On This Date: The New York Knicks acquire Antonio McDyess

June 26th 2002: The New York Knicks acquire Antonio McDyess on Draft Day

Fresh off their first season out of the playoffs, the New York Knicks were in a strange position: scouting potential lottery picks. The Knicks spent little to no time scouting 1st round picks over the past 10 seasons as the team played deep into the playoffs. Knicks GM Scott Layden, facing significant criticism from fans and analysts from his questionable signings, trades, etc., was in deep pressure to make a bold draft choice.

Hearing significant boos and “Fire Layden” chants on draft night, the Knicks drafted Maybyner “Nene” Hilario with the 7th pick. Fans immediately booed the pick as they expected anyone else including Chris Wilcox, Amare Stoudemire, UConn standout Caron Butler, and even Jared Jeffries at the minimum. Instead of dealing with the criticism of drafting Nene, Layden went even further and traded the pick.

The Knicks traded Nene, along with Mark Jackson & Marcus Camby, to the Denver Nuggets for Antonio McDyess, the 25th pick in the NBA Draft, and a 2003 2nd round pick. Layden orchestrated this trade simply because he thought this was the best chance to get back into the NBA playoffs. He thought McDyess would be that athletic frontcourt presence that would complement the Knicks core players. Camby came off a year where he only played in 29 games due to injury. Jackson, then 37 years old, was on the downside of his career.

The trade didn’t benefit the Knicks on any angle. The team had high hopes for McDyess entering the preseason. Fans thought he nearly regained most of his athleticism until he tore his patellar tendon after a putback dunk. McDyess missed the entire 2002-03 season and only played 18 games with the Knicks before the team dealt him to Phoenix for Stephon Marbury. Camby got over his injury woes to have a generally healthy and productive tenure with Denver. He was on the NBA All-Defensive teams from 2005-08, winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. Nene’s had a productive career in the NBA as both a starting center and as a backup. He just came off a season as the backup center for the Houston Rockets.

The 25th overall draft pick in the 2002 NBA Draft became Frank Williams. After he played sparingly during his rookie season, he received decent minutes in his sophomore season and was slated to receive decent minutes as a backup PG until Isiah Thomas acquired Marbury. He was traded to the Bulls in the next season and left the NBA afterwards. The 2003 2nd round pick, however, became Maciej Lampe. Despite the cheers for the pick, Lampe turned out to be a bust in the NBA.

On This Date: Patrick Ewing & Mark Jackson win their first playoff series

May 2nd 1989: Patrick Ewing & Mark Jackson win their first playoff series to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals

Patrick Ewing & Mark Jackson advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time in their NBA careers while the Knicks won their first playoff series since Bernard King led the crusade in the 1983-84 season. The Knicks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in overtime 116-115 to complete the three game sweep. As Ewing struggled most of the evening, Gerald Wilkins came to the team’s rescue by knocking down the go-ahead 19 foot jumper with 6 seconds left in overtime.

Although the Knicks swept the 76ers, the 3 game matchup proved to be very close and was only decided by a couple clutch baskets. Mark Jackson hit a clutch 3 point basket in Game 1 while Trent Tucker hit the go-ahead shot in Game 2. The series marked a significant contrast to the previous season where the Boston Celtics easily defeated the Knicks in 4 games.

On This Date: Ewing scores 36 and hit the go-ahead fade away in OT to defeat the Detroit Pistons

April 11th 1988: Patrick Ewing scores 36 and hits the go-ahead fade-away to defeat the Detroit Pistons in Overtime

Patrick Ewing carried the Knicks on offense with 36 points, on 11-15 from the field and 14-20 from the free throw line, to help defeat the Detroit Pistons 114-111 in overtime. Ewing hit the go-ahead fade away jumper to put the Knicks up 1 and was fouled on the play by Isiah Thomas. While Ewing couldn’t convert the 3 point play, Dennis Rodman was not able to secure the defensive rebound. Johnny Newman eventually went to the line to hit the two clutch free throws to put the Knicks up by 3 to win the game.

The Knicks, led by Rick Pitino, employed their two center rotation during stretches of the game to overwhelm the Pistons. Bill Cartwright scored 21 points off the bench in 35 minutes.

Furthermore, Mark Jackson clinched the NBA rookie record for most assists/game with a near-triple double effort. Jackson had a near triple double with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 13 assists, and 5 steals. He went on to average 10.6 assists/game to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award.

 

 

On This Date: Bernard King returns after a 2 year absence from his devastating knee injury

April 10th 1987: Bernard King returns after a 2 year absence due to injury

Bernard King received a rousing ovation from the MSG faithful in his return to the basketball court against the Milwaukee Bucks. King missed more than 2 years recovering from a torn ACL, torn knee cartilage, and a broken leg bone.

Although the Bucks trounced the Knicks 132-93, King scored 7 points off the bench in 23 minutes of action. He spent the next game coming off the bench before returning to the starting lineup. King averaged nearly 23 points/game in the final 6 games of the 1986-87 season.

Sadly, Knicks fans never saw King & Patrick Ewing play together. Ewing was out for the remainder of the 1986-87 season after suffering a sprained left knee. After the season, the Knicks decided not to sign King to a new contract. There were various theories to why the Knicks refused to sign King, including feeling disappointed King was away from the team during his rehabilitation, fear of loss of athleticism, age, and preference to move in a rebuilding mode. None of those theories seemed to make sense at the time or in hindsight.

King nearly fully recovered from his injury to have 3 straight 20 ppg seasons with the Washington Bullets (including a remarkable 28.4 ppg in the 1989-90 season). The Knicks ultimately drafted Mark Jackson that began a stretch of 14 straight seasons in the playoffs. At the same time, the Knicks had a void at SF and even had to trade a 1st round pick to fill its need (Kiki Vandeweghe). It makes me wonder whether the Knicks should have just ponied up to keep him.

On this date: Knicks score 133 in victory against the Spurs

March 21st 1988: The New York Knicks score a then-season high 133 points in a victory against the San Antonio Spurs

In a box score that would fit in with the modern NBA, the Knicks scored a then-season high 133 points in a 133-121 road victory against the San Antonio Spurs. The team shot over 52% from the field even though they only made 2 three point shots. Additionally, the Knicks attempted 45 free throws, but only made 31 of the attempts. Interestingly enough, the bench had just as many free throw attempts as the starting lineup, but only missed 4 free throws compared to 19 for the latter group.

6 Knicks scored in double figures in the victory. Rookie Mark Jackson continued his stellar Rookie of the Year campaign with 20 points, 7-10 from the field, and 14 assists. Johnny Newman led the Knicks in scoring with 25 points, on 12-21 from the field, and 7 assists. Patrick Ewing scored 23 points on 10-15 from the field.

The Knicks eventually broke their season high in scoring with 136 points in a road victory against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 5th 1988.

 

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: Maurice Cheeks hits go-ahead basket to defeat the Bucks

March 3rd 1990: Maurice Cheeks hits the go-ahead bucket to help the Knicks defeat the Bucks

Maurice Cheeks stepped up in the end of the 4th quarter to lead the Knicks to a 106-105 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. Cheeks entered the game with 4:22 left replacing Mark Jackson, who struggled mightily from the field and on the defensive end. Cheeks hit the go-ahead basket with 39 seconds left to put the Knicks up 102-101 and clinch victory.

After the Knicks shipped Rod Strickland to the Spurs, the team expected Cheeks to provide veteran leadership at the point guard that neither Hot Rod or Mark Jackson provided. While the team was 34-17 before the trade, the Knicks struggled throughout most of March, enduring a 6 game losing streak and a 3 game losing streak in the month. The Knicks ultimately made the playoffs and reached the Eastern Conference where they lost to the impending champion Detroit Pistons.

On This Date: Mr Big Shot strikes in Miami and Ewing returns to MSG

February 27th 2011: Chauncey Billups strikes against the Miami Heat

Mr. Big Shot1 struck again, this time with the Knicks, on a 91-86 nationally televised victory against the Miami Heat in Florida.

Billups scored 16 points, but it was his clutch go-ahead three over Dwyane Wade with just over a minute remaining that made the difference in the Knicks thrilling victory. On the next possession, Billups stole a pass from Chris Bosh that led to two free throws for Shawne Williams.

This was a highly anticipated game after the Melo trade. Melo & LeBron went head-to-head the entire game; Melo led the way with 29 points and Bron scored 27. Amare Stoudemire had a double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. He had the most pivotal play in the game with a game-saving block against LeBron to seal the victory.

The Knicks struggled in the outset trailing by 15 through the middle of the 2nd quarter. However, the team went on a 16-0 run to close the half with a 1 point lead. Billups contributed to 9 of the points with 2 threes and 1 assist during the run.


February 27th 2001: Patrick Ewing’s return to MSG

In one of the more awkward sights in Knicks history, Patrick Ewing returned to MSG wearing a Seattle Supersonics uniform. This was his first return to the Garden since the trade. Ewing scored 12 points in 32 minutes as the Knicks defeated the Sonics 101-92.

The Knicks gave Ewing a very nice tribute video thanking him for all his contributions and highlighted most of his accomplishments while with the team. The MSG faithful gave him a loud standing ovation as most of the fans and players on both teams stood and cheered for several minutes. One of those players was Ewing’s former battery mate Mark Jackson, recently acquired in a trade a week earlier. The MSG crowd chanted “Patrick Ewing” as well to much fanfare. Afterwards the MSG PA announcer introduced the Seattle Supersonics starting lineup. The PA announcer introduced Ewing first and the crowd roared. Watch more of the tribute below.

On This Date: Knicks acquire Melo

February 22nd 2011: Carmelo Anthony finally traded to the Knicks

In one of the most anticlimactic deals of the 2011 trade deadline, the Knicks finally acquired Melo from the Denver Nuggets in what amounted to be a 3-team trade. The trade is broken down below:

Knicks traded:

Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph, 2012 2nd round pick, 2013 2nd round pick, 2014 1st Round Pick, 2016 1st Round Pick Swap

Knicks acquired:

Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Corey Brewer (later waived), Anthony Carter, Sheldon Williams, 2016 1st round pick swap (Nuggets)

Nuggets traded:

Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter, Sheldon Williams, 2015 2nd round pick, 2016 1st round pick swap

Nuggets acquired:

Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, 2012 2nd round pick (Knicks), 2013 2nd round pick (Knicks), 2014 1st round pick (Knicks), 2016 1st round pick swap (Knicks), Kosta Koufos

Timberwolves traded:

Corey Brewer, Kosta Koufos

Timberwolves acquired:

Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph, 2015 2nd round pick (Nuggets)

This was a very large trade. After the Knicks lost out on LeBron James in the Summer of 2010, the team faced pressure to find a second star to team up with Amare Stoudemire to compete against the Miami Big 3. The Nuggets and Carmelo Anthony were also looking to separate as well. Melo proclaimed to his close friends, at his wedding, of his intentions to join the Knicks.

Donnie Walsh began engaging the Nuggets on various trade offers early on in the season. He was reluctant to give up significant assets for Melo because he assumed he could sign him outright in free agency. As the season progressed, the Nuggets felt a greater sense of urgency to deal Melo to acquire some long-term assets. Likewise, the Nuggets and Knicks were also aware of the impending lockout.

Melo was particularly interested in going to the Knicks before the lockout in order to lock in guaranteed money through an extension. If Melo waited until after the lockout, his market value could have decreased as well.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Melo & the Nuggets were motivated to get the deal done. Donnie Walsh was also motivated to get the deal done, but was hesitant in giving up an exorbitant package. Melo eventually met with James Dolan during the All Star weekend to discuss the parameters of a trade. Dolan wanted to get a deal done; he was afraid of not capitalizing on the cap space generated from Donnie Walsh’s moves in the prior two seasons.

The deal finalized on February 22nd and ended up becoming a larger package due to the number of assets transferred between both teams. Melo fulfilled his dream to become a New York Knick.

While the package to acquire Melo was substantial, the trade benefitted the Knicks in the long run. Any trade package for Melo would require trading Gallo, who became a fan favorite in MSG. Both Melo & Gallo had a similar style of play. Additionally, Gallinari had several injury-laden seasons since the trade. Wilson Chandler was a free agent at the end of the season and would have to be included in any deal. Chauncey Billups eventually replaced Felton, who the team re-acquired two years later. The loss of Mozgov stung many Knick fans initially, but Tyson Chandler eventually soothed his departure over time.

The inclusion of multiple picks did sting for the franchise as the team reverted back to their losing ways in 2014. The team could have used those picks to accelerate the rebuild during those seasons. However, sacrificing those picks helped the team acquire Melo and fueled a stretch of three straight seasons in the playoffs during his 6+ year tenure. For a franchise that missed the playoffs in all, but one year since 2002, the fans were hungry to get back and compete with the behemoths in the Eastern Conference. Furthermore, the MSG faithful witnessed history with Melo’s 62 point performance in 2014.

The most controversial aspect of the Melo trade is the assertion that the team should have waited until free agency to acquire him. While that assertion sounds good in theory, it was simply not practical due to the impending lockout and the uncertainty surrounding whether they could make a deal work under the new rules.


February 22nd 2001:  Knicks re-acquire Mark Jackson

The Knicks re-acquired Mark Jackson on this date from the Toronto Raptors, along with Muggsy Bogues, for Chris Childs and a 2002 1st round pick (Kareem Rush). The team desperately needed an upgrade at the PG position and acquired Jackson to help the team get back into the playoffs. Jackson took over the starting PG role through the 2001-02 season before he was shipped to Denver in the Antonio McDyess trade.

On This Date: Red Holzman sets the Knick record for most coaching victories

January 12, 1974: Red Holzman sets club record in head coaching victories

The New York Knicks defeated the Golden State Warriors 96-80. In the victory, Red Holzman set a club record with 327 regular season victories. He surpassed the record held by Joe Lapchick. Lapchick coached the Knicks for eight seasons between 1948-1956.

Red eventually reached 613 total wins over 14 seasons with the Knicks. The team recognized his coaching feat by retiring the number 613 in the rafters in 1990. In a testament to the rapid turnover of coaches, no coach outside of Holzman or Lapchick coached more than seven seasons with the Knicks. Jeff Van Gundy coached part of the 1995-96 and 2001-02 seasons, but only coached five full seasons with the team. Only Van Gundy & Pat Riley exceeded 200 wins as Knick coaches (248 and 223 respectively).


January 12, 1989: The New York Knicks rout the Charlotte Hornets 106-89

The Charlotte Hornets made their first visit to Madison Square Garden as an inaugural franchise. Unfortunately for them, the Knicks routed the Hornets 106-89. Mark Jackson led the Knicks with 18 points, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Both Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley netted double doubles.

The Knicks started the game very sloppy. The team committed 15 turnovers in the 1st half and held a tie game with the 9-24 Hornets roster. In a desperation move, coach Rick Pitino inserted Trent Tucker into the starting lineup for the 2nd half and the defensive pressure intensified. The Knicks went on a 15-0 run in the 3rd quarter and ballooned the lead to 22 points by the end of the 3rd quarter.

The 1988-89 season marked the Hornets’ inaugural season. The team was one of four franchises – the Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Orlando Magic were the other three – that the NBA included in their expansion plans. The Heat & Hornets began their inaugural season in 1988-89 while the Magic & Timberwolves began in 1989-90.

The Hornets struggled for their first few seasons, but stockpiled several young players including Muggsy Bogues, Kendall Gill, Larry Johnson, & Alonzo Mourning. The quartet helped lead the team to their first playoff berth in 1992-93. While upsetting the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, they faced strong headwinds against a veteran-laden Knicks roster. The Knicks easily routed the Hornets in 5 games.

 

On This Date: Bernard King returns to MSG as a Washington Bullets player and Jeff Van Gundy unexpectedly quits

December 8, 1987: Bernard Kings makes his first visit to MSG as a member of the Washington Bullets

Bernard King returned to Madison Square Garden for the first time as a Washington Bullet. The Knicks got the last laugh in a 116-92 blowout victory. King came off the bench to score 19 points in 32 minutes.

Patrick Ewing & Bill Cartwright combined for 52 points and simply overpowered the Bullets’ frontcourt. Mark Jackson nearly had a triple double with 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists.

King missed the entire 1985-86 season and all but 6 games of the 1986-87 season recovering from the torn ACL.  In the 6 games, King averaged 22.7 points a game and shot nearly 50% from the field.

However, the Knicks decided against re-signing Bernard King in the summer of 1987 for various reasons.  At the time, the Knicks were afraid that King wouldn’t fully recover from the knee surgery.  At the same time, the front office didn’t like that King did most of his rehabilitation away from the team and barely attended games during the stretch.  Furthermore, the Knicks committed to rebuilding with Patrick Ewing, Mark Jackson, & Kenny Walker, amongst others, and thought that King would be a deterrence to the development process.

Despite the Knicks’ qualms, King was able to make a near-full recovery and had several productive seasons after his Knicks tenure.  He made the 1991 All Star team and averaged 28.4 points/game that season, including a 49 point effort against the Knicks.

The Knicks had a short stint of success in the Rick Pitino era and spent a lot of effort looking for small forwards after King’s departure.  Perhaps Bernard King would have made a difference.


December 8, 2001:  Jeff Van Gundy unexpectedly quits

In a day that marked the downward spiral of the New York Knicks in the 2000s, Jeff Van Gundy (JVG) abruptly resigned after a 10-9 record to start the season. The team won 5 of their last 6 games heading into the resignation.

He was known as one of the hardest working coaches in the league.  Many of his former assistant coaches currently coaching in the NBA possess the same traits as him. Six + years of coaching at high intensity took a toll on Van Gundy and his family.  JVG, then 39, was married with a 6 year old daughter and often longed to spend more time with his family.

JVG felt he was losing the team as early as the 2000-01 season, the same reason the Knicks traded Ewing.  The team wasn’t playing with the same intensity that they were reputed for during the 90s.  He often questioned the team’s effort and publicly stated that the team was “mailing it in” during some of the games.

Additionally, Van Gundy dealt with tragedy close to home as two of his close friends, Farrell Lynch & Bill Minardi, were killed in the September 11th attacks.  The culmination of events leading up to the season were tough to overcome.

JVG left the Knicks with a 248-172 record.  He spent nearly 7 years as an assistant coach under Stu Jackson, John MacLeod, Pat Riley, & Don Nelson.  As a head coach, he led the Knicks to an unexpected NBA Finals run in 1999.  Despite the success, he was nearly fired on multiple occasions and dealt with a highly publicized feud with GM Ernie Grunfeld that led to the latter’s dismissal.  Furthermore, he outlasted both Patrick Ewing and Dave Checketts, leaving him with few allies internally in the organization.

Don Chaney took over for JVG as interim coach.  It’s safe to say the Knicks never recovered after his resignation during the decade.  Likewise, JVG has admitted that he shouldn’t have resigned.

On This Date: Knicks fire Stu Jackson

December 3, 1990: Knicks fire Stu Jackson and hire John Macleod as head coach

The Knicks fired Stu Jackson and hired John MacLeod to take over as head coach. Jackson was an assistant on Rick Pitino’s staff dating back to his days coaching the Providence men’s basketball team. Once Pitino left the Knicks for the University of Kentucky, the Knicks hired Stu Jackson as head coach, marking him the third youngest coach in Knicks history, at the time.2

Jackson led the Knicks to a 45-37 record in his first season and upset the Boston Celtics in the 1st round of the playoffs. The Knicks fired Jackson in the following season after his Knicks started the season 7-8, losing 5 of their last 6 games, and 3 straight games at home.

His offensive philosophy was more conservative and half court oriented, which marked a significant contrast from Pitino’s uptempo style. However, the personnel largely resembled what Pitino looked for in his system resulting in a disjointed level of play. Additionally, there was a lot of tension around the team during that season. There were reports that Stu Jackson sparred with his assistant coaches placed on the team by General Manager Al Bianchi to oversee his performance. The players, including Mark Jackson and Patrick Ewing, took issue with various things from playing time, contract situations, and even traveling up to Westchester to practice.

John MacLeod returned to the NBA after the Dallas Mavericks fired him in the previous season. MacLeod developed a relationship with Bianchi during their tenure with the Phoenix Suns. MacLeod led the Knicks to a 39-43 record and lost to the eventual NBA champion Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.

Neither Bianchi or MacLeod lasted past the season.  The Knicks fired Bianchi in March 1991 and replaced by Dave Checketts. The team fired MacLeod after the regular season and subsequently hired Pat Riley as the new head coach. The rest is history.


December 3, 1968: Knicks beat Hawks by 33 points in Madison Square Garden

The New York Knicks handily beat the Atlanta Hawks 126-93 in Madison Square Garden. The Knicks had four players in double figures, including Dick Barnett (24 points), Walt “Clyde’ Frazier (20 points), Cazzie Russell (19 points), & Phil Jackson (15 points).

The win gave the Knicks their 11th win of the season (11-14). The team would eventually win 54 games and made the Eastern Division Semifinals under Red Holzman’s first full year as head coach of the team.

This game was the second of six matchups against the now-Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks moved to Atlanta from St. Louis beginning in the 1968-69 season. After refusing to remain in St. Louis, the team was sold to Atlanta-based real estate developer Tom Cousins and former Georgia governor Carl Sanders. Clyde Frazier grew up in Atlanta and finally got to play against his new home town team.

On This Date: Knicks score 133 to shock Pistons

November 23, 1988: Knicks utilize half-court trap and three pointers to shock the Detroit Pistons 133-111 in the Palace of Auburn Hills

The road to the championship for the Detroit Pistons, who went into the game 9-1, approached a bump in the road against Rick Pitino & the New York Knicks.  The combination of aggressive half-court traps and 3-point shots stifled the Pistons, who came into the game limiting opponents to only 98.6 points per game, a mark 2nd in the league.

Patrick Ewing led the way with 37 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, & 4 blocks and made 12-15 from the free throw line.  However, Johnny Newman & Trent Tucker played pivotal roles in the victory.  Newman & Tucker scored a combined 44 points on 8-13 from three.  The team overall shot 9-16 from three point distance.2

The game also showcased the combo point guard duo of Mark Jackson & Rod Strickland.  Both point guards got playing time together with the injury of Gerald Wilkins.  Jackson had a double double with 14 points and 14 assists.  Strickland had 9 points and 5 assists in 15 minutes.

The Pitino system frustrated the Pistons the entire night.  Pitino established the interior game with Ewing to draw fouls and open the floor for three point shots.  The team hit 35 free throws compared to 11 for the Pistons.  The aggressive trapping led to 22 Pistons turnovers and easy buckets (including threes) for the Knicks.  Future Knick GM Isiah Thomas committed 7 turnovers and, after the game, admitted the half-court press was “murder.”

On This Date: “Bomb Squad” roster wins their first regular season game against the Chicago Bulls

November 8th 1988:  Knicks win 1st game of the regular season to officially begin the “Bomb Squad” era

After losing the first two games of the regular season on the road, the Knicks got back into control in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden. Johnny Newman scored a then-career high 35 points in a 126-117 home victory against the Chicago Bulls in Madison Square Garden. Newman scored 35 efficiently, shooting 12-15 from the field, 2-3 from three, and 9-10 from the free throw line.  

Patrick Ewing, hampered with foul troubled during the first two regular season games, bounced back with 18 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Charles Oakley faced his former team for the 1st time and ended the game with a modest statline of 6 points and 6 rebounds.

The 1988-1989 season was famously known to fans as the “Bomb Squad” era.

20 years before Mike D’Antoni came into MSG to encourage his players to shoot more threes, Rick Pitino instructed his roster to perform the same task. Pitino believed it was necessary to surround Ewing with enough three point shooters to provide the big man with space to feast in the paint.

The Knicks set a record with 386 three pointers made and 1,147 attempted. The 1,147 was over 400 attempts higher than the record set in the previous season. The Knicks won 52 games in the regular season and Ewing led the team scoring 23 points a game while hitting a career high 57% from the field.

The “Bomb Squad” consisted of Mark Jackson, Rod Strickland, Trent Tucker, Johnny Newman, & Gerald Wilkins. Tucker shot 2-3 from three in the game and led the team with three pointers made during the season (118 made at 40%). Johnny Newman ended up tripling his three-point attempts from the season before and ended the year with 97 three-pointers made on 287 attempts (34%). Mark Jackson, in his sophomore season, doubled his three point attempts and ended the season shooting 81-240 from three in 72 games. Strickland funnily never got comfortable shooting threes and never shot many threes after leaving the Knicks.

The temptation of the NCAA and the recruiting power lured Pitino to the Kentucky Wildcats. The “Bomb Squad” era slowly flamed out as the team reverted back to attempting a more normal, or normal at the time, 710 three-pointers, which still ranked 5th in the league. Pitino brought a very innovative style of basketball to the Knicks and it only makes us wonder what would have happened if he remained with the team during Ewing’s prime.

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.

On This Date: Pat Riley wins his first game as Knicks head coach and KCD make their debut

November 5th 1991: Pat Riley wins his first game as Knicks head coach and Knicks City Dancers make their debut.

The Knicks won their first game of the season, fittingly, at Madison Square Garden by routing the Milwaukee Bucks 113-85. This game marked the first win of the Pat Riley era after being blown out for the first two games of the season. Newly acquired Xavier McDaniel led the team with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Mark Jackson led the team with 9 assists and scored 16 points. Patrick Ewing scored 24 points and blocked 3 shots in 34 minutes.   

After ending the 1st half only up by 1, the Knicks went on a 40-13 run in the 3rd quarter to blow the game open. Mark Jackson assisted in the run with three steals during the run that led to transition layups for the Knicks. The win broke a 6 game losing streak against the Bucks.

The game encompassed the the evolution of Pat Riley’s coaching philosophy. While his Los Angeles Lakers’ embodied the fast-paced Showtime era during the 1980s, Riley instituted a philosophy built around tenacious Ewing.  For Riley, having Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, & Xavier McDaniels man the frontcourt helped quickly foster the identity on the floor.

The game also marked the debut of the Knicks City Dancers (KCD). The KCD was formed due to the efforts of Pamela Harris, who joined the Knicks as director of marketing in 1991 under then-president Dave Checketts. Harris was part of a team with Checketts that coincided with the MSG renovations in the summer of 1991. Harris considered the KCD as a way to improve entertainment for fans, allow better connection between the fans and organization, and also provide additional revenue streams for the team.

The KCD debuted at Madison Square Garden during the game. The KCD eventually became a more tamer, but equally prominent equivalent of the Laker Girls and has been a success for the organization since inception. Harris’ team were also behind creative various new events with the Knicks, but was equally responsible for overseeing the creation of the “Go NY Go NY Go” theme song of the 1993-94 season.