Trading Al Harrington for Tracy McGrady, as some sort of more complicated three-team deal, is pretty much a no-harm, no-foul deal for the Knicks. As Frank Isola has pointed out, Harrington is a locker-room problem, and McGrady could at least provide a tiny spark to the Knicks’ nearly dead playoff hopes. (Playoff odds: 0.3 percent.) If it were that easy, as the headlines seem to imply it is, shoot, let’s do it. Why not? McGrady’s contract expires after this year anyway. There’s absolutely no risk. Of course, it’s never that easy.
Every breathless story about the trade tends to include this caveat:
Although the basic framework is set, more pieces would have to be included to make any deal work because the salaries don’t match up.
No matter how many times Donnie Walsh goes to scout McGrady, that’s going to remain a problem. The only people the Knicks could really trade to make the salaries match up, it would seem, are Jared Jeffries or Eddy Curry … the same two players the Knicks have been desperate to unload on anyone to clear up the cap space for two top-tier free agents this off-season. If they could get someone to take Jeffries or Curry, it wouldn’t matter if they got McGrady back: Trading either would be worth it if the only return were a six-pack of Boylan’s Diet Cane Cola. (Which, to be fair, is quite tasty.)
Mike D’Antoni might be frustrated, Harrington might be messing up Danilo Gallinari’s progression, half the players might hate the coach right now, but none of that matters: The Knicks have come this far while sticking to the plan, and whether it works now, it’s all they have. McGrady is the boldface name, but what really matters is trading Jeffries or Curry. It’s difficult to imagine the Rockets or the Wizards being foolish enough to take Curry or Jeffries. And that’s probably what it’s going to take to make the deal happen. So why are we talking about this? Because the playoff odds are 0.3 percent, and it’s snowy out there.