playfully brushed off the suggestion that he could help recruit potential free-agent Chris Paul
to the Knicks during a radio interview Thursday.
But his response to the idea that he could help bring Paul to New York shed some light on his current influence with the Knicks.
Here's what the former Knicks GM/coach had to say during an interview with Sid Rosenberg
on WQAM in Miami:
"I root for the Knicks, I want them to win. I'm always going to be a close friend with [owner James Dolan
]. I root for the organization. I want everyone to do well ... If there's any way I can help them, I can. I mean I will, and I can," Thomas said.
It's an open secret that Thomas still has a heavy influence with Dolan.
Dolan tried to hire Thomas as a consultant last season, a move that was eventually nixed by commissioner David Stern because of the conflict of interest that arose as a result of Thomas' head coaching job at Florida International University. After Stern nixed the hire, Dolan released a statement saying he would "continue to solicit" Thomas' views.
Also, ex-president/GM Donnie Walsh
publicly thanked Thomas last summer for his help in landing then free-agent Amare Stoudemire
during Stoudemire's introductory press conference. Dolan also reportedly sent Thomas after LeBron James
in a last-ditch effort to recruit James last summer.
Thomas, who worked for the Knicks as president, GM or coach from December 2003 to April 2008, was reportedly involved in the recruitment of Carmelo Anthony
Now, he's expected to do the same with Paul, who is under contract for the 2011-2012 season but has a player option for 2012-13, during which he is scheduled to make $17.8 million.
Many have speculated that New York is a potential destination for Paul. Current Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups
, whom New York acquired in a three-team, 13-player deal last February, will be a free agent after 2011-2012.
THOMAS GIVES THUMBS UP TO WOODSON HIRE:
Thomas also told Rosenberg that he is a fan of the Knicks' decision to hire Mike Woodson
as an assistant. The widely-held perception is that Woodson, the former Atlanta Hawks head coach, was brought on to Mike D'Antoni
's staff to help the Knicks' defense, which was statistically one of the NBA's worst last season.
Thomas has a long history with Woodson. He played one season with him at Indiana University and told Rosenberg that Woodson was one of the reasons he chose to play at Indiana.
"I think they'll get along well," Thomas said of D'Antoni and Woodson. "Woody definitely understands defense. He learned from the greatest mind in the game in terms of coach [Bobby] Knight
. The way we were taught to play defense and defensive concepts, he'll be a great fit there. And he gets along well with the players and he'll be demanding of the players."
Thomas is hosting an NBA exhibition at Florida International featuring Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul and others on Saturday. Proceeds from the game will go to "Mary's Court" - a foundation in his late mother's name. Proceeds will benefit local education programs.
Thomas caught heat from Rosenberg for scheduling the game on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. He apologized.
"It wasn't meant to be that way and I apologize," Thomas said.