New Addition to the Knicks “Pay To Not Play” Auxiliary

According to the New York Daily News, Isiah Thomas and Jalen Rose are working out a buyout of the remaining one year/$16 million left on Rose’s contract.

This will now make it a staggering $52 million that the Knicks will owe on the salary cap this year for five players who will not play for the Knicks this year (Allan Houston, Jerome Williams, Shandon Anderson and Maurice Taylor are the other four…you can stretch it to 6 players and $58 million if you want to argue that Malik Rose is essentially paid to not play as well).

However, seeing as how this money is already spent, I think it probably does make more sense to cut Rose loose than to keep him around. Unlike Malik, Jalen Rose likely would not be a good influence on the younger players, and like Malik, he wasn’t going to play any significant minutes, so if this can free up a roster spot for another player, then that’s okay by me.

What’s intriguing about this the most to me is who is the Knicks back-up small forward until Jeffries comes back? Is it Renaldo Balkman? Or David Lee?

Or will we see Jamal Crawford at the 3 in a three-guard lineup?

All Things Considered, I’d Rather Have the Green Hornet

In all seriousness, the Knicks picked up Kelvin Cato today, as was rumored (well, the Cato part wasn’t rumored, but the “Knicks were not going to sign any of the four players they brought in for the last spot, but were going to sign a veteran center instead” thing was rumored).

The move sounds just like a placeholder, and I doubt Cato would get much more time than Jerome James was going to get (which my hope was, not a lot), but to be honest, while he’s 32 and coming off an injury-plagued year (which was also the worst season, PER-wise, of his career), I don’t think Cato could be worse than James, and he does offer a lot more size than the guys who got cut, as he’s 6-11, 275 pounds.

Here are his PERs for his career:

1997-98 – 13.49
1999 – 14.81
1999-00 – 16.04
2000-01 – 13.26
2001-02 – 14.42
2002-03 – 15.61
2003-04 – 13.34
2004-05 – 14.91
2005-06 – 7.72

His Rebound Rate for the past few years (not counting last year’s short season – although it was quite high in the few games he played) is quite good, better on the whole than James’.

19.8 in 02-03, 16.0 in 03-04 and 15.3 in 04-05.

Those are pretty good numbers, and certainly an improvement on Curry.

Also, for his career, he averages 1.3 blocks (and his career average in minutes is only 20), so that’s a nice wrinkle to have on defense.

But, again, he’s another year older and coming off an injury, so I don’t think the Knicks will expect much more than a few minutes of decent defense and good rebounding, which I think definitely does have a place on this current Knick squad.

The Ten Commandments of Preseason Basketball

I mentioned these in the comments section, but once I got the link, I figured it was worth its own post. Dave at Blazer’s Edge (which is a very cool blog) came up with these a month or so ago, and I think they are just excellent. Here’s a little taste:

1 THOU SHALT NOT believe anything you read in glowing reports about returning players until thou hast seen it demonstrated with thine own eyes during the regular season…repeatedly. Everybody is talented in the off-season.

2 THOU SHALT NOT put any stock whatsoever in any team’s pre-season record or what it might indicate.

3 THOU SHALT NOT clamor for a player who gets 22 minutes a game in pre-season (for purposes of evaluation and giving the veterans a rest) to get that same 22 minutes once the regular season starts.

Read the Ten Commandments of Preseason Basketball at Blazer’s Edge.

Zeke vs….Greg Anthony?!?

Marty Burns had a great bit today at CNN/SI about Isiah Thomas going off on Greg Anthony today about Anthony’s comments regarding the Balkman pick on draft night.

Don’t get me wrong, I sympathize with Zeke in the sense that I, too, thought Anthony was way off base (I think I even mentioned it here at the time), in that, whether the Balkman pick was good or not, Anthony wasn’t giving the pick enough thought, choosing instead to just make knee-jerk comments that amounted to “I never heard of the guy, so he must be bad.”

Therefore, I was okay with him saying “This so-called former Knick, on draft night with millions of people watching, had the audacity to take me to task on a player that I’m pretty sure he had never seen before in his life, But he stands on national television and talks about a kid he has absolutely no idea about. I’m just glad that all of New York doesn’t think like Greg Anthony.”

I think it’s probably better to let sleeping dogs lie, but that comment was pretty fair, I think.

However, Isiah then followed with “Greg Anthony should never ever be in a position to question myself on anything about basketball. I do remember the kind of player he was. I’ll leave it at that.” That was way too much, highlighting a problem Isiah seems to have where he seems to personalize criticisms way too much.

Apparently, he peppered shots at Anthony throughout the press conference. Here’s Burns on it:

When asked whether he could see Balkman someday defending LeBron James or Tracy McGrady, Thomas replied, “Wait a minute, hold on now … you can run him out there but he’ll probably get stepped on a little bit … Unlike Greg Anthony, I do have respect for others.”

When asked about the Knicks’ dismal season a year ago, and what role all the injuries played, Thomas said, “We all were in a funk last year … Greg Anthony was in a funk.”

Later, when talking about Balkman’s ability to handle the ball, a reporter jokingly asked if he had a better handle than Greg Anthony. “Most definitely,” Thomas said. “Greg could only go left.”

Nuts, eh?

Anthony wouldn’t comment, which is good on him!

By the by, speaking of Balkman, Marc Berman had a line in his blog the other day that I thought was a bit much, where he stated that what Thomas SHOULD have done was draft Marcus Williams at #20 and Balkman at #29. Now, clearly, we all would have liked that, but that’s taking for granted that Balkman was not going to be picked, which (while not saying he officially WOULD have been picked) is something Berman should have at least made clear he was assuming. You know, something like, “It was likely Balkman could have been available at #29, so Thomas should have drafted Williams at #20 and Balkman at #29.” Without the qualifier, it’s not giving the facts, I don’t think.

Looking at Others’ Knick Season Outlook

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the various major sports websites were saying about the Knicks at the start of training camp, so let’s do that now!

John Hollinger, for ESPN Insider, makes all the right points (overpaid for Jeffries, the team turned the ball over too much, not signing Butler was idiotic), but I was pleased, as a Knick fan, to see his overall take on the team:

With a small, quick backcourt of Marbury and Francis, there’s a lot of talk that the Knicks will run and push the ball like the Phoenix Suns. But anyone who has seen those two play knows this is impossible, because neither of them seek to push the ball up court. They’re quick and they’re great drivers, but they’re mostly half-court guys.

While the style may not be what some expect, one thing I can pretty much guarantee is that the Knicks will win a lot more games. That’s to be expected — the nice thing about hitting rock bottom is that you can’t go down any further — but a number of factors favor the Knicks to make a double-digit improvement in wins. First and foremost, they’ll play for Thomas, rather than last year’s white-flag routine. That alone should improve the defense several notches.

Second, the result of Brown’s lineup switches was that the Knicks’ worst players were on the court for large stretches of time. Maurice Taylor, Qyntel Woods and Malik Rose all played over 1,000 minutes last season; that playing time will be going to guys like Jeffries, Frye and Lee this time around. Frye is perhaps the most egregious example — he only played 1,571 minutes even though he led the team in player efficiency rating. He should come close to doubling that total this year as the opening-day power forward.

As a result, I expect New York to generate some genuine excitement this year — hanging out on the fringes of the playoff race and getting increased production from the younger players. They’ll still massively underachieve compared to what they’re spending, and it may not be enough to save Thomas’ job, but the Knicks will at least look like a real NBA team again.

Very nice analysis from Hollinger.

For AOL Sports, Steve Aschburner has some interesting questions for each of the teams in the Eastern Conference. Here is his question for the Knicks:

Q: Didn’t you used to be Steve Francis?

A: Just getting rid of Larry Brown doesn’t make a Francis-Marbury backcourt any more feasible. Neither of them is a good enough shooter to play for long stretches off the ball, and both of them are defensive liabilities if the opponents’ backcourt has some size. Marbury won’t feel any pressure to accommodate Francis now, either; if he can get Larry Brown out of town, he isn’t going to be bothered by Francis’ displeasure. What Francis needs is to play for a strong head coach on a team built around a big man — say, Miami minus Wade — if he’s ever going to live up to his potential and help a team more than himself.

Not a bad analysis of Francis’ position on the team, which certainly DOES seem to be a bit odd, doesn’t it?

CBS Sportsline loses some credibility with me with their Eastern Conference primer, as they listed Jalen Rose as the probable starter at small forward. Yikes. Talk about not knowing the team very well.

Marty Burns does a decent job at looking at the Knicks for CNN/SI here.

1. Can Isiah clean up the mess?
After the fiasco of ’05-06, Thomas jettisoned Brown and finds himself back on the bench as coach. His first job in camp will be to clean up the toxic atmosphere that engulfed the team a year ago and get them playing as a cohesive group.

2. Who’s the starting shooting guard?
With Stephon Marbury the starter at point guard and free agent signee Jared Jeffries likely to inherit the small forward position, the Knicks have a glut at the 2 spot. Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson will battle it out, which could make for some raw nerves — and some good fodder for the New York tabloids.

3. Can Renaldo Balkman play?
Thomas was criticized heavily on draft night for using the No. 20 pick on the relatively unknown Balkman. The 6-8 South Carolina product will need to show in camp that he can step in and contribute, or Thomas will hear more about it from the MSG hecklers.

However, I think his #3 is a bit silly, as I don’t think Balkman’s playing time will be key to the Knicks season at all.

By the by, speaking of Balkman, Bill Simmons said something bizarre regarding Balkman in his latest column. Check it out –

Three months from now, Knicks fans will be dealing with the fact that taking Renaldo Balkman at No. 20 over Rajon Rondo, as crazy as this sounds, was the single biggest mistake of Isiah’s entire tenure, the one misfire that will end up haunting that franchise for the next decade. And that’s saying something. But Balkman/Rondo will trump everything else Isiah inflicted. Just you wait. That’s all I’m saying for now.

What an odd statement.

Hoops Hype hasn’t gotten around to the Knicks yet in their season preview.

Drop me a line if you have seen some other previews from big sites (except for the wonderful preview we all read at the Dime’s website) – I’ll link them up here.

Training Camp Begins! Let the Festivies Commence!

Thank goodness – some actual basketball news!!

The official training camp begins later today, and yesterday (Media Day) had a number of interesting quotes from players and some intriguing hints as to what we can expect from this year’s Knicks.

First off, I am quite pleased about the Mo Taylor waiving. And yes, it is amusing that one of the things that alienated Larry Brown from the front office was his “waive him, him and him” attitude. While his expiring contract could be quite intriguing to other teams – exactly what were the Knicks going to get with that expiring contract that would be good for the team in the long haul? I posit that it would be nothing as good as just letting the cap space run out, and Mo Taylor has no place on this squad. I wonder, though, where he will end up playing.

Steve Francis had a good quote about last season in the Times today- ?Did you see me play? Did I play?? Francis said. ?I don?t even remember playing. It was just so much uncertainty, man. It?s tough playing under uncertainty.?

Eddy Curry has lost weight and David Lee has put on weight – both events are good news for Knick fans. Lee also apparently impressed reporters during Media Day with the sheer passion he exuded for winning this season and his frustrations with being unable to even take the blame for losing last year, as he didn’t play enough to even feel like he had control over the situation.

The four players vying for Taylor’s spot are forwards Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Elton Brown, center Paul Miller and guard Milone Clark. Clark really has no chance, and I would have to think that Tskitishvili would have to absolutely astonish everyone to get the job, so it is likely down to Miller and Brown. Brown apparently is quite the bruiser, and has even been able to give Curry a run for his money on sheer force on the low blocks, which is cool, but I think Miller sounds a bit more intriguing, as I like the added facet of a center who can shoot the jumper, as a change of pace from Curry (as I doubt any of them will play significant minutes ANYways).

Finally, I cannot wait to see what Zeke’s rotation looks like – who will be the backup small forward? Will Channing Frye be the backup center? Will Balkman play at all? Will Jerome James wear a groove into the bench from sitting so much? We find out today, for basketball has finally returned to us, folks!