Posted on: June 27, 2009 1:23 am
Reading between the lines is a favorite pastime when it comes to the Knicks. Anything remotely resembling a clue that the NBA's supposed flagship franchise might acquire one of basketball's hottest commodities results in endless speculation, twisted interpretation, and innuendo.
See the entry under James, LeBron.
Now see the new entry under Rubio, Ricky.
Meeting with the media at the Knicks' Westchester County training facility on Friday, team president Donnie Walsh mentioned that he planned to call his former employee, Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn, to find out why he drafted so many point guards. And yes, Walsh coyly stated, Rubio's cold response to being drafted by the 'Wolves and his probable return to Spain as a result would be discussed.
I shudder at the thought of viewing the back pages of the New York tabloids on Saturday. For one, it's my first day off in a long time. For another, Rubio most certainly will be pictured there. If not for Michael Jackson, Rubio might be on the front page.
As I tried to tell you on draft night, there's no need for this. Kahn isn't trading Rubio. He's not going to be a Knick, no matter how much agent Dan Fegan wants him to be. This should be the end of it.
Hot items like Rubio have a long shelf life in the basketball-starved New York news cycle. And yes, things change. Circumstances change. People have a right to change their minds. But as of now, Kahn believes in Rubio so much that he's willing to wait a year or two for him to come out of exile in Spain. And the Knicks like their first-round pick, Jordan Hill, just fine.
"Kahn thinks Rubio is the best point ever," a knowledgeable, high-level basketball source told me. And the Knicks? Coach Mike D'Antoni, the person said, "loves Hill. Both stay put."
Just to make sure, I asked the same person early Saturday if anything had changed or was expected to change based on Walsh's planned conversation with Kahn.
"No," he said.
But just to satisfy the endless thirst for a splashy move by the Knicks, what is the best they could offer Minnesota in such a deal? Not Hill, but restricted free agent David Lee, who has received a qualifying offer from the Knicks and can be signed-and-traded after the league and NBA Players Association agree on the 2009-10 salary cap and luxury tax in mid-July. Last time I checked, the Timberwolves have Al Jefferson. No disrespect to Lee, but Jefferson is better.
Yes, things change and circumstances change. And people have the right to change their minds. But as another high-level basketball source (note sarcasm) said as one of the media availability sessions ended during the NBA Finals: "Move along. There's nothing to see here."
Posted on: April 6, 2009 2:14 pm
NEW YORK -- The Basketball Hall of Fame did not extend an invitation to Chris Mullin on Monday, passing on the basketball great and Golden State Warriors executive in a stellar class that included none other than Michael Jordan. Although Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats have begun to resemble a team with a plan, the criteria obviously weren't based on front-office accomplishments. If they were, Mullin -- and not Jordan -- would've gotten in.
These are strange days for Mullin, who has been shamefully marginalized in the Golden State front office as his contract winds down to its termination date at the end of June. Once that happens, he'll be a free agent, and any number of wayward teams figure to come calling. But one option for Mullin remains as intriguing as any -- to me, and also to Mullin, I'm told. You see, Knicks president Donnie Walsh has yet to follow through on his plan to hire a No. 2 in command in New York, and Mullin would be the perfect fit.
He's done it before, with success. He's a native New Yorker who'd partly satisfy one of Walsh's overarching plans for the team to reconnect not only with its alumni but also with the very fabric of New York City basketball tradition. He's as honest and trustworthy as they come, qualities that Walsh values greatly. They know each other inside and out from their time together with the Indiana Pacers. It all seems like such a natural fit.
A couple of problems. First, Mullin has established strong ties in the Bay Area, and with children in school there, significant forces would be pulling against returning to the other coast. If the opportunity were right, I'm told, this wouldn't necessarily be a deal-breaker for Mullin, who at 46 has an entire career ahead of him as a basketball executive.
Next, there is the issue of where Mullin would fit into the hierarchy with the Knicks. The team has been happy with current No. 2 man Glen Grunwald, a company guy who doesn't need the spotlight or the credit and has more than one year left on his contract. If Walsh hires someone this summer, it wouldn't be to replace Grunwald, necessarily, but to join him.
Finally, some believe there is a far more significant impediment for Mullin's possible homecoming: the Knicks' coach, Mike D'Antoni, who enjoys as much power as any NBA coach. But D'Antoni has never worked with Mullin and doesn't know him well. One well-placed source has told me that if and when the Knicks hire a second-in-command in the front office, D'Antoni has a list of candidates he'd feel comfortable working with. Not that he has anything against Mullin, but Mullin isn't on the list.
D'Antoni has flexed his muscles in ways big and small since getting the Knicks job, and for good reason. His resume speaks for itself, and he's at the top of every potential free agent's coaching wish list. His comments over the weekend in Toronto about how nobody on the Knicks' roster is safe provided only the latest example of how much influence D'Antoni wields with personnel decisions. (As if there should be any doubt after the way he singlehandedly banished Stephon Marbury from the team even though Walsh preferred to keep him around and shop him.)
While several potential candidates have contacted Walsh to express interest, Mullin has not. Despite how he's been treated in Golden State, Mullin would never let that change who he is -- a loyal company man who is under contract until June 30. But it's clear that Mullin would listen, and should be even clearer that Walsh would want to discuss it with him once his contract is up.
Walsh has done virtually no work this season on hiring a No. 2 man and eventual successor, and won't even begin the process until July. While he'd never hire someone D'Antoni was absolutely opposed to, there are strong indications that Walsh also wouldn't limit his list of candidates to those who would meet D'Antoni's approval. (Walsh and D'Antoni haven't discussed this potential hire in detail, I'm told, and won't until after the season.)
As he approaches the end of his first full season in New York, Walsh gets A's all around for hiring a championship-caliber coach, creating flexibility to improve the team by moving debilitating contracts, and reconnecting this once proud franchise to its roots (as evidenced by the long overdue Legends Night ceremony last month, which met everyone's approval but Stan Van Gundy's). He's restored respect, decency, and strong management to a franchise that had been lacking all three for too long. Walsh's next task -- even before the 2010 free agent bonanza begins -- will be to give the Knicks something else they've sorely lacked: stability. He can do that by hiring a capable, respected executive to work by his side and eventually take over when Walsh, 68, retires in two or three years.
The Knicks could do a lot worse than Mullin. Who knows? Depending on how he did here, maybe he'd eventually get into the Hall of Fame.
Posted on: February 23, 2009 5:53 pm
Knicks officials and Stephon Marbury will collide in an arbitration hearing Tuesday in Manhattan in an attempt to resolve the $400,000 in fines -- two game checks -- the team imposed when Marbury declined to play in games twice in late November.
There are far bigger problems in the world than whether Marbury gets paid for two more games, given that he's collecting a cool $20.8 million not to play at all this season. A (slightly) more pressing matter would seem to be whether Marbury and the Knicks can finally agree on a buyout so the disgruntled point guard can be waived by Sunday and thus be eligible for a playoff roster if he signed with a new team.
Despite a report in the New York Post that Marbury and Knicks president Donnie Walsh planned to meet face-to-face before the arbitration hearing in hopes of hammering out a buyout, this was news to Walsh when I spoke with him Monday. Walsh, of course, will attend the arbitration hearing, but said, "I don't have any meetings scheduled with anybody."
If Marbury is interested in returning this season and joining a playoff team, the sensible thing for him to do would be to push for the $400,000 in fines to be included in any buyout amount he's willing to negotiate. Thus far, neither side has budged and the Knicks have no urgency whatsoever to meet Marbury's demands. He's not playing for them either way, and his salary comes off the books after the season, making no further impact on their future plans.
(Actually, there is one last bit of impact, but no arbitrator can do anything about it. The Knicks still owe the Utah Jazz -- via Phoenix -- a first-round pick in 2010 from the ill-fated Marbury trade. As noted in my column on the Knicks' 2010 plan, this might actually be a good thing. That's one less big-ticket item on the payroll.)
Frankly, I can't imagine a team desperate enough to sign Marbury even for the prorated $1.3 million veteran's minimum, given heightened concerns about finances and the luxury tax -- not to mention the fact that Marbury hasn't appeared in an NBA game in more than 13 months. Marbury has said he has a side deal with the Celtics to join them once he's a free agent, but Boston officials have steadfastly denied interest.
Posted on: December 18, 2008 10:09 am
While Stephon Marbury has been given permission to seek a deal with a new team, no new talks are scheduled between the Knicks and Marbury's representative from the NBA Players Association to extricate him from New York.
According to a person with close ties to Marbury, the banished point guard is seeking to sign with a "playoff, championship caliber team." The source declined to discuss which teams Marbury is targeting, but didn't shoot down Boston, Miami, or the Lakers as options. One team Marbury won't be signing with is the Suns. Phoenix contributed $500,000 to Spanish club Tau Ceramica to buy out their second-round pick, Slovenian point guard Goran Dragic, and team president Steve Kerr said Wednesday he has "zero" interest in Marbury. Kerr was in Denver Wednesday night scouting a point-guard matchup between Smush Parker and Eddie Gill in a D-League game, and vice president of basketball operations David Griffin plans to work out 4-6 point guards -- possibly including Damon Stoudamire and Troy Hudson -- on Monday. The Suns have until Wednesday to add a player to reach the NBA roster minimum of 13.
Miami is close to the luxury tax threshold and would need to trim a player to make room for Marbury, even if he signed for the veteran's minimum of $1.2 million. Dwyane Wade likely would have to sign off on adding Marbury, given his substantial baggage. A person familiar with the Celtics' thinking said the team would investigate Marbury when he became available, but the signing would have to come with the approval of the coaching staff and key leaders in the locker room.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh and NBPA attorney Hal Biagas, who is representing Marbury, "check in with each other periodically," but have held no further substantive buyout talks and have none scheduled, the source said.
Posted on: December 17, 2008 11:57 am
* Finally, the Rockets showed how dangerous they can be if everyone is healthy. Yao was unstoppable, Tracy McGrady had his fourth career triple-double, and Ron Artest played a crucial role coming off the bench in a 108-96 victory over Denver.
* Those who took issue with my accolades for Derrick Rose will delight in the fact that D.J. Augustin (29 points, 7 assists) outdueled the Bulls' No. 1 pick (7 points, 6 assists) in the Charlotte Bobcats' 110-101 overtime victory over the Bulls.
* I was standing outside the visiting locker room in Philadelphia last Wednesday night when the 76ers' medical staff, led by team doctor Jack McPhilemy, ventured inside to examine Zydrunas Ilgauskas' foot and X-rays thereof. Little did I know how stunned the doctors were when they viewed the X-rays. Bob Finnan of the News-Herald explains. (Link courtesy of TrueHoop.)
* Interesting decision for the Warriors when Monta Ellis comes off the suspended list Friday. Who gets waived or traded to clear a roster spot? Even though Ellis won't be ready to play until sometime in '09, Golden State needs to make room on the roster. Matt Steinmetz makes a solid case that the decision will provide insight into how much GM Chris Mullin's power has diminished. Mullin is believed to want Marcus Williams to stay, but coach -- and perhaps soon-to-be-GM Don Nelson -- wants to keep Rob Kurz. If Kurz stays and Williams goes, you'll have your answer.
Tags: Charlotte Bobcats, Chauncey Billups, Chicago Bulls, Chris Mullin, Chris Paul, Cleveland Cavaliers, D.J. Augustin, Dallas Mavericks, Derrick Rose, Don Nelson, Donnie Walsh, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Mark Cuban, Memphis Grizzlies, Mike D'Antoni, Monta Ellis, New Orleans Hornets, Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Zydrunas Ilgauskas