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Report: Leon Rose, Danny Ainge ‘never spoke directly’ about Mitchell trade

Minnesota Timberwolves Introduce New Players - Press Conference

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 15: President of basketball operations of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Gersson Rosas talks to the media during an introductory press conference on September 15, 2021 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

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The deal is done: Donovan Mitchell is a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

However, the postmortem on why Mitchell is not a New York Knick continues.

Part of the reason the deal never got done may have been it never rose to the level where the two team presidents ever spoke about it, reports Gary Washburne of the Boston Globe. Instead, Knicks president Leon Rose had a consultant to the team, former Timberwolves GM Gersson Rosas, serve as the primary negotiator. That’s because Rosas has a strong relationship with Jazz GM Justin Zanik, so Jazz president Danny Ainge let Zanik take the lead for Utah.

Rose and Ainge “never spoke directly” about the trade, according to the report.

Almost every trade starts with people farther down the front office ladder — consultants, assistant GMs, whoever — just talking to another team and feeling things out. Then, when things start to get serious, the talks climb the ladder and the guy with the hammer is brought in as a closer.

Rose and Ainge never got that call, or never stepped in to make it happen. No doubt both men got up-to-the-minute updates, but to play a game of telephone with this trade through middlemen and not speak directly is how you get frustration on both sides that leads to the Jazz turning to the Cavaliers.

Rose and the Knicks hired Rosas as a consultant in February after he was pushed out in Minnesota over an inappropriate relationship with a staffer (among other concerns). Rosas is undoubtedly capable of leading a negotiation, but as a consultant that’s not his role.

There was not one thing that kept Mitchell from becoming a Knick. It was a combination of things. And in the end, you can argue that it was better for the Knicks to wait to bring in a superstar. But if the Jazz and Knicks were truly serious about this deal, the guys who make the decisions had to at least talk.