Leon Rose, holding a high-paying job with no previous experience, can raise his hand first at the Thanksgiving table.
There are many people, places and things that deserve his gratitude. For example, Rose might thank:
1) James Dolan
Whatever the reason, the Knicks owner feels more than cozy with Creative Artists Agency. Hence Rose, the former CAA agent, running Knicks basketball operations while helping many former CAA clients and friends get on the staff payroll.
2) The Garden Media Policy
Rose, who hasn’t appeared overly comfortable in front a microphone, can operate without the burden of public accountability since he never has to address the media. It’s been 15 months and counting since Rose talked to independent reporters. He leaves all questions for coach Tom Thibodeau and the players.
3) Future Draft Picks
Winning or hope are the forms of front-office security in the NBA, and Rose can sell the latter because of all those future picks in storage. At some point, Rose may be forced to use them. But not today!
4) Jalen Brunson
It was worth the tampering charge. If the NBA ever presents its evidence during a never-ending investigation, Brunson is also probably worth the punishment. Rose needed a hit in free agency after so many mistakes (ahem, Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Nerlens Noel). Brunson is delivering at nearly 21 points per game with 6.7 assists.
5) Tom Thibodeau
Coaches are the first shield for an executive against criticism, and Thibodeau is providing reliable cover while publicly backing all Rose’s roster moves. After all, it’s easier to replace the playcaller than the players. Almost every front office gets to a second coach. Rose can also thank his decision not to fire Thibodeau last season and elevate Kenny Payne, who went to coach Louisville and has been historically bad.
6) Steve Mills
We’ve been very critical of the front office predecessor but he actually built the team that represents Rose’s greatest achievement. Every starter from the Knicks’ pandemic 2020-21 playoff season was acquired under Mills’ watch. Now three years after Rose was hired, three of the five Knicks starters — Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson — were signed or drafted by Mills. Phil Jackson’s fingerprints, meanwhile, left with Frank Ntilikina.
7) The Gutsy/Sickly Road Trip
The season was already spiraling before that daunting five-game West trip last week, and the schedule might’ve pushed hands toward the panic button. Instead, the Knicks pulled out three upset victories while most of the starting lineup battled the flu. It alleviated pressure on Thibodeau and, by extension, Leon Rose.
We were assured the connections of Rose and his buddy William Wesley will attract superstars. The NBA’s best are going to force their way to the Knicks. Eventually, they will. Right? RIGHT??? The idea is still sellable while we wait.
9) The Nets
We know how much Dolan hates negative press. It’s a trigger. And right now, the Nets are soaking up all that toxic air. It’s unprecedented in Dolan’s tenure that the crosstown basketball owner is drawing more heat than himself. That’s good for Rose.
It’s still less than two months into the season. The Knicks are .500. The coach wasn’t punched by Matt Barnes. Jeff Hornacek and Joakim Noah didn’t try to strangle each other. Nobody went AWOL. There hasn’t been an impromptu postgame press conference. No reasons to panic. Enjoy the turkey.