Running the Knicks Is Still One of the Best NBA Jobs Available
If it weren’t for them being, you know, the Knicks.
There’s a terrific job opening in the NBA that recently became available. The job is for team president—the highest-ranking basketball-related position in the organization, which operates in a major-market U.S. city. Whoever ends up with this job will have nearly-unlimited financial resources at his disposal, just as his predecessors always have.
On the roster is a 21-year old future star—a 7-foot-3 big man that appears to be the holy grail of modern NBA centers. He already stretches the floor and protects the rim, and has flashed the ability to both create his own shot off the dribble and switch onto guards or wings near the end of the shot clock. He still has two seasons left on his rookie contract and can be under team control for up to seven more seasons, assuming he’s willing to take a maximum extension when that deal expires.
Flanking him in the frontcourt is a 23-year old center that just became the first qualifying rookie big man since Shaquille O’Neal to average at least 15 points and 13 rebounds per-36 minutes. He displayed a wide variety of silky moves around the rim and decent touch out to about 15 feet on his jumper, and he fared far better than expected on the defensive side of the floor.
There’s also an 18-year old rookie point guard that stands 6-foot-5 and has a 7-foot wingspan. He was a starter for the French team SIG Strousburg, which recently made the league finals with him at the helm. Because of his length and size, it’s easy to see him capably defending multiple positions, and indeed he was considered one of the best perimeter defenders in his draft class. He also showed a much-improved outside jumper this past season, and there’s reason to believe his jump shot can translate to the pros.
This team controls all of its first-round picks moving forward, doesn’t have much in the way of guaranteed salary-cap commitments beyond the next two years, and has several veteran players that could be worth something on the trade market. With a few smart moves over the next couple of seasons, the prospective team president could have the team positioned as a young group on the rise by the time the aforementioned maximum-salary extension for the 21-year old future star kicks in.
Sounds like a great opportunity, doesn’t it?
Under normal circumstances it would be, but as you’ve probably figured out by now, this is the New York Knicks (and Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, and Frank Ntilikina) we’re talking about, and nothing about the New York Knicks is ever normal.
Committing to take over as president of the Knicks means agreeing to work for famously erratic, incompetent, meddlesome, and malcontented owner/blues musician James Dolan. There has never been any executive in the 18 years during which Dolan has owned the team whose tenure can even broadly be characterized as a success. (Donnie Walsh comes the closest, but his entire stay atop the team’s hierarchy was built around the ultimately futile pursuit of LeBron James in free agency back in 2010. The visual of Walsh in a wheelchair during the Knicks’ pitch meeting to James was said to work against the team. A few months later, Dolan pushed Walsh aside during trade negotiations for Carmelo Anthony, and eventually transitioned him out of power altogether soon after.) Every single lead executive’s tenure has ended in a spectacular flameout of some kind.
The tragedy of it is that Dolan was always this close to being a really good owner. He spares no expense to bring players, coaches, and execs to the Garden, fully comfortable spending out the wazoo to try to build a winner if that’s what it takes. He knows his limitations, and has accepted the fact that he’s not a smart basketball man and thus is willing to cede operational dominion to those who know better. The issue, and it’s a big one, is that he’s done a terrible job picking which executives to give that kind of freedom. (Phil Jackson and Isiah Thomas as opposed to, say, Donnie Walsh.) Even in the press release announcing that the Knicks and Jackson have “mutually agreed to part company,” he stated that he won’t be involved in basketball decisions this summer or moving forward.
Can you trust Dolan to stick to actually that pledge? He’s held to it for a while before, only to unexpectedly butt in at a later date. But what if he does hold to his promise, and then you manage to do what nobody has done in New York in quite some time—actually win? You’d achieve exalted status as the King of New York for pretty much forever.
It’s not difficult to see that prospect alone enticing an interesting candidate to take the job. Throw in the promising young players, the gobs of money, and the cache of New York City and Madison Square Garden, and it starts to look pretty damn good. Especially considering most fans are at this point clamoring for the team to start jettisoning older, unproductive players and build around the youth. Do that, and you’ve got pretty much a clean slate. Is that something Sam Presti or David Griffin (both candidates for the job to some degree, according to ESPN) might be interested in? Crazier things have happened in the NBA already this offseason, but whatever happens in New York almost always seems to be crazier than anything that happens anywhere else.
1-on-1 with Krisstaps Porzingis
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