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David Griffin pulls name from Knicks’ front-office search, source says

Former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin speaks

Former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin speaks at a news conference in Cleveland. May 15, 2017. Credit: AP / Joshua Gunter

David Griffin has removed his name from consideration for the Knicks’ front-office vacancy, a league source familiar with the situation said.

Griffin had met with Knicks general manager Steve Mills on Friday, and they reportedly were progressing toward contract talks. On Sunday, however, a second source said the two sides weren’t that far along, and later in the day, ESPN reported that Griffin had pulled his name out of the running.

The first source told Newsday that there was “not an opportunity” there for Griffin.

ESPN reported that the snag came because Griffin wouldn’t have full autonomy in the Knicks’ basketball department and might not have been allowed to bring in his own basketball people to work with him. When a new executive is hired, it’s almost customary for him to bring in people he’s close to and trusts.

A number of the Knicks’ front-office personnel have been with the team for a long time, but it was expected that Griffin would be the GM and Mills would be elevated to president, replacing Phil Jackson, who was fired June 28.

Mills has been in charge of the Knicks’ basketball decisions since Jackson left and is working with former Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke on this hire. Before Jackson was hired in 2014, Mills was the president and general manager. He’s looking for someone to run the basketball department, but as president, he still would have final say on decisions.

Mills made a major move by signing restricted free agent Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71-million contract. The Knicks will introduce Hardaway at a news conference Monday. Mills wouldn’t be making such moves and engaging teams on Carmelo Anthony trade talks if he weren’t firmly planted in his position.

Griffin, a well-respected front-office executive, worked for the Cavaliers since 2010 as a vice president of basketball operations and then general manager. The Cavaliers reached the last three NBA Finals, winning one championship, but his contract was not renewed. Before joining the Cavs, he spent 17 seasons in the Suns’ front office.

It’s unclear where the Knicks will turn now. Other executives who had been linked to the Knicks included Spurs president R.C. Buford, Raptors president Masai Ujiri and Thunder GM Sam Presti. But the Knicks likely would run into a similar situation in that each man would want his own people to join them.

Additionally, they’re all under contract, so it would require compensation to hire them. Giving up first-round picks is not appealing to the Knicks, who are rebuilding and more than likely will be in the lottery again. They already ended their pursuit of Ujiri for that reason.

Mills now will seek other candidates while continuing to put together the Knicks’ roster. After making the Hardaway signing official, the Knicks released a statement from Mills that said, “He will fit right into the core of players that make up a roster emphasizing youth, athleticism, accountability and unselfishness.”

That sure sounds as if Anthony’s days as a Knick are numbered.

The Hardaway signing left the Knicks with about $2 million in cap space and the $4.3- million room exception to sign players, but they could open more cap space by dealing Anthony. The Rockets are said to be turning their attention to acquiring Anthony, who reportedly is willing to waive his no-trade clause to play for Houston or Cleveland.

The Knicks are building around Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, Hardaway and first-round pick Frank Ntilikina. They’re still looking for a veteran point guard to help mentor Ntilikina, who will be 19 when the season starts. Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose, who played for the Knicks last season, are the best point guards on the market.

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