2002-05-04 / Sports

Is Yao The Missing Piece For the Knicks?

By Elio Velez

By Elio Velez

For the great talent evaluators such as new Grizzlies VP Jerry West, picking guys like Magic Johnson may be easy, but it is selections such as A.C. Green, Derek Fisher and Michael Cooper that help win teams championships.

For our vaunted New York Knicks, who will send out Spike Lee to watch the ping pong balls in that exciting halftime NBA draft selection show, they haven’t seen much of the lottery in the past few years. For the good picks such as Patrick Ewing or Mark Jackson, they have made many picks that have reeked with failure.

Anybody remember Kenny Walker in 1986. Sure he won the slam-dunk all-star contest, but that was it. Gee, he’s going to the hall of fame with that glorious moment, huh? Not!

Rod Strickland turned out to score more with breaking the law than scoring baskets with the Knicks. The Spurs, Blazers, Wizards and Heat will all testify to that. Amen!

Jerrod Mustaf… who? He was selected in 1990. That was his major claim to fame. Oh, and that scandal with killing someone in Phoenix was a early predecessor to the O.J. case.

Now, here comes Yao Ming, a 7’5 tall man with skills compared to Arvydas Sabonis, and a body that looks like a small tree branch. The Knicks are drooling with desire over Ming. GM Scott Layden is just oozing to make the pick that will silence his detractors, who believe Ming is a representation of big ad accounts.

Yao has not played college ball and has only played in the Chinese leagues, which can be compared to watching pickup games at Rucker Park or West 4th. But Rucker and West 4th have more talent than the Chinese leagues, so I will not diss the great players on those hallowed courts.

During the Chicago private workout, which was only held for teams that the Chinese government say will only allow Yao to sign with, showed his supposed talent to NBA executives and scouts. The results from watchers were mixed to say the least.

Jerry West said ''His biggest challenge will be on the defensive end. 'He'll bring a unique presence to our game, but we have to see him adjust to the level of competition. It won't be easy for him.'' Former coach P.J. Carlesimo, who ran the private Ming workout, said, "Would I take him No. 1? I'd beg off. It's too hard a call." As P.J. commented on Ming, the Chinese government was also committing a flagrant foul with negotiation tactics that could only come out of a comic book.

The Chinese government, which is still communist by the way, is only allowing Ming to go to communities such as New York, L.A. or San Francisco, that have a large Asian population. Nice sentiment, but now it’s time to get down to do the dirty. China acts like the mob as they skim off the top.

Here is some of the contract proposal: 30 percent of the money goes to the China Basketball Association. 20 percent pays off the local and National governments and after he pays the exorbitant U.S. taxes and other expenses, he will get to keep his money. All said and done, he will make meal money and that is taxable too.

Yao is turning out to be more like a political prisoner than a potential NBA lottery pick.

There is still a ways to go before the draft and Yao may never be available. The bottom line is the Knicks need to dig hard and dig deep. Finding the next Patrick Ewing or serviceable pivot for the future will always be a chore but it must be explored. Well, Yao may turn out to be Rik Smits or the next Frederic Weis, who was shipped back to sip French champaigne faster than you can say Pepe Le Pew.

Who did The Knicks pass Up?

Players such as Ron Harper (Cleveland), Mark Price (Cleveland) and Jeff Hornacek (Phoenix) were all drafted after Walker in 1986. They made the All-Star team at least once in their careers. Other notables included Arvydas Sabonis and a little known rebounder named Dennis Rodman.

In 1990, the Knicks passed up on serviceable center Elden Campbell, Toni Kukoc, Antonio Davis, Cedric Ceballos and the now indicted Jayson Williams.

Until next week, Peace.

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