On This Date: Knicks waive Paul Westphal

June 20th 1983: Knicks waive Paul Westphal

The New York Knicks waived Paul Westphal on this date. Westphal arrived to the Knicks as a free agent in the 2nd half of the 1981-82 campaign and remained with the team through the 1982-83 season. He started 71 of the 98 games he played as the team’s shooting guard and averaged 10.3 points/game and 5.5 assists/game. He won the NBA’s Comeback Player of the Year in 1983 after helping the team reach the NBA Playoffs.

Westphal had a more storied career with the Boston Celtics & Phoenix Suns, winning a championship in 1974 with the former. He was one of the rare players at the time who could truly play both guard positions. He had the scoring abilities to be the team’s shooting guard, but the passing abilities to play point. He averaged more than 20 points/game for 5 straight seasons from 1976-80 and made the NBA All Star Team each season from 1977-1981.

When Westphal signed with the Knicks, the team placed a stipulation where they had to pick up either two one-year team options or waive him at the end of his contract in 1983. With Westphal making more than $450,000 in the previous season and the team’s tight salary cap at $4.6 million, the Knicks decided to waive him.

The Knicks replaced Westphal with Darrell Walker in the 1983 NBA Draft. Westphal returned to Phoenix for one more year to finish his NBA career. Afterwards, he embarked on his coaching journey beginning in the collegiate ranks in Arizona. He eventually joined the Phoenix Suns staff under Cotton Fitzsimmons and was promoted to head coach in 1992. He took the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals and reached the playoffs for 2 more seasons before his dismissal midway through the 1995-96 season. He returned to coach the Seattle Supersonics in 1998.

After the team fired him in 2000, Westphal returned to the collegiate ranks coaching Pepperdine University for 6 seasons. The Dallas Mavericks hired Westphal as an assistant under Avery Johnson and remained with the organization until the Sacramento Kings hired him as an assistant coach in 2009. Westphal didn’t enjoy the same success in Sacramento he enjoyed with his previous coaching assignments. The combination of a inexperienced roster and conflicts with budding star DeMarcus Cousins led to his firing early in the 2011-12 season.

Westphal came back to the NBA in 2014 to reunite with his former assistant coach Lionel Hollins in the Brooklyn Nets. He served as his assistant until his firing in 2016. He was recently elected to the Naismith Basketball of Fame in April 2019.

On This Date: Knicks beat Kings without King

January 31st 1983: The New York Knicks, sans Bernard King, beat the Kansas City Kings

The New York Knicks routed the Kansas City Kings 114-97 despite the fact that Bernard King was inactive due to a sprained right ankle and Trent Tucker was held scoreless. 4 of the 5 starters scored at least 18 points to propel the team to victory. Power Forward Truck Robinson led the way with 21 points and had 5 assists. Paul Westphal shined on both the offensive and defensive end with 18 points, 6 assists, and 6 steals. Bill Cartwright had a double double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Louis Orr replaced King in the starting lineup and scored 20 points.

The Knicks’ tenacious defense helped open up the game in the 2nd half. After only leading by 4 at half, the Knicks scored 31 points in each of the 3rd and 4th quarters to seal the victory. Their pressure defense led to an 18-2 run to start the 3rd fueled by 6 steals. Additionally, the team shot nearly 51% from the field in an efficient effort.

The 1982-83 Knicks, led by Bernard King and coached by Hubie Brown, made the playoffs and reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals where the eventual champion Philadelphia 76ers swept them in 4 games. Outside of the notable players (King, Cartwright, Tucker), there were a few interesting names on the roster and coaching staff.

Mike Fratello was an assistant coach on Hubie Brown’s staff for the 1982-83 season. He left to coach the Atlanta Hawks. Isiah Thomas almost considered hiring him as head coach after he fired Don Chaney. Future Knicks GM Ernie Grunfeld finished his NBA career with the Knicks in 1986. He then moved to covering the games on MSG before becoming assistant coach under Stu Jackson. He became GM of the Knicks in 1991.

The Knicks acquired Truck Robinson in a trade with the Suns for Maurice Lucas. Truck spent his final 2+ seasons with the Knicks, but notably helped the Knicks sweep the Nets in the first round of the 1983 playoffs. The Knicks acquired Louis Orr right before the season from the Indiana Pacers for a 2nd round pick in the 1983 NBA Draft. Orr spent 6 seasons with the Knicks and mostly produced off the bench except for Patrick Ewing’s rookie season (1985-86) with Bernard King sidelined due to injury.

Furthermore, future NBA coach Paul Westphal spent around 1.5 seasons with the Knicks. He spent most of his prime splitting time as a reserve with the Boston Celtics (winning a championship in 1974) and as a budding superstar with the Phoenix Suns. Westphal made 5 straight All-Star teams with the Suns and helped the team reach the finals in 1976. A foot injury in 1981 cut short his prime and he later joined the Knicks in 1982. Westphal went into coaching in both the NBA and NCAA. He enjoyed slightly more success in the NBA leading the 1992-93 Phoenix Suns to an NBA Finals in his first season. After Charles Barkley left the Suns in 1995, Westphal never seemed to recover the coaching magic achieved in the early stages of his career.