Tagged: New York Knicks

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.

Nate Fined $25,000 by NBA

So the guy gets benched in a contract year, sends his agent to a meeting with the team to discuss the benching, a meeting which, by all accounts, was cordial and respectful, and then gets hit with a $25K fine for comments made by his agent after the meeting? And the league fined him, no less, even though he disavowed his agent’s comments and reiterated his desire to stay a Knick?

Look, I understand what agency is and lord knows I’m no great fan of Nate but I gotta say, this feels an awful lot like piling on . . .

Some Much Deserved Love for Jared Jeffries

The Knicks played a terrific all around game last night in New Orleans and a lot of the guys played exceedingly well. Duhon, Lee, Al, Gallo, Hughes and Chandler are all playing some pretty nifty basketball. Good for them. But I think we fans need to start wrapping our heads around a strange reality that Mike D’Antoni has known about for a while: the Knicks don’t knock the Hornets off in their own gym without Jared Jeffries.

It’s true. At this point I think it’s undeniable. The Knicks simply do not hold down Chris Paul on his own floor unless Jeffries (a team-leading +28, by the way) is there to keep him out of the paint. They don’t stomp the Blazers without Jeffries. They don’t come from behind in New Jersey without him. And they certainly don’t run the Suns out of the gym without JJ continually harassing Steve Nash.

A lot of the Knicks’ recent success can be attributed to all the guys doing their respective jobs much better. Duhon is finally coming around and playing some very heady basketball. Harrington is playing a much more complete game in recent days. Chandler is looking more and more like the guy we saw last year. And Gallinari is finally asserting himself at both ends all the time.

All of that is allowing Jeffries to show, once and for all, his substantial value as a consummate role player. Whether it’s his heady rotations, weakside blocks and charges, offensive boardwork or, most importantly, harrassment of the other team’s best offensive player (regardless of position), Jeffries’ contributions are making the rest of team’s improvement translate into wins.

Now, if you’re rolling your eyes thinking that this pro-Jeffries’ missive is going to conclude with me suggesting that the Knicks should hold onto him, 2010 be damned, well…it’s not. Because that’s insane. Lebron and 2010 are paramount so I’d never suggest that the Knicks should hold onto Jared if some team made an offer that cleared an additional $7 million for this summer. That’s shortsighted and foolhardy.

The longer this run of great play goes on, the more likely the Knicks are to receive a palatable offer for Jeffries from a bonafide contender. And when that happens, as we’ve said here before ad nauseum, the Knicks should take it and never look back.

But since the inception of this blog, Dan and I have been hypercritical of Jeffries’ play during his Knick tenure (deservedly so, I might add). So fair is fair. We crushed him when he was terrible. Now that he’s shown himself to be a lynchpin to the team’s hopes for success this season, respect will be paid.

And here’s one more thing I think Knicks fans should wrap their heads around: If and when the Knicks do ship Jeffries out of town, any chance they have of making the playoffs this season is probably walking out the door with him.

Hard to believe. But true.

Knicks and Blazers Should Talk

Watching the Knicks dismantle the Blazers last night, it was impossible to ignore the Blazers’ lack of depth up front and their poor chemistry in the backcourt. In fact, those were two of the team’s three most glaring shortcomings (the third being poor perimeter shooting).

The Blazers are clearly a playoff contender but, given their depth and chemistry problems, it does seem like there might be a deal to be made with them for Jared Jeffries. Here’s the rub, though: Any deal sending Jeffries to Portland would probably require the Knicks to take back Andre Miller. Thus far, Miller has been a poor fit in Portland and, judging from last night’s game, things don’t seem to be improving on that score.

Miller’s and Jeffries’ deals are a wash. They earn basically the same amount and both deals expire after 2011 so a trade would be cap neutral. Basically the Knicks would be adding Miller while still having the ability to add a max player this summer and one more player for a salary starting around $8-9 million.

I’d consider this type of trade if there was no other opportunity to unload JJ for an expiring contract, if only because I think Miller fits an urgent need–the Knicks won’t be successful long-term depending on Duhon to play 37 high quality minutes a game– and Miller has a long track record as a winning PG in uptempo systems.

But given how well JJ has played recently, I think the Knicks may actually find a taker at the deadline that’s willing to surrender an expiring contract. During this streak his value to a winning team has become much more apparent. There could be playoff teams that have interest. A Miller trade should only be an “if all else fails” proposition.

On the other hand, if the Knicks and Blazers could agree on something like JJ and Chandler for Miller and Rudy Fernandez, I’d definitely do that today.

UPDATE: Ok, scratch that, as it was just revealed that Rudy will undergo back surgery today to relieve pressure from a damaged nerve.

I’m not sure I’d feel the same enthusiasm to take back Miller and Bayless instead.

Seems like the Knicks and Portland should at least talk.

D’Antoni’s Knicks Make Mockery Of Cheap Imitation

Ok, that’s probably a bit too strong, but the team that’s coached by the architect of SSOL certainly ran the system better tonight than the team with the PG he taught it to coached by the former assistant that aped him.

The Knicks flipped the script for once and were on the long end of a game that was, for all intents and purposes, over by the middle of the 3rd quarter and in full fledged garbage mode throughout the entire 4th.

Good stories abound but the best ones are these:

–The Knicks started the game with rare focus and intensity and managed to post an 11 point lead and rack up a whopping 39 points in the 1st quarter.  They obviously felt strongly that they had something to prove for D’Antoni tonight and that’s very positive to see from a team that’s comprised mostly of players that are out for themselves. Whatever their personal agendas, to me their effort tonight is a strong indication that these guys respect their coach.

–Larry Hughes was huge at the outset of the game. He had 8 assists in the first quarter and 10 in the first half. And some of those set-ups were really sweet. He’s a poor shooter and, worse, he takes stupid, stupid shots but his overall floor game is strong. I’ve said this before but I think Hughes is a little bit underrated. Even when he looks like he’s not helping at all the stats usually say that he is. Tonight it was just a little bit easier to see.

–How about Danilo Gallinari? What an unbelievable performance at both ends, particularly in the first half. Once he figures out how to lock-in and bring it like he did tonight on a consistent basis, we won’t be hearing anymore of that chatter about Eric Gordon and Brooke Lopez ever again.

–Yes, Jared Jeffries is awful. But he is useful in one very limited respect: his length is extremely bothersome to penetrating PGs. We saw it on a number of occasions last year and he just does an amazing job keeping those guys out of the paint. Nash’s inability to consistently carve up the Knicks’ d and create easy buckets for his teammates was a huge factor in disrupting the Suns’ offensive mojo.

–The Knicks outrebounded the Suns 48-38 tonight and tracked down 18 offensive boards. Jeffries, Lee and Chandler in particular were monsters on the offensive glass with 5, 4, and 4, respectively. All the extra possessions earned the Knicks 19 more shots at the rim than the Suns over the course of the game. Just awesome.

The Knicks had been performing better recently despite coming up short in some hard-fought games. The team was due for a game like this and now it needs to carry this newfound confidence into tomorrow night’s game in Orlando.

Kobe: New York Ripe For A “Flashy, Marquee Guy”

Last night, during an interview with some NY beat writers, (including Alan Hahn), Kobe Bryant observed that 2010 free agency “will be interesting” because the Knicks “[ha]ve never had one of the flashy, marquee guys, going back even to the teams that won championships. They were always teams that kind of never had one star. So this would be the first time they had one of those guys.”

Now, this is a sensitive topic because we all love Patrick, and fans of my dad’s generation cherish the Holzman, championship teams and everything they stood for, but I think it’s a fair point and, incidentally, it’s something that Dan and I have discussed in the past when assessing the likelihood that Kobe himself would come to New York.

If you all remember it was only a couple years ago that Kobe demanded a trade because he was furious with the Lakers and totally dissatisfied with the direction of the team. And despite the ridiculous circus surrounding the Knicks, Kobe expressed interest in coming to New York and the Knicks were even perceived in some corners as a serious contender for his services.

At the time, I thought (and still think) that Kobe’s interest in joining the Knicks was legitimate. And it made perfect sense to me for precisely the reason that he cited to the Knicks beat writers yesterday: though the Knicks have a rich history and have experienced great success as a franchise, the franchise has never had that singular, transcendent player as its centerpiece.

I don’t mean that as a slight to the many great players that have donned orange and blue, and I don’t think Kobe meant it that way when he spoke yesterday either. The Knicks of the 60s and 70s played some of the best team basketball in NBA history, but their identity was that of a consummate team. And Ewing was a franchise player and a warrior, but no one would suggest that he was in the same class as Jordan, Magic, Bird, and Kobe. Those players are basketball messiahs. They bring a unique salvation, and the trajectory of franchises and their fan bases are forever altered by their coming. Ewing was billed to be that when he was chosen first overall in 1985, but he was not that.

Lebron could be that. The question is where.

In 2007, when Kobe thought he might leave the Lakers, I think he took a look around the league and percieved that there had been no Kobe-esque basketball messiah in the history of the NBA’s flagship franchise, which also happens to reside in the biggest media market in the entire world. He surmised that he could be to New York what MJ was to Chicago. Unsurprisingly, for someone like Kobe Bryant, the prospect of filling that void for the most zealous (and thirstiest) congregation of basketball worshippers in the world was incredibly alluring.

So when Kobe assesses the landscape for 2010 knowing that the void still exists, I believe he views NYC as the only place for Lebron. And you can bet that if Kobe were standing in Lebron’s shoes this summer, he’d be Broadway bound.

Now we just have to hope Lebron sees it that way too.

Monta Might Make Some Sense (or Take Monta Home Tonight)

I think Dan framed the Monta Ellis situation very well earlier with respect to the impact an Ellis acquisition would have on the 2010 cap and the Knicks’ cache of tradable assets. And I agree with Dan that, despite the $1-2 million extra it would cost to bring Ellis into the fold, it might be worth it simply to add another player to the roster that other teams might value in the future.

In addition to all that, I’d just like to propose the following:

Let’s assume for a moment that the Knicks are only able to add one max free agent this summer for whatever reason (two or all of the big 3  sign with other teams; remaining players out there don’t warrant the max or don’t want to sign with the Knicks etc.).

1. If Monta Ellis were a free agent in the 2010 market, would you be happy if the Knicks got him for 4 years, $44 million?

2. If Monta Ellis were a free agent after this season, would you prefer to see the Knicks  give him 4 years, $44 million, or would you prefer to see the Knicks give Rudy Gay, say, 5 years, $60 million?

3. If Monta Ellis were a free agent after this season, would you prefer to see the Knicks pay his deal or give David Lee a 5 year deal for $45-50 million?

I think these are the types of questions the Knicks should be asking  in weighing the virtue of an Ellis trade. I remain guardedly optimistic that the Knicks will get a crack at Lebron, but I have my doubts that they’ll be able to create enough cap space to sign two max free agents this summer. It’s more likely that the team will add one max guy and a second player of lesser caliber.

As things stand at the moment, the Knicks can afford to add a max player and then another player with a first year salary of $7-8 million.  This means that, to acquire a second player making even Ellis’ salary, the Knicks will have to find a taker for Jeffries or Curry and in that deal clear at least $6 million more in salary.

Now take a look at this list:  Of the players on this list that the Knicks could realistically acquire and won’t command the max, do you see any that would be better to add than Ellis? Possibly Rudy Gay, but since he’s restricted the Grizzlies could potentially match. Plus  Gay will cost more money over a longer deal and Ellis might be the better player anyway. That’s really it.

I want to stress that I’m not necessarily advocating for the Knicks to trade for Monta. If Donnie truly believes he can trade Jeffries or Curry for cap space before free agency starts this summer, I think he should definitely go that route and try to get a Lebron-Bosh combination.  But if he knows he can’t trade those guys for expirings, I think the Knicks could do much worse than swapping Jeffries, Duhon and Chandler for Ellis and Speedy Claxton. It would still leave the team with enough space to add a max player this summer (plus a $5-6 million guy) and another max player in 2011 when Curry’s deal comes off the books.

Getting two max guys this summer has to be Plan A, but if Plan A proves unrealistic, that’s a pretty damn good Plan B.

Iverson Not the Answer

Just say no to Allen Iverson. There was a time when Iverson’s game made his diva-act tolerable. That time has long past. AI is only happy when he’s running the asylum. That means no practice, 40+ minutes per game, unlimited shots for AI, and no accountability whatsoever. We’ve already seen this movie.

Is that the kind of culture the Knicks should be looking to create the season before the biggest summer in franchise history? And to what end? To win 30 games instead of 22? So that Utah will pick 6th instead of 1st?

There will be other opportunities for the team to improve during the season that make much more sense for the long-term strategy. And if it turns out that Iverson represents the Knicks’ only chance to improve this season, then the Knicks need to politely take a pass and we fans need to just suck it up and ride out the rebuild until the summer.

Jordan Hill Can Play

His pretty stats aside, Jordan Hill’s effort during last night’s game ought to quiet the incessant clamor for all the other players the Knicks supposedly missed out on. He showed a panoply of good qualities that the Knicks’ veteran big men are sorely lacking. Among them:

  • For a 6’11 player, he runs like a deer. And he changes ends at full speed on every possession. That kind of hustle and athleticism up front is what usually powers SSOL.
  • He has power and explosiveness. That flush on the break was amazing. Imagine how many easy buckets Hill could get if he played with a PG that pushed the pace and could get him the ball in front of the rim.
  • Hill has a soft jumper. Once he learns when (and how) to put it on the deck and when he should pop that j, he’s going to be murder on opposing 5’s.
  • He crashes the glass. Unlike other Knick bigs, Hill goes after every rebound. And he was rewarded for that effort with 3 offensive boards and a put back last night.

Hill unquestionably has some rough edges. He’s a poor ball handler out on the perimeter (he even struggles with hand-off type stuff) and it’s obvious that he’s a bit overwhelmed by the speed of the game at this point. But he has the DNA of an ideal 5 for this system. I don’t think there’s any question that he can help the team while he learns.

Considering what the Knicks have playing in front of him, it’s past time to take this baby out for a spin.

Lee Will Have Major Value at Deadline

Let’s take a look into the future for a moment since the present is such a downer. . .

If the Knicks continue to struggle the way they have, but David Lee continues to post sparkling individual statistics, his trade value come February is going to be really significant.

Personally, I don’t think Lee is in the Knicks’ long-term plans. Re-signing him this off-season was all about fielding a respectable team this year (ha!) and avoiding the publicity that would have accompanied losing a big asset for nothing the summer before “the summer”.  If that is in fact the case, then the Knicks will surely look to shop Lee at the deadline for cap relief or a significant asset.

No matter how badly the Knicks struggle, Lee is going to look extremely attractive to lower-seeded playoff teams that are looking for help inside. It’s easy to imagine teams like the Rockets, Bulls, Bucks, Pistons, and Thunder becoming interested in Lee if they manage to stay in the race.

It’s true that Lee signed a 1-year-deal this past off-season so the Knicks can’t trade him unless he agrees.  But if the Knicks give him the chance to get out of Dodge, I think he’ll be motivated to agree to a deal at the deadline. This is obviously a big year for Lee and so far he’s making the most of it by putting up some pretty numbers. But for free agent suitors the lingering question about Lee has to be whether or not he’s a winning player. And that’s just not a question he can answer in New York. However, if Lee were to make a big contribution for a few months to a team playing meaningful games in May and June, that could cause his value to skyrocket this summer. You can bet that Lee and his agent know this.

Lee may be the one real bullet Walsh has in his gun prior to this summer. Here’s hoping he makes it count.