Friday, July 9, 2010
Knicks' Walsh shoots down report
NEW YORK -- Knicks president Donnie Walsh said Friday he is not retiring, denying a report he may step down because of health problems and the disappointment of losing out on LeBron James.
Walsh also denied speculation in the New York Post that his recent neck surgery had anything to do with his operation two years ago to remove part of his tongue because of cancer. He said the recent procedure was to remove a spur on his vertebra.
That has temporarily forced him into a wheelchair, but the 69-year-old executive said he hasn't missed any work. Walsh told The Associated Press on Friday he intends to "stay here as long as I can" and already has moved on to other plans after James decided to join the Miami Heat.
"Everybody knows my commitment here," Walsh said. "Basically my motivation -- this is a hard job -- is to try to get this team back in contention. That's what keeps me going."
Walsh said the proof is how quickly he pursued other business after James announced his plans. The Knicks have a sign-and-trade deal that sends forward David Lee to Golden State in place and it could be completed later Friday.
"I think that we'll put people on this team in the short term that will be competitive," Walsh said, "doing it with an eye to the future and free agency in the next couple of years as well."
He plans to be in New York when that happens. Walsh said he's just started the third year of a contract and has an option year left. He has been given no indication Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan wants him to leave.
The Post story said he "may possibly retire" within the week and listed recently fired Portland general manager Kevin Pritchard as the potential replacement. Pritchard has the same agent, Warren LeGarie, as Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni.
"To my knowledge I've never talked to Kevin Pritchard, never talked to Warren LeGarie about this," Walsh said.
Dolan declined to comment.
Walsh had the operation on his tongue not long after replacing Isiah Thomas in April 2008, keeping the news hidden even from his family. He also needs hip replacement surgery, but he's been able to put that off.
As for the neck procedure, Walsh said he left the hospital the day of last month's draft and immediately went to the office. He was instructed to use the wheelchair as a precaution to avoid further injury.
He originally sought to keep word of the wheelchair quiet, fearing teams might try to use it against the Knicks during free agency. He said that hasn't been the case, nor has it affected his work. He said he has been in all staff meetings and presentations "on the draft, on free agency, and now what we can do from here on out, the plan to keep this going and to try to improve this team."
Landing James had been the whole focus of the Knicks' planning since Walsh's arrival, and the team believed the two-time MVP would want to play in New York.
The Knicks even turned to Thomas, asking him to speak to James' representatives. Walsh said reports of Thomas' role had been "misstated" because Thomas was scheduled to be in Cleveland at that time.
The Knicks did sign All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire, will get another promising big man in Anthony Randolph among the three players in the trade with the Warriors, and still have money to spend this summer and enough to offer another big contract next summer.
Walsh believes that will get his hometown team turned around.
"I really want to do that," Walsh said. "I grew up here, all my brothers and sisters are here. I would love to see this place get back up."