Despite his place as one of the power players in the NBA for decades, Leon Rose rarely has put himself on center stage, willing to work in the background for his clients as one of the premier agents in the NBA.
So it is little surprise that as the stars converged on Chicago for All-Star Weekend, Rose was noticeably out of the spotlight.
Reporters from other cities and even executives wondered where he was and when he will emerge in his new role as the president of the Knicks.
There seems to be little reason to rush him into the role. The trade deadline has passed and the Knicks are completing a march to the finish of another disappointing season, carrying a 17-38 record into the break.
There was only one Knicks player on hand this weekend, rookie RJ Barrett, who played in the Rising Stars Challenge. Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan was in town for a place on the panel at the Tech Summit. But Rose is the one who holds the key to the Knicks’ hopes of turning around the franchise, and he was in the shadows.
While he finalizes the paperwork to close out his time as an agent and make the transition to the front office, rumors were flowing through Chicago faster than the freezing waters of the river dissecting the city.
The first and most vital move for Rose is naming a general manager. That role is still occupied by Scott Perry, but he is not expected to survive the purge of the latest incarnation of the Knicks’ rebuilding plans. Coach David Fizdale was ousted in December and team president Steve Mills followed last month. A source said Perry is not expected to last beyond his contract, which ends after this season.
The GM is a crucial part of the plan, given that Rose has no experience actually running a franchise, and names have begun to flicker through the rumor mill.
Artūras Karnišovas’ name has been floated by multiple sources, but the Nuggets’ general manager signed a contract extension last summer and the Knicks would need permission to speak to him and possibly compensation to obtain him. An SNY report said some around the league believe long-time Hornets GM Rich Cho is under consideration.
Whoever gets it likely will shoulder a large role as Rose acclimates himself to his new position. While the Knicks could have sought out an established team president such as the Raptors’ Masai Ujiri, the Trail Blazers’ Neil Olshey or the Thunder’s Sam Presti, they quickly moved to hire Rose — following the model set by the likes of the Warriors’ Bob Myers, the Lakers’ Rob Pelinka and the Pistons’ Arn Tellem as agents-turned-executives.
“The flavor of the month or the flavor of the year right now is this new prototype. And there was a time when it was young techies. And now we’ve gone to another,” Jerry Colangelo told reporters Friday at the Hall of Fame announcement. “It’s just like coaching or style of play. Somebody starts winning with shooting threes and running up and down the court, and all of a sudden, everybody copies that because of success. You follow success. And there have been success stories with this new model, so that’s the flavor of the month. There will be a new one. I don’t know when.”
One cautionary tale for the agent model is this: Myers was not running the show when the Warriors made the picks of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green that set them up as champions. And Pelinka was struggling until LeBron James opted to head to Los Angeles.
“Leon is my guy. He’s like family to me,” Joel Embiid said. “When I heard the news, I was happy for him. He’s cool. Being an agent for such a long time and getting a GM or president job I think is amazing. I’m so happy for him. I’m sure he’ll do a good job over there.”
When Kyrie Irving spoke earlier this season about the Nets needing more pieces next season to compete for a title — in addition to a healthy return for Kevin Durant — Spencer Dinwiddie had an idea of what it would mean for another star to join Irving and Durant.
“Quite honestly, if that’s the case and we’re trying to get another star, I probably won’t be here,” Dinwiddie said.
When it was pointed out that Irving said the need was for another piece, not another superstar, Dinwiddie seemed relieved.
“I’m not really part of the roster decisions,” he said. “So I just try to win the games with people that suit up that night. So I’m not necessarily privy to the inner workings of that. Whatever happens happens. That star thing scared me because for us to get a star, that means me and some picks are gone.”
Breen put in Hall
While the Knicks have struggled not just this season but for much of the last two decades, the team got a win in a sense Friday when longtime broadcaster Mike Breen was named the winner of the Curt Gowdy Award and earned a place in the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Breen has served as the play-by-play man for the Knicks for 28 seasons — dating to the successes at the start of his career and many losses in the last few years. He said he’s enjoyed all of it.
Breen has not only been the voice of the Knicks but has served as the lead broadcaster for ABC and ESPN. Now he has been recognized as one of the greats of the game.
“You don’t even think about it,” he said. “To me, the job broadcasting these amazing players is the ultimate reward. Some of these gentlemen, some in the stands here, I always thought it was a privilege just to be calling their game. To get an award for it is overwhelming.”