For the New York Knickerbockers, the NBA season starts on Wednesday night against the Miami Heat in South Beach. However for the front office and fans, the real season starts on July 1, 2010 when the greatest free agent class in sports history is on the market.
It’s no secret that a class which includes Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and another fellow by the name of Lebron “King” James gives the organization and fans a reason to look past this year. Another reason to be excited if you’re a Knicks fan is that they will finally close out the most forgettable decade in Knicks history.
It is a decade that has started out horribly since the beginning when they traded Patrick Ewing away after the 2000 season and their salary cap has not been the same since. The Knicks have compiled an ugly record of 298-440 and are currently in the midst of eight straight losing seasons. They have gone through seven different coaches, two playoff wins, and the worst part is they have had only three lottery picks to show for it. It just shows how horribly mismanaged the Knicks have been throughout the years and how much torture the Knicks and their fans have gone through.
And if the fans stuck with the Knicks through Stephon Marbury drama, Isiah Thomas, sexual harassment suit, Scott Layden, Don Chaney and Jerome James horrible contract, they can survive 82 more games. Is it possible? Still, they are New York’s team with a fan base that wants nothing more but to cheer their beloved heroes.
2008-09 Results: 32-50, last in Atlantic. Did not qualify for the playoffs.
ADDITIONS: F/C Darko Milicic; G Toney Douglas; F Jordan Hill; G Gabe Pruitt
SUBTRACTIONS: F Chris Wilcox, G/F Quentin Richardson
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Chris Duhon SG- Wilson Chandler SF- Danilo Gallinari PF- Al Harrington C- David Lee
KEY RESERVES: G Nate Robinson, C Eddy Curry, F Larry Hughes, F/C Darko Milicic. F Jared Jeffries
Like it or not, the Knicks are rebuilding. They are repairing the damage that Isiah Thomas caused and they are looking to the future. Eight of the 14 players on the current roster are in the final year of their respective contracts and each one of them has something to play for: their future.
In any case, the Knicks do have a season to play and as far as head coach Mike D’Antoni is concerned, this is not a throw away year for the Knicks.
Last year, the Knicks won nine more games than the previous year. It’s not saying much when they won only 32 games but it stll was an improvement. They were a lot more exciting to watch then in previous years as they were fourth in the NBA in scoring by averaging 104.5 points a game. D’Antoni’s “seven seconds or less” offense gave the team an identity they haven’t had in past seasons.
One of the players that took the biggest stride in the new system was third year forward, Wilson Chandler. He averaged 14.4 points a game along with 5.6 rebounds. He has emerged as a rotation player and potential piece of the puzzle going forward.
David Lee emerged as a potential all star candidate as he recorded 65 double double’s, the most in the NBA and had his best season to date. He just signed a one year contract and hopes he can part of the Knicks rebirth in 2010 and beyond. Old school Knicks see a lot of Charles Oakley in Lee for his willingness to bang the boards and play as tough anyone. He has become a fan favorite for every hardcore Knick fan.
The other frontcourt starter is Al Harrington, who came over in the trade for Jamal Crawford in one of Donnie Walsh’s big move to open up more cap space for 2010. Harrington led the team in scoring last season and will likely do the same again but is one of the least impressive “go to guys” in the league. All you have to do is look back to two games that Harrington cost his team last season. In games against the Clippers, Al Harrington was whistled for a T very late in the game for tapping the backboard after a dunk. Both times, it cost the Knicks a victory they do badly needed. Even though he’s more like a second or third option, he plays like a first and can get hot any time he touches the ball.
One of the biggest keys of the season is the development of second year pro, Danillo Ganillari. If he can be consistent with his outside shooting and stay healthy, the Knicks will be a better team. But, those are two huge if’s. Gallinari’s presence on the Knicks last season can not be ignored. He only played in 28 games averaging 6.1 points a game. But the Knicks went 14-14 in those games and had a putrid record of 18-36 without him. D’Antoni has called him the Knicks best shooter and one of the best he has ever seen. That’s some high praise for a guy that coached Steve Nash and Joe Johnson. Gallinari gives D’Antoni more creative options for offense beyond the point guard driven pick and roll attack led by Chris Duhon last season, along with the more ball-dominant tendencies of Al Harrington and Nate Robinson.
As far as the guard play was concerned, the Knicks were stuck in an unpleasant situation with the Stephon Marbury drama. They signed Chris Duhon away from the Chicago Bulls and became another player who thrived under D’Anotoni’s system. He averaged career highs in points (11.1), rebounds (3.1), and, more importantly, assists (7.2). Clearly the team’s catalyst throughout the season, Duhon is a point guard that the Knicks have been dying to see since they traded Mark Jackson away 17 years ago!
But in his first season as a starter, the 37 minutes a game that Duhon averaged certainly took its toll. Before the all star break, Duhon was playing nearly 39 minutes per game, pushing out averages of 12 points and eight assists. After the break, the turnovers started to increase for Duhon and a drop in his numbers. Duhon’s minutes were decreased as he averaged only 8.6 points and 5.6 assists in 28 games.
The Knicks were very desperate to take off some of the load off Duhon as they tried to give Jason Kidd the red carpet treatment to no avail. They made attempts to sign Andre Miller away from 76ers and Ramon Sessions from the Bucks. They were not able to land any of them.
Donnie Walsh knows that Nate Robinson can’t be the true point guard for this team. He needed to add a quality backup point guard and let Nate do what he does best: Score!
Walsh would use the draft to address that need. What he got was a true point guard when they used one of their two picks to select Tony Douglas in a draft day trade with the Lakers. Douglas played his college ball in the tough ACC for Florida State. His credentials are quite impressive as he was the 2009 ACC defensive player of the year and was the runner up to Ty Lawson for ACC player of the year. His defensive tenacity should help out the Knicks who were on of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. They were 28th in the NBA allowing 108 points a game. The way the Knicks are talking, he is going to be utilized a lot more than their lottery pick, Jordan Hill.
“He will be a significant part of the rotation,” D’Antoni said. “And hopefully keep growing into a bigger role.”
As for Hill, The Knicks used the 8th pick to select the power forward from Arizona. The Knicks hope that he a lot better than the last forward they used on their lottery pick from Arizona. Anyone remember Channing Frye? Using the NBA draft to their advantage has not been their strength. In the last twenty years, the only players the Knicks have drafted in the first round that have had solid careers has been David Lee, Charlie Ward ( starting PG for the 99 Finals team is not bad), and Nate Robinson. Only three players!!! Frederic Weis, Mike Sweetney, Channing Frye, and the list goes on the poor draft picks.
Hill hopes he is not added on that list but does not figure to play much this season. He is, a 6-10, 235-pound forward. Hill entered the draft following a strong junior season for the Wildcats, when he averaged 18.3 points and 11 rebounds. He does add depth to the Knicks frontcourt and only an injury would see him move up..
As far as the rest of the squad goes, Larry Hughes can score with anyone when he heats up but his shot selection can only be described as awful. Jared Jeffries is a versatile player who can cover three positions. He can defend with anyone but has no offensive game ability. He is probably the best defensive player the Knicks have but he is just a role player who has never fit in with the Knicks. If Walsh can figure out a way to unload his contract, he deserves the gold star.
The Knicks did make one another move on draft night when they traded swingman Quentin Richardson to the Grizzlies for Darko Milicic. This will be Darko’s fourth team since being drafted number two overall in the 2003 draft. The same draft class that included Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwayne Wade. Darko was viewed as a potential stud but has never lived up to the billing. In Darko’s defense, he has never been given the chance to perform. He has only averaged about 17 minutes a game while posting 5.5 points and 4 rebounds a game. The Knicks hope that he has finally found a system he can shine in. And if can’t, the Knicks can drop him after the year as his contract comes off the books. It’s high reward-low risk with Darko.
If everything falls right, the Knicks could win 40 games and possibly earn the 8th or even the 7th seed for the playoffs. D’Antoni will get his team to score but getting them to defend is going to be tough. The team can’t rebound well and don’t have any “stars”. The must show improvement to have any chance to get James or any other of the studs for free agency. I think they will improve on the 32 wins but not by much. The countdown to July 1st continues.
Predicted record: 37-45, 10th seed in Eastern Conference, 3rd in Atlantic.