Marbury in ’08!

There was discussion earlier today about whether Marbury would return to the Knicks this season. Coach Isiah Thomas even remarked that he did not know if Marbury would return. According to a report, though, Marbury will return to the Knicks some time after the beginning of the new year.

Is this good news, though?

I think so, at least if he comes back in game shape. I am not a big fan of Marbury, but goodness, the Knicks options at guard are pretty flimsy at this point in time, so I think Marbury is still an upgrade.

I would especially love to see him paired with the new frontcourt of Jeffries, Lee and Randolph. See if he and Crawford can work well with two forwards (Lee and Jeffries) who do not NEED the ball.

But I can see him being just such a headcase that it might be a bigger detriment to the team than a positive.

Edited to Add: Some readers have brought up the notion of just holding on to Marbury for the rest of the year, since he will definitely be tradeable NEXT year, when his contract will have only one year left. While that is certainly true, is it not in the Knicks’ best interest, if they keep Marbury, to just keep him the WHOLE time, and just let his deal run out – and get the cap room that comes with that?

NBA Less Prone to a Steroid Scandal

When I was a young boy I received a copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia for my birthday. This was in the days before the internet, when if you wanted to find out the answer to a question you would need the appropriate book in hand. if you had a book report on space instead of using wikipedia, you needed to have the 30 or so volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica. Instead of google, your parents had to know the answer to all of life’s questions (or at least pretend to).

I was a baseball fan for as long as I could remember. Growing up, everyone on my block was a Yankee fan, primarily due to their dominance of the era (or the Mets futility). And since my father was an immigrant with no love for the game, I followed suit. I learned about the game as much as someone could on the street, in little league, and in front of the tv. But it wasn’t until that Baseball Encyclopedia fell on my lap that I could truly delve into the history of baseball. All of a sudden players that were dead decades before I was born came to life. It was easy to imagine Ty Cobb frequently circling the bases when you saw his career numbers: .366 BA, 295 3B, 892 SB. The dominance of Babe Ruth was clear looking at the numbers. His 54 homers in 1920 were more than any other team in the American League. For each era, there were numbers that stood out among the rest: Ted Williams’ .406 BA, Koufax’s 1.73 ERA, McLain’s 31 wins, Ryan’s 383 Ks, and Henderson’s 130 SB to name a few.

Like no other, baseball is ultimately a game of numbers. Just about every fan knows most of the important baseball records by heart, and baseball’s lexicon is filled with statistical references. There are .300 hitters, 20 win pitchers, 100 RBI guys, and the 40-40 club. In baseball statistical accomplishments are on par with championship moments. Kirk Gibson’s home run and the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” are just as historically significant as Aaron’s 715th home run and Joe Dimaggio’s 56 game hit streak. For baseball fans, there are just as many important events that helped to decide championships as there are numerical accomplishments.

The importance of numbers to baseball is why the steroid scandal is so damaging. The last few years baseball players have done things that for decades seemed impossible. It took Marris 34 years to break Ruth’s mark, and no one else was able to hit 60 in the 37 years since that event. For years very few pitchers reached the age of 40, and those that did where either knuckleballers like Hoyt Wilhelm or Phil Niekro or former fireballers reduced to marshmallow tossers like Jim Kaat and Tom Seaver. But then all of a sudden the game changed. The 60 home run mark is surpassed 6 times in 4 years. And Roger Clemens kept his fastball and won two more Cy Youngs past his 40th birthday. In baseball numbers that were holy had become desecrated, and the result is that baseball’s numerical legacy, which helped endear it to so many people, had become meaningless.

While it would be naive to think that baseball is the only sport that has players who are abusing steroids, it is probably the only mainstream sport that would suffer greatly from a steroid controversy. An NFL player is more likely to improve due to steroids, but the sport barely blinked an eye when one of it’s marquee players was caught using. Shawn Merriman was suspended for a few games, but was still voted to the Pro Bowl.

But I think basketball would be less immune to a steroid scandal than either baseball or football. The main reason is that basketball doesn’t lend itself to numbers like baseball does. Unlike baseball where there are many great statistical historical moments, in basketball there are very few. Other than Wilt’s 100 point game, and maybe his 50 ppg season, there aren’t many basketball numbers that matter. Without looking it up, I couldn’t tell you who has the NBA’s single season high in assists, rebounds, blocks, or steals. Instead basketball’s history is defined by events like Willis Reed’s game 7, Jordan’s shot against the Jazz, and “Havlicek Stole the Ball”. The NBA is also defined by their rivalries. Wilt vs. Russell. Bird vs. Magic. Shaq vs. Duncan. Jordan vs. Everyone.

So what would happen if the NBA were hit with a steroid scandal similar to the MLBs? In baseball it seems that steroids does two things: slow down the aging process and increase the potency of power hitters. But in basketball it’s hard to imagine that steroids would have as large an impact. While there are some areas where an increase in strength would be beneficial, there is still so much else required to be successful in basketball. In other words steroids isn’t going to make you deadly from 18 feet, allow you to make behind the back passes, or add 50 points to your free throw average. The player type that is most likely to improve their on the court performance due to steroids is the aging vet looking for the fountain of youth or bigmen that rely on their physical strength and have little skill.

So although basketball is hindered by not having a rich statistical past like baseball, it helps inoculate the sport from the steroid scandal baseball is currently suffering through. Additionally basketball is reliant on skills that aren’t aided purely by brute strength. Which means steroids can’t turn Dwight Howard into Wilt Chamberlain. And after witnessing what McGwire, Bonds, and Clemens did to baseball, that’s a good thing.

The (Fourth) Winter of Our Discontent

On December 20th, 2003, a bad New York Knicks team defeated an even worse Atlanta Hawks team, 103-92. The starters for the Knicks in that game were Allan Houston, Antonio McDyess, Keith Van Horn, Dikembe Mutombo and Howard Eisley (do note that 3/5th of the starting five are no longer in the league, and a fourth is so old that he used to babysit Julio Franco). The reserves were Kurt Thomas, Charlie Ward, Frank Williams, Shandon Anderson and Michael Doleac (3/5th of THEM are ALSO out of the league now, with Doleac hanging on by a thread).

Two days later, on December 22nd, 2003 – four years ago today, the Knicks hired Isiah Thomas as their new President and General Manager. Their next game was December 23rd, and appropriately enough, they lost. Read More

Might As Well Get This Out While The David Lee Lovefest Continues

For the people that think Lee can’t survive in the half court: Did you see yesterday’s game? I’ve noticed that David “General” Lee (thanks DRED) has been playing really well on offense, especially with the ball in his hands. He likes to get it 10 feet from the hoop, and in the past he’d just try to drive baseline & use his finishing skills to score. But recently he’s added a little jumper that he works from that same spot. He didn’t hit it yesterday (I only remember him attempting it once), but the General has hit that shot this season.

Lee nailed a ten footer on Monday I believe, which prompted a pretty noticeable remark from Clyde. In just about every game Frazier points out one play that the player was practicing on. Clyde did it last night when one of the Cavs had the ball – and remarked how the player was working on that shot before the game. In any case when Lee hit the shot on Monday, Clyde remarked how Lee had been practicing that shot and working with Aguirre. That’s a good sign that Lee is attempting to improve himself. I’m sure in college he was a fine player without a jumper, that usually happens with NBA caliber players. Why shoot a jumpshot when you can repeatedly beat them inside? But in the NBA, the level of play is higher, and you’re no longer better than 99% of the competition – so you have to improve yourself.

Now I know this may come to Owen’s chagrin, because efficient scoring usually occurs near the hoop. However, it seems that Lee often does this early in order to make his defender play him tighter on the perimeter. Of course that he does it from the same spot where he likes to setup on offense means that Lee is developing into a more complete player in the half court set. No longer can defenders step back and prepare for a drive, because Lee is apt to hoist a jumper.

And the results? According to 82games, Lee is shooting 38.9% eFG from the outside. Consider that Zach Randolph is shooting 37.0 % eFG, and you have to think that Lee is at least competent with his shot. The good news is that only 24% of Lee’s shots have been classified as “jump” shots by 82games, whereas Randolph’s repertoire consists is 56% jumpshots. Well I guess that’s not good news for Zach Randolph…

But what’s just as impressive is Lee’s passing skills. He’s not particularly good at threading the needle inside – but what he’s good at is finding the open man on the perimeter. At times Lee knows who he’s going to pass the ball to before he gets it, and at times he’s good at scanning the field when he receives the ball – waiting for the offense to unfold. He doesn’t create double teams or make other guys open, but he does get the ball to the right guy at the right time. And while you might look at his assist numbers and think he’s a greedy ballhog, it’s probably better to look at his turnovers to put it into context. Lee rarely handles the ball on offense, probably by design, but he also rarely coughs it up. Consider that Randolph and Curry give the ball away two and a half times as often, and you can find another of Lee’s strength on offense.

Sure I know yesterday was one of Lee’s finest games, but from what I’ve seen this season it’s not a big surprise that he had a game of that magnitude. And while Lee isn’t going to dribble past his guy for a two handed flush every time (like he did to Zydrunas), and he’s not going to save the Knicks this year, he’s certainly not the one dimensional Reggie Evans that some Knick fans paint him out to be. New York has been just fine with Lee in the half court on offense, and there is no reason to think otherwise.

Rally To Fire Isiah 11am Today (Wed 12/19/2007)

It seems a local man has created a large pink slip to present to the Garden front office asking to fire Isiah Thomas. It’s going on today at 11am. If anyone goes, please comment here. Also if you take any pictures, email them to me, and I’ll publish them here.

UPDATE: Pictures can be seen here: