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Knicks haunted by lottery pick owned by Jazz

New York Knicks team president Donnie Walsh, right,

New York Knicks team president Donnie Walsh, right, answers a question during a news conference at Madison Square Garden. (May 13, 2008) Credit: AP File

SALT LAKE CITY - When Donnie Walsh finally agreed to yield to the Houston Rockets that 2012 first-round pick and the right to swap the 2011 pick in the Tracy McGrady deal before the Feb. 18 trade deadline, he did so only after ensuring history wouldn't repeat itself.

On his mind as he negotiated the protection parameters of those picks - the 2012 stays with the Knicks if it falls in the top five and the 2011 pick remains if it is first overall - was the reason why his team doesn't have its lottery pick this year.

"Without a doubt," Walsh said Sunday. "I mean, that was hard to do."

But Walsh's reasoning for giving up the pick was similar to what Isiah Thomas was thinking in January 2004, when he included a conditional first-round pick in a blockbuster trade that brought Stephon Marbury to the Knicks. Walsh has no reason to believe the Knicks will be in the lottery in 2011 or 2012.

But then again, six years after the Marbury deal, which was the first attempt at a major rebuild with a star player, the move haunts the franchise.

"What's gone," Walsh said of this year's pick, "is gone."

And it's gone to the Utah Jazz, which has more of a vested interest in beating the Knicks Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena than any other team this season.

The Marbury Trade was with the Phoenix Suns, so how did the pick wind up in Utah? Bryan Colangelo, then the general manager of the Suns, flipped the pick a month after the trade to the Jazz in a salary-dump move that included Tom Gugliotta. The first-round pick suddenly became a key element here because of the conditions assigned to it that lead us to this year. The pick was protected up to No. 25 in 2006, up to 24 in 2007, to 23 in 2008 and to 22 in 2009. But in 2010, it was left totally unprotected. With the Knicks in rebuilding mode, it was the only time the pick could be used because of the protections.

Walsh said he hasn't "put too much thought into us not having the pick . . . there's nothing I can do about it," but added that doesn't mean it's not an important draft for the Knicks, who currently hold two second-rounders. Last week Walsh had his scouts in New York for a meeting in which he implored the staff - several of which are holdovers from Thomas' regime - to find a diamond in the rough. "You've got to know the draft pretty cold to know who is going to be available at your pick," he said.

Walsh also said he would not hesitate to buy a first-round pick, as he did last season when he worked a deal with the Lakers to draft Toney Douglas at No. 29, "if we see somebody we really like."

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