Net Loss

NOTE: Grammar edited after a full night’s sleep. :-)

I was going to write a lengthy discussion on the Nets recent moves, but there isn’t anything to say about the Nets loss of Martin and now Kittles that hasn’t been said by the best blog done by a Nets fan: These Days. Shaddax’s blog covers everything from basketball to football to baseball to boxing to hockey. Although he specializes on the New York area teams, These Days seems to cover just about everything happening in every league. If that isn’t enough to make you want to peek over and see what’s happening, then check out a sample of his solid writing (about being a GM in NYC):

…I’m sick of people parroting that idiocy about “oh, it’s New York, you have to go for it in New York”… People might say bad things about you on talk radio? Well guess what: if you give a shit about what Al from Scarsdale or Vinny from Yonkers has to say about the team, then make one of them the GM, clear your desk out and take up some other occupation. Or learn how to lie better, and just say nothing could be worked out. Either way, if you don’t have the stomach to come up with a plan and see it through, if you don’t have the perspicacity to tell the difference between a lucky run in a crappy division and a legitimate contender’s chance, if you don’t have any clue what makes a player good or bad, then get the hell away from my team. I’m sick to death of having every franchise in town held hostage to “they say” crap.

Getting back to the Nets, they could have really made a good try at turning around this franchise. In fact they should have retoolled to make another championship run. Something tells me they knew they weren’t going to keep Kittles and Martin from the beginning. So why not put them out there early & try to get Shaq or McGrady? They could have traded both at the onset of the offseason, and with the $20M they got back in trade exceptions, made a run at Kobe Bryant. Even if they didn’t try to get one of the best available players, there were a bunch of quality guys that were available that the Nets might have acquired to give them a stronger team.

New Jersey waited too long, and now the Nets only have slim pickings to choose from. Instead of trying to get Boozer, Okur, or Ginobili, they can try to get Dampier, Crawford, and Rodney White. That’s if they choose to spend their trade exceptions, instead of pocketing the money. Honestly with their new ownership I doubt they’ll sign any long or expensive deals in the near future. Imagine how bad things will be if they trade Jason Kidd in a similar fashion.

John Hollinger wrote a column calling the Warriors the “new Clippers.” Without any improvements, the Nets should easily win this crown. In fact, you could argue that the Nets would be worse than the Warriors. Sure it’s easy to point to Derek Fisher’s laughable 6 year contract and say “top that”. But at least Mullin is trying to win. If the Nets trade Kidd for cap relief, then they’re sending a clear sign to the rest of the league: “We don’t care if we win.” Even though they’ll be under the cap and able to sign players in the future, throwing up a white flag now will scare away fans and free agents for years to come.

With the 43rd pick of the 2004 NBA Draft …

“Here’s the one you’ve been waiting for here at the Garden,” Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said in introducing the Knicks’ pick.

And what exactly would that be? A backup small forward. Apparently. Isiah Thomas went with UCLA forward Trevor Ariza, who I foolishly neglected to mention this morning. Ariza makes a lot of sense from the Knicks; he’s very athletic, which Thomas likes, and a defensive upgrade on Shandon Anderson and Dermarr Johnson. I had Erik Daniels rated ahead of him, but Ariza is the clear winner in terms of potential, and the 43rd pick isn’t a bad place to try to get lucky.

Surprising no one, none of the trade rumors involving the Knicks came true on what turned out to be a surprisingly quiet draft day. The only major trades, of course, were those announced yesterday but being made official today.

30 Second Draft Recap

Five Best Picks
1. Anderson Varejao, Orlando/Peter John Ramos, Washington – not exactly difficult picks, but good value nonetheless. I disqualify Luol Deng at seven, Josh Smith at 17, and Jameer Nelson at 20 as being too obvious/lucky.
2. Romain Sato, San Antonio – gives the Spurs another quality perimeter defender at pick 52.
3. Delonte West, Boston – $5 says he’s Boston’s starting point by season’s end (I’m on a high after winning $3 in a pool to predict the Sonics’ 12th pick this evening)
4. Tony Allen, Boston – is he a good fit? Could they have gotten him later? I don’t care — I love this guy that much.
5. Blake Stepp, Minnesota – and thus ends the Darrick Martin era.

Five Worst Picks/Biggest Reaches
1. Josh Childress, Atlanta – is there anyone who doesn’t see us looking back on this and mocking the Hawks? I think there’s a pretty good chance Deng, Luke Jackson, and Andre Iguodala are all better players than Childress.
2. Royal Ivey, Atlanta – all or nothing night for the Hawks. Ivey would have been a reach in the 50s; he’s a decent passer, but he makes Chris Duhon look like Michael Jordan.
3. Sebastian Telfair, Portland – uh, why couldn’t they have gotten him at 22 or 23?
4. Lionel Chalmers, L.A. Clippers – about five better point guards left on the board at that point.
5. Ben Gordon, Chicago – sorry, I just don’t get this one, and I don’t think he’s all he’s cracked up to be.

Lots of interesting NCAA free agents — Jamie Lloreda, Daniels, Nigel Dixon, Andre Barrett, Bryant Matthews, Arthur Johnson. It will be interesting to see where they end up and if they can do as well as guys like Marquis Daniels and Theron Smith.

(Subsequent edit — NYC native Barrett has signed on with the Knicks for summer-league play. Isiah Thomas targeted him after the draft and got the job done. Nice work Isiah!)

Kevin Pelton writes “Page 23” for Hoopsworld.com on a semi-regular basis. He can be reached at kpelton@hoopsworld.com.

Knicks 96 Chicago 82

The Knicks clinched a playoff spot yesterday with a win against the hapless Bulls (and a Cleveland loss to Memphis). It’s great to be in the playoffs again, after a two year absence. Unlike the last few Knick playoff teams I don’t have expectations for the Knicks to get past the first round. Why? Well look at the last 20 or so games the Knicks have played. I’ll split their opponents into two groups, the games they won & the games they lost.

Won:	OppWin%
Chi .282
Phi .423
Por .519
Tor .397
Atl .321
NJ .584
Wash .308
Mil .519
Was .308
Tor .397
Phi .423
AVG1 .407
AVG2 .390

Out of those 11 wins, only 3 were against winning teams. One of those wins (New Jersey) was without their opposition’s two best players (Kidd & Martin). Of the 2 other teams, neither would be considered great, as they are only slightly above average (.519). The first average (AVG1) is the average winning percentage of all the teams they’ve beaten. AVG2 is the average of those teams, minus the victory against the hobbled Nets.

Now for the games the Knicks lost:

Lost:	Win%
Ind .734
NJ .584
Det .654
Chi .282
Phi .423
Bos .449
Den .519
Lac .346
Pho .338
Sac .701
Cle .410
Uta .526
AVG1 .497
AVG2 .556

Of their 12 losses, 6 were from winning teams. The average of all these teams is just below .500, but take away the losses from the embarrassing teams (Bulls, Clippers, and Suns), and the average raises to .556. In their last 23 games, while fighting for a playoff spot, they have played 9 teams with a winning record. They’ve only won 3 of those. None of those were against a team with a record better than .520, except the Nets game. They are 8-6 against sub-.500 teams. It’s obvious looking at these numbers that the Knicks have been feasting on the weaker teams, and not putting up a good enough fight against the top dogs. In the playoffs they won’t have the Wizards, Hawks or Bulls to push around.

You may think I’m a pessimist spending a whole column on the Knicks’ slim hopes to make it to the second round. However, without expecting them to win, I can enjoy watching the games. I’m already prepared for the worst, but if they happen to pull off the upset I’ll be that much more elated.

Choices

Three choices.
One bullet.
One trigger.
Guess who gets to pull it?

— Head? Chest? or Foot?
Propogandhi

Last night, Lenny Wilkens came out with a lineup I was thoroughly pleased with. The big changes were Kurt Thomas starting at center for the second straight game and rookie Michael Sweetney started at PF. It was Sweetney’s first start in the NBA.

I thought this was a good lineup because, arguably Kurt might be our best starting center. Mutombo, albeit a good help defender and rebounder, is too slow to guard other centers one on one. Deke might have the worst footwork of any big man I’ve seen on the offensive end. He can turn a 3 foot layup into an 8 foot hook shot. Nazr Mohammed looks promising at times. His post moves look good, although he’s missing a lot, and his rebounding is solid. However he keeps getting into foul trouble, averaging 5.8PF/48mins as a Knick.

This year Thomas’ scoring is down, but he might be the best scorer of the three. Not only that, but he might be the best man-to-man defender of the three (certainly he’s not worse than Mutombo). Of the other two, Nazr might be a better pure center, but we won’t know until he can stay in the game for more than 20 minutes on a consistent basis.

When he joined the Knicks, Isaiah Thomas was shocked that the #9 pick in the draft was wasting away on the I.R. One of the advantages to drafting Sweetney out of Georgetown was that he was supposed to be ready to play in the NBA. Against the Clippers, Wilkens started Thomas at center, and gave Kurt’s old starting spot at PF to Othella Harrington. Harrington was, to be kind, unspectacular in 25 minutes. So why not try the rookie out and see what he has?

Sweetney got into foul trouble quickly, and was yanked early in the first quarter. His line for the game was as empty as they come: 9mins, 0-1FG, 4PFs, and nothing else. It could have been worse, Harrington could have come in & done well. Instead Harrington was limited to 8 minutes, where he only had 2 points, 2 turnovers, and 1 foul.

Nazr and Deke split about 31 minutes at center, and Thomas split his 41 minutes between PF and C. Out of all the people mentioned in this entry, only Thomas had a good stat line: 9-19 with 18 points and 11 boards.

It’s no secret that the Knicks have a problem in the middle. Each option has a big weakness or two. It looks like Wilkens is tired of watching other centers have career nights against the Knicks. Which leaves either Nazr or Kurt to start at center. If Kurt starts, who will get the nod at PF, Sweetney or Harrington? Basically it’s a three man competition, since Kurt Thomas will start at either center or power forward. Who will get the nod between Mohammed, Harrington, or Sweetney? All three foul too often to tell. I’d love to say Sweetney will develop, but I think he just hasn’t had enough playing time. I’ll go with Mohammed, since he’s more ready to play now than Sweetney and has a higher ceiling than Othella.

LA Clippers 96, New York 94

I had it, and I lost it,
Now you’ve got to
help me get it back again

— “Lost It”
The Hippos

Yesterday I had the good fortune of watching the Knicks play again. But what if you actually had a life & were doing something else last night other than watching the game? How would you learn about the game?

I imagine most people would pickup a paper, or if you?re reading this probably go online to read a recap of the game. ESPN?s recap spends a lot of time on what happened in the last few minutes to win or loose a game, but they usually don?t mention what happened in the rest of the game. Sure they?ll tell you how many points a certain player scored, and any spectacular plays that happened early on. But most likely it?s the last few minutes that they?ll concentrate on. I like to look at the box score to get a fuller picture of how the team played.

The Knicks outscored the Clippers in 3 of the 4 quarters, but it was Los Angeles? big first quarter that was the deciding factor. The Knicks had a slight edge in FG%, FT%, and turnovers. The rebounding edge went to the Clippers who had 3 more offensive boards, but maybe the biggest statistical advantage was the three point shots. L.A. hit 6 of 17, while the Knicks were only 2-11, a paltry percentage. I can recall from watching the game that at least twice the Clippers had an uncontested three point shot due to a poor defensive rotation.

Both teams attempted lots of free throws. Looking at the NBA team stats, teams average between 19 and 28 FTA per game, and shoot an average of 66%-80%. This night, the teams would both exceed the maximums in each. The Knicks hit 30 of 33 free throws (91%), and the Clips were 24 of 29 (83%). You can verify that both teams are generous with sending their opponents to the charity stripe (without accounting for pace).

Looking over the individual efforts, Marbury scored 28 points in 45 minutes. That means he sat out for only 3 minutes. I looked to see how much the Knick backup PGs played, and ?lo & behold at the bottom there are two DNP-CD?s next to Norris and Frank Williams? names. Most likely, Penny played the point while Stephon was resting. Not a good sign for Frank Williams? fans.

Tim Thomas was next in scoring with 22 points in 39 minutes. Other than hitting all of his free throws, the rest of his stat sheet was unspectacular with 4 boards, 2 assists, only 1 turnover (good for the amount of minutes he played) and 5 fouls (not so good).

Kurt Thomas had 4 fouls in only 16 minutes, Tim Thomas had 5, Othella had 4, and Sweetney had 3 minutes. In the ?why didn?t they get more minutes? department, I would nominate the Knicks? starting centers of the two games before. Nazr Mohammed seemed to have a good night. After his poor outing yesterday, he had 12 rebounds with 5 on the offensive end, in only 23 minutes. Mutombo had 3 offensive boards in 13 minutes. Statistically, the Knicks might have been better giving Harrington?s minutes to Nazr or Deke (by having Kurt Thomas at the 4 instead of the 5). Harrington had a horrible statistical night, 6 points, 4 fouls, and only 3 boards in 25 minutes.

On the other end of the box score, Richardson, Brand, and Maggette combined for more than half of their teams? points (58), rebounds (22), free throws (15/18), and blocks (3). Richardson and Jaric hit all of the Clips 6 treys. Simmons and Wilcox provided some spark off the bench with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

From the box score I would think that the teams were pretty evenly matched. The only differences that stick out are the 4 more three pointers, and the 3 more offensive rebounds. It was a game that could have gone either way, and since I witnessed it, I know this was certainly true.