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.
In the wake of a report yesterday claiming a Knicks scout has conducted improper predraft workouts for several years, the league is now investigating the situation. That’s not a surprise, but the New York Post has confirmed it.
Meanwhile, Wilson Chandler — one of the players the Knicks allegedly worked out improperly back in 2007, and a player the team drafted that summer near the end of the first round — once again denied he was involved in those workouts. He did that to Howard Beck of the New York Times Wednesday, as he did to Yahoo in the original report.
Chandler could become the center and most serious part of the situation because the Knicks did draft him. New York selected him, No. 23 overall, after his agent cancelled official workouts with a number of teams claiming a sprained ankle.
The Post reports there were no formal workouts with the Knicks and Chandler in 2007. Chandler told Beck he worked out two times in New York. The Yahoo report claims there were improper workouts before draft camp in Atlanta, something Heard also denies.
There’s a lot on the line — jobs for one. Specifically those of Knicks East Coast scout Rodney Heard (who reportedly ran the workouts) and Vice President Glen Grunwald.
The league could go so far as to take draft picks away from the Knicks if the investigation proves the misdeeds. Not that the Knicks have a lot of picks to take anymore.
Meanwhile, the prevailing sentiment in New York is that this all flows back to Isiah Thomas, the man who hired both Heard and Grunwald. Someday the Knicks will not be able to blame all their problems on Thomas, but we are not there yet.
The Knicks have tried desperately to escape their recent past, but it comes back to haunt them again and again.
The latest — a Knicks scout and confidant of Isiah Thomas has run improper pre-draft workouts for the past four years, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.
Knicks director of East Coast scouting Rodney Heard coordinated and conducted the sessions, three players who were involved in some of the workouts told Yahoo! Sports – including one May 2007 session that resulted in a devastating knee injury to Kansas All-American Brandon Rush(notes). A tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in Rush’s right knee forced him to withdraw from the 2007 draft and required surgery plus six months of rehabilitation.
In addition to the Rush session – which was an apparent violation of NBA bylaws forbidding teams from working out players before the annual predraft camp – Heard may have broken more rules by conducting predraft workouts with additional players during restricted time periods in 2007 and for excessive sessions in 2009 and 2010.
That goes up through this year with workouts involving Ekpe Udoh and Tory Jackson (a Notre Dame player who went undrafted) according to the report.
Heard denied everything, saying it was all lies (but the report has multiple people at these workouts saying they did take place). Thomas could not be reached for comment. Current team president Donnie Walsh denied all knowledge of these workouts.
This is big.
The league is going to investigate itself, but this report lays out the path and the people to talk to and will likely lead to some kind of sanctions against the Knicks. There have been front office suspensions and lost draft picks in the past, on much smaller incidents.
This could lead to the forfeiting of draft picks the Knicks have. And they don’t have those to spare thanks to Thomas, who traded away so many that the Knicks can’t trade a pick until 2014.
The Knicks do have a first rounder this season (they can’t trade it because you can’t trade first round picks in consecutive years) and that is the kind of thing that could be forfeited under penalties, further setting back rebuilding efforts.
Two steps up and one step back for the Knicks.