With just two days before the NBA trade deadline, the New York Knicks decided to part ways with team president Steve Mills. The firing isn't the unusual part, considering the downtrodden history of the Knicks over the past decade. However, the timing of the move is what makes it peculiar. Teams across the league are trying to make trades to make a push for the playoffs, or sell off pieces to plan for the future, the Knicks will be making moves without someone in charge of basketball operations, but they do have someone in mind to fill that role.
Knicks owner James Dolan has been very open in his quest to sway Toronto Raptors executive Masai Ujiri to come run the organization in New York, and that looks to still be the plan after firing Mills, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. One major hitch in that plan, though, is the fact that Ujiri is under contract with the Raptors until 2021, and according to Wojnarowski, the Knicks are hesitant to give up draft compensation to the Raptors to get him.
Even though Ujiri is at the top of New York's list, Dolan has reportedly already began the interview process, and has had conversations with one unnamed candidate, per Wojnarowski. By already beginning the interview process with other candidates, it's clear that the Knicks either don't want to take the time to work out a deal to try and get Ujiri in New York, or they want to have a few back-up options in case they don't land their prized possession. However, the Knicks aren't exactly known for having back-up plans when their first choice never materializes.
It's no surprise why the Knicks would be interested in Ujiri; just look at what he's done in Toronto. He's responsible for building last season's championship team, and Dolan probably thinks that he could do the same in New York. When it was reported in December that the Knicks were "obsessed" with Ujiri, the thinking was that in order to land him, Dolan would likely have to take a step back from making decisions for the Knicks, giving Ujiri full autonomy of the team.
That's a big ask for an owner who has never shown the ability to concede power to anyone. However, that might be what it takes to get Ujiri on board with the Knicks. That and, of course, a lot of money. In that same report, Ujiri was reportedly "intrigued" by the Knicks position, but he would reportedly request full control of the basketball operations without Dolan or anyone else meddling. Ujiri's interest in the Knicks position could've changed since then, and who knows, New York could hire someone else before even talking to Ujiri about the possibility of joining the franchise. Going into the trade deadline, Dolan and Scott Perry will likely be making the decisions, hoping to make improvements for what has been another disastrous season for New York.