NEW YORK — Considering the squall of trade winds that relayed the names of Amare Stoudemire, Vince Carter, Shaq, Richard Jefferson and Gerald Wallace throughout the NBA it’s safe to say none of the deals blew us away or remotely provoked anyone to exclaim, “Like, whoa!”
The first inclination of valued misanthropists was to write off the Knicks deal with the Bulls as one team’s trash is now another team’s trash.
“This wasn’t a trade,” column castigator Frank Drucker underlined, “it was a prisoner exchange.”
Think about it; how badly did the Bulls and Knicks want to delouse themselves of their respective canker sores?
So bad that Larry Hughes — whose contract ($12.8 million, $13.6 million next season) managing partner Jerry Reinsdorf almost certainly would have bought out had GM John Paxson been unable to deport him — was swapped for . . .
• Jerome James, inarguably the worst mid-level free agent signing in NBA history: 90 games, two in each of the last two seasons; 694 minutes, 15 in last two; 223 points, 10 in last two; 163 rebounds, three in each of last two seasons; and 179 personal fouls.
• Tim Thomas, whom Chicago exiled the last time the Knicks sent him there until it could reroute him to Phoenix . . . and disposable 3-point dry heaver Anthony Roberson.
With Stephon Marbury on, ahem, hiatus, the Knicks evidently felt obligated to fill the under-the-malignancy-cap void.
When the 196-cm guard returned from the injured list roughly six weeks ago, coach Vinny Del Negro offered him 30 minutes a game (sound familiar?) at the point, off guard and small forward. He impudently declined.
“Larry doesn’t give a damn about winning or losing unless his team wins and he’s the focal point,” a Bulls official harpooned. “All he cares about his starting, playing 36-to-38 minutes and getting his.”
Talk to some Cavaliers, professionals who don’t bother anybody and, generally, slam nobody, and they croon the same cheerless tune.
“It’s about Larry and that’s all it’s about,” one Cav confirms.
Another says, “All I’ll say is he’s a different guy. It was hard to figure out what is important to him. He actually has a decent understanding of the game . . . but not as much as he thinks.”
Insights such as that explain why the Knicks are Hughes’ sixth team (14.7 ppg, ordinary 41-percent field-goal shooting and awful 3.2-2.2 assist-turnover ratio) in 11 seasons.
He has worn out his welcome at each venue (Philadelphia, Golden State, Cleveland and Chicago) except Washington; the Wizards wanted him back for a mega pact but were outbid by the Cavs.
The same Bulls official advanced disapproval an additional step.
“You don’t need distractions,” the source said. “If Larry is not playing you, don’t know what he’s saying to the young kids or how he might be conspiring with the veterans behind the coach’s back. One way or the other, he had to go.”
Opportunistically for Hughes, he’s joining a team that craves an established off guard. Starting for the 24-32 Knicks may not be any kind of an achievement, but Larry can ball, irrefutably.
Don’t take my word for it; indictments regarding his selfishness aside, the above Bulls official fully endorses his ability.
“Larry really knows the game and he can play it . . . at both ends,” the source said. “He’s not a catch-and-shoot guy. His specialty is taking the ball off the dribble and creating shots. You’ve got to have guys like that when things break down at the end of a shot clock. His defense is what will surprise you; nobody on the Knicks is better than him.”
In other words, Knicks president Donnie Walsh can’t go wrong with Hughes, and then outdid himself by obtaining a second starter from Oklahoma City when Tyson Chandler was returned to New Orleans after failing his physical.
Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith were the other part of that deal. When it was annulled and the Knicks couldn’t match the Bulls offer to the Kings for Brad Miller, Walsh adjusted his sights and grabbed Wilcox while the getting was good.
Whereas Hughes’ shooting range is not idyllic for Mike D’Antoni’s system, and he can’t fill the lanes on the fast break (he was the first of Allen Iverson’s teammates who couldn’t run with him), Wilcox is perfecto.
“He was really a good pickup for New York. When Mike was at Phoenix he repeatedly tried to get Chris from the Sonics,” said an executive very much in the thick of things.
AN ALL-STAR Weekend source told me Yao Ming was furious and frustrated by the way Tracy McGrady and his clique (Ron Artest, Rafer Alston, Aaron Brooks) were playing as individuals vs. looking out for the team.
Suddenly, McGrady needs surgery and Alston’s in Orlando.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBAfor the New York Post.
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