Certainly, Walsh isn't the only basketball mind to miss on Jennings. But fans would probably prefer believing that Walsh was fully informed of the pros and cons of the top prospects -- especially Jennings, given the aforementioned circumstances -- and made a basketball decision. But apparently, Walsh let New York's scouts handle the vetting of Jennings. And they didn't make the case for B.J. forcefully enough. Hence, Hill.
Jennings, who played professionally in Italy instead of on ESPN and CBS in the NCAA last year, first blew up at Vegas Summer League in July, after the draft damage had been done. Walsh explained his reaction to said explosion to Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen.
When I saw him play in Vegas, I did go to our scouts and I told them, 'Look, if you knew he was that good you should have come to me every day in my office and said, 'You've got to look at this guy,'" said Walsh. "I said, 'I listened to you.' You said, 'He's good,' but that was about it."Given the stakes, you'd think Walsh would want to work the levers on such a vital, vital draft pick. With such a thin depth chart, few prospects of note in the pipeline, and limited resources in this post-Isiah world, this 2009 draft was second only to 2010 free agency in terms of scheduled moments of import.
This post-Isiah world. Hmm. Wait, what if the Knicks' front office still has the scent of Isiah Thomas about it? ...
No ... Walsh couldn't possibly have kept Isiah's entire scouting staff, could he have?
"When I come in anywhere, I don't fire everybody," said Walsh. "I wanted to give the scouts, the front office people, the opportunity to show me what they can do. So I just haven't [replaced them]."Walsh took over the Knicks more than a year before the 2009 draft. While Thomas drafted fairly well (given where his picks came), it's a bit absurd to effectively blame (no matter how subtly) the previous regime for a pick Walsh made. "If you knew he was that good you should have come to me every day in my office." Further, Walsh admits to Thomsen that the fact that the scouts weren't sure about their job status has hurt communication ... which possibly led to Jennings slipping by! I don't have enough !s on my keyboard!
Thomsen offers Walsh cover by playing down the "Isiah's scouts" angle a bit, and by assuring fans that Hill over Jennings wasn't a franchise-killing decision. Tell that to Charlotte "Adam Morrison over Brandon Roy" Bobcats fans. The Knicks could still come out roses, for sure -- Hill could develop, free agency could deliver. Heck, Atlanta passed up on Deron Williams and Chris Paul for Marvin Williams, and the Hawks have made it after all. But Jennings would be a fantastic head start in the least, and in an ideal world a franchise savior.
Making a bad decision on draft day is understandable, and forgivable. But how do you put yourself in such an ignorant, challenging position in the first place? Patience may be a virtue, but the stakes are high enough to take some control of the situation from the start, let alone at the start of Year Two.