In the summer of 2007, the Boston Celtics were in trouble. After a measly 24-win season (and not many better seasons prior to that), General Manager Danny Ainge understood improvements had to be made to save his job.
He responded by helping the Celtics finish at 66-16, the third best regular season finish in the already storied franchise’s history, becoming NBA champions just a season later.
Ainge obviously did not sit back and wait to see how things played out. He made moves. The centerpiece of the Celtics’ improvement was Kevin Garnett, but how in the world did Ainge convince the former MVP to accept a trade to a team with such a losing record?
He made a noticeable splash on NBA draft night. Nearly a month before the KG trade, Ainge set the tone by acquiring Ray Allen.
Despite being a seven time All-Star, Allen was an aging guard, coming off of an injury-riddled season in which he appeared in only 56 games.
Furthermore, his contract was set to climb up past $20 million per year for three more seasons.
There is no doubt a move like that is an incredibly risky one, but that is why it created such a splash. The fact that Ainge was willing to take on such a player (at such a contract) proved he would do anything to win. The subsequent ripple effect led to the Celtics becoming champions.
In order to bring the Knicks back to greatness, Donnie Walsh needs to take note from Danny Ainge and make a splash.
Attention, Mr. Walsh: Richard Hamilton can be your ripple effect.
With the Knicks in an even more desperate situation than the Celtics were in just a few seasons ago, Walsh needs to make sure he pulls out all the stops in order to recruit the league’s top free agents to New York.
Bringing in Richard Hamilton would prove to free agents that the Knicks are ready to start winning basketball games.
That’s not to say the Knicks should build around Hamilton, but simply that Hamilton can be the Knicks’ Ray Allen of sorts.
Hamilton is coming off an injury-plagued season of his own, and has three more years on his contract for over $12 million per season.
While that type of acquisition may seem burdensome at first, the Knicks would immediately bring in an NBA champion.
Hamilton knows the ultimate definition of teamwork. A member of the Larry Brown-led Pistons in the mid 2000s, his scoring average hovered around (but was normally lower than) 20 points, and he constantly led the team in scoring and kept the rest of his team involved in the offense.
Still a consistent 18 points-per-game scorer, if Hamilton were able to provide the Knicks with anything close to what Allen provided the Celtics over the past three seasons (16-18 points), the team would be thrilled.
The trick to acquiring Hamilton is not eating into the Knicks’ cap space. Trading for Hamilton would only be worth it if he gives the Knicks a better chance at signing two marquee free agents to maximum deals.
The easiest way to accomplish this would be to trade Eddy Curry (and his expiring contract) to Detroit.
There have been recent rumblings of Curry being open to accepting a buyout in order to re-sign with the Bulls to restart his career. While that would save the Knicks some money (if the buyout were agreed upon before free agency begins), the team may benefit more if it gets value back for his expiring contract.
The Pistons would be able to (and may be likely to) buy Curry out after acquiring him anyway, as a simple means of getting rid of Hamilton’s contract.
Nevertheless, one can only hope that Walsh has been taking notes the past few seasons. It may be the only way he can end up impressing fans and free agents alike.
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