GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- To his credit, despite a lack of a good night's sleep and after five hours of being kept on hold in the NBA's trade call queue, Donnie Walsh made it through his post-trade news conference this evening without mentioning the two words everyone else in New York couldn't stop repeating Thursday: LeBron James.
Not only that, but after clearing enough salary cap space to possibly make maximum salary offers to two high-level free agents, Walsh would not even come out and say that is his plan.
"I thought it was a good bet, but I'm not going to limit it to just this year. In other words, this puts the franchise in a position where it can build a contending team. That's what the goal was," Walsh said after overhauling nearly half the roster with three trades in the span of 24 hours trades that brought Tracy McGrady, Sergio Rodriguez, Eddie House, J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker and Brian Cardinal to New York.
All six new players have expiring contracts, as do holdovers Al Harrington, Chris Duhon, Jonathan Bender and David Lee.
Only Eddy Curry ($11.3 million), Danilo Gallinari ($3.3 million), Wilson Chandler ($2.1 million) and Toney Douglas ($1.07 million) are on the Knicks' cap for next season. If the Knicks renounce all their free agents (or, some could be used in sign-and-trade deals without having to be renounced), they will have in the area of $32-36 million in cap space to use, depending on where the 2010-11 salary cap is set.
Walsh had promised to try to clear as much cap space as possible when he first took over the Knicks, and he acknowledged being surprised at how much room he was able to clear. Since taking over in the summer of 2008, Walsh has traded three of the four longest and largest contracts he inherited -- Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford, and now Jared Jeffries. By clearing away Hill's $2.6 million salary for next season, Thursday's moves shaved off another $9.5 million in previously committed 2010-11 salary.
"Where we got it to [before the McGrady trade] I thought was realistic, but to add this onto it is a little more than I thought we could do. I never said we were after two max [players], and I didn't know if it would add up to that, but this could now, I guess," Walsh said.
Walsh, perhaps mindful that the Toronto Raptors took exception early last season when Walsh mentioned the possible pursuit of Bosh in free agency, did not mention any of the potential 2010 free agents by name.
"I don't know who is going to be out there. I know what the free agent list is, and as soon as we get to it, we'll be prepared," Walsh said, "and if you don't get 'em this year, then maybe I won't be here but it'll be better for the guy coming in next."
Walsh said he tried to make other deals between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. after the McGrady trade was agreed to, but nothing came to fruition. Walsh said McGrady was en route to New Y0rk, but it was uncertain whether he would make his debut in the Knicks' next game, Saturday night against Oklahoma City.