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Old 08-30-2006, 07:39 AM   #1
Bombay
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Default Check it out Knick Fans Good Article....

Believe or Not, Knicks Made Good Decisions This Summer
Basketball

By MARTIN JOHNSON
August 29, 2006


The Knicks had an extraordinarily successful off-season and the best part of it wasn't what they did, but rather what they didn't do.

What they did was notable. The Knicks started their summer with a roar, dumping coach Larry Brown after letting him twist in the wind for a couple of weeks (clearly an Isiah Thomas tradition given his handling of Don Chaney and Lenny Wilkens). The move was necessary as Brown had sabotaged the season, going 23–59 using 42 different starting lineups, failing to set a rotation, and devoting more energy to warring with his players in the newspapers than setting clear roles for them.

The Brown fiasco closed with an interview where the Knicks' chairman, James Dolan, told the team president and head coach, Isiah Thomas, that he had one year to show substantial progress. The ultimatum garnered many headlines but it was dog bites man. Any team executive in charge of an outfit that has posted winning percentages of .476, .402, and .280 in successive seasons would be sitting on a very hot seat

The draft brought two players, Renaldo Balkman and Mardy Collins, who are primarily known for their defense and hustle. Their free agent shopping resulted in nabbing Jared Jeffries, another defense and hustle type. These are good additions to a club chock full of players who like to score and do little else.

What was remarkable about the Knicks' summer was that those were the only personnel moves made. The Knicks are so far over the cap, $138.5 million according to www.*********.com, that they can be hit with a luxury tax penalty of more than $70 million — in other words, they've reached depths of cap hell that not even Dante imagined. However, their hands aren't tied. Next to young skilled pivot men and point guards, the most sought-after commodity in the NBA is expiring contracts and the Knicks have two, Jalen Rose (due $16.9 million this year) and Maurice Taylor (owed $9.7 million).

Every competitive NBA team (I'm excluding Atlanta from the discussion) is over the cap and one way to get relief is to trade your bad, long-term contracts for expiring deals. Throughout Thomas's tenure, the Knicks have been a repository for mediocre players with bad, long-term contracts. Rose, Taylor, Malik Rose, Anfernee Hardaway, Steve Francis, and Antonio Davis have all donned the blue and orange because the Knicks were willing to take on their bloated contracts. There are signs that this policy has finally changed.

When rumors surfaced that the Knicks were talking to Portland about troubled swingman Darius Miles and with Philadelphia about aging power forward Chris Webber, the centerpiece of the Knicks' offer was swingman Quentin Richardson who is owed $33 million until the summer of 2010. Richardson has a bad back and an uninsured contract, which makes him a very expensive risk. He missed 27 games last season and his play has declined steadily for the last four seasons. Rather than an expiring contract for someone's bad long-term pact, the Knicks were said to be offering one bad deal for another, a subtle but significant change; if I'm reading the Garden tea leaves correctly, the team may finally be seeking some cap flexibility by keeping their expiring contracts and getting the cap relief themselves.They have tried to spend their way out of cap hell, but found themselves spinning their wheels in quicksand.

But what can we expect if the current assemblage is "our New York Knicks" for the near future? For one, substantial improvement can be expected this year. Last season Brown went with a set lineup and rotation for two weeks in late December and early January. The result was six wins in eight games including thrilling overtime wins against Phoenix and Dallas, two of the three best teams in the Western Conference. I don't think the Knicks are a .750 team, but that stretch speaks to the team's actual ability with some basic structure in place. I think the team will improve to 35–40 wins this season and contend for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The improvement will give fans a sense that things are finally moving in the right direction. Also in the summer of 2007, the Knicks' cap situation goes from comically bad to just plain bad as about $50 million worth of salary comes off the books.Rose and Taylor's deal will expire as will those of long gone players like Alan Houston, Shandon Anderson, and Jerome Williams.

From there, the cast pretty much is set for two years. Next summer, the Knicks will have a mid-level exception and Chicago's first round draft pick to bolster this lineup.The Knicks will have one expiring contract next summer, Malik Rose who is owed $7.1 million through summer of '08, but more importantly they will have two guards, Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis, who turn 30 in February and may be nearing the decline phase of their careers.Without reinforcements and unless Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson can dial it up a notch, then the Knicks' backcourt play may decline a bit in 2007–08 resulting a few fewer victories and greater distance from the playoff chase.

The 2008–09 season will determine the Knicks long term. Marbury and Francis will be in the final years of their deals. If allowed to expire, the Knicks would have a payroll of about $40 million in the summer of '09 and would be able to shop aggressively for free agents to surround a team that would have Crawford, Robinson, Channing Frye, and Eddy Curry in the primes of their career as the cornerstones. They would also have the expiring contracts of Richardson (if he's still around) and Jerome James as bargaining chips. The team would be poised to take the next big step toward contending for a title.

That's what's possible.It's also possible that the Knicks' prudence this summer was a fluke and that they'll resume dealing expiring contracts for bad long-term ones in which case, mediocrity en route to possible contention will be replaced by veryexpensive bad teams becoming a fixture on the Manhattan landscape.

It would make Nets owner Bruce Ratner a very happy man as his team gets settled in Brooklyn.

Knick Fan Representin'
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Old 08-30-2006, 10:25 AM   #2
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this is the probably the most positive knick article i read in a few years.
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Old 08-30-2006, 11:49 AM   #3
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Old 08-30-2006, 02:41 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brooklynchild155
this is the probably the most positive knick article i read in a few years.
There was a similar article in ESPN the Mag over the summer. Its good to see not every Sports writer jumpin on the Anti Knick Bandwagon
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Old 08-30-2006, 05:01 PM   #5
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Good article! Where was it printed?
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Old 08-30-2006, 05:22 PM   #6
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This guy blows hot and cold about the Knicks, Read this:

The New York Sun
August 1, 2006 Edition > Section: Sports
Another Mediocre Swingman? Isiah Looks at the Short Term
Basketball
BY MARTIN JOHNSON
August 1, 2006
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/37120

The Knicks' signing of Washington Wizard swingman Jared Jeffries to an offer sheet has all the hallmarks of the Isiah Thomas regime: Taken in isolation, the deal looks great, but when examined more closely, warts begin to appear. However, if everything breaks the Knicks' way, this is a positive move for the short term.

The Knicks inked Jeffries, a restricted free agent, to a five-year, $30 million pact, and the Wizards will have seven days to either match the offer or allow Jeffries to star in a press conference at
Madison Square Garden. Although Washington chairman Abe Pollin, president Ernie Grunfeld, and coach Eddie Jordan have all made noise about wanting to keep Jeffries, there are also solid signs that they may let him go. The Knick contract, unlike a richer deal offered by the Wizards, includes a hefty bonus if Jeffries is traded, a likelihood given his abilities, and it calls for most of his annual salary to be paid upfront, a dangerous precedent for any employer (this also holds true of the Knicks, but they have committed so many questionable business moves that one more won't really affect anything).

Jeffries is a player with an odd skill set. The Indiana University product is 6-foot-11,but he plays on the perimeter. Unlike other big men with that tendency — think Toni Kukoc, Peja Stojakovic, and Hedo Turkoglu — Jeffries is a solid defender.In fact, his perimeter defense is the only thing keeping him in the league. He's not much of a rebounder at 4.9 a game; he doesn't block shots (0.6 a contest), and despite playing in an uptempo offense featuring all-stars Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, Jeffries is a mediocre finisher, averaging only 6.4 ppg and shooting only 45.1% from the floor.

Yes, if you're thinking that $30 million should buy you more in the free agent market, you see why analysts generally scorn the notion of using that kind of money on role players.Scarcity drives up prices on marginal players well beyond reason. According to the Fair Salary calculations at www.82games.com, Jeffries should be making about $2.4 million a season, less than half of what he will make next year.
Knicks fans would be better advised to focus on what Jeffries does do, which is play defense on the wings. His length and quickness harasses opposing small forwards, denying them the ball and keeping them from driving. Although Washington was a weak defensive team last season — allowing 107.5 points per 100 possessions, 23rd in the league — the production of the Wizards' opposing small forwards was a little below league average, a composite Player Efficiency Rating of 14.8, which was mostly due to Jeffries's defense.

The Knicks used a motley crew of players at small forward last season, including Quentin Richardson, Qyntel Woods, Jalen Rose, David Lee (really a backup power forward), and even guard Jamal Crawford. None of these guys were stellar defenders (Trevor Ariza might be considered one, but he was run into Larry Brown's doghouse early in the season and run out of town at the trade deadline). Opposing small forwards posted a 16.8 PER against Knick defenders, or put into more palpable terms, they put up 20.4 a game compared with 15 a game for the New York players — the worst net loss on a team loaded with red ink in plus–minus categories. Jeffries's upside is rather limited, but he fills a void from last year's roster.
The problem with this signing is that first-round draft pick Renaldo Balkman is also supposed to fill that gap. How many non-scoring, "energy guys" do you need? This signing makes using the draft pick on Balkman look that much more curious, and it looks again as if there isn't a plan in place. By the second year of his contract, Jeffries's skills may be duplicated by a much younger and cheaper player.

Then there's a small concern about the length of the contract. Jeffries turns 25 just before training camp opens in the fall, and his skills are premised on athleticism.That's usually the first aspect of a player's game to decline. Without it, he's not much of a player.The Knicks are severely capped out until the summer of '09, but they won't have any flexibility even if they load the end of their bench with guys making the full midlevel exception like Jeffries and Jerome James.

The biggest upside to this deal is what it does for next season: it guarantees the Knicks a good perimeter defender in the starting lineup and removes one from a rival.Right now, barring a spate of major injuries, seven of the eight Eastern Conference playoff spots are set. Miami, New Jersey, and all five Central Division teams look primed for a postseason return. Standing between the Knicks and the no. 8 seed are Washington, Orlando (the thinking fan's choice), and Boston. The signing of Jeffries makes the Knicks that much more likely to be in the playoff hunt, and if they are, it will guarantee Isiah's job for another season or two. That's probably not what Knicks fans want to hear, but it's the primary upside of this move.Why else spend $30 million on a marginally talented player?
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