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Donnie Walsh is fond of throwing out a Latin phrase or two when he wants to challenge the premise of a question he is being asked. Also, he sometimes turns to that old standby -- "None of your business!" -- when the question is direct enough to merit an answer he doesn't want to reveal.
But not a verbal word has been heard from Walsh, be it in Latin, Greek (he studied both at Fordham Prep) or English, in the 11 days since the New York Knicks were swept out of the playoffs.
Equally mum has been Knicks owner Jim Dolan, but that is nothing new. It has been more than four years since Dolan fielded a question from a reporter, and a roughly equal amount of time since Dolan (who used to meet with beat writers once per season) berated one reporter on the issue of accuracy and then asked if it was really necessary to be using a tape recorder for the interview.
|Et tu, Donnie? Walsh is taking a page from the owner's book by saying nothing.|
Media relations can be bizarre when it comes to the Knicks, who once called the police on beat writers who were staking out the end of the private driveway at the team's practice facility that players and coaches use, a stakeout that yielded the famous "I feel like a dead man walking" quote from former coach Larry Brown shortly before he was fired (or "terminated," to use the Garden's favored expression).
All of this background factors into the equation when one asks, "What's up with the Knicks?"
The answer: There is a lot up with the Knicks, but Walsh is choosing to stay silent about it, and Dolan has pushed the mute button on the remote control he uses on his staff. Even coach Mike D'Antoni (entering the final year of his four-year contract) has been muzzled, a highly uncommon occurrence in a league where coaches regularly speak to the media following the conclusion of each team's season (although a league source told ESPN.com: "Mike is safe.").
Last Saturday was the deadline for the Knicks to pick up the fourth-year option on Walsh's contract as team president, but the day passed without any action being taken.
Because, sources say, the Knicks have already offered Walsh an extension through the 2012-13 season, and the details of that arrangement are being negotiated by Knicks attorneys and Walsh's agent while others around the organization and throughout the NBA are beginning to ask themselves this: Does Donnie truly want to stick around?
"Jim is not trying to hurt Donnie, and I don't think he is trying to get rid of him," one MSG mole said. "I wouldn't jump to conclusions that everyone's gone. It's probably just that they are negotiating."
Walsh's agent, Steve Kauffman, who also represents others on the Knicks' front-office payroll -- many of whom are on expiring contracts -- has steadfastly declined comment. Walsh has sent word that he will say something when he has something to say, and in the meantime will continue his prep work for the offseason and the draft, after which he will wait like everyone else to see whether the NBA is idled by a work stoppage after the current collective bargaining agreement expires June 30.
That's also the date that marks the expiration of Walsh's current deal, and it is not inconceivable that Walsh will remain mum on the subject of his own status right up until the 11th hour.
Walsh wants the autonomy he was promised when he first took the job in 2008, only to have it usurped at times by Dolan, who tried to hire Isiah Thomas as a consultant last fall before the NBA ruled it illegal, then stepped into the Carmelo Anthony trade negotiations during All-Star weekend in February through direct discussions with Nuggets president and nominal owner Josh Kroenke.
The New York Post reported Thursday that Walsh has received an assurance from Dolan that the owner has no intention of hiring Thomas in any capacity.
Walsh left the Indiana Pacers in 2008, after 22 years with the team, and returned to his hometown to rebuild one of the league's charter franchises.
His plan all along was to gut the Knicks to clear salary-cap room for the free-agency class of the summer of 2010, and then to rebuild from there. And after landing Amare Stoudemire but being rebuffed by LeBron James, Walsh spent the first four months of this past season in discussions with the Nuggets to acquire Anthony.
But the price the Knicks ultimately paid was steep: Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, Timofey Mozgov, a No. 1 pick, two second-round picks and cash. The jumping-off plan for this summer is to add complementary pieces through the draft and with minimum-salaried free agents on one-year deals in order to preserve salary-cap space for the summer of 2012, when only Stoudemire, Anthony, Renaldo Balkman and this June's No. 1 pick will still be under contract, and when Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams can become free agents.
Anthony has gone on record (he did it the day after the season ended) as saying he doesn't believe the Knicks need a third max-salary player to compete with the elite teams in the East, which would seem to be at odds with Walsh's master plan moving forward.
And how did Walsh feel about that comment from Anthony?
Ad utrumque paratus -- Latin for "prepared for either" -- would have been a fitting reply.
Instead, Walsh was mum.
Only he knows (and then, only if he has decided yet) if he will return to utilize the clavia aurea -- Latin for "golden key" -- that would unlock the mystery of whether Year 4 of his four-year plan will lead to the Knicks' first playoff victory in 11 years.