On This Date: Happy Birthday to some of our fellow former Knicks

July 31st: Happy Birthday to our fellow former Knicks

Henry Akin was born on July 31st 1944. He played one season with the New York Knicks and averaged 3.8 points/game in 50 games. He subsequently was an inaugural member of the Seattle Supersonics franchise in the 1967-68 season. His most memorable moment as a Knick was making his first two buckets over Wilt Chamberlain in his first ever NBA game.

Kostas Papanikolaou was born on July 31st 1990. He was drafted in the 2nd round by the Knicks in the 2012 NBA Draft. However, his draft rights went to the Portland Trailblazers in a trade that netted Raymond Felton. He spent parts of 2 seasons with the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets.

Scott Brooks was born on July 31st 1965. After winning 2 championships with the Houston Rockets, Brooks joined the Knicks for the 1996-97 season. He spent most of the time on the bench and almost got cut when Walt “Clyde” Frazier considered a return to the franchise.1

On This Date: The New York Knicks sign Anthony Mason

July 30th 1991: The New York Knicks sign Anthony Mason

In a somewhat unheralded move at the time, the New York Knicks officially signed Anthony Mason to an NBA contract. Mason, later known simply as the original “Mase,” spent the summer of 1991 on the Knicks summer league roster. A native of Queens, Mase spent his first few post-collegiate years overseas in Turkey and Venezuela. In between those stints, he spent parts of 2 seasons with the Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, and the Tulsa Fast Breakers of the Continental Basketball Association.

Before joining the Knicks, Mase was heralded for his talents in the frontcourt combined with a deft passing ability unseen in many big men. New Knicks coach Pat Riley inserted Mase into the 2nd unit where he helped cement the Knicks already strong frontcourt presence. His combination of toughness on both ends of the floor helped the Knicks reach the playoffs, including a finals run in 1994.

After Riley left, coach Don Nelson inserted Mase into the starting lineup. As a starter, Mase averaged career highs in all categories, with 14.6 points/game, 9.3 rebounds/game, and 4.4 assists/game. The latter showcased Mase’s skills as a point forward. It was a role that eventually became a part of the positionless basketball, highlighted by Draymond Green amongst others. Unfortunately, differences in coaching philosophies cut Nelson’s tenure short after less than 1 season with the Knicks.

After the 1996 season, a combination of off-court issues and a quest for more offensive firepower led the Knicks to trade Mase to the Charlotte Hornets for Larry Johnson. Mase harbored tensions towards the Knicks organization due to the trade. Mase displayed his point forward skills during his tenure with the Hornets and also earned an All-Star berth in 2001 with the Miami Heat after reuniting with Riley.

Mase eventually reconciled with the Knicks and was often seen courtside at games or chatting with several of the Knicks players during the years. Sadly, Mase passed away in 2015 due to congestive heart failure at the age of 48.

On This Date: Sonny Hertzberg’s Birthday

July 29th 1922: Sonny Hertzberg was born

Sidney “Sonny” Hertzberg was born on this date in 1922. A Brookyln native, Hertzberg played college basketball with future Knick coach Red Holzman at the City College of New York. Sonny was part of the inaugural Knicks team in the 1946-47 season. He was the team captain and leading scorer with 8.7 points/game.

Sonny later joined the Washington Capitols, playing for future Celtics legend Red Auerbach. Similaryl, Hertzberg joined the Celtics and later retired in 1953.

After his basketball career, Sonny returned to the Knicks to become a scout and assistant coach. He spent 2 seasons on WPIX announcing Knicks games as a color commentator.

After his short broadcasting stint, Sonny pivoted into investment management. He rose up to the managing director title of the now defunct Bear Stearns. He retired from his position in 2003 before passing away in 2005 due to heart failure.

On This Date: Bill Bradley’s Birthday

July 28th 1943: Bill Bradley was born

New York Knicks great Bill Bradley was born on July 28th 1943. After a touted collegiate career at Princeton, Bradley spent 6 months in the Air Force before joining the New York Knicks. Bradley spent his entire NBA career with the Knicks and won 2 championships along the way. The Knicks eventually retired his number.

After retirement, Bradley embarked on a successful political career. He spent 18 years in the US Senate representing the state of New Jersey.

On This Date: Knicks hire Larry Brown

July 27th 2005: The New York Knicks hire Larry Brown

In one of the more surprising, yet unsurprising heists in team history, the New York Knicks hired Larry Brown as the next head coach. Brown took the Detroit Pistons to two straight NBA Finals, winning a championship in 2004. Brown always dreamed to coach the Knicks and was allegedly lobbying for the position during the NBA Finals. Coming off a 33-49 season, Isiah Thomas and the Knicks management made a bold splash in offering Brown a 5 year contract worth $50 million.

The marriage was doomed from the start. Expectations to make the playoffs shattered early in the season. Brown publicly complained about his roster and retaliated with his multitude of starting lineups. The tensions between Brown, the players, and the front office became public very early. Brown simply sabotaged the season.

While many Larry Brown teams bottom out in their first season together, the Knicks presented a different scenario. Not only did the team bottom out, but did so in a way that simply embarrassed the franchise, fans, and the league. The Knicks bottomed out in a season where they did not have their own lottery pick. The season was an abject disaster.

Due to the nightmare of a season, the Knicks fired Brown after only one season. Brown filed a grievance against the Knicks, but ultimately settled for $28.5 million of the $50 million owed to him in total. To be quite honest, he did not deserve one penny more than the $10 million he earned during his lone season.

On This Date: Amare Stoudemire retires as a Knick

July 26th 2016: Amare Stoudemire retires a New York Knick

Amare Stoudemire officially signed a one-day contract with the New York Knicks to announce his retirement from the NBA. The Knicks originally signed Amare to a 5 year contract worth $100 million in 2010. He was the first superstar to join the Knicks in free agency ever.

Amare had a near-MVP start to his Knicks career. The acquisition of Carmelo Anthony mid-season allowed the Knicks to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. However, injuries prevented the Knicks from realizing Amare’s true potential.

A nagging back injury limited Amare’s explosiveness during the lockout season. Despite making the playoffs once again, Stoudemire started showing signs of decline as a player. Knee injuries limited Stoudemire to 29 games during the 54 win campaign.

Stat returned to play 65 games during the 2013-14 season. While he showed some signs of his old self, he largely accepted a supporting role on the team, including coming off the bench. He averaged a career low 11.9 points/game.2

The 2014-15 season was a disaster for the Knicks. The team decided to buyout the remainder of Amare’s contract to allow him to join a playoff contender. He joined the Mavericks for the remainder of the season. His final season, 2015-16, came with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

On This Date: Knicks sign Ronnie Brewer

July 25th 2012: The New York Knicks sign Ronnie Brewer

The New York Knicks continued to add more defensive oriented pieces to the roster by signing Ronnie Brewer to a contract. Brewer played the previous 2 seasons with the Chicago Bulls and was part of coach Tom Thibodeau’s bench mob. At 6’7 with a long wingspan, the Knicks expected Brewer to provide a defensive identity off the bench.

Brewer started the season as the team’s starting small forward due to Amare Stoudemire’s knee injury. Ultimately, Iman Shumpert’s return from a torn ACL pushed Brewer out of the rotation. As the Knicks sought to shore up their frontcourt depth, the team traded Brewer mid-season to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a future 2nd round pick. The team used the spot to sign Kenyon Martin.

On This Date: Knicks sign Pablo Prigioni

July 24th 2012: The New York Knicks sign Pablo Prigioni

In one of Kevin Wilson’s more successful international discoveries, the New York Knicks signed Argentinian point guard Pablo Prigioni to a contract. After starting his professional basketball career in Argentina, Prigioni spent more than a decade playing in Spain. More notably, he was the point guard on the Argentinian basketball, playing alongside the legend Manu Ginobili.

Prigioni’s veteran savviness was a major benefit to the Knick roster that eventually reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2000. He was an unselfish player, often very reluctant to shoot a wide open shot to instead find a wide open player for an alley oop, breakaway dunk, or three point shot. When he did shoot the ball, he was quite proficient from 3. Knicks fans loved him more for being a pest on defense. He simply pickpocketed point guards when they least expected it. He was the master of stealing inbound passes.

The Knicks rewarded his savviness with a 3 year extension after the season. He played 1.5 more years with the Knicks before joining the Houston Rockets midway through the 2014-15 season. He finished his NBA career with the Los Angeles Clippers before returning to Baskonia to become a player/coach.

Prigioni is now an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

On This Date: Knicks trade Sprewell for Van Horn

July 23rd 2003: The New York Knicks trade Latrell Sprewell for Keith Van Horn

After many months of speculation, the New York Knicks officially traded Latrell Sprewell in a four-team deal for Keith Van Horn. The 76ers traded Van Horn to the Knicks and received Glenn Robinson from the Atlanta Hawks. The Minnesota Timberwolves traded Terrell Brandon to the Hawks and acquired Spree in return.

Spree got on the bad side of James Dolan & Scott Layden during the end of his Knicks tenure. He infamously missed several media training sessions. Spree often angered coaches by arriving late to team shootarounds. The final straw came during the beginning of the 2002-03 training camp when Spree showed up with a broken hand due to a boating accident. The injury forced Spree to miss the first 8 games of the regular season. Spree averaged many career lows during the 2002-03 season. The Knicks’ pursuit for high character players led to Spree’s departure.

Ironically, Van Horn spent the preceding year with the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers originally drafted him, but traded him to the Nets in a draft-day deal for Tim Thomas. Van Horn had a relatively efficient year in his lone season with the 76ers even when averaging around 16 points/game. He spent most of his time playing power forward. The trade shifted him back to his natural position at small forward.

The biggest questions surrounding Van Horn related to his perceived softness and ability to handle the pressures of New York. While he had a productive half-season with the Knicks, he wasn’t truly able to answer both questions. New GM Isiah Thomas traded Van Horn to Milwaukee for Tim Thomas & Nazr Mohammed.

Spree instantly fit into a stacked Timberwolves roster featuring Kevin Garnett & Sam Cassell. Spree played all 82 games and averaged 17 points/game. He felt a major rejuvenation as he helped lead the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals. The WCF berth led Garnett to his first MVP award. Unfortunately, injuries in their backcourt to Cassell & Troy Hudson led to their defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers in 6.

Spree played 1 more season with the Timberwolves. Shortly after the 2004-05 season, Spree infamously rejected a 3 year $21 million extension because “he had a family to feed.” After the season ended, no NBA team offered Spree a contract and his basketball career ended.

On This Date: Knicks extend Red Holzman’s contract

July 22nd 1972: The Knicks extend Red Holzman’s contract

Heading into the 1973 championship season, owner Ned Irish made sure Red Holzman continued to coach the Knicks. Irish signed Holzman to a 2 year extension of his original contract, which expired in 1973. Holzman continued to maintain the role of both coach and general manager. He is only one of two coaches in Knicks history that retained the role of both coach and GM (Isiah Thomas maintained both roles after Dolan fired Larry Brown in 2006). At the time, Holzman was the only coach that held both roles.

At the time, owner Ned Irish did not approve of Holzman holding both roles as coach and general manager. While some of the disagreements became public, Irish did not hesitate to extend the contract due to the team success under his tenure.

After signing the extension, the Knicks won the championship in 1973. Holzman lasted as coach until 1977 before reappearing with the Knicks after a year of hiatus. Red gave up his GM post in 1975 when Eddie Donovan rejoined the organization.

On This Date: Knicks sign Clarence Weatherspoon

July 21st 2001: The New York Knicks sign Clarence Weatherspoon

The New York Knicks officially signed Clarence Weathersppon to a 5 year contract worth $27 million. The move was made in anticipation for Larry Johnson’s eventual retirement due to his chronic back injuries. Weathersppon started all 82 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the previous season and averaged 11.3 points/game and 9.7 rebounds/game.

Weatherspoon provided the same rebounding tenacity he brought throughout his prime, but mostly played a nondescript role on an aging, unathletic Knicks squad that missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly 15 years. The highlight of his Knick career was during Patrick Ewing’s jersey retirement when he grabbed a career high 24 rebounds.

The Knicks dealt Weatherspoon early in the 2003-04 season to the Houston Rockets for Moochie Norris.