Finally, a couple days before the deadline to pick up the contract extension on Knicks president Donnie Walsh’s deal, he is going to have a sit-down meeting with owner James Dolan. Nothing like waiting until the last minute.
The Knicks are expected to keep Walsh around with a two-year contract extension, according to Howard Beck at the New York Times. That extension is something whispered about before (we told you earlier in the week).
This is the obvious right move — Walsh got the team rebuilt and to the playoffs while cutting the salary in half, he deserves the chance to finish the rebuild.
But it’s not that simple. Because it never can be with the Knicks.
Walsh wants reassurance that he will have full autonomy on basketball decisions — a promise Dolan made when he hired him three years ago. Although Walsh has generally called the shots, there have been notable exceptions.
Last summer, Dolan tried to hire Isiah Thomas, the former team president, as a consultant, over Walsh’s strenuous objections. The N.B.A. later disallowed the arrangement because Thomas is also a college coach, at Florida International University.
In February, Dolan pushed through the Carmelo Anthony trade, despite reservations from Walsh, who felt the Knicks were giving up too much. Walsh had taken a conservative approach to the negotiations, believing that Anthony’s strong desire to play for the Knicks would work in their favor.
With Dolan leading the charge, the Knicks sent four rotation players and multiple draft picks to Denver.
If there is any problem this will be the sticking point, Dolan has a healthy ego and does own the team, but I don’t expect it to be a stumbling block.
Walsh is in the right here, on the best teams the owners do not step in to make basketball decisions. Owners are consulted on moves, they may even set guidelines for bigger moves — no way Utah moves Deron Williams without the owner’s approval of the deal, for example — but to hijack negotiations is another thing entirely.
Dolan will sit down at the meeting and say this was a special circumstance but he will stay out of Walsh’s way in the future. And nobody will believe him. Not even Walsh.
So it is at the offices in Madison Square Garden.