August 2nd 2005: The New York Knicks sign Jerome James
In one of the most questionable moves of Isiah Thomas’ Knicks tenure, the New York Knicks signed Jerome James to a 5 year contract worth nearly $30 million. Isiah felt the need to offer James a contract after a solid performance in the 2005 NBA Playoffs with the Seattle Supersonics.
James was slated to split center minutes with rookie Channing Frye. However, Isiah doubled down on centers by acquiring Eddy Curry in a sign and trade that nearly crippled the franchise during the mid 2000s.
James appeared in his first Knicks training camp out of shape. Coach Larry Brown admonished him to get into playing shape and suspended him at a point for not being ready to play. Throughout the duration of his Knicks tenure, he seemed to make a lot more money than minutes played.
James played a combined 86 games during his first 2 seasons, but totaled only 679 minutes in 19 starts. He nearly made more than $17,000 per minute played during that stretch. The final 2 years were laughable as James played only 4 more games and 15 minutes in total with the Knicks while earning another $12 million in the process.
GM Donnie Walsh attempted to negotiate a buyout with James, but couldn’t come to terms to a settlement. Instead, the Knicks traded James’ contract to the Bulls to acquire Larry Hughes. James never played a game in the NBA after the trade.
Isiah Thomas later admitted in 2011 that signing James was a mistake. However, he did originally think of him as an up-and-coming center. That thought alone is inexcusable.
March 11th 2009: Larry Hughes helps Knicks achieve back-to-back victories
Recently acquired Larry Hughes came through in the clutch for the Knicks on back-to-back nights in the middle of a 5 game road stretch. Hughes scored 39 points in the previous night against the Milwaukee Bucks and hit the go-ahead basket to seal the victory. On this night – against the Detroit Pistons – , Hughes drew a clutch foul against Rip Hamilton behind the 3 point arc before the end of regulation. Hughes hit all three FTs to tie the game and send it to overtime. The Knicks defeated the Pistons in overtime 116-111. Hughes scored 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists in the victory.
The Knicks acquired Hughes at the trade deadline for Tim Thomas, Anthony Roberson, and the ever disappointing Jerome James. From a cap perspective, the trade didn’t change anything other than help the team acquire a veteran guard to provide additional depth on the team. Hughes remained with the team until the 2010 Trade Deadline where Hughes was sent to the Kings in the infamous 3-team Tracy McGrady deal.
November 13, 2005: Larry Brown finally leads Knicks to his first victory as head coach with a 105-95 victory in Sacramento
Larry Brown won his first game as Knicks head coach after an 0-5 start. Rookie Channing Frye led the Knicks with 19 points and 6 rebounds off the bench. Stephon Marbury led the team with 39 minutes played, resulting in 17 points and 7 assists.
Larry Brown signed a 5 year $50 million contract to coach the Knicks after leading the Pistons to consecutive NBA Finals berths. Despite the excitement and high expectations, chaos marred the team to start the season. Through six games, Brown changed the starting lineup three times, played 11 or 12 players every game, and gave many of the players’ unpredictable minutes.
Additionally, Nate Robinson sparred with Jerome James (height difference of 16 inches) during a team practice before the West Coast trip.
Despite the win, the season ultimately became a public embarrassment for the organization and fans alike. Brown’s tendencies to shake up rotations and publicly admonishing his players created unnecessary distractions for the team. Furthermore, in-fighting between players and coaches only created a corrosive environment not suitable for the rookies or veterans alike.
The lack of a semblance of a team led to a 23-59 record and Brown was ultimately fired at the end of the year with more than $40 million remaining on his contract.