Trade” back in 2011 that giving up half the roster for one All Star may not be beneficial for said All Star in the long run especially if there’s limitations to their games. As much as I am a fan of Russell, I’m not oblivious to his shortcomings as a pro athlete. Particularly the fact that he is a godawful defender and doesn’t do well playing off ball. It’s the same reasons why Karl Anthony Towns struggled during his years in Minnesota. It’s not that the talent isn’t there. It’s because they have shortcomings on other aspects of their game that hinders them. I would’ve liked to see what actually went on during the so-called conversations about a potential trade. I got the sense that the Warriors wanted the moon for Russell but most teams said no and eventually they settled for a decent haul and traded him to a place where he wanted to go.
What do you think about the Leon Rose hire?
This was my reaction to the news.
Look, I’m not oblivious as to why Rose was hired. Dolan plans on going the “agent in the front office” route as a means to attract superstar free agents. It worked for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. It can surely work for the Knicks right? Well — as always — factors are overlooked when comparing the Warriors and Lakers’ franchises to the Knicks in terms of what led to those models being “successful.”
In the case of the Lakers, LeBron James was going to the team regardless. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka did not sway LeBron to come to the Lakers. Contrary to popular belief, if he was interested in joining an established team that would help him win he’d join the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, or heck, the Los Angeles Clippers since they were clearly the better LA team at the time. James went to the Lakers because of the brand name and the opportunities of playing for a “Hollywood franchise.” Clippers were good but didn’t have the luxurious brand name the same way the Lakers do.
As for the Warriors, Bob Myers did not draft Steph Curry or Klay Thompson. Larry Riley was the one who drafted Curry and Thompson. Myers was an understudy in the front office before he was given the promotion to General Manager. While credit should be given to Myers for hiring Steve Kerr, not breaking up the core of Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green, and at least maintaining the roster that led the Warriors to back-to-back finals he wasn’t the one who built the team from the ground up. Again, that was his predecessor Riley.
I’m not sure if Leon Rose will succeed as his role of President of Basketball Operations. He isn’t guaranteed to fail either. The man literally built CAA Basketball Agency and was one of the most high-profile sports agents in the last 20 years. He didn’t earn his success by being stupid. So it’s understandable that Dolan would run to a well-known figure like Rose and ask him to save his team. This hire was not an overnight process that some may think. Personally, I suspect this was a long time coming since the infamous press conference with Mills and Perry back in November after the Knicks brutal loss to the Cavaliers. Those men were likely to be fired if things didn’t improve under their watch and — lo and behold — it didn’t. Former head coach David Fizdale was fired so it was likely that Mills and Perry would be gone at some point too. Dolan likely told Rose that what they discussed (assuming it was in relation of taking over if the “P’ills Regime” failed) happened and they can proceed forward with him taking over as President of Basketball Operations. That’s my “tin foil hat theory” anyway.
What’s with Dolan’s obsession with CAA?
I wouldn’t call it an obsession. It’s pretty much his character trait as a person and his knowledge as a business man. Ever hear of the “Law of Identity?” It might as well apply to James Lawrence Dolan. In logic (philosophy), the “Law of Identity” states that everything that exists has a specific nature. Each entity exists as something in particular and has characteristics that are part of what it is. The “Letter A” is always going to be the “Letter A.” And no matter what how many times he may say things are different, Dolan is always going to be Dolan.
The reason why you see him run to guys like Leon Rose, CAA, Irving Azoff, Phil Jackson, etc. is because these are the type of people he knows. He works primarily in the entertainment industry. He doesn’t know Masai Ujiri personally enough. He doesn’t know a Sam Hinkie, a Sam Presti, a Larry Fields, or a Bobby Webster. He’s not familiar with basketball minds who’ve worked on other aspects of the job like scouting or player development. Dolan only knows actors, agents, and musicians. What do they all have in common besides working in the entertainment industry? They are familiar with star players he’s trying to recruit to Madison Square Garden. You’re not going to catch Dolan networking at a MIT Sloan Analytics Conference. That’s not his crowd.
So people should never expect him to go after someone with an impressive resume working in the NBA that either has knowledge or has worked with someone with the knowledge on how to build a winning team. It’s not flashy enough and it’s not his M.O. It is what it is.
Do you think this latest plan will work?
It comes down to who Leon Rose hires. Let’s say he brings in Ryan West (Jerry West’s son) as General Manager and keeps Mike Miller as head coach for the next three seasons, then people would say, “oh wow! This guy actually has a plan and knows what he’s doing!” It’s not guaranteed to work but at least there’s a direction that people can get behind. If he brings in one of his CAA buddies or somebody that’s part of that “Dolan Circle” then yes, it’s the same old Knicks, same old quick fixes, same old “flying too close to the sun and burning out.” So we’ll see what happens.
What’s going to happen to the Knicks now?
As of now, Mike Miller is the interim head coach and he’s been surprisingly competent as a head coach. No seriously! It feels like it’s been years since the Knicks actually had a head coach who had an idea as to how to coach a team.
Miller deserves every chance to win the job going forward and the Knicks would be foolish to not even consider bringing him back next year. Then again, it’s the Knicks so who knows what will happen to Miller.
A “brand marketing guru” might have the answer to that!
Oh boy. It gets better.
Translation from the Knicks front office:
So yeah, Steve Stoute’s comments didn’t exactly bode confidence in Mike Miller, which is not exactly how you want to kick off your so-called “rebranding” of the Knicks. Miller deserves respect from the organization, especially since he’s done an admirable job with the massive clunky roster Mills and Perry gave him. Adding an unnecessary “Sword of Damocles” to Miller’s head is not something that would be enticing for any other coach that is looking to take the job.
Right now, Miller is trying to convince the hire-ups that he can be the coach for the foreseeable future and it would be foolish to not consider him as a candidate since he paid his dues and is showing what he can do with unbalanced roster. What would happen if he was given a more competent roster? Not to mention — assuming they’re still here after all the commotion — it would be nice if the young players had some consistency for a change instead of having a new coach every single year.
What do you think of the young players on the roster?
To be honest, it’s been difficult to get a read on how they play together because the “powers that be” refuses to let them play together for extended periods of time. So we don’t know if they’re skillsets compliment each other and where to improve in the near future. You know? Like a functioning organization would do for any other young draft prospect. The Knicks have been so concerned with their “image” and “winning games for the sake of winning games” that they pretty much canned all other aspects of player development. To paraphrase someone who mentioned this on Twitter: why bother drafting players if you’re not even going to play them together to see what happens?
Let’s be real here: I doubt any of these players will be here in the near future. There’s a reason why the Knicks haven’t kept a rookie beyond their initial four years since Charlie Ward. They’re always looking for a quick fix, always looking for an immediate All Star to come to the team. It doesn’t matter if they gut the roster to get them. They will do it just to say they have a star on the team. They did it with Stephon Marbury. They did it with Carmelo Anthony. To be fair, those guys were REALLY good players and they did the best they could but they couldn’t succeed because of the Knicks (if you get what I mean).
And to be quite frank (pun intended), they’re better off elsewhere anyway. Why play for an organization who does not have your best intentions anyway or a culture that doesn’t understand the concepts of team building and player development? There’s a reason why most people say you can’t rebuild a team in New York and it shows with the Knicks. Now people are saying that they should trade Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., Kevin Knox, Iggy Brazdeikis, and let Damyean Dotson and Alonzo Trier walk through free agency. They should only keep RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson but to me, why stop with those two. They won’t succeed here with the way things are currently going for this franchise. Heck, they traded away they’re best prospect since Patrick Ewing in Kristaps Porzingis and they got nothing to show for it.
It doesn’t stop with KP. Think of all the young players the Knicks have drafted over the years and not developed or put them in a position to succeed. I’ll be nice and start with 2014: Cleanthony Early, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant, Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Damyean Dotson, Mitchell Robinson, RJ Barrett, and Iggy Brazdeikis. That’s ten players I’ve mentioned and all of them are currently deemed failures or not living up to their potentials. So the question remains: who, EXACTLY, is good enough to play for the Knicks? That’s something I wished the Knicks AND their fans asked themselves. Who’s good enough to play for the team? If you don’t believe any young player drafted is good enough, then stop wasting time acquiring picks and trade them for a decent All Star and go be mediocre. That seems to be the bar this organization is aiming for.
It’s a discussion that seems to happen every single year. At some point, you have to ask why bother? If the Knicks aren’t committed to player development, then they should say that they aren’t invested in it. It seems like they’re just drafting and “wishing” for a player to automatically become a superstar and that’s asinine. Not everybody is going to be Zion Williamson or even Ja Morant. Bam Adebayo was the 14th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and wasn’t deemed to be an All Star but the Heat had the structure and invested in his development to ensure that he’d improve under their watch and now look at him. The Toronto Raptors were expected to fall as a lower tier playoff team after Kawhi Leonard left but guys like Pascal Siakam, Fred Van Fleet, and OG Annuboy are ensuring they stay as legit contenders. If those teams can pull off development programs where even the G-League players become legitimate talents, why can’t the Knicks?
I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again until the point is driven home: the problem isn’t the players they draft. The problem is that the organization is dysfunctional and aimless that no player — drafted or free agent signing — is guaranteed to succeed here. You can’t expect your guests to fix a broken house without giving them the tools to do so.
And that’s my thoughts on the Knicks thus far! They currently sit 13th in the Eastern Conference and have a record of 17–38. This team definitely needed a break from everything and the organization definitely has some work to do. You can catch RJ Barrett Friday in Chicago for All Star weekend as he’s the only Knick to attend the ceremony as part of the Rising Stars challenge. You all take care!
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