This was his preferred destination before it was a preferred destination. Back when the buzz was driven by off-the-court drama and on-the-court misery, Jamal Crawford wanted to be a Knick. And wanted to stay a Knick.
And now, as an unrestricted free agent, he has an opportunity to become a Knick once more. Crawford was one player that Mike D'Antoni hated to lose on that franchise-changing day, Nov. 21, 2008, when Donnie Walsh pulled off a pair of moves -- one that sent Crawford to the Golden State Warriors -- that guaranteed to put the Knicks under the salary cap by 2010.
It was just three weeks into the season. Crawford had just started to get comfortable in D'Antoni's system and found he could be very dangerous as a scorer -- and, yes, as a passer -- with the dribble-drag play on the wing. It's something D'Antoni believes can be even more effective now for Crawford, especially with players like Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler as options in the almighty pick-and-roll.
Interim GM Glen Grunwald publicly acknowledged the Knicks' strong interest in Crawford on Monday -- "We'd certainly love to get Jamal back here," he said. -- and further proof was in a house call made by team executive Mark Warkentien to Crawford's offseason home in Seattle. Warkentien's home base is in Portland, so it wasn't a difficult commute.
Though Crawford's agent, Andy Miller, has been exhausting all options for a sign-and-trade that could help the Knicks get Crawford for closer to his asking price (upwards of $8 million annually), the only option the Knicks are considering right now is offering the "room" exception of two years at $2.5 million annually.
It would be a huge cut for Crawford, 31, to take at this point in his career. But the Knicks are not interested in trading one of their young players, especially not Toney Douglas or Landry Fields, in a sign-and-trade scenario, so it may be the only option Crawford has if he wants to be back in New York and, like Jared Jeffries often says, experience the best of times here after going through the worst of times.
Crawford has several other options that will pay far more than what the Knicks can offer, including the Nets, Pacers and even the Trail Blazers, where his best friend, Brandon Roy, was just forced to retire because of complications with his knee. Those close to Crawford know how much he wants to come back to New York and be part of this renaissance, but they also agree that it is doubtful he'd do it at that large of a discount.
It's not like he'd be guaranteed a starting role, either. In fact, Crawford, the 2010 Sixth Man of the Year winner with the Atlanta Hawks, would probably be a better fit as the first guard off the bench, especially after one of the two main scorers, Carmelo or Amar'e, check out of the game. His presence would allow D'Antoni to always have two prime scorers on the team. When you look at the Knicks reserves right now, there is no obvious offensive threat present. That's the role that Crawford would fill.
So aside from leaving several million dollars on the table, Crawford will also be asked to play a reserve role? That's asking a lot for a player who is still in his prime at 31 and looking to cash in one last time in his career.
Meanwhile, as the Knicks work hard to recruit Crawford, they're leaving Shawne Williams to wait in limbo. Williams has been ready to sign since the weekend. He's been in New York, working out on his own, and holding off his own decision to accept offers from other teams because his desire has always been to re-sign with the Knicks.
Crawford will need to make a decision soon because the Knicks can't afford to wait too much longer or they could risk losing Williams, who found a niche as a versatile forward who could knock down the corner three and defend.
* * *
* - Mike Bibby chose to wear No. 20 this season. His father, Henry, wore No. 17 when he played for the Knicks from 1972-75. Henry Bibby was a rookie on the Knicks' '73 NBA championship team. The two are the third father and son pair in franchise history. Can you name the other two?
* - The process to get center Jerome Jordan signed is complicated for a few reasons, which included the buyout agreement with his Slovenian team. And because Jordan, who was born in Jamaica, is not a U.S. citizen, a work visa also needs to be arranged. He could be ready for practice by the end of the week. Though it is cool to see the Knicks roster with a 7-footer from Kingston, Jamaica, don't expect great things right away from Jordan, who Grunwald acknowledged to be "a project." Quite frankly, I'm not sure the Knicks really wanted him here this season, but Jordan had enough of his "development" stint in Europe over the past season and a half.
* - The talk has been that if the Cleveland Cavaliers waive Baron Davis, he could wind up with the Knicks. But if Davis' back problem, which was discovered by the Cavs' media staff, is enough to keep him out for a few weeks, should the Knicks make this move? Davis already has conditioning issues throughout his career. The one thing you can say about this Knicks team this year is that pretty much the entire group -- especially the key guys -- arrived in tremendous shape. With fitness freaks such as Amar'e Stoudemire and Toney Douglas setting the standard, the environment needs to be filled with like-minded players.
* - If your girlfriend insists on a chick-flick, going to see New Years Eve is your best choice. If anything, just to see the cameo by Amar'e. There's no basketball here, but STAT does dance. Immortal schwag.
* - Answer to the above trivia: The other two father-son combinations in franchise history are Ernie and Kiki Vandeweghe and Al and Allie McGuire. Perhaps the Knicks can keep the tradition going and draft Austin Rivers next.