Following an early playoff exit and a midseason trade that nearly decimated the Knicks' depth, the team will need to ponder what kind of additions (and/or subtractions) need to be made to ultimately elevate the squad into a legitimate contender.
Continuing to make improvements starts with the man in charge. While James Dolan may be the owner of the Knicks, it has been Donnie Walsh who has controlled basketball operations throughout this renaissance of the Knicks. The first move the team needs to make is renewing Walsh's contract, because frankly, he deserves it. It's now time for him to continue what he started.
If it weren't for Walsh, the Knicks perhaps would have still been led by Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford. Granted, both of those players look like they will advance to the second round of the playoffs with their current teams, but neither are quite the superstar New York City both craved and desired.
Walsh was able to create the cap room necessary to sign Amar'e Stoudemire and acquire the assets necessary to trade for Carmelo Anthony. It may have taken two or so years to put all the pieces into place, but Walsh did what he promised to do.
The Knicks have finally started to look like a well-built team, with many (perhaps, just not yet all) of the right types of role players wrapped around legitimate stars.
Walsh's first order of business for next season needs to be addressing Chauncey Billups' team option. Should he decline the option, would the Knicks be able to find a point guard just as good for less money? That's debatable, but with the Knicks' needing a bit more depth and a defensive anchor at center, it may be best to decline the option, but at the same time show commitment to Billups, offering him a less lucrative deal for a longer period of time.
That same move would, of course, rule out signing a superstar point guard such as Chris Paul or Deron Williams in 2012, but it's more important to focus on building a team at this point, rather than waiting to reel in the big fish. The Knicks have already built a strong foundation, shown promise and there are now just a few gaps to fill.
It's time to take that plan of action and embrace what the team has moving forward. Fans have already played the waiting game, and while it paid off the first time, it's finally to expand upon the team's core, rather than rock the boat.
Knicks fans who watched the team in the 1990's know full well that Walsh can build an impressive and heartbreaking (to opponents such as the Knicks) team. He did so with the Indiana Pacers, watching Reggie Miller develop into a probable future Hall-of-Famer, going deep into the playoffs for many years. Miller was one of the most clutch performers of all-time, but was also surrounded by a strong core of role players.
Under Walsh, the Pacers put solid players such as Mark Jackson, Rik Smits and Chris Mullin on the floor next to Miller. Jackson was known for his good defense, playmaking ability and steady fundamentals. Smits was a good player in the post and Mullin was a great three-point shooting option behind Miller. You could go down the list of different players Miller played with throughout his career, but the key was that each player had their own role and specialty on the court. They all fit well together.
It's clear that if given the opportunity, that's what Walsh will continue to do in New York. He, at first, used the bright lights of the big city to attract the stars, and now is set to shore up the team's depth. He has even already proven to have good instincts with role players during his time with the Knicks; he drafted Toney Douglas, traded for Ronny Turiaf and signed the likes of Shawne Williams and Jared Jeffries. All four players played major roles and were big time contributors for this team.
The difference between Walsh and Mike D'Antoni is that Walsh has already lived up to (and perhaps even exceeded) his expectations. D'Antoni needs (or needed) to show that he can win with the Knicks following the trade with the Nuggets, and he failed to do so after some regular season struggles and a first round exit. Whether he gets another chance to prove he can win with more time remains to be seen.
Walsh has done everything he promised and more in the short time he was given. The right thing to do is let him carry on with his initial vision for the Knicks finally in place. Not only is it the "right" thing to do, but it's certainly in the best interest of the Knicks.
Why put in all the work to acquire the players Walsh did, only to have someone else come in (who may not share the same vision as Walsh) and make unnecessary changes?
At the very least, Walsh should be given another year to shore things up and ride out the season with D'Antoni (if he's brought back), but in reality, building a team takes time, and Walsh has made the most of the time he's been given. It's only logical he be given more time to continue to succeed.
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