Preseason Thoughts

Sitting here on Christmas Eve – 24 hours before the Knicks tip off their season – my thoughts fluctuate between excitement, anxiousness, and fear – excited at the chances of a Championship, anxious from the lockout, and fearful of injuries. Here are my final thoughts (and feel-good YouTube clips) before the Knicks dive headfirst into 2011-2012.

STAT has been too passive thus far. Since ‘Melo joined the team, Amar’e hasn’t been the same. In the first half of last season, he would dominate teams in and out of the paint on the offensive end. Now, the offense moves completely through Anthony and he gets every big shot. Amar’e shoots a better TS% and eFG than Carmelo, and needs to be given the ball more in clutch situations – otherwise he will never regain the confidence a team leader needs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C93i_KFetdw

Toney Douglas looks just as he did last year, if not worse. This must be pretty evident to the Knicks front office as well. Iman has started practicing with the first team, and Baron Davis is the plan at point guard in the near future. Toney just does not have a high basketball IQ. He has a ton of raw talent and plenty of athleticism, but besides a few streaks of three pointers, his play has been uninspiring. He seems wholly unsure on offense and a bit slow on defense. I like him as a backup two – able to handle the ball well and provide some scoring. Let’s hope he can do this again – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2jvQvNiegs

– The Knicks’ defense is above average and Tyson is the main reason.  In the second preseason game against the Nets, Chandler personally altered about five or six shots in the paint – all misses. Most games the team lost last year were only by a few points. If Chandler can save 6-10 points a game, New York’s record could dramatically improve. I don’t think they have a top-ten defense, but I think the Knicks will finish top 15 (last year 21st) in defensive efficiency – good enough to contend for a title. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm4pXT0ar8E

Carmelo Anthony at PG may be the best option right now. Until Davis is healthy or Douglas can pass, I don’t see many other choices. His ball handling is great; he draws the double team constantly, and is able to find the open man. He also can pull up from three. The only issue is he will be outmatched in speed, so he couldn’t drive by opposing point guards.  Still, he could play a point forward position, and matchup with other small forwards. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7k8R-Yei_Y

Iman Shumpert has a real shot at being legit. He is confident, aggressive, and fundamentally sound. His ball-handling is great, his shooting form is excellent, and his defense, with some work, could eventually stop anyone in this league.  I think his ceiling is a solid, all-around All-Star who can deliver about 18pts and 6asts per game – a far-shot from the disgust expressed by many when we first drafted him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWBZaajteXU

Balkman and Harrellson deserve a shot. Both provided quality hustle minutes off the bench, and didn’t make too many mistakes. Josh missed a few shots, but that’s to be expected. Balkman was scoring easily and grabbing a bunch of boards. I expect each to get maybe 5 or 10 minutes off the bench for at least the first few games. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9NPhWY664Q

– Overall I predict great improvement with room left to perfect the chemistry. I think this squad can ultimately win a Championship. This year, the Knicks go 38 – 28 and make it to the second round of the playoffs. Happy holidays and a healthy New Year!

Grading the Knicks 2010 Deadline Deals

DARKO MILICIC TO MINNESOTA
FOR
BRIAN CARDINAL

Mike Kurylo: Hard to hate or love this deal. The Knicks were intent to not play Darko, and Milicic has an Erik Estrada sized chip on his shoulder. The NBA grapevine has it that the Knicks are going to release Cardinal, but I don’t see why. Kelly Dwyer called Cardinal the anti-Milicic, a guy who worked hard to squeeze out minutes like you would an old tube of toothpaste. Unlike Darko, Cardinal is on the tail end of his career, but if the Knicks decide to keep him I can see D’Antoni having a use for him in a Jeffries-esque-do-the-little-things kinda way.

Cardinal’s career stats aren’t awful 12.4 pts/36, TS% 55.2, 2.6 ast/36, 2.0 to/36, 6.2 reb/36, 1.7 stl/36. The question is how much of that is from his earlier days, and how much does he have left in the tank? I’ll put a clause out on my grade. If Cardinal plays 200+ minutes for the Knicks, I’ll call it a B+. If not then I’ll go with a C, since you have to hand it to Donnie for trying to get something out of nothing.

Thomas B.: I see this as trading goldenrod for saffron. But this is worth a C+ because we knew Milicic was never going to play. At least now we can wonder if Cardinal will play. Cardinal has been a pro for 9 years and I never heard of him. I had a picture in my mind of who I thought he was and I went to NBA.com to see if it matched; it did not. I was thinking of Bison Dele–he retired a decade ago.

Kevin McElroy: Knicks look set to cut Cardinal, so this seems like a clever piece of bookkeeping that will save them a shade over a million dollars. Small potatoes in the grand scheme of things? Sure. But who am I to hate on a team that wants to save a couple million bucks a few months before its intends to shell out roughly three gazillion dollars to let me root for LeBron and a high-priced sidekick. Not like they gave up anything we’ll miss, and Darko’s malingering could only have caused tension, so I’ll throw this one a C+. Somewhere, Q-Rich is wondering why he had to pay all those real estate agents in the first place.

Robert Silverman: Although I would have gotten a weird kink out of seeing Brian “The Janitor” Cardinal get some spin, it looks like we”ll never know. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for career backup PF/C’s. It’s why the only Nix jersey that I actually own is a Ken “The Animal” Bannister model from ’85-’86. B-

Caleb: Most NBA fans probably didn’t know that Darko was still in the league. Here’s my favorite Brian Cardinal story – can you believe there is a Brian Cardinal story? It’s how he got that contract in the first place. Allegedly, Michael Hensley was giving Jerry West a lot of grief, “why haven’t you signed anyone? etc.” West was about fed up and so he picked up the phone, called Cardinal’s agent and asked if he wanted $30 million. Ten seconds later, he turned to Hensley and said, “I signed a free agent. Are you satisfied?” I don’t know if it’s true but it’s a good story. This trade saved the Knicks about a million bucks, counting luxury tax. Supposedly Kahn is his protege. Guess there was a favor owed. A-

Brian Cronin: As Caleb notes, the trade saved the Knicks roughly $1 million off of their luxury tax bill, and since they were not playing Darko at all, this is a pretty easy win (now as to why they never really played Darko at all, well, that’s another story). A-

Dave Crockett: A little tax relief, and a potential end-of-bench player. Moving right along. A (but only worth a few points)

NATE ROBINSON AND MARCUS LANDRY TO BOSTON
FOR
EDDIE HOUSE, J.R. GIDDENS AND BILL WALKER

Mike Kurylo: Nate’s days were numbered under D’Antoni. Getting the starting job over Duhon seemed to indicate a final opportunity for Nate to win over D’Antoni. Being demoted just 2 days afterwards told you all you needed to know about Nate’s future in New York. In Walsh’s defense Nate did reject the deal to Memphis, but perhaps he could have played chicken with Nate and tried to force his hand (no one wants to sit in the final year of their contract). I’m sad the Knicks didn’t get a draft pick in return in this deal, especially considering that they gave one (and a half) away to Houston. It seems that there’s always a few teams willing to give one away, perhaps the Lakers might have been interested.

In the short term Eddie House will bring the big three ball, and fit in nicer with D’Antoni than Nate ever did. Giddens & Walkers NBDL numbers aren’t bad, but considering how little last year’s NBDLers played, I don’t envision the Knicks giving them lots of playing time. Oh and Giddens just had knee surgery, with no timetable to return. The Celtics got by far the best player of the bunch, and the Knicks didn’t receive anything here except perhaps a rental on House and a short look at Walker. D+

Thomas B.: I guess this means I lost when I took the over for Nate Robinson games as a Knick (82.5) prior to the season. I don’t like the move because Robinson is worth more than what we brought back. I’d have much rather had Robinson added to Jeffries deal with the Knicks keeping the “sweetener” picks. Or bring back a late first round pick when sending Robinson to Boston. A protected pick in 2012 would have made the 2012 pick we moved out with Jeffries easier to take. Of course, Walsh was somewhat limited since Nate could void the trades. This deal makes me think letting Robinson walk at the end of the season is okay. I just can’t see House, Walker, or Giddens dropping 41 points combined in any game this season much less any one of them doing it alone. D-

Kevin McElroy: This trade was presented in a ton of different forms and with a number of different justifications over the last month, most of which made sense for one reason or another. These reasons included:

1) Because the Knicks were going to get a draft pick back.
2) Because the Knicks were going to dump a player to reduce next year’s cap number.
3) Because the Celtics needed an incentive to be pulled into the larger Knicks/Rockets/Kings trade.
4) Because the Knicks wanted to get Toney Douglas more playing time without Nate looking over his shoulder.

In its final version, the trade accomplishes zero of these things. No draft pick came back and no long-term salary left with Nate, the Celtics trade was conducted separately from the mega-deal, and Alan Hahn has tweeted that Douglas will remain out of D’Antoni’s rotation (behind Duhon and the newly acquired Sergio Rodriguez).

Ultimately, the Knicks sent away a fan favorite for players that won’t be around after a couple months, received no assets, cleared up no cap room, and have run the risk of rejuvenating a division rival for a playoff run by sending them a much-needed bench scorer (seriously, I know the Knicks are out of it, but we can all agree that we’d rather not see the Celtics succeed in the postseason, right?). On a personal level, I’m happy that Nate gets to play for a good team, but the Knicks did absolutely nothing to advance their interests here. More worryingly, it feels like the Knicks brass was simply out-maneuvered, failing to take a hard line as the best parts of their return package came off the table. It feels silly to give such a poor grade to this one, seeing as Nate would have walked in a few months anyway, but the direction that this negotiation took shouldn’t get anything more than a D+.

Caleb: This was depressing. Like Balkman, an example of Walshtoni dumping someone they just didn’t like. Although, to be fair, it saved the Knicks more than $1 million, counting luxury tax. On the plus side, I’m happy for Nate, who will have a lot of fun the next three months. Wild-card: Bill Walker. Before he blew out both knees, there was talk of his being a top-5 pick. If they ever invent a new surgery/rejuvenation machine he could be a stud. D

Robert Silverman: First of all, can we please stop holding a torch for the supposed “Kenny Thomas for Jeffries & Nate deal that Donnie Moth$%&*^!ing Walsh turned down!!!!” deal. It was a rumor. No one, save Walsh and Petrie, knows if it’s true and they’re not telling. It’s like still being pissed at Isiah for (supposedly) retiring in ’93 rather than accept a trade to the Knicks (as Pete Vescey/Pete Vescey’s psychic Ms. Cleo claims). No, two C-Minus prospects like Giddens and Walker isn’t much of a haul for a productive (if maddening/maddeningly inconsistent) player. But what’s the alternative? Even if you could get another team to go for a sign and trade this off-season (which, considering Olympiakos was the strongest bidder in the summer of ’09 isn’t likely), you’re still going to have to take back a contract to make the deal work, thus cutting into our sweet, creamery cap space. The one thing that royally cheeses me off is that come playoff time, I will pull for Nate when he’s in the game (b/c he’s Nate. Warts and all, I so dig the dude). As a result, I’ll have to…sort of…root…for…the Celtics. Ick. I just threw up a little in my mouth. C-

Brian Cronin: I agree that it is a bit frustrating that Nate returned little value partially because his own coach was pretty clear about not liking him (way to market your assets!), but once you allow that Nate’s value was depressed to the point where you weren’t going to get a draft pick for him (by the way, the deal apparently does include a conditional second round pick, but I believe it’s one of those conditional picks where the chances of the conditions ever actually existing are next to nil, so it’s effectively not really a pick at all), then saving some money on the luxury tax is as good as anything else, I suppose. C+

Dave Crockett: This was all about coach D. I just cannot understand why Nate couldn’t play in 7SOL (such that it is in NY) while he got big mileage out of Barbosa in PHO. Happy for Nate, but I recall from my Beantown days that Tommy Heinsen HATES Nate. That’s never a good thing in that town. D

JORDAN HILL, JARED JEFFRIES, OPTION TO SWAP 1ST ROUND PICK IN 2011 (TOP 1 PROTECTION), 2012 1ST ROUND PICK (TOP 5 PROTECTION), AND LARRY HUGHES TO HOUSTON/SACRAMENTO
FOR
TRACY MCGRADY, SERGIO RODRIGUEZ

Mike Kurylo: I’m not sure what else to say that I didn’t say yesterday. So I’ll look at what this deal means for this year. I admit I’m a bit excited to see some new blood on what’s become a lifeless team. However there’s a nagging voice in the back of my head that is telling me not to get too optimistic. I would love for someone to take Duhon’s place in the starting lineup. But part of me is hoping it’s not McGrady, because if he plays well then the front office might overpay to keep him. I don’t want my future hopes resting on Donnie Walsh giving him a reasonable contract, T-Mac staying healthy for a full season, and shooting more efficiently than he’s been in the past (he’s had exactly one season with a TS% over 54%). What are the odds all that comes to fruition?

Perhaps Sergio Rodriguez would be the guy to send Duhon packing. But I just don’t trust D’Antoni to play him, and can you blame me? Remember the NBDL-shuffle of last year? The 2 whole games he gave Nate Robinson this year (one against Cleveland) before calling the experiment a failure? Von Wafer? Morris Almond? I just don’t envision Mike D’Antoni handing over the reigns to a youngster, especially with how oddly married he is to Duhon. My guess is that Sergio won’t get a chance until it’s too late, and he’ll be gone without given a fair shake.

On the long term it’s a lot to pay for moving the contracts of Hill and Jeffries, and I’d be much happier if things go wrong in the next 3 seasons we still have our draft pick to comfort us on those cold February days when the team is playing poorly. I’d like to give this a D or an F, but the remote chance this brings in 2 studs and the draft picks don’t matter gives it some hope. C-

Thomas B.: This is NOT the 13 points in 35 second Tracy McGrady coming to NY. I hope folks understand that. This guy is much closer to the Anfernee Hardaway we got in 2004: an injury riddled once dominant scoring wing. I’m excited about what Sergio might be able to do…to Duhon. If he can’t steal Duhon’s minutes at point he does not need to be in the NBA. Sergio should be allowed a fair shot to supplant Duhon. We know Duhon won’t be back, so at least see if Sergio is worth bringing back on the cheap. Other than the draft picks, I won’t miss what we sent away.

This deal was not about players, it was about cap room and Walsh delivered. Now we have to see what that cap room turns in to. This deal can’t be graded fairly until July 2010. And the true impact will not be known until May of 2011 (playoffs anyone?). For now, I’ll grade this pass/fail. So for giving the team a chance to dream about James/Bosh or James/Wade or Wade/Bosh, Walsh earns a Pass. But if he goes all Dumars this off season…..

Robert Silverman: Outside of the roundball ramifications, from a semi-ontological point of view, doesn’t it seem like the Knicks are somehow osmotically taking on the karma/organizational principles (or lack thereof) of their Madison Sq. Garden co-occupants? For years, nay, decades…heck, since ice was invented, the Blueshirts have given a washed-up/injured “star” a year or two to spin/reclaim their former glory. Some worked out well (Messier, Jagr, even Gretzky) while for the most part they, to use an utterly shop-worn tabloid cliche, bombed in their B’way revival (Plante, Sawchuk, Hedberg, Nilsson, Esposito, Hodge, Dionne, Carpenter, Lafleur, Nicholls, Gartner, Kurri, Robitaille, Lindros, Fleury, etc. etc.). Look at the cats who’ve graced our roster in the past decade – McGrady, Hardaway, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Van Horn, McDyess, Mutombo, etc. In 2001, that’s an all-star roster. Alas, it isn’t 2001 anymore, Victoria. And there ain’t no Santa Claus.

Look, Walsh went all in for LeBron/Wade. And as my fellow Knickerbloggers/other sportswriters/pundits have written, he had to do it. I’m going to cross the sporting barriers for my take on this: “…The day you say you have to do something, you’re screwed. Because you are going to make a bad deal…” – Billy Beane/Michael Lewis, Moneyball

Say LeBron/Wade gives the ‘Bockers the Heisman. What does Walsh do then? Just let all of that cap space sit there? Doesn’t Walsh, by the same logic then have to overpay Stoudamire/Johnson/Gay (or trade for Arenas – shudder) even if none of them are close to being worth a max deal? Like Thomas B., I’m going to hedge my bets/grades: A+ (LeBron/Wade agrees to be NY’s best girl)/D- (Walshtoni’s so depressed/on the rebound that he throws money/a promise ring at the first vaguely attractive gal who comes his way)

Kevin McElroy: Look everybody, I know we’ve grown accustomed to expecting the worst here. I also know that there is plenty NOT to like about this trade [For example: how’s that “Nate and Jeffries for Kenny Thomas” trade look now? Far be it from me to say “I told you so,” but I think we can put to rest the idea that Walsh was wise to turn down that opportunity because he was waiting on something better (I’m looking at you “Donnie Walsh Report Card” commenters!) I hope for the sake of Walsh’s sleep schedule that rumor was unfounded all along.].

But these are the facts, and they are undisputed: The Knicks, even by the most pessimistic cap projections, will have $32 million in cap space next year. The Knicks have retained David Lee, who can be used in a sign-and-trade this summer. The Knicks have retained Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, the two players who most fans feared would have to be sacrificed to unload Jared Jeffries contract. And the Knicks will enter next season, no matter the free agent machinations, with Eddy Curry’s $11 million dollar expiring contract, allowing them to either make a mid-season trade or add another very good player in the summer of 2011. Make no mistake, the Knicks paid dearly to get here, and if they strike out in free agency, the lost draft picks could haunt them for a decade. But look around, and think about where we were 24 months ago (Isiah in charge, capped out beyond belief, any hope of signing LeBron as faded as my 1998-99 Eastern Conference Champions graphic tee), and realize that you now root for an NBA team with a blank slate, four months before the best basketball player in the world becomes a free agent. And, yes, there is no guarantee that he, or anyone else, is coming. But this was the only reasonable course of action given where the Knicks started and the potential reward.

When Walsh arrived, he inherited three players with cap-killing contracts that extended past 2010. He was widely expected to find takers for ZERO of them. He found takers for THREE of them (Z-Bo, Crawford, Jeffries). This can’t be forgotten. The road here was a bumpy one, but the fact that we’re here at all is cause for quiet celebration. And cause for an A- .

Caleb: For me the key is opportunity cost. Without moving Jeffries, the Knicks ran a real risk of being able to afford only one major free agent, a scenario that probably would have led to signing no one — who would come to MSG, if even David Lee were gone? They were truly, truly desperate.
But the reactions are also just that people can’t believe their eyes. Or they remember the Bulls and Jerry Krause striking out for a couple of years, or they’re quivering at the memory of Isiah throwing $29 million at Jerome James. But free agency isn’t bad, guys. For $3 million, you can get someone better than Jordan Hill. Along those same lines, I think there’s very little chance the lost draft picks are in the teens, much less the lottery, and Walsh has covered his worst-case scenarios. $32 million buys a lot of options, LeBron or no. It won’t be hard to make this team a contender again. The only reason not to give this trade a higher grade is because when both the other teams come away grinning ear to ear, you have to figure you might have paid more than you had to. B

Brian Cronin: Not for nothing, but I believe the most pessimistic cap projections (a cap of $53 million) give the Knicks $31 million. Not a big deal, but you would need more than that to give full maximum contracts to either Lebron, Wade or Bosh. In any event, I think this is a trade that the Knicks had to do, and as Robert notes, when it is clear that you have to do something, other General Managers are going to take advantage of that need, and Daryl Morey is one of the best General Managers in the NBA, so he basically got as much as he could possibly get in this deal – but because the deal had to be made, I think it’s still a worthwhile move. I am on board with the notion of splitting the difference between an A (if this nets either Lebron/Wade, Lebron/Bosh, Wade/Bosh or Lebron/Lee) and F (if this nets no one of note, not even Joe Johnson), so the middle of that is a C.

EDITED TO ADD: I just realized another valuable aspect of this trade. It now allows the Knicks to sign up to $20.5 million worth of free agents (presuming a $53 million cap) while still keeping Lee’s cap hold in place rather than the $11 million worth of free agents before this trade. If they do that, they can then go over the cap to re-sign Lee. That basically puts them into a position where they can pretty much guarantee themselves that they will keep Lee if they want to keep Lee, as they’d be able to match any offer he gets. That’s big. Big enough for me to raise my grade to a B-.

Dave Crockett: You have to give this an incomplete. On the downside, the cost of this flexibility is high. So in one sense, it’s almost impossible to see this deal as an A+. Even in the best case scenario, we win the Yankee way–at a higher cost-per-win than any other team. Nevertheless, I’d rather win than not win. So, we’ll have to see what Donnie does with the flexibility. Its worth noting that the flexibility we have should also extend to sign-and-trades and trades. Incomplete.

Looking At The Knicks Wins, By The Numbers

With the Knicks winning 3 of the last 4 games after an abysmal start, it’s a good idea to look at the numbers to understand why. So I’ve compiled the four factors of their last 3 victories.

TEAM POSS   OE   eFG  TO  OREB  FT
PHO  96.4 102.7 48.1 17.6 23.1 32.5
NYK  99.7 126.3 56.8 12.0 35.2 18.9
     
NYK  91.8 124.2 64.7 13.1 17.5 16.7
ATL  91.0 117.5 47.8 6.6 31.6 23.3
     
NJN  93.3 103.9 53.1 15.0 15.6 15.0
NYK  92.0 115.2 50.6 17.4 33.3 36.4

In 2 of the games New York bested their current defensive efficiency of 111.1. But the points allowed per possession in these games aren’t particularly good. Additionally against Atlanta, New York played far below their average.

On the other hand in every game the offense has as good or better than the league’s best rating (115.3). In the Phoenix and Atlanta games the team shot exceptionally well (56.8% & 64.7% eFG%). Turnovers were slightly better in those two games as well. However against the Nets, New York was beaten in shooting and turnovers. Instead they rebounded extremely well and camped out at the free throw line against the Nets.

So what has lifted the New York offense? Chris Duhon had one good shooting game (25 points on 16 shots) but compiled only 12 points on 20 shots in the other two games. Meanwhile Chandler has one good game (14 points on 11 shots against the Suns), one average game (18 points on 17 shots against Atlanta) and one sub par game (6 points on 7 shots against New Jersey). So it appears that neither of these players, who have been hurting the offense all year, have become more consistent performers.

Instead the Knicks offense seems to be fueled by 3 players. In these wins they’ve gotten good scoring from David Lee (66 pts on 40 shots), Al Harrington (75 pts on 49 shots) and Larry Hughes (52 points on 33 shots). To a lesser extent you can add Danilo Gallinari to the list. Gallo missed the middle game, but still punched in a healthy 38 points on just 25 shots in limited minutes.

So what does this ultimately mean? First it helps when the defense is contributing. The team has done a good job of limiting opposing shooting percentage, which was one of D’Antoni’s goals at the beginning of the season. But it’s important to recognize that this roster won’t ever produce good results on that end of the court. I guess the Knicks just need not to play horribly on defense to have a chance.

The next thing I might assume is that it also helps when the Knicks get production from Duhon and/or Chandler. Each of them had one good game, and seeing that they play the most minutes, New York needs to get something from them other than a goose egg.

Lastly Lee, Harrington and Hughes have stepped it up. Lee has increased his scoring volume, Harrington his efficiency, and Hughes is playing his best basketball in years. However it’s unclear whether this trio can keep this level of play up. Although I’d expect Lee to contribute with his efficiency, I’m not sure if he can give the team 22 points every night. And conversely for Harrington, it’s not likely that he’ll average 3 points for every 2 shots he takes. As for Hughes, he’s clearly playing some of his best basketball now, and odds are it won’t last.

With D’Antoni shortening the rotation to these players plus Jared Jeffries and the occasional Toney Douglas sighting it’s unlikely that the Knicks are going to get a lot of production outside of this sextet. For the team to proceed with their winning ways, they’ll need these players to continue with their higher level of play. Only time will tell if this effort is sustainable.

An Open Letter To LeBron James

Dear LeBron,

Can I call you LeBron? Thanks! LeBron, I am writing to you in the hopes that all is well with you and yours as you prepare for the final season of your contractually obligated engagement with the Cleveland Basketball club. As you may have heard or read somewhere on the internets, a great many folks are speculating about where you will choose to ply your trade in the year 2010. One possible destination is the city that I call my home, New York. You may have also heard that we have a basketball team. They’re called the Knickerbockers. (Fun fact: They’re named after the Dutch settlers who bought Manhattan island from the natives for $24 in wampum!) Truth be told, the New York team has hasn’t been very good for a while now. How long ago was it? Well, the last time they won more games than they lost, Meg Ryan was still considered a sex symbol.

Now, were you to join our team, I can say with a good degree of certainty that you would greatly improve our chances of winning on a day-to-day basis and possibly even elevate the squad to the status of, “championship contender”. Many of my fellow fanatics would very much like this to happen. I’m here to formally ask that you please do not join our team.

It’s not anything personal. You seem like a very nice, charming fellow. And it’s certainly not in any way a condemnation/criticism of your skills on the court. You are, without a doubt, great. You are the greatest since his royal merchandizing/Nike-ness. Were you to disregard this letter, I would assuredly join the maddening crowd in utter adoration/awe of your overall sprezzatura.

But here’s the thing. It wouldn’t be right. I know it. David Stern knows it and I think you know it too even if it runs contrary your (and Mr. Stern’s) ultimate dreams of worldwide financial/iconographic domination and the fact that situating yourself at the epicenter of this media maelstrom would go a great length towards helping you achieve said goal(s).

Now don’t get me wrong. I would love to have an athlete of your caliber on our side. If we had a smart GM who really tanked a season or two in order to get a top 3 draft pick to snag someone as good as you or who discovered someone as good as you in the middle of the first round when the experts had said individual pegged as a mere role player or plucked someone as good as you out of obscurity via trade before his abilities grew to full flower, then hell’s yeah. I’d be tickled pink for [As-yet Nonexistent Savior] to wear the blue and orange. But not like this. We’d be buying you, nay stealing you from the good burghers of Cleveland because goddamnit, we’re the richest most powerful mofos around. It’d be the equivalent of cheering as the Soviet tanks rolled over and through Montenegro.

And if you did sign here, then what? The Lebrons/Knicks go about obliterating other teams? Winning handily? Winning with ease? No sirree. I’m sorry, that’s not me. It just doesn’t mesh with my Weltanschauung. That’s not the team I grew up loving and grew to love. I know my guys are going to lose — lose in heartbreaking fashion, lose via pound-your-nails-into-the-floor-with-your-forehead, repetitive stupidity. And although the actors in this particular melodrama (tragedy?) may have been recast many times over, I still know how it’s going to end, because it’s the same effing play. The script hasn’t changed, just the players. Take our last game v. Indiana f’rinstance. One Clyde said, towards the end of the 4th Quarter (Quarto?), down by 4, after Granger fouled out, “Granger’s out. Now Indiana won’t be able to score and the Knicks can come back.” I should have turned the set off right then and there. That’s it. Toast. Done. We’re boned. Why? Because once the “star’s” out of the game, the other players start moving the ball and playing unselfishly and somehow, quelle surprise, manage to overcome the absence of their, “star.” What happened on Wednesday? The Knicks didn’t score a point in the game. Hibbert, Ford n’ Dantae Jones killed ‘em. I know when the Knicks are trying to mount a comeback that a normally reliable free throw shooter’s gonna brick the first one. (Esp. if he gets the double whammy by Breen mentioning how nifty Player X is from the charity stripe before he’s about to shoot.) In the Indiana game I called both of Harrington’s misses and the Hughes miss at the beginning of the 4th. It’s not b/c I have psychic powers, it’s just that I’ve been watching the same game, over and over again for the past 30 years.

You may be thinking, Lebron, that the above paragraph might suggest that I would like you to join the Knicks, just so I could watch a different story unfold, if only for variety’s sake. A valid point, indeed. But I see, (and indubitably always will see) the failures of this team as an utterly apt paradigm for the way that the rest of the real world functions. The Democrats are going to pass an utterly useless watered down Health Care Bill, Obama’s going to send more troops into Afghanistan because he’s scared of looking ‘weak,’ Bloomberg’s going to flat-out BUY a third term, Glenn Beck’s going to use the remake of the TV show “V” to justify his inane conspiracy theories about Marxists in gov’t, and the Knicks are gonna blow it. Incorrigible, maddening blunders, every man jack of them and there’s absolutely nothing you or I or anyone can do to stop them from happening. If my team started kickin’ ass and taking names, well, I’d have to totally rethink my understanding of the world and start rooting for the Yankees and Dick Cheney and Paris Hilton the E! Network and people who feel that $76 is a reasonable price for an entrée at a restaurant and support the activities of a whole lot of other hateful non-persons who WIN all the time and who don’t. Goddamn. Deserve it. I just can’t be that guy.

(Just to be clear, the 90’s teams are totally valid w/in this construct. We all knew that Patrick would miss the finger roll, Starks would shoot 2-18 in game 7, and that the Spurs would demolish the Camby/Sprewell squad, didn’t we?)

Moral victories. Loveable losers. Tragic Defeat. That’s my stock in trade. So, I’m sorry LeBron. I’d rather you stay in Cleveland. We’ll lose and lose again, but at least I’ll remain true to my principles, to myself.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, Lebron. I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,

Robert Silverman

Knicks 117 Hornets 111

The fourth’s times the charm, as the Knicks finally win their first game this season. New York never fell behind by 20+, as they did in each of their first three games, and pulled away in the fourth quarter outscoring New Orleans 40-30 in the final frame. The team was led by David Lee (28 points on 17 shots, with 8 rebs & 3 ast) and Larry Hughes (20 points on 13 shots). This was Hughes’ second strong game in a row, after it was thought that he might not even make the rotation.

Although his stats weren’t impressive, Danilo Gallinari contributed as well. Gallo had 9 points on 9 shots, but added 5 assists, 2 steals, 2 rebounds and a blocked shot. I’ve been trying to keep notes during the game of notable plays, and my sheet is filled with the words “Gallo”. He had the ball in his hands a lot, and was able to create for his teammates.

Boxscore: http://www.nba.com/games/20091102/NOHNYK/boxscore.html

2010 Poll: Who Will Win the West?

Los Angeles Lakers (Vegas odds to win title: 5:2)
Unlike the East, the West has one clear favorite. Since trading for Pau Gasol, the Lakers have appeared in two straight Finals winning it all last year. Not content to let it ride, Los Angeles upgraded from Trevor Ariza to Ron Artest. This would be a gamble for most teams considering the Queensbridge native’s history, but Phil Jackson has always been able to keep individual personalities from ruining a team.

San Antonio Spurs (6:1)
In an attempt to keep up with the Lakers, the Spurs bolstered their roster in the off season. San Antonio added Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess which should give them a stronger rotation. But ultimately the Spurs will only go as far as their top 3. Last year the team suffered injuries to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and if they lose either of them (or Tony Parker) they’ll fall short of any title hopes.

Denver Nuggets (8:1)
The conventional wisdom is that teams that finish strong are likely to have a momentum that continues to the next season. This seems logical since many great teams go through phases of success before winning a title. However there’s little evidence to support that claim, and many teams just get lucky in a playoff series. The 2009 Denver Nuggets will probably avoid the fate of the 2007 Warriors or the 2008 Hornets, as they are likely to see the second round in 2010. However I think Vegas is way too kind to their odds, and I would bet against them to make the Western Conference Finals, nevertheless win a championship.

Last year per-minute stud Chris Andersen had a monstrous playoffs, however over the last 3 years each of the Denver bigs (Andersen, Nene, and Martin) has missed nearly the whole year due to injury. And while the other teams in the conference improved this summer Denver merely tread water, losing Kleiza and adding Ty Lawson. Unless they get another playoff boost from a great per-minute shot blocking/rebounder buried on the bench, they’re not likely going to be able to compete against the Lakers for Western supremacy.

The Field (starting at 10:1)
According to Vegas, the Trailblazers rank 6th in the West, however Portland deserves a higher ranking. They had the West’s second highest expected winning percentage last year (68.4%), which correlates well with winning percentage the year after. Portland also had the NBA’s best offense powered by their fantastic rebounding. The Blazers return with their rotation in tact plus Andre Miller. Although not the ideal fit for the team, Miller provides an upgrade over Bayless & Blake. They’re much better than their 12:1 odds would indicate.

Ahead of Portland are Dallas and Utah at 10:1. The Mavericks added Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden, and Tim Thomas. Marion’s production slipped in Miami and Toronto, and Dallas is hoping that their offensive scheme will better fit his talents. Meanwhile the Jazz matched the offer sheet for Paul Millsap, and are hoping that they can collectively stay healthy. Finally the New Orleans Hornets swapped Chandler for Emeka Okafor, which could make them relevant in the West again.

{democracy:36}

Knicks 115 Nets 107, Preseason

The Knicks won their first preseason game against new jersey 115-107, although the score hardly matters considering the importance of the game. Some interesting tidbits from the boxscore:

  • New York was powered by +10 turnovers. The Nets coughed up the ball 24 times, but oddly no player had more than 3.
  • The Knicks also held the edge in eFG 50.6 to 48.5. New York hit 13 of 31 from downtown for a robust 41.9%. And they also had the offensive rebounding edge, 20.4% to 18.6%.
  • New Jersey had a field day at the line, scoring 41 singles.
  • Wilson Chandler had the best line for the Knicks. Ill Will had 21 points (7-13, 3-6 3pt, 4-7 ft) with 7 rebounds, 3 ast, 2 stl, and 1 blk. Chandler also led the team in minutes with 28.
  • I had a chuckle when Alan Hahn wrote positively about Jared Jeffries jumpshot. But Jeffries hit 3 of 4 from downtown. Still, I’m holding off from drinking the Kool-Aid until he starts doing this in the season. Or maybe another preseason game.
  • Toney Douglas is still having problems finding the bottom of the net. He went 2-9 including 0-4 from downtown. And Jordan Hill shot an even worse 1-8.
  • Gallo only had 9 points, but did chip in 4 ast, 5 reb, and a blocked shot.
  • David Lee was 9-15 for 20 pts with 9 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl, and 1 blk.