A wild day of wheeling and dealing by president Donnie Walsh leaves Knicks fans salivating at the chance of landing a big free-agent haul in the summer of 2010.
In a pair of moves, the Knicks began trimming the fat of their bloated payroll, sending Jamal Crawford to Golden State for Al Harrington, then shipping Zach Randolph to the L.A. Clippers for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley.
By dumping Crawford and Randolph, the Knicks shed two contracts that extend beyond the "Summer of LeBron James," and with their departure goes some $27 million of cap space heading into the 2010 offseason, when James and several other big names are scheduled to be free agents.
Crawford has been a Knick since 2004, and was among the first big moves Isiah Thomas made in trying to surround Stephon Marbury with fresh faces. Unfortunately, like almost every other move Thomas made, Crawford wasn't able to deliver any sustained success, as he was a talented but streaky scorer who lacked defensive prowess and was maddeningly inconsistent.
Randolph, also acquired by Thomas, brought scoring and rebounding and was supposed to team with Eddy Curry to form an dynamic tandem in the front court. Of course, that never materialized as Curry regressed and proved he couldn't share the court this Randolph, who despite putting up decent numbers, contributed to a 23-59 season.
The additions of Harrington, Thomas and Mobley should please Knicks fans most by the lengths of their contracts, all of which expire after next season.
Harrington will probably start at the 4-spot and average 13 points and six rebounds, while Mobley can fill in at the 2 and provide a decent outside threat with some veteran savvy this team hasn't had in a long time. Tim Thomas, who will be starting his second stint in New York after playing with the Knicks between 2003 and 2005, could see some minutes off the bench.
At 6'6", despite their improved performance under head coach Mike D'Antoni, the Knicks were hardly a championship contender, and by moving their two leading scorers Walsh has loudly and clearly stated that the process of rebuilding is in full effect, even it comes at the cost of sneaking into the playoffs and suffering a first round defeat, which is probably the best the Knicks could have hoped for this season.
These trades are more about the players going and the cap space opening up than it is the new faces, though.
Madison Square Garden has't been able to enjoy a winning basketball season in nearly a decade, and probably will have to wait another two before their tested patience is rewarded.
With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, and Steve Nash, among others, all available in the summer of 2010, Walsh has now put the Knicks in a position to sign at least one and perhaps a pair should he be able to shed the contract of Curry and/or Jared Jeffries between now and then.
While that may seem daunting, Walsh has backed up his word in working to get the Knicks in better cap shape by 2010, which he has, and a whole lot faster than most probably could.
Yes, the team's two leading scorers are gone, and though Crawford was a fan favorite, he was one dimensional and when he wasn't scoring, he wasn't giving the team anything else. Randolph, for all the stats he filled a box score with, has never proved hes a winning player capable of playing completely within a system. His numbers this season were good, but too many times possessions would stall with his poor shot selection.
Their losses shouldn't be mourned by Knicks fans, as the bigger picture is one with a very bright promise of hope, which is something they haven't been able to feel since Isiah Thomas set the franchise back into a seemingly bottomless abyss.
Thanks to Walsh, hope can finally float for Knicks fans, as the franchise is moving in the right direction.
And in less than two years, that direction may lead straight to royalty in the form of a King.
James, that is.