Knicks, Warriors agree to Crawford/Harrington trade

Al Harrington said he wanted out, and the Warriors have swung a deal to send the forward to the Knicks for Jamal Crawford.

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.

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 re-acquiring one of his favorites. Another sizable lure is Harrington’s contract, which pays him $9.2 million this season, $10 million next season and expires after the 2009-10 campaign. That 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 to join the bidding for Cleveland’s LeBron James.

Crawford has a player option after this season that would extend his contract by two years and $19.4 million. He is likely to exercise that option, so the Knicks were smart to move him if the main goal is to cut salary prior to the summer of 2010, when a number of high-profile free agents may hit the market.

The combo guard is playing the best ball of his career, and at 28, he is in his prime. He should be a nice fit in Golden State with or without Monta Ellis at his side. Crawford can run the point, but his natural position is off guard. He’s a volume shooter, as he has only shot better than 42% once in his career. But when he gets hot, he’s an unstoppable scorer.

Al Harrington has seen his numbers decline over the last few seasons after falling out of favor with Don Nelson. He should be a good fit as a power forward in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo attack. He’s athletic and can hit the long ball pretty effectively. I’m not sure what this means for David Lee, who plays the same position as Harrington (albeit in a very different way). It’s possible that the Knicks will package Lee with Zach Randolph or Eddy Curry in order to sweeten the pot for potential trade partners. Getting rid of either contract would go a long way to clearing serious cap space in the near future.

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