(Long Island, NY) It could have been worse. That may be the best way to view the 2008 NBA Draft Lottery for the New York Knicks. Rebuilding takes time under any circumstances, and with the shackles that the new regime of president Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D’Antoni already are wearing due to the inept Isiah Thomas, catching a break early on would have been nice, but it didn’t happen.
With a 7.6 chance of having their ping-pong ball drawn for the number one pick in next month’s draft, no one expected things to go that good. But the Chicago Bulls, who had only a 1.7 chance, had the lucky bounce go their way and will have their pick of the two top players entering the draft, guard Derrick Rose from Memphis or forward Michael Beasley of Kansas State.
With no clear-cut pick for them, the Knicks will certainly look to trade down, with the main intention to package the pick with one of the Knicks’ salary cap killer contracts. A year ago at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Thomas made a bold move in acquiring Randolph from Portland, who were too happy to say goodbye to his long-term contract and bad attitude. The honeymoon period ended before it began in New York for the mercurial big man, and Walsh would like nothing better than freeing up cap space at the same time as ridding himself of a malcontent.
“I think we’ll look at everything,” Walsh said to reporters when asked if he will look to make a deal. Another player that would be better served suiting up for someone else this season is point guard Stephon Marbury, but unloading his expiring contract may not be easy. Expect Walsh to either buy him out or just let him walk after one more rocky season in his hometown.
If the Knicks hold on to their selection, a few in interesting names have been thrown around. Danilo Gallinari, a 6’9 swingman currently playing in Italy. At 19, he can remain in his native country for at least two years as property of the Knicks and then be brought overseas when he is groomed. That may be a hard sell to the fans and media, so an immediate contribution seems to be in the cards.
If the Knicks decide to pick a guard, Indiana’s Eric Gordon and USC’s O.J. Mayo are two interesting names. The marquee one would be Mayo, who was one of the top prep players who decided on Southern Cal, a strange move to spend your lone NCAA campaign at a school better known for football.
Although he is very raw, Mayo can become a popular player in a place like New York. Of late, there have been reports that the player’s agent, Bill Duffy, and his agency provided money and gifts, which is not allowed while in college. Regardless of these allegations, Walsh told reporters that these events would not make a difference if Mayo was available and the Knicks decided to select him.
Still not acclimated with the Big Apple, D’Antoni remained vague – with a touch of a bad joke – when asked by reporters what the team’s needs are. “Guards, forwards and centers, probably. I don’t know, you usually get the best guy available.” Pretty obvious, and not a Watergate-style leak.
The Knicks’ brass now needs to decide if keeping or dealing the pick would better serve the team. It will be a slam-dunk decision for Walsh if he can get another GM to feel that Randolph would improve with a change of scenery.
Either way, it will be a slow process getting a winner on the court. The “second stage” of the rebuilding process, as Walsh called it, will take place next month at the NBA Draft. At least Knick fans can feel confident that their new boss will do what he can to lower the salary cap instead of taking on more.