Sadly, Josh Harrellson was a necessary casualty of the Knicks' Camby deal

Marcus Camby. (NBA.com)
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Should have been an easy one: The New York Knicks have a need for Marcus Camby, and Camby, a free agent, wants to go to the Knicks.

But this is the N.B.A., where all moves are made in relation to the salary cap, so that process became a negotiation with Camby's former team, the Houston Rockets, for a sign-and-trade, which allows Camby to be paid more while preserving the Knicks' ability to sign point guard Jason Kidd as a free agent.

So the Knicks agreed Monday to trade Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan and a pair of second round picks (in 2014 and 2015) to the Rockets to bring Camby back to New York.

They were right to do it, if that's what it took to get Camby. They didn't actually lose much.

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The biggest loss is Harrellson, a versatile power forward who rebounds well, defends solidly and can shoot the three-pointer. His skill set should translate to a solid career in the league. But on this current Knicks team, his minutes were likely to be eaten up by Steve Novak, Jared Jeffries and Camby himself, who is a far better fit for backup center than Harrellson.

Jordan, too, was made irrelevant by Camby. He never got much of a chance to show what he could do with the Knicks, and his underused offensive game could make him a bigger long-term loss than he appears right now. But as should be obvious from the current team construction, replete with players in their late 30s, the Knicks are aiming to be good now, not four years from now.

As for Douglas, the Knicks are actually sending the Rockets roughly $2 million to pay his salary. He was included to help the salaries match up, not because the Rockets coveted him. It certainly wasn't his fault that the Knicks, forced by circumstance, attempted to make him a point guard last season. But it was in any event a disaster. His shooting prowess disappeared, and his defense regressed badly. He'll need to improve significantly over last season if he even wants to stay in the league.

As for the draft picks, it's telling about how valuable the Knicks believe them to be that they used this season's second round pick on Kostas Papanikolaou, who cannot come to the N.B.A. until 2013-14 at the earliest. They aren't looking to sign and develop young talent right now; they are looking to give the core of Tyson Chandler, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, all in their late peaks, the maximum amount of talent to help them win now.

In this context, they had to get Camby. Harrellson just happened to be part of the cost of getting him.