The Knicks will soon begin the process of hiring a new head coach and Tom Thibodeau tops their wish list, The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Mike Vorkunov report. Former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson is also likely to be interviewed, according to the report.
The front office is hoping to make a decision in the next few weeks.
Interim coach Mike Miller is still in the running for the job, The Athletic duo adds. Miller has left a strong impression on new president of basketball operations Leon Rose and is expected to receive an interview. Miller would coach out the remainder of a resumed season, if the Knicks are part of it, and would likely be given the chance to remain with the franchise in some coaching capacity even if he doesn’t get the full-time gig.
Thibodeau, the former Bulls and Timberwolves coach, has been considered a prime candidate for the job for months and the latest report confirms that notion. Thibodeau compiled a 352-246 record in seven-plus seasons with his previous two teams.
The Nets surprisingly parted ways with Atkinson in early March with the injury-riddled team at 28-34 and holding a playoff spot. He had an overall record of 118-190 (.383) in nearly four full seasons.
The timetable for the coaching search and final choice for the opening could be impacted by the NBA’s decision on which teams return to play and when the season would restart.
The Knicks have officially hired Walt Perrin as their assistant GM for college scouting and given GM Scott Perry a one-year extension through next season, the team announced in a press release.
Perrin’s decision to leave the Jazz and join the Knicks’ front office came to light on May 18. Perrin spent nearly two decades in Utah. He was initially hired as the team’s director player personnel before eventually being promoted to vice president of player personnel. Prior to joining the Jazz in 2001, he was a scout in Minnesota and Detroit, holding the title of director of college scouting with the Pistons.
News of Perry’s extension was reported nearly a month ago and confirmed today by team president Leon Rose.
The Knicks have also hired Brock Aller as VP of basketball and strategic planning and Frank Zanin as an assistant GM for pro scouting.
“We have assembled a diverse front office comprised of highly regarded and experienced basketball executives who have influenced some of the most successful players and organizations in the league,” Rose said in the press release. “These additions will complement the structure we already have in place and assist us in acquiring talent and developing strategies to build a team our fans can be proud of.”
Aller spent the last seven seasons with the Cavaliers in various roles. He has been their senior director of basketball operations since July 2017. He was also in the Pistons organization for nine years.
Zanin joins the Knicks after three years as a pro scout with the Thunder. He previously held the title of assistant GM with the Nets.
- It’s uncertain whether teams currently outside the playoff picture will be included in a potential resumption of play. However, some Knicks players have recently been told to be ready to report to training camp in early June, according to SNY’s Ian Begley. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that all professional sports teams are now allowed to begin training camps in the state. Since players would be returning from varying sites and presumably going into quarantine once they arrive, some of them are wondering if they should go straight to Orlando, where the games are expected to be played.
6:19pm: The Nets intend to reopen their facility for voluntary workouts on Tuesday, the team confirmed today (Twitter link via Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News).
12:04pm: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has granted permission for New York sports teams to resume operations immediately, stating in a tweet that “Starting today, NY professional sports leagues can begin spring training.”
Although coronavirus cases remain high in the New York City area, Cuomo believes sports can be conducted safely without spectators in the stands. He made similar comments this morning during a briefing at Jones Beach on Long Island, according to Joseph Spector of The USA Today Network.
“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena, do it. Do it,” Cuomo told reporters.
The Knicks and Nets are two of the 11 NBA teams that haven’t opened their training facilities, notes Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).
However, both teams may try to train somewhere else before joining the rest of the league in Orlando. A story published Friday by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski listed the Knicks, Nets, Celtics and Raptors as organizations that have expressed concerns to the league about unique complications affecting their marketplaces.
Cuomo has been urging professional leagues, most of which have their headquarters in his state, to explore ways to start playing again, Spector adds.
“Work out the economics if you can. We want you up,” Cuomo said. “We want people to be able to watch sport. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy.”
LaMelo Ball tops the Knicks‘ wish list for this year’s draft, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. A 6’7″ playmaker who spent this season with the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL, Ball would solve New York’s long search for a point guard. However, unless they get some lottery luck, the Knicks would have to trade up to land Ball, who is expected to be among the first players selected.
Berman notes that new team president Leon Rose has experience in dealing with Ball’s controversial father LaVar during his time with Creative Artists Agency. League insiders told Berman that LaVar likes the idea of his son playing in a big market and will attempt to work behind the scenes to get him to New York.
If the Knicks’ pick remains in the 6-10 range, Berman expects Cole Anthony, Tyrese Haliburton, Killian Hayes and Tyrese Maxey to all be considered, along with trading down to target RJ Hampton or Kira Lewis.
There’s more from New York:
- The Knicks would like to part with Dennis Smith Jr.‘s $5.7MM salary for next season if they can put together a trade involving Chris Paul, Berman adds in the same story. The Thunder guard will make $41.36MM in 2020/21, so accommodating his salary would require sending out some contracts. Berman suggests that Kevin Knox ($4.6MM), whom Rose hasn’t committed to keeping, and Frank Ntilikina ($6.2MM) could also be included.
- A “playoffs plus” scenario being considered in a survey of general managers could leave the Knicks out in the cold, Berman observes in a separate story. New York currently ranks 12th in the East, so it wouldn’t be included if seeds seven through 10 are involved in play-in games for postseason spots.
- Plenty of people around the league believe Brock Aller will make a difference in the Knicks’ front office, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Aller left the Cavaliers last month to become VP of strategy in New York. “He’s a big-picture guy who is also a diabolical genius from a cap standpoint,” said David Griffin, VP of basketball operations for the Pelicans, who formerly served as general manager in Cleveland.
- It has been a bit of an awkward transition period for the Knicks and new president of basketball operations Leon Rose, who was officially hired just nine days before the NBA’s season was suspended. However, Rose has received positive reviews for the changes he has made to the club’s front office so far, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.
Tyrese Haliburton, who is expected to be a top-10 pick in this year’s draft, claims he won’t be fazed by the pressure of playing in New York if the Knicks end up selecting him.
“Being in New York, they always talk about the pressure of being a Knick,’’ Haliburton said Tuesday on ESPN’s The Jump (h/t Marc Berman of the New York Post). “I feel like no matter where I go, the pressure I put on myself is more than I’ll get from anywhere. No matter where I’m at, that pressure is prominent and it will be more from me. I’m ready to play anywhere.’’
The Knicks have the sixth-worst record in the league, as our reverse standings show. “I think the Knicks are on the right track if they take (Haliburton) at six,’’ one NBA executive told Berman.
Here’s more from New York:
- Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic details what Walt Perrin brings to the Knicks. New York is finalizing a deal to hire Perrin – whose decision it was for the Jazz to draft Donovan Mitchell back in 2017 – as an assistant GM.
- Several scouts throughout the league believe the Knicks are in good hands with Perrin and Frank Zanin, who will also join the team an assistant GM, Ian Begley of SNY.tv writes. Zanin spent the past four seasons with the Thunder, helping them retool post-Kevin Durant and later, setting the franchise up for a rebuild down the line with the Paul George trade.
- It’s been over a year since the Knicks traded away Kristaps Porzingis and Mark Cuban is still stunned that Dallas was able to make that deal. “It’s like the James Harden trade,” Cuban explained on WFAN’s Moose and Maggie radio show. “Harden gets traded from OKC to the Rockets and I’m like, damn, why didn’t we even get that offered to us? We weren’t in the mix. Nobody was. It was one phone call and the Rockets said yes. (The Porzingis trade) was our one phone call.”
MaCio Teague (Baylor), Keith Williams (Cincinnati), Denzel Mahoney (Creighton), and Zach Cooks (NJIT) are among the early entrants who have signed with Trinity Best for representation as they navigate the pre-draft process, per Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link).
However, signing with an agent doesn’t mean those players are going pro — because Best is an NCAA-certified rep, Teague, Williams, Mahoney, and Cooks can continue to test the draft waters without forgoing their remaining college eligibility. Because the NCAA has indefinitely postponed its June 3 withdrawal date, those players won’t necessarily have to finalize decisions anytime soon either.
Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:
- Richmond forward Grant Golden has decided to withdraw from the draft and return to school for his senior year, he tells Rothstein (Twitter link). Golden has averaged 15.5 PPG and 6.9 RPG for Richmond in 94 games over his last three seasons.
- Marshall guard Jarrod West, who elected to test the draft waters this spring, is expected to return to school for his senior season, according to head coach Dan D’Antoni (Twitter link via Rothstein). West, who has been a starter for the Thundering Herd since his freshman year, had a breakout season in 2019/20, averaging 14.2 PPG, 4.1 APG, and 4.0 RPG.
- Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji, who previously met with New Orleans, Washington, Charlotte, and Utah, has virtual interviews this week with the Knicks, Bucks, and Pistons, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.
The Knicks would technically make the 2020 postseason under a proposed play-in tournament, as I detailed for Heavy.com. The tournament, which is just one of the options being discussed for the NBA’s return, would have the 8-12 seeds in each conference battle for the right to play the No. 1 seed in a series.
New York sits 12th in the Eastern Conference and would take on the Wizards, who hold the ninth spot. The Hornets (10th) would take on the Bulls (11th) and the winner of this bracket would face the Magic to decide which team gets a typical first-round playoff series against the Bucks.
Again, the scenario is just one of many being floated and is nowhere near concrete, though seeing the Knicks in the postseason would nonetheless be an unexpected sight.
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- Bradley Beal would arguably be the best player on the Eastern Conference side of the bracket, as I explained in the same piece. I’d speculate that Washington—a team that overachieved this season—would be favored in the first-round matchup against New York.
- Roughly 11 weeks after undergoing shoulder surgery, Nets guard Kyrie Irving published an Instagram story today suggesting he has returned to the gym, as Anthony Puccio of Nets Daily relays (Twitter link). Irving is in year one of a four-year deal with Brooklyn — it’s not clear if he’d have an opportunity to return if the NBA season resumes this summer.
- Thunder coach Billy Donovan had a major impact on Jaylen Brown‘s game, as the Celtics forward explains (h/t Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald). Donovan coached Brown on Team USA’s Under-18 team a few years back. “He told me he wasn’t playing me because he said I didn’t play hard,” Brown said. “… He told me you’re only going to be in the league for three years because you don’t play hard…I was so mad I was crying. But I think Billy Donovan had a big impact on my drive for sure. I’m in the NBA now, and hopefully I have a couple more years now to go, so we’ll see.”