On Friday morning Peter Vecsey reported that Golden State Warriors power forward Al Harrington was heading to Madison Square Garden in a trade for forward Malik Rose. He was half right. Harrington, 28, is coming to town but it's Knicks shooting guard Jamal Crawford, who will be joining the Warriors.
Unlike the Rose-Harrington swap, a pretty simple upgrade for the Knicks, this deal has far deeper implications for the Knicks of 2008 and beyond. Crawford, 28, is the team's starting shooting guard and there isn't much depth behind him at that position. They could move Quentin Richardson from small forward, activate Stephon Marbury or, more likely, wait to make any permanent moves until the other shoe of this deal drops.
Rumors of a deal sending Zach Randolph, 27, to the Clippers for forward Tim Thomas and guard Cuttino Mobley are gaining momentum and such a trade would fill the hole created by Crawford's departure. Harrington could replace Randolph in the lineup, if not on the score sheet. It would be a net loss for the Knicks, although not in the department they really care about.
Any deal the Knicks make will have only a tangential relationship to what happens on the floor. Eliminating the contracts of Randolph and Crawford, which both extend to 2011, and adding the expiring pacts of Thomas, 31, and Mobley, 33, would bring the Knicks well below the salary cap before LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh become free agents in 2010. These are deals built on the ledger, not the hardwood. Mike D'Antoni admitted as much in Milwaukee, where the Knicks are preparing to play the Bucks.
"Donnie's plan is pretty clear that in a couple of years we'll be under the cap. Everything we do will lead us to the possibility of being under the cap in two years. Then I'll deal with making sure the team is competitive. We're not going to compromise our future because we might take a half-step."
The Knicks will be much worse in the short term after these deals. They won't challenge for the playoffs this year, probably not next year either, and the whole thing could be a massive flop if James isn't wearing orange and blue in November 2010.