The Knicks are off to a miserable start to the season, which isn’t a tremendous surprise, but it’s been bad enough that they went ahead and fired coach David Fizdale early in his second season with the team.
Giving Fizdale the axe felt inevitable given the way the season started and that 10 games into the season, Knicks brass held an impromptu press conference to express their disappointment in the way the year started. And yet, it is likely to fix little to nothing given that the issues for the Knicks go far beyond coaching. The roster is a mess, equal parts young players trying to figure out how to play in the NBA (most of whom at backcourt positions) and veterans in a log jam in the frontcourt. That’s a tricky combination, as the young players are the ones with the ball in their hands the most and everyone is clawing for playing time.
The result has been a 4-19 start to the season, with the most recent defeat coming by one-point to the Pacers after Julius Randle missed a free throw with 0.1 seconds left to tie the game. Steve Mills and Scott Perry still, for now, have their jobs running the front office, but their hold on those jobs seems tenuous at best. However, the thing that might help them the most is that the top target to replace them is a man that they’ve had as their dream team president for years and, by all accounts, have failed to come close to landing.
Masai Ujiri has become one of the league’s top executives in Toronto, constructing a championship team last year and then managing to build another contender this season despite the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The Knicks have long been infatuated with Ujiri, with yearly reports of their hopes to pursue him, and this season is no different. According to Ian Begley of SNY, higher ups at MSG are “obsessed” with the idea of bringing Ujiri in next summer.
But once the Knicks started struggling last month, multiple Madison Square Garden people in positions of influence have been ‘obsessed’ with – and ‘enamored’ by – the Raptors executive, per SNY sources.
If their insistence is to chase Ujiri this summer, one would think that means Mills and Perry will at least last through the rest of this season. The question is whether they’ll fire the current front office to make a run at Ujiri, and have a shortlist of candidates to chase if he says no, or if it’s Ujiri or bust, and they’ll only let go of the current regime if he says yes.
Either way, it’s the same old story for Knicks fans (and Raptors fans) who will hear rumor after rumor of the Knicks interest in Ujiri the rest of the season. Until something changes, though, no one will believe he will actually join the Knicks before we see it actually happen.