As Donnie Walsh departs at the end of the business day Thursday, he deserves praise and thanks from anybody who calls themselves a Knick fan. Despite his clash with Dolan, Walsh successfully turned the biggest laughing stock in the league to a team on the rise anchored by two superstars. He transformed Madison Square Garden from a place riddled with losing, debt and sexual harassment charges to a positive environment that is filled with hope for the first time since the Ewing era. Today is a day that we should look at the great things Walsh has done for our favorite team. Lets put into perspective what Walsh’s accomplishments were.
Walsh takes over a team, fresh off the Anucha Browne Sanders sexual harassment suit, with a 130+ million dollar payroll. Walsh fires Isiah Thomas and signs Mike D’Antoni to a 4 year 24 million dollar deal. With the 6th pick in the draft, Walsh selects Danilo Gallinari from Italy who blossoms into a quality player and a fan favorite. On November 21, 2008, Walsh orchestrates the two trades that serve as a launching pad for the entire rebuilding process. In one trade, Walsh trades Jamal Crawford to Golden State for Al Harrington. In the other trade, Walsh flips Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins to the Clippers for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley. Both moves are created to clear the salary cap for the 2010 off season in which LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer are free agents. On Feb 24, 2009 the Knicks and cancerous point guard Stephon Marbury agree on a buyout thus removing him from the organization. The Knicks win 9 more games than in 2007 and finish 32-50.
On June 25, 2009, Walsh trades Quentin Richardson to Memphis for cash considerations and center Darko Milicic. In the 2009 draft, Walsh selects Arizona forward Jordan Hill with the 8th selection and trades a second rounder and cash to the Lakers for the rights to Florida State shooting guard Toney Douglas. On Feb 18, Walsh makes 2 more great trades. He flips Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries (and his horrific contract), a 2012 first round pick and the right to flip picks in 2011 to Houston for Tracy McGrady and his expiring contract. Then he trades Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry to Boston for expiring contracts Eddie House and JR Giddens as well as Bill Walker and a second round pick. These trades create a plethora of expiring contracts on the roster with Eddy Curry being the only Thomas holdover that was impossible to deal. The Knicks finish the season with a 29-53 record but go into the off season with millions to spend and increased optimism.
In the 2010 draft, the Knicks select Syracuse guard Andy Rautins and Stanford guard Landry Fields in the 2nd round. They also trade cash considerations to Milwaukee for their second round selection, Tulsa center Jerome Jordan. July 8, 2010 provides the first building block in Walsh’s vision as he is able to sign Amare Stoudemire to a 5 year, 102 million dollar contract. The next day, David Lee is signed and traded to Golden State for Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Randolph, Kelena Azubuike and a 2010 second round pick. Free agents Timofey Mozgov, Shawne Williams, Raymond Felton and Roger Mason Jr are signed before the end of the off season. In a surprise, Shawne Williams makes the squad over Patrick Ewing Jr. On Feb 5, 2011 Mark Warkentien is brought on by Walsh as director of pro player personnel. February 22 provides Walsh’s club a second superstar. The Knicks trade Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, a future first round pick, 2 second round picks, cash and the right to swap 2016 first round picks to the Denver Nuggets for superstar Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams. Minnesota is also involved in the deal as the Knicks send Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph and cash to Minnesota for Corey Brewer. Walsh had been hesitant to give up the kitchen sink for Melo and co. but it’s widely believed that the Dolan/Thomas marriage sabotaged Walsh’s plan and jumped in to complete the contract. Nevertheless, the Knicks acquire their second superstar. On March 1st, the Knicks wave Corey Brewer, sign Jared Jeffries and claim Derrick Brown off waivers. The Knicks finish 42-40 and make the eastern conference playoffs as the 6 seed.
Walsh is widely reported to be returning but on June 3rd, the Knicks announce that they will be parting ways with Walsh. Donnie, being the class act he is, says all the right things in the media and that it was a “mutual” agreement. While it may have been “mutual”, it was because of Dolan’s ignorance and tyrannical ways. He did not want to give Walsh the full autonomy that he deserved and wanted to run the team as he saw fit. Walsh runs the 2011 draft as the Knicks select Georgia Tech point guard Iman Shumpert in the first round and purchase the rights to Kentucky center Josh Harrellson in the second round. On June 31, Walsh’s contract expires and he steps down from his general manager position. He will remain as a consultant.
Donnie Walsh did wonders for this team. He took Isiah’s crazy house of an organization and transformed it into a winning team with tons of hope for the future. He cleared the payroll and filled it with superstars. Who knows what kind of deal we could have gotten for Carmelo if Dolan hadn’t stepped in. We may have been able to keep one or two more players. Walsh’s firing, although said to be “mutual” but it was a firing, shows just how incompetent James Dolan is as an owner. The man has no clue what he is doing and did Walsh an egregious injustice by not allowing him to finish what he started. As appalling as this whole ending has been, Walsh continues to handle the set of circumstances he has been given with class. He was the savior that this team needed. Even with an egotistic owner interfering with his job, Walsh was able to make the Knicks winners again. For that alone, we must be thankful. Donnie Walsh deserves much better then how James Dolan has treated him but as fans we must give him our thanks. He’s made our team exciting, he’s given us hope and he’s made us winners. Thank you Donnie Walsh. Knick fans everywhere know what you did for our club and we appreciate it.
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