On This Date: Knicks beat Vancouver Grizzlies in inaugural matchup

November 19, 1995: The newly franchised Vancouver Grizzlies make their first visit to MSG and lose to the New York Knicks 98-93

The 1995-96 season marked the inaugural season for the Vancouver Grizzlies. November 19th marked their first matchup against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden. In the 98-93 Knicks victory, Derek Harper led the team with 25 points, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Patrick Ewing had a double double with 13 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Continue reading →

On This Date: Don Nelson wins his first game as the coach of the Knicks

November 3rd 1995: Knicks win Don Nelson’s first game 106-100 in Detroit against the Pistons

Nelson employed a quirky and an extremely short rotation in the season opener. Hubert Davis, starting for the suspended Charles Oakley, surprisingly played the entire game, while leading the team with 21 points and made 5 three pointers. Both Derek Harper and newly-minted starter Anthony Mason played 42 and 44 minutes, respectively. Harper scored 20 points on 9-15 from the field and 2-5 from three. In the new role of point forward, Mason scored 18 points on 7-13 from the field and grabbed 13 rebounds and 5 assists. Continue reading →

On This Date: The Knicks acquire Tony Campbell

September 13th 1992: The New York Knicks acquire Tony Campbell

Fresh off Xavier McDaniel joining the Boston Celtics, The New York Knicks proceeded to fill the gaping hole at the small forward position when they acquired Tony Campbell from the Minnesota Timberwolves for a future 2nd round pick. Campbell previously played for coach Pat Riley during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers between 1987-89. Additionally, Campbell was also a native of New Jersey and got his wish to come play at home. Continue reading →

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 play their first NBA Finals game in MSG since 1973

June 12th 1994: The New York Knicks drop Game 3 of the 1994 NBA Finals, their first NBA Finals game in MSG since 1973

21 years after their last NBA championship, the New York Knicks returned to MSG to host the Houston Rockets in Game 3 after splitting the first 2 games in Houston. Unfortunately, the Knicks couldn’t protect their short-lived home court advantage and lost 93-89.

The Knicks fell behind early, trailing by as many as 16 points in the 1st half and even by 14 points in the 3rd quarter. The Knicks had to rely on one of their signature 4th quarter rallies to get back into the game and take the lead midway through the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, Sam Cassell proved to be a thorn on the Knicks’ side in Game 3. Cassell scored the last 7 Rockets points, including a go-ahead 3 point shot to give the Rockets a 89-88 lead.

Shortly after the 3, one of the most controversial calls occurred in the game. The refs called an offensive foul on Patrick Ewing after he set a “moving screen” on Vernon Maxwell to get John Starks open for a 3 point shot. After looking at multiple replays, I still can’t see the moving screen.

After the offensive foul, Cassell hit 2 more free throws to put the Rockets up 3. After John Starks missed a couple three point shots, Hakeem Olajuwon fouled him with less than 4 seconds left to put him on the line to shoot 2. Starks needed to make the first and miss the second FT. Starks followed the command, but Otis Thorpe grabbed the defensive rebound with 2.8 seconds remaining. Unfortunately, Starks committed an out-of-bounds foul and Cassell hit 2 more FTs to seal the victory.

For the Knicks, Derek Harper led the way with 21 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals on 9-15 from the field and 3-7 from three. Unfortunately, neither John Starks nor Patrick Ewing got into any consistent offensive rhythm. Ewing struggled from the field with 18 points, on 9-29 from the field, 13 rebounds, and 7 blocked shots. Hakeem Olajuwon’s defense proved to be too much for Ewing in Game 3. Starks scored 20 on 6-16 from the field. Hakeem had a near quadruple double with 21 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 7 blocked shots.

On This Date: Knicks defeat Pacers in Game 2 of the 1994 ECF

May 26th 1994: The New York Knicks defeat the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals

The New York Knicks handled their business at home in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pacers. The Knicks defeated the Pacers 89-78 in Game 2. Patrick Ewing scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 45 minutes. Derek Harper had an all-around effort with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists. The Knicks, up 2-0, remained undefeated at home in the playoffs heading into Indiana.

Their home winning streak was in jeopardy with around 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter as the Knicks were down 62-57. The Knicks, however, went on an 18-2 run to leap ahead by 11 with less than 8 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. The run put the Knicks up for good.

On This Date: Derek Harper/Jo Jo English Brawl

May 13th 1994: The Derek Harper/Jo Jo English Fight

Derek Harper entered into Knick folklore after wrestling with Jo Jo English in the 2nd quarter of Game 3 against the Chicago Bulls. After confronting each other at the three point line, the fight escalated into the stands starting an all-out brawl. The fight itself was right in front of NBA Commissioner David Stern, who predictably was shocked at what he was witnessing. Both benches cleared to breakup the fight, leading to separate tussles between players, including John Starks, and the security guards.

The Knicks ultimately lost Game 3 104-102. As for the repercussions, the NBA suspended Harper 2 games and English 1 game for their role in the brawl. The NBA fined more than 8 players on each team, outside of Harper & English, for leaving the bench in the altercation. Beginning in the next season, the NBA began to enforce 1 game suspensions for any player who leaves the bench during an altercation. This rule was provoked largely due to this fight and the infamous Greg Anthony/Suns brawl. Unfortunately for the Knicks, this rule change would come to bite them in the 1997 playoffs against the Miami Heat.

 

On This Date: 20-0 Run helps the Knicks sink the Cavaliers in Game 1

April 25th 1996: Knicks go on a 20-0 run in the 4th quarter to sink the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Through the first 3 quarters, the Cavaliers & Knicks were stuck in a tight battle. But with 9 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter and the Cavs up 75-74, Patrick Ewing hit a jumper in the lane to begin a 20-0 run. The run put the Knicks up 94-75 and they cruised to a 106-83 blowout victory.

The fun was facilitated by some ridiculous ball movement. The Knicks had 32 assists with only 4 turnovers. 3 Knicks had 7 assists, including Anthony Mason (10 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists), John Starks (21 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists), and Derek Harper (12 points, 7 assists). Ewing led the way with 23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocked shots.

The Cavaliers’ constant double teaming facilitated the ball movement. Hubert Davis (5 three pointers made, 4 in the 4th quarter) and John Starks (6 three pointers) were recipients of the great passing. Starks & Davis helped lead the Knicks to a team playoff record of 17 three pointers made.

 

On This Date: Starks hits 8 threes to shock the Indiana Pacers

January 10, 1995:  John Starks ties a then-team record with 8 three-pointers to beat the Indiana Pacers

In the first game since the contentious 1994 Eastern Conference Finals matchup, John Starks tied a then-team record with 8 three-pointers made to stun Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers by a score of 117-105. Starks led the Knicks with 31 points and hit 8-11 from downtown and 10-16 overall from the field.

The Knicks frazzled the Pacers with their offensive firepower, shooting 61.8% from the field and dishing out 32 assists. Patrick Ewing scored 19 points on 9-21 shooting, but had a season-high 7 assists. Derek Harper had a double double with 16 points and 13 assists.

Charles Smith added 19 points. He had a small skirmish with Reggie Miller that nearly spilled into the locker room. With 2.3 seconds left in regulation, both players collided into the lane and received double technicals after exchanging words. After the game, Reggie tried to approach Smith in the locker room, but teammates held him back before doing so.

More importantly, Starks broke out of a slump with his offensive performance. After making the 1994 All Star team and posting career-high numbers, his offensive numbers took a dip that must have carried over from his infamous Game 7 performance in the 1994 NBA Finals. Starks had a slight drop in performance during the 1994-95 season, shooting 39.5% from the floor and averaging 15.3 points/game.

However, Starks became a more proficient three-point shooter, as evidenced by his output in this game. Starks averaged 2.7 threes/game for a total of 217 three pointers made, the first player to make 200 threes in the NBA. In the current pace-and-space era of the NBA where three pointers are shot at high volumes, this feat is quite remarkable.

 

On This Date: Knicks acquire Derek Harper

January 6, 1994: The New York Knicks acquire Derek Harper

With Doc Rivers out for the remainder of the season with a torn left ACL, the Knicks acquired Derek Harper from the Dallas Mavericks for Tony Campbell and a 1997 1st Round Draft Pick (John Thomas).

Rivers’ injury threatened to derail the Knicks’ strong start to the season and quickly end their championship hopes. Acquiring Harper gave the Knicks a defensive-minded point guard who brought a veteran presence to the team. Harper averaged 8.6 points/game, 4.4 assists/game, and 1.5 steals/game with the Knicks during the 1993-94 season.

Harper initially came off the bench with the Knicks, while Greg Anthony remained the starting point guard. He eventually replaced Anthony as the starting point guard in March. Harper’s presence helped the Knicks reach the NBA Finals for the first time since they won the championship in 1973. He remained with the Knicks for two more seasons before returning to the Mavericks for the 1996-97 season.