NEW YORK -- Great news, Knicks fans: A 7-footer with a championship ring in his safe-deposit box is signing with New York on Monday after producing his second double-double in the past six days Sunday.
OK, maybe that's not quite such a cause for rejoicing, so pardon the hyperbole. But Earl Barron has been the most productive low-post 7-footer we've seen in these parts in a good three years, and he'll be in the pivot for New York's final two games -- at home Monday against Washington and at Toronto on Tuesday -- after the Knicks decided to re-sign him for the remainder of the season following the expiration of his 10-day contract Sunday.
Given that Barron had a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds in the Knicks' 111-98 loss to the Miami Heat (after putting up 17 points and 18 rebounds vs. Boston on Tuesday), it should be noted that the Knicks couldn't talk Barron into taking a non-guaranteed deal for next season as several other NBA teams have done with D-League call-ups, most recently the Chicago Bulls with Rob Kurz. There would be no risk to the Knicks' cap space this summer if Barron signed a non-guaranteed deal for 2010-11, because he could be waived in July and his contract cleared off the cap if the Knicks needed the room. But Barron's camp believes there could be a market for a player who had produced solid numbers (averaging 12.6 points and 11.4 rebounds) in his five games for New York.
"He's a guy I'd say we’d be comfortable with. The only reason we’re not doing it now is we don’t know what the sutation is going to be, what the cap is, what our situation will be as to how much (cap room) we have left and who we’re going after," Knicks president Donnie Walsh said.
Said Barron: "I'm taking advantage of the minutes (averaging 32 per game), making the best of the seven games. That's not a lot to some people, but that's quite a bit of games to be able to start and showcase your ability."
Barron was inactive for the Heat when they won the NBA title in 2006, yet he received one of the enormous championship rings that Heat owner Mickey Arison purchased for every member of the organization. But Barron said the ring was so large it left scratch marks on his knuckles, and it has been locked away in a safe-deposit box in Mississippi for more than a year while Barron spent time in Bologna, Italy and with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League last season before turning down offers from Europe last summer and choosing to play for the Iowa Energy of the D-League this season.
Barron's worst D-League memory: "We had a 7-to-8 hour bus ride from Iowa to South Dakota, played a game, had another 4-hour bus ride to North Dakota and played that game, then we had a 10-to-11 hour ride all the way back to Iowa. That's a lot of time on the bus over four or five games. Going from cold weather to freezing weather to cold weather, I've never been in that much ice and snow."
If Barron had one take-home memory from Sunday's game, it came when he was isolated as the defender on former teammate Dwyane Wade following a switch on a pick-and-roll. Wade drove left and pump-faked three times, failing to get Barron to leave his feet, forcing Wade to dish to Michael Beasley in the corner for a 3.
Danilo Gallinari didn't have quite as much luck serving as the Knicks' primary defender on Wade, who scored 32 points as Miami cruised to the victory to stay tied with Milwaukee for fifth place in the East (although the Bucks own the tiebreaker from winning the season series over the Heat 3-1).
"He didn't ask me this time," coach Mike D'Antoni said of Gallinari, who lately has been asking for the defensive assignment against the opposing team's best player. "He was real quiet on this one."