Schmeelk: Rose’s Ties To Star Players Won’t Matter If Knicks Aren’t Run Well

Player Agent Expected To Be Named Team President

John Schmeelk
February 07, 2020 - 10:52 am
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Thursday was supposed to be a fairly straight forward trade deadline for the Knicks. They would trade Marcus Morris and maybe some other vets for future assets and call it a day. Instead, reports surfaced revealing player agent Leon Rose from Creative Arts Agency (CAA) will be their new president. Then to cap off the day, owner James Dolan released an odd statement confirming he wasn’t selling the team.

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As for the trade deadline, the Knicks got a good return for Marcus Morris in a three-way deal. In exchange for a good player on an expiring contract, the Knicks received the Clippers’ 2020 first-round pick, the right to swap first-round picks with LA in 2021 (very unlikely to happen), the Pistons’ 2021 second-round pick, the rights to 20-year-old point guard Issuf Sanon, who is playing overseas in Ukraine, and small forward Moe Harkless to match salary. 

There were reports the Knicks turned down an offer that included youngsters Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann due to concerns over clearing roster spots for them. Mann is a combo guard who has been a bit player on the Clippers this season, while Kabengele is a power forward who has spent most of his season in the G League.

With the Lakers struggling to match salaries with the Knicks to forge a deal that worked for both teams, the Clippers’ offer was the best on the table. Receiving a first-round pick and extra assets for Morris was exactly the type of return they should have been trying to get. The additional draft capital gives the Knicks seven first-round picks and five second-round picks over the next four years.

The Knicks weren’t able to move any of the veterans with nonguaranteed contracts beyond this season for other future assets, which was a disappointment. Unfortunately, aside from Reggie Bullock and maybe Elfrid Payton, the other players in that group -- Bobby Portis, Wayne Ellington and Taj Gibson --  don’t hold much value across the league.

The bigger news came earlier in the afternoon, when news leaked that the Knicks are going to hire Rose as their president. Dolan released a bizarre statement late in the afternoon saying he wasn’t selling the team and the search for a new president was still active. The belief around the league is the delay is due to Rose having to decertify as an agent before he can officially come on to run the Knicks.

Rose is one of the most successful agents in the NBA and has done a lot of business with the Knicks. He represented former Knicks Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Eddy Curry, Renaldo Balkman, Mardy Collins, Andrea Bargnani and Chris Smith. CAA also represented Allan Houston, Mike Woodson and Mark Warkentein.

During Anthony’s era at Madison Square Garden, CAA and Rose had a lot of influence over personnel moves, such as trading for Bargnani and Chris Smith, J.R.’s brother. Rose was trying to do best by his clients during those years, so to use those moves to judge how he would run the Knicks would not be fair.

Rose still represents some of the league’s biggest stars, including Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Victor Oladipo. He has great connections around the league and understands the business of basketball. It is also rumored he will bring on William Wesley, better known as “World Wide Wes,” as a confidant to players across the league. 

But it doesn’t mean that Rose understands how to run and build a basketball organization, which is more than just leveraging relationships around the league. A team president needs to know how to build a winning team by putting together the right mix of talent via a trade, free agency and the draft. He has to know how to put a staff together in the front office and on the sideline to properly develop young players. He has to manage a salary cap.

It is an endeavor wholly different than being a player agent. It will be extremely important to see who Rose hires to be his general manager and help him run the organization. Scott Perry is still the Knicks’ GM and, though there was a report from Newsday’s Steve Popper that he is unlikely to stay on under Rose, it remains to be seen.

There is no way to know whether Rose will be good at running an organization. He could be great or he could be a complete disaster. With no track record to speak of working for an NBA team, there is no way to know. That Rob Pelinka and Bob Myers are former player agents and now front-office leaders with some level of success is no indication of whether Rose will be able to run the Knicks well.

Dolan has gone outside the box by opting not to hire someone who has done the job before, and is taking a risk by not hiring someone with experience inside an NBA organization to lean on. There was no reason to rush the hire, given that once the trade deadline has passed, little has to be done between now and the end of the season. The timing of the hire, just hours before the trade deadline, is just as odd as firing Mills two days earlier.

The strange timing harkens backs to GM Glen Grunwald being let go just before training camp coming off a 54-win season and Phil Jackson being fired only days after drafting Frank Ntilikina. But the timing will quickly be forgotten if Rose is the right man for the job.

Knicks fans should have their doubts based on Dolan’s track record of hiring people to run the Knicks. By targeting a player agent, it is logical to think the team will once again fall back on free agency and count on acquiring stars via free agency or the trade market to build the roster. It is a risky strategy that has backfired on the Knicks before.

They’ve been trying to stack assets and slowly improve through the draft until they become attractive enough to get a star in free agency, or stockpile enough to trade for one. They are still very early in this process. Whether Rose says he will continue this process or go in a different direction at his introductory press conference will be telling.  

As respected as Rose may be, with as many connections as he has, none of it will matter if the Knicks don’t prove to be a well-run, winning organization. No other agent or player is going to go out of his way to do Rose a favor because they are friends from the industry. His presence may help, but if the product on the court doesn’t improve, it won’t matter. Money, organizational competence and winning are the three things that matter most when attracting NBA players. Everything else is on the margins.

The Knicks are starting over with Rose, and they have a large stack of draft assets and young players on the roster. There is a lot to work with to turn the Knicks around, and it will take time even with them starting in a fairly good place. An attempt at a quick fix will backfire. If Rose does this the right way, however, it has chance to work.

Dolan has struggled to find the right person to run the Knicks the way he found Glen Sather to run the Rangers. There is nothing more important for him to find the Knicks’ version of Sather. It is the only way the Knicks will ever get where they are looking to go. Knicks fans everywhere hope that Dolan has finally found the right man for the job.

You follow John on Twitter at @Schmeek for everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports. You can find his podcast, “The Bank Shot” on WFAN.com, RADIO.COM and all your favorite podcast platforms. His most recent episode is with Newsday’s Steve Popper and can be found here.

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