I’ve spent a bunch of recent quaran-time pondering the general wide-lens state of our beloved and perpetually half-formed New York Knicks. Attempting to place an ambitious fingertip on the carotid pulse of this flabby and frayed mess of a franchise has long been a fool’s errand, but seems a necessary starting point in establishing some base level of certainty as to what these Knicks will look like in the future, where we will all, eventually, invest objectively too much post-quarantime-time shouting at large humans manipulating a hollow leather sphere into a hollow steel circle.
I guess what I’m craving most — unsurprisingly, given the degree of actual real-life unknown at the moment — is some kind of certainty. A halfway-foreseeable roadmap to whatever is next, Knicks-wise. The roadmap doesn’t have to work, necessarily, it just has to be a tangible and visible and lean-able-on thing. I want to get appropriately hyped about the roster without some screaming psychological alarm bell going off in my skull that, in fact, buddy, most Knick employees don’t stay Knick employees for long, so, you know, project into the unknown at your peril. I want to not have to temper enthusiasm as a reflex reaction to happy thoughts.
And so the pulse of Knick certainty I’m planting my flag and finger firmly on, the predictive principle through which I will run all theories of the future, is the never healthier pulse of CAA: the Creative Artists Agency.
Now, CAA-based Knickspiracy theories are well known; the Carmelo Anthony era generally, the Andrea Bargnani trade specifically, and surely most bizarrely, the curious wink-wink cup of seven-figure coffee with Chris Smith, brother and much inferior professional basketball player to J.R Smith. All occurred with various degrees of rumored and whispered-about CAA meddling.
Recently, though, this particular Knickspiracy has been rendered simultaneously moot and vitally important to the future of the franchise. Since Knicks owner James Dolan officially named CAA’s former co-head Leon Rose as the Knicks’ new Team President on March 2. With this announcement, the meddling has been mandated, the conspiracies coronated, the tea leaves publicly arranged.
Now, it seems, a weighty CAA flavor is the only thing I confidently know will define next season’s Knicks. So I’m leaning in — way in — to consider what exactly would constitute the most CAA-centric summer possible.
Leon has a lengthy to-do list; hire a new GM, hire a new head coach, decide how to spend a sizable wad of cash in an offseason of increasingly cash-strapped franchises, and finally decide how to use or who to choose with the Knicks’ three 2020 draft picks. He has about as blank a canvas as is artistically possible. And so what follows is a seven-step roadmap — which paints kind of a dark organizational picture, but is entirely plausible, and in increments even probable — with a finished product that I wouldn’t necessarily hate, roster-wise.
In fully surrendering to the hypothetical predictive power of CAA affiliation — and carefully consulting the in-some-ways-beautiful-but-mostly-just-menacing tea-leaved face of Leon Rose at the bottom of my morning breakfast brew — I expect the dominoes of New York Knicks CAA-ification to go something like this:
Allan Houston (a CAA client) is promoted to GM from his current position as Assistant to the GM whilst Scott Perry is accordingly demoted (but not fired) so as to appear to hold Allan’s inexperienced hand in making important decisions that absolutely have not already been made by hands further up the puppeting pyramid.
One of Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, or Kenny Atkinson (all CAA clients) will be hired by the public face, body and voice of Allan Houston, with nodding support from Scott Perry. Which of Thibs or Atkinson get the definitive nod will probably be determined by and indicative of star-shaped dominoes yet to be toppled. Mark Jackson, on the grounds that he is all-around awful in myriad ways, is never really considered a candidate. He is publicly kept in the running, though, to lure the head-coach-less Brooklyn Nets into putting the two unique characters of Jackson and Kyrie Irving in consistent close proximity, as a sort of experiment, just to see what happens.
Carmelo Anthony (the original CAA client) is signed for a familial number of dollars and possibly even years. This would make very little sense from a basketball standpoint, but would make a lot of symbolic sense. Interestingly, Knicks Film School’s Jeremy Cohen recently posed the following question to SNY’s Ian Begley on Twitter, “Scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being most likely, from the people you’ve spoken with, is Melo a Knick next season?” to which Ian responded, “I’d put Melo at an 8 or 8.5... just an educated guess”. I don’t know about you, but 80-85% is a smidge higher than the 0% I’d have valued a Melo return at pre-CAA/MSG merger.
Chris Paul (a CAA client) asks Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti to ship him to the Knicks, and Presti obliges, partly because he’s a class act and partly because after canvassing the league for alternative takers of CP3’s extortionate contract in a summer when the salary cap has taken a big hit, it’s his only option. The face, body and voice of Allan Houston tried to do everything he can to keep Julius Randle (a CAA client) out of the trade, but eventually gives up and sends the 25-year-old packing after only one solitary season of thrilling Knicks fans with a style of play of an uncanny likeness to a flushing toilet.
With their lottery pick in the 2020 draft, the Knicks take one of LaMelo Ball (a CAA client) or Tyrese Haliburton (a CAA client). The Knicks braintrust reasons this will be the last high pick the franchise has for a while, so target a point guard of the future to learn under the patient tutelage of point god Chris Paul, who will absolutely remain healthy throughout his last two seasons.
An opportunistic domino presents itself as Donovan Mitchell (a CAA client) requests a trade from the Utah Jazz and names the dominion of Leon Rose as his preferred destination. The Knicks trade everything of value and agency unaffiliated to get the deal done in a package centered around RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox and a casual fistful of first round picks.
This leaves a CAA core roster of: Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, Frank Ntilikina (who was a CAA client, and is smart and handsome and will read the tea-leaves and rectify his error), Carmelo Anthony and one of Ball/Haliburton.
Elfrid Payton (a CAA client) is retained (because Scott Perry was getting upset) but is definitively designated non-core.
The roster is filled out with assorted acceptable agency affiliates who are surprisingly affordable, because by some stroke of genius, Mitchell’s rookie extension hasn’t kicked in yet, so CP’s anvil deal is the only large contract on the roster. They spend the bulk of the money on Meyers Leonard and Danilo Gallinari before rounding out the roster with former fan favorites Ron Baker and Lance Thomas (all of whom are, of course, CAA clients).
The unaffiliated young trio of Ignas Brazdeikis, Kenny Wooten, and Lamar Peters are, after much hand-wringing and chin-scratching in a lengthy meeting at an undisclosed MSG/CAA conference room, allowed to stay, controversially, on the grounds that they are young and good at basketball. Steve Stoute, the Knicks’ public relations pawn, is present, and sweats a lot. A man named Wes, whose influence and words carry weight globally, across continents, from pole to pole, who most people have heard of but never seen, is also present. He’s very important.
Of course, I know, I’ll admit it’s impossible to say how much a CAA stamp will inform the Knicks personnel decisions under Leon Rose, who for all we know could be a beacon of objectivity moving forward. But, as vacancies are filled, roster moves made, and rumors retweeted; it would not be shocking to see a pattern of representation emerge. We’ve known for years that CAA runs the Knicks, and, now that they literally run the Knicks, how surprising would some iteration of these seven steps actually be?