GREENBURGH, N.Y. - As the Knicks put the wraps on their eighth consecutive losing season, Donnie Walsh already has an eye toward the 2009-10 campaign.
The Knicks president has racked up the frequent flier miles over the last month while scouting talent, jetting to Los Angeles for the Pac-10 Tournament before heading overseas to Turin, Italy, to watch the Eurocup Final Eight.
"It's been good for me to go," Walsh said yesterday, "and see firsthand some of the players that the scouts have been talking about."
Most of the players Walsh watched in action overseas were free agents, such as Jorge Garbajosa. But he said he wouldn't shy away from going after a player who has a buyout in his contract. That means Walsh could take a serious look at players such as Jannero Pargo, Ricky Rubio or Carlos Delfino - who has a $500,000 buyout with BC Khimki of the Russian Super League, with his rights still belonging to Toronto - to determine if bringing them on board would be beneficial without causing more financial concerns.
"If the player was great and all there was was a fee attached to it, then I'd have to sit down with the owner [ James Dolan] and talk about it," Walsh said. "And if I recommend it, I think that this owner has always been willing to do it. But at the same time, I'm not going to do that lightly because that's how you get in the position we are in now. Every year, you have, 'This guy is going to be great, give him this, give him that.' Then when he's not great, where are you?"
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Of course, Walsh has to decide what to do with his own free agents. Chris Wilcox's contract is up, and if he's seeking a lucrative long-term deal, he's likely gone. Then there are restricted free agents David Lee and Nate Robinson, a pair of young talents. Walsh has to figure out if he wants either or both back.
The asking price of both - there's whispers that Lee might try to command $10 million per season - will be a huge factor. "A player can be a good player at one number and not a good player at another number," Walsh said.
Walsh knows the next phase of the Knicks' rebuilding project won't be easy.
"It's going to be a lot of work to prepare for next year's team and I think that we are missing elements here that we have to put on next year's team," he said. "So that will be the priority, but at the same time we are trying to keep our financial situation open for the following summer."
Notes & quotes: The Knicks signed free-agent center Mouhamed Sene for the remainder of the season.