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

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

Mr. Big Shot1 struck again, this time with the Knicks, on a 91-86 nationally televised victory against the Miami Heat in Florida.

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

This was a highly anticipated game after the Melo trade. Melo & LeBron went head-to-head the entire game; Melo led the way with 29 points and Bron scored 27. Amare Stoudemire had a double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. He had the most pivotal play in the game with a game-saving block against LeBron to seal the victory.

The Knicks struggled in the outset trailing by 15 through the middle of the 2nd quarter. However, the team went on a 16-0 run to close the half with a 1 point lead. Billups contributed to 9 of the points with 2 threes and 1 assist during the run.


February 27th 2001: Patrick Ewing’s return to MSG

In one of the more awkward sights in Knicks history, Patrick Ewing returned to MSG wearing a Seattle Supersonics uniform. This was his first return to the Garden since the trade. Ewing scored 12 points in 32 minutes as the Knicks defeated the Sonics 101-92.

The Knicks gave Ewing a very nice tribute video thanking him for all his contributions and highlighted most of his accomplishments while with the team. The MSG faithful gave him a loud standing ovation as most of the fans and players on both teams stood and cheered for several minutes. One of those players was Ewing’s former battery mate Mark Jackson, recently acquired in a trade a week earlier. The MSG crowd chanted “Patrick Ewing” as well to much fanfare. Afterwards the MSG PA announcer introduced the Seattle Supersonics starting lineup. The PA announcer introduced Ewing first and the crowd roared. Watch more of the tribute below.

On This Date: Knicks acquire Melo

February 22nd 2011: Carmelo Anthony finally traded to the Knicks

In one of the most anticlimactic deals of the 2011 trade deadline, the Knicks finally acquired Melo from the Denver Nuggets in what amounted to be a 3-team trade. The trade is broken down below:

Knicks traded:

Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph, 2012 2nd round pick, 2013 2nd round pick, 2014 1st Round Pick, 2016 1st Round Pick Swap

Knicks acquired:

Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Corey Brewer (later waived), Anthony Carter, Sheldon Williams, 2016 1st round pick swap (Nuggets)

Nuggets traded:

Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter, Sheldon Williams, 2015 2nd round pick, 2016 1st round pick swap

Nuggets acquired:

Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, 2012 2nd round pick (Knicks), 2013 2nd round pick (Knicks), 2014 1st round pick (Knicks), 2016 1st round pick swap (Knicks), Kosta Koufos

Timberwolves traded:

Corey Brewer, Kosta Koufos

Timberwolves acquired:

Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph, 2015 2nd round pick (Nuggets)

This was a very large trade. After the Knicks lost out on LeBron James in the Summer of 2010, the team faced pressure to find a second star to team up with Amare Stoudemire to compete against the Miami Big 3. The Nuggets and Carmelo Anthony were also looking to separate as well. Melo proclaimed to his close friends, at his wedding, of his intentions to join the Knicks.

Donnie Walsh began engaging the Nuggets on various trade offers early on in the season. He was reluctant to give up significant assets for Melo because he assumed he could sign him outright in free agency. As the season progressed, the Nuggets felt a greater sense of urgency to deal Melo to acquire some long-term assets. Likewise, the Nuggets and Knicks were also aware of the impending lockout.

Melo was particularly interested in going to the Knicks before the lockout in order to lock in guaranteed money through an extension. If Melo waited until after the lockout, his market value could have decreased as well.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Melo & the Nuggets were motivated to get the deal done. Donnie Walsh was also motivated to get the deal done, but was hesitant in giving up an exorbitant package. Melo eventually met with James Dolan during the All Star weekend to discuss the parameters of a trade. Dolan wanted to get a deal done; he was afraid of not capitalizing on the cap space generated from Donnie Walsh’s moves in the prior two seasons.

The deal finalized on February 22nd and ended up becoming a larger package due to the number of assets transferred between both teams. Melo fulfilled his dream to become a New York Knick.

While the package to acquire Melo was substantial, the trade benefitted the Knicks in the long run. Any trade package for Melo would require trading Gallo, who became a fan favorite in MSG. Both Melo & Gallo had a similar style of play. Additionally, Gallinari had several injury-laden seasons since the trade. Wilson Chandler was a free agent at the end of the season and would have to be included in any deal. Chauncey Billups eventually replaced Felton, who the team re-acquired two years later. The loss of Mozgov stung many Knick fans initially, but Tyson Chandler eventually soothed his departure over time.

The inclusion of multiple picks did sting for the franchise as the team reverted back to their losing ways in 2014. The team could have used those picks to accelerate the rebuild during those seasons. However, sacrificing those picks helped the team acquire Melo and fueled a stretch of three straight seasons in the playoffs during his 6+ year tenure. For a franchise that missed the playoffs in all, but one year since 2002, the fans were hungry to get back and compete with the behemoths in the Eastern Conference. Furthermore, the MSG faithful witnessed history with Melo’s 62 point performance in 2014.

The most controversial aspect of the Melo trade is the assertion that the team should have waited until free agency to acquire him. While that assertion sounds good in theory, it was simply not practical due to the impending lockout and the uncertainty surrounding whether they could make a deal work under the new rules.


February 22nd 2001:  Knicks re-acquire Mark Jackson

The Knicks re-acquired Mark Jackson on this date from the Toronto Raptors, along with Muggsy Bogues, for Chris Childs and a 2002 1st round pick (Kareem Rush). The team desperately needed an upgrade at the PG position and acquired Jackson to help the team get back into the playoffs. Jackson took over the starting PG role through the 2001-02 season before he was shipped to Denver in the Antonio McDyess trade.

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.

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 bench2, 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.

On This Date: The birth of the Trent Tucker rule and the Marcus Camby punch almost heard around the world

January 15, 1990: The game that birthed the Trent Tucker Rule

On this memorable MLK day in 1990, Trent Tucker enshrined himself into Knicks folklore with a buzzer-beating shot to defeat the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden. With the game tied at 106, Tucker received the inbounds pass and made the game-winning three pointer with 0.1 seconds left to win the game 109-106.

Upon further review, the clock didn’t start until Tucker’s shot was in mid-air. Consequently, Phil Jackson, then first-year head coach of the Bulls, filed a protest with the league. The argument, which is valid, stated that it’s impossible to receive a pass and shoot the basketball in less than 0.1 seconds. However, timekeeper Bob Billings and head referee Ronnie Nunn disagreed with the premise and stated that the calls on the floor were correct. As a result, the NBA disallowed their protest.

Around that time, then-commissioner David Stern recently required NBA arenas to comply with a FIBA rule to register tenths of seconds within the final minute of each quarter. Most of the scoreboards used at the time – manufactured by American Sign & Indicator (AS&I)2 – were not able to accurately register fractions of seconds. In some instances, there would be games where the shot clock would freeze at 0.1 seconds.

After the game, Stern further required all arenas to calibrate their shot clocks. Eventually, most teams transitioned from AS&I scoreboards to the Daktronics models seen in most areas.

More importantly, Stern instituted the “Trent Tucker Rule” where a shot can’t be taken with less than 0.3 seconds on the clock. The rule doesn’t prohibit tip-ins or alley-oops, especially in the case of David Lee’s basket in the 2006-07 season.


January 15, 2001: The Marcus Camby punch that almost connected

In what appeared to be a drama-free blowout on MLK day in MSG, Marcus Camby had other plans on that particular afternoon. With just over 3 minutes left in the game, Marcus Camby received an flagrant (or maybe intentional?) strike from Danny Ferry near his eye after attempting to grab an offensive rebound. As the refs attempted to eject Ferry, Camby lunged into Ferry, causing some refs to restrain him.

After things seemed to dissipate and as Ferry was heading towards the locker room, Camby inexplicably went after Ferry to punch him. Instead of striking Ferry, he instead headbutted Jeff Van Gundy. Van Gundy needed to receive more than a dozen stitches after the game due to bleeding from a gash above his eye.

After the game, the NBA suspended Camby 5 games for the attempted punch and headbutt. Danny Ferry received a 1 game suspension for his flagrant foul. It was disappointing for the Knicks, especially since the team won 9 of their previous 10 games. It was another instance of a lack of compsure that plagued some of the Knicks (i.e. Chris Childs, Kurt Thomas) during their playoff heyday.

 

On This Date: Patrick Ewing faces Knicks for the first time in a Supersonics uniform

November 14, 2000: Patrick Ewing faced the Knicks for the first time as a member of the Seattle Supersonics and enjoyed a 96-75 win against his old team.

Patrick Ewing got the last laugh against the Knicks with a blowout victory. In 31 minutes, Ewing scored 10 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, and blocked 3 shots. Gary Payton & Rashard Lewis led the Sonics with 25 and 22 points respectively. Payton, in 46 minutes, nearly had a triple double with 13 assists and 8 rebounds.  For the Knicks, Marcus Camby led the Knicks against his former teammate with 20 points and 17 rebounds.

This matchup represented a bittersweet moment for everyone involved. For fans, it was sad seeing Ewing in the twilight of his career playing in a different uniform. Ewing was clearly at the end of his career and it was tough to see him end his career as a relic of himself

The front office and Ewing developed an irreconcilable relationship during the end of the 2000 season. Ewing, then 38, was at the end of a 4-year, $60 million contract and was reportedly looking for a two year extension from the team. Ewing was also diminishing as a player following the torn Achilles tendon in the 1999 playoffs. Ewing was clearly attempting to win a championship during the final years of his career.

The Knicks needed a replacement for Ewing in the frontcourt. The original genesis of the Ewing trade involved the Detroit Pistons instead of the Phoenix Suns and would have netted Vin Baker along with Glen Rice. However, the trade fell apart and the Knicks settled for a lesser trade involving Rice, Luc Longley, several draft picks, and salary cap filler.

The trade didn’t benefit either Ewing or the Knicks. Ewing played his final two seasons with the Sonics and Magic and failed to reach the NBA Finals. The Knicks ultimately traded those acquired draft picks and flipped Glen Rice into the albatross contracts of Shandon Anderson & Howard Eisley, leading into a decade of losing records and grotesque mismanagement of basketball operations.