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Saturday, September 20, 2014

What I’m Thankful For in Knickland

The world’s great religions teach us that gratitude is an important spiritual discipline. Feeling thankful, and furthermore acknowledging thanks, makes us better people. Much like exercise, gratitude probably does the most for us when we work hard at it and do it consistently. My wife has been posting one thing she’s grateful for everyday on Facebook during the Thanksgiving season. Although I’m not that disciplined, I’m trying to be better.

I wonder if I can list five things to be grateful for about these Knicks? Mind you, I started typing this without really having thought of them yet. I want to avoid a laundry list (I’m thankful for Toney Douglas, and Gallo, and Lee, and Nate…). I also want to avoid being Pollyanna about this God awful, frustrating team. So, without further procrastination, here we go. Here’s what I’m thankful for about the 2009-2010 Knicks.

1. The Journey — At my most optimistic I think of the current Knicks as the 2nd act of a three act drama. We are hopefully nearing the end of Act II, with Act III scheduled to start this summer. What we don’t know yet is whether the third act will turn out to be an American action flick, where the hero finally slays the monster, or a European drama where everyone just suffers until they run out of film. Although I don’t know how this is going to turn out, it’s going to be interesting to see what the summer brings–and that’s worthy of some gratitude. But being grateful for the journey is hard. I have to work at this when I see Wilson Chandler taking jumper after jumper, when I think about having no first round pick, and when I see Chris Duhon seemingly unable to play his way off the floor.

2. Passing — The Knicks have stretches where they really move themselves and move the ball very well. During those all-too-brief moments they can be a real joy to watch.

3. Mike D’Antoni — I have never been the biggest D’Antoni fan. I felt like he cried the “they don’t love me blues” a bit too hard on his way out of Phoenix. He’s also done some things so far this season that have left me scratching my head; for starters an almost slavish devotion the Chris friggin’ Duhon. But, I’m being grateful here so let me change my tone. Even D’Antoni’s worst detractors would acknowledge that the guy wins with decent talent, and he isn’t afraid to be unorthodox. If Walsh puts some players on this team next season D’Antoni will get 50+ wins out of them, almost guaranteed. (I still wish he’d hire a “defensive coordinator” though.)

4. Fiscal Responsibility — Ditto Donnie Walsh. I’ve never been the biggest fan. I’m not completely sold on his eye for young talent, and long-term that’s what keeps you from tanking. Nevertheless, Walsh was hired to cut up the credit cards and lock up the checkbook in order to give the franchise a shot to change its fate this summer. Well, that’s what he’s done. LeBron may or may not be on his way to make it all better, but either way the Knicks are almost out of salary cap hell. And that has taken some discipline that we haven’t seen from the front office for a long, long time.

5. Likability — These Knicks are fairly easy to cheer for even though they’re not very talented. If you have the misfortune of loving a team that isn’t very talented you at least want likable players. When Nate Robinson, who is just childish but hardly a bad guy, is the team’s biggest “character” problem things could be a whole lot worse.

27 comments on “What I’m Thankful For in Knickland

  1. zulu

    Lets face it, Knicks are unlikely to attract top talent this summer, so they have to focus on finding talent in unlikely places. I really want to see Knicks try to pursue Raymon Felton this summer. He feels like a very solid player who could address our point guard needs. He plays on a flawed team, which may win more games, but is actually more hopeless than the Knicks.

    Trying to steal one of the Portland youngsters should be on top of the list as well. Bayless, Outlaw, Fernandez, Batum, one of these guys is going to end up very unhappy in Portland.

    Also, instead of Rudy Gay, why not try to get Marc Gasol from Memphis. He will be entering the last year of his 3 year deal with Memphis. I doubt that Memphis is his favorite location in the United States. I have no idea what we would send in return.

    I think it is time to start thinking about what the team needs to get better not what we as fans would like to see on the floor (Lebron, Wade, Bosh). The most glaring needs are a solid point guard, perimeter defense, and shot blocking.

  2. tastycakes

    I’m thankful for a comfortable life that allows me to obsess pointlessly over an epically, tragically terrible team. Entertainment comes in many forms.

  3. Peter87

    “…a European drama where everyone just suffers until they run out of film”

    LOL You shouldn’t be a sports commentator, you should be a film critic!

  4. Z

    The only thing I can think of to be thankful for in Knickland right now is Knickerblogger and the good Knick fans who contribute to it.

    Without it, I would probably be a Laker fan by now…

  5. big_fella

    I agree with all of your points, particularly 3 and 4. I, too, worry that Donnie Walsh’s poor drafting skills might have really screwed us. And while I still trust Walsh more in the FA market than I do in the draft, last summer’s offers to Kidd and Hill were alarming.

    Zulu makes an interesting point about using next year’s cap room to continue working on building a strong supporting cast, while still staying a little below the cap. That way, when Curry and Jeffries come off the books, we can try to make our splash the following summer – or via trade before then.

  6. David Crockett

    Sorry about just getting back. For some reason I couldn’t bring up the site this afternoon.

    Anywho… hope everyone got enough food, because if you didn’t it would kinda defeat the whole purpose of the harvest-based holiday.

    Although I was trying to stick most closely to the Knicks, what I’m most thankful for is loving wife who lets me obsess over sports.

  7. Ted Nelson

    “I’m not completely sold on his eye for young talent, and long-term that’s what keeps you from tanking.”

    I find this a little odd. In Indy he assembled a young team through the draft (Reggie, Dale and Antonio Davis, Rik Smits) and then as it matured he sold off the pieces at their peak values (Jalen Rose, Dale Davis, Antonio Davis) and reassembled a young contender (JO, Artest, Brad Miller, Harrington, etc.). So far Danilo, Hill, Douglas, and Landry all look intriguing. His draft record has to be one of the best in the NBA.

    “Even D’Antoni’s worst detractors would acknowledge that the guy wins with decent talent, and he isn’t afraid to be unorthodox. If Walsh puts some players on this team next season D’Antoni will get 50+ wins out of them, almost guaranteed.”

    Come on, what coach doesn’t win with talent? I don’t think it’s that he’s not afraid to be unorthodox. He’s just got his own system, and he is deathly afraid of deviating from it.

  8. Ted Nelson

    That list actually isn’t all that accurate, Jon, since it doesn’t account for draft day trades (Foster, Bender, and Tinsley are the guys who come to mind who he drafted that way). A few of those guys were traded before ever playing on the Pacers in return for a good player (Piatkowski–for Mark Jackson, Dampier–for Chris Mullin, Cummings–for Jeff Foster). A lot of them were 2nd rounders (and managing to pull Antonio Davis, Hoiberg, and James Jones out of 12 2nd rounders isn’t bad… Isiah’s second round record is roughly: Jimmy King, Trevor Ariza, and Demetris Nichols… 1 steal and 2 nobodies).

    I don’t know what you define as a dud, but there aren’t too many (any?) total busts relative to where they were picked on Walsh’s 20 year list. Scott Haskin was probably the biggest bust: he was picked in a weak draft class and I think he had injury problems. Bender was a huge bust in some regards, but came straight out of HS and also had injury problems right when he was starting to become a viable NBA player. Someone like Travis Best wasn’t a steal, but he was as good or better than Wilson Chandler (another #23 pick) has been to date.

    I also don’t know when Donnie handed the reigns over to Bird or to what extent, and Isiah is credited with the Fred Jones decision.

    I agree that Isiah is a great drafter, you know, when he doesn’t trade away his picks. I don’t think Walsh is great, but good. Over that long a period anyone is going to have some misses. His picks have largely been solid (someone like Croshere might not be a flashy #12 pick, but he logged a lot of NBA minutes over a pretty long career), and more impressively he’s built two separate contending cores with young talent (including young guys he traded for like JO, Artest, Brad Miller…). Isiah picked some steals, but never managed to turn it into a winning team in either Toronto or New York.

  9. Ted Nelson

    Isiah also tarnished his draft reputation in NY. His biggest blunders were trading away picks and overpaying bad veterans, but even with the picks Isiah actually used he didn’t do a great job (I’ll look at players taken within 5 picks, guys who should have at least been on his radar with that pick):

    Ariza–right pick, total steal

    Frye–should have taken Bynum
    Nate–very good pick, I’d say the right one. Jack, Garcia, and Maxiell were among next 5.
    Lee–great pick. no one in next 5, but Ersan and Turiaf were 6 and 7 later. Passed on Monta Ellis and Louis Williams.

    Balkman–should have picked Rondo, or at least Lowry
    Mardy–as bad as Mardy is, no one taken in the next 5 is any good either (Solomon Jones did kill the Knicks the other night…). Craig Smith went 7 later, passed on Millsap, Gibson, and Powe.

    Chandler–should have taken Rudy Fernandez or Aaron Brooks… Tiago Splitter is better than WC, if he ever comes over here.
    Nichols–should have taken Ramon Sessions

    So even after all the boneheaded moves Isiah made, if he had batted 1.000 with the picks he actually used the Knicks could have a rotation of:
    Rondo, Rudy, Ariza, Lee, Bynum with Nate, Sessions, and maybe a Craig Smith or Solomon Jones off the bench.
    Might not be a championship contender, but that’s a decent rotation. Looks solid on both sides of the ball to me. I would guess easily an Eastern Conference playoff team.

  10. jon abbey

    I still think about Bynum and Rondo, two key starters on the last two title teams, both at positions we’ve had major voids at for what seems like forever. SO FRUSTRATING.

    really we should have a committee of 10 or so Knickerblogger posters take over all personnel decisions for the team.

  11. d-mar

    Ted and Jon: you guys make interesting arguments pro and con regarding Isaih’s and Walsh’s draft record, but let’s face it, when you get to the late 1st round, early 2nd round, it truly is a crapshoot. It’s hard to criticize GM’s who miss out on players like Parker, Ginobili, Sessions, Rondo, etc. and more recently, Jennings. No one really knows at the time how good (or bad) these draftees are going to be in the NBA. I know it’s a GM’s job to seek out “diamonds in the rough”, and that’s what scouts are for, but I really think a large part of it just boils down to being lucky.

    (On another note, the Knicks version of Black Friday is beginning a 4 game stretch against Denver, Orlando, Phoenix and Orlando again. At least getting blown out by those teams won’t be as much of a disgrace as that Kings debacle on Wed.)

  12. tastycakes

    The Jennings thing is pretty interesting to watch. The kid is being anointed as the next Iverson on ESPN today. Isn’t some of this premature? Without the 55 point game, is he clearly that much better than Tyreke Evans? (I mean, he might be, I haven’t been watching).

    But yeah, we whiffed on him along with 9 other teams, and if he really is as good as advertised, we’ll regret it for a long time. There clearly is a lot of luck involved — so many teams miss on good-to-great quality NBA players every year.

    I just want us to catch a frickin’ break.

  13. danvt

    What I’m thankful for.

    Now that we’re in the season of giving I thought I’d spread the love around.

    I’m thankful for Larry Hughes and his 38+ minutes and 2-11 shooting night against the C’s. Hey, he fought through a screen or two and did the little things which kept us from losing by 50. You know, we really don’t need a former scoring champ on the roster when we have this kind of potency at the two position.

    I’m thankful for Donnie Walsh, our fine young energetic, not at all burnt out GM. Sure, he passed on Jennings who’s going to be ROY at the position of single greatest need for the team, but, hey, it takes a lot of luck to find talent and it really all is just a crap shoot anyway. I enjoy his candor in saying, “I really didn’t know much about him.” Way to go Donnie. Executive of the year anyone?

    I’m thankful for the new svelt Eddy Curry. He really seems to have the eye of the tiger now! This time he means business. He’s scowling, angry, calling for the ball, complaining to the refs…
    Awesome, Eddy. Don’t worry about the flagrant foul push in the back that enabled the Celtics to tie the game. Even if it did make you look like, well, a big baby. Great to have you back! You have two years to play your way into shape for your next team.

    I’m thankful for coach D’Antoni. The team really seems to be playing chess out there.

    But most of all I’m thankful for Isaiah Thomas, and his gifts that keep giving. Bon Chance, amigo. Good luck molding young minds in the college ranks. You are a born teacher! Spread the good word far and wide.

    Happy Holiday’s everyone,
    d

  14. Z-man

    In his last 3 games Jennings has shot 18-54. Jennings himself said that the league is adjusting to him by playing him more physically. I expect that he will adjust back, but it remains to be seen whether he can hold up physically.

  15. Robert Silverman

    Look, take ANY GM in the league and do a “do-over” w/his (or in the future, her) draft picks over a 3-4 year period and you can always cherry-pick a better roster. It’s fun to think what coulda been, but really it’s not an effective/realistic way of rating a talent evaluator.

    But, to continue the air of bonhomie, I’m thankful for Il Gallo and his increasingly coxcomb-esque hairdo (that’s gotta be an intentional styling-based pun, right?), the statistical probability that Duhon will improve in the days and weeks to come, Nate Robinson (because he’s the only guy in the league that I can literally see eye to eye with), my faith in Coach Mike, and all y’all at Knickerblogger who continue to educate your humble correspondent in advanced statistical analysis.

  16. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    Danvt,

    re: “You know, we really don’t need a former scoring champ on the roster when we have this kind of potency at the two position.”

    Although I spoke favorably about the potential Iverson signing at first, let’s not confuse volume scoring with efficient scoring. When a player plays 40 mpg and hoists up shots like he’s playing a pick-up game at the local park, it’s not hard to score many points per game. So let’s not get all crazy about scoring champs.

  17. danvt

    “But, to continue the air of bonhomie, I’m thankful for Il Gallo and his increasingly coxcomb-esque hairdo (that’s gotta be an intentional styling-based pun, right?)”

    You’re the best Bobby! (It’s Dan from BR, btw). Please don’t start drinking again over this team, they’re not worth it.

    “Although I spoke favorably about the potential Iverson signing at first, let’s not confuse volume scoring with efficient scoring.”

    Dude, it’s unbelievable to me that I would be in favor of signing AI. However, I’ve literally never rooted for (or maybe even seen) a team this bad. They are getting pummeled by really bad teams. They literally have almost no chance every night. Anything that can make them better without salary implications for next year is OK by me, especially since they have NO FIRST ROUND PICK. Actually, I like this quote…

    “I think it is time to start thinking about what the team needs to get better not what we as fans would like to see on the floor (Lebron, Wade, Bosh). The most glaring needs are a solid point guard, perimeter defense, and shot blocking.”

    I mean, really, let’s look at players. Maybe we could get Von Wafer. I have a huge crush on him and it doesn’t look like he made the Rockets. Let’s get some upside in here and jettison Hughes and Harrington at least. Just cut them. They’re demoralized and in it for themselves. They’re playing like inveterate gamblers risking it all on a lucky shot. They figure this is their last chance at stardom (or maybe even to make a roster) and they’re just chucking. Get rid of them, all of them, JEFFRIES, DUHON, ROBINSON, CURRY! Anyone who has no future with the team and knows it. Maybe you can actually get something good for Gallo (I’m sorry but he got played by Omri Casspi). Guys from the D League will at least hustle and might suprise us. The only thing the vets on this team are doing is keeping us within 15 in the second quarter. I’d gladly hand that responsibility over to Douglas and Hill.

    “In his last 3 games Jennings has shot 18-54. Jennings himself said that the league is adjusting to him by playing him more physically. I expect that he will adjust back, but it remains to be seen whether he can hold up physically.”

    Well, Jordan Hill has that going for him, he will hold up physically playing only ten minutes every other game. No Joba rules necessary there.

  18. daJudge

    I’m happy that time travels only in one direction, but that I can clearly remember the past. I’m happy that the Knick’s strategy will lead to a new world next year. Word. I’m happy that I still enjoy watching the Knicks, cracking an IPA and playing 9 ball in my basement with my wife. I’m happy about this blog and the smart dudes that are crazy as I am about the Knicks. Our day will come.

  19. Ted Nelson

    tastycakes and Z-Man,

    First, I think Jennings looks better than Iverson, who was always an inefficient scorer as a young player.

    Based on their performances to date I would say Jennings is clearly better than Evans (http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=evansty01&y1=2010&p2=jennibr01&y2=2010). He’s been a more efficient scorer on a significantly higher volume and a better playmaker. Of course, they’ve both only played 400+ minutes in the NBA and are both 20. There’s no way to say who will be better at, say, 24. After one full season (or even a few) no one would have dared to say Steve Nash would have a better NBA career than Stephon Marbury, for example. These guys haven’t finished even one season, and they’re not terribly far apart so far.

    Evans has a good physical package, but he’s a lousy PG and an inefficient scorer (picked it up a bit lately). Jennings has a much better outside shot, and they are nearly equivalent from “close” so far. They both get to the line well, Evans more though. Despite his size advantage over Jennings, Evans has barely been a better rebounder. I would call Jennings the better defender (opponent PER of 10.8 vs. 18.4… and he plays on a much better defensive team: 5th vs. 25th). I would not call Evans a “complete package.” He could become that, but he’s got work to do.

  20. Ted Nelson

    Robert Silverman,

    Our comments have come in context. I agree that every drafter is going to make some mistakes. I was just saying that Walsh might not be much worse a drafter than Isiah, if at all.

    I absolutely do think you have to look at who was on the board when you evaluate someone’s drafting. If there’s no one on the board you can trade your pick, but if you use your pick you are choosing from among the available players and, therefore, should be judged based on who you choose from among that group. I would say it’s a little unreasonable to fault someone drafting in the top 5 for passing on someone like Manu or Ben Wallace who lasted into the 50s or went undrafted. If you take a bust but the next 20 picks were all busts too I find it more excusable than drafting Darko over Melo, Bosh, and Wade. Joe Dumars has made up for that blunder with other smart moves, but a lot of GMs establish a pattern of bad calls and missed opportunities.

    In the Isiah case I think it’s fair to say he should have taken Bynum, Rondo, and Rudy. Isiah considered Bynum and took a lesser player (Frye is shooting the lights out and I’m happy for him, but he’s still a piss poor defender and so erratic from season to season…). Isiah was admittedly impatient–he came out and said he would have taken Bynum but wanted an immediate contributor–a strategic mistake which marked his tenure as Knicks’ GM/President/Coach/Pimp/etc.
    The Knicks needed a PG when Rondo fell into their laps (they took one a few picks later…), they might have taken Marcus Williams but also could have taken Lowry or Farmar and ended up with a better player than Duhon or Balkman. They ended up drafting a defensive specialist, and Rondo is probably the best defensive PG in the NBA. The pick wouldn’t have been a stretch.
    Chandler, like Balkman, was an arrogant, thumb my nose at the establishment, I am smarter than everyone else pick by Isiah. I doubt Isiah even scouted in Europe, yet he passed Rudy for Wilson… who, like Balkman, most likely would have been sitting there later in the draft.

  21. Z-man

    “Based on their performances to date I would say Jennings is clearly better than Evans”

    Jennings went 3 for 11 tonight, making him 21 for 65 in his last 4 games.

    Seems like lately, Evans is getting better and Jennings is getting worse. Not to read too much into this, but I think it’s a bit early to be projecting that Jennings is, or will be better than Evans, not to mention a sure HOFer.

  22. Ted Nelson

    To date… I went way out of my way to say that they’re both 20 with under 1/5 or a season under their belts. Beno Udrih has been as good as or better than Evans running that offense, so it’s hard to say anything after 15 games… Through 15 games, though, Jennings has been better than Evans.

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