If only the Knicks found the Toronto Raptors so accommodating when Damon Stoudamire was on the block.
The financially strapped, hopelessly mismanaged three-year expansion team continued to avoid paying the price of doing business in the NBA last night when it agreed in principle to a deal that would send 6-11 forward Marcus Camby to New York for Charles Oakley.
The deal, put on hold last night, presumably because the principals couldn't be reached, was to bring the Knicks something they had dreamed of for some time. For years, they had been in need of a long, lean, skywalking athlete that could inject a needed dose of kinetic energy into their slow, aging frontcourt.
Camby, who played three years for John Calipari during a University of Massachusetts career that ended in scandal, comes at the bargain rate for the simple reason that Toronto doesn't want to re-sign him to a long-term deal this summer, which NBA teams can do with their own free agents after they complete the first two seasons of the standard three-year rookie deal. The 24-year-old forward -- who averaged 12.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, and a league-best 3.65 blocked shots last year -- is entering the final year of his three-year, $8.2 million rookie contract, and the Raptors have had trouble convincing their stockholders that endowing $40 million or $50 million to a relatively immature building block was a worthwhile investment.
Oakley, who for a decade was a cornerstone in New York and the perfect complement to a center-dominated team during the Patrick Ewing era, is due a $10 million balloon payment next year. It is believed that the Raptors -- in serious financial straits -- would be getting relief from New York for his salary, and live with the fact that his salary would still count toward their cap and prevent them from playing the free-agent market this summer.
Oakley, who has had second thoughts about next season being his last, did not return phone calls last night. He is not likely to last long in Toronto -- at least not beyond the current season -- and he would be the second 35-year-old forward the Raptors have acquired in two weeks, Kevin Willis being the other.
Accompanying him to Toronto is Sean Marks, the Knicks' second of two second-round draft picks last night. The 6-11 center from New Zealand via the University of California wouldn't have made the Knicks' roster, anyway.