Knicks president Leon Rose said Friday he was happy with how free agency played out, but didn’t sound like a man who is done shopping.
Breaking his 14-month media silence in a 40-minute chat with a small group of writers at the team’s Tarrytown complex, Rose said he’s thrilled 2021’s free agency established “continuity and flexibility’’ and feels the Knicks are in position to get even better. The Knicks finished 41-31, earning the fourth seed in the playoffs.
Rose, who hadn’t spoken publicly since introducing Tom Thibodeau as head coach on July 30, 2020, said the club will remain “aggressive.’’
Though they won’t have cap space in 2022, the Knicks still are attempting to make a blockbuster trade with a host of disgruntled stars potentially looming, including Damian Lillard, Zion Williamson, Ben Simmons and Karl-Anthony Towns, who was Rose’s former client at Creative Artists Agency.
“We’re gonna be aggressive as far as knowing what’s going on and as far as being on top of things and looking at opportunities,’’ Rose said. “But at the same time, we’re going to be prudent and disciplined in decisions that we make that are going to take into account positives and negatives, short term, long term, all those factors in a decision-making process.’’
That said, Rose thinks the Knicks will still take a step forward in 2021-22 after using their league-high cap space to net a new backcourt of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier and re-sign Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks.
“Last season was definitely a successful season,’’ Leon Rose said. “Most importantly for us, we built a foundation. Thibs did an incredible job building that culture and foundation. [Coach of the Year] was a very well deserved honor. I’m proud of that and proud of him.
“As we went into the summer, in order to build on last year, continuity and stability were two important factors in what we did. In doing all this, we’re always looking to get better and we want to remain flexible and we’ve done that.”
Rose noted the club has 15 draft picks across the next four drafts — including six first-rounders. Those are key assets in a potential big trade.
A key to the stability was inking All-Star Julius Randle to a long-term contract extension while bringing back Rose, Burk, Noel and Taj Gibson, the Knicks president said.
“We wanted to bring back the core leaders of the team,’’ Rose said, “Veteran leaders of the team that were free agents. To be able to bring back Derrick, heart and soul, his impact was obvious. He’s so important.
“Alec Burks, a guy who’s done it all for us, Swiss army knife, hit big shots. Noel, another guy who stepped in last year and did an incredible job for us, anchored our defense. Those three guys we got back on multi-year deals, continuing that continuity. And to bring back Taj Gibson, warrior, incredible professional.’’
Rose said he won’t “predict’’ when the Knicks will become NBA title contenders but Thibodeau said the first order of business is developing from within and winning to make the Knicks an attractive place to play.
“Now we have an All-Star [in Randle],’’ said Thibodeau, who hadn’t talked to the media since June’s Coach of the Year press conference. “So hopefully we can develop another one, or another guy can make that jump.
“But I think getting started as a team last year, getting credibility by the degree of how hard and how together we are, it makes it appealing for other people to look at us. But we have to win.’’
In hiring the right coach and structuring a club that broke a seven-season playoff drought, Rose has made a smooth transition from agent to executive.
“I think being an agent gives me a great perspective from the other side of the table and allows me to have a greater understanding of the things we come up against every single day and the way the other people think,’’ Rose said. “I think it’s a huge benefit.’’
Rose has taken offense that he prefers players from his old agency at CAA and from Kentucky because of his close ties to former client John Calipari.
“No doubt CAA has a lot of good players, Kentucky has a lot of good players,’’ Rose said. “As far as our decision-making, we’re going to make the best decisions for the team.
“And another benefit is — as much as we were competitors — I have a great relationship with a lot of agents and understand them. We’re going to deal with every single agency out there.’’
Rose joked about his silence, singling out a reporter he said probably knows the exact number of hours since he last spoke.
“I know you guys have been looking for me for over a year,’’ Rose said. “I was never one to be out in front in the media as an agent. I usually was behind the scenes. I’ve kind of taken that approach since I’ve been here. Thibs has done a great job being a spokesperson for us. That’s worked really well.’’
Credit: Notigroup Newsroom.
[This article may have been written with information from various sources]