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: Patrick Ewing & Alonzo Mourning face off in the playoffs for the first time

May 9th 1993: Patrick Ewing & Alonzo Mourning’s first NBA Playoffs matchup

Former Georgetown Hoya alums Patrick Ewing & Alonzo Mourning faced each other in the NBA Playoffs for the first time on this date. For Ewing, this was his 6th straight season in the playoffs. For Zo, this was his 1st experience in the NBA Playoffs as this was his rookie campaign with the Charlotte Hornets. After Ewing graduated from Georgetown in 1985, the university waited 3 years until Mourning & Dikembe Mutombo both arrived on campus to man the Hoya frontcourt.

As for the playoff game itself, the vastly experience Knicks defeated the Hornets 111-95 in Game 1. This was the Hornets’ first year in the NBA Playoffs. Ewing won the battle against Zo with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. Zo had a respectable performance with 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks, but also committed 7 turnovers. His lack of experience1 proved to be costly as Ewing took advantage of him both defensively and offensively. Zo allowed Ewing to feast on the perimeter where his patented jump shot proved to be key to victory.

Anthony Mason had a double double off the bench with 11 points, 11 rebounds, & 5 assists in 38 minutes. There were several former and future Knicks on the Hornets roster at the time. Larry Johnson, a then 2nd year player, missed most of the game with a sprained right leg. Former Knicks Johnny Newman & Sidney Green played a decent role for the Hornets in Game 1. Newman started and scored 18 points in 28 minutes. Future Knick David Wingate, who’d become merely a garbage time presence with the team, entered in garbage time for the Hornets.

On This Date: Larry Johnson & Alonzo Mourning fight in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

April 30th 1998: Larry Johnson & Alonzo Mourning get into a fight with seconds remaining in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

With less than 6 seconds remaining in a 90-85 Game 4 victory, Alonzo Mourning & Larry Johnson got into a fistfight after fighting for position boxing out. Both players threw punches & missed each other. The most iconic moment came when Jeff Van Gundy ran to the floor and held on to Zo’s leg for his dear life to stop the fight. His efforts were ultimately futile, but the photo was an iconic memory in Knick history.

Outside the Knicks/Heat rivalry, both players had tensions rooted from their playing days in Charlotte. While the players formed a dynamic duo in the 1992-93 season, animosity built up after LJ received a 12 year $84 million extension. Mourning thought he was the better player of the two and sought for a long-term extension. Before Zo was due for an extension, the Hornets traded him to the Miami Heat to become new Knick nemesis Pat Riley’s core centerpiece.

This was the 2nd Knicks/Heat playoff fight after the Charlie Ward/PJ Brown brawl. Unlike that brawl, most of the Knick bench remained on the sidelines. Only Chris Mills left the bench area. The NBA suspended LJ, Mills, & Zo one game for their involvement in the fight (and leaving the bench area, for Mills). With Mourning out, the Knicks easily defeated the Heat 98-81 in Game 5 to advance to the Semifinals.

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: Melo’s 42 point playoff outburst against the Boston Celtics

April 19th 2011: Carmelo Anthony caries Knicks with 42 points in Game 2 loss

Without Chauncey Billups due to a knee injury and Amare Stoudemire in the 2nd half due to back spasms (after attempting dunks in practice), Carmelo Anthony single handedly willed the Knicks during this game. Melo scored 42 points and had 17 rebounds and 6 assists. He led the Knicks in just about every offensive category. However, it wasn’t enough to defeat the Boston Celtics as the Knicks lost 96-93.

In prime Melo fashion, he scored from all over the court. Whether it was in the paint, in the midrange (via his signature jab steps), or from the three point arc, Melo was proficient and neither Jeff Green or Paul Pierce could stop him alone. He kept the team in the game despite being severely outmanned by the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Ultimately, Kevin Garnett hit the go-ahead basket in the final seconds. Melo tried to feed the ball to Jared Jeffries after seeing a double team, but Jeffries fumbled the go-ahead pass and the Celtics stole the ball from him.

Melo’s performance in Game 2 made me wonder what happened if the NBA Lockout didn’t happen. Perhaps a proper offseason would have helped coach D’Antoni fully utilize Melo’s talents (especially on the passing end). We may have seen a souped up Olympic Melo, but that memory will only exist in our dreams.


April 19th 1996: Patrick Ewing records his only triple double

Patrick Ewing recorded his only triple double in his NBA career with 28 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists. Unfortunately, the Knicks lost to the Charlotte Hornets 115-108. The game was merely important for the Knicks to establish playoff seeding and home court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Future Knick Larry Johnson hurt the Knicks with 28 points and 18 rebounds.

 

On This Date: Knicks defeat the Spurs in Spree’s return to MSG

February 12th 2017: Latrell Sprewell and James Dolan bury the hatchet as the Knicks defeat the Spurs

The Knicks snapped a 4-game losing streak with a 94-90 victory against the San Antonio Spurs on a nationally televised broadcast. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 25 points (including 3 three-pointers), 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Kristaps Porzingis scored 16 points and blocked 4 shots. Willy Hernangomez made his second start of the season and had 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals. Willy’s minutes increased steadily after a shoulder injury sidelined Noah for the remainder of the season.

Despite the victory, it off-the-court headlines dominated the story. Throughout the 2016-17 season, Phil Jackson sent veiled shots at Carmelo Anthony expressing disappointment that he’s not a “star” in the realm of a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Days before the game, Phil sent a cryptic tweet aimed at Melo:

Additionally, Charles Oakley was arrested only a few days earlier after an altercation with security personnel during the Knicks/Clippers game. Oakley allegedly hurled some parting shots at James Dolan. Dolan subsequently alerted security to escort him out. Oak was subsequently banned from MSG for one year.

To quell the PR backlash, Dolan decided to reconcile with Latrell Sprewell and ended their 13+ year feud. Spree sat courtside with Dolan, Bernard King, and Larry Johnson. Since the moment, Spree has spent plenty of games courtside at Madison Square Garden and participated in various Knicks charitable causes.

On This Date: Knicks acquire Othella Harrington

January 30, 2001: Knicks acquire Othella Harrington from the Vancouver Grizzlies

The Knicks had large shoes to fill in replacing their franchise player Patrick Ewing, shoes that would remain empty for a long time. But on this date, they acquired another former Hoya in Othella Harrington from Vancouver in exchange for Erick Strickland, the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers 1st round pick acquired in the Patrick Ewing trade (Jamaal Tinsley), and a 2001 2nd round pick (Antonis Fotsis). Harrington (turning 27 years old the next day) was not the most talented Hoya, but was a serviceable big man who provided necessary front-court depth for the Knicks.

Since the Ewing trade, the Knicks lacked reliable depth in the front-court. Marcus Camby was the starting center, but was historically injury prone with the Knicks. Additionally, Larry Johnson faced chronic back injuries in his final season with the Knicks. Harrington provided the ability to backup both LJ & Camby at the 4 and 5, respectively.

The Knicks acquired Erick Strickland in a draft-day deal for John Wallace & Donnell Harvey, the Knicks 1st round pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. The team intended for him to be a backup guard, but was rendered useless after Glen Rice arrived in the Ewing trade. Likewise, Othella Harrington had little use with the Grizzlies after the team drafted Stromile Swift 2nd overall in the 2000 NBA Draft.

The Knicks may not have “won” the trade per se, but they did make the most of Harrington during his 3.5 year tenure with the team. He mostly provided depth off the bench.

Unfortunately, the Knicks continued their reputation of throwing away first round picks in low value trades. Had the Knicks valued their first round picks during the 1990s and 2000s, their reign of contention would have been prolonged.

On This Date: Queens native Metta World Peace returns to MSG as a rookie

January 11, 2000: Metta World Peace (f/k/a Ron Artest) returns to MSG as a rookie

In the 1999 NBA Draft, Ed Tapscott inexplicably drafted Frederic Weis over St. John’s own Metta World Peace. 99% of Knicks fans and media, alike, panned the selection. Even MWP himself was baffled the Knicks didn’t select the Queens native. The Chicago Bulls selected him right after the Knicks picked Weis.

On this date, MWP returned to MSG for the first time as a Chicago Bulls player. Additionally, Peekskill native Elton Brand – picked #1 overall in the 1999 NBA Draft – also made his rookie MSG debut. MWP led the Bulls with 24 points on 6-15 from the field with 4 assists and 2 steals. Elton Brand scored 22 points on 9-18 from the field.

However, the veteran-laden Knicks roster was too much for the Baby Bulls as they sailed to a 95-88 victory. The Knicks had 6 players score in double figures as Larry Johnson led the team with 19 points. Patrick Ewing had a double double with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

World Peace had an idiosyncratic NBA career to most standards. While known as one of the toughest defenders in the league, his volatile personality derailed most of his prime years. The Malice at the Palace forever tainted his career. His best years came with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning a championship ring with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson.

MWP did have a short run with the Knicks during the 2013-14 season. However, a combination of lack of playing time and CAA politics led to a buyout during the middle of the season. He did return to the Lakers for a few seasons, enjoying Kobe’s farewell season and mentoring some of the younger players on the roster.

On one hand, I could have seen MWP mesh well with a strong veteran presence in the 90s Knicks roster. The roster could have played a crucial mentorship role that he lacked early on in his career. However, I could also see that NYC would also be a distraction for him due to growing up here. Many NYC-bred basketball players did not succeed with the Knicks due to a myriad of reasons including high expectations and temptations.


January 11th 1997:  The New York Knicks sweep the Boston Celtics on “Throwback Weekend.”

To commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the NBA, the Knicks & Celtics participated in a back-to-back “Throwback Weekend.” The two teams were the only two franchises still playing in their original cities. The Knicks took a train ride up to Boston to play the first matchup on January 10th and returned to MSG to play the doubleheader the next evening. Legends from both teams including Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Earl Monroe, and Dave DeBusschere attended the festivities. Legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach was the team president.

Both teams wore special throwback uniforms that celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the NBA. The Knicks wore the following throwback uniforms:

As for the games itself, there was not a lot of competition. The Knicks swept the home-and-home series 111-98 and 112-99 respectively. The Knicks held a 17-game winning streak against the Celtics. The streak reached 21 games before the 94-85 loss on January 26, 1998.

While the Knicks were perennial playoff contenders in the 1990s, the Celtics were in a phase of rebuilding after the Larry Bird/Kevin McHale retirements and Reggie Lewis’ sudden death.

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 play first ever NBA Game and commemorate it 50 years later

November 1, 1946: Knicks play First ever game in NBA History

The first ever NBA game somehow happened in Canada. It featured the New York Knicks against the Toronto Huskies at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario. New York native Ossie Schectman scored the first ever basket and led the Knicks to a 68-66 victory. Leo Gottlieb led the Knicks with 14 points.

The league was originally created as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and comprised of 11 teams. Of the eleven teams in the inaugural 1946-47 season, only three teams are currently active in their original form: Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, & the Philadelphia (now Golden State) Warriors. The other eight teams folded or merged with other organizations.

The BAA was formed to find a way for hockey franchise owners to populate their large sports arenas on off days (i.e. MSG III, Boston Garden). The success of college basketball, especially in New York City, convinced certain franchise owners that there was a large enough market for a professional league.

Although the BAA was founded in 1946, there were already two established professional basketball leagues: the American Basketball League (ABL) and the National Basketball League (NBL). Unlike the BAA, these two leagues often played in small arenas or even high school gyms. Most of the teams in the league eventually disbanded or merged into the NBA.

After the BAA inaugural season, the Toronto Huskies disbanded. In 1949, the NBL merged with the BAA and was effectively renamed as the National Basketball Association (NBA).   


November 1, 1996: Knicks commemorate 50 Year Anniversary of the first ever NBA game

To pay homage to the anniversary, both teams wore throwback uniforms honoring those original teams. In particular, the Toronto Raptors wore jerseys that represented the Toronto Huskies team.

The Knicks beat the Raptors 107-99. The game marked the Knicks debut of both Allan Houston and Larry Johnson. Houston led the team with 28 points and 3 steals. Johnson scored 12 points in 29 minutes. John Starks came off the bench and scored 22 points. With the Houston signing, Starks took the challenge of coming off the bench and ultimately received the 6th man of the year award at the end of the season.  

Chris Childs’ Knick debut was delayed a few weeks due to a fractured fibula in his right leg. The injury gave Charlie Ward an opportunity to start the season and debut along with the first few weeks of the season. Ward scored only 4 points in the season debut, but had 8 assists. Charles Oakley did not play in the season debut due to a two-game suspension for instigating a fight with Charles Barkley in the preseason.  

Of the three rookies the Knicks drafted in the 1996 NBA Draft, John Wallace made his NBA debut and had an auspicious start with a double double. Wallace’s comfort in the SkyDome would come in handy soon enough as he was traded to the Toronto Raptors in a deal that netted Chris Dudley.  

Walter McCarty and Dontae’ Jones, the other two rookies, did not dress for the game due to a coach’s decision and a foot injury respectively. McCarty only played 35 games that season and Jones missed the entire season with his injury. Just like John Wallace, both were traded to Boston for Chris Mills before the 1997-1998 season. To maximize Patrick Ewing’s short window of contention, all three young players were sacrificed for immediate impact players.

Future Knick Marcus Camby made his NBA debut as well, coming off the bench to score 5 points in 15 minutes.

Former Knicks Doug Christie and Hubert Davis also played in the debut. Christie – acquired by the Raptors in the 1995 Expansion Draft – scored 24 points and had 7 assists and 4 steals.  Davis – acquired by the Raptors for the Knicks’ own 1997 1st Round Pick – scored 6 points in 30 minutes. Davis was traded to the Raptors due to a glut of guards on the roster after the Allan Houston signing.