Against All Odds: Five Knicks’ Free Agents That Could Still Return Next Season

March 26, 2010

The Knicks have been preparing for a 2010 summer extravaganza, aiming to revamp virtually the entire team. Stars that could see their names in the New York City lights come July include Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. “Fallback” options even include Joe Johnson.

Any of these players would put the organization in the right direction, but ever star needs a supporting cast. Because it’s unlikely for the Knicks to replace every player, the door will be open for some of the Knicks’ more reliable role players to return next season.

Here’s a look at five of the Knicks’ key free agents this summer that could still be wearing orange and blue after the summer is over.

David Lee

Lee has made the best case to be re-signed next season, but may have also priced himself out of the Knicks market.

A first time all-star this season, Lee has become a double-double machine and has seen the Knicks’ offense run through him, even after the arrival of Tracy McGrady.

Lee will reportedly receive a lot of interest from the local rival Nets, who could steal him away should the Knicks be able to sign two other free agents and not have the room for Lee.

After proving his value, however, Lee may get rewarded by his current team. Should the Knicks not strike total gold in this year’s market, they could re-sign Lee along with one maximum free agent in hopes of signing Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul in 2011 when Eddy Curry’s contract expires.
Waiting a year to have a core of Melo/CP3, Lee, and one other maximum free agent just may be worth it.

Chances of coming back: Somewhat likely

Al Harrington

Harrington was originally acquired by the Knicks simply because his contract was expiring this season.

However, if the Knicks were a playoff team, Harrington would probably be challenging Jamal Crawford for “Sixth Man of the Year.”
Harrington is a shoot first player who does not provide the Knicks with much more than pure offense, but he does it well. Only starting in 13 games thus far, Harrington has become a staple off the bench and is the team’s second leading scorer.

His offensive spark off the bench is undeniable, and is furthermore, something that any good team needs. If he were to show appreciation for Donnie Walsh’s loyalty, taking a pay cut could make it possible for him to return to a potentially more competitive Knicks squad next season.

Note to Al: If you want to return, consider it more a long term investment in winning rather than a pay cut.

Chances of coming back: An outside chance

Tracy McGrady

McGrady’s most valuable asset, like Harrington, is his large expiring contract at the end of the season.

That being said, his tryout for a contract next season isn’t going as well as everyone had hoped.

McGrady has seen sporadic playing time, often sitting out during most of the fourth quarter during his team’s games. Certainly not the clutch player he once was, McGrady’s comments after games usually pertain to how much he enjoys “watching” his teammates, rather than playing with them.
If the Knicks are able to secure two maximum free agents this summer, the goal is filling the roster with bargain players that prove to be an adequate supporting cast.

Once a candidate to return to the Knicks next season if he were to consider a pay cut because of his outstanding career, his 11 points per game and forth quarter seat on the bench may not even be worth as much as the midlevel exception anymore.

Chances of coming back: Currently unlikely

Sergio Rodriguez

Although his playing time has also been sporadic as of late, Rodriguez appears to have one of the better chances of returning to the Knicks given the combination of his likely bargain rate and position.

There are not many quality “true point guards” in this year’s free agent market for the Knicks to turn attention to. Rodriguez was given the opportunity to be the starting point guard when he was acquired, and although he may not be the almighty point guard of the future, he certainly proved that he would be sufficient enough to platoon with Toney Douglas at the position next season.

Rodriguez has shown that he can be effective for spurts of action, which may just make him the perfect complement to Douglas as a starter.
His international background and cheap qualifying offer (as a restricted free agent) make him an instant winner for Coach D’Antoni and the Knicks.

Chances of coming back: Very likely

Bill Walker

Upon his arrival to New York, Walker was a little known D-League standout to many big market Knicks fans.

He was virtually an afterthought in the deal that brought Eddie House to New York, simply an expiring contract filler to make the deal financially possible.
Apparently Coach D’Antoni didn’t miss that memo about him being a D-League standout. Given ample playing time, Walker has demonstrated himself to be a very sufficient defender and efficient scorer, including four 20+ point games this month.

With the champion contending Celtics, Walker barely saw time on the court. With the experimenting Knicks, the somewhat still unproven Walker may have played his way into a securing a contract next season as a reliable role player.

One cannot stress how much the Knicks will be searching for bargains next season, and as it appears New York may be Walker’s best option for playing time, it would be smart for the two sides to continue the ongoing relationship.

Chances of coming back: Likely


Will Toney Douglas Be the Knicks’ Starting Point Guard Next Season?

March 23, 2010

toney douglas

The goal for the remainder of the Knicks’ season has become abundantly clear: development. Coach D’Antoni is taking every opportunity he can to get a good look and develop some of the Knicks’ younger prospects. Toney Douglas has been on the receiving end of increased playing time in March, and will certainly have a learning experience as Chauncey Billups and the Nuggets come to town Monday night.

Billups is an all-star and former NBA Finals MVP whose ultimate goal is to make his teammates better, something D’Antoni and the Knicks have been desperately searching for in a point guard.

The only hopes of competitive Knicks basketball lie in the hands of Donnie Walsh,  as he tries to reform the team for the better this summer via free agency. However, some of the big names available that the Knicks are figured to take a look at are not true point guards; Lebron James, Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh, etc.

Players like Lebron and Johnson can certainly run the floor, but it is also obvious that a player like Lebron James is best at a forward position where he is also free to muscle his way into the paint for rebounds.

Even if the Knicks are able to sign two coveted marquee free agents, there will still be a tremendous need for a point guard.  That leads me to believe one thing; Douglas’ increased playing time is really his audition to be the team’s starting point guard next season.

After recent developments, one would not expect for Chris Duhon to be back next season. Sergio Rodriguez was also given a opportunity to start last month, but he is now back on the bench. His contract also expires at the end of the season.

Douglas,  playing under his rookie contract, is the only one out of those three guaranteed a roster spot next season, and at a cheap rate at that.

So far, in the month of March, Douglas has been the talk on the town, leading the way to a 5-5 record. For those keeping track, a .500 record all season long at this point would have netted the Knicks the 7th seed in the East, good enough to make the playoffs. Douglas has been impressive, averaging 13.8 points, 3.6 assists, 1.3 steals while shooting 52% from the field.

In Douglas’ last game, a tightly contested 116-112 loss to the Rockets, Douglas tied a Knicks rookie record with six three point goals.

Douglas has been meeting the expectation of making his teammates better, as shown by the team’s monthly record. All this productive has been with the current Knicks squad, so it is that much more intriguing to wonder what Douglas could do with much better players if he were to maintain this level of play.

D’Antoni and Walsh have got to like what they see thus far. Douglas has of course made some rookie mistakes along the way, but maturity will help him in preventing those mistakes from occurring again.

Furthermore, better players would take the spotlight off Douglas. Better offensive players would also mean more coverted baskets, resulting in an increased assist number for Douglas as well.

This summer still holds many questions for the Knicks, but one thing’s for sure; if a true quality point guard cannot be had, at least they have one waiting in the wings in Toney Douglas.