The Knicks and Sir Charles…

Charles Barkley is interviewed by ESPN about the LA Lakers and Dallas Mavericks game Los Angeles, California - 16.01.12 **Only available for publication in the Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Canada, United Arab Emirates & China. Not available for the rest of the world** Mandatory Credit: WENN.com
NY Knicks - 2009
NY Knicks – 2009

No… you clicked on the right website… yes, this is still 7Poundbag… no name change… it’s just…

A flashback to just about two months to the day shy of being six years of appearring in a now defeunct website that I thought was preatty damn good but for some reason never got its tires on the asphalt and gained any traction…

David Snipes isn't afraid to deal out the hurt... or pay his respects.
David Snipes isn’t afraid to deal out the hurt… or pay his respects.

I recently found it amongst my ready to post stuff and I suspect was placed there by that site’s founder, as well as this sites founder… the inimitable  David Snipes….

Athough it was written six years ago about a floundering team… (still floundering?)… it raised, what  I think was, and is still, an important question… what responsibilty does a franchise have to its loyal fanbase to put a competitive team, who tries to win, out on the field…or the court as the case is here… each and every night?

ISSo with that here it is… from the webpages of yesteryear’s Informative Sports to this year’s webpages of 7Poundbag  I give you…

The Knicks and Sir Charles…

I recently read in the morning newspaper (10/27/09) that Sir Charles (Barkley)     thinks that the Knicks GM, Donnie Walsh, is basically using poor management decisions to run the New York Knicks. Barkley says, “when you set up yourself by … saying ‘we’re going to (stink) for the next two or three years’ I don’t think there is any way that can be good for your team.”

Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley

Barkley is talking about the ill kept secret that the Knicks are, and have for some time, trading away players in a concerted effort to slice salary to get under the dreaded cap number so they can make a serious bid on acquiring the service of either LeBron James or Dwayne Wade… or Chris Bosh… or Joe Johnson. And the Knicks are saying they are making these trades with the belief they are not only good for the team but that the Knicks will also be able to be competitive in the NBA.

First a disclaimer: I am not a Knicks fan but root for that other New York metropolitan team, the New Jersey Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets).

I have believed that the Knicks, although sacrificing their team’s chances for making the playoffs in the now, were following the soundest logic they could for their team and that was to shed the unwieldy and unforgiving long term contracts that their previous GM had shackled the team. In fact almost to a person most writers have more or less agreed with my thinking. Then along comes Sir Charles to throw a spanner into the works. And at first I actually said “Pah, whatever.” But then I thought about what he was saying and I thought to myself, “Is there a responsibility for a franchise to have players under contract that have chemistry and camaraderie to play competitively each night they take the court? And, is there a responsibility for a franchise to provide such a team so that the fan gets their money’s worth each and every night they watch the team play.”

Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas

When Isiah Thomas, in his various incarnations as the team’s President, General Manager and/or Coach, who had built the Knicks into the disaster that they had become, was eventually let go by the man who replaced him as President and GM, Donnie Walsh, the team was exactly that: an unqualified disaster. They were a combination of untradeable contracts for players who weren’t worth the money to begin with, a team with no discernible draft picks that were worth mentioning and a team with no cap flexibility whatsoever. Add to this mix a fanatical fan base that is ill-tempered to begin with when they don’t win and compound that by a totally noncompetitive team for the last few years and a team that will in all likelihood be worse than they were in 2008/2009 and the recipe is complete for another last place finish in the standings and for the players to believe they have no chance to win at all as well as the belief that many of them will be gone by next year in one form or another. So where is the will to win? Yes, professional athletes, hell any athlete, should take the court (or field) with the innate desire to compete to the best of their abilities but we all know that isn’t always possible for all athletes all the time and given the situation just described many players would wind up just going through the motions. And in some respects given the situation is it any wonder that they would? So is Barkley hitting the proverbial nail on the proverbial head here? Are the Knicks setting up their team to lose by not providing the necessary atmosphere to want to deliver a 100% on the court every time the team takes the court? And is this what the Knick fans deserve when they shell out their hard earned dollars to pay for transportation, be it mass transit or by paying for gas and parking, and for concessions, as well as the price of admission when they go to Madison Square Garden to watch the team they bleed New York blue for?

Donnie Walsh
Donnie Walsh

Donnie Walsh since he has come to the Knicks has done pretty much the impossible. One, he has the franchise comfortably under the cap right now and primed to be in line to bid on some of the top free agents for the 2010/2011 season. He just last year unloaded Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford, both who were signed for beyond 2010 for players who are not under contract beyond 2010 and at the same time freed up over a combined $27.4 million in salary that was owed to the two players.

When the trade was made that unloaded these two players the coach, Mike D’Antoni, said “… I really want to dispel the notion that OK, we did it to clear (money) – which we did, and obviously we have a long term plan, and that was the plan from the very first day.” (Hmmmmm… okay.) “But at the same time, we’re not throwing this year (2008/2009) away or thinking that we’re not going to make the playoffs or think we’re waiting for three years from now. No. We’re going to go out and develop this team and we’re going to really fight hard to get into the playoffs, and, I think we can.”

Interesting… so what did his GM say at the time?

Walsh: “I think this is an unfortunate time to make this kind of trade because you’re introducing three new players into the system and in addition to that you’re taking out the two guys who are most successful players in the beginning of the season… So this will be a difficult time for our coach, but I think we are all on the same page as far as trying to get this done.”

D’Antoni is practicing good coach speak while Walsh is a GM practicing reality speak. And just what page are they on? The page they are most concerned with is the future … 2010 … rather than the record for either 2008 or 2009. Winning is not the first priority for the Knicks right now.

Now it is understandable that a team has to consider all its options and that includes having an eye on the future but somewhere isn’t written, if it isn’t then it should be, that a team is required to put as competitive a team as they possibly can on the court of play as they are able?

 Mike D'Antoni
Mike D’Antoni

Barkley says with the Knicks present strategy that the team is not going to win because the players have no impetus to try to win and to expect the Knicks players as presently comprised “to give 110% is unrealistic”. Seven out of the Knicks fourteen players are in the final year of their contracts. And when those seven contracts, which include Al Harrington, Larry Hughes, David Lee and Nate Robinson, expire then the cap space for 2010 will be even more enhanced so Walsh can compete most optimally in the free agent market. Barkley is further quoted as saying, “The Knicks don’t have a good team… I think (the free agency strategy) has hurt the camaraderie and chemistry on the team… (the players) aren’t dumb. They know they’re not going to be around.”

And understand this even as these players on the Knicks are to embark into playing the 2009 season D’Antoni is claiming that the present Knicks’ team is going to competitive and have a chance to make the playoffs. And the reason for this new found competiveness that will lead t o improving upon the Knicks 32-50 record from last season is that the Knicks will have Danilo Gallinari. Yes, the Danilo Gallinari who played all of 28 games last year and is coming off of back surgery. D’Antoni has said all preseason that Gallinari is the key to taking the Knicks from their sorry 32-50 season in 2008 and making them a playoff contender. His logic? The Knicks lost 18 games by five points or less with Gallinari being hurt most of the season. And since Gallinari is in D’Antoni’s words “The best shooter” he has ever seen and that when he played at half his ability (in 2008) “we were 14-14 and he shot 47% from the three”. And that therefore with Gallinari at full strength he will be the go to scorer late in games that will enable the Knicks to overcome that five point, or less, deficit. One problem already however is that the way Gallinari has played in preseason has D’Antoni reserving Gallinari a seat on the bench to start the season.donnie & Mike

And then consider this piece of news from the NBA: In July 2009 the NBA said the salary cap for the 2009 season was being lowered to $57.7million because of the league’s lowered revenues. And for 2009 the Knicks could care less. But the NBA is also saying that in 2010 the cap could go even lower… as low as $50.4 million. So now Walsh may have to rethink his plan of signing a stud free agent to go along with the possible signing of the big stud, LeBron James. And if Walsh can’t show James that the Knicks will have some one on his level to play with then maybe James says no to sign on with the team as a free agent. Then add to the scenario the fact that if the cap does drop to $50.4 million then James could resign with Cleveland for about $19.4 million or he could sign with the Knicks for $17.6 million. And if the Knicks don’t have the top level free agent to play with then which way does James lean? OR, he could sign with Cleveland right now before the cap drops at all for a yearly average of $22.4 million.

And now two of the prime potential free agents of the class of 2010, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, as well as Barkley think that building a team through free agency is taking a huge risk that does not always pan out. Bosh said point blank that “those teams (Nets, Knicks and Heat) are putting all their eggs in one basket” by freeing up cap space and thinking they can make a big splash in the free agent market in 2010.

Barkley adds “to put your fans through all the losing and then you don’t get that quote-unquote savior, I don’t think it’s fair at all. These teams have all become losers, (the Knicks, Nets and Heat). They’re all shedding their good players and their contracts for that one guy … that doesn’t do your fan base any good, … if you don’t get that guy, what do you do?”

Wade adds, “When you think about how many teams that are… waiting around, you’ve got to (know) there’s not that many franchise players to fill every team. From the looks of it now…. It’s kind of like swinging a bat with your eyes closed. You don’t know if you’re going to hit or not.”

Chris Bosh, Lebron James & Dwayne Wade
Chris Bosh, Lebron James & Dwayne Wade

Walsh says, not surprisingly, “I disagree with that. I think that’s the quickest way to get up to the contending class. …. (building through the draft… that’s going to take you a long time. First of all… say you need four or five players. That’s four or five years …Then they have to play together to become a team. And then you have to be right on every pick. So that’s seven, eight years. … I think you can shortcut that.”

And to be fair Walsh, especially with this Knicks team has a strong and very valid point. If the Knicks don’t try and strike while the iron is hot in 2010 then the atmosphere in Madison Square Garden might very well be very tense and very sour as the Knicks begin another rebuilding phase in their franchise history. A rebuilding phase that many Knick fans are probably not very willing to pay to watch for the next five to eight years as it develops with no promise of being a success or of making it to the promised land of a championship.

And if the Knicks fan base erodes away from the team then the Garden becomes a wasteland of empty seats. And empty seats can’t buy expensive concessions. And, furthermore, if the Knicks don’t play good enough to draw at the Garden then eventually that will also translate to low ratings for their owner’s cable station, (MSG) and if the ratings are in the toilet then businesses are not going to want to pay top dollar to sponsor the showing of Knicks games over the air.

The bottom line would now dripping in red ink. And, frankly, I don’t know if Jimmy Dolan is willing to wait out the five to eight years it would take at a minimum to rebuild the franchise into a contending team that people will pay to see both live and on TV.

New York Knicks executive chairman James Dolan
New York Knicks executive chairman James Dolan

Walsh said the day he signed on with the Knicks in 2008 that his end goal was to be a player in the free agent market in 2010. He has positioned the knicks to do that.

But given all of this that Walsh has done, the real question becomes can he sign two players who can take the Knicks onward and upward to be a contender for a championship? And will being     a contender be enough for Dolan and the Knicks’ fans or is only a championship or two or three the only salve that will heal the wounds of the recent futility and putridity that the Knicks have displayed on the hardwood floors? And if he does get two really good players or even one really good player and one almost really good player has he broke the bank on those signings and have nothing left to fill out the supporting cast for the championship roster?

No easy answers are there?

But back to Barkley’s comments. Is any of this fair to the Knicks fans and do they deserve to be led by their noses to believe that anything is really ever going to improve with the Knicks’ team? Or do you say let’s start by signing some core players now and start developing the team to be competitive from day one and then use the draft and intelligent decision making on talent to build a team that will eventually contend for years and years on end.

The only really true fact right now is this from Walsh’s lips: “I haven’t settled on any one player because I don’t know who’s going to be there.”

Because what happens if the top players decide that they want the money that they can get from their current teams and stay with those teams because by NBA rule those teams can give them more than any other team? And if there are a few top players still out looking for an opportunity to play elsewhere then what happens when the players decide, for what ever reason, to go to the other teams and not the Knicks? What happens when the Knicks are left holding fistful of dollars and there is no one willing to take the money and play in the Garden when all is said and done?

And then if it all plays out that way then all the losing for the last two to three years has all been done in a futile effort without any tangible or meaningful results. And the fans once again have nothing left to root for except another five to eight years of desperation and losing as the Knicks once again start to rebuild from square one. Something they could have been doing on that fateful day when Jimmy Dolan finally smelled the coffee and got rid of Isiah Thomas.

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Comment:

Here are my thoughts on the Matter.

Place the Knicks roster in Wisconsin, or Portland or Charlotte.

Is there a CHANCE IN HELL LeBron is even THINKING of playing there?

No.

But that the advantage of being in a major market, that’s partially why the Larry Bird exception-even though named for a big-market player can be the best thing for a mid-level market team. But the lights of New York are going to entice some player to the Knicks and cripple at least one team (my guess? Bosh and Joe Johnson)

One note, however- remember a few years back when Chicago did this exact same thing post-Jordan and found there were NO FREE AGENTS that wanted to go there and Krause ended up over-paying for Jalen Rose and Eddie Robinson?

~~David

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