Catch Me If I Fall

20,000 miles to an oasis
20,000 years will i burn
20,000 chances i wasted
Waiting for the moment to turn

— “Texarkana”
R.E.M.

I don’t think I can say anything about last night’s loss that won’t be said in any of the New York newspapers. I’ll keep it short and say they had plenty of chances to win, and the game should not have gone into overtime. Kenny Thomas hit a lucky three point shot to tie the game. If the fact that it banked in hard off the glass doesn’t convince you, then consider his three point stats.

Year	Team	G	Min 	3PM	3PA	3P%	PPG
 1999	HOU	72	25.0 	0.4	1.7	26.2	8.3
 2000	HOU	74	24.6 	0.3	1.2	27.2	7.1
 2001	HOU	72	34.5 	0	0.2	0	14.1
 2002	HOU	20	29.3 	0	0	0	9.8
 2002	PHI	46	30.3 	0	0	0	10.2
 2003	PHI	57	35.0 	0	0.1	0	12.3
 Career		341	29.5 	0.2	0.7	24.4	10.3

That’s right, he’s a career 24% shooter from beyond the arc, and hasn’t attempted more than 0.2/G in more than 4 years. Obviously someone figured out he wasn’t effective from that far & made him stop shooting treys a few years ago.

Watching the game (at least the first 47:59.6 minutes of it) I kept thinking about two things. I was alternately saying to myself “Wow they look pretty deep” and “Calm down, they look good because they are playing Philly without their two best players.”

The Knicks are a deeper team now than they were in the beginning of the year. Back in October, the only depth we had was PF (McDyess, Thomas, Harrington, Spoon, Lampe, Van Horn and Sweetney). You could argue that we had 3 PGs, but I think you’re giving Eisley too much credit. We’re certainly deeper at the bigger spots. Nazr Mohammed and Vin Baker are our centers, and don’t forget Dekembe Mutombo. Kurt Thomas also can play the 5, as had Sweetney versus albeit a very small Celtics lineup. At PF we have Thomas, Sweetney, and now little used Othella Harrington. Vin Baker can play there as well, as can Tim Thomas for small stretches.

Small forward is adequately covered with Thomas, Hardaway, and Anderson. Even if Marbury didn’t play the mega-minutes that he routinely does, we would be deep at PG with backups Frank Williams, Mochie Norris, and Penny Hardaway. With Allan Houston back, shooting guard is covered along with Anderson and DeMarr Johnson.

Isaiah Thomas has done a commendable job putting together a team, as opposed to the collection of players he inherited. The Knicks still have their weaknesses, but at least Lenny Wilkens has options on who to play instead of trying to figure out how he’s going to fit 7 power forwards in the game.

62

The Knicks have not signed Vin Baker (yet), and the Knicks don’t play again until Friday. I don’t have a comment (yet) on Kurt Thomas, so what else is there to talk about?

WARNING: This column has little to nothing to do about the Knicks or basketball stats.

All I have to say about this, is I have both T-Mac and Gilbert Arenas on my fantasy squad. In case you don’t know just yet, they’ve combined for 102 points last night. Don’t email me with kudos just yet, because I’m still in last place.

As of this post there is nothing up at Orlando Magic Fan yet, but I’m sure there will be something there in a bit. I found them by putting Orando Magic Blog into a Yahoo! search. Of course it was the first site to come up. I decided to put New York Knicks Blog into a Yahoo! search to see where this lowly site ranks. I’m not even in the top 100. Not that there’s anything wrong with Michael Avallone’s Knicks’ Clicks (which I highly recommend), but if anyone has any advice to get me higher in their rankings, I would be most interested to hear about it.

One thing about the number 62, is that for a long time it was one of the holy grails of baseball stats. Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961, to break the great Babe Ruth’s record by one. Home run number 62 would be another record breaking shot. Everyone knows that McGwire hit #62 back in 1998. I’m sure we all remember something or another about that game, whether it was the ball barely clearing the fense, Sammy Sosa being on hand, or McGwire lifting his kid up in celebration.

The ironic part of this story is that a few people predicted Big Mac hitting #62, and they did so 11 years before! Yes back in 1987, an arcade version of RBI baseball was released. It was similar to the NES version, but instead of having the best teams of ’86 & ’87 it had the best players of all time on 10 teams. For example, the Yankees consisted of Ruth, Mantle, and Mattingly, while Boston had Williams, Yaz, and Boggs.

Oakland had McGwire, who had just come off his rookie season where he hit 49 home runs. In an effort to stay timeless, they made projections on some players. Canseco stats would read 54 homers, while Cards slugger Jack Clark had 41. Neither would ever hit that many home runs in a single season. However McGwire’s blast a decade later would make them look like mind readers, since the programmers decided to give him 62 home runs.

Sure if they had real psychic power, they could have put him in a Cards uniform with 70 dingers. Despite that, it’s probably one of the better prediction jobs I’ve seen, and it wasn’t done by some baseball experts, but rather video game programmers.

Illadelph

Aiyyo I’m all the way way, Phil Phil-lay-lay
People wanna see the way the Illadel play
Yo, look in the mirror, watch what yourself say

— “Dynamite”
The Roots

In our continuing saga, Nazr Mohammed stays out of foul (4) trouble to play 40 minutes. For those without a calculator (or any semblance of math skills), his average last night of 4.8 PF/48min is much lower than his season average (5.8). It could have been even lower except he picked up a foul on a weak call on a loose ball. The Sixer defender (Dalembert?) was falling on the ground without control of the ball, and Nazr just took a swipe at it. If I recall correctly, that was his third foul, and he came out of the game. The last time Nazr played 40 minutes was on January 21, 2002, more than two years ago. It was his third 40+ minute game in a 4 game span. In those 4 games, he averaged 19 points and 17 rebounds.

Othella Harrington and Kurt both were in foul trouble. ‘Thella had 5 fouls in 14 minutes. That’s an average of 17PF in 48min! He scored a grand total of 0 points. His days as the backup PF are numbered. You can see that Wilkens is trying to get Sweetney more minutes, because he would love to have Sweetney as the primary backup. It’s just that the rookie out of Georgetown isn’t ready yet. Wilkens even tried to start Sweetney, but that was a disaster.

The case against Othella Harrington being around much longer keeps growing. Consider:

  • He makes stupid fouls, and the Knicks already have enough big guys to send them into the penalty every quarter.
  • Their most prized rookie (Sweetney) plays the same position.
  • Isaiah Thomas is trying to make the team younger, and Harrington is 30.
  • Vin Baker might sign with the Knicks.
  • Rasheed Wallace has said he would like to sign with the Knicks.
  • Next year will be the last year of his contract.

I doubt he’ll be wearing a Knick uniform next year. His $3.15 million dollar expiring contract will be attractive to a team looking for a little cap space.

One more thing: don’t miss tomorrow’s column, with a special post for the Friday game against Toronto.

Miss Cleo or KnickerBlogger?

you can’t tell the future in a cookie
but do you ever get the hint?
and you can place your hand on a crystal ball
do you ever think you’ll win?

— “Tales From Tomorrow”
Pulsars

Today Lenny Wilkens proclaimed (for the second time) that Nazr Mohammed will be the Knicks starting center. I’m glad I predicted in my last column that he would be the Knicks starter. Of the numerous articles I’ve read, none have mentioned the one problem that keeps Nazr from being the Knicks’ starter: his foul trouble. Here’s a quick recap of Nazr’s Knick history:

2/20 – His first game as a Knick, Mohammed backs up Mutombo. Nazr plays 17 minutes, but commits 4 fouls. He only scores 2 points, but has 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.

2/22 – Again the backup, Nazr only plays 12 minutes, and again he gets 6 rebounds.

2/24 – Wilkens decides to make Mohammed the starter (for the first time). He plays well for 33 minutes, scoring 15 points, and grabbing 8 rebounds. He stays out of foul trouble, with only 2 PFs.

2/25 – Nazr starts again. This is the game Tim Thomas hurts his elbow, and the Knicks are shorthanded. Mohammed’s time is limited to 17 minutes due to 4 fouls.

2/27 – Unhappy with Mohammed’s foul trouble, and fed up with Mutombo’s inability to cover his own man, Wilkens plays Kurt Thomas at center, and Harrington at PF. Nazr plays well of the bench for 23 minutes, with 12 rebounds and 5 points (and only 2 fouls). Harrington shows he’s not the answer as the starting PF.

2/29 – Wilkens continues with his Kurt Thomas at center (again) experiment, but this time Sweetney starts at PF. The rookie gets into foul trouble quickly in the first quarter, and the PF/C minutes are split between Harrington (8), Mutombo (14), and Nazr (17). Nazr is a non-factor with only 2 points and 2 rebounds.

3/03 – Mohammed to start at home against the Sixers.

In his 6 games, Mohammed has had 2 good games, 2 games where he’s had foul trouble, and 2 non-factor games due to not enough minutes. If being in foul trouble in 2 out of 4 or 6 games seems to be a lot, it’s because it is. His average this year of 5.8PF/48min is below his career average of 6.1. In case you think this might be inflated due to his limited minutes (small sample size), when he started 73 games in ’01, he averaged 5.6. Keith Van Horn who was criticized for committing dumb fouls, only had 4.6FP/48min. Across the river, Jason Collins (5.2) and Kenyon Martin (4.8) foul less than Mohammed. The Knicks have a problem in this area, since Sweetney (6.0) and Harrington (7.3) are also foul prone. Only Deke stays out of trouble with 4.5PF/48min. I guess arguing with the refs on every play pays off for Mt. Mutombo.

At this moment, the only thing stopping Nazr Mohammed from being the Knicks starting center is himself. I think even if Nazr can’t stay on the court, he’ll still start, since the Knicks don’t have any options in this area. I’ll be shocked if Mutombo or Harrington starts again (unless players get injured). If Sweetney develops into a solid contributor, then Wilkens might be pushed into putting him into the starting role, and moving Kurt to center. However I don’t think that will happen this year.

Mohammed would be smart to make a name for himself now, before Vin Baker comes to town. If he?s plays well and becomes entrenched as the starter, it will be harder for Baker to take that spot away. That’s the only legitimate threat Mohammed has, other than the officials.