Ranking the Worst Free Agent Signings in New York Knicks History
For every great New York Knicks free agent signing, there are pages and pages of cap catastrophes (Jared Jeffries! Again!) Today, as Greg Oden prepares to pick his next sucker–I mean, next franchise–we explore the five worst free agent signings in Knicks history.
Feel free to bring your own disasters to the comments section. Let’s all commiserate together. (And yes, if you’re scoring at home, the words “Scott Layden” and “Isiah Thomas” are prominently involved.)
5. Chris Childs (1996-2001)
The Contract: 6 years, $24 million.
The Knicks weren’t having any fun losing in the Eastern Conference playoffs every year. With Pat Riley’s sudden airlift to South Beach, the Knicks moved quickly to quell any disbelief in their ability to compete without their Hall of Fame head man.
Step No. 1: Promise the coaching job to Jeff Van Gundy, but rent Don Nelson for 59 games!
Step No. 3: Ignore Kenny Anderson (7 years, $50 million) and sign New Jersey Nets point guard Chris Childs to $24 million (HUH?????)
The Result: Other than the epic cold cock of Kobe Bean Bryant en route to receiving the “Good Guy Award” from the New York Press Photographers Association (how awesome is this!), Chris gave us solid backup point guard play and the always easily measured stat of “true grit.”
Good enough for $1-2 million perhaps (under the ancient CBA), but for $4 million? Nah buddy. Not when Kenny Anderson could have been had for $7 million.
The Grade: One Thumb Down.
4. Andrew Lang (1999-2000)
The Contract: 1 year, $510,000.
The Scenario: Imagine Patrick Ewing, on vacation in Jamaica, getting this call from New York: “Hey Pat, great news…we just signed the guy that wrecked your Achilles! Have fun trading war stories this year!”
Really ownership? Here’s your Hall of Fame superstar center, the man who’s led you to two Eastern Conference wins and a glut of playoff series victories…and you give him Andrew Lang! Out of all the possible washed-up backup big men in the NBA, you decide to sign this guy?!?!
It’s the principle of the thing, really.
The Result: Knicks sign Lang and trade Ewing to the Sonics midway through the same season.
To recap: A guy who you once made a poster is telling you not to let the door hit you on the way out? Ewing must have been tight.
The Grade: Ten Thumbs Down.
3. Amar'e Stoudemire (2010-Present)
The Contract: 5 years, $99.7 million.
The Scenario: The Knicks whiffed. They trotted out old man Donnie Walsh in his high chair to lure King James when they should have parachuted in the 20 most famous New York City single female entertainers. LeBron looked at the old man promising riches and bolted for sunnier skies, leaving the Knicks with a gaping vacancy at the superstar position.
Amar’e wasn’t the top dog of this free agent class, but he was the next sexiest pick of the litter. Knicks brass overlooked his bad knees—the same ones that failed inspection and insurance coverage—and signed the big dude to a massive five-year deal.
Oops! We forgot that Mike D’Antoni doesn’t believe in pacing superstar athletes with bad injury history! Hooray for 82-game playoff rotations!
Once Stoudemire set the Knicks record with nine consecutive 30-point performances, his career-high 36.8 minutes per game in 2010 sent him express delivery to the trainer’s table.
All that said: Amar’e DID do just enough to lure Carmelo to the Big Apple. Thanks man!
The Grade: Three Thumbs Down (but time will tell)
2. Allan Houston (2001-2005)
The Contract: 6 years, $100 million.
The Scenario: Allan Houston had some serious contract leverage leading into July 2001. He was one of the principle players responsible for the unprecedented run to the 1999 Finals, won an Olympic gold medal in his free time and was elected to two consecutive All-Star games (2000, 2001).
The young Scott Layden was ready to make his first splash at GM. Ewing was history, so Layden handed his presumed new franchise player a whopping $100 million in guaranteed cash.
No negotiation needed.
Houston got paid a handful of money while his knees healed...spawning the one-time rule bearing his name that allowed teams to escape the perils of terrible contracts—The Allan Houston Rule.
The Grade: One Thumb Down (thanks for the memories!)
1. Jerome James (2006-2009)
The Contract: 5 years, $30 million.
Although he was a hack (ranked No. 6 in fouls for the 2004-05 season), the other James hosted a block party at KeyArena for the 2005 Seattle SuperSonics, the Ray Allen-Rashard Lewis led version that took Tim Duncan and company to six games before folding.
Many franchises saw Jerome’s impact on the series, but few were willing to toss huge amounts of coin at this one-way big man after a limited sample size of success. Enter Isiah Thomas.
The Result: Jerome moved his 280-pound frame to the East Coast, added another umpteen pounds, scored a total of 10 points in his final two Knicks seasons and was never heard from again.
Well…except on the Knicks salary cap, of course, where he proceeded to stymie New York’s free agency dreams until used in a trade for the undead Larry Hughes.
The Grade: Twenty Thumbs…WAY down.