8:37am: The Knicks have officially parted ways with Jackson, according to an announcement from the team. The club’s statement describes it as a mutual decision.
“After careful thought and consideration, we mutually agreed that the Knicks will be going in a different direction,” Dolan said. “Phil Jackson is one of the most celebrated and successful individuals in the history of the NBA. His legacy in the game of basketball is unmatched. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the Knicks as both a player and an executive.”
Former Raptors executive Tim Leiweke will assist the Knicks as an advisor during their search for a new head of basketball operations, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
7:54am: Dolan and the Knicks are targeting Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri for their top front office job, according to ESPN’s new NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Ujiri signed a multiyear extension with Toronto last September that tacked multiple years onto his contract beyond 2017/18, so if he’s interested in heading to New York, the Raptors would likely require compensation for their division rivals to let him out of his deal.
Ujiri, of course, has been on the other end of multiple notable Knicks trades, including the Anthony deal with Denver and an Andrea Bargnani swap with Toronto.
7:40am: The Knicks are expected to formally announce on Wednesday that they’re parting ways with president of basketball operations Phil Jackson, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. The news comes on the heels of a report late on Tuesday night that Knicks owner James Dolan was weighing Jackson’s future with the franchise.
According to Shelburne, conversations about Jackson’s future “accelerated” in recent days after the organization decided that it wouldn’t buy out Carmelo Anthony. Jackson has been vocal for most of the year about his desire to move on from Anthony, but with Carmelo unwilling to waive his no-trade clause and the Knicks not open to accommodating a buyout, the two sides were at a stalemate.
[RELATED: Knicks resisting engaging in buyout talks with Carmelo Anthony]
Since Anthony seemingly wasn’t going anywhere, and it had become clear that Jackson didn’t intend to remain with the Knicks beyond the two years left on his contract, it made more and more sense for the two sides to go their separate ways, as Shelburne details.
While the public feud with Anthony was a key factor in Jackson’s departure, he made several other questionable moves during his tenure as Knicks president, including signing Joakim Noah to a $72MM+ contract last summer and seriously considering trading Kristaps Porzingis after the young Latvian skipped his exit meeting at the end of the 2016/17 season.
The decision on Jackson’s future represents an about-face for Dolan. Despite the fact that some people close to him had been urging him to move on from Jackson for some time, per ESPN, the Knicks owner exercised his side of Jackson’s option earlier this year, locking him in for the final two years of his contract. Assuming the two sides didn’t reach some sort of buyout agreement, the Knicks will remain on the hook for a reported $24MM for Jackson’s final two years.
With Jackson no longer in the picture in New York, it’s possible that Anthony will become more open to a trade, having outlasted the team president and “won” the feud. However, it seems more likely that GM Steve Mills, who will run the show in the interim, will put less pressure on Anthony to waive his no-trade clause, allowing him to remain with the Knicks. I would expect that the team no longer intends to run the triangle offense going forward either.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.