When Donnie Walsh took over the mess that was the New York Knicks in 2008, he had one big goal in mind. He wanted to do everything he could to keep the Knicks competitive in the NBA while at the same time trying to get rid of some of the garbage that was left over from terrible decisions made by Isiah Thomas. It’s safe to say that Donnie Walsh accomplished his goal. The Knicks cleared enough cap space to have the flexibility to sign two max contract free agents in the much ballyhooed class this summer that includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Chris Bosh among others. It remains to be seen if all of his hard work will pay off, but for Walsh to be able to unload guys like Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, Quentin Richardson, Jerome James, Jamal Crawford and now Jared Jeffries in just two years is an incredible feat. Keep in mind that this cap flexibility only gives New York a chance to have a great off-season this summer. However, it’s a chance the franchise didn’t have before Walsh walked through the Garden doors two year ago.
Donnie Walsh joined WFAN in New York with Boomer and Carton to talk about how the three team trade that brought Tracy McGrady to New York went down, how he was able to clear so much cap space in just two years, and what the goal will be for the Knicks this summer and moving forward.
On how the three-team trade came about at the deadline:
“Well, when you make trades like this it’s usually a culmination of a month of going up and down and teams wanting to do it or not wanting to do it and then at some point you get together and compromise and I think that’s really what happened. We had been talking for a long time. There were things that they wanted that we didn’t like and there were things that we wanted that they didn’t like. So we had a compromise and it worked out for Houston, it worked out for us and it worked out for Sacramento I hope.”
On the idea that they are putting all their eggs in one basket for 2010:
“I take things as they come. The biggest thing that I’ve been trying to say is that when I got here two years ago this was a very inflexible organization as far as players. You had the players you had, they didn’t have a lot of value and you were 40 million dollars over the cap and when you’re in that position, if teams don’t want to trade with you there is no way to get better in any kind of reasonable time frame. That’s what I’ve been doing is trying to get this organization at a place where you have options. Each option that come up you’re gonna go after the best option that you can get. If you don’t get that you still have options.”
On the possibility of waiting until 2011 if he can’t get two max contract players in 2010:
“I’m gonna do the best I can to get the best players as quick as I can. I don’t want to put the franchise in a position that it was in before where you’re signing mediocre players to make it look good when it wasn’t good. I’m gonna be conscious of that.”
On whether or not he thought he could get this far under the salary cap this soon:
“I think it was two stages. I thought I could get under where I could get a player. At that time, the cap, we projected to be 63 or 64 million. It looked to me after I traded Crawford and Randolph that we were in pretty good position. However, last summer all of a sudden the numbers come out and it looks like the cap was gonna drop so we were still in a good position, but we had to get in a better position if we wanted to really have all the options that we could have.”
On the ability to have the chance to get the best player in the game on the Knicks:
“Yeah, but I don’t know who’s gonna be out there so I’m not focused on any one person. I’ve had Reggie Miller who was up two or three times, I thought we were gonna lose him but we never lost. It’s very difficult to get a guy to come out of his hometown if he’s had success there. The one thing that I’ve discovered since I’ve been here though…I’m a New Yorker, but I haven’t lived here in a long time. New York is the best city in the world and I would say I haven’t seen anything like the support that the New York Knicks get and the kind of support that they get in the arena. It truly could be an unbelievable place. The support that we have gotten with a team that isn’t a winning team is incredible. That would never happen anywhere else.”
On whether or not he understands that the fans may be upset if the team doesn’t land LeBron:
“Look, I wish that wasn’t true because that honestly isn’t the way I’m approaching it, but I understand it of course.”