Donnie Walsh’s last NBA draft pick got the same response as his first one back in 1986.
The New York Knicks team president said that when he first came in to the league with the Indiana Pacers, he was booed for drafting Chuck Person in the 1986 Draft and jeered again for selecting Reggie Miller in the 1987 Draft.
With a crowd at the Prudential Center in Newark that included No. 1 Knicks fans Spike Lee chanting “Let’s Go Knicks!” as the pick was to be announced Thursday night, Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert’s name drew a mixed reaction that included boos.
“I feel good about it. I really do,” Walsh joked about the crowd’s reaction of the 17th pick in the NBA Draft.
“And I’m going out with everybody booing.”
Later on Thursday night, the Knicks bought the 45th pick, Kentucky forward Josh Harrellson, from the New Orleans Hornets.
Walsh, 70, decided not return to the Knicks when his contract expires June 30.
But Walsh revived a franchise that made the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 season with the signing of Amar’e Stoudemire last summer and the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony along with Chauncey Billups in February.
“I loved it here. I really did,” Walsh said. “I came here to try to see if I could get the New York Knicks back in stride and I wanted to see if I could get them to go into the contending level.”
New York reached the playoffs in his third year but were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics.
The Knicks could have gone with size by either picking 6-foot-8 forward Chris Singleton out of Florida State or another 6-8 forward Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried, a local kid from Newark to help out Stoudemire, who was banged up in the playoffs.
Instead they went with Shumpert, who gives them size and athleticism at the guard position.
“We are very excited to have Iman,” Head Coach Mike D’Antoni said in a statement released by the team. “He is one of the better athletes in this draft who can play multiple positions. He will fit nicely with what we are doing here, defensively and offensively.”
The 6-foot-5 Shumpert averaged 15.0 points in three seasons with the Yellow Jackets including 20.4 last season when he became the fourth player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.
Walsh says Shumpert is ready to step in to the rotation and complement Stoudemire and Anthony.