Cutting Jeremy Tyler, which the Knicks did on Friday, will likely have zero impact on the 2013-2014 season. Tyler has bounced around on the end of NBA benches, in the D-League and abroad. He is injured. He also, as Robert astutely points out, might rejoin the team very shortly, as it is unlikely that a team will bother to pick up a marginal, injured player.
In other words, in the grand scheme of things, Friday’s roster moves — in which the Knicks kept Chris Smith in favor of several clearly superior players, including Tyler and Ike Diogu – will likely prove irrelevant.
But in some ways, this is precisely the point. Friday was just the latest in a line of examples of an ownership that clearly doesn’t sweat the small stuff, a front office that doesn’t appreciate its assets or how tiny details can make an impact.
To illustrate the point, let’s throw out a few examples:
– The Knicks bid against themselves to trade for Carmelo Anthony. I really, really don’t want to get into it. It’s obviously a trade you do again. But, after the deal, John Hollinger wrote, “Anthony became the first player in memory to issue a trade demand and then list one team that he’d accept a trade to.” The Knicks had the clear upper hand, yet ownership, transfixed by Anthony’s star power, threw in extra pieces almost at will to a leverage-less Nuggets team. What began as a deal centered around Wilson Chandler and a smaller, second piece turned into Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mosgov, a first-round pick (in this year’s loaded draft), two second-rounders, $6 million in cash and exchanging Raymond Felton for Chauncey Billups. The same Billups whose onerous contract required the Knicks to amnesty him for the team to sign Tyson Chandler.
– The Knicks trade three players and two second-round draft picks for Marcus Camby. Camby was 38 at the time of the deal.
– The Knicks don’t attach a team option to Chris Copeland’s deal. Copeland was a 28-year-old rookie who bounced around Europe for years and had few, if any, NBA suitors. Don’t think that team option — a no-downside move that would have enabled the Knicks to keep Cope this year — would have been a dealbreaker for him.
– The Knicks trade a first-round pick and two second-round picks in the Andrea Bargnani trade. Like the trade or not, like Bargnani or not — it doesn’t take 3 draft picks to get Raptors GM Masai Ujiri to say yes.
– The Knicks cut Ike Diogu and Jeremy Tyler to keep Chris Smith.
These unnecessary add-ins, oversights and concessions are all small. But they point to a front office that has a track record of a reckless and cavalier attitude toward the tiny details. When you make enough of these decisions, one is bound to hurt, or at least a combination of these moves will. It’s just a late first-round pick. It’s just a 15th man. It’s just a backup center. It’s just a guy who’s shown a bit of flash in the preseason. Sometimes, that perspective is important. But these decisions build up, and show clearly that ownership is far too flippant about draft picks and smaller assets.
The most successful and lauded franchises expressly care about this stuff. The Spurs are a model franchise because they run a player development system explicitly designed to maximize players’ strengths and minimize their flaws. San Antonio is a small market and, thanks to prolonged success, the team has had late-round draft picks for more than a decade. But they scour the league for overlooked players and second-round picks and take any small advantage they can get.
Some — even the vast majority — of those reclamation projects and extra assets the Spurs take on don’t work out. Most 2nd round picks don’t turn into Manu Ginobili or DeJuan Blair. And most excuse-me trade thrown-ins don’t turn out to be, in the case of the Magic, Tobias Harris.
But some do. Anyone who watched second-round pick (46th overall) and twice-cut Danny Green and undrafted Gary Neal wreak havoc on the Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals knows this.
Perhaps most tragically, the Knicks are exactly the type of team that should benefit on the margins. New York offers the biggest market in the country and is one of the most attractive places in the league to play. Rotation players like Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih take discounts to play for the team. The Knicks should seize an advantage on the margins of a salary-cap league, not lose one.
The Knicks begin their season tomorrow, and this will likely soon be forgotten. And maybe that’s healthier — basketball is fun, the Knicks will be good, Jeremy Tyler and Ike Diogu almost certainly won’t affect this season.
But know this: The best front offices understand that every asset has some value, potential or otherwise. The small stuff matters, and catches up to you eventually. The Knicks haven’t yet figured that out.