Knicks Stalling for Two Years with Expiring Contract Bunch
When the National Basketball Association implemented the current salary cap structure way back in 1984, little did everyone know that it would become the death-knell for many a team. General managers from all corners of the league have had to become snake oil salesman, convincing their brethren that they don't want to trade a player because he is not talented or makes too much money, but because his contract runs too long.
Pawning a bad contract off on another team has become the name of the game in the NBA, and expect a frenzy between now and 2010, when a list of players that resembles an All-Star team become available. Heading that group is none other than LeBron James, who was showered with cheers and affection from the majority of the 19, 763 on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
It didn't take long for the obvious to be blatantly conspicuous. The Cleveland Cavaliers led 34-22 after the first quarter and James had already pitched in 11 points. While the Cavs may be a quality team in the Eastern Conference, they are by no means unbeatable, yet the Knicks appeared as if they were facing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and their 72-win club.
Following last week's two major trades, the Knicks have the look of a pick-up team at the local YMCA. No knock against David Lee, but a nice player coming off the bench at the number '4' is far from a starting center, even against the constantly off-balanced Zydrunas Ilguaskas. The opening quintet for the blue and orange had only one veteran - Quentin Richardson - who has been a regular.
"The biggest thing we can do is play hard and play together," said Richardson. "That's what I go out there and try to do regardless of who I'm out there with or what the situation is. Just play hard and try to lay together."
The end result? A 119-101 win for Cleveland that was not even as close that the final score demonstrated. Mike D'Antoni even seemed to throw his hands up on this one. "At halftime, we lost our spirit," the head coach said of the 29-point deficit. "It looked like the air came out a little bit."
Will it all be worth the pain that is sure to be a steady companion for the next two years at the World's Most Famous Arena? The 23-win disaster of a team from last season may be the high end of what is to come. Considering that the 2007-08 team had two legitimate scorers in Jamaal Crawford and Zach Randolph, it may pay to watch more college basketball at the Garden than the Knicks to see who is lottery-bound.
The new regime of Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni have a plan and it is already in place. No matter how much both of them try to spin it that things will be fine and dandy this year and next, the playoffs will be as much a reality as Stephon Marbury being invited over for Thanksgiving dinner at the D'Antoni residence.
Just like the current economy, expect things to get worse before they get better. It's not as if the youngsters getting more playing time is going to matter because the entire roster is going to be overhauled once 2010 rolls around. Will the Knicks dump enough contracts to bring on one or more of the elite? In addition to James, Dewayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire will also be on the open market and any one of these players can become a cornerstone of a team.
The salary cap killed the Knicks and playing it correctly my save them. Only time - at least two years - will tell.