With a tip of the hat to Stephen Colbert (and Tom Ziller), I present my thoughts of the 2008 season divided between the optimist and pessimist in me.
Optimist: Ready for a new season to begin?
Pessimist: Ready for a new season to end?
Optimist: Awww c’mon. You can’t tell me you’re not excited about 2008?
Pessimist: What’s to be excited about?
Optimist: Oh where to start? Another year of improvement for Lee, Balkman, and Nate. Yet another Isiah Thomas rookie find in Wilson Chandler. And ummm… Zach Randolph!
Pessimist: You’re kidding right?
Optimist: This is easily a playoff team. All we need to do it make the playoffs. Remember 1999? We almost stole a trophy!
Pessimist: I remember 2004. We got kicked in the ass by the Nets of all teams.
Optimist: Ok look, Zach Randolph replaces Frye. You have to admit that’s a plus, right?
Pessimist: Yeah but Randolph sends Lee back to the bench and eats up some of his minutes. That’s got to be a minus. We need Zach Randolph like Iran needs a nuclear weapon. Oh no – now I’m worried about nuclear war!
Optimist: Calm down. Listen David Lee will get his 30 minutes a game, I promise. It’ll be Malik Rose that loses his time this year.
Pessimist: Then why did Malik Rose get so much playing time in the preseason?
Optimist: You can’t take too much stock in preseason. Besides Curry and Randolph make a formidable frontcourt. I saw it on that commercial.
Pessimist: Do you believe everything you see on tv?
Optimist: Don’t you? Remember when you wanted to get that Medic Alert bracelet?
Pessimist: But what if I fall and can’t get up? Anyway, who is going to play defense?
Optimist: Curry can get back to blocking 1.2 shots per 40 like he did in 2006. Randolph’s rebounding will help the defense as well.
Pessimist: You expect me to believe that?
Optimist: Actually yes I do. But the defense will be better this year. Renaldo Balkman will get more minutes and that’ll certainly help the defense. We have a pair of guys that can defend in the backcourt in Jones and Collins. For years you cried about not having a single defender on the perimeter. Now we have 5 if you include Richardson and Jeffries.
Pessimist: The problem is that other than Richardson, none of these guys are going to see a lot of court time. Jared Jeffries will take the minutes Balkman deserves, and Jeffries is a mediocre defender. Besides how many minutes are Collins and Jones going to see? Marbury and Crawford both averaged more than 35 minutes a game last year. Robinson will get at least 20. By my calculations that only leaves 6 minutes a game for Collins and Jones. So 3 minutes of good guard defense, and 20 minutes of Balkman is going to make this a better defensive team?
Optimist: Balkman will play about 25 min/g this year. And you know he’s a stud defensively. Isiah will cut back on Crawford and Marbury’s time – he was quoted as saying he’s committed to everyone playing defense, and he singled out the guards. If Crawford and Marbury don’t play good defense, there’ll be more court time for the better defensive players.
Pessimist: I’ll believe it when I see it. And even then I’ll be a bit skeptical.
Optimist: Look you have to admit that we have a lot of talent on the roster.
Pessimist: I do see the talent, but you have to see that the roster is horribly mismatched. It’s like trying to make Thanksgiving Dinner with only a fridge full of condiments. Randolph would be a good fit in Chicago. The Spurs would love David Lee. Robinson would excel in Golden State. Washington would probably take Jared Jeffries back (maybe for free). But those are 4 different systems. Those players don’t fit in well to the Knicks’ team concept – whatever that is.
Optimist: It’ll take time for Isiah’s team to gel. That happens with teams that have a lot of turnover. This is how I see 2007. The Knicks are healthier – so that alone will make them better. Crawford and Robinson have drastically improved their games – you could see it in preseason…
Pessimist: I thought you said “you can’t take too much stock in preseason.”
Optimist: Don’t interrupt. Where was I? Oh yeah. Less injuries this year. Improvements by Crawford (less bad shots – more going to the hoop) and Robinson (good passing). Continued fine play by Lee. More PT for Balkman. A very deep team (sorry Nichols and Jordan – we’re too deep!) We have two X-factors in Morris and Chandler. Increased offense by adding Zach. Better commitment to the defense by Curry. The Knicks are a 43 win team – maybe do a little damage in the playoffs.
Pessimist: Wow that’s optimistic. This is what I see. Randolph and Curry just make each other less effective on offense, and are the world’s worst defensive tandem. Crawford still misses 9 shots a game. Robinson, Balkman, and Lee struggle to find playing time because Isiah has to play his vets. Jared Jeffries sees 24 min/g. Again. And Malik Rose is on the court in crunch time. Nobody plays any defense. Oh throw in some nuttiness. Let’s see last year we had a trial, a fight, and Jerome James starting a handful of games. This year we trade one of our promising younglings for Damon Stoudamire, Isiah plays around with running the offense through Jared Jeffries, and Demetris Nichols drops 30 on opening day.
Optimist: Can’t you be a little serious?
Pessimist: Ok scratch that last part. The biggest problem the Knicks face is the changing East. The Bulls will get better as their young players age. Cleveland, Detroit, and Miami are still at the top. Toronto is looking promising. New Jersey stomped us twice in preseason. Orlando should be better as well. Oh yeah and don’t forget what the Celtics did. That’s 8 teams better than the Knicks. Don’t forget that Washington still has Agent 0, while Charlotte and Atlanta have good young talent as well. Hell even Indiana and Philly had better records than us last year. So where does that leave us? I say another 33 win season.
Optimist: Can you be a little more pessimistic?
Pessimist: More pessimistic? Sure – how about 37 wins, and Isiah keeps his job another year?
Optimist: I guess I should be careful what I ask for.