On This Date: The Knicks sign Ernie Grunfeld

September 10th 1982: The New York Knicks sign Ernie Grunfeld

The New York Knicks signed Ernie Grunfeld to a contract on this date. Grunfeld reunited with his former college teammate Bernard King.1 Grunfeld backed up King at the small forward for most of his tenure with the Knicks. Grunfeld spent his final season in the NBA alongside then-rookie Patrick Ewing.

After his NBA career ended, Grunfeld remained within the Knicks organization in various capacities. He first became the Knicks radio analyst for the MSG network between 1986-89. He then transitioned into an assistant coach on Stu Jackson’s bench (alongside future head coach Jeff Van Gundy) before moving up to the front office in the 1990-91 season.

He remained in the front office after the Knicks hired Dave Checketts in 1991. He eventually became the Knicks GM in 1993. During his tenure within the front office, the Knicks were perennial playoff contenders, including two NBA Finals runs in both 1994 and 1999.

However, the Grunfeld’s tenure with the Knicks took a turn for the worse with the 1998-99 lockout season. His long-simmering feud with Jeff Van Gundy came to a boil throughout the season. Van Gundy wasn’t happy with the departure of team veterans Charles Oakley & John Starks. Grunfeld acquired Marcus Camby & Latrell Sprewell before the season in the aftermath of the 1998 NBA Playoffs. Both the Indiana Pacers & Miami Heat showed Grunfeld that the Knicks needed to get more athletic at all positions in order to help Ewing get one more Finals run. Clearly, Van Gundy thought otherwise.

As expected, the 1998-99 lockout season got off on a rough note. Grunfeld & Van Gundy publicly disagreed on playing time with regards to Camby & Sprewell. Their feud became public as the team struggled to win games. Their disputes funneled into the press as each faction (Grunfeld, Van Gundy) used the various beat reporters (NY Times, NY Post, NY Daily News) to air their frustrations with each other.2

The disagreements angered and frustrated the new Knicks ownership. Then-vice chairman James Dolan & the late Marc Lustgarten gave Checketts an ultimatum to fire one of Grunfeld or Van Gundy. Checketts kept Van Gundy and Grunfeld’s time as a Knick executive ended.

Grunfeld immediately became the new Milwaukee Bucks GM for the 1999-2000 season. The Bucks made the playoffs for 3 of the 4 seasons under Grunfeld’s watch. They went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001, losing to the Philadelphia 76ers. Unfortunately, Grunfeld couldn’t propel the Bucks into a Finals contender and thus was let go after the 2002-03 season.

Grunfeld became the GM of the Washington Wizards beginning in 2003. He remained with the team until 2019. His tenure as Wizards GM was highly controversial. Despite various splashes over the years (Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, John Wall, Bradley Beal, etc.), the team was largely mediocre during the Grunfeld era. His teams never propelled past the 2nd round of the NBA playoffs during his first 5 years as GM. Afterwards, there was a long spell of rebuilding between the end of the Gilbert Arenas era that ushered in a new core of John Wall, Bradley Beal, & Otto Porter.

Unfortunately, poor draft picks (Jan Vesely), general negligence of draft picks, and bad contracts (Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson) ruined the future of the new core. Grunfeld could never build a team around Wall & Beal that would help them reach the Eastern Conference Finals. The beginning of the end was the supermax given to John Wall. After John Wall’s devastating injury during the 2018-19 season, the Wizards went on a rebuilding mode. Out went Otto Porter and ultimately the Wizards finally fired Grunfeld after the season ended. For many Wizards fans, it was a long time coming.

 

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: The New York Knicks hire Don Nelson

July 6th 1995: The New York Knicks hire Don Nelson as their next head coach

Weeks after Pat Riley abruptly resigned, the Knicks went ahead to hire Don Nelson as their next head coach. Nelson came off a campaign where he resigned from the Warriors mid-season after starting the year 14-31. He spent much of the 1993-94 season embroiled in a conflict with their #1 pick Chris Webber.

Nelson sought to bring an uptempo pace to a Knick roster largely built in their halfcourt motions. The match was basically doomed from the start. Although starting the season on a high note, the Knicks hit a rough patch after the New Year. Tensions arose between Nelson, Patrick Ewing & John Starks.

Nelson de-emphasized Ewing’s role in the offense and made Anthony Mason the focal point. Although Mason had a then-career year with the Knicks showcasing his point forward abilities, Ewing was frustrated with his role on offense. Additionally, Nelson reduced Starks’ playing time for Hubert Davis.

The climax occurred when word got out that Nelson wanted the Knicks to trade Ewing in order to pursue Shaquille O’Neal in free agency. This point marked the beginning of the end of his coaching tenure with the organization.

The Knicks fired Nelson midseason after posting a 34-25 record. The conflicts proved to be too much to overcome. The Knicks appointed Jeff Van Gundy as the interim head coach. Van Gundy remained the head coach through the 2001-02 season. Additionally, Van Gundy retained Don Chaney, an original Nelson assistant, as his main assistant coach. Chaney took over as head coach in 2001 after Van Gundy abruptly resigned.

In hindsight, Nelson sought to implement a modern offense that teams would eventually replicate. However, the older personnel on the roster were not equipped to run his offense at the time.

On This Date: Hakeem Olajuwon blocks John Starks’ potential game-winning 3 to force a Game 7

June 19th 1994: Hakeem Olajuwon blocks John Starks’ three point shot to force a pivotal Game 7

The New York Knicks were one three point shot away from winning the 1994 NBA Finals. Well, maybe it wasn’t that close, but it sure felt like it for Knicks fan. With the Knicks down 86-84 and 5.5 seconds remaining, Pat Riley drew up a play for John Starks. Starks was the hottest Knick player in Game 6 with 27 points on 9-17 from the field and 5-9 from three. Ewing set a screen for Starks to drive to the left side of the court. Unfortunately, Hakeem Olajuwon switched onto Starks. As Starks put up the potentially title-winning three point shot, Hakeem blocked the shot and the Rockets defeated the Knicks 86-84 to tie the series and force the pivotal Game 7 in Houston.

There are so many what-if moments tied back to this game. Had Hakeem not blocked the shot, it seemed that Starks would have made the three. Starks was the most productive Knick during the game and deserved the final opportunity to win the series. Unfortunately, this loss and missed shot carried onto Game 7 with his 2-18 performance.

On This Date: The OJ Game

June 17th 1994: The New York Knicks win Game 5, but the game was overshadowed by the infamous OJ Simpson car chase

The New York Knicks defeated the Houston Rockets 91-84 to take a 3-2 series lead. Patrick Ewing had another dominant performance with 25 points, 12 rebounds, and a then-NBA Finals record 8 blocked shots.3 John Starks had 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists on 7-14 from the field.

For as amazing as the victory was for the Knicks, the game was largely overshadowed by the OJ Simpson car chase. The white Ford Bronco driving up I-5 on a slow chase from the cops. Helicopters overlooking the Bronco as it sped by police officers. Most of the NBC affiliate stations put the game on split-screen to show the car chase live. For most fans, the audio of the NBC news coverage was front and center while the game was on the side. KNBC in Los Angeles didn’t even put the game on TV and just focused its attention on the chase.

Most people know the background behind the OJ Simpson murder case, so it’s not necessary to rehash here. According to Jeff Van Gundy, Al Cowlings, the driver of the Ford Bronco, allegedly drove the car slow along I-5 to listen to the NBA Finals on radio. Additionally, because of the OJ car chase, we also missed Anthony Mason & Hakeem Olajuwon nearly coming to blows.

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 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: The Dunk

May 25th 1993: “The Dunk” is ingrained in Knicks folklore

Is there much more to say about The Dunk? For many fans older than me, this moment was an unforgettable memory of their Knicks fandom. When Knicks fans think of John Starks, they picture The Dunk. For many years, the MSG Network intro to their regular season broadcasts included a clip of The Dunk. It’s an unforgettable moment.

In the final minute of a Game 2 victory against the Chicago Bulls, Starks drove past BJ Armstrong for the iconic left handed dunk over Horace Grant and with Michael Jordan steps away. The crowd immediately went into a deafening uproar after the dunk.

In a sad way, the Dunk was supposed to represent a tide turning moment for the Knicks. It was the exclamation point to a commanding 2-0 series lead. Perhaps it was a sign that the Knicks would only be 2 games away from an NBA Finals run. However, the Chicago Bulls treated the dunk as motivation to win the next 4 games on the way to their first 3-peat.

On This Date: Ewing & Starks lead the Knicks past the Bulls in Game 1 of the 1993 ECF

May 23rd 1993: Patrick Ewing & John Starks score 25 points each to lead the Knicks past the Bulls in Game 1 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals

Patrick Ewing & John Starks scored 25 points each to help the Knicks defeat the Bulls 98-90 in Game 1 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals. Ewing also grabbed 17 rebounds and had 2 steals & 2 blocked shots in 44 minutes. Starks scored 25 on 5-7 from the three point arc and had 4 assists & 2 steals. The Knicks outscored the Bulls 43-29 in the final 19 minutes of the game after the Bulls established a 4 point lead at halftime.

The Knicks had the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the 1993 NBA Playoffs. The Knicks started the series with home court advantage and had a prime opportunity to prevent a Bulls’ three-peat after taking a 2-0 series lead. Unfortunately, the Knicks blew the 2-0 lead and the Bulls went on to secure the three-peat.

On This Date: Knicks/Heat Fight Round 1: Charlie Ward & PJ Brown

May 14th 1997: Knicks/Heat Fight Round 1: Charlie Ward vs. PJ Brown

In the waning moments of a disappointing Game 5 loss against the Miami Heat, Charlie Ward & PJ Brown got into a nasty fight after trying to gain position for a rebound on the free throw line. After Tim Hardaway Sr hit the free throw, Ward rammed into PJ Brown trying to box out and Brown suplexed him to begin the melee. The fight ensued behind the baseline as coach Jeff Van Gundy & the various garbage time players on the floor, including John Wallace, attempted to separate the players.

Not learning the lessons from the 1994 NBA Playoffs, Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Larry Johnson, and Allan Houston all left the bench area to break up the fight. As a result, each of the 4 players were suspended one game each along with Charlie Ward. The NBA suspended PJ Brown 2 games for his role in the brawl.

With the multitude of suspensions, the NBA decided to stagger the suspensions, by last name order, over both Game 6 and 7. Ewing, Houston, & Ward were out for Game 6 and Johnson & Starks were out for Game 7. Although the Knicks were leading 3-2 in the series, the suspensions left the team severely undermanned. The Knicks lost both Games 6 and 7.

Before Game 6, the Knicks filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York to order a stay on the suspensions, arguing that the punishment should be determined in arbitration. The NBA Players Union sided with the Knicks alleging that the rule itself was never approved by the players in the collective bargaining agreement. On game day, the SDNY ruled in favor of the NBA arguing that the rule was plain and clear and within the rights of the league office.

The biggest “what-if” moment was determining how far the team would go into the NBA Playoffs. Had there been no suspensions, the Knicks most likely defeat the Heat and face off against the Chicago Bulls once again. The Bulls easily defeated the Heat in 5 games, but maybe the “new” Knick core of Ewing, Houston, & Larry Johnson provide a better fight.


May 14th 2003: Dave DeBusschere passed away

Dave DeBusschere passed away at the age of 63 after collapsing due to a heart attack. DeBusschere spent 6 seasons with the Knicks and won 2 championships. He was an 8 time All-Star and 6 time honoree of the All-Defensive Team. The Knicks retired his #22 and the NBA subsequently inducted him as one of the 50 Greatest Players in 1996. He was also inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.

He also served in the Knicks front office and was responsible for drafting Patrick Ewing.

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: Knicks sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers

May 1st 1996: The New York Knicks sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1st round of the 1996 NBA Playoffs

Just like old time’s sake, the duo of Patrick Ewing & John Starks help lead the way for the Knicks to handily sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers 81-76 in the first round of the 1996 NBA Playoffs. Ewing had a double double with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. Starks led the Knicks with 22 points and shot 5-7 from the three point stripe.

Unlike their previous playoff matchups in the Riley era, the Knicks began the series on the road due to the Cavaliers winning the regular season tiebreaker. However, the series proved to be easy for the Knicks. Throughout the playoffs, the Knicks also wore their new alternate road uniforms with the darker blue uniforms with black panels trimmed in orange. Those uniforms became the Knicks primary road jerseys in the 1997-98 season.

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: 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: Knicks-Suns Brawl

March 23rd 1993: Knicks and Suns brawl

The Knicks got involved in one of the more infamous brawls in team history in a tussle against the Phoenix Suns. The tensions began between both Doc Rivers & Kevin Johnson. As the 2nd quarter wound down, KJ began to pressure Doc on an inbounds pass. KJ drew an offensive foul before the pass and both players confronted one another. Both benches cleared, but there were only offsetting technical fouls and no punches thrown. Pat Riley held John Starks back as he had a few words for Danny Ainge.

On the next play, KJ had the ball in his hands, but Doc drew a charge as he was driving into the lane. With 5 seconds left in the half, Doc had the ball for the final play. Doc drove past half court as Ainge guarded him. While he handed the ball off to Starks, KJ bulldozed into him to to end the half and the brawl began.

Doc steamrolled towards KJ and began to throw punches. None of the punches connected however. Ainge & Mason also got entangled in the scuffle. Both benches heavily cleared. The coaches thought they resolved everything temporarily until Greg Anthony showed up.

Anthony, dressed in the ever-so-typical 90s streetwear due to injury, sucker punched Kevin Johnson to reignite the brawl. More shoves were thrown and it got extremely ugly. Eventually, KJ, Ainge, Doc, Anthony, Starks, and Mase were ejected.

Unfortunately, the repercussions after the game hit the Knicks hard and forever altered the NBA’s treatment of altercations. The NBA suspended Doc & KJ for 2 games each, but decided to suspend Greg Anthony for the rest of the season for re-instigating the brawl. The NBA additionally fined 21 players for a combined $160,000, a then record at the time.

The league significantly changed the rules for addressing fights after the season. Players that threw a punch would automatically be ejected and suspended for a minimum of 1 game. Additionally, any player who leaves the bench during an altercation would be suspended for 1 game. The latter rule came to hurt the Knicks several times, including their infamous 1997 playoff matchup with the Miami Heat.

For Greg Anthony, this turned out to be one of the most famous moments in his NBA career.

On This Date: Knicks broke team record for most 3s made in a game

March 17th 2011: Knicks set record for most threes made in a game

On St. Patrick’s Day 2011, the Knicks broke a team record with 20 three pointers made in a 120-99 blowout victory against the Memphis Grizzlies at MSG. Leading the way for the Knicks was Toney Douglas, who led the Knicks with 29 points and 9 three pointers made. The 9 threes tied John Starks & Latrell Sprewell for most threes made in a game. JR Smith eventually broke the record 3 years later with 10 three pointers made.

The 20 team three pointers made broke the record of 19 set in the 2008-09 season ironically against the Memphis Grizzlies on the road. It’s not a coincidence that Mike D’Antoni coached both those teams as the Knicks emphasized high paced scoring and high volume threes.

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the Knicks wore green uniforms. The team eventually discontinued those uniforms after the 2011-12 season.

On This Date: Knicks fire Don Nelson and promote Jeff Van Gundy to head coach

March 8th 1996:  The New York Knicks fire Don Nelson and appoint Jeff Van Gundy as the new head coach

In one of the shortest head coaching tenures in modern NBA history, the Knicks fired Don Nelson after only 59 games despite a 34-25 record with the team. Unlike the Golden State Warriors, where Nelson feuded with Chris Webber, the entire team had issues with Nelson. Nelson favored a modern up-tempo style of basketball while the players wanted more of the same under the Pat Riley era. He centered the offense around Anthony Mason and unleashed his skills as a point-forward to the disdain of Patrick Ewing. Ewing obviously favored centering the offense from the low post. In the weeks leading up to his firing, Nelson benched John Starks and had Hubert Davis replace him in the 4th quarters of games.

The final straw was when Nelson stated – off the record with people in Madison Square Garden – that the Knicks had to move on from Patrick Ewing and try to trade him to Orlando for Shaquille O’Neal. The word caught back to Ewing and the relationship was toast. The core Knicks – led by Ewing – sparked a mini-insurrection until Ernie Grunfeld fired Nelson.

In reality, the Knicks roster were insistent on maintaining the status quo and the style of offense and defense that thrived under Pat Riley. Nelson wanted to implement a modern, but eccentric approach to basketball that an old veteran team was not willing to accept. Some of his initial philosophies, including using Anthony Mason as a point forward, have been incorporated in today’s modern NBA.

Jeff Van Gundy replaced Nelson as the interim head coach. Van Gundy, then 34, stuck around as an assistant coach dating back to the Stu Jackson era. His offensive and defensive philosophies were largely influenced from the Riley era. He centered the offense back around Ewing and re-emphasized defense. The Jeff Van Gundy Knicks personified tough defense while often sacrificing high scoring outputs on offense.

Furthermore, Van Gundy inherited assistant coach Don Chaney from Nelson’s coaching staff to be his full-time assistant coach until his resignation in 2001. During his tenure with the Knicks, he played a role in developing 3 assistant coaches that eventually became NBA head coaches in Tom Thibodeau, Steve Clifford, and Mike Malone.

On This Date: Knicks defense stifles Clippers

March 5th 1992: The New York Knicks’ defense stifles the Los Angeles Clippers in MSG

When Pat Riley arrived in New York, his main goal was to bring the Detroit Bad Boys defensive culture to Madison Square Garden. The same style of basketball that stymied both the Chicago Bulls and Riley’s Lakers. Gone was the Showtime fast break styled offense trademarked in Los Angeles and in came a tough grind-it-out style of basketball personified by defense.

On this date, the Knicks used that newly formed defensive mantra to stop the Los Angeles Clippers 101-91. Patrick Ewing led the Knicks with a double double and had 31 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Additionally, Mark Jackson had a double double with 18 points and 16 assists.

It was the Knicks defense in the 4th quarter that sealed the victory. The Knicks held the Clippers to only 11 points in the quarter including a scoreless stretch of 4 minutes and 27 seconds. Riley went with a 5 man unit of Ewing, Jackson, Anthony Mason, John Starks, and Kiki Vandeweghe over the remaining 8 minutes of the game. For Mark Jackson, it was equally impressive as Pat Riley often put him to the task to become a better defensive point guard.

The win marked the 4th straight game the Knicks held an opponent to under 100 points.

On This Date: Terry Cummings scores 18 to help the Knicks defeat the Bucks

February 26th 1998: Terry Cummings scores 18 to lead the Knicks to victory

With a myriad of injuries in the frontcourt, the Knicks relied on newly acquired Terry Cummings to help propel the Knicks to a 102-90 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. Cummings came off the bench to score 18 points in 22 minutes.

The Knicks acquired Cummings, the 1983 NBA Rookie of the Year, from the Philadelphia 76ers for Ron Grandison & Herb Williams.2 Neither player played meaningful minutes for the Knicks before the trade.

With Patrick Ewing sidelined with a broken wrist, the Knicks relied on a diverse group of players to fill his minutes. Chris Dudley was the only traditional center on the roster that received a bulk of the starts. In the instance the team played small, the then-38 year old Buck Williams and Chris Mills received a chunk of minutes.

With Buck Williams sidelined until April due to arthroscopic knee injury, the Knicks acquired Cummings to reinforce the frontcourt depth. While a devastating knee injury zapped Cummings of most of his athleticism and scoring prowess, he could still be relied on for playing adequate defense and making the mid-range jump shot. At 37 years old, he was also another elder statesman in the Knick frontcourt.

After the Indiana Pacers exposed the Knicks’ overall age in the 1998 NBA Playoffs, the team shipping Cummings, along with John Starks and Chris Mills, to the Warriors shortly before the 1998-99 season for Latrell Sprewell.

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: 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.

 

Watch: John Starks and Larry Johnson visit Katz’s Deli

Larry Johnson and John Starks recently were at the iconic Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side, for the creation of a new Knicks sandwich. The episode of “Unfiltered Knicks” with the two former Knicks and the owner of Katz’s will be airing this Monday (December 3) after the Knicks game on MSG Networks, timed to Hanukkah Night at the Garden that evening.

“We’ve been here for 130 years. In many ways, we are the quintessential New York deli and the Knicks are the quintessential New York basketball team. We go together like peanut butter & jelly.”

Katz’s Owner Jake Dell

On This Date: Knicks beat Warriors and Sprewell returns to face old team

November 20, 1999: The New York Knicks get a 86-79 victory in Golden State in a game that marked Latrell Sprewell’s return to Oakland and John Starks’ first matchup against the Knicks

Two years after Latrell Sprewell infamously chocked his coach in practice, he returned to Oakland for the first time wearing a New York Knicks uniform. In Sprewell’s return, he posted 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in 39 minutes in an 86-79 Knicks win.

John Starks, in his first matchup against his former team2, had a Starks-ian line with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals in 30 minutes. Chris Mills & Terry Cummings, the other former Knicks included in the trade that brought Sprewell to New York, scored 17 and 10 points, respectively.

For Sprewell, this was a highly anticipated matchup against his former coach PJ Carlesimo, who he attacked in practice. The choke seen around the world 2 led to a year-long suspension and eventual trade to the New York Knicks.

Despite the choking incident, the Sprewell trade worked out very well for the Knicks. While Jeff Van Gundy’s plodding offensive system prevented Sprewell from exceeding 20 points a game, he was a fearless scorer that added much needed athleticism to an aging roster and brought the same level of defensive intensity that personified the Knicks teams of the 90s.  His clutch play in the 1999 playoffs resonate with Knick fans to this date.

 

 

On This Date: Ewing scores 44 to lead Knicks to win in Cleveland

November 7th 1993: Ewing scores 44 points to lead the Knicks to an 115-107 overtime win in Cleveland

Ewing won the battle against the former #1 pick (1986) Brad Daugherty with 44 points and 10 rebounds in 43 minutes. Daugherty led the Cavs with 26 points and 11 rebounds in 45 minutes.  Danny Ferry had 21 points for the Cavs while Mark Price scored 19 points and 12 assists.

Charles Oakley nearly had a 20-20 effort with 19 points and 22 rebounds. Doc Rivers led the team with 11 assists. 

After the Knicks exited the 1st half down 11, the team made a mounted comeback in the 3rd quarter to cut the lead to 2.  Despite shooting 2-13 from the field, John Starks hit the game-tying three to force the game to overtime.

The Knicks controlled the game in overtime and their defense held the Cavs scoreless in the final 4 minutes.

On This Date: Knicks begin post-Mark Jackson era with win

November 6, 1992: Knicks open 1992-1993 season with 106-94 win on the road against the Atlanta Hawks

Patrick Ewing led the Knicks with a double-double, scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. The trio of  Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, & John Starks each scored in double figures with 15, 10, & 18 points, respectively.  

More importantly, this game marked life in the post-Mark Jackson era. Right before the end of the offseason, the Knicks traded Mark Jackson in a three-way trade with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Clippers for Doc Rivers & Charles Smith.

For the Knicks, their plan was clear: make and win the NBA finals in Ewing’s prime.

This trade helped provide the Knicks with the necessary reinforcements to surround their franchise player. While Mark Jackson had a solid 1991-92 season, Doc Rivers provided the necessary veteran leadership at the point guard position. Additionally, Charles Smith, before being infamously known for the missed layups, was a former 20 point scorer that provided length and the ability to block shots at either forward position. More importantly, Smith helped fill a void once Xavier McDaniel left for the Boston Celtics in free agency.

Additionally, the Knicks also let Kiki Vandeweghe and Gerald Wilkins go after the end of the previous season. The team replaced both players by trading for both Rolando Blackman and Tony Campbell. Both players provided the necessary veteran presence at the guard and small forward positions respectively.

For Doc Rivers, this game was also important because it marked his return against his former team. Rivers ended the game only scoring 8 points, but did dish out 6 assists.  

Tony Campbell slotted into the vacated small forward position and scored 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in his debut. Charles Smith came off the bench to score 8 points in 8 minutes.