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News of the Knicks' trades Friday afternoon came up on Spike Lee's cell phone, each one eliciting as little reaction as the next, as the famed director sat in a Hollywood studio.
"It was funny ... I was in the middle of a shoot, and I got this e-mail that the Knicks had traded Jamal Crawford to Golden State for Al Harington," said Lee, who is currently directing a Super Bowl commercial. "I like Jamal a lot. Maybe I'll see it differently, but right now I don't see that trade."
Lee, who shrugged his shoulders at both trades, basically felt the same way about the Knicks dealing Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins to the Clippers for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley. "I don't see it," he said. "They're making moves, but I just don't see it right now."
Then again, that's nothing new for the Knicks, who have been making countless moves for the past seven years, none of which have helped them be anything other than a sub.-.500 team.
The move Lee would like to see the Knicks make is to either play or move disgruntled point guard Stephon Marbury, who hasn't played this season and has been deactivated for every game since the first week despite being healthy and ready to play. "The man's stuck in limbo," said Lee. "He's stuck in Knick limbo. They're paying $22 million a year. They have to do something with him ... but I think [Mike] D'Antoni is a good coach, and the games I've gone to this year have been enjoyable."
The problem with the Knicks, as Lee sees it, isn't much different than the difficulties that his Yankees faced this year, although he's hoping they won't fall into the same abyss. Before the Knicks' current struggles, they made the playoffs for 14 consecutive seasons (1988-2001) and reached two NBA Finals with a gritty, hard-nosed group that embodied its fan base. Somewhere along the way, however, they went away from that blueprint and started signing players to high-priced contracts, and as their payroll ballooned, their win totals began to dwindle with a locker room filled with overpaid, overhyped players more concerned with their next paycheck than making the playoffs.
"It was great being at the last game at Yankee Stadium, but it was sad. Not just that it was the end of the Stadium, but that it was the first year they hadn't made the postseason in 13-14 years," said Lee. "It was sobering because if you look at the Yankees salary, it's five times that of Tampa Bay, and you look at those guys -- and they're young, fast, strong and hungry -- and we're kind of old and bloated. Tampa Bay's not going anywhere. They're only going to get better. David Price is coming into the starting rotation and what are we going to do to match that?"
When Lee was reminded that the Yankees could counter that by signing CC Sabathia or another high-priced free-agent pitcher, he took his Yankees hat off and shook his head.
"No, what did I just say? Their payroll is five times the size of Tampa Bay," said Lee. "What did that do? They need to start changing that mentality. You can't buy a championship anymore."
Lee then showed off his hat which had 26 pennants for every year the Yankees won the World Series and told a story of running into Joe Torre while he was in Los Angeles.
"I saw him while I was in Niketown out here and he looked at my hat and he said, 'Me, me, me, me," said Lee, pointing at the 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 pennants. "He knew what it took to win. I don't know if these guys get it yet."