Tagged: Joe Johnson

Does Donnie Know A Secret About 2010?

If the Knicks start next season with Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer as their primary 2010 free agent additions I will be underwhelmed. I mean, they did give up a lot to be able to clear enough cap space this summer to be far enough under the cap to sign two max free agents. As loyal commenter Italian Stallion and Twitter agitator ( 😉 ) @LoveThoseKnicks often remind me, the Knicks could have kept all the assets they traded in the McGrady deal and still had max cap space in 2011 (assuming the cap mechanics stay the same) without giving Houston the right to swap ’11 picks, their ’12 pick and Jordan Hill.

The argument carries some weight. And I’ll admit that aside from the picks, losing Jordan Hill alone stung. My counterargument is always that:

  1. The Knicks lost a net of 1 draft pick in the deal, which is the 2012 draft pick. The Knicks retain their ’11 pick, and if the Knicks vastly improve this summer, there is a strong chance that Houston will not invoke its option to swap. And if that is how things play out, the Knicks won’t miss their 2012 pick too much either. (Here the argument devolves into Stallion and @LoveThoseKnicks saying something like, “But the Knicks lose a pick.” To which I respond, “They can just buy another one in the late round.” To which Stallion or @LoveThoseKnicks will reply, “Well then they could have had two picks because they can buy one anyway.” To which I respond, “Well then they can buy two picks.” And this continues for awhile.)
  2. Aside from everything in point 1, I still think clearing the extra cap space in the TMac deal was a worthy risk. A calculated risk. Some might say it was a gamble. Still worth it from where I’m sitting if it increases your chances of getting a better player than you otherwise might’ve if you just had room for one player.

But Stallion and @LoveThoseKnicks make a good point and I have to acknowledge it. If you think of the TMac trade as “mortgaging the Knicks’ future” or a colossal gamble then you have to wonder why Donnie did it. By all accounts Donnie is a shrewd, calculating, patient and opportunistic executive. If the TMac trade was just a roll of the dice then you have to wonder why he would do something so uncharacteristic.

I’ve often tried to think of it this way and I come to the conclusion that Donnie must know that he can do something special this off-season. At least I hope so. In a chat today, Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com expressed similar sentiments:

Rob (NY)

Any credence to the rumor that if Knick’s sign J Johnson, LBJ is more likely to come to MSG?

Chris Sheridan

(3:20 PM)

No credence that that rumor, but you get the distinct impression that word was somehow passed to the Knicks that having enough cap room for just one max player was not going to cut it for a certain free agent, which was why they were willing to throw so much into the Jeffries deal to get McGrady’s contract. I ask this: Why would anyone in their right mind trade away what amounts to three No. 1 picks just to clear cap room? It’s just plain crazy … unless there is a confidence among the Knicks their Plan A will succeed.

So I ask you, if you’re Donnie Walsh, and William Wesley approaches you and says, “Donnie, enough cap space for one max contract isn’t going to cut it. You need to have room for two.” What do you do?

Oh, and Chris, the Knicks traded one draft pick.

League Source: LeBron Wants To Team Up With Joe Johnson

Ric Bucher has some interesting news from the ubiquitous “league source”. For those who can’t watch the video, I’ve transcribed the most important part:

“Joe Johnson may not be the big free agent signing Knicks fans have in mind this summer, but if it’s LeBron James they want, a league source says the Hawks’ shooting guard is a very good place to start. While the general public doesn’t seem to regard Johnson on par with Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh…James apparently does, which makes sense: Johnson wouldn’t battle LeBron for marketing dollars the way Wade might, and yet is a proven closer, which Bosh, for all his talent, is not.”

Interesting bit of news, especially considering that Johnson has expressed potential interest in joining the Knicks as a free agent, provided they add another star player.

Joe Johnson To Knicks A “Done Deal”. Bosh On His Way Too?

Frank Isola provides us with some insight into the forthcoming monster summer. He spoke to an Eastern Conference GM who said that the Knicks’ pursuit of Joe Johnson is a “done deal.”

Isola continues that sources have informed him that the Raptors would be open to parting with Bosh in a sign and trade that would include, at least, David Lee. Of course David Lee would have to agree to go to Toronto, but I think he’ll follow the money.

Johnson himself sees New York as a palatable situation as long as the team can sign “another player”. Bosh and Johnson are a formidable duo and an instant contender with Gallinari in the mix (I’d trade Chandler for a PG and hold onto Bill Walker or TMAC if there’s a couple mil left over).

Now, this is an obvious outcome that we’ve all speculated about numerous times, and it isn’t beyond Isola to pass off speculation as breaking news. He once “broke” a trade that was completely made up by a commenter on Tommy Dee’s www.theknicksblog.com. I’m not sure if his source for the Bosh information is a message board rant on UltimateKnicks or a legitimate source, but hopefully it is more accurate than his Google-FAIL assertion (one of a steady stream in his articles and posts) that “the Knicks are the league’s biggest losers dating back to the 2001-02 season”.

In fact, at least the Hawks have a worse winning percentage than the Knicks over the period he defines at  37.9%. The Knicks come in at 38.08%.

Not that hard to fact check these things. Just saying.

Life Will Go On After 2010

I’ll preface the point I’m about to make with the caveat that I still strongly believe that Lebron will be signing with the Knicks in 2010. As we’ve said here ad nauseum, much will be revealed this summer when Lebron does or, far more likely, doesn’t re-sign with the Cavaliers.

However, it’s crucial that the Knicks realize that, should Lebron do the unthinkable and ink an extension with the Cavs, basketball won’t simply draw to an end and the world won’t explode. The Knicks will still have the cap space they had set aside for the King and there will still be plenty of players out there that the team can sign that could place them in contention (with Lebron) for an NBA title. Have no fear because life will continue.

What the Knicks (and we fans) should fear is that, while wallowing in the depths of the disappointment they’ll surely feel as a result of missing out on Lebron, they’ll take the money they’ve saved up and insist on blowing it on players from the 2010 class who are stars, but not superstars and, as a result, that the end game will be a perrenial playoff contender, but one that has no hope of winning a title. Knicks FanBlog reader EZ framed the issue very well in our comments section yesterday:

If the knicks don’t sign wade or lebron i think they should be patient and wait for the opportunity to present itself down the road to land a superstar. Any other combination of mere mortal stars (bosh, redd, dirk, johnson etc) would almost certainly make the knicks a solid playoff team right away, however history has shown that more often that not you need the superstar to win titles. I for one am interested in winning titles, and am willing to be patient provided the knicks continue to bring in solid young players to rebuild.

Now, while I don’t necessarily agree with EZ about Bosh (I just think a big man with that kind of versatility, defensive prowess, and character is worth paying for even when you know that he alone isn’t good enough to win you a title, a la KG.), I think his larger point is exactly right.  The worst sin NBA franchises commit, and they do it all the time is blowing their cap space by doling out huge contracts to second tier players.

There is something about the allure of cap space that just seems to burn a hole in the pocket of the typical NBA GM and he invariably ends up maxing out the first decent player who bats an eyelash his way.  Ben Wallace, Rashard Lewis, Elton Brand. All boneheaded, cap-crushing max contracts handed out by GMs with fresh cap space that actually ended up pushing their respective teams further away from championship contention even though, on paper, the moves upgraded their teams’ talent.

Lewis is my favorite example simply because it’s so obvious how he’s killing his team. He’s a good player who could probably be the third best player on a championship team. But by paying him $110 million, the Magic gave up all their cap flexibility and locked themselves into a roster structure that rendered the team incapable of meaningfully upgrading the talent on their roster. And since he makes so much money, Lewis himself is also untradeable. Thus, unless the Magic “luck into” a situation like the Spurs enjoyed when David Robinson missed the season and they won the Tim Duncan lottery, the Magic are pretty much stuck for a while in this purgatory of being a playoff team but not a true title contender.

If the Knicks were to miss out Lebron, Wade and Bosh, and instead sign, for instance, Dirk Nowitzki and/or Joe Johnson to big contracts, they would be making the same kind of costly error that the Magic made. Sure, the Knicks would probably contend for a top 3 seed in the eastern conference playoffs every season but, as fans, do we root for the Knicks to win top 3 seeds? The goal should be to build a team that can win titles.

So if the Knicks do miss out on the elite talent in 2010, the players that are capable of taking home championship trophies at the end of the year, they need to bide their time and simply continue to upgrade the roster and develop young talent. Maintain cap flexibility and amass assets. And then, when the chance to add a truly transcendant player emerges whether it’s in 2011, 2012…strike.

Walsh Eyes Anchor

Landing Lebron is all well and good (ok, so that may be a bit of an understatement) but when it comes to choosing which second superstar to spend the rest of his 2010 scratch on, Donnie Walsh might be thinking big.

After the New York Post reported Dwyane Wade’s comments from over the weekend where he entertained the possibility of pairing up with Lebron in New York, several outlets shot the idea down explaining that Walsh considers a versatile, defensive minded big man to be the key piece that anchors any true championship contender. The dissenting chorus therefore speculates that Walsh will spend the rest of his money on a big.

I don’t think we should ever be overly dismissive of the idea that Walsh would sign Lebron and Wade together simply because it goes against some of his conventional wisdom. After all, I think he’d probably make an exception if he was given the chance to secure two of the three best players in the world. Also, Walsh might be able to acquire a big man that fills the need without paying him a max contract. So getting a big man anchor doesn’t have to be the exclusion of Wade or some other perimeter star from the 2010 free agent class (Joe Johnson, for instance).

But whichever side you think is right, the takeaway should be the same. It’s here in this quote from Walsh:

“[Y]ou have to have a big guy who can do the real important things. Scoring, maybe. To me, it’s more about rebounding and blocking shots and providing the intimidation inside. You need those things to contend.”

So regardless of whether Donnie gets his anchor in free agency (Bosh? Tyson Chandler?) or by acquiring one in a trade (Joakim Noah perhaps?) or by selecting one in the draft (Hasheem Thabeet?), now we all know that a defensive big who rebounds, blocks shots and controls the paint is a non-negotiable part of The Blueprint.

Rooster Proving Worth the Wait

Seeing Danilo Gallinari through the last three games, you get a sense of why he’s been compared by some to Toni Kukoc. I think it’s an apt comparison in the sense that their games are very similar even though Rooster may never reach Kukoc’s esteemed level.

Kukoc wasn’t uber-athletic (though, unlike Gallo, he was very fluid) but he could score and he had incredible play-making ability and a high basketball IQ in a very tall frame. The Bulls were just so much more dangerous with him simply because having 3 guys with Jordan’s, Pippen’s and Kukoc’s skill level and intelligence made it impossible to match up.

This is the best part though: Gallo looks like he’s tougher and more aggressive than Kukoc was and he has more range on his shot (though Kukoc did become a proficient long range bomber as his career progressed). And the Bulls got Kukoc at age 25. The Knicks have Rooster at 20.

I know I’m getting ahead of myself with this because obviously, Gallinari has a ways to go before this comparison becomes a fair one. In the first place, his back will always be an issue until he proves it isn’t. Still though, if you’re like me and you day-dream about 2010, in the next episode try adding a healthy Rooster as the 3rd ingredient to a mix of say, Lebron and Joe Johnson or Lebron and Bosh. It’s a sweet dream.