Hamilton: Knicks Overpaid for Camby

NEW YORK — Back in November 2007, a displeased David Stern said that the New York Knicks were “not a model of intelligent management.”

Back then, Isiah Thomas was running the franchise into the ground and getting his employer, Madison Square Garden, sued in federal court.

That was five years ago and since then, Donnie Walsh and Glen Grunwald have both done wonders for the credibility of the general manager’s office over at 2 Penn Plaza. But one thing that forever seems to ring true for the Knicks is that nothing ever comes easy.

No deal, no acquisition — not even for a 38-year old free agent center.

In professional sports, the GM with the bifocals will win. You’ve got to be able to see the bigger picture and you can’t be so blinded by optimism that you don’t objectively evaluate everything.

So that’s my challenge to you.

On Monday night, news broke that the Knicks agreed in principle to execute a sign-and-trade deal with the Houston Rockets for Marcus Camby. Camby is scheduled to earn $13.2 million over three years, but only $10 million is guaranteed.

In return, the Knicks agree to trade Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan, and the Knicks’ own second-round draft picks in 2014 and 2015. As a part of the deal, the Knicks will also send the Rockets $2 million in cash.

With Jason Kidd—whom the Knicks agreed to terms with last Thursday—and Camby, the Knicks have fortified their reserve unit and have unquestionably upgraded their talent base. Though Kidd (39) and Camby (38) are each closing in on their 40th birthdays, neither will be expected to play heavy minutes and are upgrades over Baron Davis and Jared Jeffries—the men who emerged as last year’s primary reserves.

So, that’s the good news.

But the Knicks had few trade assets before agreeing to the Camby deal and have almost no assets remaining after executing it.

And since the Knicks aren’t expected to match the three-year, $20 million offer sheet that the Toronto Raptors extended to Landry Fields, they’re probably in need of another wing player.

The Miami Heat won the NBA championship with Joel Anthony as their starting center and the Oklahoma City Thunder won the Western Conference with Kendrick Perkins. The truth is, in today’s NBA, you don’t need a great center to be successful, and few teams have two very good centers.

Although the Knicks now do, they still lack a center or power forward who can consistently score points in the post, and the Knicks will probably struggle to score if Camby and Chandler play together.

So while Camby provides a good insurance policy in the event of an injury to Chandler, he is a luxury.

A 38-year old luxury who just so happens to be a free agent.

Earlier this month, it became known that Camby would not be returning to the Rockets and was gauging the market to determine his demand. During the last week, it was clear that the three most likely landing spots for Camby were with the Knicks, Nets, and Heat. Initially, it was thought that the Miami Heat was his preferred destination since he would have presumably been their starting center, but that option fell through after the Heat used their mini-midlevel exception to sign Ray Allen.

Daryl Morey, the Rockets’ general manager, wasn’t interested in executing a sign-and-trade deal with the Heat, so Camby’s only means to end up in South Beach was to accept the veteran’s minimum salary of about $1.4 million from the Heat. Camby, though, let it be known that he was looking for a richer payday, and I got word earlier on Monday that the Miami Heat conceded that they couldn’t afford Camby and turned their attention to wooing free agent Rashard Lewis.

The Nets were said to have interest in Camby, but its brass has been so busy trying to pry Dwight Howard away from the Orlando Magic that their recruiting pitch wasn’t even delivered in-person; they called Camby on the phone.

Morey was in a position of weakness. He had a 38-year old free agent who was poised to defect and only one team with whom he could make a deal and salvage some assets in return. Yet somehow, in typical Knicks fashion, they ended up needlessly surrendering the balance of their limited assets for a player that they didn’t really need.

Initially, I was somewhat surprised at the fact that nobody in the media seemed perplexed by the Knicks giving the Rockets three prospects, two draft picks, and $2 million for a player that the Rockets were prepared to lose for nothing. And when I took to Twitter to gauge the reaction of Knicks fans, I was abused.

Surprisingly, despite evidence to the contrary over recent years, I was told second round picks are worthless. Never mind the fact that Trevor Ariza, Landry Fields, and Harrellson—the prospect most Knicks fans were saddest to lose—were all second-round picks. And never mind the fact that the Knicks already traded their 2013 second round draft pick and 2014 first round draft pick in prior deals.

Second round picks, I was told, are a dime a dozen!

That is, until you realize, that the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement limits the aggregate amount of cash a team sends out per year at $3 million. And if you don’t think teams have paid over $1 million for a second round draft pick, guess again.

So, today, the Knicks have two less draft picks, $2 million less cash, and—depending on how you view Toney Douglas—one less $2 million expiring contract that could have been used to address more glaring needs.

Whether you like it or not, the Knicks gave away their assets in this deal, and from where I sit, it looks like they did so needlessly.

In all fairness to Grunwald, the Knicks got the best player in the trade, and they can probably fill out the roster with veterans to compete in the East.

But for a 38-year old free agent who was leaving anyway, Grunwald shouldn’t have had to submit so many of his limited assets to Morey.

At the end of the day, the Knicks overpaid for a player they didn’t really need and it’s reminiscent of the way they overpaid for Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, and the same way Isiah Thomas overpaid for Jerome James, Eddy Curry, and Stephon Marbury.

The bright side in all of this? Camby isn’t a max-salaried player and his deal is only for three years.

Even still, for the Knicks, overpaying and underachieving has become a way of life.

Whether or not next season will be any different remains to be seen.

Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops.com and will be providing the latest news and commentary during the NBA’s free-agency period. Follow him on Twitter to stay up-to date.

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  1. Daniel says

    When you shop in the bargain bin for journalists (see: Tommy Dee’s The Knicks Blog), these are the types of ridiculous articles you get.

    • Daniel says

      Let’s not forget that this is the same Moke Hamilton who suggested in January that the Knicks trade Amar’e for Elton Brand and Jodi Meeks.

  2. @JrdnDrkn says

    Why does Moke take so much heat? This guy is one of the straightest shooters in the business. I’ve come to notice that a majority of Knicks fans are ‘couch GM’s’ and refute everything thing and anything that actually has substance. I couldn’t agree more with Moke’s view on this deal. It’s one thing to disagree with him, but attacking his credibility is uncalled for.

    • Ralph says

      No, you’ve come to realize that most fans (Knicks or not) post to dispute a blogger’s posts. Few people post to say, “Right on, you nailed it!!!!!” Most people post because they disagree. That’s just how it works. That’s why I hate reading comments sections. They’re usually going to be negative, with the few blog supporters being replies to comments posted by haters. Long story short, there are plenty of Knick fans who agree with guys like Moke and others, they just don’t post in support. That’s pretty much the nature of making comments. It’s a forum for people to bitch and moan and complain.

    • Daniel says

      He catches heat because he’s a bad journalist who provides poor commentary. If the guy ever put forth a theory that wasn’t ridiculous, he wouldn’t catch so much heat. He and Tommy Dee are both ridiculous.

  3. Kevin M says

    They went 5 games against the eventual NBA Champions… or the same amount of games the “great” OKC Thunder did. Heck, the Knicks didn’t even get the same benefit of playing with a healthy roster or against a less than healthy Chris Bosh that OKC did. Making sweeping statements about where the Knicks franchise is based on that series is ridiculous.

    I can’t criticize the move because the Knicks want to win. And to win they know they must play well defensively. Their ability to do so was hurt significantly when Chandler wasn’t on the floor. I have to believe that someone who didn’t think the Knicks needed this type of player hasn’t actually watched them. Others are acting as if this move prevented them from getting OJ Mayo. That wasn’t happening.

    I still laugh when I read about how the Knicks gave up too much for Carmelo Anthony. None of these critics liked ANY of those players when they were on the Knicks. Five minutes after they wore a Nuggets’ uni, they were claiming the Knicks gave up too much. Being a Knicks fan, I’ve gotten used to them being criticized regardless of what they do. If they traded for Dwight Howard tomorrow, we’d certainly read about how they gave up too much for a guy coming off back surgery… you know, the same back surgery that doesn’t get mentioned ever now.

  4. Cole says

    As a die hard knicks fan, I have been waiting for someone to question what they are doing. There is no chance this team can win anything. They are signing 39 year old guys to three year deals and specialists to 4 mil a year contracts. For the next three years our team is going to be Jeremy Lin, JR Smith, Melo, Amre, Tyson, Jkidd, Camby, Novak and shump. We won one game in the playoffs and were made to look like a high school basketball team. How can you expect this team to ever win anything. They needed to take some risks this offseason and bring in some upside guys (yes Lin does have upside, but come on do you really think the turnover machine is going to win us a championship). I like Jason Kidd, but on a shorter contract or for a sign and trade to save the mini MLE. Its nice to have a good backup center but now they have strapped us into this team for the next 3 years. Really disappointed in the offseason, in what was an extremely important offseason to finally building a team with stable pieces.

    Also it is a joke that sports writers don’t come out and talk about how bad Amare is. He literally does nothing to help the team on the court and I love him for making basketball relevant in NY but the guy has no lift, lost his jump shot (which was the only thing going for him), looks semi-retarded playing defense (not sure if he knows the difference between turning left and turning right) and just takes bad shots all the time. That is who the knicks should have amnestied (i know it was never a real possibility) but he will hold us back no matter what we do over the next 2 years.

    • Jonathan says

      Cole, you are 100% right man. Amare might be a great guy and he might be really well dressed, but this dude is way over the hill. If anyone actually thinks that he can be a good enough 2nd Banana to get the Knicks past Miami, they are wrong. The way Stat plays defense is absolutely atrocious. He has 0 tenacity – save the 3-5 offensive possessions a game that he is able to drive right and (hopefully) finish – and the way he hedges on ball screens is so bad that the Knicks might as well go 4 on 5 when they are defending.

      This team’s front office and organization as a whole is the epitome of idiotic. I’m not saying I could do a better job, but there are owners and GM’s all over the world of sports that have no made as many atrocious decisions as Knicks management has. James Dolan is just the son of a rich man, who is trying to do his best to be a big shot when in reality he is just a pathetic, overweight loser (whose band absolutely SUCKS by the way [http://www.myspace.com/jdandthestraightshot].

      Bottom line: We can complain all we want about how bad Amare is, how stupid this sign and trade was, or how chubby Carmelo is, but at the end of the day it all comes down to pathetic, incompetent management. AT BEST, this team will get to the 2nd round.

      ALSO, they need to paint the MSG paints blue again. That orange is disgusting. The starting line up intros suck also.

  5. Eastbballfan says

    It doesn’t matter what the Knicks do. They could’ve signed DWill LBJ and Howard and people would’ve found some negative twist to it. If the Heat make the same deal its “what a great pickup to solidify their bench, solid defensive player” but the Knicks made the deal so its an awful deal. HATERS!!!!!!

    • Cakes says

      That’s awesome! by awesome i mean lame…and no-one is going to go to a website where they spell du jour wrong in the website name.

  6. Harris says

    The only thing that should’ve done was kept one of Harrelson or Jerome Jordan to use in another sign and trade with Gadzuric. In all likelihood the assets of the Knicks gave up will amount to nothing. There’s not a problem with the Knicks giving up the players that they gave up but there’s a problem if they can’t sign another free-agent shooting guard that they need.

  7. sharq says

    You are a disgrace as a journalist! Fool yourself! It was a great pickup, yet you look at it as a negative because you only wanna hate. And what the hell are you saying that today you don’t need good centers in the NBA? It’s like saying you also don’t need a rebounder or a shot blocker to protect the paint in games??? Wow what a stupid comment! Why don’t you give us a favor and resign, and don’t ever make this kind of stupid articles again.

    • Tim says

      Camby is a great player…but is a backup 13 – 15 minutes center worth everything that was sent out….absolutely not. It’s not about hate….its about math. Knicks got hosed and now have zero flexibility.

  8. Knicks4Life says

    You suck Hamilton! We got a veteran player that almost averages a double double… none of those assets can do any of those things… Douglas was just taking up space and Josh Harrelson is a bust… Good riddens… Camby and Kidd great vets that we desperately needed… We only need camby for rebounds and an occasional block or 2 and kidd to dish out those assist and be a veteran leader for the team… It’s going to be great… and we just resigned jr smith… Hopefully we can pick up one more piece for the vet min… Its going to be great… Oh did i mention you suck Hamilton!!!

    • Tim says

      you have no idea what else those assets could have amounted to. Teams get desperate for players as the free agent pool dries up. Knicks lost a chance to fleece someone else instead of getting fleeced themselves

  9. Corbie7 says

    Incredible pick up! Knicks are by far one of the deepest most talented teams in the NBA. Funny thing is if Miami or Nets had of made the same deal as they were trying desperately to do, you would have been chirping off about what a great pick up it was!

    • Tim says

      Is everyone missing the point of the article?

      He said Camby is a good player, but a backup center is not worth all the assets that went out.

      In summation. Player = Good pickup Deal = terrible for Knicks

    • Cory says

      Deepest, most talented teams in the NBA? What league are you watching? The Knicks are in a terrible, terrible position for the next 3 years as long as they’re paying Stoudemire $20+ million per year.

      I don’t think he’s saying Camby is an awful pickup, he’s saying that money could have provided better returns if spent elsewhere (like on a 2-guard). How much PT is Camby gonna get playing behind Chandler? Not a lot. They need Chandler on the floor to bail out lazy defenders like Melo and Stat when they get beat. If Chandler goes down, Camby is a decent insurance policy, but that team would go no where anyways.

  10. June says

    But what isn’t mentioned is that without this deal there is no room to sign J Kidd. Mavs sounded unwilling to do a sign and trade for Kidd therefore without out the Camby sign and trade you can’t sign both players. Analysis of the trade should include ability to sign Kidd with mid level money…

  11. Jose says

    Moke said in his article that joel Anthony was the starting center for the Heat in their title run. I don’t thin he saw the court during the OKC sieries, and definitely didn’t start. nice argticle, but neds to be sharper on the easy facts.

    • Chris Bernucca says

      For the majority of the season, he was. As postseason progressed and matchups became more focused, his minutes were marginalized as you said. Spoelstra bet quicker could beat bigger and won. Had Perk or Ibaka not been awful at O end, I’m sure JAnthony or Turiaf would have played more.

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