By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Nov 22 2008 1:39AM
In one 24-hour period, the New York Knicks have officially made themselves real players for the NBA's best free-agent class in a generation, and can now realistically make a run not only at LeBron James, but perhaps multiple free agents in the summer of 2010.
On Friday night, the Knicks finalized a deal, their second of the day, that sent forward Zach Randolph and guard Mardy Collins to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for forward Tim Thomas and guard Cuttino Mobley. The Clippers may also be sending a future second-round pick to New York in the deal, according to a source.
Zach Randolph will team up with Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby in the Clippers' frontcourt.
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
The Knicks backed off of their earlier request for a future first-round pick from Los Angeles, a request that had delayed the culmination of the trade for a few hours after news of the deal broke earlier Friday morning.
New York gets Thomas (9.5 points per game in five starts) , who shined for new Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni during the 2006 playoffs when both were in Phoenix. It was Thomas' clutch three-pointer in the waning seconds that saved the Suns' season in their first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers. Down 3-2 in the series, and down three in Game 6, Thomas' three with 6.3 seconds left in regulation tied the score at 105 and forced overtime. The Suns eventually won, with Thomas scoring 21 points, and routed the Lakers in Game 7, eventually getting to the Western Conference finals.
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• Official Release: Knicks trade Randolph to Clippers
|Analysis: Warriors may win big by going small|
|It's not every day that one team can dump someone they have no intention of playing in exchange for a 20-point scorer, but Golden State did just that Friday by sending Al Harrington to New York for Jamal Crawford, NBA.com's Art Garcia writes Mobley and Tim Thomas. Read Full Article|
Mobley averages 13.7 points and is shooting 34 percent from three-point range.
But the Knicks didn't do this deal for either player's talents.
The contracts of both Thomas ($6.5 million in 2009-10) and Mobley ($9.8 million) expire after the 2009-10 season, which will allow New York to free up even more cap room in an attempt to sign James, Miami's Dwyane Wade or Toronto's Chris Bosh -- or, perhaps, a combination of one of them with another frontline player.
After dealing guard Jamal Crawford to Golden State earlier Friday for disgruntled forward Al Harrington, the Knicks have eliminated $27 million from their books for the 2010-11 season -- Randolph's $17.3 million and Crawford's $10 million. They currently have no player under contract for that season, though center Eddy Curry is likely to exercise player options for both 2009-10 ($10.5 million) and 2010-11 ($11 million). They will also surely pick up team options on this year's first-round pick, forward Danilo Gallinari, and second-year forward Wilson Chandler, who has shown great promise in D'Antoni's system. Forward Jared Jeffries, recovering from an injury, could also have an option picked up that year.
|Clippers' coach Mike Dunleavy on deal|
|Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy talks about the trade that sent Zach Randolph to L.A.
But with Stephon Marbury's contract expiring after this season ($21.9 million), and the Knicks not likely to have veterans Quentin Richardson, Malik Rose and Jerome James on their roster in two years, New York should have $20 million to $30 million available to offer prospective free agents.
The question remains, though, if James or any other free agent would consider a team led by Gallinari, Chandler and guards Nate Robinson and Chris Duhon good enough to leave where they are -- even if it is in the media capital of the world.
Wade said earlier this week that his main consideration for 2010 is being on a winning team.
"In 2010, I'll have eight years in the league," Wade said. "I've already won a championship. I've already done a lot of great things in this game. At the end of the day, it all comes down to winning for me. It's no secret. I want to be in a place where we're building a championship team or competing [for] a championship. Hopefully, Miami's that place. That's where I live. That's where I want to be. But it's two years away, and I have a decision to make in two years."
At a news conference later in the evening when asked how this trade may set the Knicks up for 2010 free agency deals Walsh said, "There has to be a good team put around whoever that is and be attractive to the whole free agent situation.
"Look, I come in here every day and try to work, and that's what I'll continue to do. And I hope it turns out we can put a team together, well right away, and in the next couple of years that can basically be what the New York Knicks could be. If I can't do it, then somebody else should do it."
The trade sends Randolph, New York's leading scorer (20.5 ppg) and rebounder (12.5 ppg), west to the Clippers, who have been trying to acquire him from New York for several months and who have had a terrible time scoring points during a surprisingly poor 2-9 start. It creates a bit of a logjam in the frontcourt, with Marcus Camby already starting at power forward and Chris Kaman the incumbent center. But Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy is believed to be hoping to convince Randolph he can get productive minutes and shots in a sixth man role.
Collins has averaged 2.2 points in nine games this season for New York.
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