July 14, 2008
The news has been batted around for a few days now, and even after careful consideration and the idea or reification that the Donnie Walsh-era Knicks may have meant a bit more to us than it does to him or Mike D'Antoni ... it doesn't matter. We may not even be fans of the team, and we're still aghast.
Word is, the Knicks passed on a chance to unload Zach Randolph (above, trying to act like a point guard even back then) for absolutely nothing.
In case you missed it, I'm not off, the Knicks would have to take on absolutely (read: a second round draft pick) nothing save for cap space and a reason not to have an on and off-court millstone on the team's roster. The Los Angeles Clippers (the trading partner) are reeling, they consider themselves a 45-win team worth considering, and they want to fill out that salary bracket with a legitimate 20-and-10 guy in Dr. Randolph.
Zach Randolph can drop 20 and 10, with a minimal amount of effort. He's not a bad guy, in a basketball sense, and he does think his particular brand of ball has a closer relationship with winning than what most other observers (this side of El Lay) would like to believe.
Randolph's thinking is orthodox, and the coaches who have tried to pry from him and the owners who have thrown money at him have done wonders with this mug's mindset. A 20-point and 10-rebound guy who does his damage in the low post should be a cornerstone, even if we're aware that this hypothetical contributor's contributions on the defensive end lack a little, or even a lot. 20 and 10 is 20 and 10 and it hardly detracts from the 20 and 10 that is the 20 and 10.
And, somehow, Zach Randolph ruins it. For everyone.
He's like Brevin Knight, plus 15-million bucks. Brevin Knight gives you heaps of assists, few turnovers, and a few steals.
He doesn't play great defense, Brevin, I reckon, and he can't shoot, Brevin I know, and Brevin can't rebound.
But he does steal the ball, and pass for assists. He's like the Zach Attack, just substitute two stats for two others.
And, because Zach's contributions - points, and rebounds - are so cherished amongst you and your brother and his fiancée and her high school track coach, he skirts away with a contract like this. And, make no mistake, Zach worked toward this. He was a lower-rung draft pick, was forced to work behind Dale Davis for no reason during the 2002-03 season, and worked his tail off to overcome microfracture surgery a year before Amare Stoudemire sulked through his rehab.
But he's useless, and that's not just me trying to make a point. He has no idea how to take to more than a basic NBA defense. If anything that hints at a double-team comes his way, the man is more or less useless, with only the presence of Eddy Curry in this league allowing me the chance to write "more or less."
Defensively, he's absolute rubbish. I'm not piling on. Just understand that he hurts a team more than you can possibly try and assume.
Zach likes throwing up that jump hook, with either hand, in the gym over the summer. And he can step out to three-point range, occasionally. He can play. He can do certain offensive things, quite well. And because coaches think they can take these minimal (though profound) talents and turn these sorts of skill sets into all-around games, a player like Zach allows for coach after coach after coach to make excuses over the summer and beg the GM, "der, gimme a chance, please?"
(It's pretty obvious that MLB dugouts have been more or less run by mugs for years, but at least they don't become smitten with guys like Rob Deer and Pete Incaviglia year after year. These men may push the sac bunt toward oblivion, but at least Kevin Maas doesn't still have a job.)
OK, so there's Zach. He doesn't work, in real time, at least. He just doesn't work, under any auspices or pretense or hope or semi-function, and it's not working. Zach doesn't work. Zach won't work on your team. He just won't. Scoring and rebounding are important, but so is an efficient offense, and a competent defense.
And Zach'ss owed a heap of money until 2011.
(A whole host of fabulous pro basketball players become free agents in 2010.)
The Clippers are desperate. For whatever reason, they lost Elton Brand. They have a ton of cap space, and a giant crevice at power forward. And just as the Golden State Warriors needlessly overpaid for Corey Maggette's services, this team wants a veteran to put up numbers and make life odd for the fans.
And that's what Zach would do.
("I don't get it, he had 24 and 12, why do I hate him?")
So the Clippers, who can afford the cap hit, offered a second round pick for Randolph from the Knicks, who need this guy like they need, well, another low post semi-threat who doesn't defend or play sound offense.
And the Knicks, with bossman Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni at the helm, declined. Because they're nutters.
Knicks, please, this is an elderly couple that went to Vegas with a four thousand dollar budget, lost all of it on roulette or some other ridiculous game of chance, and then won a thousand bucks in a slot in the airport. They've six hours before their plane departs back to Jupiter, Florida, and they're rushing back to the Bellagio. Take advantage. Sorry for making that sound like Bill Simmons, but sometimes that's how it works.
It doesn't matter who you can get in 2010. What matters is eventual cap room, for anyone besides Zach Randolph, and the idea that these idiots from Los Angeles want to take this load on ... and you're quibbling? Why, exactly?
Look, nobody likes to just lose outright. I understand it. But if you don't "lose outright," you're falling into the same trap every Knick GM for the last 30 years has fallen into - not giving you fanbase enough credit.
Knicks fans are smart fans. Knicks fans are stupid fans, too, but there's so damn many of them that it's hard to remember that the Knicks have a smarter percentage of actual rooting fans than any other team in this league. So, understand, that these people will also understand when you dump this one-season mess for absatively nothing.
Remember, you've the sympathy of the entire Western World, everybody knows you're paying for the Sins of der Isiah'er, so why not push the martyr envelop even further? You're not going to end up with LeBron James, more than likely, but why not try and end up with less of Zach Randolph and his onerous contract?
We know that Randolph is a workout beast. He's one of the hardest practice workers in the game (seriously), and has been for years. That's not a joke. That doesn't mean you should think that he's turning a corner.
Also, every coach thinks he can turn certain players into winners. It's the hubris that comes with the clipboard. Every coach wants a challenge. Every coach thinks that his or her speech is going to be "the one" to turn things around for a certain player, and it rarely is. D'Antoni can talk all he wants to with Donnie about being able to work Randolph into a better trade value than a second round pick and cap space ... but he's wrong.
And anyone who is reading this knows it. Stop it. You know it's true.
When I first saw a headline referring to a possible deal, I'd assumed that the Knicks agreed to take the extra year of Tim Thomas' contract on for Malik Rose's expiring deal along with a Randolph-for-crap pick trade, mainly because my computer is quite slow, and my aptitude for recalling the specifics behind MLE-yet-still-overpaid contracts is quite fast.
I still can't make a béarnaise, and I've DVDs that need labeling, but I can tell you that it was a bit shocking to see that the Knicks refused to pass on Randolph in a pure salary dump.
If I were the Knicks, I wouldn't even think twice about re-visiting the original trade angle. Maybe, and this is a bit of a reach, see if you could include Jared Jeffries in any deal, but don't push too hard.
Apologies for making this too personal, but I can't think of any condition in, say, May of 2011 that would allow for Knick fans to think fondly on the time that Mssrs. Walsh and D'Antoni took their time offering Zach Randolph to the Los Angeles Clippers for nothing but cap space.
Even without considering the team's parsimonious history (which has been a non-issue since 2003), it's too much of a risk to hope that the Clippers won't be able to sign Emeka Okafor, or Andre Iguodala or Josh Smith, or just keep the cap space.
You can't barter with a sick mind. Actually, you can, but you're just going to end up with a batch of kittens and a few Poco albums.
Dump the power forward and move on.