How might COVID-19 affect the Knicks?

I had the opportunity to speak with longtime NBA trainer and former professional basketball player, Shawn Farmer. Shawn weighed in on how the NBA’s indefinite suspension from COVID-19 could affect player development, what it means for the 2020 Draft, and how the Knicks’ young players might be impacted.

How would you say the current stoppage of play compares to the lockouts in the 1998-99 and 2011-12 seasons?

I would say it is very, very similar but the only difference is that there are guys who think that this is a much needed rest. They’re looking forward to the season resuming but are eager to rest up. Whereas with the lockout years, there was so much uncertainty [that the season would even start].

As ESPN reported, players are unable to use team facilities or work out at any non-team practice or training facilities. Teams are allowed to provide workout materials for players to use at home if they would like. For the young players who choose to work on their game while in social isolation, how could this hiatus help them?

When you run up and down the court like that for a long period of time, rest helps. Resting your body, resting your mind – it will serve as a much needed break. Who wouldn’t want to get a break at this time of the year, after you’ve played around 67 games? Mentally for the most part but definitely physically, [rest] helps in a lot of ways. And then you have to add the piece of being with your family. There are just so many ways that it helps, just in my experience from talking with players.

Development is obviously a loaded word. How much does this stoppage impact players in terms of the long run? Or do you believe it doesn’t affect them at all?

I want to use the word “tremendously” but it’s cliché-ish. It helps immensely, to the 10th degree. You talk about skill development – it’s not hurting them because guys are finding ways to do things differently. I was just talking with a guy who plays with the Miami Heat the other day and he was like “Man, I didn’t know I could come up with so many different ways to stay in shape!” It helps you become innovative, for sure. But I have heard of at least one guy who’s allegedly playing pickup.

What would you say is a more important factor for players – this “off-season” where they get rest, or playing in games and gaining experience?

That’s a really good question. I would say, because I’m a trainer, that you can always be improving when you’re not playing. I don’t believe in a lot of playing. I believe in a lot of skill work and really coming back better than you were the year before. I’m a Kobe Bryant fan, I’m a Michael Jordan fan – I live and I train like that. I don’t believe in a lot of pickup games, I believe in you prepping for the upcoming season. So I would lean heavily towards development [outside of games].

The NCAA is reportedly mulling an additional year of eligibility for winter/spring athletes. We’ve seen players get drafted because of March tournaments. How do you think COVID-19 could affect the draft? Do you see players being more or less likely to return to school?

I think players are less likely to return to school. I still think kids are gonna [declare]. I [train] a kid at Louisville and he’s a rising sophomore, and they had the number one junior college player in the country, Jay Scrubb. [Scrubb] is declaring for the draft and he’s not on any draft boards! So is this a thing now? Irregardless of what happens, these guys are going to continue to feel that they can compete and get drafted even though there’s only 60 spots. They still think somehow, “I can make it.”

Everybody’s in limbo right now though. Kids don’t know what to do. “Should I start my workout?” “Should I sign with an agent?” I think the NBA should come out and make a statement in reference to the draft so kids and parents won’t be in limbo.

We began seeing some strides from RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, and Kevin Knox at times over the last few games of the season. How can they pick up where they left off after this interruption and further elevate their games?

Right now, I think having this break, I would assume that they’re watching film of themselves. I think they can come back and really, individually, do some things or try to implement some things they didn’t do over the first 66 games going into the off-season. From an individual basis, they can come back and implement some things that they could have done but didn’t see themselves doing. They can come back and do it with the remaining games left.

One issue is them simply not being strong enough because they’re all 21 or younger. This feels like a great time, not just to rest their bodies as you’re saying, but to build more muscle and get big.

I’m on the same sheet of music with you with that. I do believe that Mitch can bulk up. This is his second year. My question to Mitch, as opposed to RJ because he’s coming out of college and he hasn’t really had an off-season yet, is “What are you doing in the off-season?” Mitch has to get stronger. Even though he’s freakish athletically, it’s a grown man’s game. So Mitch, for sure.

RJ, yes, that has to be a focal point. He can stand to get a little bit bigger. I think RJ has skinny legs. I don’t like his quads and his glutes. I think that’s where a lot of players neglect. They build their upper body up – triceps, biceps – but to be able to really guard and to guard in the post in the NBA, you’ve really gotta have that lower body really, really strong. And I’m not talking about sumo wrestling type legs. Overall, he can stand to put on about 10 pounds of muscle. Anywhere between 10 to 15 pounds would not hurt RJ because of his height. It’s got to be a focal point.

I work with Dennis Smith Jr. and that’s one thing I love about Dennis. He didn’t mind lifting on his legs – squats, dead lifts, low weights but high reps. People talk about how gifted he is as a jumper but Junior works on that stuff. He can guard people in the post. You don’t see Junior getting bullied in the post.

I’m glad you brought Dennis up. I know you two are close, and I wanted to ask you about how he’s doing after his concussion?

He’s home. I haven’t talked to him since he’s been home but his dad and I have talked. He’s doing great. I’m gonna actually go down there today and I’ll see him for the first time. Junior’s really focused on getting back, getting healthy, and seeing how he can contribute and be a focal point going forward.

Hopefully with the new regime with Leon Rose, things improve. He being who he was in the sports agent business, he’s a highly competitive guy. He’s low key. I think he has a vision. I don’t know if Junior’s part of that plan but I know this will be a huge off-season for him and I know he’s not going to sit around and allow himself to sink back down to that level. That’s the type of kid he is.

On This Date: Knicks follow 7 game losing streak with 8 game winning streak

March 21st 2014: Knicks survive a late comeback effort from the Philadelphia 76ers

The 2013-14 Knicks was a season of disappointment. A team that had high expectations following a trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals the season before. A team that had its highest win total since the 1996-97 season. Expectations were high, yet the team floundered over the course of the season. Nothing exemplified this season more than surviving a late comeback effort against the Sam Hinkie-led Philadelphia 76ers, the 2nd worst team in the league.

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On This Date: Knicks clinch home-court advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs

March 20th 1981: Knicks clinch home court advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs with a victory against the Indiana Pacers

The Knicks clinched home court advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs with a 110-107 victory against the Indiana Pacers. Bill Cartwright hit two go-ahead free throws to put the Knicks up 106-105 with a minute remaining in the game. Micheal Ray Richardson hit a crucial three pointer with 13 seconds remaining in the same to seal the victory.

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On This Date: John Andariese passed away

March 13th 2017: John Andariese passed away

Knicks broadcasting legend John Andariese (aka Johnny Hoops) passed away on this date in 2017. The native of Brooklyn spent more than 40 years as the Knicks basketball analyst on both TV and radio. He served as the battery mate for Marv Albert for more than 25 years on the radio and on MSG Network beginning in 1972. He spent one year as the battery mate for Mike Breen before spending the remainder of his career working on the radio alongside various play-by-play announcers such as Marv Albert, Mike Breen, Gus Johnson, and Spero Dedes.  I vividly remember listening to Johnny Hoops on the radio throughout the 2000s even when the Knicks were in the doldrums of the NBA.

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On This Date: Knicks surprisingly give Isiah Thomas a contract extension

March 12th 2007: James Dolan gives Isiah Thomas a contract extension

After leading the Knicks to a 29-34 record and barely staying afloat at the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference, James Dolan surprisingly decided to give Isiah Thomas a multi-year contract extension. After the disastrous 2005-06 season that led to Larry Brown’s firing, Dolan gave Isiah Thomas an 1 year ultimatum to show “evident progress” otherwise he’d be fired. Somehow a 29-34 record was adequate enough.

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Tank Talk – March 11th

If you’ve been following me or have come into contact with me at any point over the last 2.5 seasons, you’ll know there’s only one thing I can say right now:

BOBBY PORTIS SZN, BABY!

I’m kidding. Although Portis did have a fantastic night offensively (despite being a blackhole on offense), today is obviously about Frank Ntilikina.

Do you hear that? That clacking noise? It sounds like… it sounds like me TAP DANCING ON THE MOTHERFUCKING GRAVES OF FRANK’S HATERS.

I’m not afraid to admit that I screamed like a six-year old girl when he hit that final three to make it to 20 points. I’m not exaggerating. I really yelped. I said “He got it!” in a falsetto I didn’t know existed since my plums descended over a decade ago. It wasn’t my finest moment, but goddamn it, it was pure.

The night felt special from the get-go. Ntilikina scored a quick eight points and then he just would not stop being a two-way force. He needed a three late in what became a meaningless game, and by golly, that man got it. And while he was aggressive in finding his own shot, he still looked out for his teammates. He finished with 20 points, 10 assists, two steals, two rebounds, two turnovers, and one tech (!!!) on 6-of-9 (nice) from the floor, 3-of-5 from three, and 5-of-6 from the line. Every time there was a technical foul, he walked to the line with authority. The man has brass balls, and if we’re being honest, the jostling of those brass cajones is probably what is making his groin so sore. Someone needs to get this man a wheelbarrow, Randy Marsh style.

To be serious for a moment, last night conveyed why so many fans have believed in and stuck with Ntilikina. Nights like last night are likely the exception, not the rule, but that doesn’t matter. Knicks fans have been so starved of quality, young talent that many are unable to admit they don’t know what development looks like. But hey, that’s what happens when the last first round pick signed to an extension was Charlie Ward in 1999.

Having a defensive-minded player who can be versatile, who can be a secondary ball-handler, who can score, and who gets along with the team’s stars (see: Barrett Jr., Rowan) is crucial to a team. Last night, even for a fleeting moment, is justification that the Knicks made a good call on June 22nd, 2017. The best call? Probably not, but that doesn’t really matter. Why can’t we envision last night as foreshadowing? Why shouldn’t it be a realistic glimpse into the future? I choose to believe Frank is finally starting to arrive to the party. You may say fashionably late but I say he’s right on time.

And what’s more? The tank prevailed! Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Elfrid Payton, and Moe Harkless were the true MVPs last night.

Recapping Last Night

Knicks lose ✅

Bulls win ✅

Cavs lose 🤷‍♂️

Wolves win ❌

Warriors win ❌

Clippers lose ❌

Knicks game aside, this was a very meh night. Some separation was created between the Knicks and the Bulls, so that’s good. And since the Bulls have the second-toughest remaining schedule in the NBA, it’s for the best. I’ll give it a 4.5/10.

Tank Standings

Five teams within a game of each other. It’s beautiful.

This is why I want the Knicks to lose games – they’re so close to being really bad. So if they’re already going to be bad, they might as well be really bad and prevent falling further in the lottery… right?

Damn the Clippers. We probably have to accept the fact that the pick won’t be higher than 27. Anything can happen though!

Sim of the Day

Oh hell yeah. Give me LaMelo Ball.

Average pick: 4.25

Average jump/fall: 0.75

Games Tonight

Pistons vs. 76ers

The Pistons are baaaaad. The 76ers are not, especially at home, where they’re 28-2.

Who we want to win: Pistons

Philly’s got this. Next.

Knicks vs. Hawks

The Wizards were up 14 on the Knicks, then the Knicks were up 18 on the Wizards, and then the Wizards were up 14 on the Knicks. SNIP SNAP SNIP SNAP SNIP SNAP.

This Knicks have won the second game of a back-to-back once this season and it was an OT thriller against the Warriors. The Hawks are a more talented team than the Warriors team the Knicks faced on December 11th. What’s more, the Knicks are less talented than they were on December 11th as well. They won’t get 36 from Marcus Morris but the Hawks could get 32 from Trae Young, just like the Warriors got 32 from D’Angelo Russell.

Who we want to win: Hawks

Sorry, Knicks fans. Better to be a half game ahead of the Hawks on the climb to the tank than 1.5 games. It’s one thing to root for the Knicks against a good team, it’s another to root for them against a bad team that could hurt lottery positioning.

Hornets vs. Heat

Hornets = bad. Heat = good.

Who we want to win: Heat

This is one of those games where, thanks to the Knicks losing against the Wizards, there’s enough breathing room between New York and Charlotte to allow for a loss. A Heat win helps Miami keep pace with the Clippers while a Hornets loss improves the second round pick thanks to a Bulls win.

Jazz vs. Thunder

Two good teams in the Northwest division. Only a game separates them. Who will come out victorious?

Who we want to win: Jazz

The Jazz are closer to the Clippers and the Thunder have to give up their first round pick to the 76ers if they finish between 21 and 30. I would rather they give up two second round picks instead, per the terms of the deal. You probably wish that too.

Nuggets vs. Mavericks

Oh baby, this is easy.

Who we want to win: Nuggets

Denver is so close to the Clippers in the standings. We have to root for them.

On This Date: Larry Hughes propels Knicks to back-to-back victories

March 11th 2009: Larry Hughes helps Knicks achieve back-to-back victories

Recently acquired Larry Hughes came through in the clutch for the Knicks on back-to-back nights in the middle of a 5 game road stretch. Hughes scored 39 points in the previous night against the Milwaukee Bucks and hit the go-ahead basket to seal the victory. On this night – against the Detroit Pistons – , Hughes drew a clutch foul against Rip Hamilton behind the 3 point arc before the end of regulation. Hughes hit all three FTs to tie the game and send it to overtime. The Knicks defeated the Pistons in overtime 116-111. Hughes scored 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists in the victory.

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Tank Talk – March 10th

As I sit on my firm, blue couch from Bob’s Discount Furniture, watching the Hawks blow it and lose to the Hornets in overtime, I’m reminded of just how stupid it is that tanking even exists. The Knicks need the Hawks to win and I’m really not feeling a Charlotte win. I don’t want to see the Hawks make the tank more difficult and I’d rather not see the Hornets second round pick get any lower than it currently is (one game from being 39th).

And suddenly – chaos. The score is 131 apiece. It’s Charlotte ball. The Hornets inbound the rock and get it to Terry Rozier, who is fouled with under a second left to play. But hang on, there’s a foul called. We have to check to see if Rozier was fouled by Treveon Graham before the clock expired. Ok, he was indeed fouled. But then, Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce challenges the call, saying Rozier hooked the defender. After further review, yes, Rozier hooked Graham. Offensive foul. Hawks have the ball now. They inbound it to Trae Young whooooooooo misses the floater. It took maybe five minutes for less than a second to run off the clock.

Double overtime.

The Hawks take the lead thanks to a deep Trae Young three and later extend their lead thanks to a nifty pass by Young, who found a cutting Cam Reddish for the dunk as the shot clock was about to expire. And on the next play, Rozier ties it by sinking a three with Reddish right in his grill.

The Hawks bring the ball up with 24.7 seconds to go. Kevin Huerter is pushing the pace before passing to an open De’andre Hunter in the corner. Hunter shoots – NO! – and his shot is blocked but there is a foul. Hunter goes to the charity stripe and sinks the first. He connects on the second. OH, BUT THEN HE… hits the third.

We have 13.3 seconds left. Rozier misses the three, Hawks get the rebound, sprint up the court, and draw the foul. The Hornets are over the limit. Reddish goes to the line, ices it, and ball game. Never a doubt, not a single one.

One day I’ll probably vent here about how ridiculous the system of tanking is but today is not that day. Today we bask in the glory that is the race to the bottom.

Recapping Last Night

Hawks won ✅

Hornets lost ✅

Nuggets won ✅

Jazz won ❌

Great night for the tank. GREAT night. And sure, the Jazz may have lost, but the Raptors winning means they’re now 2.5 games ahead of the Clippers in the standings. I give this night a 9/10.

Tank Standings

I can’t emphasize enough how important that Hawks win was. Making up two games would be possible, but now only having to make up one game, with New York playing the second night of a back-to-back in Atlanta on Wednesday? Life gets just a little easier.

Also, I’m going to do something new and take a screenshot of the end of the first round too. This way, you can follow how the Clippers pick is doing.

One game separates the Clippers, Nuggets, and Celtics from finishing with the 25th overall pick. Additionally, 2.5 games separate the Clippers from being tied for 28th and being tied for 23rd. Buckle up, buckaroo (NSFW).

Sim of the Day

Knicks drop a spot. I cursed it, ladies and gentlemen. I said yesterday that the Knicks haven’t moved up or down by less than two. Well, now they have. On the bright side, New York could have fallen by two, or three, or four.

Average pick: 4.3

Average jump/fall: 0.6

Games Tonight

Cavaliers vs. Bulls

Cleveland is on a two-game winning streak! Look at that! The Bulls, meanwhile, have lost five of their last six games.

Who we want to win: Doesn’t matter

Our first “Doesn’t matter” of the year! I love these games because the Knicks need both of these teams to lose. If New York loses to the Wizards and Cleveland beats Chicago, the Knicks and Cavs are tied with the Bulls a game back. If the Knicks lose and the Bulls beat the Cavs, there’s some breathing room between the Knicks and the Bulls.

Really, when you consider that one of these teams has to lose, it’s truly in New York’s best interests to lose to the Wizards. But that’s none of my business.

Timberwolves vs. Rockets

It would appear that the Knicks have ruined the Rockets, as Houston is on a four-game losing streak that started at MSG. The Wolves are, well, the Wolves.

Who we want to win: Timberwolves

Knowing New York’s luck, the Rockets will snap their losing streak against Minnesota because the Knicks need the Wolves to win. Knicks fans need the Wolves to win more than they need the Rockets to try and catch the Clippers.

Clippers vs. Warriors

I mean…

Who we want to win: Clippers Warriors

Hehe. Go Warriors for obvious reasons.

On This Date: Melo hits game-winner against the Grizzlies

March 9th 2011: Carmelo Anthony hits the game-winning basket to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies

Carmelo Anthony scored 31 points, but hit the biggest shot of the night with half a second left over Tony Allen to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 110-108. Melo received the ball in the post on the weak side and went to work against Tony Allen, the Grizzlies’ best defender. All it took was a couple jab steps and Melo had enough room to hit the midrange shot over him. This was Melo’s first official game-winning basket as a Knick. As he made the basket, Melo famously yelled “I Do This” to the Grizzlies bench.

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Tank Talk – March 9th

This should be obvious but wins like last night’s against the Pistons remind me how starved this fanbase is of good basketball. I’m talking about a now 20-win team beating another 20-win team, on a Sunday night, thanks to growth by the team’s young players. The level of engagement is palpable, and even if it’s fleeting, we take what we can get.

If you’re only following games like last night thanks to the box scores, you’re missing the full story. Seven points and a couple blocks isn’t much for Kevin Knox but how about that sequence to end the first quarter, with Knox hitting a three and then recording a block as the buzzer sounds? And 3-of-10 is just another pedestrian shooting night for Frank Ntilikina, except for the fact that he charged the rim like a bull on several occasions. That one assist was thanks to pushing the pace, finding an open Wayne Ellington in the corner, and boom. These are the games in a season the casual fan will have written off where the young players find their footing.

What happens if each young player takes another step, if the Knicks were to add a player like (emphasis on “like”) Chris Paul, and if the team starts gelling faster than we anticipated? The entire narrative changes. Those perceived as floundering are still on track.

It’s unlikely for a team to go from the bottom-five to the playoffs organically, or in other words, without adding a bonafide, established star. This year’s Memphis Grizzlies stand out as the only one in recent memory (should they hang on) thanks to rookie Ja Morant, as even the 2018-19 Dallas Mavericks needed a year to go 33-49 with Luka Doncic after finishing 24-58. The 2017-18 Philadelphia 76ers did it by holding out Ben Simmons for the season and by playing Joel Embiid for 31 games after missing two seasons. It can happen but it probably won’t for the Knicks next year.

Now what does that mean for the Knicks? Jon outlined where he believes the Knicks are in terms of ranking the best young duos in the NBA, and middle of the pack is probably a fair assessment. The Knicks need star power, and barring a trade for a major young star or snagging someone like Brandon Ingram in free agency, the draft is the team’s best option.

And that’s why living and dying by the young players is so crucial. If it leads to wins, that’s fantastic. The truth is that playing them more likely won’t lead to win, at least not the majority of the time. And that raises your floor in terms of draft aspirations. I don’t enjoy seeing a lineup of Payton-Ellington-Bullock-Randle-Gibson with five minutes left and you probably don’t either.

To tie it all together, last night had fun elements without a doubt. I look forward to the days where a win over a team with a less talented roster is celebrated quite as much, simply because of New York’s ability to beat good teams consistently too.

Anyways, let’s recap this past weekend:

Friday

Hawks won ❌

Bulls won ❌

Timberwolves won ❌

Saturday

Hornets won ✅

Pistons won ❌

Cavs won ✅

Hawks won ❌

Warriors won ✅

Sunday

Bulls won ❌

Timberwolves won ❌

Lakers won ✅

Clippers lost ❌

Cavaliers won ✅

Pistons won ❌

Knicks lost ❌

Okay, so going 5-10 isn’t great for the Knicks, and the win definitely doesn’t help things from a tanking perspective. The good news here is the Cavs won twice, the Hornets are keeping their distance, and the Warriors are making things at least a little interesting 1.

Tank Standings

The Knicks gained a full game on the Cavs but lost a game to the Pistons, Wolves, and Bulls. How stressful are things for Team Tank? The Knicks are 1.5 games away from being tied for second but also 1.5 games away from being in seventh.

Well let’s run the simulation…

Sim of the Day

Average pick: 3.8

Average jump/fall: 0.8

The Knicks have been flying up far more than I would have expected: they’ve moved up four of the six days, and by at least two spots each time. I’ll never not be concerned about dropping as far as possible, and history will back me up on this because the Knicks haven’t risen a single time in draft lottery history.

Games Tonight

Hornets vs. Hawks

Two division rivals in the top 10 of the tank season, facing off against one another? Oh my!

Who we want to win: Hawks

Despite their win against the Pistons, the Knicks are only 1.5 games out of being tied for the second-worst record in the NBA. And sure, a Hornets loss would mean they’re only two games back of the Knicks, but a Hawks win would mean the Knicks are only a game back of Atlanta.

The Hawks have been absolutely walloped the last two games, they play the Knicks on Wednesday and the Cavs on Friday. They also have the 29th-easiest remaining strength of schedule, and while that may serve as a silver lining if they lose, getting them “behind” the Knicks in the tank standings is imperative.

Bucks vs. Nuggets

The Bucks will be without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic just had a miserable game for Denver.

Who we want to win: Nuggets

Thanks to the Lakers’ victory against the Clippers, Denver is a mere game away from being tied for the second seed. And with the Utah Jazz on a five-game winning streak and a game back of the Nuggets, a Denver win adds more competition as the season comes to a close.

Raptors vs. Jazz

The Jazz made a coaching change and have since gone 5-1, including having won five in a row. The Raptors are on a three-game winning streak of their own. Whose winning streak will remain intact by the end of the night?!

Who we want to win: Jazz

As mentioned previously, the Jazz are getting really close to catching the Clippers. Both Utah and Toronto have tough schedules to finish the season but the Raptors have more easy games than you’d think: Pistons (H), Warriors (H), Knicks (A), Wizards (A), Hornets (A), Hawks (H), and Knicks (H). Now compare that to the Jazz: Timberwolves (H), Hawks (H), Bulls (H), Cavs (H), and Suns (A).

On This Date: Gerald Wilkins outscores MJ

March 6th 1987: Gerald Wilkins outscored Michael Jordan in a rare feat during the 1986-87 season

In a rare feat during the 1986-87 season, Gerald Wilkins outscored Michael Jordan 33-31 to help the Knicks defeat the Bulls 110-109 in Chicago. Patrick Ewing scored 31 points and hit the go-ahead basket with 8 seconds left. Ultimately it was Jawann Oldham, acquired by the Knicks from the Bulls before the season, who blocked Jordan’s final shot attempt to preserve the victory.

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Tank Talk – March 6th-8th

I must say that when the biggest story of the day is speculating a soon-to-be 35-year old will become a Knick, you’re not having a bad day.

Frank Isola wants the Knicks to trade for Chris Paul because it’s a disaster no matter what happens. On one hand, the Knicks win too many games with CP3, don’t stay the course, and likely fall short of the playoffs. On the other hand, New York acquires CP3 and goes nowhere, and then he can crush Leon Rose. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

I guess I would be fine with a trade, depending on what the Knicks give up, of course. You do have to look at the opportunity cost – and that’s something Jon and I will probably discuss on the pod.

Recapping Last Night

Hornets lost ✅

Clippers lost  ❌

Warriors lost ✅

Not a great night for the tank. The Hornets second round pick improved and the Clippers pick didn’t get worse. The Warriors did lose though, and while they’re unlikely to be caught by the Knicks anyway, a win wouldn’t have been a bad thing in the end. 3/10.

Tank Standings

Sim of the Day

One dear reader suggested that I include the player the Knicks would draft at the position they fall. I love that idea, so that’s exactly what I’ve done.

I’m a little surprised that Tankathon would have Anthony Edwards going to the Knicks at number one, considering LaMelo Ball a) could be the better player and b) the Knicks are likely looking for a ball handler.

Average pick: 3.8

Average jump/fall: 0.6

Games This Weekend

Friday, March 6th

Hawks vs. Wizards

The Hawks have a ridiculously schedule coming up. They lost to the Wizards on the road and demolished them at home. This game will be in Washington.

Who we want to win: Hawks

Yeah, we want the team doing worse than the Knicks to do better. This is an easy one.

Pacers vs. Bulls and Magic vs. Timberwolves

Two teams around the Knicks in the standings.

Who we want to win: Bulls and Timberwolves

Easy decisions. Let’s ensure that the teams near where the Knicks are win games.

Saturday, March 7th

Let’s make this easy: let’s go Hornets, Pistons, Cavaliers, Hawks, and Warriors.

Sunday, March 8th

Today’s pretty easy: let’s go Bulls, Timberwolves, Lakers, and Cavaliers. The real matchup is…

Pistons vs. Knicks

I mentioned earlier this week that I wouldn’t include Knicks games unless they were against teams we needed to lose. Well, here we are.

Who we want to win: Pistons

I get rooting for the Knicks, I really do. The problem is that the Pistons have next to no talent on their roster, and if the Knicks keep winning, they’ll have to rely on lottery luck on draft night. There’s a difference between praying you rise and hoping you don’t fall too far. You can control how far you fall but you can’t control how high you rise. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, losing games (especially if they feature veterans) makes sense when we’re dealing with inferior teams.

On This Date: Knicks defense stifles Clippers

March 5th 1992: The New York Knicks’ defense stifles the Los Angeles Clippers in MSG

When Pat Riley arrived in New York, his main goal was to bring the Detroit Bad Boys defensive culture to Madison Square Garden. The same style of basketball that stymied both the Chicago Bulls and Riley’s Lakers. Gone was the Showtime fast break styled offense trademarked in Los Angeles and in came a tough grind-it-out style of basketball personified by defense.

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Tank Talk – March 5th

Nothing like a wire-to-wire loss, huh? Add in a dash of veterans playing in the fourth quarter while the Knicks are down 15+ points and you’ve got a nice stew going.

Portis shot incredibly well (certainly in the first half), Payton stuffed the stat sheet and made Mike Conley briefly consider retirement, and Julius Randle posted a very solid stat line despite multiple gaffes on defense, turning over the ball while driving into traffic, and forcing some unnecessary turnovers, including a Conley push that could have been avoided.

The youth was quiet, save for RJ Barrett, who was in foul trouble for much of the game because of a couple dumb mistakes. Mitchell Robinson was held out due to injury, Frank Ntilikina drew a couple charges and had a nice dunk, and Kevin Knox hit one shot.

So yeah, not a fun night in the least bit. The Knicks host Oklahoma City on Friday.

Recapping Last Night

Cavaliers won ❌

Pistons won ❌

Bulls won ❌

Timberwolves won ✅

Always a good night for the tank when a team worse than you wins. 5/10 tonight.

Tank Standings

Sim of the Day

Falling again – this time by three spots! Also, what’s up with the Pistons winning the first pick in two of the last three days?

Average pick: 4.5

Average jump/fall: 0

Games Tonight

Nuggets vs. Hornets

The Nuggets are good. The Hornets are bad.

Who we want to win: Hornets

Charlotte will probably lose, which would at least put the second round pick at tied for 37th overall and 1.5 games back from tied for 36th. In all honesty, if the Knicks keep losing, it makes it a lot easier to root against the Hornets. Until that happens though, the first round pick is more important.

Clippers vs. Rockets

Do I really need to elaborate?

Who we want to win: Rockets

Duh.

Raptors vs. Warriors

You know the drill by now.

Who we want to win: Raptors

It’s unlikely they pull off the victory, but Stephen Curry is coming back and the Warriors winning can be a good thing.

However, if we’re being realistic here, the Knicks cannot catch the Warriors. So if this is indeed the case (and it is), we want the Raptors to win because of the Clippers pick. Toronto is only a game ahead of the Clippers, so ensuring Los Angeles doesn’t pick lower than 28 is important.

On This Date: Micheal Ray Richardson nearly accomplished the rare quadruple double

March 4th 1982: Micheal Ray Richardson nearly accomplished a quadruple double

Despite the fact that Magic Johnson & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored a combined 59 points, the Knicks defeated the Lakers at home 129-119 in overtime.

Micheal “Sugar Ray” Richardson nearly accomplished the rare quadruple double with 28 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, and 7 steals.

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Tank Talk – March 4th

One thing I’ve been mulling is if I want to include Knicks games in here. I recognize that there are fans who, thanks to different lottery odds, don’t care about the tank nearly as much. In fact, those fans want the Knicks to continue winning.

So here’s the deal: unless it’s a crucial tank game, I’m not going to include the Knicks. For example, the Knicks are playing the Jazz at home. I won’t make fans choose. Sure, I probably want to see the Knicks lose and the Jazz win (depending on how playing time is doled out, of course), as it helps the Knicks’ odds and the Jazz winning could help them catch the Clippers. I recognize not everyone wants that outcome. So I’ll leave off games like that.

Recapping Last Night

Hornets lost ❌

Timberwolves won ✅

Thunder lost ❌

Clippers won ❌

Warriors won ✅

Raptors won ✅

Sixers lost ❌

Wizards won ❌

Very, very solid night for the tank. While the Clippers pick is decreasing in value, two teams “ahead” of the Knicks won. I give it a 7.5/10.

Tank Standings

Sim of the Day

Average pick: 3.7

Average jump/fall: 1

Moving on up! That’s twice in three days that the Knicks have avoided falling.

Games Tonight

Celtics vs. Cavaliers

The Cavs lost on Monday night and the Celtics blew a game to the Nets last night. Boston lost Jayson Tatum but gained Kemba Walker.

Who we want to win: Cavaliers

Regardless of New York’s outcome, the best thing is for the teams worse (and better) than the Knicks to win.

Thunder vs. Pistons

The Thunder have lost bigly recently and the Pistons have made the last two games extremely competitive.

Who we want to win: Pistons

The song remains the same here, as the Pistons are marginally better than the Knicks. Need them to be better than that.

Bulls vs. Timberwolves

Finally, a fun one!

The Knicks are almost squarely in between the two teams. The Timberwolves are quite bad despite a good win last night and the Bulls are pretty mediocre, so this game should be a shitshow.

Who we want to win: Bulls

This is admittedly a tough one. On one hand, the Wolves are worse than the Knicks, and we should be rooting for them to win. On the other hand, the Bulls have the fourth-toughest remaining schedule this season (the Wolves have the 14th). Is it better to root for the team that probably loses more games between now and the end of the season? I think so. The good news is that this game should be a positive regardless of the outcome.

On This Date: Maurice Cheeks hits go-ahead basket to defeat the Bucks

March 3rd 1990: Maurice Cheeks hits the go-ahead bucket to help the Knicks defeat the Bucks

Maurice Cheeks stepped up in the end of the 4th quarter to lead the Knicks to a 106-105 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. Cheeks entered the game with 4:22 left replacing Mark Jackson, who struggled mightily from the field and on the defensive end. Cheeks hit the go-ahead basket with 39 seconds left to put the Knicks up 102-101 and clinch victory.

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Tank Talk – March 3rd

Yesterday, I told you I was rooting for the Rockets. Today, I tell you I’m glad the Knicks won.

Don’t get me wrong, the Knicks are still in an extremely precarious spot. Tanking may not matter as much but it still matters. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it now, and I’ll say it a million times between now and May: the reason the Knicks would benefit from losing is because it reduces the risk of falling as opposed to drastically increasing the odds of moving up. 

Last night felt different due to the team playing the youth, and in clutch situations, no less. This wasn’t four players with no future in New York and RJ Barrett on the floor when things matter. We saw Barrett be lethal in the first quarter and then be a bully late in the game, Mitchell Robinson generate instant offense to start the game en route to a double-double and playing key defense in the last minute or so of play, and Frank Ntilikina being a defensive pest (all ball on that Russell Westbrook foul by the way) and scoring double digits for the second time in three games played. All three players logged 30, 24, and 29 minutes, respectively.

How can you be mad that those three were on the court when the game mattered most and it led to a win? Even with Wayne Ellington and Bobby Portis scoring in bunches, their play (well, Ellington’s for the most part) made the players around them better. Remember, this team was never going 0-22. Maybe now they can go 22-0 instead.

Last night was fun. Maybe this game screws the Knicks over in the lottery but we can’t really point to one game and say “That’s the reason the Knicks got screwed.” For all we know, Tim Hardaway Jr. misses against the Magic, the Knicks finish with the worst record, wind up picking third, and draft Jahlil Okafor. There’s enough time anyway for the Knicks to ensure they fall no further than seventh or eighth.

Recapping Last Night

Knicks won ❌

Cavs lost ❌

Hawks lost ❌

Heat won ✅

Bulls won ✅

All in all, a very meh night for the tank. I’d give it a 4/10.

Tank Standings

Sim of the Day

Average pick: 4

Average jump/fall: 0.5

Oh look, the Pistons are right behind the Knicks and get the first pick while the Knicks drop two spots. Yay.

Games Tonight

Spurs vs. Hornets

Spurs lost to the Pacers last night and the Hornets had a day off.

Who we want to win: Hornets

This is a fun one because I go back and forth on the Hornets constantly. On one hand, each Hornets win helps the Knicks avoid falling too far in the pre-seeded lottery. On the other hand, each Hornets win hurts Charlotte’s second round pick, which is owned by the Knicks.

The smart play here is to root for the Hornets to win. The dropoff in talent after five compared to after nine, for example, is historically quite big. Compare that to the dropoff between the 35th pick and the 39th pick, and, well, there’s really no reason to compare it.

If the Hornets win, that’s ok. If the Hornets lose, that’s ok. Unless the Knicks go on an epic losing streak or have solidified their place in the pre-lottery standings, I’m going to generally be ambivalent about Hornets games.

Timberwolves vs. Pelicans

The Wolves are bad and without Karl-Anthony Towns (so maybe they’ll actually be okay, at least defensively?). The Pelicans are good and have Zion Williamson.

Who we want to win: Timberwolves

This is pretty evident. Don’t think I need to elaborate on games like this one moving forward tbqh.

Clippers vs. Thunder

Clippers came back to beat the Sixers this past Sunday, which was annoying. The Thunder lost to the Bucks by a cool 47.

Who we want to win: Thunder

#NeverClippers (unless they’re playing more important teams in regards to the tank).

Warriors vs. Nuggets

Both teams are 1-1 in their last two. The chaos!

Who we want to win: Warriors

This is basically the same as the Timberwolves, except I care more about the Wolves winning because the Knicks can actually catch them in the standings.

Raptors vs. Suns

The Raptors are on a three-game skid. Meanwhile, the Suns are… also on a three-game skid. Something something two objects in motion hurtling towards each other.

Who we want to win: Raptors

Toronto is only a game ahead of the Clippers in the standings. Need the Raptors to beat the Valley Boyz.

Sixers vs. Lakers

The Sixers are half deceased and the Lakers just won a fantastic game in Nawlins.

Who we want to win: Sixers, I guess

They’re unlikely to catch the Clippers (4.5 games out) and their two best players are injured. This really doesn’t matter much. I’ll probably stop including games featuring teams playing each other who are both too high and/or too low regarding the Clippers pick.

Wizards vs. Kings

Both these teams are mediocre but the Kings have won five of their last six. It’s late. I’m tired. You don’t really care about this game. If you say you do, you’re just lying to me and to yourself.

Who we want to win: Wizards

Washington is 1.5 games ahead of the Hornets for 10th place in the tank standings. Need to ensure that the Hornets pick doesn’t lose value.

On This Date: Knicks fire Al Bianchi and hire Dave Checketts

March 2nd 1991: Knicks fire Al Bianchi and hire Dave Checketts

In one of the most pivotal moves for the organization heading into the 1990s, the Knicks fired General Manager Al Bianchi and hired Dave Checketts as President of Basketball Operations. The firing was part of an overall organizational change within Madison Square Garden, the Knicks, and the New York Rangers.

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Tank Talk – March 2nd

Leon Rose put pen to paper, the Knicks finally have a new president of basketball operations, and it’s a new season. Except, it’s also not.

We’ve reached that wonderful time of the year where wins start to mean losses and losses start to mean wins. I dream of a time when this does not apply to the Knicks. Unfortunately that’s not this year.

No matter what your preferred outcome is for the Knicks, I would like to believe that we mainly share common ground: We should, at the very least, root for teams hovering around where the Knicks are at to win. What’s more, we should consider where the Clippers’ first round pick and the Hornets’ second round pick land. With so many games left, and with so many teams potentially affecting those picks, it can be tricky to determine who to root for as the season concludes.

Well, fear not! Over the next six weeks or so, I’ll be writing about which teams I believe Knicks fans should root for and which teams to root against. This series was inspired by someone who did essentially this on the subreddit for the Knicks – seeing as how it hasn’t returned there, I’d like to bring it back. I may tinker with the format moving forward, so kindly bear with me.

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On This Date: Patrick Ewing’s number retired and Anthony Mason passes away

February 28th 2003: Patrick Ewing’s number retired

Patrick Ewing’s number 33 was finally retired on this date in Madison Square Garden. The Knicks have not retired another number since this date. The ceremony was conducted during halftime of the matchup between the Knicks and the Magic. Marv Albert was the MC of the event.

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On This Date: Mr Big Shot strikes in Miami and Ewing returns to MSG

February 27th 2011: Chauncey Billups strikes against the Miami Heat

Mr. Big Shot2 struck again, this time with the Knicks, on a 91-86 nationally televised victory against the Miami Heat in Florida.

Billups scored 16 points, but it was his clutch go-ahead three over Dwyane Wade with just over a minute remaining that made the difference in the Knicks thrilling victory. On the next possession, Billups stole a pass from Chris Bosh that led to two free throws for Shawne Williams.

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On This Date: Melo’s first game as a Knick

February 23rd 2011: Melo’s first game as a Knick

Carmelo Anthony’s first game in the Knick uniform was majestic. MSG network heavily promoted the game with a riveting commercial incorporating quotes from Melo stating how he was born in Brooklyn, NY and idolized Bernard King. The commercial used the intro from the song “I’m Coming Home” by Diddy (with the group Dirty Money) & Skylar Grey.

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