Rotation Rotating

The Knicks’ bizarre mixture of talent will be taking on an even more bizarre turn over the next couple of weeks, as Isiah Thomas announced yesterday that he will not only be keeping Jerome James (who appeared as though he was starting to specifically counter against Dwight Howard and Tony Battie) in the starting lineup, but that he is also planning on Steve Francis returning to the Knicks’ rotation as the backup point guard.

Neither move fills me with much enthusiasm, as James’ minutes, while designed to turn Channing Frye into a scorer off the bench and take Frye away with Curry (which I have no problem with), seem to also serve to lower David Lee’s minutes. Folks have been clammoring for Lee to get MORE minutes, and not only has Isiah managed to avoid putting him into the starting lineup, but now he’s going to be receiving LESS minutes!! Saturday, Lee played his fewest minutes in two weeks. I don’t mind going to the defensive-minded James for certain matchups, but less minutes for Lee is annoying.

And Balkman is just completely buried now.

Meanwhile, the return of Francis is frightening to me. As a backup guard, Francis is clearly a significant upgrade, talent-wise, then Nate Robinson, but how can Francis possibly be okay with only playing 15 minutes a game? However, if he is willing to swallow his pride, then I suppose it is good news. He’s extremely useful if Marbury were to be unable to play.

Thanks to Jon Abbey for reminding me to check today’s Post (I only picked up the Daily News, and it was awful – why do I keep reading it each Sunday? Lupica always just aggravates me).

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36 thoughts to “Rotation Rotating”

  1. maybe Marbury can sit for the second game of back to back nights? Francis better be a lot healthier than he looked earlier this year if he’s going to play at all, because he looked dreadful, even though somehow his sabermetric numbers are good.

    and of course Renaldo Balkman gets even further buried, even with Jeffries temporarily out. ugh.

  2. I have this fantasy of Kevin McHale watching Jerome James start this week and TV and going “THAT – that is what we need. Call up Isiah, we’re trading Craig Smith and KG for Frye, James, and Francis.”

  3. I like the James experiment, only because something has to be done to increase the defense on this team. I dont like James Shooting unless it a putbaack.

    Is it a bad thing if Lee gets less minutes and the team starts to win consistently?

    Want to see more games like that from Channing Frye.

    Dont know, it is becoming hard to defend Isiah with some of the things he is doing. Cant believe he is going back to Francis. Like Yogi Berra said “it is deja vu all over again.”

  4. As a Wolves fan, I don’t like that idea Dan. Luckily Blount has become bizarro Blunt this year, so I don’t see McHale caring too much about James.

    For most teams David Lee is an athletic player, but with Isiah’s obsession with jumping ability and short-distance speed, Lee might actually not be athletic enough. I’m just throwing that out there as a possible explanation. Because I can’t think of any reason why he’s not getting 35mpg and starting.

  5. Before we flip out on Francis, it sounds like he’s not coming in expecting to be the man. If he’s OK backing up Steph and pounding it in to Curry or trying to drive to the basket when the second unit is in I’m fine with that, he’s better than Nate or Collins (although Nate’s been significantly more under control the last couple of games). Plus Isiah has shown the last few games that no one has untouchable minutes/rotation spots – if Francis can’t buy into the system he’ll sit like Jeffries and Nate have at times.

  6. I like the james move on a certain level. It shows that Isiah understands that the Knicks don’t have a good dfensive frontcourt. However the combo of James-Curry makes for an awful rebounding duo. There were a few times against Orlando when neither ‘center’ grabbed a missed shot + a Knick guard had to clean up the missed basked. Having James on the court at the same time as Curry also limits James’ touches on the offensive end. Finally Curry can use it as a learning experience, on how to play defense.

    On the downside, it does mean less minutes for Frye + Lee. Granted the pair, especially Lee deserve better, but between the three (with Curry) they just weren’t getting it done on the defensive end.

    In all honesty this is what I was calling for a few months ago. While I prefer Cato to James because of his superior rebounding, I applaud Isiah’s efforts to improve his defense. Maybe Lee + Frye will take this as a message that they have to be productive on both ends of the floor to earn their playing time.

  7. Jerome James was the worst acquisiton of any NBA team over the past 3 years…He is absoulte garbage and is not nearly good enough to be in the NBA…he should be traded or waived immediately!

  8. Limiting James’ touches would be a good thing, I think. Also, anyone have any ideas as to why Francis’ numbers were so good when he was healthy this year? He has an above average PER and a positive +/- rating even though he was a starter. Maybe he is a better fit for this team than Marbury (although they’re probably interchangable).

  9. “In all honesty this is what I was calling for a few months ago.”

    no, you were calling for James or Cato in conjunction with Jeffries, who was a DNP against Orlando because of his back, unless you’re referring to something else. if Isiah went with that, we might as well let Lee join the Knick City Dancers, because he sure ain’t going to be working up a sweat any other way. :)

    all anyone should take out of Francis’ PER and +/- is that those numbers are flawed, because he was dreadful in the little he played this year.

  10. “all anyone should take out of Francis? PER and +/- is that those numbers are flawed, because he was dreadful in the little he played this year”

    I very much disagree–unless we’re talking defense–with that assessment. Francis is always going to rebound, and he was doing that in spades. If he just doesn’t turn the ball over, a feat more impressive than his 90%+ stroke at the FT line, his PER is gonna be high. I thought Francis was playing well on the offensive end. It was just a matter of whether he’d maintain it.

  11. I was referring to this:

    This was back in November when Curry & Frye were playing poorly, and I advocated for a Cato/Lee frontcourt.

    “In any case, Curry?s defense is so bad at this point he shouldn?t be on the court without a strong defensive player next to him…Adding Cato & Lee to the starting 5 makes sense on a few levels. First off the starting group already has enough offensive minded players in as Marbury, Crawford/Francis, and Richardson. Let the offense center around these three, augmented by Lee?s strong rebounding. The loss of Curry and Frye?s post skills can be replaced partly with David Lee and partly with Quentin Richardson who can take smaller players on the blocks. Meanwhile on defense, Cato will provide more resistance to quicker guards that get past the Knick perimeter. If the loss of potential offense bothers you remember the Knicks will be able to run more often if they make more stops on defense. And with Cato?s defense and Lee?s rebounding, they should be able to get more stops on defense.”

  12. If you want to start James against Orlando, fine, I understand the logic. But does anyone in their right mind think this is going to work against Elton Brand tomorrow vs. LA? Brand is going to run circles around either Curry or James. Now he’d probably eat up Frye/Lee as well, but at least Frye or Lee can do something on the offensive end.

    Starting the “Twin Towers” is pretty much asking for a 5-10 point deficit by the end of the first quarter, followed by another heartwarming 2nd half “comeback” which inevitably falls short. If I were a gambling man, I’d be on the blower with some bookie named “Fat Mike” tout suite.

    Considering this is an “until the all-star break” change by Zeke, I have to ask, why now? Look at the next 5 opponents — CLIPS, UTAH, LAKERS, GOLDEN STATE — Who are you starting James to defend? Odom? Harrington? Okur? All of those PF’s are going to KILL James by simply trotting out to the three point line. If there was ever a time to start Lee, this is it. He’ll have problems on D, but he;ll keep the aforementioned trio off the boards.

    If you want to take it a step further, why not start BALKMAN at PF vs. this crew. He’s goint to outquick all of the opposing PF’s and is by far our best weakside/help shotblocker.

    Just dumb.

  13. “Who are you starting James to defend? Odom? Harrington? Okur”

    Animal, most of the players mentioned, maybe not Okur, are multi-demensional players. It would be in the Knicks favor if they settle for threes.

    James will probably play center, therefore his match up will probably be Bynum, Biedrinis, Collins.

    Since Isiah invested alot of money in James expect James to play in front of Cato.

    I would love to see Kevin Durant ( Texas ) in a Knicks uniform.

  14. Confucius –

    If James plays Center then Curry will be guarding them. And don’t get your hopes up on Kevin Durant – it ain’t happening.

    Cato should be the one playing but he’s not because of James’ contract.

    I also fully expect this experiment to fail. I guess I’m happy they’re trying something..but it should be starting Lee and giving him more minutes and sprinkling in some more Cato.

    Also I think the idea of playing Balkman against those guys is interesting but a guy like Odom would take him down low and abuse him I think.

  15. “Did anyone hear anything about Crawford and Frye as part of a package for Ray Allen or Paul Pierce?”

    On a rainy day they’re good for discussion, but there’s enough topics floating around here that we don’t need it to turn into a rumor-fest.

  16. I’m for anything that improves the Knicks’ defense. If that means giving James, Cato, or Balkman more playing time then I’m for it. Granted I’d probably prefer it to be in the reverse order I named, and I’m in no way advocating giving someone like Jerome James 30+ minutes. However New York’s defense has been awful since day 1. We’re not going anywhere with this team unless we can improve on the other side of the ball.

  17. i’d like to see more balkman, as well. he actually does all the things that jeffries was supposed to do. also, i think this is just a transition period between lee replacing frye in the starting lineup, which ultimately makes sense. maybe isiah doesn’t want to make the switch outright, because he doesn’t want to look like he’s responding to the media/common sense observers, so he’s throwing in this little 1 or 2 game wrinkle.

  18. The Jerome James Experiment has lasted one game and already the nay-sayers are out in full strength. I understand that JJ thus far has been a complete bust for the Knicks. However, he has had some good spot moments in the past weeks.

    True, Curry started off slow against the Magic. However, he ended up leading the Knicks with another great offensive performance. While James had two blocks, a couple good offensive moves in the paint and blocked up the middle. As slow as James is, he’s massive. Curry found different ways to score, despite being out of position, and he stayed out of foul trouble.

    It is unreasonable to say that JJ was Isiah’s worst trade. Francis wins that distinction by a long shot. We know what we had in Ariza, and we know what we have in Francis, Jeffries and Balkman, since they have all seen playing time throughout the season. James hasn’t had a true opportunity to justify ‘worst trade’ status. He came in to be our starting center. I’m all for giving him a chance to get in playing shape now that he’s healthy and provide a defensive presence in the paint – something Curry cannot do. I understand that Cato may be the better defensive player, however, Isiah is trying to find different ways to use Curry and Frye. I’m not sure that Cato would provide the same dynamics. I’m a big Lee fan and would love to see him start, however, Lee’s stats have pretty consistent whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. Improving James’ trade value is also something that cannot be overlooked.

  19. TDM
    “it is unreasonable to say that JJ was Isiah?s worst trade. Francis wins that distinction by a long shot.”

    that is because we did not trade for jj, we signed him as a free agent. technicalities aside, the point is that these were both horrible transactions that looked as bad when they happened as they do right now. and i dont think it is unreasonable at all to say that james was a worse move….we gave this guy more years and money than he even expected to get, and there was no competition for his services.

    ” We know what we had in Ariza, and we know what we have in Francis, Jeffries and Balkman, since they have all seen playing time throughout the season.”

    By we, do you mean the fans or the knicks front office (isiah). Whoever made the francis trade, isiah was still the boss and had to ok it. I would contend that we obviously didnt know what we had in ariza because he was making minimum salary and has the exact same skill set that jeffries and balkman do. so we traded a player that was a relative bargain for players that didnt help us, cost us more money, and led us on a year long hunt to find a replacement (now we have at least 2-balkman and jeffries.)

  20. oh and please no one else mention increasing jerome james’s playing time will increase trade value…that would imply that at some futuristic point we could get something useful for him………and that is not the case

  21. TDM – James was signed by the Knicks as a free-agent, not via a trade. As for improving his trade value, do you think any GM out there would trade for an overweight, unmotivated center with 3.5 years left on his contract? Please, the only GM dumb enough to do that is um….well, Isiah.

    He is spending this season trying to make up for his mistakes in free agency by playing James over Kato (cutting into Lee and Frye’s minutes) and Jeffries over Balkman, Q, and Lee. I kind of like that Isiah’s going to use James more because that will contriubte to him getting fired sooner, and the sooner the better.

    I also can’t wait to see how he’s going to screw up the whole Steve Francis thing.

  22. First of all, I’m not saying James was worth $30 mil. So, lets get over that.

    Jay G.: Yes, you are correct. They were both horrible transactions. When I said “We knew”, I should have said “We knew or should have known.”

    As far as who would be interested in a back up center, Houston is in the market. Not that it helps my argument, but I actually read that they may be interested in Cato. Mutombo is playing great ball while Yao is on the IL, but he is 60 after all. You can teach defense and fundamentals, but you can’t teach height.

    My point, I think, is that he has played well lately (see the Miami and Orl games). Isiah seems resolved to play him more. In the ORL game, Frye looked great coming off the bench. Curry was unstoppable. Lee had a good game, but not great. Isiah is going to play him in limited minutes to see if it helps improve our defensive effort. I don’t have a problem with that.

  23. If Lee gets less minutes then the Knicks are totally screwed. Francis back in the rotation? I thought they’d buy him out for sure. FIRE THOMAS!!!!!!

  24. The Jerome James Experiment has lasted one game and already the nay-sayers are out in full strength.

    If Isiah announced that Mardy Collins would be the starting center until the All-Star Break, would it not be reasonable to “nay say” that decision even before it occurred?

    James can certainly prove the naysayers wrong, though, by playing really well.

  25. Wages of Wins just released their list of the top thirty players. Guess who came in at number six. Yup, David Lee, with 9.8 wins produced. Still not getting starter minutes.

  26. One thing nags at me about how to properly evaluate Curry. Obviously he gets very few rebounds for a man at his size and position. But the Knicks still consistently dominate other teams in rebounding. This is the case even though Curry has been playing significant minutes at a prime rebounding position but contributing little in that department.

    Is it possible that Curry is helping the team in the rebounding area even though he doesn’t get the rebounds himself? Kind of how a defensive lineman helps get a sack for a linebacker by occupying two O linemen and leaving a clear path for the linebacker?

    Curry doesn’t seem to deserve much, if any, credit for Lee’s bounding and astounding considering Lee seems to get a lot of boards in traffic (though maybe Curry helps him on the offensive glass by causing double teams that free up Lee). But Curry would seem to be helping out Q-Rich. Q-Rich’s rebounding rate is far better this year than in previous years and I wonder if it’s due in part to starting next to, and playing significant minutes with, Curry.

    It would seem that a rebound is a rebound and the Knicks (or any team) may even be better off having a non-center collect the rebounds since they’re more likely to bring the ball up and start the break.

  27. good post, Marc R. I wonder what the Knicks’ +/- numbers are in rebounding with/without Curry on the floor?

    “If Isiah announced that Mardy Collins would be the starting center until the All-Star Break, would it not be reasonable to ?nay say? that decision even before it occurred?”

    sure, but the difference here is that NY actually won the first game handily with this lineup. I think it makes sense against Kaman/Brand also, not so sure about after that, especially with Boozer out. I won’t ‘nay-say’ this until we lose a game using it, though.

  28. “It would seem that a rebound is a rebound and the Knicks (or any team) may even be better off having a non-center collect the rebounds since they?re more likely to bring the ball up and start the break.”

    Maybe in theory, but it feels like we’ve had like a half dozen fast breaks all year. I remember a game or two ago Walt Clyde almost died of shock announcing that the Knicks had beat a team in transition.

    We’ve been great at rebounding this year even with Curry a below average rebounder for his position, so I do have to agree that someone must be picking up the slack and it’s at least partially the guards and small forwards.

  29. I think Tyson Chandler’s Rebounding numbers have been pretty consistent when you adjust for minutes, before and after Curry left.

    Of course there are other factors there…

    Not sure if there’s a site that could show the Knicks rebounding when Curry is on and off the floor.

    Q is averaging about 1 more rebound per game than his minutes would indicate…I would think it is probably more likely because Eddy is such a poor rebounder than him “helping others rebound”. Though I guess that is a rather cynical view – especially given the overall effectiveness of our team rebounding – but to that I’d attribute it more to guys like Lee and even Q and Balkman. When these types of players are at SF you’re probably going to be good on the boards.

  30. “Is it possible that Curry is helping the team in the rebounding area even though he doesn?t get the rebounds himself? Kind of how a defensive lineman helps get a sack for a linebacker by occupying two O linemen and leaving a clear path for the linebacker?”

    Sure, and maybe Jamal’s missed shots help the Knicks’ rebounding too!

    Sorry for the sarcasm, but I don’t see this to be true. From watching Curry he doesn’t do anything spectacular under the boards. He doesn’t box out, and isn’t aggressive in going to the ball on rebounds. Often I’ve seen other Knick players have to come over & grab rebounds that Curry should have had. Will it inflate their numbers? Possibly. But are the Knicks a better rebounding team because of Curry’s ineptitude? Hardly. These are rebounds the team would have had anyway if Curry was proficient in his trade.

    And in case you think the Knicks rebounds are inflated consider these. First, they are poor on defense, so there are less missed shots to go around. Second is that the stat page (my stat page) accounts for this on a team level. Third Richardson’s numbers this year are near his career peak, prior to his seasons where he became primarily an outside shooter. True Q is at the highest of his career, but again I think these are boards Curry should have had. All of Richardson’s increase is on the defensive end.

    Finally another thing to consider, good rebounders don’t get double teamed & have their rebounding percentage decline. You can’t really do that in basketball consistently, because sending two players to box out a Kevin Garnett will mean a MUCH higher percentage to the person left alone. If you could double team a rebounder, you’d imagine his numbers would go down. But year after year good rebounders continue piling up strong rebounding numbers.

  31. you guys need to get off david lee’s jock.. he’s getting minutes and doing great coming off the bench.. whats the big deal about being announced in the starting lineup ?

    ps. reggie evans also used to consume massive amountf of rebounds per 48.. that doesnt mean he was starter worthy

  32. marc r. i really liek your football analogy.
    I have no doubt that having a behemoth like eddy curry in the paint HELPS a team when rebounding the ball. You have to account for the space and attention he takes up. He is a strong fellow.

  33. No problem about the sarcasm, KB, since it misses the point anyway. I was referring to the Knicks’ domination of the team rebounding rate (Hollinger stat). It’s my understanding that the rebounding rate controls for the number of rebounding opportunities.

    I also think that your visual observation of Curry’s rebounding, or lack thereof, is internally inconsistent. It appears to me that Curry does box out, though he admittedly isn’t quick to get to the ball. (An example of this is the end of the home loss to the Nets where he boxed out Cliff Robinson but did not jump quickly enough to keep Robinson from climbing up his back (foul!) and tipping it in.) If Curry wasn’t boxing out, how come other Knicks are getting the rebounds as opposed to an opposing player?

    As for the double-teaming point, I’m not suggesting that Curry is being doubleteamed because he is a good rebounder (he’s obviously not). I’m saying that the Knicks as a team are able to rebound so well because Curry is occupying two opponents, allowing Curry, Richardson, or another Knick to get the rebound. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who gets the board as long as the Knicks control it.

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