Tagged: Frank Isola

When The Story Becomes The Story

I wish this post was about the Knicks gearing up for a playoff run. It’s not. It’s the twilight of yet another miserable Knicks season and instead of the team, the story has become the story. It has been a bitter year on many fronts: A lot of consternation has flowed in a dizzying array of directions: Players to coach; coach to players; players to media; coaches to media; media to management; media to coaches; blogs to all of it. Losing will bring out the worst in everyone pulled into the franchise’s orbit.

From a fan’s perspective, the most despicable aspect of the last decade or so has indisputably been the play on the court. The next is the mismanagement. Then comes the press corps. At its best, the Knicks’ beat is intelligent, analytical, honest. At its worst it is defensive, dishonest, demeaning to its readers, hypocritical. Some of the writers fall consistently into the first category. Others into the second. Sometimes, rarely, they change hats.

This is a theme that has recurred in this space. It has been touched upon elsewhere but judging by some comments and tweets, I’ve probably developed a reputation as the guy who takes the writers to task when I think they deserve it. I call them out when they publish propaganda, when they fail to fact check, when they fail to recognize obvious truths to suit the predetermined direction of their coverage, and when they lie to get start a controversy in an effort to get a sound byte that will help them sell papers. For example, when:

It should come as no surprise that certain publications are featured prominently in this list while others are conspicuously absent. That makes it all the more puzzling that of all the writers who cover the Knicks, it was Alan Hahn of Newsday who was the prickliest about Tracy McGrady’s assertion that “you guys”, e.g., the press, will keep players away from New York. Hahn took exception, writing:

Apparently NBA players prefer hero worship over raw honesty and unfettered opinion. They prefer the big fish/small pond ratio in smaller markets, where the coverage has the intensity of a street light.

NBA players who relish a challenge should most definitely be willing to subject themselves to the spotlight. But what about the interrogation lamp? That’s why I’m not sure it’s really Hahn that McGrady had in mind. Hahn continued:

How should this team be covered at this point? Should we just shrug when Eddy Curry continually gets injured and yet still makes every single road trip, pocketing per diem and enjoying the free travel?

I can’t disagree with Hahn that if players are upset about the coverage that exposes:

  1. Eddy Curry for failing to properly condition himself for the rigors of the NBA despite collecting an $11 million salary; or
  2. Larry Hughes for pouting the night of a monster 43 point win over the Pacers; or
  3. Darko Milicic for wanting the Knicks to cut him, and let him return to Europe while still guaranteeing him his full paycheck; or
  4. Nate Robinson likely instructing his agent to complain in the midst of the Knicks’ best month in a decade; or
  5. their general and individual poor play in a losing season;

then that is a problem with the players and not the writers. But I think McGrady may have been referring more to the unfair treatment some writers bestow on some players (and the coaches, and management), the most glaring examples of which I’ve referenced above.

You better believe it’s a circus.

And McGrady isn’t the only one holding that opinion. Hahn points out that Ron Artest said that players are “scared of the fans and the media”. And Chris Bosh stated his distaste for the Knicks’ beat too.

It’s hard to tell if Hahn was sticking up for his colleagues or just himself. Without naming names, probably as a professional courtesy, he wrote:

I can’t speak for everybody in this business, but I can say there is not supposed to be agenda in any of this. It’s merely unbiased observations from those closest to the team without being part of the team. Most of us ask questions not because we don’t know the answers, we ask them because we DO know the answers.

Look, some of that is true. For Hahn, it certainly is. But even if Hahn asks honest questions seeking honest answers, let’s not pretend that there aren’t others who carefully engineer loaded, indefensible questions to solicit a frustrated response – to make news. You can’t honestly suggest that no writers have an agenda. Not when we’re still getting updates about what Stephon Marbury thinks about the Knicks. Not when they are openly calling for the Coach’s head (are journalists supposed to report the story or be a part of it?). There are plenty of fans who recognize that Mike D’Antoni has not been perfect, not even close, but are tired of reading diatribes, insulting to their intelligence, positing that all of the blame falls at the Coach’s feet. Will Berman, who had D’Antoni up in slings when he benched Nate Robinson refer to Nate’s latest benching with the Celtics as “Nate-Gate”? Will he recognize, as every single one of Nate’s pro coaches has that Nate’s best spot may be the end of the bench?

The Knicks are out of the playoffs because D’Antoni didn’t play Darko? Really? Is it truly a meaningful issue that Mike D’Antoni didn’t coddle Larry Hughes and Eddy Curry enough?

Marc, we know you’re worried that people aren’t going to pay attention to you if the Knicks aren’t good, but don’t you have some sort of professional responsibility as a journalist?

And as for Isola: look, we get it, the Knicks have PR people who follow you around with blackberries and take notes. Get the hell over it already. You’re a journalist, don’t let it taint your coverage. Fans want intelligent, honest coverage, not someone with a vendetta pledging to make things right for the time the Knicks “screwed me over.”

For all of the professionalism supposedly absent from the Knicks organization, from the coaching staff to the players (and yes, some of the players don’t know what that word means), the last ones to judge should be those who call their assignment “a gulag”, or “depressing”, and who pine for the old Checketts days when the Knicks treated the beat writers to a catered trips on yachts. Guess what Frank? I don’t get catered trips on yachts at my job either but I don’t elevate that grievance over my duties.

Granted, the good one’s like Hahn, Steve Adamek and Howard Beck are honest. They’re professional. They can have their negative opinions of the organization, as immortalized in the New York Observer article, without letting it cloud their work product. Marc Berman and Frank Isola are driven by personal issues and it’s a waste of time to argue otherwise.

These are circling vultures waiting to twist words and parse statements and misrepresent them, and take them out of context. They do this in order to generate enough controversy to satisfy a decade old grudge, or satiate some narcissistic thirst for attention/sell papers for News Corp. Despite their presence, you can understand why a player like LeBron James would put up with it anyway. He has an empire he wants to build and New York may be the best place to do it.

For an average or even above average player though, all other things are more or less equal. So what is there to gain by subjecting yourself to the daily dishonesty and mind bending disingenuousness? I have some news for the writers on the beat that hate their jobs and take it out on the organization. LeBron might not come, and if McGrady, Artest and Bosh represent the feelings of the rest of the players in the league, you’ve got a number of “depressing” years left in this “gulag”.

Joe Johnson To Knicks A “Done Deal”. Bosh On His Way Too?

Frank Isola provides us with some insight into the forthcoming monster summer. He spoke to an Eastern Conference GM who said that the Knicks’ pursuit of Joe Johnson is a “done deal.”

Isola continues that sources have informed him that the Raptors would be open to parting with Bosh in a sign and trade that would include, at least, David Lee. Of course David Lee would have to agree to go to Toronto, but I think he’ll follow the money.

Johnson himself sees New York as a palatable situation as long as the team can sign “another player”. Bosh and Johnson are a formidable duo and an instant contender with Gallinari in the mix (I’d trade Chandler for a PG and hold onto Bill Walker or TMAC if there’s a couple mil left over).

Now, this is an obvious outcome that we’ve all speculated about numerous times, and it isn’t beyond Isola to pass off speculation as breaking news. He once “broke” a trade that was completely made up by a commenter on Tommy Dee’s www.theknicksblog.com. I’m not sure if his source for the Bosh information is a message board rant on UltimateKnicks or a legitimate source, but hopefully it is more accurate than his Google-FAIL assertion (one of a steady stream in his articles and posts) that “the Knicks are the league’s biggest losers dating back to the 2001-02 season”.

In fact, at least the Hawks have a worse winning percentage than the Knicks over the period he defines at  37.9%. The Knicks come in at 38.08%.

Not that hard to fact check these things. Just saying.

Ranking the PG Options

The buzz around the Knicks recently has focused on which point guard the team is going to sign to shore up its backcourt. In my opinion, the team should be looking for a young player, with a positive attitude, who wants to share the ball, contribute to a winning atmosphere, and play within the system. With that in mind, here are my rankings, from least to most desirable.

3. Allen Iverson:

The Iverson agenda hasn’t been pushed much except by Frank Isola, who is stuck in the 90s in thinking that adding Iverson is anything other than a terrible idea. Even in the 90s, Iverson was a handful and it took a feat of team-constructing magic to find the right supporting cast to make him a winner.

Iverson isn’t a fit because over the course of his career he’s been an undeniable ball hog. A ball hog in a system predicated on moving the ball and finding the right shot instead of your shot? When has Iverson ever demonstrated that he’s willing to cede opportunities to get his? Add to this the fact that he’s in rapid decline. You get away with Iverson hogging the ball when he’s in his prime and Larry Brown figures out what to do with him and he has a rugged supporting cast that doesn’t want the ball. But now? On a young team with players that need touches, do you really want the ball stopping at an over-the-hill, me-first combo guard?

Iverson also doesn’t work because of his attitude. His ego hasn’t subsided a bit: He’s told reporters he’d rather retire than come off the bench. The Knicks are a young, impressionable team, and fans and the coaching staff will certainly want them to take PRACTICE (WE TALKIN’ BOUT PRACTICE) seriously. A LOT of guys on the Knicks are learning the ropes (Chandler, Hill, Douglas, Galinari). They need a positive influence, not a classic me-first, egotistical whiner.

2. Jamal Tinsley:

Tinsley has undeniable talent, has manned the point on many winning Pacers teams (including one that won 60 games and might have won the title if not for the brawl). He’d also come cheap, probably signing a one-year deal at the vet’s minimum to rehabilitate his image on the big stage.

But again, do the Knicks really want someone who has to rehabilitate his image? The team is young and impressionable, and Tinsley makes Stephon Marbury look like Mother Theresa. Marbury just had sexual indiscretions and played selfish basketball. Tinsley and his crew were involved in bar brawls and gun battles during high-speed car chases. That was in Indianapolis, where there is undeniably less temptation than there is in the Big Apple. I say stay away.

He also has never been a good outside shooter, and at 31, he isn’t going to learn. Finally, like Iverson, he isn’t a point guard of the future, and the Knicks are trying to build a real team.

1. Ramon Sessions:

The lightning quick Sessions is just 23, is ready to explode into the limelight, has a pass-first mentality, and is a hard worker, having crawled his way from the developmental league. Dan D’Antoni coached him in AAU and he and his brother are convinced that Sessions has what it takes to man the point in this system. He’s a big guard, and strong. He is also young enough to be a building block to future success.

It will eat into the 2010 cap a touch to sign him, but Donnie Walsh should be flexible. We’ve seen how hard it is to find a quality point guard in this league. Also, he needs to work on his shooting, but that comes in time with many young players.

I firmly believe that Sessions will be a Knick.

So to recap, Isola should forget about Iverson. It’s just a miserable idea, and I’m thinking he wants Iverson here because the inevitable controversies will help the Daily News sell papers, just like Marbury’s travails did. There are positives to signing Tinsley but in my opinion the negatives far outweigh them. Sessions is the guy the Knicks should go after. He’s immensely talented, young, unselfish, a hard-worker, and the coaches think, a system guy.

Knicks Met With Andre Miller

Frank Isola of the Daily News is reporting that the Knicks met with Andre Miller today at the team’s training facility but made no offer to the free agent PG.

According to Isola, Miller is seeking a salary greater than the mid-level exception and would likely be obtainable only via sign-and-trade, perhaps for incumbent starter Chris Duhon.

This news seems to fly in the face of recent reports coming out of Milwaukee that have the Knicks preparing a full midlevel offer for Ramon Sessions in the next few days. It’s certainly possible, though, that both reports are true and that the Knicks are looking at both players and met with Miller merely to keep the lines of communication open between the parties.

Striking Out in Free Agency

Donnie Walsh took his best shot with Jason Kidd and he’s made two fairly substantial offers to Grant Hill in his efforts to give the Knicks some veteran leadership and bolster the team’s credibility. But with news emerging this morning that the Suns have improved their offer and are making a late recruiting push to bring Hill back into the fold, it seems very possible that the Knicks are going to miss out on both players.

Frank Isola wrote this morning that the Knicks could turn to Andre Miller next should Hill decide to re-sign with the Suns. While I don’t think that would be an awful move, it’s certainly not the Knicks’ best option (more on that below) and I don’t see Donnie landing him anyway. As is the case with the Knicks and David Lee, the Sixers’ position vis a vis Miller has come together beautifully. The teams with substantial cap space are seemingly unwilling to meet Miller’s asking price leaving him with no other option but to accept a deal from Philly or try to orchestrate a sign-and-trade. Barring a fantastic offer, the Sixers can just sit on their hands and wait this out, basically daring Miller to sign somewhere else on a mid-level deal. In the end, I think he goes back to the Sixers on a 3 year deal for $7-8 million per.

So if these are the Knicks’ only targets, it’s starting to look like we may just whiff completely in free agency. Now, there’s still plenty of time and none of the restricted free agents’ situations have been resolved, including Lee’s and Nate Robinson’s, so I’m not necessarily suggesting that Donnie will just rest on his laurels and go to camp with this roster (though he might).

That said, I don’t want to see the Knicks haphazardly trying to add veteran players anyway. While I understand the virtue of Miller, he doesn’t offer the same cache or credibility that Jason Kidd would have and I just don’t see the same value in the incremental improvement Miller would provide. While I do think he’d help the culture, the Pedro Martinez analogy certainly doesn’t apply here because he’s not going to be a major draw to the big-time free agents the way that Kidd might have been.

If the Knicks can’t add Hill, I’d much rather see the team target Ramon Sessions than Miller. I still think Sessions would be a great add and I just have a feeling that the Bucks’ financial struggles have been underestimated and their willingness to match a substantial offer (the full midlevel?) has been overstated. Sessions is 10 years younger than Miller and offers a similar skillset. He’s the kind of young, promising PG that can grow with the team and add long term value regardless of whether we land Lebron or Dwayne Wade.

Short of that, I’d even prefer to see Nate go in a sign-and-trade for a young PG who’s reputation is a little bit tarnished like Sergio Rodriguez or Jordan Farmar over a Miller signing. Each of those players thrive in the uptempo game (Farmar’s main problem is that he’s miscast in the triangle) and are young enough where, given an opportunity, they could still blossom into good players.

We’re all starting to come to terms with some of the biggest challenges the Knicks will face in executing a fast rebuild. If Donnie can pull it off and make us instant 2010 contenders, fantastic. But he shouldn’t force it. This is where his trademark restraint figures to come in handy. Because if the Knicks aim for the fast rebuild with third and fourth tier players, as we all know far too well, in no time we’ll just find ourselves back in the dumpster. It’s time to start getting our heads around the concept of “slow-and-steady”, even if it’s only a fallback.

From Around the Knicks-O-Sphere

This morning’s draft rumblings from the beat:

  • Star-Vermin tells us that the Knicks would have interest in Rubio if he slid all the way down to 8th. Earth-shattering stuff. POST EXCLUSIVE?

My GM Saved Up Loads of Cap Room and All I Got Was This…Carmelo Anthony

Frank Isola blogged this morning about the possibility that Carmelo Anthony might become available in trades this summer given the uneasy (testy, in recent days) relationship he enjoys with Nuggets coach George Karl. Isola urges that, should this come to pass, Anthony will become a Knick.

Isola contends that Anthony bears many qualities in common with some of our favorite bygone Knicks, and that acquiring Melo would be more in keeping with the spirit and history of the franchise (no rings in almost 40 years) than would say, signing Lebron James.

While Isola did make some arguments that appealed to me in a visceral sense, as he somehow managed to favorably compare Melo to Ewing, Sprewell, Oakley, Starks, Mason, Bernard King and Earl Monroe (seriously), he also contended that Melo is a vastly superior player to Chris Bosh. On some level I do view Frankie Ice as a sort of curator of modern Knicks history, but I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with him here.

Melo is a star player and I do think he could win a championship someday if he were to land in a situation similar to the present day Celtics where he was one of several star players working together. But if there were a “Lebron, Wade, Bosh, Amare, Melo Train”, there’s simply no question that Melo would be the caboose, and that ass would be dragging.

So here’s hoping Ice’s fearless prediction is way off base. Because, as much as I hate snitches, if DW is going to all this trouble to bring us…Carmelo Anthony, I think I’m going to be really, really sad.