I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the various major sports websites were saying about the Knicks at the start of training camp, so let’s do that now!
John Hollinger, for ESPN Insider, makes all the right points (overpaid for Jeffries, the team turned the ball over too much, not signing Butler was idiotic), but I was pleased, as a Knick fan, to see his overall take on the team:
With a small, quick backcourt of Marbury and Francis, there’s a lot of talk that the Knicks will run and push the ball like the Phoenix Suns. But anyone who has seen those two play knows this is impossible, because neither of them seek to push the ball up court. They’re quick and they’re great drivers, but they’re mostly half-court guys.
While the style may not be what some expect, one thing I can pretty much guarantee is that the Knicks will win a lot more games. That’s to be expected — the nice thing about hitting rock bottom is that you can’t go down any further — but a number of factors favor the Knicks to make a double-digit improvement in wins. First and foremost, they’ll play for Thomas, rather than last year’s white-flag routine. That alone should improve the defense several notches.
Second, the result of Brown’s lineup switches was that the Knicks’ worst players were on the court for large stretches of time. Maurice Taylor, Qyntel Woods and Malik Rose all played over 1,000 minutes last season; that playing time will be going to guys like Jeffries, Frye and Lee this time around. Frye is perhaps the most egregious example — he only played 1,571 minutes even though he led the team in player efficiency rating. He should come close to doubling that total this year as the opening-day power forward.
As a result, I expect New York to generate some genuine excitement this year — hanging out on the fringes of the playoff race and getting increased production from the younger players. They’ll still massively underachieve compared to what they’re spending, and it may not be enough to save Thomas’ job, but the Knicks will at least look like a real NBA team again.
Very nice analysis from Hollinger.
For AOL Sports, Steve Aschburner has some interesting questions for each of the teams in the Eastern Conference. Here is his question for the Knicks:
Q: Didn’t you used to be Steve Francis?
A: Just getting rid of Larry Brown doesn’t make a Francis-Marbury backcourt any more feasible. Neither of them is a good enough shooter to play for long stretches off the ball, and both of them are defensive liabilities if the opponents’ backcourt has some size. Marbury won’t feel any pressure to accommodate Francis now, either; if he can get Larry Brown out of town, he isn’t going to be bothered by Francis’ displeasure. What Francis needs is to play for a strong head coach on a team built around a big man — say, Miami minus Wade — if he’s ever going to live up to his potential and help a team more than himself.
Not a bad analysis of Francis’ position on the team, which certainly DOES seem to be a bit odd, doesn’t it?
CBS Sportsline loses some credibility with me with their Eastern Conference primer, as they listed Jalen Rose as the probable starter at small forward. Yikes. Talk about not knowing the team very well.
Marty Burns does a decent job at looking at the Knicks for CNN/SI here.
1. Can Isiah clean up the mess?
After the fiasco of ’05-06, Thomas jettisoned Brown and finds himself back on the bench as coach. His first job in camp will be to clean up the toxic atmosphere that engulfed the team a year ago and get them playing as a cohesive group.
2. Who’s the starting shooting guard?
With Stephon Marbury the starter at point guard and free agent signee Jared Jeffries likely to inherit the small forward position, the Knicks have a glut at the 2 spot. Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson will battle it out, which could make for some raw nerves — and some good fodder for the New York tabloids.
3. Can Renaldo Balkman play?
Thomas was criticized heavily on draft night for using the No. 20 pick on the relatively unknown Balkman. The 6-8 South Carolina product will need to show in camp that he can step in and contribute, or Thomas will hear more about it from the MSG hecklers.
However, I think his #3 is a bit silly, as I don’t think Balkman’s playing time will be key to the Knicks season at all.
By the by, speaking of Balkman, Bill Simmons said something bizarre regarding Balkman in his latest column. Check it out –
Three months from now, Knicks fans will be dealing with the fact that taking Renaldo Balkman at No. 20 over Rajon Rondo, as crazy as this sounds, was the single biggest mistake of Isiah’s entire tenure, the one misfire that will end up haunting that franchise for the next decade. And that’s saying something. But Balkman/Rondo will trump everything else Isiah inflicted. Just you wait. That’s all I’m saying for now.
What an odd statement.
Hoops Hype hasn’t gotten around to the Knicks yet in their season preview.
Drop me a line if you have seen some other previews from big sites (except for the wonderful preview we all read at the Dime’s website) – I’ll link them up here.