An Open Letter to Donnie Walsh

Dear Mr. Walsh,

My name is Jon Abbey, and I’m a lifelong Knicks fan (“Hi, Jon!”). I won’t say “long-suffering”, because it is only sports, but it hasn’t always been the most pleasurable ride, although there have been bright spots along the way. My first memories are of the teams of the late seventies: Campy Russell, Marvin Webster, Sly Williams, Mike Glenn (such a sweet stroke), Ray Williams and Sugar Ray. If I wasn’t hooked already, the famous Bernard King/Isiah Thomas showdown in a deciding game 5 when I was a senior in high school clinched it. There have been high points since: two Finals trips, nine straight seasons making at least the second round of the playoffs, Anthony Mason’s unique brand of studliness, Nate’s game in Atlanta a few weeks ago, and I’m sure plenty more. But the bottom line, seeing the boys in orange and blue win it all, has yet to happen in my conscious-of-basketball-lifetime, which is getting close to its fourth decade.

But we’re all well aware of this sad history, so why am I repeating it? Because, for the first time in a fandom that stretches back to the Carter presidency, I see a way that we can be a serious title contender, and even more than that, one with a relatively big window to win titles. I’m sure that you are aware of most or all of what I’m about to write, but on the off chance any of it hasn’t occurred to you and could possibly be useful in any way, I feel compelled to at least get it out there.

So, what’s my plan? Obviously any realistic title contender we’d have would begin with LeBron and builds around him. This is the team I would try to construct next season (age as of next October):

PF-LeBron James (25 years, 9 months)
PG-Joe Johnson (29 years, 3 months)
C-David Lee (27 years, 6 months; 6’9″)
SG-Wilson Chandler (23 years, 5 months, 6’8″)
SF-Danilo Gallinari (22 years, 2 months, 6’10”)

My assembled five doesn’t have a natural PG or a conventional center, but I think it’s a great fit for a starting lineup for D’Antoni, who seems quite reluctant to play conventional centers anyway. With so much offense from the starters, the bench players could do other things, a distributing PG, a defensive big man a la Przybilla (I’ve always been a big Brendan Haywood fan, also a FA this summer, although this relies in part on if D’Antoni will ever play him), maybe Jeffries as a defensive stopper swingman, maybe Jordan Hill can develop into an energy backup big.

Also, under this plan, NY wouldn’t undergo the almost total roster turnover that we’ve been thinking they would have to, which should speed up the team cohesion process as well.

Gone: Harrington, Hughes, Nate, Duhon
Arrivals: LeBron, Johnson, a PG, maybe Haywood

Why Joe Johnson and not Wade or Bosh? Wade is more injury prone, and would have a bit of trouble being a second fiddle. As for Bosh, the other four starters can all guard the post and Bosh is a more expensive, possibly slightly better version of Lee. Additionally Johnson should be the least expensive of the lot.

Of course it first depends on landing LeBron, but if we did, Lee and Johnson would be the complementary stars on a title contender for years to come. There could be a few ways to achieve this, but one avenue would be to involve Nike as a third party. Having a LeBron/Johnson duo in metropolis like New York would be a marketing dream for them, which in turn would mean more money for King James.

I’ll leave the specific financial details to other people, but I think this could happen if LeBron wanted it to. Presumably Johnson would be into the Pippen role (he’s not going to be the best guy on a title team, but he could certainly be a #2 to LeBron), and Lee would want to stay in New York for the ride. If LeBron says yes, assuming he’s willing to leave cap room for Johnson and Lee, they shouldn’t be too hard to get in line.

Selling points to LeBron?

1) Instant Title Contender
It doesn’t take much around him, but Joe Johnson would probably be the most talented player LeBron has been teamed with. Add a few role players on the bench, this team could make a run very quickly.

2) New York City
Clearly this is and always has been our main selling point, coupled with the Nets not getting to Brooklyn for at least two seasons. NY is a hoops city (more than football or baseball) when we’re given the chance, and LeBron would instantly be the best player in Knicks history the moment he signed the contract. He’d have a chance to own NY pro hoops history, which could never happen in Chicago or LA or Boston. In Bill Simmons’ ‘Book of Basketball’, the highest Knick in his alltime player rankings is Clyde Frazier at 32. LeBron was already #20 when the rankings were set in early 2009. New York basketball would be LeBron James.

3) The Yankees
In an unprecedented joint move in a clawback for all of the tax breaks and cash they gave for the Stadium, the city of New York gets the Yankees to promise that as long as LeBron plays for the Knicks, any September that he wants, he can be added to the 40 man roster and activated, to sit on the bench with his boys and maybe even occasionally get in a lopsided game. This one is only partly serious, but should at least be investigated by the powers that be before being dismissed. Every little bit helps. :)

4) His Legacy
In addition to being the greatest basketball player in New York City history, under D’Antoni, he would have more freedom to be a kind of player we’ve never seen before. He could be Magic Johnson with Dwight Howard’s athleticism. He could try to average a triple double for a season if he wanted, he could defend the other team’s post players at times (hopefully not too much, this would wear on even him over the course of the year, but as another option to keep him interested), etc, etc. D’Antoni is far from perfect as a coach, but the amount of freedom that he allows his players is pretty unique and why (good) players love playing for him.

So, Donnie, this is your chance to make basketball matter again in the Big Apple. Talk to Nike, talk to Bloomberg, talk to the Yankees, talk to whoever you need to. Make this happen. July 1 is approaching fast.

Going out of business! 50% off! Priced to move! (All sales are final. Void where prohibited by law)

Following hard on the heels of Mike K’s fine breakdown of the benefits (or lack thereof) of trading for McGrady, I’m going to channel my inner Bill Simmons (I’ve been watching “Jersey Shore” on MTV and going to strip clubs all weekend to emotionally/psychically prep m’self. Needless to say, it’s been pretty harrowing.) and throw out some possible deals that could be made, even if our erstwhile coach is playing it coy:

“The key is it’s got to fit into the plan,” D’Antoni said before the Knicks’ 112-91 loss to the T’wolves last night. “It’s got to be right. I think we as an organization, we’re looking all the time, trying to better the team without messing up the long-term plan. It’s a tricky thing to do.

“We’ll keep looking. [Team president] Donnie [Walsh] will keep looking.”

You got that right, Coach. It is tricky. Is it as tricky as realizing that perhaps you should have played more than 6 guys in the 2nd half of a back-to-back, even if it means deviating from the sanctity of your precious 8-man rotation or going to the zone when Jefferson, Love and (shudder) Ryan Freaking Hollins are positively killing the Nix in the low post? Maybe not. But I digress…

Since it’s so durned difficult to make trades, in the spirit of teamwork (I’ve been taking my Teamocil these days), here are a few reasonable and hopefully fair deals to aid our (snicker, chortle) playoff push or upgrade for the future.

TRADE NUMERO UNO
New York trades: Jared Jeffries (SF/PF) and Cuttino Mobley (SG)
Sacramento trades: Kenny Thomas (SF/PF), Sergio Rodriguez (PG),  Hilton Armstrong (C)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yk98edg

Why it’s plausible: Rodriguez is buried behind Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih at PG. Jeffries has been a rumored target of Cowtown’s eye for awhile. They save some serious ducats (Mobley) in exchange for taking on JJ’s last year – hence a net savings – and dump 3 cats who are out of their rotation. The Nix get a young, up-tempo PG and of course, salary-cap savings.

TRADE KET SZAMA
New York trades: Jared Jeffries (SF/PF)
San Antonio trades: Matt Bonner (PF), Michael Finley (SG) Ian Manhinmi (PF/C)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yfdmonf

Why it’s plausible: In the west playoffs, JJ’d be a valuable piece, guarding a variety of players – from Nowitzki to Brandon Roy to Chris Paul. The Nix would agree (nudge, nudge, wink wink) to release Bonner and Finley so that they could re-sign w/San Antonio. The ‘Bockers get a young big/project and (all together now), cap room in 2010.

TRADE ZAHL DREI
New York sends: Jordan Hill (PF), Cuttino Mobley (SG), Wilson Chandler (SF/PF)
Golden State trades: Anthony Randolph (PF), Anthony Morrow (SG), Speedy Claxton (PG) Devean George (SF), Raja Bell (SG)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yztmymk

Why it’s plausible: For whatever reason, Nellie seems down on the Anthony’s (Morrow and Randolph). Chandler’s stock is at an all-time high. Hill can be sold to Golden State of Mind-ers as a reasonable substitute for Randolph and the Nix absolutely steal two pieces and actually save cap-bucks (a million or so).

And finally, just fo’ sh@*%s n’ giggles, a mega-deal (pigs flying not included)…

TRADE ANTALL FIRE
New York sends: Wilson Chandler (SF/PF), David Lee (PF/C), Nate Robinson (Freakshow), Jordan Hill (PF/C), Toney Douglas (PG)
Portland trades: Greg Oden (C), Jerryd Bayless (PG), Rudy Fernandez (SG), Travis Outlaw (SF/PF), Patrick Mills (PG)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yk6tm2y

Why it’s utterly implausible but makes a weird, twisted kinda sense: Hear me out. While Portland would be admitting that they screwed the pooch by taking Oden over Durant, look at their 8-man roation post-trade –

PG Miller/Blake
SG Roy/Robinson
SF Chandler/Webster
PF Aldridge
C Lee

Lee and Aldridge in the high/low post would be great. Robinson returns to the Pacific Northwest and wouldn’t be a PG liability since Roy does a chunk of the ballhandling. Chandler’s a serious upgrade at SF over Batum/Webster. And they get two prospects in Hill and Toney D to boot.  That Blazers team could seriously challenge the Nugs and the Spurs (if not the Lakers) and given the number of picks/overseas assets the team still has, they’d still have the pieces to make a deal if it didn’t work out.

For the D’Antonis, we’d be a little light this year (to say the least), but moving forward, wouldn’t Oden be worth rolling the dice on? If he’s healthy he’s the defensive 5 we haven’t had since Ewing. Bayless is another boom-bust investment and Rudy F. could be Ginobili 2.0. That’s a TON of if’s, but what’s the ceiling of the guys we’re trading? Lee’s great, but not a franchise player or even a Robin to someone’s Batman like Vintage Pippen/Worthy/McHale or these days, Gasol/Pierce. Chandler’s getting better n’ better, but he’s a very poor man’s Shawn Marion. Hill could be a more athletic Kurt Thomas and Douglas might turn into Chris Childs. All nice pieces, for sure. But there isn’t a franchise guy in the bunch. Now take a look at the 2010 roster if these moves pan out:

PG Bayless
SG Fernandez
SF Gallo
PF That guy from Cleveland
C Oden

You bring Jeffries off the bench and fill the rest of the roster w/vet free agents who are jonesing to be part of LeBron’s entourage & Marcus Landry types. If you wanna get really ballsy, you see if Phoenix will dump Nash for expirings + picks. That’s a serious contender right now. It won’t happen, just b/c Portland can’t/won’t bail on Oden. But a girl can dream, right? Whaddaya think Knickerblogger-istas?

Mid Season Youngins Report

With 41 games in the books, I thought I’d check in on the youngins and see how they’re doing.

Wilson Chandler’s stats are quite similar to last year’s with a few worthwhile exceptions. Before the start of the season I said Chandler would have to increase either his free throw attempts or three point shooting percentage to be a successful NBA player. Unfortunately Wilson has regressed in both areas (FTA/36 2.8 to 2.2, 3p% 32.8% to 27.2%). These stats are important for his development because Chandler settled for the three pointer too often and didn’t connect often enough from downtown. Instead Chandler has reduced the number of three pointers attempted (3PA/36 4.1 to 2.6) and consequently his TS% has risen to 52.5%, good enough to be his best season. Chandler has given up chucking threes to taking the action to the hoop. NBA hotspots shows Chandler taking a high percentage of his shots from the paint (234 of 536 FG attempts). Granted he isn’t drawing contact and getting to the charity stripe, but this is a shift in the right direction for the 22 year old.

Limited to being a three point specialist in his first season, Danilo Gallinari has shown his athleticism in his sophomore campaign. Gallo has improved his free throws (2.4 to 3.5 fta/36), rebounding (4.8 to 5.5 reb/36), blocked shots (0.3 to 1.0 blk/36), personal fouls (4.2 to 2.4 pf/36) and points scored (14.9 to 16.7 pts/36). Overall he’s improved in multiple areas, which is exactly what you’d want from an underaged #6 pick.

Neither player in the Knicks draft class of 2009 has made an impact. Toney Douglas is 9th in minutes on the team and Hill is 11th, which in D’Antoni’s rotation means neither is playing consistently. At the start of the season, it seemed as if Toney Douglas would be in the rotation and Jordan Hill would be on the outside looking in. There was even rumors of Hill being sent to the D-League to see some action. But recently Hill has crept into the end of the Knicks rotation, and Douglas has seen his minutes reduced. To the eye Douglas has been quick on the defensive end, but he’s lost the play making ability that he flashed in the preseason. Meanwhile Hill has shown his athleticism on both ends of the floor, but he’s settling for long jumpers too often for a F/C. Finally Marcus Landry has been limited strictly to garbage time (72 minutes played on the year).

Of the five, Danilo Gallinari is the only one that’s given the inkling of becoming a future All Star. Down the stretch it’s important to see if Gallo can take a bigger role in the offense and not defer to his teammates. Chandler has improved, but he still need to produce more to be an above average NBA starter. As the season progresses we should monitor Chandler’s efficiency. For Douglas, Hill, and Landry, it’d be good for them to get significant court time, but the Knicks pursuit of a playoff spot could hamper such an opportunity.

Knick Fans Should Be Thankful This Christmas

Hey Knick fans, what’s there to be unhappy about? (And for those needing a little extra Christmas cheer, I highly recommend Twas The Night Before Knicksmas.) Wait before you answer this question, I want to put things into perspective.

First, the Knicks will have cap space this offseason. And not just a few million through the mid level exception to grab a Jerome James or Jared Jeffries. But rather enough room to get the best player in the NBA. And perhaps with a little luck there will be space for a second star as well. Considering the overspending of the last decade, this alone should have New Yorkers dancing in the aisles.

Second, the roster has some good young talent. David Lee has blossomed from a late round pick to become one of the better power forwards in the league. Maybe he’s not an All Star talent, but he’s in the discussion. It’s easy to imagine Lee on a championship team as a key element. Additionally New York has Danilo Gallinari, an intriguing 21 year old. Gallo showed he’s deadly from three his first year, and in his second he is wowing fans with multidimensional play. Personally if I’m the Knicks GM, he might be my only untouchable player on the roster.

Rookies Toney Douglas and Jordan Hill are both still raw. From the minutes I’ve seen of Douglas, the guy can defend. He’s lightning quick on the defensive side of the ball, and if he can put together his game on the offensive side, he’ll be a solid pro. Jordan Hill is a #8 pick that has been buried on the bench, but his potential is unknown. Certainly there’s a GM out there that fansied him last summer and would be willing to part with something of value for his services. Finally, of course there is Nate Robinson, who is talented and may find himself out of D’Antoni’s doghouse yet. And if he doesn’t then he might fetch the Knicks another young player, a draft pick, or some cap space.

As for D’Antoni, he’s the best coach the Knicks have had in about a decade. Complain all you want about his short rotation, favoritism, or system, but isn’t that par for the course of a good coach? Think of the last 2 good Knick coaches. Jeff Van Gundy treated Marcus Camby like a red-headed step child for a year. It took Ewing’s injury and subsequently Camby leading the team to the Finals for Van Gundy to realize the talent he had. And Pat Riley forgot he had Rolando Blackman in the playoffs and instead played Greg Anthony (with a TS% of .487 that year) 17 minutes per game. Blackman had almost as many playoff minutes (34) as Corey Gaines (28) that year.

No matter what you think about D’Antoni, it’s clear that he’s a step up from Don Chaney, Herb Williams, Isiah Thomas or Lenny Wilkens. (I won’t even mention that other guy, considering the joyous season we’re in). D’Antoni turned Phoenix into one of the best teams in the league, and was one bloody nose (and a few suspensions) away from a title. There’s no chance any of those other guys would have been able to accomplish with the Suns. And if you think that D’Antoni gets too much credit for Phoenix’s success, think about Phil Jackson for a second. How many championships did Jackson win in the 2 years Jordan fielded fly balls? Even having Kobe and Gasol and Odom wasn’t enough talent 2 years ago. Given the players, Jackson is the type of coach that’s good enough to win a title. And the same is true of D’Antoni.

Finally Knick fans should thankful of the front office. Oh sure we can argue about every little move, and debate lots of the small stuff. But to put things in perspective, we owe a draft pick because of what Isiah Thomas did in 2004. In the preceding years, Knick fans would be cowering in fear of a news announcement involving their team because it likely meant that they traded away a draft pick or gave another team the cap space to sign the player of their dreams. Those days are gone. In fact if the team announced a trade, I think most fans would imagine it would involve acquiring a draft pick (like when we got Toney Dougals) or freeing up some extra cap space (like when we sent Jamal Crawford or Zach Randolph packing).

When I think about my childhood, opening Christmas presents wasn’t about what I didn’t get. I rarely got the exact toy I wanted, and some Christmases were leaner than others, but more often than not I got lots of good things that I enjoyed. And the same should be true of Knick fans. In the spirit of Christmas, for one day we should be thankful for the things we have and not fret the things we don’t. That, and let’s beat the tar out of the Miami Heat!

LET’S GO KNICKS!

Trading Nate, The Logistics

With Nate Robinson in D’Antoni’s doghouse it’s only natural for Knick fans to expect the diminutive guard to be traded. Nate is in the last year of his deal, and if he isn’t getting playing time now, then it seems unlikely that New York is going to tender him a long term deal. Additionally considering Nate’s instant offense and other tangibles, he’ll likely be courted by a few different teams. Hence it makes the most sense for the Knicks to move him this year, before they get nothing in return for their investment.

Unfortunately trades in the NBA are rarely as easy as finding a match in talent. You also have to be mindful of the salary cap & the rules that accompany it. For instance there have been rumors of the Knicks interested in Tyrus Thomas, but the teams couldn’t swap the two straight up due to the cap rules. And this is where things get interesting.

In the NBA any trade involving teams over the salary cap has to be within of 125% plus $0.1M of the contracts given up. This means if the Knicks traded someone that was making $4M, the most they could get back in contacts is $5.1M ($4M * 1.25 + $0.1M). However there is a rule in place for Base Year Compensation players (BYC) which is meant to prevent teams from signing players solely to match contracts in order to make trades. This was put in place to prevent teams from let’s say giving Morris Almond $10M to trade him with a future first for Luol Deng.

New York signed Robinson for $4M this year, but according to ESPN his BYC amount is $2.02M. This means that when calculating how much the Knicks can receive, we use $2.02M, and when calculating how much the other team can receive it uses $4M. Under the salary cap rules, a team that sends out $2.02M can only receive $2.54M in salaries, hence this makes it impossible to do a 1 for 1 BYC deal with a team over the cap.

Since the calculation is based on a percentage, the only way for a team to trade a BYC player is to include enough salaries so that the team is within the allowed threshold. Figuring out this how much requires a little bit of arithmetic. Solve for x where: $4M + X – (1.25*($2.02M+X)) = $0.1M, and X = $5.5M. So in order to trade Nate Robinson the Knicks would have to include at least $5.5M in salaries.

Knowing this makes for some interesting trade possibilities. One way to work a Nate Robinson for Tyrus Thomas trade would be to add shot-blocking bench-warming centers Darko Milicic ($7.54M) and Jerome James ($6.6M). If the Knicks wanted to shed some salary for the summer, they could include Jared Jeffries ($6.47M) and the Malik Rose trade exception ($0.9M) instead of Darko.

What if, as rumored, the Bulls want Al Harrington? Then the two could do Nate, Harrington and the Quentin Richardson exception for Thomas & Brad Miller. Too one sided for Chicago? Then perhaps the deal could be expanded to something like Thomas, Noah and Miller, for Nate, Harrington, Darko, and Jordan Hill. Although I don’t expect the Bulls to trade Noah so easily, it’s not a ridiculous deal. The Bulls plan on replacing Thomas with Taj Gibson anyway, and Al Harrington would probably eat up some of those minute and more. Between Harrington and Nate, the Bulls wouldn’t lack for scoring. They would be losing a bit at center, but Jordan Hill would give them a young option there.

In any case the Knicks and Bulls do have some options and flexibility in generating a trade. Moving Robinson is easier than moving David Lee because of the smaller salary. To trade Lee, the Knicks would have to pile on $10.1M in salary. Although you have to consider that New York isn’t likely to move Lee, given that he’s the team’s best player and leads them in minutes.

Knicks 110 – Pacers 103

Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America, from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea!  Recap Robert here. For those who chose to say, take in the theater or perhaps venture out to the local motion picture house or perhaps to play the role of social gadfly and sally forth for a stroll about the boulevards of our fair city, taking in the local color and engaging in witty badinage with the citizenry — shopkeepers, wand’ring minstrels,  and whatnot, I have some surprising, nay shocking news. Our beloved sporting collective, the cagers known far and wide as the Knickerbocker Basketball Club of New York, managed to score MORE points than their esteemed opponents, thereby proving victorious in this evening’s contest.

Honestly, they kinda screwed up the lead/theme I had going for this recap. I was gonna vent about lousy officiating, how the Nix never get the calls, and as a result, we get 4 and 5 point swings at crucial moments/turning points in the game. I was going to follow that by ripping MD’A a new one for sitting Hill, Douglas, and Gallo when the boys were clearly on cruise mode and end it w/a whole, “The Pacers have a plan on offense and defense and the Knicks look like 5 guys who showed up for a pickup game” screed. And they go and eff it up by, well…winning. But I’ll take wins and being forced to re-write my purple prose any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

The thing that’s so frustrating about this team is that when the 3 pointers are falling, every other aspect of their game somehow magically rounds into form. To wit: They were down 19 in the middle of the 3rd while enjoying what must have been a pleasant view of watching Tyler Hansbrough do a great David Lee circa ’05-’07 impression. (Side note — I loathe the “Caucasians can only be compared to Caucasians, Euros to other Euros, Overrated bigs from Arizona, etc. etc.,” thing, but here, the comparison is pretty apt.) Suddenly, Hughes cans a couple of threes and magically, the defense gets stingy,  they’re driving to the basket, getting to the line, and/or finding Curry down low. Over the last 4:07, they outscored the LarryBirds 13-4, forced 4 turnovers, shot 66% from the field and basically made it a game again. Same thing happened in the 4th. The lead vacillated between 9 and 13 and they hadn’t made a trey all quarter until w/5:37 to go, Al Buckets cans a bunch of shots from downtown and once again, the NYers are scrambling for lose balls, rotating like mofos on D, beating lazy defenders down the floor – basically doing all the little things good teams do — and they outscore ‘em 24-6 to win in a flourish.

Not to get too Phil Jackson here, but after the 3’s, the whole energy/dynamic of the team changed. Watching the game, you could sense it. Even if the score was still pretty bleak, I (and they) thought they could make a game of this. (One thing they gotta fix — Jordan Hill is the worst towel-waver I’ve seen in a long time. He needs to either start or get in touch w/Jack Haley, stat.) When this team is hitting from downtown (and everyone on the roster is shooting worse from downtown than last year, save Gallo), they can be pretty decent. It’s something I think we all knew heading into the year, but it’s really remarkable (in this game at least) how much their confidence/collective psyche is dependent on their long-range shooting. Anyway, we can all smile now. The world is a glorious and just place again. Let’s all bask in the glory of said win and hopefully our lovable collection of pituitary cases can try to remember what led to the win at least until Saturday afternoon v. the even more hapless NJ Nyets. Some individual performance assessments:

EDDY CURRY – Eddy! Eddy! Eddy! First things first. That Plaxico Burress-esque goat he’s rockin’ is badass. And, it actually makes his face look thinner by accentuating the downward slope of his mandible. Facial aesthetics aside, I was impressed and genuinely happy for Mr. Curry. It was like a mini bit o’ time-travel back to the ’06-’07 season. He was very good in the low post, drew a ton of fouls on offense and got called for an equal amount on defense, shot horridly from the FT line, and turned the ball/couldn’t kick the ball out whenever he was double and triple teamed. Good times. W/this team, his inability to defend the post is less noticeable b/c, well, no one else can either. If he keeps this up, he’s an asset for short stints (like when the 3’s aren’t dropping) and might…gasp…actually be tradable.

LARRY HUGHES – A comeback season for Larry at this stage of his career would be pretty much unprecedented. Can anyone else think of a volume shooting 12-year vet who shot .410 from the field, .489 TS% and .437 eFG% for his career that suddenly morphed into a smart, solid efficient 2? I can’t. It leads one to think that his #’s will regress to mean over the course of the season, but Larry’s seems to have genuinely altered his game/figured out how to play as he’s gotten less “athletic.”

AL HARRINGTON – Oh Al. I can’t stay mad at you. Even if that two-tone mouthpiece really makes you look as bucktoothed as Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. One thing that confuses me. Why isn’t Harrington a better defender? He’s certainly got the length/athleticism (Sorry about that. I promise not to write “athleticism” any more. I feel like Jay Bilas and that’s not a good thing.) to be effective, and that steal in the 4th was money. Is it just effort? W/Al, I’m tempted to say no. Al certainly tries very, very hard, at times to his detriment. So what gives?

CHRIS DUHON – Admit it. We were all secretly hoping that that stinger he suffered in the 3rd was serious. I certainly did. But then again, I’m a bad person. Duhon at least got in synch W/Lee on the pick and roll tonight. (Why Hibbert/Jones/Hansbrough switched to cover Du the whole game is really beyond me). I can actually live w/the atrocious shooting for now. He’s going to start those hitting eventually, right?. It’s the silly passes and 35 foot 3’s that are so galling and seemingly avoidable.

WILSON CHANDLER – He was having his best game of the season before getting in foul trouble (& that charge that fouled him out was a [channeling C. Barkley] turr-a-bull call, just trrbll!). Even so, he still seems inclined to pull up rather than go hard to the hole, possibly (and I’m speculating here) b/c he’s worried he doesn’t have the lift to pull it off.

DAVID LEE – (Use your Seinfeld voice when reading this) Hey, what is the deal with David Lee’s rebounding? I mean come on! You built your entire game on getting after lose balls, tip-ins, and hustle plays but for a solid week or two, you’ve looked more sluggish/lethargic than I did when I was 6 and some friends and I drank a bottle of Robitussin b/c the older kids said you could catch a buzz off of it. I mean, really! (Resume regular thinking voice)

JORDAN HILL, TONEY DOUGLAS, DANILO GALLINARI – As I mentioned about, when the game looked like it was gonna be a rout, I was pounding nails into the floor w/my forehead b/c this trio was riding the pine. Despite the fact that they won, why was Douglas benched for the 2nd half? Why was Gallo yanked so early in the 2nd & 3rd? Yeah, they’d both had uneventful games to that point, but they were certainly no less at fault for the burgeoning deficit than the other fellows. Is this a case of “trusting the vets” or just getting lucky w/the right combo at the right time. As w/all games in which Gallo doesn’t play a lot, I assume Knick fans start collectively praying to some obscure Italian saint that it’s not his back flaring up.

Couple of general thoughts on the Pacers – For all the folks (myself included) who are aghast at passing on Lawson/Blair/Jennings, how good would Danny Granger look at PF in SSOL? I remember bellowing something bellicose about the folly of passing on him for Frye in the ’05 draft. For the first year at least, I was thoroughly mocked on nykfp.com b/c Frye looked like a stud. I think everyone’d take Granger in a heartbeat now. Alls I’m saying is, give the rooks time, yo.

Larry Bird really hasn’t aged well, has he? At this point, he looks like a cross between W.C. Fields and Joe Lieberman.

Hibbert seems so out of place in today’s NBA. If it were 1987, he’d be a nice, slow-footed big w/some decent low-post moves who could contribute on a winning team. Think Kevin Duckworth and his ilk. Now, how many times a year does Hibbert play against someone his size/style? W/Yao out and w/Shaq’s decline I think we’re down to Perkins, Kaman, and Bogut

Anyways, that was fun to watch. Winning. Hmm. A fella could get used to this…

Three Days of Practice

True leaders gone,
Of land and people.
We choose no kin but adopted strangers.
The family weakens by the length we travel…

— “Three Days” by Jane’s Addiction

Yesterday after last night’s post game interview, Mike D’Antoni said the team had three days of practices to figure out what’s wrong before the next game against Indiana. Clearly at 1-9 the team needs a shakeup, so I thought as Knick fans we could discuss what changes you’d like to see come Wednesday.

The 2009 Knicks gave up 110.8 points per 100 possessions and were ranked 23rd. This year they are allowing 109.4, which is ranked 21st. So the defense is about the same as last year, which is what everyone expected. Doing the same comparison on offense shows a serious decline from 108.1 (17th) to 100.2 (25th). Scrutinizing the offensive 4 factors reveals the team’s main weakness. Their eFG has dropped from 50.3% to 47.7%. Other than that, the team has done slightly better with regards to turnovers, and slightly worse at rebounding.

So with those statistics in mind, I think it’s clear who needs to sit. Chris Duhon (29.2% eFG, 36.7% TS) should be at the top of the list, and in fact I’d lobby for him to receive his first DNP on Wednesday. In D’Antoni’s offense, the point guard is critical to the team’s success, and Duhon is the main culprit to their scoring woes. Duhon’s decline is baffling, because players don’t normally decline without reason. Perhaps there’s either a lingering injury or some off-court matter that is causing his putrid performance.

In his place I would play the rookie Toney Douglas. For all the talk of the Knicks passing on drafting Jennings, Lawson, and Blair, Douglas is quietly having a good November (21.1 pts/36, 59.8% eFG, 60.7% eFG). His assists are low, but perhaps that’s because he’s been more of a shooting guard in the offense (2.1 to/36, 1.5 ast/36). Handing the offensive reigns over to him, even if Douglas looks to score first, couldn’t be any worse than what Duhon is doing.

Next to Douglas would be Danilo Gallinari (58.4% eFG, 62.3% TS), David Lee (54.8%, 57.0%), and Larry Hughes (53.3%, 58.6%). Which leaves one spot open. Currently Wilson Chandler has been filling that role, but his shooting has been really bad as well (42.0%, 44.8%). In fact his three point percentage is at a point that he should just really stop taking them (21.9%). Unfortunately there isn’t another Knick who is shooting well enough to be a clear candidate to take his place. So my choice would be Darko Milicic. While Darko isn’t going to help the offense, he doesn’t take a lot of shots and he’ll theoretically help the team defensively.

A lineup of Douglas, Hughes, Gallo, Lee, and Darko should be decent enough defensively without sacrificing too much offense (unlike if they played Chandler and Jeffries). It would end the small ball lineup D’Antoni craves, and give the Knicks a little more size. Shifting Lee to PF would benefit him defensively, Douglas and Hughes would make a strong back court, and Darko could help with penetrators in the paint.

Nate Robinson would be the 6th man to provide scoring off the bench. If Curry were ready, I would use him in a center platoon with Darko, perhaps giving Jordan Hill some minutes there too. This would keep New York in a more traditional alignment for most of the game. And the rest of the minutes can be split between Chandler and Harrington. Actually the latter could earn a DNP in my book, if the Knicks can replace Lee in another way. All Harrington contributes is scoring, and this year his shooting has been substandard (44.2% eFG, 51.3% TS). Which means Harrington isn’t giving the team anything. Visually he’s been unbelievably selfish on the court taking just about every possession he can get his hands on.

Well that’s my take on the Knicks rotation. What’s yours?