You’re receiving this letter because you reside in Knickerbockerland, and it’s been determined that you’ve invested a requisite amount of blood, sweat, and tears in support of the franchise during the 2010-11 season.
Regretfully, we are unable to provide a date and time for you to attend the ever so elusive Knicker-tape parade that you’ve been promised for about four decades or so, but nonetheless things are indeed looking up.
Attached please find the team’s report card, as compiled through an exhaustive analysis of the Knick organization’s performance amidst the season’s various trials and tribulations.
You’ll note that no stone is left unturned, and no punches are pulled. Please take some time to digest these findings, and provide your feedback in the comments section below.
Remember, there’s no such thing as a “dumb” player, only those that are underachieving and overpaid. Well, unless you’re Jared Jefferies — who is currently undergoing further testing to determine if he’s all three.
The Ghost of Red Holzman
PG: In a season that started with relative unknown Ray Felton manning the point, and ended with an oft-injured Chauncey Billups unable to suit up, the Knicks’ woes at the position remain front and center in what needs tending to by management.
Billups (35) isn’t getting any younger, and there are those that think his $14M team option should not be picked up. That said, what alternatives do the Knicks have? With an uncertain salary cap, a pending lockout, and a lack of better free-agent alternatives, it makes sense to retain Billups.
SG: Oh, what would the Knicks look like if the Denver Nuggets management could have been hoodwinked into taking Landry Fields instead of Danilo Gallinari. The vision of an opposing defense’s two-guard trying to match up with the Italian Stallion remains as mouth-watering as a bowl rigatoni a la vodka, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
As for the aforementioned Fields; Bloom, meet Rose. Now say goodbye. Forever. Ironically, the image of Fields (right) isn’t too far off from his style of play once Carmelo Anthony breezed into town — vice grips, on the former’s ability to create his own shot or elude defenders. Is it possible that Fields can build on his solid foundation and high basketball IQ? Sure, but he’s got a lot to prove in a town that’s short on patience and long on critics.
SF: If you would have polled Knick fans last July after LeBron James scorned the franchise in favor of getting laid a lot in Miami, the vast majority of them would have said that all hope was lost. Yet in a soap opera that rivaled the Decision, the Knicks won tickets to Melopalooza, acquired Anthony, and set themselves up for the next half-decade at least.
Sure, ‘Melo shoots. A lot. And it’s somewhat worrisome that his early Knick tenure drew comparisons to the infamous Starbury, but there’s no denying that Anthony isn’t afraid of the spotlight. And who can blame him, as his ability to score at will is almost unparalled in the league.
The biggest question remains whether Carmelo can figure out a way better integrate his game and style with Amar’e Stoudemire. If the former can replicate his late-season 3-point shooting prowess, and the latter can develop some semblance of a post-up game, it shouldn’t take the duo long to develop a two-man game for the ages.
PF: Short of Reggie Jackson, you’d be very hard pressed to find another professional athlete like Stoudemire — who brashly came to New York as a free agent, embraced his leadership role, and delivered everything he said he would. Amar’e collected $100M for this trouble, while Reggie made just $2.96M — over five years!
Yes, it’s going to take an NBA title or two before the Garden-faithful start tossing Amarebars from the rafters, but make no mistake, STAT was born to play here. His presence purported to virtually eliminate years of Knick-futility, a goal he announced to the world by bragging that “the Knicks were back.” You know something, a winning record, a playoff appearance, and unparalled interest in the franchise say he was right.
C: Back in October, there were actually some Knick fans who were excited that the oft-maligned Eddy Curry was training with former Knick Anthony Mason. The only problem was that the once-jacked Mason had himself ballooned into a caricature of… Eddy Curry.
Enter Ronny Turiaf’s beard. Coming over in the sign-and-trade that sent David Lee to Golden State, Turiaf played well at times, but was sidelined due to injury more often than he was able to play. The Knicks’ obvious need for a viable center isn’t easily solvable in free agency, and the team lacks any appreciable trade chips. Perhaps Greg Oden will get time off from his lucrative sexting career and take his… umm talents… to Broadway.
Bench: New York went from a not-so-deep team before the ‘Melo trade to as shallow a roster as you’ll find in the NBA afterwards. The one constant was never-again-to-be-thought-of-as-a-PG Toney Douglas, whose game logs were really all you needed to look at in figuring out whether or not the Knicks had won.
Douglas absolutely has an NBA-level game, but he’s not a starter, and he needs to have his minutes well-managed to maximize his effectiveness. A surprisingly good on-the-ball defender, Douglas will be invaluable to New York going forward, if utilized properly.
Beyond Douglas the pickings were certainly slim this season, but Shawne Williams and Bill Walker deserve mention for their contributions. Williams proved himself to be a versatile and reliable scorer off the bench, especially from 3-point range, and Walker brought an edgy presence not felt in the Garden since the likes of Larry Johnson once roamed.
As for Jared Jefferies, what more is there to say? The guy was blessed with really long limbs, and not much else. In fact, rumor has it Jefferies was not initially allowed to leave the hospital with his newborn baby son because the nurses feared the child would be dropped while being loaded into the car.
Coaching: These days, say the name Mike D’Antoni aloud and you’re not likely to get a lot of warm smiles in your direction. Let’s be fair, having his roster completely turned over for a third consecutive season probably warrants cutting the guy some slack. Is D’Antoni stubborn? Yes. Does his offense usually keep the Knicks in games? Of course. Does that same offense seem to operate to the detriment of his teams’ ability to play defense? Absolutely. But it’s still unclear whether or not this polarizing man, and his system, can work in the long term.
Besides, what this franchise needs more than anything else is stability.
Let’s see what MDA can accomplish with a full training camp — assuming the lockout doesn’t erase the 2011-12 campaign — a retooled roster, and a full season to improve upon his own in-game strategic shortcomings.
Front Office: Is there any doubt that GM Donnie Walsh’s office smells like reuben sandwiches and cigarette smoke? Really, the guy once rolled into a LeBron pitch-meeting in a wheelchair for crying out loud! Moves like that scream “I’ve been around the block a few times, Sonny, and I don’t give a flying farlth what you think you know.”
He’s gangsta, speakeasy-style.
In all seriousness, Walsh needs to be brought back at all costs, on his terms, with no strings attached by ownership. Period.
Ownership: Dolan paid for Stoudemire. That was good. Then he stepped in when the organization was being killed by everyone for not doing whatever it took to land a second superstar. That was also good.
Then he raised ticket prices at the Garden, even though the team was barely playing .500 basketball, and hadn’t been to the playoffs in seven years. That was decidedly bad.
Prior to all this, he shaved his goatee. That was neither good, nor bad, on account of his less than stellar looks.
In truth, Dolan should not be fully graded until the season officially ends, and the D’Antoni/Walsh situations are resolved. Whatever the outcome, he’s a man who wants to win, and doesn’t let money get in the way of trying, but it remains to be seen whether he can morph into something resembling George Steinbrenner, or remain the butt of Donald Sterling’s jokes.