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Who is now running the draft for the Knicks?

Drafted: 1st round, No. 15 overall At least

Drafted: 1st round, No. 15 overall
At least the Knicks took Weis before "Le dunk de la mort." Of course, the Knicks also took Weis while St. John's star and Queensbridge native Ron Artest was still available. Oops.
Impact: Miss Photo Credit: AP

 Twelve years ago, after Ernie Grunfeld lost his power struggle with Jeff Van Gundy, the Knicks went into the 1999 NBA Draft with an interim general manager, who decided to leave a certain forward from St. John's in the green room and instead selected a French stiff named Frederic Weis with the 15th overall pick.

Technically, Donnie Walsh is still in charge, with Glen Grunwald named interim GM for the time after Walsh's contract expires on June 30. Those concerned that Walsh would sabotoge the Knicks draft in spite don't know the man at all. (But expect the Weis references if a player like Donatas Montiejunas falls to No. 17).

All of the team's influential scouts who will have input in the decision -- Rodney Heard, Mark Hughes, Misho Ostarcevic -- are also working on contracts that expire at the end of June. Even Mark Warkentien, who was brought into the fold in February, is on a short-term deal that is up at the same time. 

Of the influential voices in the war room on draft night, only Grunwald and Mike D'Antoni will be under contract beyond July 1. 

Precarious? Yes, when you consider the Disaster of '99, when Ed Tapscott decided to take a risk rather than go with the simple, fan-friendly choice in Ron Artest on a major decision that impacted the franchise for years. 

Optimists may prefer to hope Walsh is more like Dick McGuire in 1987, when the longtime team scout was put in charge of the draft after GM Scotty Stirling was fired and before Al Bianchi was hired. McGuire, bless his soul, went with Mark Jackson. 

As we wrote in the analysis for today's Newsday, stability is so critical for this franchise right now. With that in mind, I was told by multiple sources that two of the most secure figures in the front office right now are Warkentien and assistant GM Allan Houston. Both are certain to be back with the franchise next season. Grunwald, too, is safe and his obvious connection to Isiah Thomas -- they've known each other since grade school -- sets off alarms. But Grunwald has earned an appreciation within the organization because of his administrative skills and knowledge of the collective bargaining agreement. Personnel decisions, however, are not his forte.

Could this be the triumverate to run the team going forward? Perhaps, though thrusting Houston into a prominent role as, say, team president, is not likely. Warkentien has the most experience among any of the potential candidates and, of course, you can't overlook his affiliation as a CAA client. 

But there are other strong choices available, especially former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard, who is very much on the radar, I'm told.

In the meantime, expect Warkentien, who was seen at a lot of college games this past season, to emerge as the strongest voice when it comes to the final decision in the draft. 

* * *

* - Speaking of the draft, while all hell broke loose on Friday, the Knicks held another predraft workout at the MSG Training Center, with one noteable name, Kansas guard Josh Selby, whom several mock drafts have being selected by the Knicks.

Selby was a high school star from Baltimore and developed a relationship with Carmelo Anthony, who, like Thursday, was in attendance for Friday's workout. Selby has the potential to be a sleeper in this draft, but was unimpressive as a freshman at Kansas and has scouts questioning his ability to play within a team concept. Selby, of course, is trying to disprove those criticisms.

"I'm trying to show that I can play both positions," Selby told Newsday's James Crepea regarding the point and shooting guard spots. "I can play-make and I can score if I need to."

He later added, "People know I can play basketball, I just had a bad year at Kansas. I just try to better my game and show people that Kansas, that just happened. That wasn't the real me there. It was the injury. Once I hurt my foot I never could get back 100 percent."

Selby missed the first nine games of the season because of an NCAA violation and then suffered a stress reaction in his right foot during practice in early February, but only missed a few games. He said Bill Self told him to shut it down for the season but Selby wouldn't. "The competitiveness inside me couldn't sit down knowing I can at least give it 70 percent," he said, "so I never got 100 percent."

That also sounds like Selby had no intention on playing another year of college basketball.

Another prospect at the workout was Tobias Harris, an intriguing 6-9 forward who is from Long Island. Harris has the skill set to fit into D'Antoni's system, but with Carmelo in place, he doesn't quite fill a need.

Harris did say he grew up a Knicks fan, though when asked who his Knick heroes were growing up he was quiet blunt.

"I didn't have too many heroes because, you know, the Knicks weren't too good until these last couple of years," he said.

At least he's honest.

* - The next round of workouts, scheduled for Monday, have a few notables, including 6-3 guard Shelvin Mack from Butler (gritty, smart and a good defender) and Jeremy Tyler, the 6-11 center from San Diego who left high school as a junior to play professionally overseas. Tyler spent the past two years playing in Israel and Japan and is now draft-eligible.

 

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