During the playoffs, eliminated NBA teams have an easy job: Don’t do anything stupid. Get through the exit interviews, say your PR-approved lines about there being a lot of things to work on this summer, and make your coaching moves in relative silence while the rest of the league watches LeBron and the Warriors careen toward each other.
Of course, that’s not how the Knicks operate.
Wednesday morning, The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported that Mark Jackson, currently an ESPN color commentator, received a “strong push” for the Knicks’ head-coaching job by Rich Kleiman, Kevin Durant’s agent and business partner. Um, what? While Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania reported on Wednesday that David Fizdale is “gaining serious traction” for the Knicks job, the Kleiman connection still raises a few questions. Let’s tackle those, plus some other Knicks-related topics:
1. Since When Is Rich Kleiman the Knicks’ Executive Adviser?
Kleiman is described in Stein’s tweet as “lifelong Knicks fan,” and, look, I get it—every fan thinks they’re smart enough to make their team’s personnel decisions or dreams of one day being in position to make them. (Kleiman has said several times that he’d like to run the Knicks.) But this would be like Michael Jordan polling season-ticket holders on who the Hornets’ next head coach should be. Sure, Knicks executive president Steve Mills can take advice from anyone he wants. But a fan who works for a player on another team and likely rooted for Jackson during his Knicks playing days might not be the most objective resource.
2. Counterpoint: Is This Secretly Genius?
Travel with me to the conspiracy corner for a moment. Jackson is not a good option for the Knicks on paper because as his last stop showed in Golden State, he has a very defined ceiling. His offenses with the Warriors were … fine. Which doesn’t bode well for the franchise’s prized jewel, Kristaps Porzingis—the one person the Knicks should be kowtowing to over the next few years.
But the Kleiman connection to Jackson is interesting because of Kleiman’s connection to Durant. What if hiring Jackson leads Durant to consider the Knicks in free agency at some point in the future? Reports have indicated that Durant plans to opt out of his contract this summer, but that he also plans to restructure a new deal with the Warriors. Yet, say Golden State wins a couple of more titles over the years, and Durant makes his killing in Silicon Valley and wants to take on the entertainment industry in 2021? New York would be a perfect spot to take his public persona to an even higher level. And I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt if the coach his agent and friend wanted is patrolling the sidelines. Is this far-fetched? Sure. But you can’t tell me it’s not not something Mills or owner James Dolan is thinking about.
3. Whom Should They Hire?
Literally anyone else. Mike Budenholzer is on the market and reportedly wants to be in New York. David Fizdale should have never been fired in Memphis, and he has shown the ability to adapt a team for the modern game. His candidacy also seems to be gaining momentum: In addition to Charania’s report, Frank Isola also indicated on Tuesday that the Knicks had reached out to Fizdale first before any other candidates. Are the Knicks about to do a smart thing for once even though everything outlined in this blog proves that they can’t seem to do that? This is promising, but don’t hold your breath.
There are plenty of other options, too. Jerry Stackhouse, meanwhile, would be a young, inspired choice to pair with an up-and-coming roster. Want to bring David Blatt back to the States? By all means. You can’t even go wrong with tossing the names of all the Spurs assistants into a hat and having Spike Lee pick one out live on the MSG Network. They have options! Why go back to the well of Knick retreads like Mike Woodson, Jeff Van Gundy, and Jackson?
4. Are the Knicks Going to Draft Another Guard?
Let’s switch gears to the draft, where Knicks management isn’t faring any better. The team is getting linked to Alabama guard Collin Sexton, whom they reportedly scouted during the NCAA tournament. Multiple pre-lottery mock drafts have the Knicks taking Sexton, adding yet another guard to their already guard-heavy mix. Sexton is more of a scorer than Frank Ntilikina is, but can they fit together? Are the Knicks allergic to drafting 3-and-D wings, which they desperately need?
Sexton is a supernova, and he may be the next prospect drafted later in the lottery who will make teams regret passing on him. I’m all for taking the best player available, and Sexton might be just that at that spot, but after drafting Ntilikina last year and, more notably, giving Tim Hardaway Jr., a score-first guard himself, a four-year, $71 million deal last summer, taking Sexton could prevent the Knicks from a filling a more important spot.
5. Do We Need to Worry About Kristaps Porzingis?
Porzingis is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in February, and he was initially expected to be back for the start of the 2018-19 season. But last month, Dolan said at a Rangers game that’s not a sure thing.
“I’ve been told everything from [Porzingis returning in] December to him being out for the season, so I don’t know what to expect on that,” Dolan said. “But we can’t just sit on our ass while he’s away. We need to develop a team and then integrate him into it when he comes back.”
This is peak Knicks. Their owner spouting off possibly incorrect injury timelines at a hockey game while demanding progress from the team around him. This is how you end up giving Hardaway $71 million. The more things change, the more they stay the same.