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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Top 25 Favorite Knicks of the Modern Era: #4-3

We continue our look at who you voted for as your top 25 favorite Knicks of the Modern Era (1979-present, also known as the “Three-Point Era,” as that is when the three-pointer was adopted by the NBA)! Every weekday we will reveal two more Knicks until we reach #1! Click here for a master list of all Knicks revealed so far!

Enjoy!

4. Latrell Sprewell

Latrell Sprewell was coming off perhaps the best year of his career (1996-97, which was even better than 1993-94 when he was named to the All-NBA First Team), including his third All-Star appearance when he had trouble with his coach at the beginning of the 1997-98 season. They had a significant difference of opinion. You see, his coach, PJ Carlisomo, felt that PJ’s neck looked good as it was, while Latrell felt that his neck would look better with Latrell’s hands gripped around it. Honest mistake. Due to this rather minor infraction/assault, Latrell missed the vast majority of the 1997-98 season due to a suspension. As you might imagine, the Warriors did not want to keep Sprewell on the team for the next season, so they looked for a team to trade for him. Great offers were not exactly pouring in, and they eventually agreed on Chris Mills, John Starks and Terry Cummings from the New York Knicks.

Sprewell started the first game of the season at small forward, played terribly in two Knick losses then promptly got injured and missed the next 13 games of the season. When he returned, he was used off of the bench. He became a very valuable member of the team, though, and he and Allan Houston teamed up to give the Knicks a formidable scoring duo as the Knicks surprised the NBA by going all the way to the NBA Finals.

Sprewell as a Knick was a bit of an enigma – his highest TS% as a Knick in his five seasons with the team was a dismal .515. He was under .500 twice! And yet he contributed in other categories, including being a standout defensive wing. He had over 4 defensive win shares twice in his tenure as a Knick (4 is a lot)! So he was a good player and a valuable member of the team. Also, “Spree” was a very popular member of the team (as you can see from his high ranking on this list).

You would not believe how often the discussion of whether the Knicks should start Latrell and Allan Houston at the 1 and 2 took place. It was discussed seemingly endlessly, particularly in the 2000-01 season when the Knicks acquired small forward Glen Rice (the idea of starting all three wings must have seemed appealing to a lot of people). Sprewell made one All-Star team with the Knicks in that aforementioned 2000-01 season.

Eventually, the Knicks traded Sprewell for Keith Van Horn (who they then dumped way too soon for Tim Thomas). Sprewell had a decent first year for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but totally overestimated his worth when he turned down a three-year/$21 million extension (with the now classic “I have a family to feed!” line) which he regretted when he had a terrible second year in Minnesota. Not finding any good enough offers from other teams, Sprewell was finished with the NBA at 34 years of age (oddly enough, both Houston and Sprewell were out of the league before the age of 35 – that’s kind of depressing).

In his five seasons with the Knicks, Latrell Sprewell produced 36.3 win shares. For more of his stats, check out his profile at Basketball Reference!

3. John Starks

It’s really amazing how the Knicks had the Sixth Man of the Year in 1995 and 1997 and both men were remarkable stories of perseverance in the face of adversity. Like the 1995 Sixth Man of the Year, Anthony Mason, John Starks had a long and strange journey to becoming a star in the NBA.

I could go into detail on Starks’ sojourn to the NBA, but A. You all know most of the beats already and B. I went into great detail already here. So just read that for the full story!

Starks was a back-up on the 1990-91 Knicks, but it was the arrival of Pat Riley in 1991-92 that saw Starks make the leap to an important part of the Knick rotation. By 1992-93, Starks had cracked the starting lineup, although he ended up splitting time with Rolando Blackman among the starters, with Pat Riley choosing to use Sparks more as a spark off of the bench. During the 1993 NBA Playoffs, Starks had the most famous slam dunk in Knick history (and one of the most famous dunks period) when he dunked over Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant in a playoff game against the Chicago Bulls that helped seal a Knick victory.

In 1993-94, Starks missed a chunk of time toward the end of the season, but not before making his first (and only) All-Star team – one of three Knicks to make the Eastern Conference All-Star team in 1994! Starks had a strong playoffs in 1994, although he is most likely going to be best remembered for his terrible game in Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals.

1994-95 was a good season for Starks, as he stayed healthy and in the starting lineup for most of the season. In 1995-96, new coach Don Nelson started to play back-up shooting guard Hubert Davis more than Starks, which was odd as Starks was having one of his better seasons.

In 1996-97, with the addition of big-ticket free agent Allan Houston to be the new shooting guard for the Knicks, Starks stepped into a back-up role and embraced it fully, having one of his best seasons of his career and winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award.

In 1997-98, he had a bit of a lackluster season and in the offseason was dealt to the Golden State Warriors in a trade for Latrell Sprewell. He didn’t exactly the set the world on fire in Golden State, and was dealt the next season to Chicago.

He then joined the Utah Jazz where the 35-year-old Starks saw his last great gasp of relevance when he started most of the season for a good Jazz team that was a bit of a geriatric team led by 37-year-old Karl Malone, 38-year-old John Stockton, 34-year-old Danny Manning, 30-year-old Byron Russell, 36-year-old Olden Polynice and a few “young” folks in 27-year-old Donyell Marshall, 27-year-old Greg Ostertag and 25-year-old Jacque Vaughn.

His next season with the Jazz, he was pretty awful (he did not even make the playoff roster for the Jazz) and he retired. Still, a thirteen-season career for a guy who wasn’t even drafted (back when the NBA Draft had 1,304 rounds!) is pretty darned impressive.

In his eight seasons with the Knicks, John Starks produced 44.3 win shares (good for fifth-most in the 3-Point Era). For more of his stats, check out his profile at Basketball Reference!

25 comments on “Top 25 Favorite Knicks of the Modern Era: #4-3

  1. Caleb

    From a cold-eyed scout’s perspective – I don’t think he ever got over his knee injury in 1993-94. After that he drifted to being mostly, then strictly, a jump-shooter. Epitomized by the infamous Game 7. I mean – if he had all his hops, don’t you think he would have gone to the basket a few more times instead of bombing away?

    So he spent the rest of the season taking jumpers and never really went back to the slashing game that had him dunking on HoGrant’s head.

    I know there are players who fall in love with a jump shot for whatever reason, but with Starks it seemed to happen right at the time of his injury, so I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

    Luckily he had great court savvy – I think he led NBA two-guards in assists, at least once – and always played hard, so was still a pretty good player. But when an average shooter relies so much on the 3, it’s not good news. I’ve always wondered what might have been…

  2. Spree8nyk8

    The unfortunate thing for Starks was that his Championship attempt in game 6 was partially blocked. I believe in all my heart that he was going to nail that shot. He was on fire in the fourth quarter and put the team on his back. He probably comes a finger tip away from bringing home the trophy and instead gets a very undeserving goat tag because of that game 7. At one point in the 4th of game 6 I remember Marv Albert saying something to the effect of “in the 4th quarter it’s John Starks with 16 and Houston with 14″.

  3. Droidz1979

    Not related to the topic but just wanna share this piece on the adjustment that the Knicks did to the Heat D that averted a supposed to be blow-out:

    http://nbaplaybook.com/2010/12/29/knicks-adjust-their-offense-stay-competitive-with-the-heat/

    Nice to know that its not a free-wheeling offense like most people want hype D’Antoni’s system is and not just about Nash. Oh, and his team can play D too. Just need a deeper talent team that would fit best to the system.

  4. TDM

    Loved watching Spree play. The guy was a lightning rod for choking PJ, but I believe in second chances and he was a fairly good citizen in NY. That game against the Clips where he went 9 for 9 from 3pt range was incredible.

    Off-topic: Minnesota is apparently interested in AR, but only wants to give up Telfair. Not a chance, but got me thinking about 3 team trades after Washington showed some interest in trading Blatche or McGee (they have since backed off on trading McGee, but I’d still try to get him over Blatche).

    Wolves get AR
    Bullets get DWTDD and Bill Walker (or Shawne Williams)
    Knicks get JaVale McGee and Telfair

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=3azglfs

  5. rama

    Spree8nyk8: The unfortunate thing for Starks was that his Championship attempt in game 6 was partially blocked.I believe in all my heart that he was going to nail that shot.He was on fire in the fourth quarter and put the team on his back.He probably comes a finger tip away from bringing home the trophy and instead gets a very undeserving goat tag because of that game 7.At one point in the 4th of game 6 I remember Marv Albert saying something to the effect of “in the 4th quarter it’s John Starks with 16 and Houston with 14?.  

    Totally agree, Spree! That shot was going in. You know it was, he was so damn hot. Hakeem just got the slightest piece of it…and the rest is history.

    I blame Game 7 more on Riley; it’s his job to use his players well, and as a shooter (and a guy who just was red hot a game earlier), it wasn’t Starks’ job not to shoot.

  6. tastycakes

    I also believe that Starks shot was going in.
    Man, how different our collective psyche would be if we had just one championship in the last 30 years!

  7. tastycakes

    Watched that entire recap video, pretty thrilling stuff. I love how the one Charles Smith highlight is him losing the ball out of bounds.. ha!

    I agree it’s completely unfair for Starks to be remembered for his failure in Game 7, and I doubt too many of us diehards think of him that way.

    Similarly, Ewing gets nailed for the missed finger roll, or underperforming against Hakeem (one of the greatest ever) in the 94 series, but we wouldn’t have been anywhere near the Finals without him. And without Jordan in the league, we probably would have won a championship or two. Alas.

  8. rama

    tastycakes: Similarly, Ewing gets nailed for the missed finger roll, or underperforming against Hakeem (one of the greatest ever) in the 94 series, but we wouldn’t have been anywhere near the Finals without him.  

    Yeah, but that finger roll may have been my absolute low-point as a Knick fan.

    Until this whole last decade, anyway.

  9. Z

    Spree was an intriguing personality. I liked watching him play, but I liked listening to him talk more. He was a very smart, well spoken, candid person in interviews, which was the opposite of his gang-banging image. It made me really love him, even though he really wasn’t a great ball player as a Knick.

    One thing I wished he did, though, was comb out the corn rows and play a few games with a five inch Afro.

  10. BigBlueAL

    One thing about Spree, when the Knicks faced elimination he always stepped it up. He scored 35 in his great duel with Duncan when the Spurs won the title, scored 32 the next year when Indiana eliminated the Knicks and 29 when the Raptors shocked the Knicks in 2001.

    Also in Game 7 vs the Heat in 2000 he lead the Knicks with 24. But to me his best series ever for the Knicks was when they swept the Raptors in 2000 and Spree outplayed Vince Carter including hitting the game winner over him in Game 2. Still, neither Spree or Starks were better than Houston but I already ranted about that in the #6-5 thread :-)

  11. latke

    Off topic, but doesn’t this Garnett injury, if it ends up putting him out for a while, give the knicks a shot at winning the Atlantic Division?

  12. BigBlueAL

    latke: Off topic, but doesn’t this Garnett injury, if it ends up putting him out for a while, give the knicks a shot at winning the Atlantic Division?  

    Unfortunately the answer to that question would be a huge hell no. Knicks are 6 1/2 back right now and considering their upcoming schedule they will be losing alot more ground than gaining in the next month I assume. Good part is that with Indiana playing bad again and all the teams fighting for the 8th seed with horrible records Knicks should be a lock regardless to finish no worse than the 6th seed which should give them a fighting chance in the 1st round.

  13. Frank

    Also sort of off-topic — but now that we are almost halfway into the season, at what point do we look at David Lee and say that much of his success was being part of this system? Our previous golden boy did miss about 9 games with a tooth in his arm, but every single number (except a tiny increase in assist rate and a sizeable increase in TO-R) is well down from last year. TS of 51.4. Ouch, that is Mardy Collins territory. I would chalk it up to his elbow but his pre- and post-WC chomping are about the same.

    Oh wait – according to the late Ted Nelson, changing teams and systems has no effect on player performance. (sorry, couldn’t resist).

  14. Z-man

    Al,
    Pretty telling that the Celts went 6-2 w/o Rondo until Garnett goes down. I would guess if we lost both Felton and Amar’e we wouldn’t do so well!

  15. Caleb

    @15 DL was a great player for five straight years under Larry Brown, IT and D’Antoni. He put up a 65.2 TS% and a career-high rebound rate for Isiah. I’d guess that he’s just in a slump. He’s always been a bit of a slow starter.

    I do think he’s going to be underutilized in Golden State as long as the backcourt is Curry & Ellis – as we know DL is a great passer and he’s not going to get the touches.

  16. Caleb

    p.s. Just venting here.. but does anyone think the Wolves rumor is coming from someone in NY? It’s so ludicrous that it has to be a floater from the Minnesota side, right?

  17. Brian Cronin

    As to Lee, it is pretty clear that they rushed him back from the injury. Did you see him in the games following his return? I saw one against Miami and it was absurd, there was no way that guy was healthy enough to be on a court. The injury took away all strength from his arm. In the Miami game, he went to the basket and Lebron just nonchalantly took the ball away from him – there was zero power to his move. I mean, we’ve all seen the injury, right? There’s a literal hole in his elbow!

    I understand Golden State really needing a big man back, but they have this guy signed long term, so it is ridiculous to me that they would bring him back before he was ready to return. I think a lot of the problem came from how weird the injury was – it’s hard to explain why a guy would miss so much time just for getting a tooth stuck in his elbow, so I think that partially explains why they brought him back too soon. Also, I guess they figured Lee at 66% was better than what they had.

    He’s been playing better the last few games (and unsurprisingly, Golden State has been winning more games, 3-1 in their last 4), so I imagine by the end of the year we’ll see something better resembling his years on the Knicks as the injury heals. If you haven’t seen the picture of his elbow, I don’t recommend looking at it, as it is gross, but it is worth looking at to properly assess the extent of his injury.

  18. Frank

    Caleb: p.s. Just venting here.. but does anyone think the Wolves rumor is coming from someone in NY? It’s so ludicrous that it has to be a floater from the Minnesota side, right?  

    That is a totally ridiculous rumor, definitely agree with you. Telfair for AR? That would have been a bad trade even back when Telfair was thought to possibly be good! AR for Rubio, now we’re talking.

  19. Z-man

    BTW, when it was rumored that the Knicks might have interest in Monta this past summer, I wondered aloud whether he might be a good fit for us, but was met here with a mostly negative take on him. Meanwhile, the guy is just killing it on offense. Does anyone still think he is not worth $11 million per? PS David Lee said he’s the best player he’s ever played with, although that’s not saying much.

  20. Brian Cronin

    BTW, when it was rumored that the Knicks might have interest in Monta this past summer, I wondered aloud whether he might be a good fit for us, but was met here with a mostly negative take on him. Meanwhile, the guy is just killing it on offense. Does anyone still think he is not worth $11 million per? PS David Lee said he’s the best player he’s ever played with, although that’s not saying much.

    I’m still not a big Monta Ellis fan. Too much of his value to me is wrapped up in the fact that his TS% had reached over 55% for the first time in three years. If he keeps it over that, then yeah, he’s definitely a valuable player, but do you really have faith in him doing that? If your answer is yes, then fair enough, he’s a good player.

    As for Lee’s statement, wow, I think he’s correct, Ellis is the best player he’s played with. That really does say a lot about the guys Lee has played with over his career.

  21. Caleb

    Ellis has had a weird career – two really good years, surrounding a few mediocre ones. And he’s only 25…

    If he keeps doing what he’s doing, though, $10-11 million sounds about right. Dude can score!

  22. rama

    Frank – I agree with Caleb and Brian on DLee. I did see that pic of his elbow. But since there was no risk of further injury (just to his stats), I don’t have an issue with GS bringing him back early. I do think he’ll be his usual self in another month or so.

    I was again Ellis, but a lot of that had to do with his attitude. He seems to have put that aside this year…so yes, for $11mil, bring him on! Maybe we can trade AR for him. (Kidding! I’m no David Kahn…))

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