Ankle Saves Face?

The Post, along with other outlets, is reporting that Stephon Marbury is “a lock” to have surgery on a chronically fracutred bone spur in his ankle. Although MRI results were not available at the time of writing, prior X-Rays have revealed the fracture.

The surgery is quite likely to end Marbury’s season. If the condition is both chronic and repetitive stress-induced it is possible, maybe even probable, that Marbury walks away from the game altogether; not unlike Allan Houston.

In an odd sense, should Marbury undergo season-ending surgery, it may prove a face-saving blessing in disguise for him personally. With all hope of any sort of glorious return to his hometown team pretty well dashed, perhaps the best thing for Marbury (and the team) is for him to finish his Knick career quietly.

For the team, at present the Bizarro Knicks have played well. But, let’s not blister our palms patting them on the back just yet. As one reader points out, even Larry Brown’s Knicks managed to win six in a row. Nevertheless, the recent play of Nate Robinson has been heartening–particularly the appearance of the improved passing we saw in the summer league. (As a team the turnovers during this stretch have been low as KB pointed out in an earlier post.) Crawford has also managed to string together a couple very efficient shooting nights as well. Should Marbury leave the rotation for good, the immediate concern is PG depth. Crawford is already playing just under 41 mpg (tied for 2nd in the NBA). Without Marbury, either Robinson or Crawford will need to be on the floor at all times. (Otherwise Thomas will need to depend on Mardy Collins to contribute.)

Presumably, they’ll cross this bridge when they come it, but long term the Knicks will need to determine what to do with Marbury. Keep him on the bench next season? Attempt to move his contract? Attempt to buy him out and keep his contract in order to remove it from the cap next after season?

Isiah’s Comments a Relief

It’s 5:30am, and I can’t sleep a wink.

According to the New York Post, Isiah Thomas has stated that he won’t make any trades this year as the deadline approaches. Although the Knick season has been a debacle this year, Thomas’ words come across as a belated Christmas gift to the team’s fans.

Thomas’ first trade as the Knick president was to acquire Stephon Marbury in a trade with the Phoenix Suns. At the time New York was a floundering franchise. Coming off a near championship run, the Knicks were overloaded with awful contracts given to Allan Houston, Howard Eisley, and Shandon Anderson among others. In the Suns deal, Isiah picked up not one but two outrageously bad contracts, Stephon Marbury’s and Anfernee Hardaway’s. Instead of attempting to reduce the Knicks salary cap woes, Thomas added to it.

And as Thomas’ tenure in New York progressed, he continued in that manner. He acquired highly paid players like Marbury, Hardaway, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis, and Zach Randolph. And he overpaid for mediocre players like Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries, Jerome James, Jamal Crawford, Malik Rose, Jerome Williams, and Quentin Richardson. In essence what Isiah Thomas has done is collect a team of untouchables; players that other teams wouldn’t trade for due to the salary cap implications. No one could afford an aging (among other things) Stephon Marbury for $20M. Zach Randolph is owed at least $60M over the next 4 years. Eddy Curry has a player option for $10M in 2009, one he’ll certainly take given that no other team would pay him that much. The Knicks would have to offer incentive for another team to take Quentin Richardson, Jamal Crawford, Jerome James, or Jared Jeffries off their hands.

Much like the team he assembled, Thomas is over matched when competing against the rest of the league. The proof can be seen in Isiah’s trading partners. Phoenix nearly became overnight winners after Thomas freed them of Marbury and Hardaway. Orlando is now an Eastern powerhouse since Steve Francis left. Chicago had success once Isiah took Crawford and Curry off their hands. Toronto is up and coming since Jalen Rose was shipped south. And the newest member of the “Thank You Isiah” club is Portland. The Trailblazers could improve by 10 wins without Zach Randolph.

While Isiah has crushed any optimism for the 2008 season, the only positive thing New Yorkers have at this moment is that their younger players can turn into solid pros. The Knicks only hope is that David Lee, Renaldo Balkman, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, and Randolph Morris will turn into solid pros. But that hope is meaningless if Isiah chooses to trade one of these players, something he has done in the past. Thomas sent 20 year old Trevor Ariza to Orlando in the Steve Francis deal, and he shipped Channing Frye to Portland after just his second NBA season. Ironically both players are doing well this year for a pittance.

So Isiah’s statement “I don’t see us being active at the trade deadline” is a big relief to Knick fans. This season has been a comedy of errors for the Knicks, and if Thomas’ words ring true, there is one less thing to keep Knick fans up at night.

The (Fourth) Winter of Our Discontent

On December 20th, 2003, a bad New York Knicks team defeated an even worse Atlanta Hawks team, 103-92. The starters for the Knicks in that game were Allan Houston, Antonio McDyess, Keith Van Horn, Dikembe Mutombo and Howard Eisley (do note that 3/5th of the starting five are no longer in the league, and a fourth is so old that he used to babysit Julio Franco). The reserves were Kurt Thomas, Charlie Ward, Frank Williams, Shandon Anderson and Michael Doleac (3/5th of THEM are ALSO out of the league now, with Doleac hanging on by a thread).

Two days later, on December 22nd, 2003 – four years ago today, the Knicks hired Isiah Thomas as their new President and General Manager. Their next game was December 23rd, and appropriately enough, they lost. Read More

2007 Preseason Game 3

Unfortunately last night’s game wasn’t televised. Luckily one of our readers received the Boston feed, and wrote up his commentary for the game (on another thread). So I decided to copy it here for preseason discussion.

Box score here: http://www.nba.com/games/20071017/NYKBOS/boxscore.html

danvt Said:
October 17th, 2007 at 11:57 pm e

Hey folks,
I live in VT now and suffered through some of the poorest coverage of a basketball game I have seen. Forget about knowing who?s in the game. Even finding out who scored, if it was a Knick, was not possible on a number of occasions (and they scored so rarely, it would have been nice). Inept game calling and missed shots by the cameras all night. Tom Heinsohn is completely hateful as well. He gets mad at calls that go against the Cs like Nate Robinson does.

As to the game, they found Curry in the post on the first play and pretty much did not try again. They hardly seemed to run any sets at all.

On D, by early in the third quarter, Curry was so winded that Garnett ran full court and beat him down the floor like Paxico beat Lawyer Milloy on Monday. So embarrassing.

No one made any shots tonight as the ghastly percentages will bear out. I figure that?s likely to get better. We do have scorers. they, also, made more shots than they normally would make. The forty point spread was a statistical anomaly, I think, but the lack of creativity on offense and the horrible perimeter defense did not help matters. I figure, on a normal night, they lose this game by 15 or so. That doesn?t exactly get them in the playoffs though.

In my heart I can?t believe it?s going to be as bad as last year, but, I had a familiar lump in my throat watching this game. They were done before the first quarter was over.

Allan Houston missed all his shots and got a quick hook. He tried to funnel Ray Allen to help that was late in coming and gave up an easy layup.

Randolph Morris had two nice turn around jumpers. One from each side of the baseline.

Nichols has a sweet looking stroke, though he almost cracked the back of the rim with a three point attempt. He had a nice finish on the break, though, and has a veteran presence about him.

Chandler showed good range on his shot.

Fred Jones is a good defender

Basically all units got severely outplayed tonight. They were better 1-15.

2007 Knicks Preseason Roster Crunch – Pt. 2

According to the Daily News, Fred Jones may have earned himself a roster spot.

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/knicks/2007/10/16/2007-10-16_knicks_fred_jones_likely_to_send_allan_h.html

It sounds impossible but Jones already may have pulled it off. Last week, Isiah Thomas provided an unsolicited status report on Jones when he said, “Don’t plan on him going anywhere anytime soon.”

Thomas made the comment Friday, the day Allan Houston reported to training camp. Houston and Demetris Nichols, the aforementioned draft pick from Syracuse, are both trying to make a roster that already includes the maximum 15 guaranteed contracts. For weeks, it was generally assumed that Jones, portrayed as a throw-in in the Zach Randolph trade, would be the odd man out.

But Jones’ relationship with Thomas goes back to their Indiana Pacer days and there is something to be said for being an “Isiah guy.” Just ask Knicks VP of basketball operations Glen Grunwald or assistant coaches Brendan Suhr and Mark Aguirre.

“He gave me my shot,” Jones said following yesterday’s practice in Greenburgh. “Leaving Portland was a little difficult for me because that’s my home city. But it eased the pain knowing I was coming to a familiar situation.”

Thomas sees the 6-4 Jones as a defensive stopper who can play either shooting guard or small forward. Of course, the Knicks envisioned Jared Jeffries as a defensive specialist last season but that never panned out. In order for the 6-2 Jones to crack the rotation he would cost somebody – Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, Nate Robinson – minutes. But on a team that struggled to defend on the perimeter, Jones could find a spot.

“He’s a tough defender,” Thomas said. “In this league you have to be able to stop people.”

“When I came into this league I probably wasn’t the greatest defender,” said Jones, who spent last season with the Raptors and Trail Blazers. “I knew that was my calling card to get on the floor. I take pride in that now. That’s something I’m looking forward to bringing to this team.”

Additionally the Knicks cut Roderick Wilmont. So the roster is so far:

Very likely (10)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
32 Renaldo Balkman F 6-8 208 Jul. 14, 1984 South Carolina 1
11 Jamal Crawford G 6-5 200 Mar. 20, 1980 Michigan 7
34 Eddy Curry C 6-11 285 Dec. 5, 1982 Thornwood HS (IL) 6
42 David Lee F 6-9 240 Apr. 29, 1983 Florida 2
3 Stephon Marbury G 6-2 205 Feb. 20, 1977 Georgia Tech 11
50 Zach Randolph F 6-9 260 Jul. 16, 1981 Michigan State 6
23 Quentin Richardson G/F 6-6 235 Apr. 13, 1980 DePaul 7
20 Jared Jeffries F 6-11 240 Nov. 25, 1981 Indiana 5
4 Nate Robinson G 5-9 180 31-May-84 Washington 2
25 Mardy Collins G 6-6 220 Aug. 4, 1984 Temple 1

Of course, if anyone isn’t going to make the team from this group, it will be the last 2. This leaves 5 spots open, 2 more roster spot and 3 inactive spots from the following players.

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
2 Fred Jones G 6-2 225 Mar. 11, 1979 Oregon 5
5 Randolph Morris C/F 6-11 260 Jan. 2, 1986 Kentucky 1
31 Malik Rose F 6-7 255 Nov. 23, 1974 Drexel 11
21 Wilson Chandler F 6-8 220 10-May-87 DePaul R
1 Jared Jordan G 6-2 190 Oct. 14, 1984 Marist 1
35 Demetris Nichols G/F 6-8 215 Sep. 4, 1984 Syracuse R
13 Jerome James C 7-1 285 Nov. 17, 1975 Florida A&M 8
? Allan Houston G 6-6 205 4/2/1971 Tennesse 13
6 Walker Russell, Jr. G 6-1 170 Oct. 6, 1982 Jacksonville State R

Let’s assume Jones is in. Also let’s assume that Isiah won’t cut Chandler or Morris. Walker Russell’s father works for the Knicks, so he’s probably there due to nepotism and little else. So there remains only 2 spots left for Rose, James, Nichols, Jordan, and Houston. Isiah has to make a tough(?) decision on whether or not to buy out his veterans (Rose/James) or cut his rookies (Nichols/Jordan). He could possibly hold onto Jordan by sending him overseas, but he still has to decide between Nichols or one of his vets. And even after all that, Isiah has to decide who will stay on the active roster, and who (if anyone) he might send to the
NBDL.

2007 Knicks Preseason Roster Crunch

jon abbey Said:

Mike, can you do a piece on the roster situation? I read that Houston takes them to 20 guys, do we have a list of them somewhere? when do they have to cut that to 15, by opening night?

Sure thing Jon. And I do believe we have to cut the roster to 15 by opening day (or thereabouts), with only 12 suiting up each night. Up to 3 players can be inactive, with the option to send players to the NBDL. If a veteran player is on the inactive list, they usually make up a fake injury by throwing darts on an injury labeled dartboard.

Definites: 7

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
32 Renaldo Balkman F 6-8 208 Jul. 14, 1984 South Carolina 1
11 Jamal Crawford G 6-5 200 Mar. 20, 1980 Michigan 7
34 Eddy Curry C 6-11 285 Dec. 5, 1982 Thornwood HS (IL) 6
42 David Lee F 6-9 240 Apr. 29, 1983 Florida 2
3 Stephon Marbury G 6-2 205 Feb. 20, 1977 Georgia Tech 11
50 Zach Randolph F 6-9 260 Jul. 16, 1981 Michigan State 6
23 Quentin Richardson G/F 6-6 235 Apr. 13, 1980 DePaul 7

Barring a trade these guys will be on the roster in November.

Probables: 3 (10)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
4 Nate Robinson G 5-9 180 31-May-84 Washington 2
5 Randolph Morris C/F 6-11 260 Jan. 2, 1986 Kentucky 1
25 Mardy Collins G 6-6 220 Aug. 4, 1984 Temple 1

I’d be hard to imagine one of these guys not making the team, but if I had to choose one of the three I could see Collins being the odd man out. Yes Isiah gave him the keys to the team at the end of the year, mostly because of a decimated lineup. The guy is a fine defender, but he can’t hit a jumpshot anywhere on the court. And while you can live with that at a few positions, point guard isn’t one of them. Personally I like Collins, and this team definitely needs a perimeter defender of his caliber. For how much we think NBA front offices are clueless about per minute stats and shooting percentages, I could see them evaluating Collins poorly.

Possibles: 3 (13)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
20 Jared Jeffries F 6-11 240 Nov. 25, 1981 Indiana 5
31 Malik Rose F 6-7 255 Nov. 23, 1974 Drexel 11
21 Wilson Chandler F 6-8 220 10-May-87 DePaul R

It’s not so much that I don’t think Chandler will be cut, but it’s possible that he ends up in the NBDL instead of the NBA. Remember when the Knicks drafted Sweetney and had too many PFs? Sweetney started the year in the developmental league, and Chandler may just find himself in a similar situation. Looking above, there are already 5 guys that can play SF/PF. Randolph and Lee should eat up all the minutes at power forward. At small forward you have Richardson, Balkman, Jeffries, and possibly Lee & Rose. Oh don’t forget that Isiah likes to play 3 guards every now and then. If Chandler does make the roster, he’ll likely see more time at the end of the bench.

Of course the other options are cutting Collins above or buying out either Jeffries or Rose. None of these are particularly easy pills for Isiah to swallow. Jeffries is too young and has 4 years left on his deal. On the other hand Rose is the only defensively minded power forward on the team, and he has 2 years on his contract as well. Of the three Rose is more likely to go, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. It seems that Isiah tends to buy out Knicks that he’s burned his bridges with, as opposed to ones that have outlived their usefulness.

On the Outside Looking In: 3 (16)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
2 Fred Jones G 6-2 225 Mar. 11, 1979 Oregon 5
1 Jared Jordan G 6-2 190 Oct. 14, 1984 Marist 1
35 Demetris Nichols G/F 6-8 215 Sep. 4, 1984 Syracuse R

The two rookies are intriguing. Considering that Isiah keeps them, both should play in the NBDL this year. Although if I had to choose one to make the team it would be Nichols. Having an outside shooter on the bench will be useful when teams zone it up on Curry/Randolph.

Isiah coached Mr. Jones from his days in Indiana. The problem is Indiana Jones couldn’t crack 20 min/g for a losing Portland team last year. Yes he’s athletic and can (supposedly) play defense. But I’d rather roll my dice with a younger more useful Mardy Collins.

Oh God Please No! 2 (18)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
13 Jerome James C 7-1 285 Nov. 17, 1975 Florida A&M 8
? Allan Houston G 6-6 205 4/2/1971 Tennesse 13

It’s time to cut Jerome James. Isiah inserted him into the starting lineup for a stretch last year & he still couldn’t manage to stay on the court for long. James only managed 272 minutes on the season. As for Allan Houston, he was most useful for the Knicks when the team had lots of talent at the other spots. If he’s serious about a comeback he should find a team that fits that description.

Who? 2 (20)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
6 Walker Russell, Jr. G 6-1 170 Oct. 6, 1982 Jacksonville State R
26 Roderick Wilmont G 6-4 205 Jul. 28, 1983 Indiana R

Usually I’m pretty thorough with my research, however there is such a small chance that anyone other than the above makes the team that I won’t even bother with anyone this low on the depth chart.

Who makes the team?
How the roster shapes out depends on two things. The first is how badly Isiah thinks he needs a third center on the roster. Cato had that role and only saw 95 minutes total last season. With a roster this tight, that seems to be a luxury. The second factor is how Isiah feels about the NBDL. If he’d rather the rookies see action there instead of having front row seats to NBA games, then he might be more likely to play it conservative and stick with Rose & Jeffries.

Personally I would cut Jones, Rose, and James, keep Chandler on the roster, and put Nichols and Jordan in the development league until a few spots open up due to injury. I have a feeling that Isiah may do the same, but I wouldn’t be surprised if James is around as center insurance/team clown and Chandler is in the NBDL (in favor of Rose) until Quentin’s back acts up.