Knicks swap Crawford for Harrington

November 21, 2008 1:50:50 PM PST
The Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks have received league approval to complete a trade that will swap disgruntled Warriors forward Al Harrington for Knicks guard Jamal Crawford. ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher confirmed the league's sign-off after reporting early Friday morning that the teams were nearing completion on a deal featuring Harrington and Crawford.

The Knicks announced the deal in a news release later Friday afternoon.

Harrington went public with a trade demand just before the start of the season after privately urging Golden State to move him for months. New York had immediate interest, seeing the versatile and mobile Harrington as an ideal frontcourt fit in new coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo system.

"Al is a true NBA veteran who possesses multi-positional skills," D'Antoni said in a statement. "He will fit perfectly into our system and will help us win some games immediately."

Knicks president Donnie Walsh, furthermore, might be Harrington's biggest fan in the league; he drafted the 28-year-old in 1998 with Indiana, and brought him back to the Pacers in a deal with Atlanta in the summer of 2006. But Harrington's second stint with the Pacers lasted only a half-season before he was dealt to Golden State in January 2007, along with Stephen Jackson.

"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."

Reuniting with Harrington comes at a cost for Walsh: It will require the Knicks to part with Crawford, their leading scorer and another player they had pegged to flourish under D'Antoni. The Warriors, according to NBA front-office sources, see Crawford as a versatile guard who, although not a pure floor leader, can function well in coach Don Nelson's system while Monta Ellis recovers from ankle surgery -- and in tandem with Ellis once he returns.

Yet it's believed that Walsh has multiple motivations for reacquiring one of his favorites. The biggest lure is Harrington's contract, which pays him $9.2 million this season and $10 million next season if Harrington exercises his option.

Either way, Harrington's deal would be off New York's payroll by the summer of 2010, which meshes with New York's intent to slice payroll and get as far under the salary cap as possible for the highly anticipated free-agent summer of 2010 and the possibility of joining the bidding for Cleveland's LeBron James, who could be in that class.

Crawford is scoring 19.6 points per game this season after averaging a career-best 20.6 points per game and 5.0 assists last season. Assuming Crawford declines a player option to become a free agent in July 2009, his deal would run through the 2010-11 season, paying $8.6 million this season, $9.4 million in 2009-10 and $10 million in 2010-11.

Harrington has played only five games this season, averaging 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds before missing Golden State's past six games with a back injury. Nelson told on the first weekend of the season that the Warriors would "try to accommodate" Harrington, but not when the Knicks were looking to part with center Eddy Curry as opposed to Crawford.

"I am really excited and energized about this opportunity," Crawford said. "The Warriors have been one of the most entertaining and fun teams in the league the last few years, and I think my abilities are very conducive with their style and their needs."