Los Angeles Lakers 123 – New York Knicks 124 – Game Recap

I beat LA and all I got is this Hezonja block.

Games like this, man. They are exactly what’s wrong with this team. It’s weird to say that after a win, and somehow a wildly amusing one, what with the fact that we swept the Lakers during the worst season in Knicks’ history and forced a loss upon the self-appointed King of MSG. Nonetheless, you just have to look at the minutes allocation to see that one of these two scenarios is in play right now: a) Fizdale doesn’t listen to management and/or b) management doesn’t understand the basic fact that, deep into March in a totally lost season, guys who should be playing lots of minutes should be young and under contract, even if with a team option, for the next season (I’d bet on b, which is somehow scary and very Dolan-like). I know. in the end you’re supposed to play five guys for 48 minutes anyway, and it’s not like our roster is littered with healthy long-term prospects under contract. But, well… let’s take a look at the box score, shall we?

Team expiring: 102 minutes
Team maybe expiring: 29 minutes
Team “we should play more”: 109 minutes (37 to Knox, 41 to Dotson – who, in all fairness, is not guaranteed for next season, but come on).

It doesn’t look that bad, right? Wrong.

I know, I should be prasing these Bron-defeating Knicks and not be so Mitch-centered, but guys, I think we have a huge problem if we don’t recognize the fact that he should be playing 30mpg no matter what and the guys on the court should be passing him the ball every damn time he seals a guard or a wing under the basket. I counted at least 8 such occurrances tonight, and not a single time someone tried to give him the ball. Seriously: he received a grand total of one pass (who he promptly converted) in 15 minutes of play. If he’s as smart as he looks to be, which is at least above-average, I think Mitch has realized how good he is/can be compared to all of the other scrubs on our roster. He’s a rookie and as such certainly shouldn’t be entitled to anything, but believe me, if I was him I’d be sulking quite a bit (and I’m mostly a very happy-go-lucky guy). This season should be about Mitch, Trier (a very blah game), Knox, Dotson and [redacted]. Nobody from the Mud-Hez-Vonleh-DAJ-Lance should play more than 20 minutes in a game, and that’s only when injuries are a factor. Through dungeons and injuries, it’s March 17th and we’re forced to watch Mudiay and Hezonja combine for 69 minutes. Tonight they were very good and so in a vacuum deserved the playing time, but what’s the benefit for us?

Ok, rant’s over, let’s take a look at the game!

For once, the game was actually very watchable. Lots of points scored, a few hot-shooting barrages, not a lot of defense in sight. Now that I think about it, it looked like your typical late-aughts All-Star Game (with much worse players). Neither the Knicks nor the Lakers were able to gain a comfortable lead (the Knicks were up 11 at the end of the first, with a season record of 41 points scored in the period – just after having scored 83 in a whole game against the Spurs), but the Lakers got their 11-point lead much later in the game and looked poised to steal the win. But alas, no, they went back to their terrible status just in time for us to win it in an absurd fashion.

Here’s what happened: with just 3:45 to go, the Lakers were leading 122-111 after a smooth LeBron jumper. From there on, all hell broke loose: Mudiay suddenly remembered how to throw a lob for DeAndre (113-122). Kuzma lost the ball. Knox committed one of his stupid trademark offensive fouls late in the game. KCP missed badly a three. Hezonja missed a three, DeAndre snatched the board (his fourth in the last 90 seconds) and promptly passed the ball back to Mario, who drilled the three. Mudiay committed a stupid foul on Caruso with the Lakers on the bonus, but Caruso went on to shoot 1-for-2. Dotson scored on a stepback long two from the corner. LeBron missed a three, Johnathan Williams (who?) grabbed the board but Hezonja stole the ball from him, the ball got to DeAndre near the basket and Kuzma fouled him. “Who ya got?” calmly drilled both freebies. Bron drove to the rim but got blocked by Jordan and Mudiay got the rebound after a missed tip-in by Extra-H Williams and incredibly passed the ball again under the cup to Dotson who went for a 6th grade-like layup. LeBron shot another jump shot, missed the target, Dotson got the board and passed the ball to Mudiay. KCP fouled inexplicably Mud, who wasn’t even looking at the rim, with just 22 seconds to go and no foul to give. A stone cold Mudiay sinked his free throws, giving the Knicks the lead, and then the masterpiece: LeBron took his sweet time to go for the game-winning layup, only to end getting blocked by Hezonja. The block was as clean as it gets and made for a memorable moment, probably borderline iconic and cult-like.

A few notes about the game (while this would have been a game good for the “good/bad/fun-sized”, it’s too late in the season and in the end it counts for nothing):

– At last, a legitimately good offensive game for Mudiay: 28 points on 11 shots (!), 8 assists, the clutch free throws to win the game. His defense was his usual ugly, but his offense really benefited from the appalling Lakers’ defense. Even bad players can have good games now and then (shout-out to Acie Earl scoring 40 points in 1996 for Toronto).

– I don’t like the fact that Jordan is stealing minutes from Mitch, but honestly, it’s not his fault, so let’s take some delight in seeing him transform into a strange Capela-Jokic off-brand hybrid. He’s averaging 2.9 assists per game as a Knick, while his career-high until last season was 1.5. His last five games: 10.8 points, 13.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists. The numbers are cool (his impact, a little less)!

– Damyean Dotson had another good game. 25 points, 6 boards, and a team-high +9 plus/minus. His shooting is very erratic, but we would all have signed up for this with a second-round selection. Over the last 4 games, he’s 16th in the whole League in scoring. I’m not one to value pointzzz that much, but that’s an achievement in itself given the clogged toilet offense we’re running (with a few exception for the DeAndre passing experience).

– Hezonja! Such a sad tale of squandered talent. This kid has all the tools to be a successful NBA player, but no pulse whatsoever. The rare times when he does, he looks like a worldbeater. More often, he’s a hopeless husk of a hope-glazed former lottery pick. Tonight we got good Hez, 17 points on 8 shots, 8 boards, and the block on James. In a lost season, Hez is personally responsible for 2 of the top-5 2018-19 Knicks highlights (the other one, I’m sure you got the memo, is the Giannis stepover).

– Hey, so Knox is able to hit more than half his shots more than once in a month! Problem is, even when he does that he does nothing else and commits a lot of dumb and-one causing fouls. But I like the fact that his shooting splits will look a bit better. Maybe we’ll be able to trade him for a late first.

– I don’t want to talk about Mitch. He’s so misused these days that it makes my soul weep endlessly. I’ll just say that only four rookies in the history of the league rocked a longest streak of games with at least two blocks: Mourning, Shaq, David Robinson and Manute Bol. We’re in really rarefied air.

– I’ve never been a fan of LeBron. I always recognized his greatness – I’m not blind, after all – but his demeanor annoyed me to no end. I made sure to tune into every important Bron game to root against him (as I rooted against Jordan, Shaq, Kobe – I like me some underdogs, that’s what I’m saying). I think the Spurs beating the Heat in 2014 is my happiest non-Knicks, non-Virtus Bologna sports moment ever. That said, even I can’t bear rooting against him anymore. I don’t think I ever saw him so miserable. Every camera cut to him sitting alone on the end of the Lakers bench evokes all sorts of #feels. He’s still an amazing player (who has stopped playing defense), but he went from one-man-army juggernaut to basically an afterthought. I think it’s quite unprecedented and it also speaks volumes about the importance of roster building. It’s not the first time he has bad teammates, but it’s probably the first time he’s had such ill-fitting pieces around him. Someone suggested the Lakers should trade him. I totally agree.

See you tomorrow for the Raptors game! Carry on, just 12 games to the end.

 

 

New York Knicks 119 – Los Angeles Lakers 112 – Game Recap

I have to say that, tanking interests apart, this team picks very well the games to win. We know we can’t lose all of the games, right? So sometimes you have to win one. Well then, why not winning against the Celtics (done), the Bucks (against whom our dear KP got injured, done), the Nets (I know, it’s a fake rivalry, but done nonetheless) and now the Lakers (just done)?

And sometimes it feels good to win, even if that feeling is something that doesn’t come natural anymore. We’re at this point in the season where you don’t really know what to look for in a game, apart from one of your cost-controlled assets to have a monster game. When that doesn’t happen – and let’s face it, as of now only Knox seems capable to have one of them – you look for the small things. Did Dotson square his feet correctly before hoisting that shot? Did Kornet defend that guy in the post effectively? (No, he did not.) Did Trier fill the lane correctly in transition? (Hah, tricky question. The Iso Bot is running at 100% energy only when he has the ball in his hand.)

I don’t know how many of you have played at least one iteration of “MyCareer” or “MyPlayer” in the NBA2K series. Basically, for those who haven’t, your player gets a grade for how well he has played in any game; the things that contribute to that grade aren’t just pointzzz or box score numbers, but also how well did you box out, how many screens did you set, if you were in optimal position on defensive rotations and so on. Early on, your avatar sucks because, apart from purely aesthetic choices and from your preferred role, you’re given a sad sack of a player with the overall rating of a G-League benchwarmer, so the best course to get high grades (and in turn get more playing time and more currency to improve your attributes) is to behave like a good puppy on the court. I’m quite good at it – and I have to be, because otherwise my 2/11 shooting small forward won’t see any playing time soon. Well, that’s what I look for in these games. because otherwise my mind will self-fry trying to reconcile the many things I should root for: a loss for the tank, a win for the morale, a good game from the youngsters, maybe not a good game from young people we are in position to extend, a good rebounding tally, maybe not a good night for Kanter because then he may start again, a good assist tally, but maybe not from young people we are in position to extend, a good THJ game because after all we have him for another two years, a bad THJ game because maybe they’ll be convinced to move on from him, a good THJ game because his trade value will go up, a BZZZ crackling noise

SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE…

…We’ve found the following malware in your system: Knicks fandom 3.1, Hopeful Knicks fan 1.2, Knicks supporter with advanced stats basic knowledge 1.18, TakeThatForData.avi, JDAndTheStraightShot (complete collection).mp3…

…CLEANING… 

…RESTARTING OPERATING SYSTEM…

…well that’s what I look for in these games, and sometimes I find it. And when I don’t, I find myself rooting for Mario and Enes to win this fucking game because sometimes guilty pleasures are the only things that save you from the drab world we live in. And to win a game that started with the Knicks guns a-blazing against the Lakers is one of the dirtiest, guiltiest pleasures in the world.

The good:

– If you would have told me that Mario Hezonja (10 pts, 2 rebs, 1 ast, +9 +/-) would have made another appearance in this column, I would have thought you were crazy and/or we were talking about year 2023 when we clinch our Atlantic Division title thanks to a game in Seattle against the newly-minted expansion team Sonics, where Mario moonlights as their starting SF and scores 5 points on 20 shots. Well, I was wrong. Mario got playing time tonight thanks to foul trouble to the December Eastern rookie of the month, Kevin Knox, and he did make a superb impression. I mean, his contract is still pointless for next season, but if this was the real Mario, I’d have no problem at all seeing him play 15 minutes per night. He was energetic, bunny-hopping, rim-running, hell bent on putting the ball into the basket or getting fouled and even – gasp – on protecting our rim. The play that elicited the most vocal cheering in me was his block on Ingram with six minutes to go in the final stanza. A pristine block which maybe for the first time in all season signaled that Mario has the will to play basketball and he’s not only collecting checks. I guess he’ll revert to his usual droning, but that block was a revelation, and I’ll cherish it at least until the trade deadline. Bonus fact: Mario was the only Knicks to hit more than 45% of his shots. For all of the hot start that we witnessed in the first quarter (our first six baskets were all from the three-point line and we scored 39 points in those 12 minutes), the Knicks ended up shooting 37.4% from the field. How does a team that shoot so poorly win a game and score 119 points in the process, you might ask: it shoots 41 free throws. The refs were quick for the whistle, but it was very nice to see the whole team attack the rim with abandon.

– The other unlikely hero is Enes Kanter (16 pts, 15 rebs, 3 ast, +5 +/-), who for a night looked rejuvenated and electrified to simply play competitive basketball. The numbers in points and board are nothing new, but don’t tell all. Tonight Enes did a semi-passable job on defense and a great job at protecting the rim in the fourth quarter. Before the night ended, Kanter totaled a career-high 4 blocks, stuffing people in purple and gold here and there after being thoroughly vandalized by Zubac in the third. By the way, the extension feature of NBA League Pass informed me that Enes got to his 251st career block tonight. You know who got more blocks than Kanter got in his 8 years in the league since he was drafted? Here’s the full list, but let me tell you a few names: a washed up Carmelo Anthony (252), scorned lover Matt Barnes (272), useless stretch fourve Jah Smith (298), in and out of the league Ekpe Udoh (325), point guard with doomed contract John Wall (361). It’s got to be embarrassing to be 6-11 and block less shots than those guys. But well, all that matters is that now Enes is happy again (Could you guess that Kevin Durant was 17th in the whole League in that span? I couldn’t, and I’m amazed at that stat)!

The bad:

– What the heck happened to Allonzo Trier (2 pts, 2 rebs, 1 ast, +4 +/-)? Has he been abducted by the Monstars? It’s one thing to hit the rookie wall, it’s an entirely other one to crash into it like the Kool-Aid man, save for the fact that he’s not barging through it but just gets plastered into it. If the dungeon still exist, and they didn’t pave it (and maybe put up a parking lot), I guess Zo will be sent there. I’m not advocating for it, but he genuinely looks lost on the court. I think the injury has something to do with it and I hope the contract doesn’t, but right now he’s early-Knox or overall-Frank bad. Get a grip, and maybe get some reps in the G-League to regain a bit of confidence and rhythm.

– Luke Kornet (6 pts, 5 rebs, 1 ast, +2 +/-) was largely ineffective, as we could have expected him to be after his crazy-hot shooting streak as a starter. It has to be said, though, that his main problem tonight wasn’t his ass shooting (2/8 from the field, 1/4 from three), but his total uselessness against JaVale McGee in the post. Now, don’t get me wrong, JaVale is not the runaway winner of Shaqtin’ a Fools anymore, and is a pretty competent center in his own right, but Kornet made him look like Wilt all of a sudden. JaVale is a freakish specimen, so I wouldn’t get too worried here, but Kornet was pretty bad tonight.

Fun-sized bits:

– Tim Hardaway Jr. started the game on fire, hitting 3 triples in the first 5 minutes. All of them were open. He went on never to hit any other three for the night on six more attempts. Generally speaking, his shot selection is awful. Someone in this blog described his mindset in the most accurate way: “Eh, the play is already broken, I might as well shoot”. And shoot he does, from anywhere, after a few dribbles, with no clean look in sight. 22 points on 18 shots isn’t inherently bad, but mediocre isn’t what 17 million dollars are called for. Still second in the whole League in charges drawn, though. I like that (and just that).

– Kevin Knox had a so-so game (14 points on 12 shots, 5 boards) but it was very good to see him hit a crucial floating bank shot with 100 seconds remaining to put the Knicks up 5. His floaters and quasi-hooks are looking much better as of late, even if he doesn’t hit a lot of them. As I said a few times, though, he’s shooting the right shots. I like what I see from him (with the caveat that he’s a rookie. If this was the finished product, it would be near to worthless).

– By the way: congrats to Kevin for his Rookie of the Month award! The East does not have a murderer’s row of candidates (to me the best rookie in the east is Carter Jr., then as of now is a homeless men brawl between Knox, Young, Sexton, with Mitch, Mo Bamba and mayyyybe Robert Williams on the wings), but he’s made gigantic strides in these two months. Bravo!

– My best wishes to Frank, who got himself injured in just 56 seconds of play. He still was able to post a -5 plus/minus. Dude can’t catch a break.

– Mudiay was as good at channeling his inner Jason Kidd in the first four minutes of play to find open guys on the perimeter as he was bad at hitting shots and generally playing basketball, save for a pleasant third quarter. Dude has gotten better, but he’s just a small step above “utter trash”. To wit: in his last 5 games, his TS% is .409 on 25 USG%. I commend him for the 3.44 AST/TO ratio in that same span, but as I said… a long way to go before being a serviceable player for an average team.

– Vonleh started like a man possessed and then hit the brakes thanks to foul trouble. In just 17 minutes of play, 7 points, 10 boards and 4 steals. A Hell’s Kitchen legend says that if you utter “Draymond Green” in front of a mirror three times after you ate a mildly spoiled burrito, Noah Vonleh will appear in your house and will tidy it up.

– Trey Burke is alive and well, and we needed his buckets tonight. It still remains a mystery how I could convince myself that he was a steady floor general, whereas he’s just a microwave role player. I should have known better.

Now that we got this good win out of our system, let’s see if the tank will get back on track against the Blazers on Monday! Until then, I’ll run a few CC Cleaner routines on my mainframe.

Mike D’Antoni and the Shadow of Showtime

Introduction: Two Guys Walk into a G-Chat Window

me: zach lowe wrote a better version of everything i wanted to write about d’antoni. like literally every point i was going to make: d’antoni is 1) a great offensive coach who 2) got short-shrifted because of people choosing to look at things without nuance and 3) has had a decent (if not great) defense any time he has had above average defensive personnel and 4) now has dwight frigging howard.

Jim Cavan: I think the whole “Buss wanted Showtime 2” angle would be interesting, vis-a-vis how much theoretical wiggle room it gives D’Antoni

me: hmm

Part the First: What iz a Showtimez?

With apologies to Moses Malone and his twelve-thirteenths-accurate prediction on the outcome of the 1983 postseason, there is not a team in NBA history more identified with its unofficial moniker than the Showtime Lakers that rode to glory in the 1980’s under Pat Riley (who, like Moses, stopped counting at fo’). Because of the inability to separate the team from the nickname and the nickname from the team, it is easy to take just this one word as an adequate and all-encompassing description of a monolithic team that runned* and gunned at lightning speed, outscoring an endless progression of huffing and puffing opponents for a full decade.

*Screw grammar, this phrase should rhyme no matter the tense.

Some facts:

  • Pat Riley took over as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers 11 games into the 1981-82 season. He remained head coach through the end of the 1989-1990 season. The Lakers finished in first place in both of those seasons and every one in between. Their lowest win total over this stretch was 54 games. Their average win total was exactly 60.00.
  • NBA teams completed 213 full seasons in that 9 year span (i.e., the sum of the number of teams in the NBA for each year in the sample). If you sort these 213 seasons by Pace, Showtime’s entries rank 44, 45, 56, 57, 64, 89, 124, 152, and 199. As you might expect, they got slower as they got older. The mean of those 9 numbers is 92.2 compared to a sample mean of 106.5. On average, the Showtime Lakers played faster than the average 1980’s team, but not by much. Even their fastest season does not fall in the top 2 deciles of the sample (Unsurprisingly, the top 5 teams in the sample are all Nuggets teams, including every single Denver entry from 1981-82 through 1984-85). Speaking only in terms of pace, Showtime was unremarkable.
  • Sort those same 213 seasons by offensive rating, however, and reality begins to conform a bit more with perception. The 1986-87 Lakers scored more efficiently than any other team in the sample (an astonishing 115.6 points per 100) and five other Showtime squads turn up in the top 11. The worst Showtime offense was the first; the 1981-82 Lakers scored 110.2 points per 100, which still claims a spot in the top 25% of the sample and would have finished second in the league last season. Showtime’s ability to produce points was every bit as good as the mythology suggests.
  • How did Showtime produce points? Why, that’s simple: they made ALL OF THEIR SHOTS. Of the 213 seasons completed by NBA teams between 1981-82 and 1989-90, the Showtime Lakers registered the 4 best team field goal percentages, including a 1984-85 campaign when they converted on an absolutely unreal 54.5% (!!!!!!!!!) of their shots from the floor. Of the nine Lakers who played at least 1,000 minutes that season, eight of them shot at least 52%. This is completely and utterly unprecedented and, given the league’s ever-increasing emphasis on the three-pointer, will absolutely never ever ever be replicated. Ever.*
  • It bears mentioning that the Lakers’ FG% and eFG% dominance was the most important, but not only, component of their offensive brilliance — all nine entries for each of the other three four factors (TOV%, FT Rate, OREB%) also land in the top half of the sample. As a result, they finished first in ORtg 6 times, second twice, and fifth once (in 1983-84, when Magic played only 67 games). Altogether it adds up to the greatest stretch of offensive dominance in the modern history of the NBA. And other than the aesthetic beauty of the Magic/Worthy fastbreak, pace had very little to do with it.
  • Stylistic offensive indicators fluctuated wildly over the course of the Showtime Era, revealing a team that was able to adapt to an evolving league. For example, the Lakers’ pace changed as mentioned above, their annual 3-point attempt totals ranged from 94 to 841, and their FT/FGA ratio ranged from .20 to .28.
  • Oh! Defense! Never better than 7th, only once worse than 10th. Remarkably consistent in being good but not great.

*The 3 seasons that didn’t land in the top 10 ranked 16th, 25th, and 54th. The outlier was 1989-90, the year after Kareem retired. In that season, the Lakers decided on the fly to slow things down and become an all-out 3-point shooting team. They made 37% from deep, meaning that despite the (relatively) pedestrian FG%, that squad’s eFG% is still 21st best in the sample. They also reduced their turnover rate to 12.8%, making their 1989-90 ORtg the sixth best in the sample despite a marked drop-off in what had previously been their offensive bread-and-butter. They won 63 games and made the Finals. Ugh…Riley is a genius. Let’s move on.

So, from a strictly statistical perspective, “Showtime” is stylistically elusive but unfailingly efficient. In the unfeeling eyes of data, “Showtime” simply meant playing at an above-average (but unspectacular) pace and making shots at a clip that nobody else could match. I have now taken the most beautiful offense in the history of basketball and reduced it to a few numbers and some descriptors that could also apply to a German widget factory. You’re welcome.

Part the Second: Once You Pop…

[Sets stopwatch to seven seconds. PressessssssssssSTART.]

Mike D’Antoni is an NBA coach (SHOT)

He first coached in Denver but gained prominence in Phoenix in the early part of the last decade (SHOT)

He built an offense around the wizard-like point guard skills of the previously underappreciated Steve Nash (SHOT)

Together, he, Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and a bevy of shooters as nameless as (but far more accurate than) henchmen in a Bond film built the best offense since the Showtime Lakers called it a decade (SHOT)

He left Phoenix (likely under some degree of organizational duress) to coach the New York Knicks who hoped to use the cache of his famously player-friendly system to woo LeBron James to Madison Square Garden (SHOT)

The Knicks struck out in the LeBron sweepstakes and signed D’Antoni’s old finisher Stoudemire as something of a consolation prize (SHOT)

With Stoudemire, journeyman point guard Ray Felton, and a cast of has-beens, never-weres, and theretofore-unknowns, D’Antoni constructed a free-flowing, pick-and-roll heavy offense that made an MVP candidate of Amar’e and turned his no-name supporting cast into the most adored Knicks squad in over a decade (SHOT)

Said supporting cast was traded, practically in its entirety, for Carmelo Anthony, perhaps the NBA player whose offensive philosophy was least compatible with D’Antoni’s (SHOT)

You know that thing that usually happens when there is a stylistic or philosophical clash between an NBA coach and a dynamic, marketable star player with 4 years left on his contract and the hopes of a city on his shoulders? Well, it happened. (WHISTLE)

Many assumed that this would mark the end of D’Antoni’s head coaching career, saddled as he was with a reputation for running an amusing sideshow that would never seem attractive to a team with title hopes. Like, say, the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers…

Part the Third: …You Can’t Stop!

A G-Chat Conversation with a Friend: 31 October, 2012

Julian: they prob should fire brown. i say probably b/c idk who they would hire.

me: d’antoni! lakers should basically say to d’antoni you can be the coach but our condition is we are hiring a defensive coordinator who will be given a lot of autonomy. non-negotiable.

Julian: hah. i think it would fail for the same reasons that it failed in ny

me: knicks defense was good under d’antoni once they got chandler, dwight should have the same effect

Julian: kobe will complain just like melo did about being asked to camp at the 3pt line and watch them run high pnr

me: kobe can break the scoring record at that pace and with those open looks AND save his legs

Julian: yeah well, he won’t see it that way

me: what available coach is better than dantoni?

Julian: idk that there is one, i just don’t see any way kobe accepts dantoni’s scheme

A G-Chat Conversation with a Friend: 9 November, 2012

me: mike brown

Julian: fired? hah.

me: yeah. didn’t buss vote-of-confidence him like yesterday? like i know a vote of confidence is typically a bad sign but not THAT fast.

Julian: yeah that’s incredible. oh, dantoni. the same thing is just going to happen that happened with melo though unless dantoni isn’t going to try it. but why hire him then?

me: you don’t think nash helps get buy-in?

Julian: nah i don’t, kobe is too alpha and has already won in a way that suits him

me: would be so awesome if they hired d’antoni, kobe complained, and they traded kobe. obv 0% chance but it would be like my favorite thing any team did ever.

Julian: do you think jackson comes back? big risk to his legacy

me: i think its pretty no-win for him

Julian: yeah. now at least i can see how correct i was about it being impossible that brown was the major problem.

Part the Fourth: Whither Showtime?

First of all, Mike D’Antoni does not run an offense that bears any special resemblance to Showtime . He has never coached a player with the back-to-the-basket acumen of Kareem (few have) and would have to fundamentally change his system to accommodate one.* His preferred wings, who are instructed first and foremost to get open beyond the arc and shoot quickly off of the catch, could not be more diametrically opposed to James Worthy in offensive style.** And while one could argue that Magic and Nash are the two greatest playmakers and visionaries in the history of their position, their similarities mostly end there (where Magic had size and versatility, Nash moves with the ball like Lionel Messi and has an all-time great jumper). The reason that D’Antoni’s offense is compared to Showtime is, really, quite simple:

1) D’Antoni teams play fast.

2) 80’s offenses played fast.

3) Showtime was the best and most memorable 80’s offense, even if it was not especially fast in the context of its time.

*Gasol, while obviously not Kareem, is a great post scorer, but happens to be an even better pick-and-roll big and passer. Look for him to play a more versatile but less explosive version of the Amar’e role in D’Antoni’s system. That is, when Howard isn’t playing a MORE explosive but LESS versatile version of the Amar’e role. God, this offense could crush the world.

**Worthy was a 24% career three point shooter who attempted roughly 3/4 of his career threes in the four years after Riley left and Worthy’s knees began to rob him of his all-world talent as a finisher. To the extent that Showtime had a three-point-shooting element, it was provided by Byron Scott and Michael Cooper and was mostly marginalized until Riley’s last couple of years.

Sometimes free association lends impressions that differ from analytically-derived conclusions. But sometimes, and maybe this is the big point here, it’s the impression that matters more. What if 7 Seconds or Less takes off in LA? What if Kobe buys in and Gasol and Nash make music and Howard gives Coach Mike that One Thing he never had in Phoenix and Ron Artest and Antawn Jamison go all Quentin Richardson and Boris Diaw on us? What if the Lakers ride a breathtaking floor general and a Hall of Fame wing and the league’s most skilled big and the league’s most physically dominant force and a bunch of Guys You Forgot About to a historically great offense and an NBA title? What if they look beautiful while they do it? And what if, in so doing, they bring about the redemption of a coach who seems to have taken a wrong turn between Innovator and Mastermind that has landed him at Novelty?

Will it be Showtime? Not really. But should we care?

Forum Blue and Gold Interview

Before the second meeting between the Knicks and Lakers this season, I asked Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold a couple questions about the view from Lakeside. Without further ado…

Knickerblogger: The media perennially is in distress about the “decline” of the Lakers as they muddle through some regular season games, but the two straight championships which have followed those mid-season worries seem to make such prognostication foolish. However, as we all know in the NBA age eventually takes its toll. Are Lakers fans worried that this is the year a decline really does happen, or are you unfazed?

ForumBlueandGold: I don’t think Laker fans are too concerned with this year being the year that age catches up to the Lakers. The oldest Lakers (that are expected to contribute) are Fisher and Kobe and both of those players still provide what’s expected of them – though I would add that concerns about Fisher are always present and that has little to do with his age.

As for Kobe, he continues to show an evolution in his game that has me believing that he can be extremely effective for 2-3 more seasons quite easily. With his continued refinement of a low post game and his uncanny ability to still get to his favorite spots on the floor due to his fantastic footwork, his overall game isn’t so much declining but just changing into a new way to control a contest.

In the end, I think the biggest concerns are still related to a combination of the Lakers’ health and the overall strength of other teams relative to the Lakers. In years past, the Lakers’ margin for error was larger due to the fact that they had more talent than other teams, especially in the big man department. However, with the rise of the Spurs, the continued excellence from the Celtics, and the additions of Bosh and LeBron to the Heat, other teams are now closer to the Lakers in talent and depth and that has fans concerned that a march through the playoffs will be much more difficult.

Knickerblogger: How do you see Andrew Bynum’s career unfolding? Knicks fans will always remember Isiah’s drafting Channing Frye over Bynum, and his connection (or lack thereof) to the latest Melo rumors seem to indicate that he is valued highly within the Lakers organization. However, he’s been injury prone, and waiting until after the World Cup to get knee surgery doesn’t seem to display the competitive fire of a Kobe or a Michael.

ForumBlueandGold: I’m probably higher on Bynum than most. Obviously his history of injuries is concerning and even if he gets through an entire season relatively healthy the thought that he could suffer another leg injury is always on the mind. That said, you just don’t often see a man with his combination of size and skillset. I’m not arguing that he’s in the class of Howard or a healthy Yao Ming, but he shows tremendous polish in the low post, great hands, and continues to improve his defense by better controlling the paint.

As for the questions about the surgery delay, I think those reports were overblown. Kobe too waited until after the World Cup to have the arthriscopic surgery on his knee. The difference between the two is that when Bynum actually went under the knife his surgeon decided to repair his torn meniscus rather than shave off the damaged portion. This surgery is more complex than a the typical operation performed and leads to longer recovery time. In the long run, though, this type of surgery is better for Bynum and should promote better health in his knee. Believe me, just like many other fans, I was frustrated that it took so long for him to recover and was distressed when Pau had to log so many extra minutes to compensate for Bynum being absent. But if he’s healthy through the end of this year and has relatively good health moving forward the extended healing time was well worth it.

Insider Point #1: Many fans think of the Lakers and assume that they’re a very good home team but I think many would be surprised that they’re actually just as good (if not better) on the road. This season they’ve already lost as many home games as they did all of last year. Meanwhile if the Lakers are able to beat the Knicks they’ll have the exact same record at home as they do on the road and would tie the Spurs for the most road wins in the league at this point (19). So, for those that are concerned that the Lakers may not be able to win without home court advantage, I think it’s important to note that they’re actually a very good road team. (I’d also point out that in the Lakers last two championship runs they’ve closed out 5 of their 8 playoff series on the road, including the 2009 Finals against the Magic.)

Insider Point #2: With such a top heavy team – especially one with the start power of the Lakers – you’d think missing a bench player wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I’ve really noticed how much the Lakers miss Matt Barnes. Barnes is key player on some of the Lakers best performing units and has brought an added dimension to the Lakers’ offense as a slasher and offensive rebounder from the wing position that no one else can really provide. Since Barnes has been out with his injury, the Lakers have still been performing well as a group but the second unit has suffered and many times Phil Jackson has had to go to Kobe at back up SF. Some may recall that this was the case last year as well, but with Luke Walton healthy this year I was hoping Kobe wouldn’t have to spend much time at the 3. But that just hasn’t been the case as Luke just hasn’t been able to string together positive performances consistently.

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.

Going out of business! 50% off! Priced to move! (All sales are final. Void where prohibited by law)

Following hard on the heels of Mike K’s fine breakdown of the benefits (or lack thereof) of trading for McGrady, I’m going to channel my inner Bill Simmons (I’ve been watching “Jersey Shore” on MTV and going to strip clubs all weekend to emotionally/psychically prep m’self. Needless to say, it’s been pretty harrowing.) and throw out some possible deals that could be made, even if our erstwhile coach is playing it coy:

“The key is it’s got to fit into the plan,” D’Antoni said before the Knicks’ 112-91 loss to the T’wolves last night. “It’s got to be right. I think we as an organization, we’re looking all the time, trying to better the team without messing up the long-term plan. It’s a tricky thing to do.

“We’ll keep looking. [Team president] Donnie [Walsh] will keep looking.”

You got that right, Coach. It is tricky. Is it as tricky as realizing that perhaps you should have played more than 6 guys in the 2nd half of a back-to-back, even if it means deviating from the sanctity of your precious 8-man rotation or going to the zone when Jefferson, Love and (shudder) Ryan Freaking Hollins are positively killing the Nix in the low post? Maybe not. But I digress…

Since it’s so durned difficult to make trades, in the spirit of teamwork (I’ve been taking my Teamocil these days), here are a few reasonable and hopefully fair deals to aid our (snicker, chortle) playoff push or upgrade for the future.

TRADE NUMERO UNO
New York trades: Jared Jeffries (SF/PF) and Cuttino Mobley (SG)
Sacramento trades: Kenny Thomas (SF/PF), Sergio Rodriguez (PG),  Hilton Armstrong (C)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yk98edg

Why it’s plausible: Rodriguez is buried behind Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih at PG. Jeffries has been a rumored target of Cowtown’s eye for awhile. They save some serious ducats (Mobley) in exchange for taking on JJ’s last year – hence a net savings – and dump 3 cats who are out of their rotation. The Nix get a young, up-tempo PG and of course, salary-cap savings.

TRADE KET SZAMA
New York trades: Jared Jeffries (SF/PF)
San Antonio trades: Matt Bonner (PF), Michael Finley (SG) Ian Manhinmi (PF/C)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yfdmonf

Why it’s plausible: In the west playoffs, JJ’d be a valuable piece, guarding a variety of players – from Nowitzki to Brandon Roy to Chris Paul. The Nix would agree (nudge, nudge, wink wink) to release Bonner and Finley so that they could re-sign w/San Antonio. The ‘Bockers get a young big/project and (all together now), cap room in 2010.

TRADE ZAHL DREI
New York sends: Jordan Hill (PF), Cuttino Mobley (SG), Wilson Chandler (SF/PF)
Golden State trades: Anthony Randolph (PF), Anthony Morrow (SG), Speedy Claxton (PG) Devean George (SF), Raja Bell (SG)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yztmymk

Why it’s plausible: For whatever reason, Nellie seems down on the Anthony’s (Morrow and Randolph). Chandler’s stock is at an all-time high. Hill can be sold to Golden State of Mind-ers as a reasonable substitute for Randolph and the Nix absolutely steal two pieces and actually save cap-bucks (a million or so).

And finally, just fo’ sh@*%s n’ giggles, a mega-deal (pigs flying not included)…

TRADE ANTALL FIRE
New York sends: Wilson Chandler (SF/PF), David Lee (PF/C), Nate Robinson (Freakshow), Jordan Hill (PF/C), Toney Douglas (PG)
Portland trades: Greg Oden (C), Jerryd Bayless (PG), Rudy Fernandez (SG), Travis Outlaw (SF/PF), Patrick Mills (PG)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yk6tm2y

Why it’s utterly implausible but makes a weird, twisted kinda sense: Hear me out. While Portland would be admitting that they screwed the pooch by taking Oden over Durant, look at their 8-man roation post-trade –

PG Miller/Blake
SG Roy/Robinson
SF Chandler/Webster
PF Aldridge
C Lee

Lee and Aldridge in the high/low post would be great. Robinson returns to the Pacific Northwest and wouldn’t be a PG liability since Roy does a chunk of the ballhandling. Chandler’s a serious upgrade at SF over Batum/Webster. And they get two prospects in Hill and Toney D to boot.  That Blazers team could seriously challenge the Nugs and the Spurs (if not the Lakers) and given the number of picks/overseas assets the team still has, they’d still have the pieces to make a deal if it didn’t work out.

For the D’Antonis, we’d be a little light this year (to say the least), but moving forward, wouldn’t Oden be worth rolling the dice on? If he’s healthy he’s the defensive 5 we haven’t had since Ewing. Bayless is another boom-bust investment and Rudy F. could be Ginobili 2.0. That’s a TON of if’s, but what’s the ceiling of the guys we’re trading? Lee’s great, but not a franchise player or even a Robin to someone’s Batman like Vintage Pippen/Worthy/McHale or these days, Gasol/Pierce. Chandler’s getting better n’ better, but he’s a very poor man’s Shawn Marion. Hill could be a more athletic Kurt Thomas and Douglas might turn into Chris Childs. All nice pieces, for sure. But there isn’t a franchise guy in the bunch. Now take a look at the 2010 roster if these moves pan out:

PG Bayless
SG Fernandez
SF Gallo
PF That guy from Cleveland
C Oden

You bring Jeffries off the bench and fill the rest of the roster w/vet free agents who are jonesing to be part of LeBron’s entourage & Marcus Landry types. If you wanna get really ballsy, you see if Phoenix will dump Nash for expirings + picks. That’s a serious contender right now. It won’t happen, just b/c Portland can’t/won’t bail on Oden. But a girl can dream, right? Whaddaya think Knickerblogger-istas?

System Guys And All Star Games

Over the past few years the change in David Lee’s game has been unmistakable. Since his rookie year he’s nearly doubled his volume scoring, going from 11.0 to 18.9 pts/36. In that course of time Lee’s reputation among the mainstream has changed as well. He’s gone from a garbage man who could only score by put-backs, to a system guy that succeeds only due to the style of play. With Lee up for consideration as an All Star this year, the knock on him is that D’Antoni’s offense is inflating his stats.

And I agree.

You have to take context into view when making these kinds of decisions. Hence why the fans, using their own keen sense of observation, almost voted in Tracy McGrady. T-Mac certainly hasn’t benefited from his coach this year, and in fact the team has gone out of their way to prevent McGrady from being an All Star. When you account for that, McGrady is a shoe to represent the West. Similarly in the East, Iverson had to leave his first team (Memphis) and hook on with Philly to get a starting role to make the All Star team. Anyone good enough for start for the 15-28 Sixers is surely not getting help from their team’s style of play.

But I feel as if there’s still some unfinished work with regards to ridding “system guys” from the All Star team. The league’s premiere system guy, Kobe Bryant, will be making his 12th mid-season appearance. The Lakers’ method of getting some of the league’s best talent makes Bryant look much better than he actually is. They even hired the NBA’s greatest “system coach”, Phil Jackson, who inflates his coaching record by using the league’s best players to win multiple championships.

Another guy that’s getting a free pass is LeBron James. James is leading the league in points per game, but that’s because the Cavs run a system where they let him shoot whenever he wants. James averages 20.1 shots per game, and only one other Cavalier takes more than 8.1. First in the league in field goal attempts per game, is of course the aforementioned Kobe Bryant with 22.9. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that LeBron and Kobe are going to have their stats amplified with that kind of offense.

So I’m with the mainstream on this one. No “system guys” on the All Star team. Sorry Kobe, LeBron, David, you don’t get my vote. Let’s go T-Mac & AI!