Marbury to Greece?

ESPN’s Chris Sheridan reports that the Greek club Olympiakos has reached out to the Knicks to discuss a possible buyout for Stephon Marbury. No way to guess how serious the talks might be, but Olympiakos is a serious player — this is the club that signed Josh Childress to a $10 million deal last summer. According to Sheridan, Marbury is aware of the interest but has not spoken to anyone from the Greek team.

If Sheridan’s article is accurate, one can guess that the two clubs and the player are discussing a deal that would guarantee Marbury a certain salary, to make up anything he gives up in a buyout.  Olympiakos might be extra-motivated because Childress, the team star, underwent surgery this week for an abdominal tear.  He’s expected to be out somewhere between 3 and 8 weeks.

On the other hand, Donnie Walsh seems dead-set on exploring trade possibilities for Marbury, right up to the Feb. 19 deadline.  It seems unlikely that a buyout would happen before then, but I suppose Olympiakos could try and push him, by offering Marbury a big chunk of money – saving the money for Walsh and Jimmy Dolan. 

Marbury has publicly offered to give up $1 million in salary, in a buyout.  He’s also expressed interest in joining the Celtics, so he probably would consider Olympiakos a backup plan, at best.  However, the Knicks have some leverage, because if they refuse to cut Marbury loose by March 1, he won’t be allowed on any other team’s playoff roster.

Eggs & Basket(ball)

Free agent season is here, along with daydreams about 2010, when LeBron James might pack a suitcase and head for Broadway. Is it realistic to think we can cut a deal? By 2010, assuming they fill out the roster with mininum-salary bench players, the Knicks need to trim about $18 million worth of payroll, to offer a free-agent even a dollar more than the mid-level.  To offer a “star” contract – call it $15 million a year – requires cuts of about $26 million. (to get there next year, it’s more like $36 million). If LeBron has his sights set on the biggest offer, bar-none, we’ll need to clear even more space.  

The simplest way to cut costs — but the hardest to accomplish – is trading big-salaried players for players with shorter (expiring) contracts. Dumping Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry could allow the Knicks to offer 2010 free agent deals worth almost $20 million.  Trading Curry, Crawford and Jeffries (for shorter contracts) would do the same. 

Another “opportunity” is to renounce our own free agents. On the rosters below, I included extensions for David Lee and Nate Robinson, and Renaldo Balkman in 2010. The salaries are just educated guesses, but we could probably “save” about $13 million by not re-signing Lee or Robinson. Combined with a Randolph trade, that would give the Knicks about $19 million in free-agent spending money. A more likely option is trading one or both for draft picks; the salary difference would still “save” $5-10 million. There’s also the option of selling off our 2009 pick. Aside from putting cash in Dolan’s pocket, it would save the team $2-3 million in cap room. If we’re pulling out all the stops, that’s something to consider.

The math involves a lot of estimates and guesswork. It also assumes that we don’t sign any new players between now and 2010.  No mid-levels!  No matter what, it will require several major moves to clear cap space by the summer of 2010, and the effort might not be worth it. Gutting the roster for a *chance* to sign LeBron or D-Wade looks a bit like an unshaven guy at the tables, at 4am, laying it all down on Black. 

We’ll get a strong hint of Walsh’s thinking this summer. Does he sign David Lee to a big extension, or trade him? 

2009-2010

  • Zach Randolph            16,000,000
  • Eddy Curry                    10,500,423
  • Jamal Crawford               9,360,000
  • Quentin Richardson       8,700,000
  • David Lee                         8,000,000 (est)
  • Jerome James                 6,600,000
  • Jared Jeffries                   6,466,000
  • Nate Robinson                5,000,000 (est)
  • Danilo Gallinari                2,574,200
  • 2009 1st rounder              2,400,000  (est #7)
  • Renaldo Balkman            2,112,417
  • Wilson Chandler              1,255,440

total:                             $78,968,480 + 3 roster-fillers  
projected cap:              60,000,000

2010-2011

  • Zach Randolph           $17,333,333
  • Eddy Curry                     11,276,863
  • Jamal Crawford             10,080,000
  • David Lee                         8,000,000 (est)
  • Jared Jeffries                    6,883,800
  • Nate Robinson                 5,000,000 (est)
  • Renaldo Balkman            3,027,000 (cap hold)
  • Wilson Chandler              2,130,482
  • Danilo Gallinari                2,753,800
  • 2009 1st rounder             2,600,000  (est #7)

total:                             $69,085,278 + 5 roster-fillers
projected cap                62,000,000

2011-2012 

  • David Lee                          8,000,000 (est)
  • Nate Robinson                 5,000,000 (est)
  • Renaldo Balkman            4,000,000 (est)
  • Wilson Chandler              5,000,000 (est)
  • Danilo Gallinari                 3,491,820
  • 2009 1st rounder              2,800,000  (est #7)
  • 2011 1st rounder              1,700,000 (est #15)

total:                             $29,991,820 +  8 roster-fillers

*all numbers from ShamSports

 

Ding Dong! Isiah Thomas Fired as Knicks Coach!

Reports in are saying that Isiah Thomas has been fired as coach of the Knicks. Thomas seems to be staying with the organization as an assistant to Walsh.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601079&sid=a3kgrEUWxLEQ&refer=home

Dolan showed a good understanding of the New York press by making the decision public on Friday at 5pm. Most people are either on their way home to their family or having happy hour drinks at their local pub with the music pumping. By Monday morning no one is going to remember that Isiah Thomas was fired. The mere mention of Thomas’ name draws laughs and criticisms, and this was a good way to minimize the number of people that are going to sit around the water cooler and bad mouth the organization.

But the timing is also perfect in another way. It’s early enough that the Knicks shouldn’t lose out on any interested coaches. If they waited longer, one of the other NBA teams looking for a coach might snap up a potential candidate.

Finally I know some Knick fans are unhappy that Thomas is staying with the organization in any capacity. But I think his four and a half years of futility makes his presence innocuous. Dolan knows he can’t bring rehire him as president or coach, because Isiah Thomas has become a joke within a 100 miles of MSG. Thomas is still around because Dolan has him under contract for a few more years. For once Dolan will make someone earn the lengthy contract he handed out, instead of buying the person out.

Donnie Walsh Press Conference: Highlights & Thoughts

The Knicks just introduced Donnie Walsh as the new President of Basketball Operations, reporting directly to MSG Chairman, James Dolan.

I’ll throw out some initial thoughts about the presser in bullet style.

* James Dolan did a brief introduction. In it he sounded the right notes. Of course we’ve heard this before, but what left me hopeful were two things: 1) Dolan was on only long enough to introduce Walsh and step aside, and 2) he emphasized Walsh’s autonomy over all things basketball. I was pleased to see that Dolan relented on MSG’s draconian media relations policy, and was public about doing so. Perhaps these are mere words, apropos of nothing. Perhaps, but in a press conference all you have are words. It’s a low hurdle, but it’s not like he hasn’t failed to clear it in the past.

* Whither Isiah?. Walsh, to his credit, didn’t take the bait and denounce Isiah or signal his plans for Isiah’s future. He did go so far as to say that he felt Isiah “has the skills to help this franchise,” and reiterated his respect for Zeke’s “basketball mind” though he offered no more detail than that. When pressed, he basically said that firing Thomas in Indiana was Larry Bird’s decision, but that he ultimately signed off on it–basically what he’s been saying all along. Walsh demonstrating his passing grade in Professional Public Behavior 101 by refraining from doing to Isiah Thomas what he did to Don Chaney. Walsh stated and restated “twenty times in eight different languages” (to use his words) that he’d make no decisions about Isiah’s future without having met with him to discuss the season and the direction of the franchise. When asked in so many words, “given Isiah’s track record, why even bother?” he responded that “it’s simply the right thing to do.” Honestly, that kind of basic competence has been missing for so long I felt my eyes getting a little moist at the sight of it. The way Thomas is dealt with in what are likely his few remaining days with the Knicks will be a meaningful step in the future of the franchise. At some point all the detentes and the revenge plots and whatnot have to stop and you have to start doing business the right way. Walsh, at least at his presser, seems committed to doing business the right way.

* Blueprint: Protecting Cap Flexibility. Walsh didn’t say much about his plans for the franchise other than to suggest firmly that his short-term interest (the next three seasons) is to put the team in position to be a player in the free agent market. He noted that it’d be nice to put a team together that is immediately more competitive, but that was not his main goal. He noted that the team is in a better position with respect to the cap than 3-5 years ago, and he was not planning to threaten that by adding a long-term contract. To quote: “New York has to be flexible enough to be able to reach into the free agent market, and we haven’t been able to do that over the past several years.” Hopefully that means no more mid-level signings like Jeffries and Big Snacks that kill cap flexibility. [Sniffle. I’m forclempt.] So much of good management is simply avoiding the obviously stupid.

* Dolan. Walsh denied the notion that Dolan was reluctant to loosen his vice-like grip on media policy, forcing him to make that a deal-breaker. Who knows how that negotiations actually went, but Walsh said he started hearing that the media policy was a problem from others. Prior to that, he assumed that the policy existed because of the size of the NY media. He said that he wanted more media and fan access, despite recognizing that it results in bad stories sometimes. Lupica asked him what would have made him refuse to come to NY. Walsh answered that he would not have come had Dolan not been different than what he had heard, which if true certainly lends credence to the notion that he gives people a fair shake.

* The Current Roster. When asked, “who on the roster do you like?” his answer was intriguing. He never mentioned David Lee, but mentioned several others by name (Curry, Crawford, Jeffries, Balkman, Robinson). I think it’s a safe assumption that no one on the roster is untouchable, but it’s reading tea leaves to assign any meaning to his failure to mention Lee. It could have been, and was most probably, a perfectly innocent oversight. Or, Walsh could have simply been dropping names of players he’d move for a rack of balls. Or, Walsh may not value David Lee as highly as many of us do.

Overall, it’s not always clear how much you can really learn at a press conference. (Bill Belichick’s introductory presser in New England had to be one of the all-time worst public utterances of any kind anywhere, and that hasn’t turned out too bad.) Nevertheless, I’d say Walsh did what he needed to do at his presser, which was demonstrate basic competence and give us an idea about what he values and how he operates. A low hurdle to be sure, but he signaled that his regime, if nothing else, will be competent, fair, and won’t be afraid to go get the information necessary to make informed decisions.

As the start to a new regime, I’ll take that.

It’s Official!

The Knicks will have a 1pm meeting today to announce the hiring of Donnie Walsh. The latest rumor is that Walsh will report directly to Dolan. Another rumor is that one of Walsh’s terms is that the team more media friendly, a huge departure from the recent era. The Knicks’ current policy is to not allow anyone in the organization be interviewed without a member of the P.R. department present.

It’s unknown what will happen to Isiah Thomas, and you have to wonder what will happen to Steve Mills as well since Walsh isn’t reporting to him. According to at least one report, Mills and Isiah have had a power struggle for some time now. It’s possible that Dolan uses the Walsh hiring to get rid of one or both. Most likely these questions won’t be answered until the season is over, but hopefully there’ll be an answer by the draft.