The Knicks aren't wasting much time when it comes to getting their ducks in a row for next season.
It sounds like Donnie Walsh will be back for another spin on the merry-go-round that is running the Knicks and we can now pencil Chauncey Billups's name into the lineup. The team announced Wednesday that they are going to pick up his $14.2 million option for the 2011-2012 season.
Keeping Billups means that the core of your team will remain intact with the always important point guard position filled by a man with great experience and talent. The injuries and his age are a concern, but Billups can still play well enough to be an asset to the Knicks going forward.
What's more, his contract would be a valuable trade chip should the Knicks decide to go that route at some point before next year's trade deadline. As painful as it is to enter another offseason with the team in building mode, no decision about Billups can be made without consideration of what the team can turn him into should that option present itself.
As the team is in a building mode, there was a case to be made for taking the $10.5 million in savings that would have come from letting Billups walk away.
That money could have been used to acquire a couple of players who can play alongside Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire and it would have continued the trend of cap flexibility that has been the hallmark of every move Walsh has made since taking over for Isiah Thomas.
The lack of certainty about the salary cap complicates both decisions. Keeping Billups means the Knicks would be at or near the cap under almost any circumstance, but if the NBA goes through with its threats to severely diminish the cap losing Billups might not have actually accomplished all that much in terms of space for additions.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to sticking with the sure thing as the league enters a summer of total uncertainty. If the Knicks knew they would have tons of money to spend on appealing free agents, they might well have let Billups find employment elsewhere.
That makes little sense when there's a weak free agent class and it makes even less when you don't even know what rules will be in place when you can go shopping. Expiring contracts are almost certainly still going to be desirable, though, and that's something Billups brings to the table.
Sometimes you gotta go with the devil you know, especially when said devil is an asset both on and off the court.