Frustrated with the direction of the franchise, Knicks owner James Dolan recently met with Phil Jackson, and they both came to the mutual agreement that it was time for the Zen Master to effectively end his tenure as the team’s president. Dolan was quite miffed by Jackson openly talking about trading Kristaps Porzingis as well as the way Carmelo Anthony was being treated. Jackson, of course, felt differently, which is why the Knicks currently don’t have a team president.
Knicks general manager Steve Mill is still in New York, however, and he is in charge of the team’s free agency until a new team president is hired. And while given their past history it may sound strange to say, the Knicks do actually have a plan to replace Jackson. It’s a plan that is solely revolving on prying Raptors team president Masai Ujiri away from Toronto.
From the Toronto Star’s Bruce Arthur:
The New York Knicks fired team president Phil Jackson Wednesday after three years of pure uncut bumbling comedy, and the Knicks are coming for Masai. Tim Leiweke, the former president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, is an adviser, which means he is the recruiter.
All that just makes the Knicks more desperate for a new saviour, and league sources indicate the Knicks are already confident Ujiri is coming to New York. When Ujiri came to Toronto from Denver he was lured by the city, the geography — it is easier to get home every summer to Africa, where Ujiri pours his soul every summer into his Giants of Africa charity — the resources, and the challenge of fixing a franchise that had never been fixed.
Any of that sound familiar? New York has stubbornly buried a lot of good basketball men, made them laughingstocks. But Ujiri loves a challenge.
It seems somewhat unfathomable that Ujiri will leave a seemingly great position in Toronto for the Knicks, a team that is essentially in disarray because of Jackson. But you never know. The Knicks have money, play in one of the biggest NBA markets and have some potential with Porzingis.
Ujiri may also to decide to leave the Raptors if he feels like the team has gone as far as they can under his leadership. Toronto is facing their own crossroads this offseason with Kyle Lowry being a free agent. Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker are also free agents, and it is up to Ujiri to decide if he should bring the band back if it likely means another second-round or perhaps Conference Finals exit. The Raptors face these types of questions and more this offseason, and Ujiri will have to make some tough decisions.
However, as Arthur points out, Ujiri enjoys a challenge, which the Raptors definitely are. But perhaps Ujiri views the Knicks as an even greater challenge and one that he wants to tackle next in his career.
At least that’s what Dolan and the Knicks are apparently hoping Ujiri will decide on in the coming weeks.