There is one word to describe the 2016-17 New York Knicks, dysfunctional. From their play on the court this past season, where they went 31-51 under first year head coach Jeff Hornacek, missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season. To how now former President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson acted to his players and how he commented on other players like LeBron James and his associates, who he referred to as a “Posse.” If that were not enough, their All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony and his future with the team is in limbo on whether he will be traded or not before the start of the upcoming season. It was clear that this team needed some new in the fold and immediately. That new person came in the form of a new GM that was announced on Friday.
Executive chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company, Mr. James L. Dolan announced before this weekend that acting General Manager of the Knickerbockers Steve Mills has been named president of the team and that longtime front office man for many teams in the NBA Scott Perry has been named the team’s new GM, on a five-year deal, with the terms not disclosed.
“Today marks a culture change for our organization where we reestablish the pride, work ethic and responsibility that comes with playing for the Knicks and representing New York,” Mr. Dolan said on Friday. “I’m confident that Steve is the right person take on this role, and ensure that we return to one of the elite teams of the NBA. He’s got an ambitious plan that centers on building a young team focused on player development, communication and teamwork.”
Dolan also added that, “His decision to bring Scott on as general manager is a critical first step in transforming this franchise. Scott brings tremendous skill and experience in helping to build winning basketball teams. He’ll immediately get to work adjusting our basketball operations department to make sure we have one of the most effective front office staffs in the NBA.”
“As Steve and Scott move forward, I will continue to not be involved in the operations of the team.”
For those who are not familiar with Perry and his NBA front office background, he has worked in the league for 17 seasons, most recently with the Sacramento Kings as the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations since Apr. 2017. Prior to his work for the Capitol City of California’s pro basketball team, Perry worked for the Orlando Magic from 2012-17, as their Vice President and Assistant General Manager, where his responsibilities consisted taking care of the day-to-day operations of the basketball operations department, player personnel matters, management of the roster and player development.
For parts of 12 NBA campaigns, he worked for the Detroit Pistons, starting as a college scout in 2000, to being their Director of Player Personnel from 2002-07, and as Vice President of Basketball Operations from 2008-12. In Perry’s tenure with the Pistons, they reached the Eastern Conference Finals six straight seasons, made consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals in 2004, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1, and then in 2005, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games.
Before that, Perry served as the Assistant GM with the then Seattle Supersonics from 2007-08, during which they drafted Kevin Durant, who is now with the newly crowned NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
Perry before that was the head basketball coach at Eastern Kentucky University, and was an assistant coach for nine seasons at the University of Michigan, University of California, Berkeley, and Detroit Mercy.
He is a 1986 graduate from Wayne State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and was a member of the Warriors basketball team for two seasons after he transferred from the University of Oregon.
“It’s an honor to be joining Steve, Jeff, and the New York Knicks as we begin a new chapter for this beloved franchise. I am excited for the opportunity and the responsibility bestowed upon me,” Perry said. “As a general manager, I will work tirelessly to develop a culture that demands results, commitment and pride from everyone fortunate enough to be associated with our team-from our staff to our players. Nothing comes close to Madison Square Garden for basketball and it is our right and responsibility to showcase that tradition of excellence, day, and night. I can’t wait to get started.”
One thing that will be different with the hire of Perry as the Knicks’ new GM is they will have someone who will bring something that Jackson never did in his time as the team’s president, enthusiasm for the job.
That said, the Knicks had a chance at hiring former General Manager of the back-to-back-to-back Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers David Griffin. A man who turned the Cavs into champions and made bold moves that termed them from a laughing stock the four years that James left for the Miami Heat, into NBA champions in 2016.
What kept that from happening, Griffin was told by the Knicks front office brass that he could not bring in his own people. Meaning that he would have had to work with the staff already in place, which includes reporting to Mills. Also, former Knick and Detroit Pistons Allan Houston is still the team’s Assistant General Manager, and the GM of the Knicks’ Developmental League team, the Westchester Knicks.
With Perry getting in first real shot at running a team for the first time, he is working under Mills, who has been at the center of the Knicks inability to keep pace with the rest of the Eastern Conference, let alone the rest of the NBA.
When Perry was fired from the Magic, they cleaned the entire front office out because the team after trading away center Dwight Howard during his tenure went from a title contender to a lottery team and has not gotten any traction since.
To illustrate the kind of mess that Perry was hired to clean up, he has to find a way to convince Anthony that the Knicks will be different with the Knicks and he should stay to be a part of it or find a way to make deal that will send him and to the Rockets, which only happens if he waives his no-trade clause in his contract that has two years and $54 million left on it, with a salary of $26.2 million for the 2017-18 season.
Perry and the Knicks need to repair the fracture of the team’s leading star of the future in Kristaps Porzingis, who skipped his exit meeting back in May in support of Anthony.
Make sure that rookie guard Frank Ntilikina, who the team drafted No. 8 overall back in June out of France, when they had a chance to draft sharp shooter Malik Monk out of Kentucky or Dennis Smith, Jr. out of North Carolina State University, is the team’s floor general going forward.
After all that, Perry to build the current roster, with very limited salary cap space thanks to the four-year $71 million dollar deal they gave to restricted free agent Tim Hardaway, Jr., who will be making $16.5 million as he starts his second go-around with the team. The team salary also consists of the $17.8 million of forward/center Joakim Noah, who was shelved the rest of the season because of shoulder surgery; will miss the first 12 games of this upcoming season for violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy, and has two more years left on a four-year $72 million contract he signed as a free agent the prior off-season. Then there is the $11.8 million this season for guard Courtney Lee.
To broaden the challenge ahead of Perry, since the hiring of Jackson back on Mar. 18, 2014, the Knicks had an abysmal record of 90-171 in his time as team president. That is an average of 26.6 wins per season.
If there is one silver-lining of the Knicks new hire is that they will be just one of two NBA teams that has two African Americans in major leaderships roles in a NBA front office. The other being the Charlotte Hornets. While that is a great headline, the Knicks, and their fans hope that the two can get them back to just being competitive.
With the roster that they had last year, that included former Bulls’ lead guard Derrick Rose, whose rights were renounced before the start of free agency earlier this month, should have at least been fighting to make the playoffs, let alone be the No. 7 or No. 8 Seed and we saw what happened.
It is on Perry and Mills to turn the Knicks from a laughing stock into a major player in the East again.
“Today is a new day for this franchise,” Mills said over the weekend. “Scott will immediately begin to put together a basketball operations department that is among the best in the league. We will all be united in implementing our strategy, which is to build our team by developing young players, emphasizing athleticism, length, and defense. We have several rising young stars in the organization and we expect to add more young talent to this core. Our message to our fans is clear: we will be disciplined in sticking to this strategy, hold our players and staff accountable to the high standards that we have set for ourselves, and deliver results.”
Information, and quotations are courtesy of 6/22/17 7 p.m. 2017 NBA Draft, presented by State Farm, from Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY on ESPN with Rece Davis, Jalen Rose, Michael Wilbon, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams, Allison Williams, Jeff Goodman and Tom Penn; www.nba.com/draft/2017/teams, by Sekou Smith, Lang Whitaker, Steve Aschburner, Fran Blinebury, Shaun Powell, and Scott Howard-Cooper; 7/14/17 3 p.m. edition of “NBA: The Jump,” on ESPN with Rachel Nichols, Amin Elhassan, and Ohm Youngmisuk; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_York_Knicks_seasons; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Houston; and 7/14/17 official release on NBA.com, “Steve Mills Named President, Scott Perry Named General Manager of New York Knicks.”