A wild day of wheeling and dealing by President Donnie Walsh leaves the Knicks fans salivating at the chance of landing a big price in the summer of 2010.
In a pair of moves, the Knicks began trimming the fat of their bloated payroll, sending Jamal Crawford to Golden State for Al Harrington, while shipping Zach Randolph to The L.A. Clippers for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley.
Crawford has been a Knick since 2004, and was among the first big moves Isiah Thomas made in trying to surround Stephon Marbury with fresh faces. Unfortunately, like almost every other move Thomas made, Crawford wasn’t able to deliver any sustained success, as he was a talented but streaky scorer who lacked defensive prowess and was maddeningly inconsistent.
Randolph, also acquired by Thomas, brought scoring and rebounding and was supposed to team with Eddy Curry to form an dynamic tandem in the front court. Of course that never materialized as Curry regressed and proved he couldn’t share the court this Randolph, who despite putting up decent numbers, contributed to a 23-59 season.
The additions of Harrington, Thomas and Mobley should please Knicks fans most by the lengths of their contracts, all of which expire after next season.
By dumping Crawford and Randolph, the Knicks shed two contracts which extend beyond the “Summer of LeBron”, and with their departure goes some 27 million dollars of cap space heading into the summer of 2010.
These trades are more about the players going and the cap space opening up than it is the new faces.
Harrington will probably start at the 4 and average is 13 and 6, while Mobley can fill in at the 2 and provide a decent outside threat with some veteran savvy this team hasn’t had in a long time. Tim Thomas, who will be starting his second stint in New York after playing with the Knicks between 2003 and 2005, could see some minutes off the bench.
At 6-6, despite their improved performance under head coach Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks were hardly a championship contender, and by moving their two leading scorers Walsh has loudly and clearly stated that the process of rebuilding is in full effect, even it comes at the cost of sneaking into the playoffs and suffering a first round defeat, which is probably the best the Knicks could have hoped for this season.
Madison Square Garden has’t been able to enjoy a winning basketball season in nearly a decade, and probably will have to wait another two before their tested patience is rewarded.
With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash among others all available in the summer of 2010, Walsh has now put the Knicks in a position to sign at least one of this and perhaps a pair should he be able to shed the contract of Curry and/or Jefferies between now then.
While that may seem daunting, Walsh has backed up his word in working to get the Knicks in better cap-shape by 2010, which he has, and a whole lot faster than anybody probably he could.
Yes, the team’s two leading scorers are gone, and though Crawford was a fan favorite, he was one dimensional and when he wasn’t scoring, he wasn’t giving the team anything else. Randolph, for all the stats he filled a box score with, has never proved hes a winning player capable of playing completely within a system. His numbers this season were good, but too many times possessions would stall with his poor shot selection.
Their losses shouldn’t be mourned by Knicks fans, as the bigger picture is one with a very bright promise of hope, which is something they haven’t been able to feel since Isiah Thomas set the franchise back into a seemingly bottomless abyss.
Thanks to Walsh, hope can finally float for Knicks fans, as the franchise is moving in the right direction.
And in less than two years, that direction may lead straight to royalty in the form of a King.
James, that is.
I’ll preface this post by stating I openly admit to having little to no confidence in my predictions, nor do I claim to have any professional experience in making them.
I read the previews out there, I listen to talk radio and I use the old gut.
That being said, the NBA season tips off tonight, with Boston looking to defend it’s title and the Lakers looking to dethrone them behind first time MVP Kobe Bryant.
LeBron and the Cavs will looking to finally get over the hump, while out west the power may have shifted away from the Spurs-Mavs-Suns trio while being replaced by the Hornets-Jazz-Rockets three-some.
In the east, my Knicks will be better but still on the outside looking in at season’s end, while teams like Philadelphia, Toronto and Orlando will look to take another step towards deeper playoff runs.
I don’t want to get too specific, after all I do this for fun, so without furthter adieu, here is how I foresee the 2008-2009 season taking shape…
Eastern Conference Playoff Teams:
Boston– The defending champs won’t miss James Posey as they are still the most talented starting five in the NBA.
Cleveland– LeBron and his new look squad will reveal themselves as Boston’s biggest threat.
Detroit– Contract year for Rasheed, and assuming he stays, Detroit, despite a new coach, will continue their winning ways.
Toronto– This is Chris Bosh’s team, and as a result, expect Jermaine O’Neal to quietly put up numbers closer to the ones he put up during his best days in Indiana.
Philadelphia– A new “Brand” of basketball, Elton’s presence will propel Philly into the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Orlando– Still young and now with some playoff experience under their belts, Orlando might need a deadline deal to push them into the second round.
Chicago– Last year proves to be a fluke, as this team has too much talent not too make a postseason return with the help of Derrick Rose.
Milwaukee– Scott Skiles can coach, and this retooled team will be the biggest surprise in the NBA’s minor leagues…err…Eastern Conference.
Western Conference Playoff Teams:
L.A. Lakers- Kobe, Kobe and more Kobe. Oh, and a healthy Andrew Bynum, a full year with Pao Gasol and that ‘Zen-guy” head coaching.
Utah Jazz- Deron Williams and Carlos are legitimate stars, and Jerry Sloan just wins. That continues this year.
New Orleans- Everybody wants to talk about the Posey signing, but I’ll keep it simple. Chris Paul will score more, and win more.
Houston- Biggest move of the off-season was adding Ron Artest. A healthy year from Yao and T-Mac equal realistic title dreams.
San Antonio- Missing Manu Ginobili will hurt this team early, but having him healthy down the stretch will ensure they’re still playing after the regular season ends.
Dallas- Avery Johnson gone, core of the team remains the same. Kidd another year older, but a full year running that offense will be enough for a first round exit.
Portland- Greg Oden finally makes his NBA debut the year after he’s drafted, while Brandon Roy is an MVP candidate. This team finally takes the next step.
Phoenix– It may take more than 7 seconds or less, but the Suns will figure out a way to sneak into the playoffs as this team can still score with the best of them.
MVP: Chris Paul
Defensive Player: Ron Artest
Rookie of the Year: Michael Beasley
Most Improved Player: Devin Harris
Coach of the Year: Jerry Sloan
6th Man of the Year: Jason Maxiell
Knicks: 36-46, 10th in East
Nets: 30-52, 13th in East
2008-2009 NBA Champion
(drum roll please)
Check back in April to see if I have a future in fortune telling or selling fortune cookies.
Either way, it’s great to have the NBA back.
Let the games begin.