When news broke that Shawne Williams, recent target of the Knicks’ free-agent pursuits, had decided to sign with the New Jersey Nets, the initial assumption was that Williams had chosen to follow the bigger contract. However, it now appears that Williams will receive the same two-year, $5 million “room” exception contract that the Knicks were offering. So, some combination of the Nets’ pitch (likely a more prominent role, perhaps some illegal hammerhead shark caviar from Mikhail Prokhorov’s private stash) and Shawne’s own bruised ego from the Knicks’ ill-fated priority treatment of Jamal Crawford motivated the decision. So, while folks like me mourn the loss of a fan favorite, the Knicks are tasked with finding another taker for that “room” exception. Without Williams, their depth behind Amar’e Stoudemire amounts to Jared Jeffries, Josh Harrellson, and Renaldo Balkman: not the kind of folks to make you comfortable with Amar’e sitting out a game now and then.
So, the Knicks may look to fill the void with a player possessing a similar skill set to Williams — specifically, outside scoring and multi-positional defense off the bench. One person to keep an eye on is Bostjan Nachbar, the Slovenian former Net who’s been playing in Europe for the last few years. He’s got a comparable size and game to Shawne’s, and met with the Knicks a few weeks ago. Expanding one’s scope to include any available forwards, one sees wing-types like Maurice Evans (a front-runner, as the Knicks have reportedly spoken to him) and James Posey available, as well as truer big men like Kris Humphries and Chris Hunter (currently in camp with the Knicks). Also, given that the Nets are signing Williams as well as Ime Udoka, they’re likely to use their amnesty on Travis Outlaw, a perfectly serviceable wing at the right price. So there should be players of Williams’s caliber available.
Baron Davis, who was amnestied by the Cavaliers last night and has until Friday night to clear waivers, might also be a “room” possibility. There is mutual interest, but the Knicks are hoping he’d settle for a veteran’s minimum contract (one year, $1.4 million) on account of the herniated disk in his back that’s supposed to keep him off the court for a couple of months.
In any event, the Knicks need some help. Missing out on Crawford and losing Williams isn’t the end of the world, but it does leave the Knicks’ roster looking pretty threadbare beyond their star-studded front-court. They need more depth at pretty much every position except for center, oddly enough (Jerome Jordan just signed), and don’t have much time left before the games begin.
Meanwhile, congratulations to the Nets. They won a tug-of-war with the Knicks that turned out to be on a level playing field and got a talented, lovable player in the process. Nets fans should enjoy Extra E’s toughness and prowess at the corner three, if not the confusion that comes with having four guys named Williams on the roster. We’ll miss you, Shawne.