With the recent signing of [Only registered and activated users can see links. ][Only registered and activated users can see links. ] and [Only registered and activated users can see links. ][Only registered and activated users can see links. ] to one-year contracts, Knicks president Donnie Walsh succeeded in giving the franchise maximum flexibility heading into 2010, when the team plans to enter the bidding for a star-studded free agent class. Walsh talked about his plan and determination to stick with it with Sporting News' Bill Eichenberger at the team's media gathering before the start of training camp. Q: Did you ever have any doubt this summer that you would get David Lee and Nate Robinson re-signed before training camp?
Walsh: If you had told me at the beginning of the year that these guys wouldn't get offer sheets and that they would be willing to sign one-year contracts, which is what we felt was all we could offer, I would have said it was doubtful. But then I think the league kind of froze when the economic numbers came out. So it was not a good market for them, and that opened the door for us and we got it done.
Q: How would you view your offseason? Did you accomplish what you wanted?
Walsh: I think we have five players left from the team that ended the season the season before last. So we changed the team. We'll see if that's for good, even or better. We don't know. We're younger and we're bigger. Again, we'll have to see how that works out.
Q:
Has your goal remained the same since coming to the Knicks?
Walsh: We did the best we could do to try and be competitive this year and yet retain the salary cap flexibility that we want next year and the year after. That was the goal when I got here, and that has remained the goal. And this summer was going to be a test of that.
Q: How so?
Walsh: It was hard to go out, particularly in this second summer, when you are only looking at guys who can take a one-year contract. So you couldn't look for free agents or trades that brought you guys who went into next summer. So that really confines what you can do. That's why I think the fact that Nate and David were willing to take one-year contracts really helped us. We got two guys who can really help this team, who know the system, have been in New York. One guy (Robinson) averaged 17.2 points last year. The other guy (Lee) was 16 and almost 12 in rebounds. They are two good players that would be missed if they were not here.
Q: Where do you stand now in terms of your grand plan for 2010? Do you have max room under the cap?
Walsh: We have the most room in the league. There are eight teams between 10 to 20 million, and four teams over 20. The last time I looked, we had more room than anybody. I think that's good. We're No. 1. But all that depends on what happens with the revenues this year, so you just don't know.
Q: A lot of people are assuming that the superstars who are going to be free agents next year will go where they think they can win the most. Do you think you have a core group that is good enough to attract one of those guys?
Walsh: I think it is a bigger decision than that for most free agents. I think the fact that it is New York plays into it. How good our team is plays into it. We have a great coach in Mike D'Antoni. That plays into it. There are a lot more factors than just how many good players do they have and how would I play well with them. They have to want to leave their home team, because the home team can always keep them. They are always able to give you more money. So we go into it with that idea.
Q: How big of a challenge will it be to make the playoffs this year with a roster that is not all that dissimilar from a year ago?
Walsh: If some of these guys, either young guys or new guys like (Darko) Milicic, Eddy (Curry), (Danilo) Gallinari, if they come in and really can contribute, then maybe we are a little better team. For most of last season, we were kind of in playoff contention. Then I felt we went downhill for a while. And some of it might have been that we hadn't competed for a playoff with this particular team. They didn't understand how it was going to go when we got out of the All-Star break. They played as hard as they could. But the disruptions hurt them, the injuries hurt them.
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