Donnie Walsh thinks Knicks have the core of a title team

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The last time the New York Knicks were NBA champions, George Steinbrenner had just purchased the Yankees for $10 million, the World Trade Center towers opened in New York and Elvis Presley was doing a live concert from Hawaii. So it’s been a while.

But former GM and now team consultant — meaning they paid him to go away — Donnie Walsh thinks they’re close to another one. He says the core is there.

That is what he told Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“We have a core of players we can build around to build a [championship-contending] team,” Walsh said. “We’re not finished. There’s more pieces. But I think we got some really good players that can lead a team and form a core of that team. What we have are the most important things.”

They have some offensive firepower in Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, that is for sure. They have the star power. But do they really have a team that can defend well enough to put them in the title conversation? They need some quality role players for that, but Walsh said he thinks bringing in assistant coach Mike Woodson will help.

“I think Mike will be good for Mike D’Antoni,” Walsh said. “I’ve heard good things about [Woodson] as a coach and guy. It’ll help them. It’s always good to have a guy come in from a different perspective. I know his mentors, Bobby Knight and Larry Brown, and [Woodson] can offer them [defensive] systems that will be good for them. I also think they may have better defensive personnel. Let’s hope so.”

I’m not sure what personnel Walsh is referring to, but it’s not Carmelo.

How the Knicks build around that core, and what they decide to do with Chauncey Billups in the last year of his contract will be fascinating. Especially in the condensed free agency frenzy that will follow the lockout. They do have a core, but the bigger question becomes is there core as good as the one in Miami? Or Chicago?