Unsung Knick History – The Starks Ejection That HELPED the Knicks

This is the sixth in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) of examinations into different games, events and decisions that impacted Knicks history in some way, shape or form. Stories that are not as famous as, say, “The Dunk” or Willis Reed playing Game 7, but still have a place in Knicks history, especially for die-hard fans. Here is an archive of all the stories featured so far.

John Starks was one of the most popular Knicks of the 1990s and he perhaps was also the Knick with the most interesting mythology surrounding his life and career. For instance, we all know by heart the story of how Starks, playing on a non-guaranteed contract and feeling (most likely correctly) that he was about to be cut, tried to wow everyone by dunking on Patrick Ewing during the last game of the Knicks’ 1990 training camp. Ewing, of course, easily swatted him to the ground, injuring Starks’ knee. The injured Starks was not allowed to be cut until healthy, and by the time his knee was healthy, Trent Tucker had gotten hurt so the Knicks now did need a back-up guard, and the rest was history. That is just one small piece of the Starks mythology, which also includes the story of how he was working as a bagger at a grocery store at one point before going back to college. This story, however, is about Starks’ trademark fiery nature, which he never was quite able to control. Sometimes it would hurt the Knicks (like when he got ejected for head-butting Reggie Miller in the 1993 playoffs), but today we look at a incident Starks was involved in that, in a roundabout way, ended up helping the Knicks.
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Unsung Knick History – Four and a Half Davids Beat a Goliath (Named David)

This is the fourth in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) of examinations into different games, events and decisions that impacted Knicks history in some way, shape or form. Stories that are not as famous as, say, LJ’s 4-point play or Willis Reed playing Game 7, but still have a place in Knicks history, especially for die-hard fans. Here is an archive of all the stories featured so far.

Today we look at an amazing 1995 game between the New York Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs (a season after David Robinson was voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player) where the Knicks defeated the Spurs in double overtime with a line-up of Herb Williams and four guards!
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The U.N. Intramural Squad Or Something More?

Standing outside Madison Square Garden some summers ago, near the atm’s, yards away from Gerry Cosby’s. Through the glass doors, newly hired Knicks boss Donnie Walsh walked out. I watched as he stood there, lit a cigarette, a Clifford Odetts character in the flesh, he shoulda been named Sydney. As in the guy with the job nobody else wanted, toiling under the boss the whole city smirked about, for a franchise in perpetual free-fall. The suit too big, the bags under the eyes, this was a guy, this Donnie Walsh, made Jeff Van Gundy look like Randy Couture. This Donnie Walsh was a guy, you see him in a bar and you’re compelled to buy him a drink, sit him down and tell him (a’la Tony Curtis in The Sweet Smell of Success), “the cat’s in the bag and the bag is in the river.” You tell him run for your life, it’s not too late to quit this job you have undertaken.

I shake his hand and wish him luck, mentioning to we share the same alma mater, Fordham Preparatory School in The Bronx. We alumni refer to it simply as “The Prep.” Learned a lot about patience at “The Prep.” Jesuits are part Obi Wan Kenobi, part F. Lee Ermey, the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket (may he rest in peace).

Donnie Walsh knows a lot about patience having learned from the best. He waited patiently before he removed Isiah Thomas as coach. The replacement, Mike D’Antoni, was known for his seven seconds or less offense, a perception of his teams lack of defense, international fame a result of years playing in Italy, and his ability to recruit all-star talent.

Donnie Walsh had a vision. He waited, traded away the Knicks best players, and watched the team lose to clear cap room and got the Knicks in position to pursue free agents. One can only guess that he painfully watched as several of the bigger names formed their own fantasy basketball camp in South Beach.

Those unsure of his vision for the team need only take a second look at the group now assembled in blue, orange and white. For just a second, forget about the “Chosen One” who chose not to be in the Knicks picture. Look instead at the team Walsh has assembled.

Because it might be that all Donnie Walsh has done is carve a team out of the same stone of which New York City is built. If he pulls it off, if this team wins, ignore the suit, dismiss the wheelchair, if he pulls this off cabbies should scream out “Donnie Basketball” as they drive by.

New York is and always has been a “melting pot” of cultures, religons, ideas, tastes, culinary delights, dances, dialects, music, sounds. Go to Little Italy, Harlem, Chinatown, the Theatre District, Wall Street, the energy is there, distinctive, bright colors, vibrant sounds… one bold experiment.

The 2010 New York Knicks for the first time in franchise history are an extension of the shared experiment that is New York. On the likely fifteen man roster, there’s an Italian, a Russian, a Canadian, a Frenchman (from Martinique), a German, a Londoner, a Jamaican… nearly half the roster are players with passports from their home nations. How will these guys pick what restaurant they eat out at together?

None of this is by accident. Donnie Walsh sought out a “team that made sense…” He sought out personality types as well as skill sets that when together might add up to a sum greater than the parts.

He also sought out individuals who were up to the challenge that is New York, who want to be here. Ask any native New Yorker or passing tourist: when you step out on the streets of New York, you had better be ready. The sidewalk warns “keep up, or get out of the way,” in about twenty different languages. You get the point, whether its a horn, a shout or a finger. At Madison Square Garden, the cheers don’t get any louder in the league, but the same can be said of the boos. On that stage you can become legendary or you can become infamous. In the case of John Starks you can become both. And in New York, you become that for life. Like being a “Parcells Guy.” Or playing for ” Mr. Torre.”

This current team, this 2010 edition seems special. Gallinari the Italian Knick, has in two years proven to be one of the top shooters in the NBA. It is no accident his nickname is “The Rooster,” an inference to his cockiness. The new aquisitions are long on edge. Turiaf, the Frenchman is a veteran willing to dispatch his limbs in the path of those bold enough to speed into his paint. Mozgov, the seven foot one Russian, has displayed a fire and flamboyance, a desire to dunk and block shots. And the Jamacian Jerome Jordan, a seven foot draftee joins him. Anthony Randolph, the German born player, is the simply the second coming of Marcus Camby, an uncanny dunker who posesses a jump shot that at his height is matched only by Kevin Durant. Azibuke, the Londoner, is smooth, among the best shooter/slasher the Knicks have had in a decade. The Canadian, draftee Andy Rautins, a coaches son, and a three point arsonist, who at Syracuse, played his college home games at Madison Square Garden.

They are led by All star Amare Stoudamire and Raymond Felton, both provide leadership and heart. The New York Knicks may have quietly turned the corner. The J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets finished a game away from the Superbowl as that team took on the attitude of its new coach.

This team, Donnie’s team, seems to be an extension of a vision, perhaps without a single name written on it, but rather characteristics, personality traits, skill sets.

How will they fare? Will they simply look like the United Nations Intramural squad, against say the Celtics? We’ll know soon. The New York Knicks will unveil their new look in Milan and Paris this fall as part of an NBA Global initiative. The anticipation is high. The Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Braves once laid claim to “America’s Team.”
Now the stage is set for the 2010 New York Knicks, The World’s Team.
Knick fans across the globe can dream of the playoffs in English, Italian, Russian, French, German or the language of their choice.

If they win, we should all give “Donnie Basketball” the credit for having the vision.

Similarity Scores For The New Knicks

Amar’e Stoudemire

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Amare Stoudemire 2010 PHO 22.6 61.5 55.7 24.1 2.9 9.3 1.0 0.7 1.1 2.7
.134 Kevin McHale 1985 BOS 20.7 61.7 57.0 21.2 3.1 9.7 1.9 0.4 1.6 2.1
.206 Rik Smits 1994 IND 19.7 58.0 53.4 20.9 2.3 8.2 2.7 0.8 1.4 2.6
.235 Karl Malone 1991 UTA 24.8 59.6 52.8 26.0 2.6 10.5 2.9 1.0 0.9 2.7
.236 Andres Nocioni 2007 CHI 15.6 57.8 53.6 19.2 1.1 7.7 1.5 0.7 0.6 2.7
.243 Alonzo Mourning 1998 MIA 22.4 59.5 55.1 20.7 3.6 10.4 1.0 0.7 2.4 3.3
.247 Buck Williams 1988 NJN 18.2 60.3 56.1 17.5 4.1 11.4 1.5 0.9 0.6 2.6
.258 Armen Gilliam 1992 PHI 18.0 57.5 51.1 17.8 3.0 8.6 1.5 0.7 1.1 2.2
.273 Darryl Dawkins 1984 NJN 17.6 64.1 59.4 20.2 2.4 8.1 1.8 0.9 2.0 3.4
.274 Dirk Nowitzki 2006 DAL 28.1 58.9 51.5 25.1 1.3 8.5 2.6 0.7 1.0 1.8
.278 Chris Gatling 1995 GSW 19.5 64.0 63.3 19.5 3.5 10.8 1.2 1.0 1.3 2.9

His most similar players are McHale and Smits which gives you a good idea of Stoudemire; he’s somewhere between a Hall of Famer and a borderline All Star. Neither of them were great rebounders, although you could argue that McHale’s defense separates him from the three. There are some great players on this list, ones you could build a team around. But I, nor anyone else, think Amar’e is a player of that magnitude. Instead he’s a flawed All Star who needs a second one to get his team deep into the playoffs.

Raymond Felton

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Raymond Felton 2010 CHA 15.2 52.5 49.4 13.2 0.7 3.9 6.1 1.7 0.3 2.3
.036 John Starks 1991 NYK 14.3 51.1 47.2 14.3 0.9 4.0 6.3 1.8 0.5 2.3
.048 Rex Walters 1996 TOT 12.8 54.4 48.6 11.0 0.8 3.2 6.3 1.5 0.2 2.4
.052 Bimbo Coles 1994 MIA 13.0 51.0 46.8 12.3 1.0 3.3 5.5 1.6 0.3 2.2
.054 Chris Whitney 1997 WSB 15.2 56.6 50.9 13.9 0.4 3.4 5.9 1.6 0.1 2.2
.061 Brent Barry 1997 LAC 15.0 52.6 48.3 14.5 1.0 3.6 5.1 1.7 0.5 2.5
.061 Billy McKinney 1981 TOT 13.3 56.2 50.9 13.6 0.6 3.1 6.0 1.6 0.2 2.6
.063 Lorenzo Romar 1984 TOT 14.8 50.1 46.4 13.8 0.7 3.3 6.8 1.9 0.3 2.2
.064 Steve Colter 1988 TOT 12.8 50.1 46.4 11.5 1.4 4.1 6.2 1.5 0.3 2.1
.068 Luke Ridnour 2007 SEA 13.7 50.9 46.8 13.4 0.5 2.8 6.3 1.4 0.3 2.7
.070 Jason Williams 2001 SAC 12.8 49.8 47.8 11.3 0.3 2.9 6.5 1.5 0.1 2.5

Not exactly an impressive list, although Knick fans will like the person situated at #1. For the most optimistic Knick fans, this list should lower expectations a bit. Felton isn’t the second star New Yorkers were hoping for, but perhaps after two years of Chris Duhon the bar has been lowered considerably.

Anthony Randolph

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Anthony Randolph 2010 GSW 18.7 52.1 44.5 18.5 3.5 10.3 2.0 1.3 2.5 2.4
.193 Joe Smith 1996 GSW 17.2 52.3 46.3 16.0 3.8 9.1 1.0 1.1 1.7 1.8
.200 Elton Brand 2000 CHI 20.6 52.8 48.2 19.5 4.2 9.7 1.9 0.8 1.6 2.7
.219 Shawn Kemp 1990 SEA 15.9 53.1 48.1 16.9 4.7 11.1 0.8 1.5 2.3 3.4
.226 Tyrus Thomas 2007 CHI 14.8 52.1 47.5 13.9 3.3 10.0 1.5 1.7 2.8 3.5
.230 Tracy McGrady 2000 TOR 20.0 50.9 46.0 17.7 2.7 7.3 3.8 1.3 2.2 2.3
.236 Kevin Garnett 1997 MIN 18.2 53.7 50.2 15.7 2.3 7.4 2.8 1.3 2.0 2.1
.257 Josh Smith 2006 ATL 15.5 50.0 44.7 12.7 2.5 7.5 2.7 0.9 2.9 2.3
.258 Chris Bosh 2005 TOR 17.5 54.7 47.2 16.2 2.3 8.6 1.8 0.9 1.3 2.2
.278 Amare Stoudemire 2003 PHO 16.2 53.0 47.3 15.5 3.5 10.1 1.1 0.9 1.2 2.6
.298 Andrei Kirilenko 2002 UTA 18.8 55.3 47.0 14.7 2.5 6.7 1.6 1.9 2.7 1.8

To steal an analogy from Kevin McElroy, if Randolph is the fruit of David Lee’s labor then Walsh got a damn ripe piece here. What’s not to like about a 21 year old who is most similar to a bunch of All Stars? This move is reminiscent of when New York acquired Marcus Camby. Both of them were highly regarded on draft night (Camby much more so), and it seemed that both of their teams gave up on them too early. Camby became known for his shot blocking and rebounding, but he had hyalophobic tendencies early on. In fact comparing the two players after their second season (Camby didn’t come into the league until he was 22 years old), Randolph is superior with regards to rebounding and scoring. It goes without saying that a 21 year old has room to grow, but if Randolph can improve his efficiency then just like with Camby, New York will have a real steal on their hands.

Kelenna Azubuike

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Kelenna Azubuike 2009 GSW 14.7 56.2 52.0 16.1 1.7 5.6 1.8 0.9 0.8 1.4
.035 Brian Cook 2006 LAL 15.6 57.8 54.6 15.1 2.1 6.4 1.7 0.9 0.8 1.4
.062 Rashard Lewis 2005 SEA 19.4 57.1 53.7 19.4 1.5 5.2 1.3 1.0 0.8 1.6
.064 David West 2006 NOK 19.7 55.4 51.3 18.0 2.4 7.8 1.3 0.9 0.9 1.5
.068 Kyle Korver 2007 PHI 14.2 56.9 51.8 16.8 0.5 4.1 1.7 0.9 0.3 1.8
.070 Pat Garrity 2002 ORL 12.3 55.3 53.7 13.2 1.2 5.1 1.5 0.9 0.4 1.0
.070 Hakim Warrick 2008 MEM 16.2 55.5 51.2 17.5 2.5 7.3 1.1 0.7 0.6 1.7
.075 Wally Szczerbiak 2003 MIN 17.3 56.7 52.3 17.9 1.0 4.7 2.7 0.9 0.4 1.7
.078 DerMarr Johnson 2006 DEN 11.7 54.5 52.3 13.8 0.7 3.7 2.1 1.0 1.0 1.8
.080 Wesley Person 1997 PHO 15.9 56.7 54.8 16.7 1.1 4.5 1.9 1.3 0.3 1.2
.080 James Jones 2006 PHO 13.2 55.1 51.3 14.2 0.9 5.1 1.2 0.8 1.0 0.7

I’m going to use Azubuike’s 2009 stats, considering he played only 9 games in 2010 due to injury. There are some impressive sharpshooters (Lewis, Korver, Szczerbiak) and forwards (Garrity, Lewis, West) which means that Kelenna is an efficient scorer and strong rebounder for his size. D’Antoni’s love of the long ball and Azubuike’s three point percentage of 40.9% seem like an ideal of match. Consider that Wilson Chandler is a 6-8 forward mascerading as shooting guard who hits three pointers at 10% less, and it isn’t hard envisioning Azubuike replacing him in the starting lineup. Perhaps the only thing stopping Kelenna is his recovery from last year’s injury.

Ronny Turiaf

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Ronny Turiaf 2010 GSW 12.6 57.4 58.2 8.5 2.2 7.9 3.7 0.9 2.2 2.0
.224 Will Perdue 1993 CHI 14.8 57.8 55.7 12.3 3.7 10.4 2.7 0.8 1.7 2.7
.296 Bo Outlaw 1999 ORL 12.8 53.5 54.5 8.6 2.3 7.1 2.4 1.7 1.8 2.5
.302 Brad Lohaus 1992 MIL 15.0 54.0 52.9 13.6 2.2 8.3 2.5 1.3 2.4 1.5
.318 John Salley 1992 DET 14.7 57.0 51.2 13.9 2.2 6.0 2.4 1.0 2.2 2.1
.364 Brad Miller 2004 SAC 19.4 57.9 51.8 13.9 2.6 10.2 4.3 0.9 1.2 2.0
.369 Kermit Washington 1979 SDC 15.0 60.3 56.2 12.1 3.9 10.4 1.6 1.1 1.6 2.4
.369 Vlade Divac 1996 LAL 17.4 54.4 51.5 14.9 2.9 9.9 3.8 1.1 1.9 2.9
.390 Mike Green 1979 SAS 12.9 52.8 49.3 12.5 2.9 7.8 2.5 0.8 2.7 2.0
.391 Shane Battier 2006 MEM 14.7 57.4 54.0 10.4 2.1 5.4 1.7 1.2 1.4 1.1
.403 Boris Diaw 2010 CHA 12.8 55.2 52.5 11.5 1.6 5.3 4.0 0.7 0.7 2.2

Turiaf has an odd mix of strong shotblocking, weak rebounding, miniscule scoring volume, and good passing. Hence why there aren’t a lot of similar players. I liked him in college, but at this point he’s strictly bench material. Teaming Turiaf with Stoudemire might bring tears to hyalophiles, but alongside Randolph they should make the paint on 32nd street an unfriendly place for the first time in a decade.

The Worst Article Of 2010

In today’s news where ratings matter as much as content (and perhaps more), sensationalism in the press is expected. This has been especially true with regards to this year’s NBA free agent class, as some of the game’s biggest stars will reshape the league in an extraordinary fashion in the coming weeks. Given the players’ reluctance to name their potential suitors and the teams’ inability to talk about players signed to other teams news outlets have been left with little actual facts to report on.

Typically when the press is shut out to a story that the public wants to hear about, reporters will seek out “sources” (who frequently wish to remain anonymous) that may have inside knowledge. By getting an insight on the thoughts of the people involved, they can circumvent the cone of silence and provide information to the public. However one problem with this type of journalism is that their sources never have to deal with the consequences of their words. For instance an anonymous source may bend the truth (or invent it) in order to manipulate outside events. People or organizations may leak information (that may not be true) to a source knowing that they will hand it over to the media. Or worse, a reporter may invent an anonymous source to lend a piece some credibility.

Stories with anonymous sources are best taken with a grain of salt. Depending on the reader and the content, some people may swallow the article as truth more easily than others, especially if it fits with the reader’s view of the topic. So in some sense a part of the success of an article quoting an anonymous source is the believability of it.

So enter SNY.tv’s article titled “Source: Knicks eye Johnson, not James.”

The Knicks are targeting Joe Johnson as their No. 1 free agent choice and believe he’s a better fit for the team than LeBron James, according to an NBA source with knowledge of the team’s plans.

“Yes, we think he’s a better player,” the source said of Johnson. “He makes other people better. With LeBron’s people running the locker room that hurts the organization.”

he source also mentioned concerns about James’ entourage taking over the franchise.

“I don’t care what most people think,” the source said. “I’m not saying that LeBron is not a good player, but other stuff comes with it. LeBron’s friends want jobs. You’re gonna lose running your organization. As time goes on you got to hire this guy, you got to hire that guy.”

The source says the Knicks think Joe Johnson is a better player than LeBron James. It’s hard to believe that anyone would think that Johnson is a better player than James. If I had to pick a quick metric to show the disparity between the two I’d say that basketball-reference.com calculates James’ probability of making the Hall of Fame at 98%, and Johnson’s at 6%.

But just as interesting is the person who said that. The author Adam Zagoria, describes him as “an NBA source with knowledge of the team’s plans.” So the source sounds like someone who works closely with the NBA and has insider access to the Knicks, but doesn’t work for the team. But the quote uses the word “we” to describe the Knicks, which implies he’s part of the organization. For instance if the source was Donnie Walsh’s barber, he would have said “they think”, not “we think”. To use “we” implies the guy actually works for the team. So why wouldn’t Zagoria just describe him in a less wordy way as “a source who works for the Knicks?”

Those aren’t the only parts that don’t make sense. The source claims the Knicks are avoiding LeBron James because they’d have to hire some of his friends as well. Let’s just assume that I can’t possibly know if this is true (but a google search for “Cleveland Cavaliers hire LeBron’s friends” results in naught). Does anyone think that hiring 20 of LeBron’s friends at $50k a year mean anything to a team that has paid Eddy Curry $20M to play in 10 games over the last two seasons? Put it this way, if there was no salary cap, would there be any doubt that the Knicks bid would go well over the current maximum price for James? (At least enough to cover cushy jobs for his entourage.)

To summarize the article, the Knicks think Joe Johnson will lead to more wins, they don’t want LeBron James because his entourage will demand jobs in the organization, and the source of this information can’t make up his mind if he’s just knowledgeable about the team or actually works for them. Any one of these facts are difficult to believe, nevertheless all of them combined. Imagine if I wrote an article with quoting a source with knowledge of SNY.tv who said:

“Adam Zagoria just called up his friend who has a John Starks jersey and occasionally gets off his meds. Feeling self defensive about LeBron going to another team, the guy began to rant about how Joe Johnson was better anyway. Hoping to make a big name of himself with such a controversial headline, Zagoria decided to run with the story quoting his mentally unstable friend as an NBA source with knowledge of the team. (This wasn’t such a stretch, since his friend once saw Donnie Walsh exiting the Garden & yelled “Are you going to sign LeBron?” To which he swore that Walsh gave him a wink.). The editor at SNY.tv, too busy with his Hijack Armored Bank Truck in Mafia Wars and pushed the story through without really reading it.

Such an article would be laughed at because it’s so unlikely to be true. I think.