On This Date: Knicks end up with the 4th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft

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May 19th 2015: Knicks end up with the 4th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft

After ending up with the 2nd worst record overall in the 2014-15 season, the worst record in franchise history, and only 1/2 game ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the NBA Draft gods decided not to be nice and gave the Knicks the 4th overall pick in the NBA Draft. The crowd immediately showed disgust after deputy commissioner Mark Tatum displayed the Knicks envelope.

Immediately after the pick, Steve Mills showed a sign of disgust after realizing the team would be out of the Karl Anthony Towns sweepstakes. The Knicks did a relatively outstanding job shifting into rebuild mode early in January after their terrible start to the season. Out were JR Smith & Iman Shumpert and in came extended minutes for both Lance Thomas & Lou Amundson.

Unfortunately, a few too many clutch baskets from Tim Hardaway Jr. & Langston Galloway helped the Knicks avoid the worst record in the NBA. On the bright side, the Knicks drafted Kristaps Porzingis and the rest is history.

On This Date: Knicks fire Derek Fisher

February 8th 2016: The New York Knicks fire Derek Fisher

After compiling a 40-96 record as head coach, the Knicks fired Derek Fisher on this date in 2016. Fisher was only in the middle of his second season in a 5-year contract. Despite having a limited roster for much of the 2014-15 season, Fisher rebounded to help the Knicks reach a 22-22 record to start the 2015-16 season. However, things seemed to unravel quickly afterwards losing 9 of the next 10 games.

The trio of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and Lance Thomas (yes, Lance Thomas) helped the Knicks stay at .500 until January. However, Melo’s ankle injury against the Celtics in the middle of January sidelined him for the next several games. Lance Thomas, who provided solid defense and three-point shooting, was sidelined for three games during that losing stretch.

However, it was a combination of various on-court and off-court issues that plagued Fisher’s 2015-16 season, and Knicks tenure as a whole. Fisher started the season on a rough note with the Matt Barnes controversy. Additionally, his offensive and defensive schemes left a lot to be desired. Fisher seemed committed to running the triangle offense upon being hired, but would never fully implement, coach, and execute its various intricacies. Additionally, he even began to waver from running the offense and integrated a pseudo system that had no identity or rhythm. Defensively, the Knicks continued to get torched on the pick-and-roll. The team often employed their big men to drop back to the rim allowing open layup lines.

The icing on the cake were two peculiar comments made off the court. Fisher mentioned on the Michael Kay show that he wouldn’t be disappointed if the team didn’t make the playoffs. This statement was surprising because the Knicks had a veteran-laden team and no draft picks in 2016. Additionally, he took a minor shot at impending free agent Rajon Rondo when the latter mentioned his displeasure about playing in the triangle offense.

Ultimately, Fisher’s inexperience might not have been the best match for coaching in New York; he entered the coaching ranks fresh out of retirement.

On This Date: Knicks acquire Stephon Marbury, and eleven years later, trade away JR Smith

January 5, 2004: The New York Knicks acquire Stephon Marbury

In the first major transaction of the Isiah Thomas era, the Knicks acquired Stephon Marbury in a blockbuster trade with the Phoenix Suns. The trade included the following players/picks:

Suns Acquire:

Howard Eisley
Antonio McDyess
Maciej Lampe
Charlie Ward
Draft Rights to: Milos Vujanic
Knicks 2004 1st Round Pick (Kirk Synder)
Knicks 2010 1st Round Pick (Gordon Hayward)

Knicks Acquire:

Stephon Marbury
Penny Hardaway
Cezary Trybanksi

The trade brought Marbury near to where he grew up in Coney Island. Marbury always showed New York a lot of support and spent his summers playing in Rucker Park. He was a part of Fat Joe’s Terror Squad team and was supposed to play in the highly anticipated 2003 matchup against Jay-Z’s S. Carter team. Unfortunately, the game never happened because of the infamous Northeast blackout.1

From a basketball perspective, Marbury completely changed the composition of the team. For one, the Knicks finally found a star PG who was young (Marbury was 26 at the time of the end) and dynamic.

The Knicks were mired in mediocrity the previous few seasons due to a roster that lacked athleticism and youthful energy. Marbury immediately brought both into the fold. Isiah – a point guard himself – understood the importance of having a playmaker. He saw the Knicks manhandled by point guards such as Jason Kidd, Sam Cassell, and Jamal Crawford, and he knew a trade was necessary to reverse the fortunes of the team.

Penny Hardaway arrived in New York as a relic of his better days. He had a relatively productive first season with the Knicks as a bench player. Injuries sidelined him for most of the following two seasons before the team traded him to the Orlando Magic in 2006 for Steve Francis. Trybanski only played 3 games for the Knicks and the team traded him to the Bulls as part of the Jamal Crawford sign-and-trade.  

The trade, along with the Lenny Wilkens hire, amongst others, helped the Knicks win 39 games and make the playoffs as the 8th seed. Unfortunately, the playoff berth marked the high point of Marbury’s career. The culmination of losses, conflicts with coaches, and off-the-court scandals ruined Marbury’s tenure with the team. His support from the front office to fans to even beat reporters (Yes, Isola had a close relationship with him too) soured as his play suffered and his controversies represented his only highlights. The combination of the above led to his release in 2009.

In retrospect, the trade, at the time, was a necessary move to reverse the direction of the team. However, Isiah neglected to consider the importance of draft picks and roster construction around Marbury. The trade immediately added a significant amount of salary and restricted the Knicks from making any major moves in free agency. The Stephon Marbury era remains a disappointing moment in franchise history.


January 5, 2015: The JR Smith era ends

Phil Jackson continued the process to clean house by trading both JR Smith and Iman Shumpert in a three-way trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers & Oklahoma City Thunder. The Knicks received Lou Amundson, Lance Thomas, Alex Kirk, and the Cavs 2019 2nd round draft pick. JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and the OKC 2016 1st round pick (Furkan Korkmaz) went to the Cavaliers. Dion Waiters went to the Thunder in the trade.

The trade helped the Knicks clear additional salary cap space while removing the team of players that didn’t fit with their future plans. JR Smith never meshed in the triangle offense and was largely a malcontent during his years with the Knicks. Iman Shumpert was on the last year of his rookie deal and injuries mostly hampered his production on the team.

Contrary to public opinion at the time, Lou Amundson & Lance Thomas did play a role on the team. While Phil immediately cut all three players acquired, he re-signed Lou & Lance to successive 10-day contracts and eventually for the remainder of the season. For a 17-win team, both players brought a level of professionalism, toughness, and ability to run the team’s offense. With a lot of younger players on the roster, especially after the Carmelo Anthony injury, these traits were integral to the team.

Both players served as mentors to our rookies, particularly to Kristaps Porzingis & Frank Ntilikina. The Knicks rewarded Lance – a NY native – with a 4-year, $27 million extension in 2016. While he’s probably well overpaid, the Knicks valued the intangibles he brought to the team. The players in the locker room view him as the de facto captain and he’s served the role well so far.

On This Date: Carmelo Anthony scores 37 points and Kevin Durant makes his debut in MSG

December 12, 2015: Carmelo Anthony scores 37 points to beat the Portland Trailblazers and snap a 4 game losing streak

Carmelo Anthony went on a hot streak and scored a season high 37 points in a 112-110 victory in Portland against the Trailblazers. Melo scored 37 on a very efficient 13-21 from the field and 9-9 from the free throw line. He also had 6 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 blocked shots.

Melo scored 20 points in the 1st half, but was scoreless until the final minute of the game where he scored 6 points off free throws to seal the victory. Fellow New Yorkers Lance Thomas & Kyle O’Quinn scored a combined 13 points in the 4th quarter off the bench to help the Knicks overcome a 10 point deficit to win the game.

Entering the quarter with a 10 point deficit, the Knicks went on a 12-2 run to start the quarter to take the lead fueled by the bench. The bench scored 46 points in the game and helped the Knicks outscore the Blazers 36-24 in the 4th quarter. The contribution offset a scoreless performance from our rookie unicorn Kristaps Porzingis.

The win snapped the Knicks’ 4 game losing streak.


December 12, 2007: Kevin Durant makes his MSG Debut as part of the Seattle Supersonics

Kevin Durant made his first visit2 to Madison Square Garden special by scoring 30 points in a 117-110 victory against the New York Knicks. Durant scored 30 points on 11-20 from the field and was simply too much of a force for the Knicks to handle.

Former Knick Kurt Thomas had 9 points and 8 rebounds. The Sonics acquired Kurt in a trade with the Phoenix Suns in the offseason.  Future MSG Postgame color analyst Wally Szczerbiak came off the Sonics bench to score 12 points. The Sonics acquired Wally and Jeff Green in the Ray Allen trade.

For the Knicks, Jamal Crawford & Zach Randolph scored a combined 56 points. David Lee & Nate Robinson scored a combined 28 points off the bench, but the Sonics bench proved to be too much for the Knicks as they combined for 53 points.

This was the last game the Seattle Supersonics played in Madison Square Garden. After the season, the Sonics officially relocated to Oklahoma City and are now the OKC Thunder. The last visible memory of the Sonics was Russell Westbrook & Serge Ibaka flashing the stock jerseys during the 2008 NBA Draft.

Lance Thomas talks Frank, Fizdale, and sneaker drive with Alan Hahn

MSG and ESPN Radio’s Alan Hahn had Lance Thomas on his show on Friday night and a number of things of note came out of it.

Regarding the topic of the moment, Lance pushed back against some of what’s being said, noting that Frank Ntilikina’s “approach every day has been great,” and adding that several key contributors have gotten a string of DNP-CD’s at times. He said he’s been working hard, and definitively added that “Frank can play.” Lance spoke about the fact that he’s in Frank’s ear “every day,” making sure his spirits are up, and noted that his time is going to come. He said he loves Frank’s approach to the game, and that if he had one message to fans concerned about the 20-year-old, it would be “don’t worry about Frank,” and that he’d be ready when his opportunity came.

Regarding the new head coach, Lance said that David Fizdale instills confidence in the players, makes sure guys are working hard, and that he’s direct and emphasizes development. Interestingly enough, when asked why this team is different from years past, Thomas pointed to the intensity of practices and how guys were ultra competitive during that time but that there was also a high level of camaraderie off of it.
He also noted how the team was in almost every game despite the fact that they haven’t been able to pull many out. He made sure to praise the coach’s approach of making every player on the roster earn their time. Lastly, Lance said he was getting closer to returning to the court himself.
Most importantly, Lance and Damyean Dotson are participating in a great event at Sneakers’N Stuff on Little West 12th Streeton Monday night from 6-8 pm where fans can come and get autographs and also help a great cause by donating lightly worn sneakers which will then be sent to the underprivileged.

On This Date: Porzingis’ first Knicks moment that wasn’t

November 11th, 2015: Kristaps Porzingis almost hits a game winning three against the Charlotte Hornets, but was waved off by a split second.

Kristaps Porzingis first exciting moment as a Knick didn’t end up counting. He was just a small pinch of a second away from shocking the NBA with a thrilling game-winning shot. With 0.6 seconds left and the game on the line, the Knicks ran a SLOB (sidelines out of bounds) triangle set with Lance Thomas inbounding the ball. Carmelo Anthony flashed up to the top of the key and set a screen against both Marvin Williams & Cody Zeller. Porzingis set a nice juke and received a pass from Lance Thomas behind the line.

As Porzingis hit the three, most of the teammates, announcers, and fans (even myself) thought Porzingis got the ball out right before the buzzer hit.  After further review, it was determined that the shot was released just a split second after the buzzer and thus lost 95-93.

Porzingis ended the game with 10 points and 15 rebounds.  Carmelo Anthony led the team with 29 points.

One controversial point discussed after the game was whether the clock was set properly before the Porzingis three.  Some people discussed whether more time should have been added after Zeller hit the go-ahead layup.  Even adding 0.1 seconds on the clock would have allowed Porzingis to get the ball out of his hands before the buzzer.

The other less controversial question is whether Porzingis would have gotten a shot off faster if Lance Thomas provided the pass closer to his shoulders rather than his hips.  Lance’s pass forced Porzingis to waste a few tenths of a second with the shot release.

Regardless of the outcome, the game was exciting for Knicks fan and reminded the NBA of Porzingis’ unlimited potential.