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Knicks keeping Scott Perry as general manager

Knicks general manager Scott Perry speaks with reporters

Knicks general manager Scott Perry speaks with reporters at media day on Sept. 30, 2019. Credit: James Escher

The Leon Rose era will begin with a familiar face: The Knicks have decided to retain Scott Perry as general manager.

They confirmed that Perry will remain with a statement from Rose, the new team president.

“Scott is a well-respected basketball executive who I have known for more than 20 years, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him as we look to build a winning team in New York," Rose said.

While the season remains in limbo right now because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Knicks needed to make a decision on Perry because of a mutual option set to trigger on May 1. According to a league source, the two sides agreed on a one-year contract, keeping Perry in place with an important — and odd — draft approaching this summer. The Knicks would not discuss the contract.

Perry survives what many thought would be an executive purge. He was brought on board three seasons ago, and while the Knicks' record in that time is 67-163, he has at least managed to rein in the Knicks' salary cap and build up a stockpile of draft picks.

The one-year deal allows Perry, who has a long relationship with Rose, to work together with him without tying the Knicks to a long-term deal. While Rose could have cut ties right now, the deal allows him flexibility to extend it if the pairing works.

Rose officially took over as Knicks president March 2, replacing Steve Mills, who had been let go nearly a month earlier. He spent only 10 days with the team observing before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the season, and he has just begun to make over the front office. He added Brock Aller last week as head of strategic planning.

When Mills brought in Perry, they added a new group of executives and a year later hired David Fizdale as coach. But it all fell apart quickly. Just 10 games into this season, Perry and Mills addressed the team’s struggles in an impromptu postgame news conference. By December, with the Knicks 4-18, Fizdale was out, replaced by interim  coach Mike Miller. Mills followed him out the door in early February. The Knicks were 21-45 when the season was suspended.

The decision to keep Perry in place does not mean the rest of the executives who were part of the group brought in under him will remain or be let go. They have contracts that expire on different dates, as opposed to Perry, whose deal needed an immediate decision.  According to a source, Rose will continue his due diligence on the staff.

In the meantime, Perry, who has had success in the draft, will be able to head up the process. Teams will be unable to rely on the NCAA Tournament for scouting work and likely will not be able to conduct any workouts with the prospects.

Perry was in place for the last two drafts, bringing in Kevin Knox and RJ Barrett as lottery picks and plucking Mitchell Robinson in the second round in 2018. The Knicks will have their own lottery pick in the upcoming draft as well as the Clippers’ first-rounder and the Hornets' second-round pick, giving them, if the season does not resume, three picks in the top 38.

But Perry also was in place for the Knicks' biggest disappointment last summer. The team built up more than $70 million in salary-cap space after trading Kristaps Porzingis during the season, and Perry openly talked about two stars coming in to remake the roster. Instead, the Knicks, coming off a 17-65 season, were unable to even land a meeting with the stars of that free-agent class and  settled for signing seven free agents who had little effect on the record.

The only plus from that class was that Mills and Perry signed six of the seven players to deals of just one guaranteed season, turning Marcus Morris into the Clippers’ first-round pick and retaining salary-cap flexibility — allowing Rose to oversee as much roster turnover as he would like this summer.

With Rose making the move from a long career as an agent to overseeing the Knicks' entire basketball operation, having a general manager with experience was paramount — whether it was Perry staying on or Rose bringing in someone to replace him. What the Knicks do have in Rose and Perry is a pair of well-connected executives after a long, dysfunctional tenure in which Phil Jackson ran the operation and Mills served under him.

Perry has served in team front offices for two decades. Before joining the Knicks, he  briefly served as the executive vice president of basketball operations for the Kings, spending just three months there after jumping from the Magic, for whom he was the vice president and assistant general manager for five seasons. Before that, he spent seven seasons with the Pistons as part of a staff that won an NBA title in 2004 and was with the Seattle SuperSonics as an assistant GM when they drafted Kevin Durant.

While the record has remained bleak in New York, his first task upon arriving was to calm the waters. He did that, starting a dialogue with Carmelo Anthony that allowed the Knicks to move the disgruntled star. The efforts to appease Porzingis (sending Fizdale to Latvia for a week) failed, though, and the Knicks will have the trade of the young star hanging over their head. But under Miller and after Mills' departure, the Knicks were without controversy as they headed down the stretch.

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