Uncapped Knicks looking to pick up a top guard

June 18, 1992|By Peter Finney Jr. | Peter Finney Jr.,New York Daily News

NEW YORK -- New York Knicks president Dave Checketts remembers exactly how he spent his summer vacation last year.

On his knees.

Checketts exhausted most of the summer trying to convince Patrick Ewing that the Knicks had fundamentally changed their style of doing business. With Ewing happy, the Knicks went on to extend the world champion Chicago Bulls to seven games in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

So how will Checketts spend his summer vacation this year?

On his toes.

Checketts said yesterday the Knicks will be about $3 million under the NBA's $14 million salary cap, allowing them the flexibility to work a deal for a top-flight shooting guard with a team that might have to unload a big salary. Now, Checketts said, is the time to pounce.

"I think before the summer's over, our cap room will work out to be a big advantage," Checketts said. "If it doesn't, we've failed."

Checketts said the Knicks still are targeting four shooting guards around the league for possible deals, but he wouldn't tip his hand. He is counting on the salary cap to force several teams to dump salaries in order to sign their No. 1 pick. The NBA draft will be held next Wednesday.

"There are probably nine teams that have first-round picks that don't have to room to sign them," said Checketts, mentioning Orlando, Charlotte and Seattle as teams with cap problems. "The cap creates all kinds of interesting sub-dramas."

Orlando, of course, will need all the cap room it can find to sign Shaquille O'Neal. That's why the unthinkable -- trading shooting guard Dennis Scott and his $2.4 million salary -- becomes possible.

The Knicks pick 20th in the first round next week, and Checketts said the chances of the club moving up are slim. As for candidates, scouting director Dick McGuire threw out the names of North Carolina guard Hubert Davis, UCLA forward Don MacLean, Georgia Tech guard Jon Barry, Syracuse guard David Johnson, Pepperdine guard Doug Christie, St. John's forward Malik Sealy and -- who knows? -- maybe even troubled Missouri guard Anthony Peeler.

Peeler, the Big Eight Player of the Year, was a certain lottery pick until he pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony weapons charge stemming from an attack on his girlfriend last month in which he allegedly pointed a gun at her head.

"It's very unfortunate for that kid," Checketts said. "He's a great player, but he's going to drop. It's very hard to trust a guy whose judgment would allow him to get caught in that situation."

McGuire said Peeler was "a helluva player. He's very tough. He gets to the hoop and shoots a lot of fouls. He's a streaky shooter, but he can make plays. For me, I'd take him. But I don't know what management might think."

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