The Knicks' appeal to get a disabled player salary-cap exception for Cuttino Mobley was denied by the NBA late Friday, team president Donnie Walsh said Saturday morning.
It would not only have given them a nearly $4.5 million cap slot immediately to use either in a deal or to sign another player not only now, but into next season, but also get his salary (for this season and next) off their cap and enable them to take him off their roster, .
The league, Walsh said, essentially determined that Mobley's heart condition, which forced him to retire shortly after the Knicks acquired him from the Clippers on Nov. 21, but with which he had played before that this season, was a pre-existing condition.
The Knicks, who discovered it in what was a more extensive physical than Mobley said he got from the Clippers, argued that it wasn't, saying they were the ones to discover its extent after the trade.
Walsh said the ruling surprised him, but it also hampers his quest to create some room on his maxed-out roster, where besides Mobley, the banished Stephon Marbury, the injured Jerome James and Eddy Curry are taking up space.
Mobley is now like anyone else on the roster. The Knicks can buy out his contract, worth more than $8.9 million this season and another $9.5 million next season, which would clear a roster spot (he would be waived), although the money would not come off their cap. They could also simply waive him without a buyout and give him all his money.
They could trade him to a team that wants an expiring contract after next season _ but of course, Walsh wants that, too, for the 2010 Summer of LeBron. So unless he gets someone with a similar expiring contract who can play (and a trading partner doesn't want), that isn't happening.
The Knicks' house organ, meanwhile, will interpret this as motivation to reach a buyout agreement with Marbury. Perhaps after the Feb. 19 trade deadline, up to which Walsh will continue to explore if there's any market for the petulant point guard _ and now Mobley.
Yes, they could also buy out (or trade somehow) Jerome James, Malik Rose or Anthony Roberson to open up a spot.
It's all rather fluid and the Mobley ruling (for which there is no appeal) makes it even more so.