I made the mistake of introducing myself to Mel Daniels, the former Pacers executive who worked for years as Donnie Walsh's partner in Indiana. Daniels is in town for a few days to provide another perspective for Walsh (who insisted Daniels is not on the verge of being hired into a front office position with the Knicks) and was at Monday's practice wearing a Yankees cap and a wide, welcoming smile.
Then came the handshake. I don't remember much after that.
Shortly thereafer, Al Harrington escorted Marcus Landry over to Daniels to introduce the rookie (keep in mind Harrington played for the Pacers). When Daniels finally released his vice-grip shake, Landry grabbed his palm with his other hand and winced.
Harrington laughed and carefully offered Daniels a high five. When Harrington explained to some members of the media who the tall man in the Yankees cap was, I interjected, "Just don't shake his hand."
Al laughed. "Oh he got you, too?"
I nodded and Al said, "He once broke my former agent's hand."
That's what you want to come away with when you consider a franchise that is rebuilding: that the people in charge have a firm grip on things. Walsh gave that indication after practice when, after chastizing the effort of his team in Sunday's 50-point embarrassment at the Garden -- "It was a terrible game," he said, "and obviously we've got to pick it up if we hope to make the playoffs." -- he denied there was a desperate need to make changes to his roster before the Feb. 18 trade deadline.
What he basically said was, he wasn't going to make change for change's sake. No re-arranging of deck chairs. All of those cliches that go along with the cliche reaction to a team with low expectations performing up to their expectations.
"What I found is when you panic, you make large mistakes," Walsh said. "So it's not that I like where we are, it's that until something better presents itself, you just gotta keep doing the things you're doing."
The message remains steadfastly consistent: the rebuild will begin in the summer of 2010, as planned since April 2008, when Walsh was hired to do the job. So there will not be any deals made that will negatively impact the salary cap situation in 2010-11 before the end of this season.
Of course that is not to say that Walsh isn't working the phones to make something work on the short-term to help his team earn a playoff berth that is starting to slip out of reach again after a 2-6 run in the last eight games.
As we said in the previous blog, there is an obvious need at the point guard position and we expect that will be where Walsh and his staff focuses the bulk of their attention. But with limited resources and limitations on what he is willing to take back in contracts, Walsh's selection will be, well, limited.
So for every name you see attached to a rumor, Fixers, try not to immediately try to find a way the Knicks can make a deal happen. Keep in mind the uproar after the team opted not to sign Allen Iverson. Then check to see where the Knicks and 76ers are in the standings two months after the Knicks passed on him.
And Walsh knows many of you are itching for a trade, just to have something new. Like you see Sundiata Gaines and wonder how the Knicks didn't get him. You wonder why the Knicks didn't try to get Eric Maynor. But you also forget the Knicks already have a rookie scoring guard in Toney Douglas.
And you have to understand that adding Maynor or Gaines doesn't make the Knicks a playoff team.
"You're assuming that any move will help us make the playoffs, I don't assume that," Walsh said. "I assume we've got to make the right move in order to have something like that happen. And if that's there, we'll do it."
Of course a deal has to work both ways. I've talked to a handful of NBA general managers and personnel executives over the last week and have gotten a consistent message: the Knicks just don't have players anyone is that interested in (outside of David Lee and Danilo Gallinari, of course). You're not going to get Tracy McGrady for Jared Jeffries and Eddy Curry. You're not going to land Amar'e Stoudemire for Jordan Hill and Larry Hughes.
Any of the potential 2010 free agents like Stoudemire (i.e.: Chris Bosh, Ray Allen) that will come up as possible trade pieces before Feb. 18 aren't going to be had for cheap. The Knicks just don't have the kind of pieces -- nor do they have a first-round pick, mind you -- to be serious players for high-end talent right now.
It seems pretty clear that Walsh has a grip on reality. I just have to remember never to let Daniels ever again get a grip of my hand.