As a Met, Knick and St. John's fan, much of my sports media consumption is to find well-written expressions of my miserable fan experience. Yet, throughout the disastrous Donnie Walsh-Mike D'Antoni era, nary a peep of criticism has been heard. (Save the ever-excellent Peter Vecsey, simply the best basketball writer in the biz, bar none).
Everyone, from Vaccarro through Serbz through Lupica through national voices like Bill Simmons, preached patience as the Knicks cleared cap room for a run at LeG.O.D.D.
Yet no one would dare speak of a Plan B. Because there was no Plan B.
Walsh played the role of hero, ridding the team of albatross contracts. But this clearance came at the expense of draft picks, with Walsh's most disastrous trade being the one for Tracy McGrady. T-Mac cost us our 2009 lottery pick, our 2012 pick and Houston can swap their pick for ours in 2011. Three first-round picks for two months of creaky knees and outside shots!!!! Walsh should have been smeared across the front page for that move alone.
Instead, it's Lebron's fault! He turned down our glitz, our glamour! That jackass chose competing for a title over Cindy Adams!! It sure seems like Cleveland is handling LeBron's decision better than New York, based on newsprint alone.
Finally, however, some are daring to diss the Knicks. Chris Sheridan of ESPN nails the Knick mess hard in a column released over the weekend. Everything in it is the absolute sad truth. Every NY baskets writer should plagiarize this piece over and over, beating us over the head with the futility of the Knicks' future until thousands gather en masse outside the Sbarro's across from the Garden, clutching their Posts, with the tears streaming down their faces only making their $4 slices soggier.
Here's Sheridan's projected Knick roster for this fall:
PG: Toney Douglas, TBD.
SG: Wilson Chandler, Azubuike, Rautins.
SF: Gallinari, Bill Walker, Landry Fields.
PF: Stoudemire, Randolph.
C: Turiaf, Curry, Jerome Jordan.
The Knick ceiling for this season is, what, the 7th seed? Boston, Orlando, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta are locks to finish above them. Charlotte and Milwaukee are better, I say. Leaving us to duke it out with the improved Wizz, the Sixers, the Raptors and Nets for the 8th seed. This is the payoff for two years of nothingness? This, in a league where it is laughably easy to make the playoffs. Did we need Walsh to get us in position for the 8th seed? Yahoo auto-draft the past 2 years could have assembled an 8th seed roster.
Walsh, now out to save his neck, literally, talks about all the cap space available in 2011 and 2012. Why stop there?? How much can we clear for the big free-agent class of 2022? Who's in it? Who cares! We'll have cap room! The Knicks don't have the luxury of just throwing money at players. As LeBron has shown, and as Kobe showed in his free agent year, the best of the best want the money AND a chance to win. 1 out of 2 won't cut it.
Name one NBA Champ that did not have a home-drafted star. No NBA champ is built on free agents alone. The Heat were only able to sign LeBron and Bosh because they had Wade, who they drafted. The Celtics drafted Rondo and Pierce and were able to trade for KG because they had drafted a player, Al Jefferson, whom other teams wanted. The Spurs drafted Duncan, Manu, Tony Longoria and David Robinson. The Pistons drafted Tayshaun and made savvy trades for Rip, Ben Wallace and Rashweed. The Lakers made a draft-day trade for Kobe, traded for Gasol and wisely turned their one big free agent signing into Lamar.
Bar a few blips like Mark "The Helicopter" Jackson and Rod "Smoofy Suave" Strickland, the Knicks have had a mediocre draft record since the "gift" of Patrick Ewing. They've never done what every other team has done to get to the top. Bottom out completely and rebuild through the draft. The C's did it. The Spurs did it. The Heat did it. The 'Stones did it. The Cavs did it. The Magic did it. The Bulls did it. Everyone's doing it, so why can't we?
From day one, Donnie Walsh's plan should have been to trade for as many draft picks as possible while fielding a young team that would grow but also finish amongst the bottom to angle for a top-3 pick. Instead we get the same free-agent farce that will restrict the Knicks for well into the next decade. 'Sheep with cell phones," where are you when we need you Mark Kriegel?