Two desperate NBA entities collided Thursday in a moment of need that served as the feature event in one of the busiest trade-deadline days in NBA history.
In joining the Knicks, former exiled All-Star Tracy McGrady gets the Garden stage - and Mike D'Antoni's wide-open offense - to showcase himself for free agency this summer. And in McGrady, the Knicks gain a means of ensuring that they, too, will get a lot of attention in free agency.
The Knicks acquired McGrady from the Houston Rockets and point guard Sergio Rodriguez from the Sacramento Kings in a three-team deal in which Jared Jeffries ($6.8-million salary in 2010-11) and rookie Jordan Hill ($2.7 million) went to the Rockets to create $9.5 million in salary-cap savings for next season.
The Knicks will have more than $30 million in cap space to use in the final step in the plan Donnie Walsh laid out when he was hired in April 2008: rebuilding through a star-studded free-agent market this summer. "It puts the franchise in position where it can build a contending team," he said. "That's what the goal was."
The Kings sent Kevin Martin and Hilton Armstrong to the Rockets, the Rockets sent Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey to the Kings, and the Knicks sent Larry Hughes to the Kings. The Rockets also obtained the right to swap 2011 first-round picks with the Knicks along with the Knicks' 2012 first-round pick.
In a separate deal yesterday, the Knicks sent Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry to the Boston Celtics for veteran Eddie House, D-Leaguers J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker, and a conditional future second-round pick.
All told, the Knicks traded six players in two days - Darko Milicic was dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Brian Cardinal on Wednesday - to reshape a team that is 71/2 games out of a playoff spot with 29 games to go. Or should we say a team that is 29 games from something Walsh has been planning for almost two years.
"It took a lot of work to get to this stage. I would say everybody feels happy about it," Walsh said last night after the busiest trade-deadline day in franchise history.
Walsh had talked with Rockets GM Daryl Morey since Sunday about the framework of a deal involving McGrady and shedding Jeffries' $6.8-million 2010-11 salary. Morey believed he could get more value for McGrady, who has an expiring contract at $23 million, the league's highest salary this season. Walsh was extremely wary about his end of the deal, which involved giving up Hill, the No. 8 overall pick in the draft last season, plus a future first-round pick.
Enter Kings GM Geoff Petrie, who was looking to move Martin's hefty contract so the Kings could build around Rookie of the Year candidate Tyreke Evans. On Wednesday night, Petrie reached an agreement with Morey on the exchange of Martin and McGrady and then reached out to Walsh to complete the rest of the deal. Arn Tellem, the powerful agent who represents McGrady, had a hand in networking the teams with the intention of ensuring that McGrady would wind up with the Knicks.
Asked if the Kings saved the deal, Walsh replied, "Probably."
With the Kings including Martin in the deal, Walsh was able to quell his concerns about mortgaging the future by protecting the 2011 pick if it becomes the first overall and the 2012 if it falls in the top five. With all that cap space, the Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - should believe their days in the lottery are over. But Walsh saw the mistakes of the past - giving up two unprotected lottery picks for Eddy Curry in 2005, not to mention that this year's first-round pick was given away in the Stephon Marbury trade in 2004 - and did not want to leave the same kind of legacy.
McGrady flew to New York last night and is expected to be in uniform for tomorrow's game against the Thunder at the Garden. It would be his first game since he played eight minutes against the Magic on Dec. 23, right before the Rockets decided to dismiss him from the team while they considered trade options.
McGrady, making a comeback from microfracture surgery, worked out with renowned trainer Tim Grover in Chicago - he was there Tuesday when the Knicks played the Bulls - and according to Grover, he is ready to go. "Put him in a uniform and let him play," Grover said. "He's ready."
The Knicks-Houston-Sacramento deal:
F Tracy McGrady (from Houston)
G Sergio Rodriguez (from Sacramento)
G Kevin Martin (from Sacramento)
F Jared Jeffries (from Knicks)
F Jordan Hill (from Knicks)
C Hilton Armstrong (from Sacramento)
The right to swap 2011 first-round pick with Knicks
Knicks' 2012 first-round pick protected through top five
G Larry Hughes (from Knicks)
F Carl Landry (from Houston)
F Joey Dorsey (from Houston)
G Eddie House (from Boston)
G J.R. Giddens (from Boston)
G Bill Walker (from Boston)
Future protected second-round pick
G Nate Robinson (from Knicks)
F Marcus Landry (from Knicks)