The Knicks won't draft Oklahoma forward Harvey Grant after all.
So would you settle for Charles Oakley?
The Knicks' progress accelerated by a couple light years and 13 rebounds a game last night when they acquired Charles Oakley, who has grabbed more boards than any player in the NBA over the past two seasons, from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Bill Cartwright and a swap of first and third round picks in today's draft.
"We've obtained one of the premier rebounders n the NBA," said Knick GM Al Bianchi, who will now probably opt for St. John's 6-8 small forward Shelton Jones in the first round of the draft. "We've solidified another position.
The Bulls get Cartwright and the No. 11 position in the draft while the Knicks will now pick 19th. Also, on the third round where the occasional player slips through, the Knicks will pick 69th while the Bulls will pick 82d.
For salary cap purposes, the deal is near perfect. Cartwright will earn $1.2 million for the next three years while Oakley will get $1 million for the next six.
"Our season next year should end about the time the Lakers' season ended this year," said Knick forward Sidney Green, who said he sees "no problem at all" if relegated to a backup role to a 6-9, 245-pound Oakley, "You're talking about the premier rebounding forward."
Oakley, whose most impressive number may be his age: 24, led the league in rebounding from the very first game up until the very last when he lost the crown to the Clippers' Michael Cage. Oakley pulled in an NBA-high 1066 rebounds for a 13.00 average in 82 games. Cage ended with an 13.03 average in 72 games. Oakley lost the 1986-87 rebounding crown to Charles Barkley in a similar fashion. although his 1074 total boards were a league high.
Oakley, a three-year pro, has not missed a game in his last two seasons when he registered scoring averages of 14.5 and 12.4 points.
"I'm ecstatic," was Knick coach Rick Pitino's assessment. "He has the strength and youth to go along with the Knick nucleus."
That nucleus also includes, among others, Mark Jackson, last season's runaway NBA Rookie of the Year; center Patrick Ewing, who this season became a certifiable monster and Gerald Wilkins, the Knicks' second-leading scorer at 17.4 ppg., behind Ewing. And it could soon include Jones.
But not Cartwright.
"We appreciate all Bill Cartwright has done for this organization," said Bianchi. "He is a class gentleman."
While the Knicks get the forward help they sorely need, the Bulls receive the low post scoring force they so desperately sought. Playing limited minutes behind Ewing, Cartwright averaged 11.1 points a game in his first full season since suffering a litany of foot fractures and breaks. Proving his foot was sound, Cartwright appeared in all 82 games.
So the Knicks are hoping Jones is available at 19 when their turn comes today or they may decide to go for a big man if available such as Eric Leckner or Arkansas' 6-11 Andrew Lang as a backup to Ewing. "He's a great athlete," said NBA superscout Marty Blake of Jones. "Great athletic skills."