Three Or So Minutes With Mike Kurylo

Summoning my inner Andy Rooney, here are some things that I’m going to nitpick on.

John Krolik on where LeBron could go:

Say “screw it,” join Amar’e on the Knicks, run some great pick-and-rolls, make a lot of money, possibly become the A-Rod of basketball, win relatively few playoff games.

OK so it’s supposed to be a tongue in cheek remark primarily for humor, but there’s an ounce of truth to every joke. This swipe at D’Antoni’s playoff record riles me up, because under the surface it’s an extension of the cliche [only] defense wins championships. The common wisdom is that D’Antoni doesn’t care about defense, but according to Kevin Pelton, “D’Antoni’s teams have never been the defensive liabilities they were made out to be in the media.” Additionally implying that offensive minded coaches don’t win championships ignores the contrary. There are lots of defensive minded coaches that were unsuccessful in the playoffs: Mike Fratello, P.J. Carlesimo, Doug Collins. Larry Brown coached for 21 years until he finally won an NBA championship.

Every year there are 29 coaches that end the season without a new ring, so the inability to win a championship isn’t strictly a D’Antoni trait. The other LeBron-a-thon coaches have the same issues. Is Byron Scott a playoff risk because he was unable to win a title in New Jersey or couldn’t get out of the second round in New Orleans? Avery Johnson’s playoff record is worse than D’Antoni’s. In only 3 seasons, he managed to have back to back first round exits. One of those teams won an astonishing 67 games during the regular season.

Kelly Dwyer on Chris Duhon:

This is a good acquisition, for the Magic. A very, very good one, I’d say; and that’s coming from someone who has spent a good chunk of this decade ruing Duhon’s very presence and the strange hold he had on a very good (but very flawed) pro basketball coach and the resulting minutes allotment with a team located in the American Midwest. Chris can play, he can pick up plays very quickly, and he gives good effort.

To give Dwyer credit, the majority of his article is about how bad Duhon is. Nevertheless I could be convinced that Orlando signing him as a backup PG is a decent move. A solid move. A safe move. But a “very, very good one?” No way. If Nelson misses a chunk of time this year their fans are going to hate Duhon. If it happens deep in the playoffs, they’re screwed. The PG depth in free agency isn’t much, but compared to Felton & Ridnour, Duhon is awful. And let’s be blunt, Felton & Ridnour aren’t all that great themselves.

Playoff teams usually play it safe, instead of taking risks. Instead of choosing a PG that could win a playoff game, they went with one that they hope won’t lose one. They might not have landed one of the guys above, but maybe they could have gotten a player like Jordan Farmar. Compared to Duhon, Farmar is 4 years younger, a better defender, scores twice as many points with a sizable advantage in efficiency (TS% 53.5% to 50.1%).

[Note: I highly respect the work of Krolik and Dwyer. For instance Krolik’s most recent piece on LeBron James is stunningly beautiful and well thought out. It’s a prime example of what blogs do right, that newspapers get wrong. Newspapers have been focusing on the rumors, speculation, and hoopla. Krolik is quite reasonable and gets to the heart of the matter, in a profound manner. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t read Ball Don’t Lie to get Dwyer’s keen opinion on any transaction or event in the league.]

Knicks Sign Amar’e

According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the New York Knicks have signed Amar’e Stoudemire to a 5 year $100M contract. For New York this is the first step in Donnie Walsh’s rebuilding plan which began in the summer of 2008. The Knicks seemed to be an obvious fit for Stoudemire, given Mike D’Antoni’s 4 and a half seasons in Phoenix. Although the Knicks haven’t ruled out a Lee-Amar’e pairing, it’s likely that Stoudemire will replace him as the team’s power forward/center. Last year STAT attempted free throws and blocked shots at more than double the rate, and provided more scoring at a higher efficiency. However he is an inferior rebounder, isn’t as good passing the ball, and comes with a greater price tag (unless Lee is lucky enough to find a taker for a max deal). Much like Lee he isn’t known for his defense.

The other big knock on Stoudemire is his knees, which is thought to be a liability. Amar’e missed almost all of 2006 due to microfracture surgery. But in 3 of the last 4 seasons he has played 79 games or more, and in the other one it wasn’t his knees that caused him to miss time. He suffered from a partially detached retina in 2009. Much like Fred Taylor, the injury label has stuck to Amar’e despite his recent good health. Injuries are rarely brought up with fellow free agent Chris Bosh, even though Bosh has missed more games than Stoudemire over the last 4 years (45 to 32).

Of the free agent power forwards on the market (excluding Dirk, who wasn’t truly available) none match Amar’e’s team’s success. In 7 seasons, Bosh’s Raptors have managed to be above .500 once. The most Boozer’s Jazz teams ever won in a season was 54 games, something that the Sun’s have matched or beaten 5 times. How much of the Suns’ success rested on Stoudemire’s production will be tested as they look to replace him with Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye.

All that is not to say that Stoudemire is undoubtedly the cream of the crop of the big men free agents. Bosh is 2 years younger, and has advantages with regards to rebounding and passing. And it’s arguable that dollar for dollar Amar’e is not an upgrade from David Lee.

But often perception trumps reality. For the Knicks this day isn’t necessarily about this signing, but the next one. And if grabbing Stoudemire, a 5 time All Star, nets New York another big free agent then the extra cost is undoubtedly worth it.

If I Were The Knicks GM, I’d…

With one day of the NBA’s 2010 free agency in the books, some developments have occured that might alter New York’s plans. What would I do with how the chips current lie?

Plan A – This is still LeBron James. A lot of speculation was that New York needed to sign James along with a second superstar to make a championship caliber team. Of course signing another top tier free agent would be ideal, it’s not necessary. First, New York has Eddy Curry’s contract that they can use in a sign and trade anywhere between now & the trading deadline. At worst they can let it expire & use that money to sign another player.

Second, I’d say that James, along with re-signing David Lee would make New York one of the best teams in the league next year. Why? New York theoretically could surround James (60.4% TS%) and Lee (58.4%) with Gallinari (57.5%), Walker (65.1%), and Toney Douglas (57.1%). That would be an incredibly efficient lineup. Although they might be lacking on the interior especially with rebounding at the 4, that would be one heck of a difficult team to shut down defensively. They could easily lead the league in offense with enough room to cover an average defense, much like D’Antoni’s 60 win Phoenix teams. Additionally Lee would give them some extra cap room to sign a few players for depth.

Plan B – See above, but substitute Dwayne Wade for LeBron James.

Plan C – Here’s where things from day 1 make it interesting. In the likely event that James and Wade go elsewhere, supposedly the Knicks were high on pairing Joe Johnson with another big man (Bosh? Amare?). But it appears that Atlanta has put the kibosh on that plan by throwing a max-ish offer at Johnson. (At this time the rumor is unclear if the offer is for the full 6 years, or just 5). New York’s backup option was likely Rudy Gay, but that option has been taken off the table by Memphis’ deal worth $86M over 5 years.

So let’s assume that LeBron, Wade, Johnson, and Gay are all off the table. What are the Knicks to do? The obvious option would be to bring back David Lee along with one of the top big men Amare Stoudemire or Chris Bosh. Bringing Lee back would be key, considering that he would likely cost less than Bosh or Amare, giving the Knicks the ability to sign another mid-tier free agent. Perhaps a player like Mike Miller or Josh Childress would come to New York for a discount. If not they should be able to land someone decent, if not one or more of the bargain bin players that Ted Nelson brought up earlier in the week.

A lineup of Stoudemire/Bosh, Lee, Gallinari, Miller/Childress, and Douglas with the bench of Chandler, Walker, Fields, Rautins, and James should easily make the playoffs. Depth would be a concern (especially at center & point guard), but the team would still have Curry’s contract to use for an upgrade at those spots.

Plan D – If Bosh and Stoudemire go elsewhere, the Knicks aren’t likely to have a good 2010. Their best option would be to make a trade for a superstar. Of course this is where Walsh’s mid-season trades hurt them, because they lost some assets they could have used in a deal. Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony could be possibilities, but the team inevitably would have to send their prized youngster (Gallo) along with a few other players. Depending on how this plays out, they could still have Lee (or not) and cap space (or not). The idea would be to grab a superstar now and hope to eventually surround him with talent. Paul or Anthony surrounded by marginal talent would be an upgrade for New York, but depending on the cast might struggle to win half their games.

Plan E – Hope New Jersey gets some free agents and wait for them to move to Brooklyn. Sell all my Knicks related stuff on eBay.

OK so it’s probably an overstatement, as the team would be best served by going lean for another year & hold onto their cap space. The worst part about this scenario is that Walsh’s past year would have been one big mistake. Not resigning Lee to a moderate contract, and trading some future draft picks (plus Hill) to get rid of Jeffries’ contract will have hurt the team tremendously. For another year they would be a losing team without the benefit of having their own first round draft pick. On the other hand, the team wouldn’t be hamstrung by a handful of overpaid players for the first time in what seems like a generation.

2010 Report Card: Mike D’Antoni

In 2010, the Knicks were expected to better their 33 wins from the season prior. The returning players should have reaped the benefits of familiarity with D’Antoni’s offense. The team had multiple young players which should have improved. And the addition of two first round picks should have assisted with filling out the roster. However D’Antoni’s team floundered in his second season, finishing 4 games worse than the year prior.

The 2010 New York offense was nearly identical to 2009. Both teams finished 17th in offensive efficiency (107.6 in 2010, 108.1 in 2009) with good shooting (10th in 2010, 12th in 2009) and turnovers (11th in 2010 and 2009), while eschewing rebounding (27th in 2010 and 2009) and free throw shooting (28th in 2010 and 2009). However the defense was considerably worse dropping from 110.8 points per 100 possessions in 2009 (23rd) to 111.6 pts/100poss (tied 27th). The team was considerably worse with regards to rebounding going from tied for 20th place to 27th.

Granted the D’Antoni era Knicks with their broken roster wasn’t supposed to be about winning games, at least thus far. But even casting that aside, it’s hard to like everything that has happened to the team under his leadership. Take for instance his handling of certain players. You can write off his dealing with Marbury, considering how the latter has acted publicly (and if the public only sees a small portion of Marbury’s life, then I can only imaging what he was truly like). But it’s hard to dismiss Nate Robinson as easily. Nate was an integral part of the team last year amassing 2209 minutes, but by December he was persona non grata. Benching one of the team’s best players for a month due to immaturity seems harsh.

Just as important was his inability to handle his team publicly. Surprisingly Nate dealt with the benching in a mature fashion when it came to the press, however Larry Hughes and Darko Milicic were much less accommodating. D’Antoni failed to quell the media storm that came with these issues, and instead seemed to fuel them by teetering between aloofness and annoyance whenever asked about playing time.

Of course there may be elements that we as outsiders are not privy to, especially with regards to what occurs behind the scenes. But it’s impossible to defend D’Antoni’s choices in the rotation during the 2010 season. Tossing out the corpse of Chris Duhon’s night after night was inexplicable, and perhaps the worst coaching decision he has made. It was like the NBA’s version of the Emperor’s New Clothes; everyone could see that Duhon was awful except for the one person who could have removed him from the rotation. It’s not like D’Antoni didn’t have other options. Nate Robinson, Sergio Rodriguez, and Toney Douglas were obvious choices to replace Duhon. And the rookie proved to be a good player once he finally got playing time.

The point guard spot wasn’t the only position where D’Antoni blundered. For a team that was one of the worst in the league on defense and rebounding, D’Antoni refused to give serious consideration to any of the team’s natural centers. Granted the issues with Eddy Curry are well documented, but the team should have experimented with either Jordan Hill or Darko Milicic to see if either could have addressed these issues. Both players received more minutes from their new teams upon being traded, so it’s hard to believe there was anything other than D’Antoni’s own blinders which prevented them from contributing to the team. The treatment of Douglas, Hill, and Robinson might not be on par with ignoring Barnes, trading away Ariza, and burying David Lee on the depth chart. However there’s no doubt that the team squandered the talent on an already resource poor team.

Not everything was bad for D’Antoni in 2010. He did help along some of the younger players. Danilo Gallinari didn’t turn into a superstar, but played well for a 21 year old. Meanwhile 23 year old Toney Douglas and 22 year old Bill Walker were surprisingly productive, albeit in limited minutes. And the ability to recognize David Lee’s passing ability and run the offense through him was pretty inventive. Depending on who the Knicks sign this summer, many of the issues with D’Antoni are likely to vanish. However human weaknesses often appear under the worst stress and strain, and perhaps 2010 was a magnifying glass on what D’Antoni doesn’t do well.

Report Card (5 point scale):

In order to grade D’Antoni I’m going to use a different set of metrics. In a recent interview, Henry Abbott of TrueHoop was asked about Nate McMillan and said this about NBA coaches:

The way to judge a coach is not to obsess over this or that little thing, but to look around the franchise and ask: Are the basketball players well-led? Do they give great effort at all times? Are the offense and defense generally efficient? Are the players on the roster well-deployed? Do the players believe in the coach as their leader? Is the staff on the same page?

So I’ll attempt to answer these questions, although I have to do so as an outsider, speculating where necessary.

Are the basketball players well-led? 3
Do they give great effort at all times? 3
Sometimes it’s hard to separate ability with effort, and perhaps with D’Antoni’s short rotation watching the same players with the same flaws become ingrained in my memory. I didn’t get the feeling that the team was ill-prepared or lethargic, but I didn’t feel that they were superbly organized or energetic.

Are the offense and defense generally efficient? 1
The offense has been what you’d expect, but the defense was just dreadful last season. If pushed I could go with a 2, but when you consider that D’Antoni wasted so many minutes on Jared Jeffries, you’d expect better than the 3rd worst defense in the NBA. Additionally he could have moved David Lee back to PF in order to better protect the paint.

Are the players on the roster well-deployed? -5
By far D’Antoni’s worst ability, as mentioned above.

Do the players believe in the coach as their leader? NA
Impossible to answer this question from my perspective.

Is the staff on the same page? 5
I’ve never heard any dissent from the other coaches or even the front office. Considering that one of the assistant coaches is kin, and that Donnie Walsh has gone out on a limb to protect his coach, this is D’Antoni’s strength so far.

Final Grade: F

2010 Report Card: David Lee

This year the New York Knicks added a new wrinkle to their offense. A good portion of their half court set consisted of keeping David Lee on the perimeter with the ball, allowing him to orchestrate the offense. I’m not exactly sure why this was done, perhaps D’Antoni wanted to bring the opposing center on the perimeter to open the middle. Or perhaps the Knicks coach wished to experiment during a meaningless season.

In any case the General was up to the task, and notched the highest assist rate of his career (3.5 ast/36). Lee actually has a good touch passing the ball. He’s capable of the cross court pass, and near the top of the key he could hit an open teammate on a diagonal. In 2010 he was basically playing the point guard role in the half court set, selecting where the ball would go. He complemented this move to the exterior with his jump shooting, which seems to be ever improving.

David-Lee-Shooting-Perc

The numbers above are from HoopData, which doesn’t include Lee’s rookie year. Lee’s mid-range game appeared in 2008, and this year he’s added the deeper jump shot. From the chart above, he’s about equally proficient anywhere inside of 23 feet. The ability to hoist it up has allowed Lee to become a more voluminous scorer, as his pts/36 is almost double his rookie year output (11.0 to 19.6 pts/36).

But these positives did not occur without any drawbacks. First is Lee’s offensive rebounding, which dropped for the 3rd straight season to a career low of 2.7 reb/36. Secondly, playing Lee as the center instead of power forward hurt the team’s interior defense. The paint might as well have been in the Delta Quadrant for Knick defenders, because on most nights resistance was futile. Lee had a Zach Randolph-esque rate of blocked shots (Lee: 0.5, Randolph: 0.4 blk/36) which would be more livable from the power forward spot. But from the center position it was a clear detriment to the team.

Nonetheless Lee’s season was overall a success, especially when you consider that he made his first All Star appearance. Granted Lee isn’t an All Star caliber player like LeBron James or Dwight Howard are, but he showed that despite his flaws his strengths make him one of the league’s best big men.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 5
Defense: 1
Teamwork: 5
Rootability: 4
Performance/Expectations: 4

Final Grade: B+

Similarity Scores:

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 David Lee 2010 NYK 22.2 58.4 54.5 19.6 2.7 11.3 3.5 1.0 0.5 2.3
.058 Carlos Boozer 2008 UTA 21.9 58.1 54.7 21.8 2.5 10.7 3.0 1.3 0.5 2.7
.112 Brad Daugherty 1992 CLE 23.0 62.9 57.0 21.3 2.6 10.4 3.6 0.9 1.1 2.5
.180 Jack Sikma 1982 SEA 20.6 55.9 48.0 19.0 2.6 12.3 3.3 1.2 1.3 2.5
.184 Terry Mills 1994 DET 17.7 55.2 52.1 17.9 2.5 8.7 2.3 0.8 0.8 2.0
.195 Brad Miller 2003 IND 19.3 57.9 49.7 15.1 2.9 9.6 3.1 1.0 0.7 1.9
.199 Shareef Abdur-Rahim 2003 ATL 20.0 56.6 48.7 18.8 2.0 7.9 2.8 1.0 0.4 2.4
.206 Mike Gminski 1986 NJN 19.0 59.4 51.7 19.0 2.9 9.5 1.9 0.8 1.0 2.0
.207 Otis Thorpe 1989 HOU 15.4 59.1 54.2 15.7 3.1 9.0 2.3 0.9 0.4 2.6
.215 Craig Smith 2010 LAC 16.9 59.9 57.1 17.1 2.8 8.4 2.5 1.0 0.7 2.6
.218 Charles Oakley 1990 NYK 15.9 58.0 52.4 14.6 4.2 11.9 2.4 1.0 0.3 2.7

After last year’s similarity scores (Jerome Whitehead? Loy Vaught?), I was a bit afraid of what Lee’s future may hold. But this year he seems to be on the right track with that high correspondence with Boozer. The list seems to be an accurate representation of Lee; players who score efficiently and can handle the rock, but with questionable defensive skills. Since his high assist numbers are partly a function of his role D’Antoni’s offense, it’ll be interesting to see how he is used on another team should he bolt via free agency. Will another coach give him the freedom to manage the offense, or will he go back to his role as a pick & roll/pop power forward?

David Lee – Impending Buyer’s Remorse

Today’s article is by supernova. This is third place in the “Can You Be A KnickerBlogger?” Contest. As I mentioned previously, winners will receive a copy of Dave Berri’s book Stumbling on Wins.


David Lee has been the best Knick these past two seasons. Through dedication and hard work, he has raised the level of his game to make himself into a consistent double-double machine, and an All Star. In addition, to his solid offensive and rebounding statistics, he brings a consistent work ethic, so any team that ends up signing him can feel assured that even with a huge guaranteed contract they will still get a quality effort..

With that said, then why do I feel whoever ends up acquiring Lee in free agency will ultimately be disappointed?

I guess I base my concerns on watching him all these years and realizing that for all those good numbers, he never made us remotely into a winner. Yes, one player does not a team make, but he never seemed to make the team around him better, at least not appreciably. Anecdotally, he seemed to save his best for the first three quarters, but I do not remember too many occasions where he took control down the stretch of tight games.

We have all complained so much about D’Antoni’s lack of emphasis on defense. Well there was probably no bigger culprit in regards to that deficiency on the floor than David Lee (okay maybe Sergio Rodriguez). Lee in fact all but admitted that deficiency in his game a few days ago when he said that he would focus on improving his defense in the off-season. Maybe I am being a bit harsh on him here, since he was playing out of position at center and matching up against guys who were significantly taller. In terms of playing out of position, he gets a bit of a pass, but much of playing defense is speed and quickness, which Lee somewhat lacks. I do not know how at almost 27 years old, he is suddenly going to improve that part of his game. In my opinion, if it hasn’t happened already after four years in the league, it probably will not happen in this case.

Finally, should Lee soon be on a team with quality teammates his overall rebounding will probably suffer somewhat. On this past Knicks team, nobody consistently rebounded much other than Lee. His next stop will probably include a team of multiple rebounding options on the floor, and more efficient scorers (less opportunities on the offensive boards), which will both combine to reduce his total number of rebounds. In terms of scoring I believe his numbers very well could stay where they are, because although his opportunities might be limited (a team of greater and more efficient scorers), he will still make his fair share of putback chances.

Overall, I am still a big fan of David Lee’s, but a fan at the $7 million to maybe $9 million dollar level. Based on what I have been reading and hearing he will probably command somewhere in the $12-$14 million range. I will always be a big David Lee fan and I will certainly be sorry if he does leave NY, but regrettably, I would have to agree with not paying him anywhere near that level. If Donnie Walsh ends up paying him that much dough it would simply leave me with buyer’s remorse.

Birth Of A Knick Fan For Life

Today’s article is by Lee Davis, director of the films 3AM and Hoop Realities and life-long Knick fan. Lee won first prize in the “Can You Be A KnickerBlogger?” for this contribution.


I was about eight years old, strolling through midtown holding my fathers hand when we both turned towards the sound of screams. A man plummeted past the side of a building, landing with a thud behind the row of parked cars along the curb. My dad was shaken up. Me? I wanted to get a look at what was left of the guy.

Minutes later we stood in front of the Penn Hotel, just across the street from The Garden. Beside us, waiting for the light to change, was Clyde Frazier, complete with flowing trench-coat and hat. I was in awe. Superhero music played in my head. My Dad smiled, said a coupla words to him, and Clyde reached down and shook my hand with a grin.

Birth of a Knick fan for life. Recently I wonder if maybe it had less to do with meeting Clyde than with the incident that occurred earlier that day. Maybe it was more my own inner fascination with the grotesque. Deep down there is something about a train wreck that captures the curiosity — a need to see how bad it really looks. Maybe thats why the Garden still has so many sell-outs.

Knick fans like myself are hoping for Christmas in July. Ignoring the pundits who speculate one way or the other, I am content to wait. I want LeBron. I want to keep David Lee. But like a magic trick, I think the real action is where the audience is not looking. My eyes are on a deal for Ricky Rubio. D’Antoni needs a player to push the pedal to the metal. Donnie Walsh knows that on Broadway you need characters — with character. Clyde, Bradley, DeBusschere, Reed. It is about winning, yes, but the true goal is to forge a team identity. An aura. A feeling that fans want to be a part of.

Imagine the mop-headed Rubio in a Knick jersey throwing alley-oops to LeBron, or no-look passes to Gallo from three. Lebron encouraging his teammates to believe in each other. Wilson Chandler emerging as the star they keep pleading with him to be.

Suddenly the Mecca of Basketball really is again.

An uptempo team offense is not a cover for poor defense. But a few blowout victories, buoyed by a quick start in exhibition on an international stage, and suddenly D’Antoni is the Coach he really thinks he is, and everyone else is wrong, that is at least until the playoffs.

Hoping for the best here. Hoping for the third seed next year.

Not that it matters. Either way they know we’ll be watching.Even if they acquire no players of significance, and let David Lee walk. We’ll watch. We can’t help it.

We’ll be that eight year old, struggling to get a clear look at the damage.