New York – The New York Knickerbockers and their fans were wishing and hoping as the NBA Draft moved along that their dream pick, Stephen Curry, would fall directly into their laps when the Knicks’ choice came at number eight. Curry, the purest shooter in the draft, had already stated publicly his preference to play in New York for Mike D’Antoni and his offensive system and no one from the Knicks said anything to discourage Curry’s wishes. It was a marriage sure to be made in basketball heaven.
Except for one problem, it didn’t happen. When the Golden State Warriors, choosing at number seven, picked Curry to replace their recently traded shooting guard, ironically the former Knick, Jamal Crawford, a huge collective sigh of disappointment came from all the Knick fans gathered at Madison Square Garden’s WAMU Theatre yesterday.
Even more telling was Curry’s reaction, dropping his head into his hands upon hearing his name called by Commissioner David Stern as if to mutter, “Oh, crap, missed the Knicks by one pick.”
With the very next choice, the Knicks selected a 6’10” power forward, Jordan Hill from the University of Arizona.
“Jordan was one of the best big men in this year’s draft. He can score, rebound and block shots,” President, Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh said. “He can run the floor. He’s improved each year.”
Hill, 6-10, 235-pounds, averaged 18.3 points and 11.0 rebounds in his junior year with the Wildcats, setting a school record for boards in a single season (375). The Newberry, SC-native finished as the Pac-10 leader in point-rebound double-doubles (20), ranked second in rebounding and blocked shots (1.71) and third in scoring.
“I’m excited to get Jordan here. Players like him are hard to find,” Head Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He is going to help us defensively right away and it is an added bonus that he is a good shooter.”
Forget all the nice quotes and statistics compiled by the young man, Hill. This is not the guy the Knicks wanted nor is he the type of impact player this franchise needed to excite Knick fans. He may be a good player, a very nice guy, and even a useful piece of the puzzle that goes behind building a championship contender. Or, he may turn out to be like past highly-rated power forwards who recently came out of the University of Arizona. People like Channing Frye, whom the Knicks picked at number eight in the 2004 draft and who never panned out. Or, Sean Rooks, an acclaimed forward from the early nineties who evolved into a bench player most of his NBA career.
Suffice to say, Knicks fans in the building expressed their dissatisfaction with the choice of Hill with vociferous booing.
“I’ve been through that in Indiana,” Walsh said. “They booed Chuck Person. They booed Reggie Miller. I can go on and on.”
Walsh seemed bent on improving the Knicks defensive disposition in this draft as he also acquired Florida State guard Toney Douglas from the Lakers for $3 million and a 2011 second-round pick. Douglas, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, was selected at No.29 by the Lakers and was the eighth point guard taken in a draft that saw the Timberwolves take three themselves. The Knicks also finalized their trade for 7-footer Darko Milicic, who like Richardson is in the final year of his contract, will be used as a center and power forward.
Milicic was the No.2 pick of the 2003 draft, selected after LeBron James and before Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But Milicic has yet to find a niche in the NBA. He’s averaged 5.5 points for three teams and has made just 98 starts.