NEW YORK — As a result of Friday’s frolic into a future free agent market sprawling with superstars, Knicks president Donnie Walsh sealed NBA executive-of-the-year honors. In one sated afternoon at the trade table, Walsh accomplished last March’s employment assignment:
Repair the Knicks’ salary cap broken by Dave Checketts and subsequently shattered and destroyed by Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas.
“The Knicks’ sudden cap flexibility (on the hook in 2010-11 for $18.37 million worth of contracts belonging Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries and Wilson Chandler) puts them in complete control of their future,” an Eastern Conference decision-maker applauded.
They now have one-year contracts (David Lee and Nate Robinson) this season and next that can be moved for other one-year players.
More importantly, instead of just LeBron James they have the capability (currently $40.2 million under the $58.68 million cap) to sign Chris Bosh, or Dwyane Wade, or Yao Ming, or Steve Nash, or a number of other elite (some elderly) potential free agents, in addition to another talent a plateau below.
It also allows Donnie to bring in a player with a longer deal if he feels he’s compatible and still have max money for LeBron or whomever.
“Donnie now can build a team to complement Mike D’Antoni’s system and every player agent will be his best friend,” underlined the same decision-maker.
That’s Reason No. 1 Walsh’s peers are paying tribute to him. By saving $28.61 million for a 2010 summer fling, The Man With The Plan indubitably sacrificed this season and next. Meaning, their lottery draft position has improved immeasurably.
Whoops, the Utah Jazz own the Knicks’ unprotected slot in 2010.
And that’s not the only enemy greatly aided and abetted by The Man With The Plan’s two trades. The Warriors got Jamal Crawford, a misfit in D’Antoni’s system who will fit snugly into Don Nelson’s misfit system, especially when Monta Ellis’ ankle is fully healed.
And the Clippers got Zach Randolph.
Mike Dunleavy was awfully unhappy to surrender Cuttino Mobley (a joy to coach and his most prized locker room influence), yet L.A. made out like a Somali pirate. The Clips now boast two painted ponies to ride and possess the plasticity and power to dangle Randolph, Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman as trade bait.
Where does that leave the Knicks?
The Man With The Plan and The Coach With A System (unproven in the NBA without Nash at the controls) have no legit inside scoring threat to draw double teams.
Who cares that Chris Duhon, Tim Thomas, Chandler, Nate Robinson, Al Harrington and Quentin Richardson are disciples of Downtown Freddie Brown?
Why would a thinking man leave them open when there’s no reason to help down low and the Knicks point guards aren’t exactly blessed with penetration-and-kick know-how?
Then again, this is the NBA where most coaches are copycats and just about every team is under orders to double the ball (regardless of the handler’s skills) and then react and rotate accordingly.
As long as I’m questioning The Man and The Plan, why the heated rush to get under the cap two summers early?
These deals could have been done any time and reaped more, is says here. Had Walsh wanted to dump Randolph’s entire salary he could have done it for a mere second-round pick (Dunleavy says he dropped the request for a No. 1 almost immediately) months ago.
Now the Knicks must pay two vets on the way down over $30 million over two seasons.
What sort of smoke signals did The Man With The Plan send by incinerating the roster of a team that had at least moved on up to mediocrity (6-6, albeit with three consecutive losses) in the early going by redirecting his two leading scorers for three players, all of whom have checked more than their share of baggage with skycaps all across these fruited plains?
Not only is The Man With The Plan asking for good faith among his long-suffering, over-paying fan base, he’s asking for good faith among the likes of James, Bosh, Wade, et al.
Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying that at least one can be convinced to take Manhattan, despite it having the barest of cupboards.
“If you feel like you have a good chance to get LeBron, then I think you have to set yourself up to make it happen,” e-mailed an Eastern Conference team president. “When you have a deal that’s sitting there staring you in the face and you know you need to dump salary, its hard not to pull the trigger, Pete, because you just don’t know if that deal is going to be there again”
Peter Vecsey covers the NBAfor the New York Post.