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By David J. Cohen
Now that Isiah Thomas has been outsourced in Europe the Knicks can get down to business. Below is the memo in its entirety.
TO: Donnie Walsh, President of Basketball Operations
FROM: Brendan Suhr, Director of Player Personnel, Patrick McDonough, Director of Accounting, David J. Cohen, NBA Basketball Consultant
DATE: June 3, 2008
SUBJECT: Saving the Organization
We are in the most important transition period in the history of the New York Knicks. We are coming off the most embarrassing season in franchise history. We played in the 1 st NBA game. We’re not the Bobcats. This is serious.
In recent years the organization has made decisions to try and win quickly. These decisions have failed and as a result they have crippled the basketball operation. We now feel the organization cannot continue to strive for making the playoffs as an 8 th seed with a below .500 record. We want to be respected, not swept away. Now that we have a head coach we feel can bring energy back into the Garden, it’s time to get our house in order.
The Personnel and Accounting Departments have collaborated and have come up with some ideas on expediting the process. First is a short list of easy things we can do to cut some payroll while raising efficiency.
1. Relocate Raquel Burnette. We are past Anuka Brown Sanders so she doesn’t need to be the “Senior Secretary to Isiah Thomas”. We actually do not know why this is still the case. Isiah knows how to use e-mail and he’s in your Fave 5 so we can utilize her in another department within basketball operations. Since we will be conducting several trades in the coming months she can be the Secretary of Trades and Transactions and keep up with all of Stern’s paperwork.
2. Hire some team nutritionists. Obviously some of our players are not eating well. Hopefully we can move Eddy Curry but if we can’t we must put him on a balanced diet and get him off the curry. Jerome James is the cause of all this. He’s been a bad influence on Eddy since he’s being paid out the wazoo for sitting on his derrière. If we don’t act soon we fear they might eat Nate Robinson.
3. Hire better contractual lawyers. How was it we had to pay Allan Houston $20,718,750 a couple of years ago? We need to make sure we stop giving these enormous contracts to role players. And we need to make sure we get team options in these contracts so if things go south we can abort ship.
These we can go ahead and get done with your approval Mr. Walsh. The more critical section ahead concerns the current roster and imminent changes necessary to accommodate Mike D’Antoni and his offense. For this we called upon the help of David J. Cohen, who is acting as our NBA consultant.
Personnel Changes and Financial Implications
Your stated goal as outlined in your 1 st press conference as President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks is to get the Knicks in a manageable cap situation by 2010. That gives us a 2 year window to slash a major part of our current payroll. Right now the lowest payrolls in the NBA are just under $53,000,000. As of now our payroll for next season without signing our 6 th pick in the upcoming draft is $90,991,250. There were 3 teams in the bottom 5 of payroll that made the playoffs and 2 won a playoff series, so it is possible to contend without breaking the bank. We have targeted some players and possible trade partners that would help us achieve fiscal flexibility in time to welcome LeBron James. If the news of Marcus Camby and Carmelo Anthony heading to the Nets is accurate then it takes Jay-Z right out of the LeBron picture, meaning we are the only destination for him to achieve his goal of truly being a “global icon”. We need to be competitive for now but need to make the room to get him and other players that can help D’Antoni revive the Knicks.
Here is the list of players we need to deal with:
- Stephon Marbury - $21,937,500 owed next season
- Zach Randolph - $14,667,000 owed next year; $16,000,000 the year after; $17,333,333 afterwards
- Eddy Curry - $9,723,983 owed next year; $10,500,423 player option the year after; $11,276,863 player option afterwards
- Malik Rose - $7,647,500 owed next year
- Jared Jeffries - $6,049,400 owed next year; $6,446,600 the year after; $6,883,400 player option afterwards
- We realize Jerome James has $6,200,000 owed to him next year and a $6,660,000 player option the year after. We expect him to exercise the option but not to exercise, thus needing the money to feed himself. We also realize that while you are a great basketball executive Mr. Walsh that you can’t work miracles so we don’t expect to find a village idiot to take James. We could offer $11,000,000 for a buyout but we feel its best to use the $4,800,000 it would take to buy him out this year for other purposes that may aid the team.
As of now it is imperative to move the contracts of Randolph, Curry, and Jeffries. They don’t fit in D’Antoni’s system and will not get playing time so they are currently dead cash on the payroll. They are also 56.5% of the 2010 player payroll so moving them would directly free up the room for LeBron.
We have contacted league sources and executives for many NBA teams and have compiled a plan to remove all of these players from our roster by the start of next season.
Possible Personnel Moves
Marbury has an early termination option (ETO) but will obviously choose not to forego his boatload of cash. We could try to trade him to a couple of places to pick up a bunch of players but we feel the best option ultimately is to take advantage of his expiring contract to help ourselves instead of someone else. We only see one possible trade partner because of the complicated circumstances surrounding Marbury.
Proposed Trade: Marbury & 6 th overall pick to Indiana Pacers for Jermaine O’Neal ($21,352,500 owed next year; $22,995,000 the year after) & 11 th overall pick. O’Neal would give us the athletic center we need in our new offense while providing strong help on the boards. O’Neal also has an ETO but will certainly not allow the Pacers to get out of it after all they’ve put him through. If O’Neal doesn’t work out he is off the books before the 2010 season. If after the trade O’Neal doesn’t want to play for us he can still exercise his ETO and work out a deal with another team. If he does this we would save $21,937,500 since we wouldn’t have to pay Marbury. Since we can’t get a player of need at the 6 th pick we swap picks to move down and select PG D.J. Augustin from the University of Texas.
Randolph is easily the most talented player we have to move. He also is a terrible fit in D’Antoni’s scheme as he doesn’t run the floor well and to our knowledge has never passed the ball in a Knick uniform. We tried to move him toward the trade deadline but a deal with the Nuggets fell apart and now they are no longer interested in Randolph. We do know of 2 teams that would like to have him.
Proposed Trade: Randolph to Philadelphia for Reggie Evans ($4,640,000 owed next year; $4,960,000 the year after; $5,080,000 afterwards), Willie Green ($3,388,000 owed next year; $3,682,000 the year after; $3,976,000 afterwards), Calvin Booth ($1,141,838 owed next year), & $3,000,000 in cash. Booth is immediately released. Evans gives us a gritty player who can hit the boards if we decide to keep him (not to mention he can grab the nuts). Green gives us an athletic scorer and a tough defender who can supplement Jamal Crawford or start with him if it comes to that. At the moment Crawford is actually our best point guard as he knows how to get the whole team involved when controlling the offense. We would save $8,498,000 next season, $7,358,000 the year after, and $8,277,333 the year after that.
Proposed Trade: Randolph to Milwaukee for Bobby Simmons ($9,920,000 owed next year; $10,560,000 the year after), Desmond Mason ($5,300,000 owed next year) & the 37 th pick. Simmons is a solid all-around player who would challenge Quentin Richardson for the starting SF spot. He is clearly overpaid but so is Randolph and you can’t get rid of Zack for free. Mason is athletic and would be a nice expiring contract. As for the pick we would take the best person available in hopes of landing USC SF Davon Jefferson. We would lose $553,000 next season but save $5,440,000 the year after and $17,333,333 the year after that.
Proposed Trade: Randolph to Milwaukee for Bobby Simmons & Charlie Villanueva ($3,448,050 owed next year; $4,623,835 qualifying offer the year after). It is in our best interest if we can to get Villanueva and it seems the Bucks are more likely to trade him to us over Mason. He is a perfect weapon for D’Antoni and this offense at a low price. He could evolve into a 6 th man of the year candidate off the bench. We would save $1,298,950 next season, $816,165 the year after, and $17,333,333 the year after that.
It’s amazing that Curry is still just 25 years old but he has overstayed his welcome with us. He is the worst fit on the team with D’Antoni. If Mike thought Shaq was a bad fit you can just imagine what he’ll think of Curry chugging up and down the floor. There might be more of a market for him then we think but with the Nets out of the running there is only one team to our knowledge looking for a player like Curry in a half-court offense.
Proposed Trade: Curry to Miami for Mark Blount ($7,350,000 owed next year; $7,962,500 the year after) and Alexander Johnson ($687,456 owed next year). Not exactly a blockbuster deal but Miami has a Riley protégé in place and he will run a similar offense to Riley’s. Curry gives them their beast in the middle. Blount is a good big man who can stretch the floor and still fight for some rebounds. He would start at center until we find a replacement. If we have O’Neal then Blount is a great backup. We would save $1,686,527 next season, $2,537,923 the year after, and $11,276,863 the year after that.
Finally one that’s not so complicated. He has that sizable expiring contract which we could use in helping to work out a trade involving the other players listed. If his contract is not needed then we should work out a $4,000,000 to $5,000,000 buyout and allow him to either retire into coaching or rejoin the Spurs for one last season.
He is currently the cheapest person on the list to keep but is as bad a fit as Curry is in D’Antoni’s offense. The market for him should be sizable depending on what the asking price is. What teams are in need of a player like Jeffries are not clear but there is one team that could easily use him, especially if their current defensive specialist decides to opt out.
Proposed Trade: Jeffries, Mardy Collins ($997,800 owed next year; $1,801,029 team option the year after; $2,701,543 qualifying offer afterwards) & the 6 th pick to Sacramento for Kenny Thomas ($7,942,187 owed next year; $8,553,125 the year after), the 12 th pick & 42 nd pick. Thomas has an ETO option but will lose anywhere from $8,000,000 to $10,000,000 in future earnings if he uses it. Thomas is a good offensive player who can play tough defense on occasion. He could be a surprising contributor for D’Antoni as his skill set fits in well with the system. This also allows us to move down in the draft and select Augustin. It is not clear who will be available for the 42 nd pick but a player like Bill Walker or Kyle Weaver would be worth the pick. We would lose $894,987 next season, lose $2,106,525 the year after but save $6,883,400 the year after that.
For the sake of argument let’s say we successfully move all of these players and don’t have to buy Marbury out. For purposes of application we’ll say the 6 th pick was traded in the Sacramento deal and Randolph was traded to the 76ers since this is the most likely destination. We’ll also say we bought out Malik for $5,000,000. These moves would save us about $12,500,000 next season with O’Neal and $33,800,000 if we trade Marbury and O’Neal uses his ETO afterwards (you should consider this shrewd option Mr. Walsh as it would drop our payroll to a little over $60,000,000 with all draft picks signed if we have no free agent signings). With O’Neal and the other specified trades in place we would have an extra $26,500,000 for the 2010 season. All of this does not take into account the millions we would save on the NBA luxury tax.
Roster by Position With Trades & Picks Completed
PG: Nate Robinson, D.J. Augustin
SG: Jamal Crawford, Willie Green, Kyle Weaver
SF: Quentin Richardson, Wilson Chandler, Renaldo Balkman
PF: David Lee, Kenny Thomas, Reggie Evans
C: Jermaine O'Neal, Mark Blount, Jerome James
This would give us a competitive team that D’Antoni might be able to get to the playoffs as we start the rebuilding process. Not bad huh?
If we can’t execute all of the trades then we can look at free agency to find a couple gems that can help us without costing us a ton. Brevin Knight is a pure point guard and if he decides to play next season he could possibly start and average double-digit assists for us. Eddie House would provide a reliable 3-point shooter if he chose to play for us. The best value free agent we can get a hold of is Jannero Pargo. He is not a pure passing point guard but will easily get us 20 a night without taking a ton of shots. And the size of his contract won’t be any larger than Crawford’s. The Hornets know he’s a good player but will not be able to afford his asking price for him to be a backup. He’s a starter for us.
This is what we have come up with. We ask of you Mr. Walsh to take all of our efforts and research into strong consideration when deliberating your actions concerning the Knicks personnel and finances during the off-season. We realize this is the longest memo ever written but our organization didn’t just dig a hole for itself; it dug a crater.
May you and D’Antoni revive Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of Basketball.
CC: James Dolan, Owner of Madison Square Garden