View Full Version : Knicks Play Against the Center They Desperately Wanted

10-23-2004, 12:35 AM
In Dallas, Knicks See Big Man They Wanted (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/22/sports/basketball/22knicks.html?oref=login&oref=login)

Published: October 22, 2004

DALLAS, Oct. 21 - Erick Dampier got everything he wanted this summer: money, security, a shot at a championship. The Knicks wanted Dampier this summer, but instead, they got a heavy dose of disappointment.

Dampier, now in his eighth season, joined the Dallas Mavericks in a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State that netted him $65 million over seven years. The Mavericks are thus set for the foreseeable future at center, once their weakest position.

The Knicks cannot claim to be set from day to day. On Thursday, they sent Vin Baker, a converted power forward, out to bang with Dampier in a 112-74 loss to the Mavericks. Two nights earlier, Bruno Sundov - the very definition of project player - got the Knicks' starting nod. Both received a look because Nazr Mohammed, the presumed starter since training camp began, failed to impress in the first two preseason games.Coach Lenny Wilkens even considered using a smallish, Kurt Thomas-Mike Sweetney tandem before deciding to start Baker against Dallas.

So the Knicks tinker as they go, hoping someone will make an impact before the opener Nov. 3 at Minnesota. But if it looked as if they were bathing in uncertainty, Wilkens did not want to hear it. "Well, it may be uncertainty on your part,'' he said, "it's just that I haven't made my mind up on it. That's all. And I want to see what affords us the best possibilities. So I'm going to look at it.'' The box scores tell a more vivid story. In four preseason games, the Knicks have used the same four starters at the guard and forward spots. Only the center has changed.

Baker did little to clear up the situation Thursday. He had 6 points and 2 rebounds. Mohammed finished with 7 points and 9 rebounds. Both were outscored by the Dallas rookie D. J. Mbenga, who had 8 points. It is conceivable the Knicks could head into their opener without a clear-cut starter."I hope not, but that could happen,'' Wilkens said, "so that we're all comfortable with one another.'' Baker, a starter for almost all of his 11-year career and a four-time All-Star, was nevertheless excited to get the starting nod Thursday and the chance to win the job outright."It's wide open,'' he said before tipoff. "My whole career I've started. Coach is experimenting, and I've just got to get it done.''


The Mavericks were thrilled to get Dampier, who last season averaged career highs in points (12.3 a game) and rebounds (12).

The Knicks worked feverishly to obtain him, but when Golden State balked, the Knicks used their best assets - players with expiring contracts - to obtain Jamal Crawford from Chicago.

Dampier visited New York, and Isiah Thomas, the Knicks' president, offered him the full midlevel exception, about $5 million for the first year of a contract, but it was hard to compete with Dallas.

"We couldn't offer the dollars that Dallas could at that time,'' Wilkens said. "And we couldn't get Golden State to do a sign-and-trade with us. I thought that he had the experience and that he could be a real good addition to our team.''