Orlando 114 Knicks 109

Seems that people on the forums were asking about last night's game. I watched it beginning to end. Howard pretty much dominated the paint on both ends of the floor. Lee had a shot blocked early on & the Knicks had trouble running the pick & roll. Howard was daring Lee to shoot from outside, and I don't think his shot was falling last night. It seemed that no one's shot was falling early on. Harrington had trouble driving & when he got close to the hoop Howard would force up a fall away jumper instead of a layup.

The only thing that kept the Knicks in the game was their hot three point shooting. Chandler was on fire. His three point shooting is approaching respectable this year. I was really impressed. Gallo was ablaze at the end of the game. He hit a three from about 4 feet behind the arc to keep the Knicks alive in the final minutes. The Knicks played it real cool down the stretch with some good ball denial as well. Orlando had to use a few timeouts because they couldn't inbound the ball. Had they missed any free throws the Knicks might have been able to send it into OT.

Some other random notes. There were some dubious calls throughout. Gallo was called on a travel that was jaw dropping bad. Howard got called on goaltending that looked clean. A few pushes underneath went uncalled. Nate got into it with Anthony Johnson. Thankfully Johnson cooled down quickly, while Nate had to be restrained by his teammates. Duhon was unable to score. On one play he kept dribbling around the paint. He kept his dribble but couldn't get himself or a teammate open. I don't understand the team's reluctance to play Wilcox. Hughes can get on the court for 15 minutes, but Wilcox can't get 5? They should have put him on the floor to hack-a-Howard.

KnickerBlogger Turns 5

This week marks the 5th anniversary of KnickerBlogger. When I started this venture, I didn’t imagine it would last this long. Five years ago, blogging was still in its infancy. There were less than 2 million blogs when KnickerBlogger came into existence. Just six months after, the number of blogs had doubled. Today it’s unknown how many blogs there are. One estimate is 200 million. Many of them are powered by individuals like myself.

More important than the number of blogs is the role they perform. Once derided by the mainstream media, just about every newspaper, magazine, and network hosts their own blog. They are now an essential part of the world’s information and entertainment. Blogs fill an important niche in the world. Previously the only avenue for the common man to voice his opinion was through those who held the keys to kingdom. Often his voice was not heard by the public. Blogs have taken the words of the everyman and projected them from the world’s tallest soap box.

Five years ago my goal with KnickerBlogger was to create a platform for those who felt their opinion was not represented in the mainstream. Judging by the other readers who come here to share their thoughts and my affiliation with True Hoop Network that allows me to bring these voices to the mainstream, it seems that I have succeeded. I can only wonder what KnickerBlogger will be in five more years.


To celebrate this anniversary, I’m announcing the KnickerBlogger Quinquennial Team. To assist in this matter, I’ve looked at the overall PER and the single season PER for that period.

Stephon Marbury, PG – As painful as it is to admit, Marbury has dominated the team in many ways during the lifespan of KnickerBlogger. As his career with the team comes nearer to it’s disappointing end, it’s hard to remember that he was a productive scorer early on. He has the highest single season PER (21.9 in 2005) as well as the highest PER (18.4) during the KnickerBlogger era. His defense was mediocre and his contract was suffocating, had the two been reversed he would have been a shoe in for the Hall of Fame.
Reserves: Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Frank Williams.

David Lee, PF – It may shock many to see Lee here, but those that have watched him play aren’t surprised that he’s been the second most productive Knick by PER standards over the last 5 years. Looking at things from a objective standpoint it’s hard to find a more deserving PF. Randolph’s PER is the same and his weaknesses are similar to Lee’s (blocked shots, defense). However, Lee has played 4000 more minutes while costing the team $10M less. After Randolph are Mike Sweetney and Kurt Thomas. Sweetney ate himself out of the league, and Thomas wasn’t nearly as productive on the offensive end. Of all the starters on this list, Lee is the one who is most likely to also appear on KnickerBlogger’s Decennial team as well.
Reserves: Zach Randolph, Kurt Thomas, Mike Sweetney.

Nazr Mohammed, C – Surprised it’s not Curry? Nazr played exactly 81 games for the Knicks in 2 seasons, and would rank 4th in Knicks PER over the KnickerBlogger era. Mohammed was a great offensive rebounder, pulling down 4.0/36 oreb/36. To put that in perspective that’s a higher rate than Lee’s career 3.6. During the Isiah era, Nazr was eventually replaced by Eddy Curry. Comparing the two, Nazr was outscored by Curry (19.2 to 13.7), but Curry did it with almost double the turnovers (3.5 to/36 to 2.0). Additionally Mohammed had nearly double the blocks (1.3 blk/36 to Curry’s 0.7), triple the steals (1.4 stl/36 to 0.4), and more rebounds (10.6 reb/36 to 7.4). With that in mind, it’s clear that Nazr deserves the nod here.
Reserves: Eddy Curry, Dikembe Mutombo.

Van Horn/Renaldo Balkman, SF Keith played only 47 games for New York, but he put up some good numbers while he was here. Van Horn was criticized for being a tweener that had trouble defending, but he rebounded well and scored efficiently. However Van Horn only played 1500 minutes for New York. That’s about as much as Al Harrington. If that’s too little for you, then Balkman is next on the PER list. Considering how PER doesn’t account well for defense, then it makes sense that he was probably unrepresented by his stats.

One note on Keith Van Horn: shortly after Isiah Thomas took over the team, he traded Keith Van Horn. At the time Van Horn was a popular player who had just been acquired that summer, so the trade felt hasty. Since then New York has suffered through instability at the small forward position, something I’ve called “the Curse of Keith Van Horn”. The list of small forwards since the Knicks jettisoned Van Horn: Anfernee Hardaway, DerMarr Johnson, Tim Thomas, Trevor Ariza, Shandon Anderson, Jerome Williams, Matt Barnes, Jalen Rose, Ime Udoka, Qyntel Woods, Jared Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, Renaldo Balkman, and Wilson Chandler. Hopefully the curse will be broken in 2010
Reserves: Tim Thomas, Junk Yard Dog.

Jamal Crawford, SG – The default pick, since there really haven’t been many other shooting guards in recent Knick history. Robinson is the only other one that merits any mention. Crawford can drive Golden State fans crazy for the next few years.
Reserves: Nate Robinson

Lenny Wilkens, Coach – I’d like to choose D’Antoni, but he’s only been around for a half season. Wilkens got the team to the playoffs until they tuned him out a year later. In retrospect that should have signified there was something wrong behind the scenes. In his latter years, Wilkens was an adequate coach, which says a lot about the coaches the Knicks have had over the last 5 years.

Most Minutes 5: Curry, Lee, Richardson, Crawford, Marbury
Least Minutes 5: Trybanski, Randolph Morris, Matt Barnes, Jamison Brewer, Jermaine Jackson

Best Defensive 5: Mutumbo, Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Ariza, Frank Williams
Worst Defensive 5: Curry, Randolph, Jalen Rose, Crawford, Marbury

Drafted 5: Frye, Lee, Balkman, Ariza, Nate
Toughest 5: Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Collins, Robinson, Frank Williams

Best Shooting 5: David Lee, Tim Thomas, Van Horn, Nate, Marbury
Worst Shooting 5: Bruno Sundov, Malik Rose, Balkman, Shanderson, Collins

All Name 5: Cezary Trybanski, Othella Harrington, Qyntel Woods, Anfernee Hardaway, Moochie Norris
Scrappiest 5: David Lee, Jerome Williams, Renaldo Balkman, Jermaine Jackson, Frank Williams

If I had to choose a Starting 5 from this era: Nazr, Lee, Balkman, Robinson, Duhon.
Reserves: Mutombo, Van Horn, Ariza, Sweetney, Frank Williams, Gallinari, Chandler.
Coach: D’Antoni

It’s sad but I think this is the best the Knicks could do combining all the players over the last 5 years. I’ve left Marbury off for obvious reasons. New York would have a tremendous rebounding starting lineup, with enough balance of offense & defense on the bench. If you wanted, you could substitute Randolph or Kurt Thomas for Sweetney. But this being KnickerBlogger, I thought it’d be good to give the guy a second chance. The same goes for Frank Williams, who is playing well enough in the NBDL to get another shot at the NBA. Gallinari & Chandler make the list because of their youth. If this team were looking at a title, then I might choose Tim Thomas and Crawford. But I think this is a .500 team that will need some youth.

David Falk Warns of Two-Year Lockout

Not to overload the forum with new topics, but I thought today’s New York Times piece is juicy reading. Semi-retired superagent David Falk predicts an imminent clash between players and owners in which the players union will be trampled, with a good chance of an extended lockout.

Key points, plucked from Falk’s new book. “The Bald Truth”:

– The salary cap, already reported to be inching down this summer, will be down significantly for 2010-2011 (he predicts)

 – When the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2011, David Stern will push for a hard cap, shorter contracts, a higher age limit and an end to the mid-level exception — and will get his wishes.

– Owners are prepared to stem operating losses by locking out players for two years if they resist stricter cap rules.

– Falk thinks run of the mill players are paid too much and superstars are paid too little. He thinks the cap should (and might be) abolished for stars.

From a strict basketball perspective, this last point is most interesting. Is a $20 million player worth four times as much as a $5 million player, or 10 times as much? Or only twice as much? My initial reaction was that superstars are overrated… but on reflection, I would say they are not, that there SHOULD be a huge disparity in what players are paid. It’s just that the conventional wisdom on which players are stars or superstars, is often wrong.

On the others, Falk could be accused of being alarmist, in the interest of getting attention for his book tour. But no one is better connected, and none of what he suggests is farfetched.

Just Say No to Douby

According to the New York Daily News, the Knicks are going to give Quincy Douby a chance to make the team. As a college prospect Douby intrigued me. During his last year at Rutgers Douby scored efficiently, averaging 24.9 pts/36 with a 55.6% eFG and a TS% of 60.1%. His steals (1.8 stl/36) and rebounds (4.2 reb/36) were enough for a guard who was primarily a scorer. The Knicks didn’t get a chance to draft Douby that year because Sacramento took him 19th, one pick before New York selected Renaldo Balkman.

However Douby’s NBA career never took off. In three seasons, the Kings only played him thirty minutes or more in a game five times. Needless to say, he was unable to crack the rotation. It’s hard to fault Sacramento, since Douby’s stats have been disappointing. For a player who was an efficient scorer in college, he hasn’t been able to adjust to the NBA level. Douby’s career scoring is weak (13.7 pts/36, 47.6% TS%, 44.1% eFG) for a player that doesn’t offer much else but scoring (9.3 PER). What’s most disappointing is Douby’s sub-par three point percentage (30.6%), despite his high attempt rate (5.1 3pa/36).

If Douby, a Brooklyn native who played at Rutgers, looks good in this tryout, New York could sign him to a contract. Unfortunately this would be the same mistake they made in preseason with Anthony Roberson, which backfired on the team. Even when the Knicks were in dire need of another guard, Roberson wasn’t deemed good enough to earn playing time. He was finally dealt to Chicago in the Hughes deal, for nothing else than to give the Knicks another chance at filling his spot on the roster.

Ironically Douby has a lot in common with the person he may replace. Roberson and Douby are only a year apart in age, and both players have struggled to earn playing time in the NBA. Both are scoring guards who don’t offer much else. However a look at the stats show Roberson to be the superior player. This should send red flags to the team. If Roberson was wasting a roster spot then why would they sign Douby who has been outperformed by Roberson on the NBA level?

  Player  G    MP  FGA 3PA  3P% FTA  FT% TRB AST STL TOV  PTS  PER  TS% eFG%
   Douby 136 1462 13.5 5.1 .306 2.0 .890 3.6 2.0 1.2 2.0 13.7  9.3 .476 .441
Roberson  59  568 15.1 8.6 .368 0.6 .900 2.7 2.2 1.5 1.5 16.0 11.6 .522 .513

In the near future the Knicks are aiming to sign one or two big free agents, and to accomplish that goal they are going to have to be frugal with their money. So far the media has concentrated on Lee, Robinson, and Duhon as the linchpin to the Knicks free agency success. While this may be true, the team will still need to fill the rest of their roster cheaply. Identifying bargain NBA players like Von Wafer, Matt Barnes, and Ime Udoka could mean the difference between having a great team in 2010, and one that is still a few mid-level free agents away from competing for a title.

Knicks Make Small Gains

New York pulled the trigger on two deals today before the NBA trade deadline. The bad news is that neither deal opens up any more cap space for 2010. The good news is that the moves will give the team a little more flexibility this year. In the bigger deal, New York acquired Larry Hughes for Jerome James, Tim Thomas, and Anthony Roberson. In a second deal, the Knicks sent Malik Rose to Oklahoma City for Chris Wilcox. Hughes will make $12.8M this year and $13.7M next year, while Wilcox’s $6.8M contract will expire this year. Hence from a salary cap perspective, this is a lateral move for the Knicks.

The most obvious improvement is in the Wilcox/Rose deal. Malik Rose saw playing time early on, but has been racking up DNP-CDs since. The veteran has played in only three games since Christmas. Wilcox is 8 years younger, and has been productive. Although his PER is down this year (13.4), he’s had an above PER the two years prior (16.3 in 2008 & 16.6 in 2007). He should provide the Knicks with much needed depth at the F/C spots, and that alone will help the team this year. I’m not sure why the Thunder made this deal, unless they’re eying Rose for a coaching position.

As for the Knicks other deal, it’s not necessarily who they got that makes them better. Larry Hughes is an aging slasher/defender who perhaps was never a great defender despite his reputation. Kevin Broom and I used to discuss Hughes’ defense, and Broom thought that Hughes’ gambles on the defensive end hurt the team. As for the slasher aspect, Hughes averaged 6.9 FT/36 in 2005 and that number has decreased in every full year since (5.4 in 2006, 4.3 in 2007, 3.4 in 2008). That means he’s either not able or not willing to get to the hole more, which would explain his tumbling shooting numbers. This year has been a small rebound year for Hughes, as his TS% has increased nearly 60 points from last year (TS% 52.5%) But at this point it’s possible due to the small sample size instead of a real improvement.

What’s more important about the Bulls trade is that the Knicks unloaded three players for one. Much like Malik Rose (160 minutes played), Jerome James (10 min) and Anthony Roberson (253 min) have seen few minutes this year. With New York wasting roster spots on these three plus Curry (3 min) and Stephon Marbury (0 min), the team has been playing shorthanded nearly the entire year. With two new roster spots freed, the Knicks can grab two players from the D-League to fit specific roles (shot blocker?, point guard?) that the team needs.

In both of these deals New York has given up only one player who was in their rotation: Tim Thomas. The Knicks will be able to replace his role on the team with two players. The first is Wilcox who will give New York a big body to defend the post. The second is Gallinari who will provide scoring from the perimeter. Giving the rookie more playing time is the icing on the cake for the Knicks.

Indexed: Al Harrington

As a Knick fan, Al Harrington can be frustrating at times. Some nights he can explode like he did against Cleveland for 39 points. Other times he can just kill New York’s chance of winning, like he did recently against the Clippers (19 points on 24 shots, including 1-10 from three).

Harrington is a talented scorer at times. He can take his man off the dribble, hit the outside shot, or score in traffic. But what he can’t do it is pass, which becomes more apparent when he drives to the hoop. Often when he gets the ball, I get the feeling that he’s going to force up a shot. Because he doesn’t

Last night was a great example. In overtime against the Spurs, Robinson was hot in overtime, but gave the ball to Harrington twice in a row. Both times Harrington took shots. The second one was a prime example of the bad side of Al Harrington. There was a minute left in OT, and New York was clinging to a 5 point lead. The Knick offense was just setting up when Harrington just drove to the hoop with his head down. He missed the shot and opened the door to a possible Spur comeback.

That play inspired me to create this:

East Missed Out On Lee

Henry Abbott and Kevin Pelton made an interesting note about yesterday’s All Star game.

Had a chance to trade emails with Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus during the live blog of the All-Star Game. Kevin rightfully pointed out that naming Mo Williams to replace Chris Bosh was the primary reason the East got mauled inside.

The choice of Williams meant the East entered the game with only two legitimate bigs — Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett, both of whom were starters. As a result, Rashard Lewis was forced to assume the center spot for long stretches of the game. Lewis has always been a bit challenged defending the post at the PF position, and he certainly doesn’t have the strength or the ability to absorb a beating against opposing 5s. But that’s exactly what he was charged with doing as the backup center on the Eastern squad, and the results were disastrous for the East.

Points in the Paint? West 96, East 58.

Glass? West 51, East 38.

Shaquille O’Neal: 17 points, 8-9 FGs in 11 minutes.

Watching the game I felt the same. It seemed as if the West had free reign in the paint and on the boards. While the East had an edge in aggregate offensive rebounds 13 to 12, the number is skewed by the fact that the East had more opportunities. The East had 59 chances for an offensive rebound, and the West only had 49.

A few weeks ago I advocated for David Lee on the All Star team, but outside of this site I was a minority. When Chris Bosh was injured, he was replaced by Maurice Williams. This substitution was justified from a political standpoint, as Williams is a top performer on one of the league’s best teams.

However from a tactical standpoint, this was a mistake. The East was left with only two players who were capable of playing center: Howard and Garnett. In All Star Games coaches tend to go deep into their benches, meaning that teams need to have plentiful reserves to field a normal five. Without a third center, the West dominated the inside and laughed their way to an easy victory. The knock against Lee is that he was a product of D’Antoni’s system, and excels only because of the style the Knicks play: a fast paced, no defense, guard emphasized game. Of course this is same environment as the All Star Game, so it makes sense that Lee would have excelled there as well. One only has to look back at the 2007 Rookies-Sophomore game for proof.

In the end it doesn’t really matter if the East won or lost. And no one will look back and call Williams’ selection over Lee as the NBA’s worst All Star crime this year (Iverson voted in as a starter was). Ultimately the important thing to learn from this is that players shouldn’t be judged in a vacuum. Different players will have different value depending on the environment. Perhaps in a general sense, Maurice Williams or Rashard Lewis are more deserving of an All Star berth than David Lee. But in last night’s context Lee would have been a better fit.