New York Knicks Offseason Plans 101: Stay Pat

Keith Schlosser@KnicksJournal Analyst IMay 3, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 13: team president Donnie Walsh (R) speaks to the media as New head coach of the New York Knicks Mike D'Antoni (L)  looks on during a press conference on May 13, 2008 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

From the start of his tenure, Donnie Walsh made it clear to fans they needed to be ready for their team to lose—that is, until the summer of 2010, when stars like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be entering the free agent market.

The Knicks certainly did lose this season—50 games to be exact. Under new coach Mike D’Antoni, the team struggled to find an identity in a season that included many twists and turns and multiple serious roster shakeups.

The list of poor excuses can go on and on, but the reality is, nobody can say Donnie Walsh did not warn them.

So what’s next?

Walsh needs to stick to his plan and follow it through to 2010. The various short contracts he acquired have opened a huge window of opportunity for the Knicks. If he plays the rest of his cards right, the Knicks can be well on their way to becoming the NBA powerhouse fans have been longing for.

That all depends on whether Walsh does what he said he would. After a wavering losing season, however, he may be getting antsy. With talks of Carlos Boozer opting out of the final year of his contract, and Jason Kidd possibly giving the Knicks a look, Walsh may be tempted to bite into the forbidden apple and jeopardize that 2010 cap space that he has mightily saved up for.

With the pieces the Knicks have already assembled, Boozer and Kidd would certainly brighten the dim light at the end of the tunnel. In an Eastern Conference that has suddenly picked up competitive speed, the duo would certainly lead the Knicks into the playoffs. As weak as they finished, the Knicks showed slight promise, dancing around the playoff race through mid-March.

As much as that Cinderella story would ignite the fire in the hearts of Knicks fans, we should all wait. The combo of the injury-plagued Boozer and the aging Kidd would only satisfy the fans’ hunger for a year or two.

But not only is that duo weaker than something the Knicks could end up with in 2010, but it would jeopardize the team’s sudden potentially bright future. Walsh told fans to be patient, and now he too has to show restraint.

There are issues at hand that need to be addressed, and that is what Walsh should be worried about. He can still build for 2010, if he can find solutions now.

Nate Robinson and David Lee are both restricted free agents and require the Knicks to make critical decisions.

As exciting as Robinson is, he will surely be looking for a more lucrative offer than the Knicks are willing to give for a sixth man—especially if Walsh plans on keeping his promise. Robinson needs to move on to greener pastures than the one he has been provided with by the Knicks thus far.

The fate of David Lee, on the other hand, is a more crucial decision for Walsh. The wrap on Lee is that he is a natural power forward, and not the formidable center winning teams crave for. Therefore, he theoretically, would not grab as many rebounds next to a center.

Analysts such as Reggie Miller have claimed Lee would not be getting as many touches on a contending team, and that the only reason he scored so much this season was because the Knicks had nobody else to rely on as a second or third option.

What’s your point, Reggie? Lee is still a New York Knick, and for them, he is the team’s most clutch player. He was the reason the team won the few games they did. Over the last two to three seasons, Lee has become a double-double machine and could definitely maintain that next to a LeBron/Wade and Chris Bosh/Amare Stoudemire tandem.

His gritty play is the type of play the Knicks have lacked since Kurt Thomas. That type of play can be an “X-factor” for contending teams to give them an edge over the opposition.

If Lee is not providing that for the Knicks, he will provide it for another playoff contender, guaranteed. It won’t matter whether he is a team’s power forward or center, second or third option. David Lee will provide hard-nosed consistency to any team he is on. That is why, no matter who the Knicks consist of in 2010, Lee is key to potential success.

With those issues resolved, Walsh would only have one outstanding issue—Eddy Curry.

Let’s face it; the Knicks are stuck with him. No team is going to take on Curry, especially considering how much the Knicks publicized his struggle to stay in shape. The only thing the Knicks can do is attempt to assist Curry in resurrecting his career. Problem is, in my view, there is really only one man that can get Curry through this trying time—Patrick Ewing.

If there is one move the Knicks should certainly make this offseason, it would be to finally bring Ewing to its bench. When Curry was learning under former Knicks assistant Mark Aguirre, he did make small strides. Learning under Ewing, who has already elevated the careers of Yao Ming and Dwight Howard, could work Curry into shape and perhaps finally mold him into the dominant center he has always sought to be.

The move would also be a no doubt slam dunk with the fans, taking their minds off what would appear to be another losing season. With Lee and Curry secured and ready, 2010 would look even the more promising for New York.

Donnie Walsh has quite a long “to-do” list. Fortunately for him, he has been smart enough to buy himself time with the fans. If he can make the Knicks a serious playoff contender and bring in a marquee star or two, Walsh would be hailed a miracle worker.

Miracles, however, cannot be rushed. In order to avoid another fan letdown, Walsh needs to now take advantage and use his time effectively.

When that miracle finally comes to fruition, I am sure the Knicks’ recently troubled seasons will certainly be forgiven and forgotten.


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