New York Knicks: 7 Worst Decisions in the James Dolan Era

Ciaran Gowan@@CiaranGowanContributor IIIMarch 2, 2013

New York Knicks: 7 Worst Decisions in the James Dolan Era

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    James Dolan is one of the most hated owners in all of sports. Though his New York Knicks are doing well at the moment, he has overseen mistake after mistake since becoming chairman of Madison Square Garden.

    Most recently, Dolan came under heavy criticism for hiring employees to record Carmelo Anthony in-game, but that doesn't even come near some of the terrible decisions he has made in his tenure.

    From questionable contracts to lopsided trades, Knicks fans have seen it all over the last decade, and it has all come down to the ownership of Dolan.

    There are plenty to choose from, but here are the top seven worst decisions of the Dolan era so far.

7. Disrespecting Patrick Ewing

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    Typically, the Knicks are a franchise that looks after its former players.

    The likes of Walt Frazier, Allan Houston, Larry Johnson and John Starks (amongst others) all have jobs within the organization, but the one big name that's missing is Patrick Ewing.

    After years as an assistant coach in Washington, Houston and Orlando, in September, Ewing was offered a head coaching role by the the D-League.

    According to ESPN, Ewing felt insulted by the offer, having already proven himself capable of at least being an assistant coach in the NBA.

    To be fair to the Knicks, a coaching role is a lot more important than the minor roles other former players hold in the organization, but even so, Ewing had the right to feel slighted.

    For a player who did so much for the organization and had paid his dues elsewhere as an assistant, offering him such a minor role was definitely a mistake.

6. Continually Undermining Donnie Walsh

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    After a near-decade of awful decisions, the hiring of Donnie Walsh was the best thing to happen to the New York Knicks in years.

    Walsh became president of basketball operations in 2008 after encouragement from David Stern and began the rebuilding process that has led to the team we see today.

    With so many bad contracts on the roster, Walsh's job wasn't easy, but he managed to get rid of Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, Renaldo Balkman, Stephon Marbury and Jared Jeffries to open up cap space in the summer of 2010.

    The team wasn't greatly competitive around that time, but at the very least there were some fan favorites to watch in Danilo Gallinari, Al Harrington and Nate Robinson.

    When the time came, and the Knicks finally had cap space, Walsh brought in Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton to lead the team, with support from the likes of rookie Landry Fields and Ronny Turiaf on cheap contracts.

    Things were looking up for the Knicks with their first playoff berth since 2004, but James Dolan appeared to be the one person that couldn't appreciate Walsh's work.

    Months after the Carmelo Anthony trade—which many believe was lopsided due to Dolan's impatience—Walsh resigned from his post, with Dolan reluctant to reward him with a long-term deal.

    Ironically, Walsh stayed on as a consultant for the 2011 draft, overseeing the pick of Iman Shumpert, who has already developed into one of the team's most important players. It was a great send-off for Walsh, and a reminder of just how wrong Dolan was to let him go.

5. Allan Houston's $100 Million Contract

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    Allan Houston is one of the all-time greatest Knicks and was unarguably one of the team's most important players for the better part of a decade. But even so, there was still no justification for the ridiculous contract extension he was given in 2001.

    Despite the fact that no other team had offered more than $75 million, Houston was signed for six years and $100 million by then-general manager Scott Layden in a move that made very little sense to anyone.

    Houston went on to play two fantastic seasons before injury hit and he started to struggle. In the end, he couldn't even play in the last two years of the contract but was still paid the remaining $40 million on his deal.

    The decision was so bad that the NBA went on to create the "Allan Houston Rule," giving teams a chance to release one player without his contract counting against the luxury tax. Houston's injury situation was so bleak that the team predicted he would retire, allowing them to use the exception on Jerome Williams instead.

4. Jerome James' Big Contract

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    James Dolan's decision to let Jeremy Lin walk in 2012 was heavily criticized, but maybe his last experience giving out a big contract based on a small sample size had something to do with it.

    After a solid performance in the 2005 playoffs (which followed a pretty shoddy regular season), Isiah Thomas decided an 11-game stretch was enough to warrant a five-year, $30 million deal for Seattle SuperSonics center Jerome James.

    Unsurprisingly, James failed to live up to the Knicks' lofty expectations and was arguably worse after the contract than he ever had been in the five years before.

    He turned up to his first camp with the Knicks out of shape and everything went downhill from there.

    Eventually, James would play only four games in his last two years in New York before finally being traded away by—you guessed it—Donnie Walsh.

3. Hiring Isiah Thomas as Director of Basketball Operations

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    As the director of basketball operations and even head coach for a while, Isiah Thomas was James Dolan's partner in crime for much of the last decade.

    In fact, there are rumors that even now Dolan is still talking to Thomas for advice on how to run the franchise.

    Regardless, what Thomas did when he was officially with the Knicks was bad enough.

    To summarize, Thomas traded multiple lottery picks away for Eddy Curry, oversaw the fall of Stephon Marbury and overpaid Jerome James and Jared Jeffries, all the while supplementing these moves with poor draft picks and no on-court production.

    Under Thomas, the Knicks consistently had one of the highest-paid rosters and one of the league's worst records, making the playoffs only once. 

    Despite wanting to leave behind a "championship legacy," Thomas turned the Knicks into a laughing stock, and ultimately led the team through their worst and most embarrassing stretch in franchise history.

2. Hiring Scott Layden as General Manager

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    Before Isiah Thomas, there was Scott Layden, who, fortunately, was fired after only four years as general manager.

    Between 1999 and 2003, however, Layden still took the opportunity to run the franchise into the ground, trading away Patrick Ewing and giving unnecessarily big contracts to Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston.

    The departure of Jeff Van Gundy and the trade that saw Nene, Marcus Camby and Mark Jackson swapped for Antonio McDyess also came in the Layden era, confirming what was a truly dark time for Knicks fans.

    Until this year, the franchise hadn't been the same since Layden first stepped through the Garden's doors, and looking at his transactions, it's easy to see why.

    Thomas may have been bad, but he inherited an equally bad team from Layden and was at a disadvantage from the start of his tenure.

1. Trading for Eddy Curry

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    If there's one move that sums up the last decade for the New York Knicks, it's the trade that brought Eddy Curry to Madison Square Garden.

    Curry represented everything about the Knicks under Dolan. At one time a promising player, he fell off the map, going broke and struggling to stay in shape.

    The trade included giving away two eventual lottery picks, along with a pair of second-rounders, Michael Sweetney, Tim Thomas and Jermaine Jackson.

    Needless to say, the Bulls got the best of the trade, and the Knicks missed out on the picks that eventually turned into future All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah.

    More to the point, Curry's $56 million deal went on to hold the Knicks back financially for six straight years—the cherry on top of one of the worst trades in league history.