The Knicks as a model franchise? Donnie Walsh is working on getting them there, but David Stern sees a different way to use the Knicks as a standard in upcoming collective bargaining talks.
"One of our generalized goals in collective bargaining is to come up with a system in which teams are not doomed by their past mistakes for an inordinate amount of time, so fans can have hope," Stern said during a private conversation Wednesday night in Paris with the four New York-based beat writers (Newsday, the Times, the News and the Post) who made the trip to Europe.
Stern lavished praise on Donnie Walsh and the Knicks organization for the steps that were made during the last two years to rebuild the franchise. The story is here in today's Newsday. But without making a direct reference to the previous regime, Stern made it clear the NBA will look for a more controlled system -- perhaps a hard cap? -- that will be designed to avoid having teams go through what the Knicks did in most of the 2000s, when bad mistakes were made and contracts were just piled on until the team was buried under payroll and luxury tax debt. The Knicks paid $45M in luxury tax for the 2006-07 season, when the team won just 33 games.
Stern pointed to "shorter contracts or less money" as mechanisms to correcting the mistakes of the past, which saw some GMs, such as Isiah Thomas, use the mid-level exception (five-year max length and between $5M-$6M per) spent up like a college kid with a high-rate credit card.
Perhaps Stern can put more restrictions on how you can offer draft picks, too, so that a team can't lose out in the lottery as often as the Knicks did. For a wealthy team like this, where money is no object, the real pain came in the draft deficit.
But Stern raved about Walsh's work with the franchise so far and said "the Knicks organization, itself, should be given it's due" for getting under the cap, revitalizing the roster and for the Garden renovation project, which has Stern -- who grew up a Knicks fan -- beaming.
"On top of everything else, [ownership] is building sort of a brand new building inside the facade of the old one at a cost closer to a billion dollars than to $500 million," Stern said, "which is an exciting opportunity for the fans of New York."