The Kristaps Porzingis Trade Postmortem

Almost one year ago to the day (and two blogs ago for me personally) I wrote a story the day after Kristaps Porzingis went down with a torn ACL.

My message was clear. Although there was no silver lining to the injury, the Knicks should use their misfortune as an opportunity to do something they otherwise would have been unable to: repair the relationship with their fallen star, one that the previous regime had sullied. I proposed that when July 1, 2018 came around, New York’s brass should have approached Porzingis at midnight – torn ACL and all – with a max contract extension that would have kept the Unicorn in blue and orange well into the prime of his career.

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Knicks tie franchise record with 12th straight loss at home

Well that was fun.

Dirk played his last game at Madison Square Garden, and that’s about all anyone will remember from this night.

As they should.

After coming out of the gate flat, the Knicks actually put together about one quarter and a half of solid basketball, taking the lead midway through the second before starting to let go of the rope later in the quarter. Nothing changed after halftime, and by the time David Fizdale gave into the fans’ chants for Enes Kanter, and he had played a few minutes, the Knicks found themselves down by 25. In a recent stretch of games defined by solid effort, on Wednesday night, they “gave into the losing,” as Fiz said postgame.

There weren’t many notable performances, but as in any game, if you look hard enough, you will find at least a few positives…

  • Mitchell Robinson had his usual handful of highlight plays. He finished with four blocks and seven rebounds on a night when the Knicks couldn’t find him as the roll man very often. Other than a stretch in the third where he looked out of sorts, he had a decent showing.
  • Kadeem Allen once again came in and played like you would expect a guy to who is fighting for his professional life. He brings grit and toughness to the team and has more of an offensive game than you might expect for a fringe NBA player. So basically, he’s the complete opposite of…
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. I’m done. I’m soooooo done. He looks like he’d rather be literally anywhere else but on the court, which is a shame because for as ineffective as the rest of his teammates are, at least they’re trying. I can’t say the same for Tim, and that’s been the case for some time now, at least on most nights.
  • Trey Burke had the type of stat line we’ve become accustomed to from him: 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting, three assists, -23 in 32 minutes. If Scott Perry can get a second round pick for him, he’s a wizard.
  • Kevin Knox led the team in scoring with 17, but it came with his usual inefficiency (6-for-16) and couple of bonehead plays, but he also had several moments early on driving to the hoops and showing us some of the gifts he has that you simply can’t teach.

Things don’t get any easier Friday night, when the Knicks are hosts to the Celtics.

Meanwhile, the trade deadline is 8 days away and counting…

On This Date: Knicks acquire Othella Harrington

January 30, 2001: Knicks acquire Othella Harrington from the Vancouver Grizzlies

The Knicks had large shoes to fill in replacing their franchise player Patrick Ewing, shoes that would remain empty for a long time. But on this date, they acquired another former Hoya in Othella Harrington from Vancouver in exchange for Erick Strickland, the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers 1st round pick acquired in the Patrick Ewing trade (Jamaal Tinsley), and a 2001 2nd round pick (Antonis Fotsis). Harrington (turning 27 years old the next day) was not the most talented Hoya, but was a serviceable big man who provided necessary front-court depth for the Knicks.

Since the Ewing trade, the Knicks lacked reliable depth in the front-court. Marcus Camby was the starting center, but was historically injury prone with the Knicks. Additionally, Larry Johnson faced chronic back injuries in his final season with the Knicks. Harrington provided the ability to backup both LJ & Camby at the 4 and 5, respectively.

The Knicks acquired Erick Strickland in a draft-day deal for John Wallace & Donnell Harvey, the Knicks 1st round pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. The team intended for him to be a backup guard, but was rendered useless after Glen Rice arrived in the Ewing trade. Likewise, Othella Harrington had little use with the Grizzlies after the team drafted Stromile Swift 2nd overall in the 2000 NBA Draft.

The Knicks may not have “won” the trade per se, but they did make the most of Harrington during his 3.5 year tenure with the team. He mostly provided depth off the bench.

Unfortunately, the Knicks continued their reputation of throwing away first round picks in low value trades. Had the Knicks valued their first round picks during the 1990s and 2000s, their reign of contention would have been prolonged.

KFS Teacher’s Lounge: What to do about Anthony Davis

The basketball world experienced an 8.2 on the Richter scale on Monday after Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Anthony Davis had informed the New Orleans Pelicans he would not be re-signing there and was requesting a trade. Word then got out, courtesy of ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, that the Knicks were indeed a team of interest to Davis. Since then, there seems to be some posturing from the Davis camp that it’s LA or bust. Still, the Knicks are apparently preparing a significant offer according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein.

One thing is for certain: there’s enough smoke for the KFS staff to chime in on the rumors and reveal what they would do if they had to make a decision on pursuing the Brow:

Michael DeStefano – Hold Steady

When the AD news broke and we decided to discuss it in the Lounge, I wrote that you had to go after him. Transcendent talent, only 25 – I was ready to say that you include both KP AND the ’19 pick in your offer.

I’ve changed my mind. The collusion involving the agency that LeBron owns runs works with is part of it, but it’s not the biggest part.

Bigs just don’t impact winning in this league like they used to.  You need an elite guard/wing, and then you need more depth on the perimeter. New Orleans won’t give AD for just KP and filler; Perry will have to fork over the ’19 first and at least one of the Knicks’ young core most fans are so excited about. The Pels’ willingness to take on Hardaway’s contract might tempt me, but I’d rather enter July with:

  • A healthy KP
  • All five of Frank / Knox / Mitch / Trier / Dotson
  • My ’19 stud, and
  • A max salary slot

This is opposed to the AD version, which would cost at least two of the five young’uns and the ’19 lotto pick. Decimating the depth, particularly on the perimeter, is not the way to win in this league. Even though KD might find Davis an appealing sidekick, how appealing is it if the rest of the team sucks?

Wait it out.  Let the draft come and go.  See what the team looks like.

And if you get back-channeled word that KD wants another star, that’s when you use your assets to go get someone like Dame.

David Early – Don’t blow your chance

The first thing you do is offer Kevin Knox and the pick, protected for first overall. Then when they chuckle, you swap in Kristaps Porzingis for Knox. Then at the last minutes you offer KP, Frank Ntilikina, and the pick protected for 1st overall.

As a bottom line, you suck it up and you offer KP and the unprotected pick for AD, plus the requisite salary filler. It’s horrifying, but it’s also an easy decision.

The truth is, the pick has an 86-91% chance of being Cam Reddish or someone not named Zion. Combining the very likely scenario you won’t win the Zion sweepstakes with the risks associated with KP’s rehab (remember his doctor said that if he doesn’t change his whole body’s mechanics he’d be at risk for tearing the other ACL makes this a prudent “hedge.”

It will become almost impossible to outbid other suitors this summer when Boston or a team who wins Zion (like Chicago) enters the fray. This is the best chance right now. It’s not for the faint of heart. But if you can obtain the player who we’d all bet will be the best player in the league over the next four years, this isn’t really a hedge at all. It’s simply bundling a few juicy assets with uncertain outcomes for quite possibly the best player in the sport who is only now entering his prime.

He’s already been rumored to be open to staying. He’ll exponentially increase your chances of luring Durant. Durant could win another 3 rings in Golden State. None of it will alter his legacy like winning one in the Big Apple. He knows it. And the Brow makes that a very real possibility.

Our lottery ticket and injured Unicorn for your healthy Unicorn King. I’ll fax the paper work.

Suada Demirovic – Why now?!?

Just as I was about to justify our losses as the Knicks finally figured out how to tank correctly without taking shortcuts, the basketball gods dangle 6-time All-Star Anthony Davis in front of us!

At first I didn’t even want to entertain the idea. Good things never come to the Knicks via trade. Take a look at the last few trades we’ve made, even the “blockbuster” trade that never panned out the way it should have. Yeah, let’s not go there. The Knicks have never really won a big trade.

That said, for the 1st time in a while, New York will have a few pieces to engage in trade talks. We have the best double-double machine in the league and he’s only 26! (laughter dies down) Clearly I’m kidding but I couldn’t help myself. “We want Kanter”? New Orleans, you can have him!

After seeing all the Twitter GM’s working their trade machines, I’m convinced that maybe this is exactly what the Knicks need. But at what cost?

The only pieces that I would not give up are ou . r 3 rookies. They really show they can be complimentary pieces that can turn into All-Stars in the future. So what are we going to give for AD? I’m willing to throw this year’s lottery pick and just about anyone else they ask for. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but yes, even KP. I’ve gone mad! Here I go looking for a short cut, but not really because this short cut has the potential to bring us more, as Anthony Davis will definitely be able to draw in a good free agent this summer.

But then I think about Zion…(sigh)…

It really sucks that the odds for the top pick are tied between the 3 worst teams. Of course this happens the year the Knicks tank correctly. So we might need to face the reality that we may not win the ultimate prize and instead end up with a consolation. The problem is that everyone else is just “meh.” But a high 1st round pick is still very valuable, especially to a franchise that needs to blow up their whole roster.

The writing is on the wall for NOLA. Let us help you light the dynamite. If anything, we would gladly trade what we have for Jrue Holiday at the very least. We would NOT be giving up KP for him, but there are other possibilities.

Here’s where I come down: Would I trade this year’s draft pick for Anthony Davis? Yes! Would I trade KP? I would, only because Davis is liked in the league and who knows who would want to join him as they write a new legacy in New York with a young core?

Here I go looking for a quick fix! But this is 20 years of us not getting it together, and New York is definitely not going to get it together with one draft pick. I’m for the front office exploring the possibilities without giving up our rookies or impacting our cap space. The Knicks should avoid giving up KP unless we have no choice and the deal is too hot to pass up! Here’s the first real test for Perry and Mills. I’m going to sit back and wait. Will they stick to what they said? You can’t get us to buy in if they themselves can’t.  #TrustTheProcess

Vivek Dadhania – It’s a no from me, dog…

It’s tempting, but there are a lot of variables in play that make me wary of pursuing a deal. First and foremost, the trade only makes sense if you know if you’re getting KD.  If you don’t get Durant, then what happens?  We’re basically a worse version of the Pelicans that still has to navigate against a behemoth of teams in the East.  It won’t be any easier to navigate to the playoffs with Anthony Davis.  If he found it bad in New Orleans, imagine what it’ll be like in New York.

Let’s also not forget that while Anthony Davis has been relatively durable the last few seasons, he’s suffered many nagging injuries this year and has had those injury concerns in years’ past.  There’s no safe bet – especially as a big man – that he’ll be a reliably healthy option, especially entering his 2nd extension period.

If I’m New York, I’d understand (if they haven’t already) that they are merely being fiddled around with to get the Lakers to hurry up and acquire their man.  Don’t cave in.

Stephanie Enriquez – The kids are alright!

Call me crazy, but I don’t want to give up KP or the kids.

I know Davis is a great talent, but I want us to continue the process and not deal our picks yet. Kevin is a stud in the making, Mitch is learning more and more everyday, Zo is great, Frank’s defense is much needed and he will continue to grow as well. As for everyone else on the team, trade them all.

Sadly, I don’t think it’ll be enough for AD. Nonetheless, if KD comes this summer, KP recovers, and our kids continue to grow I think we’ll be ok.

Topher DemitrisStick to the Plan

Let’s get a few objective things out of the way.

Yes, I too love Anthony Davis. He’s a phenom and tremendous player who has the potential to drop 30 with 15 on any given night. In a perfect world, the Knicks would be able to entertain a mutually beneficial trade with the Pelicans that could set the stage for (at least) a return to the playoffs. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that reality. The Pelicans would be wise to start a bidding war between the Lakers, Celtics and New York. We aren’t in a position of leverage in this scenario.

The asking price for Davis – a potential one year rental – would likely require the team to completely burn all the groundwork they’ve put into the rebuild. The Lakers starting price, for comparison, is four talented young players and future draft considerations. So pretty much their entire roster. That might work for LeBron (the guy could take a YMCA team to the first round of the playoffs), but it’s not an ideal situation for the New York Knicks.

It’s not that Anthony’s talent isn’t incredible. My objection to betting the farm comes down to three things. First, there is zero actual guarantee1 that if traded, he would stay in NY. His agent is LeBron’s agent. Davis teamed up with Rich Paul because his true destination is Los Angeles.

Secondly, acquiring him would likely mean our roster gets completely gutted. Goodbye Knox, Trier, Mitch, Ntilikina and the draft pick(s) we’ve all been suffering to acquire. It’s too early to know how good some of these young guys are and they are worth investing at least another year in. I won’t even get into the idea of trading KP (unless management knows something about his injury that we don’t). The best case scenario would be to pair AD with KP anyway. Given that New Orleans can ask for a King’s Ransom, the price is already too steep and bound to increase.

Third, and no shade, but Anthony Davis has a long injury history despite his young age. On top of that, the Pelicans have arguably had much better rosters than anything we’ve seen in NY for years and were still unable to make any real headway in the playoffs. If we gut our team to acquire him, it would be a similar asset exchange as the one that brought Carmelo here. We’d have a Superstar but no real way to build out a contending team. LeBron knows better than anyone: a well put together team is more powerful than any one player (see: the Mavs, Spurs & now Warriors).

After the trade there would be immense pressure on both the front office & Davis to deliver and we all know how brutal/impatient the media is. There is no guarantee Durant leaves Golden State and no guarantee Davis stays beyond a single year. The risk outweighs the reward for me. Abandoning years of scouting, development and team building for the 1-year rental of a superstar is so old school Knicks that my eye is twitching over my coffee.

Assuming the price remains sky high, a trade now looks to be another recipe for vaulted expectations & disappointment. Why hamstring the healthy rebuild track we’re currently on? This is literally the first time in decades the Knicks have opted to build correctly and I’ve got no interest in repeating the mistakes of past regimes. Stay the course, build slowly and winning will attract all the great players we need.

Jonathan Macri – “I’m all in” … “Waitress, can I get some water?”

The question is simple for the Knicks: do you want to put KP on the table or not?

It’s a more interesting discussion than people are making it out to be, simply because KP’s ceiling might be what AD is right now, and the odds the Unicorn ever gets there are only further complicated by the torn ACL. It’s why there’s a significant chance that if the Knicks did offer KP and the unprotected pick, the Pelicans still might prefer to wait till the summer so they can get the Celtics involved.

That’s where things get dicey for New York. Right now, they can sell New Orleans on the possibility of Zion Williamson. By mid-May, that possibility may have vanished. If it does, there’s a significant chance that nothing New York could put on the table – KP, the pick, Knox, Mitch…the whole boat – would beat the best offer Boston can make, assuming they’re willing to make Tatum available2.

So from that perspective, there is a sense that acting now is the wisest move. The reason it isn’t is simple: if you give up KP, the pick and Kevin Knox3 before February 7 and neither Kevin Durant nor Kyrie Irving comes this summer, you’re going to watch AD walk out the door in 2020. Can the organization take that risk? If they did, and the worst of fates transpired, then all the losing – well, the most recent losing at least – will have been for not.

But is it really a risk? Sure, it’s tempting to say that the only way it makes sense to put such a serious offer on the table now is if you know from back channels that AD will be bringing a Super Friend with him. That’s not happening. KD and Kyrie might be two of the more perplexing personalities in the entire league, and no one knows what the hell either will do.

But do you really see a scenario where both guys eschew the opportunity to play along the man poised to dominate the game4 for the next decade in a city where they’ll build monuments to whoever finally delivers a ring? You have to figure that if one guy says yes, that alone is worth whatever you had to give up for Davis, Porzingis included.

When you throw in the uncertainty over KP’s injury, his feelings about the organization (or lack thereof), and the possibility that he himself could maneuver out of here before long, it becomes a mighty sweaty conversation to have with your front office mates as the deadline approaches. Of course, the ultimate doomsday scenario features KP catching wind of your intent to trade him, a deal not happening, and Perry & Mills being left to clean up the pieces.

Assuming the front office doesn’t have the stomach for such a high stakes game of poker, they should at the very least make a token offer (this year’s unprotected first, a 2021 pick, Mitch, Frank and Tim Hardaway Jr., or Enes Kanter if the Pels prefer to clear the books) and see where it gets you.

The answer is almost certainly “not very far.” And maybe that’s not the worst thing. If the Knicks do land the first pick, then all of the sudden they hold all the cards. Zion plus non-KP-stuff arguably beats any other offer, including one with Tatum. At that point, they may not need to work very hard to strike KD’s fancy. He may instead beat them to the punch.

So ultimately, it comes down to this: Do they feel lucky?

Well, do ya, punk?

On This Date: Knicks make statement in victory against the Seattle Supersonics

January 29, 1994: The New York Knicks make a statement to the #1 seed Seattle Supersonics in a road victory

The New York Knicks, in the middle of a three-game West Coast trip, sent a strong message to the #1 seed Seattle Supersonics with a 106-92 victory. Seven players scored in double figures, including the entire starting lineup, led by Patrick Ewing’s 21 points and 18 rebounds. Anthony Mason scored 17 points off the bench and Charles Oakley had a double double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Despite trailing 58-51 at the end of the 1st half, the Knicks went on a 21-5 run in the 3rd quarter and outscored the Sonics 32-13 to take a 12 point lead heading into the 4th quarter.

Both the Knicks (29-11) & Sonics (31-9) cruised atop the standings in their respective conferences. Due to Micheal Jordan’s sudden retirement, many in the NBA circles believed that this game was a foreshadowing of an NBA Finals matchup. The youthful duo of Gary Payton & Shawn Kemp led the Sonics to victories and many highlight-reel plays. Detlef Schrempf & Kendall Gill provided ample scoring from the wing positions.

The Knicks eventually had the best record in Atlantic Division (#2 overall in the East) and the Sonics had the best record in the Western Conference. However, Dikembe Mutombo and the Denver Nuggets had different plans. The Nuggets surprisingly upset the Sonics in the 1st round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Knicks did make it to the NBA Finals, but instead faced Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets.

Knicks battle through 3 quarters, but lose again

On a day when Knicks fans everywhere were consumed with a player on a team halfway across the country, New York actually had a game to play.

To watch them on this evening was, in a lot of ways, refreshing. Much of the talk over the last week, from some outlets at least, has been about how this season has gone horribly wrong. About how the Knicks knew they were going to be bad, but not this bad. About how they haven’t shown the signs of growth that even a young team should in their first season under a new coach.

With their tenth loss in a row and 18th in their last 19 games, it’s easy to buy into it all. Unless you’re actually paying attention.

For the fourth consecutive game, the Knicks held an opponent to fewer points than they did the previous one (127 vs OKC, 114 vs Houston, 109 vs Brooklyn, 106 vs Miami, and 101 vs Charlotte). For the first time all year, you can watch this group and feel like there is something readily identifiable about them – they’re employing an aggressive defense that picks its spots between when it switches and when it traps, and they’re starting to figure it out.

Most helpful in that effort was the newest Knick, Kadeem Allen, who wrecked havoc on that end of the floor. Fizdale couldn’t stop praising his recent acquisition after the game, and it was well deserved. His energy popped off the screen.

Not to be outdone, the Knicks rookies all had their moments. Kevin Knox broke out of his mini-slump with 19 points, including 3-of-4 from deep. He had a nice sequence under his own basket where he battled for a few consecutive offensive boards before drawing a foul.

Mitchell Robinson, meanwhile, continues to provide a reason to watch this team, netting three more blocks in 13 minutes. His alley oop connection with Allonzo Trier is now officially a thing, and even though Trier couldn’t buy a bucket tonight, he connected with Mitch for three lobs and got to the line eight times.

It goes down as another L though, thanks largely to a stretch in the beginning of the fourth where New York looked out of sorts on both ends. As is often the culprit, the ball stopped moving. Trey Burke doesn’t deserve all of the blame, but this seems to happen more often than not when he checks in, and his entrance into the game is what led to the rough stretch.

The Knicks will try to end this streak against a Dallas team that saw New York play perhaps its best game earlier this season. We’ll see if they can come up with a repeat effort.

On This Date: Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Mel Davis lead the Knicks to victory against the Hawks

January 28, 1975: Walt “Clyde” Frazier scores 39 points and Mel Davis makes his first NBA start in a victory against the Atlanta Hawks

Clyde led the Knicks to victory with a line of 39 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. He had 35 points through three quarters, but only scored 4 points in the final quarter. The Knicks led by more than 13 points with six minutes remaining, but let the Hawks climb back into the game. The victory helped stop a stretch where the Knicks lost 14 of the previous 20 games.

This game was also notable for being Mel Davis’ first NBA start. Davis, a 6’6 St. Johns alum, was in his 2nd season with the team before he received his first start on this date. In 32 minutes, Davis had a double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Coach Red Holzman decided to start Davis to provide additional frontcourt grittiness, while allowing Phil Jackson to come off the bench to provide versatility playing either the power forward or center positions.

Mel spent most of his 5-year NBA career with the Knicks. He spent a few years overseas and had a successful post-basketball career working with Pepsico, and later the NBA. He eventually became the Executive Director of the National Basketball Retired Players Association. The association helps NBA players successfully transition into a post-retirement career. Some of the duties include understanding pensions and obtaining post-basketball education.

Knicks lose again in strange night at the Garden

Sunday night at the Garden was unlike just about any other game this season, and quite possibly in some time.

There were, by the sound of it early on, more fans of the opposing team than the home team. The three most notable people in the building were, in no particular order, a dude playing his last game for a team Knicks fans used to loath, a former Knick who no team wants, and a soon to be former Knicks that can’t understand why he’s not playing. A damned wave broke out in the second quarter.

Crazy town, we’ve arrived.

All in all, it wasn’t a banner day for the franchise, but as has been happening of late – if you care to chop through the media narratives growing like weeds recently – the Knicks actually showed some progress on the court. They once again played a spirited brand of defense, employing an aggressive, trapping scheme that sprung more than a few leaks but was also responsible for forcing 15 turnovers and holding the Heat below 30 points every quarter.

Yes, the bigger stories were Wade and Melo, who was in the building while on leave from the Bulls and received a nice ovation from the fans. Late in the game though, MSG came alive as Fizdale’s kids once again took a game against a better opponent down to the final two minutes. As is usually the case, their inexperience foiled the comeback, but the desire continues to be there. It is a small silver lining, but it is real.

Several Knicks had nice efforts, but none stood out more than the man ostensibly replacing Enes Kanter, whose absence is somehow being made out to be a pro-tanking move by some.

Mitchell Robinson was a presence on both ends, and despite the fact that he finished with only 4 points, the Heat were cognizant of his presence on both ends for every possession he was in the game. Their perimeter players simply did not challenge him at the rim, while on offense, he commanded attention without monopolizing post touches that so often drag down the offense. Finding him for those lobs is still a work in progress, but as Fizdale noted after the Nets game, the rest of this season is about getting things in place for when the games once again start to matter.

Also, there was Frank. He was in a nice groove throughout the first half, playing the entire first quarter and a few minutes in the second before checking out with a hurt groin. His absence was felt most in the third quarter, when the Knicks couldn’t get into any flow on offense and watched the Heat get whatever they wanted on the other end. Trey Burke once again had a nice game statistically, but the team just isn’t the same on either end when he’s out there. Fizdale noted postgame how the ball stopped moving in the third quarter. He wasn’t wrong.

The rest of the Knicks had somewhere between “meh” and “ehh” games. No one was bad; no one was great. No, wins are not a priority, but at some point, they need to start pulling some of these games out, ping pong balls be damned.

Knicks are back at it Monday in Charlotte. Giddy up.

On This Date: Marv Albert calls his first Knicks game on radio

January 27th 1963: Marv Albert calls his first ever New York Knicks game on radio

Marv Albert called his first Knicks radio game by filling in for long-time mentor and “Voice of the Knicks” Marty Glickman. Glickman was stuck overseas in Newfoundland due to travel delays. Albert called the game on WCBS radio. The Knicks lost 123-110 in Boston.

Marv became the full-time play-by-play radio announcer for the Knicks in 1967 and held the role until the mid-1980s. He also did some play-by-play on TV in the early 1980s. Albert’s TV arrangement called for him to announce the Knicks’ road games while Andy Musser called all the home games.

Marv fully transitioned over to TV in 1986. In his nearly 20 years with MSG, he spent a dozen years with John Andariese and spent six years working alongside Walt “Clyde” Frazier. One of Marv’s understudies was Mike Breen. Breen spent many years as the radio play-by-play announcer and backup TV play-by-play announcer for MSG. He later took on the full-time TV role in 2004 after Marv left MSG.

Marv is also one of the voices of the NBA on national TV. He was the lead play-by-play announcer for the NBA on NBC and has been a staple on the NBA on TNT broadcasts for the past 20 years.

On This Date: Jamal Crawford scores a career high 52 points

January 26, 2007: Jamal Crawford scores a career high 52 points against the Miami Heat

In one of a few bright spots of the 2006-07 season, Jamal Crawford exploded for a career high 52 points in a 20-point blowout against the Miami Heat in Madison Square Garden.

Crawford was unstoppable from the field, hitting 20-30 from the field and 8-10 from three.

After missing his first four shots, Crawford hit his next 16 shots, including 8 three-pointers. To put that into perspective, he finally missed a shot late in the 3rd quarter after the Knicks had a 20 point lead.

As a sign of respect, Dwyane Wade often guarded Crawford throughout the game. Despite the tough defensive matchup, Crawford was still able to score over Wade with a diversified moveset, which included his signature “Shake-N-Bake.” He simply scored all over the floor. Additionally, Crawford executed his now patented 4-point play against Wade to close out the first half.

Crawford had 52 points with slightly more than 7 minutes left in the game. Instead of aiming for Bernard King’s scoring record, head coach Isiah Thomas decided to take him out of the game as the Heat employed their garbage time roster. Isiah felt it was disrespectful to leave Crawford in the game during garbage time and also wanted to avoid the circumstances that led to the infamous Knicks/Nuggets brawl.

Knicks lose to Nets

For about a quarter in Brooklyn, the Knicks looked like the spunky, overachieving team that was winning games despite having less talent than their opponents.

Sure, it was helped by some unsustainable shooting, but they were moving the ball (six assists to Brooklyn’s two) and playing solid defense. Frank Ntilikina, who got the start in place of an injured Emmanuel Mudiay, had four of those assists and stood out on the defensive end. He also got two buckets before picking up a second foul and being sent to the bench. Thanks to some other quick fouls, he only ended up playing 19 minutes, although he did have a nice sequence in the fourth where he had a steal, a block and drew an offensive foul on three consecutive possessions.

In his place stepped Trey Burke, who shot his way to 25 points on 19 attempts. The ball moved less and the defense, predictably, suffered, but David Fizdale didn’t have much of a choice. You could argue Burke kept them in the game or took them out of it with his play. What was undeniable is that Brooklyn started to find their flow from the late first quarter onward, and ended up rolling to a 109-99 win, aided by 37 free throw attempts and a rebounding margin of 26.

Noah Vonleh had a career high with 22, but got a little three happy, finishing only 3-of-11 from deep. Mitchell Robinson had his usual half-a-dozen eye-opening moments where he looked like a future force to be reckoned with. Allonzo Trier had a tidy 13 points on six shots.

Everyone else stunk something fierce. Tim Hardaway Jr. had another night where he couldn’t hit anything, finishing 2-of-14. He looks and plays like he is in a cloud. Kevin Knox was also pretty brutal, hitting only 2-of-11. Lance Thomas, God love him, had some wonderful defensive possessions but the Knicks get killed when he’s at the four, as he only grabbed three boards in 26 minutes.

Enes Kanter, notably, did not play. After the game, David Fizdale said what many fans have thought for some time: that he needs to get the team used to playing a more modern style of defense – a style that Kanter has been proven to not fit within. In the locker room, Kanter said this philosophy had not been conveyed to him as the reason he wasn’t getting time. Distress over this if you will; I choose to count the minutes until Enes is off the team.

Knicks back home – their actual home – Sunday night vs Miami. The schnide continues…

A midseason review of Allonzo Trier

Allonzo Trier is doing his thing.

The undrafted rookie, who had been struggling since returning from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for seven games, has found his scoring form again, breaking out in the Knicks loss to Houston. He became the first Knick rookie to post 31 points and 10 rebounds since Patrick Ewing in 1985.

It seems like a good time to do a midseason review of his game.

The Knicks roster is a bit fluid right now, as they balance player development, reclamation projects, and potentially creating cap space via trade to chase superstars in the summer. However, unlike a handful of his teammates, Trier can breathe easy that his roster spot is secure, at least until late June. Because of the contract he signed in December, the Knicks can’t trade him before the February 7th trade deadline. And the way he has played, they wouldn’t have wanted to trade him, anyway.

Let’s take a deeper look at how Trier has performed so far and try to identify a player of similar style and fast-rising story.

Some Stats

Let’s start with the former Arizona Wildcat’s shot chart to date, per Austin Clemens:

He’s averaging 10.5 points per game, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks over 39 games.

Per 36 minutes, that translates into 16.9 points per game, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists.

He is fourth on the team with a 3-point percentage of 36.9 percent. Because of his big game against Houston, he passed Dallas Mavericks’ phenom Luka Doncic in true shooting percentage (TS%).5 Trier’s teammate Mitchell Robinson leads all rookies with a .672 percentage among players who have logged at least 15 minutes per game. (If Robinson is not swatting the ball, he’s probably dunking it).

Using advanced stats, Trier lives up to his nickname “Iso Zo.”

He is excellent in isolations (86th percentile, per Synergy Sports). He possesses a full arsenal of weapons to pick from in these situations, showing-off a variety of moves on drives in both directions, pull-ups, and jumpers without taking a dribble.

Per Synergy, he ranks in the 75th percentile in “spot up” plays. And he’s elite (87th percentile) with less than 4 seconds on the shot clock and is forced to create under duress.

These are often of the highlight variety:

Having so many offensive skills makes him very unpredictable; something that bodes well for a 23-year old. Try to guess what he’ll do the next time he has the rock in an iso-situation; it’s tricky, I’ve tried. Steer him left and he may start that way, then hop back, shot fake, and go right:

There’s room for him to grow as a Pick-n-Roll ball handler; he ranks in just the 44th percentile. Some argue this area will define whether or not he’s a long term solution for New York as a starting point guard in the modern NBA. If he wants to continue to prove his doubters wrong, this is the area he’d spend his upcoming summer on.

Something that surprises: his numbers suggest he’s better in catch-and-shoot situations (71st percentile) than he is off the bounce (46th percentile). But Knicks fans know well his fondness for putting the ball on the floor before pulling up. And while that appears to be his first instinct, it’s not necessarily more efficient. In the future, head coach David Fizdale might encourage him to shoot more off the catch.

He’s shooting 42.3% from beyond the arc on catch-and-shoot jump shots.

Defensively

The eye test would tell us that Trier isn’t the worst defender, but he isn’t the best at stopping people either. Per Synergy, the undrafted guard ranks a bit below average in overall defense. For a rookie, that’s not the end of the world. He’s made some really exciting plays on that end:

Funny enough, the area he’s been the best at defending is against isolations, where he receives a Synergy grade of “excellent” (for a limited 20 possessions).

Maybe he knows a thing or two after becoming a one-on-one wizard of his own? If this continues, the Knicks will really have something. I have an idea! We can call him “Iso Zo” when he scores in iso and “Iso Zone” whenever he gets a stop while being targeted.

He’s very good at the point-of-attack if he doesn’t have to figure out how to navigate screens and switches.

New York Jets legendary cornerback Darrelle Revis would be proud. Notice the fluid hips and quick feet here against John Wall:

He can use the most improvement in defending high screen-n-rolls. He’s a little better in side pick-n-rolls where the defense generally has less options, and he’s about average when chasing his man around screens.

Of course, struggling against a high pick-n-roll isn’t uncommon for rookies. Right Collin Sexton? 

Being able to catch and shoot, score in isolation, defend the pick and roll and defend in isolation are four skills Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey undoubtedly keeps an eye on when scouting. Zo is already quite good at three of those four.

Who does he remind me of?

When I study Trier’s game, I see a confident, aggressive, talented, but streaky player. I think his limitations are mostly in screen-n-roll situations, which he will improve upon as he gains more experience and understanding of NBA details. Certainly, he didn’t see these situations as much at Arizona. To reach his ceiling, he’ll need to improve significantly in this area.

I’m a biased Knicks fan who lived through Linsanity, but I often think of former Knicks’ guard Jeremy Lin when I watch Trier play. Lin made a name for himself in the NBA as a hyper-aggressive slasher who’d put relentless pressure on an opposing defense by getting into the paint and wreaking havoc.

During Linsanity, Lin was actually in the 95th percentile in the NBA in isolations. He was truly unstoppable for a stretch of time playing in former head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. It would have been fun to see the coach/point guard duo get to work together more while surrounding Lin with shooters.

Knicks fans know he wasn’t afraid of the big moment:

We saw this same confidence when Trier delivered in crunch time against Houston.

Lin has had a tough road in the NBA. Almost like a child actor, Lin experienced the pinnacle of his career right at the very beginning. He openly struggled with having to start fresh and fight and claw just to maintain the role he has held in the league since.

But Lin is a fighter and capable of handling that pressure and has responded by learning the intricacies of the game that didn’t come naturally to him early on. He morphed into a pitbull on defense, before having to start from scratch again following the patellar tendon tear that cost him his age-29 season. Lin is roughly average from long range but offers more in the relentlessness of his game on both ends.

Lin is a great model for an undrafted and overlooked, but talented player with a chip on his shoulder. Trier isn’t shy. He once started a clothing line branded with his personal motto at the time: “When the lights come on, it’s time to perform.” He was in 6th grade at the time. Precocious, but that might be some of what’s needed to keep your head level when playing at The Mecca becomes your full-time job.

I’ve heard the Jamal Crawford comparisons as well. They’re both from Seattle, as is Nate Robinson. I think Trier has less offensive gifts than Crawford, but looks like he’ll be a better defender and rebounder.

Constant attack mode. That’s what I see in Trier so far. Unlike a few of our other favorite players, we can count on seeing more of him in the uniform the rest of this season and perhaps more.

And if there are any opposing team scouts reading, don’t bother testing “Iso Zone” if he’s alone on an island. He’ll be ready when the lights come on.

What to make of the Knicks reportedly shopping Tim Hardaway Jr and Courtney Lee

So news came out yesterday confirming what we learned last week from Mike Vorkunov that the Knicks are officially in the selling business with the trade deadline approaching.

Well, I use the term “news” loosely. That the Knicks would be thrilled to unload Courtney Lee has been an open secret since the summertime. Ditto for Enes Kanter, or at least it has been since he had his first hissy fit playing time reduced starting last month.

The minor revelation is that New York would also be happy to unload their $71 million man, Tim Hardaway Jr.

There’s been speculation that despite his subpar play of late and the overall holes in his game (see: his 115.2 defensive rating, second worst on the team, and a .475 eFG%), because Steve Mills is still in charge, he’d be hesitant to get rid of the man he signed just 18 months ago.

So much for sentimentality. The only question now is how desperate they are to move him. If noted Knicks critic and KFS Podcast alum Howard Beck is to be believed, perhaps very much so:

It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to guess that New York has at least had conversations with opposing front offices about some young players on their team.

This is neither a bad thing nor a surprise. Everyone in the league is gauging interest on their own roster right around now; to not do so would be malpractice, because you never know what someone will be eager to overpay for.

That said, the news is both encouraging and concerning.

On the bright side, the idea that the organization isn’t married to an undoubtedly flawed player just because he was signed by the guy running the show is a promising sign. It shows that they’re able to fairly, and I would argue, accurately, assess their own players. That’s good.

On the downside, the fact that they’re potentially namedropping a guy like Frank Ntilikina is a trigger for any Knicks fan who’s been around for a while. Regardless of your personal opinions on Ntilikina, attaching him to dump Hardaway would be terrible optics. A reminder:

To then include the player they drafted to ostensibly replace Rose as the tax of unloading Timmy could potentially cause the universe to implode, or at least what’s left of my soul. It would be a trade package sealed with “LOL Knicks” packing tape if there ever was one.

Does it mean it would be the wrong move? Of course not…if the Knicks co-opt the deal by offloading Courtney Lee in a separate transaction and then sign Kevin Durant and Superstar Sidekick X this summer, there will be a parade thrown for Perry & Mills, and justifiably so.

That, of course, is a long way off, and unless the Knicks know something about the thinking of Mr. Durant that we don’t (something that can’t be ruled out, but by all indications seems incredibly unlikely), attaching either Frank, Mitchell Robinson or a future first round pick to dump Hardaway Jr. would represent terrible process. That’s because, worst case scenario, such a deal would be available in the summer, at which point they’d know who wants to take their money and who doesn’t.

To those who say “the price will only go up if they wait,” that’s not really how it works. If Kevin Durant decides that he’s coming to New York, Kevin Durant is coming to New York. If the Knicks needed to waive and stretch Courtney Lee as a last resort to open up the space to make that happen, they’d do it in a heartbeat. That this option exists would be a signal to other teams that, hey, if we can get Lee’s expiring (or Timmy, if that’s their pleasure) and pick up a future second round pick in the process – or at worst, a protected 2020 first rounder – we might as well do it.

The only potentially rational thinking behind attaching a legitimate asset or assets to move Tim or Lee now would be if you could unload both before the deadline.

This would be a giant red flare into the sky above the NBA that two SuperFriends could come to the Garden at once, or at least one Superstar and a very nice sidekick (see the tweet below on why it would be difficult to add a max player next to Durant). This type of maneuvering might not be as easy to pull off in one fell swoop2 once July is already underway.

Oh, wait a minute…we saw that story before, in 2010, when Donny Walsh attached Jordan Hill and a future first to unload Jarred Jeffries at the deadline so the Knicks could make a play for two max guys that summer.

We know what happened next: one (semi) big guy took New York’s money, and the rest was spent on Raymond Felton and various roster flotsam that made New York just “meh” enough for Carmelo Anthony to demand a trade here.

The lesson learned is this: once you make an all-in move to attach a first or a promising  young player (or in that case, both), you’ve set your course. There is no pivoting. You are officially in “win now” mode, and it has the domino effect of, well…mortgaging the farm to bring in a guy like Carmelo Anthony.

That type of thinking might not bite you in the ass right away – neither Hill nor Royce White2 ever amounted to much – but it will eventually. Chandler was a fine player. Gallo was more than fine. And Dario Saric and Jamal Murray – a 21-year-old borderline All-Star – are much, much more than fine.

Sure, you can point to the overpay for Melo as the point where that whole process went to shit and say “we’ll be smarter this time,” but the time to start being smarter is now. With a high pick coming in the draft and an All-Star on the mend, the Knicks don’t need to go “all in.” They have options, including rolling over the cap space to 2020 or simply waiting for the next star who demands a trade.

There’s only one, last, tiny little caveat: we have no idea what has been said between the organization and Kristaps Porzingis…what promises were made, what allusions he’s under…nothing. There’s a very real possibility that he’s not putting his name on a five-year max until he sees a roster that’s ready to kick the rebuild into high gear, and will instead opt to sign a 3+1 offer sheet elsewhere if the Knicks don’t land a major player (read: Durant, Kawhi or Kyrie) this summer. Of course, the Knicks could match such an offer, and there are financial reasons why KP might want to sign a bridge deal until he is a 7-9 year free agent, anyway, but something to consider.

Either way, should KP’s contract situation change the team’s approach at the deadline? You could argue yes, but then again, should the organization lay beholden to a player that isn’t bought into a potential long-term vision? Would they, in such a scenario, be better off kicking the rebuild in reverse, signing and trading KP for more young players and/or draft assets, and further decelerating the timeline?

I’m all for good process, but I’m also a realist, and I don’t think anyone inside MSG has the stomach for that.

So where does that leave us? My gut feeling: the front office is fully aware that they’d get killed for a straight salary dump in which they attach either Frank or a future protected first to get out from under the remaining years and dollars owed to Hardaway Jr. This is also something the Knicks have stated on the record that they are not looking to do, as was confirmed in reporting as recently as yesterday.

My prediction: they will scour the landscape for trades involving their unwanted players and one of their young and/or draft assets, but will only accept a deal that will net them a “face-saving” player or pick in return.

For example (and I am not pitching this trade, or even suggesting it should be considered): Tim Hardaway Jr., Frank Ntilikina and one of the Hornets’ second rounders for Jabari Parker and Kris Dunn. The Bulls get an upgrade in their perpetual revolving door of young point guards and get to take a flier on Tim, which shouldn’t matter as much because they don’t figure to be a free agent buyer any time soon.

The Knicks, meanwhile, would get to sell the deal as them getting to take a free look at a talented, high pedigree player in need of reclamation (sound familiar?) in Parker, who they would then likely drop like a hat to free up cap space in the summer. BUT, they also get to wave a “see, we got a young asset back in the deal!” token piece in Dunn.

Should they do this? No. Would they? I hope not. But that’s the type of deal you’d be looking at.

Unless…they can finagle something that would require a bit of wizardry but for which the payoff could be huge. Such a deal would be a 3-teamer involving one of the few teams who are:

  • desperate to make the playoffs this year
  • not free-agent destinations, and
  • have no cap space for the foreseeable future

All of these factors combined equates to someone who would be willing to take the risk on the incredibly high-variance player that is Tim Hardaway Jr., and treat him as a minor asset, not an albatross.

The reason that it would need to be 3-team deal is because the only organizations that fit this mold – New Orleans, Detroit and Charlotte – don’t have the requisite expiring salary to send back in a trade.

In the Knicks perfect world, here’s how this goes: one of these teams would actually give up a nominal asset (say, Malik Monk, Stanley Johnson or Frank Jackson) to combine with smaller assets from the Knicks (say, Damyean Dotson and one of the Charlotte second-rounders), all of which would go to a team willing to take on some not-great money (say, Solomon Hill, the Langston Galloway/Jon Leuer pu pu platter, or3 Bismack Biyombo) that would then send back an expiring contract to the Knicks (some potential suitors: Jabari in Chicago, Wes Matthews in Dallas, or one of several expiring contracts in Sacramento).

Will that happen? Your guess is as good as mine. One of the aforementioned teams would not only need to think highly of Hardaway but also lack better options. That’s not a given.

I’m sure Scott is working the phones to find out if this is the case. In two weeks, we’ll know for sure. Knicks fans will be waiting to see whether they can pull a rabbit out of the hat, or if this will, indeed, be #SameOldKnicks.

On This Date: Anucha Browne Sanders files lawsuit against the Knicks

January 25, 2006: Anucha Browne Sanders files sexual harassment lawsuit against the New York Knicks

In one of the darkest moments in Knicks history, former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Isiah Thomas, James Dolan, & Madison Square Garden. The suit claimed a combination of sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, & wrongful termination.

Current Knicks President Steve Mills – then Executive Vice-President for Franchise Operations at Madison Square Garden – hired Browne Sanders in 2000 as Vice President of Marketing. Mills promoted her to Senior Vice President of Marketing in 2002 and had the distinction of being one of the highest ranking female and African American executives for an NBA franchise. Up until 2004, Browne Sanders had a positive tenure working for the Knicks. After the Knicks hired Isiah Thomas, the work environment rapidly deteriorated. Isiah & Browne Sanders clashed over conflicts around job responsibilities.

Between 2004 and 2005, Browne Sanders described a culture of sexual harassment around Madison Square Garden. She claimed Isiah Thomas made multiple sexual advances towards her. Additionally, Hassan Gonslaves, Stephon Marbury’s cousin, then a Knicks’ employee, allegedly made derogatory comments towards female personnel. The Knicks eventually fired Gonslaves, and Stephon Marbury expressed hostility towards Browne Sanders.

Near the end of 2005, Browne Sanders filed a formal sexual harassment complaint that prompted an internal investigation. MSG’s legal counsel released a memo in early 2006 stating their findings and recommendations. The memo concluded that Isiah Thomas acted inappropriately at times and recommended sensitivity training. On the other hand, the memo dismissed most of Browne Sanders’ accusations and suggested that there were issues with her performance and communication skills. Furthermore, the memo suggested that MSG should terminate her employment.

As a result, James Dolan fired Browne Sanders on January 19th, 2006, and she filed a lawsuit a week later. Over the course of the next two years, Isiah Thomas & the Knicks vehemently denied all the accusations. Steve Mills, responsible for hiring both Isiah & Browne Sanders, testified in court as part of the defense.

In 2007, the jury ruled in favor of Browne Sanders and awarded her damages of $11.6 million. Of the $11.6 million, $6 million was due to Isiah Thomas creating a hostile work environment. The remaining $5.6 million was because James Dolan fired Browne Sanders for complaining about the hostile work environment. Dolan was personally responsible for $3 million in damages. The verdict affirmed all of Browne Sanders’ accusations.

The Isiah Thomas era sadly represented one of the lowest moments in Knicks history. While some tend to remember the stockpile of losses, it was the hostile work environment, including unwanted sexual advances, that tarnished the reputation of the franchise.

Then-NBA Commissioner David Stern vowed to mandate all teams to implement sexual harassment policies and sensitivity training. Stern also chided the Knicks, stating that the franchise was not “a model of intelligent management.” It was under Stern’s mandate that the Knicks cleaned house. Stern pushed Dolan to clean house and hire Donnie Walsh to fix the Knicks. Concurrently, both Isiah Thomas & Steve Mills left the Knicks within the next year.

Since the sexual harassment verdict, the Knicks have mostly kept their troubles reserved for the basketball court. Steve Mills was entangled in the sexual harassment lawsuit due to hiring both Isiah & Browne Sanders. While he did not directly contribute to a hostile working environment, he was complicit in letting the environment fester. Since returning back to the Knicks, he has mostly kept a professional reputation and fostered a diverse work environment in the front office. In particular, he’s responsible for creating the most diverse front office personnel in the NBA. James Dolan has recently strayed away from the day-to-day management of the Knicks franchise, but his reputation will most likely never change unless the team wins a championship.

Isiah Thomas continues to deny all allegations imposed on him from the Browne Sanders lawsuit. After leaving the Knicks, he went to coach the FIU basketball team and returned to manage the New York Liberty. During the NBA season, he routinely appears on NBA TV as a studio analyst. He has been able to mostly sidestep the allegations in recent years as he continues to repair his image.

Since the lawsuit, Browne Sanders rebounded in various capacities. She spent two years as the Athletic Director of Marketing for the University of Buffalo. The NCAA hired her in 2012 to be the Vice President of Women’s Basketball Championships. After 5 years, she joined UNICEF as the Chief Strategy and Engagement Officer.

Did Frank Ntilikina play good defense despite James Harden’s 61 points?

James Harden scored 61 points to tie Kobe Bryant’s visitor scoring record at Madison Square Garden in the Rockets win over the Knicks on Wednesday night.

But if you look at how the Knicks defended him throughout the game, there were surprisingly some bright spots from Frank Ntilikina and the team defense behind him. Harden shot only 1-6 with Frank as the primary defender, while committing 4 turnovers, per Second Spectrum tracking data. He shot 17-38 on the night, overall.

It’s hard to know, for sure, what the Knicks strategy was in trying to defend Harden, but it appeared in watching the film as if Ntilikina was trying to force Harden to the left side of the court, relying on help from a swiping wing defender and an interior man cheating off the worst three-point shooter on the floor at the time.

The Knicks started Noah Vonleh at center in place of Enes Kanter. They inserted Lance Thomas into the lineup at power forward to defend P.J. Tucker. The game plan appeared to be to use Vonleh (and later Mitchell Robinson) to cheat off the Rockets’ big man to trap Harden when he crossed half-court. They then tried to rotate behind the help, to moderate success.

Despite the Knicks’ best efforts, Harden went to the line 25 times and was just too much for the young defense (let’s face it, ANY defense) to contain.

On This Date: Melo scores 62

January 24th 2014: Carmelo Anthony breaks Bernard King’s scoring record with 62 points

Carmelo Anthony cemented his way into Knicks folklore as he broke Bernard King’s scoring record with 62 points against the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) in MSG. Melo simply destroyed the Bobcats in every way possible, from threes, mid-range shots, free throws, post-ups, signature jab-steps, and dunks.

Melo started the game with 20 points in the 1st quarter alone. He nearly outscored the Bobcats on his own in the first quarter as the Knicks led 30-21 after the 1st. Melo ended the 1st half with 37 points as the Knicks led 67-46. His signature moment was hitting a buzzer-beating three pointer at half court to end the half. After he hit that shot, I, along with the Knicks faithful, knew we are witnessing history.

The Knicks continued to increase their lead in the 3rd quarter. Melo broke his own career high of 50 points with 4 minutes left in the quarter. By the end of the quarter, the Knicks led by 35 points, but Melo had 56 points.

Understanding the history of the moment, coach Mike Woodson left Melo in the game in the beginning of the quarter to break the record. Melo tied King’s record with less than 10 minutes to go in the 4th with a pair of free throws. Finally, Melo broke King’s record with a leaner and received a roaring ovation from the fans.

Melo’s 62 points not only broke King’s record, but also broke Kobe Bryant’s scoring record of most points scored (61) in MSG. The game was special because Melo idolized Bernard King growing up. Similar to King, Melo had a King-like approach on the offensive end. He scored 62 points on 35 shots (23-35), hit 6-11 from the three point arc, and hit all 10 of his free throws. To my surprise, the Bobcats mostly guarded Melo in single-man coverage.

As a Knicks fan, I only bore witness to the end of the Knick playoff run in the 1990s and the minimal playoff success in the early 2010s. Melo’s offensive performance remains one of the greatest games I’ve watched in my young lifetime.

 

James Harden and a lot of crazy happened

(Expletive deleted)

(Expletive deleted) (Expletive deleted) (Expletive deleted)

(EXPLETIVE DELETED)

…sigh…

God damn, I wanted that one. And I know…I know there are fans out there for whom this amounted to a per-fect evening of basketball – Knicks lose but play hard, the kids play most of the minutes and perform admirably, ping pong balls fall from the sky – but I’m sorry, I can’t. I can’t be thrilled about this.

I mean how often do the Knicks get a break like this one?

This could have been one of those rare wins you looked back and remembered in a season of otherwise countless losses. But no.

Am I happy? Of course I’m happy…for Allonzo Trier, an undrafted rookie that put the team on his back to the tune of 31 points and 10 rebounds, finishing with a plus 19 in a game the Knicks lost by four.

I’m happy for Frank Ntilikina, who still can’t purchase a shot with his school lunch money, for coming out and setting the tone on both ends, almost single-handedly upping the defensive intensity and making the smart pass on the opposite end, making sure the ball moved enough to get a decent look.

I’m happy for Mitchell Robinson, who again showed why he’s going to be a monster on both ends once he can stop fouling. I’m even happy for Kevin Knox, who’s in a slump, but battled on defense and made his presence known on the glass.

But I can’t be happy with this result. The last play, where Vonleh was stripped by James Harden…what can you do. I trust Vonleh in that spot. Others may say it wasn’t the guy who should have had the ball in his hands. But you can’t blame Fiz for the play call because he was tossed a few minutes earlier, arguing one call too many on a night when he was often heated.

What you can question Fizdale for, and what will become a bigger and bigger storyline as this season progresses, is his continued faith in Emmanuel Mudiay. I get the rationale for it, for playing a guy who has shown so much improvement and can get to the basket so easily, especially when he’s someone the organization needs to make a decision on this July.

But it is getting hard to watch at times, when the offense clearly does not move with the flow that it can while he is out there. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens enough to now be a question, if not a concern. It is something to be monitored moving forward.

But for now, these young Knicks should hold their heads high. Yeah, James Harden tied the record for a visiting player with 61 points, but as crazy as it sounds, they didn’t do a terrible job on him. Call me a homer if you want, it’s cool. I’ve been called worse.

But the Knicks have nothing to be ashamed of.

Not tonight, at least.

On This Date: Knicks stave off ferocious comeback against the Seattle Supersonics

January 23, 1972: The New York Knicks withstand a late-game comeback against the Seattle Supersonics.

The Knicks nearly averted trouble to hold onto a 101-99 victory on the road against the Seattle Supersonics. The Knicks led by as much as 20 points by halftime and even had a 15 point lead with 4 minutes remaining in the game. The Sonics went on a 9-0 run and cut the lead down to 6 with less than 40 seconds in regulation.

A combination of Earl Monroe fouling out, an unfortunate traveling call, and a costly turnover cut the lead down to 2 and gave the Sonics an opportunity to tie the game. However, Phil Jackson and Walt Frazier made the final defensive stop to seal the victory.

Monroe led the Knicks with 27 points. Clyde nearly had a triple double with 13 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds. Future Knicks Spencer Haywood and Lenny Wilkens (coach) were on the Supersonics roster. Haywood was an All-Star for the Sonics for 4 seasons before the Knicks acquired him in a trade in 1975. Haywood teamed up with Bob McAdoo for slightly more than 3 seasons.

Lenny Wilkens served a unique role as player-coach of the Sonics. He was one of the last player-coaches in the NBA. He spent two separate stints as a player-coach with both the Seattle Supersonics & Portland Trailblazers from 1969-1972 and 1974-75. After Wilkens retired from his playing career in 1975, he became a full-time coach for the Blazers before rejoining the Sonics in 1977.

The game was also nationally televised on ABC. For viewing purposes, the game had to be played at 11:00AM pacific time. Up until the David Stern era, most nationally televised basketball games (and televised games in general) were viewed on tape-delay so families could watch in the evening hours on the weekend.

Is Frank Ntilikina the answer to all of David Fizdale’s lineup shuffling?

Let’s do a thought experiment for a moment.

Let’s say you’re David Fizdale, head coach of the New York Knicks (10-35), and you want to figure out a way to get your team to play better moving forward and you also want to get more out of struggling former lottery pick Frank Ntilikina.4

Maybe you pop in a simple 5-player lineup search on NBA.com and you see that for any Knicks lineup that has played together for at least 36 minutes this season, this has been your best one per net rating:

Frank Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway, Mitchell Robinson, Damyean Dotson, and Noah Vonleh.

You might try it again at some point right?

That 5-man lineup was used for 94 minutes in the team’s first 15 games of the year. Leaned on, they won 3 of 7 and recorded one of the NBA’s best net ratings (+8.1) at the time.

But David Fizdale didn’t think they got off to a good enough start in the first quarter of games so he broke up the band. Here is what he said at the time per Newsday’s Steve Popper:

Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic wrote about the curious decision back in mid-November too.

Per The Athletic: 

“When Fizdale changed the starting lineup Wednesday, he went away from one of the few things that was objectively working for the Knicks.”

It was a head-scratcher then, but it’s really weird now. The quintet has not logged a single minute together since November 11th. It’s one thing to shake up the starting unit for better starts. But to literally not give a group that had one of the best net ratings in the entire NBA another minute as the team free-falls?

Talk about a baby-bath-water-tank situation.

Well OK Ok. Mitchell Robinson has been hurt, Frank was recently injured, and they needed to get Kevin Knox and others some run.

But much of all that has come at Ntilikina’s and the team’s expense and it feels at least a little unnecessary.

Have the changes helped?

Frank averaged 27.7 minutes per game over the team’s first 13 games. He has averaged 16 minutes since (counting his healthy yet inactive games, but not counting the games he missed with injury). Coach Fizdale lopped off more than about 10 minutes per game from Frank’s playing time following a stretch where Ntilikina was among almost all of the team’s best lineups. He played 30 minutes or more seven out of the team’s first nine games. He’s only played 30 minutes once ever since. Emmanuel Mudiay is the biggest beneficiary. But has that been good for New York?

The team to date now has a -3.5 net rating with Ntilikina as the primary ball handler (that means none of Trey Burke, Allonzo Trier or Mudiay for a total of 289 minutes per Fantasylabs.com).

When Emmanuel Mudiay is the primary ball handler (no Burke, no Frank, no Trier) the team’s net rating is -12.0. per FantasyLabs.com. But those Mudiay lineups have now been used for over 700 minutes. So the Mudiay-led lineup has received about 2.5 times more minutes as the Frank-led lineup while performing almost 3.5 times worse per net rating.2

And while Mudiay has certainly reached a bit of a turning point in his career, it has not necessarily made the Knicks better:

Since the change, Ntilikina has not only received fewer minutes overall but he has had limited opportunity to play with lineup combinations that were once effective.

For example:

  • A trio of Ntilikina, Vonleh, and Robinson logged 113 minutes with a net rating of +3.0 over the team’s first 15 games. But they only logged 17 minutes together total over the team’s next 30 games.
  • A four-player combo of Ntilikina, Dotson, Hardaway, and Vonleh logged 131 minutes with a net rating of -0.3 in the first 15 games, but they’ve only played 8 total minutes over the subsequent 30 games.
  • A four-player combo of Ntilikina, Dotson, Vonleh, and Robinson played 105 minutes (net rating +4.1) over the first 15 games, and didn’t log a single minute together over the next 30 games.

Fizdale was absolutely right that he didn’t have a winning unit. But he did have a much better unit than most of the seemingly infinite permutations he’s experimented with ever since.

New York is now tied for the third worst net rating per game of -9.2 per NBA.com. They have absolutely plummeted since trying other lineup combos. Since Fizdale abandoned his better lineup in early November, the team has won less (their winning percentage fell from 28.6% down to 19%).

The team previously held their own in first quarters (net rating -0.3 with the aforementioned 5-man unit, but now they just get smoked after jump balls with a net rating -10.8 ever since)3; and the team’s overall net rating went from bad to pathetic (from -5.1 down to -9.2).

Man did that backfire. Unless of course…

But even if the Knicks are tanking did Ntilikina really deserve less than 17 minutes per game over a two-month period? Ten minutes less than Mudiay?

In the team’s first 13 games of the year, Frank was not only starting and taking on the likes of Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving but the team had a respectable net rating of -3.6. The kid was showing the defensive brilliance Knicks fans learned to expect during his rookie season:

Ntilikina was in 8 out of 10 of the team’s best three and four-player lineup combinations. You can go back and swap Vonleh in for Dotson, or Hardaway in for Robinson. But that French kid was a constant.

Yet Frank was the one who was essentially demoted when a shakeup came. Did Fizdale sub out the right guy though?

How has the second-year guard from Ixelles, Belgium responded?

Frank took a backseat. He said the right things. And he has quietly rebuilt his resume back up from scratch with some new partners in crime. Per Synergy Sports, he’s a very good defender: elite when guarding isolations or handoffs, and good against pick-and-roll ball handlers. Offensively he’s been below average but performs his best out of isolations.

He’s had plenty of tests. Because coach Fizdale has essentially refused to allow any lineups the time to gel, Ntilikina has been forced to mesh with new faces on a near nightly basis.4

But Frank has made due. For any 3-player combination on the season, given at least 50 minutes, the third best net rating belongs to Ntilikina, Dotson, and newcomer to the rotation Luke Kornet.

Ntilikina paired with Dotson and Knox has a +5.9 net rating. Swap in Kornett for Dotson and that healthy rating doesn’t change.

Using net rating, for a minimum of 50 minutes played together, Ntilikina is in four of the team’s six best performing four-player lineups for the entire year. He’s adaptive and selfless.

Vonleh, Ntilikina, Dotson and Knox have only played 25 minutes together so far this year. Their net rating is +47.4. That number will regress but it’s a signal: there are plenty of combinations that will likely lead to improved play by incorporating more Frank. It’s really remarkable how many lineups he is in that have a slightly positive net rating given how poorly the team has played on the whole.

Somehow, someway, this kid who everyone is certain is underperforming, and whose confidence is shot, has consistently helped a 10-win team play some of its best basketball past the midway point of the season.

It could be because Frank makes plenty of plays that help the game score but not the boxscore: 

Ntilikina is in two of the team’s top three 5-player combinations for the entire season, for those that have logged 50 minutes. I’ve probably bored you with all of these combos but read this last one again. It was a surprise to me.

Even when Frank is not passing all of our fallible eye-tests or statistical measures of success, he plays a role within many of the team’s best lineups. We’re not seeing the type of offensive production we usually associate with NBA success. But whether he was playing with and against starters, or on bench units, (for any reasonably robust sum of minutes ) Frank’s name filters to the top.

He should challenge the way we evaluate NBA players the way Shane Battier once did; a player Fizdale knows quite well from their Miami Heat days.

Frank’s contributions are not lost on the Hall-of-Famer who once ran point for one of the most mesmerizing dynasties the sport has ever seen:

Is it fair to put this on the coach?

What’s perhaps most head-scratching about all of this is how putrid the team has been since Ntilikina’s role was reduced. It would make sense if the team was competing and the coach felt he wasn’t able to keep it up. But he IS contributing and they’re NOT competing.

What if Frank and some of the combos that have worked were allowed to log the type of 700-minute chunks we’ve seen Mudiay receive? Could they have been any worse?

Now I’ve picked on coach Fizdale here, but the team’s front office may have much more to do with everything we’ve seen. It’s entirely possible Fizdale is simply carrying out orders. And tons of losing is not on Mudiay, who has played some good ball in a tough situation.

If Ntilikina is traded, we will know he wasn’t in the front office’s long term plans. In that case, reducing his minutes to avoid injury is prudent.

If Mudiay is traded, we may learn the team was just showcasing him for an asset before turning the ship over to Ntilikina.

And of course, if the team plays so badly they wind up drafting Zion Williamson every single measure taken to make that happen will be seen as a stroke of brilliance in hindsight.

But, hypothetically, if the team wanted to win more games or wanted to develop Frank, they’d give him some more burn. The kid has been slowed down and the team has missed his presence, but he hasn’t been stopped. The advanced team stats prove the name Ntilikina just keeps filtering to the top.

Help us help women in need

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Now that we have put the decorations away, the holidays are behind us, and many of us are joining gyms to work off all those holiday cookies, there is one thing we must carry with us throughout the year. We have to be GRATEFUL for the things that weren’t wrapped and put under the tree. And we have to appreciate our families and our cozy homes.

As many of you may know, homelessness in New York City has been on the rise. Did you know that children represent 55% of New Yorkers in family shelters? Yup, shocking to me, too. There are several organizations dedicated to helping these people in need.

One organization that stood out to Knicks Film School is WIN (Women In Need). They have been helping families in NYC for over 35 years by providing safe housing, and various services for women and children in need.

This organization might sound familiar to Knicks fans. Allonzo Trier, the undrafted sensation, recently launched a T-shirt campaign “BU1LT 4 THIS” which donated all proceeds to WIN.

As if he needed to do anything else to capture the hearts of New Yorkers! We couldn’t help but fall in love with him more on and off the court. You want this guy to make it as far as possible in his NBA journey, as well as in life. This is nothing new from Mr. Trier. He has been volunteering in homeless shelters from a young age thanks to his mother Marcie Trier. This was an effort to keeping him conscious and level headed. We applaud both of them for their charitable work.

KFS is looking forward to kicking off the New Year in making our contribution to WIN by both volunteering in activities which will be led by the women that represent KFS and donating in-kind with the help of our amazing community.

Our volunteer events will be taking place in the spring. We will have multiple days of volunteering to make sure everyone gets a chance to start the year off right by giving back to the community. We are also asking our amazing followers to join us on the campaign. Maybe not everyone can lend their time, but you can do your part with a generous donation to help other New Yorkers.

This is what sets New York apart from other cities. In the fast hustle and bustle of a New York minute, we take the time to help.

In addition to helping an organization that helps women, we will be celebrating women associated with the Knicks throughout the month. Swin Cash will be honored as one of our main female focal points. She has had a successful career in the WNBA and is currently a studio Analyst for ESPN and MSG. On her days off she is a mommy to the adorable Saint Cash Canal who was born on August 24th 2017. Yes she does it all!

In today’s society, where women have to find the perfect balance, or even at times choose one thing over another, Swin does it effortlessly. You can get tips and pointers from her podcasts “She’s Got Time” where she discusses every day topics that are relatable to all.

Help us celebrate women and give back to those in need!

A small donation of time or money will go a long way in ensuring organizations like WIN are able to achieve their mission of providing safe housing and critical services for New Yorkers who are less fortunate than us.

Donate now!

On This Date: Lenny Wilkens resigns

January 22nd 2005: Lenny Wilkens resigned as head coach of the New York Knicks

The Lenny Wilkens era lasted just over one year as he abruptly resigned from the Knicks. After leading the Knicks to a playoff berth in the 2003-04 season, Wilkens faced strong headwinds once the new year hit. The Knicks started the season 16-13, but then lost 9 of the next 10 games. The losing streak happened right when Stephon Marbury foolishly boasted that he was the greatest point guard in the NBA. The remarks came on the eve of the Knicks matchup against Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets.

Despite being a Brooklyn native, Wilkens never fully acclimated to the high level of scrutiny coaching in New York City. Wilkens spent most of his tenure caring for his mother who was seriously ill. Additionally, Wilkens never had the luxury of building his own coaching staff with the Knicks. Upon his hire, Lenny inherited three assistant coaches including Greg Brittenham, Herb Williams, & Nuggets Coach Mike Malone. Isiah subsequently added Mark Aguirre and George Glymph to the coaching staff. Wilkens was only able to add Dick Helm to his coaching staff, but Isiah fired him shortly after the 2004-05 season and Brendan Suhr replaced him. The conditions around his coaching staff definitely wasn’t ideal for any head coach.

Herb Williams replaced him as interim coach for the rest of the season.

Knicks blown out on MLK Day

10 and 35.

It starts to wear on you at some point. Maybe that was why the Knicks came out rather listless to start the game today, falling down by 20 before you could blink an eye. Or maybe it’s because they start multiple terrible defenders. Or maybe it’s because the Thunder didn’t want to think about this one too long and decided to settle it early. I’m going with a combo platter of all three.

The fact remains that, although the Knicks never officially let go of the rope, this one was never in doubt, as the lead stayed between 14 and 24 for the entirety of the game after midway through the first.

I’ve defended David Fizdale ever since he went with this current iteration of the starting lineup, mostly because this is a year of experimentation, and the Knicks need to a) decide if they want to invest any more time in Emmanuel Mudiay; b) figure out just how detrimental it will be to keep Timmy on the books; and c) get Kevin Knox experience defending NBA players.

The last one is true, the second probably can’t be answered until next year, and the first is getting closer to a final determination. Mudiay did what he’s been doing well of late – driving and scoring – but also came up short on defense and failed to get the offense in any kind of flow, which he had been doing a better job of initially. It seems like we’re getting pretty close to “this is what he is.”

Frank Ntilikina, meanwhile, had another strong game overall even though his shot wasn’t falling. His defense was the best it’s looked in a while, and he had some moments on offense that made you realize he’s not that far away from being passable on that end. Perhaps he read David Fizdale’s pregame comments and got a jolt of confidence. Either way, it was nice to see.

Allonzo Trier and Mitchell Robinson were the other bright spots for the Knicks on the afternoon. The two connected on two delightful alley-oops, which contributed to Trier’s career high eight assists. He also got to the line 10 times, and was perfect from there. Easily his best game in some time. Robinson, meanwhile, again had moments on defense that made you think he has it in him to be a monster on that end.

Timmy broke out of his most recent shooting slump, hitting 4-of-9 from deep on his way to 23 points. That about did it for positive Knicks contributions. Knox had another rough outing, going 3-of-8 for eight points in 27 minutes. Of note, Luke Kornet didn’t get back into the game after his initial seven-minute stint due to an injury of unknown severity. Enes Kanter took his place as the second half starter and ended up with 11 points in 19 minutes.

And then there was this…

Things don’t get any easier from here, as the Knicks play Houston on Wednesday. Get your abacuses out.

On This Date: Latrell Sprewell trade, Knicks defensive streak, Remembering Ned Irish

January 21, 1999: The New York Knicks acquire Latrell Sprewell 

On the first day after the end of the 1998-99 NBA Lockout, the New York Knicks acquired the talented, but highly controversial Latrell Sprewell from the Golden State Warriors. In return, fan favorite John Starks, Chris Mills, & Terry Cummings departed for the Warriors. Sprewell spent most of the 1997-98 season suspended as a result of choking his coach PJ Carlesimo in practice. The Warriors shopped Sprewell to teams since the suspension. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs were the other potential suitors in trade rumors, but the Knicks ultimately provided the best offer.

Sprewell, then 28 years old, provided a combination of explosive scoring, youthful athleticism, and tenacious defense. He definitely had baggage, which included question marks about his character, his position on the team (Allan Houston was the starting shooting guard), and overall team chemistry. However, no one could question his potential and overall ceiling to a team on the cusp of contention trying to claw back into the NBA Finals in the waning years of the Patrick Ewing era.

Starks was undoubtedly a fan favorite and one of Ewing’s closest friends. Cummings & Mills were both serviceable bench players for the team. Knicks GM Ernie Grunfeld performed a significant facelift of the roster before the 1998-99 season. He noticed how the Miami Heat (Tim Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Alonzo Mourning) and Indiana Pacers (Antonio and Dale Davis) outhustled the tired legs of the older Knicks. Grunfeld determined it was necessary to sacrifice some veteran savvy for youthful athleticism to push for another NBA Finals run. As a result, the team swapped John Starks & Charles Oakley for Latrell Sprewell & Marcus Camby.

Sprewell came off the bench5, but became a pivotal player in the playoffs, especially after Patrick Ewing suffered a torn Achilles. He later became a starter for the Knicks and made the 2001 NBA All Star team.


January 21, 2001: The New York Knicks hold opponents to under 100 points for the 33rd straight game

As a testament to the defensive mentality in the Jeff Van Gundy era, the Knicks pulled off a 33-game streak of holding opponents to under 100 points. Their last game was on this date in a 87-74 loss against the Indiana Pacers. The Knicks began the streak by holding the Charlotte Hornets to 67 points on November 11, 2000. During the streak, the Knicks held opponents to 70 points and below three times and held ten additional opponents to under 80 points.

The streak remains as the 2nd longest streak in modern NBA history (post-1960). Only the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons held opponents to under 100 points longer (38 games). As the NBA emphasizes more scoring and a pace-and-space game, I don’t believe any team will match the Knicks streak.


January 21, 1982: Ned Irish passed away

Ned Irish, the founding owner and president of the New York Knicks, passed away on this date at the age of 77. He started his career covering basketball games and promoted games at Madison Square Garden in the 1930s. His role as promoter helped spread awareness of the game heading into the 1940s.

Irish was one of the founders of the Basketball Association of America which later became the NBA in 1949. He was behind naming the Knicks as the New York Knickerbockers. The word “Knickerbocker” was used as a reference to New Yorkers and their Dutch heritage.

As owner and president of the Knicks, Irish left a lasting legacy in the NBA. He was responsible for allowing teams to keep their share of admission revenues. This proved beneficial for a major market team such as the Knicks. He was also instrumental in urging the American Basketball Association (ABA) to merge with the NBA.

Irish was originally a more hands-off owner, but became more hands-on in the 1950s heading into the early 1960s, similar to other familiar NY team owners (George Steinbrenner, James Dolan). His greatest move was convincing Red Holzman to coach the Knicks. He ceded control to Red and the Knicks won 2 championships under his ownership.

Irish was not an owner with much personality or candor. He was known to be unapproachable and cold at times, as discussed in Alan Hahn’s 2012 book “New York Knicks: The Complete Illustrated History.” However, his legacy is unquestionable. He became a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1964.