Storyline: Knicks Front Office

420 rumors in this storyline

If Fizdale is fired in-season, he’ll have two years left on his contract, according to reports. It’s unclear if those two years are fully guaranteed. Mills and Perry also have years remaining on their deals. Mills, per sources, has a double option on one of the remaining years of his deal. So Dolan would pay them money not to work if he decides to fire them.

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If Mills fires Fizdale, the next question is if he and Perry will keep their jobs beyond this season. In a conversation with Mills and other front office members after the Mills/Perry press conference, Dolan gave off the impression that Mills and Perry would be safe if the team showed progress, as SNY reported. Just how Dolan defines progress is unclear. But if Fizdale is fired, it seems as if the Knicks would have to play much better under the interim coach for Mills and Perry to keep their jobs and have a chance to hire another coach in the offseason.

Kiki Vandeweghe interested in Knicks president job?

Regarding the front office, Mills and GM Scott Perry are likely to last the rest of the season, according to sources. That could change if James Dolan gets cranky, but, regardless, the front office is far from safe in the offseason. Names are already being floated across the league of executives who might replace Mills. They include: Masai Ujiri, Sam Presti, Kiki Vandeweghe (who is interested in the job, according to a source), Daryl Morey (who probably won’t last in Houston following the China controversy), Trajan Langdon and Sam Hinkie.

Knicks owner James Dolan spoke with team president Steve Mills and others in management on Monday, the day after Mills and GM Scott Perry held an impromptu press conference to express their frustration with the Knicks. Dolan speaks with Mills and other top decision-makers regularly, just as most NBA owners do, but this conversation seemed to carry a little more weight. Sources familiar with the conversation told SNY that management came away with the impression that their jobs would be secure as long as the Knicks ‘showed progress’ this season.

When free agency approached, the Knicks were optimistic that the worst season in franchise history would be saved by Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant coming to the Garden. The two marquee free agents also had other ideas and chose the Brooklyn Nets. While the Knicks have spun this notion that they didn’t want meetings with either player — as well as Kawhi Leonard — a team source insists that management was “stunned and depressed” when they learned that Irving and Durant picked the other team in town.

Mills has been the one constant throughout this historic losing run. He was hired as general manager prior to the 2013-14 season and then replaced Phil Jackson as president two years ago. Under normal circumstances Mills would appear to be in trouble but his boss likes him and believes in him. For now. “Steve still has the support of Dolan,” said a person familiar with the Knicks thinking. “He knows how to talk to him. Heads of other departments call Steve and ask for his advice on how to deal with Dolan.”

Mills brushed off their failure to land a star in free agency while the rival Brooklyn Nets welcomed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. “This is a team that’s consistent with how we said we’d build the team,” Mills said during Monday’s Media Day. “This is a team – New Yorkers are going to like this team. The grittiness of these guys. The toughness of these guys. It’s a group of guys that had places they could’ve gone. They made the decision to come here – to New York and play for the Knicks. These are guys are fans are going to like, the toughness they bring every day they come to the court.”

Both Burke and Payton are considered Perry guys while Mills, according to sources, hasn’t given up completely on Ntilikina. If nothing else, the differing opinions on the 21-year-old guard are a microcosm of some of the internal struggles taking place at Madison Square Garden. According to league sources, the scouts and executives brought in under Perry have clashed with some of the scouts and executives under Mills that survived the purge when Jackson was fired, and Mills was promoted. “That’s always been the case,” says one former Knicks executive. “They keep a lot of people from different regimes and that causes some friction.”

“The New York Knicks’ decision to ban New York Daily News journalists from RJ Barrett’s and Ignas Brazdeikis’ introductory news conference Friday was unprofessional and unacceptable. James Dolan, the owner of the Knicks franchise, previously has said that barring Daily News employees from media availabilities sends the Daily News ‘a message.’ In reality, the only message he is sending is that he is a bully who retaliates against legitimate news outlets that publish content he dislikes. Members of the Professional Basketball Writers Association support our Daily News colleagues, and we condemn the Knicks’ attempts to hinder journalists’ ability to do their jobs and inform the public.”

When asked if they felt immense pressure following the footsteps of such influential men, both Perry and Mills admitted they were cognizant of the attention they attracted, and how important it was never to do anything that might reflect poorly on their family name. Still, they also affirmed they felt properly prepared for what they would encounter. “I never felt it was a heavy weight mainly because of his approach with me,” said Perry of his father’s tutelage. “He said, ‘Look, don’t worry about trying to chase my path. All I ask is anything you do, always give 110%, and I’m gonna support you.'” “A lot of times kids look for role models externally, but I always told everybody mine was right at home. So, that was a blessing,” added Perry.

When both Steve and Scott are prodded to discuss what their predecessors would be proud of them for, each explained how they hoped their fathers would be able to take satisfaction in their success. “My father would just be so proud of the position I’m holding right now. As a kid growing up, we really couldn’t afford to go to the Garden for games,” said Mills. “He was so proud of my journey in the NBA, especially when I first started working for the Knicks. He was so proud to see that his son had done that. I really wish he could see where I am now.” As for Perry, he also wishes his fathers could experience him realizing his dreams first-hand. “He passed away in my first year working in the NBA. He knew I always talked about wanting to become a general manager. I said that at age 22. To see that manifest itself now, I’m sure he would be extremely proud. Secondly, I think he would just be proud of the man I am… and that I try to continue to live his legacy in terms of paying it forward.”

Whether it’s winning the draft lottery, or signing Kevin Durant and a star companion, or making trades to ease into their massive salary-cap space, Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry won’t back off from the giant optimism displayed in a recent letter to season-ticket holders. “I firmly believe [in] what we’re doing, and we’re going to get there,’’ Perry told The Post on Wednesday. “One way or another, we’re going to get there.”

“We’re hopeful and we’re excited,’’ Mills said. “We’re excited because now we’re in position. There’s a lot of noise and a lot of guys are interested in New York. They like Fiz. They like some of the changes we made in the organization. We hear that from agents. We read it from guys getting interviewed about what guys feel about the Knicks. We hear that from other players. At least we’re in the game, and hopeful something really good happens. But we won’t know until it happens. It also gives us the opportunity that if things don’t happen in free agency, we’re sticking to our plan. We’re not going to sign the wrong players just because we have room and the fans have great expectations. They should have expectations we make the right decisions. It gives us the opportunities to eventually explore trades and take guys into [that] room.”

The 33-year-old also declined to address comments from Mills, who was the GM when they signed Noah to a $72 million deal but distanced himself from the association. “I’m not throwing Steve Mills under the bus. Or talking s–t about him. I’m not talking s–t about Hornacek. That’s not my style. I take ownership in what I did, what I could have done better. And I know that there was 10 things that went wrong that year. But it is what it is, I’m in Memphis. And the Memphis Grizzlies beat the New York Knicks tonight.”

What Mills can’t say publicly, because it would violate the NBA’s tampering rules, is that the Knicks are all in on free agent-to-be Kevin Durant. The Warriors superstar is and should be the Knicks’ number one free agent target. And for what it’s worth, according to several NBA executives who attended last week’s G-League Showcase in Las Vegas, the general consensus is the Knicks are still very much in play to land Durant. “Everyone says Knicks,” said one prominent player agent.

When president Steve Mills met with media Friday in a conference room at 2 Penn Plaza, he downplayed the urgency of 2019 free agency. Rolling over the cap space to 2020 or keeping space open to have flexibility to trade for a star are options. Rumors persist Anthony Davis will want out of New Orleans this summer, and the Knicks are said to be on his list. “We are in a position if we need to find a slot for a max salary we can do that,’’ Mills said. “Our focus is on the guys that we have right now, developing them, and also developing the environment, or the culture, that exists around our team.”

“Look, when I brought on Phil, the big question is, ‘Are you going to stay out of it?’ And I swore I would stay out of it, and I did. I stayed out of it. And it wasn’t until the very end that I had to make a decision that it clearly wasn’t working,” Dolan said in the interview with ESPN.com. “I think Phil knew it, too. I think he hoped I would have more stamina, but I didn’t. “… I think it was much more about this triangle thing. It was much more about his philosophy, that he couldn’t get the group to buy into it. And I think he got yessed a lot. I think they’d be underneath their breath going, ‘This is not a great idea,’ and he got into conflict with some players over it. But I think he tried hard to get his system in. I just don’t think he ever got it in.”

The specter of Kevin Durant’s wandering eye has the Knicks on red alert. Durant never gave Phil Jackson a Hamptons meeting in 2016. Across recent years, James Dolan’s Knicks no longer became the Big Apple of superstar’s eyes. Hiring Jackson as president didn’t seem to improve matters. “It’s much more about the perception of the organization,” Fizdale said at Thursday morning’s shootaround at TD Garden before the Celtics rematch at 8 p.m. “What I think we’ve done together with Steve [Mills] and Scott [Perry], Mr. Dolan and myself and all our staff is we changed the perception of how we operate and treat each other and what’s important. That’s the first step in getting people to come to New York. When they see we have a really tight ship, really take care of our guys, our guys get better and get a lot of attention. Hopefully all of those things, with the combination of the understanding we have Kristaps Porzingis there, too, this team isn’t necessarily what our record is when you put him in the mix. We have something free agents will like.”

Apparently he’s getting love from Dolan, who has stayed further in the background than any other season in recent memory. “Fantastic, he’s been so on board with everything we’re doing, he’s been so supportive and it’s been really nice building a relationship,” Fizdale said. “Mr. Dolan’s big thing is, are we sticking to our process? We are. That’s been the good part about it. Our situation with our roster is where we want it. Our star’s getting healthy. When the time comes for free agency and all of those things, I think we’re gonna be in a good position.”

Kleiman is better known as Kevin Durant’s agent and business partner. He’s the ambitious power broker who once claimed that he will one day run the Knicks. And that wasn’t something he wrote in an essay for his 10th grade English class. He tweeted it last February. (When you’re the agent and business partner for the NBA’s most coveted free agent you’re allowed to have such lofty goals.) “It’s true, I want to run an NBA team one day,” Kleiman said. “But I’m not after Steve Mills’ job.”

There was a non-fictional inspiration fueling her decision-making process, too, one that was far more personal for Jeanie: Her ex-fiance’ and former Lakers coach, Phil Jackson, who won five of his record 11 titles with Bryant at his side. Jeanie had learned from Jackson’s mistakes in New York, where he took that job as the head of the Knicks front office in March of 2014 and was fired three years later after, as she saw it, he fell prey to the internal politics that have plagued that franchise for decades. “He should’ve made sure (to control) who was surrounding him, because the people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back,” she continued. “And so, I had not thought of it that way (with the Lakers situation). I was trying to do the least amount of change.”

“Our philosophy is that we’re going to stay connected with [the Porzingis camp],” Perry said. “It’s a long-term thing. Obviously you mentioned the point of the cap space in July. But we just feel like we’re in a real good space with him, as well as he is with us. And we’re going to do the right thing by him and this organization.” Mills said they have made it clear to Porzingis the Knicks’ orbit still revolves around him. “He’ll never feel like he’s not a cornerstone part of what we’re trying to do here,” Mills said. “He understands that. We make that crystal clear to him and his representation.”

The Knicks made their declaration, drew their line in the sand regarding Jimmy Butler. “We’re not going to trade our draft picks,” team president Steve Mills told season ticket holders at the equivalent of a Knicks pep rally earlier this week. “We’re going to build this team the right way. What we’re not going to do is trade away assets to get a [free agent] that we can go get on our own later.” Usually, executives leave wiggle room. Plausible deniability. But that statement from Mills was absolute, broadcast on Facebook for the world to see. It also arrived just one day before Butler met with the Timberwolves to request a trade, telling their brass he prefers three destinations – the Knicks, Nets and Clippers.
1 year ago via ESPN

Many people in the organization saw Gaines and Jackson’s most trusted adviser during his tenure as president, which included three 50-loss seasons and external turmoil. It is unclear exactly why Gaines won’t return, though it’s worth noting he did not have strong ties to GM Scott Perry, who has made several new additions to the front office. Several people in the organization speculated that Gaines would not remain with the Knicks after this season once Perry and Mills began to shape the front office. Gaines’ status with the Knicks was first reported by The Athletic.

James Dolan, the owner that Knicks fans love to hate, may be laying the groundwork for a sale of the franchise. Shares in Madison Square Garden Co. soared on the news. Late yesterday Dolan announced he was exploring a spin-off that would separate the Knicks and the Rangers from the rest of Madison Square Garden. While Dolan would remain in charge of the teams, at least at first, putting them together in a separate public company would offer him the chance to whittle down his stake easily if he chooses. Dolan is understood to be more interested in music and building cutting-edge entertainment venues than sports. “He wants to be more Elon Musk than George Steinbrenner,” an analyst told Crain’s in an article last month.

It’s been a trying week, so let me treat you to something nice. Watch the stock price for The Madison Square Garden Company do a little jig over the last two days: What could explain this spike? Probably the announcement, late Wednesday, that James Dolan, chairman and CEO of MSG, is considering spinning the Knicks and the Rangers off into a separate company, which would smooth the path for an eventual sale of both teams, per a Crain’s report. This suggests that there may be a day, perhaps even in the not-so-distant future, when those teams are no longer owned by James Dolan. The aspiring bluesman, profiled by our own Dave McKenna in 2016, is said to be bringing his business life in alignment with his true passions.

“Life is what life is,’’ Bradley said when asked if Jackson didn’t have enough time with the Knicks. “Three years and he had a five-year contract. They decided to make a change. You move on. His spirits are great. He’s finally getting his body in shape. He loves L.A., loves San Francisco where a lot of his grandchildren are. He still talks to people in the game. “Right now he is under contract for the Knicks. [A return] is not in the cards now. After that, who knows?”

Jackson’s record as president (80-166 in three full seasons) should not hurt Jackson’s legacy as a great, Bradley said. “He’s not just a legend,’’ Bradley said. “The record speaks for itself. He’s the most successful coach in the history of basketball. He did it in two places with three different groups of people. When somebody else has that many rings (13 total, 11 as a coach), you can talk about them if they’re better. He had a remarkable run as coach — a clear idea how the game should be played. And he was able to convince three sets of players that this was the way to play.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Sources: Knicks president Steve Mills, GM Scott Perry and director of scouting Kristian Petesic are at the Excel agency’s Pro Day in NYC where Villanova’s Mikal Bridges and other players who have signed with the agency are working out. All NBA teams likely have representation at the Excel Pro Day. But it’s potentially noteworthy that Mills, Perry and Petesic were on hand to watch Bridges and other Excel players because many in the organization see Bridges as a potential option for New York, which has the ninth overall selection in the draft.

Almost a Knick? West strongly shot down the notion, which was in circulation earlier this season, that the Knicks made a run at hiring him as a front-office consultant before the Clippers did. “No truth whatsoever,” West said. But he did surprise me a bit by revealing that he fully expected to land with the Knicks in the 1960 draft. The Lakers had the No. 2 overall pick and selected West before the Knicks were forced to settle for Darrall Imhoff at No. 3. Referring to the intense fan interest and media scrutiny in New York, West said: “I always thought that would be an interesting place to be.”
2 years ago via ESPN

“Each Draft is unique in terms of the level of contributions from that particular class and group of players. We know that franchise players are extremely hard to come by. With that said, each draft features a healthy number of players who are capable of contributing to winning teams either as starters or in important rotational roles. Our goal is to draft players who fit our plan and our culture, and develop them to the best of our ability as we become a sustainable, winning franchise.” The Knicks finished with the 9th-worst record in the NBA and have a 6.1 percent chance of getting a top-3 pick during Tuesday’s draft lottery.

Tuesday, with general manager Scott Perry on the Chicago dais, the Knicks find out where they select in June’s draft. They didn’t move up last May, and odds are they stick with the ninth pick. And if they pass on point guards Collin Sexton and Trae Young, it will demonstrate a resolution to Ntilikina as their long-term future. The Knicks need a small forward. “I would caution just a little bit is that it all depends on who’s available when we get ready to select and how we have them tiered,’’ Perry said on ESPN Radio. “If there’s someone down there at a position you think you’re more strong at, but the player is clearly a better talent than the position of need, then you have that question: Do you go ahead and take the greater talent and then you utilize trades and free agency to bolster the position you need help, being small forward?”

Woodson also noted while with the Knicks he used a lot of two point-guard fronts — which is in vogue — with Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. “I had one of the great isolation players in the game in [Carmelo Anthony], so I’m going to try to get my best player some shots,’’ Woodson said of his isolationist rep. “But do the homework and look at the numbers on 3-pointers attempted and made.” Woodson said he had “a great meeting’’ with Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry. “Everyone’s just waiting,’’ Woodson said.

Mike Vorkunov: Van Gundy: “I love coaching. I love what I do now.” He talks around the Knicks job. Of James Dolan, he says: “I think the misconception of my time there was that Mr. Dolan wasn’t good to work for.” Says Dolan gave the team the resources to win when he was there.

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Robinson’s path to this point falls somewhere between unlikely and unfathomable, as he ultimately progressed from Division III Williams College to receiving advice from Dwyane Wade about adjusting to the NBA. “I mean, you never want to limit yourself or what you’re capable of,” Robinson said. “I certainly didn’t expect or anticipate it necessarily, but I just try to put in the work every single day.”
When he was called up, he soaked up guidance from veterans like Wade, Udonis Haslem and Kelly Olynyk. And last April, Robinson signed a two-year, $3.1 million deal with the Heat. “The situation can be everything, and I feel really good about this organization,” Robinson said. “They’ve been great with me, the support they’ve given me. Front office, coaching staff, it’s special. I felt like I was capable at this level. I’ve always believed that. But sometimes it just takes more of an extended opportunity.”