Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cavs v. Knicks - Live Blogging the Gus Johnson Suicide Watch

For the first time ever at The Bounce, El Guapo and Shirts v. Blouses have united to live blog an actual Knicks game! Ok, so maybe it's more of a Simmons'-esque running diary. Either way, enjoy.

7:33 - Pre-game action: Clyde is wearing a brown, magic eye-like tie to go with Gus Johnson’s Johnny Cochran-esque pinstripes. The combination makes El Guapo dyspetic. Johnson must be bummed about not calling that Vandy/Georgetown game (turned out to be a perfect game for Gus). Instead, he’s at the Quicken Loans Center watching Jared Jeffries chase a disinterested LeBron around the three-point line. Talk about a demotion. Somewhere Bill Simmons is having an aneurysm.

7:35 – Three minutes in and we’ve already switched over to the replay of Mets Cardinals preseason game. By the way, check out The Ballclub – the only Mets/baseball blog you’ll ever need. It will complete you -- at least partially. We’re halfway considering a dual live blog, combining The Ballclub and The Bounce. This would be the lame sports nerd version of the generation-defining Different Strokes/Facts of Life crossover episode. Yes, it's Friday night and we're watching an NBA game and a REPLAY of a preseason baseball game. Not surprisingly, there are no female human beings involved in this evening's festivities.



7:36 – Apparently, Randolph Morris was an NBA free agent all year. And we signed him. Morris declared in 2005 but didn’t sign with an agent. Under an obscure NBA regulation, he was actually a free agent. Kentucky asked him to stick around until they made a decision to replace Tubbby Smith. Instead, Morris just signed with the Knicks. In the pre-game Trautwig says the scouts were not impressed with his workouts in 2005 or 2006 (he was also nowhere to be found in the Top 100). That’s a good sign. But he was willing to screw his college team to come to the Knicks, so apparently he’s the kind of character guy the Knicks attract. Congratulations, Isiah!



7:40 – The starting lineups: Frye, Curry, Jeffries, Marbury, and Francis for the Bricks. Gooden, Ilguaskis, James, Hughes. Pavlovic for the Cavs. Nice! It’s in HD even though they’re in Cleveland. Gus Johnson sounds subdued. It’s gonna be okay, Gus. Billy Packer can’t live forever (or can he…?). Shirts flat out declares: “There’s no way we’re going to win. Absolutely no way.” That's actually pretty optimistic for Shirts.

7:44 – Underreported story of the year: Sasha Pavlovic’s back-ne is, shall we say, suspicious. Looks worse than mine, and I’m already on my fifth cycle. This leads to a discussion about whether or not Q-Rich is actually overweight (don’t ask), followed by El Guapo saying “You just have to see him with his shirt off.” I’m embarrassed to say this actually an inside joke. Ugh.


7:46 - Shirts: “It’s an ugly game early.” Also, Eddy Curry could use a trip to the salad bar. Hey, it’s our first Mardy Collins sighting of the night! This could be the worst game in NBA history. Shuddering at his first Mardy-Ball reference, Shirts goes for his second beer in 13 minutes.

7:50 – True story: Last year, Shirts’s girlfriend’s magazine, lets just say it’s a prominent financial publication, described Stephon Marbury as a “former MVP candidate.” That’s right, MVP candidate. Not sure how that one slipped passed the fact-checker. Pavlovic misses an open three. That’s going to hurt his MVP candidacy. You know, El Guapo was once a candidate for “ideal senior” in his high school yearbook superlatives section. His a former Ideal Senior candidate.

7:56 -- Ira Newble! “More of a defensive rebounder,” says Clyde. I guess that’s a polite way to put it. Gus follows, observing that “the Knicks continue to force feed Eddy Curry.” I just …. I can’t even make a joke here.

7:57 – After seeing the commercial for the new Whalberg movie, Shirts says he likes movies about snipers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. By the way. Dirk Digler stars in “Shooter”? Insert your sexual innuedo here.

8:00 - Donyell Marshall has cornrows/dreads and a receding hairline. Is this the urban version of the comb-over? We say yes. Two minutes left in the first and the Knicks are down by 8, thanks the the Cavs zone. As Shirts has been saying all year, zone absolutely kills the Knicks unless they play with a three guard lineup. Or whenever Nate Robinson is on the floor.

“It’s just hard to understand how sloppy the Knicks are with the basketball today,” says Gus. The Gus Johnson Suicide Watch has officially begun. Nine turnovers in the first quarter (Curry has four turnovers). 15 (unofficial count) critical comments on the Knicks from Gus so far.


8:04 - “Can you explain what happens with this team, Clyde, when they turn it over in this manner? It’s like CYO basketball,” says Gus Johnson. In a related story, El Guapo says the Sugardale hotdog sign near mid-court is making him hungry.

“There’s a reason Newble is always wide open,” says Clyde. Gus actually brings the best out of Walt Frazier. Which is nearly impossible.

8:10 - On a break, Balkman “thinks too much” and dribbles after taking three steps around mid-court. Ilguaskas gives him a Mutumbo finger wag in response. It’s mid-2nd quarter and the highlight of the game so far has been Ilguaskas taunting Balkman over a traveling violation. I think Damon Jones has already left for the Club.

8:13 - Knicks are down eleven mid-way through the 2nd. El Guapo has had about a half pound of Almonds in lieu of dinner. He’s eating like Jerome James at a K&W. This does not bode well for the second half or for the cleanliness of Shirts' bathroom.

8:17 – Re: Morris, the best thing Gus can say is that he’s a great free throw shooter. 13 turnovers thus far by the Knicks. El Guapo belches and wonders if they can go for 20 turnovers in the first half.

8:18 – Shirts coins phrase: “In your eye like conjunctivi!” while describing Drew Gooden’s turnaround jump shot. His sudden enthusiasm is, well, strange. El Guapo thinks Shirts has discovered the next “Skeet, Skeet, Skeet.”

8:21 – Balkman steals a ball and heads down court all alone for a – I have to admit – pretty layup. Sure he’s turned it over 12 times already, but he got one back, so, he’s got that going for him.

8:24 – Gus unwittingly coins the surefire porn name Backdoor Larry Hughes. He’s a penetrator. He’s got spurtability (Note: we acknowledge the Simmons comparisons/borrowed references here. We firmly believe the joke is still funny at least until early April).

8:26 – Only Jared Jeffries can pull off a sad looking “and 1.” What's wrong with this guys face? He's incapable of looking comfortable. He looks what can only be described as “wan.” It’s a good thing, Jared! You scored and then you get to shoot again, for a third point! Isn’t that awesome!

8:33 – Eddy Curry’s line so far: 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 turnovers, and a 4-piece chicken and biscuit combo from Popeye’s before gametime. I believe he had the rice and beans for the side. In other news, he has a tattoo on his chest. The only thing we can make out is “Never” – the other words are obscured by his jersey. Shirts decides it says “Never full.”

8:36 - Gus says “Jared Jeffries is not the guy you want shooting the ball from the outside.” He sounds dejected. Somebody get this guy an NIT game to call.

2nd half:

8:52 - Clyde says the key to Lebron’s success is his size. Hmmm, not sure about that one Clyde. That’s why he has the color job in the largest market TV in the U.S. Time for the pasture, Mr. Frazier.

6-0 run to start the 3rd for the Cavs. Johnson says the Knicks have come out with “no focus”. He’s absolutely excoriating the Knicks tonight. We’re convinced that he’s also cutting himself to just to feel alive. He needs to call Christian Slater when he gets home.

8:54 - Long period of dead air. Focus on Isiah’s face. Gus Johnson: “I wonder what’s going through that man’s mind?” It’s been that kind of game. Oh yeah, for the Knicks it’s been that kind of half decade.

8:56 – Four subs come in. Collins, Rose, Robinson and Balkman. “You’d never know there was a capacity crowd here,” says Frazier. Shirts says he thinks the fans are actually reading loan documents at the Quicken Loan Center. I hear the subprime market is booming, adds El Guapo. Mortgage jokes -- like I said, it's been that kind of night.

9:01 – Balkman, Collins, Curry, Robinson and Rose. Congrats Knicks you have the worst outside shooting team since the 1996 Rock N’ Jock Bball game.

9:03 – Gus is waxing poetic about the Patrick Ewing-era Knicks. He’s two minutes away from singing “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” by Boyz to Men. Welcome to the world of Gloomy Gus Johnson! We're actually loving Gloomy Gus. He’s honest in a way that most announcers aren’t. In the span of a minute he says “Lebron James is hot dogging it” and the injured Jamal Crawford is a “bad shot shooter.”

On beer five, Shirts insists that he still wants to see Shooter. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

9:13 – Gus talked to Mark Aguire. Apparently, Aguire said that he thinks that this is really Curry’s first year of learning in the NBA. Not a good sign if your franchise player is in his fifth year in the NBA and hasn’t learned a thing. In other news, Malik Rose just fouled out halfway through the 3rd quarter. He gets a congratulatory high-five from Isiah. We’re wondering if Isiah knows he’s fouled out.

9:20 - This game is unbearable. In the dept. of nominally interesting subplots, Balkman and Lebron have a tangible dislike for each other. They’re jawing nonstop. If you’re James what do you say when Balkman is talking to you? That you’re the Global Icon or have put together probably the best first four years in NBA history? Yeah, that might work.

9:32 – El Guapo checks the preseason Mets for the 37th time. 6 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 5 K for Orlando “El Duque Hernandez” in the Mets Spring Training tilt v. the hated Cardinals. Just so you know.

9:33 – Big game for Eddy Curry. That’s what happens when you force feed him. Shirts is adamant that Eddy's Curry's high point totals always correlate to Knicks losses or near-losses. Someone get John Hollinger on the horn.

9:35 – This evening’s game is brought to you tonight by Otter Creek Copper Ale and Los Pollitos II Mexican takeout.

9:38 – “You just don’t get the sense tonight that the Knicks are going to make a run,” Clyde weighs in with six minutes to go. It’s 82-63. You’re right, Clyde, I don’t get that sense. It’s uncanny.

9:44 – LeBron’s kid is now playing point guard for the Cavs, and he just totally burned Francis off the dribble. Okay fine, I’ve stopped paying attention. Lebron’s kid – he looks about five -- is actually on the sideline dancing. Shirts is convinced he’s either doing the Chicken Noodle Soup dance or brazenly taunting Balkman.

9:46 – If the Knicks lose this game they’ll be 1-6 since Isiah got extended. So that’s worked out.

9:49 – This game is so boring, Gus Johnson’s suicide hotline operator just killed himself. It's so boring that El Guapo thinks mortgage jokes are funny.

9:59 – The four of us in the room just spent five minutes defining schadenfreude. Strangely appropriate given our feelings about the Knicks losing. Okay kids, we’re out of here. Final score: Knicks 68, Cavs 90.

Just hold on, Gus Johnson. Just hold on…

Monday, March 12, 2007

Put Your Feet Up, Zeke, Stay Awhile

As we all now know, the 29-34 Knicks, who've spent one day in 8th place, have given Isiah Thomas a "multiyear" extension, the details of which are still under wraps. This means that the team has evidently shown the "significant progress" Dolan was looking for when he gave Thomas his ultimatum before the season.

Here's what Dolan said in December while Zeke's status was still up in the air officially, but hints abounded that Isiah would be staying:

You also have to take into account what the alternative is. Because if what you’re saying is that we haven’t made enough progress and that’s really true, then what you’re saying is that we have to restart again. That would essentially mean blowing up this organization in terms of who’s working here, bringing in a new philosophy of play with a new coach. That’s pretty drastic.
Pretty drastic indeed. If we haven't made progress, then oh my God it'll be sooo much work to, you know, fix it and everything. All that hiring a new coach, figuring out how to build a decent team with a future, making moves, what an effing drag, dude. Why don't we just extend Zeke's contract and hope for the best? I mean, fuck it, right? Okay, it's settled.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Ballad of a Tatted Bald Man

I know it's odd we haven't mentioned one of the high- (low-) lights of the season, Tuesday's 100-99 loss to the Sonics, in which Stephon Marbury put up 40 points, but missed the second of the two free throws that would have tied the game and sent it to overtime.

(Not to make excuses, but Shirts has been out with flu-like symptoms. He's listed as day-to-day through the weekend. For my part, I threw up Part II of the first-half Knicks review Monday and kept a running diary of last night's Mets spring training game over at my other digs. That's some committed blogging, kids. I haven't seen sunlight in like eight days.)

It needs to be said that Marbury left that court strewn with his blood, sweat, and guts. With Crawford and Lee out (oh yeah, and Nate too) and Curry fading (shocking, truly shocking), Steph did the one thing that he's built to do on a court, which is play offense all by himself. For once it was the appropriate strategy, and damned if he didn't almost pull it off. Curry's 5 for 10 day at the line dug a hole, leaving Marbury asking, Dylan-like, "Oh my God, am I here all alone?"

Trust me, it's an odd feeling, sympathizing with the chief avatar of the Knicks' descent into perfidy. Consider this a Bounce outreach program for wayward point guards.

Lenny Bitchkins, Ouch

I think they have a whole lot better talent than when I had them, and I got them to the playoffs ... I would have liked to have had that kind of talent.
Lenny Wilkins landed that beautiful cheap shot on his return to MSG. I just wanted to point it out.

Free throw woes sabotage Knicks' comeback against Sonics [ESPN.com]
Wilkins' return is no big deal [Newark Star-Ledger]

Friday, March 2, 2007

First Half Review, Part II: There Goes My Gun

Picking up that first-half review rock from the S.v.B., who astutely argues that this season is a glancing shot to the groin of the already beleagured Knicks fan: the initial shock, the slow-building ache, etc. I say if Dolan and Isiah are going to play us like that, then we owe them a little something back.

"Cup check, bitch." Thwak!

Your First Half Cup Check continues apace with a look at the backcourt, that ragtage group of quick-to-shoot runners and gunners who pass up shots as often as Jerome James passes up a look at the dessert cart.

Guards
Quentin Richardson:
This is supposed to be about the first half, but I'd be remiss not to mention that Q-Rich, moving over to shooting guard in Jamal Crawford's absence, just dropped 30 and 12 on the Warriors. Crawford's injury really gives Q a chance to be the dangerous outside shooter he was in Phoenix. Of course, in Phoenix he had a point guard who knew how to feed him properly.

ESPN's John Hollinger contends that Richardson's best position is small forward since his slow feet make him a defensive liability, but on the Knicks Q-Rich tends to draw the toughest assignments (remember watching him try to contain Lebron last season?). Adding Jeffries can (at least theoretically) take some of that load off him, and with Crawford out maybe he can really step forward as a catch-and-shoot perimeter option.

Jamal Crawford:
At the time of his season-ending injury, Crawford was second on the team in points and assists and first in steals. Moreover, he was the Knicks' late game go-to guy, which in Isiah's scheme meant running a 1-4 isolation play described by the Inimitable S.v.B. thusly: "Dribble, let the clock run down, pass the ball. Now call for it back, dribble. Then shoot an off balance three."

All in all, I'm not happy to see him go down. He made great strides last season penetrating more and not always settling for the jumper. While he still throws up more than his share of bad shots, he's been to the line as much this year as last, indicating that he hasn't gone all the way back to old bad habits. Still, with his moves he still had a lot of potential to keep improving in that arena, and this injury sets back that progress. To top it off, he's basically a bargain by Knicks standards, and, as John Hollinger points out, he's one of the few Knicks who plays the role best suited to his talents. Considering that some amount of his minutes will now go to Collins and Robinson, we could be in store to witness greater levels of putridity than even the most cynical Knicks fan could imagine.

Needless to say, he'll be missed. The Knicks' quixotic quest for a playoff berth (and inevitable first-round exit) rested on Crawford's shoulders more than anyone else's besides Eddy Curry's. In fact, since Crawford has been the most adept at getting Curry the rock down low, even successfully completing a handful of alley-oops, his loss is also Curry's. I think the first reaction here in Bounce-land was akin to relief: If Crawford, and therefore the playoffs, are out of the picture, then our cause is furthered in that Isiah is pushed a little closer to the exit. But I'm not so sure that's true. After all, when the Knicks miss the playoffs now there will be a big, easily quantifiable reason to point to. "We were so close to contending, but then Jamal got hurt and we were sunk." Isiah is off the hook, rescued by one big Deus ex machina of a stress fracture.

Steve Francis:
Remember when Larry Brown compared pairing Francis with Marbury to the Frazier, Dick Barnett, and Earl the Pearl backcourt?

While Brown was busy making bold predictions - and you have to admire his confidence - Knicks Nation gave him their best Cheryl David impression ("Larry..." ).

Stevie "Save the Receipt" Francis has, alas, not exactly melded smoothly into the backcourt. He's rarely even shown flashes of his former abilities. I know I'm not exactly the first person to point this out, but neither he nor Marbury is a great passer or sees the court particularly well, which stifles the team's ability to make use of Eddy Curry or outside shooters like Q-Rich. Even if you wanted to run your offense with a guy like Marbury, wouldn't it make sense to employ a competent pass first point guard as his backup? Just to give a different look when you need it? Or am I missing something?

Stephon Marbury:
The Best Point Guard in the League™ is currently leading the league with 11.8 assists per game while tossing in 19 points and having what could legitimately be his third straight MVP season. He's maintaining or exceeding high standards across the board, shooting free throws at an 88% rate and, as usual, making everyone around him better. At 44-14, his team is a serious title contender, and their high energy run-and-gun style is redefining how winning basketball is played in this league, all keyed by his magnificent court sense and superhuman passing.

Meanwhile, Stephon Marbury put out a line of $15 basketball shoes, which is nice.

And it's lovely that he's generous with his footwear, because he's increasingy stingy on the court. His assists continue to plummet, from 8.1 two years ago to 5.5 so far this season. And, frankly, he sees the court so poorly it's probably best he just sticks to his preferred game. He's stronger than Crawford and much more willing to drive to the basket and take contact, but still utterly artless about how he goes about it. Last year, shackled by his mortal enemy Larry Brown, Steph scored 16.3 per game, his lowest total since his rookie year. This year? Unshackled and freed up by a coach who's in his corner? 14.7. (To be fair, that total is dragged down by a terrible start: Steph was sitting at 10.1 through the first 15 games this season.) Steph fought tooth-and-nail against Brown's system; it took him weeks to adjust to Isiah's system. Let's face it: there hasn't been a system for Steph since he left Georgia State. Now, can I please stop talking about Stephon Marbury?

Nate Robinson:
Where do you start with Nate Robsinson? The botched circus dunk? You know what? Let's do that. With the Knicks up by five in the second quarter of a Cavs game in late November, Nate had a breakaway layup chance off a steal. Nate decides to bounce the ball to himself, dunk contest style, but succeeds only in getting called for a travel. Oh that Nate, he's such a character!

But he learned his lesson, didn't he? "I won't try that again," he said. Okay Nate, great. "Unless we're up 20 points." D'oh! Could you just not try it at all? Could you, I don't know, play some defense? Pass?

Don't forget, Larry Brown wanted to demote Nate to the D-League last season just one game after Nate "won" the slam dunk contest. Between showboating on the court, picking fights with Jerome James and Malik Rose, and shooting spitballs on the team flight, he'd worn out his welcome. Isiah got his way that time, talking Brown out of the demotion. By the way, for the record, what would you give to see Jerome James fight Nate Robinson? Talk about a clash of styles. How would you set the odds on a fight like that? I say it's even through three rounds, then James gives up and goes out for cheesesteaks.

In case you're wondering about the Malik Rose thing, let's just say Tim Hardaway wouldn't have approved.

It's a fair question to ask just how Nate ended up in the NBA in the first place, and what is he still doing there? And for the record, he's lightning fast, has a 10' vertical leap, and he's able to get shots off against much bigger defenders. But for one second in his young career has there been even a glimmer of a spark of a hint that he gets it about how to make use of his skills to succeed in the NBA, rather than just to end up on the occasional highlight reel?

Mardy Collins:
The 29th pick in the 2006 draft, overshadowed by the absolutely bewildering Renaldo Balkman pick, the Temple Owl hasn't been heard from much, though that may be changing in light of the Jamal Crawford injury. You guys probably missed this, but it turns out that in a December 16 game against the Denver Nuggets, Collins pulled J.R. Smith down by the neck as Smith went for a fast-break layup, inciting an ugly brawl that could only have been uglier if Eduardo Najera had succeeded in pulling down Jared Jeffries's shorts. The John Chaney legacy lives on. Look, when you play limited minutes you just need to find a way to make your mark, that's all.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

First Half Review: The Glancing Shot to the Groin Epoch

A little bit tardy, The Bounce would now like to look back at the first half of the Knicks 2006-2007 season. This year, a handful Isiah-defending columnists have expressed optimisim about the Knicks. The majority, though, have described the Knicks season as a "roller coaster," which implies that there have been a lot of exciting ups and downs and that this season has been a briefly frightening but otherwise fun time.

To sum up, I was going to go with the Polonium 210 as an appropriate delayed-pain metaphor. Unfortunately, I saw a really funny Polonium 210 bit on The Daily Show the other night -- so, forgive the sophomoric thesis. This season hasn't been a "roller coaster." On closer inspection, this season's been like a glancing shot to the testicular region: not terribly painful at first, but soon followed by an incredibly painful, lower-stomach, retching sensation that lasts hours at a time. In fact, that slow-death-from-the-inside-out idea pretty much describes the typical Knicks fan's plight.



But let's look at the positives. The Knicks are only a few games out of the playoffs. Eddy Curry – who is, for better or worse, the franchise – has averaged 19 points and 7 boards a game on nearly sixty percent shooting. David Lee seems to be a shoe-in for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Even Jerome James is contributing to the starting lineup, albeit for only the first two minutes of the game, after which he requires intravenous fluids, a cold compress on the forehead and a ruben from Arbys.

We here at The Bounce would be remiss if we didn't delve a little deeper into the first season of the post-Larry Brown Era (Season Three of Isiah's reign). The day after a shockingly bad loss to the Boston Odens we here at The Bounce would like to offer up Part I of a two-part review of each current Knick player's first half of the season. Today, I'll take a look at the Forwards/Centers. Some time soon El Guapo will handle the guards.

Forwards & Centers

Eddy Curry:
Among the rabidly anti-Isiah community of Knicks fans and NBA commentators, no one has ever argued that Eddy Curry isn't talented. But he's the linchpin to the Glancing Shot to the Groin Epoch, by which our basketball team's fortunes are dictated. As Eddy goes, so go the Knicks. Unfortunately, this means that our offense is tied to an unproven scorer with literally FOUR FEET of range.

Look, the entire offense is run through and dominated by Curry. Which would fine, except Curry can't pass, he's a turnover waiting to happen and the only plays that seem to consistently work with Eddy is a high screen and roll, where he gets the pass while rolling to the hoop, or when he gets the ball four feet from the hoop. Sure, some of the offensive stats are there, but this is the NBA. Eddy's 19 points per game are EXTREMELY deceptive. Don't be fooled. Remember, this is a league where Tony Delk, Terry Cummings, Cedric Ceballos and freaking Willie Burton all have scored 50 or more points points in a game.

Take a glance at Eddy's other stats. He's averaging almost 3.5 turnovers, less than one assist, less than one block and less than one steal per game. As a result, Yahoo's fantasy folks have established The Eddy Curry Line, which is a ratio of Turnovers / Assists + Blocks + Steals. For the record, Eddy's "Eddy Curry Line" is 1.9, pretty much the worst in the NBA. To put it simply: He averages 1.9 turnovers for every assist, block, and steal COMBINED. His assist to turnover ratio, is .23 and he has the third most turnovers in the NBA.



Look, Eddy Curry will be 25 next year. Would you swap two draft picks for Shaq at 25? Of course. Shaw is a once-in-a-generation talent. Would you swap those picks (knowing that a post age-limit draft featuring Oden and Durant was two years away) for someone who'd been in the NBA for four years and had never averaged over 15 points per game? Would you want a franchise player who the coach wasn't confident enough in to play in a recent fourth quarter, as ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan explained last week?

"If Curry was really worth all those draft picks that you sent to Chicago, as Isiah keeps insisting, how on earth is he not even letting him off the bench when his team needs a bucket like humans need oxygen?""


Channing Frye:
Jay Bilas, you amazing bastard! Your "Does he have a position?" cries during each of the last few NBA drafts have proven true in Frye's case, thanks to Isiah's odd roster choices. After a first season that was, frankly, exciting, last year was written off as Frye's "Lost Season." Now, due to an offense that runs through a player who can't pass and can't shoot outside of the charge circle, you are proven right, Mr. Bilas! Frye officially doesn't have a position on this Knicks team. In a sane world, Frye would be a kick-out option when Curry gets double teamed, even getting plays called for him directly. In Isiah Thomas' world, though, it's better to play Lee, Jeffries and Curry on the front line, which if you haven't noticed, might be the worst shooting front line the history of the NBA. Here is something I firmly believe: Lee, Jeffries and Curry couldn't beat Michael Clarke Duncan, Chris Tucker and Nelly in a game of HORSE. If you saw the Celebrity All-Star Game in Vegas, you'd understand how shockingly bad this statement is for Knicks fans.

Renaldo Balkman:
All Knicks fans can remember where they were when Balkman was drafted. There was that initial excitement, the thought that maybe the Knicks had stumbled upon some hidden raw talent by combing the streetball courts of America's inner cities, kind of like Nolte finding Shaq in Blue Chips. Then the effects of the Glancing Shot to the Groin Epoch set in.

There's the shock. The disbelief. The shouting. The feeling of inevitability, as if you kinda knew something like this would happen. Then, if you were watching at the time, you had to watch Greg Anthony rip the pick and Stephen Smith actually look speechless for a milisecond (which must have briefly thrown the Earth of its axis).



On a team with no true point guard, we passed on the best point guard in the draft. I've examined the logic here, which basically amounts to "We Have Nate Robinson and Steve Francis! There's no room for anyone else. Our guards are too good!" Or the "What the Knicks Need are Hustle/Defensive/Glue Guys, not Scorers" school of thought, which is asinine because it assumes that the Knicks were just a few pieces away from contention or even near to playoff success. And it ignores the reality that Balkman could have been drafted in the second round or signed as free agent. Really, the shock/lower groin pain/death-from-the-inside sensation hasn't subsided for Knicks fans. In the end, the Balkman pick was all about self-preservation on Isiah's part, which I'll get into.

Malik Rose:
Strangely, Rose actually has a semi-surprising jumper. He also got the start over Jerome James in this week's game versus the Celtics. He played with Tim Duncan. He seems like a nice guy. Really, what can you say about Malik Rose's presence on the Knicks? That I'd rather have an expiring deal then a useless bench player? Well, that's obvious.

David Lee:
When David Lee is the young player you brag about after three years of rebuilding, then you're getting into the type of perennial low expectations normally reserved for the new Guns N' Roses album or for the Clippers. That's not a knock against Lee, who's been an absolute steal and is basically just refreshing as hell to watch.

A few things worry me about D-Lee. First, his rebound numbers are off the charts, but David Lee isn't your prototypical rebound machine a la Dawkins, Rodman and Howard. I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that Lee gets most of his rebounds on broken plays, off long-ish rebounds and from sheer hustle. In a different offense, could Lee match these rebound totals? And, second, he's got a good slashing game, but he's an offensive liability without the ability to shoot from at least ten feet away. Again, Curry's limitations really hurt us here.

Kelvin Cato:
Hmm, what to say here? That he's a Glue guy? He's great in the locker room? Also, great on the team bus and charter flights? In hotel lobbies on the road, this guy's great? When you share a cab with a guy like this, you know why he's on the team? He's great at PR events involving players reading from children's books or handing out wrapped presents purchased by team interns? He's there to groom the young guys? I mean, to actually groom them? Like with an expensive brush and an emery board?

Jarred Jeffries:
At the time of this signing, we had Jalen Rose, Quentin Richardson as legitimate small forwards. Then, we had a glut of guys who could play either SF or PF like Frye and Lee, both of whom would be ill-suited to play SF in the small-ball NBA era. We had Balkman as a defense/energy guy, but he can't shoot either. Rose was likely to be traded and Quentin Richardson was VERY undersized to play small forward. Knowing Rose was gone, we had ONLY Richardson as a SF option with a jumpshot. Think about that for a second.

To get some shooting presence at SF we were left with Frye playing out of position on the wing (a defensive liability) or we had to play Richardson at SF. This was the reality going into the Jared Jeffries signing.

So, that's why it made so much sense to sign another small forward who can't shoot under the shoddy pretense that he will help us defensively! Now, we're on the hook with Jeffries for four years at $5.2 million, $5.6 million, $6 million, and $.6.6 million per respectively. (For some perspective, Crawford makes $7 million). This is another example of a GM operating in Self-Preservation Mode ( I'll get to this, believe me).

Jalen Rose, Maurice Taylor and The Departed:
Here's how a GM operates when he's in Self-Preservation Mode, namely one who's paying nearly $60 million in luxury taxes, is still paying Shandon Anderson ($8.5 million), Jerome Williams ($6.4 million) and Alan Houston ($20.7 millon), and has expiring contracts to work with: he throws them in the trash to save a few million dollars in luxury tax. Or better yet, he throws them away to save his own hide. This is the crux of GM Self-Preservation Mode -- sacrifice tomorrow for a few more wins today (note to GMs using this approach, fans don't forget, but your future employers likely will).



As Simmons noted in his trade deadline review, the Knicks could have used Rose and Taylor's contracts as bargaining chips (not sure why he didn't mention the Knicks entering the Gasol sweepstakes with these assets, but I'll get to this). But, Isiah's back was against the wall. He is a GM in full-on Self-Preservation Mode. He'd been given a 1-year ultimatum. He drafted Balkman to help the team "win now." He threw money at Jared Jeffries in a desperate attempt to shore up his roster.

And, likely to keep his boss off his back about the luxury tax, Isiah Thomas said, "I can't wait until February. Jalen Rose and Maurice Taylor are preventing my chances from winning 35 games NOW!" So, he bought out their contracts out and sent them packing, realizing that a bad record by the All-Star break could doom his chances to ever get an NBA job again.

Here's the thing, are Rose and Taylor's expiring contracts, more valuable than Kelvin Cato and Malik Rose? That's the whole issue. You sit Jalen on the bench for a few months and you trade him. You're telling me Memphis wouldn't have listened to a deal involving Rose and Taylor's expiring deals, Lee and/or Frye, Robinson and/or the Knicks #1 this year for Gasol? Think about the prospect of Gasol, Curry, Marbury and Crawford/Richardson. That's a legitmate contender in the East.

Simmons brings up a good point about Isiah's huge mistake in jettisoning these assets. But was this his dumbest decision? They've pretty much all been dumb. Whether its over-paying for a redundant player like Jeffries, discarding expiring contracts, drafting a questionable (and equally redundant) "glue" player like Balkman who could have been had as a free agent, Isiah's desperately trying to win now at all costs. Too bad he's about two years too early to even worry about winning. Maybe Dolan has nixed any more roster moves, but Isiah's been cornered. He's not thinking about anything beyond this year, that much is obvious.

Apologies to Simmons for the borrowed reference, but the last year or so has been Isiah putting all of his chips in the middle of the table, hoping to win a VERY small pot. All while Isiah's holding a pair of twos. Yes, I just compared the Knicks current roster to a pair of twos. How's that for optimisim?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

This Post Has Been Certified 100% Free of Swingers References

Quick hits on the All Star skills contest:

Props to Gerald Green wearing a #2 on his headband for Red Auerbach. And the dunk contest was definitely his, despite the fact that his last dunk should not have really been an all 10 score, which the judges gave him. That was definitely a "this contest is over" score after Nate-Rob blew his last dunk.


In fairness to Nate, his first dunk (the last one in this group) was my favorite of the night. Even more than Dwight Howard's "sticker dunk" (which was sick, and unfairly gypped by the judges). We kill Nate here, but I have to hand it to him; he did well through those first two rounds and, damn, that first dunk. You had to see it.

Green pulled out all the stops. He pulled off his jersey to reveal a retro (Dee Brown). He changed sneakers and even pumped them up before doing the no-look (a la Brown), and, in a genius move, was all set to dunk over a life-size cardboard cutout of Nate-Rob, until Nate himself stood in for the cutout (great Nate reaction shot as Green's balls whistled over his forehead).


Vote Barkley '08

In the upset of the night, Charles Barkley beat Dick Bavetta in their long-awaited foot race. Fittingly, both ended the race sprawled on the floor. Bavetta because he made a last-ditch effort to dive head-first to make up ground. Ask any major league first base coach, that head-first slide don't work, son. Barkley sprawled backward on his ass through the finish line since he'd turned around to mock Bavetta by backpedaling. But the day was his. Both competitors were gracious and classy after the event, and Sir Charles was happy to point out that "two hands of black jack" were being donated to charity ($50,000).


Gimme All Three of These

I had Arenas taking out Dirk in the three-point contest, but Jason Kapono< played spoiler and, well, spoiled it. The Heat are boring. Sorry. Good for Jason, but he'll never have Agent Zero's swag.

Friday, February 16, 2007

E-City, Lift Up Your Weary Head!


It's the last night of NBA basketball before the end of the first half, and Ernie Johnson is being carried in to the outdoor Las Vegas TNT studio on a velvet sedan chair by, in a potentially awkward bit of racial imagery, four large black men dressed as Roman guards. Barkley and the Jet look on in disbelief, yelling "Are you kidding me?!"

You know what this means, folks: it's All Star time!

The Knicks don't have any all stars. Nate-Rob is returning to the dunk contest, of course, and Eddy Curry may have been close, by the numbers, perhaps. Or just by virtue of the long-lamented death of the True Center. But a few games ago one broadcaster -- I think it was Gus Johnson -- put it well, saying, basically, E-City can't be an all star while still playing this much shy of his potential. At this point he might well be the most depressing Knick, even if he's one of the best. In fact, it's probably because he's one of the best. You might roll your eyes at Nate Robinson's antics, but what else do you expect from the guy? Eddy Curry, on the other hand, should be absolutely shitting on people down low all the time. As it is, he only does it when he feels like it. He's a 6'11" 285-pound center who refuses to block shots or rebound (he can pull in six or seven a game be accident).

It's appropriate he's been tabbed by Isiah as the guy the team is built around, because that mood of depressed expectations that surrounds him also sums up the state of the team. Here at the halfway mark they have 23 wins, matching their total from all of last year. Progress? Sure. But can't you just feel that buzz rumbling up in New York about our rejuvenated hoops team? No? Me neither.

* * *
They Also Mourn Who Do Not Wear Orange and Blue

The sports blog That's On Point came out with a list of the NBA's worst players today, the Ira Newble All-Stars. I don't really know how to break this to you all, but Jerome James made the list. I'm not that familiar with T.O.P., but they had me at this line:
Isiah Thomas could’ve spent that $35 million better if he lit it on fire in Penn Station and doused it out with the contents of Jim Dolan’s liquor cabinet.
For a depressing end to a depressing post, let's do a little Knicks salary pop quiz:
  1. Who is the highest-paid Knick this year?
  2. How much are the Knicks paying Shandon Anderson for his contributions to the '06-'07 squad?
  3. How many McGriddles will Jerome James be able to by with his '08-'09 salary?
The answers:
  1. Allan Houston ($20,718,750)
  2. $8,500,000
  3. 2,831,050 McGriddles (based on $2.19 per McGriddle for the egg, bacon, and cheese variety)
The Ira Newble All-Stars '07 [That's On Point]