Your City Sports-Cleveland
Cleveland--Uh oh. The New York Knicks are sitting pretty. In less than 25 games the team will have as clean a slate that can be achieved in the modern NBA economy. The 2010 offseason will usher in a New York shopping spree, the likes have never been seen before. Team president, Donnie Walsh, has eight current players that are not guaranteed a penny next season. Should all eight depart the Knick locker room, 80% of the current payroll walks out the door.
Any other team would be devastated to lose eight players to free agency. Not the Knicks; July 1, 2010 is the unofficial date for fans to come out of a decade-long hibernation. Most New Yorkers would be okay if they turned their heads and 100% of the team was missing from next year's roster.
Walsh is breaking up a dynasty, but not of the winning variety. In a league where more teams make the playoffs than those that miss, it is tough to explain New York's absence from the post-season the last ten years. The team currently sits 18 games under .500, still taking on water despite the acquisition of Tracy McGrady. To his defense, he was not brought in to be the savior. Well, not directly. And not by putting the ball in the hoop.
The value of the McGrady move was more about what the Knicks could get rid of in return--departures Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries (as well as Larry Hughes and Nate Robinson) were owed money in 2010 and beyond. The only number management looks for out of McGrady is zero, as in the amount of dollars the Knicks are scheduled to pay him next season.
If everything goes according to plan, McGrady may earn himself a Christmas card from Donnie Walsh next year. In it, Walsh will thank him for the role he played in the new winning culture surrounding the Knicks. If it were not for McGrady’s arrival and swift exit (after an injury-riddled half-season) none of the good times would have been possible.
For years, the organization has gobbled up expiring contracts like I used to collect Pogs.
That is the bright spot for a flailing team.
Rather than rebuild with youth, the business plan is to synchronize a mass-exodus; and Walsh has crossed his “T”s and dotted his “I”s to perfection. He has the dream of every team president--the ability to build a winner from scratch--in just his third year on the job.
The Knicks’ payroll will drop to $17.7 million, with a potential to fall even lower to $6.5 million should Eddie Curry exercise free agency. This is unfathomable. For some perspective on these values, Michael Redd made $17 million this season and Anderson Varejao, $6.3 million. In other words, the entire Knicks’ roster (as of July 1, 2010) will cost owner, James L. Dolan, as much as the going rate for one injured star or one bench player. That is six or seven players for the price of one, with $40-$50 million under the salary cap. Talk about financial wiggle room.
It was not always this goal-oriented. In the Isaiah Thomas era (as coach and as team president), the team became the haven for egos, locker room cancers, injury-prone journeymen, ball hogs, and rookie draft picks that were mediocre college players. If you can believe it, the monetary compensation was worse than the player selection. A player that was past his prime would typically necessitate a long-term deal. Most would call it a gamble, but the Knicks must have known something other GMs did not—after all, plenty of guys get better (and healthier) in their late 30s.
When the New York payroll dwindles to $17.7 million next season, the Knicks will own the contracts to only five players that have played for them this season. The talent level of "left-overs" would have trouble starting for any other team. Obviously, Donnie Walsh cannot rely solely on returning players to produce victories. Time for the Knicks to go shopping:
LeBron James has a player option to receive $17,149,243 from Cleveland next season. If he wants to be paid like a back-to-back MVP (and the best player in the NBA) he could carry a record price tag.