There Is Absolutely No Chance Masai Ujiri Comes to the Knicks

Liam McKeone
Masai Ujiri and Doris Burke
Masai Ujiri and Doris Burke / Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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The New York Knicks fired President of Basketball Operations Steve Mills on Tuesday. The move comes about two months after the team fired head coach David Fizdale. They are a bad basketball team this year, sitting at 15-36 and firmly entrenched in the middle of the lottery. But nobody expected much more; after they whiffed on every big free agent this past offseason, the youth movement was on, and while the team wouldn't be very good, at least they'd develop guys like RJ Barrett.

James Dolan apparently expected much more from the team, hence the firings of two of the most important people in the organization. He seems to believe his problems can be solved by one man-- Masai Ujiri. The Knicks have been rumored to be interested in Ujiri for quite some time, and now that they have an open position at the top of the franchise, those rumors have significantly more merit. Adrian Wojnarowski reports Dolan is targeting Ujiri to take over New York's basketball operations.

It's all just so very Knicks. Fire the head of your basketball operations days before a trade deadline that could define your immediate future after firing your head coach in December for not being able to create a respectable product out of a bunch of 21-year-olds and Julius Randle, and then go after the best executive in basketball as a band-aid for all your past and future sins. Brilliant!

Except for this one tiny, itty-bitty problem: there is no chance in hell Ujiri leaves Toronto, especially to go to the New York Knicks.

Those who want to believe this is realistic will point out that nobody expected Ujiri to leave Denver right after winning Executive of the Year in 2013. And that's a fair point! If he can make one surprising move, there's a chance he can make another.

But the circumstances are not, shall we say, exactly the same. Ujiri elevated himself to god status forever by bringing the Raptors their first-ever NBA championship with one of the riskiest trades in league history. He's a cult hero who could make five straight years of bad decisions and still be revered throughout an entire country. Two of the biggest contributors for that team (and this year's squad), Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, were unheralded prospects that Ujiri and his scouting team found all on their own.

The Nuggets lost in the first round of that year's playoffs to the Warriors, and were not exactly stacked with blue-chip prospects. The year after Ujiri left, Denver finished 36-48. They were a good but not great team. Siakam has the makings of a future star, and even newcomers like undrafted free agent Terrence Davis looks like he's better than anybody currently on the Knicks' roster.

What's the draw to leave? New York is a city of its own stature, but it comes along with working for Dolan. The only even slightly logical reason for Ujiri to leave is if he's one of those people who is always looking for the next big challenge-- and there very well may be no greater challenge in basketball than resurrecting the Knicks. If Ujiri got complete, total, and utter control over every aspect of the organization in pursuit of that goal, then maybe he'd take the job.

But there's no way Dolan would agree to that. And if he did, how could Ujiri trust him to give him the adequate time needed for such a comprehensive organizational overhaul? Whatever you might say about Dolan, he's definitely not patient.

So, sorry, Knicks fans. This is just another pipe dream.

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