[Only registered and activated users can see links. ]
ith Jerome James agreeing to a five-year contract at about $6 million per season, Isiah Thomas has pulled off a very non-Erick Dampier signing.
Dampier was in a very similar situation to James last summer, as he was the prized center on the free agent market, coming off a successful season, but with questions about his long term value, as both players have been plagued by apathy and mediocrity.
Dallas overpaid for Dampier in a sign-and-trade deal with the Warriors and he is now on a the second year of a seven year contract, a contract where he will make more than $10 million a year over the final four years.
He is now already an unwelcome part of the Mavericks’ franchise as he has clashed with Dirk Nowitzki and been an all around disappointment. The same kind of disappointing play he demonstrated over his years in Oakland, which led Chris Mullin to choose the unskilled, but dependable Adonal Foyle.
Quentin Richardson and Nate Robinson for Kurt Thomas and Dijon Thompson was Isiah’s first strike this summer.
Robinson has already become a cult phenomenon in the Vegas Summer League and will be a solid rotation guy immediately.
James now comes to Madison Square Garden with the midlevel and the Knicks are clearly much better than they were this time last season. With a starting line-up of Stephon Marbury, Quentin Richardson, Tim Thomas, James and potentially Antoine Walker in a sign-and-trade, the Knicks have a very capable five, with players that do very different things on the floor.
At 7-1, James is a legitimate center with very good quickness, a nice lowpost game and the ability to defend top tier centers such as Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal.
The question of course will be if Isiah can rely on a player who has never averaged more than 17 minutes per game to be the Knicks’ starting center. Will they be getting the Jerome James who lit up the Kings for 17.2 ppg and 9.4 rpg in the first round of the 2005 Playoffs or the Jerome James who disappeared against the Spurs by averaging 8.5 ppg and 4.7 rpg.
At times James is a center that elicits comparisons to Robert Parish, as one announcer once proclaimed last season and at other times he looks like Benoit Benjamin.
The pressure of playing at Madison Square Garden should keep James away from the fits of apathy that he had while playing in laidback Seattle over the last four seasons. If James even begins to think about giving lackluster performances, he will be booed like he has never been booed before.
Isiah's next move will involve watching the Larry Brown situation very closely. He is prepared to wait as long as it takes to see if Brown will receive a buy out from the Pistons and if he leaves Detroit, Isiah will pounce with a contract in the neighborhood of $50 million.
Of course there are two more aspects of the off-season that have to be resolved beyond who will be the head coach.
The first one will be Antoine Walker. Michael Sweetney is the final holdover of the Scott Layden era and Isiah seems keen to rid himself of the undersized power forward. Walker would give the Knicks a versatile power forward, who has averaged more than 20 points per game six times during his career and his reputation as a guy who launches three-pointers all day has waned, as he has reduced his attempts significantly since he was traded to the Mavericks.
The second one will involve a potential trade of Stephon Marbury or Jamal Crawford. This situation is less likely to actually happen, but there have been so many whispers that one of these players could be dealt. Brown doesn't appear to be a big fan of Marbury, whom he coached on the 2004 Olympic squad, but Brown has the potential to turn the talented point guard into a Chauncey Billups type of leader.
Crawford has more value to other teams than Marbury, as a combo guard with as much pure basketball talent as any player in the league, but who has yet to really click, but under the right coach, in the right system, could become an All-Star. It is likely that Isiah wants that All-Star bid to be in orange and blue.
Even with these moves, the Knicks won't be making a title run, but they are now the best team in the Atlantic Division.