Isiah Thomas, not idling amid the turmoil swirling around him, made a trade typical of his tenure as Knicks president on Friday by taking on an expensive player slightly past his prime, but acquiring a first-round draft pick in the process.
Before the Knicks' 104-90 loss to the Raptors on Friday night in Toronto, Thomas shipped the veteran power forward Antonio Davis to the Raptors for small forward Jalen Rose and a draft pick. The pick had belonged to Denver, but was sent to the Nets and then on to the Raptors as part of the trade that sent Vince Carter to New Jersey in December 2004.
The Raptors also agreed to give the Knicks US$3 million, the maximum amount of cash allowed under NBA rules.
"I'm not saying this is a move to get to the playoffs or anything like that," Thomas said on a conference call from New York. "Jalen is a person who fits exactly what we need. A very versatile player, he can handle the ball in the backcourt, he can score from the small forward position and he can take some of the scoring load off some of our younger players who have been asked to score at difficult times during the game."
Thomas added, "It helps our present, and it also helps our future that we have two first-round picks."
The Knicks previously obtained San Antonio's first-round pick as part of the Malik Rose deal last year. The Knicks gave their own pick to Chicago in October in the Eddy Curry trade, of which Davis was a reluctant piece.
The trade of Davis takes him back to the city where he spent a little more than four seasons and caps a turbulent three weeks. He was suspended for five games for rushing into the stands in Chicago when he saw his wife, Kendra, involved in an altercation. On Thursday, Kendra Davis was charged with misdemeanor assault in a traffic incident that occurred in October.
Thomas said those incidents had nothing to do with the trade.
In his first public comments since addressing the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him and Madison Square Garden by the former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders, Thomas bristled when asked if he considered taking a leave of absence or stepping down.
"Any of you who have covered me know the answer to both of those questions is absolutely no," Thomas said.
He spent more time explaining that he is balancing his efforts to rebuild the Knicks even though he has now added a player who increases the highest payroll in the league (US$120 million). Rose, who makes US$15.7 million in this, his 12th season, will earn US$16.9 million next season.
When the Raptors traded Carter, Rose, 33, realized he could not be part of Toronto's rebuilding. The Knicks are different.
"It's a rebuilding situation, but more geared, especially being in New York, to win and compete and be a playoff team," Rose said, "the sooner the better."
Rose warned that his trade does not mean "it's going to be overnight success and we're going to be the Spurs or the Pistons. You go one day, one practice at a time. I'm going to do my best to influence the young players on the team."
Rose, known for his offense, is not a player who emphasizes defense. Bemoaning his players' defensive effort has become coach Larry Brown's theme. "I'm trying to go out and get the players he wants me to go out and get," Thomas said of Brown. "This is a player he wanted."