Tagged: Jarred Jeffries

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”.

With Jordan Hill Emerging, Stakes On Donnie’s Gambit Increase

Jordan Hill’s last two games for the Houston Rockets have been pretty productive. Averaging 25 minutes, Hill has had 11 and 12 points, and 8 rebounds in both games.

We were never in the “Jordan Hill is a bust so Donnie Walsh is a washed up hack” boat. It’s funny to see many of the folks who pushed that line so aggressively now argue that “Jordan Hill is an all-star so Donnie Walsh is a washed up hack.”

I think Hill projects as a borderline starter or productive rotation player. But as he proves that he can be productive, the pressure increases on Walsh to justify trading him. The better Hill gets, the more crucial it will be this summer for Walsh to make sure Hill doesn’t turn into another good-asset-squandered for the Knicks. In the highly unlikely event that Hill does turn into a in-his-prime Jermaine O’Neal, or the next Amare Stoudemire, the trade will be looked at as a colossal mistake if Walsh doesn’t score big time in free agency.

There are so many possibilities this summer, and that’s the main reason Donnie was willing to add Hill and his $3 million to Jeffries $6.5 million. If Hill continues to play well, the pressure on Walsh to replace him with something better is going to intensify.

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.

The Knicks Don’t Fancy Themselves As Scrubs

How is it that a team like the Houston Rockets that boasts a rotation of role players and nobodies, is 4-2, and has competed in every game this season? These are the players in Rick Adelman’s rotation:

  • Trevor Ariza
  • Carl Landry
  • Shane Battier
  • Aaron Brooks
  • Luis Scola
  • Chuck Hayes
  • Chase Budinger
  • Kyle Lowery

Is that a rotation that so clearly outshines what the Knicks put out on the floor, so much so that they can take teams to overtime (LA Lakers) that would surely build a 20-30 point lead on the Knicks in the first quarter?

What is the difference between these two squads? Why can’t the Knicks play like the 1999-2000 Orlando Magic, which had no bonafide stars, and players who knew they wouldn’t stick around after that season, yet still managed to win 41 games?

My theory is that the Houston Rockets realize that they suck. They realize that they are outmatched on the talent flank in most games and they know that they have to make up for it with heart and effort. The current Knicks, by contrast, are a collection of players with an overinflated sense of their value.

Larry Hughes makes $14 million this year. It is possible that he thinks he’s already proven himself a successful player in this league, otherwise, he couldn’t have earned that contract. He earned that money taking any old shot he liked.

Al Harrington makes $10 million and he did it playing his game. Why should he buy-in to the system whole-heartedly when he’s already proven his value and worth around the league, doing what he has always done (being a complete ball stopper)?

Wilson Chandler is the future, right? The next Matrix. Why shouldn’t he run up and down the court firing indiscriminately.

Jarred Jeffries? Man did he put in work over the summer. Now he’s a marksman. He doesn’t have the same limitations he previously had, and he’s going to pull the trigger more than he used to. Nevermind that everyone but him seems to notice that these shots aren’t falling.

David Lee? Same story. He put in work on that jumper, and yes it has improved, but I am pretty confident that any team will feel comfortable letting David Lee try to trade baskets with a legitimate scorer on the other side. It is pretty infuriating watching the team concede that the best look they are going to get on a possession is a David Lee 18 footer.

Nate Robinson? Nobody can stop him. His shot is deadly. Any shot he takes is a good shot, even if there are 22 seconds left on the shot clock and the D is back, and there’s nobody to corral the board, because it’s going to go in.

None of these guys realize their limitations. They play with an inflated sense of their skills. They don’t make the effort on the defense because they are convinced that they outscore the other team. Nevermind that none of them move without the ball. Nevermind that in reality, they have the 4th worst FG% in the league and have already lost to the teams that are last (Bobcats) and third to last (Bucks) in FG%.

The Rockets’ players on the other hand are a hodge-podge group of blue collar workers, none of whom (yet) have settled into the complacency afforded many of the Knicks by virtue of a monstrous contract. They know that they are basically scrubs, and if they want to win they have to work, get dirty, mix it up, move without the ball, fight. They aren’t so heartless that they give up offensive rebounds off of missed free-throws multiple times a game.

If the Knicks are going to lose, why do it on the backs of heartless veterans that don’t realize their limitations. Instead, Coach D’Antoni should start to play guys who want to do what it takes to win, even if they can’t make it happen because they aren’t good enough, yet. At least they’ll try. So I think Coach D’Antoni should play Toney Douglas and bench Chris Duhon. I think he should play Jordan Hill and bench Jarred Jeffries and take minutes away from Al Harrington. Hell, play Marcus Landry and tell Wilson Chandler to take a seat. If he’s anything like his brother, he’ll earn more minutes if given the chance.

If it isn’t clear to the Knicks, it is clear to everyone else. They are scrubs, and they better start playing like it.

Knicks 108 Celtics 103

The Knicks looked really good tonight. Particularly impressive to me were Nate, Gallinari, Harrington and Lee.

Nate played great D, coming away with 5 steals. Coach D’Antoni always said he could lead the league in steals.

Lee was at his hard-working best putting up the type of numbers we probably take for granted with 19 and 16.

Harrington had questionable shot selection but at least his shot was on for the most part and he hit the boards.

Gallinari was his old confident self and had his best game as a Knick, though it was a preseason game. If Gallo is consistently on like this the Knicks can make some noise. And nobody question his D. This kid is no slouch and is not intimidated by stars or scared to mix things up physically.

What most impressed me about this game though was the Knicks effort. They didn’t let up, from Chandler and Nate diving for loose balls, Chandler sprinting back on D to stuff Kendrick Perkins in spectacular fashion, to Lee and Harrington fighting for boards, the Knicks did not lay down. I want to see this effort continue, even if chemistry is tested by consecutive losses.

***

Other notes:

-Jeffries had an OK game, but let’s not get too excited. I’m still convinced that when Jeffries has a game that is not atrocious, some in the media have a tendency to react as if he’s a world beater and the difference between making the playoffs or not. The fact is that those who defend him are probably viewing his contributions in the context of his past awful performance, when he failed to so much as catch passes cleanly, when he shot predominantly horrendous bricks, and when he dribbled it off his foot more often than not when he put it on the floor. And make no mistake, this year’s version of Jeffries does plenty of those things, but is slightly improved. The fact that he can now hit a jumper a bit more frequently does not make him a valuable player, though I certainly hope that other teams think so around the deadline.

And this is plain to see to anyone who is really watching. I don’t care who signed Jeffries, e.g., that he is a relic of the troublesome Isiah era that causes Knicks fans to cringe. What I see on the court today is a barely mediocre to bad basketball player who damages the continuity of the team’s offense with his poor hands, handles, and still below average shot.

Answer me this: In each of the last 2 games, Jeffries has taken 10 shots when some of those could have gone to Nate, Harrington, Gallinari, Duhon or Chandler. Are you comfortable with that? Keep in mind that two games ago he hit 2 of them and that tonight he hit 4.

There are about 8 or 9 more valuable Knicks, and in fact, during games (not during practice) an empty chair on the bench is arguably more valuable. Some people don’t see that, but I’ll let them continue to make the case that the career 5 point, 4 rebound forward is the key to the Knicks’ season.

-Duhon made some really bad decisions with the ball in the 3rd quarter, both sloppy passing and bad shots.

-For all of the “sky is falling” coverage the Knicks were getting in some circles when they were 1-2 this preseason, I somehow doubt that we’ll see something more “fair and balanced” from News Corp. now that the team is 4-2.

Knicks Want Boozer

Berman reports that Donnie Walsh has expressed an interest in Carlos Boozer, but isn’t sure he can get a deal done stating, “I’m not sure we have anybody they want”. Well one thing they want is cap space so they could re-sign Millsap. To that end Mobley would work, since most of his contract will be covered by insurance. The Jazz would probably want some talent as well.

The Knicks are also going to be crowded up front, as Tommy Dee reminds us. Where are all of the minutes going to come from at the 4/5 for Lee, Hill, Milicic, Curry, Chandler, Gallo, Harrington, and Jeffries? That’s even without Boozer.

So which of these guys would go in a hypothetical Boozer trade? If it’s anyone making more or similar money to Boozer, you can forget about the Jazz taking them on, so Curry and Harrington and possibly Lee are off the table. Would the Jazz take a Jeffries/Mobley deal? I think they could do way better. Would the Knicks give up Jordan Hill? Should they?

If they wouldn’t, and the Knicks wind up with Boozer, there will most likely be a third team involved.

Donnie Has a Secret

What could it be?

The Associated Press got an email from Donnie Walsh cryptically stating:

I have a little leeway which will leave me in good position for next year…I know what it is but do not talk much about it.

The context of the article was speculation that the Knicks would offer Jason Kidd a multiyear deal this summer, with a view as to what that would do to the Knicks cap situation. Without this “leeway”, a full MLE deal with Kidd would jeopardize the 2010 plans.

Unclear from the article is whether Donnie was responding to a specific question or whether he sent an impromptu, unexpected email.

If Donnie has a deal in place for Eddy Curry or Jeffries, signing Kidd would be a 2010 salary wash or better. If there is a deal, expect to hear more about it after the free-agent moratorium next week.

I also want to address the Kidd situation. If Donnie can clear the salary necessary to make the Kidd signing a wash for 2010, I think Knicks fans should be very pleased. First, Kidd, even in his old age, instantly becomes the best player on the squad. Second, the Knicks get credibility, a chance to show the other players in the league that they are a serious destination again. Third, it could be a harbinger of things to come: remember Kidd said in January that he thought the Knicks could get “two and a half” free agents for 2010. Well, if Kidd, who played on the same Olympic team as LeBron, Bosh, and Wade, comes, you have to think he is the half.

[Finger point to Slumdog Baller and Virgil]

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.