A basketball lifer, New York Knicks general manager Scott Perry
was no stranger to long hours and circuitous road trips. But not
even he could’ve known that he’d fall in love in Los Angeles.
Merely months after being hired to his post, in 2018, Perry
accompanied the Knicks on a January road trip to L.A.
It ended up being quite consequential — just like most of the
moves made on his watch.
As the Knicks prepare to make their first playoff appearance
since 2013, credit has rightfully been in abundance. From Leon Rose
and William Wesley to Tom Thibodeau, RJ Barrett and, of course,
Julius Randle, the national media has bestowed praise upon the
But of all the names that have been associated with the team’s
turnaround, nary a soul mentions Perry, the one who set off the
chain of events that brought the team where it is and the one who
is in the final year of his contract.
Indeed, Perry fell in love in Los Angeles.
In Tinseltown, the lights shine quite brightly, and Randle knew
Hungry for an opportunity to call a franchise his own, when
Kristaps Porzingis checked him on the first possession of the
afternoon, the lefty knew that it was feeding time.
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton called Randle’s
number, and the big man took residence in his office on the right
elbow. With Porzingis on his back, Randle received an entry pass
from Tyler Ennis. He felt Porzingis leaning to his right, so Randle
gave a subtle jab before spinning to his left. All he needed was a
He threw down a thunderous two-handed dunk, as he wore Porzingis
like a shirt. It was the first of 27 points on what was a long day
at the office for the Knicks. Randle led the Lakers to a 20-point
That night at Staples Center — Jan. 21, 2018 — Perry was among
those in the Knicks’ contingent that spent some quality time with
Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, sources
told BasketballNews.com. Long an ally of the front office in New
York, Johnson tipped his hand and foretold a scenario in which Los
Angeles may not re-sign the big man.
Perry was all ears.
After LeBron James opted to take his talents West a few months
later, Randle, frustrated by a lack of opportunity, requested that
the Lakers renounce his rights so he could pursue his potential
elsewhere. They did, and perhaps ironically, it was Anthony Davis’
recruitment that helped steer Randle to New Orleans.
Randle enjoyed a career-year during which Davis himself asked
out of New Orleans, and the Pelicans improbably won the draft
lottery. For Randle, that meant splitting time with Zion
Williamson. No thanks.
The big man packed his aspirations back into his bags and opted
to take his mighty shoulders back into free agency. Being
proactive, Perry had learned that Kevin Durant wouldn’t be coming
to the Knicks as hoped, and the GM became determined to not let the
lefty slip through his fingers again.
Rather than sulking, prior to free agency officially beginning,
Perry began making arrangements so that the Knicks’ first
free-agency meeting was with Randle. As they did in 2018, he
grabbed a small contingent that included former president of
basketball operations Steve Mills and former head coach David
Fizdale, and plopped them on a plane to Los Angeles.
By the time free agency officially began, New York was in L.A.,
sitting across the table from Randle and his agent, Aaron Mintz.
From their first meeting, Randle understood exactly what was being
asked of him, and it was music to his ears. According to one
source, he agreed to join the Knicks “on the spot,” although the
details of what eventually became a partially-guaranteed three-year
deal worth $63 million had to be ironed out.
Perry may not deserve credit for Randle blossoming into an
All-Star and a cornerstone — he wasn’t in the gym shooting shots
with the lefty — but he does deserve credit for the decisive pivot
that brought the Knicks to Randle’s doorstep when free agency
began. Just like he deserves credit for doubling down on the
decision to stay put at No. 3 in the 2019 NBA Draft.
According to one Knicks source, several members of the team’s
scouting department advocated for trading down; the belief in
Barrett wasn’t unanimous. According to the source, the Knicks had
“multiple opportunities” to exercise trades for the third pick that
would’ve yielded multiple picks within the first 15. The Atlanta
Hawks owned the eighth and 10th overall selections, while other
teams, including the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards, had
opportunities to execute deals that would have netted the Knicks
additional draft capital.
Among the players Perry was urged to consider targeting in those
trade-back scenarios, according to the source, were Darius Garland
and Cam Reddish.
“Sure, it ended up being a ‘no brainer,’ but there were multiple
opportunities to trade down and get two top-15 picks,” the source
said. “Scouts in the organization wanted to trade down, but [Perry]
felt strongly about RJ. Scott gave them opportunities to sell him,
but he ultimately decided to stay put.
“Scott knew there was no way Barrett would allow himself to
A little more than three years after Perry saw Randle that
fateful afternoon at Staples Center, Randle is now wearing orange
and blue and leading a revival. But it’s New York’s future that — for
the first time in a long time — appears bright.
Shortly after Perry took over in New York, he sat down with
Carmelo Anthony and attempted to smooth things over with the future
Hall-of-Famer. Anthony told Perry that he wanted a fresh start and
that Houston was his destination of choice. New York drew a line in
the sand with then-Rockets general manager Daryl Morey — Eric
Gordon, Trevor Ariza and multiple future draft picks, including at
least one first. The Rockets were willing to send Ryan Anderson to
New York and some future draft considerations, but no
Perry stood his ground, and eventually got Anthony to buy in on
a trade that sent him to Oklahoma City. The Knicks maintained
future cap flexibility by not taking on any long-term deals, while
also netting the second-round draft pick that eventually became
Mitchell Robinson. Although out for the remainder of the season,
Robinson is one of the team’s more promising prospects, and with a
$1.8 million team option for next season, he is signed to one of
the most team-friendly deals in the entire league — a deal that
Perry’s front office negotiated.
And when the time came to deal Porzingis, Perry made the
unpopular move to trade the fan favorite after it became clear that
Porzingis no longer wanted to be in New York. The cap space that
resulted from that trade — aside from being used to sign Randle —
also yielded Marcus Morris, who would eventually be traded for the
pick that became Immanuel Quickley.
In other words, the Porzingis trade directly led the Knicks to
Randle, Quickley and two first-round draft pick credits, the first
of which will vest this year, unprotected.
Like any other general manager, some of the moves that were made
on Perry’s watch haven’t exactly panned out — drafting Kevin Knox
among them. But in relatively short order, after taking over in New
York, Perry had to trade his team’s best player twice.
Improving a roster while doing that is incredibly difficult. Yet,
here the Knicks are.
There’s never one reason for anything in the NBA. A tough loss,
a great win, a Finals appearance, a lottery showing — there are
always multiple reasons why things go right or wrong.
To put it simply: Perry deserves some credit for where the
Knicks are today, and truth be told, he hasn’t gotten it.
When one takes a look at the roster that the club will bring
into the 2021 NBA Playoffs, four of the team's starters — Randle,
Barrett, Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock — were acquired by the
As Coach Thibodeau and his newly-minted All-Star improbably vie
for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, without question,
Rose and Wesley are in possession of a promising situation in New
York — a young, talented and hard-working team, cap-friendly
contracts, cap space and future draft assets.
For the first time in a long time, it’s easy to imagine what the
Knicks would look like if free agents once again consider them a
destination. Could they land one of the top players in this
upcoming class such as Lonzo Ball, John Collins or Lauri
In New York, it’s okay to believe in the future again.
But it’s important to remember that the bright future was once
snuffed out by an endless night.
Scott Perry is the spark that lit the lantern. Salvation draws
Three years ago, what seemed an inconsequential road trip and
rendezvous with Magic Johnson has made all the difference. And
whether or not Rose decides to re-sign arguably the Knicks’ most
deserving free agent this summer, one thing has become abundantly
As general manager, Scott Perry has done more than his part.