Walsh speaks on draft, free agency, D'Antoni, et al

By Chris Sheridan

Knicks president Donnie Walsh went on ESPN Radio in New York yesterday for 15 minutes and shed some light on a few subjects, making it clear that although he would "listen" to any free agent who said wanted to bring in his own coach, he firmly supports Mike D'Antoni. In other words, he wouldn't storm out of the room if a player made such a request. But he wouldn't like what he was hearing.

You can listen to the whole interview with Brandon Tierney and Jody McDonald here, and you should take note that Walsh never once mentioned the name of any specific free agent, which has become such a no-no lately that Hawks owner Michael Gearon ($25,000) and Suns general manager Steve Kerr ($10,000) have been fined for merely mentioning the name of LeBron James in what were otherwise innocuous comments. (Dallas owner Mark Cuban drew a much larger fine, $100,000, for specifically discussing the possibility of a sign-and-trade deal to acquire James or another top-tier free agent).

One item I found of particular note concerned Chris Paul, even though his name was never specifically mentioned, either.

Tierney asked Walsh what his Plan B might be, and whether that might include trying to acquire a player whose salary could be a burden to a smaller market team. (And the only case in point that fits those parameters is that of the New Orleans Hornets, with some believing the play of Darren Collison last season has made Paul expendable.)

Walsh's quote: " You can be assured we have Plan A through Z, and it covers the areas you're talking about."

The Knicks president also discussed in generalities what he had seen and heard at the NBA's pre-draft camp in Chicago last week as he and D'Antoni scouted prospects in anticipation of selecting 38th and 39th in the June 24 draft. (FYI: The 38th pick, since 2003, has produced Steve Blake, Royal Ivey, Travis Diener, Kosta Perovic, Kyrylo Fesenko, Kyle Weaver, and Jon Brockman. The 39th picks in those same years were a bit more of a motley crew: Slavko Vranes, Chris Duhon, Von Wafer, David Noel, Stanko Barac, Sonny Weems and Jonas Jerebko.)

"I'm optimistic we can be helped," Walsh said, noting that he drafted Antonio Davis and Kenny Williams with back-to-back picks at No. 45 and 46 back in 1990. (Longtime Knicks fans will remember that as the Jerrod Mustaf draft.)

"In regard to this draft, I think what I'm hearing out there, and it's probably true, is that between 20 and 40 there are 40 players that everyone likes," Walsh said. "Between 20 and 40 you can't really tell who's going where, but there are 40 players. So we've got to keep working it to see who's going when to see who's going to be available to us."

Walsh also addressed Wilson Chandler's recent arrest in Queens for fifth degree criminal possession of marijuana and was asked if Chandler had damaged his standing in he organization. (Chandler, who is due in court on July 1 of all days, is one of only three true building blocks, along with Danilo Gallinari and Toney Douglas, the Knicks can tout as complimentary players to the free agents they'll recruit).

"No. He basically made a mistake. That part of it is in the hands of the league. we're not a involved in that once drugs are involved, but he came in the next day and apologized to me, and I thought it was a very sincere apology. So that's where it is right now. He has been operated on (for ankle, hernia and nose injuries), and now he's in here every day working and trying to get his body in shape," Walsh said. "I don't know the particulars of exactly what took place there, but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong stuff."