Knicks 93 Houston 92

How did the Knicks win last night? The easy answer was a heave-ho off the glass from what seemed like 40 feet. What Jamal Crawford described after the game as the biggest shot of his career, gave the Knicks their first road win of the 2005 season. New York didn’t look good early on. A 7 point Houston lead at the half grew to 11 points by the start the 4th quarter. However the Knicks came storming back with a 3-point barrage. Actually Penny Hardaway and Jamal Crawford combined for all 7 of New York’s treys. All of Penny’s came in the 4th quarter, and Crawford’s last trey gave the Knicks a 1 point edge as time expired.

The four factors tell an interesting story of the game that was highly entertaining to watch (for a Knicks fan anyway). Again New York failed to keep their opponent at a bay with regards to shooting percentage. The Rockets eFG% of 48.8% meant that the Knicks still haven’t forced a competitor under the league average (47.1%). On the positive side, it was their second best effort since they held the Clippers to 48.6% in their 110-96 victory at the Garden. The Rockets came into the game as the third best team in the league at defensive shooting percentage (43.6%), and Houston kept the Knicks to 44.3%. This meant the Rockets had the shooting percentage advantage in this game, and so far this year, New York has lost every single game when their opponents held this edge.

Two of the factors were very close, although slightly in the Knicks’ favor. Turnovers were kept remarkably low, as both teams combined for only 15, which is usually what the Knicks average on their own. New York also had a small advantage at the free throw line as well. The Knicks hit 16 free throws to the Rockets 12, a 4 point advantage.

What kept the Knicks in the game out was their superior rebounding. They snared 14 offensive boards, while keeping the Rockets to only 8. In fact, Nazr Mohammed pulled in 8 New York misses on his own. Kurt Thomas had a great game scoring 23 points, but he also had 14 total rebounds, 11 on the defensive end.

Beyond the four factors, there’s a lot to report on this game. You would have thought Van Gundy coached the Knicks, as four of their starters played 40 minutes or more. By the second half it was pretty much a 7 man playoff-style rotation. Anyone else think Lenny is feeling pressure to win games? Shockingly Nazr Mohammed was credited with 45 minutes. He’s usually on the bench because he hacks more than a 2600 conference. Nazr not only kept himself to 3 fouls, but he played Yao fantastically on defense. One of Mohammed’s fouls came on a block of Ming, that from the replay looked clean to me.

Tim Thomas only played 12 minutes, and you have to wonder how much longer he’ll be the starting SF. No I really mean it this time. His confidence is non-existent at this point. Even though he looked for his shot early, he couldn’t get his offense going and ended up with 2 points on 5 attempts. Ariza and Hardaway played the rest of the game at SF, and combined for 17 points in 44 minutes. I mentioned earlier that Penny scored primarily from beyond the arc. Ariza was just as effective without the long range shot. He had a traditional three pointer, and had 5 free throw attempts in just 20 minutes. This is one aspect of his game I really love, getting to the foul line. Although he does give it back, and had 3 fouls of his own. When he matures if he can reduce the number of fouls he commits, getting to the line will give his team a serious advantage.

Defense is still an issue, and Marbury seemed to put in a better effort tonight (as did most of the team, especially the Knicks’ big men). Charlie Ward put up a big goose egg for the Rockets, but on the other hand their diminutive PG Tyronn Lue scored 15. Most of the damage was done by the Rockets’ unstoppables McGrady and Yao. This is a defensive effort I could better stomach, as they gave the appearance of actually trying.

Kurt’s big game (23pts, 55% eFG, 14 REB) meant little time for Michael Sweetney. The big man from Georgetown did play some D against Yao Ming, but had little effect in his 10 minutes. The rumors about Sweetney being available as trade bait for other teams scare me, especially when his playing time dwindles like this. Two games ago he played 32 minutes, but he just doesn’t get large amounts of minutes on a regular basis. The situation is out of Sweetney’s control, as the Knicks will play Kurt and Nazr as long as they are effective. How bad is it when I’m dreaming of a Nellie-esque lineup that sends Tim Thomas to the bench, so the Knicks can start all 3 of their big men? This wouldn’t be the first time the Knicks put a PF in at SF, and at least in this incarnation the Knicks can drop back into a legal zone.

In the near future I would imagine Tim Thomas will be sent to the bench, and the Knicks try out figure what combination of Trevor Ariza, Penny Hardaway and the forgotten man Jerome Williams works at SF. I’m sure at first Wilkens might try to use Thomas a 6th man, to help him regain his composure, but right now I can’t predict anything positive for Tim. Isiah said that Sweetney would not be traded, and given the choice to believe an NBA trade rumor or the Knicks GM, I’ll stick with Zeke on this one. Sweetney will get whatever minutes trickle down from Thomas & Nazr. Some nights he’ll give us flashes of what’s to come, others he’ll be the fogotten man like last night.

For the time being the Knicks will live with their jump shooters. When Crawford and Marbury and Penny and Kurt are hitting iron, the Knicks offense will self-destruct like it did against the Spurs. However when those same shots are finding net, the Knicks will find themselves with happier endings like last night’s win against Houston.

A Defensive Trend, Pt. 2

Yesterday I pinpointed the Knicks’ main defensive weakness: letting their opponents shoot at a high percentage. Looking deeper into the numbers reveals a more complete picture of where the Knicks are defensively. At the end of yesterday’s article I referenced the work of Dean Smith and Dean Oliver each of which I’m going to touch on today.

Dean Smith understood that per game averages has a major flaw. Each team plays by a different pace, and therefore some teams will have more opportunities to score per game than others. For example, last year the Pacers only scored 91.4 points per game which was a lowly 20th best in the league. However Indiana’s offense wasn’t below average, it’s just that the Pacers preferred a slow pace to enhance their defensive style. Compare them to the Suns, who ranked above average (11th) in points per game thanks to their up-tempo game. Coach Smith would say that scoring 20 PPG for the Pacers is worth more than scoring 20 PPG for the Suns, because you would have more opportunities to score as a Sun, than a Pacer.

To make up for the inequality of pace, the Hall of Fame coach used possession based statistics to evaluate his team in his 30+ years of coaching. A possession is when your team ceased having control of the ball, either by scoring a field goal, a free throw, or by turning the ball over. It’s approximated by FGA + TO + .44*FTA – OREB. (Notice that offensive rebounds doesn’t create another possession, since the other team never got control of the ball).

Using possessions we can find a team’s offensive efficiency, or points scored per 100 possessions. Going back to our example above, Indy was 8th overall, scoring 106 points per 100 possessions. Meanwhile Phoenix had an offensive efficiency of 103 which ranked them 20th overall.

Getting back to the Knicks, they have a defensive efficiency of 104, which ranks them 23rd overall. Dean Oliver says that defense can be summed up by 4 main components: shooting percentage, turnovers, rebounding, and free throws. RealGM fans might be familiar with this, as Kevin Broom talked about these four factors in his article last week.

Yesterday I showed that New York is one of the worst teams in opponent shooting percentage (28th), but that is only one factor. New York has two major strengths so far this year. They are second overall in turnovers forcing 19 per 100 possessions. A good example of this would have been the Knick-Sixer game, where the Knicks had 15 steals from 7 different players. Leading the charge are newcomers Jamal Crawford and Trevor Ariza, but the rest of the Knicks are helping as well. Six players are averaging at least 1.5 steals per 40 minutes. The other New York strength is their defensive rebounding, where they rank second in the NBA. Opponents only get their missed shot 24% of the time against New York.

Not all the news is good, and one area that continues to be a problem for the Knicks is giving up free points to their opponents. This year they are 21st in free throws per field goal ratio. Although on the positive side, this is an improvement over last year when they were an awful 27th. Slight improvement can be attributed to getting rid of Othella Harrington and a major decline by Kurt Thomas. Of the top minutes getters, Nazr Mohammed, Trevor Ariza and Tim Thomas are hurting the Knicks the most.

Clearly New York could improve their defense by addressing their weaknesses at shooting percentage and at the free throw line. Yesterday I said the Knicks could use a shot blocking big man, and today I’ll suggest they could use a good perimeter defender as well. It’s a shame that they lost Frank Williams, who was a fantastic defender. His play in the playoff series against the Jason Kidd was memorable. I’d like to see the Knicks get a good defensive PG/SG for 8-12 minutes a game (read: Moochie’s minutes). Playing along Marbury, Crawford, or Penny that “defensive stopper” could handle the tougher offensive assignment of the night.

Celtics 107 Knicks 73

I love getting email. This one comes from occasional guest-blogger Dave:

a few quick impressions after the opening home loss…

1. the field goal defense, after only two games, is atrocious. the knicks are unable to take anything away from the offense. is there a weaker defensive pg, sg, sf combo than marbury, crawford, and tim thomas in the entire NBA? (denver’s miller, lenard, and anthony are the only ones i can think of that even come close.)

In the last line on my Wednesday column, I said we’re going to have to watch the Knicks’ opponents shooting percentage. That night T-Wolves shot well (54% eFG%) against New York. Kevin Garnett was Minnesota’s leading scorer, but 5 of the next 6 T-Wolf scorers played either PG, SG, or SF. Watching the game tonight (as much as I could stomach) the Celtics looked unstoppable at times. Boston’s eFG% was through the roof (59% eFG%). Again most of the scorers (6 of the top 8) are from those same 3 positions: PGs (Payton & Banks), SGs (Davis) SF (Pierce & Welsh). The Celtics combined stats at the 1, 2 or 3 were a gaudy 75PTS, 29-47, 66.0% eFG%, 1.41PSA.

As always with defense it’s hard to pinpoint exactly who is to blame. Dave has a great point that the Knicks have 3 weak defenders at the smaller spots. However the Knicks lack interior defense from the big men as well. The perimeter guys did score, but I clearly recall two occasions where Pierce & Davis were having their way in the paint. Something tells me if Deke was on the court, this wouldn’t have happened.

Denver’s perimeter defense may be weak with Miller, ‘Melo and Boykins (who’s been getting major minutes with Lenard out), but at least they have some help behind them with Martin & Camby.

2. i’m beginning to think this isn’t just a slow start for tim thomas, and that perhaps his back still isn’t quite right. lenny’s decision to go with shanderson and ariza as the small forwards almost exclusively in the 2nd half when he could have reinserted thomas to try and help him find his rhythm concerns me. if it’s the back this is obviously a really big problem since thomas doesn’t defend, rebound, or pass even when he’s healthy.

Granted Pierce can make a lot of people look bad, but Thomas looked horrible. At one point Pierce was shooting a three pointer, and Thomas closed the distance, but didn’t bother to raise his arms. He wasn’t close enough to block the shot, but he could have easily gotten a hand in Pierce’s mug. One of three things was going on there. Either Thomas was really careful about giving Pierce’s dentist some more work, his back is bad enough that it hurts him to lift his arms, or he’s just in a funk. Right now I’m hoping he’s just an anti-dentite.

Seriously, being hurt might explain Thomas’ poor play, but since there is no public evidence of an injury, I have to go with random chance. Everybody has two bad games in a row a few times during the season, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Thomas’ has started the season off this way. Hopefully he’ll snap out of it on Tuesday.

3. trevor ariza’s going to be a very good defender. he already gets his hands on a ton of balls. more importantly, he puts a lot of pressure on the man with the ball. jamal crawford, on the other hand, is a much worse defender than i’d anticipated.

Agreed. Ariza is real quick & has a good nose for the ball. My personal feeling is Wilkens should try to trap and press more, especially when Ariza is in the game. This way he might get an honest defensive effort from Marbury and Crawford. The only problem with this style is the Knicks’ guards would tire quickly, and right now their depth at guard is a real concern. Penny did not play tonight, and Allan Houston is waiting for government sponsored health care. The Knicks backup PG is their starting SG, and an audible moan can be heard from the crowd when Moochie Norris or Shanderson enter the game.

I really haven’t paid too much attention to Crawford’s defense individually, as the whole Knick team has a problem stopping their opponents. Crawford, Marbury, and Tim Thomas look like they have to tools to play good defense, but just don’t apply them. That’s why I think taking an aggressive approach might get their game up to speed on that end of the floor.

4. i wondered how sweetney would fare against shot-blockers like lafrentz and blount. he had a difficult time getting the shot off but he did draw fouls. (most of his points came against the rookie al jefferson.) if he can get into the mid 70s ft shooting he could average 15 ppg.

If Michael Sweetney can get more minutes, he could easily average 15PPG. He’s looked good so far this season. I don’t think his size is much of an issue, because of his girth, reach, and strong hands (when the ball is already lodged in there). Even tonight when he went up against two shot blocker, he was able to draw the foul, and put points on the board. He needs to improve his free throw shooting, but if anything is limiting his per game scoring, it’s a lack of time.

One thing I did notice is that the Knicks don’t feed Sweetney the ball in the post often. In fact tonight I can’t remember anytime where dumping the ball into the post was the primary option. Hopefully Wilkens will correct this in the near future. So many good things can happen when you have a strong post player. The perimeter guys can get open looks when the defense collapses, drawing fouls is always good thing, and the slashers can cut towards the hoop for a quick score. Hopefully Sweetney will get more minutes and take a more prominent role in the offense.

*eFG% = Efficient field goal percentage, this is like FG%, but gives a proper bonus for three pointers made. (FGM + 1/2*3PM)/FGA
**PSA = Points per Shot Attempt. Unlike eFG%, it includes free throws. PTS/(FGA+FTA*.44)

NYK 93 MIN 99

The Knicks opened up the 2005 season with a loss. They played on the road against the team with the best record in the West last year. To their credit they were in the game until late into the fourth quarter. In his first game as a Knick, Jamal Crawford filled in for Allan Houston and scored 22 points (10-23, 48% eFG%*, .96PSA**). Marbury led the Knicks in scoring (8-15, 63% eFG%, 1.8PSA) but was one point behind game leader Kevin Garnett (13-20, 65% eFG%, 1.4PSA).

The Knicks second round pick Trevor Ariza, the youngest Knick to play on opening day, played 23 minutes. He showed some of his high energy ability from preseason, with 5REB, 3AST, & 2STL. Trevor had a “replay-worthy” put-back dunk, and later broke up a Minnesota fast break with a steal. Ariza had a good shooting percentage, and didn’t get to the line once, which was a strength of his in October. In the future, I expect Ariza to have some poor shooting nights, but I also expect him to score from the foul line.

Sweetney came into the game as a defensive substitution at 6:17 in the 2nd, and made his presence felt immediately when he was fouled on the Knicks next possession on a drive 20 seconds later. He looked so impressive, at one point unleashing a series of post moves before hitting his shot in the paint and drawing the foul. To my recollection, Kurt Thomas tried to score from the paint only once, and was stripped. Thomas played well, but he left the Knicks without an inside presence. To illustrate my point, Thomas had only 2 free throw attempts to Sweetney’s 9. If the Knicks are going to get their perimeter guys open shots, then they need someone who will force double teams down low.

It was ironic that Sweetney got in the game later, and played less minutes than Ariza. Tim Thomas’ poor shooting (3-13, 27% eFG%, .5PSA) contributed to Ariza’s high minutes. Nazr Mohammed only made a nominal contribution in the 29 minutes he played, and I wish I could say the same for Baker & “JYD” (0 points combined in 14 minutes). Wilkens will have to find more minutes for Sweetney, and I expect he will once he realizes that Sweets is the Knicks only low-post threat.

Tonight the Knicks lost on one stat alone, shooting percentage. Minnesota shot 54% eFG%, to the Knicks 43%. Looking at the stat sheet, only Sam Cassell had a poor shooting night (7-19, 37% eFG%, 1.0PSA) for Minnesota. Everyone else had a field day. New York outplayed the T-Wolves in turnovers per possession (.12 to .17), offsensive rebounds (20.8% to 10.3%), and scoring from the foul line (.191 to .165 FTM/FGA). I may have to eat my words from a few days ago when I said “the Knicks don’t need to get better at contesting shots”. With Mutombo gone, and Shanderson about to rack up “DNP-Coach’s Decision” at a phenomenal rate, maybe the Knicks have lost a step defensively from last year. They don’t have a great defensive presence on the entire team, and it’ll be something to watch this year.

*eFG% = Efficient field goal percentage, this is like FG%, but gives a proper bonus for three pointers made. (FGM + 1/2*3PM)/FGA
**PSA = Points per Shot Attempt. Unlike eFG%, it includes free throws. (PTS/(FGA+FTA*.44)

2005 NBA Preseason Starts

The NBA preseason started this past weekend, and excuse me if I don’t get excited. I’m a bit curious maybe even intrigued, but certainly nowhere near excited, overjoyed, or thrilled. Preseason for any sport is like playing the demo of a video game. It’s great for a few moments, but the novelty quickly wears off. In preseason, if the Knicks go undefeated or if they don’t win a single preseason game my attention might be piqued. But anywhere in the middle, and I don’t think it matters what their record is.

Preseason games just don’t matter. When the score doesn’t count, coaches do strange things like play all of their players. Sarcasm aside, I can’t get interested in a game where Dikembe Mutombo is out there for 22 minutes against a Shaq-infused Heat while a healthy Yao Ming sits on the bench. That’s not the Jeff Van Gundy I’m used to seeing, the ex-Knick coach who wouldn’t give minutes to Camby or Sprewell when they first arrived.

There are only two reasons why I’d have any interest in the NBA preseason. First is injuries. Obviously, preseason injuries can carry over to the season, but that’s not what I’m concerned with. More important is how players have recovered from last year’s injuries. If it seems it’s been more than a year since I watched a healthy Allan Houston, it’s because it has been that long. As a Knick fan, I’m interested if H20 has that lift off when he shoots his jumper, and whether he can move laterally on defense. If Houston looks like the limited player we saw last year, then it might be time to invest in a Jamal Crawford jersey.

The second reason I’d pay attention to the preseason is to watch the young guys. I’m not saying that preseason success or failure is the ultimate test of a player’s worth. However it can’t hurt if a player has a good preseason (or a great summer league), and it isn’t a great sign if a player struggles that should be having some modicum of success against second tier players. In the plus column, a good preseason for a young player might earn him the coach’s favor & some extra minutes when the games are for real.

Other than a glancing interest, I’m not going expend time on the NBA preseason when I have what is looking like a great Fall for New York sports. The Jets & Giants are a combined 8-1. Meanwhile the Yankees and Red Sox face off in what could be the biggest professional sports rivalry of the new era. The Celtics/Lakers are a decade old. The Bulls/Knicks are happily trading players. The Cowboys, Pigskins, Packers, Raiders, and Niners are all mediocre. The Dodgers and Yankees no longer segregate a city. The odds that the Cubs and White Sox make the playoffs in the same year is minimal.

The Mets were awful (again) this year, but Met fans can rally around the Red Sox in their battle against the “Evil Empire”*. It feels like there has been a sympathetic shoulder extended from Queens to Boston since 1986. Met fans would have been happy beating any AL team to win a World Series: Detroit, California, or Toronto would have been as good as any non New York team. It just happened that their second miracle run coincided with Boston’s then 68 years of psychological torture (now at 85 years). Like accidentally running over your neighbor’s dog, the Mets inherited part of the guilt that is passed along in Boston from generation to generation.

Want to spot the Met fans during playoff time? Go to any NY bar during one of the AL Series games, and keep track of the patrons. Cross anyone off your list that cheers when the Yankees or Red Sox score. Anyone left will have a secret smile when the Sox are doing well. Met fans in New York don’t dare cheer openly against the Yankees in October, for fear of reprisal.

* POST NOTES: If anything should bear the adjective “evil”, it should be Ben Affleck’s 2003 movies: Paycheck, Daredevil, and Gigli. Who in the movie industry signed off on Elektra, the Daredevil spin off? It had to be Matt Murdock, because it couldn’t be anyone who actually saw Daredevil. While I’m on a movie kick, can someone tell George Lucas that when you redo old movies, you’re suppose to take out the bad scenes, not insert them!

Step 1. Conclusion – Step 2: Look At The Facts

Bad writing is when an author writes an article with a biased conclusion before looking at any of the facts. The worst misuse of statistics is cherry picking ones that support your point, while ignoring any facts that reject your hypothesis.

Enter columnist Frank Hughes, and his article “These moves aren’t so smooth.” Now I’m not such a Knick fan that I would let my fandom get in the way of an objective and intelligent argument. However luckily for me, Hughes’ article was neither of these. Hughes sets the tone with the first line:

“With all due respect to my esteemed colleague and compadre Chad Ford: What the heck is Isiah thinking?”

The first time I read this I said to myself “Great!” I like to hear opposing opinions. Sometimes it’s good to have a devil’s advocate, because it keeps you in check. If you can’t defend your ideas and theories, then maybe they aren’t as valid as you think. Even better, sometimes you’ll learn something that’s contrary to your current beliefs, and change the way you think. Unfortunately the article had little chance of swaying any rational person. Read on:

“If, in fact, Isiah signs Erick Dampier to go with a sign-and-trade deal for Jamal Crawford that essentially eliminates any future flexibility he may have had, well, in my mind that is figuratively putting the cement shoes — why has Nike not made a pair of those yet? — on the Knicks and throwing them in the East River on a frigid January day.”

Organized crime references to describe a New York sports team? Nothing says bad writing like a tired, drawn out metaphor. Memo to Mr. Hughes: the Knicks have been in salary cap hell for years now. Even without Crawford & Dampier’s contracts, they will be over the cap until at least the summer of 2007. This is his only valid point in the entire article. Being over the cap gives you less flexibility than being under the cap. However being over the cap & being willing to take on more contracts doesn’t make you inflexible. Consider this: if the Knicks are so inflexible, then how come they only have 3 players remaining from the pre-Isiah era? And Zeke hasn’t been with the team for a whole year yet! That sounds pretty darn flexible to me.

Looking at the Knicks roster, they still have some valuable trading chips. Sweetney is valuable for his contract as much as his promising ability. I’d imagine a few teams are interested in Kurt Thomas and Nazr Mohammed. If the Knicks don’t trade them this year, next summer they have a ton of expiring contracts to deal in Penny Hardaway ($15.8M), Tim Thomas ($14M), Nazr Mohammed ($5.5M), and Moochie Norris ($4.2M with a team option – an option that no sane team would be dumb enough to activate). That’s almost an entire salary cap in expiring contracts, enough to make any money strapped GM start drooling. The year after, they have about $35M in expiring contracts in Allan Houston, Shandon Anderson, & Jerome Williams (team option).

So what is Hughes “proof” of Isiah’s poorly thought out plan:

“Yes, I agree, some of the Knicks’ pieces certainly look good, to go with Stephon Marbury and Allan Houston. But now more than ever I am a big believer in chemistry, and when you really get right down to it, the collection of players Isiah has assembled has really accomplished very little in their respective careers, and they have had plenty of time to do it.”

Did you catch that? Chemistry = career accomplishments. What type of chemistry I’m not exactly sure about. Is it locker room chemistry? On the court chemistry? Molecular chemistry? He just doesn’t specify the type. Of course what does he use to measure career accomplishments?

Number of playoff games played.

That’s right it’s the old ring argument (Player A is better than Player B, because he’s won more championships). This kind of thinking is just not well thought out, because winning a playoff game or championship is a team effort, not an individual one. Last year, the following players didn’t play in the playoffs: Vince Carter, Tracey McGrady, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Gilbert Arenas, LeBron James, Carlos Boozer, and Allen Iverson. I didn’t even bother to include any players from the West. Players that did have playoff experience were such superstars as: Dana Barros, Vin Baker, DerMarr Johnson, Shammond Williams, Daniel Santiago, and Wang ZhiZhi. I don’t know about you, but if I were making a team, I’d overlook playoff experience, and go with the first group.

Let’s see he continues with this line of thought, and if you think I’m paraphrasing to make my point, read the article & be the judge for yourself. (Bolding is not in the original article, but added by me.)

  1. “[Marbury]’s been in the league now for eight seasons. Ten. [Editor’s note: I don’t know why this sentence “Ten.” is there or what it means, but I left it in so you get the exact feel of the article.] You know how many playoff games he has been in in that span? Eighteen. And he’s never been out of the first round…
  2. Tim Thomas has been in the league nine years, playing a grand total of 33 playoff games
  3. Kurt Thomas, signed at sizable dollars through 2008-09, has 48 career playoff games in nine years with career postseason averages of 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds
  4. “Since he left Orlando in 1999, Penny Hardaway has played in a grand total of 18 playoffs games. By comparison, his sophomore season in Orlando, he played in 21 postseason games…
  5. Nazr Mohammed … has played seven playoff games and has never advanced past the first round. He has career averages of 6.7 points and 5.3 rebounds…
  6. Allan Houston is the biggest conundrum because he clearly is talented. He also clearly is frustrating, going into long spells of quietude during a season and seemingly disappearing at important junctures…

What’s interesting is how he changes the facts he uses from one person to the next when the stats don’t support his point of view. To bash Tim Thomas & Marbury, he shows how few playoff games they’ve played. However, unfortunately for Frank, counting playoff appearances doesn’t necessarily work with his third choice: Kurt Thomas. Kurt’s seen enough playoff action with the Knicks, including going to the Finals in ’99. So he drags up Kurt’s poor playoff statistics. Of course he doesn’t mention that those numbers are heavily weighted when Kurt was a backup (only 22 minutes per game, not the 31+ we’ve been accustom to over the last 3 years.) In his playoff experiences as a starter, Kurt’s averaged 13.6PPG & 11.4REB, which is conveniently ignored. Also ignored are Marbury’s playoff numbers: 19.4PPG, 6.7AST, and 1.6STL.

For Penny Hardaway, not only does he eliminate his early playoff success with the Magic, but uses it against him. In essence splitting Penny’s career in two. What gives him the right to do that? Did Penny’s “chemistry” change after he left Orlando? BTW since Hughes doesn’t mention it, Penny’s career playoff numbers since he left Orlando – 19 games (not the 18 he falsely reported), 17.1PPG, 5.4AST, and 1.7 STL.

For each of the first five guys, he’s mentioned the number of playoff games they’ve played in over their career and when it suits him, their playoff statistics. But eventually he has to mention Allan Houston. H20 has played in 63 playoff games, averaging 40 minutes, 19.3 PPG, and a 48.7% eFG%. If Hughes wants to be an impartial and forthcoming writer he can mention these numbers, and say that Houston is the only player on the Knicks with playoff experience. Surely admitting that the Knicks have one playoff tested starter won’t blow his whole argument out of the water. So does Frank take the high road?

“Allan Houston is the biggest conundrum because he clearly is talented. He also clearly is frustrating, going into long spells of quietude during a season and seemingly disappearing at important junctures.”

I have to give Frank some credit, if you’re going to write bullshit, you might as well use big words like conundrum, quietude, and junctures.

I won’t even bother to go over the rest of the article. It’s more of the same – choose a player & pick only the numbers that make your claim look good. The flaws are obvious in this piece, beginning to end. If Hughes want to criticize Isiah’s moves, then there are many logical arguments that would make sense. This is a lesson to all aspiring writers out there. If you are having trouble writing an article because the facts don’t support your point, then maybe your initial hypothesis was wrong in the first place.

It’s Official

According to the Chicago Sun Times, Jamal Crawford is a Knick. The deal is exactly as reported a few days ago, and Crawford accepted a 7 year $55M dollar deal. New York acquires Crawford and Williams for Frank Williams, Othella Harrington, Dekembe Mutombo, and Cezary Trybanski. Frank Williams played well in New York before Marbury came over, who took away most of his minutes. Williams will compete against #3 overall pick Ben Gordan for backup minutes to Hinrich. The other three players total about $9M in expiring contracts for Chicago.

In Crawford, New York gets insurance for Allan Houston, and I’m guessing will be his eventual replacement. (Or else why would the Knicks sign him for so long?) Crawford isn’t nearly the shooter that Houston is, but is able to play the point as well. Williams is a rebounding PF, and you don’t want him taking any outside shots (32% jump shooter, 64% career FT%). The Knicks aren’t done yet, as now they’re turning their attention to acquiring Dampier.