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.

 

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.

For the Grizzlies, former Knick Greg Anthony led the team with 18 points and 7 assists. Former Laker Byron Scott came off the bench to score 10 points. Their top draft pick, Bryant “Big Country” Reeves, scored  5 points in 10 minutes.

In addition to the Grizzlies, the Toronto Raptors also joined the NBA and also participated in the expansion draft.  Teams could protect 8 players who were under contract or restricted free agents.  Neither team could select any unrestricted free agents.  However, no team could lose more than one player in the expansion draft.  The Knicks protected Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Derek Harper, John Starks, Charlie Ward, Charles Smith, Monty Williams, & Charlie Ward.

The Knicks consequently left Greg Anthony, Doug Christie, Herb Williams unprotected in the expansion draft.  For Greg Anthony, the team drafted Charlie Ward in the previous season and made Anthony expendable.  While Christie was a promising player, the Knicks thought Charlie Ward & Monty Williams had more potential.

Greg Anthony was the Grizzlies’ 1st pick and spent the next two seasons with the Grizzlies before jumping around the league with the Supersonics & Grizzlies, amongst notable teams.

Additionally, the Grizzlies hired former Knicks coach Stu Jackson to be the general manager.  Jackson lasted 5 seasons before accepting a position within the NBA league offices.  Jackson’s notable transactions included drafting Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Mike Bibby, & Steve Francis (who eventually forced a trade to the Rockets).

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.

In a foreshadowing of things to come, Patrick Ewing’s role was slightly reduced in favor of Mason. Ewing ended up with 19 points in 34 minutes, but only grabbed 4 rebounds and largely felt out of place away from the post.

Don Nelson came into the season with a mindset that the culture and system built in the Riley era was not sustainable. He felt a need to modernize the system and get younger in order to compete with the rising superstars of the NBA (e.g. Shaq, Chris Webber, Alonzo Mourning, etc.).  He believed that building an offense around a 33-year-old Ewing wasn’t enough and that the offense was better suited utilizing Anthony Mason as a point forward.

Shifting the offense away from Ewing and later benching John Starks marked the nail in the coffin for Nelson. Despite starting the season 18-6, the Knicks went through a prolonged slump and the combination of both factors led to his firing in March 1996, despite a record of 34-25.  The 59 games marked the shortest tenure ever for a Knick head coach.