One is an ex-Knick who despite being traded for one of the most popular men in team history, a player who personified the fans in many ways, became a fan favorite in his own rite. Replacing Charles Oakley is not a small feat in the world of New York sports.
The other is a player was often defended by fans yet never played much defense.
When the Knicks traded Oakley for Marcus Camby in 1998 my first sense was that of shock. Like every other Knick fan, I loved Oak as did his coach, who took a long time to warm up to the lanky Camby. I remember hearing stories about Marcus in college and his propensities and his overall lack of maturity hampered his early career.
But it was his play in 1999 that endeared him to the fans of this city as he was an integral part of the Cinderella 8th seed. Many highlights show a high-flying Camby protecting the hoop and finishing with thunderous dunks on the other end.
There were always questions coming from Knicks management regarding Camby's durability yet ironically, or fittingly for the Scott Layden Era, Antonio McDyess, whom the Knicks received in return, broke down right away in New York shortly he arrived from Denver for Camby and the 9th overall pick.
Zach Randolph's stay in New York was a dubious as McDyess' in a lot of ways, which is to say that he was a wonderfully talented player who fans never really connected with. Unlike McDyess, Z-Bo played plenty but he never seemed to mesh in a culture that wreeked of negativity.
Randolph was brought in as part of a trade which sent Steve Francis and Channing Frye to Portland, a one-sided deal from a talent standpoint as his career 20 points/10 rebound totals had fans believing in a possible "double post" tandem with Eddy Curry, or so that was the vision of then-president Isiah Thomas.
Randolph was the center of plenty of trade rumors this off season and was almost shipped to Memphis. Here's what we know about that situation. Memphis wanted the Knicks to fork over a first round pick along with taking on the brutal contract of guard Marko Jaric and disappointing center Darko Milicic in exchange for Z-Bo. The ever-patient Donnie Walsh wanted one of Memphis' young guards back in the deal and when that didn't happen talks broke down.
So Walsh, who seemed intent of ridding Z-Bo's contract sooner before later, finally shipped Randolph to the Clippers, the only team interested in taking on his contract, for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley on November 21st. It was a huge weight off the cap for the Knicks, yet the deal bothered some fans who felt Walsh had received too little in return. The Knicks, who were 6-5 at the time of the trades would finish the new year 6-13.
The short-sighted fan would like to believe that Walsh could have held longer and got more out of the Clippers than just Mobley, who never suited for the Knicks, and Thomas who would be shipped out months later. In fact, they blame Walsh for not bringing Camby back. Our moles have told us that Camby was very much the bounty, but the Clippers balked, and Walsh realized that in this economy if he walked away from a deal with the Clippers, he probably had lost his only chance to get his team in a much better cap position for 2010.
And there is a lot to that. Had Walsh kept Z-Bo where would the team be? Would they, in this economic environment, found any other takers for that contract without having to surrender a first round pick? With all the negative news about the lowering of the salary cap, how would you feel about the Knicks prospects of any future success with $17 plus million on the books for the next few years?
The patient fan is thankful that Walsh was able to create some roster flexibility.
How about on the court? Does a 6-5 record make you truly believe that the team could have made a playoff push with Z-Bo?