The Dead Zone
For good or bad, the Knicks have had their share of exciting stories this year. Over the summer New York acquired Eddy Curry, a 23 year old center with heart problems. They’ve grabbed one of the best coaches in the game in Larry Brown, and the Knicks have no shortage of young players. For a few months Channing Frye was one of the forerunners in the Rookie of the Year award. Slam Dunk Champion Nate Robinson is the 5-foot-something guard who combines a football player’s mentality with a childish enthusiasm for the game. David Lee, a solid rebounder, had a dunk last week against the Hawks that showed he might be worth more than the average 30th round pick.
Second year player Jackie Butler just turned old enough to buy beer legally and shows plenty of promise for someone that never played a game in college. That Butler has made it into the big show at all is a story of itself, and if he can stick around in this league it would be an incredible achievement. Those that have read the Last Shot know how perfectly aligned everything has to be to make the NBA and how hoop dreams end more like Darryl Flickling’s than Stephon Marbury’s. A similar statement could be said for Qyntel Woods, who is running out of teams to make himself unwelcome on.
The Knicks picked up Jerome James who would give them size in the middle, something they’ve desperately needed since the days of Camby & Ewing. At the small forward spot Quentin Richardson had the most 3 pointers made in 2005, and the recently acquired Jalen Rose is versatile on the offensive end. My least favorite player last year, Jamal Crawford, has shown immense improvement in his weakest area: shot selection. And finally Steve Francis is a 3 time All Star, and his arrival gives the Knicks an odd scoring punch in the backcourt.
So, how can a team with so many interesting stories field such a boring team? There are too many offensive plays where the ball ends up in the stands. Too many times two players end up in the same spot. On defense, when the Knicks aren’t allowing their opponents an easy path to the rim, they’ve giving them a second chance to complete the job. Too often they’re down by 12 in the first, and you know they’re not coming back.
Knick-nation will spend the next 6 months arguing over who is to blame: Isiah Thomas for assembling a roster of overated players, Larry Brown’s inflexibile ways making a bad team the laughing stock in the league, or James Dolan for his emporer’s new clothes act. And while there is plenty of finger wagging to spread around to those three, as far as I’m concerned the onus for the on the court product belongs to the players and more specifically the veterans.
There seems to be a general malaise among the non-rookies. Against Toronto there was one play that sticks out in my mind, a defensive rebound that bounced past Eddy Curry, Jalen Rose, and Steve Francis before ending up in Raptor hands. These were three veterans with a combined 24 years of experience, and none of them knows that if they see a basketball bouncing past them that it’s a good idea to secure it. It’s ironic, because in that same game Nate Robinson went full speed into the scorer’s table chasing the rock, sending a pile of papers into the air in a failed attempt. How is it that a rookie is setting the proper example in putting the extra effort to get another possession? The sloppy play and lack of effort makes the games painful to watch. The 2006 Knicks are like a Steven King novel, they’re a great read but awful when translated into video.