On This Date: Knicks trade Sprewell for Van Horn

July 23rd 2003: The New York Knicks trade Latrell Sprewell for Keith Van Horn

After many months of speculation, the New York Knicks officially traded Latrell Sprewell in a four-team deal for Keith Van Horn. The 76ers traded Van Horn to the Knicks and received Glenn Robinson from the Atlanta Hawks. The Minnesota Timberwolves traded Terrell Brandon to the Hawks and acquired Spree in return.

Spree got on the bad side of James Dolan & Scott Layden during the end of his Knicks tenure. He infamously missed several media training sessions. Spree often angered coaches by arriving late to team shootarounds. The final straw came during the beginning of the 2002-03 training camp when Spree showed up with a broken hand due to a boating accident. The injury forced Spree to miss the first 8 games of the regular season. Spree averaged many career lows during the 2002-03 season. The Knicks’ pursuit for high character players led to Spree’s departure.

Ironically, Van Horn spent the preceding year with the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers originally drafted him, but traded him to the Nets in a draft-day deal for Tim Thomas. Van Horn had a relatively efficient year in his lone season with the 76ers even when averaging around 16 points/game. He spent most of his time playing power forward. The trade shifted him back to his natural position at small forward.

The biggest questions surrounding Van Horn related to his perceived softness and ability to handle the pressures of New York. While he had a productive half-season with the Knicks, he wasn’t truly able to answer both questions. New GM Isiah Thomas traded Van Horn to Milwaukee for Tim Thomas & Nazr Mohammed.

Spree instantly fit into a stacked Timberwolves roster featuring Kevin Garnett & Sam Cassell. Spree played all 82 games and averaged 17 points/game. He felt a major rejuvenation as he helped lead the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals. The WCF berth led Garnett to his first MVP award. Unfortunately, injuries in their backcourt to Cassell & Troy Hudson led to their defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers in 6.

Spree played 1 more season with the Timberwolves. Shortly after the 2004-05 season, Spree infamously rejected a 3 year $21 million extension because “he had a family to feed.” After the season ended, no NBA team offered Spree a contract and his basketball career ended.

On This Date: Knicks acquire Tim Thomas

February 15th 2004: Knicks acquire Tim Thomas & Nazr Mohammed 

Isiah Thomas decided to make some noise during All Star Weekend, despite having no All Stars, by acquiring Tim Thomas and Nazr Mohammed in a three-way trade with the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks sent Keith Van Horn to the Milwaukee Bucks and Michael Doleac and a 2005 2nd round pick (Ronny Turiaf) to the Hawks. The deal was one of the final steps in unwinding the Scott Layden era.

Isiah Thomas publicly admitted in looking for players who were young, athletic, and exciting for fans. Thomas, then 26, originally hailed from Paterson, NJ and was an athletic wing that Isiah believed could blossom in New York. Mohammed, then 26, was more of an offensive threat that could complement Dikembe Mutombo in the center rotation.

Keith Van Horn never fully meshed during his short tenure in New York. Additionally, he had a long brewing feud with Stephon Marbury dating back to their days with the New Jersey Nets. Michael Doleac was just an adequate backup center during his 1+ years with the team.

Unfortunately, neither player had a long future with the team. Tim Thomas’ two years with the Knicks were largely forgettable outside of the “fugazy” moment during the 2004 NBA Playoffs against Kenyon Martin and a slick pass he received from Stephon Marbury:

Thomas was later dealt to the Bulls in the Eddy Curry trade and re-acquired for a short period in the 2008-09 season.

Nazr Mohammed was a serviceable starting center for the team before being dealt to the San Antonio Spurs for Malik Rose and two 1st round picks that turned out to become David Lee and Mardy Collins. Ironically, Mardy Collins was dealt in the 2008-09 season in the deal to re-acquire Tim Thomas.