Friday, February 09, 2007
Hello. Today I'm going to tell you something that you might already know: I am a fan of the New York Knickerbockers. That means that, like most fans, I hated Layden, I dislike Thomas, and I cannot stand that rat James Dolan. Cablevision has ruined the team I love, and in the process made enough money to buy heaven.
Just doing initial research with this column made me so angry I began to sweat. I am able to retain my love for the Knicks by thinking about the good old days and tacitly accepting what an embarrassment my team has become. I try not to think about the dumb-shit chic-fuck New Yorkers who continue to shell out money to see a game at MSG because there's nothing else they can do with their money. (What are they going to do, watch the Rangers?)
I don't even check the boxes every day. Time was, I would open the Brattleboro Reformer excitedly and look to see what had happened to the Knicks and who had done what. Not now.
Did I jump off the bandwagon? Yeah, I did, but you know what? It's impossible to follow a team run by such needle-dicked boneheads who have no concern at all for the sanctity of basketball and its most prestigious team. (Just calling the Knicks the most prestigious teams sounds silly to me. That's how far the Knicks have come.)
There is a difference between only rooting for your team when they win and the feelings I have now. I am also a dedicated Mets fan, and I have endured many a bad year without feeling my spirits dampened. The Mets, in relative terms, have less spending power and freedom than the Knicks, and are less profitable. However, they are always trying to get better, even though they sometimes screw up. As a fan, I appreciate that. I can still see their games affordably, and their games are available on network television (some of the time).
The Knicks, on the other hand, don't care about getting better. They care about fan retention, and to that end, they do what they can to pacify the fans and keep them coming. They make big-name moves, spend a lot of money, and try to get their wet little paws around the thing that makes sports fans' engines go: hope. They want to buy it and sell it. Well, my good reader, I don't want to get all snooty here, but looking at the moves they make, I am too smart to have any hope for this team, and I think the same can be said of the rest of the Knicks' fan base. However, in a city of 10 million, that damned 20,000 seat arena keeps selling tickets, the merchandise keeps moving, and the networks keep calling.
Much has been said about why the Knicks suck. I am going to break it down into two parts: what the Knicks have done/who's to blame, and what they should have done. I realize that it is easy to look at this stuff in retrospect, but I don't care, because relativity goes out the window when assessing the kind of asinine moves the Knicks have made.
Let me just say one thing first. James Dolan's dad started HBO. He had talent. James is a little rich boy who never did a thing himself, and thinks he has talent. He's a joke. He bought [Nobody Beats The] Wiz and ran it into the ground. He is the singer for a band that sucks. He thinks he's cool. Everything he makes decisions about goes to shit, and the only reason he makes money is because he can sit on daddy's knee and run a successful empire that is too good and too much of a monopoly to screw up. I'm saying it now: I could do his job better then him, because I could just sit back and hire people who know what they're doing, rather than trying to inject my private-school pussy into decisions that affect things. What a fucking clown.
In 1991, the pre-James Dolan New York Knicks hired Ernie Grunfeld to be their General Manager. He was a great guy for the job; he was from Queens, he had played with Bernard King in college, and he had played professionally. He knew basketball. It was James Dolan's dad who was responsible for this great hire. They won 60, 57, 55, 47, and 57 games the next five years, going to the finals and losing to the Rockets.
In 1999, after eight years of great moves and results, Grunfeld was fired. The Knicks were 21-21, and were coached by Jeff Van Gundy, a great Grunfeld hire. That team, of course, went to the Finals, and every player on the roster other than Patrick Ewing was a Grunfeld Guy. He had just traded an aging Charles Oakley to the Raptors for a young Marcus Camby, and old John Starks to the Warriors for Latrell Sprewell.
James Dolan was too much of a chickenshit to properly fire Grunfeld, saying that he was "temporarily relieved of his duties". Dolan, the cocksucker, tried to bring him back after the team was successful, but Grunfeld, a proud man, didn't want to return. I don't blame him. I wouldn't want to work for such a rich piece of shit either, especially not if, after seven years, he wasn't willing to give me a chance when there was a bump in the road.
Here are the important moves [good and bad] Ernie Grunfeld made, in chronological order.
The first thing he did was draft Greg Anthony. Next, he re-upped newly signed John Starks. He signed Anthony Mason, who at the time was playing in the CBA. He traded Jerrod Mustaf, Trent Tucker, and second round picks that would become Brian Davis and Anthony Goldwire for Xavier McDaniel.
After building on his nucleus, Grunfeld traded Maurice Cheeks for a first round pick that would become Charlie Ward. He let Kiki Vandeweghe go at the right time. He let Xavier McDaniel as well as Gerald Wilkins go as they passed their primes. He picked up Charles Smith, Doc Rivers, and Bo Kimble (who?) for Mark Jackson and two picks that were nobodies. He signed Herb Williams, a great player and a great person. He acquired Derek Harper from the Mavs for Tony Campbell and a first rounder. He drafted Charlie Ward. He acquired Doug Christie for two second round picks. He re-signed Charles Oakley. He re-signed John Starks. He got rid of Doc Rivers at the perfect time. He signed Don Nelson to fill in for Pat Riley, and acquired Walter McCarty and $1 million in a settlement because the Heat had tampered to get Riles. He fired Don Nelson at exactly the right time, and promoted Jeff Van Gundy. He drafted Allan Houston and signed Chris Childs. He traded Anthony Mason for Larry Johnson. He re-signed Patrick Ewing. He re-signed Jeff Van Gundy. He traded Oakley for Camby. He signed Chris Dudley to a 4-year, $35 M contract (terrible move). He traded Chris Mills, Terry Cummings, and John Starks for Sprewell. He signed Kurt Thomas.
Then he was done. Halfway through the strike-shortened season, "temporarily fired" for Dave Checketts. This is where the garbage begins. (You'll notice above a pattern of conservatism; almost a ten year period with very little change. The other pattern is that Grunfeld was not afraid to get rid of people, a problem that many managers, especially those who have been affiliated with the Knicks, have had.)
Dave Checketts, in his short tenure, did the following: He signed Mirsad Turkan to a three year contract. He drafted Frederic Weis. He signed John Wallace, who had just been traded away. He resigned Jeff Van Gundy. While I like the JVG move, it's a no brainer, and that was all Checketts did. Then he did the unthinkable, the objectionable, the remarkable: He hired Scott Layden.
Layden, like Dolan, is the son of a great man. In his case, it is Frank Layden, a true basketball mastermind. Like James Dolan, Scott grew up living the life of luxury, got a great job with the Jazz through his connections, and just sat on his ass watching Malone and Stockton and thinking to himself "I'm a genius!". (He now claims to have been responsible for drafting them. This is a lie. It is alleged that he "directed the draft" but in more truthful stories note that he "convinced his father". Based on his record, I believe there may be an iota of truth to this, but I am sure that Frank Layden was primarily responsible. ) [Frank Layden was roommates in college with Hubie Brown. That must have been something. Layden also had a great quote about a Jazz rook in 1991: "He's a quick learner, but he forgets quick, too."]
This is what Scott Layden did: First, he waived Herb Williams. Terrible move. He re-signed Latrell Sprewell to a 5-year, $61.9 million dollar contract extension (Sprewell was 29). He hired his dad as a "basketball consultant". He traded Patrick Ewing, Chris Dudley, and the pick that would become Jason Collins for (take a deep breath) Luc Longley, Glen Rice, Travis Knight, Vernon Maxwell, Vladmir Stepania, Lazaro Borrell, a pick that became Jamaal Tinsley, two second rounders, and the pick that would become Kareem Rush.
Okay, he got a shot at some decent young players, right? Wrong. He traded the pick that would become Jamaal Tinsley for Othella Harrington. He acquired Mark Jackson for the pick that would become Kareem Rush. He signed Clarence Weatherspoon to a 5-year, $27.5 million dollar contract (he was 31). He signed Allan Houston to a 6-year, $100 million dollar contract (he was 30). He traded Glen Rice for Shandon Anderson and Howard Eisley (who both had monstrous contracts). He bought out Larry Johnson's contract for $27 million. Jeff Van Gundy resigned, and he was replaced with Don Chaney. The Knicks traded Marcus Camby, Mark Jackson, and the rights to Nene for Antonio McDyess, the rights to Frank Williams, and a second rounder. Michael Doleac was signed. Don Chaney was re-signed to a one year extension, and then, six months later, (after presiding over a pretty sucky team) re-signed for two more years. Mike Sweetney was drafted with the 9th pick in the draft. Latrell Sprewell was traded for Keith Van Horn. Dikembe Mutombo was signed to a 2-year, $8.5 million dollar deal. Matt Carroll was waived. Finally, after all these moves, not one of which was good, Scott Layden was fired.
Dolan's next move was the hiring of Isiah Thomas. Thomas's first move was to acquire Moochie Norris and John Amaechi from the Rockets for Clarence Weatherspoon. He then traded (another deep breath) Antonio McDyess, Maciej Lampe, Howard Eisley, Charlie Ward, a first round pick that would become Kirk Snyder, another first rounder, and $3 million for Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway.
Don Chaney was fired and Lenny Wilkins was hired. Keith Van Horn was traded for Tim Thomas and Nazr Mohammed. Vin Baker was signed. Kurt Thomas was signed to a 4-year, $30 million dollar extension. Trevor Ariza was drafted (a good move, I think). Vin Baker was signed to a 2-year, $7.5 million dollar extension. Othella Harrington and Dikembe Mutombo were traded for Jamal Crawford and Jerome Williams.
Coach Lenny Wilkins resigned and Herb Williams was promoted. Nazr Mohammed was traded for two draft picks that would become David Lee and Mardy Collins. Mo Taylor was acquired for Norris, Vin Baker, and the pick that would become Steve Novak. Channing Frye and David Lee were drafted. Kurt Thomas was traded for Quentin Richardson and Nate Robinson. Jerome James was signed to a 5-year, $30 million contract. Larry Brown signed a 5-year, $50 million contract. Eddy Curry and Antonio Davis were acquired for Tim Thomas, Mike Sweetney, the pick that would become LaMarcus Aldridge, and a right to swap this year's first round picks. Antonio Davis was traded for Jalen Rose and the pick that would become Renaldo Balkman. Steve Francis was acquired for Penny and Ariza. Larry Brown was fired [making a $27 million salary in one year's work]. Mardy Collins and Balkman were drafted. Jared Jeffries was signed to a 5-year, $30 million contract.
That's it, basically. Notice that in the last five years there were about twice as many moves as there were in Grunfeld's eight.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I am going to show you what the Knicks could have had in the past seven years, if somebody smart had done their drafting:
In 1999, Dave Checketts made one of the worst mistakes in the history of basketball. He drafted Frederic Weis, the man made famous for being dunked on by Vince Carter who was then too afraid to play in America (I am speaking literally; he refused because he didn't believe he was up to the competition) was drafted one pick before New York native Ron Artest, the best defensive player in the NBA. He had just gone to St. Johns, where he played his games at the Garden. The fans would have loved him. He was the next Anthony Mason/Charles Oakley bad-ass motherfucker. And we passed on him. The more I think about it the worse it seems.
The Knicks also passed on Andrei Kirilenko, James Posey, and Emmanuel Ginobili. That's great.
In 2000, the entire draft was terrible, and the Knicks had just won a championship. This was not such a bad year, and Lavorr Postell was a decent second round find.
In 2001, New York traded away its pick which would have been Jamaal Tinsley, who was drafted right before Tony Parker. That pick was traded for the great Othella Harrington.
In 2002, when the Knicks had the presence of mind to keep their pick, they drafted Nene Hilario, who would have been a great Knick, and traded him for Antonio McDyess. Who could they have had? Oh, Amare Stoudamire or Chris Wilcox. The pick they traded away could have been Tayshaun Prince or Nenad Krstic.
In 2003, the Knicks once again held onto their pick, taking Mike Sweetney. They could have had Josh Howard, David West, Boris Diaw, Michael Pietrus, or Leandrinho Barbosa. The Knicks were blessed to have the first pick in the second round, but instaed of taking Mo Williams, Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, Steve Blake, Keith Bogans, Willie Green, Kyle Korver or James Jones (what a great second round that was...), they took Maciej Lampe, who is younger than me, Polish, and who has never done anyting.
In 2004, despite being at the height of their shittiness, the Knicks had already relinquished their first rounder (#16) to Utah via Phoenix. As this was in the process of obtaining Marbury, their only valuable player, I can't blame them, but they could have drafted JR Smith, Josh Smith, Jameer Nelson, Tony Allen, or Kevin Martin. Their second round pick, Trevor Ariza, was good, and I will give them that.
In 2005, the Knicks had a good draft, taking Channing Frye and David Lee. I like Channing Frye, but he is not really a Knicks-style player, and I think part of his popularity stemmed from the fact that Knicks fans hadn't gotten to cheer for a rookie in more than five years at this point. I mean, he was top-ten...The Knicks could have had Andrew Bynum, Ike Diogu (a real Knick if ever there was one), Sean May, Gerald Green, Hakim Warrick, or Jarrett Jack.
I'll give them that as a good pick, though, because initially that year seems weak. David Lee was a great pick at the end of the first round.
This year, 2006, could have been a big year. The Knicks were so bad that they would have been eligable for the number two pick in the draft. They could have gotten LeMarcus Aldridge, Tyrus Thomas, or Brandon Roy, who all look good initially. The picks they made, Rendaldo Balkman and Mardy Collins, are both kind of sissies. We could have had Rajon Rondo or Marcus Williams, two great point guards, or James White, an awesome jumper.
This means that in the last five years, going entirely by draft (and leaving out the pick that was given for Marbury), the Knicks could be:
PG: Stephon Marbury
SG: Brandon Roy
SF: Josh Howard
PF: Ron Artest
C: Amare Stoudamire/Nene Hilario
Bench: Tony Parker/Jamaal Tinsley
Tayshaun Prince/Nenad Krstic
Mo Williams/Kyle Korver/Willie Green
That's a pretty good eight-man rotation. It makes me sad to think what might have been had somebody competent been in the front office.
Cities like San Antonio, Phoenix, and Dallas can hire effective basketball administrators, but in New York, where there's the most money, the most talent, and the most motivation, no one can be found. It's all because of that snotty piece of dog shit James Dolan.
The terrible part is the continuity. The Knicks, once again, are far and away the highest-paid team in the NBA, and have no prospects for success. They have a ton of overpaid players, no good center, no true shooting guard, no power forward, and a host of injury problems.
Most distressingly, they're not like the Knicks I grew up loving. They are not tough. They don't play good defense. No one is afraid of them. They're just another NBA team that sucks.
I don't see them getting any better. They will keep spending their money, squandering their picks, and forcing unrealistic expectations on head coaches. Furthermore, there is no chance for long-term success, since the only guy who ever thought long-term, Ernie Grunfeld, got fired halfway through his first mediocre season even though he had a team that went to the finals.
It's gotten to the point where if the Knicks succeed, I'll actually be mad, I hate Dolan so much. I can't be happy unless he's gone and the Knicks are in the hands of a true basketball lover, someone who will let good people make good moves for him. If we can get rid of this pineapple, maybe we can even convince Ernie Grunfeld to come back, who knows.
I'm off to sulk. As always, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: I also read this today, which is relevant: “He has lost all my respect. He insulted me. The first day, he pulled me aside and said, ‘I want you to go away on vacation.’ When we play the Knicks, I cannot look him in the face. F•ck Isiah.” — Dikembe Mutombo, on Isiah Thomas."
PPS: There is a great article that was written today by S.L. Rice (whom I've never heard of but who is a far better writer than me) available here. Considering how long the Knicks' travails have been going on it's a big coincidence we both wrote on the same day, but this piece is really interesting.
Posted by Jimmy at 8:18 AM