On This Date: Knicks sign Allan Houston, Chris Childs, and trade for Larry Johnson

July 14th 1996: The Knicks 1996 Free Agency: Allan Houston, Chris Childs, Allan Houston

In one day, the New York Knicks officially transformed their roster to make a final championship run during the final stretch of Patrick Ewing’s prime. The Knicks acquired 3 key pieces to their starting lineup, including a new backcourt. First, the Knicks signed Chris Childs to a 6 year $24 million contract. The Knicks announced that they signed Allan Houston to a 7 year $56 million contract. Finally, the Knicks acquired former #1 overall pick Larry Johnson from the Charlotte Hornets for Anthony Mason & Brad Lohaus.

Heading into the 1996 free agency, the Knicks’ main goals were to find a 2nd superstar to pair with Ewing or find a core of young players to provide more offensive firepower. The original tea leaves suggested the Knicks sought Reggie Miller & Michael Jordan, but neither option was plausible. The Knicks signed Childs, 28, after a solid sophomore season with the New Jersey Nets where he averaged 12.8 points/game and 7.0 assists/game. The Knicks appreciated his toughness and poise on both ends of the floor. Childs replaced the older Derek Harper and immediately cemented his spot as the starting point guard.

Houston, 25, was one of the top free agent shooting guards on the market. He came off a season where he averaged a then-high 19.7 points/game and 2.3 three pointers made/game. He was known as a sharpshooter with the Pistons and brought that same dexterity to a Knicks roster that needed more perimeter shooting. Houston joined Childs in the starting lineup.

The most controversial move was acquiring Johnson for Lohaus and Mason. Johnson, 27, was on a long-term contract with 7 years and $84 million remaining. He also suffered a back injury during the 1993-94 season that would later hamper him during his Knicks tenure. Mason represented the tough and gritty Knicks defense of the early 90s. However, the team sought more offensive firepower and felt Johnson provided it despite the back issues. Additionally, the team was probably frustrated with the various on and off-court issues that plagued Mason during his Knicks tenure. Johnson never regained the athletic touch and offensive firepower he had during his early Charlotte days. He instead reinvented his game to become more of a perimeter threat and a clutch performer, especially in the 1999 NBA Playoffs.

On This Date: Knicks become the first #8 seed to reach the NBA Finals

June 11th 1999: The New York Knicks make history in becoming the first #8 seed to reach the NBA Finals

Miracles. Only one word to define the 1998-99 season. After enduring the endless drama, on-court struggles, and injuries, the Knicks did the unthinkable and stormed past the #1 seed Miami Heat in the 1st round, the #4 seed Atlanta Hawks in the 2nd round, and the #2 seed Indiana Pacers to become the first #8 seed to reach the NBA Finals.

The Knicks defeated the Pacers 90-82 in Game 6 to advance to the Finals. This was done with Patrick Ewing on the sidelines and Larry Johnson sidelined most of the game due to a sprained right knee suffered in the 2nd quarter. Instead, the “role players” per se took charge in front of the roaring MSG crowd.

Allan Houston led the way with a team-high 32 points on 12-17 from the field. Latrell Sprewell scored 20 points, but his defensive energy was once again infectious for the Knicks team. Marcus Camby was an all-around force off the bench with 15 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 blocked shots in 37 minutes. Camby was the instrumental cog in the victory. While he was on the floor, the team was +26 and -18 while off.

The Knicks simply dominated on the free throw line. The team took 33 free throws, led by Houston (8-10), Camby (7-11), & Sprewell (6-6). The Pacers, on the other hand, only attempted 9 free throws.

The Knicks took control of the game in the 4th quarter. A Jalen Rose 3 point play with less than 29 seconds remaining put the Pacers down 86-82. However, the Knicks hit 4 more free throws and the Pacers simply conceded with 15 seconds remaining after Spree blocked Jalen Rose’s layup.

The MSG crowd went nuts as Chris Childs dribbled out the clock. Spree was running along the sidelines galvanizing the crowd. Jeff Van Gundy’s wife was shown in tears right after the buzzer sounded. Even with Patrick Ewing sidelined, he enjoyed the taste of seeing another NBA Finals. Just simply an ecstatic and priceless moment in Knicks history.

On This Date: Knicks advance to the 1994 NBA Finals and the LJ 4 Point Play

June 5th 1994: The New York Knicks advance to the 1994 NBA Finals

The New York Knicks advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in more than 20 years after defeating the Indiana Pacers 94-90. The game was back and forth with less than a minute remaining in the 4th quarter. With less than 35 seconds remaining, Dale Davis threw down a dunk to put the Pacers up 90-89. Little did they know that those would be the last points the Pacers scored in the game.

After Pat Riley called a time out, John Starks received the ball and drove to the basket from the right hand side of the court. Starks threw up a missed layup, but Patrick Ewing was there to throw down the go-ahead iconic tip-dunk with 26 seconds remaining to put the Knicks ahead 91-90.

The Pacers worked the clock and Reggie Miller received a pass off the curl which he subsequently airballed out of bounds to the delight of the MSG faithful. With 4.2 seconds remaining, Starks received the inbounds pass and was, surprisingly, flagrantly fouled by Reggie Miller. After the foul, Ewing was shown putting both his arms up (as shown in the iconic photos) in the air knowing he was off to the NBA Finals. He gave the courtside fans a high five and even bear hugged a fan along the way.

Starks hit one of the two free throws off the flagrant foul and subsequently hit an additional 2 free throws to seal the victory. Ewing ended Game 7 on a historic effort with 24 points, 22 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 blocked shots.


June 5th 1999: Larry Johnson’s 4 point play

Without Patrick Ewing and down 91-88 with 12 seconds remaining in Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, the Knicks were in desperation mode to save the game. There were two choices: hit a quick 2 and foul or attempt a 3. Charlie Ward was the inbounds passer from the sideline by the Indiana Pacers bench. The Pacers tipped the inbounds pass, but it landed in Larry Johnson’s palms.

LJ took 4 seconds off the clock before making a move off of Antonio Davis.He drove left towards the sideline and Davis fouled him as he shot the 3 with less than 7 seconds remaining. Miraculously, LJ made the shot and the MSG crowd roared. The various TV replays showed the Garden crowd literally going nuts after the shot was made. It was a priceless moment.

LJ ran down to the other side of the basket about to celebrate only to be held back by Chris Childs & Latrell Sprewell. LJ completed the 4 point play to put the Knicks up 92-91. After the Pacers called a timeout, Mark Jackson threw up a desperation shot over pressure defense that missed to help the Knicks win Game 3.

Larry Johnson helped carry the Knicks in Game 3 after Patrick Ewing’s injury sidelined him for the remainder of the playoffs. LJ led the Knicks with 26 points and 3 three pointers, including the iconic 4 point play. The momentum of Game 3 didn’t carry over to Game 4, but it definitely played a role in winning both Games 5 & 6 to head to their 2nd NBA Finals in the decade.

On This Date: Knicks sweep the Hawks in the 1999 ECSF

May 25th 1999: The New York Knicks sweep the Atlanta Hawks in the 1999 Eastern Conference Semifinals

The #8 seed underdog Knicks, fresh off a historic upset against the #1 seed Miami Heat, had a much easier battle against the #4 seed Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Knicks swept the Hawks in 4 games with the average margin of victory of 10 points. One of the more memorable moments was Marcus Camby’s dunk on Dikembe Mutombo.

The Knicks defeated the Hawks at home in Game 4 79-66. At the end of the game, the Knicks fans chanted “Jeff Van Gundy” to support their coach. Van Gundy went into the playoffs with no guarantee of returning next season. The series sweep definitely helped establish job security.

The Hawks had no answer to the Knicks’ bench rotation, including Latrell Sprewell, Chris Childs, & Marcus Camby. Sprewell had 11 points in Game 4 and proved to be a sparkplug for the Knicks off the bench.

The Knicks’ defense in Game 4 proved to be historic. The 66 points allowed remains the fewest number of points given up in a playoff game in team history since the inception of the shot clock.

On This Date: Ewing & Sprewell help the Knicks finish the Heat in Game 7

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May 21st 2000: Latrell Sprewell & Patrick Ewing help the New York Knicks close out the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals

The Knicks & Heat faced off against each other in a rematch of the previous year battle. Similar to 1999, both teams fought until the final deciding game where the Knicks once again defeated the Heat on the road in a close matchup. This was the 3rd time in the previous 4 seasons where the Knicks defeated the Heat in Miami.

Patrick Ewing & Latrell Sprewell scored a combined 44 points to help defeat the Heat 83-82. Ewing had a double double with 20 points and 10 rebounds on 5-10 from the field and 10-12 from the free throw line. Spree led the Knicks with 24 points, scoring 20 in the 1st half, and 5 assists. The duo helped withstand Alonzo Mourning’s 29 points, 13 rebounds, & 5 blocked shots.

Game 7, like the entire series, had a seesaw feeling to it. The Heat ended the 1st quarter up 9, but the Knicks stormed back to take a 6 point lead by halftime. The Heat eventually tied the game by the end of the 3rd and showed signs of extending the lead early on the 4th. Chris Childs turned out to be an X-Factor for the Knicks in Game 7 scoring 15 points, including the first 10 Knicks points in the 4th quarter, to keep the team in the game.

Ewing had one of the most pivotal plays with less than 1:30 left in the game. Down 1, Ewing received the ball in the post as Mourning gambled to steal the ball from him. Ewing deftly turned around for the go-ahead dunk that put the Knicks up 83-82. Those were the final points scored in the game.

On This Date: Knicks win Game 1 against Anthony Mason and the Charlotte Hornets

April 24th 1997: The New York Knicks defeat the Charlotte Hornets in Game 1 of the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

The Knicks/Hornets rivalry intensified during the 1996-97 season after the Larry Johnson/Anthony Mason trade. LJ left the Hornets on a sour note after publicly requesting a trade due to a disillusionment regarding the direction of the franchise and a desire for a long-term contract. The trade left a severely bitter taste in Mase’s mouth. He felt resentment after the trade and alleged that Patrick Ewing played a role in his departure. Ewing & Mase clashed offensively over the course of their 5 year tenure. Mase clamored more touches during the Riley era & Ewing often complained about lack of touches during the short Don Nelson run.

During the regular season, the Hornets won 3 of the 4 matchups, including the last 3. Their last game in February delved into heated tensions at halftime where both John Starks & Glen Rice had to be separated after yelling “you want some of this” in the tunnel.

Despite the regular season acrimony, the real battle began on Game 1 when Mase returned to MSG and Larry Johnson faced off against his old team. To begin the playoffs, the Knick players wore warmup shirts with the slogan “make em feel ya.” Starks created the slogan on behalf of the team. Additionally, 8 of the players shaved their heads as part of the playoff tradition, including Allan Houston & LJ.

The Knicks did defeat the Hornets 109-99 in Game 1. It was the new Knicks – Houston, Childs, & LJ – that made the most contributions in the victory. Houston led the team with 25 points on 4-7 from three and LJ scored 20 on 2-4 from three. Chris Childs scored 14 points and had 8 assists. The Knicks held a 13 point lead at halftime, but the Hornets erased the lead by the end of the 3rd quarter. The Knicks eventually built a 10 point cushion in the 4th for the victory.

Despite the tenacious rivalry during the regular season, the Knicks handily swept the Hornets to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

On This Date: Chris Childs two-pieced Kobe Bryant

April 2nd 2000: Chris Childs two-pieced Kobe Bryant

In another round of the Knicks-Lakers rivalry, it was Kobe Bryant & Chris Childs who entered into the spotlight. Chris Childs guarded Kobe throughout the game. The matchup got chippy as the game progressed as Childs received a few inadvertent elbows Kobe. As the 3rd quarter was ending, Kobe went to headbutt Childs and the fight ensued.

Childs butted Kobe’s head and Kobe threw a left forearm at him. Childs then two-pieced Kobe before the team and coaches were able to separate both players. Eventually both Childs & Kobe were ejected from the game. Ultimately, the Knicks were blown out 106-82, but Chris Childs had one of his seminal moments with the team.

The NBA suspended Childs 2 games and Kobe for one game for the melee.


April 2nd 2010: David Lee triple-double

David Lee earned the first triple double in his NBA career in a 128-117 loss on the road against his future team in the Golden State Warriors. Lee scored 37 points and had 20 rebounds and 10 assists. This was the Knicks’ first triple double since Latrell Sprewell in 2003.

It was one of the more impressive triple doubles in NBA history history. This was the first 30-20-10 triple double since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1976. This was one of David Lee’s last major highlights with the Knicks before he departed for the Warriors in 2010 after the team signed Amare Stoudemire.

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: Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell score 30 points each to lead Knicks

November 27, 1999: Allan Houston & Latrell Sprewell score 30 points each to beat Orlando 99-96

Latrell Sprewell & Allan Houston displayed their potential as a dynamic duo in the victory against the Orlando Magic. In addition to 30 points scored, Sprewell had 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and made 9-9 free throws. Similarly, Houston had 6 rebounds and 5 assists while shooting 60% from the floor and making all 4 of his free throw attempts.

Additionally, Chris Childs bounced back from a slow start to the season and scored 15 points, making 3 three-pointers, and dished 6 assists in 27 minutes.  Childs hit a crucial three pointer near the end of regulation to help push the Knicks to victory. Similar to other players, Childs was mired in an early season slump highlighted by a lack of effort.  The post-NBA Finals hangover kicked into Childs and this game helped refocus him.

The Knicks started the season off slowly due to a myriad of injuries that hampered the front court. Patrick Ewing remained sidelined due to the torn Achilles tendon suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. Marcus Camby was out due to a lingering knee injury and Larry Johnson was sidelined due to a pinched nerve in his back.  Back injuries persisted throughout Larry Johnson’s career and eventually forced him into retirement in 2001.