The 13 Knicks Rebuilds Since their Last Title: Rebuild #9 — “Teflon” Donnie Walsh

9. The Donnie Walsh Rebuild



  • On Walsh’s initial press conference, he side swiped former GM Isiah Thomas, saying Isiah seemed to be building a team designed for the 1980’s, with big interior men and shooting guards. He inferred Isiah was out of touch with the modern NBA.
  • Walsh proceeded to dump all the players that Isiah Thomas had acquired — including Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford (for Al Harrington), and David Lee for practically nothing in return to get team payroll down to $10 million — making room for the signing of 3 big free agents.
  • Brought Mike D’Antoni in as coach, and promised Knick fans they would love his up-tempo style of coaching (eschewing defense).
  • Whiffed on signing LeBron James despite a big push. Was outfoxed by Pat Riley.
  • Signed Amar’e Stoudemire, who might have been a good sidekick to LeBron but ended up not meshing with Carmelo Anthony, and then getting injured.
  • Drafted Danilo Gallinari and signed Raymond Felton at point guard, and with D’Antoni coaching and Amare Stoudemire playing well — the Knicks had a short resurgence in Stoudemire’s first 6 months with the team — the 2010-2011 season — disrupted by the trading of Gallinari and Felton, along with Wilson Chandler and others for Carmelo Anthony.

  • Spent 6 months trying to trade for Carmelo Anthony — creating a circus-like atmosphere — and then finally traded for him in February 2011 (Melo would be a free agent the coming summer). Gave away half the team for Melo and a bunch of 1st round draft picks that would come to haunt the Knicks in the years to come:
    • NY gave up Gallinari, Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, the 2014 1st round pick (which ended up being #12 overall — Dario Šarić was selected) and a swap of 2016 1st round picks (Denver got the Knicks pick which was #8 overall, and selected Jamal Murray);
    • The Knicks under Glen Grunwald traded Denver’s pick — which ended up being #9 overall — to Toronto in the Andrea Bargnani trade and Toronto  used it to pick Jakob Pöltl. The Knicks also received Chauncy Billups as a tradeable salary. It was a 3-team trade — the Knicks also dumped Eddy Curry to Minnesota in the Melo trade, along with Anthony Randolph.
  • Many fans have felt the Knicks gave up too much for Melo — but it must be pointed out the players they gave up didn’t come close to adding up to Melo’s talent; the draft picks (especially Murray) hurt, but Walsh made that trade never thinking that with Melo, Stoudemire, and a 3rd elite free agent they would ever be giving up the #7 overall pick in 2014.


  • The Donnie Walsh era ended up a horror show, but he never seemed to get the blame in the press, thus earning the Knickname “Teflon” Donnie Walsh by serious Knick fans. He gutted the roster getting little in return, and then whiffed on LeBron and got Carmelo Anthony as a consolation prize, but with the wrong sidekick in Stoudemire.
  • Many Knick fans accused owner James Dolan of forcing Donnie Walsh to make the Melo trade, but Walsh said many times, including a full-length interview on ESPN radio — that Dolan did not interfere with him at all and he had made the Melo trade on his own.
  • The first two years with Walsh as GM were miserable (32-50 and 29-53) as Walsh gutted the roster to dump all salaries for the big free agent spend. The Knicks had a short-term resurgence under D’Antoni with Stoudemire and Felton and Gallinari at the start of the 2010-2011 season — but the Melo trade threw the team off kilter, and that team ended up 42-40, making the playoffs but being swept 4-0 by the Boston Celtics in the 1st round.
  • Walsh was criticized by several in the media including Peter Vecsey for dumping Zach Randolph too soon and for nothing in return (the trade was Randolph and Mardy Collins to the Los Angeles Clippers for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas). Randolph would continue to have All Star seasons for years to come, leading Memphis deep into the playoffs many times. Randolph and David Lee were playing great together at the start of the 2008-2009 season when Walsh traded Randolph away for nothing.

  • The 1st round picks Walsh gave up for Melo turned out to haunt the Knicks — especially Jamal Murray who would become a scoring star for years.
  • Sidenote: One time I was driving in my car listening to CBS radio and the main news announcer — not the sports announcer — mentioned the Knicks score at the top of the hour, and added how Donnie Walsh had gotten the team into such good financial position — that’s how much Walsh had the local media duped.

The End:

  • Walsh quit the Knicks on June 3, 2011 in a huff. He was 71 years old. He spent a good part of his time with the Knicks in a wheel chair. He was with them 3 years — having joined the Knicks on April 2, 2008. After resigning, he hung on contractually for a year with the Knicks as a supposed consultant, and then rejoined the Indiana Pacers in 2012 as head of basketball operations after Larry Bird stepped down temporarily. Walsh became a consultant with Indiana when Bird returned a year later.
  • Glen Grunwald became the interim GM, setting up the stage for Rebuild #10.

Thoughts? Provide Feedback Below

If you agree or disagree with any of the above, or feel we’ve left something out, please provide feedback below.

Next: Rebuild #10

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  1. A couple of storylines left out:
    Donnie told Marbury in summer 08 to get into great shape and he’d have a blank slate. Steph did and had a solid preseason. Turns out, it was a setup. Marbury would go from 23mpg in preseason to complete DNP on opening night. The saga turned into a headline grabber for weeks. Ending with buying-out the former allstar. Terrible PR sent to the stars of the league of how big names players are treated.

    2010 draft, Lance Stephenson (who was at times billed to be a top 3 pick before getting in trouble/college) went undrafted for 37 picks. Donnie has TWO picks 38 & 39. Indiana, with 40. Donnie balked drafting Andy Rautins (who went onto play 5 games) and Landry Fields (who would end up being the incorrect guy to make untouchable in the Melo trade fumble). Stephenson went to Indiana and helped beat us in the playoff series in ’13. This was as bad as the ’99 Weis/Artest blunder, but no one talks about it.

    Trade deadline 2010. He traded Knicks ’09 pick, Jordan Hill (who would go onto find a role on Kobe’s playoff Lakers) and ’12 future 1st. And 1st swap to Houston for T-Macs large expiring contract. While this was the deadline to have his max slots cleared for summer free agency, he did so by having to trade picks. A big no-no for any rebuild/reset.

    Overall, Walsh was given 2 free seasons to punt, so long as he would have two max slots for summer 2010 and the LeBron sweepstakes. In a pass/fail world, he passed. So casual fans will remember Donnie for being great.

    In reality, he showed no creativity, and found no young hidden gems. Traded ZBo way too early for nothing. Neutral swapped Craw for Al and got no assets for either. Exhiled Marbury to China, again for no assets. All we had to show in 2011 was Rony Turiaf (for DLee).

    In retrospect, after he quit and returned to Indiana, I wonder if he wasn’t still aligned with the Pacers the entire time. He earned Dolan’s checks by doing the bare minimum to get the cap space Dolan asked for. I wonder if he had any real intentions of setting the team up for future success after that.

    • Terrific Points. On the money I remember these disasters well; had forgotten to mention them.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for contributing!

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