Mike D’Antoni knew there would be a rebuilding process when he agreed to take over as coach of the New York Knicks. That has begun in earnest as they move on from their first blockbuster trade of the season Friday when they play the Milwaukee Bucks.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh looked toward the future as he dealt guard Jamal Crawford to the Golden State Warriors on Friday for disgruntled forward Al Harrington. While Crawford was second on New York (6-5) in scoring at 19.6 points per game, the trade allows the Knicks to clear about $10 million of salary cap for 2010, when Cavaliers superstar LeBron James may headline the free agent class.
“I drafted Al back in 1998, and I think his talents are a great fit for our style of play,” Walsh said. “This trade also gives us more long-term flexibility while enabling us to remain competitive this season.”
Harrington averaged 12.4 points in just five games for the Warriors and hasn’t played since Nov. 5, growing unhappy with his diminished role in the team’s offense and also after coach Don Nelson criticized his effort. The 6-foot-9 forward, who grew up in northern New Jersey, has seen his scoring average steadily decline since a career-high 18.6 points per game in 2005-06 with the Atlanta Hawks.
Crawford’s departure raises the question of whether Stephon Marbury will finally enter D’Antoni’s rotation to address the lack of depth in the backcourt. Despite being paid nearly $20 million this season, Marbury has yet to play, and Walsh has said the team will not trade, release or waive the veteran guard.
It is unlikely Harrington will play in this game, but the Knicks will try to avoid a third consecutive loss after suffering a 110-101 defeat to Boston on Tuesday. Zach Randolph, also the subject of trade rumors, had his streak of double-doubles end at eight as he finished with 18 points and eight rebounds but is averaging a team-high 20.5 points and is third in the NBA in rebounding at 12.5 per game.
The Knicks struggled to one of their worst offensive efforts in a 94-86 loss to the Bucks (5-8) on Nov. 2, shooting 37.0 percent. It was one of three games New York failed to shoot at least 42 percent from the field.
The Bucks lost Michael Redd to an ankle injury in that game against the Knicks, and they’ve gone 3-6 without their star guard. Milwaukee fell 105-94 at Utah on Wednesday for its second three-game losing streak in less than two weeks.
The Jazz outscored the Bucks 31-18 in the fourth quarter.
“We were up 10 and just relaxed and kind of stopped playing for a couple minutes and allowed them to get back in the game,” Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. “Then we just looked flat-out worn out in the fourth quarter.”
“We had our opportunities to come in here and win,” said Jefferson, averaging 18.7 points in his first season with the Bucks. “We were up 10 in the second half and set the tone. We just didn’t finish the job.”
Skiles said he thought Redd might have come back during the two-game trip to Denver and Utah, but acknowledged he’s not sure when he’d return. Redd was averaging 21.3 points before the injury.
Milwaukee has won two straight over New York after losing the four previous meetings. The Bucks have taken seven of the last 11 in the series at the Bradley Center.