Knicks denied Disabled Player Exception for Mobley

Steve Adamek of the Bergen Record reports that the league denied a disabled player exception for Cuttino Mobley late Friday.

The league, Walsh said, essentially determined that Mobley’s heart condition, which forced him to retire shortly after the Knicks acquired him from the Clippers on Nov. 21, but with which he had played this season, was a pre-existing condition.

Mobley is now like anyone else on the roster. The Knicks could buy out his contract, worth more than $8.9 million this season and another $9.5 million next season, which would clear a roster spot (he would be waived), although the money would not come off their cap. They could also simply waive him without a buyout.

Obviously this closes the door on a number of possibilities Donnie Walsh had to alter the Knicks’ roster. A two for one deal to move Marbury is now even more unlikely unless a small contract like Anthony Roberson’s is bought out. The denial also prevents Walsh from trading the exception for a player with up to a 4.5 million dollar contract.

Iverson and Lee: Two Sides Of All Star Perception

In the story “Boy Who Cried Wolf”, the boy lies for his own amusement and his lies doom him when the villagers fail to come to his aid during a wolf attack. This classic fable is a good example of perception. The town believes that the boy is liar, hence they judge all his actions from that perspective. So even when the boy is telling the truth, the perception of the boy results in the townspeople viewing it as a lie.

Perception is a useful tool, because it allows us to remember facts about people without remembering their entire history. For instance if you have a friend who consistently shows up at your party empty handed, your perception of him will make it easier for you to deal with him without recalling every incident.

But perception has its downside as well. Again take the example of your beer mooching friend. Let’s say he finally realizes his selfish ways and decides it would be rude to show up for a shindig without a 6 pack in hand. It may take some time for you to acknowledge this change. The first time he shows up with some ale, you may think that to be the fluke. He may have to do more than any other person to change your perception of him. Perhaps an entire case of your favorite beer and a bowl of guacamole would do it.

Perception works the same way in sports, and is especially true when it comes to fans voting for All Star Games. That would be the only reason why Allen Iverson was voted in as a starter. Iverson has always been a divider among fans. Some see him as a selfish player who always needs the ball and jacks up too many shots. Others as an offensive wizard who provides open shots for his teammates.

If you belong to the first group of fans, you probably didn’t think Iverson was an All Star, so let’s argue the point of view from the latter group. In his prime, Iverson was averaging upwards of 25 points/36 minutes. This high volume scoring was valuable to his team, even at the price of his low percentage shooting. If this were true, then why is Iverson still valuable today? His scoring is down nearly 30% from his career average (16.7 pts/36 this year, 23.6 pts/36 career). And despite the decrease, his shooting percentages are still below their career numbers (51.0 TS%, 43.9 eFG%). Add to this the last two teams Iverson was traded from improved after trading him, and you have to wonder if he’s providing an All Star level contribution these days? But of course Iverson isn’t the only NBA player whose perception doesn’t match his production.

Knick fans were hoping that David Lee might be named an All Star reserve this year, but unfortunately he was not. And while I’m not sure that Lee should have been, I’m certain that he suffered from poor perception. Since his first days in the NBA, Lee has been labelled as a player who only scores because he’s an afterthought in the other team’s defensive scheme. Since then Lee’s game has evolved, but that reputation has stuck. Take this quote from Truehoop:

Lee is just here as a courtesy to the millions of Knick fans. Oh, he’s a player and all, and I know Mike D’Antoni was campaigning for him. But when your guy makes an open 20-foot jumper, and everyone is pleasantly surprised? That guy’s not an All-Star. The competition is just too stiff. Look up there and look at who made it, and tell me who he should replace.

Now Henry Abbott is as informed about the NBA as anyone, and I’m sure this was written with a bit of tongue in cheek. However the implication is clear: Lee only scores because he’s left wide open. And if someone as knowledgeable as Henry Abbott feels this way about Lee, then imagine how the average fan sees him?

Additionally, Lee was probably hurt by Rashard Lewis’ perception as well, since Lewis was a former All Star in Seattle in 2005. Lee and Lewis both provide about the same amount of scoring (Lewis has a small advantage in points per minute, Lee edges him in efficiency) and many of their peripheral stats are similar (they are both weak at shot blocking and steals, albeit Lewis is better in both areas). From a visual perspective, the big difference between the pair is Lewis’ ability to score in a few different ways, including an excellent three point shot (39.3%). But from a statistical perspective, Lewis’ edge in scoring (2.7 pts/36) doesn’t seem to be enough to make up for Lee grabbing twice as many rebounds (11.9 reb/36 vs 5.8 reb/36).

Of course even if Lee has the statistical superiority, the perception is that it’s only because he’s getting wide open looks. But does that make sense? Teams that play Orlando have to worry about their other scorers like Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Hedo Turkoglu as well as Lewis. Which Knicks do opposing teams have to account for? Wilson Chandler? Al Harrington? Tim Thomas? Chris Duhon? Jared Jeffries? I’d imagine with those teammates Lewis gets more open looks than Lee. Well at least that’s my perception.

I’ve turned off the comments for this article, because it’s similar to one already in the forum. Please feel free to voice your opinion there.

Seven Seconds or Mess: Webisode 16

In Episode 16 the Atlanta Hawks do their part in the making of the Chris Duhon highlight reel. You can watch the video in high quality here or hover over the triangle on the lower right of the player and click on HQ.

Some, if not all, of you may not agree about the Knicks playing the best basketball they can play at the moment. I think they are because I can’t see any better production from this roster. Four of the nine players in the rotation – Harrington, Chandler, Richardson and Thomas – are all wildcards on any given night but overall they’re performing at the level I expect offensively. And with the Knicks already jumping up seven spots in defensive efficiency from last season, it’s doubtful that they make any more significant improvements before season’s end. Basically, I think this roster is maxed which is a compliment to Mike D’Antoni. He’s taken this roster to twenty wins and is one spot shy of the eighth seed in the East this early. Before the season, I didn’t think that was possible.

Let me know what you think in this article because we’re at the midway point and it’s a good time to discuss these things.

The Bench Needs a Nickname

Following Monday night’s come-from-behind win over the Yao-less Rockets, the first win over Houston in five years no less, Alan Hahn drops this little nugget in Tuesday morning’s Newsday.

Chandler’s 18 points off the bench, however, bolstered yet another strong offensive showing by the Knicks’ reserves, who totaled 52 points. The corps is begging for a nickname. It was the fourth straight game the bench scored more than 50 points.

I think a bench nickname is a pretty good idea. This team, especially the bench, has grown on me enough to warrant some sort of nickname. What do you all think about a nickname for the bench?

One idea that came to mind is “the bum-proof bench.” It’s got a nice beat and you can dance to it. Actually, it’s a takeoff on Mike Davis’s quip about postmodern urban architecture, where ostensibly public benches are designed to be impossibly uncomfortable for sitting, or in the case of the homeless, for sleeping.

Mike D’Antoni’s bench has not been made for sitting much this year. Although D’Antoni has played to type with his notoriously short rotations, lots of players have shuffled in and out of the starting lineup for a variety of reasons. The Knicks are essentially playing without the roster spots technically being filled by Marbury, Curry, and James. The latter two, the players thought least well-suited for D’Antoni’s offense, haven’t played because of poor conditioning, injury, and in Curry’s case personal misfortune and family tragedy. Really, Malik Rose is the only classic DNP-CD-type left on the bench.

A Bum-proof bench in New York?
New York's Bum-Proof Bench

Of course, there is the matter of whether Jared Jeffries, who currently comes off the bench, is a bum. Given his minutes and theoretical role (i.e., size on the perimeter and overall defensive versatility) I wouldn’t call him a bum, especially when he plays short minutes. I may, however, be in the minority on that.

“Bum-proof bench” is just one man’s idea. What do you guys think? In a display of good netiquette, you might drop by Hahn’s blog, The Knicks Fix, one of my favorites among the traditional media types, to share your ideas with him directly.

Chandler Makes Another Adjustment

Last night against the Rockets, the big news for the team on the court was the changing of the starting lineup. Over the last few games the Knicks have started out slowly, and Coach D’Antoni was looking to correct this flaw. So against Houston, the team benched Wilson Chandler in favor of Al Harrington.

At the start of the season, many Knick fans were hoping Chandler would win the small forward battle against Quentin Richardson. But recently Wilson’s poor play has made fans hope that he would be removed from the starting five. The youngster has shot abysmally, shooting a meager 38% eFG% over the last 6 games. He has two major flaws which hurt his scoring efficiency. The first is his poor shooting from three point range (29.4%), the second is his inability to draw fouls.

Back on January 5th, I talked about the latter. Chandler had just come off a win against Boston, where he attempted a career high 12 free throws. At the time I said:

If Chandler is able to score more from the charity stripe, it’ll make him a more efficient scorer. This helps the Knicks in the short term (as Chandler is still in the Knicks starting lineup), and the long (he’s more likely to develop and/or be valuable to other teams).

But more significantly is that perhaps this coaching staff noticed this flaw in Chandler’s game and attempted to correct it. This would be a substantial gain for the team, because it marks their ability to improve their players. Two of Isiah’s biggest acquisitions were Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford, two young players that the team hoped would turn into NBA All Stars. Unfortunately Curry & Crawford continued to commit the same mistakes over and over and never improved. If the current Knick coaching staff can identify a young player’s flaws and attempt to rectify them, then it shows the team has improved in that area as well.

Granted this doesn’t mean that the team can turn any young player into an NBA starter. Obviously credit for this change, should it be permanent, should go to Chandler for being physically and mentally able to get to the charity stripe more often. Not every NBA player will be able to correct their flaws. However during the Isiah era, it felt as if the team was stuck in the same place. Every month the Knicks suffered from the same problems and made the same mistakes, without any change. At least Knick fans can be more confident that the team probably won’t fall into the same malaise.

Now if they could just work on Chandler’s three point shooting…

Unfortunately the change was not permanent. Since that game, Chandler hasn’t attempted more than 4 free throws in a single game. However the Knick forward seemed to address the other flaw in his shooting, his inaccurate three point shooting. Against the Rockets, when the ball rotated to Chandler on the perimeter, he would take a hop-step before receiving the pass. Therefore instead of being forced to shoot a three point shot, Chandler was taking a make able 18 footer. Looking at last night’s game chart, he made 2 of the 3 he attempted.

Again I have to give credit to Chandler and the coaching staff for this adjustment. Last year he only attempted 1.6 3PA/36, but in D’Antoni’s system that number has skyrocketed to 4.2 3PA/36. For a career sub-30% shooter, this volume must be outside of Chandler’s comfort zone. This change may allow the 21 year old to be more efficient and take pressure of him to hit a shot he may be uncomfortable with. Perhaps this confidence helped Wilson last night. In the waning moments, the Rockets left him alone at the top of the key, daring him to hit a three pointer. With the Knicks down by 2 with 2:21 left, Chandler coolly drained the shot to put the Knicks up for good. It’ll be interesting to see if this time the adjustment sticks.