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Knicks Winning Their Games - Losing Their Plan

By: Gary Ayd

The New York Knicks are in the midst of a surprising and in some ways ill-timed resurgence. By winning now the Knicks are putting themselves in a tougher position heading into the fabled class of 2010.

With so many players playing well in the last year of their contracts Donnie Walsh and his front office staff, along with coach Mike D’Antonti will have the tough act of trying to balance keeping money available for potential free agents and keeping a competitive roster around star X.

Below is a list of players who will come off the team’s payroll following this season:


Stats as of 1/9/10

2009-2010 Salary

Larry Hughes

10.4ppg, 3.9apg 1.4spg

$13.65 million

Al Harrington

18.4ppg, 6rpg, 1.6apg

$10 million

Cuttino Mobley


$9.5 million

Darko Millcic

2ppg, .5apg, 2.3rpg

$ 7.5 million

David Lee

19.1ppg, 10,9rpg, 3apg

$7 million

Chris Duhon


$6 million

Nate Robinson


$4 million

Appearing on that list are the Knicks leaders in every major statistical category except for blocked shots, (Jared Jefferies) as well as five of their top seven scorers.
Of course shedding $57 million in salary would allow New York to pursue one max guy and perhaps another less then max free agent, but at what cost?
You and I both know any max salary guy is going to take his sweet time signing with whoever he decides to sign with, if the Knicks decide to roll the dice on signing one of the top guys they are almost assuredly going to lose most if not all of the impact players on the above list.
Before we ask the question is it worth the risk lets go back and list the top reasons why the Knicks winning this year may do them more harm then good.
1. A team that is at or around .500 and may or may not have snuck into the playoffs is very unlikely to impress a Lebron James, or Dwayne Wade, especially if most or all of the key players on that team are sacrificed in order to afford them.
2. It may accelerate fan expectations to an unreasonable level, the fact is with or without a big name coming in this off-season the Knicks will still be a few years away at best from truly contending for a championship, especially if they have to gut the roster to land that player.
3. Players like David Lee and Al Harrington are unlikely to sign anywhere cheap (nor should they). Lee for example is having a career year he is leading the Knicks in both points and rebounds and is one of only 10 guys in the league currently averaging at least 15 points and 10 rebounds. Is there any logical reason he should accept less then top dollar on the open market?
4. This last reason is unlikely to happen but should still be a concern for true Knick fans: what if as the trading deadline nears and the Knicks are still in contention (as I expect them to be) for the playoffs Donnie Walsh makes a bold move and acquires a player whose contract extends beyond the end of this season? If that were to happen the Knicks would have significantly hindered their long-term plan to satisfy a short-term desire. Again probably won’t happen but you have to at least mention it.
So now back to the question is it worth it? Is it really worth pinning all of the teams hopes and dreams on what essentially amounts to putting your whole life savings on black at the roulette wheel? My answer is a resounding…maybe.
If Walsh can find some way to lure a big name player and keep at least Lee in the fold (preferably Lee and either Duhon or Harrington) then I am all for it.
But make no mistake about it if the Knicks lose everyone and add only one top guy this team will be no better and perhaps even worse then they are this year.
Also lost in all the Lebron mania is the fact that David Lee has elevated himself to an all-star, and perhaps even all-pro level. People still love to say that Lee is limited offensively, he can’t create his own shot, isn’t athletic enough etc. but the fact is this man is .9 ppg away from being only the fourth guy this season to average at least 20 and 10. Very simply you DON’T let a guy like that go PERIOD!
Yell at me if you want Knick fans but I am just simply raising the issues that James, Wade, Bosh or any other big name free agent the Knicks bring in will ask.
They say in the NBA like in life timing is everything, and the Knicks may just have picked the absolute worst time to start winning again.

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