Tag:Timberwolves
Posted on: July 7, 2011 1:27 pm
 

Kahn's embarrassing handling of Rambis

Evidently, there is a method to David Kahn’s madness. And as always, follow the money if you want the explanation.

Kurt Rambis hasn’t coached a game for the Timberwolves in nearly three months. He will never coach a game for them again. Despite technically still being under contract, Rambis has been informed that he need not be in Minnesota for the offseason – and this was the case even before the lockout. Sources say only two members of the Wolves’ coaching staff, J.B. Bickerstaff and Darrick Martin, have been asked to come to work at the team’s offices this summer. Everyone else can, you know, go on vacation – where Rambis, in particular, won’t have to spend his days staring at the writing on the wall.

Sources have said there is no provision in Rambis’ contract that would’ve saved the Wolves money by waiting until after July 1 to officially fire him. Rambis is owed $4 million over the next two seasons regardless of when he is fired.

But as Yahoo! Sports reports, Kahn had other ideas. The possibility of offering Rambis a reassignment within the basketball operations department has been discussed internally, though it is not believed to have been formally proposed to Rambis. It is beyond question that Rambis has no desire to accept such an arrangement. Sources say the former Lakers assistant has little use for Kahn as a basketball executive, much less one that he would continue to work for after being removed as coach.

Kahn’s mishandling of Rambis’ firing – which still, inexplicably, hasn’t happened – is an embarrassment for the organization at a time when good things finally were starting to happen (Michael Beasley's citation for marijuana possession notwithstanding). Ricky Rubio is signed for next season – whenever next season is – and although Kahn had virtually nothing to do with it, it’s nonetheless an important moment for a franchise that has won a grand total of 32 games the past two seasons.

But no amount of progress could stand in the way of Kahn’s efforts to further ingratiate himself to owner Glen Taylor by proposing this insulting, cost-saving arrangement with Rambis. Business simply isn’t done this way in a reputable sports league, yet Kahn insists on penny-pinching his way into Taylor’s good graces at the expense of alienating any coaches or front-office executives who might someday be forced to work for him.

Funny, Taylor is one of the owners who are most convinced that the NBA will not have a 2011-12 season, according to sources familiar with his position on the lockout. So maybe Taylor could send Rambis overseas to scout overage potential draft picks in the meantime, instead of paying him to do something more useful – like nothing.

While we’re on the topic, sources say the Wolves expect a favorable ruling from the NBA office that they will be able to keep No. 57 pick Tanguy Nbombo despite a dispute over his age. Though information has come to light that Ngombo is 26 – and thus ineligible for the draft – sources say the Wolves have government documentation from multiple entities that Ngombo is, in fact, 21. The belief among some executives is that a team should not be punished if government documentation is inaccurate.

As for what should be done with buffoonish general managers who continue to embarrass their team and alienate colleagues and competitors with their arrogance and ineptitude? Something else to contemplate during the lockout.
Posted on: June 23, 2011 1:23 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 1:26 pm
 

Draft Buzz: Where go Iguodala, Felton?


Executives disagree on how much trade activity will surround the NBA draft Thursday night, ranging in their opinions from virtually no veterans traded to a frenzy. One scenario that rival execs believe still has validity is Andre Iguodala to the Clippers.

The Sixers already have turned down the Clippers' offer of Chris Kaman and Ryan Gomes for Iguodala and Marreese Speights, and a person with knowledge of Philadelphia's stragegy said the Sixers are "not taking Kaman." It's not clear how willing the Clippers would be to give up a young asset for Iguodala. The better way to put it is, how much of an asset would it take to entice the Sixers to take Kaman, who only has one year and $12.2 million left on his contract. Iguodala is famously owed $44 million over the next three years.

Given that pricetag, it's no surprise that the Clippers have not yet offered their most valuable asset this side of Blake Griffin -- Minnesota's unprotected No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. And almost certainly won't.

Due to his versatility as a defender, Iguodala has a broader market than some of the other one-dimensional veterans mentioned on the trade market, such as Monta Ellis, a pure scorer who sources say now appears more likely to be dealt sometime next season rather than before the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement June 30. Rival execs continue to believe that the Bulls, badly in need of a perimeter scorer to take the pressure off Derrick Rose, will play a prominent role in those discussions once the CBA dust settles.

A long-discussed possibility sending Iguodala to Golden State for Ellis is "not dead, but not real hot," said a person connected to the talks. As for an Iguodala-for-Lamar Odom swap with the Lakers, nothing there -- "zero" -- said a source.

More likely than all of them to be dealt Thursday night is Denver point guard Raymond Felton. The Nuggets are listening to offers, and have been in widely known discussions with the Kings centered around the No. 7 pick. Any possible traction with that proposal would depend on who's available with the seventh pick, sources said. The Kings are known to be split between Jimmer Fredette and Alec Burks. Execs aren't sure who Denver is targeting, but it could be Burks of Colorado.

As reported here, the Rockets are interested in trading the 14th and 23rd picks to Detroit for the eighth pick, targeting one of several big men coveted by new coach Kevin McHale. Among those on McHale's wish list are Tristan Thompson and Bismack Biyombo.
Posted on: June 22, 2011 11:35 pm
 

Draft Buzz: Monta, Odom, Rambis and more


The latest trade buzz surrounding Thursday night's NBA draft, from conversations with executives, agents and others in the know:

* The Warriors have fielded numerous calls about Monta Ellis, and seem to be cautiously open to discussing the star guard's desire for a change of scenery. Such efforts have become increasingly difficult since the hiring of Mark Jackson as coach. Jackson wants to coach Ellis, and has become well aware that he has emerged as owner Joe Lacob's favorite player on the team.

* A recent conversation between the Warriors and Lakers centered around Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown going to Golden State for Ellis, but those talks went nowhere, sources said. The Bulls would become involved if they were willing to part with Joakim Noah, and Chicago executives have consistently balked at including him in trade talks for the past year -- mostly due to the base-year compensation factor in the five-year, $60 million extension he signed last year.

* Executives also have heard Ellis mentioned in conversations with Memphis for Rudy Gay, but acquiring Gay would be extraordinarily problematic for any team given the uncertainty about what new economic and cap system the league and players eventually will adopt. With four years and $68 million left on his contract, Gay "isn't going anywhere," one executive said.

* One of the few trades that makes sense as teams weigh the effects of taking on money in a shrinking-cap world is a deal that has been dormant for weeks: Ellis to Philadelphia for Andre Iguodala. Both players have three years left, and although Iguodala is owed $44 million compared to Ellis' $33 million, those are the only deals most teams will be willing to make between now and June 30 -- those in which they don't have to take on additional years of salary.

* The Timberwolves have peddled the No. 2 pick far and wide and have been unable to land an offer that tempts them. Discussions with the Lakers centered around Odom, but that wouldn't be good business to trade young, cheap labor for a 31-year-old making $8.9 million next season -- even though he has only $2.4 million guaranteed in 2012-13.

* Speaking of the Wolves, team officials continued to say Wednesday night that coach Kurt Rambis hasn't been fired yet, but the more things like that are stated, the more obvious it becomes that Rambis is gone. The search for a replacement will begin soon after the draft.

* Spurs officials continue to do what they're paid to do -- find out what their players are worth on the trade market. That's all the Tony Parker speculation is, several rival execs believe. "You know and I know they're not trading Tony Parker," one GM said. "You can't get anything close to equal value for him."

Posted on: June 22, 2011 10:40 am
 

Draft buzz: Nash, Smoove, and more


NEW YORK -- Suns president Lon Babby put the brakes on Steve Nash trade speculation Wednesday, saying, "We are not trading Steve Nash. Period. Exclamation point."

Despite the questionable syntax, the otherwise clear dictation from Babby to the Arizona Republic quashed the latest Nash trade discussions, which had him going to Minnesota for the No. 2 pick in Thursday's draft. The Timberwolves have been among the most active teams in trade discussions leading up to the draft, offering the second pick to several teams with a list of demands that included Nash, the Lakers' Pau Gasol, and the Wizards' JaVale McGee, league sources said Wednesday. The proposed Gasol trade is "not happening," one of the sources said, and Washington has been unwilling to seriously discuss trading McGee.

A person close to Nash said of a possible trade to Minnesota, "I can't believe (Phoenix) would do that to Steve." Nash, 37, would be relegated to mentoring point guard Ricky Rubio on a rebuilding team that won 17 games last season.

If Minnesota is unsuccessful in procuring a veteran star for the second pick, sources said the Wolves are comfortable selecting Arizona's Derrick Williams, who team officials strongly believe will be on the board after the Cavaliers select Duke point guard Kyrie Irving.

Babby also told the Republic that the Suns "are not trading Marcin Gortat," whose name was included in the discussions with Minnesota.

A source also said discussions between Atlanta and Orlando with Josh Smith going to the Magic are "totally legit." Executives say the Hawks have expressed an eagerness to move Smith and would like to shed salary in the process.

Several executives were surprised to learn the Spurs are fielding offers for point guard Tony Parker, whose infamous statement that San Antonio's championship window has closed could usher in some significant changes for the four-time champions. An integral piece of the puzzle for the Spurs is the pending early-termination option for Tim Duncan, who has yet to act on his $21.2 million option for next season. It would clearly benefit Duncan to agree to an extension before the collective bargaining agreement expires at 12:01 a.m. ET July 1, though Spurs officials are currently focused on the draft -- with one obvious priority being whether Parker or other assets could get San Antonio into the high lottery on draft night.

With top prospects in New York Thursday for media and service responsibilities, a person familiar with the draft discussions said the Pistons appear to have zeroed in on Texas small forward Tristan Thompson with the eighth pick. Thompson canceled other scheduled workouts after working out for the Pistons with five other players Wednesday.



Posted on: June 20, 2011 10:55 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 11:07 pm
 

NBA draft buzz: Kyrie No. 1

Three days before the NBA draft, here’s a smattering of news, info, and informed opinion culled from conversations with team executives, agents, and others in the know:

• Sources would be stunned if the Cavaliers did anything but use the No. 1 pick to select Duke point guard Kyrie Irving. He’s the perfect package of talent and presence to shoulder the burden of carrying the franchise to new heights after the departure of LeBron James. The Cavs, however, are more than open to trading the No. 4 pick.

• The Timberwolves are comfortable with the outstanding consolation prize that comes with the No. 2 pick, and will get one of the only impact players in the draft in Derrick Williams. Plus, they won’t have to deal with the burden of having to choose between Irving and Williams. The Cavs, after all, could be wrong. The Wolves can’t. The only way Minnesota trades the pick is if someone “blows them away,” according to a source, and that would have to be a trade involving a superstar-caliber player.

• The Jazz and Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight are a sensible match with the third pick, as Utah looks to replace the gaping hole left by the trade of Deron Williams to the Nets. Some execs have gotten indications that Utah also is considering Enes Kanter.

• The Raptors, who agreed in principle Monday with defensive-minded coach Dwane Casey to replace Jay Triano, are sending out signals that they’re all about Bismack Biyombo with the fifth pick, but rival executives are skeptical. One such exec is banking on Toronto taking 6-11 forward Jan Vesely, regarded as the best international prospect in the draft.

• If Toronto passes on Biyombo, some execs believe he could slide as far as 14-18, and the Knicks, with the 17th pick, are known to be high on him. But the apple of the Knicks’ eye is BYU sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette, and New York officials are trying to compute how far they’d have to trade up for him and what it would cost. The Knicks also like Michigan point guard Darius Morris, and one exec said the word Monday had New York looking into trade-up options for Georgia Tech shooting guard Iman Shumpert.

• One rival executive is “almost positive” the Wizards will take Kanter with the sixth pick, or look to trade down. Washington would grab Biyombo with the 18th pick if he’s still available, and otherwise would be comfortable with Kenneth Faried.

Kings officials are split between Fredette (beloved by ownership) and Alec Burks (favored by the basketball staff).

• The Pistons have a key workout scheduled for Tuesday, hosting Biyombo, Marcus Morris, Tristan Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard. Word among rival execs is that Detroit will take one of those players or Kemba Walker with the eighth pick.

• The Bobcats are said to be all over Chris Singleton with the ninth pick, but would take Marcus Morris if they’re stuck. Nicola Vucevic would be Charlotte’s choice with the 19th pick if he’s still there.

• It’s sort of the opposite situation with the Bucks, who are looking to trade the 10th pick but would take Burks if they can’t.

• The Warriors are enamored of Washington State shooting guard Klay Thompson, which would seem to cast doubt on GM Larry Riley’s denials of exploring trade scenarios for Monta Ellis. Singleton and Biyombo also are on Golden State’s list with the 11th pick.

• Singleton would be the pick for Utah at No. 12 if he’s still there, sources say.

• The Suns appear to be focused on Thompson or Walker with the 13th pick. But this is the area to start thinking about Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas, whose touchy buyout situation is the only thing knocking him out of being a top-five pick.

• The Pacers appear to be comfortable with either Thompson or Fredette with the 15th pick, but if neither is there, they’d take Markieff Morris, sources say.

• Jordan Hamilton appears headed to Philly with the 16th pick, and sources said Monday the Timberwolves have offered point guard Jonny Flynn in a package deal for swingman Andre Iguodala. Philadelphia officials, however, have let it be known that they are not interested in a salary-dump deal for Iguodala and want an impact veteran in return.

• Faried also is on the Trail Blazers’ wish list at No. 21, but the Blazers also are said to be high on Marshon Brooks.
Posted on: June 17, 2011 8:02 pm
Edited on: June 18, 2011 12:28 am
 

Stern: Tuesday is turning point in labor talks

NEW YORK – NBA commissioner David Stern declared Friday that an unofficial drop-dead date is looming next week in the accelerating negotiations to prevent a lockout.

“Tuesday is a very important day in these negotiations,” Stern said after emerging from a 4 1-2 hour bargaining session in which progress was in the eyes of the proposer.

Stern touted what he described as a “very significant” concession that was proposed Friday in which owners backed off their insistence on eliminating fully guaranteed contracts. The players, however, did not view this as a major step forward in the negotiations, saying the owners remain entrenched in their position to slash player salaries by as much as $700 million annually – and that owners have the ability under the current system to offer contracts that are less than fully guaranteed.

“They moved to giving us back guaranteed contracts, which we already had,” said Wizards guard Maurice Evans, a member of the players’ executive committee. “That’s not a move. How can you call that a move?”

However the latest twists and turns are viewed by either side, Stern left no doubt that an expanded bargaining session scheduled for Tuesday in New York – featuring a larger contingent of owners and players, and also player agents, who will be key to signing off on any deal – would be crucial to determining whether there is enough momentum to complete a new labor deal before the current one expires on June 30.

“I really think that the time to have an optimistic or pessimistic view is at the close of the day on Tuesday,” Stern said.

At the end of a nearly 20-minute briefing with reporters Tuesday night in a conference room of the Omni Berkshire Hotel, Stern answered “yes” when asked if a breakthrough was needed Tuesday to assure there would be enough time to get a deal done. The key sticking points remain the negotiated split of revenues that would be paid to the players and the system by which the money would be delivered – a hard cap, which the owners remain insistent upon, or a soft-cap system that more closely resembles the rules already in place.

“If we made a big breakthrough on one or the other, we would have such positive momentum that we could, I think, look forward to a faster track than we’ve been dealing with,” Stern said.

In addition to Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and legal staff from both sides, Friday’s bargaining session included nine members of the owners’ labor relations committee, the players’ executive committee (including Hornets star Chris Paul), as well as Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, Bucks guard John Salmons, and Timberwolves guard Sebastian Telfair.

“I would say we’re not on the same page right now, but there’s some good conversation going on,” Anthony said. “Both sides are trying to come to an agreement.”

The logistics surrounding Tuesday’s bargaining session in New York leaves little doubt that it will be a turning point in a process that formally began with the owners’ initial proposal in January 2010, just prior to All-Star weekend in Dallas. League executives will be in New York for Thursday night’s draft, and dozens of players will be in the city for the NBPA’s annual meeting. Stern hinted that if enough progress were made Tuesday, the session could be extended by several days – perhaps even into the weekend – as the clock continues to wind down toward the June 30 deadline to avoid a lockout.

“Even though the clock is ticking and the runway is shortening, we think that it’s worth our time and effort to go back to our individual offices and do a lot of crunching of numbers and ideas and to return on Tuesday,” Stern said. “… We're hoping that we will receive from them a proposal directed to the economics.”

As a matter of timing and logistics, Silver announced that the league would be canceling Las Vegas Summer League this weekend – though the move is not meant to send any signals to the players.

“It was purely a function of the calendar and drop-dead dates with hotels and the arena,” Silver said.

Stern said the owners’ decision to back off their insistence on eliminating fully guaranteed contracts as part of the 10-year deal they’ve proposed was in response to a presentation from the players and their attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, about their insistence on protecting such guarantees.

“Of all the issues, the guarantee is one that is very, very important to individual players,” Stern said, describing what was conveyed to the owners and their lead negotiators during the presentation.

This must have been music to the owners’ ears, because their priority from the beginning has been to reduce player salaries by at least one-third. The method of delivery – via a hard cap with shorter and less guaranteed contracts – would seem to be a secondary issue to the overall dollars. Based on the players’ current 57 percent share of revenues, they would go from $2.1 billion to $1.35 billion under the owners’ original proposal – the basic structure of which remains in place, according to multiple sources familiar with the negotiations. That’s a reduction of about $750 million annually, regardless of whether the money is guaranteed or not.

“It’s not as big a move as it would have been if the hard cap was not linked to it,” Kessler said of the owners’ revised stance on guarantees. “That really undermines, from the players’ standpoint, what it means. … They didn’t move on hard cap, that’s for sure.”

Said Evans: "We’re far apart. They’re still negotiating from their proposal from two years ago, and we’re negotiating from the current system we have."

But Stern disputed the notion that the owners have not moved from their original demands on salary reductions, though he declined to get into specifics. And sources said the owners expressed for the first time Friday a willingness to discuss with the players how they would be paid in the “out years” of their proposal – meaning the seven years after a three-year transition period owners have proposed to soften the blow of these drastic cuts.

“There’s been considerably more movement from our first proposal than you understand,” Stern told reporters.

In addition, Silver said the players made a move in their position Friday in terms of how much of basketball-related income (BRI) they would be paid under a new agreement. But he added, “Even they would characterize (the move) as having been very small.”

Part of the problem for the players, aside from how much of a pay cut they are willing to accept, is computing how the new structure would work out for them if revenues rise, as the NBA is predicting they will. When the two sides reconvene next week, the apparent willingness on the owners’ part to negotiate how rising revenues would affect player salaries in the final years of the deal could represent a far more significant development than their decision to back off on the idea of eliminating guarantees.

For example, owners could incentivize the players to accept a revised computation of BRI that increases the players’ share as revenues increase. But the owners’ projections of rising revenues are based on rules that have never been in place, making it difficult for the players to trust the projections.

“We can’t talk about one part in a vacuum because it impacts the entire system,” NBPA president Derek Fisher said of the owners’ reversal on banning fully guaranteed contracts. “We haven’t been, or at this point are inclined to say whether that’s a huge thing. Because without other things, it doesn’t mean much.”

How much is at stake next week? If you liken the negotiation to a million-piece jigsaw puzzle, all parties involved admitted that two or three key pieces need to be in place by the end of the day Tuesday.

“One piece controls several hundred thousand pieces,” Fisher said. “So essentially, we could put together a million-piece puzzle in a very short time if we can get two or three pieces in the right place. And that’s what we're focused on doing.”
Posted on: June 13, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 4:42 pm
 

Pistons hope to interview Casey


MIAMI -- Dwane Casey, the defensive architect behind the Mavericks' championship shutdown of the Heat's Big Three, is high on the Pistons' list of head coaching candidates, league sources told CBSSports.com Monday.

The Pistons, who already have reached out to former Hawks coach Mike Woodson and received permission to interview Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, Celtics assistant Lawrence Frank, and Timberwolves assistant Bill Laimbeer, will reach out to Mavs general manager Donnie Nelson Tuesday with a request to interview Casey.

Casey, who has been passed over for several head coaching jobs since being fired by the Timberwolves in 2007, has strng together an impressive resume during the playoffs. His defensive schemes frustrated Kobe Bryant in a sweep of the Lakers, caused a rift between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the Western Conference finals, and stymied the Heat's Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh in a 4-2 victory over Miami in the Finals. Casey's defense turned James into a non-factor in the fourth quarter during the Finals and held the two-time MVP to only 17.8 points per game in the series -- nearly 10 points below his season average.
Posted on: June 3, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 7:38 pm
 

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

Donnie Walsh came to New York determined to restore honor to the Knicks and steer them off a decade-long path of destruction toward one with the promise of success.

He will not get to finish the job. The theater of the absurd that is Madison Square Garden swallowed up one of the gentlemen of the sport Friday, sent one of the most respected basketball men in history fleeing for the exits.

The news Friday that Walsh will step down from his post as team president when his contract expires June 30 is a devastating blow to the franchise that he nearly singlehandedly resurrected. Gone is the man who cleared nearly $30 million in cap space, built a foundation around two superstar players, invited legends from the past back under the spotlight of the Garden, and gave Knicks fans hope that the days of dysfunction were over.

The story behind Walsh’s quiet negotiations for a new contract in recent months made Friday’s news all the more disturbing. Walsh, 70, was not seeking multiple years or millions at this stage of his basketball life. He was seeking autonomy over basketball decisions – the same autonomy that Garden chairman James Dolan publicly promised he would have when he was introduced in the spring of 2008 as the man who would save the Knicks from themselves.

"The more we talked about it, the more I realized I didn't want a multi-year deal," Walsh said. "I can understand why he'd want that. I just realized I probably wasn't the guy to go forward with."

As recently as midweek, sources said Walsh's situation was either going to result in a two-year extension -- possibly with a team option for a third year -- or Walsh moving back to Indiana, though not necessarily retiring. Dolan’s statement Friday described Walsh’s decision to leave as mutual, while Walsh said he had lost the "energy" required to do the job.

Walsh will stay on as a consultant and head up the search for his replacement, which immediately could focus on the two best candidates not tied to teams: former Trail Blazers executive Kevin Pritchard and former Hornets GM Jeff Bower. Former Cavs GM and current Spurs executive Danny Ferry also is expected to be considered, and a name to watch is Timberwolves assistant GM Tony Ronzone, whose strong international presence and close relationships with the stars of Team USA could be appealing to Dolan. Ronzone also has a working relationship with Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni through USA Basketball. D'Antoni has one year left on his contract.

Former Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien, whose consulting contract with the Knicks expires June 30, has to be considered a viable candidate.

Besides who will replace Walsh, the key issue hovering over this stunning development is what assurances he was seeking that he didn’t receive. Money was "never a big issue" for Walsh in the months-long discussions about his future, said a person familiar with the negotiations. In fact, despite widespread reports that Dolan insisted on a 40 percent pay cut for Walsh, the person familiar with the matter said it was Walsh who volunteered to take a substantial pay cut next season in anticipation of a lockout. His concern, the person said, was making sure the rest of the front-office staff -- whose contracts also expire June 30 -- would be taken care of during the work stoppage. Glen Grunwald, the senior vice president of basketball operations, will stay with the team as interim GM during the search for Walsh's replacement.

Throughout Walsh’s discussions with Dolan about his future, it was clear from multiple sources with knowledge of the talks that Walsh would not stay with the Knicks if A) he would not have final say over basketball decisions, or B) there was a chance he could be overruled by the Garden’s many agenda-driven outside influences. The most sinister of those was former team president Isiah Thomas, who remains in close communication with Dolan and in the MSG chairman’s circle of trust – despite running the franchise into the ground and turning the Knicks into a league-wide embarrassment.

“They were a joke for six years,” a rival team executive said Friday. “What Donnie has done for that organization, you’ve got to be kidding me. Come on. The whole world has paid attention to basketball in New York because of the guy – in a positive way.”

Thomas, whose attempted hiring as a consultant by Dolan last summer was nixed by league rules forbidding an NCAA coach to serve in such a role, is not coming back to run the Knicks, sources maintain. But he continues to have Dolan's ear, not to mention the desire to return to the Garden. And while Walsh dismissed the notion that Thomas had anything to do with his decision to leave, the idea of Thomas back-channeling decisions with Dolan would not be palatable to any executive of Walsh's experience and track record.

"The whole thing was going to come down to whether he was going to have autonomy," said a person with knowledge of the discussions. "That’s what this was about."

Walsh's replacement faces the challenging task of adding pieces to complement Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the two stars Walsh landed with the cap space he spent 2 1-2 years demolishing. But Stoudemire and Anthony will combine to make $36.7 million next season; add Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million, and that figure rises to $50.9 million for three players. That's more than Miami's Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are scheduled to make next season, leaving the Knicks the ability to add only minimum-salaried players or those who'd except the mid-level exception -- if there is such a thing in the new collective bargaining agreement. And with the haul of assets Walsh had to give up to land Anthony, the Knicks have few short-term assets to offer in trades aimed at filling their needs for a defensive-minded big man, elite shooting guard, and eventual replacement at point guard for Billups.

That predicament, viewed through the prism of Walsh's departure, only fuels speculation that Dolan hijacked the Anthony trade talks and ordered Walsh to make a trade he didn't want to make -- not at that price, anyway. Walsh again deflected that notion Friday, but a person with knowledge of the trade talks between New York and Denver said Dolan played a prominent role in the deal.

"Donnie had a good hold of it, but I think Dolan had the intentions," the person said. "Dolan wanted Melo at all costs. It was 100 percent Dolan who was the one with an all-costs Melo type thing. And Donnie was saying, 'This would be a good trade, but let’s do it the right way."

He did everything the right way in three years rebuilding the Knicks, a job that now goes to someone else to finish.
 
 
 
 
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