ICYMI: Rumors began flying off the wall on Saturday as Michael Grange of SportsNet reported that P.Jax “badly wants out of New York..” Context is everything people, which is why it’s important to read the author’s original illustration when considering the rumor in question. Grange alludes to “NBA circles” as his pretext for his comments on Phil’s supposed desire to hit and quit with the Knicks. “NBA circles” is pretty equivalent to throwing darts at a board in my book. Reporters cane easily gain some publicity by garnering tenuous sources and throwing a ludicrous headline out into the blogosphere.
Nonetheless, this report is relevant in light of the Zen Master’s well known opt-out clause that he can utilize at the end of next season. Although Grange’s article lacks authenticity to me, I am also a firm believer in “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” In this case, there is a shit ton of smoke exhuming from Madison Square Garden. While I don’t believe that P.Jax is openly campaigning to return to La-La Land, I remain steadfast that Los Angelenos is probably his destination of choice…
So, what should Knicks fans make of this all? Well, I think we all can agree that Jackson’s tenure as GM has been full of doubt, skepticism and partial maneuvers. To paraphrase my good friend Mike Ehrmantraut “no more half measures, (Phil).” Whether it’s re-upping with Carme7o Anthony and attempting to establish Kristaps Porzingis as the face of the franchise, selfishly adhering to the archaic principles of the triangle offense, refusing to play young players pivotal minutes or bombing with his Derek Fisher hire, “half measures” have been a staple of Jackson’s tenure in New York.
And sadly, it doesn’t seem like that is ending any time soon. Already we are hearing reports of the possibility of utilizing substantially the same roster last as last season for next season. While KP has emerged into a potential star, Jerian Grant continues to make strides down the stretch and Robin Lopez has really elevated his game this season, the mere thought of using the same roster as this season makes me long for the days where James Dolan ruled with an iron fist. And for that reason, perhaps P.Jax taking his talents to the West Coast is not the worst result for Knicks fans.
Which leads us to the more important aspect of Grange’s article, the speculation that Dolan & Co. have sent out “back channel” to gauge potential mutual interest between the Knicks and current Toronto Raptors GM, Masai Ujiri. This is supplementing a report by Frank Isola earlier which originally linked the Knicks to Ujiri.
This is an intriguing development to keep an eye on, if only for the fact that Ujiri is a respect GM with ACTUAL EXPERIENCE. He has captained the Raptors to the 2 seed in the East this season, and has built one of the most complete rosters in the NBA. Players such as Kyle Lowry, Demar Derozan and Jonas Valanciunas have progressed greatly since he took over the helm from former GM Bryan Colangelo. He made slick transactions this off-season to sign Corey Joseph and Demarre Carroll to supplement an already intriguing roster.
But, Ujiri is not without his own warts…
As you can see, Ujiri was originally hired to turn around a team that was supposedly tanking at the time. Any die hard Knicks fan can tell you about the time the Knicks were on the cusp of acquiring Kyle Lowry if not for their reticence to give up freaking IMAN SHUMPERT (And don’t even get us started on the Bargnani deal…). But it was clear that Ujiri was all about that #TankLife at the time. In fact, he kiiiiiinda lucked himself into an Eastern Conference Finals worthy roster courtesy of Bryan Colangelo…
That being said, it’s hard to hold this against Ujiri. After all, he is the one to put the proper management structure, player development personnel and supplementary pieces in place. He also was smart enough to pivot once it became clear that the Raptors were not actually about that #TankLife. Filling out the roster with role guys such as Terrence Ross, Luis Scola and James Johnson to go along with the acquisitions of CoJo and Carroll.
So, while Ujiri hasn’t really been able to put his stamp of the Raptors beyond the major Carroll pickup, I think his name being bandied around as the future NYK GM is intriguing at least. To me, continuity and status-quo means something when you are the fan of an organization who breeds chaos and destruction. Having someone at the helm who is steady and methodical would be a welcome change, a basketball lifer if you will.
Oh yeah, he’s also stuck by Dwayne Casey for what seems like an eternity so he’s clearly not averse tod efensive minded head coaches… Which would keep all of our Thibodeau 2016-2017 dreams alive.