After signing a seven-year deal with the Chicago Bulls, one that ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports is worth $56 million with a player option to became a free agent again in 2010, the point guard was traded to New York in a six-player deal that was weeks in the making.
In exchange for Crawford and veteran forward Jerome Williams, New York gave the
Bulls got former Illinois standout Frank Williams, center Dikembe
Mutombo, forward Othella Harrington and center Cezary Trybanski.
"Obviously Jamal is the best player in this deal, and it's not
easy giving up a young talent like that," Bulls general manager
John Paxson said. "The way that we looked at it is there were
certain things we needed to get. We had to get substantial
financial (relief) and this gives us some flexibility."
The deal will save the Bulls about $18 million in cap space. The
contracts of all of the New York players expire after this year,
and Jerome Williams still has $25 million and four years left on
his current deal.
"It ends up being one we all can live with," Paxson said.
"We're just not in a position to give Jamal the type of deal he
was looking for, and Isiah was really good at working to get the
player he wanted."
Crawford led the Bulls with 17.3 points a game last year and is
one of the league's top young guards. After averaging 11.2 points
and almost four assists in his first four seasons in the NBA, the
restricted free agent would have commanded a hefty, long-term
contract. But the Bulls have made prep-to-pro big men Tyson
Chandler and Eddy Curry the cornerstones of their rebuilding
effort, and as restricted free agents next summer, they'll be
eligible for their own big deals.
Enter the Knicks.
New York general manager Isiah Thomas has been interested in
Crawford for months, saying he was at the top of the Knicks' wish
list this summer.
"He reminds me of myself in the way he handles the basketball
and his ability to create and score," Thomas said of Crawford, who
will wear Thomas' old No. 11. "The ability to score and pass the
ball are two things that he possesses. He's a tremendous talent and
I'm honored that he would choose No. 11 to wear."
Crawford wore No. 1 with the Bulls, but Penny Hardaway already
has that number.
Crawford also gives the Knicks insurance for Allan Houston, who
missed much of last season and the playoffs with knee and leg
injuries. The Knicks lost to the New Jersey Nets in the first round
of the playoffs.
"Last year when Allan (Houston) went down, we were saying that
if he was healthy we'd be able to go further," Thomas said.
"Before we started this whole chase and pursued it, we talked
about if Allan was healthy and we talked about his coming off the
bench. He had no problem coming off the bench."
Thomas also was excited about Jerome Williams, whose tenacious
defensive play has earned him the nickname "Junkyard Dog." He's
averaged 6.8 rebounds and 6.9 points in his eight NBA seasons, and
was acquired by the Bulls last year in the trade that sent Jalen
Rose to Toronto.
"Jerome Williams is a rebounding machine," Thomas said. "We
forget the most important parts of the game is rebounding and
While the Bulls helped themselves economically, they're left
with a young team again. Curry and Chandler have played only three
seasons, and Chandler missed much of last year with back problems.
Kirk Hinrich had a strong rookie season, but he's one year removed
from Kansas. Ben Gordon and Luol Deng were picked in this summer's
Frank Williams, who led Illinois to back-to-back Big Ten titles
in 2001 and 2002, will give the back court some experience. But
he's played in just 77 games in two years with New York, averaging
3.2 points and two assists.
"It's difficult to win with a young basketball team," Paxson
said. "The concern right now is we are a young back court. I keep
telling everybody, we talk so much about Jamal, but our hopes hinge
on Tyson Chandler's health and Eddy Curry's development."
That's where Mutombo could help. An eight-time All-Star and
four-time defensive player of the year, Mutombo has averaged 12.2
points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.33 blocked shots in 13 years with New
York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Denver. He is fourth in
NBA history with 2,996 blocks.
He played in 65 games with the Knicks last season, averaging 6.7
rebounds and 5.6 points.
"I just know Dikembe through other people. The one thing I know
about him is he's a true professional," Paxson said. "He's been
around league and seen a lot of things, and he has a great,
positive attitude about this business. It's going to be a wonderful
thing for our young guys to learn from him."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.