Tagged: Jamal Crawford

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”.

Destroy And Rebuild

Listen up gangstas and honeys with ya hair done
Pull up a chair hon’ and put it in the air son
Dog, whatever they call you, god, just listen
I spit a story backwards, it starts at the ending

-Nas, Rewind

***

I’d rather die enormous than live dormant that’s how we on it.

– Jay Z, Can I Live?

***

No matter how convinced you are that you’re right, there are people who will disagree. And they have a right to. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Some opinions are defensible.

I got Zach Randolph for 25 and 15 tnt at MSG. If all goes right, Walsh can sign Zach and Jamal in summer, 2011 with their cap space.

-Marc Berman, via Twitter.

That isn’t one of them. Clearly Marc Berman thinks that Donnie Walsh’s plan is already a meaningless failure.

Always a good plan in designing team for 2 seasons @HowardBeckNYT fans wigging out, apparently forgetting this team wasn’t designed to win.

-Marc Berman, via Twitter, sarcastically referencing Howard Beck’s excellent article urging observers to remember the forest from the trees.

The visceral impatience is understandable because losing is painful. The outlook though is tragically flawed. It’s like criticizing a architect halfway through a project, judging him or her at the premature point when all there is to look at is a pile of materials strewn across a vacant lot. It looks ugly so far and so it was a pointless endeavor to build it. The old decrepit house was better.

Will the new house be better than the old decrepit one? Not sure, but I’ll let the architect finish before I convince myself that it wont.

Steve Adamek tried a very creative approach to getting through to those who are so shortsighted that they would criticize a plan that is in the most unseemly part of its execution phase and instead long for a plan of stasis. Adamek indulges them:

Let’s bring back Jamal Crawford for Al Harrington. And bring back Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley.

You’d undo those deals (from November 2008) right now, wouldn’t you?

Let’s even undo the cap-neutral deals of a little over a year ago. Jerome James, Anthony Roberson and Tim Thomas return for Larry Hughes. And Malik Rose makes it back for Chris Wilcox.

Bring Quentin Richardson back and undo this past summer’s deal that brought Darko Milicic to New York.

And finally, undo the ones the Knicks just made. Get back Jared Jeffries, Nate Robinson, Jordan Hill and Marcus Landry. Give back Tracy McGrady, Sergio Rodriguez and the rest.

Oh, and Mr. Vaseline Man can return from his sneaker-sales trip to China.

So basically here’s what you’ve got. Crawford, Randolph, Richardson, Rose, Collins, Jeffries, Robinson, James, Mr. Vaseline Man … In other words, pretty much the 2007-08 roster.

Which went 23-59.

Let that sink in for a minute. It’s such simple and cogent logic. If it doesn’t seep through then your judgment must be clouded. This Adamek piece was so good I’m struggling to find things to cut for the sake of blog brevity…

This is what some folks think the Knicks should’ve done, though. Held onto most, if not all of those players. That way, they figure, the Knicks might’ve put up a legitimate playoff run this season. Maybe finished seventh or eighth.

And then, because of those players’ contracts, they could’ve done the same thing next season. Seventh or eighth place. One (round) and done, most likely.

Meanwhile, they would have no chance to take a run at the best player of this generation, as well as some of his subordinate superstars.

If that’s what you would’ve preferred _ Crawford, Randolph, Vaseline Man, et al, still in Knicks’ finery this season, then you’re a fan of mediocrity.

Yes, the Knicks were 6-3 when Donnie Walsh traded Zach and Jamal. It’s foolhardy though to project results off such a small sample, as this season exhibited first when the Knicks were 1-9, then in December when they had their best month in close to a decade. As Adamek astutely notes:

Mike D’Antoni would’ve had to coax 15-20 more victories out of that group than Isiah Thomas did. Could he have done that? Could Red Holzman have?

(For that matter, how many games would Red have won this season with David Lee as his best player?)

I know that I’ll rest easy no matter what happens in July. The Knicks don’t have to get LeBron James, the possibilities are limitless. But if they do get James, I’ll look back at the haters — who criticized the architect before he got the chance to even start rebuilding the decrepit house I lived in before — and I’ll laugh at their folly.

If the Knicks compile some other group of talent and win 50 or so games, I’ll still be happy knowing that I tried to build the nicest house on the block and failed, but that I still have a better house than I had before.

Is There A Silver Lining?

Can someone tell me again the silver lining to this season that will end with 50-plus losses? Oh yes, cap space in 2010, when they’ll be in position to MAYBE sign an All-Star good enough to get the club the eighth seed? Yippee.

Who else but Marc Berman is capable of publishing such biased drivel. This is exactly the kind of thinking that governed the Knicks’ executives’ horrid decisions over the last decade, resulting in one visit to the lottery after another.

What’s the alternative, Berman? Add more salary? More trading draft picks for the McDyess’ and Marbury’s and Curry’s of the world? ‘Lest you forget that for the last eight years, the Knicks have unceasingly purchased teams’ “talented” trash off in exchange for actual assets (Camby, draft picks, cap flexibility).

‘Lest you forget how the Willie Anderson, Matt Fish, Gary Grant, Ron Grandison year (’95-’96) allowed the last competent management team prior to this one rejuvinate the Knicks by getting under the cap to sign Allan Houston and Chris Childs (Knicks traded for LJ that summer as well).

How short-sighted can Berman be? I feel bad for all of the pliable minds that buy into this cheap tripe, despite having witnessed failure after failure of the philosophy that New York is too impatient to rebuild. That philosophy merely delayed the rebuilding. The Knicks will be in 2010 where they should have been in 2000, yet Berman’s heart pines for the days of Layden and Thomas! “Oh that the Knicks continue to mismanage the salary cap and flail about in the dull winds of mediocrity, and worse!”

So short sighted and ignorant. Pushing an agenda intended to do nothing except sell papers. If it isn’t clear to you Berman, what the “silver lining” is, read on:

1. Get under the cap to sign one or two top tier free agents. You need superstars to win titles.

2. Compile enough assets to trade for 2010 (and beyond) free agents THIS summer. First acknowledge that next year’s team is going to be completely different from this year’s team (actually, you already have). Now realize that a lot of other teams are positioning themselves for 2010. They might be willing to part with a disgruntled star for expiring contracts (read Hughes, Harrington, et al.)

As Marc Stein wrote this morning:

[The Mavs] believe that several yet-to-be-identified established players will be shopped by financially strapped teams, as seen before the Feb. 19 trading deadline, when the likes of New Jersey’s Vince Carter, Milwaukee’s Richard Jefferson, New Orleans’ Tyson Chandler and, of course, O’Neal were made available.

[UPDATE: Maybe even, Chris Paul?]

Ignoring the above possibilities as REAL, CONSTRUCTIVE goals is to hearken for the alternative. We’ve all seen the results of that strategy: trade the expiring deals and young guys and draft picks for Steve Francis! For Stephon Marbury! For Eddy Curry! For Jamal Crawford! For Zach Randolph!

Berman, I have a challenge. If you hate the current plan so much, come up with a reasonable alternative. I don’t think you will. I don’t think you can.

Walsh Makes Short Term Upgrades, But That’s All

The Knicks upgraded the talent on the team today by trading for Larry Hughes and Chris Wilcox. The two trades should pay immediate dividends on the court as the Knicks surrendered only one useful player and got two back. (The trades also opened up two roster spots, by the way. And there could be a third coming if the Knicks ever finalize a Stephon buyout.) Moreover, the acquired players’ contracts don’t run past 2010 so neither trade actively harmed the team’s long-term strategy. Nevertheless, I have a hard time getting too excited about these deals because I’m skeptical that Hughes and Wilcox are enough to get the Knicks into the playoffs (and that has to be the justification for these trades). And while neither deal hurt the Knicks in 2010, they don’t really help either.

My issue with these moves is that I think they’re zero sum. Regardless of whether the Knicks made these trades or not, the best case scenario remains that they squeak into the playoffs and get wiped out in 4 games and the worst case scenario is still missing the playoffs and getting a low-lottery draft pick (You could flip those around depending on your perspective. I actually prefer the lottery to playoff obliteration.).

I would have preferred to see the Knicks do something productive for the long-term strategy like acquiring some young players still on their rookie deals or finding a taker for Jared Jeffries’ contract (which Donnie almost did, to be fair) or both as opposed to incrementally improving the present day fortunes of the team by acquiring players that probably have no future with the Knicks.

I’ve seen some writers allude to the possibility that Donnie is trading for these expiring deals so that he can be a player at next season’s deadline for any superstar talent that might come available. I doubt that because: 1) I have a hard time believing that Toronto, for instance, is trading us Chris Bosh for Larry Hughes’ and Quentin Richardson’s expiring contracts and 2) even if team’s were interested in unloading superstars for cap space, you also have to be able to throw in some young talent on cheap deals and, as we know, the Knicks are in short supply of players like that. They’ll be in even shorter supply after they re-sign Lee (and possibly Nate) to a long-term extension this summer.

At any rate, here’s my take on the talent the Knicks picked up this afternoon:

Larry Hughes Slasher/scorer who shoots without conscience. Motivated a website entirely devoted his mindbogglingly poor shot selection during his days with the Cavaliers (even Jamal and Al Harrington don’t have that). Solid ball-handler and capable (albeit not always willing) passer. Decent defender that excels at getting in the passing lanes. Put up two big seasons with Washington before signing a long-term deal with the Cleveland that the Cavs regretted by the time the ink had dried.

My take – Production wise, Hughes is capable of giving you stats comparable to Jamal Crawford’s and he’s a better defender than Jamal. Jamal is more unselfish, though, and a far better shooter.
Hughes was demonstrably unhappy as a bench player on the Bulls but that won’t be an issue in New York because he’ll undoubtedly become the starter at the 2 in short order. Considering that the Knicks didn’t give up too much of value
(Tim Thomas’ ability to stretch the D is a bit of a loss) and only one player they were even using (Donnie Walsh is a magician for finding someone to take big Jerome’s contract off his hands), if you’re trying to make the playoffs like the Knicks are, looking at it from their perspective it’s hard to argue with the move.

Chris WilcoxLong, athletic big man and still very young (just 26). When he entered the league, many expected Wilcox to develop into a dominant 4/5 but it never happened. Capable scorer and rebounder although he doesn’t convert on the offensive end at as high a percentage as you’d expect considering that he takes mostly very high-percentage shots. Does not have a varied offensive game. He can be devastating on the pick and roll when he gets a head of steam and he’s a decent garbage man but he lacks much of a post game and doesn’t shoot well from the perimeter. Not a shot-blocker and an indifferent defender, at best.

My take – Again, considering that we gave up nothing of consequence, it’s a solid short-term move for a definite rotation player and, perhaps, the eventual starter at the 5. Wilcox is sort of a homeless guy’s David Lee though he could be so much more if he had Lee’s work ethic. He expires at the end of the year and it’s conceivable that the price could be right to bring him back considering his decline in production this season and the poor economy. At worst, the Knicks got an upgrade for the next 2 months, basically for free.