The Golden State Warriors traded disgruntled forward Al Harrington to the New York Knicks for guard Jamal Crawford on Friday.
"I drafted Al back in 1998 and I think his talents are a great fit for our style of play," Knicks president Donnie Walsh said in announcing the deal in a statement. "This trade also gives us more long-term flexibility while enabling us to remain competitive this season."
Coach Mike D'Antoni had acknowledged after the Knicks' morning shootaround that Walsh was likely to make a deal before New York's game at Milwaukee on Friday night. The departure of the high-scoring Crawford should save the Knicks about $10 million against the salary cap.
The Knicks are attempting to excavate themselves from the heap of long-term contracts and salary-cap constraints bequeathed to Walsh by Isiah Thomas. Walsh wants enough cap space in 2010 to make a run at the league's top free agents, who might include LeBron James -- and ditching Crawford's lucrative contract through 2011 is a good start, even if Harrington can't match Crawford's scoring and skill.
"To acquire a player of Al's caliber, we had to give up someone we all really liked in Jamal," Walsh said. "We thank him for his contributions both on and off the court, and we wish him all the best in Golden State."
Harrington joined the Warriors in a trade with the Pacers in January 2007, playing a large role in ending Golden State's 12-season playoff drought later that year. But the 6-foot-9 perimeter shooter grew disenchanted with his role in Don Nelson's offense last year, and he angered the veteran coach shortly before this season began by going public with his trade requests.
Golden State's last two first-round draft picks have been forward Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph, who both play Harrington's position but have more potential as inside players and rebounders.
Crawford led the Knicks with a career-best 20.6 points per game last season, and the streak-shooting guard was averaging 19.6 this season in D'Antoni's uptempo offense. But he is scheduled to earn $9.36 million in 2009-10 and $10.8 million more in 2010-11 unless he exercises an early termination clause in his contract next summer.
Harrington hasn't played for the Warriors since Nov. 5, when Nelson criticized his effort and announced the club would play Wright more. Wright still isn't playing much, but Stephen Jackson is logging major minutes as the Warriors' power forward in a small-ball lineup while Harrington sits out with what the team claims is a sore back.
Harrington, whose scoring average declined in each of the last two seasons from his career-best 18.6 points for Atlanta in 2006, is making $9.2 million this year. He's scheduled to get just over $10 million next season, the final year of his deal.
It's the first major deal for Walsh, who replaced Thomas in April, and D'Antoni expects more.
"The thing is, I think this will happen a few times during the year, because I think Donnie has got his plan, and he will execute it as he sees fit," D'Antoni said.
Crawford will join a team already rich in talent at shooting guard, but he could provide a short-term solution to Golden State's woes at point guard, where the team expected Monta Ellis to begin this season after Baron Davis' defection to the Clippers. Instead, Ellis is out until at least mid-December after injuring his leg in a motorized scooter accident, leaving the Warriors without a strong ball-handler.
The Warriors are at home against the Bulls on Friday night.
Crawford said he first heard about the possibility of a deal Thursday night.
"When I was younger, when I first got in the league and you hear trade rumors, (I was) nervous then," Crawford said. "But now? No. Because you can't worry about stuff you can't control."
D'Antoni acknowledged a trade could temporarily disrupt the team's focus.
"I think this is where you have to be professional," D'Antoni said. "This is where it's tough, and it's a hard part of the business."