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Will the Knicks pick up Donnie Walsh’s contract? And how is this even a question?

Feb 1, 2011, 11:55 AM EDT

Image (1) donnie_walsh-thumb-250x250-21082.jpg for post 6239

Pat Riley will probably win it. I can see that. But Donnie Walsh of the Knicks deserves to be NBA Executive of the Year.

In three seasons Walsh has taken a team drowning in big contracts for bad players and has turned them into something respectable. The Knicks are not contenders, but they are pretty good and very entertaining. No team has come farther in the last few years to get where they are than New York.

And yet, there are worries within Madison Square Garden that Walsh’s job may not be safe. His contract is up at the end of this season and owner James Dolan has until April 1 to pick up his contract for next season.

Nobody knows if Dolan will do that, writes Howard Beck at the New York Times. Which has plenty of people nervous because if not Walsh… he wouldn’t really bring back Isiah Thomas, would he? Is Dolan wearing Bad Idea Jeans? Bringing back Thomas the New Coke of basketball decisions. That can’t really happen, can it?

The problem is Dolan is so unpredictable and so secretive nobody can rule it out.

In that light, the move by Walsh this week to hire Mark Warkentien — the former Nuggets GM — makes even more sense (it’s not just the Carmelo Anthony connections). With Warkentien and current second-in-command Allan Houston in house, if Walsh is pushed out the door there would be two reasonable replacement options already in the Knicks front office. Meaning one would not have to look for Florida college coaches to be your GM.

Know that Walsh wants to stick around.

“I never have; I don’t think about that,” Walsh said, but he confirmed that he wanted to continue. “If I’m the right guy, probably. But I’m not in charge of that, so I don’t worry about it. I feel good at this point, about how this has gone for the Knicks.”

To realize how good a job Walsh has done, you have to look back at the 23-win Knicks of 2008, the last season of Thomas’ reign. That team had Stephon Marbury playing in 30 games and shooting 41 percent for his $19 million. They had Zach Randolph at $13.3 million, Eddie Curry at $8.9 million (at the start of a contract the Knicks still can’t unload) and Quentin Richardson was making $8.1 million. The Knicks had a payroll of more than $95 million, and with the luxury tax they paid out much more to miss the playoffs entirely. And that’s just the on-the-court issues, the team found ways to embarrass the franchise off the court, too.

Walsh came in and changed everything. Already have 25 wins and seem destined for a playoff spot. He brought in a new face for the franchise in Amar’e Stoudemire. There is an energy and excitement in the Garden and around the Knicks that has been missing for a decade.

If the Knicks don’t pick up Walsh’s contract, it’s a sign that ultimately nothing has changed in New York. And that the city’s hoops fans are destined for another decade of disappointment.

  1. leearmon - Feb 1, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    I think people are far too short sighted. As Alan Hahn of Newsday pointed out here;jsessionid=AB657996B53FBFB0983A.3033?site=newsday&view=knicks_item&feed:a=newsday_5min&feed:c=knicks&feed:i=1.2649295&nopaging=1

    this seems as if Dolan is trying to learn from past mistakes. Donnie has done an incredible job in his tenure. However, if the Knicks suddenly collapse or Walsh makes a few bad trades (doubt it) then things change drastically. Lets remember too, many in the mainstream media thought the Amar’e signing was horrible. Laughed at the Fields pick. Thought Moz was a joke, and just a shot at Prokhorov and hated the trade of David Lee. So public opinion, especially in the media, changes in the course of months. Of course I want Donnie to stay, but Im glad that Dolan is taking his time, and not jumping the gun like he did 4 seasons ago. P.S. hopefully he keeps Isiah as far away from the NYC as humanly possible.

  2. Fred - Feb 1, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    Lee, I agree with your point, generally, but I think you’re overstating things a bit. I may have missed it — and if so I apologize — but who would laugh at anyone’s choice with the 39th pick of the draft? It’s not like they took Jackie Moon. Ditto the David Lee trade. Everyone I know was thrilled that we got Randolph, Turiaf and a guy in Azubuike many thought would start once healthy in exchange for a guy that was leaving anyway. I remember the disappointment about Stoudamire, although that seemed more residue from the failure to get James, but he’s obviously been much better than advertised. And Mozgov just seemed like a flyer. What was the cost? That’s not to say Walsh hasn’t done a very good job. Just getting rid of the Randolph, Crawford and Richardson contracts earns him a lot of praise. Although, he owes us Fields after the whole Jordan Hill thing. Yuck.

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