Abbreviated Recap from the Live Chat

Here’s a recap of the chat from draft night. I wanted to capture this moment in time from the point of view of the KnickerBlogger Readers. This was heavily edited from a few thousand lines of chat.

All typos are forgiven.

Pre-Draft

Owen: I think there will be a huge group in here to celebrate the arrival of the Italian Stallion, the real one
dave crockett: Not sure I’m happy about JVG and MJax in the booth. They really don’t do the college game.
KnickerBlogger: We have to come up with a better Danilo nickname
KnickerBlogger: Van Gundy loves rookies!
dave crockett: It’s a crime to not have Hubie at the draft.
KnickerBlogger: I can’t wait until Vitale comes out – he loves 4 year collegiates and hates high schoolers & despises foreigners
Brian Cronin: It is fun, Mike, to see him try to hide it
Brian Cronin: He knows it doesn’t look good to hate foreigners, but he just can’t help it
Owen: Derrick Rose is going number 1
Owen: Just announced it…
dave crockett: Miami just got faced with a choice they didnt necessarily want. Things get really complicated. To pass on Beasley would just be dumb.
Cmac: You can’t pass on Beasley
Owen: What about this Nets trade. Home Run for the Nets. Jefferson is somewhat overrated I think
KnickerBlogger: Owen – I’m surprised you say that
KnickerBlogger: Great TS%
dave crockett: Really? I always thought RJ was a guy who was never overhyped or underrated.
dave crockett: He doesn’t get much ink either way.
Owen: Poor rebounding. I don’t know. His numbers have been up and down
dave crockett: He’s been hurt a lot too. (Arizona bias warning.)
Owen: Perhaps. I don’t know, if that trade gets them Lebron, it is a knockout
Owen: Yeah, he had a few great years. This year though it was scoring and not much else

Hopes and dreams…

KnickerBlogger: OK everyone who do you hope the Knicks get?
Brian Cronin: I’m hoping for Westbrook
Brian Cronin: Honestly, though, I’m mainly just hoping Lee is still a Knick Friday morning.
KnickerBlogger: Looking at the statistical chart I put together (compiling Doerr, Hollinger & HoopsAnalyst)
KnickerBlogger: I have Love Bayless or Mayo. After that a trade down for Speights & Chalmers would be awesome
Cmac: I like the Italian Stallion but I am kind of hoping to get Joe Alexander. I watched some of his games this year and especially against UCONN he was just unstoppable
foilfence: i’m still hoping for a trade
KnickerBlogger: I can do Danny too
KnickerBlogger: We have to come up with a better Danilo nickname

Danilo shown on television…

dave crockett: Fans booing Danilo
dave crockett: ouch
daaarn: ouch
dave crockett: All is did was sit there and look like Matthew Modine.
Cmac: Why all the negativity towards him I think he could be a good player
KnickerBlogger: I’ve read a decent amount of newspapers over the last two weeks – they basically summed up Danilo as unathletic & a friend of D’Antoni – basically they made him sound like he’s only a consideration because his dad and our coach were roomies
Brian Cronin: Worked for the Dodgers with Piazza!
KnickerBlogger: lol
foilfence: yeah seems like being slow is the biggest knock.
Brian Cronin: Hey, has anyone talked about Danilo’s defense at all?
Cmac: Also sounds like a hard working never takes a night off type of player. If we got him that would make 2 on the knicks
Owen: They said his father was the Rodman of the Italian League, which sounds promising to me. But watching him, he really doesn’t look athletic.
tastycakes: if danilo is any good, the boos won’t faze him
tastycakes: i want to see toughness from the italian stallion
Owen: he seemed to be laughing it off earlier
trp: he did seem ok with it
offthemeter: he won’t be laughing if he’s the last one in the green room
Cmac: Maybe italy boo’s mean cheering
KnickerBlogger: I was saying Boo-nilo

ESPN reports that Donnie Walsh has his man & implies it’s a PG…

KnickerBlogger: They said Donnie Walsh “has his man”
Lpmatt: his pg
Lpmatt: russel westbrook i guess
Owen: nice suit though…
trp: i bet its bayless
Jon Abbey: yeah, I heard that also, has to be Bayless or Westbrook
Jon Abbey: the reporter said it was a PG
trp: bayless would be a great pick
Jon Abbey: I like Westbrook, fantastic athlete
trp: and we dont have any perimeter defenders, so westbrook would also be a good pick
KnickerBlogger: Bayless one of the top guards by statistical consensus
Jon Abbey: yeah, Augustin I could live with
Jon Abbey: they’re unwatchable with no PG
offthemeter: augustin got used by rose, granted he’s the 1st pick and his size
trp: but steph is the best pg in the league!
Jon Abbey: anyway, Westbrook continues to be my hope
Lpmatt: i wish theyd trade down and draft joe alexander
cbrooklyn: looks like gallinari folks
Maverick: This is a 2 3 year process, nothing will happen next year, might as well grab as many picks as you can and shed some sallary. I would hate to see them pcik anybody but a PG, Gallinari doesn’t do it for me, it’s not the Weis thing, it’s just he is mechanical
trp: it HAS to be a pg
Owen: Anyone glad Mark Jackson is not our Coach?
tastycakes: yes
Cmac: yes
Maverick: Mark Jackson blows
offthemeter: we need a sprewell type electrifying player back at msg
Owen: I would take Hinrich I think, seems like a good gamble

Bulls Select Derrick Rose…

tastycakes: that should have been the knicks
Owen: Bilas is kind of obsessed with Lopez and the fact he is younger than OJ Mayo
Owen: So true, Derrick Rose should be in New York
daaarn: i blame chicago for giving us isaiah
dave crockett: I still don’t get the Del Negro hire with Flip and Thibideaux still out there
foilfence: beasley looked slightly pissed he didn’t go #1
tastycakes: d. rose seems a little shaky
cbrooklyn: hmmm he does have a starbury air

Miami Selects Michael Beasley…

Owen: Of course
tastycakes: dang heat
dred: Smart pick
trp: it was all a smokescreen
tastycakes: the ‘we don’t want beasley’ thing was totally smokescreen
cbrooklyn: i believe riley was blowin hot air also
offthemeter: minnesota oj or lopez
daaarn: oj’ll be next
trp: agreed tastycakes
dave crockett: I just don’t see what Miami gains for moving Beasley at this point.
dred: I don’t think even McHale would be dumb enough to take Lopez 3rd
Brian Cronin: It’ll be really interesting to see if OJ doesn’t go here
daaarn: crosses fingers for McHale stupidiy
offthemeter: hey i’ll throw in steph
GiantsKnickFan420: miami’s starting center is Blount, unless they put haslem at center and go small
Cmac: No love please no love
offthemeter: were all yelling at the tv
Owen: No way love falls though
tastycakes: knicks won’t take love
GiantsKnickFan420: if we trade lee at 5, love would actaully be a comprable replacement
Caleb: Mayo, Lopez, Gordon… Love could fall, easy.
tastycakes: michael beasley already a ‘great player’ in his own mind
Maverick: Curry+Steph for Marion
Z: 3 more picks ’til we’re on the clock. Excited???
Owen: Yeah absolutely.
KnickerBlogger: David Lee’s mom was the shortest on Family Feud
Maverick: Mayo
Owen: Lol, that family feud thing was really funny. I can’t believe Lee was chosen
GiantsKnickFan420: Mchale is a terrible GM, no matter who he choses
daaarn: mayo
Jon Abbey: I say Love
offthemeter: ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Minnesota Selects OJ Mayo…

dred: Interesting
daaarn: damn, no trade then
tastycakes: family feud – hilarious
dred: Like the glasses
Caleb: hahahaha. He’s McHale’s boy – should tell you something
daaarn: hey they twolves got a new logo
Z: 2 more ’til we’re up…
Owen: So they have Foye Mccants and Mayo now right?
dave crockett: um… McCants BLOWS. I hate him, hate him, hate him.
Z: For a draft with so much build up the first three picks have been pretty un-dramatic
KnickerBlogger: My bet is that Seattle take Love
KnickerBlogger: takes
Owen: He would be a great fit for them I think
Jon Abbey: maybe westbrook
dave crockett: I’ll also add this about Mayo. He was hamstrung by whatever that is that passes as an offense under Tim Floyd at ‘SC.
Caleb: Where’s Jalen Rose when you need him? That was my fave suit of all time
Jon Abbey: lopez would be a good fit too
daaarn: maybe there’s still a trade afoot
Thomas B.: Lopez is in keeping with the Sonic’s never ending search for a center
dave crockett: Pelton says he’d be pretty surprised if the Sonics go for a center.
Caleb: IMO Gallinari or even Speights is est player available now – not that they’re about to get picked

Seattle Picks Russell Westbrook…

Owen: whoa
Cmac: whoa
cbrooklyn: hmmmm
dred: Well
offthemeter: wow
Owen: Interesting
Jon Abbey: yeah, see
offthemeter: shabang
Z: Hmmmm
tastycakes: kind of surprising
Caleb: Chad Ford called it
offthemeter: kazaam
KnickerBlogger: Lemme say that again WHOA!!
Thomas B.: the price of oil hits an all time high
Jon Abbey: stole my boy
dred: Guess we don’t have to worry about him developing now
Owen: They didn’t take a center
offthemeter: whoa
KnickerBlogger: Love still out there
dred: Memphis taking Love?
Owen: Love will go next, no question
GiantsKnickFan420: bayless,love,lopez,gallinari
cbrooklyn: i think its gonna be gallinari
Jon Abbey: westbrook reminds people of rondo
foilfence: so guys, gallinari or bayless?
KnickerBlogger: Ok I’m hoping for Bayless or Galinari
trp: both!
daaarn: bayless or galinari
Cmac: Italy
Jon Abbey: Bayless never looked good when I saw Arizona last year
KnickerBlogger: Actually I’m really hoping for a trade down
offthemeter: bayless is the consensus here in the war room
GiantsKnickFan420: lets see what memphis does 1st
Jon Abbey: so I’m not very high on him
Jon Abbey: but I’ll trust walsh for now
Owen: Btw, talking about running amok, isn’t it amazing how point guard is suddenly the most important position in the NBA? That is why all these guys want to be PG.
Jon Abbey: let’s see what he’s got in mind
cbrooklyn: dont see why we cant just trade steph to italy for gallinari and pick a real center
Caleb: But Donnie has never gambled on an internationale, I don’t think… except Smits
Z: Maybe they drafted him for Walsh in an unannounced trade…
Thomas B.: I like Alexander. How can you not love that nickname: Vannilla sky
T-Mart: suddenly Im a believer in the Rajon Rondo has made Westbrook over-rated style of talent on account fo being surrounded by 3 hall of famers theory
offthemeter: the flying dutchmen
Brian Cronin: Hah – I like that, T-Mart
Jon Abbey: no, rondo is a great player
Jon Abbey: they had budinger also
Jon Abbey: somehow they still couldn’t win games
Jon Abbey: check the play by play of that last game in the finals
Thomas B.: Okay half of you need to leave because I’m liquored and i cant read so fast
Jon Abbey: the whole first quarter is rondo stealing the ball from gasol
offthemeter: people are cracking open the beers now baby
Cmac: Joe Alexander would be great

Memphis Selects Kevin Love…

offthemeter: wow
dave crockett: Love
offthemeter: back to back
offthemeter: ucla
offthemeter: wow
daaarn: i guess it’s bayless then
Owen: Right again…
KnickerBlogger: Weiland – whos your next 3?
weiland: Love, Bayless, Speights
foilfence: would joe alexander be better than wilson chandler?
Brian Cronin: Chad Ford suggests that Seattle wanted Westbrook, Thomas
mjkagan: gallinari is ours
Jon Abbey: might as well give him a shot
Jon Abbey: the crowd is going to boo the fuck out of gallinari
mjkagan: bet we’ll take galli here – d’a’s comments were a smokescreen
GiantsKnickFan420: “i have the tools, i need an engine to run it”-D’antoni. bayless, gordon, agustin are the PGs left

Knicks Select Danilo Galinari!

tastycakes: galinari
daaarn: wtf
offthemeter: we suck
daaarn: boos
offthemeter: oh yes they did
StrongIsland: Italians FTW!
offthemeter: thanks
offthemeter: dantoni
Anthony: of course…
cbrooklyn: hahahahahahahhahaaaa
dave crockett: wow
Owen: Very nice suit….
GiantsKnickFan420: WOW, but i like it!
Caleb: nice. I like it.
mjkagan: called it…
offthemeter: we should have traded down
cbrooklyn: i knew it
dave crockett: really, really surprised
offthemeter: we suck
StrongIsland: EXACTLY…trade down
Thomas B.: Did you catch Sterns Pause? It was like a “What the fuck, I though Isiah was gone.”
StrongIsland: the only other team looking at him was NJ
Jon Abbey: he does have the best chance at being a franchise player of anyone left
Owen: What is that, Prada?
Brian Cronin: The Knicks still can trade down
Maverick: shocking …
offthemeter: can i curse????
Jon Abbey: but this team is going to be tough to watch again

And now reality sets in…

GiantsKnickFan420: the dude is smooth and is touted for his mental toughness, something our current roster has none of
mjkagan: and he can shoot
Caleb: last year I would have assumed it was a mistake. This year I assume he’s right.
daaarn: he had better pan out
Brian Cronin: And Jon is right, he has the best shot at being a top player of all the ones left
StrongIsland: Frederick Weis Redux?
cbrooklyn: i think im willing to give him a chance
Jon Abbey: maybe he’s good
Jon Abbey: but get a fucking PG
Jon Abbey: before the season starts
Owen: His legs look really skinny
daaarn: well that’s not comforting “he wont be a superstar, but he’ll be solid…”
offthemeter: 8th man off the bench
Caleb: Like Jerry West says — you find talent in the draft. You fill needs through trades.
weiland: “not gonna be a superstar” Then why? Bayless just might be..
Thomas B.: Stern: “With the 6th pick the New york Knicks select….(What the hell)..Danilo Gallanari..(idiots).
Caleb: I didn’t see a point guard besides Rose who was more than a hope and a prayer
StrongIsland: 34% give the grade an F
offthemeter: thanks mike dantoni
weiland: Stats aren’t great. I just think the fact that Fran said “not gonna be a superstar” makes it a mistake.
Brian Cronin: Haha…some good commentary on the radio – “Remember, these are fans who can’t even pay for real games, so don’t pay attention to them”
mjkagan: did the fans boo or not?
Brian Cronin: The fans booed like crazy
Caleb: we could trade him for 10 & 21, or 10 and next year’s pick
Cmac: I like the pick
mjkagan: fair enough
Brian Cronin: This is not over yet. And even if it is, then whatever, the guy is a good player.
Caleb: but I don’t really mind keeping him
weiland: hero is Tayshaun Prince? Nice….
mjkagan: Caleb: Who would they take at 10?
T-Mart: well thank god Isiah’s europeon recruitment swing trip paid off!!!!!!!
dave crockett: What worries me most about the Gallinari selection is this? What do these guys really think was the problem with this team? Did they think it was that we don’t have enough scorers? Don’t worry about the defense? I know D’Antoni’s not a big defense guy but Phoenix wasn’t wretched they were middle of the pack on D.

There Are No Grown Ups Here

I must admit, the current drama unfolding in the halls of Madison Square Garden is entertaining in a guilty pleasure sort of way. Even though I know this cannot have a happy ending I can?t wait to see what insanity turns up in each day?s sports section. But, after reading yet another tale filled with blaming, speculation, dysfunction, and non-denial denials I feel like my soul needs a shower; the way I feel after one of those really bizarre episodes of Law and Order. You know the kind, where the murderer on trial turns out to be the least depraved of the central characters. Well, at this point the Knicks and their meager win total (23) have become the least depraved of the central characters in this drama. Despite the players? flaws and faults I feel some sympathy for them. They?re playing for a gaggle of immature, image-obsessed kids, not grownups.

I wanted to wait until KB weighed in on the still-rumored Brown buyout/firing before adding anything. At the risk of repeating any of his points about the current drama I?ll add a couple of my own in no particular order.

1. The lack of accountability is really what makes this all so disheartening, and so unlikely to change.

The notion that ?saying everyone is responsible is a lot like saying no one is responsible,? is the worst kind of truism. Sometimes, everyone really is responsible. In those times, unless everyone is held to account then some get off scott free and delude themselves into thinking that they must therefore have been right all along.

It appears as if Larry Brown will be forced out soon, following what is likely the worst coaching season of his career. What is most sad is that at virtually every major crossroads this season Dolan, Thomas, and Brown simply would not get past their egos in order to work together. Rather, they all chose at various points to actively undermine one another. As a result we have the current mess, aptly described by Adrian Wojnarowski, the fine beat writer for the Bergen County Record:

[T]hese Knicks have turned into the league’s crazy uncle who keeps showing up at the family picnic, getting loaded and falling face first into the potato salad.

Only the Knick ?family? is lucky enough to have three such uncles laying face deep in potato salad, each having passed out trying to out-drink the other two. No amount of sensible advice can convince them to give up these childish games, especially since none can hear past the sound of his own slogans muffled by potato salad.

We need to get younger and more athletic!

No!! We need to play the game the right way!!

Fiscal restraint!!! We don?t need no stinkin? fiscal restraint!!!


2. Although Larry Brown?s performance and antics are grounds for dismissal, forcing him out after one year says far more disparaging things about the Knicks than it does about Brown.

I have read in multiple outlets now that the thinking behind forcing Brown out is that it is cheaper to simply buy him out than trade for so-called Brown-type players. Sigh. Before addressing why this kind of delusion?if these reports are accurate?is precisely why the Knicks are laughingstocks let me first address the merits of forcing Brown out. In my opinion, ?losing a team? is (and should be) grounds for firing an NBA coach. The overall talent league wide is so close that the marginal value of even a great coach is probably quite low. Truly great coaching pays off in very specific situations; namely after the first round of the playoffs. Otherwise, it?s about talent and execution. So when the star(s) won?t play for the coach in pro sports it is almost always wisest to side with the star. That?s why you hope your star is not selfish or a moron.

Brown was truly wretched this season. Winning coaches in the NBA have been forced out for far less than his sub-25 win total, brutal public spats with players, and reports of widespread player revolt. (Ask Paul Westphal, or more recently Stan Van Gundy and Rick Adelman.) The cat-fighting began early and never stopped. I think Brown had ?gone fishin,?? to use the parlance of Kenny Smith, somewhere around three-quarters of the way through the season. Further, losing Brown may not be any huge tragedy. I am not sure any amount of coaching can mold this roster into a legit title contender. So, this could be as good a time as any for Brown to exit. The important question for me is where would that leave the Knicks? For starters it leaves them looking for the 4th coach of the Thomas regime (i.e., Wilkins, Williams, Brown, and whoever is next), a coach who may in fact be Thomas.

Before pulling the trigger on our current diva-coach for a different diva-coach though, Camp Cablevision should consider this. They appeared to have hired Brown for the wrong reason in the first place. They hired Brown to get NY to the Eastern Conference playoffs and then see what happened; probably figuring that where Don Chaney got swept Brown might have actually won such a series or at least a couple games. They thought, and I believe still think, they are another scorer and a few defensive drills away from being a contender in the East. This remains the central delusion of the Thomas regime, confirmed by the leaks claiming that it?s ?cheaper? to fire Brown than reconstruct the roster.

There is a right reason and a wrong reason to force Brown out now. The right reason: he has irretrievably lost the team. We know for a fact that he has played games with players and alienated them. For example, though much ink has been spilled over his dustup with Marbury, the way he savaged Trevor Ariza in the press was far more distasteful. I didn?t see ?tough love? or development anywhere in that interaction. I saw Brown mostly flexing his ego. So it may very well be that Brown cannot undo the considerable damage he has done. The wrong reason to fire Brown: he should have gotten more out of this team. The current roster has a 35-45 win ceiling, regardless who coaches it. In fact Brown?s public disparaging of the roster, though tacky and unproductive, was pretty much spot on. The guards really don?t defend. Nobody blocks shots. The roster is filled to the brim with one-dimensional, high turnover players, who had been so long before Brown and his unstable rotations showed up. Eddy Curry likely will never be more than a modest rebounder and will never block shots. Marbury, despite his protests, was not unduly shackled in Brown?s post-and-cut offense. It just isn?t based on Steph?s pet play, the screen-roll. (I?m not so sure that?s such a bad thing long term.) None of that is any less true just because Brown was being a self-righteous windbag by airing it publicly. Those problems must still all be addressed Brown or no Brown. If he must go, force him out because he can no longer help address them, not because he pointed them out in a way that embarrassed. Thomas’s sensitivity on this matter is more than a little hypocritical, given the shameful way he treated Don Chaney. Chaney, along with Lenny Wilkins and Herb Williams, all basically sang the same song Brown is singing now, only to a softer tune. They were ignored.

Knicks 2006 Preview Part II

Small Forward/Shooting Guard: New York has some depth at the swingman spots, as the only Knick that can’t play both spots is the rail thin Jamal Crawford. Newly acquired Quentin Richardson hasn’t played much with the team due to injury. Reportedly he’s back practicing with his new teammates, but it’s unknown whether he’ll be used at the 2 or the 3. So far Penny Hardaway has been the benefactor of Richardson’s hamstring, and he could find a role in Brown’s rotation as a perimeter defender. Hardaway still has good court vision, but his shooting has deteriorated to the point where it has become a liability. I would imagine that this would be a temporary solution, because Penny’s $16M expiring contract will be too much temptation for Isiah to resist (see the Charlton Heston comment from Part I). Vegas odds are 5:1 against Hardaway remaining a Knick by the trade deadline.

With all the excitement over Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Larry Brown, and the three drafted rookies, it seems that Trevor Ariza has become the forgotten man in New York. As a second round pick, no one expected much from him, but last year Ariza might have been the lone bright star in what was a dark season for the Knicks. This season he has a year of experience under his belt, an improved team, and one the best coaches in the game. I don’t want to go as far to say this is a critical year in Ariza’s development, but he won’t find a better environment to improve himself. The same could be said of Jamal Crawford. While he’s still young, he’s approaching that age where players stop showing improvement. If Jamal can’t put it together under Brown, he’ll never do so.

I’ve talked time and time again about Isiah’s ability to find young talent. Like a miner in a dark cave, Zeke may have found another gem in Matt Barnes. I have a special scouting report from Chief KnickerBlogger Talent Evaluator, David Crockett:

Barnes can start or come off the bench. He has always been an underrated defender – good feet, long arms, and just a little more athletic than you think he is. Perhaps most importantly, he doesn’t need the ball to make an impact. Barnes is a very good passer. He runs the floor and boards. He does all the hustle stuff, and unlike Tim Thomas he’s good at defensive rotations. That help will be critical as Marbury and Crawford continue to feel their way into their roles.

I know Brown has been angling for his guy, the ancient George Lynch, but i think Barnes will grow on him and stay in the rotation even after Quentin Richardson gets healthy.

If Barnes is the real deal (and I have no reason to doubt Dr. C.) then it’ll be all the more reason to trade Hardaway. On second thoughts make those odds 10:1 in favor of Isiah trading Penny. The obvious choice is Richardson at small forward and Crawford at shooting guard. Earlier I said that Jamal would find his way to Brown’s dog house, and I’ll stand by that statement. Don’t be surprised if Isiah finds a way to upgrade the position, or if Ariza, Barnes, and Hardaway steal Crawford’s minutes at the 2 to provide a better defensive alignment.

Coach: New York’s biggest upgrade might not see any time on the court. Larry Brown gives the Knicks their first real coach since Jeff Van Gundy. Although you won’t see Brown buffing the floor holding onto opposing player’s ankles, his presence will be felt on the court as if he was doing just that. The Knicks don’t have a particularly good defensive team, but Larry Brown will get every bit of effort possible out of his players on that end of the court. While Brown’s wanderlust will eventually get to him and the Knicks will be worse off when he goes, the Garden faithful should enjoy their hometown coach while they have him.

Outlook: I’ll start with the most pessimistic view. Eddy Curry’s heart sidelines him for good, and Quentin Richardson’s back keeps him from playing more than 40 games. Jerome James tries to eat the $30M the Knicks gave him and Channing Frye is too soft to man the center. Isiah panics and trades Hardaway & David Lee for Mike Olowokandi and instantly gives him a 6 year $45M extension. Trevor Ariza and Nate Robinson spend the year at the end of the bench, as Brown has Isiah grab Lynch & Eric Snow for their leadership abilities. Their traded unprotected 2006 pick wins the draft lottery & turns into Andrea Bargnani, the next Dirk Nowitzki.

The best case scenario might start with Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury making the All Star team. Isiah Thomas is able to turn Malik Rose and Penny Hardaway into Dan Gadzuric, Danny Fortson, and a first round pick. The two became expendable because of the rapid development of Frye, Lee, Ariza and Barnes. Brown makes the Knicks one of the top defensive teams in the league, and they take the Atlantic. The Knicks use home field advantage in the first round to trounce the injury ridden Pistons. In the second round they face the Cavaliers and Trevor Ariza gains national prominence on his ability to shut down LeBron James. Against the Heat, Shaq inexplicably wanders on the court to break up a fight between Dwayne Wade and Nate Robinson. All three are suspended, which allows the Knicks to advance to the Finals.

Reality lies somewhere in between, the Knicks only won 33 games last year, and I think improving by 8 and making the playoffs seems to be reasonable given all that is involved. 41-41 and a first round whipping.

Defensive About Brown

I don’t like to dwell too much on rumors, because if I jumped on every scenario that Peter Vecsey has envisioned, I wouldn’t have much time to write about things that actually happen. However with the Knicks tending an official offer to Larry Brown making it a real possibility that he’ll be the New York coach in 2006, now might be an appropriate time to look at what he could mean to this city.

So far the reviews have been mixed at best. Some people think that the unselfish ABA assist leader from ’68-’70 might clash with the Knicks’ star trying to convince Marbury to shoot less, or that the Knicks roster is too far from contention. Even Pro Basketball Prospectus author John Hollinger is against the move, noting that hiring Brown is antithetical to the Knicks’ rebuilding philosophy. No one pays a coach $10M to babysit the tykes while Jerome James does a 21st century revival of Marv Throneberry. In fact it’s Hollinger’s opinion that surprises me the most. Not only is one of the part time jobs of the voluminous author to cover the Knicks for the New York Sun, but John also coined the term “Larry Brown Effect” in the ’03 Prospectus. The LBE showed that Larry Brown (pre-Detroit) has improved his teams by an average of 11.2 wins in his first season.

While Hollinger looked at Brown’s overall effect on his clubs, I wanted to look deeper into those teams. So I split his accomplishments up between offensive & defensive rankings, and I looked at the teams in the first and second year of Brown.

Year    Team    Y1O     Y1D     Y2O     Y2D
2003    DET     -4      2       -3      1
1998    PHI     1       6       1       21
1994    IND     -6      13      -3      16
1993    LAC     2       5       5       -2
1989    SAS     -13     9       -5      19
1982    NJN     0       13      2       15
1975    DEN     7       3       7       2
1973    CAR     4       8       7       5
        SUM     -9.0    59.0    11.0    77.0
        AVG     -1.1    7.4     1.4     9.6
        MEAN    0.5     7.0     1.5     10.0

By the chart above, teams that Brown coached improved an average of 7.4 rankings on defense in their first year, and 9.6 in the second. On the offensive end, they showed little to no improvement. In other words Larry Brown is a defensive wizard. Which is why I would be thrilled to have him as coach of the Knicks.

When Herb Williams took over the head coaching responsibility in January, one of the things I said I would keep an eye on is how the Knicks fared on offense and defense for the rest of the season. At the time they ranked 17th and 24th respectively, and unfortunately they showed little to no improvement by the end of the year. On offense the Knicks finished 16th, but on defense they dropped three spots to 27th.

It was New York’s defense, or lack thereof that irked me. Even 5 games into last season, it was clear that the Knicks needed an upgrade. Isiah Thomas’ roster seemed to have players who lacked effort or ability on the defensive end, including his two prize guards: Marbury and Crawford. Stephon’s defensive liabilities were so bad that only a few weeks later it prompted guest-blogger David Crockett to write that Marbury should be traded because he created “easy scoring opportunities for opponents, putting his teammates in a terrible bind.” He added “at this point in Marbury?s career it seems unlikely that he is going to devote himself more fully to defense for more than a quarter here or there… How can the team construct a title contender with Marbury as its focal player?”

As for Crawford, in April I had an email-versation with John Hollinger that went like this.

KB: “I’m not sold on Crawford. Combine the awful defense with the chuck at all costs offense, and 2011 seems a far away. Both would have to change for Craw to be a useful starter, and I’m not high on those odds.”

JH: “Reasonable people can disagree on Crawford. I just think a stronger coach could whip him into shape and help smooth all those rough edges. We won’t know until or unless the Knicks hire one.”

Enter Larry Brown, stage left. Even though it was half of a hopeless season, Herb Williams’ inability to get the Knicks to play any defense left me doubtful that he would be the right guy to get the job done. Not only could Brown get Marbury and Crawford to shut down down the conga-line to the hoop, but he might be able to affect the rest of the roster as well. With the right training, Trevor Ariza could become a defensive stopped in the mold of Tayshaun Prince. Isiah’s new acquisition, the burly and foul prone Jerome James, might be able to stay in the game for more than 20 minutes a night with a little guidance. The Knicks have a rookie Channing Frye that, if his summer league 10 foul game is any indication, needs a little help in becoming their future center. And he can’t mishandle Mike Sweetney any worse than his predecessors.

Brown is exactly what the organization needs. The Knicks need someone that can get this young team to play defense. What better for this franchise to remind New Yorkers of its’ past than to become a defensive minded squad? Fans can be reminded of the Camby-LJ-Sprewell era, the Ewing-Oakley-Starks era, or the Reed-Jackson-DeBusschere era depending on their age. Notice that behind each one of those teams was a strong coach: Van Gundy, Riley, or Holzman.

Even if Brown stays for two or three years and the team only is good enough to go a round or two in the playoffs, the franchise should be better off because most of the players are in a position in their career where they can improve. It’s possible that the lessons the players learn under Brown can stay with them for the rest of their career. As for the aftermath, the proof is in Brown’s last few stops (we’ll throw out the Clippers, since we’re only concerned with legitimate NBA franchises). No one is predicting that Detroit will cease to be an Eastern powerhouse because Brown is no longer patrolling the sidelines. Indiana arguably was better after Brown left in 1997. Last I checked the Spurs have done pretty well for themselves since 1992. Only Philadelphia is the worse for wear, but in Larry’s last year their top guys included Keith Van Horn, Eric Snow, and Derrick Coleman. It was inevitible that they were going to crash sooner or later. As for the Knicks, the odds look good to me with Brown at the helm. Even if it’s only to temporarily right the ship.

[Edited after a full night’s sleep.]

Gnate and Nate?

My writing this week hasn’t been shedding Isiah Thomas’ latest move in a positive light. However one day after the draft would be a foolish time to continue to rain on the Knicks. Just one day after the draft Channing Frye is a future All Star, Nate Robinson is the backup PG that is better than half the starters in the league, and David Lee is going walk right in & fill Kurt Thomas’ shoes.

In fact despite railing on the deal just a few days ago, I was pretty excited when I heard that the Kurt Thomas trade was finalized because New York got Nate Robinson. No I haven’t changed my mind on the deal, because I think Richardson is an average player who doesn’t address the Knicks main needs. However if the deal had to go through, getting “Gnate” made it palatable. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the small guys. Years ago when Earl Boykins was a Net and Cavalier castoff I advocated from the top of my barstool that the Knicks should pick him up.

There are just so many reasons to like the diminutive player. I didn’t get to watch much of the NCAA tournament this year, but I saw at least one Washington game. Nate is one of those guys that you can’t help but keep your eyes on, because he will make something exciting happen. Although the Knicks do lack flash, I think Robinson can contribute as a solid player as well. Before going mainstream, the APBRmetric-minded Kevin Pelton gave him a nice write up over at draftcity.com. Meanwhile I can entertain thoughts in my head that Robinson will consider playing nickelback/kick returner for my beloved New York Jets.

Getting back to the Knicks I’m not sure whether they’ve solved their defensive problem. The reviews of Frye is that he’s a polished offensive player, but on defense the word “soft” has been thrown around. While he is a shot blocker, that talent doesn’t always translate from college to the pros. Knicks fans know that we’re not getting Tim Duncan or Tyson Chandler, but the answer to the question on exactly how much Frye can help solidify their D will have to wait. Obviously David Lee isn’t the defensive answer unless the Knicks trade Mike Sweetney (doh!) or Malik Rose (hooray!).

Even without getting another player, there is something Isiah and the Knicks can do to improve their defense: hire a defensive-minded coach. While I don’t believe that a coach can turn an awful defensive team into a stellar one, a good coach might be able to get the Knicks going in the right direction. Larry Brown would be a no-brainer, but there are two other possibilities that I wouldn’t mind New York considering. I know P.J. Carlesimo isn’t the popular choice in town, but he took the last ranked Warriors and turned them into an above average 12th in just two years. The Sprewell incident and sitting on the bench next to Emperor Popovich should make him a more experienced coach.

Nate McMillan’s contract should run out any second now. While the Sonics weren’t a defensive juggernaut, McMillan’s team made the most of what they had, had might have give the Spurs a run for their money had they not have a series of unfortunate injuries. Nate would give the Knicks their first legitimate coach since Jeff Van Gundy, and if he were able to bring over uber-consultant Dean Oliver it would be the icing on the cake. I?d still prefer a known commodity over guys like Herb Williams or Bill Laimbeer. With the draft out of the way, getting a coach should be the #1 priority on the Knicks list.

To Watch Or Not To Watch?

Why should I watch the rest of this series? So far it’s obvious that the Pistons are overmatched. Can this series be salvaged, or are we doomed to another 2 hours of boredom? Right now, it looks as if Detroit will get swept, but what does history tell us? So, I went back and looked over the first two games of every Finals since 1980. There have been only 4 series to go the minimum amount of games, and the average point difference of those games isn’t really telling.

Year    Avg Loss
02 14
95 6.5
89 7.5
83 8

The 2002 Lakers demolished the Nets in the first two games, but New Jersey made the scores more respectable in the last two games, only losing by an average of 4.5 points. The other three teams who have applied the broom to their opponents did so without dominating the scoreboard. The 1995 Rockets won the first two games by an average margin of 6.5, and the last two by 7 points. In what might be the closest sweep in history Shaq & Penny’s Magic lost two games by 3 points or less. The ’89 Pistons & the ’83 Sixers didn’t win any of their final two games by double digits. While this is an interesting history of sweeps, it doesn’t tell us anything about the Pistons odds of taking a single game in the series. Let’s take a look at the worst performances to start off a playoff series in the last 25 years.

Year    Net     Result
05 18 ?
86 17 4-2
87 16 4-2
02 14 4-0
99 12.5 4-1
00 12 4-2
96 10.5 4-2
*91 9.5 4-1
83 8 4-0

* The 1991 Bulls actually lost the first game, but won the second by 21, and then the next 3.

Two things stick out right away. Excluding the current series, four of the top six went a respectable six games. The outliers are the aforementioned 2002 Nets and the 1999 strike-shortened-almost-ruined-my-honeymoon-Knicks. That year Van Gundy, fearful of the Spurs twin towers, started Chris “Ivy League” Dudley in the first two games. Although Camby was penned in as the starter in game 3, he played pitifully, and it took a stellar performance from Allan Houston for the Knicks to avoid being swept.

The second is that this year’s Pistons are at the top of the list. In other words, we’ve just watched the most lopsided first two games in the last 25 years. This doesn’t bode well for the Pistons winning the series, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t win a couple of games. Routed in the first two games, the ’86 Rockets managed to win game 3 against the Celtics, and the next year Boston would manage to do the same against the Lakers. Even if the Pistons lose game 3, it doesn’t mean the series is over. The 1996 Sonics lost the first two by a combined 21 points, and then dropped game 3 by 22. Facing the embarrassment of a sweep, Seattle roared back in games 4 & 5 outscoring the Bulls by an average of 16 points.

Prior to this series, I had little hope for the Pistons. Not only did the APBRmetric board pre-Finals poll select the Spurs in a landslide (20-0 by my last count), but now the Pistons have dropped the first two games in an ignominious fashion. For all those looking for a reason to watch game 3, I think the above data is enough to trigger the optimist in each of us in the hopes that this is more likely to be a competitive series than a rout.