“It’s what he wanted,” Stoudemire said Tuesday afternoon at the Knicks’ training facility in Greenburgh. “It’s what I wanted. To play on the big stage. He has that same kind of swag.”
“There’s no doubt, every team needs a 1 and 1A punch. With the ways we both can score . . . we’re very versatile,” Stoudemire said. “We got a pretty solid team, and it’s not over yet. . . . We’re pretty confident and we like our chances.”
Harken back to when Donnie Walsh was hired (April, 2008). The 2007-2008 (disaster) season was winding down. The Knicks were decimated by Scott Layden and then humiliated by Isaiah Thomas. The Knicks had issues both on and off the court, were rolling coaches in and out of MSG, and were harder to find on ESPN than a Minnesota Gopher – Indiana Hoosiers highlight package.
It was almost a decade since their glory years, when Patrick Ewing was battling Jordan (and his Bulls) for NBA titles. Interim GM Ed Tapscott bungled the 1999 draft, right after the Knicks lost to the Spurs in the Finals… He drafts Frédéric Weis & JR Koch over Ron Artest and Manu Ginobili. And it was basically turn out the lights after that, as one decision after another conspired to spoil & mar the post-Ewing era; almost as if the Y2K scare had only one victim: NY Knicks.
There were bad trades (Ewing, Marbury, Mcdyess & Curry)… There were traded and/or squandered draft picks. Gone were the days when Reed, Frazier, Ewing, Wilkins, Jackson, Strickland were had in the draft. Vanquished were the shrewd trades/signings, when folks like Sprewell, Houston, Oakley, LJ #1 (Larry Johnson), King, Monroe jumped aboard.
Benard King and Patrick Ewing never delivered a title, but they gave us moments… They gave us hope.
Who could forget Benard scoring 60 on Christmas Day, or what King did against BOS in the Eastern Confernce Finals (1984)? Who’ll ever stop laughing at Riley’s gelled hair, or the lasting image of Jeff Van Gundy clinging to Mourning’s leg, or getting punched by Camby? What about Dave DeBebusschere growing elated during the 1985 draft lottery, when Ewing was the prize? LJ’s 4-point shot, Starks dunking on MJ, Sprewell’s scowl and Houston’s running prayer against MIA to clinch the series? We’ll always have Sky Walker & Lil’N8 winning Dunk titles.
And it was so fine in ’89! Pitino’s boys & THE BROOM INCIDENT: sweeping the Sixers in the first round (I found out the day after Game 2 I had tickets to go to Game 2, NYK wins 107-106, thanks mom). Then, BIRD REJECTED… by the rim as we finally stick it to the Celtics (down 2-0 when NYK roars back to sweep the next 3 games, as Bird misses a reverse dunk in Game 5).
There will always be that jubilee and sweet relief we saw in Ewing… when we beat… the Pacers in ’94 and advanced to the Finals (remember his putback jam to seal it?), and then beating Indy again in ’99, becoming the 1st (& only) 8th seed to reach the Finals, as we made a run at it one more time.
Sure, we endured Michael dropping 50 on us with the flu, Charles Smith getting his shot blocked 4 times (DUNK IT!), Reggie shoving Anthony (Greg, not Carmelo), Ward getting flung, and Ewing clanking it off the back rim. We’ll never erase the memory of JOHN 2-18 (Here comes Hakeem, so pass it to Ewing). It’s impossible to erase the stain of the seamy Gold Club trial or Anucha Browne Sanders. And then there’s OJ ruining Game 5 (NBA Finals).
Still, through it all… there was always hope. Always electricity. Always a buzz.
1973 was the last time the Knicks won a championship. I was born in 1974.
So, Stern steps in and asks James Dolan to bring respect back to the NY Knicks. He points to local kid, Donnie Walsh, as the man for the job.
This was the roster we had when Walsh was hired:
3 Marbury, Stephon PG
4 Robinson, Nate G
11 Crawford, Jamal G
21 Chandler, Wilson G-F
23 Richardson, Quentin G-F
25 Collins, Mardy G
2 Jones, Fred G
31 Rose, Malik F
34 Curry, Eddy C
42 Lee, David F-C
50 Randolph, Zach PF
13 James, Jerome F-C
20 Jeffries, Jared G-F
5 Morris, Randolph C
Walsh’s first move was to hire his coach, Mike D’antoni. He spent his first lottery pick on Danillo Gallinari. Then dealt for another pick, a trade w/ HOU for Patrick Ewing Jr.
Immediately, Walsh traded Balkman to the Nuggets for Taurean Green and Bobby Jones. He quickly dumped both players. This began the roster purge. Crawford & Randolph soon followed, and it continues all the way through the Jared Jeffries debacle of a deal.
His first free agent signing was Chris Duhon, and then Anthony Roberson. And thus the makeover ensued.
REMEMBER, the goal all along (which Walsh detailed out for all to see) was to tank 2 seasons. Get under the cap. Dip into the free agent pool, lay the foundation for the next title run, and put the Knicks in a position to compete come 2010-2011 season (while maintaining some cap flexibility).
We knew we needed to dump contracts. We also realized we were going to have 2 lottery picks. So, on top of the aforementioned plan… Walsh needed to do more than just clear cap space and attract 2 max stars… He needed to surround them with AT LEAST 2 young players (whom we needed to draft).
1. Get under the cap and give ourselves options.
2. Get 2 legit max-contract stars.
3. Draft 2 legitimate, productive players
4. Find a few other rotation pieces (via trades / free agency)
As I understood it... This was the WALSH PLAN. I bought into it. I believed in it. I felt we had no other choice. Fast forward to right now... "Legend's night" ... Tonight's game at MSG against MIL. Here we are. On the cusp of our revival!
WE ALL knew there would be hardships. Tough decisions to be made. We were hoping (LOL) that Curry would fit into Mike D’s system. After all, the year before he had slipped a tad below what he accomplished under Larry brown, the year before that (when he averaged 19.5 & 7.1)
Sure, we were planning on Lebron James. All-in, right? Still, we had Marbury, Crawford, Randolph, Lee, Curry. Not best fit for MD’s style, but still… what a front court! At least, so we thought.
Then came the pain. We dump both Crawford and Randolph, in two separate deals, and now before December in Year #1 we are faced with the grim reality of the work that lay ahead of us. There would be no illusions now. No distractions. Hoping for a playoff berth and first round loss was out of the question. Now we are in full-fledged rebuilding mode. Dump bad contracts, and shoot for the highest lottery pick we could procure.
“I think that opening up cap space down the road for us is a big plus on our side and I hope our fans understand that that can give us an opportunity to make the team better according to the plan that I’ve outlined,” Walsh said on a conference call. “So I’m trying to be true to what I said from day one, and that’s what I’m doing.”
“It’s always going to be a possibility that one day the face of this franchise is going to change,” Mike D’Antoni said early Friday. “(Walsh’s) plan is pretty clear… In a couple of years we’re going to be under the cap. Everything he will do will lead us to being under the cap in two years.”
FINE. Hey, at least we could root for our next homegrown star. The worse we were the better. AND MAYBE, just maybe we luck out and get D-Rose (or B-Griffin the next year).
But… let’s stop right here. We knew we were never winning with the roster we had nor would we be in a position to be real players come 2010 free agency. We had to quit cold turkey, and for the future… we concluded that this was the road to travel. After all, what’s 2 more seasons if it means…
ANYWAY… let’s remember… EVERYTHING THAT COMES NEXT, anything that followed, was all AFTER THE FACT. The goal was, and always was/is… build a team that will compete for a title… and that means… come 2010-2011 playoffs… We are in it and able to make noise, and the future looks bright/good.
To do this, we must DRAFT at least 2 players. 2 productive, contributing players… One starter at least, with a high ceiling, and at least one rotation player, who has a lot to offer. On top of that, we better have 2 stars… 2 top-10 players. AND, if possible, would be nice to start filling out the roster… so when 2010-2011 arrives we do not have much more to do (with the roster).
We swung and missed on Lebron. OK. But we did end wind up with AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE & CARMELO ANTHONY. I can live with that. So, in terms of getting 2 max superstars (I say CHECK).
Looking at the draft… At a minimum… I wanted 2 players (1 starter & 1 rotation). We got Landry Fields and Toney Douglas. 1 starter and 1 rotation player. On top of that, we ended up with Bill Walker. He was a 2nd round pick by BOS in 2008. He is on the roster, has an upside to his game, and part of the rotation.
(3 of our 9-man rotation were guys in the 2008-2010 draft. Who knows about Jerome Jordan & Andy Rautins right now… but I would say we can give Walsh a CHECK here). We knew we had 2 lottery picks coming in the 2 years we planned on tanking. We knew we had no #1 in 2010, but we felt with our 2nd rounders and ability to buy a pick… and given the history of the draft, we all felt we should expect 3-4 players (and 1 starter). We got it. Fields, Douglas, Walker (and Rautins, Jordan).
FINALLY, we felt Walsh should find a body or 2… Players who would be part of our revival… contribute… be here as we make our title run in the 2010-2015 years. Walsh found a gem in Shawne Williams. SW was the 17th pick in the NBA draft. A leader now in 3-point shooting in the NBA. Walsh brings in Corey Brewer, who was the 7th pick in the 2007 draft. A winner while in college. He brought in a proven winning vet in Chauncey Billups. He got a tough, physical interior presence in Ronny Turiaf. He rolled the dice on a nice wing player in Keleena Azubuike. And, finally, Walsh brings in another BIG in Shelden Williams. A nice depth player from DUKE, who was also a 1st round pick in 2006.
All in all, Walsh brings in a bunch of young kids… THREE former 1st round picks (Shawne Williams, Shelden Williams and Corey Brewer) from the 2006-2007 drafts. He brings in a guy like Bill Walker, who would have been a 1st rounder if not for an injury.
He brings in vets like Billups and Turiaf. Rolls the dice on players like Azu and Mason.
He finds players in the draft (Fields, Douglas, Rautins, Jordan).
And, of course, he delivers the stars (Stoudemire & Anthony).
ALSO, let’s not forget we still have some cap flexibility. We have options. We still could do some things, and we also could have some money to spend this summer. Or, we can wait and sign YET ANOTHER max contract, or at least close to it!
I KNOW we’ll miss some of our homegrown players (Lee, Gallo & Chandler). I know we still question not competing in 2008 (dumping Crawford & Randolph). We still question Walsh for the Jeffries dump and the Anthony deal (he gave up too much; overpaid). We wonder about drafting Gallo over Eric Gordon, Lopez… or taking Jordan Hill over Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson… or not trading up for Curry.
We might even complain about our current roster. The lack of size. The depth. We may wonder about how we’re going to address our current needs, or ponder on our coach (Mike D)… nitpicking about his system and if it works in the NBA, will win a title, or fit the players.
BUT… LET’S JUST STEP BACK and REMEMBER… recall where we were April 2008. Look at the roster we had, and then look at the roster we have now.
SURE, we’re still stuck with the dark cloud that is ‘the Dolan whisperer’ (I-Thomas; credit goes to Mike Lupica for that moniker). I get all of it. But it shouldn’t take anything away from the enormous feat Donnie Walsh just accomplished. His charge was a Herculean task: REBUILD-REVITALIZE the franchise. A fortnight and thirty-three months later, they should put a statue of Walsh next to Father Francis D. Duffy in Times Square!
Applaud the fans. We helped make this possible. Despite the mismanagement, decade of futility, and 35-year championship drought… We kept our beloved NY Knicks #1 at something… According to FORBES, NYK is worth 655 million (tops in NBA; take that LAL & CHI).
Tonight, Carmelo Anthony will be on the court as the Knicks take on the Bucks. With Amar’e and Carmelo, Walsh has brought us the one thing us NYK fans have begged for since 1999: HOPE. Now let the moments come…
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