Isiah pleased with versatility of new acquisitions

Updated: August 6, 2004, 10:39 PM ET
Associated Press

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Isiah Thomas likes the versatility Jamal Crawford and Jerome Williams will bring to the New York Knicks.

Crawford can play both guard positions, and Williams is a rugged rebounder with playoff experience. Both were welcomed Friday to the Knicks' training facility, one day after a six-player deal with the Chicago Bulls.

"I definitely think [Crawford] is All-Star caliber," the Knicks general manager said. "He and Steph [Marbury] and Allen [Houston], those three in the backcourt, if they're all healthy, they're just about as good as you can get."

Crawford led Chicago in scoring last season with 17.3 points per game. Williams averaged 6.2 points and 7.0 rebounds for the Toronto Raptors and Bulls. Both were traded for former Illinois standout Frank Williams, center Dikembe Mutombo, forward Othella Harrington and center Cezary Trybanski.

Coach Lenny Wilkens is pleased to acquire one of the league's top young guards. He said he has no problem using Crawford, Marbury and Houston at the same time in a small lineup.

"I'd like us to play a little more up-tempo, but I'd like us to be smart enough that we know how to execute," Wilkens said. "I've seen Jamal play since he was in high school, and I've had the pleasure to work with Jerome [in Toronto]. I'll tell you this, we will be exciting. We will be aggressive."

Crawford averaged 11.2 points and almost four assists in his first four seasons in the NBA. He signed a seven-year deal worth about $56 million with the Bulls on Thursday and was then traded to the Knicks in a long-awaited deal.

"They have a good, young core of guys who are professionals," Crawford said of the Knicks. "I've been watching them for a while. I've been a fan from afar, and I'm just happy to be a part of it. There's a Hall-of-Fame coach here and president. I can pick their brains at any time."

By making the trade, Chicago saves about $18 million under the salary cap. Williams still has $25 million and four years left on his current deal. The contracts of all of the New York players expire after this year.

Crawford gives the Knicks some backup for Houston, who missed much of last season and the playoffs with knee and leg injuries. The Knicks lost in the first round of the playoffs to the New Jersey Nets.

Williams, an eight-year NBA veteran, looks forward to working with Wilkens again.

"I had my best years under Coach Lenny," Williams said. "I know the players I'm playing with. I know the coach, I know the city."

Known as the "Junkyard Dog," Williams says he's ready for New York.

"The Dog is built for New York," he said. "Boos. Cheers. The whole thing."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press