The Buy-In for 2010 Is One Max Contract

by Matt Lawyue / @mlawyue

In Walsh we trust.

February 18, 2010 will be marked in Knicks history as the day somebody in the organization with a well-constructed plan and goal actually followed through on their word. And I’m not even being sarcastic.

GM Donnie Walsh stated from the beginning his goal was to get the team under the cap for 2010 (check), have as much cap flexibility as possible (check) and put a competitive team on the floor (X…still in progress). After today’s deadline dealing’s, he’s 2/3 of the way there. It was, and still is, going to be a rebuilding process. What they had on the floor didn’t work, so Walsh started from scratch.

He dumped Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, Stephon Marbury, Jerome James, Quentin Richardson and most recently, Nate Robinson, Larry Hughes and Jared Jeffries. Boom, roasted.

– He exiled, to much delight, the man currently coaching Florida International. Boom, roasted.

– He revamped the suffocating media policy. Boom, roasted.

– He got the team under the cap. Boom, roasted.

– He created enough cap space to offer two, max contracts to the free agent class of 2010 this summer. Boom, roasted.

– He hired Mike D’Antoni to coach the Knicks team in 2010, while developing youngsters like Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Toney Douglas. Boom, roasted.

But the plan has come at a price.

– All of the rebuilding has left a damaged, horrible squad on the floor. And the fans must suffer for it.

– There are only four players currently under contract for 2010 (Chandler, Gallinari, Douglas, Eddy Curry. Curry comes off the books in 2011.) If the Knicks sign two max players, there won’t be a lot of extra green to throw around. Whoever signs will be playing for pennies compared to the superstars.

– Their 2010 draft pick was already lost to Utah, and now they’ve practically given up their 2011 and 2012 picks (Houston can swap picks with them in 2011 unless it’s the first pick of the draft, and have a protected top-five pick in 2012). Rebuilding through the draft isn’t going to happen.

– Jordan Hill, their 8th pick in the ’09 Draft, is gone. This is where Walsh clearly messed up. Instead of drafting a guard to run D’Antoni’s offense they went with the PF Hill. He’ll probably turn into a decent player, but after Chris Duhon broke down last season, they needed to draft a PG in the guard-rich ’09 Draft. Now that Duhon is floundering worse than ever, this pick is even under more scrutiny than before.

Are the means enough to justify the ends? We don’t know right now. We’ll find out over the summer.

But the bottom line here, Walsh accomplished his goal in order to gamble in the high-stakes, VIP room this summer. All of their money is on Walsh’s ability to wine and dine LeBron James, somebody else and his supporting cast to play for the Knicks.

Does Walsh have enough game to do it? We’ll find out, but God, I hope so.

Should we judge Walsh on his winnings this summer? Absolutely. If he doesn’t come through with the big prize, it’s not going to go over well with Knicks’ fans. You could argue that even if they don’t acquire LeBron or Wade or whomever, they have enough room to assemble a decent squad without a superstar.

If that’s your mentality, that’s fine. But Walsh didn’t blow up this roster just to create another superstar-less one, with the Knicks floundering in the lower rung of the Eastern standings.

From this point on, it’s go big or go home.

In Walsh we trust.

Knickled & Dimed List
— The possibility of this summer ending disastrously.