Charlie Ward is the answer to some flattering trivial questions, including being the only Heisman Trophy winner to play in the NBA.
So Ward isn’t exactly heartbroken to have lost his association with another streak — one of dubious distinction in Knicks history.
“Sounds good to me,” Ward told the Daily News, adding that he hears about the Charlie Ward curse “all the time.”
Until RJ Barrett agreed to an extension this week, Ward was the last Knicks first-rounder to sign a second deal on his rookie contract, when he signed a $28 million contract in 1999. 23 sums up, perhaps better than any other statistic, the impatience and instability that marked the era of James Dolan, especially when Isiah Thomas was making decisions.
As the years and errant draft picks piled up, Ward’s name was linked to the streak with more frequency to emphasize the extreme length. It turned into a curse because reasonable explanations lost their purpose.
“I’m just glad that (Barrett) did well and they gave him the opportunity to be here for a few more years,” Ward said. “It’s been very difficult over the last few years to just have a revolving door of players. Time and time again. And I’m just happy that we have one for a few more years.
The Knicks have drafted 24 players in the first round since Ward signed his extension in 1999, with a roster that reads like nights of regret and drunk texting. None stayed for their second contract.
Do you remember Frederic Weis, the 19th overall pick in 1999? He was soaked by Vince Carter at the Olympics and never recovered.
And Mike Sweetney in 2003? No comment.
Latest lottery picks Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox? Gone and gone.
Even when the Knicks made a good move – whether it was David Lee in 2005, Danilo Gallinari in 2008, Iman Shumpert in 2011 and Kristaps Porzingis in 2015 – players were usually traded after an executive was fired and a newcomer joined. a new diet.
But Barrett’s path, at least so far, is a straight line. He was the Knicks’ highest draft pick (third overall) since Patrick Ewing. He has improved significantly in three seasons. He is now the first to re-sign his rookie contract since the 1990s, with a four-year, $107 million contract (he can reach $120 million with bonuses) representing the most lucrative in history. of the Knicks.
He’s a symbol of stability that has long eluded the Knicks, but Ward cautioned patience is still needed and expectations shouldn’t change due to the high salary.
“You just have to make sure that you keep pouring out on him and allowing him to be who he is, and not trying to turn him into something that people think he should be,” Ward said. “What I mean by that is that he can be a piece of a puzzle. He may not be the top scorer everyone thinks he should be because of a contract. So if he could just be someone who is a go-to guy, who is dependable and dependable offensively, and not trying to be the top scorer every night like people want him to be.
There is a catch, of course. There is always a catch. Barrett was not a lock to re-sign due to trade negotiations for Donovan Mitchell. Circumstances delayed the extension to less than a month before training camp opened, with ESPN reporting the Knicks set Monday as the deadline to negotiate a trade involving Barrett or offer him the new contract.
Negotiations for Mitchell are ongoing, but Barrett’s extension makes it difficult, but not impossible, for him to be included in such a deal due to new contract details. Even without Barrett, who would have dampened the number of picks and prospects included by New York, team president Leon Rose still has the most compelling package for rebuilding the Jazz.
Rose’s glut of first-round picks, accrued over two cautious front office regimes, can be hung on young prospects Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes. According to a source, Jazz executive Danny Ainge wants at least six first-round Knicks players, with a focus on those who are unprotected.
Ward is against the addition of Mitchell, saying it’s a poor choice next to dominant players like Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle. It’s also one of those flashy, big-bet offers that could trigger an RJ Barrett curse if it backfires.
“I’m not a big fan. (Mitchell) is another guy who needs basketball,” Ward said. “And so, if you have several guys like that in your team, to be successful, it makes it difficult. Yes, you need notation. But you also need guys who don’t need the ball. So if you bring Donovan Mitchell to the team, you’re probably going to stunt the growth of one of the younger guys. Like an RJ Barrett. And having Jalen Brunson, the way he plays, and adding a Mitchell, and from what I’ve seen the way he plays, that’s a lot of dribbling. That’s a lot of one-on-one play. And yes, these things can come in handy at some point. But then you have to consider how the other guys fit into that mix.