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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The New York Knicks: What Can Brown Do For Them?

NBA training camps are now clearly on the horizon and the off-season is drawing rapidly to an anti-climatic close. Now seems a good time to chime in with a few words about the state of our beloved Knickerbockers heading into the 2005-2006 campaign. For brevity?s sake I?ll try to focus my comments on a few key questions, leaving the rest for another day.

Question 1: What exactly is the plan?

To its credit the Knick?s front office finally began to use the word rebuilding this off-season, and many a die-hard fan has longed to hear it. Unfortunately the Knick brain trust, such that it is, has taken far too long to pass through its ?we?re-one-more-player-away? denial phase since the magical run of 1999 ended on Avery Johnson?s baseline jumper. The subsequent years of delusional decision making have taken their toll. The team has fallen down and lost its way. Though there?s not much reason for optimism Knick fans still have hope, especially now that the team has taken the first step; admitting that it needs to rebuild.

So what?s next, Zeke? The closest thing to a plan coming out of Madison Square Garden has been Isiah?s ?younger and more athletic? mantra; really more a slogan than a discernable strategy. Well the Knicks have?for the most part?managed to lower the age and boost the athleticism during Isiah?s tenure. The Knicks will break camp with at most three players above age 30 (Hardaway, Houston, and Malik Rose), none of whom will be counted on for major contributions.

Youth and athleticism are great to have, but not at the cost of fiscal sanity. That little detail has unfortunately continued to elude the Knick brain trust? such that it is. Fortunately, as John Hollinger notes in a recent N.Y. Sun (paid registration required) article, the 100% luxury tax bracket has forced many teams to go yea verily and overspend no more…

That spend-happy system was workable because, as Cuban put it, ?When I first got to the Mavs, there was no luxury tax, revenues from TV and the league went up every year, as did the salary cap.? [?] But once the previous collective bargaining agreement was passed five years ago, the landscape changed. Thanks to a lockout, a recession, and Michael Jordan’s retirement, the salary cap stopped rising every year. As a result, teams increasingly found themselves hemmed in by long-term contracts they thought would be eroded by the league’s history of salary-cap inflation. [?] One hopes the Knicks can learn a lesson from Dallas. With some help from the tax amnesty rule, the Mavs were able to stay competitive while lightening an onerous salary situation. Likewise, New York could greatly improve its payroll situation. If Houston retires and Isiah Thomas can resist the urge to trade Penny Hardaway or Tim Thomas for an even worse contract [emphasis mine], New York will sidestep the luxury tax in 2006-07.

Certainly, avoiding the tax or even being under the cap provides no guarantee that a franchise will suddenly become a hot free agent destination (Salt Lake City never has been, never will be). And at times, we fantasy GMs (I count myself among them) can be a more than a little unsympathetic to the realities of managing the cap in a market with real risk, where franchise players largely stay put and second tier talent is systematically overvalued. However, as any Knick fan can attest, salary cap hell is a uniquely unpleasant place in the NBA. Escaping it?or at least not extending one?s stay there?has to become a much bigger priority in the front office, or at least more apparent in its actions. When I hear credible rumors about New York?s interest in bloated contracts like Antoine Walker?s and Eric Snow?s I start breaking out in hives.

Question 2: What style will this team play under Brown?

Youth and athleticism is often a euphemism for ?inexperienced? and ?unskilled? unless it translates into scores, stops, boards, and ultimately wins. Conventional wisdom suggests that speeding up the pace can minimize the inexperience and lack of skill that comes hand-in-glove with youth. Certainly, one would expect Ariza, Crawford, Frye, and Robinson to excel in an uptempo game. Presumably, Thomas acquired these athletes precisely to play a running style. But is Larry Brown willing to coach an uptempo style? Well, before dismissing the possibility out of hand consider that Brown, in his plaid-jacketed Denver days, coached a pace far above league average. Of course he had David Thompson, Dan Issel, and Bobby Jones on the roster. But, he also quickened the Clipper?s pace in his second season in LA with Mark Jackson, Ron Harper, and Danny Manning. In fact, Brown?s teams by my count have played at or above league pace 11 times in his 28 NBA seasons. So it?s not inconceivable that Brown could speed this team up to suit its personnel. I certainly wouldn?t get my hopes up though. Only two Brown-coached teams since 1994 (his first season in Indiana) have played at or above league pace.

History suggests that Brown won?t have much of a discernable impact on the offense. Though much ink has been spilled over Stephon Marbury?s impending move to shooting guard the switch may have little or no impact on offensive efficiency if the Knicks don?t find a reliable post scorer that can to the FT line. (Or at least find more minutes for the best post player currently on the roster.) Last season?s Knicks were middle of the pack offensively at right about league average efficiency (103 vs. 103.1 league average). Not much that has happened this off-season suggests to me that the Knicks will exceed +2 or 3 of that output this season.

It is much easier to see where Brown will focus his efforts to improve the defense. And, as the KB points out, it?s a fairly safe bet that he will. Last season?s Knicks continued a pattern of wretched defense that has been the norm since JVG said no mas. They allowed opponents an efficiency score of 106.5 (4th worst in the league). But, this off-season key veterans (i.e., Marbury and Thomas) have at least given public lip service to Brown?s gospel of shutting down dribble penetration and helping on defense. They have made themselves accountable in a way that they have not up until now. In itself that won?t make them good defenders but a prerequisite to good team defense is a team culture that expects players to commit to it. I don?t think it?s unreasonable to project a 3-5 point improvement in defensive efficiency, which should lift the Knicks to the middle of the pack. If the Knicks can stay around league average offensively and improve to league average defensively they will challenge to win the Atlantic. (Why this is the sad but true state of the Atlantic Division is for another blog entry on another day.)

Question 3: Can Marbury and Brown survive?

I don?t anticipate as much trouble as many. The two have made their quid pro quo fairly public, and both are savvy enough not to have done that unless they really want things to work out. So a big part of me thinks both are committed to making the relationship work. Marbury will retain his freedom in the offense under Brown, perhaps by moving to the shooting guard. Irrespective of whether that happens officially Brown has been very clear that he wants Steph to score. For Steph?s part he has essentially promised to commit do what Brown asks of him by saying that Brown made him better during the Olympics. Whether this is mere lip service on Steph?s part remains to be seen but Larry Brown is probably the first coach in his career with the power to hold him accountable. There?s almost no way the public and the press will take Marbury?s side in a dispute about his defensive intensity. I suspect the rubber will meet the road early in the season on a night when Steph is playing with high effort defensively, getting lit up, but also not scoring because Brown wants him to set up his teammates. The Knicks lose by 3 points. How both react will go a long way toward determining what their relationship can be.

In truth, I predict a much rockier relationship between Brown and Jamal Crawford should Crawford remain in New York. Would it surprise anyone if Houston and Ariza split minutes at the SG ahead of Crawford? It will be difficult for Crawford if he finds himself out of the rotation. His game hasn?t matured much since he entered the league. He offers nothing defensively, and despite his obvious talent he?s not an especially good offensive player. I see Brown wanting to re-make Crawford?s game along the lines of Richard Hamilton; coming off picks, less ball-handling, fewer threes. I?ve read nothing at this point to suggest that Crawford isn?t already thinking about the next stop now that Nate Robinson has signed and Houston remains on the roster.

31 comments on “The New York Knicks: What Can Brown Do For Them?

  1. McDaddy11

    1.Plan should be to get rid of Tim Thomas and Penny.They should try to get draft picks, or maybe one guy with big contract. But one thing is sure they should get rid of those guys, I like Penny he was my idol back in days, but that time is finished he is not the same player he was, and I like Knicks more, business is business. With Tim Thomas should be much easier, he is not that good and wasnt ever, although I like big guys shooting threes, he is not tuff, and I hate that. I think it will be easier to trade him. The only thing I hope they dont trade him or Penny for Antoine Walker, cause I am sure he will not fit there in Miami into their system, and they will try to trade him for almost anything. I beg I.Thomas not to get Walker. To be 100% honest, my only wish for next 5-6 years is not to get A.Walker. Please Mr.Thomas do not sign ANTOINE WALKER, I will write it again, DONT SIGN ANTOINE WALKER, please, please, please, please, please. Its better to keep Penny and Tim, then to have guy like Walker, thats sure.
    2.I think and hope Brown will bring defense and team work in town. And I think he will make some changes in his coaching style, dont think he will slow down their style to the point they will score 82 points a night, but there will be no more 110 nights, or nights where they are down by 35 points and they score over 90 points.
    The thing I hope he will bring here is team play, he was always talkin about playing the right way, everyone will have to sacrifice for the benefits of the team. Of course there is question, does he have the guys for that, are they ready to do that? I think they are, they have seen what he did with Pistons, and Philly. There will be nights when they will lose cause of a team play, but the final reward will be winning season and playoffs with some chances of doing something there. And then they will find out that playing the right way is actually good. Last few seasons one open shot missed and everything went down, one bad pass everything went down, they lost games because of one bad play that started the avalanche of 10 bad plays. I dont thing stuff like that can happen now.
    Defense, thats where LB makes the difference, and with more young and athletic I hope he can make it.
    3.Not only that I think Starbury can suurvive, he will develop his game to the superstardom, where he belongs, and I think he will finally get it that leadership is not 23ppg and 8a per night. He can and should play defense, he is strong guy, from what I ve heard from some Croatian players who actually played against him, he is strong as a bull. Problems betwen him and LB stayed in Greece, and they can move forward. More problems with LB will J.Crawford have, he is out of control type of player, and thats the thing that LB cant stand. Iverson has same problems, but he is playing outstanding defense, and he plays his every game like it is last, so LB was tolerating that. Crawford isnt playing any defense, and his offense is terrible, too many bad shots, dribles, this is not streetball. I hope LB can help him with his , cause it is obvious he has some skills. Maybe he can become needed help from bench.
    I am pretty optimistic about new season, like every season, I cant help myself, love those Knicks.
    sorry for bad english

  2. Kurt

    It’s going to be an interesting test to see just how big a diference a coach can make on teams of questionable defense this season. While there are certainly good defensive players, can a coach create both an energetic focus and an atmosphere of team defense? Will that last through a season? That is Larry’s reputation, but I’m interested to see it in practice. If Larry can do that the Knicks certainly become a playoff team.

  3. Kelly Dwyer

    It’s going to be an interesting February, because there will be a few teams looking to get something for expiring contracts, but how many teams have bum players that they’re trying to dump? Carter and Baron Davis have been traded, Cuban isn’t taking on bad deals anymore, and it looks as if Ainge wants to make the playoffs with Pierce again.

    And yet we have the Knicks (Penny, Thomas), Dallas (KVH), Chicago (Davis), Orlando (Cato, Christie), Clippers (Cassell — ok, bad joke), maybe Houston with Spoon; and then Philly the next year with Mashburn and MaCulloch’s old deal.

    Now that teams have stopped maxing-out disgruntled players who didn’t really want to be there in the first place (like Carter and Davis’ iffy relationships, pre-deal, with their teams), where’s the bait?

    Isiah may get a lot of heat for riding the year out with Thomas and Penny on the roster, but that’s a lot better than shipping them out for a Desmond Mason or a Darius Miles.

  4. Ted

    I have a lot of faith that Larry Brown can get this team playing properly, even if that doesn?t equal wins right away. With a deep roster he?ll be able to sit a player with whom he?s unhappy and there?ll be someone else who?ll do what Brown wants without much drop off in ability. It?s possible that how many games the Knicks win this year depends on how far down the depth chart LB has to go to find players who?ll do what he asks. If Marbury and some other question marks lead the way things will clearly be a lot less painful. Impact from the rooks and a breakout year from Sweets, Crawford, and/or Ariza would also be huge.

    I agree that Crawford is a big question mark. He?s never shown any dicipline: is he a product of his environments, or a bum? People can talk about shipping him out of town, but you have to find a team that?s willing to take on an underacheiving player with a big contract.

    I?m also interested to see if Tim Thomas gets his act together in his contract year.

    You have to hope that while all he?s said publically is younger and more athletic there?s a little more going on in Isiah?s head in terms of how these pieces complement each other. And if most of them play to their abilities I see them as fitting together quite well. Will they play to their abilities? Well, given Isiah?s history evaluating talent in the draft and developing a young core in Indy and Larry?s history winning everywhere he?s been, there?s certainly a chance.

    Kelly: How about KG? Minny?s not going to up and move a franchise player in the truest sense in his prime unless it has absolutely no other choice, but if they don?t win will he want out and if so can/will he force a trade?

  5. McDaddy11

    If anyone of you had a chance to watch yesterdays game between Croatia and Lithuania, you could see best team basketball ever. Although I am from Croatia and I wanted a win for our team, justice was served, better team won. And it would be nice if I.Thomas could sign Lavrinovic brothers, or R.Siskauskas, specially him, he can play three positions, and he doesnt look athletic but he is, he is playin defense, and he can score a lot. I think that Greg Popovic will find something, will I.Thomas????

  6. Division Winner?

    The last time the knicks went out, they drafted the absolutely immortal Frederick Weiss. Of course, the next pick to the Chicago Bulls was Ron “Straight Jacket” Artest. You can say all you want about the man, but Artest is a defensive stud. Imagine a starting lineup of nate robinson, stephon, artest, sweet stuff, and james/frye.

  7. Nathan

    That’s not too great a lineup. Center is a glaring, awful hole. Defensively, they’re a mess inside. They would have trouble shooting the three. You couldn’t count on Artest being there. That team would be at best an eight seed.

  8. Division Winner?

    Because the knicks dont have artest(who by the way would have been a great fit for New York in the same mold sprewell was), a realistic rotation must be set for the 2005-06 knickerbockers.I think the LB will move stephon to the two sooner rather than later, and nate robinson will be starting by January 1st. Crawford will fall out of favor fast, and Tim Thomas will be traded. That leaves us with Nate, Stephon, Q, Sweetney, and James. Coming off the bench will be Ariza, Taylor,Lee, and Crawford as the pg. Frye is a toss-up at this point. He didnt show much in the summer games. As it looks right now the knicks were forced to make this pick with their current size issues. Frye was the only legitimate big man on the board but might eventually turn out to be a bust.

  9. Ted

    The last time the Knicks “went out” would be Slavko Vranes. But yes the Knicks could have taken Artest or “gone out” and gotten AK-47 instead of Weis then “went out” for Manu instead of JR Koch, and they could have used their three first rounders to move up in ?96 and get Kobe or Jermaine O?Neal or at least “went out” and gotten Z………and they could have never traded Ewing….and never signed Houston…..now if only I had a time machine.

    Is Jerome James really a sure thing starter? To take the tip maybe. Last year he was the only true center on his team and still got less minutes than Reggie Evans, Nick Collison, and Danny Fortson (sounds a bit like Sweetney, Frye, Lee, Malik Rose, and Mo Taylor, no).

    Frye might not be ready to play right away, but unless he?s a total stiff he should find himself in Larry Brown?s good graces at some point because of his attitude, work ethic, and team-first play, and in Steph?s because of his pick-and-roll ability.

    I love the guy, I just want to point out that Nate Robinson was a 2 guard in college. Can he really run an NBA team full-time as a rookie? If Crawford doesn?t improve his game and more so his attitude I think Q at the 2 is more likely than Nate getting starter?s minutes.

  10. McDaddy11

    but how do you come up with guys like Frederic Weiss or even worse Slavko Vranes? Who is scouting for them? Those guys suck big time here,where game is slower, there was no chance for them to play nba style.

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  12. Frustrated Knicks Fan

    All of this discussion is silly, ultimately. What we Knicks fans really want is a championship, and one will *never* *ever* happen without a change in ownership and/or senior management. Simply put, the Dolans have proven thus far to be the worst sports franchise owners this side of Donald Sterling, except that unlike Sterling, they have run two franchises (the Knicks and Rangers) into the ground instead of one. Can you name a team with bad ownership that won it all? Marge Schott with the Reds, perhaps, but the examples are few and far between. And at least Marge Schott had the good sense to hire sensible baseball men. Here, the Knicks have entrusted their fortunes to Isiah Thomas, a man who did nothing with the Raptors and sublimely talented Pacers and ran an entire league into the ground! Where do I send my resume?!? He has made us a laughingstock, proving once again that charisma and a winning smile do not a championship-caliber GM make. At least whathisname Scott Layden from Utah had a pedigree of success in running a basketball shop before taking Knick money. And Layden certainly appeared hamstrung by on-high directives not to rebuild, when his instinct from Jazz days was to do just that.

    I’m a lifelong Knicks fan, but I’m also from Brooklyn. When the Nets touch down and claim the borough, I’ll have a choice to make: do I show loyalties to a mismatched team of underachievers with clueless management, or do I end my masochistic ways with the Knick circus and root for a talented and exciting cast with genius braintrust in the heart of my beloved Brooklyn? If there are any Dolan flunkies reading this, you know that this question will not be answered in your favor unless radical action is taken. To be blunt, do the right thing and sell the team. If you can’t see your way clear, hire a GM with brains and moxie who can rebuild in three years and create a juggernaught, just like Danny Ainge is in the process of doing in Boston. And there are good prospective GMs out there, even in the bloggersphere. You could right the ship by hiring Knickerblogger as GM, or by hiring me (tjp-knicks@yahoo.com).

    Sincerely,

    A Frustrated Knicks Fan

  13. KD

    I’m a frustrated Bulls fan who is somehow having a hard time convincing a Bulls board that Stephon Marbury (frustrating though he may be) had a better season than Kurt Thomas last year.

    Because, once a player ceases to be a Knick, to these people, he becomes a Hall of Famer.

  14. Nick Cips

    Curry was traded for Tim Thomas, Jermaine Jackson, and Sweet-N-Low.

    I will now proceed to throw myself down a set of stairs. A long set of stairs.

    I want to cry.

  15. Nick Cips

    Curry to the Knicks for Tim Thomas, Jermaine Jackson, and Sweetney. Isaiah went there. There might be some draft picks or something, I don’t know, the more I type the sadder I feel.

    I want to cry on the outside. There is no god.

    I shall now proceed to throw myself down a flight of stairs. A long flight of stairs.

  16. Frustrated Knicks Fan

    I would hope that draft picks will be coming our way. After all, the medical risk is being incurred by the Knicks, who were alone in their willingness to take on a potential heart attack. I mean, Isiah’s not stupid, right? Someone, anyone, help me here. Did we just get owned again?

  17. Frustrated Knicks Fan

    You know those bracelets that say “WWJD”, as in “What would Jesus do?”? These bracelets are used by some Christians to help their spiritual weakness in moments of temptation, when the question can help stiffen resolve and allow the wearer to overcome the urge to sin. Well, we Knicks fans ought to get Isiah a bracelet with the initials “WWJWD”, as in “What would Jerry West do?” Isiah could be fielding calls from rival GM’s looking for a big score, and could perhaps look down at the bracelet before trading his roster for a handful of magic beans. It’s worth a shot, right? Noting else is working, so why not?

    I mean, it’s not enough that the Bulls stuck it to us annually with Whiner Jordan and Big Chief Triangle. Now, a generation later, they’re doing it to us again with Paxson outmaneuvering Thomas. Insults aside, Curry is a big lug who can’t run and plays indifferent D. Doncha think that Larry Brown might have problems with a player like Curry, especially when the rest of the Knicks are looking to run? Now, where did I put my Nets season ticket application?

  18. Nick Cips

    Ok, maybe the flight of stairs post was a bit of a “natural reaction without much thinking” move by me. In Curry, we’re getting a capable offensive player; his PPG have risen every year, he was 5th in the league in FG% last year, and his contract is up after the season, because to my knowledge he wasn’t signed to a newer deal lately (unless I’m wrong). Of course there’s the heart thing, but God willing that won’t be a problem.

    We’re losing Tim Thomas who was less that productive, and Sweetney, who shall be sorely missed. Also, this means we’ll have a logjam at center, with Jumaine, Curry, and Frye splitting minutes, or, worse, with Frye being shafted.

    After sitting down and not really looking at this move in any clearer light than i did before, and doing the exact minimum amount of research necessary to do anything, I deem this move…a bad move. So there. I hear the flight of stairs calling.

  19. Young T

    I think its good news, although I would like to see the full details. TT was next to useless, Sweetney was a solid player. Frye looks more like a PF anyway, so I would say at centre you now have James and Curry splitting minutes, which gives you scoring (and not much else) in Curry and rebounding and blocking in James. All in all, that means the Knicks are as good as anyone at centre in the Eastern Conference (bar the Heat of course).

    At PF we have Frye, Taylor and Rose, which is serviceable, at SF we have Richardson, Ariza, at guard we got Marbury, Crawford, Robinson, Houston (?).

    I think we have the talent now, its mainly a matter of working out the best rotation and I think we have a coach who is pretty good at doing that.

  20. Young T

    Sweetney really wasn’t that good, he was solid if unspectacular.

    Curry has loads more talent, I think that is undeniable. Obviously there is the risk that he could drop dead at any moment though. Talent-wise, we just got a huge upgrade.

  21. JLP

    Curry averaged 16.1 PPG last year, he’s only 23 years old, and he can score down low, which is something that the Knicks desperately needed. Provided Curry’s health holds up, I think this is a good short-term solution to filling the hole at the 5. We lose a declining Tim Thomas and ease the glut at guard by getting rid of the journeyman Jackson. Of course I’d rather have Sweetney than Davis, but I guess you can’t have something for nothing. As long as Isaiah doesn’t ink any huge multi-year contracts without stealing and testing some of Curry’s DNA first, this is a good trade.

  22. PDaddy

    Well, here’s a few more details. Curry’s getting a new contract as part of the deal (it was a sign-and-trade). No details yet, but it’s believed to be worth as much as $60mil over 6yrs with incentives. The Knicks are going to release Antonio Davis, and he’s going to re-sign with the Bulls. The Knicks are also sending a 1st and at least 1 2nd round pick to the Bulls (one newspaper says 1 pick, the other says 2).

  23. buzz girl

    This season it?s going to be a coaching challenge and success of Browns career. This season the Knicks have come satiated to prove that they are building and heading toward a title or to mark the beginning of a painful season, which will finally make Knicks management realize the need to start over and rebuild.
    Read more about sports at: Sports Buzz

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  25. Matt

    Hi Knick fans,
    I have a question does anyone have any links to some old rosters. I need the 94, 95 and 96 season with player numbers. I have a basketball signed by a good amount of the team I can make out Bo Kimble, Anthony Mason, Herb Williams, John Starks, Hubert Davis, Rolando Blackman, Charles Smith, Eric Anderson and Tony Campbell but there are a few I dont know one is #24. Also I am not sure of the year. I have a family member who was friends with one of the coaches. But I need the money so I have to sell it. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks Matt

  26. Cips

    Here Matt:
    That’s probably a 1994 ball, since Anderson and Campbell were on the team then.

    Also, #24 is Bill Bradley’s number. His number is retired.

    If you want the full roster, go to basketball-reference.com and go under Teams, Knicks, and all the rosters are there.

    Hope that helps Matt.

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