On Sunday, reclusive Knicks president Leon Rose conducted just his third public interview since taking the job more than two years ago, and he chose the friendly confines of Knicks-owned MSG Network to do it. No risk of facing a battery of hard questions following a disappointing 37-45 season in this setting (with all due respect to Mike Breen).
Still, some of his answers were illuminating. Here is what Rose said, via Ian Begley of SNY.TV.
• On Julius Randle, the big man’s struggles this season and his demeanor on the court (including giving the fans a thumbs down at one point).
“Things happened on the court, we saw some emotion coming out, saw some things happening. I think it affected his play at times. He felt remorseful for some of those things, as he expressed to the fans in his letter he sent. He kept working and worked through it to the end of the season…
“(He) was just not comfortable at times. It was just not being comfortable. He gave it his best effort. The three-point shot just didn’t go like last year and you had teams keying on him more this year. At the end he made some adjustments. He carried the burden. I was proud of the fact he did fight through it.”
Maybe most importantly, Rose also said Randle told him he wanted to stay in New York, refuting a report he had asked for a trade. Saying the player doesn’t want a trade is different from saying Rose wouldn’t trade him (teams did call at the deadline), but Randle’s trade value is at an all-time low after this season, making it more likely he is back than that not.
• Rose had the back of coach Tom Thibodeau, who was one of Rose’s first hires as president.
“As far as Thibs performance goes, I mean, again, he’s one of the best coaches in the NBA. So obviously none of us are happy with the results this year. But he’s a guy who prepares our team better than anybody. I feel that he’s done a good job under the circumstances.”
While there had been rumors (and maybe some wishful thinking from Knicks fans) that Thibodeau could be in trouble, the most trusted reports are Thibodeau will return to coach the team next season. Now if that season doesn’t start well, all bets are off.
• Rose spoke glowingly of the young stars on the Knicks — RJ Barrett stepped up this season and is now the heart of the team’s offense — and continued to talk of being patient building the Knicks. Rose, to his credit, has not made the kind of impulsive trade for an aging big-money superstar that has characterized previous Knicks regimes (and the entire Dolan ownership era). Rose emphasized New York as 13 picks over the next three drafts and that he wants to build things one block at a time.
However, if the chance to bring in a young/in his prime superstar presents itself, that’s when Rose has to take his swing. So far he has laid off the bad pitches and not panicked after a down season, but there need to be more concrete signs of the franchise moving forward — meaning wins — in the coming season. Or it might not be just the coach’s seat that gets warm.