Okay, Maybe We Can Let Him Take the Last Shot…

I’ll have you know that that play happened just as Isiah diagrammed. It was the ol’ “Throw an insanely stupid cross court pass, then block the pass from the guy who stole the ball from you then recover the ball then take a crazy-looking 30-foot three pointer” play. I think Thomas learned that play when he was younger. He was a fighter back then. Did you know that? I did not. I wish someone would tell me more about Thomas’ fighting background. Maybe Thomas will talk about it some day.

That was such a crazy play, and the weirdest thing is that it was far from the most bizarre play in Wednesday night’s much needed 109-107 win by the Knicks over the Denver Nuggets (playing without Kenyon Martin). No, that play happened the previous Knicks possession, when the basketball somehow escaped from the Black Hole known as Eddy Curry to find itself in Stephon Marbury’s hands as he released a game-tying three pointer. And Curry was TRIPLE-TEAMED at the time!!

As this is the Knicks we are talking about, they almost blew the lead at the end by somehow allowing JR Smith (who Gus Johnson congratulated for a good game against his former team – do you think Gus thinks JR Smith is DerMarr Johnson?) to run all the way from the outside to have an easy game-tying layup as Carmelo Anthony intentionally missed the second free throw. Luckily, though, Smith (who seems a bit TOO hyper) blew the easy layup, and the Knicks came away with the win.

Still, it was a thrilling game, highlighted by the two crazy three-pointers and Jamal Crawford just lighting it up in the fourth quarter, pouring in a staggering TWENTY points in the quarter!

The Knicks also seem to have found that they really work better when they have a fifth player just to play defense and rebound. That they have decided that that player is Malik Rose is probably not a good thing, but hell, it seems to work, doesn’t it? Although there was a hilariously lame sequence in the fourth quarter where Crawford threw a pass away intended for Rose. What is he doing trying to FIND Rose in a close game towards the end of the fourth quarter?!?!

Also, it’s just about time to bench Channing Frye. Let him work out his problems during practice, because he both LOOKS awful and his numbers ARE awful. And the Najera play early in the game where Frye blocks a shot then just gets the ball yanked from his grip…that is unsettlingly bad.

Just start David Lee. He doesn’t get in the way, doesn’t demand the ball – he just lets the guards do their thing.

Oh, and how much better do the Knicks look without Francis?

Oh, and how the hell did Quentin Richardson reinvent himself as a good player?

In any event, the difference between 1-4 and 2-3 is only a game, but from a “feel good” standpoint, it is GIGANTIC.

What a good feeling. Let’s hope it carries over to Friday.

NEWS AND NOTES

*I love how quickly Zeke broke from “I won’t criticize my players” to “I’ll bench anyone!” Dude even NAMED NAMES!! Even LB didn’t usually name names.

*How the hell did Chicago give up on JR Smith for nothing?

*I like the Larry Brown decision. $18.5 million seems fair to me. I like how the coaches are all acting like this is some huge precedence. Please. This LB situation was a situation that will not be duplicated more than once or twice in the future – it was just too weird.

Four Games in and I’m Already Counting Moral Victories

Not a good sign. Especially as .500 makes it long trip away from the team’s sight.

Still, watching the team close within one was totally awesome to see.

Just that the rest of the game was a blight upon my eyes.

Please someone tell me that it is just, as John Hollinger said in his chat today, that Frye is just not in game shape yet.

Please?

Speaking of moral victories, when both Mardy Collins AND Malik Rose are important parts of the comeback – you know you got something weird going on.

New Addition to the Knicks “Pay To Not Play” Auxiliary

According to the New York Daily News, Isiah Thomas and Jalen Rose are working out a buyout of the remaining one year/$16 million left on Rose’s contract.

This will now make it a staggering $52 million that the Knicks will owe on the salary cap this year for five players who will not play for the Knicks this year (Allan Houston, Jerome Williams, Shandon Anderson and Maurice Taylor are the other four…you can stretch it to 6 players and $58 million if you want to argue that Malik Rose is essentially paid to not play as well).

However, seeing as how this money is already spent, I think it probably does make more sense to cut Rose loose than to keep him around. Unlike Malik, Jalen Rose likely would not be a good influence on the younger players, and like Malik, he wasn’t going to play any significant minutes, so if this can free up a roster spot for another player, then that’s okay by me.

What’s intriguing about this the most to me is who is the Knicks back-up small forward until Jeffries comes back? Is it Renaldo Balkman? Or David Lee?

Or will we see Jamal Crawford at the 3 in a three-guard lineup?

All Things Considered, I’d Rather Have the Green Hornet

In all seriousness, the Knicks picked up Kelvin Cato today, as was rumored (well, the Cato part wasn’t rumored, but the “Knicks were not going to sign any of the four players they brought in for the last spot, but were going to sign a veteran center instead” thing was rumored).

The move sounds just like a placeholder, and I doubt Cato would get much more time than Jerome James was going to get (which my hope was, not a lot), but to be honest, while he’s 32 and coming off an injury-plagued year (which was also the worst season, PER-wise, of his career), I don’t think Cato could be worse than James, and he does offer a lot more size than the guys who got cut, as he’s 6-11, 275 pounds.

Here are his PERs for his career:

1997-98 – 13.49
1999 – 14.81
1999-00 – 16.04
2000-01 – 13.26
2001-02 – 14.42
2002-03 – 15.61
2003-04 – 13.34
2004-05 – 14.91
2005-06 – 7.72

His Rebound Rate for the past few years (not counting last year’s short season – although it was quite high in the few games he played) is quite good, better on the whole than James’.

19.8 in 02-03, 16.0 in 03-04 and 15.3 in 04-05.

Those are pretty good numbers, and certainly an improvement on Curry.

Also, for his career, he averages 1.3 blocks (and his career average in minutes is only 20), so that’s a nice wrinkle to have on defense.

But, again, he’s another year older and coming off an injury, so I don’t think the Knicks will expect much more than a few minutes of decent defense and good rebounding, which I think definitely does have a place on this current Knick squad.

The Ten Commandments of Preseason Basketball

I mentioned these in the comments section, but once I got the link, I figured it was worth its own post. Dave at Blazer’s Edge (which is a very cool blog) came up with these a month or so ago, and I think they are just excellent. Here’s a little taste:

1 THOU SHALT NOT believe anything you read in glowing reports about returning players until thou hast seen it demonstrated with thine own eyes during the regular season…repeatedly. Everybody is talented in the off-season.

2 THOU SHALT NOT put any stock whatsoever in any team’s pre-season record or what it might indicate.

3 THOU SHALT NOT clamor for a player who gets 22 minutes a game in pre-season (for purposes of evaluation and giving the veterans a rest) to get that same 22 minutes once the regular season starts.

Read the Ten Commandments of Preseason Basketball at Blazer’s Edge.

Zeke vs….Greg Anthony?!?

Marty Burns had a great bit today at CNN/SI about Isiah Thomas going off on Greg Anthony today about Anthony’s comments regarding the Balkman pick on draft night.

Don’t get me wrong, I sympathize with Zeke in the sense that I, too, thought Anthony was way off base (I think I even mentioned it here at the time), in that, whether the Balkman pick was good or not, Anthony wasn’t giving the pick enough thought, choosing instead to just make knee-jerk comments that amounted to “I never heard of the guy, so he must be bad.”

Therefore, I was okay with him saying “This so-called former Knick, on draft night with millions of people watching, had the audacity to take me to task on a player that I’m pretty sure he had never seen before in his life, But he stands on national television and talks about a kid he has absolutely no idea about. I’m just glad that all of New York doesn’t think like Greg Anthony.”

I think it’s probably better to let sleeping dogs lie, but that comment was pretty fair, I think.

However, Isiah then followed with “Greg Anthony should never ever be in a position to question myself on anything about basketball. I do remember the kind of player he was. I’ll leave it at that.” That was way too much, highlighting a problem Isiah seems to have where he seems to personalize criticisms way too much.

Apparently, he peppered shots at Anthony throughout the press conference. Here’s Burns on it:

When asked whether he could see Balkman someday defending LeBron James or Tracy McGrady, Thomas replied, “Wait a minute, hold on now … you can run him out there but he’ll probably get stepped on a little bit … Unlike Greg Anthony, I do have respect for others.”

When asked about the Knicks’ dismal season a year ago, and what role all the injuries played, Thomas said, “We all were in a funk last year … Greg Anthony was in a funk.”

Later, when talking about Balkman’s ability to handle the ball, a reporter jokingly asked if he had a better handle than Greg Anthony. “Most definitely,” Thomas said. “Greg could only go left.”

Nuts, eh?

Anthony wouldn’t comment, which is good on him!

By the by, speaking of Balkman, Marc Berman had a line in his blog the other day that I thought was a bit much, where he stated that what Thomas SHOULD have done was draft Marcus Williams at #20 and Balkman at #29. Now, clearly, we all would have liked that, but that’s taking for granted that Balkman was not going to be picked, which (while not saying he officially WOULD have been picked) is something Berman should have at least made clear he was assuming. You know, something like, “It was likely Balkman could have been available at #29, so Thomas should have drafted Williams at #20 and Balkman at #29.” Without the qualifier, it’s not giving the facts, I don’t think.