KnickerBlogger Turns 5

This week marks the 5th anniversary of KnickerBlogger. When I started this venture, I didn’t imagine it would last this long. Five years ago, blogging was still in its infancy. There were less than 2 million blogs when KnickerBlogger came into existence. Just six months after, the number of blogs had doubled. Today it’s unknown how many blogs there are. One estimate is 200 million. Many of them are powered by individuals like myself.

More important than the number of blogs is the role they perform. Once derided by the mainstream media, just about every newspaper, magazine, and network hosts their own blog. They are now an essential part of the world’s information and entertainment. Blogs fill an important niche in the world. Previously the only avenue for the common man to voice his opinion was through those who held the keys to kingdom. Often his voice was not heard by the public. Blogs have taken the words of the everyman and projected them from the world’s tallest soap box.

Five years ago my goal with KnickerBlogger was to create a platform for those who felt their opinion was not represented in the mainstream. Judging by the other readers who come here to share their thoughts and my affiliation with True Hoop Network that allows me to bring these voices to the mainstream, it seems that I have succeeded. I can only wonder what KnickerBlogger will be in five more years.


To celebrate this anniversary, I’m announcing the KnickerBlogger Quinquennial Team. To assist in this matter, I’ve looked at the overall PER and the single season PER for that period.

Stephon Marbury, PG – As painful as it is to admit, Marbury has dominated the team in many ways during the lifespan of KnickerBlogger. As his career with the team comes nearer to it’s disappointing end, it’s hard to remember that he was a productive scorer early on. He has the highest single season PER (21.9 in 2005) as well as the highest PER (18.4) during the KnickerBlogger era. His defense was mediocre and his contract was suffocating, had the two been reversed he would have been a shoe in for the Hall of Fame.
Reserves: Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Frank Williams.

David Lee, PF – It may shock many to see Lee here, but those that have watched him play aren’t surprised that he’s been the second most productive Knick by PER standards over the last 5 years. Looking at things from a objective standpoint it’s hard to find a more deserving PF. Randolph’s PER is the same and his weaknesses are similar to Lee’s (blocked shots, defense). However, Lee has played 4000 more minutes while costing the team $10M less. After Randolph are Mike Sweetney and Kurt Thomas. Sweetney ate himself out of the league, and Thomas wasn’t nearly as productive on the offensive end. Of all the starters on this list, Lee is the one who is most likely to also appear on KnickerBlogger’s Decennial team as well.
Reserves: Zach Randolph, Kurt Thomas, Mike Sweetney.

Nazr Mohammed, C – Surprised it’s not Curry? Nazr played exactly 81 games for the Knicks in 2 seasons, and would rank 4th in Knicks PER over the KnickerBlogger era. Mohammed was a great offensive rebounder, pulling down 4.0/36 oreb/36. To put that in perspective that’s a higher rate than Lee’s career 3.6. During the Isiah era, Nazr was eventually replaced by Eddy Curry. Comparing the two, Nazr was outscored by Curry (19.2 to 13.7), but Curry did it with almost double the turnovers (3.5 to/36 to 2.0). Additionally Mohammed had nearly double the blocks (1.3 blk/36 to Curry’s 0.7), triple the steals (1.4 stl/36 to 0.4), and more rebounds (10.6 reb/36 to 7.4). With that in mind, it’s clear that Nazr deserves the nod here.
Reserves: Eddy Curry, Dikembe Mutombo.

Van Horn/Renaldo Balkman, SF Keith played only 47 games for New York, but he put up some good numbers while he was here. Van Horn was criticized for being a tweener that had trouble defending, but he rebounded well and scored efficiently. However Van Horn only played 1500 minutes for New York. That’s about as much as Al Harrington. If that’s too little for you, then Balkman is next on the PER list. Considering how PER doesn’t account well for defense, then it makes sense that he was probably unrepresented by his stats.

One note on Keith Van Horn: shortly after Isiah Thomas took over the team, he traded Keith Van Horn. At the time Van Horn was a popular player who had just been acquired that summer, so the trade felt hasty. Since then New York has suffered through instability at the small forward position, something I’ve called “the Curse of Keith Van Horn”. The list of small forwards since the Knicks jettisoned Van Horn: Anfernee Hardaway, DerMarr Johnson, Tim Thomas, Trevor Ariza, Shandon Anderson, Jerome Williams, Matt Barnes, Jalen Rose, Ime Udoka, Qyntel Woods, Jared Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, Renaldo Balkman, and Wilson Chandler. Hopefully the curse will be broken in 2010
Reserves: Tim Thomas, Junk Yard Dog.

Jamal Crawford, SG – The default pick, since there really haven’t been many other shooting guards in recent Knick history. Robinson is the only other one that merits any mention. Crawford can drive Golden State fans crazy for the next few years.
Reserves: Nate Robinson

Lenny Wilkens, Coach – I’d like to choose D’Antoni, but he’s only been around for a half season. Wilkens got the team to the playoffs until they tuned him out a year later. In retrospect that should have signified there was something wrong behind the scenes. In his latter years, Wilkens was an adequate coach, which says a lot about the coaches the Knicks have had over the last 5 years.

Most Minutes 5: Curry, Lee, Richardson, Crawford, Marbury
Least Minutes 5: Trybanski, Randolph Morris, Matt Barnes, Jamison Brewer, Jermaine Jackson

Best Defensive 5: Mutumbo, Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Ariza, Frank Williams
Worst Defensive 5: Curry, Randolph, Jalen Rose, Crawford, Marbury

Drafted 5: Frye, Lee, Balkman, Ariza, Nate
Toughest 5: Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Collins, Robinson, Frank Williams

Best Shooting 5: David Lee, Tim Thomas, Van Horn, Nate, Marbury
Worst Shooting 5: Bruno Sundov, Malik Rose, Balkman, Shanderson, Collins

All Name 5: Cezary Trybanski, Othella Harrington, Qyntel Woods, Anfernee Hardaway, Moochie Norris
Scrappiest 5: David Lee, Jerome Williams, Renaldo Balkman, Jermaine Jackson, Frank Williams

If I had to choose a Starting 5 from this era: Nazr, Lee, Balkman, Robinson, Duhon.
Reserves: Mutombo, Van Horn, Ariza, Sweetney, Frank Williams, Gallinari, Chandler.
Coach: D’Antoni

It’s sad but I think this is the best the Knicks could do combining all the players over the last 5 years. I’ve left Marbury off for obvious reasons. New York would have a tremendous rebounding starting lineup, with enough balance of offense & defense on the bench. If you wanted, you could substitute Randolph or Kurt Thomas for Sweetney. But this being KnickerBlogger, I thought it’d be good to give the guy a second chance. The same goes for Frank Williams, who is playing well enough in the NBDL to get another shot at the NBA. Gallinari & Chandler make the list because of their youth. If this team were looking at a title, then I might choose Tim Thomas and Crawford. But I think this is a .500 team that will need some youth.

Preseason

Although the season is still a month away, the Knicks preseason is almost upon us. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind until the season begins.

The Bubble Boys

With 18 players on the roster, there are definitely some players on the bubble. Let’s assume that Chandler, Crawford, Curry, Duhon, Gallinari, Jeffries, Lee, Marbury, Randolph, Richardson, and Robinson make the team. Jeffries will start the season on the injured list, and let’s assume Gallinari joins him (or ends up in the D-League). That leaves 3 spots on the 12 man roster, and 1 spot on the innactive roster for Collins, Ewing Jr., Grunfeld, Houston, James, Roberson, and Rose. If my math is correct, three of those players are going to be cut.

Of the veterans Rose is likely to make the team outright, and reports have Jerome James playing a lot in practice. With Walsh’s comments about his dislike of buying out players, it’s likely the team will play James or force him to retire due to injury. Mardy Collins’ can defend but do little else, and with Duhon on the roster the Knicks already have a perimeter defender. Meanwhile Allan Houston is pretending he’s 34 years old again, but unfortunately he was out of the league at that point of his career.

Of the youngsters, Roberson’s preseason play earned himself a guaranteed contract. With the trade of Balkman and the injuries to Jeffries and Gallinari, the Knicks are thin at small forward. This could be good news for Ewing Jr. However both players are far from a guaranteed spot, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if both were cut. Dan Grunfeld could probably beat his dad in a one on one game, but probably not anyone else on the roster.

With a new regime, it’s hard to guess what the Knicks will do. My guess is that Rose, James, Roberson, and Ewing Jr. make the cut. They can stash Roberson or Ewing Jr. in the D-League or leave them inactive. But if the Knicks wanted to go young, they might jettison James/Rose for Collins. Or maybe they see the team too offensively heavy at guard (Crawford, Marbury, Robinson) and not enough defense (Duhon) and keep Collins instead of Roberson. Or they might want a smaller lineup and leave Ewing off in lieu of one of the guards. Definitely something Knick fans want to keep track of during the preseason.

The Starting Lineup

It’s obvious that Jamal Crawford will be the starting SG, and you have to think that Quentin Richardson’s familiarity with D’Antoni’s system gives him the edge at SF over the inexperienced Wilson Chandler. At point guard, the team has signed Chris Duhon and coach D’Antoni has been playing him exclusively as the first team point guard. However the Knicks have refused to buy out Stephon Marbury, and the Knicks starting PG of the last four and a half years is still on the roster. For Marbury to get his starting job he just needs to impress his new coach and win over his teammates that he’s alienated over the last few seasons. And President Ahmadinejad might join B’nai B’rith International.

As for the frontcourt, most likely the Knicks will start Zach Randolph, even if only to keep his trade value high. D’Antoni was experimenting with Jared Jeffries at center before Jeffries’ broke his leg, so it looks as if that spot is open for competition.

Ever since Mike D’Antoni was announced as the Knicks’ head coach, pundits have wondered out loud how Eddy Curry would handle the physicality of an up-tempo offense. Curry has been unable to practice due to an illness so you wonder if he’ll get enough practice to be ready by the start of the season. Most likely the Knicks will turn to David Lee to play alongside Randolph.

The Offense

There’s no question that D’Antoni’s offense was successful in Phoenix. The Suns finished either first or second in offensive efficiency in the years he was coach. But the question remains how the 7 second offense will work in New York. D’Antoni won’t have a single All Star to work with, where he had three with the Suns (including a two time MVP). Additionally the Knicks’ offense hasn’t been very good. They’ve only been above average on offense twice since 2000. This makes sense because the Knick offense has been stuck in the 90s with isolations and post scoring emphasis. It’ll be particularly interesting to see how Randolph, Crawford, Curry, and even Marbury responds. The preseason might shed some light on how D’Antoni’s offense will work with average players.

The Youngsters

It seems that during Isiah’s tenure the Knicks youngsters has been stuck behind veterans. Just about every draftee over the last 5 years has had to struggle to earn playing time: David Lee, Wilson Chandler, Renaldo Balkman, Nate Robinson, Randolph Morris, Mardy Collins, Trevor Ariza, Mike Sweetney, and Frank Williams. And it’s not as if New York has had a winning team in that time span.

If the Knicks are rebuilding then it makes sense for the kids to get a lot of run, especially in preseason. Most likely David Lee will win a starting spot, so he should be getting plenty of playing time. I’ll be curious how much playing time Robinson, Chandler, and Collins get, and how they perform inside the Knick offense. It’ll also be nice to get a look at Roberson, Ewing, and Gallinari to gauge their strengths against stronger NBA competition. That is if all these players are on the roster (and in Gallinari’s case healthy).

The Schedule

Oct. 8 Toronto Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ONT 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 10 Philadelphia Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 14 Philadelphia Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 Boston TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 New Jersey IZOD Center, East Rutherford, NJ 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 Boston Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 New Jersey Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.

The Knick Are Tanking, So Let’s Get Tanked

Sorry for the lack of updates, but there seems to be little to write about. I can’t tell you how many columns I’ve started that’s ended in the waste bin. I’m not going to rehash any of the arguments I’ve made 100 times this year. I guess this team has just sucked the creativity out of me, yet again.

So for the time being, I introduce the 2008 Official “The Knick Are Tanking, So Let’s Get Tanked” Drinking Game. The game is designed so that you can somehow get through the rest of the season.

Drink Once:
Zach Randolph takes a two point jumpshot
David Lee rebound
Any opponent takes an uncontested shot from the paint
Knicks turn the ball over
Balkman misses a free throw

Drink Twice:
David Lee makes a jumpshot
Zach Randolph takes a trey
The announcers say anything regarding whether Isiah Thomas is sitting or standing
Balkman blocks a shot
At the end of any quarter if Quentin Richardson is shooting less than 50%
Mardy Collins enters the game
Jamal Crawford shoots from the paint

Drink Thrice:
Malik Rose gets his shot blocked
Nate Robinson gets an assist
Randolph Morris enters the game
Wilson Chandler blocks a shot
Balkman commits a foul
Everytime Jeffries’ point total exceeds a new multiple of 3 (so every 3,6,9,12,etc).

Drink Quice:
At the end of any quarter when the Knicks use an isolation as their last shot
The first time the Knicks are trailing by 10+ points
If you answer the trivia question wrong

Oh and drink responsibly folks.

Ill Will & Growing Pains

The last few Knick games have been markedly different from the rest of the season. Unfortunately it hasn’t been the results that have changes, as New York has lost 8 of their last 9 games. The change has come in terms of the players on the court. With nothing to play for other than pride and ping pong balls, Isiah Thomas has mixed up the rotation.

The most noticeable change is the emergence of first round pick Wilson Chandler. A few weeks ago when asked by the Hawks.com to talk about the Knicks, I made light of Chandler’s lack of playing time. A few days later on March 3rd, Chandler played 20 minutes in a loss against the Hornets, his season high at the time. Two games later he was in the starting lineup, and has averaged 25 minutes a night. Chandler is replacing the ineffective Quentin Richardson. Coming off a promising 2007, Quentin is in the middle of his worst season as a pro. His shooting percentages are the lowest of his career (.420 eFG%, .440 TS%) possibly due to the elbow injury he suffered earlier in the year. Chandler brings something the Knicks sorely need: defense. While Richardson isn’t the Knicks worst defender, he lacks the shot blocking ability of Chandler. Wilson is the Knicks second best per minute shot blocker, behind Renaldo Balkman. Certainly this hostility allows him to live up to the tattoos on his arm proudly proclaiming “Ill Will”.

Most importantly, this move has given their 20 year old first round draft pick some much needed playing time. Until recently it was nearly impossible to judge what kind of player they had in Chandler. It’s difficult to judge a player until he faces NBA talent on a regular basis. If this weren’t true, the draft would be as easy as selecting the best college player. Chandler seems to be developing with the extra burn. He’s making less mental mistakes, and seems to be adjusting to the faster pace of the NBA. I’m not worried about his low shooting percentage, especially since he hasn’t logged 300 minutes on the season yet.

However Chandler isn’t the only youngster that has seen an increase in playing time. David Lee and Nate Robinson have entered the starting lineup, and even Randolph Morris has wondered onto the court. And although I previously mentioned that this hasn’t changed the end results of games, it has made the Knicks a different team to watch. There’s an allure to seeing young players mature on the court and learn from their miscues. I guess it’s easier to cope with a fledging player’s mistakes than a overpaid veterans flaws.

Lee 4:37

“And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.” John 4:37 (KJV)

The Knicks routed a Bobcats team last night that was without Gerald Wallace at the beginning of the game and lost Jason Richardson in the second quarter. The eventual 24 point victory was hardly inevitable. After a depressing first quarter I was preparing myself for the worst. But the Knicks battled hard, then turned the tide in the final four minutes of the second quarter. Sparked by a Jeffries dunk off an assist from Randolph and a Crawford three pointer, the Knicks used an explosive 15-0 run to turn a deficit into a 13 point lead. At the start of the second half, the Knicks went back to the starting rotation and started to falter. The Bobcats used an 8-0 run to get within 8 before David Lee replaced Eddy Curry. When Lee left the game for good at the 6:17 mark of the fourth period, the Knicks led by 29 points. They cruised home from there.

There was a lot to like in this game. The Knicks had 5 1st quarter turnovers, but thereafter protected the ball fairly well, while racking up 25 assist.. Almost everyone got some PT (although Randolph Morris still couldn’t make it off the bench). Every Knick who played scored except for Curry, who made his own highly unusual contribution with two early blocks. We got to see some Wilson Chandler, who loves to shoot, (seven shots in six minutes). We got some Renaldo, who was as fun to watch as ever, and who loves to foul as much as Chandler likes to shoot (5 fouls in 13 minutes). And we got a win, the kind of victory Knicks fans can use right now, lottery balls be damned.

What I liked most, (unsurprisingly, given my longstanding mancrush), was David Lee’s 4:37. He played 29 minutes, had 14 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, 0 turnovers, but scored just 4 points. And despite his low volume of scoring, his +/- for the game was a team high +37. No other Knick was better than +21. On more than one occasion David “Good Things” Lee sparked the team with a quick outlet pass after a rebound that led to a fast break. On another play he ran into the crowd to save a possession.

Lee wasn’t asked to speak to the crowd after the game, didn’t get mentioned in the post game interview, barely got mentioned in the recap, didn’t get quoted, but was clearly the best player on the floor, as his Win Score of 18 indicates. Not that this is surprising. He was the best player on the Knicks last year, and entered the game with the best WP48 this year, the best PER, the best on/off on the team at +8, the best Roland rating, the most Winshares, and the best ORtg. The Knicks have been outscored by 329 points through 57 games, but have been outscored by just 54 points with Lee on the court.

Isiah’s Comments a Relief

It’s 5:30am, and I can’t sleep a wink.

According to the New York Post, Isiah Thomas has stated that he won’t make any trades this year as the deadline approaches. Although the Knick season has been a debacle this year, Thomas’ words come across as a belated Christmas gift to the team’s fans.

Thomas’ first trade as the Knick president was to acquire Stephon Marbury in a trade with the Phoenix Suns. At the time New York was a floundering franchise. Coming off a near championship run, the Knicks were overloaded with awful contracts given to Allan Houston, Howard Eisley, and Shandon Anderson among others. In the Suns deal, Isiah picked up not one but two outrageously bad contracts, Stephon Marbury’s and Anfernee Hardaway’s. Instead of attempting to reduce the Knicks salary cap woes, Thomas added to it.

And as Thomas’ tenure in New York progressed, he continued in that manner. He acquired highly paid players like Marbury, Hardaway, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis, and Zach Randolph. And he overpaid for mediocre players like Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries, Jerome James, Jamal Crawford, Malik Rose, Jerome Williams, and Quentin Richardson. In essence what Isiah Thomas has done is collect a team of untouchables; players that other teams wouldn’t trade for due to the salary cap implications. No one could afford an aging (among other things) Stephon Marbury for $20M. Zach Randolph is owed at least $60M over the next 4 years. Eddy Curry has a player option for $10M in 2009, one he’ll certainly take given that no other team would pay him that much. The Knicks would have to offer incentive for another team to take Quentin Richardson, Jamal Crawford, Jerome James, or Jared Jeffries off their hands.

Much like the team he assembled, Thomas is over matched when competing against the rest of the league. The proof can be seen in Isiah’s trading partners. Phoenix nearly became overnight winners after Thomas freed them of Marbury and Hardaway. Orlando is now an Eastern powerhouse since Steve Francis left. Chicago had success once Isiah took Crawford and Curry off their hands. Toronto is up and coming since Jalen Rose was shipped south. And the newest member of the “Thank You Isiah” club is Portland. The Trailblazers could improve by 10 wins without Zach Randolph.

While Isiah has crushed any optimism for the 2008 season, the only positive thing New Yorkers have at this moment is that their younger players can turn into solid pros. The Knicks only hope is that David Lee, Renaldo Balkman, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, and Randolph Morris will turn into solid pros. But that hope is meaningless if Isiah chooses to trade one of these players, something he has done in the past. Thomas sent 20 year old Trevor Ariza to Orlando in the Steve Francis deal, and he shipped Channing Frye to Portland after just his second NBA season. Ironically both players are doing well this year for a pittance.

So Isiah’s statement “I don’t see us being active at the trade deadline” is a big relief to Knick fans. This season has been a comedy of errors for the Knicks, and if Thomas’ words ring true, there is one less thing to keep Knick fans up at night.

So Far I See Some Progress…

The Knicks played a pair of games this weekend, and came out with a 1-1 split. I figure I’d split my thoughts between the pros and cons…

PROS:

  • First off I was pleasantly surprised to see the Knicks be competitive early and take the lead at times against the defending Eastern Conference Champs on the road. New York had a 5 point lead going into the fourth quarter. Last year they feel behind early so many times, and folded against the league’s better teams.
  • The most drastic change I’ve noticed is in Jamal Crawford. So far on the season, Crawford has hit 16 of 32 shots, and 15 of 16 free throws. Had he given back to back performances like this last season, I would have chalked it up to luck. Whereas in the past he’d use his shake and bake crossover for creating separation on a 20 foot jumper, he’s now using that same move to get closer to the hoop. Not only is this giving him better shots, but he’s also finding his teammates more. Normally I don’t get excited over 50% shooting over 2 games, but I’ve noticed this change in Jamal during the preseason. If he keeps this up, he could crawl his way out of my doghouse and into my five.
  • Nate Robinson is getting good playing time, at least until he tweaked his hamstring half way through Sunday’s match. Robinson is scoring at a phenomenal rate, and lost at least 2 assists to fumbled passes. Robinson showed he’s taken a major step in his maturation with his hard foul on LeBron. James was going in for an easy layup, and Robinson fouled him the proper way – preventing him from scoring while not crossing the line into a flagrant foul. LeBron even acknowledged the foul by slapping hands with Nate after the play.
  • During the offseason, many people wondered if Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry could co-exist. Much like free markets and communism in China, the two supposedly destructive forces are working fine together. As I said earlier, both players are seeing their scoring dip slightly, but otherwise there is no matter/anti-matter explosions. Randolph’s rebounding on the defensive end is a pleasant addition as well.
  • I like the shortened rotation. Take out Balkman’s 40 seconds in game 1, and you have two 8 man rotations. I couldn’t be more thrilled than to see Malik Rose and Jerome James get 2 DNPs. And while I would love to see Wilson Chandler, Randolph Morris, and Mardy Collins more, if the Knicks are a competitive team, they shouldn’t be giving lots of minutes guys that need to develop. In a way if my choices are not seeing those three in order to keep Rose, Jeffries, and James on the bench, I’m all for it. Letting the Knicks’ main rotation get more familiar with each other early is a good tactic for early in the season. Later on they can ease the rest of the team in.

CONS:

  • You can’t like David Lee getting only 25 minutes a night. Lee has played well in the minutes given to him, but no matter what he does it seems he can’t earn more. He definitely compliments the team better than the duo of Curry & Randolph. There have been so many times that Lee gets himself open close to the hoop, and he’s a strong finisher. Lee also showed a new knack for creating his own shot from the low post. And of course he’s one of the best rebounders in the league.
  • The Knicks are awful on defense – especially on the perimeter. Without further inspection it’s hard to pinpoint the exact problem, but I’ve concentrated on Marbury tonight and he’s definitely one of the culprits. His biggest weakness is staying focused on the defensive end. A handful of times tonight he collapsed towards the middle, and lost track of his guy. Unfortunately Marbury’s man would be found by his teammates for an open trey. New York let Cleveland shoot 54.5% from three, and Minnesota 52.9%. Those are awful numbers, and must improve.
  • Despite all the individual progress, the team hasn’t shown much improvement. While I noted Cleveland is the defending Eastern Conference champs, they’re shorthanded, and some people aren’t predicting them to be amongst the league’s best teams this year. Meanwhile Minnesota is practically last year’s Boston team that won 24 games. Yet the Knicks lost to the first, and the latter had the ball with 11 seconds and was only down by three points. With all this improvement you’d expect a tad more from New York. It’ll be interesting to see how they proceed this week with Denver, Orlando, and Miami.