2010 Report Card: Earl Barron

The Earl of Barron

Earl “The Pearl” Barron

Earl “The Duke” Barron

Ah, the late season gem. Over the last ten years (Can we start calling it “The Lost Decade?”), Nix fans have had precious little to root for as the calendar hit March and April. The 8th seed was a lofty place where our boys could find no purchase . What we did have in abundance, was 11th/12th men and/or D-League call-ups who’d capture the fancy of the maddening throng by putting up some nice/solid efforts in otherwise meaningless games, the most surprisingly effective of which (Sorry. Courtney Sims. You do, however, win the award for “Knick whose moniker sounds the most like that of a Porn Starlet”) was 2010’s Earl “Insert Pun-tastic Nickname Here” Barron.

For those unacquainted w/his personal bio, The Earl was an undrafted 7’ Center out of Memphis in 2004…

Stop. Let’s take a moment to ponder that seemingly innocuous fact. If you’re 7′ tall and play for even a semi-viable college program, you will get drafted by the NBA. It’s the corollary of Parcells’ “earth-movers” theory – to wit: there are a limited number of sentient beings who are 7′ tall who have operant limbic systems and one absolutely must have one of these massive individuals on one’s roster in order to win. Ergo, go git that big mofo!

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen the likes Patrick O’Bryant, Rafael Araujo, Curtis Borchardt, Hasheem Thabeet. BJ Mullens, Spencer Hawes, Jason Smith, Hilton Armstrong, Saer Sene, Johan Petro, Robert Swift (sorry ex-Sonics fans), The Immortal Pavel Podkolzine (I think Pavel P. and Chad Ford ended up getting an apartment together – Darko’s moving in next year), DeSagana Diop, (Channeling my inner Jack Horner/Burt Reynolds here, those are great names!) all taken 5-10 spots in the draft ahead of where they should have been selected b/c…well…”You can’t teach height.

So the fact that The Barron went completely undrafted suggests that, while he may not have been vertically challenged, the varied talent evaluators thought he didn’t even possess a glimmer of the ancillary skills required to play professional basketball at the highest level. (See Mike K’s excellent Eddy Curry Autopsy for further reading on this subject.) The early part of his career certainly suggested that the wags were correct as he toiled for Tuborg Pilsner in the Turkish league, the Hunstville Swift of the D-League, and w/Red Bull Barako in the Phillipines from 2003-05.

Pat Riley did bestow him a towel-waving gig for the champeenship (refs…cough, cough…refs) Heat in ’05-’06 and he managed to stick around for another two seasons, but nothing in the numbers suggested he was anything more than a big body taking up space:

So when the Nix signed him to a 10-day, the odds of Early Barroness doing anything of note were somewhere between slim and none (And Slim’s outta town and I ain’t no nun!)

But lo! Somewhere in his wanderlust, The Earl acquired a very solid 15-18 ft. jumper and prowess on the boards that was eerily reminiscent of David Lee’s early work. Now whether he can maintain this pace, or this seven-game blip is just a statistical anomaly another matter altogether. After all, for a 10-games or fewer stint, you know how many centers averaged 10 ppg and 11 rpg at age 28 or later? One. Earl Barron!

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 3
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 5
Rootability: 5
Performance/Expectations: 5+

Final Grade: B+

Similarity Scores:

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Earl Barron 2010 NYK 14.7 50.8 44.1 12.7 4.8 11.9 1.2 0.6 0.6 1.7
.068 Mike Brown 1992 UTA 12.3 51.5 45.3 12.8 3.8 9.6 1.6 0.8 0.7 2.1
.083 Derek Strong 1997 ORL 13.6 51.3 44.7 12.6 3.1 9.3 1.3 0.8 0.4 1.8
.087 Olden Polynice 1993 DET 14.6 49.5 49.1 13.5 5.0 11.6 0.8 0.9 0.6 1.5
.124 Joe Smith 2004 MIL 16.6 51.0 44.0 13.3 3.7 10.3 1.2 0.8 1.5 1.3
.125 Joe Kleine 1990 BOS 10.5 52.9 48.0 11.5 3.1 9.4 1.2 0.4 0.7 1.7
.154 Drew Gooden 2010 TOT 16.9 54.7 47.9 15.7 4.2 11.1 1.0 0.8 1.2 2.2
.159 Dan Gadzuric 2007 MIL 11.9 48.2 47.4 11.1 4.0 10.5 1.2 0.9 1.4 2.1
.161 Mark Bradtke 1997 PHI 9.6 46.3 43.1 8.5 3.7 9.8 1.0 0.7 0.7 1.3
.167 Jim Chones 1978 CLE 14.9 50.3 47.2 15.2 2.7 10.5 1.6 0.6 0.7 2.3
.168 Eddie Lee Wilkins 1991 NYK 10.5 47.4 44.7 15.0 3.7 9.7 0.8 0.9 0.4 2.7

In a very limited sample size Barron hit open J’s, hustled after loose balls, and was a reasonable facsimile of a defensive presence, which as all well know, the ‘Bockers have lacked since Mutombo made his cameo in ’03. We can only hope that he’ll be eternally grateful to D. Walsh for plucking him from obscurity and sign a reasonable deal to provide solid minutes off the bench next season. Then again, w/the utter dearth of bigs, who knows? He might get a poor man’s McIlvaine/Koncak/Jerome James-type deal from some poor, addled GM out there. Isiah?

2010 Report Card: Eddy Curry

Given Curry’s lack of court time last year there’s no point in doing any kind of statistical analysis of him. In fact he’s only played 10 games total in his 2 seasons under D’Antoni. And I don’t foresee any more in a New York uniform. At this point he’s merely a big contract, a tumor on the Knicks cap space. If Curry has the desire to play elsewhere, the Knicks can buy him out and save some money for free agency this summer. If he doesn’t New York can use his contract in a trade. The latter might cause more of a problem because the Knicks would have to include some tangible assets, and last I checked most of them went in the Tracy McGrady swap.

As for Curry the player, he was 90% as athletic as Shaq, but only had 10% of the Big Diesel’s skill set. Curry featured the same 3 or 4 moves that were defendable with a double team or defender drawing a charge. And while Shaq rounded out his game with great rebounding, defense and passing, Curry lacked any semblance of these skills. Curry came into the league as a guy that if you gave him the ball often enough he would give you 20 points trailed by a string of deficiencies. He never evolved beyond that.

Eddy’s biggest shortcoming was not being able to improve himself. When Eddy Curry arrived in New York, he was supposed to turn into the franchise center. What he failed to grasp was that he was supposed to grow into that role, not fall into it. I won’t be surprised if another team gives Curry a chance. But no one is going to throw a big contract at him, or even hand him a starting job. His upside now is a decent backup center, one that can provide a some scoring off the bench. And that’s the best case scenario. I won’t be surprised if he fails to accumulate 1000 minutes in a season again.

Ultimately Eddy Curry’s legacy in New York will be a cautionary tale. Becoming a great athlete is more than just size and physical ability. At the highest levels, sports are about preparation, technique, and desire. Many players have excelled in the league beyond their bodily limitations due to an excess of these attributes. On the other hand plenty of beastly youths have failed to reach their potential. For teams scouting young players, having great physical ability without great yield should be a warning sign that the player is lacking in the mental traits to make them into a franchise player. Eddy Curry’s career is the response to “you can’t teach height”, or more succinctly put “production trumps athleticism”.

Earlimart Barron

“The universe opens up the door
and we go right in, it’s there, it’s new, it’s cool
it’s something we ain’t seen before”
–“Happy Alone”, by Earlimart

The Knicks signed Earl Barron on April 2nd which could have been misconstrued as a late April Fools Joke. At 28 years old Barron can hardly be considered a prospect. He went undrafted out of Memphis, played in Turkey, the NBDL and 3 anonymous seasons in Miami. However upon joining the Knicks Barron immediately found himself in D’Antoni’s rotation and due to The D’Antoni Rules™ #1 & #2, is seeing a lot of playing time.

I’m as shocked as anyone, especially how the Knicks coach has treated 7-footers in his New York tenure. Last year Cheikh Samb, Mouhamed Sene, Courtney Sims, and Jerome James totaled a mere 35 minutes on the season. So far in 3 games this year, Barron has played 91 minutes. That’s more than either Eddy Curry (62) or Darko Milicic (71). And to make things more bizarre, Barron is playing exceptionally well. The last is unfathomable, because his 3000 or so minutes in the NBDL and NBA indicated that he was unlikely to be a solid NBA player.

Granted I expect Barron’s numbers will eventually decline from their current sizzling level. I don’t expect that he all of a sudden turned into Moses Malone on the glass (13.1 reb/36) or gained a Nowitzki-esque jumper (54.3% eFG). Earl is shooting 70% from 16-23 feet, a rate that I think he’ll have trouble sustaining.

But in a season where there has been little to cheer about on the court, the Knicks look good with Barron on the floor. Perhaps it’s because he gives them their first legitimate center in years. Perhaps it’s a novelty, like when excitement was generated after they traded for McGrady, House, and Rodriguez. Perhaps he’s actually the right fit for D’Antoni’s scheme, one that could enhance his strengths and help mask his weaknesses. Maybe it’s because the Knicks are actually winning. For a team struggling to get to 30 wins, taking 2 of the last 3 will make that beer taste more refreshing. Whatever it is the team has gotten more pleasant to watch, and as a long time suffering Knick fan I’m going to enjoy the moment while it lasts.

Grading the Knicks 2010 Deadline Deals

DARKO MILICIC TO MINNESOTA
FOR
BRIAN CARDINAL

Mike Kurylo: Hard to hate or love this deal. The Knicks were intent to not play Darko, and Milicic has an Erik Estrada sized chip on his shoulder. The NBA grapevine has it that the Knicks are going to release Cardinal, but I don’t see why. Kelly Dwyer called Cardinal the anti-Milicic, a guy who worked hard to squeeze out minutes like you would an old tube of toothpaste. Unlike Darko, Cardinal is on the tail end of his career, but if the Knicks decide to keep him I can see D’Antoni having a use for him in a Jeffries-esque-do-the-little-things kinda way.

Cardinal’s career stats aren’t awful 12.4 pts/36, TS% 55.2, 2.6 ast/36, 2.0 to/36, 6.2 reb/36, 1.7 stl/36. The question is how much of that is from his earlier days, and how much does he have left in the tank? I’ll put a clause out on my grade. If Cardinal plays 200+ minutes for the Knicks, I’ll call it a B+. If not then I’ll go with a C, since you have to hand it to Donnie for trying to get something out of nothing.

Thomas B.: I see this as trading goldenrod for saffron. But this is worth a C+ because we knew Milicic was never going to play. At least now we can wonder if Cardinal will play. Cardinal has been a pro for 9 years and I never heard of him. I had a picture in my mind of who I thought he was and I went to NBA.com to see if it matched; it did not. I was thinking of Bison Dele–he retired a decade ago.

Kevin McElroy: Knicks look set to cut Cardinal, so this seems like a clever piece of bookkeeping that will save them a shade over a million dollars. Small potatoes in the grand scheme of things? Sure. But who am I to hate on a team that wants to save a couple million bucks a few months before its intends to shell out roughly three gazillion dollars to let me root for LeBron and a high-priced sidekick. Not like they gave up anything we’ll miss, and Darko’s malingering could only have caused tension, so I’ll throw this one a C+. Somewhere, Q-Rich is wondering why he had to pay all those real estate agents in the first place.

Robert Silverman: Although I would have gotten a weird kink out of seeing Brian “The Janitor” Cardinal get some spin, it looks like we”ll never know. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for career backup PF/C’s. It’s why the only Nix jersey that I actually own is a Ken “The Animal” Bannister model from ’85-’86. B-

Caleb: Most NBA fans probably didn’t know that Darko was still in the league. Here’s my favorite Brian Cardinal story – can you believe there is a Brian Cardinal story? It’s how he got that contract in the first place. Allegedly, Michael Hensley was giving Jerry West a lot of grief, “why haven’t you signed anyone? etc.” West was about fed up and so he picked up the phone, called Cardinal’s agent and asked if he wanted $30 million. Ten seconds later, he turned to Hensley and said, “I signed a free agent. Are you satisfied?” I don’t know if it’s true but it’s a good story. This trade saved the Knicks about a million bucks, counting luxury tax. Supposedly Kahn is his protege. Guess there was a favor owed. A-

Brian Cronin: As Caleb notes, the trade saved the Knicks roughly $1 million off of their luxury tax bill, and since they were not playing Darko at all, this is a pretty easy win (now as to why they never really played Darko at all, well, that’s another story). A-

Dave Crockett: A little tax relief, and a potential end-of-bench player. Moving right along. A (but only worth a few points)

NATE ROBINSON AND MARCUS LANDRY TO BOSTON
FOR
EDDIE HOUSE, J.R. GIDDENS AND BILL WALKER

Mike Kurylo: Nate’s days were numbered under D’Antoni. Getting the starting job over Duhon seemed to indicate a final opportunity for Nate to win over D’Antoni. Being demoted just 2 days afterwards told you all you needed to know about Nate’s future in New York. In Walsh’s defense Nate did reject the deal to Memphis, but perhaps he could have played chicken with Nate and tried to force his hand (no one wants to sit in the final year of their contract). I’m sad the Knicks didn’t get a draft pick in return in this deal, especially considering that they gave one (and a half) away to Houston. It seems that there’s always a few teams willing to give one away, perhaps the Lakers might have been interested.

In the short term Eddie House will bring the big three ball, and fit in nicer with D’Antoni than Nate ever did. Giddens & Walkers NBDL numbers aren’t bad, but considering how little last year’s NBDLers played, I don’t envision the Knicks giving them lots of playing time. Oh and Giddens just had knee surgery, with no timetable to return. The Celtics got by far the best player of the bunch, and the Knicks didn’t receive anything here except perhaps a rental on House and a short look at Walker. D+

Thomas B.: I guess this means I lost when I took the over for Nate Robinson games as a Knick (82.5) prior to the season. I don’t like the move because Robinson is worth more than what we brought back. I’d have much rather had Robinson added to Jeffries deal with the Knicks keeping the “sweetener” picks. Or bring back a late first round pick when sending Robinson to Boston. A protected pick in 2012 would have made the 2012 pick we moved out with Jeffries easier to take. Of course, Walsh was somewhat limited since Nate could void the trades. This deal makes me think letting Robinson walk at the end of the season is okay. I just can’t see House, Walker, or Giddens dropping 41 points combined in any game this season much less any one of them doing it alone. D-

Kevin McElroy: This trade was presented in a ton of different forms and with a number of different justifications over the last month, most of which made sense for one reason or another. These reasons included:

1) Because the Knicks were going to get a draft pick back.
2) Because the Knicks were going to dump a player to reduce next year’s cap number.
3) Because the Celtics needed an incentive to be pulled into the larger Knicks/Rockets/Kings trade.
4) Because the Knicks wanted to get Toney Douglas more playing time without Nate looking over his shoulder.

In its final version, the trade accomplishes zero of these things. No draft pick came back and no long-term salary left with Nate, the Celtics trade was conducted separately from the mega-deal, and Alan Hahn has tweeted that Douglas will remain out of D’Antoni’s rotation (behind Duhon and the newly acquired Sergio Rodriguez).

Ultimately, the Knicks sent away a fan favorite for players that won’t be around after a couple months, received no assets, cleared up no cap room, and have run the risk of rejuvenating a division rival for a playoff run by sending them a much-needed bench scorer (seriously, I know the Knicks are out of it, but we can all agree that we’d rather not see the Celtics succeed in the postseason, right?). On a personal level, I’m happy that Nate gets to play for a good team, but the Knicks did absolutely nothing to advance their interests here. More worryingly, it feels like the Knicks brass was simply out-maneuvered, failing to take a hard line as the best parts of their return package came off the table. It feels silly to give such a poor grade to this one, seeing as Nate would have walked in a few months anyway, but the direction that this negotiation took shouldn’t get anything more than a D+.

Caleb: This was depressing. Like Balkman, an example of Walshtoni dumping someone they just didn’t like. Although, to be fair, it saved the Knicks more than $1 million, counting luxury tax. On the plus side, I’m happy for Nate, who will have a lot of fun the next three months. Wild-card: Bill Walker. Before he blew out both knees, there was talk of his being a top-5 pick. If they ever invent a new surgery/rejuvenation machine he could be a stud. D

Robert Silverman: First of all, can we please stop holding a torch for the supposed “Kenny Thomas for Jeffries & Nate deal that Donnie Moth$%&*^!ing Walsh turned down!!!!” deal. It was a rumor. No one, save Walsh and Petrie, knows if it’s true and they’re not telling. It’s like still being pissed at Isiah for (supposedly) retiring in ’93 rather than accept a trade to the Knicks (as Pete Vescey/Pete Vescey’s psychic Ms. Cleo claims). No, two C-Minus prospects like Giddens and Walker isn’t much of a haul for a productive (if maddening/maddeningly inconsistent) player. But what’s the alternative? Even if you could get another team to go for a sign and trade this off-season (which, considering Olympiakos was the strongest bidder in the summer of ’09 isn’t likely), you’re still going to have to take back a contract to make the deal work, thus cutting into our sweet, creamery cap space. The one thing that royally cheeses me off is that come playoff time, I will pull for Nate when he’s in the game (b/c he’s Nate. Warts and all, I so dig the dude). As a result, I’ll have to…sort of…root…for…the Celtics. Ick. I just threw up a little in my mouth. C-

Brian Cronin: I agree that it is a bit frustrating that Nate returned little value partially because his own coach was pretty clear about not liking him (way to market your assets!), but once you allow that Nate’s value was depressed to the point where you weren’t going to get a draft pick for him (by the way, the deal apparently does include a conditional second round pick, but I believe it’s one of those conditional picks where the chances of the conditions ever actually existing are next to nil, so it’s effectively not really a pick at all), then saving some money on the luxury tax is as good as anything else, I suppose. C+

Dave Crockett: This was all about coach D. I just cannot understand why Nate couldn’t play in 7SOL (such that it is in NY) while he got big mileage out of Barbosa in PHO. Happy for Nate, but I recall from my Beantown days that Tommy Heinsen HATES Nate. That’s never a good thing in that town. D

JORDAN HILL, JARED JEFFRIES, OPTION TO SWAP 1ST ROUND PICK IN 2011 (TOP 1 PROTECTION), 2012 1ST ROUND PICK (TOP 5 PROTECTION), AND LARRY HUGHES TO HOUSTON/SACRAMENTO
FOR
TRACY MCGRADY, SERGIO RODRIGUEZ

Mike Kurylo: I’m not sure what else to say that I didn’t say yesterday. So I’ll look at what this deal means for this year. I admit I’m a bit excited to see some new blood on what’s become a lifeless team. However there’s a nagging voice in the back of my head that is telling me not to get too optimistic. I would love for someone to take Duhon’s place in the starting lineup. But part of me is hoping it’s not McGrady, because if he plays well then the front office might overpay to keep him. I don’t want my future hopes resting on Donnie Walsh giving him a reasonable contract, T-Mac staying healthy for a full season, and shooting more efficiently than he’s been in the past (he’s had exactly one season with a TS% over 54%). What are the odds all that comes to fruition?

Perhaps Sergio Rodriguez would be the guy to send Duhon packing. But I just don’t trust D’Antoni to play him, and can you blame me? Remember the NBDL-shuffle of last year? The 2 whole games he gave Nate Robinson this year (one against Cleveland) before calling the experiment a failure? Von Wafer? Morris Almond? I just don’t envision Mike D’Antoni handing over the reigns to a youngster, especially with how oddly married he is to Duhon. My guess is that Sergio won’t get a chance until it’s too late, and he’ll be gone without given a fair shake.

On the long term it’s a lot to pay for moving the contracts of Hill and Jeffries, and I’d be much happier if things go wrong in the next 3 seasons we still have our draft pick to comfort us on those cold February days when the team is playing poorly. I’d like to give this a D or an F, but the remote chance this brings in 2 studs and the draft picks don’t matter gives it some hope. C-

Thomas B.: This is NOT the 13 points in 35 second Tracy McGrady coming to NY. I hope folks understand that. This guy is much closer to the Anfernee Hardaway we got in 2004: an injury riddled once dominant scoring wing. I’m excited about what Sergio might be able to do…to Duhon. If he can’t steal Duhon’s minutes at point he does not need to be in the NBA. Sergio should be allowed a fair shot to supplant Duhon. We know Duhon won’t be back, so at least see if Sergio is worth bringing back on the cheap. Other than the draft picks, I won’t miss what we sent away.

This deal was not about players, it was about cap room and Walsh delivered. Now we have to see what that cap room turns in to. This deal can’t be graded fairly until July 2010. And the true impact will not be known until May of 2011 (playoffs anyone?). For now, I’ll grade this pass/fail. So for giving the team a chance to dream about James/Bosh or James/Wade or Wade/Bosh, Walsh earns a Pass. But if he goes all Dumars this off season…..

Robert Silverman: Outside of the roundball ramifications, from a semi-ontological point of view, doesn’t it seem like the Knicks are somehow osmotically taking on the karma/organizational principles (or lack thereof) of their Madison Sq. Garden co-occupants? For years, nay, decades…heck, since ice was invented, the Blueshirts have given a washed-up/injured “star” a year or two to spin/reclaim their former glory. Some worked out well (Messier, Jagr, even Gretzky) while for the most part they, to use an utterly shop-worn tabloid cliche, bombed in their B’way revival (Plante, Sawchuk, Hedberg, Nilsson, Esposito, Hodge, Dionne, Carpenter, Lafleur, Nicholls, Gartner, Kurri, Robitaille, Lindros, Fleury, etc. etc.). Look at the cats who’ve graced our roster in the past decade – McGrady, Hardaway, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Van Horn, McDyess, Mutombo, etc. In 2001, that’s an all-star roster. Alas, it isn’t 2001 anymore, Victoria. And there ain’t no Santa Claus.

Look, Walsh went all in for LeBron/Wade. And as my fellow Knickerbloggers/other sportswriters/pundits have written, he had to do it. I’m going to cross the sporting barriers for my take on this: “…The day you say you have to do something, you’re screwed. Because you are going to make a bad deal…” – Billy Beane/Michael Lewis, Moneyball

Say LeBron/Wade gives the ‘Bockers the Heisman. What does Walsh do then? Just let all of that cap space sit there? Doesn’t Walsh, by the same logic then have to overpay Stoudamire/Johnson/Gay (or trade for Arenas – shudder) even if none of them are close to being worth a max deal? Like Thomas B., I’m going to hedge my bets/grades: A+ (LeBron/Wade agrees to be NY’s best girl)/D- (Walshtoni’s so depressed/on the rebound that he throws money/a promise ring at the first vaguely attractive gal who comes his way)

Kevin McElroy: Look everybody, I know we’ve grown accustomed to expecting the worst here. I also know that there is plenty NOT to like about this trade [For example: how’s that “Nate and Jeffries for Kenny Thomas” trade look now? Far be it from me to say “I told you so,” but I think we can put to rest the idea that Walsh was wise to turn down that opportunity because he was waiting on something better (I’m looking at you “Donnie Walsh Report Card” commenters!) I hope for the sake of Walsh’s sleep schedule that rumor was unfounded all along.].

But these are the facts, and they are undisputed: The Knicks, even by the most pessimistic cap projections, will have $32 million in cap space next year. The Knicks have retained David Lee, who can be used in a sign-and-trade this summer. The Knicks have retained Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, the two players who most fans feared would have to be sacrificed to unload Jared Jeffries contract. And the Knicks will enter next season, no matter the free agent machinations, with Eddy Curry’s $11 million dollar expiring contract, allowing them to either make a mid-season trade or add another very good player in the summer of 2011. Make no mistake, the Knicks paid dearly to get here, and if they strike out in free agency, the lost draft picks could haunt them for a decade. But look around, and think about where we were 24 months ago (Isiah in charge, capped out beyond belief, any hope of signing LeBron as faded as my 1998-99 Eastern Conference Champions graphic tee), and realize that you now root for an NBA team with a blank slate, four months before the best basketball player in the world becomes a free agent. And, yes, there is no guarantee that he, or anyone else, is coming. But this was the only reasonable course of action given where the Knicks started and the potential reward.

When Walsh arrived, he inherited three players with cap-killing contracts that extended past 2010. He was widely expected to find takers for ZERO of them. He found takers for THREE of them (Z-Bo, Crawford, Jeffries). This can’t be forgotten. The road here was a bumpy one, but the fact that we’re here at all is cause for quiet celebration. And cause for an A- .

Caleb: For me the key is opportunity cost. Without moving Jeffries, the Knicks ran a real risk of being able to afford only one major free agent, a scenario that probably would have led to signing no one — who would come to MSG, if even David Lee were gone? They were truly, truly desperate.
But the reactions are also just that people can’t believe their eyes. Or they remember the Bulls and Jerry Krause striking out for a couple of years, or they’re quivering at the memory of Isiah throwing $29 million at Jerome James. But free agency isn’t bad, guys. For $3 million, you can get someone better than Jordan Hill. Along those same lines, I think there’s very little chance the lost draft picks are in the teens, much less the lottery, and Walsh has covered his worst-case scenarios. $32 million buys a lot of options, LeBron or no. It won’t be hard to make this team a contender again. The only reason not to give this trade a higher grade is because when both the other teams come away grinning ear to ear, you have to figure you might have paid more than you had to. B

Brian Cronin: Not for nothing, but I believe the most pessimistic cap projections (a cap of $53 million) give the Knicks $31 million. Not a big deal, but you would need more than that to give full maximum contracts to either Lebron, Wade or Bosh. In any event, I think this is a trade that the Knicks had to do, and as Robert notes, when it is clear that you have to do something, other General Managers are going to take advantage of that need, and Daryl Morey is one of the best General Managers in the NBA, so he basically got as much as he could possibly get in this deal – but because the deal had to be made, I think it’s still a worthwhile move. I am on board with the notion of splitting the difference between an A (if this nets either Lebron/Wade, Lebron/Bosh, Wade/Bosh or Lebron/Lee) and F (if this nets no one of note, not even Joe Johnson), so the middle of that is a C.

EDITED TO ADD: I just realized another valuable aspect of this trade. It now allows the Knicks to sign up to $20.5 million worth of free agents (presuming a $53 million cap) while still keeping Lee’s cap hold in place rather than the $11 million worth of free agents before this trade. If they do that, they can then go over the cap to re-sign Lee. That basically puts them into a position where they can pretty much guarantee themselves that they will keep Lee if they want to keep Lee, as they’d be able to match any offer he gets. That’s big. Big enough for me to raise my grade to a B-.

Dave Crockett: You have to give this an incomplete. On the downside, the cost of this flexibility is high. So in one sense, it’s almost impossible to see this deal as an A+. Even in the best case scenario, we win the Yankee way–at a higher cost-per-win than any other team. Nevertheless, I’d rather win than not win. So, we’ll have to see what Donnie does with the flexibility. Its worth noting that the flexibility we have should also extend to sign-and-trades and trades. Incomplete.

The D’Antoni Rules

The rotation is short.

This is a well known characteristic of D’Antoni. The Knicks employed 11 players in the blowout win against Indiana, which is rare for him. The last time D’Antoni went into double digits was December 2nd against Orlando. In between those two games D’Antoni used 8 players every game (including 11 straight) except for two contests where 9 players saw the floor. Factor in that the 8th guy usually doesn’t see a lot of minutes, and it’s essentially a 7 man rotation. For instance Eddy Curry saw “action” in 3 of those games, but he didn’t play more than 7 minutes in any of those games. D’Antoni’s rotation is much like you’d expect from a playoff team. The best guys (according to him) get the lions share of the minutes, a few other guys come in for breathers, and everyone else has front row seats to an NBA game.

You’re either in or your out.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground with D’Antoni. The Knicks coach has stated that he doesn’t like to put veterans in for spot minutes, prefering to keep them on the bench instead of bringing them in cold. He has repeated this frequently, especially when asked about bringing in a non-rotation player for offensive or defensive purposes in a single critical possession (Darko Milicic, Jerome James, etc.). Chances are if a player is seeing minutes, they’ll continue to get court time. And the converse is true as well.

Injuries doesn’t constitute succession

This was apparent last year when the Knicks were short on guards due to the Crawford trade, Mobley injury, and Marbury refusal. Instead of going to the next guy on the bench like most coaches would, D’Antoni ignored Roberson. New York rode Duhon into the hardwood and even went guardless at times, rather than turn to someone on the end of the pine. So if a player thinks that an injury means that coach D will be forced to insert them into the game, then they’re misguided.

If you’re suddenly out of the rotation, don’t expect a greeting card to make you aware of the fact.

Granted this is a leap for yours truly to state, because I’m not omni-present in the team lockerroom. However Larry Hughes was quoted as saying:

“It’s easy to communicate with a grown man,” Hughes said. “It’s a long season and you always want to have dialog and talk things out. I definitely want the dialog. Let guys know where they stand and you can voice opinions on both sides.

“There’s nothing wrong with voicing an opinion because they’re not facts. It’s what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. Just to have communication, I think, goes a long way in this league.”

This isn’t the first time a player (or Hughes for that matter) has been unhappy with a lack of playing time and went public about it. However in this case it seems that Hughes isn’t just lashing out from spite. Compare this to Darko’s rant on NBA coaches, and Hughes’ request seems downright reasonable. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that D’Antoni communicates his lineup changes to his players.

From these rules it’s easier to understand D’Antoni’s priorities. He seems to favor continuity & familiarity over strategic match ups. Granted there are deficiencies to D’Antoni’s system, most notably the lack of time for players outside of the rotation. But even this has its benefits as a young player could crack the starting lineup and see lots of playing time (see Wilson Chandler, 2009). Of course the lack of communication is a serious issue as well. However this system has its fair share of positives. Over the life of KnickerBlogger, I’ve criticized Knick coaches for not putting out a lineup that forced the opposition to adjust to New York’s strengths. And this is exactly what D’Antoni does. If you watched the Indiana game, Hibbert looked like a slow plodding dinosaur against the more agile Knicks.

Fortunately for D’Antoni, New York’s roster is conducive to such a set of rules. The Knicks can play the 6-11 Jared Jeffries at any spot, and D’Antoni has put him on both centers and point guards. Chris Duhon and David Lee can always shift over one spot, and the rest of the rotation is filled with forwards that can handle multiple positions like Wilson Chandler (6-8), Danilo Gallinari (6-10), Al Harrington (6-9), and Jonathan Bender (7-0). This roster construction allows D’Antoni to keep the rotation short, and not force him to play someone outside of his comfort zone.

Amid Noise, A Rooster Crows

There’s a lot to talk about with the Knicks these days. The Nate Robinson saga is in full swing, with the latest volley being the diminutive guard having his agent lobby for a trade. Of course this goes hand in hand with the Knicks current win streak, as lots of people will point out the team has gone 6-3 since D’Antoni exiled Nate to the canine abode. And if Nate is asking for a trade that means the number of rumors involving Tracy McGrady, Tyrus Thomas, and Anthony Randolph will also increase. You could add into this drama Eddy Curry’s status, as the former franchise savior sits behind Darko Milicic in terms of minutes played on the season (Curry 62, Darko 71). There are grumblings that Curry is unhappy with his lack of court time as well. Finally is the newly acquired Jonathan Bender, who is having a Rip Van Winkle style awakening.

But perhaps lost in all this is the improved play of Danilo Gallinari. The team grabbed Gallo with the 6th pick last year, and a back injury derailed his initial campaign. The Rooster was a one trick pony, hitting threes at an unbelievable rate. This season, Gallo seems to be taking the critical next step forward in his development.

Year  G  MP  FGA  FG% 3PA  3P% FTA  FT% ORB DRB TRB
2009 28 412 10.9 .448 6.3 .444 2.4 .963 1.1 3.7 4.8
2010 26 771 13.0 .432 8.2 .423 3.0 .785 0.9 4.8 5.7

Year AST STL BLK TOV  PF  PTS  TS%  PER
2009 1.3 1.2 0.3 1.3 4.2 14.9 .621 13.4
2010 1.7 1.2 1.0 1.6 2.5 17.0 .595 16.5

Although his primary asset is still the long ball (61% of all his points come from behind the arc), Gallo is showing a more well rounded game. He has improved his passing, scoring volume, free throw attempts, rebounding, fouls, and blocked shots. The latter stats are vital to Danilo’s growth. There was never any doubt that Gallinari could shot, but rather it was his athleticism that was under question. So to see Gallo contribute in these areas is a good sign. Some stats are more linked to physical ability, and it’s good to compare Gallinari’s to another young Knick known for his “explosiveness”.

   Player Year Age  G FTA ORB DRB TRB STL BLK  PF
 Chandler 2010  22 27 2.2 1.8 3.7 5.6 0.5 0.9 3.8
Gallinari 2010  21 26 3.0 0.9 4.8 5.7 1.2 1.0 2.5

Gallo has clear advantages in free throws attempted, steals, and fouls per minute. The first is a bit surprising considering how often Gallinari is camped behind the three point line. However he has shown the ability to get inside and either finish or draw contact. Gallo’s success could be the result of having a few different moves, as witnessed by his pump & scoop shot against the Bobcats on Sunday. The steals seem to be more the result of quick hands than playing the passing lanes. And Gallo’s height advantage allows him to commit less fouls. The interesting aspect of comparing Gallinari to Wilson Chandler is that the latter is thought of being a player that relies on his physical ability. But it’s clear that Gallo is more athletic than previously thought and/or Chandler isn’t producing has you’d expect from someone with his physique.

Looking back at the Knicks recent win streak, there’s been a lot of conjecture on if this was the result of Robinson’s banishment or Jeffries role as a defensive force. But perhaps it’s Gallinari’s emergence that has helped to put New York over the top. In the Knicks last 9 games, the Rooster has give New York 13 blocks and 13 steals, in addition to 2 double digit rebound games and 8 double digit scoring outputs. There’s an old basketball axiom that says your shot may not be there some games, but you can bring intensity on the defensive end every night. Perhaps a microcosm of Gallinari’s game could be seen in the final moments of the Bobcats game. Gallo was unable to hit free throws to ice the game, but he blocked a shot in the final second to preserve the victory.

Some Thoughts, Good and Bad

The Good:

The Knicks almost beat the Celtics, and for the most of the game they were competetive with one of the best teams in the NBA. In fact New York had a 5 point lead to start the 4th quarter, but couldn’t extend it past 6 points.

Nate Robinson had his best game of the year, and first good game in nearly a month. Last year Robinson averaged 29.9 minutes a game and was a pivotal piece of the Knicks season. He gives New York scoring and rebounding at the guard spot off the bench. Sure Nate is still struggling with maturity issues and clearly gets under D’Antoni’s skin, but without a doubt New York needs him playing well for a successful 2010.

Wilson Chandler showed some signs of improvement. His stat line was still poor, but he played tough defense on Garnett and showed some smart play. A few times Chandler took the action to the bucket, and late in the 4th quarter smartly avoided committing an offensive foul by dishing off to Lee for an easy score. I’ve said on more than one occassion that Chandler needs to shoot better or drive to the hoop more often, and he seemed to do the latter frequently against Boston. Hopefully he can keep it up.

The Bad:

You’ve probably already heard about Eddy Curry’s mindless technical foul. What has also bothered is how he’s played since his first game. During his tenure here, it always seemed that the New York guards had trouble getting him the ball in the post. But what I’m finding is that Curry is lackadaisical when it comes to catching passes. This year a lot of entry passes are getting bobbled or plain ending up in the other team’s hands. Granted he’s got a lot of rust to shake off, but Curry has to do a better job catching the ball, even if the pass isn’t thrown perfectly.

I’d also like to see him do more than just plant himself on the blocks. The team should use on the high screen or off the ball as well. When Curry’s on the floor, the team should have guys drive to the hoop more (namely Douglas, Nate, Chandler) and let Eddy pick up some easy buckets from double teams or offensive rebounds. Additionally Curry (and Lee) should be allowed to be aggressive on the offensive boards, instead of worrying about transition defense.

In order of minutes received, Sunday’s top minute getters were: Duhon, Harrington, and Hughes. Meanwhile Nate Robinson had a sizzling 19 points on 11 shots in 26 minutes (and blocked 2 shots). Gallo shot well and had a few strong rebounds, and only managed 24 minutes. Toney Douglas was on the court for only 6 minutes.

This is a disturbing trend because the Knicks should be playing their youngsters more. I understand the need for winning games, but if Nate, Gallo, and Douglas aren’t getting action when they’re playing well (or in Douglas’ case his replacement was playing awful), when are they going to see playing time? Al Harrington isn’t going to score 30 points on 21 shots every night, while Duhon and Hughes combined for 7 points on 17 shots (3-17). D’Antoni is generally good at finding playing time for the kids, but I hope that philosophy doesn’t get lost when it comes to crunch time.