Yesterday, four things happened that, suddenly, made today as important a day for the Knicks franchise as they've had in a year. And it made trading Jared Jeffries, and his $6,883,400 salary for next season, less likely and yet more vitally important. The Knicks don't have much time left now.
It was a big day. The four events of February 17:
1. The Knicks unofficially traded Nate Robinson to the Celtics. The deal, whose terms can never be nailed down, appears to be done, but the ink isn't set. Nevertheless: It's done. The Natrix heads to Boston for Eddie House and J.R. Giddens, both expiring contracts. The holdup appears to be over the third part of the deal, in which the Knicks receive "possibly either a first- or second-round draft pick." Tommy Dee of the Knicks Blog claims multiple sources say it's a first-round pick. If it is, it's an obvious, slam dunk, of course deal for the Knicks, dropping coach Mike D'Antoni's least favorite player for a future first rounder. Otherwise, it's just a trade of expiring contracts.
2. The Knicks traded Darko. In a trade that was simple a roster move, Donnie Walsh sent long-since-marooned Darko Milicic to Minnesota for Brian Cardinal. (In a side note, we played middle-school basketball against Cardinal. He was a lot better than we were.) The Knicks are just waiving Cardinal, another expiring contract, so they have an open roster spot for Giddens from the Celtics trade. Good-bye, Darko. We will miss you.
3. The Knicks blew another lead. D'Antoni's boys actually played well for two and a half quarters last evening, but somehow gave up a run to Brad Miller and lost to the Bulls for the second night in a row. No one is holding out playoff hopes anymore. (The odds are actually zero percent now.) So that shouldn't be a factor moving forward. (Sniff.)
4. The Rockets traded Tracy McGrady ... to someone other than the Knicks. While the Knicks were haggling with the Rockets over protected draft picks, Houston general manager got a better deal: He sent McGrady to the Kings for Kevin Martin. (The full deal: Martin, Kenny Thomas, Hilton Armstrong, and Sergio Rodriguez to Houston for McGrady, Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey, and cash. Whew.) Now, all is not lost: The Kings have no interest in keeping McGrady around, and would love to make the same deal with the Knicks that the Rockets wanted to. And they might even not be the sticklers for the protected draft pick in 2011 that the Rockets were; if they don't trade McGrady to the Knicks, they'll just waive him, after all. Kings fans aren't happy about the trade, but Kings fans are rarely happy, really. The Kings are motivated to make a deal, and so, obviously, are the Knicks. Both sides know exactly how much time they have to get it done.
By the way, the Knicks also have one side deal brewing: A straight-up Al Harrington for Tyrus Thomas trade with Chicago. Thomas is a restricted free agent next year, which means the rest of this season would essentially be a two-month tryout. If the Knicks wanted to keep him around — if, say, they were unable to sign two huge free agents and therefore had some money lying around — they can keep him next season, and he'd cost about as much as Jared Jeffries would have. So, free player, essentially.
It's gonna be a long day. Strap in, kids.