An NBA investigation concluded that some New York Knicks staffers had been conducting illegal workouts with potential draft picks and fined the team $200,000, according to the New York Times. Rodney Heard, the scout in question, has been fined $20,000.
While that’s a fairly steep fine the Knicks did not lose any draft picks, which would be far more painful a punishment to the rebuilding franchise. Also there was no suspension of a coach, which also has happened in the past in similar situations.
While these workouts started under Isiah Thomas’ watch back in 2007 at least — and were done by a confidant of his — the league did not single Thomas out for punishment. For Knicks fans who like to worry, that means there is no impediment to Thomas being rehired by the Knicks. Well, other than logic. But no legal impediment.
The original story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo this past summer. It was that Heard, the Knicks director of East Coast scouting, conducted a number of workouts for draft picks before any predraft camps (a violation of league rules). That includes the one in May 2007 when then Kansas All-American Brandon Rush blew out his knee and needed surgery.
That report said illegal workouts had continued up through the most recent draft. Knicks GM Donnie Walsh has denied any knowledge of the workouts and Heard had been sidelined by the franchise.
The $200,000 fine falls in line with what was levied on other organizations that attended or conducted illegal workouts in the last decade.
The NBA has formally begun its investigation into the alleged improper pre-draft workouts conducted by the New York Knicks.
One possible upshot of this: Isiah Thomas could be suspended — in practice banned — from the Knicks. Oh, there would be dancing in the streets the likes of which has not been seen since Mick Jagger and David Bowie got together and butchered Dancing in the Streets.
Yahoo broke the workout story and Adrian Wojnarowski from there follows up the details.
(Knicks owner James) Dolan has come to understand the severity of the NBA’s investigation into the Knicks after Yahoo! Sports reported apparent illegal draft workouts under Thomas’ regime, sources say. And Dolan’s been livid over it. Rodney Heard, the Knicks scout at the center of the investigation, was Thomas’ guy all the way, and Heard is still involved with Thomas’ Florida International University program.
The NBA has enlisted an outside law firm to probe the circumstances of the workouts… Several teams want severe sanctions for the Knicks, because these charges dig to the heart of competitive balance and fairness. Beyond monetary fines and forfeiture of future draft picks for Donnie Walsh’s regime, league sources say any uncovering of Thomas’ possible complicity in potential violations could result in a suspension to be tacked onto his future return to the NBA.
As Woj points out, the seemingly delusional comments of Thomas last week about his time in New York were an effort to recast those years with an audience of one man — Dolan. But it appears that the one person who has been in Thomas’ corner, the man who kept him on after an $11.5 million sexual harassment settlement, who almost brought him back this past summer, that man is done with him. Dolan may wash his hands of Thomas as a person in the Knicks front office.
That might well be the end of Isiah Thomas in the NBA.
One month before a report surfaced saying a Knicks scout had been conducting improper pre-draft workouts, the team had already cut back his role.
And, as always with the Knicks, it comes back to Isiah Thomas, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
However, a Knicks source contends that Walsh decided to limit (Rodney) Heard’s role because the organization received information that Heard had advised at least one top high school prospect to consider enrolling at FIU, which is coached by Heard’s former boss, Isiah Thomas.
According to a Yahoo report, Heard has conducted improper pre-draft workouts for years and those included Wilson Chandler, who the Knicks drafted seemingly out of the blue. The league is investigating.
Chandler has denied taking part in these workouts and did so again yesterday.
So here we are, entering a third season with Walsh as the head man in the Knicks organization, yet still issues from the Thomas era haunt the team. And force discussions and league investigations. And loom like a cloud over the franchise because would it shock anyone if owner James Dolan once again tried to bring Thomas back into the organization (as he tried to do this summer as a consultant until it was pointed out that coaching a college team and being on an NBA payroll was a conflict).
One interesting note from the story is that Heard was one of the voices in the Knicks organization urging them to draft Brandon Jennings in 2009. The Knicks instead went with the player that coach Mike D’Antoni wanted, Jordan Hill. He is no longer with the team, and they really could have used Jennings.