Phil’s Vision Versus Melo’s “Hoops Family”

Yesterday, Knicks fans enjoyed unprecedented candidness from a front office that has locked word of its intentions in an airtight, waterproof time-capsule, buried in the sealed vault of the central bank of Atlantis, located at the bottom of the ocean, and accessible only via a Stargate. So many questions were answered, so many assurances given. Phil Jackson will have complete autonomy. James Dolan will focus on growing the business, rather than involving himself in basketball-related minutia.

But the Garden catacombs are deep and haunting, and Jackson’s shining aura and karmic dazzle have not yet reached every one of its corners. Studious observers of recent Knicks history may have noticed veins of resentment or mistrust at play in the recent drama. Conspiracy minded folks, like myself, may wish to trace these veins to their origin and/or predict their terminus. Recognizing that the following is built primarily on speculation and subtext, I present my conspiracy theory:

Carmelo Anthony, viewing himself as LeBron James’s equal, sought influence over a flagship franchise of his choice. He instructed Creative Artists Agency to procure what James had: influence, control, a trusting, nurturing environment. As ESPN’s Henry Abbott put it, “Anthony didn’t join the Knicks in 2011 to be just a player. He came to build a basketball family…[H]e came to New York envisioning an opportunity to create a refuge from the backstabbing and intrigue that plagues many teams.”

At the same time, stung by the organization’s failure to land LeBron, James Dolan sought advice from the power-brokers at CAA: “What did we do wrong? What can we do next time?” It has been reported that Dolan developed an increasingly cozy relationship with William Wesley, who formerly occupied the vague role of NBA power-broker, but assumed the guise of CAA mega-agent. I believe that CAA sold Dolan the following premise: “Don’t you worry about it. Just give us the keys, and we’ll take you where you want to go.” With newfound access to Dolan’s Garden, CAA delivered Anthony his “basketball family.”

Everything was marvelous. Until it wasn’t.

Memories of the Knicks’ 54-win campaign in 2012-2013 turned to dust, its good vibes shattered as MSG’s relationship with CAA metastasized from well-intentioned fiduciaries to Anthony’s interests to a laboratory for insidious experimentation with CAA’s clients. How else to explain trading three-draft picks (including an unprotected first rounder) for the horrid Andrea Bargnani? How else to explain gifting J.R. Smith a longer, more expensive contract than he would have commanded on the open market? Or gifting his little brother (initially cut by the Knicks and then from a NBA D-League squad) a contract at all? How to explain The Garden’s demand that coach Mike Woodson replace his long time agent with CAA before assuming the reigns? How to explain the witches’ brew of executives dotting the Garden landscape whose ostensible role was to help the Knicks win, but who were actually primarily concerned with catering to Anthony’s sensibilities through CAA?

After that 54-win season, Dolan must have felt none of this mattered. Indeed he told ESPN Radio’s Michael Kay on Tuesday that if the Knicks had been enjoying the same level of success this year, he would not have recruited Jackson. If turning the crown jewel of The Madison Square Garden Company over to CAA to build Anthony his “basketball family” was the price of winning, well it was a small price to pay for a man who once gave Larry Brown $28,500,000 to coach for one year.

But today, during the Garden’s press conference to introduce Jackson, Dolan caused a stir when he admitted that he’s no basketball expert. On Kay’s show, he admitted he doesn’t follow the hoops zeitgeist. But he did note that during games, his misery over the team’s plight is apparent from his demeanor, a visage the city’s back pages are keen to portray. It’s not difficult to imagine Dolan, in those moments, declaring to himself, “I gave these guys the keys, and this is what I get?!?” It’s not difficult to imagine Dolan deciding that CAA had taken advantage of him. It’s not difficult to imagine Dolan deciding that they should be purged, if necessary. And the man to do it, Dolan clearly believes, is Jackson. When Kay asked Dolan, essentially, what of CAA? Dolan responded, “Phil Jackson is in charge of all basketball decisions. Period. Including all of those [MSG’s continued relationship with CAA].”

But what would this mean for Anthony’s vaunted “basketball family”? I think that despite Jackson’s legendary pedigree, his Steve Jobsian reality distortion field, his unquestioned leadership, Anthony may not be pleased with recent events. Read into some of his public comments. Literally one minute prior to the Garden’s press conference to introduce Jackson, Anthony tweeted:

melo

Anthony struck a similar tone in the days leading up to the official announcement: “I’m a chess player. [Hiring Jackson was] power move right there. You know what I mean?…So now we’re going to see what’s the next move, but that was a great power move.” Anthony said on Saturday.

“Hunt or be hunted”? “I’m a chess player”? “The next move”? The thing about chess is that it’s a competitive game, in which one party tries to outsmart the other. Anthony clearly thinks he is one of the parties. He clearly thinks the Knicks/Jackson are the other (Phil says Melo can change, Melo tweets “#StayMe7o”). The Knicks made their move. Hiring and empowering one of, maybe the two people who could accomplish dual goals: Clear the Garden of the detritus that comprises Anthony’s “basketball family,” and still convince him to stay in New York.

I think Jackson, beacon of teamwork, harbinger of harmony, herald of unity, convinced Dolan that that detritus has been holding the Knicks back, and what will continue to hold them back. What else to make of Dolan’s pronouncement after he sauntered onto stage during today’s press conference and announced that Jackson (as opposed to whoever pushed through the moronic trade for CAA client Andrea Bargnani) “will be in charge of ALL basketball decisions”? What else to make of Dolan’s implicit message – in a season characterized in the worst ways by favoritism, cronyism and nepotism that fractured the Knicks locker room – that the new President knows not only how to win, but pointedly, how to win “through teamwork”? What else to make of Dolan telling Michael Kay that he would cut ties with Anthony, if that is what Phil wanted to do?

An anonymous Knicks player recently told ESPN’s Chris Broussard that “You see how guys from CAA are treated differently[.] How they get away with saying certain things to coaches. How coaches talk to them differently than they talk to the other guys. It’s a problem.” As lush and comfortable as this may be to Anthony and his “basketball family,” you can be damned sure that Jackson does not share that comfort. You can be damned sure that Jackson, during the many conversations he shared with Dolan, diagnosed this illness: “[t]his organization has suffered in the past few years from…lack of solidarity.” He shared his vision for treatment: “there’s obviously layers – personnel, basketball and Madison Square Garden – and I hope to be able to move through the organization and find out who wants to be on the group and who doesn’t as we move forward.” And he shared his prognosis:  “[A]s great a player as Carmelo is, he still has another level he can go to. I hope together with the team, we can go there.”

What could Phil have meant? Particularly when just a moment prior he also said “No doubt about Carmelo being one of the top scorers in the league, maybe the best isolation player in the game”? Replace the word “Carmelo” with “Michael” in ‘89 or “Kobe” in ‘99 and each guy still needed Phil to convince them that they should change the way they went about business. My theory is that just like those stars, Anthony has to step outside of himself. In Anthony’s case, that means giving up on the notion that he needs to be the figurehead of a “basketball family.” Jackson went out of his way to point out that Anthony played a role in a system during the 2012 Olympics. He went out of his way to emphasize that he will ensure the Knicks utilize a system. So I think Jackson thinks that Anthony must give himself over to and fully embrace discomfort; to make sacrifices; to trust others to do right by him; to stop thinking of his position vis a vis his team as an adversarial chess-game that will now require him to make his own “power move.” The opposite of  “#StayMe7o.”

If anyone can convince Anthony to do this, it’s Phil. And if Phil can’t, well, the Summer of 2015 awaits for a new group of guys, led by a new star, who may be more receptive.

Here’s why I’m a fan

I don’t know if there’s a right way to become a fan of a sports team, but here’s mine.

I was a weird kid who grew up in a sheltered and comfortable environment. My elementary school was small, and was within walking distance of my house. I also grew up essentially as an only child, as my sister is about ten years older than I am and the age gap throttled any chance at relating to one another. Consequently I spent a lot of time steeped in my imagination, cultivating a solitary weirdness. Those days, I spent most of my time playing video games alone or obsessing with one or two other weirdos over Ren & Stimpy, or other cartoons from which my solitude precluded outgrowth.

In 1992 the Knicks were a big deal. In fact they loomed larger over the tri-state area than at any other time I can remember. That year, perhaps eager to cultivate an interest in something that wasn’t juvenile, my father took me to my first Knicks game – a playoff tilt vs. the Pistons. I can’t draw on any tangible memories from the experience but I can draw on the mood, which was euphoric.

The timing of my first date at the Garden was fortuitous because I was soon forced to emerge from my comfortable shell to start middle school, which was grating in every way. No more could I vapidly frolic a few blocks to school whistling the theme song to Rugrats. I also had to contend with intimidating larger kids who were going through puberty when I was not. One of my first memories of middle school was of a total stranger deliberately throwing his shoulder into me in the hallway between classes. He laughed with his friends as I tumbled to the ground with a lump in my throat. Things were different.

I sensed a need for camaraderie so I instituted two coping mechanisms that, while not rescuing me from the social fringes, at least protected me lone-wolf-status, or from casting my lot with the goths or the emos. The first was an instinctive glomming to social outcasts. But even amongst a low caste I was at times subject to exclusion. I mean, I must have been really weird. The second was the Knicks, who played a sport I thought was fun but did not make time to follow in between episodes of Doug.

Out of necessity, I used the spark of that 1992 playoff game to ignite a fire of obsessive fanaticism, and the more fuel I fed it, the more kids to whom I could relate. The acceptance I gained through the Knicks yielded very slowly to general acceptance, and people probably got the sense that maybe this wispy, awkward kid had some redeeming characteristics.

Not only did I gain friends through nothing more complicated than talking about grown men throwing a ball through a metal ring but I also gained entirely independent interests. For example, one new friend had season tickets and treated me and a few others to games on a regular basis. His father was an executive for RCA Records and gave us free CDs at his office before games. I received “Enter the 36 Chambers” by the Wu-Tang Clan which I still regard as the finest rap album of all time. I memorized the lyrics and still know most of them by heart. My affinity for music grew and for some time, reached the same obsessive heights as my interest in the Knicks. Subsequently, music became something else I could talk to people about. Thanks Knicks!

I don’t need the Knicks for acceptance (or acceptance itself) anymore, but being a passionate fan has continued to pay dividends. I started a blog in the earlier days of Knicks blogging for no other purpose than to point out how annoying the New York Post’s coverage was, but in joining the movement early, I got to interact with a handful of amazingly talented and driven writers. Some of them even invited me to help write a book about Linsanity, an invitation that still delights and bemuses me.

Occasionally I stake out an unpopular position regarding my beloved ‘bockers that many folks on #KnicksTwitter loathe with a potent venom of religious passion. For awhile I used to be very upset by this, but on reflection, I know exactly where they are coming from, because if it wasn’t for the Knicks, I might still be sitting in my parents’ basement, eating Cocoa Puffs, and waiting in bated breath for new episodes of Ren & Stimpy.

 

 

The Knicks Should Face The Inevitable And Cut Ties With Tyson Chandler While They Can

In 2015 the Knicks will embark on a rebuilding, or retooling, or restructuring process, or whatever McKinsey wants to call it. It is common-knowledge by now that their plan is to surround Carmelo Anthony with a new crop of free-agents, utilizing cap-space. The Knicks will only have significant cap-space if, among other things, they cut ties with Tyson Chandler.

So the Knicks should trade him. I say this as a huge Chandler fan, but an even bigger Knicks fan. The team’s choices for Chandler in light of their 2015 plan are the same as for any player (who has trade value): keep him or trade him. Keeping him entails trying to win with him until his contract expires in a year and a half. But the Knicks cannot win anything meaningful in next year and a half. So they should exchange him for some pieces who can help them win something meaningful beyond the next year and a half.

Doing so could be a real opportunity to reestablish long-term viability, but only if done wisely, in a non-Knicksian manner. Specifically they should not trade Chandler straight-up for an established veteran on a long-term, expensive contract. I recognize that by necessity, such a player must be involved in any trade for Chandler for the cap figures to work. But the veteran should be the secondary part of the trade, an afterthought thrown-in to make the numbers work, and on a deal that expires no later than next year. Otherwise the Knicks will forfeit their 2015 cap space before they get it.

Instead, the centerpiece of the Knicks’ return for Chandler must be a young player who will be on his rookie contract in the summer of 2015. If the Knicks could pull off such a move, they would retain most of the 2015 cap space they are currently scheduled to have, while sporting an additional piece with whom to rebuild around Carmelo Anthony.

I will leave the various permutations to Twitter speculation but some promising young players who will be under contract in 2015 on below-market deals include (with the caveat that I have attempted any analysis here on whether Chandler would make sense for the other team): Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Harrison Barnes, Terrence Jones, Jon Leuer, Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams, Mo Harkless, Tony Wroten, Miles Plumlee, Alex Len, Terrence Ross, Trey Burke, Bradley Beal, and others.

Additionally, the following players (among others, same caveat) will be restricted free-agents who would be worthy acquisitions despite the risk another team might offer them a contract that the Knicks would have to match: Enes Kanter, Kawhi Leonard, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Markief and Marcus Morris, and Reggie Jackson.

An additional option would be to trade Chandler for a future first round draft pick.

Any of these options would be preferable to letting yet another asset melt away.

Knicks’ Trade For Bargnani A Tacit Admission Of Front Office Ineptitude

If it wasn’t abundantly clear before the Bargnani trade that the Knicks’ plan is to retool their roster in 2015, there is now no doubt. Indeed the Knicks included a first round draft pick in a trade for an all time draft bust who addresses zero of their needs just to shed the final year of Steve Novak’s contract.

In that context the Bargnani trade was nothing if not a tacit admission that the current Knicks management regime committed a terrible blunder by signing Novak to a fourth year.

It took them around just 12 months to realize what they should have known about Novak’s contract-it’d interfere with their ability to sign additional marquee free agents in 2015.

And to correct this momentous error the Knicks resorted to the classic Dolan era snake oil – parting with a first rounder.

Let’s be clear about what this trade is: Bargnani won’t help the Knicks’ defense. He won’t help their rebounding. Nor will he make them a better three point shooting team as opposed to when they fielded Novak. Bargnani won’t help the team advance to the NBA finals. Nor will he be in the team’s future plans beyond 2014-15.

No. This is nothing but a 2015 salary dump. Of $4 million.

You know who would have been in the team’s future plans? The 2016 draft pick management squandered when they happened to realize that the deal they JUST gave Novak fucks up their 2015 plan. Now, instead of drafting a young kid with upside, maybe they’ll sign, I don’t know, 36 year old Keyon Dooling.

The Knicks have tacitly admitted front-office failure in a pretty spectacular way. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come back to bite them in the ass too hard down the line.

On Past And Future Depth

When the Knicks compiled the oldest team ever in the history of history, the rationale was that veteran savvy would lend itself well to playoff success. Unsurprisingly, before long, most of these same veterans suffered regular season injuries. Many Knicks’ fans were unperturbed, rationalizing these concerns away in the same manner: “What matters is that Camby and Sheed and Kurt and Kidd be healthy in May, not December or January.” Well, what is a bench for if not to spell a team’s best players from time to time? Many of these veterans either did not make it to playoffs, or were burnt out by the time the playoffs arrived. Worse, and as a consequence, injuries to the Knicks’ bench forced their core to play extended minutes.

JR Smith played by far more minutes, on average, than he had in his entire career – and by the playoffs had to contend with fluid buildup in his knee. Carmelo Anthony similarly averaged close to a career high in minutes in his 10th NBA season and also battled overuse injuries (fluid) and other ailments (shoulder, etc.). Tyson Chandler, the Knicks’ historically brittle Center, averaged 4 more minutes than his career average – in his 12th in the league. He was famously a shell of himself by the time the season ended.

Of the Knicks’ bench players, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace retired due to injury before the season ended. Marcus Camby was hobbled and averaged 10 minutes in the 24 games in which he appeared. Arguably the only of the elder bench players who made it through the season unscathed were Jason Kidd – the 40 year old who flamed out in the playoffs, and late season acquisition Kenyon Martin, who nevertheless had to miss several games due to an overuse condition in his knee.

The rationale for compiling a team of geriatrics was that their savvy would prove valuable in the playoffs. That savvy did not do much to help preserve the players whose health the Knicks’ depended on most for success. More likely, the old-age movement was thrust upon Glen Grunwald by the circumstances attending the Knicks’ salary cap situation. Grunwald gambled trying to get the best he could in exchange for what little he had.

Next season the Knicks should focus on acquiring young, or at least younger veterans who will make up for their lack of savvy with their ability to actually play basketball.

Are The Knicks’ Injuries A Reason To Stand Pat?

Today the prolific Howard Megdal made the reasonable case that but-for injuries to J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, and probably Tyson Chandler, the Knicks wouldn’t be far off from the Pacers or Heat, and thusthe best course would be to get everyone right and grow from within.

I can’t feel the slippage in ‘Melo’s shoulder, or the stiffness in Smith’s knee, but I can tell you that I’m hesitant to chalk up their playoff inadequacies merely to injury. As Chris Herring points out, Anthony’s production historically plummets in the playoffs. Not because he’s a choker, but because he’s forced to carry his team against top-tier defenses. In fact, this year, his shooting percentage suffered roughly as much as it does on average over the course of his career (numbers courtesy of Basketball Reference):

Regular Season FG%:

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 2.45.44 PM

 

Playoff FG %:

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 2.47.33 PM

As for Smith – who, incidentally, could make use of a good excuse as an unrestricted free agent coming off a historically terrible playoff performance – the fluid buildup in his knee should not have prevented him from (a) getting it drained (recall Melo missed 6 days after such a procedure*), or (b) shooting less! The latter option would have been particularly obvious. I mean if you know you have an injury and you know it’s affecting your play, stop affirmatively hurting the team by using so many possessions!

All of this is to say, really, nothing. That’s because the premise of Megdal’s piece is that the Knicks’ best course may very well be to stand pat. But without getting creative, that may also be the Knicks only option barring some tinkering except around the edges.

I’m just inclined to be a little less generous regarding the Knicks’ playoff flame-out after their most successful season in an era.

~~~

*Someone remind me how many days separated games 1 and 3 against the Pacers.

The Knicks’ Amazing Run Last Night

After a lackadaisical performance through the first half, the Knicks put together a dominant 25-5 run between 8:50 and 3:00 in the third quarter of last night’s game to set the Garden ablazeScreen Shot 2013-04-06 at 11.38.44 AM (Click for a larger image):

 

Here’s the box for the entire 3rd:Screen Shot 2013-04-06 at 11.40.21 AM

Stats courtesy of NBA.com

Can The Knicks Afford To Lose JR Smith?

On March 12th I posited that JR Smith’s presence as a focal point of the Knicks’ offense was detrimental to their cause, and that they should let him walk at the end of the year. My argument was that he was flashy and exciting, but his transient, surfacy traits came at the expense of efficiency and ultimately wins. I made the point that an average of only about 1.55 players in each of the last 20 years was as inefficient as Smith, taking into account shooting percentage and shot volume.

Almost as soon as I hit publish, the character of his game changed entirely: Instead of settling for contested threes, he began to drive to the basket, take and make shots near the rim, and draw fouls. It sure seems like something clicked, and if JR can play this way consistently there is no question that the Knicks would suffer a huge loss if he left as a free agent.* From March 13th to March 29th (I excluded JR’s last two games – to be nice), JR has averaged 25 points, 5.2 rebounds, 8.2 FTA, and shot 48% on 16.8 shots. As a similar experiment to that in my March 12th post, I decided to look at players who have accomplished those kinds of numbers over the course of a season. Here’s your list dating to ’84-85:

JR Comparators

 

*In case you are curious, the Knicks have early bird rights on JR. This means they can offer him up to the league average, around $5-$6 million.

~~~

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

Knicks vs. Raptors: Q&A With Raptors Republic

Hello Knicks fans. Over the course of last Thursday and Friday I had an email conversation with Sam Holako over at Raptors Republic of TrueHoop fame. We discussed my comparison of Rudy Gay to J.R. Smith, Toronto’s Landry Fields gambit, Toronto’s currently (and NY’s previously) screwed up cap situation, what to watch for in the coming years from the Knicks’ division foe, and just a touch of Lin. Enjoy:

Dan:

Much to the chagrin of much of the Knicks’ fanbase, I’ve made the case that the Knicks are probably better off without JR Smith. The last few games notwithstanding, he’s basically been a volume shooter who has shoot exceptionally poor – and hasn’t made up the difference at the foul line. There have been about 1.5 players per season since 1990 who shoot at least 15 times but make less than 41% of their shots (I chose these criteria because those were JR’s recent figures). Usually the teams they play for are bad. Since every team has only a finite number of possessions, it isn’t hard to intuit why its best not to devote a large percentage of them to someone who won’t make a lot of them.

I was surprised to see that Rudy Gay matches these criteria, and Tom Haberstroh recently explained the Grizzlies’ great play since the trade essentially as addition-by-subtraction [Insider]. I know the Raptors started out strong after the Gay trade, but have since struggled. What are your thoughts on volume scorers?

Sam:

I appreciate volume scorers not named Ben Gordon; I respect their fearless nature. While you have a guy who’s willing to put the team on his back and try to make something out of nothing, you more often then not get a guy who kills the flow of the offense and pops an off-balance, one legged jumper with a defender up on him. When the Raptors traded for Rudy Gay, a deal I support 100%, that’s all we heard, and continue to hear about especially with the Grizzlies improved play after his departure (which doesn’t take into account all aspects of the Grizzlies dynamic if you ask me). The guy takes a lot of bad shots, but he hits a lot of tough, necessary ones to keep the Raptors in the game. In fact, he’s had two game winners since coming over. You know how many game winners the Raptors made before he got here this season? Zero. So yes, while he’s been here he’s taken a lot of brutal shots, but DeRozan now has more space to operate, Lowry has another option on the wing, Amir and Jonas have a bit more space to make moves in the paint, and the Raptors have a guy who can fill up some seats and sell some jerseys. I do agree with you on J.R. Smith though, he doesn’t make a lot of sense considering the roster you have assembled and pace you play at; I’d rather pay a JJ Reddick more money.
Let me flip it back to you with the following thought: the difference between a 40% and 50% shooter who pops 15 a night is a shot and a half a game; let’s call it 3 points. You’re telling me there’s no way a coach can manage that?
Dan:
I guess I think it depends on the player. George Karl couldn’t manage JR Smith, they wore on each other, and they went their separate ways. The Woodson/Smith dynamic seems to work though, because Woodson’s idea of managing JR is to let him do whatever he wants (though in fairness, he encourages him to take it to the rack, and JR only sometimes listens).

I appreciate your point that the difference between 40% and 50% on 15 shots is 1.5 makes, but that’s not the end of the story, to me anyway. I think if a guy is shooting 40% he has no business shooting 15 times. If he’s shooting 50% he should shoot as much as possible. If JR shot 8 times instead of 15 and the remaining 7 shots were distributed amongst more efficient players, I think I’d be a lot happier with him.

Sam:
Assuming that there are more efficient players on the court at the time those 8 shots are being taken. The bigger issue for me is the coaches ability to control said chucker to play within the flow of the offense. It surprises me that Woodson has shot a long leash on JR.
Dan:
On that basis I think we’ve found a little common ground. Shall we move onto another topic?

I’m curious what your thoughts are on Landry Fields. As a rookie on the Knicks most fans thought he was a revelation. But after the ‘Melo trade he looked more like a system player and fans were basically done with him. First, what’s your opinion on how he’s played? Second, I think it’s generally known that the Raptors only signed him to a 3-year $21 million contract in order to prevent him from agreeing to a sign and trade deal that would have sent him and other pieces to the Suns for Steve Nash. Obviously the Raptors wanted Nash for themselves. This was a huge gamble. Worth it?

Sam:
No, not worth it. Not even close. He’s had injury issues to start the year, and now doesn’t have much use with Gay in the lineup. He’s a system player like you said, an expensive one at that, and given the new CBA, his cap hold is ridiculous for a team that didn’t even come close to a playoff spot (and may not again next season without some pretty big changes). I like Landry’s game, and he was huge for my fantasy team during his rookie season (3s and rebounds, baby!), but he’s playing like a guy who should be getting paid half of what he’s making. His signing is symptomatic of a larger issue in the Raptors management in that they made a ridiculous gamble to get Nash; who also would have been a disastrous signing for this team. How seriously did you guys consider matching the qualifying offer? I need this information…
Dan:
I think I can tell you with 100% confidence that the Knicks gave zero thought to matching that offer. I think they were done with Fields. Maybe they would have bought him back for a million or two but $7 million was a non-starter. I knew the Raptors wanted Nash very badly but I was surprised they wanted him THAT badly. Most fans found this very humorous.
Sam:

Not so humorous when you consider this team also gave Bargnani a 5m/$50m, DeRozan a 4/$38m, and Linas Effing Kleiza a 4/$20m. That’s $130m for those three and Fields for those who are counting.

Let’s not forget the first and second round picks that were freely discarded like they would rot if they weren’t thrown into bad trades. Sorry for the tangent, once those gates open up, it’s hard to keep stuff bottled.

Dan:
Look, you’re talking to a fan of a team that once owed Jared Jeffries, Eddy Curry, Malik Rose and Jerome James a combined $27.5 million, which is (one of the things) that astounds me so much about their decision to let Lin go, if it really was a decision based on money, as they claim (I have my doubts).
Sam:

I realized how futile my plea was as soon as I hit send… Stevie Franchise must have hurt the worst; you poor bastards.

I still don’t get not matching for Lin; it’s not like the money was spent wisely. I mean Felton and Kidd have played well, but to give up on a young promising point guard over spite is ridiculous.

Dan:

Yea. I mean I like Felton and Kidd but Kidd was already falling over a cliff statistically before the Knicks gave him a 3 year contract at age 38. The Knicks have already struggled at point guard this year and that’s likely to continue unless they sign another vet minimum free agent point guard who blows up, or if they draft one this summer. The most likely path for the Knicks in the medium term is stagnation until most of their contracts expire by 2015.

What about the Raps? I think we’ve touched on some of the depressing aspects of their situation, but what is the most promising thing the Raptors have going for them, and what do the Knicks have to watch out for from their division rival in the coming years?

Sam:

For all the free agents and trades, the Raptors have drafted pretty well the last two years. Jonas Valancuinas and Terrence Ross are a couple nice young pieces who have us very excited; Jonas especially. He rolls to the rim aggressively, plays tough on defense and is a general beast. He is still raw offensively, and can get into foul trouble, but that can be worked out with some coaching and practice; maybe even a visit to Olajuwon. He’s had some injury issues so far this year, but they aren’t serious long-term ones to get us concerned. Aside from that, with DeRozan, Gay and Lowry, and the impressive improvement by Amir Johnson, there are some really nice pieces here to make some moves. All that needs to be done is to amnesty Kleiza, trade Bargnani and sign a low post presence (I’d support trading Bargnani and parts to LA for Gasol) to compliment our perimeter play, and we could be a 6th seed in the East.

We’ll Always Have Linsanity – Not JUST About Lin

Well the day is finally here. A bunch of bloggers (Seth Rosenthal, Jared Dubin, Mike Kurylo, Jamie O’Grady, Jim Cavan, Jason Concepcion, Bob Silverman and Jake Appleman – also an actual reporter), who have written for such outlets as distinguished as NYTimes.com, ESPN.com, Grantland, and NYMag.com, and myself – for some reason – are proud to launch “We’ll Always Have Linsanity“. But don’t let the name fool you: this isn’t a book JUST about Linsanity. Last year was a peculiar year for the Knicks, to say the least, and in addition to Linsanity, fans indulged on one-off surprises like Woodsanity and “the Billy Walker game”. I mean, the Knicks, coached by none other than Mike D’Antoni were a top 10 defensive squad. Mike Bibby was on the team. So there was plenty to write about.

Here’s an excerpt written by Seth, entitled “Don’t Forget About Josh Harellson (a.k.a. Jorts)!”:

The Knicks went out of their way to get Jorts. New York didn’t own a second round pick in 2011, but paid cash to the New Orleans Hornets for the privilege of drafting Josh Harrellson, the big, sweaty bumpkin wedged into John Calipari’s otherwise glamorous squad of surefire prospects. It seemed an inspired stroke of draft night whimsy that New York, of all locales, would make a deliberate move to welcome in a Missouri-bred, Kentucky-branded, buck-huntin’, catfish-noodlin’ late-bloomer most famous for wearing denim shorts (the genesis of the term Jorts) to a recruiting visit and pegging Jared Sullinger with a basketball.
Knicks fans without much knowledge of “Jorts” got to googling and discovered a 6’10” tall, 5’10” wide (educated guess) white dude, a giant grinning hallux wearing a taut basketball jersey and a gel-embalmed widow’s peak. He was presumptively assigned the role of “gritty bench thug,” and mostly disregarded during the lockout, with the exception of the night in August when he reportedly thwarted an aspiring drunk driver in a Lexington parking lot.

For the most part, Harrellson embraced and fulfilled that assignment. He earned sparse bench minutes from the outset, establishing himself as a willing rebounder and wanton fouler with a mild case of the jitters on offense. Jorts promptly found his legs on the hardwood, though, proving with remarkably nimble footwork and apt timing that his “dirt strong” game—Mike D’Antoni’s words—was more of an exact science than it seemed. Jorts revealed an unexpected degree of finesse (“revealed” by unwrapping layers of bacon, of course), chiefly with his remarkable outside prowess. He’d launched a couple threes to open the season, but really let loose on New Year’s Eve, when Amar’e Stoudemire sat with a sprained ankle and New York needed a frontcourt boost. Jorts hit four threes in that win over the Kings, then went 12-34 from downtown through the first three weeks of January, attempting the last of those long bombs with a freshly broken wrist.

Despite Harrellson’s apparent disregard for his wrist fracture, the injury kept him out until early March. He returned in the middle of the post-Linsanity swoon and just days before D’Antoni fled town. From that point forward, Jorts’s minutes were spotty and spent mostly inside the arc, with just four more made threes leaving his paws the rest of the season. “Gritty bench thug” isn’t a bad descriptor of the niche Harrellson eventually found as a Knick, but it does belie the surprising degree of polish the guy demonstrated at times. There was deftness in those Jorts.

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