Monthly Archives: August 2009

Can the Knicks at last become a relevant franchise, or is another season of mediocrity for the MSG faithful?

When Donnie Walsh took over as President of the New York Knicks, his job was to take his impressive resume of running the Indiana Pacers to transform the fortunes of an ailing franchise. Years of inadequacy and failure had plagued the Isiah Thomas GM era.

Success was not expected overnight, and Walsh convinced Mike D’Antoni to bring his high-octane, 7 seconds or less offence that was so successful in Phoenix to Madison Square Garden. The expensive salaries that contaminated the Knicks payroll were slashed and troublemakers like Zach Randolph, Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford were shown the door. Yet still the Knicks failed to make the playoffs, but they did win nine more games than the previous year.

It has been well documented that the Knicks are saving their cap room for the summer of 2010, where the stacked free agent class could include players like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Shaq and Dirk Nowitzski. The Knicks are aiming to attract two of these top free agents, in a bid to return to the glory days of the 1970’s, where the Knicks won two NBA titles with the likes of Walt Frazier and Willis Reed.

So far this offseason the Knicks have faced one disappointment after another. Firstly, Golden State dashed their hopes after taking Stephon Curry with the #7 pick in the draft, the Knicks had to make do with Jordan Hill out of Arizona. Then they were unable to convince Jason Kidd to leave Dallas in what could have solved their point guard crisis. Talks with their own free agents David Lee and Nate Robinson have broken down, with both players holding out for more money and long-term deals. What New York needs though is a point guard, someone who can replace the disappointing Chris Duhon and fit in with Mike D’Antoni’s system D’Antoni needs a Steve Nash for his system to work, or at least someone like Nash, a Duhon hasn’t managed to fit the bill so far. A number of players have been linked to NYC this offseason: Jason Williams, Jamaal Tinsley even Steve Francis (???) But to me, there are only two options: Ramon Sessions or Allen Iverson.

Sessions is one of the hottest free agents still left on the market and is one of the D-League’s success stories, having a breakout season for the Bucks last year. A.I came off a nightmare season with Detroit last year, and has been largely ignored by most teams this offseason due to his apparent unwillingness to come off the bench.

So which player is the best fit for the Knicks? Sessions is undoubtedly the player with the better potential and could be their point guard of the future. However, he would require a multi-year deal starting at the mid-level exception, and it would have to be a sizeable amount of money to dissuade the Bucks from matching the offer, as Sessions is a restricted free agent. Iverson, meanwhile, could be signed to a one year deal for the mid-level exception and would have something to prove in NYC. It was only a year ago that A.I was a top 3 scorer in the league, and he could thrive in D’Antoni’s system. If Iverson could perform well for the Knicks, he would be a huge draw for NYC, the city would be A.I-crazy and the franchise would be relevant again. If it worked out, it would allow Iverson to show he has got something left to give and then he could re-sign with the Knicks next year, or another team, on a multi-year deal.

The Knicks need to get one of these players to have a shot at making the playoffs next season – do they go with the one for the future (Sessions) or a temporary option (Iverson) to appease the fans till next summer where LeBron, Bosh, Wade and co. could be gracing MSG. My opinion: I would love to see Iverson with the Knicks. It would be cheaper, if it didn’t work out, Iverson’s contract would come off the books next summer and then the Knicks could go after two free agents. If it did, then New York could re-sign A.I to play alongside LeBron or whoever they can attract to the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.

If the Knicks can re-sign David Lee and Nate Robinson, even if it’s just a one-year qualifying offer, then they could make the playoffs (even if it is scraping the 8th seed). In an Eastern conference that has so far seen the likes of the Cavs, Celtics and Magic get better, and the Wizards and Raptors improve their rosters, the rest have traded some of their best players for cap relief. The 76ers, Nets and the Bucks have worsened, losing the likes of Andre Miller, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson in a bid to save money. You never know, the Knicks might just make the playoffs, Al Harrington, David Lee and Wilson Chandler will continue to put up points, Danilo Gallinari is due to prove why the Knicks picked him #6 in the 2008 draft and coach D’Antoni isn’t used to losing that many games. They are not going to be challenging for the East, but at least they will be able to compete. And then next year, they might be able to make Donnie Walsh’s christmas’ come at once if they can entice the King to come to town….