Big, small names on the move in NBA

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:49 PM ET

Houston, we no longer have a problem.

That’s because the problem child known as T-Mac is Texas toast, one of many highlights on trade deadline day, a day when names, both big and small — in the case of Nate Robinson, really small — changed uniforms.

Some trades were more impactful than others, while the impact of others won’t be known until the trade dust finally settles.

There were a handful of truly big names being bandied about in speculation in the days leading up to the NBA’s 3 p.m. deadline, but McGrady was the biggest-profiled hoopster to get shipped. He moved as part of a three-team, multi-player transaction that sees the former Raptors swingman setting up shop in the Big Apple.

Amar’e Stoudemire is staying put in the Arizona desert, while Ray Allen remains in Beantown and Carlos Boozer will continue to be Utah’s primary go-to guy in the frontline.

All three are expected to find employment elsewhere as the summer of 2010 looms, a time that is shaping up quite nicely if you happen to be a fan of the New York Knicks.

When Donnie Walsh took over the Knicks in the ugly aftermath of Isiah Thomas’ reign of terror, the whole focus has been on clearing cap space in anticipation of the mother of all NBA free agency periods.

If Walsh’s master plan truly is fulfilled, the Knicks’ recent prolonged history of futility will be forgotten quickly.

New York is well on its way to its ninth straight losing season. The cornerstone NBA franchise hasn’t won a title since 1973 and hasn’t appeared in a playoff series since 2001, the year the Raptors broke through to win their first and only post-season series.

It wasn’t so much McGrady’s talents that made him so attractive to suitors, which included the Chicago Bulls, another team bent on shedding salary.

McGrady basically was told to stay away from Houston when his troublesome knee resurfaced.

What made T-Mac so coveted was his expiring contract, a whopping $23 million US that comes off the books in a few months.

The Knicks aren’t going to win many games this season, but they’ve emerged as the biggest winners because of the enormity of cap space Walsh has created.

New York has freed up so much cap space that the club is now in position to sign two players this summer to max contracts, which ultimately proved too tempting to overlook.

The speculation in Gotham is spreading as fast as Thursday’s wheeling and dealing, an opportunity the Knicks will somehow maximize given their profile in the league and cap space.

Ultimately, the likes of a LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the three jewels in free agency, hold the hammer, but the Knicks have now cleared the path to lure some big-time talent.

“I think that’s probably what everything up in the last two years has been about, getting cap room and setting ourselves up for summer and trying to create a better atmosphere and trying to win as many games as we can,” Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni said on Thursday.

“There’s a lot of things that we want to do. But a major component is creating as much cap space as we can. But I don’t think it’s everything.”

Winning, of course, cures a lot, but the pursuit of money can never be underestimated at a time when the NBA is going through a financial correction.

Money never has been a problem with the deep-pocketed Knicks.

The problem has also been dealing with the mess Thomas left behind.

Ironically, as GM of the Raptors Thomas drafted McGrady straight out of high school in 1997 in a brilliant move that would ultimately team T-Mac with his distant cousin, Vince Carter, in Toronto.

McGrady’s first post-season appearance arrived in his final season as a Raptor when Toronto got swept by New York in 2000.

T-Mac never made it out of the first round and was injured last post-season when the Rockets won a series.

“I can’t wait to get back on the court to continue doing what I love to do,’’ T-Mac wrote on his web page.

“Knick fans are some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in the league and it will be an honour to play in front of them and to play for the great city of New York.”

Even greater would be to play alongside LBJ and CB4, which is possible if T-Mac were to accept a minimum deal.

The Knicks have now set themselves up to shoot for the stars.


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