The media strategy, in the interim, appears to be letting the on-court flickers of progress (and Thibodeau) do the talking. Rose and Wesley are accustomed to operating this way after maintaining very low profiles during their C.A.A. days, but it actually takes the franchise back in some ways to pre-Dolan times. Pat Riley and then Jeff Van Gundy were the frontmen as coaches, largely because of the star center Patrick Ewing’s aversion to the spotlight.
When Toppin became the first lottery draft pick of this new era, Rose limited the sharing of his thought process behind the selection to a stunningly thin written statement that said little more than “Obi was someone we really coveted.” When the Knicks were criticized for their apparent infatuation with players represented by C.A.A. or Kentucky alumni who had played for John Calipari, who is close to both Rose and Wesley, it was left to Thibodeau to insist that it’s “more coincidental” than the news media suggests.
In a letter to season-ticket holders a year ago, Rose wrote: “Nothing about this is easy, or quick, so I ask for your continued patience. What I promise you in return is that I will be honest and forthright.” The reality, of course, is that forthrightness has never been a hallmark of Dolan’s ownership, but who is going to complain apart from sportswriters when the Knicks are playing like plucky overachievers?
If this is really the start of something — if Rose has staying power after all the false dawns that felled an array of supposed saviors on the court (Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis) and off (Donnie Walsh, Mike D’Antoni and Phil Jackson) — only the scribes are bound to remember Rose’s letter from when he got to Gotham.
Lee insisted, furthermore, that the fans understand why they are so rarely briefed.
“You know where that’s coming from,” Lee said. “That’s an edict from up top. I’m not happy about it, but there’s someone else calling those shots. We’re used to it by now. And he’s not selling the team, so what are we going to do?”
“Orange-and-blue skies,” Lee added with a laugh.