New York Knicks Summer Report: Was Isiah Thomas Right?

James DolanContributor IAugust 4, 2008

I try not to be too bitter when it comes to the Knicks, but I already don't love what GM Donnie Walsh and Coach D are doing. 

Can you believe that they took Gallinari without seeing him? Walsh and D'Antoni have both said that they had not actually seen him play. 

I think they got a little lucky, because it looks like the kid has an excellent handle for a 6'9" kid, and obviously a great shot.  We may see him playing the two, three, and eventually the four, in time. 

Good thing for the Knicks that Chandler is solid enough to play a good amount of time at the PF spot this year.  One key to this offense is taking advantage of opposing big men by matching up more athletic players who can score. 

Amare is no five, yet he dominated the position from an offensive standpoint, because he is a mismatch for most other centers.  Watch for Chandler to get the chance to do that SOME of the time.

The 'Everyone wants to play for D'Antoni" thing is only an all-things-being-equal advantage.  If the Knicks are coming off a craptastic season like this one, or any other scenario where PR is bad, it will be tough to get LBJ here when a better-run franchise might be budding in Brooklyn.

'08-09 doesn't really matter for the Knicks, but the entire '09-10 season needs to be solid if they think they can land the king.  Keep in mind, bad press for that summer already is in place as they likely won't have that summer's No. 1 draft pick.

The Knicks will need either Chandler of Gallinari to be borderline All-Stars by that summer, and win 45+ games to have a shot at James.  And of course, have cap space to sign him.

Now, I ,for once, was with Isaiah when he constantly pointed out that Cap space is overrated.  Problem is, you can't waste money like he did on James or Jeffries because of the PR hit.  Releasing those guys, as Brian Cashman does with the Yanks' refuse, would have kept the knicks a little more fresh and their fans happier than keeping them around as a negative reminder all the time.

Don't you wish we had held onto Jackie Butler and waved JJames?  Just because Butler worked hard and fought.

The reason why Balkman got traded is in part because he and Jefferies do the same thing. The only way to trade Jefferies is to get him minutes, which mean getting Balkman out of the way, get Jefferies some playing time, and hope he has a good streak before the trade deadline. 

I have a Balkman T-shirt.  I'm so bitter!  He will be a Dennis Rodman-Anthony Mason clone out in Denver, mark my words.

Being under the cap isn't needed if sign-and-trades are an option.  Do we really think that Lebron just wants to take a big dump on the state of Ohio and leave them high and dry?  So long as a few teams can make max-deal bids, and he lets Cleveland know that he will take one. Or if the Cavs can do a sign-and-trade with New York, everyone would be okay. 

Of course, to do that, you need to have talent, and players with similar-sized contracts—also part of Isiah's plan, which is why he wanted Zach Randolph. 

Think about it. It is how Detroit got Ben Wallace as part of the Grant Hill deal.  It is how Shaq left LA.  With Eddy Curry having one year left on his deal, and a handful of young talent, a package of Curry, Chandler, Jefferies, and a No. 1 pick in 2012 is a very possible deal for James. 

Of course, you have to hope that Gallinari is ready to be a No. 2 to LBJ, that they have gotten something for Zach at this point, that they actually have a center left on the team, that Jamal is still a solid player, and that they pick up a shooter to take Duhon's place (or they have kept Nate and David Lee).

If the Salary cap keeps going up as it has in the recent past—$2.5 to $3 million per year)—it will be around $65 million in the summer of 2010.  The Knicks are pegged in at $45 million, assuming they don't sign Lee, or Nate, or Mardy Collins—no worries there I think—and don't feel the need to lock up Chandler.  This way, they could sign LBJ and then lock him up, or still have another year before he becomes unrestricted.

If they trade Lee and Nate for players drafted in '06, '07, or '08, then their rookie salaries will add to the $45 million total.  If you trade Nate and Lee for draft picks in 2010 or later, then they don't affect the $45 million. 

If you sign them to fair deals—and if Lee fits in to D'Antoni's system the way I think he will—he will get $10 million a year from New York or someone else.  Nate is likely gonna take $6 million—just about the amount of the midlevel exception  That is $15.5 million added to 2010's cap.

That is my preference, as I think they are both ideal fits in this system, can create mismatches on offense, and will not be huge problems on defense.  I wish Nate would learn to lock some people down so they can let Mardy go.  I still think Mardy has a little Bruce Bowen upside to him.

So at $60.5 million, the Knicks would be unable to make a straight deal for LBJ, but would have enough pieces to make a sign-and-trade, and to be a good team in '09-10, which is vital for recruiting.

Which then leaves the need to ditch out on someone who doesn't fit in, and there are plenty of them.  I have faith that Zach can be moved if he is showcased well this season.  He can knock down corner jumpers, and leave the middle open for drivers.  He can play the five all year while Eddy Curry comes of the bench. 

Jamal Crawford is very moveable, and may be the big surpise trade.  I've said it before, I don't think he is a good backcourt match with LBJ.  I don't think they would fight or anything—but they both need the ball. 

LBJ needs a pure shooter next to him and I love Ben Gordon in that role. (I loved Eric Gordon in that role on Draft night..  but no one was listening to me.) 

There are other options. Maybe Jamal goes to a contender this season for a 2010 No. 1 and an expiring contract..  if the #1 was from Dallas who might be bad in 09-10, I'd take it!  I think Nate is a better fit next to LBJ than Jamal is.

Moving Curry and Jefferies won't happen this year, but don't think that someone wouldn't give curry a chance once he only has one or two years left at only $10 million a year.  Also, don't think that Jefferies can't be moved to clear cap space in the same way that Philly moved Rodney Carney and Booth.  Just stash him with a pic or money or something if need be. 

There also might be a team in the west who needs him to stop David West.  Or maybe he is the expiring contract that goes in an LJB deal along with Eddy Curry.  If LBJ wants to come to the Knicks, it won't matter what the cap situation is too much.

So Knicks fans, don't worry about Cap space as much as getting talent in here. 

What will matter is the Knicks talent. and I'm already don't on Walshes moves.  Like I said, I liked Eric Gordon and felt that Jamal and Nate could run the point this year. with maybe the help of an Earl Boykins off the bench—if they had a nice solid shooter to relieve pressure next to them.  Eric Gordon would be good now, and good in an LBJ world.

Second, why is there no talk of a Zach for Ben Gordon Trade?  The Bulls need a post player, the Knicks would love a Gordon-type shooter to hit pull up threes off the break.  Don't get it—except that the Knicks need to NOT give him more than Deng got.

Third, Gerald Green, Dahntay Jones, and Delonte West are all much more interesting than Chris Duhon. Financially, they could have gotten all three for what they are giving Duhon.  I understand that West doesn't want a two-year deal, but the Knicks need to pick up a talented guy like him, who really showed leadership and guts in the playoffs. 

I'd sign him for $5 yeas at 5 millon and get my cap space elsewhere.  Green and Jones both signed for less than a million while the Knicks picked up Roberson.  I heard the kid hasn't gotten better in two years of summer ball, but that he can shoot. 

Knick fans will remember Green scoring 28 against us when he was in Boston.  He is the kind of chance the Knicks need to be taking as they rebuild!  Duhon and Roberson?  Not so much upside—and the Knicks need to take some chances on upside.

I'm sure Walsh is on the phone all day, and I'm sure he is doing his best.  And I see a little Joe Torre in him, as far as a guy who has never won, but just knows the right buttons to push and needs to be in the right set of circumstances to win.

Will the Knicks be his Yankees??  He can't wait for LBJ to save him. He needs to start making winning moves now.


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