Hollinger’s Knicks

[In today’s article, we take you back in the KnickerBlogger.Net Time Machine? to February 8th 2006. In this much darker time in Knick history, the hometown blue had been in the middle of a 10 game losing streak. It’s a stark contrast to the 1 game win streak the team is currently riding.

In this date in history, Michael Zannettis sent me this intelligent discourse on the Knicks of his era. Unfortunately I was out of town on business (that thing that allows me to collect money to pay for this thing), and the KnickerBlogger publishing group was on a team building exercise in the mountains of Nepal.

Mr. Zannettis is head of the KnickerBlogger.Net Biology department, ensuring that all employees of KB.N Industries do actually bleed orange & blue. So without further ado…]


mort (nyc): Okay, smart guy. Imagine this: Larry Brown gets fired and John Hollinger is named head coach of the Knicks. Oh, and Stephon Marbury just broke his leg. Who are your starting 5?

John Hollinger: (3:12 PM ET) Wouldn’t be MY dream job, that’s for sure. The obvious move in the frontcourt would be start Frye and Curry, bring Lee off the pine and forget the others. I’d have to play Crawford at point and if Q’s back felt OK would probably play he and Ariza at the wings, with heavy sprinklings of Jalen off the pine. Nate Robinson and Qyntel Woods could sop up whatever minutes are left over and take over for Q when the back acts up.

In the wake of the Davis-Rose trade a lot has been spoken of the luxury tax consequences of assuming Rose?s salary, but I share the sentiment of many Knicks fans in saying I could care less how much money James Dolan loses. Moreover, since their salary cap was already a hopeless situation going into next year, adding Rose does nothing to hurt the remote possibility that they might be under the cap in the summer of 2007. At that time the cages should be cleaned of such albatrosses as Allan Houston, Shandon Anderson, Jerome Williams, and Maurice Taylor. Three players who do not actually play on the team, and the fourth who shouldn?t.

Since the Knicks gave away their draft pick and they are nearly mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture, their record this year has no significance. However, that being said, it would still be nice to see the Knicks win some games. After all, we do like rooting for them.

So the question remains, what is the best rotation for the Knicks in terms of winning games this season (and next)? The conventional wisdom seems to state, at least according to Larry Brown?s resume, that playing rookies is an untenable option, since they are undeveloped and unproductive. Therefore Brown has been riding the more ostensibly reliable veterans?.um?wait. Only the problem is this logic does not apply to the 2006 Knicks. The rookies Brown has on the team are not named Darko or Delfino and are now already superior players to the ones in his rotation. Since Larry Brown did not follow Hollinger?s plan, his latest starting five was: 1, Jamal Crawford; 2, Quentin Richardson; 3, Jalen Rose; 4, Maurice Taylor; 5, Eddy Curry.

FRONTCOURT
This latest game was a microcosm of the entire season. When Curry ran into early foul trouble, he was replaced with resident worst free-agent signing of the year champion, Jerome James. If Brown wanted to bring in more front-line support he called on Malik Rose?s number 13, which is actually higher than his PER 8.9. The ineffectual trio of Taylor, Rose, and James played 51 minutes, while David Lee played less than 1, Frye played only 19 and Curry 23.

Let?s first examine the difference in production between David Lee & Channing Frye versus Maurice Taylor & Malik Rose, assuming that any rational observer can agree that James should not be beating out Herb Williams for the back-up center spot, much less the promising Jackie Butler.

Taylor scores more than Lee, but does so at a less efficient rate with more turnovers and less rebounds. Moreover, Lee has an Assist Ratio twice as high. In fact, if Lee keeps up his 14.0 rate, it would qualify as top-ten among NBA power forwards. All that being said, Taylor is still a superior player to Malik Rose, who has the same rebounding problems, but with an altogether new level of offensive incompetence. He shoots a woeful TS % 42.5, which is almost as bad as Darko last year, who couldn?t get off the end of Brown?s bench despite his implicit connections to Eastern European mobsters. And while Rose is a far worse player than Taylor, Frye is a far superior player to Lee. In fact, Frye?s rookie PER of 19.9 ranks 30th in the league. With such strong production, he is qualified to be a starter on every team in this league with the possible exception of Brown?s old team the Pistons.

Last year, Michael Sweetney?s lack of playing time caused temper fits from Knick fans fluent in statistical evaluation of performance. This year Lee and Frye are d?j? vu all over again. Once again, the Knicks simply do not seem to understand what they have on their hands. The fact that Frye and Lee are rookies is simply irrelevant on a team that currently has the league?s worst record. They are already better than aging veterans who have no roles in the Knicks? future.

Using Curry and Frye as starters with Lee off the bench, the Knicks can employ a rotation in structure congruent with Brown?s last team, the Detroit Pistons, who start Rasheed and Ben Wallace, then bring in Antonio McDyess off the bench to play power forward, moving the remaining player to center. Since both Frye and Curry can play center, Lee can be used in this way at power forward, a more natural position for him than the awkward small forward, where his inaccurate jump shot was a liability. Lee shoots an astronomically high percentage from the floor, albeit in his limited minutes, and one would think putting him into the post will deter too much regression to the mean, as he can employ more of his around the basket moves and less 15-foot line drives off the side of the backboard.

Finally, if this rotation leaves any stray minutes, they should go to Butler. In a rebuilding team filled with talented and promising rookies, there is no place for Taylor and Rose.

BACKCOURT
Marbury?s absence gives this author a modicum of pleasure to see how important he was to the ?competitiveness? of the Knicks. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. His continued inactiveness presents considerable problems for the Knicks? rotation.

While Crawford is a no-brainer at the point, Hollinger prefers Trevor Ariza over Qyntel Woods even though the latter is experiencing a resurgence in his second chance opportunity. Woods 15.3 PER is very respectable and superior to Ariza?s 10.7 PER. Nonetheless, Ariza was a burgeoning perimeter stopper before he was lost in Brown?s doghouse. That Trevor does not get along better with the coach is unfortunate for the young player?s development.

Conversely, Brown is certainly giving QRich ample opportunity to prove himself now that he is back in the Knicks? rotation. Nonetheless with QRich collecting bricks like he’s starting a construction company, it would seem he would be a more prudent benching. Perhaps much of his struggles should be attributed to rust and injury, but no matter the reason he?s still stinking up the joint. It?s admirable that he?s playing with heart, but a healthy Ariza should be getting his minutes. Using Woods and J. Rose, who both have average PERs and alternating Ariza for defensive assignments seems a more prudent course than currently relying on QRich.

In only two games with the Knicks, it is clear that J. Rose should be the primary ball-handler whenever he is on the court. This should alleviate Crawford?s bad shot tendency and Robinson?s turnover rampage, both which are wrecking havoc to the Knicks? offense. Therefore if Marbury ever returns, there is optimism that Knicks will no longer have to employ either Robinson or Crawford at the point. Considering that Robinson is not yet a competent rotation player, using him in a more limited role will improve the Knicks? competitiveness. In Hollinger?s scenario he would only receive sparse minutes when Crawford is sent to the bench, for a more reasonable ten minutes of energy off the bench.

All three swing spots, sans Marbury, are average at best, or rather, at worst. There is not one among them that even posts a 16 PER, but neither are they below 14 PER. Having no open sores in your starting line-up is more than can be said for many other teams around the league. Once Marbury returns, the Knicks can go eight players deep ? Marbury, J. Rose, Woods, Crawford, Lee, Curry, Frye, and Butler ? who post average PER or better. Conceivably, by eliminating Robinson and Richardson from the rotation, if the Knicks employed this line-up for a full-season without starting the season 19 games under .500, it would be more than reasonable to expect competition for a playoff berth. But just as importantly it would allow their rookies to receive the playing time they need to develop.

The Knicks Could Take A Lesson From Sci-Fi

“We’ve made too many compromises already. Too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!”
Jean-Luc Piccard

I’m not angry or upset at the Knicks latest deal. But I’m not jumping for joy when I think about it. I’m left indifferent to Isiah’s new deal, kinda like Jerramy Stevens’ hands to a well-thrown football. It’s no secret that New York could use a small forward to end the Keith Van Horn curse. Since they sent the high-socked spiked-haired one packing, Van Horn’s successors at small forward have all been disasters. Tim Thomas suddenly turned into tiny-Tim, Jerome Williams fell victim to a rule not even named after him, Trevor Ariza is playing like a 20 year old, Quentin Richardson is playing like a 25 year old with a 40 year old’s back, and Penny Hardaway is playing with himself (since he’s not on the team he has to practice by himself – you perverts!).

It’s certainly possible that Jalen Rose can end this curse. Rose is a multi-skilled offensive player, who can handle the ball from the 3 spot and provide a little bit of scoring. New Yorkers might remember when Jalen Rose torched the Knicks for 20 second half points in a 2005 Raptor victory. The Knicks have had problems finding a backup ball handler, a problem only exacerbated by the injury to Marbury. Although the Knicks still need a backup point guard, Rose’s ability to play point-forward will help the team in that respect. He could be the small forward they’ve been looking for all season, and his ability to run the offense might take the pressure off of Crawford & Robinson. The extra year on the deal doesn’t hurt anyone except James Dolan’s accountant, and if there is anyone who can turn a mid-late first into gold it’s Isiah Thomas.

On the other hand, Rose might go the way of the last 5 small forwards who donned the blue & orange. Even in his Pacer heyday, Jalen was a good but not great offensive player. While Rose is a skilled passer for a swingman, he still coughs it up a decent amount, and the last thing the Knicks need is more turnovers. Or maybe the last thing the Knicks need is another porous defender. If that wasn’t enough, Rose is a bit of a head case, ranking about a 5 on the 10 point Artest scale. Rose has complained about playing time, and only have to look at the Knicks bench to see how far those with a skewed sense of entitlement get with Coach Brown. When Marbury comes back and demands the ball in his hands, will an unhappy Rose do a Johnny Cash impersonation and show up dressed in black? Or maybe Larry Brown will get fed up when Jalen allows one too many opponents a closer look at the rim. As for the draft pick, maybe Isiah’s luck runs out? Or maybe he gets another Robinson or Lee: that is a nice role player, but no one that will change the franchise.

So while we wait for the Jalen Rose experience to play out, the question that keeps popping in my mind is “is this how it’s going to be for the next few years?” Are the Knicks going to cash in expiring deals for longer contracts of the league’s unwanted mediocre players? I have the bad feeling that next year I’m going to be writing another blog about the Maurice Taylor/Theo Ratliff trade. The year after, Malik Rose for Wally Szczerbiak.

And my feelings are warranted. The Knicks sent Camby for McDyess, and McDyess for Marbury. They sent Keith Van Horn for Tim Thomas, and Thomas for Curry. Othella Harrington for Jamal Crawford. Kurt Thomas for Quentin Richardson. At the time of each deal, it would have been hard to argue that the Knicks didn’t get the better player. However taken as a whole the deals have extended New York’s stay in salary cap hell. The aftermath has left fans in some kind of rooting purgatory, where we concede any hopes of being seriously competitive both now and in the near future. The Knicks are stuck in a vicious cycle of absorbing salary to get better, but not being able to get better because of those long term contracts. Since the last Finals team fell apart, New York has been a skipping record, waiting for someone to move the needle. Watching the Knick franchise is like watching one of their games. When the Knicks are down by 18 in the 3rd & claw their way back to a single point deficit I don’t say to myself “that’s great they’re coming back!” Instead I ponder “why are they always losing & playing from behind?” And that’s exactly how I feel about the direction this team is in.

I know rebuilding takes time, but then again I’m not sure if this is rebuilding. Isiah didn’t inherit an ideal situation, but he’s only addressed the issue of youth. The Knicks are still capped out. The Knicks are still on the red side of the ledger when it comes to draft picks. And the Knicks still don’t seem to understand that it’s important to get players that can defend. The Jalen Rose trade is a good example of this, of the 4 things the Knicks sorely need to move forward as a franchise, the only long term benefit is the draft pick. If New York is serious about rebuilding eventually somebody, whether it be Dolan, Isiah, or whoever is the GM, is going to have to draw a line in the sand and say this salary cap nonsense ends here.

KnickerBlogger Chat

Come here for the KnickerBlogger chat, Thursday September 8th, 6pm EST (3pm PST), where I will answer questions from my readers. Feel free to submit your questions by email.


I’m here & just about ready to go. I’ll post an answer every few minutes starting at 6pm. There is still time to get your questions in. Feel free to leave a url and/or location as well. :-)

Afterwards I’ll open up the comment section.

Aaron (whereabouts unknown): Here is my question: Do you agree with all of the flack Isiah is getting about being the only GM who could screw up “the Alan Houston rule” and not use it to let go of Alan Houston? Is there really any chance for AH to return this season and be productive? thanks.

KB: AAron those are two questions. :-)

I’ll answer the second one first. No way in hell. I freely admit I’m not Will Carroll, but Houston had surgery 821 days ago and he’s still not healed? I talked about this topic nearly a year ago, and it seems that with this type of operation it’s either hit or miss. I think Allan’s was a miss.

As for your first question, right now Isiah is a lightning rod for any writer looking for a cheap joke. With the Knicks able to outspend every other team, anything short of a Finals apperance will allow these guys to continue mocking him. Every writer wanted this team gutted, but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that half those people would rip the GM that would have the grapes to do such a thing in this city.


Vadim (Russia): Hello. Excuse me for bad English. I’m from Russia – press-atashe of team “Spartak” (Vladivostok). My question – why on page http://www.knickerblogger.net/stats/jh_ALL_PER.htm is not present Andrei Kirilenko and other players from Utah?

KB: Hello Vadim! Andrei Kirilenko doesn’t appear on the page because he didn’t have enough games to qualify. According to the NBA you have to have at least 70 games or 1400 minutes to qualify in scoring, and that’s what I use for PER. That’s also why Utah’s second leading PER-er, CarlosBoozer (51 games), doesn’t appear as well. The first Jazz to appear is Okur with a PER just under 19.


Benny (TN): Hey. I must admit that I am somewhat flummoxed personnel-wise by another busy summer in Knickville. Can you please draft a projected 8-man and 10-man rotation, and for extra credit give some guesses on what stats each player will put up. For the double-bonus round you could even speculate on team defensive statistics, but I know it may be too early to guess on those.

KB: Marbury, Richardson, Sweetney, Ariza, James, Rose, Robinson, and Crawford. Jamal Crawford and Tim Thomas will quickly find the address to Brown’s doghouse. Thomas for his hyelophobic habits, and Crawford for his poor shot selection. I think Nate will leap over Jamal with his disruption on defense, and Brown’s desire to move Marbury to the 2. To fill out the 10 man rotation, I’ll take Taylor & Frye, if for nothing else that the Knicks will need depth at the 4 & 5.

For the double bonus, it’s way too early to guess. So I’ll say the Knicks finish 15th on defense, with full immunity for having to live up to the prediction.


Mel (Somewhere, Idanoe): What kind of seasons do you expect from the younger knicks players (Ariza, Sweetney, Fyre, Nate Robinson David Lee and Jackie Butler) under Larry Brown who has garnered a reputation for not liking young players much.

KB: Mel, I really think the youngins with talent (Sweetney, Ariza, Robinson) will thrive under Brown. Coaches, like Brown – who improve every team they touch, get the most out of what the roster has to offer. While Brown’s life with newbies is a topic for a further study, if he is going to succeed in New York he’ll have to make to make do with the Knicks’ younger players. As for Frye, Lee, and Butler, it’s just that I haven’t seen them play enough to have a serious opinion about them. I watched a little summer ball, and let’s just say they didn’t do anything to get my hopes up.


Kelly Dwyer (CNNSI): Why did the Knicks draft John Thomas in 1997 when they could have had Serge Zwikker?

KB: That one keeps me up late at nights.


Terence (UK) : KB, what do you think the likelihood of Allan Houston retiring is? Also, do you think that Isiah is likely to let Penny and TT’s contracts expire? Or will he go and trade for more payroll? In this era, looking at most of the successful teams, their payroll is quite low, it goes to show that you don’t need massive salaries to have a successful team. If the Knicks get those players off the books, their payroll doesn’t look so bad, it frees up financial flexibility doesn’t it? I’m a Marbury fan, but I think it might make sense to break up his contract, trade him for a couple of decent guys, get the flexibility, what do you think?

KB: No chance. No. Maybe. Not really. That could work.

First I don’t think Allan Houston will retire this year. He’s determined to play, even if it means playing a handful of games, and then wearing a suit for the rest of the season.

Second I don’t think I could put money down on Isiah letting both contracts expire. If he does trade one, my bet would be Penny Hardaway.

Third the Knicks are so far over the cap that letting those guys go won’t free anything up. Letting Penny & Tim Thomas’ contracts expire would be like taking a bucket of water out of the Hudson River. Of course if they get more long term contracts in exchange of these guys it will obviously hurt the team in the future.

Finally, I’m sure there are many ways of righting this ship, and some of them contain trading Stephon Marbury. It’s not that the move on it’s own that would work, but if you decide to undertake such an endeavor you have to go all the way with it and gut the team. If you rebuild like that you might get a LeBron James or Kevin Garnett to fall to you in the draft, or you could end up like the Bulls and spend half a decade rebuilding before you make the playoffs. Of course with Larry Brown in the picture, stripping the team is not the way to go.


Kurt (Forum Blue & Gold) : If the current New York Knicks were a band/muscian, which one would they be?

KB: Hmm… Last year’s group was young, and started off relatively well. However they weren’t very good, nor did they last very long. So my vote would be Hanson (yes I had this shirt for a time – but no that’s not me).

This year’s gang will have a more interesting cast of characters, but that might be the most entertaining aspect of them. I’d say they’re like the 2005 version of the Pixies. Frank Black would be the musician that most reminds me of Larry Brown. Brown changes his teams every few years, and Frank Black can’t decide if he wants to be in a band, have a band accompany him, or go solo. The Pixies frontman has one more on Larry, in that’s he changed his name enough times to make Diddy jealous. While the Pixies were one of my favorite bands of all time, I still have some reservations about them making future albums. Just like I have reservations about the future of this team.


Dogan (Netherlands): I love the KnickerBlogger Stats Page, keep up the good work, but it would be great if there would be a playoffs stats page too (especially PER). What it the reason for its absence?

KB: First thanks for the compliment!

Second, well I had a little problem with my old web host & parted ways. Unfortunately in the divorce they took all my files. I’ve put the playoff page back up from what I had cached on my hard drive. Let me know if you find anything terribly wrong.

http://www.knickerblogger.net/stats/2005pla/

Oh and since this is my third international questioner – a shot goes out to all the homies that are reading this page from far away, and a special shot out to all those struggling to read this in another language. You guys are hard core basketball fans!


And a quintet from Gabe F. (NY, NYC): : Which position is the most glaring weakness in the Knicks roster, and which is their most useable strength?

KB: The Knicks’ weakness is easily the same weakness they’ve had for the last few years, center. Jerome James couldn’t crack 17 minutes a game in center starved Seattle, and the reviews on Frye are mixed at best. As for their strength, that’s a tough one.

GF: What do you think are the most viable short-term (ie, for this year: playing uptempo, focusing on defense, lots of pick-and-roll, high post, etc) and long-term (ie, 5 years down the line: going for cap relief, start from scratch, who to build around) strategies for the Knicks?

KB: Short term, defense has to be the priority. The Knicks were nearly last in the league on D, and that has to change under Larry Brown. As for long term, with how the team is now the best strategy would be to build on their youth, aim to eventually get under the cap, and hope a big star will want to make an average team great under the big lights of New York.


GF: Can Jerome James be written off as a bust right away? What kind of expectations should Knicks fans have for him?

KB: Plenty of people have already tabbed him a bust. Anyone that thinks he’ll give us more than a handful of blocks, a couple of jogs back on defense, and less than a couple of turnovers is going to be dissappointed. The Garden faithful should look at his career numbers, and set their expectations accordingly. If James plays 24 minutes a night, hustles, and doesn’t pass the ball to Spike Lee more than twice a game, then New Yorkers should give him a hearty ovation every night.


GF: Is Q-Rich better suited in the Knicks offensive schemes as a long-range gunner, or should the team try to leverage his post-up abilities?

KB: I’m never one for having teams abandon their offense to take advantage of a mismatch. In other words, if your PG is posting the other team’s because Boykins is in the game, you’re going away from how you normally operate to score.

However, it will depend on what the Knicks need. If Sweetney and Taylor are manning the post, Ariza is cutting down the baseline, and Marbury is living in the lane, then Q-Rich should see plenty of opportunities on the perimeter. If Sweetney is forced to play mop-up again, Crawford is on the outside jacking them up, and Ariza still hasn’t developed his jumper, then Q-Rich should see some time near the paint.

Quite honestly, if he can do both, then the Knicks should take advantage based on opponent. I like flexibility up to the point where it won’t hurt you. If one isn’t working then he should concentrate on the other aspects of his game.


GF: Did Isiah Thomas make a mistake by releasing Jerome Williams under the amnesty clause, rather than Allan Houston? What are the benefits and drawbacks to each choice?

KB: Again, I’m not going to pretend that I’m Dan T. Rosenbaum. My understanding is that they saved more money with Williams. However I think that Williams would have contributed more to the team than Houston. On the other hand if the Knicks keep Houston, Dolan is on good terms with his golfing buddy.


That’s it – The comment section is opened. Thanks for all those who submitted questions!

I Got Nuthin’

Sorry for the lack of content these days. There’s a lot of madness going on in RL. If the stats page can’t keep you busy enough, then try some of these excellent blogs:

He’s only been around for two months, but Forum Blue & Gold has hit the ground running having one good post after another. Best line on his page:

The Raptors are the only team I?ve run across to list the results of a Playstation match up on their game preview page. But I guess it makes sense ? with what?s left in Toronto, you?d probably rather play a video game than watch your real team.

If you don’t already go there, check out BlogMaverick. Whether or not you agree with the Veeckian Cuban (and often I don’t), it’s an interesting read with a wide variety of topics from “The Hip Hop Generation” to promoting his HDTV channels. It’s always great to get an inside peek at the ownership of the NBA. Imagine if Dolan had a blog! Actually I don’t know why I put an exclamation point there. How exciting could it be?

If you’re upset that some blogs out there are a taking their year end vacation check out Celticsblog who has been putting out at least one entry (sometimes more) every day.

Finally, I’m not a big college fan, but CollegeBall puts out a ton of information, in addition to what might be the nicest looking site out there. Even though his posts are very short (un-Gleeman?), he pours in multiple posts per day covering everything in college hoops.

Dampier: Peak Or Fluke

In my last column, I wrote that Dampier would be a good addition to the Knicks. Well not everyone feels the same way as I do. I received an email from a (hopefully) long time reader who pointed me to an APBR_analysis post of his regarding Dampier dated almost 3 months ago.

From: bob chaikin (bchaikin@bballsports.com)
Date: Fri Apr 2, 2004 2:31 pm

…dampier may be valuable now (with the individual numbers he’s putting up), but almost certainly won’t be as a free agent – i.e. if someone looking at him is expecting this kind of performance in the future from him he won’t repeat a season like this with any consistency, if at all. it can easily be shown that dampier is having, as JohnH would say, a fluke season (see posting 3370), a fluke good one in this case…

he’s already in his 8th season and 29 years old, and up and to this point has never demonstrated this kind of production before, despite getting substantial playing time. and although he looks like a monster offensive rebounder now, its actually his defensive rebounding that has improved more (from last season). his touches/min and player attributes (what he does once he gets the ball) are pretty much the same as last season (he is getting fouled more however), and in actuaity his touches/min is down from prior years, as is his shot blocking – those two right there would worry me. he is shooting better than ever, getting to the line better than ever, and committing fouls the least amount of his career. i’d bet he won’t keep this up, not for any extended period of time in the future. i can’t recall any player that was in the league for 7 seasons that had his career year in his 8th season and kept up that kind of production for any length of time…

…if dampier is traded or signed as a free agent next season by another team expecting from him super rebounding numbers for a few more seasons, they will most likely be disappointed, especially when his rebounding numbers come down along with his shooting, he commits more fouls, and his shot blocking doesn’t return to previously high levels (two years ago he was blocking almost 6% of all opponents shots, now he’s just a little better than half that)…

Part-time KnickerBlogger and full time sports guru, Bob feels that Dampier’s season was a fluke. That is he’s highly unlikely to repeat last year’s performance in the future. In his evaluation, he says to expect more fouls, a lower FG%, less rebounds, and the same or less number of blocks. Browsing through the APBR_analysis message board, I found another part-time KnickerBlogger that has a different opinion on Dampier.

From: Kevin Pelton
Date: Sun Apr 4, 2004 5:54 pm

…Dampier pretty clearly is not having a fluke season, in that he had not “leveled” prior to this year. Before last season, he had leveled off at a sub-mediocre level of performance, but he dramatically improved last year — in fact, in a point I don’t think anyone else has pointed out, JohnH has Dampier as one of his fluke players this year.

Take a look at this graph of Dampier’s efficiency by my formula divided by replacement level year-by-year:
http://www.sonicscentral.com/dampiereff.jpg

That’s not a player who’s leveled off. PER shows a similar pattern, so I didn’t bother graphing it.

To quote JohnH, “Dampier enjoyed a career year at the age of 28, which means I’ll be looking very closely at him this season. The Fluke Rule says that players who make sudden jumps in productivity after 27 almost always come back to earth the next season, but 28-year-olds do less severely than others.”

Well, Dampier hasn’t come back to earth, he’s been even better. Two years of well above-average play in the middle seems an awful lot to explain away to a fluke to me. Dampier is extremely unlikely to repeat this year’s All-Star level performance in the future, but given the current level of centers in the NBA, he’s still a very valuable free agent…

Fluke or peak, there is one thing that all of us agree on:

Bob: “paying a 29 year old for one really good season with a contract going for 4 or 5 at mega bucks IMHO would be ill-advised.”

Kevin: “I would be careful of giving Dampier too long of a contract or too much money.”

It’s not the amount of money that Dampier would be getting that worries me, as much as the number of years. The Knicks are bent on never getting under the cap, and as long as the Dolans are willing to pay out a luxury tax, I guess it doesn’t matter if they’re $1M over the cap, or $50M over it. If the Knicks have to overpay to get someone to agree to come here, then so be it. It really doesn’t affect us in the short term, since we’re nowhere near being under the cap.

The question is how much longer and at what level Dampier can keep up his production? At this price, he’ll be unmovable for 5 years. So, between him and Marbury, the Knicks will have at least 4 more years of cap hell (which brings us to 2008).

Going into next year, Dampier is a clear upgrade over Nazr Mohammed. He is superior in every measure, offensively and defensively. The Knicks will see some improvement if they have Dampier starting next year. If Dampier is a “fluke” or fizzles out in a few years, then the Knicks will be stuck with an untradeable contract until 2009. Simply put, it’s a short term gain for a long term hit.

Disappointed

Disappointed a few people
When friendship reared its ugly head
Disappointed a few people
Well, isn’t that what friends are for?
What are friends for?

— “Disappointed”
P.I.L.

There’s nothing like a loss to bring out the worst in fans. Lurking around the message boards, you’ll see some posts titled: Knicks are the WORST defensive team in the League, New York Quitters, and FIRE LENNY WILKENS. Ouch!

The Knicks have been a lottery team the past two seasons, but this year we’ve all but locked down a playoff spot. No we’re probably not a threat to take the East, and we’re nowhere near a championship level team. Most likely a first round exit is in order. However isn’t this better than Knick fans expected at the beginning of the year? Expectations were much lower when Scott Layden was at the helm.

Isaiah Thomas has done a respectable job with the mess he inherited. I won’t pretend that I liked every move, or that he is maximizing the team’s strengths. I’m happy that he’s brought in at least one top tier player in Marbury. I don’t mean “top tier” as in McGrady, Duncan, Garnett, or Shaq, but it’s unmistakable that Marbury is one of the best PGs in the league. The Knicks haven’t had anything close to that since #33 roamed the Garden floor.

It’s impossible to expect anyone to turn a 37 win team into a 50 win team midseason. Those are unrealistic expectations. I’ll be happy with a playoff appearance after a long absence. I’ll be happy that we have a 27 year old PG to build our team around. I’ll be happy that we’ll go into the offseason with a GM that couldn’t be worse than the last. If Dolan wants to win now, and won’t allow the team to rebuild, then he better win now. This year a 7th seed will make most Knick fans happy, but next year we’ll all expect more.

DON’T LET’S START

Don’t let’s start
This is the worst part
Could believe for all the world
That you’re my precious little girl
But don’t let’s start
I’ve got a weak heart

They Might Be Giants

What a day to start a Knicks blog. In case you decided to do something else last night other than watch the game yesterday (lucky choice), you might not understand why. I can attest to you first handed that the Knicks played a half-hearted effort for 3 quarters last night. I wish I could say anything about the fourth quarter, but I switched to another game half way through. They scored 11 after the first quarter, 28 at the half. It was that kind of night. Thank goodness I don’t believe in omens or anything of that sort, or this might turn out to be the worst blog ever.

This is the Knicks team that we’ll see for the rest of the year, since the trade deadline has passed. Only 5 of the 12 players that played last night were on the team at the start of the year. It’ll be 6 when Houston comes back from injury. For the most part, I really like what Isaiah Thomas has done with this team since his arrival. This is a team that won 37 games last year, and 30 the year before. Scott Layden had assembled a bunch of overpriced bench players, that seemingly had zero value and couldn’t be dealt. Over the summer Knick fans had hope again, when Layden drafted 3 young players with promise. It should have been a good sign when for once the Knick fans at the draft were cheering for the players that were drafted instead of their usual “Fi-re Lay-den!”

However things went sour quickly, as two of the rookies were burried on the I.R., and the third was so low on the depth chart that he played a whole 44 minutes (garbage minutes) before heading to the I.R. in December to join his draftmates. The team was in the worst sort of disarray, they were losing games and not developing their rookies. You can’t blame Dolan for firing Layden at that point.

Since then Isaiah, has taken over the reigns. If the NBA was a western movie, Isaiah would have been the cowboy who stops the gallooping horses from taking the carriage off the cliff. He cut rookie Slavko Vranes. The Knicks had about 7 guys that could play PF, but only 2 SG and 2 PGs. Weatherspoon went to the Rockets for Moochie Norris. Zeke made the huge trade for Stephon Marbury & Penny Hardaway. And a few days ago, he traded Keith Van Horn, Michael Doleac, and a second round pick for Tim Thomas and Nazr Mohammed.

In my opinion, he’s done a great job on each move, except for the last one. I still don’t understand that last deal. Keith Van Horn is Tim Thomas’ superior in most of the important statistical categories. He’s a better scorer. A better rebounder. A better offensive rebounder. A better thief. A better free throw shooter. Better at drawing fouls. Thomas has him beat in assists, turnovers, and age.

So I was shocked to see the media for the most part praising this move. I don’t know the statistics on this, but I’m sure nobody could give a reason without including the words “more athletic.” I can’t verify this either, but I’m sure the word “alley-oop” increased on Knick message boards by about 500%.

One question that just leaps into my mind: If Thomas is more athletic, then what words would you use to describe why he has put up less statistically? Unskilled comes to mind to me. Unmotivated seems to be a favorite choice of optomists. There have been plenty of players that have been great athletically, but aren’t good basketball players. There is more to basketball than being athletic, just like in baseball (right Michael?).

I guess in the scope of things, the loss to the Knicks in this deal isn’t that bad. Nazr Mohammed is by most scouting reports, an excellent rebounder and a decent shooter. He hasn’t played much in the last few years, so maybe he can develop into a decent big man, like another Knick did. If he can develop into a C that can play 24-30 minutes a game, maybe that can alleviate the loss of Van Horn. The Knicks are a better team today because of Isaiah Thomas than they were just two months ago. I just hope Houston comes back ASAP & is healthy, because right now the Knicks don’t have a good second scorer.