Live your life with the confidence of New York Knicks owner James Dolan. There is truly nothing this man does not believe of himself. Is he the most respected business magnate in the NYC area? Just try to tell him something different. Can he sing the hell out of the moody blues on any given night in America? Oh, you betcha. Will he hire who he likes, whenever he likes, to help shepherd his basketball empire? Well now hold on a minute.
First, in the middle of the night, this bombshell:
Knicks and President Phil Jackson are expected to announce that they're parting ways early Wednesday morning, sources told ESPN.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 28, 2017
Despite being hailed as a saviour upon his return to the franchise where he had once made his name as a player, Jackson’s run as president of the Knicks has tumbled along a series of misadventures that beggar belief (even for the Knicks). He’s signed terrible, over-the-hill players to bad contracts, made monumentally bad trades, and stranded multiple coaches with his antiquated Triangle offense. In all things, the former Zen master has been anything but cool.
The lone bright spot for Knicks fans — a misbegotten lot, to be sure — has been young star-in-the-making Kristaps Porzingis. The Latvian giant has been such a bright spot for New York that when it looked as if he was showing up Jackson — e.g. skipping his exit interview — Phil immediately admitted he is open to trading Kristaps. Because of course he would. Truly only Jackson could rival Dolan in a contest for “Most Self-Confident Man in the World.”
Still, the real thorn in Jackson’s side all along was franchise star Carmelo Anthony, he of the no-trade clause. It was clear from the start the two of them were never going to get along, not with Anthony’s desire to play basketball one way, and Jackson’s (overly vocal) desire to play another. That it came down to a choice between Jackson and Carmelo, and the Knicks chose Melo, is quite remarkable. But it also felt vaguely inevitable. This was the most Knicks-ian way for this fiasco to end — especially when we note that the Knicks opted to pick-up the next year on Jackson’s contract before deciding it was time to fire him.
So, Jackson is out, Melo stays in New York, and Dolan, the confident super hero of his own story, is back on the beat looking for a man to run his team. That’s where the Raptors come in.
The delightful rumour of the morning, brought to you of course by Woj, centres on these two jamokes (Phil and James), and a legitimate super genius mastermind who is probably chaffing at the mere idea of being placed in the same sentence as them.
Knicks owner James Dolan is targeting Toronto's Masai Ujiri to replace Phil Jackson as N.Y.'s President, league sources tell @TheVertical.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 28, 2017
Now, you have to hand it to Dolan. He remembers. It is lodged firmly in his mind that Ujiri was the guy who traded Carmelo to New York in the first place, kicking off this whole mess. Dolan presumably reads the papers (or has them read to him), so he knows too that the Denver Nuggets, Masai’s old team, categorically “won” that trade, draining New York of all its assets going forward, and rebuilding on the fly. The Knicks have only tasted the playoffs a few times in the Melo era, and only once have they gone to the second round. Dolan must know all this, even from his perch in his ivory tower, even while he attempts to drown out all self-knowledge by blasting the strains of his vanity project blues band.
Dolan also must remember that insane trade Ujiri talked him into featuring Andrea Bargnani and multiple first round picks. Or as we like to call it in Toronto: the greatest trade of all time thank you god I can’t believe it holy shit fuck yeaaaaaaaah.
While I am not a mind-reader or a psychologist, it feels safe to say: yes, presumably Dolan is still smarting over that one.
Anyway, since Dolan is the most confident man on the face of the Earth, and he knows that Masai Ujiri is very good at his job, it makes sense for him to boldly state that he will “target” Ujiri to replace Jackson as the president of the Knicks. Because who wouldn’t want to drop everything and run to New York to work for a franchise as glorious as the Knicks? I mean, the mere idea of some counterpoint to this question simply warps the mind, amirite? Dolan’s surety in this matter knows no bounds — and he always gets his man.
Unfortunately, reality exists. The best thing Masai has going for him right now in Toronto is his ownership situation. Do you even know the name of the guy who signs Masai’s cheques? The man in charge at mega-corporation MLSE? Does he have any personality at all beyond the boardrooms that we never see? The answer to these questions is: Michael Friisdahl, and no, he does not. The wildest thing we know about him is that he has back-to-back I’s in his name. (Er, OK, Friisdahl’s company at the time did deals with Apartheid-era South Africa; is it hot in here or is it just me? Moving on.)
My point here is that Ujiri does not have to spend his days thwarting the outspoken efforts of some dumb billionaire who wants to play with his toys. As such, the Raptors have had one of the most stable management systems in the league. Yes, even after Tim Leiweke — making a surprise appearance in New York, as per official statement! — was quietly pushed out, Masai has kept right on working to shape the culture of the Raptors in the way he sees fit. It’s been a challenge, obviously, but one that he can take credit for right to the end. Do you really think Ujiri is going to give that all up so he can read his name in the papers next to that of James gotdamn Dolan? Get real.
So, while I’m not sure if or when Masai will actually comment on this little tidbit, I like to imagine his response will be heard far and wide across Toronto: the loudest laugh ever recorded.
Dream big James, you tremendously sheltered man, aim for whichever target you truly desire. There’s never been anyone quite as confident than you.