In an hour long interview with Chris Sheridan of ESPN , Donnie Walsh advised that he has plenty of alternative plans in his head in case the cream of the top free agents don't accept the Knicks' money and offer to turn the franchise around. "I'm not telling any plans. I'm not doing that. But look, there's going to be Plan A, B, C, D, E, F and so on. It's going to be like that. I'm not going to write 'em out, no, but they're written out in my head," Walsh told ESPN.
So it's going to be like that, huh?
While Walsh has no idea what the Knicks are building, he has been very clear about creating cap space as a means of opening options for the next one to five years. Walsh has been very adept at sidestepping discussion of management's major failures and the risks inherent in the "cap space at all costs" decisions he's made. He has been consistently good at pushing back fan expectations for positive on-the-court results. Two years ago, he promised a competitive team immediately under this strategy; now he informs us that the results may not be apparent until five years from yesterday.
"I think that one thing I've been able to do is explain exactly what I'm doing. And it isn't for one player or a specific group of players or anything; it is because the one thing that has affected the Knicks' ability to improve their team from year to year has been being so far over the cap, they're in an inflexible position. And I wanted to get us in a more flexible position. So it isn't just for this summer, it could be for the next five years," stated Walsh.
One major problem with this strategy is that players state and have shown that money isn't everything, especially when other teams have it to offer. What Knicks management has failed to do is make it more attractive to be a Knick by creating a basketball team and management team that can credibly talk about a winning culture which is critical to the best of the best. The tell tell sign that the Knicks are still in fail mode is what Walsh claims is his sales pitch to free agents -- in addition to money, Walsh is offering intangibles out of his control like a great fan base, a wonderful city and a unique experience.
He said, "But I think that the fact that New York is the best city in the world, the fact that the Garden is one of the greatest places to play in the world, the fact that we have a really passionate city for basketball, and just the fact that playing in New York is going to be a different experience for anybody who comes here, I think we're in a good position. That's what we're really selling."
What he fails to offer -- probably because he is honest and knows he doesn't have it to give -- is a winning team, management with a vision and solid plan for building a winner soon and consistently excellent treatment of players. Too bad that failure to focus on those aspects in addition to creating cap space detracts from the flexibility he has tried to create. This past summer Jason Kidd and Grant Hill reminded us that all value is not monetary.