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With the NBA draft approaching fast, Knick fans know the sand is running out of the hourglass. Each ticking minute until the draft will give Knick fans a queasy stomach, especially, with the recent announcement of a supposed mutual ending to Donnie Walsh’s time as Knicks General manager.
The story of the Knicks since last summer, despite a vastly improved roster with superstars Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, led by veteran point guard Chauncey Billups, has been besmirched by allegations of wrong doing on the part of owner James Dolan and former Knick general manager and coach Isiah Thomas. The story started last summer when James Dolan tried to hire Thomas, his close friend, as a consultant for the Knicks, despite Walsh not being keen to the idea and despite Thomas already being basketball coach for the college Florida International University (FSU). Many in the media saw the move, that was eventually shot down by Commissioner David Stern because of Thomas’s obvious conflict of interest if he were to become a consultant for the Knicks, as a slap in the face to Donnie Walsh. The divide in the front office between Dolan and Walsh did not end there.
According to well-known sportswriter, Frank Isola, of the New York Daily News, in January Dolan and Walsh’s relationship deteriorated further after a “heated exchange over the telephone”. which included profanity. Isola elaborates on the telephone conversation, saying, the disagreement was due to an interview Walsh granted to another well-known sportswriter for the Daily News Mike Lupica. As Isola writes, “Dolan was upset that Walsh had granted an interview to Dolan’s arch nemesis in the media, Daily News columnist Mike Lupica. Although Lupica’s column was favorable toward Walsh and the Knicks, Dolan saw it as a sign of betrayal.” What came next was the straw that broke the camels back: the Carmelo Anthony saga, which seemed to last for months. The saga was riddled with stories of Dolan unfairly usurping Walsh’s power in public. Because of Dolan’s promise to Walsh in 2008, this action was seen as an about-face. Dolan had previously promised that Walsh would have full authority to make all decisions related to basketball operations when he became GM in 2008.
Now we are faced with Friday’s news of Walsh’s departure. Knicks fans must have queasy stomachs at the thought of Isiah Thomas whispering in his good friend Dolan’s ear. The last thing the Knicks need right now is front office turmoil. This month’s draft is a pivotal one for the Knicks; it signifies what direction the Knicks will go in during the next basketball season and more importantly during the next off-season. The Knicks are trying to follow the successful blueprint of the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, trying to attain three superstar players surrounded by a cast of role players. It is no secret to any Knicks fan that both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard will be free agents next summer, therefore, the 17th pick in the NBA draft will shed some light on which of these players the organization thinks is best suited to complete its attainment of the big three. It would behoove the Knicks to have someone as competent, smart, and as seasoned as Donnie Walsh at the Helm. Unfortunately, Friday’s news leaves Knicks management like a ship without a captain.
The NBA draft is an event that receives ample speculation and scrutiny by pundits and non-pundits alike, allowing for wide-ranging opinion and debate. For the Knicks this year the three positions that have been tossed around, as the most logical are a point guard, center or power forward. The question is, who is making these decisions? Are they pundits or non-pundits? With the departure of Donnie Walsh the speculation is that non-pundits will make many of the Knicks’s decisions. More specifically, similar to speculation of Thomas having Dolans ear and being a primary behind the scene decision maker, speculation has recently come out about how Creative Artists Agency will have a fluid hand in many of the Knicks decisions, including, who the teams next GM will be and whether coach Mike D’Antoni will be back. Ric Bucher of ESPN.com shares this in a column he wrote Saturday saying,
“Speculation from other team general managers is that Creative Artists Agency, which represents recently acquired superstar Carmelo Anthony as well as assistant general manager Allan Houston and consultant Mark Warkentien, will exert influence not only on who the Knicks hire to replace Walsh, but also whether D’Antoni is the Knicks coach beyond next season.”
Knicks fans have to ask themselves the following questions: Who is making the decisions behind James Dolan’s Oz like curtain of deception? Will the people or person be as competent, as smart and as seasoned as Donnie Walsh? And finally will the people or person be a hindrance to making the right decision in this year’s draft?Dark days seem to loom large over Knicks fans heads. If only Donnie Walsh were still general manager, not only would we find comfort and solace today, but our splitting headaches would go away and our nausea would subside.