Isiah Thomas Press Conference
On Thursday, the NBA trade deadline day, the New York Knicks made several trades. They added a few draft picks, and also added some bloated contracts. In Madison Square Garden, during the first quarter of today's Knicks-76ers matchup, New York general manager Isiah Thomas addressed the media. InsideHoops.com presents a transcript of almost all of what was said:
Isiah Thomas: Today, we made a trade and we acquired two players and two first-roudn draft picks. The first player being Maurice Taylor from teh Houston Rockets, the second player being Malik rose from the San Antonio Spurs. And we got two first-round picks. We have the rights to the Phoenix pick, and the rights to San Antonio's pick.
Question: Which years?
Isiah Thomas: We got Phoenix's pick this year, in the draft, and San Antonio's pick the following year.
Question: What's your take on what the trades accomplish?
Isiah Thomas: I would say, when you look at what we were able to do, I thought we upgraded our talent. And getting Malik Rose, and also Maurice Taylor, and also the addition of the two picks. We have two first-round picks this year, two first-round picks next year. We are able to improve our team, with the youth that we're able to get in the draft, or we may be able to package some players and do some other things. It gives us creative ability in the draft, also.
Question: You said in the past you wanted to avoid taking on payrolls. But you've done that in these deals.
Isiah Thomas: Well, when you look at the expiring contracts that we will have this summer, we still have close to $30 million in expiring contracts to go out and play with this summer. When you look at, the way I looked at Vin Baker and Moochie Norris contracts, we have two years of those contracts, we take on an additional year with Maurice Taylor, but we get the benefit of, in my opinion, the better player for these two years. Also, if you look at what's happening with expiring contracts, that's really how some teams are acquiring talent if you're not under the cap. With Maurice Taylor's third year, it becomes an expiring contract, which becomes a huge asset to us. Malik Rose - when I look at Nazr Mohammed, I don't think I ever would have had the opportunity to trade Nazr Mohammed for two first round draft picks. I like the player that I'm getting back in Malik rose. He's a very tough player. He's a savvy champion who has played on two championship teams. Very high character. I think we're getting a very solid piece. I look at having players such as he and Kurt Thomas on the same team. It gives us the type of mentality defensively that we're looking for. Malik is a high energy guy, and I think our fans are going to enjoy seeing him play. In terms of the salary that he possesses, I think in our league, a guy such as Malik, who is making about five, six million dollars a year, he's worthy of that contract. The two or three additional years that he has, I'm very comfortable with paying those numbers. Those are not $12, $13, $14 million a year numbers. And if you look at what we would have had to pay Nazr Mohammed, in that third or fourth year, you would have had to replace him probably at a higher number. As I said before, the way we're going to build this team, you got to get younger, you got to get more athletic. Today we got a little younger, but we also got better in terms of our future, in terms of adding draft picks. Over the next two years, you got four first round draft picks, which is something that we didn't have a couple of months ago.
Question: Final evaluation of Nazr Mohammed, he was a good player, but limited in what he could do and become, correct?
Isiah Thomas: When I look at what a true center is, and Nazr did a great job for us at the center position, but we still needed to get better at that position. And we still do have to get better. However, when I look at the way a lot of teams are playing with power forwards as opposed to having true centers, most of the East is playing that way now. A lot of teams in the West are playing that way. Until you find someone who's really a true center, who can really dominate the paint the way Shaq does, you're better off having just good, solid basketball players. And today we upgraded our teams in terms of talent.
Question: Your reaction to the Sixers getting Chris Webber, a player you perhaps were targeting? And the Celtics getting Antoine Walker back?
Isiah Thomas: Everyone is trying to improve themselves in the Atlantic division. We're no different right now than Jersey, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, everyone is trying to upgrade themselves. I don't think any of us in this division right now are extremely proud of the division, and proud of the records that any of us carry. I think all of us are trying to improve ourselves. But in the same vein, for myself, and for the New York Knicks, it's important that we try to improve ourselves, but also try to improve our future, which we did today.
Question: And with Webber moving to Philadelphia, what's your reaction?
Isiah Thomas: With Webber moving to Philadelphia, I was surprised. I didn't know if Sacramento was ready to unwind with the success that they've had. Philadelphia, they took a big risk, but there's not a big risk in talent. I think there's probably a big risk in terms of injury, but the talent is the talent. And he is the talent. He is a great talent. I know this about Chris Webber, wherever he's gone, his teams usually end of winning. There probably won't be any different in Philadelphia. I think he'll make a big difference there.
Question: Was there a trade kicker, with Malik?
Isiah Thomas: It was a trade kicker, but San Antonio paid the trade kicker.
Question: The whole thing?
Isiah Thomas: Yes.
Question: Did you talk to the Kings about Webber? Did you think you had a shot at getting him?
Isiah Thomas: No, I never spoke to Sacramento about Chris Webber. I love the talent and I love the person. However, where we are now, it was a contract that we just couldn't afford to take at this time.
Question: What might the new rotation look like?
Isiah Thomas: I think Herb Williams will figure that out. And I think the good thing is, when you look at the players that he'll be able to put out on the floor, whether it be Sweetney, Taylor, Rose, Thomas, all those are quality players. I think he'll be happy with the productivity from all of those players, because they're all good players.
Question: Do you think Kurt Thomas will see the bulk of center minutes?
Isiah Thomas: He's had success there before, and I'm sure that he'll probably play some there again. He's a tough competitor, and the more guys that we can get with his mentality, the better our team will be.
Question: You got so much shorter, do you expect the team to change its playing style?
Isiah Thomas: I looked out there every night and I always felt that we were short; I always felt that we were a small team. This definitely didn't increase our size, but it gave us more players that I think can play. And one of the things that was a problem for us at the start of the season was a lack of size at the center position, and that still is a problem today, but it's a problem that a lot of teams face in this league. If there's a way that I can go out and try to get a real big man who can do it for us, believe me, I'll be pitching for it.
Question: Did seeing Philadelphia get Chris Webber make it easier for you to make these moves?
Isiah Thomas: No, actually, I didn't really look into what anybody else was doing. I was really just focused and concentrating on making sure that we continue to execute our plan. And our plan, the only way we can build this team, is through the draft, or through expiring contracts, or through trades. And what we were able to do today is secure the draft picks, in terms of getting two first round picks, and also upgrade the talent, in Malik Rose and Maurice Taylor. I think it's a big talent upgrade in terms of what we let go.
Question: Those draft picks will be low, probably in the 26-30 range. How valuable are they, really?
Isiah Thomas: That's just it, I don't know. But at least now, we're in the game. We have a chance. For the next two years, you got a chance to add four players, four young players. Over prior years, when you look at who the players were drafted at those numbers, sometimes you get lucky. And sometimes you don't, but at least now, this is in a way our lottery. Without necessarily having to go all the way there. So these two picks, I don't know what they'll turn out to be. Who knows what they'll turn out to be. But some people have landed good talent there.
Question: Can you explain what you mean by saying that Chris Webber's contract was a bit too big to take on?
Isiah Thomas: I think for us, to take on contracts that are, when a guy is making five or six million dollars, and you got a solid player, those are good contracts for us. But for us to try to take players right now at this stage in the game who are making in excess of $19, $20 million bucks, and they're over the age of 30, those don't necessarily work for our strategic plan right now. Maybe they would work for Philadelphia's or someone else, but right now, strategically, we're not in a position to do that. We can, we could, but I just don't think that is the healthy and secure way to go. But if you can get young players that are in the five or six million dollar range, and they come in, they work, and they're high quality people, and good character players, you do that. Now, Maurice Taylor falls in a different category. But again, you look at what we traded to get a Mo Taylor, I think we'll probably get better value out of those dollars from Maurice Taylor than we were from Vin Baker and Moochie Norris. In that third year that we have, it becomes a huge asset with his contract, that you can go and try to get another player with it.