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: 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 bench1, 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: The birth of the Trent Tucker rule and the Marcus Camby punch almost heard around the world

January 15, 1990: The game that birthed the Trent Tucker Rule

On this memorable MLK day in 1990, Trent Tucker enshrined himself into Knicks folklore with a buzzer-beating shot to defeat the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden. With the game tied at 106, Tucker received the inbounds pass and made the game-winning three pointer with 0.1 seconds left to win the game 109-106.

Upon further review, the clock didn’t start until Tucker’s shot was in mid-air. Consequently, Phil Jackson, then first-year head coach of the Bulls, filed a protest with the league. The argument, which is valid, stated that it’s impossible to receive a pass and shoot the basketball in less than 0.1 seconds. However, timekeeper Bob Billings and head referee Ronnie Nunn disagreed with the premise and stated that the calls on the floor were correct. As a result, the NBA disallowed their protest.

Around that time, then-commissioner David Stern recently required NBA arenas to comply with a FIBA rule to register tenths of seconds within the final minute of each quarter. Most of the scoreboards used at the time – manufactured by American Sign & Indicator (AS&I)2 – were not able to accurately register fractions of seconds. In some instances, there would be games where the shot clock would freeze at 0.1 seconds.

After the game, Stern further required all arenas to calibrate their shot clocks. Eventually, most teams transitioned from AS&I scoreboards to the Daktronics models seen in most areas.

More importantly, Stern instituted the “Trent Tucker Rule” where a shot can’t be taken with less than 0.3 seconds on the clock. The rule doesn’t prohibit tip-ins or alley-oops, especially in the case of David Lee’s basket in the 2006-07 season.


January 15, 2001: The Marcus Camby punch that almost connected

In what appeared to be a drama-free blowout on MLK day in MSG, Marcus Camby had other plans on that particular afternoon. With just over 3 minutes left in the game, Marcus Camby received an flagrant (or maybe intentional?) strike from Danny Ferry near his eye after attempting to grab an offensive rebound. As the refs attempted to eject Ferry, Camby lunged into Ferry, causing some refs to restrain him.

After things seemed to dissipate and as Ferry was heading towards the locker room, Camby inexplicably went after Ferry to punch him. Instead of striking Ferry, he instead headbutted Jeff Van Gundy. Van Gundy needed to receive more than a dozen stitches after the game due to bleeding from a gash above his eye.

After the game, the NBA suspended Camby 5 games for the attempted punch and headbutt. Danny Ferry received a 1 game suspension for his flagrant foul. It was disappointing for the Knicks, especially since the team won 9 of their previous 10 games. It was another instance of a lack of compsure that plagued some of the Knicks (i.e. Chris Childs, Kurt Thomas) during their playoff heyday.

 

On This Date: Patrick Ewing faces Knicks for the first time in a Supersonics uniform

November 14, 2000: Patrick Ewing faced the Knicks for the first time as a member of the Seattle Supersonics and enjoyed a 96-75 win against his old team.

Patrick Ewing got the last laugh against the Knicks with a blowout victory. In 31 minutes, Ewing scored 10 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, and blocked 3 shots. Gary Payton & Rashard Lewis led the Sonics with 25 and 22 points respectively. Payton, in 46 minutes, nearly had a triple double with 13 assists and 8 rebounds.  For the Knicks, Marcus Camby led the Knicks against his former teammate with 20 points and 17 rebounds.

This matchup represented a bittersweet moment for everyone involved. For fans, it was sad seeing Ewing in the twilight of his career playing in a different uniform. Ewing was clearly at the end of his career and it was tough to see him end his career as a relic of himself

The front office and Ewing developed an irreconcilable relationship during the end of the 2000 season. Ewing, then 38, was at the end of a 4-year, $60 million contract and was reportedly looking for a two year extension from the team. Ewing was also diminishing as a player following the torn Achilles tendon in the 1999 playoffs. Ewing was clearly attempting to win a championship during the final years of his career.

The Knicks needed a replacement for Ewing in the frontcourt. The original genesis of the Ewing trade involved the Detroit Pistons instead of the Phoenix Suns and would have netted Vin Baker along with Glen Rice. However, the trade fell apart and the Knicks settled for a lesser trade involving Rice, Luc Longley, several draft picks, and salary cap filler.

The trade didn’t benefit either Ewing or the Knicks. Ewing played his final two seasons with the Sonics and Magic and failed to reach the NBA Finals. The Knicks ultimately traded those acquired draft picks and flipped Glen Rice into the albatross contracts of Shandon Anderson & Howard Eisley, leading into a decade of losing records and grotesque mismanagement of basketball operations.

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.