Who on the Knicks WOULD you trade for Kobe Bryant?

I figure you folks really enjoy the topic, so let’s at least try to get it into its own entry, rather than hijacking poor Nate Robinson.

Would you trade David Lee, Zach Randolph and Renaldo Balkman for Kobe Bryant and spare parts?

Would you trade Lee and Balkman for Kobe?

Would you trade Randolph and Balkman?

Who WOULD you be willing to trade to the Lakers for Kobe Bryant?

Who would the LAKERS be willing to take on the Knicks for Kobe Bryant (probably no one, but that is neither here nor there, as clearly the public relations value of a player almost never equals the player’s actual value)?

Okay, attac….wait, I mean, discuss!!

Bill Walton on the Taste of Foot

It’s nearing halftime of the United States/Uruguay game, and the US is running Uruguay off the court. Lebron James just made a spectacular dunk on a Uruguayan player, and John Saunders says “Uh oh” as Lebron comes to dunk on the guy. A few seconds later, Saunders expresses that his statement, “Uh oh” must be what the Uruguyan players are feeling, and then that leads to Bill Walton making the greatest segue ever, “And that is what the good people of New Orleans were saying two years ago today when Katrina first hit their shores.”

WOW.

Saunders seems a bit stunned, and then says something like, “I hope things go better this time around,” and Walton quickly agrees, too, and they move on.

I know Walton was trying to actually be NICE and just throw a shout out to the victims of Katrina, but WOW.

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Nate Robinson

KnickerBlogger: New Yorkers absolutely loved Nate Robinson when he first came to the Knicks. Coming out of the University of Washington, Robinson was a lilliputian guard with colossal physical abilities. Last year Robinson did what you’d expect from an undersized shooting guard. He led all Knick guards in eFG% (51.3%) and 3P% (39.0%) and showed despite his short stature he could get to the line (TS% 55.2%, second among Knick guards). Due to his efficient scoring ability, Robinson was second on the team in points per 40 minutes (19.0 pts/40) only behind Eddy Curry. Not just a one dimensional scorer, among Knick guards Robinson was the best in respect to offensive rebounds (1.6 OREB/40) and turnovers (2.1 TO/40), and second best in respect to steals (1.5 STL/40). Yet despite all that, Robinson is no longer a fan favorite. So what happened?

Simply put, Nate Robinson is his own worst enemy. Along with his diminutive stature and his youthful enthusiasm, Robinson comes with a childlike temperament. There’s a fine line between having a zest for the game and acting like a grade schooler. Robinson not only crosses that line, he lives on it. Less than one month into the season, Nate attempted an in game alley-oop dunk on a fast break, only to be called for traveling on the play. Throwing away points on a losing team for the sake of showboating is among the game’s cardinal sins.

Robinson exacerbated his image problem by perpetually arguing with officials. It’s annoying when a marquee player like Tim Duncan disputes every call, but it’s downright unbearable when a bench guy like Robinson does it. Unfortunately, Nate gave himself plenty of opportunities to argue with officials as his foul rate (4.7 PF/40) was equal to Marbury (2.7 PF/40) and Crawford’s (2.1 PF/40) combined.

Robinson’s immaturity causes his actions to be viewed by the public through tinted glasses. Take for instance Nate’s role in the Denver melee. In the past plenty of Knicks have improved their public image through fisticuffs. Fighting improved Starks, Childs, and L.J.’s popularity among Knick fans. Although Nate was an instigator in the event, it’s hard to believe that a player with a calmer outward demeanor like Eddy Curry would have been seen in the same light. Had Curry been involved, the local airwaves would be talking about his moxie and willingness to defend his teammate. But Robinson was vilified for his role. It’s ironic considering a few years ago, Knicknation was up in arms when no one came to the rescue of Tim Thomas after Jason Collins slammed him to the floor.

To be fair, Nate’s negatives aren’t all in his head. His defense is suspect, and his assist rate is minuscule for a guard. While 82games.com says the Knicks are 2.4 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Robinson on the floor, opposing PGs are better than average (16.3 oPER) when Nate guards them. To the eye Robinson struggles mightily against the pick & roll, and other than the steals he doesn’t do anything particularly well on defense. I would rate him a mediocre to average defender.

Most people expect Robinson to be a point guard due to his height, but he’s really more of a shooting guard. Even accounting for that, his assist rate is subpar. As I said earlier, the Knick offense allows all the guards to play the point interchangeably. But it seems that Robinson isn’t sharing enough with his teammates. To put things in perspective, his 2.7 AST/40 is about the same as David Lee’s 2.4 AST/40 who rarely touches the ball. Nate does have the ability to make the spectacular play, and can pass the ball on his drives. It just that he desires to take the shot instead of making the pass. Normally you wouldn’t mind that from a guard that shoots as efficiently as Robinson. But then again Robinson suffers from his poor image, one that being a greedy guard certainly fits in with. In a way, for Nate Robinson hell is other people.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: C, due to bad behavior.

2008 Outlook: With Nate Robinson entering his third season, it’s time to evaluate whether his poor decision making in the past was just youthful exuberance, or if it will continue to be a Rasheed Wallace like permanent petulance. I don’t expect Nate Robinson to turn into John Stockton, because he’s such an excitable person. What I would like to see is for Nate to take his job a little more seriously.

Robinson played 21.4 min/g under Larry Brown, and 21.2 min/g under Isiah Thomas. It seems that two coaches, who had very different views & philosophies, saw Robinson in the same light. If Nate wants to shed his role as spark off the bench, he’ll need to shed his image as a circus act crammed into a basketball uniform. It’ll be interesting to see how Nate plays in the preseason. I can envision Isiah giving Robinson more minutes due to his strong summer showing. If Nate can continue his productive ways, it could mean more playing time when the season starts. That would be a good thing, since the Knicks are paper thin at shooting guard, and they could use Robinson’s production.

Dave Crockett

In many ways KB’s take on Robinson has been by far the most “fair and balanced” (pardon the regrettable and unintended pun) I’ve read. I agree with his take on Robinson in total, but I also wish to offer a complementary perspective that’s less about Robinson’s performance than Robinson as a character in the theater that is professional sports. It’s easy to forget that sports is more than the simple pursuit of competitive dominance since that is precisely what the regular visitors to this blog come to read about and discuss. But, pro sports is also improv theater and all good theater (or “good copy,” to use the parlance of journalists) needs “heroes,” “bad boys,” and “villains.” As the great fat sage, Charles Barkley, is purported to have once said, “They can love you or they can hate you. Both sell tickets.”

Robinson, through a combination of his own immaturity as well as the fickle nature of media and fans, has gone from being a precocious but impish bad boy to something of a villain in just two full seasons. Though Robinson has clearly been the catalyst for his own fall from the good graces of many Knicks fans I also think he’s suffered from a demand for a steady of supply of villains that is becoming insatiable. Most of the time in professional sports players move seamlessly between the basic “villain,” “bad boy,” and “hero” roles for any number of reasons through a process that is reasonably organic and not always totally predictable. (I suspect many readers aren’t old enough to remember when Muhammad Ali was a villain to much of the American sporting public. He was hated in no uncertain terms. He had perhaps the most amazing role transformation ever.) But increasingly, the theater of pro sports has come to resemble the theater of pro ‘rasslin’ in its predictability, its cardboard cutouts of who gets assigned to which roles and for how long.

In Robinson’s case, since the Denver fight I see him being typecast as a particularly crappy villain archetype, and I really hope he’s allowed to work his way out of it. I call it the “Jeff George” villain archetype. Sometimes a player opens himself up to fan/media disdain by doing something over-the-top or exposing himself as a jerk and for whatever reason isn’t allowed much of a shot at redemption. Soon, the guy just can’t do anything right. The media fits him with a black top hat and a curly-Q mustache and it becomes obvious to the audience that he’s the guy to hate. (Note: I’m talking about sports-related stuff here NOT criminal or near-criminal behavior.) If you remember former NFL QB Jeff George, he was by most accounts a pompous jerk; universally reviled by fans, media, opposing players, even teammates and coaches. You would think by the way people couldn’t wait to denounce him that the NFL was not littered with similarly unbearable jerks. But of course it was, and is. As much as I truly loath Kansas City Star (and former ESPN.com) columnist Jason Whitlock, I must agree with his sentiment that no one can point to anything George ever said or did that was uniquely awful.

Robinson, though not having “achieved” anything approaching the pariah status of George, seems to be quickly approaching the “can’t do anything right” status that is the hallmark of the Jeff George villain archetype. Hell, watch any Knick’s telecast with Mike Breen (even before the fight) and you’ll see what I mean. Regardless of what Robinson actually did on the court Breen would raise questions about his immaturity and decision-making, typically citing his ball-handling, shot selection, and his role in the Denver fight as prima facie evidence. So a poor shooting night or any turnover became proof of Robinson’s immaturity and poor decision-making. Yet somehow a good shooting/low turnover night did not indicate maturity or improved decision-making. The “Nate Robinson cautionary tale” always spins such a night as proof of how much talent Robinson is potentially squandering by his immaturity and poor decision-making.

My outlook for Robinson in 2008 completely mirrors KB’s in most respects. I believe Robinson is quite important to the Knicks playoffs chances. Not only are the Knicks thin at the SG, my entirely intuitive suspicion is that Crawford’s injury last season may be the first in a string of small-but-ongoing leg-related ailments that may keep him shuttling in and out of the lineup. So I believe the Knicks need Robinson to improve; it’s not a luxury. To do so he will have to start with the man in the mirror. Whether he is the new Jeff George or the new Bozo the Clown he simply must learn to focus on things that help the team win and leave the nonsense alone–period. But, I also urge the fans not to give up on this kid. He’s already a useful player and has the chance to get even better.

Brian Cronin – Man, Dave just reminded me of how annoying Mike Breen can be sometimes. The man is a GREAT announcer, but I think he works better on national telecasts, where he is not close to the situation, because man, he certainly seems to have soured upon the Knicks.

Breen reminds me of the stereotypical middle age guy complaining about how the NBA is “all thugs” nowadays. Those guys annoy me so much.

Anyhow, as to Robinson, the guy definitely exhibits some weird behavior, but since the fight, I thought he was actually a lot calmer than before the fight, and he seemed like a real nice asset to the team as an outside shooter. I hated when he tried to control the offense at times (that is not his specialty), but as a guy there to hit the outside shot, I like him there more than most other Knicks, and I think he will be a useful player this season.

Has the United States Made the Adjustment?

Yesterday, the United States brought their record in the FIBA Americas Championships to 3-0 with a 50 point throttling of Canada, 113-63.

Through the first three games, the US is averaging a winning margin of 52 points per game.

While these early opponents aren’t all that impressive, the dominance of the victories IS, and it is a very good sign for the return of United States competitiveness in international play. And really, it seems to be a simple solution to their past problems – the US seems to have actually taken the situation SERIOUSLY for the first time in some years. Read More

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Quentin Richardson

KnickerBlogger: By the numbers, Quentin Richardson’s 2007 season wasn’t all that bad, especially when compared to his 2006 season. Richardson’s rebirth seems to be based on two stats: his rebounding and shooting percentages. Richardson posted the highest per-minute rebounding average of his career (8.7 REB/40), solely due to an increase in his defensive rebounds (7.1 DREB/40). This made him the Knicks third best rebounder last year, which is impressive for a 6-6 swingman. Additionally Richardson had his best shooting season as well. His eFG (50.7%) and TS% (53.2%) were the highest of his career, and his three point percentage (37.6%) was his second best. Quentin lacks the foot speed to beat opponents to the hoop, but he compliments his outside shooting with a post up game. Therefore Richardson doesn’t get a lot of free throws (3.0 FTA/40), and the few he gets aren’t converted at a high rate (69.2% FT%). To the eye Richardson is an average defender, and the Knicks were 1.8 points worse with him on the court. Although the +/- data may be due to the exploits of Renaldo Balkman being a fantastic defensive reserve, Richardson doesn’t look to be better than a solid defender.

Unfortunately there is one more stat of Richardson’s that catches the eye: games played. Over the last 5 years Richardson has surpassed 70 games just once, and as a Knick he has missed 60 games in 2 years. Richardson’s balky back shut him down in mid March. One thing that may have contributed to Richardson’s breakdown is the heavy minutes he played. Quentin averaged 33.1 minutes per game, which may be more than his body can tolerate.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: Omitting Injury B, Considering Injury C

2008 Outlook: There are two issues to consider with Richardson going into 2008. The first is which position will he play? Let’s assume the Knicks keep Chandler, jettison Fred Jones, and stash Nichols in Europe. The Knicks are likely to have a surplus of small forwards and a dearth of shooting guards. If you take Richardson out of the equation at small forward you can easily divide 48 minutes by Renaldo Balkman, Wilson Chandler, Jared Jeffries, and David Lee. The Knicks will be fine at small forward without Richardson. Shooting guard is another story. The depth chart is Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, and occasionally Marbury (assuming that Collins would play the point on offense with any other Knick guard). Even if the Knicks kept Fred Jones, there still isn’t quality depth there. So it makes sense to have Richardson primarily at shooting guard, instead of small forward. Which brings us to our next issue: How many minutes should Richardson play? Considering how much time he has missed, the Knicks would be smart to use the McDyess strategy with Richardson. That is play him sparingly between 20-24 minutes a game. If you took Richardson’s 1621 minutes last year & divided that among 82 games, you’d get 19.8 min/g. I’d much rather have Richardson available for 20 minutes a night for the entire season than have him miss 30+ games.

If you combine the two, Richardson should start the season as the backup shooting guard. In a way this makes a lot of sense. First, moving Richardson to guard will make Balkman the starter at forward. Balkman exceeded expectations last year and had an eye-popping summer league. Stat heads like Balkman due to his phenomenal non-shooting stats, while the casual fans relate to his underdog draft status combined with his blue collar game. Second, putting Q’s name on the shooting guard’s depth chart will drive youngsters like Crawford and Robinson to play better. Isiah can quickly substitute in Richardson for some “veteran leadership” when Crawford launches his patented “22 foot crossover off-balance jumper” or when Nate Robinson decides to play 1 on 5. Richardson’s no nonsense game can be instructional for the two neophytes.

Third, the risk to overplay Richardson will decrease if he’s coming off the pine. If Richardson starts, the temptation will be too great to play him major minutes. Fewer minutes will keep Quentin fresh and ideally, available for a majority of the season. Taught to be tough and confident at every level, most professional athletes don’t like to take a reduced role even to benefit their own health. Being a “player’s coach” Isiah should be able to sell this concept to Richardson. To the public Quentin would be seen as the veteran selflessly sacrificing his personal stats for the good of the team. But behind the cameras Isiah can tell Richardson that this move will allow him to avoid the crippling injuries that an overused and oft-injured professional athlete will suffer in their twilight years.

Dave Crockett: Add to all the stuff KB notes statistically that Q-Rich is easily the Knick least likely to do something stupid with the ball. As much as anything it was comforting to know that the worst you would get from Richardson is a forced shot, and even then he was as likely to run down his own miss as anyone save Lee and Balkman. In the Richardson report card KB gets at precisely what I think is the most critical dilemma facing the team (given its current construction) heading into the 07-08 season. The shooting guard situation is a real concern. Q-Rich has bolted past that point of no return where his usefulness is now largely a function of how his minutes are managed. Given what he brings to the table Q-Rich is probably most valuable playing alongside the other projected starters, particularly if paired with Balkman to allow for defensive cross-switches. But, as KB points out, Richardson would breakdown quickly on starter’s minutes so it makes sense in the abstract to bring him off the bench.

The not-so-abstract downside to benching Richardson is to weaken the starting unit considerably. Jamal Crawford, a worse defender, presumably supplants Q-Rich as the backcourt starter alongside Marbury. This leaves the Knicks (to my mind) overly-dependent on his ability to mature into a reliable starter. I should note that I’m a Crawford fan. I enjoy watching him play as much or more than any Knick but he is clearly not the kind of starting shooting guard this team needs (i.e., a decent defender with a low turnover rate, moderate usage rate, and a good 3pt shooter). Crawford is far better suited to an “instant offense” role coming off the bench and left on a short leash.

It’s unclear how concerned the brass is about the shooting guard situation. Unfortunately, even if they did the Knicks lack clear in-house options to alleviate such concerns (though I’d not rule out the possibility that Nichols might develop into a real option). Additionally, when Reggie Miller and Allan Houston are making comeback overtures that are drawing legitimate interest it’s safe to say the market lacks attractive options.

Who Would You Trade for Ron Artest?

With all the rumors circulating around Ron Artest possibly being traded to the Knicks, the gang here at KnickerBlogger decided to try to figure out who we would trade for Artest if we were, in fact, forced to do so.

Pick out which offer you think is the best (on the grounds of being good for the Knicks and still being acceptable for the Kings)! Or share your own suggestion (Here is ESPN’s handy dandy Trade Machine, for you to see if your trade fits in with the NBA’s various salary cap rules)!!

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Brian Cronin – I would be willing to part with two different options:

1. Quentin Richardson – If Artest came to the Knicks, Richardson would be screwed anyways, as Artest plays the exact same position as Richardson (Small Forward who can play Shooting Guard), and since I think Artest is a better player than Richardson, I would be willing to swap the two players.

As for the Kings, Richardson is not an awful return on Artest. I mean, at this exact point in their careers, is Richardson much worse than Peja? And that’s all Sacramento gave up for Artest.

2. Jamal Crawford – This is a bit of a trickier trade, because, as I said above, Artest and Richardson play the same position (2/3), so having them both on the same team, with Nate and Balkman and Jeffries and Chandler (heck, even with a little Lee mixed in at the 3) – it would get crowded quickly.

However, if there is a good, marketable player on the Knicks who they could afford to lose without really hurting the team that much – it’s Jamal Crawford. So I’d be willing to risk it.

From the Kings’ perspective, Crawford is an exciting player, and would allow them to trade off Bibby for nothing and go forth with a Crawford/Martin back court for the next few years. While Crawford isn’t that great, he’s definitely a marketable player (see Crawford’s 52 against Miami), so I think that, while this would not be as good of a trade TALENT-wise for the Kings, it might actually be a better one from a PR standpoint.

KnickerBlogger: I chose the null option partially because Cronin took one of the few deals that I would take. I would do Crawford for Artest primarily because I’m not a big fan of Crawford’s out of control low percentage shooting. In any case I’ll play devil’s advocate on not trading for Artest, not that it’s far from what I actually think. It’s not so much that I wouldn’t want Ron Artest the player. For once Isiah would be getting a player that wouldn’t be a liability on the defensive end. And the Knicks could sure use help on the defensive end.

The problem is Ron Artest the person. I don’t think I need to rehash Artest’s history, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he’s a risk to himself and his team. It’s not inconceivable that Artest does something crazy enough to create a media circus and make 2008 a repulsive season for the fans. Knick fans have suffered through a brutal decade so far, and Artest could figuratively (or literally) give New Yorkers a black eye.

Not only could Artest’s actions ruin the season, but he could hurt the development of New York’s youngsters. David Lee and Renaldo Balkman have yet to hit their prime while showing flashes of brilliance. Meanwhile Nate Robinson, Mardy Collins, and Randolph Morris are becoming useful role players. Bringing a player like Artest aboard could cut into the playing time and progress of these promising players.

If the Knicks did trade for Artest, I would sure hope they don’t pay much (Crawford, Jeffries, Rose, etc.). Although he’s a talented defender, I would hate for the Knicks to trade useful prospects away only to have Artest self destruct.

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Randolph Morris

KnickerBlogger: Signed by the Knicks in a draft loophole, Randolph Morris became the first person to play in the NCAA tournament and the NBA season in the same week. Morris played for the Knicks in 5 games totaling 44 minutes. That’s 4 less minutes than a single NBA game.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: Incomplete

2008 Outlook: From what I saw in Las Vegas, Randolph Morris seems to be a solid, but unspectacular player. It’s harder to judge centers in summer league, because as Dave Berri puts it, there’s a short supply of tall players. On offense Morris showed that he was able to face up and hit a short jumper, and can finish around the hoop. His hands are adequate when it comes to receiving passes close to the basket. On defense he averaged a little over a block per game. His rebounding was good, but not great. There’s nothing that Randolph does that screams “I’m great at this!”, and that is what most scouting reports say. Ed Weiland said “I doubt he?ll ever be anything more than just usable as a player” and Berri said “Randolph Morris had a PAWSmin of 0.128 [ranked 9th in PF/C], which looks pretty good.”

Normally you wouldn’t expect a young player like Morris to get a lot of play. In essence he’s a rookie, and the Knicks have a logjam at C/PF with Curry, Randolph, Lee, Rose, and James. But one thing that might drive Isiah Thomas to play Morris more next year is his expiring contract. Since Morris wasn’t drafted by the Knicks, they couldn’t give him one of those 4-5 year rookie option deals. Unless New York extends Morris’ contract this offseason, Isiah will have to make a decision next year on whether or not to keep him. The Knicks would be in another Jackie Butler situation, but this time they won’t have the option to match if another team signs Morris to a contract.

Finding a usable center in the NBA is no easy task, so Isiah should try to give the kid a chance to prove himself this year. Using Randolph for at least 10-15 minutes a night over about 60 games should let the Knicks better evaluate his talents without allowing other teams to bid heavily on him next year. As an added bonus, being forced to play Morris would mean that Malik Rose should see even less minutes this year and Jerome James can dust off his old Globetrotter jersey.

Brian Cronin – Yeah, from what I have seen of Morris, he doesn’t look like anything more than a solid backup, but solid backup centers are USEFUL in the NBA, ESPECIALLY if they can keep you from signing, say, Jerome James to do the role.

So I think the signing of Morris was a steal by Isaiah.