Friday, October 10, 2008

Hardwood Paroxysm's 2008-2009 Season Preview: New York Knicks

I'll say it. I miss Isiah. Don't you? I mean, come on. He was gold. Daily, beautiful, wonderful Gold. He was worth what, twenty FAIL jokes a day? Sexual harassment? Popcorn? Inappropriate public speeches? Man. Those were the good ol' days. For everyone but Knicks fans. Now there's a new order rising. But first we get one more year of Steph, Eddy, and the gang. And to throw it all together, we've got an Italian named "The Stallion" too! And Chris Duhon is the big free agent signing! The rollercoaster hasn't stopped folks. It's just added a spoiler. Your opening preview is by Graydon Gordian.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I want to remind everyone that in my youth I was a die-hard Knicks fan. In recent years I have joined the chorus of people who are really getting a kick out of this franchise's "shortcomings" but, as much Schadenfreude as I derive from the present state of the Knickerbockers, it would warm my heart to see this team actually play some quality basketball.

Obviously if you are a Knicks fan there is reason to be optimistic. The widely reviled Isiah Thomas is gone, the widely loved Mike D'Antoni has arrived, and countless seasons packed with exciting run-and-gun basketball that doesn't cut it come playoff time lie ahead. Except not this year, not this squad.

It's no secret that this team is poorly suited for D'Antoni's style of play. The notion of Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph running the fast break is down right laughable. That being said, this team has talented players on it, and will not twice in a row be the league's most frequent target of mockery. The Thunder pretty much have that locked up from the get-go.

Before this team can even dream of being competitive, it has to exorcise some demons: Last year the team psychologically imploded and the entire squad needs to get their heads screwed on straight. Is D'Antoni the man to help them do that? Well, all I know is he isn't the man who ignited the implosion in the first place and that's an improvement. This is all neither here nor there: Maybe Marbury goes (remains) nuts, Duhon blows off practice (people neglect to mention that the team's most substantive addition was a somewhat destabilizing force in the Chicago locker room), and Mike can't keep them together. Or maybe everybody takes a deep breath, puts last season behind them and realizes that this team is capable of far more than just 23 wins. Personally, I am confident D'Antoni can get these guys focused.

But, focused or not, this team remains ill-suited to implement the "7 seconds or less" theory. In a couple of seasons, after everybody other than Nate Robinson, and Danilo Gallinari have been shown the door, D'Antoni will most likely have the tools he would prefer to work with. But for now, the team remains an awkward assemblage of plodding forwards, a mentally unhinged, trigger-happy PG, and a couple of last names we haven't seen sporting the blue and orange in a while. That being said, we're talking about D'Antoni here. He'll figure out how to put points on the board.

The bigger issue is defense: On the defensive end of the ball last season, the Knicks were porous and uninspired, and to be honest I am not sure anything in D'Antoni's resume suggests he's the man to fix that. Some have tried to suggest that Duhon's backcourt defense will be an improvement over Marbury's, which is probably true, but that is hardly going to be enough.

This is my deepest concern regarding New York: Even if D'Antoni can rally the troops behind his high-scoring, free-wheeling style (which hopefully will involve enough scoring that guys like Curry, Randolph, and Marbury can work within the system while still feeding their egos), I am not sure he will get them to quit standing around on defense, just waiting to get the ball back.

There is no doubt in my mind that this squad will improve this season, but I just think too much cognitive dissonance exists between the coach's system and the guys he's actually got. Give it a couple of years. D'Antoni and Walsh will make this club into something.

IMAGE NATION by Trey Kerby:


I'm absolutely biased here and I'm going to have lots of people tell me I'm crazy, but I've had a photo of Steph and a young Telfair (from an old SLAM issue), on the wall by my desk for as long as I can remember. With every move it has come with me. Regardless of what he has done (or hasn't done, and there has been a lot of both), Steph is a reason I love the Knicks. If he gets to stay. Jamal Crawford is another reason. One of the nicest guys in the entire league and he's a blogger now, too! Wilson Chandler is someone to watch, he definitely will be breaking out this season and his tattoos rival JR Smith's. With all of the booing that Danilo Gallinari received on draft night you know I'm going to be rooting for him to do well enough to be saved from New York fans.

D'Antoni running things will be fun, especially when it goes badly. This will probably happen more often than not, unfortunately. Seeing how he handles the switch from having a point guard like Nash and a bigman like Amare to total and complete disarray will definitely be entertaining. During a preseason game last night, he had a lineup with Duhon, Steph and Nate in the game at once. Yes preseason, but yes, craziness. Watching D'Antoni's man crush on Duhon will be entertaining, especially if he continuously has seven turnovers as he did last night. Nate Robinson is like the pesky little brother, or guy in class who just won't sit still. Then there is David Lee who you couldn't dislike if you tried. While there is still lots to complain about in NY, there is also a group of guys to root for. And if you like that whole underdog thing…


Looking into a mirror, backwards, and upside down. Hate the Knicks because they will pass the ball. Hate them because they will run, well, except for Curry and Randolph. Hate them because they will play David Lee. Hate them because Marbury said he would be willing to come off the bench. Hate them for drafting a player who makes other players better. Hate them for their facial hair. Hate them for their reluctance to get any more head tattoos. Hate them because they ain't bangin' no tricks in the back of Escalades. Hate them because they still won't give fans the satisfaction of mocking Jerome James while he is actually on the court. Hate them because they got rid of Zeke (yet are still paying him and letting him hang around MSG). Hate them because they made decent offseason moves. Hate them because they wont have a game this year where they score 59 points - for the entire 4 quarters. Hate them because they will almost assuredly have many halves of games this year where they score 59 points. Or more, egads! Hate them because Quentin Richardson might actually earn his money. Hate them because they will play at one of the fastest paces in the league. Hate them because they have a competent GM. Hate them because Jamal Crawford might learn something about teamwork. Hate them because they will not make Posting and Toasting cry blood (maybe).
In other words, Hate this team because they are no longer the Knicks we know and loathe. What kind of world is it when the Knicks are not the most laughable, imcompetent, worthless franchise in the league? I don't know that I want to live in that world. Hate the Knicks that they might actually be tolerable. AAAAHHHH. The horror, the horror.


Sure, you had bad times. But they were your bad times. And Isiah, you ain't never gonna burn Knicks fans' hearts out. But don't look back in anger, I heard you say.


Player to Watch:
Wilson Chandler. Chandler showed worlds at Summer League, and if there's a guy who could benefit from D'Antoni's play style, it's Chandler. He's got the capability to be explosive, a solid defender, and motor for the offense if he keeps his head on straight. He's also got 24 tattoos, but would never get a head tattoo.

Most Important Player: Chris Duhon. You've been given the reins, kid. You're the first acquisition of the new regime. You're in the most vital position for the offense. No pressure. Here's a good test. Look, Zach's open and he wants the ball? Should you A. Ignore him, B. Tell him to set a screen and then run the ball to the other side of the floor, C. Feed him the rock, or D. Ask if he'd like fries with that?

Worst Player: I'm breaking conventional wisdom here. Instead of going with one of the three headed monster of suck (Curry, Randolph, Starbury), I'm going with Jerome James. Why? Because all the Butterball hotlines in the world won't let you figure out how to make that turkey cook.

Notes: Have I mentioned Gallinari's been on the shelf since July? That cannot be a good sign, any way you slice it... Nate Robinson is going to surprise a lot of people with how good he is. He's quick, he's committed, and the guys in the locker room love him... David Lee could be gone by midseason, it'll be interesting to see what he is if he's on a team that's not a total disaster, if he's actually good or just a high motor guy that sucked less than those around him... Let me put it this way. I think if D'Antoni tanks this team and drafts the top foreign prospect in next year's draft? People won't be as critical. Ricky fever to new heights, y'all.

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