Saturday, February 20, 2010

Walsh Opens Vault for Knicks' Christmas in July

Feb. 20, 2010
By Anthony Tripicchio

Picture this.

Toys "R" Us is prepared to unveil aisle No. 2010 labeled "Superstar NBA Free Agents," and standing on the mammoth shelves are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Bosh, and Joe Johnson. Amidst the palpable hype for the new product line, there's predictably an obscene demand from the public. The new aisle, however, doesn't debut until July 1.

Well, Donnie Walsh just pitched the Knicks' tent at the front entrance.

Walsh's feverish maneuvering at the trade deadline affords him an edge over nearly every other consumer. He can obtain two stars from the desirable list (only Miami can do the same), while most of his competition will be limited to one or none at all.

The only commitments resting against the Knicks' 2010-2011 cap are Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Toney Douglas, and Eddy Curry.

Although Walsh paid a steep price to put the Knicks in this position, you have to admire that 22 months into his tenure as president, he's followed his blueprint perfectly. Regardless of the losses that mounted in the process, Walsh was determined to steer the Knicks well below the projected 2010 salary cap of $53 million.
Yes, he's made some personnel missteps along the way, but none have adversely affected his big picture. Even Brandon Jennings, who some were lauding as a franchise player in the season's first few months, has cooled off considerably since then, shooting an unenviable 37 percent from the field. While he may have been a better pick than Jordan Hill was, Jennings no longer appears to be a devastating oversight by Walsh.

As he awaits July in the tent with James Dolan's checkbook in hand, Walsh has a few items to entertain him over the season's remaining 29 games.

Tracy McGrady, a seven time All-Star, will showcase what many anticipate to be eroding skills on the Madison Square Garden floor. McGrady hasn't played significant minutes in over a year and a half, but he's been an elite player in the past and he's still only 30 years-old.

Jeff Van Gundy calls him "one of the best pasing wing players to have ever played the game."

He's a great pick-and-roll player, and he's going to get guys really good shots," Van Gundy said.

As we've seen exemplified repeatedly by Chris Duhon and David Lee, the pick and roll is Mike D'Antoni's bread and buter.
Understandably, McGrady's explosion and elevation may be hindered by microfracture surgery that few have ever regained their orginal form from. At 6'8 though, McGrady still is capable of getting his own shot off and can utilize his unique handle and passing ability to make teammates better.

Expectations should be tempered for him initially as he shakes off rust, but we will know if he can still play by the end of the year. If he can, McGrady would certainly be an asset to pair with James or Wade.

Another attraction for Walsh as the Knicks play out the string is the untapped potential of Sergio Rodriguez. Though he was just an afterthought of the blockbuster deal, Rodriguez is a point guard D'Antoni has targeted for years and even had a hand in drafting for Phoenix before they shipped him off to Portland for cash.

Rodriguez has good size for his position at 6'3 and is known as an excellent transition point. Rodriguez, however, has been buried on depth charts in all of his NBA stops thus far and no one has seen enough to ascertain whether or not he's a difference maker. D'Antoni will ensure that question gets answered.

Meanwhile, Walsh is camped out and ready to go shopping.

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