There is no “Not!” lurking after the headline. Sorry to this man, but it’s time for sincere posts about the New York Knicks franchise. In today’s New York Post, Yaron Weitzman peeks into the Knicks’ front office, which has engineered a season good enough to make me scared to blog about the team, as if merely describing reality could dissolve it. But these are the facts: The Knicks have emerged from a soft schedule with a 19-18 record, behind a surprise all-star and a standout rookie and a burgeoning sophomore, and they are well in the playoff hunt in an Eastern Conference mostly packed with imitation crabmeat. Things are going well. And so I steel myself to tiptoe through Weitzman’s excellent story and see team president Leon Rose … managing wildly different and needy personalities … thoughtfully digesting their diverse input … and making savvy decisions? Where is the part where you impose an antiquated offensive scheme or smear your best players in the press?
To be clear, really dumb stuff is still going on in this front office, which we’ll get to. A picture emerges of Rose as a detached leader over some competing oddballs. There’s coach Tom Thibodeau, hellbent on winning now, hungry for veterans, and willing to do anything to them short of posing over the body. And there’s executive vice president William “World Wide Wes” Wesley, a comically nepotistic fixer unable to vouch for the existence of any player who did not play under John Calipari or sign with the Creative Artists Agency. Playing a less colorful role is vice president and chief strategist Brock Aller, seen by the others as some kind of bloodless Hinkieite freak just because he sees long enough into the future to pass the marshmallow test. But back to the dumb stuff. Wesley reportedly closed his eyes during discussions of players who were not linked to either his preferred college or agency, and used Kentucky as a persistent frame of reference for discussing NBA players, even making the extremely powerful claim that Kentucky did not want Zion Williamson. As far as less dumb but still questionable stuff: Thibs hoped to ship off RJ Barrett or Mitchell Robinson for vets and was a Julius Randle skeptic ahead of a season where all three are looking excellent, much to the coach’s own credit. He preferred a free agent signing to working with the abundant raw materials.
Here’s the magic trick: Leon Rose found a way to make everyone happy, and the team better. In free agency he didn’t offer any bad contracts and saved the future cap space for Aller to have wised-up fun with. In the draft he found a way to slide back a few spots in the first round and grab Calipari product Immanuel Quickley at No. 25 without reaching. (This is the best move the front office has made, as Wesley correctly intuited the shooting and off-the-dribble verve so many evaluators missed, though, to be fair, it sounds like he might’ve seen that same verve in Bismack Biyombo if he woke up one day in a Kentucky jersey.) All that remained was for Thibs to get what he wanted: a reunion with Derrick Rose. And Leon Rose made that happen, too, in February, for the cheap price of a second-rounder and one of the worst players in the NBA. Better yet, Quickley and Rose play really well together! Talk about an elegant solution. I am not mentally prepared for such good management. Seriously: I just read an article where a top executive is described as “revealing his bare chest to the group” and “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” and I’m still feeling great about this group. Please check back in two months.