NBA Rumor: Knicks Front Office

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Scott Perry established himself as an integral part of a front office that included Rose, executive vice president William Wesley and vice president Brock Aller. After a successful 2020-21 regular season, the Knicks clearly feel that the organization can continue to grow with Perry playing a pivotal role. One league source said Perry, one of the few senior Knick executives with front office experience, worked well with Rose and Wesley.

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The postseason exposed how reliant the Knicks are on Randle offensively and how little weaponry they possess to attack teams in alternate ways. Their second option, guard Derrick Rose, is 32 with a checkered injury history and will be a free agent. Not having Mitchell Robinson’s rim-running certainly hurt against Atlanta, and he’ll be back on one of the league’s most valuable contracts (a mere $1.8 million). More importantly, the Knicks enter the offseason with an estimated $55 million in cap room, a now-established All-Star in his prime in Randle and several good young players to build around. Combine that with the lure of the Big Apple, and this should be the perfect lure for the Knicks to finally get their superstar free agent!

Scott Perry to sign extension with Knicks?

Scott Perry signed a one-year contract extension with the New York Knicks in April of 2020 following the departure of Steve Mills and the hiring of Leon Rose. “Scott Perry only got a one-year contract extension,” said Brian Windhorst. “I think someone should want to hire him,” replied Ramona Shelburne. “I’ll get in trouble for saying this because it will get aggregated, but I hear Scott Perry will be around the Knicks longer,” said Windhorst. “He will be. I hear it is all going to be worked out.”

Q: Why is Leon Rose the right man to lead the Knicks? Mike Woodson: Leon’s been in the basketball world in a different capacity [super-agent], and Jim thought enough to turn his team over to him, and Leon has connections in terms of players throughout our league, and he’s been around basketball. That’s a big part of it. If he was a guy that was just an office guy working for a major corporation, no affiliation with basketball, it would be totally different, but he’s been around it all his life, and he’s made major connections through his relationships, so I just think it was a perfect fit obviously for Jim. Based on what they’ve done so far, it’s working, I think.

It was time for the draft’s 23rd pick. The Knicks were on the clock. “We need Quickley, get Quickley,” William Wesley repeated, over and over and over and over. Wesley — the ubiquitous consultant/adviser/star-whisperer/power broker whose reputation has earned him the moniker “World Wide Wes” — had joined the Knicks as an executive vice president and senior adviser in June and had spent the months since pushing Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley at every turn. He knew that the Boston Celtics, picking at No. 26, had worked out Quickley and come away impressed. He was worried they’d steal his guy. He wanted the Knicks to pounce.

At times, meetings with Thibodeau and Aller grew heated. Thibodeau would even mock Aller and call him “Hinkie” (a reference to Sam Hinkie, architect of the Philadelphia 76ers “Process”). Some around the team found this tussling strange. It’s one thing for a group that’s been together for years to debate the organization’s direction; it’s another to have this kind of philosophical disagreement among new hires brought in by a team president, who, in theory, during interviews would have shared his plan. “Leon’s communication isn’t always great,” a second person with close Knicks ties said. “He can be hands-off.”

“When Wes said ‘we,’ people weren’t sure if he was referring to the Knicks or Kentucky,” one NBA source said, referring to his longtime friendship with Kentucky coach John Calipari. Wesley would direct all sorts of conversations back to the school. Prospects from other programs — they weren’t tough enough to handle Kentucky. NBA stars who had played for Duke, like Jayson Tatum and Zion Williamson — Kentucky hadn’t actually wanted them. When conversations centered around players not connected to the school — or Creative Artists Agency, where he and Rose had worked — he’d often close his eyes. Wesley participated in some calls while driving. He went on all sorts of tangents, once making the group listen to the Jay-Z song “Empire State of Mind” because he had played it during the private pre-draft workout for Kevin Knox. One time he changed his shirt on camera, revealing his bare chest to the group.

One Western Conference executive told The Athletic that Thibodeau wouldn’t have secured a quick hire like this had Rose passed on the opportunity to run the Knicks. He likely would’ve had to pay his dues, possibly in an assistant coaching role, in an effort to swallow some ego and show he was willing to adapt and work to get another shot. “(I) wouldn’t say (Thibodeau) wasn’t considered a good coach anymore,” the executive said. “People know he can coach. But it’s tough to gauge how much of that was the Wolves organization with their issues and how much of it was Tom not being a modern coach.”

Will the Knicks be able to add one of the top assistants in college basketball to Tom Thibodeau’s staff? Entering the weekend, some in the Knick organization were optimistic that Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne would choose to make the jump to the NBA, per sources. Payne joined John Calipari’s coaching staff at Kentucky prior to the 2010-11 season and was promoted to associate coach in 2014. Prior to working at Kentucky, Payne served as an assistant coach at the University of Oregon. He also played four NBA seasons with the 76ers from 1989-1993. He’s considered one of the top assistant coaches in the NCAA and is certainly one of the highest-paid assistants in the sport.

Given Payne’s salary at Kentucky, it’s safe to assume that the Knicks would have to make a generous offer procure the coach. Would that set the market internally for what they’d have to pay other Thibodeau assistants? That’s unclear, but something worth keeping in mind as the Knicks put a staff together. Payne, as previously noted, has a close relationship with top Knicks executive William Wesley and has other ties to the Knicks organization. He has been known to coach big men at Kentucky, including Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. “KP is one of the best development coaches in the world,” Towns told The Athletic last year. “KP is the horse beneath the jockey driving Kentucky basketball.”

Knicks president Leon Rose and senior vice president William Wesley were hired primarily as a conduit to luring stars, but Stoute believes he can form a Big 3. “With having Leon in, World Wide Wes and myself, the three of us, we’re the best sort of team as it relates to being able to speak with free agents,’’ Stoute said over the weekend on the “Breakfast Club” podcast. “Our relationship with talent to bring them to New York. They haven’t had this level of talent in the last 10 years that can go out and pitch free agents and convince them why New York is great.’’

According to an NBA source familiar with the situation, Robinson lobbied to have the Knicks’ top prospects who weren’t getting enough NBA time to spend a few games — or weeks — in the G-League to gain rhythm and grow confidence. Perry rejected the notion, feeling it would be perceived as too big a demotion and felt practice time as well as being around NBA coaches was more vital, according to a source. Robinson’s counter was that during the NBA season, practice time and scrimmages are limited.

On a Zoom call, Rose faced questions for the first time from the media as he introduced Thibodeau as their head coach. “We have not set a timeline. We are taking it one day at a time. We felt Tom was that coach who can take us with development to becoming a perennial winner. That happens one step at a time,” Rose said. “At the moment we don’t know what the roster will be moving forward. We have decisions we have to make. The important thing is to instill the culture, focus on the development and take it from there.”

But Rose also has taken a slow path through this process, doing his due diligence with the candidates — even if league sources have believed many of the 11 to be simply favors for old acquaintances at CAA, getting names of agency clients out there, with some not believed to be real candidates for the head-coaching job. Even some with previous experience, such as Mike Woodson, are believed to be more in line for an assistant coaching position. Mike Miller, who has served as the team’s interim head coach, is expected to be a part of the staff no matter who gets the head job.

The Knicks made sweeping changes to their front office this year, in hopes of reversing a two-decade trend of ineptitude. They hired power agent Leon Rose from Creative Artists Agency to become team president. Rose in turn hired William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley, a noted power broker and player confidante, as a top assistant, along with respected front-office veterans Walt Perrin, Brock Aller and Frank Zanin. But their task likely just got tougher, especially when it comes to wooing marquee players. “I think it’s a big black eye on the Knicks as an organization,” said an agent whose firm represents multiple stars, referring to the club’s silence. The agent, who is Black, added, “It will continue to be something that players look down upon, and it further explains why guys like Kevin Durant [passed on the Knicks]. You got all the resources and all the richness of the NBA, and still people don’t want to associate themselves with it.”

That is disconcerting not only to Knicks employees, but to a number of Black executives, players, agents and others around the league who spoke to B/R. “If you’re going to have a diverse employment force, then in this situation you’ve got to represent them and speak out against this,” said a Black team executive who has worked in the league for more than 20 years. “Otherwise, you’re sending a message to them that you’re ambivalent about it. Now you allow yourself to be questioned. And by the time you do come out and say it, then people doubt your sincerity.” The team executive and others interviewed for this story requested anonymity to preserve their working relationship with the Knicks.

Last week’s Knicks press release quoted new executive VP William Wesley on his “long history with and respect for Jim Dolan.’’ Sources confirm Wesley has been in the Knicks owner’s ear for 15 years, working behind the scenes. As is his custom. A Knicks coach from the Glen Grunwald era verified the influence of “World Wide Wes.” “When we were there, I was told he listened to ‘World Wide Wes’ more than he did Grunwald,” the coach told The Post.

Two former Knicks blasted the new front office, with Rasheed Wallace calling the hirings of Leon Rose and William Wesley “a brain fart” by the organization and Stephon Marbury labeling Wesley, in particular, a “world wide sucker.” Marbury didn’t get into specifics during his social media rant, but Wallace said the executives carry baggage into their new jobs because of their dealings as agents and won’t have the respect of players because they lack a basketball background.

“Whoever they had beef with or problems with, now it’s going to come up and affect them. Now that they have those executive positions with the Knicks they might not get these certain players. Or just going through the grapevine because there could be other agents mad at Leon Rose for trying to do this and that when he was an agent. It’s going to be interesting man. My thought is more power to them, I was with them for a while but this is a just brain fart right here.”

There’s at least one person who hates the addition of William “World Wide Wes” Wesley to the Knicks’ front office. Former Knick Stephon Marbury slammed Wesley on Twitter on Thursday afternoon. “Did you really just now bring world wide sucka to the New York Knicks? And I ain’t talking about a sucka like the sucka we call a sucka,” Marbury said in a video posted to his Twitter account. “Really? You brought this dude here? Why? I’m a real New York Knicks fan. I’ve been a New York Knicks fan since I was a spit. Come on Dolan, man. You gotta be kidding me, man. You brought this dude here? Really? What’s going on, man? There’s gotta be an explanation. Not him! Of all people, you bring this dude here? You bring him to NYC? To New York? He don’t got no credibility here! Nah.”

Stephon Marbury: “C’mon man, c’mon. At New York Knicks, did you really just bring world wide sucker to the New York Knicks. … Really? You brought this dude here? Why? I’m a real New York Knicks fan. I’ve been a New York Knicks fan since I was a [kid]. … C’mon [Jim] Dolan man. You gotta be kidding me, man. You brought this dude here? Really? What’s going on man. There’s gotta be an explanation. Not him. Out of all people, you bring this dude here? You bring him to NYC? To New York? He ain’t got no credibility here. Nah.”

Zanin essentially takes over for Ellis. Sources said Steve Mills was fired as president after the Kristaps Porzingis trade backfired when the Knicks were unable to use any of their cap space to sign a star player last summer. Sources have indicated Ellis is also taking the fall for that trade which included the disappointing Dennis Smith Jr. In Utah, Perrin is credited for being part of drafting five All-Stars — the latest being Donovan Mitchell. Perrin, according to a source, was instrumental in scoring an early workout with Mitchell even when it was obvious Utah would have to trade up to get him at 13.

Zanin has been a scout with the Thunder for the past four years. Like Utah, the Thunder are respected throughout the league for their scouting on the college and pro level under Sam Presti. “If Presti hires you, it says something (about your ability),” one opposing scout said when asked about Zanin. Prior to his stint with Oklahoma City, Zanin worked closely with Billy King in Brooklyn. Zanin was an assistant GM with the Nets and elevated to acting GM after King’s dismissal. He stepped down after the Nets hired Sean Marks as general manager. Zanin, who began his career with King in Philadelphia, was described by one opposing scout as a hard worker who doesn’t seek the spotlight. During his tenure as acting GM, Zanin was in the spotlight for a brief time — but not from his own actions.

Perrin’s addition has been well-received after he played a large role in helping Utah have a number of successful drafts over his nearly two decades with the organization. He has earned a reputation as a well-connected and well-liked executive with a keen approach to the draft. Perrin was not the sole voice making picks with the Jazz, but as VP of player personnel, he was an integral part of advising O’Connor and then Dennis Lindsey in a string of draft-night successes. The Jazz were not without their mistakes over the last 19 years (Trey Burke and Dante Exum are two), but the franchise drafted six players who would become All-Stars in that time.

Charley Rosen, Jackson’s confidant/biographer and his former Albany Patroons assistant, has appeared in two episodes. He’s still worried Jackson’s failed 3 ½-year run as Knicks president has hurt his perception in New York. Rosen said Jackson should never have come out of retirement and taken the position in March 2014. “I told him not to take it because it’s crazy there,’’ Rosen said. “Jeanie [Buss] told him not to take it. If he came there, it would end their relationship 3,000 miles away.”

But when Knicks president Leon Rose took over in New York, tasked with leading the perennial Eastern Conference doormat back to prominence, Aller was his first call. Rose needed a smart, forward-thinking executive, one with a knack for successful team-building, savvy salary cap management and long-term planning. Rose needed someone he could trust. Their relationship went back years because of Aller’s growing role within the Cavs while Rose ascended the ranks and became one of the league’s most powerful agents — even representing LeBron James early in his career.

Rose will continue to evaluate the rest of the front office as he puts his imprint on the team. Several executives hired alongside Perry in 2017 are believed to have contracts that run late into this summer, league sources said, allowing him to put off a decision until then, unlike Perry, who had a trigger date coming Friday. But it is not yet known who Rose will keep, which will allow uncertainty about the future of the Knicks front office to linger. He also has to decide on a head coach.

Rose will continue to evaluate the rest of the front office as he puts his imprint on the team. Several executives hired alongside Perry in 2017 are believed to have contracts that run late into this summer, league sources said, allowing him to put off a decision until then, unlike Perry, who had a trigger date coming Friday. But it is not yet known who Rose will keep, which will allow uncertainty about the future of the Knicks front office to linger. He also has to decide on a head coach.

However, Perry’s long-term future as GM still is not guaranteed with his contract up June 30. The draft is scheduled for June 25 and could remain there if the NBA cancels its season in May. Though Rose is considering keeping Perry, one NBA source told The Post, “The impression is Leon will do his due diligence.’’ An urgency to make a change, though, is lessened because of the new logistics amid the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with New York the nation’s epicenter. “The shutdown may have helped everyone — at least temporarily,’’ one NBA source connected to the Knicks said.
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