The Knicks may be dysfunctional, but they still could be attractive to a top executive — mostly because of the money. But many top names have lost their reputations at the Garden, so it’s a risk. Here’s a list of candidates — some of whom may want to make the leap after getting small-market wages.
Masai Ujiri: Knicks owner James Dolan has had a yen for Ujiri ever since he was with Denver and outsmarted the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011. Ujiri’s brilliant handling of the Raptors — firing Dwane Casey, trading for Kawhi Leonard, adding Marc Gasol at the trade deadline — led to the 2019 NBA championship. The NBA wants Masai in New York. Ujiri has told confidants he’d be intrigued by the New York exposure, but the truth is money is a factor, too. It’s all about draft compensation and timing as he’s under contract through the 2020-21 season.
Sam Presti: Somehow, the longtime Oklahoma City GM — despite looking at a long rebuild after trading Russell Westbrook and Paul George — has the Thunder at 30-20 — sixth in the Western Conference. That’s because of the culture the meticulous Presti has built. He’s a perfectionist and even edits their team magazine, according to a source. He takes almost every player who arrives in town to a tour of the memorial in Oklahoma City almost immediately to make them feel part of the community. He’s elite, big into analytics, though blundered by trading for Carmelo Anthony and giving the Knicks the 35th-overall pick in 2018, which turned into Mitchell Robinson.
Neil Olshey: The Blazers leader and former Clippers executive is originally from Flushing. According to sources, Olshey has never been enamored living in a small-market town. He was once an aspiring soap-opera actor and has the flair to run the Knicks.
Arturas Karenisovas: The Nuggets GM played in Europe and has helped with talent accumulation in Denver. He nearly got the Nets job that went to Sean Marks.
Kevin Pritchard: The Pacers GM has kept the club thriving. His trade of Paul George netted two future All-Stars in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Pritchard might crave a new challenge.
RC Buford: The sensational GM still with a small-market salary in San Antonio has been genius at managing the salary cap to continue the Spurs’ playoff excellence and recently got bumped to a CEO-type position. He’s made a Hall of Fame tandem with Gregg Popovich. Would he want to risk his sterling reputation for a big payday? Probably not.
Austin Brown: Dolan is intrigued with the new model of hiring agents as GMs, and Brown has climbed to the top of the mammoth CAA agency. Brown has D’Angelo Russell on his client list and the point guard could be available in a trade again this summer.
Rich Kleiman: Kevin Durant’s manager has had a lifelong dream to run the Knicks. Though he failed to bring KD to the Garden, his presence and all his connections could make the Knicks “cool’’ again.
Rich Paul: He’s the most famous agent out there — managing the careers of LeBron James and Anthony Davis and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated last season.
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