Donnie Walsh has said on several occasions that he had a very difficult job ahead of him this off season. Why is that? Donnie could run the same roster out there this up coming season and with a training camp and the cohesiveness roster stability brings, and a little luck in terms of health, put a team on the floor that could win 50 games and possibly make it to the second round. If that was Donnie's goal he could do little or nothing and get there in all likelihood.
However, that is not Donnie's goal. Donnie is sitting in his office trying to figure out how he can take a MLE, a LLE, and roster exceptions and maybe a sign and trade, a draft pick, plus bird rights on a bunch of roster filler types and turn that into a team that can compete for the Eastern Conference title and a NBA championship, next season. If you were to ask any competent GM or Team President in the NBA the following:
I am giving you a team with Chauncy Billups, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Carmelo Anthony with a few solid role players in Landry Fields, Toney Douglas, and Ronny Turiaf. Now you have a MLE, a LLE, a draft pick, roster exceptions, and bird rights on multiple roster filler types. What is your goal for the season? Those GM's and Presidents would say, try to use the MLE, LLE, that draft pick to add a couple of pieces to put with that core to go after a title.
See the Carmelo trade upped the anti for the Knicks in terms of their goals. 50 wins and a second round exit might have been a worthy goal for the pre-trade Knicks this season. Donnie has a playoff tested floor leader in Billups, and two stars in the primes of their careers. Any roster you put together around that which does not give you a chance, even a slim one, of going after a title is a waste of time. You do not get two bona fide stars in their primes on the same team very often. You could be a GM in the NBA for 40 years and maybe have that happen twice if you are lucky. The last time the Knicks had two stars in their primes their names were Clyde and Willis. When you have that you have to put yourself in position to win as quickly as you can. Donnie realizes he has these two guys locked up for 4 years, after that who knows, that gives him and the Knicks 4 shots at a ring at most. You do not flitter away one of those years lightly even if you do not have a ton of cap space.
Now all of you should know this because it was covered in all the papers(so I am not bothering to look for the link), three days after the Knicks were eliminated from the playoffs, Donnie, Dolan, D'Antoni, Amar'e, Carmelo, and Billups all met in Dolan's office. They talked about strategies for bringing in players this off-season. Now who were the guys do you think they discussed. Ask yourself did Amar'e pledge to try and recruit Weems and Hollins, or did he talk about how he is close with Grant Hill and how Dalembert helped him out with his basketball camp? Did Carmelo talk about JR Smith (well maybe but it was nothing nice I tell you that), or how he and McGrady are boys and how Vince Carter's wife and his wife are best friends? Do you think Billups talked about Nick Young, or how Tayshaun Prince calls him his "big brother?"
Is Donnie racking his brain thinking of the sales pitch to convince Hollins and Weems to split the MLE or is he thinking about how to convince Grant Hill and Dalembert to do so? See folks Donnie thinks he has a tough job because those are the choices he is making. "How do a I get Samuel Dalembert, likely the most sort after Center this free agent period, to not only sign with the Knicks for the MLE, but to leave enough of that MLE for me to sign someone else?" That is what is on the mind of Donnie folks.