(Long Island, NY) Isiah Thomas had to do something to make a splash. After having the Chicago Bulls swap picks with his team from 23 to nine from the Eddy Curry trade, he needed to make a move. With a roster full of bad contracts, that would not be easy.
No one can ever accuse the Knicks president and head coach of being afraid to make a trade. Thus the reason why he has so many of those immovable contracts. But the Portland Trailblazers did have a player that they were interested in moving. And Isiah was waiting to bring him on.
Portland won the lottery and chose Greg Oden with the overall number one pick. The 7’ center from Ohio State may appear to be a man, but he is still six months shy of his 20th birthday. Possibly not wanting to have a player with character issues on the roster to give their new franchise player the wrong ideas, the Blazers were willing to move Zach Randolph.
Still only 25, the power forward averaged 20.1 and a career-high 10.5 rebounds per game last season. The problem with Randolph was not on the court, but rather off. During his five years in the league, he has been arrested for driving under the influence; suspended for punching a teammate in practice; accused by Indiana police of lying in an investigation involving a shooting at a nightclub allegedly committed by his brother; sued for assault and sexual assault; and being at a strip club in Portland after being granted bereavement leave to attend a funeral in Indiana.
“I don’t have any concerns about that,” Thomas said at the team press conference introducing Randolph to the media. “All the background that we’ve done and the extensive research that we did, I feel confident. We spoke to some very high level people that vouched for him [Randolph]. He’s made some mistakes in the past, but you grow from those.”
The five-year pro from Michigan State has a career average of 16 PPG and 7.7 RPG and will bring a presence to the paint with his 6-9, 260-pound body. Randolph also does not feel that his track record is going to be an issue.
“I was young. Don’t judge me from the past, judge me for the future,” Randolph said. “This is a new start for me, a new slate. I’m going to come out here and play hard and focus every game. Just try to help this team win and better myself.”
In exchange for the fiery forward, the Knicks sent Steve Francis and Channing Frye to the Rose City. In the deal, the Knicks also acquired two expiring contracts in guards Dan Dickau and Fred Jones. Although Randolph has four years and $61 million left on his deal, Thomas was able to shed himself of the two years and $33.6 million owed to the man once known as “Stevie Franchise.”
“We gave up two guys that can still play,” said Thomas. “Steve [Francis] can still play and Channing [Frye] has a very bright future.”
Most reports from the trade have the Knicks getting a steal. But Thomas did not agree when posed the question.
“I think that Steve is still a high-level player in this league and I think Channing one day will be a guy that averages 20 points and 10 rebounds a game,” he said. “If not next year, then playing along side Greg Oden, he will be.”
Considering that the Knicks faired well in 2006-07 from the inside, teaming Randolph with Curry will make them very formidable in the paint. Thomas viewed this as a positive and explained that they play the game inside-out, so having two big men that can score will not be a problem as far as touches go. He even went as far as answering if they are a playoff team right now with “We should be.”
Randolph was unable to stay away from the inquisitive media concerning his troubled past. New York would have it no other way.
“I was young,” he said. “Don’t judge me from the past, judge me for the future. This is a new start for me. A new slate.”
When asked if Thomas sat down with him to discuss the off-the-court concerns, Thomas said, “We talked about it. He knows I know how to handle myself as a professional.”
For the fans that will be coming to Madison Square Garden in the fall, we certainly hope so.