When Pacers face Knicks, it's a 'weird' feeling for Donnie Walsh
Former Knicks president Donnie Walsh, who spearheaded their rebuilding process, said Sunday it would be "all weird" for him if the Knicks and his current team, the Indiana Pacers, wound up facing each other in the postseason.
Now the Pacers' president of basketball operations, Walsh, 72, was back at Madison Square Garden Sunday and watched as the Knicks secured the Eastern Conference's second seed with a 90-80 victory over his Pacers.
With Indiana locked in as the third seed, if both teams win their first-round playoff series, the stage will be set for a second-round series pitting Walsh's Pacers against a Knicks team he helped build.
"Yeah, it's weird," he said. "I can't say I relish it, but I've never had that before, where you're with one team and then another team and you're both playing pretty well. It's weird every time we play."
Walsh said that during the rebuilding process, he always envisioned the Knicks eventually turning into the contenders they are right now. And because he was heavily involved in clearing cap space and adding cornerstone pieces, he said he still feels a rooting interest in the Knicks.
"Take us out of it," Walsh said of the Pacers, "and I want this team to do well."
During Walsh's three-year reign with the Knicks, the team most notably signed Amar'e Stoudemire and traded for Carmelo Anthony. Walsh left the Knicks in June 2011 and last summer rejoined the Pacers, the team he led for more than two decades before the Knicks hired him in 2008.
Walsh said he still runs into Knicks fans who thank him for the Anthony trade, then noted that he initially was criticized by some for trading so many players to Denver to get him.
But Walsh said he's most proud that the Knicks were simply in a position to acquire a player of Anthony's caliber. "It isn't that I brought him here or any of that," he said. "It's just that I'm glad I opened the door to make it possible."
Which obviously could come back to hurt Walsh if the Knicks eliminate the Pacers.
Walsh didn't sound as if he would be too surprised if that happened. He said the veteran-heavy Knicks have what the Pacers don't: postseason experience. That's why he thinks the Knicks have "a legitimate shot" at making waves in the playoffs, even calling a potential series against the LeBron James-led Miami Heat a toss-up.
He also said Anthony, who at 28.7 points per game seems headed for his first NBA scoring title, is in the best shape of his Knicks career.
"His body is in super shape, and that's the only thing I thought he had to improve," Walsh said. "He can do everything else . . . When we got him, I thought that this day was coming. You know, he's that good. People ask me and I say, 'The guy's one of the best players in the league.' "