Tagged: ESPN.com

Who Would Want To Play For THAT Team?

It’s getting a little tiresome trying to defend the Knicks from the same old criticisms. I mean, the Knicks have 21 wins and just lost to the 7 win Nets for the second time this season. But as often as folks keep bringing up the same arguments (and it’s become even more fashionable, somehow, to pile on), I’ll keep responding the same way.

The latest volley comes from Mitch Lawrence who posits:

Once he saw the score from the Garden Saturday night, LeBron James must have said to himself, “That’s it. There’s no way I’m leaving Cleveland for that disaster.”

Once he saw that the Knicks had allowed 113 points to a Nets team that’s dead last in scoring in the NBA, Chris Bosh must have thought, “How am I going to turn that team around at the defensive end?”

(emphasis mine).

What is that hypothetical team Lawrence writes about? Is he referring to Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Toney Douglas? Because those players are the only ones with more than just a coin toss’ chance to be around after the summer.

In response to LeBron’s hypothetical dismissal, I think the team is certainly a disaster, but in part it’s because LeBron or another star caliber talent isn’t on it. To illustrate, last night LeBron James sat out, and the Cavs, who have the best record in the NBA, couldn’t beat the Bucks, who, at 4 games over .500 currently occupy the 6th seed. Even with LeBron though, the Knicks wouldn’t have Shaq to protect the paint, or even Anderson Varejao for that matter.

To answer Bosh’s question, I’d say something like “Fake Bosh, I never realized you had such a low opinion of your defensive abilities.” I think it’s likely that Bosh would answer Fake Bosh’s question by saying, “Well, if someone gets by LeBron on the perimeter, I’ll contest the shot inside.” Obviously that’s if Plan A prevails. But the concept remains the same if its Joe Johnson outside and Marcus Camby and/or others inside.

But Lawrence’s article is more about Mike D’Antoni. The thesis is that free agents are scared that if they join Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks, their defensive abilities are going to wither, brown, and crumble to dust. I think they know that’s not true.

Earlier this week, Frank Isola took a shot at D’Antoni’s coaching by asking hypothetically whether the Bucks have so much more talent than the Knicks. Maybe, but what they definitely do have is Andrew Bogut. A legitimate 7 footer who blocks shots and protects the paint, and abuses guys like David Lee on the offensive end too. And they have Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who actually takes pride in his defense and doesn’t care about his numbers. [1] And yes they have Scott Skiles, who has made a career out of squeezing 5 or 6 extra wins out of low-talent teams by employing a no-nonsense boot-camp strategy that inevitably grates on players who in turn quit on him after about three years.

I’m trying to make the point that when someone smokes Eddie House or Nate Robinson or Sergio Rodriguez or Al Harrington or Chris Duhon, and then David Lee just stands there, what is Mike D’Antoni supposed to do? Yell? Make practice 2 hours longer? Replace Lee with Bender or Eddy Curry?

D’Antoni has a reputation as an offensive innovator whose style doesn’t translate into wins in the playoffs. Two trips to the conference finals say differently. In one of those trips, the Suns lost to the eventual champion Spurs in 7 games in a series where game three was horribly officiated by Tim Donaghy. [2][3] Also the numbers say differently. The Suns, when D’Antoni coached them, were always near or at the league average for points allowed per 100 possessions, a statistic that adjusts for pace.

But that is also besides the point because the only opinions that matter are those of the marquee players in this summer’s free agency bonanza. And they already know what kind of coach Mike D’Antoni is. They’ve all already won a championship playing for him.


______________

[1] The Knicks did have Jeffries, but he was getting paid too much. Plus, they looked a lot better with him on the defensive end didn’t they?

[2]From Bill Simmons: “Congratulations to Greg Willard, Tim Donaghy and Eddie F. Rush for giving us the most atrociously officiated game of the playoffs so far: Game 3 of the Suns-Spurs series. Bennett Salvatore, Tom Washington and Violet Palmer must have been outraged that they weren’t involved in this mess. Good golly. Most of the calls favored the Spurs, but I don’t even think the refs were biased — they were so incompetent that there was no rhyme or reason to anything that was happening. Other than the latest call in NBA history (a shooting foul for Ginobili whistled three seconds after the play, when everyone was already running in the other direction), my favorite moment happened near the end, when the game was already over and they called a cheap bump on Bruce Bowen against Nash, so the cameras caught Mike D’Antoni (the most entertaining coach in the league if he’s not getting calls) screaming sarcastically, “Why start now? Why bother?” What a travesty. Not since the cocaine era from 1978-1986 has the league faced a bigger ongoing issue than crappy officiating.”

[3] Judge for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvkKdXLwt0U

Framework For TMac Deal In Place

The unparalleled Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has sniffed out a significant scoop. Apparently the Wizards, Rockets and Knicks have the framework of a deal in place that would land Tracy McGrady in New York:

The centerpieces of the trade would include the Washington Wizards shipping forward Caron Butler and center Brendan Haywood to the Rockets. The Knicks would send Al Harrington to the Wizards. For the Wizards’ part, they would still need another player, as well as a draft pick and cash to make this a workable scenario, sources said.

The first thing I’ll note (as did Wojnarowski) is that this trade doesn’t work. http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yk2aly2. One variation that does: http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yjyflq6.

The next item of note is that, assuming Jeffries is not going to be included, it seems like someone at MSG thinks the Knicks are going to make the playoffs this year. But if the Knicks have the chance to shed Jeffries in this deal, it would be the height of folly not to pull the trigger. Is it possible that TMac will return from his year off and average 27 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds, and lead the Knicks to the playoffs? Anything is possible, but don’t hold your breath.

Besides McGrady, hopefully the Knicks have something else in the work to address some of my other grievances.

Players See Logic In Donnie’s Plan, Even If Some Fans Don’t

It’s a year and a half into Donnie Walsh’s two year rebuild and the Knicks’ record isn’t substantially better than it was last year. But it was never supposed to be. The primary goal all along, according to Donnie, was to clear out cap space. The secondary goal was always to try to be competitive. By definition, when the priorities clash, the first takes precedence. That’s what’s happened in Donnie’s reign so far. Otherwise the Knicks would still have Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford, and maybe Ramon Sessions.

And as we’ve noted for some time, another year of sub .500 basketball is and has been a difficult pill to swallow for some people. For the folks who want the Knicks to spend money and take on contracts so they can try to win now, the main flaw in the Knicks’ plan is that star free agents aren’t going to want to join a perpetual lottery team.

We’ve always argued that when a star joins a team, that team stops being a lottery team. For example, is Miami without Dywane Wade any better than, say, the Nets? Are the Nets with Dywane Wade better than the Knicks? How would the Cavs do minus LeBron? This isn’t an untestable hypothesis. Two short years ago, a hobbled Dywane Wade played in just 51 games for the Heat. They won 15 games that entire year. In 1996-97, David Robinson played in 6 games for the Spurs. They won 20 games. This type of logic has always been lost on certain fans, and oddly, media outlets like ESPN.

But it isn’t lost on the players.

Last week, Chris Bosh said of the Knicks 2010 roster:

…in order to get certain guys you have to make room…So there’s no telling what kind of team will be here next year.

But even if the same core takes the floor next year, if a player like LeBron comes – as we’ve said over and over in this space – he’ll be joining a squad superior to the current Cavs. The Cavs squeaked by the Lakers on Thursday. Without LeBron they would have been blown out. The Lakers edged out the Knicks in the 4th quarter the next day, and even though the Lakers were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, if LeBron was on the Knicks, the Knicks would have dismantled the Lakers.

But don’t take my word for it. In another example of how players understand that stars make all the difference, and that supporting casts are just different degrees of mediocre most of the time, Ron Artest said [via Hahn]:

“Actually, I thought about that yesterday…If you take LeBron off [the Cavs], no.  They’re not [a playoff team]. No.”

Of course, even without LeBron, the Knicks still might be.

Hahn: Knicks Not In Sessions

Yesterday, Alan Hahn discovered through one of his sources that the Knicks did not make an offer to RFA PG Ramon Sessions, nor will they without first offloading an albatross contract (you know which ones). This was contrary to what he’d been told by a different source the day before. Hahn is now hearing that the Knicks would still love to add Sessions, but not at the expense of any precious 2010 cap space.

It’s sometimes hard to tell which source to believe when there’s conflicting information being tossed around like this but, in this case, Hahn clearly seems to feel that his clarification yesterday is more accurate. Just applying logic to the situation, the second story just feels a lot like the truth.

You know we like Ramon Sessions a lot in this space and we were early advocates that DW ought to make a big push to bring him in. He’s a young player with a good upside and he’d fit well with the young pieces the team has already assembled. However, when you consider Lebron’s refusal to sign an extension, his comments to ESPN that aired this past Sunday, and the fact that his shoe deal also expires after this season  (I wonder if Nike will have any thoughts on where he should sign, hmm…) Donnie simply can’t afford to ignore these signals and  jeopardize his shot at the best player on the planet.

That’s not to say Donnie’s without blame here. His decision to forgo the opportunity to offload Jeffries at the deadline last season is indefensible and now it’s come home to roost. He badly misjudged the Knicks’ chances at making the playoffs and, truth be told, making the playoffs last season should never have been his priority in the first place. The reality is, if DW had consummated the trade, the Knicks would have their PG of the future right now. Be it Sessions, Curry, Rubio or Flynn. Because not only would the trade have freed up some cap space, it may also have cost the Knicks a couple of extra wins last season and netted them a higher lottery pick.

At this point, though, that’s all just crying over spilt milk. What’s done is done. And with Lebron looming on the horizon, unless Donnie can clear some room, the Knicks just have to let Sessions go.

Sessions Offer Imminent

Courtesy of ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

There were strong indications Thursday night that the New York Knicks were assembling the final details of an offer sheet they believe will ultimately land Milwaukee Bucks restricted free agent Ramon Sessions.

Terms of the proposed deal were not immediately available, but NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com that the Bucks were indeed bracing for the offer sheet and also more likely to pool the free-agent cash they’re prepared to spend this summer to try to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers to the signature of athletic power forward Hakim Warrick rather than matching what’s coming to Sessions from the Knicks.

One trusted source insists that the Knicks believe they can extend Sessions far enough to dissuade Milwaukee from matching but without affecting their well-chronicled strategy to leave enough salary-cap space to recruit one maximum-salaried free agent in the summer of 2010. An offer sheet to a restricted free agent must be for at least two years, but it remains unclear how much of New York’s $5.9 million mid-level exception Sessions would receive.

Let’s cross our fingers that this is accurate…

Lee Chicago Bound? (UPDATE)

UPDATE: Loyal Knicks-FanBlogger Slumdogballer posted a rumor that he had heard from a contact at the Garden in the comments a little while ago:

I think there might be something more to this then just Chicago being interested in David Lee.

I think a deal like this is being cooked up:

D Lee to Chicago
Hinrich to Portland
Bayless/pick to NY

Well,  apparently Alan Hahn is now hearing the things as Slumdog. Big time hat tip for having the scoop and posting it here.

Hahn’s latest post covers the Bulls rumors and the latest on Ramon Sessions.  It’s must read stuff.

* * *

Marc Stein and Alan Hahn are both reporting that the Knicks have begun the process of reviewing proposals for sign-and-trades involving David Lee. Stein had this to say:

Details remain scarce, but David Lee’s name is finally starting to come up again more often now that pretty much all the top unrestricted free agents apart from Odom and Andre Miller have been signed. With summer league ball behind us, the free-agent focus starts to shift to restricted free agents like Lee.

The problem? Unless Portland uses its cap space to make him an offer, Lee will be relying on the Knicks to cooperate in a sign-and-trade arrangement. And it’s believed that New York is determined to retain Lee and Nate Robinson on one-year deals that preserve full Bird rights for both players without obligating the Knicks to slice into their projected salary-cap space for 2010 free agency.

But one well-placed insider volunteered this tip when it comes to Lee’s situation: “Keep your eye on Chicago.”

Hahn chimed in on his twitter page:

David Lee situation still looms for Knix. Teams lining up in S&Ts. @STEIN_LINE_HQ sez da Bulls are in the mix. Will have more on this later.

I think it’s safe to say that any deal with Chicago would almost certainly involve Ty Thomas coming back to the Knicks. If DW was somehow able to also pawn off Jeffries or Curry on the Bulls in exchange for an expiring, the trade would be a huge win. And the cap savings for 2010 could conceivably open the door for the Knicks to make a multi-year offer to Sessions or some other free agent PG.

(By the way, what is it with the Knicks and the Bulls? There’s a whole mess of teams in the NBA, but it seems like these two only ever want to trade with each other. When Isiah was here you could write it off as part of his Chicago thing, but now he’s gone and yet the attraction persists. Strange…)

That said, Stein also reported in his column, as David Aldridge did yesterday, that his sources are telling him that the Knicks are no longer interested in Sessions:

It’s starting to look as though Milwaukee restricted free agent Ramon Sessions might have to settle for an offer that does not start at the full midlevel exception price of $5.9 million, with sources insisting that the Knicks are no longer chasing Sessions and that Oklahoma City is reluctant to use any of its salary-cap space to pursue the point guard.

The Clippers remain highly interested in Sessions. There are persistent rumblings that they prefer him to Allen Iverson in every category apart from box-office appeal. The Bucks, meanwhile, remain prepared to match offers on Sessions … to a point.

I’m hoping Stein has bad information here because I think Sessions would be a really nice addition to the young core the team seems to be building.

ESPN.com: Knicks Have Interest in Boozer

ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard and Marc Stein are reporting today that the Utah Jazz intend to match Portland’s offer to Paul Millsap but, to do so, must first offload Carlos Boozer and the $12.6 million he’s due next season. No surprise there.

What is a little bit surprising, though, is that Broussard and Stein (doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like Woodward and Bernstein) are also reporting that the Knicks are among the teams that have interest in acquiring Boozer.

Boozer is an expiring deal so trading for him certainly makes sense from the Mission-2010 perspective but it would also give the Knicks ownership of the bird rights of one of the elite 2010 free agents. It’s not clear that Boozer would be a perfect fit in SSOL but, since the commitment would only be for a year, the Knicks would basically be getting a free look without a whole lot of risk.

The problem is that, since Utah’s greatest need in any Boozer trade is to free up cap space to re-sign Millsap, the Knicks don’t have a whole lot to offer them straight up. Any trade would have to be a three team deal (at least). I think I might have a solution, though.

While the Blazers decided to extend an offer to Millsap, they’ve also shown a lot of past interest in David Lee. Here’s what I propose: First, Utah matches Millsap. Then, the Knicks, Blazers and Jazz execute a three way deal whereby the Blazers acquire a signed-and-traded Lee (and another small contract to make the money work), the Knicks get Boozer and the Jazz get Travis Outlaw and a big, fat trade exception. In fact, if the Knicks also offered Jordan Hill or Wilson Chandler to the Jazz in this deal perhaps they can reacquire their 2010 first round pick. I’m pretty sure (85-90%) that this works under the cap.

UPDATE: I now realize that this trade fails to take into consideration that Lee would become a BYC player after signing the contract. To my understanding, that means that his deal has to be slashed in half when calculating the cap consequences in a trade. So he’d have to be paired with another contract going back to Portland to make it work under the cap. I think Lee and Cuttino Mobley’s deal might get it done.

Thoughts?

Wizards Trade Buzz Gaining Steam (UPDATED)

Alan Hahn reported this morning that the Knicks have engaged in some trade discussions with the Wizards concerning Larry Hughes and Jared Jeffries. Evidently Chad Ford is hearing very similar things because he posted the following this evening on ESPN:

Second, the Knicks have had talks with the Wizards about acquiring the No. 5 pick. If the Knicks draft a point guard there, they’d likely go in another direction with their second first-round pick. Their offer was Larry Hughes for Etan Thomas and Mike James and the fifth pick. The Wizards were once high on Hughes and are in the market for a veteran player who can propel the team to a championship right now. They’d save some money in the deal, get a player who could help them … but is that enough for the No. 5 pick?

Frankly, I’d be absolutely floored if Larry Hughes can really net you the 5th pick in the NBA draft, no matter how weak it’s believed to be. If this rumor came to fruition, though, of course I’d be ecstatic. The other day we all discussed permutations of what the Knicks could do with two lottery picks here and here.

This nugget about a Wizards deal was actually a tangent to the main point of Ford’s entry which was to discuss what direction the Knicks might take if they stayed put at 8. This afternoon in his latest mock Ford projected that the Knicks would select Brandon Jennings with the 8th pick (heaven forbid) but is reporting tonight that Jrue Holiday’s second workout, which was held earlier today, went much better than his first. Chad believes that, should primary targets Rubio, Curry, Evans, and Jordan Hill already be gone, Holiday may have overtaken Jennings on the Knicks board and is now very much in the mix to be the pick at 8.

UPDATE: Hahn is still on top of the situation and confirms through multiple sources that the Knicks offer would indeed include Chandler in addition to Hughes. With the 5th pick the Knicks would take Stephen Curry or Tyreke Evans and take Gerald Henderson or DeMar DeRozan with the 8th pick to replace Chandler, unless Jordan Hill is available.

NBA Draft Combine Athletic Testing Results

The athletic testing results for this year’s draft combine are now available at all the major draft outlets (this link is to ESPN’s Chad Ford because he also offers a bit of analysis).

I tend to put much less stock into this information than the measurements mainly because it rarely reveals to anything meaningful. For instance, in 2007, Kevin Durant tested as one of, if not the worst athlete in the draft. Like Austin Daye, he failed to get the bench press up even once. Conversely, in 2005, Oklahoma State forward Joey Graham rose from being projected in the late first to going 16th to the Raptors because he tested out as the top athlete in the draft during these drills. It always boils down to one thing: Can he play? So I say take this with a grain of salt.

That said, Steph Curry tested solidly middle of the pack (with a very nice 35.5 inch vertical and got the bar up 10 times) which suggests that he’ll probably be able to hold his own athletically.

John Wall to Be in the 2009 Draft?

High-school senior PG John Wall, the consensus top high-school senior in America and potential no.1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, is apparently exploring the possibility of entering his name in this year’s draft instead. This news comes courtesy of ESPN.com’s draft guru Chad Ford:

Mike, FL: Is John Wall the No. 1 pick in 2010 Draft. He was awesome at the Hoop Summit game.

SportsNation Chad Ford: He was awesome and he’ll compete with Ed Davis and a few other freshmen for that. However, there is some buzz that Wall believes he might be eligible for THIS year’s draft. I’ve been doing some digging and will be filing a story later today. The short rub is this: Wall is a 5th year senior and depending on how you read the collective bargaining agreement, 5th year seniors are eligible for the draft as long as the turn 19 in the calander year (Wall does). The league is taking a wait and see approach. If he declares, they’ll research and make a ruling. If he does declare and is ruled eligible (two big ifs) he’s a Top 5 pick in this draft. Maybe Top 3.

For those of you who’ve never seen Wall, his game has a lot in common with Derek Rose’s. He’s not necessarily the total package as a prospect that Rose was, though, because Rose was widely regarded as being a great, coachable kid in addition to being an elite talent (Wall isn’t). But, if he’s in the draft, Wall will instantaneously vault right to the top of the class and could very well end up being the second player selected after Blake Griffin.

I’ll say it again: It may be a weak draft overall, but it could end up having serious depth at PG. There’s going to be several quality NBA starters at PG that emerge from this year’s pool.