The Knicks have a chance to accomplish something that they've been attempting to do for years: rebuild.
Isiah Thomas kept trying to rebuild this team without improving the foundation. He was painting the new siding while the infrastructure was still rotting. Thomas and his Band-Aid on a broken leg approach never worked, especially with team cancers Stephan Marbury, Eddy Curry and Jerome James taking up valuable chairs on the bench.
The Knicks were the laughing stock of the league for years—years—until Isiah had a meeting with team owner James Dolan. Dolan did his best Elaine Benes impression and rewarded Thomas's awful work with a "promotion" to somewhere else in the company.
Out with Isiah the GM, in with Donnie. Walsh was best known for building the Pacers into a formidable team (who the Knicks routinely clashed with) and was hired to do the same in New York.
Since Isiah was "promoted," he no longer graced the sidelines with his presence as coach. In comes Mike D'Antoni from Phoenix with his high-octane offense. Now Isiah Thomas is somewhere in Florida, and Knicks fans wish he just kept on walking into to Gulf of Mexico.
Walsh trades headache Zach Randolph and undersized Jamal Crawford while their stocks are at their highest, shedding cap room for the much ballyhooed 2010 free agent class. Then he begs Chicago to give him live bodies for Jerome James, making the Knicks that much more a player in the LeBron James sweepstakes.
After all the trades and all the moves, the Knicks are finally what their fans have been clamoring for: a young, cheap and talented squad. The organization finally seems to be moving in the right direction after falling off ever since Patrick Ewing was traded for the corpse of Glen Rice and a sack of basketballs.
The 2009 draft will be the defining moment for this franchise. The draft class is filled with high-risk, high-reward players. There is no consensus No. 2 pick in this draft, meaning after Blake Griffin it's a crap shoot. The Knicks could come out with a steal with the eighth pick.
Donnie Walsh has a checkered draft history at best. Before Gallinari, he's selected Jonathan Bender, Austin Croshere, Al Harrington, Fred Jones, Erick Dampier, and Primoz Brezec... a mixed lot to say the least. His solid decision making comes out in trades. He knows the parts that are needed to field a championship caliber team.
If this pick works out well for the Knicks, the floodgates will open for the organization. James could be swayed to play for the now young and athletic Knicks. If LeBron goes to New York, other free agents would definitely follow.
If the pick flounders, or is slow to develop, James could decided to stay in Cleveland. If he stays, the Knicks could still get some high-powered free agents but they might have to overpay a few to lure them into playing in the Garden.
New York is a basketball town. Anytime the Knicks made the playoffs in the past, the city stopped and watched. Sure, the Knicks heading to the Finals in 1999 was not the same if the Yankees or Mets win, and it wasn't as big as the Giants going to the Super Bowl. The city has bred some of the finest players to ever grace a blacktop in the history of the sport, and the city knows what it wants: a champion.
The Knicks are so close to turning this ship around it doesn't seem real to the fans that follow it on a daily basis. Looking at this team just over a year ago, all this hope and enthusiasm seemed like a thing in the past.
On Thursday, it will be something for the future.