On This Date: Knicks surprisingly give Isiah Thomas a contract extension

March 12th 2007: James Dolan gives Isiah Thomas a contract extension

After leading the Knicks to a 29-34 record and barely staying afloat at the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference, James Dolan surprisingly decided to give Isiah Thomas a multi-year contract extension. After the disastrous 2005-06 season that led to Larry Brown’s firing, Dolan gave Isiah Thomas an 1 year ultimatum to show “evident progress” otherwise he’d be fired. Somehow a 29-34 record was adequate enough.

In Knicksian fashion, the team won 4 of the remaining 19 games to fall well out of playoffs. Both Jamal Crawford & David Lee had their seasons end early due to injuries. The next season proved to be disastrous due to the verdict from the sexual harassment lawsuit and a very public feud with Stephon Marbury. The Knicks were deemed an “embarrassment” by David Stern. Stern coerced Dolan to hire Donnie Walsh and subsequently fired Isiah at the end of the season.

On This Date: Knicks officially buyout Stephon Marbury

February 24th 2009: The Stephon Marbury era officially ends

The New York Knicks finally agreed to a buyout with Stephon Marbury on this date.1 Steph hadn’t played a game for the team since January 2008. He was officially banished from the team early in the 2008-09 season after refusing to enter into the game.

As this was Marbury’s last year of his contract, the Knicks had no urgency to play him major minutes. Both Mike D’Antoni or Donnie Walsh attempted to negotiate a buyout with Marbury earlier in the year. However, conversations stalled after Marbury stormed out a meeting early in December.

The Knicks did give Marbury permission to speak to other teams. Eventually, the Boston Celtics found a need for him after various injuries to their guards. As a result, both parties agreed to a buyout allowing Marbury to join Boston shortly before the March 1st deadline for players to become playoff eligible.

On This Date: Knicks acquire Tim Thomas

February 15th 2004: Knicks acquire Tim Thomas & Nazr Mohammed 

Isiah Thomas decided to make some noise during All Star Weekend, despite having no All Stars, by acquiring Tim Thomas and Nazr Mohammed in a three-way trade with the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks sent Keith Van Horn to the Milwaukee Bucks and Michael Doleac and a 2005 2nd round pick (Ronny Turiaf) to the Hawks. The deal was one of the final steps in unwinding the Scott Layden era.

Isiah Thomas publicly admitted in looking for players who were young, athletic, and exciting for fans. Thomas, then 26, originally hailed from Paterson, NJ and was an athletic wing that Isiah believed could blossom in New York. Mohammed, then 26, was more of an offensive threat that could complement Dikembe Mutombo in the center rotation.

Keith Van Horn never fully meshed during his short tenure in New York. Additionally, he had a long brewing feud with Stephon Marbury dating back to their days with the New Jersey Nets. Michael Doleac was just an adequate backup center during his 1+ years with the team.

Unfortunately, neither player had a long future with the team. Tim Thomas’ two years with the Knicks were largely forgettable outside of the “fugazy” moment during the 2004 NBA Playoffs against Kenyon Martin and a slick pass he received from Stephon Marbury:

Thomas was later dealt to the Bulls in the Eddy Curry trade and re-acquired for a short period in the 2008-09 season.

Nazr Mohammed was a serviceable starting center for the team before being dealt to the San Antonio Spurs for Malik Rose and two 1st round picks that turned out to become David Lee and Mardy Collins. Ironically, Mardy Collins was dealt in the 2008-09 season in the deal to re-acquire Tim Thomas.

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.2

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: Knicks win 3OT Thriller against the Phoenix Suns

January 2, 2006: The New York Knicks win a triple overtime thriller against the Phoenix Suns

In one of the lone highlights of Larry Brown’s Knick tenure, the Knicks outlasted the Suns 140-133 in triple overtime. Stephon Marbury led the Knicks with 32 points and 10 assists in 54 minutes. Jamal Crawford scored 29 off the bench and had 7 rebounds and 7 assists each in 48 minutes of action.

However, it was rookie David Lee who had a breakthrough moment with the Knicks. In Lee’s best game so far of the season, he scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds on 10-11 shooting in 51 minutes. Lee finally broke through in Larry Brown’s rotation after he received 7 DNPs earlier.

In the third overtime, both Eddy Curry & David Lee had three-point plays that helped seal the victory. Curry had a double-double with 20 points and 15 rebounds.

This was the Knicks’ first triple overtime game since Valentine’s Day 1993 when the team lost 102-100 to Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic. This victory also marked the beginning of a 6-game winning streak for the team.

On This Date: Knicks hire Red Holzman. 39 years later, the Knicks play a Triple OT thriller

December 27, 1967: The New York Knicks hire Red Holzman as Head Coach

In a franchise altering move, the Knicks fired Dick McGuire and hired Red Holzman as head coach. McGuire – a native of the Bronx – spent 8 years playing point guard with the Knicks and was a 7-time NBA All Star. After a stint as player-coach and head coach with the Detroit Pistons, the Knicks hired him as head coach in 1965.

While McGuire was a superb player as a Knick, his dominance didn’t translate as head coach. He had a 75-103 record with the team before his dismissal. At the time, the Knicks were in last place. He wasn’t able to get a full season of Willis Reed & Walt “Clyde” Frazier. However, the Knicks later hired McGuire to join their front office and remained there until his death in 2010.

Red – a native of Brooklyn – spent the previous 10 seasons as the chief scout for the Knicks. He was responsible for discovering and drafting both Willis and Clyde. Despite his preference to be a scout, team president Ned Irish convinced Holzman to coach the team.

Irish’s persistence had major dividends for the franchise. Holzman led the team to their only two championships. The key stars he coached – from Earl Monroe to Clyde Frazier to Wills Reed – all made the Hall of Fame.


December 27, 2006: Knicks win a Triple OT Thriller against the Detroit Pistons

The Knicks shocked the Madison Square Garden faithful with a thrilling 151-145 Triple Overtime victory against the Detroit Pistons. The Knicks withstood a career high 51 points from Rip Hamilton and double-doubles from former Knicks Antonio McDyess, & Nazr Mohammed. Future Knick Chauncey Billups also had a double double with 17 points and 10 assists.

The Knicks led by 3 points with less than 10 seconds left in regulation before Carlos Delfino tied the game with a three. The Knicks fell behind by 5 with less than two minutes left in overtime before tying the score and sending the game to Double OT. With the Knicks down 136-134 , Channing Frye hit a buzzer beating shot to send the game to Triple Overtime. The Knicks were able to hold an early lead in triple overtime and sealed the victory.

Stephon Marbury led the Knicks with 41 points and 8 assists while hitting 12-15 from the foul line in 50 minutes. The quartet of Marbury, Eddy Curry, Jamal Crawford, & Channing Frye scored a combined 129 points and made a combined 40-48 from the free throw stripe.

Since the Nuggets/Knicks brawl, the Knicks had a stretch of gritty performances and buzzer beaters that was capped by their performance on this date.

 

On This Date: Stephon Marbury scores game-winning finger roll against the Utah Jazz

December 18, 2006:  Stephon Marbury goes coast-to-coast to hit the game-winning finger roll against the Utah Jazz

Stephon Marbury lifted the undermanned Knicks team to an improbably 97-96 victory against Deron Williams and the Utah Jazz.  The Knicks dressed only 8 players for the game due to the suspensions from the melee against the Nuggets only 2 days prior.  4 players – Nate Robinson, Jerome James, Mardy Collins, & Jared Jeffries – were suspended for the game.  Additionally, starters Steve Francis & Quentin Richardson were sidelined due to injury.

With 3 seconds left in regulation, Deron Williams hit the potential game-winning basket.  However, David Lee hit Marbury with the perfect outlet pass to put him in the position for a 1v1 battle against Mehmet Okur.  Marbury was quickly able to score the basket off a finger roll right before the buzzer to win the game.

Right after Marbury hit the buzzer, he quickly ran off to the locker room along with the rest of the teammates knowing that he won the game.  He didn’t bother waiting for the results of the instant replay.

Marbury led the team with 29 points and 8 assists including the game-winning finger roll.

On This Date: Antonio McDyess makes his Knicks regular season debut and Stephon Marbury is banished from team

December 1, 2003: Antonio McDyess makes his Knicks regular season debut against the Detroit Pistons

Antonio McDyess finally made his Knicks regular season debut in a 79-78 overtime loss against the Detroit Pistons. McDyess was on a minutes restriction and only played 13 minutes. He had a meager statline of 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block.

This game was 100 games into the making for McDyess. He missed the entire 2002-03 season with a broken kneecap suffered on a putback dunk in the preseason. The injury dampened the excitement heading into the season, especially after McDyess averaged more than 17 points and 13 rebounds in the preseason.2

The McDyess trade was largely meant to get the Knicks back into the playoffs and provide an athletic frontcourt presence to complement Latrell Sprewell & Allan Houston. The Knicks sorely lacked an athletic frontcourt presence that could score with explosiveness, rebound, and defend, perhaps dating back to Patrick Ewing before the wrist injuries. McDyess was expected to fill that gap.

Even though McDyess missed most of the 2001-02 season with knee surgeries, he looked healthy heading into the preseason and through half of the preseason before the injuries. The injury left the Knicks with a gaping hole in the frontcourt that badly needed a jolt of athleticism, interior scoring, and shot blocking. While Kurt Thomas played his part as the starting center, the loss of McDyess added an additional strain on Houston & Sprewell to provide the entire offense for the team.

McDyess only played 18 games with the Knicks in the 2003-04 season. He showed minor flashes of his fabled athleticism, but was largely a relic of what he once was.  Without Sprewell on the roster, traded for Keith Van Horn, the Knicks never got to fully realize the potential trio.  McDyess was subsequently traded to the Phoenix Suns for Stephon Marbury.

McDyess made the NBA Finals in the following season with the Detroit Pistons.2 He reinvented his game to rely less on athleticism and more on intellect and craftiness. Consequently, he was able to stay relatively healthy for the rest of his career, missing only 41 games over 7 years and even playing 82 games in consecutive seasons.


December 1, 2008: Stephon Marbury banished from Knicks

The Knicks officially told Stephon Marbury to stay away from the team, effectively banishing him and ending his Knicks tenure.

After coming to New York with fanfare and excitement, returning back to the city he grew up in, Marbury’s tenure as a Knick was unfortunately marred in chaos and losing. After making the playoffs in his first season, Marbury fell victim to the Knicks’ losing environment. He famously proclaimed he was the greatest point guard in the NBA in the 2004-05 season, before the Knicks’ record tanked and Lenny Wilkens concurrently resigned as head coach.

Marbury conflicted with most of his head coaches from Larry Brown to former friend, Isiah Thomas, to Mike D’Antoni. The Larry Brown saga led to the beginning of the end of Marbury’s dominance on the court. His on-court production declined and dropped to career lows in the 2007-08 season.

The 2007-08 season marked the first visible conflicts between Marbury & the Knicks. Marbury went AWOL earlier in the season and effectively ended his Knicks career in January 2008 after electing to have left ankle surgery without approval from the Knicks medical staff.

With the Mike D’Antoni hire and Marbury’s impending expiring contract, there was a great likelihood of Marbury never playing a game with the Knicks. Despite the rumors, Marbury did play well in the preseason. However, D’Antoni took Marbury out of the rotation to begin the season. The relationship became irreconcilable once Marbury refused to play in a game where the Knicks were severely undermanned following the Jamal Crawford & Zach Randolph trade.

The Knicks suspended him for a game and told him to stay away from the team on December 1st. He was later waived in February and joined the Boston Celtics to finish his NBA career. Despite the turmoil in the NBA, Marbury rejuvenated his career playing in China and will forever be known as a hero in the country after winning 3 championships in the Chinese Basketball Association.

On This Date: Nate Robinson hits game winning three in post-Thanksgiving thriller

November 26, 2005: Nate Robinson wins the game for the Knicks in OT against Allen Iverson & the Philadelphia 76ers

The New York Knicks & Philadelphia 76ers certainly turned this post-Thanksgiving Saturday into a basketball thriller at Madison Square Garden. Nate Robinson hit the buzzer-beating three in the right corner in overtime to stun the 76ers by a score of 105-102.

After the 76ers took a 13 point lead coming out of the 1st half, the Knicks had a 14-point turnaround to take a 1 point lead by the end of the 3rd quarter. Stephon Marbury & Allen Iverson went back and forth against each other the entire game. Marbury ended the game with a team-high 33 points and 6 assists. Allen Iverson had a team-high 40 points, the first time he scored 40 points against the Knicks in his career.

After the Knicks took a 3 point lead with less than 20 seconds left in the 4th quarter, Chris Webber tied the game on a tip-shot before the end of regulation to send the game to overtime.

Although Marbury & Iverson went back and forth the entire overtime, Nate Robinson was the final hero of the game. On the final possession, Marbury was able to find Nate in the right corner after Iverson came to help off of him. Nate hit the three over a leaping Iverson to send Madison Square Garden into a frenzy.

The game marked Nate’s first breakout game with the Knicks. In 32 minutes of action, Nate score a then-high 17 points in 32 minutes. In an overall tumultuous season, this represented one of a few highlights for Nate Robinson.

 

Stephon Marbury jokes he contributed to his own fandom’s pain

Stephon Marbury has done more than win basketball games in both the U.S. and China. It was revealed earlier this month that he is the winner of this year’s Pioneer Award, which recognizes significant contributions to the US-China relationship.

In an interview about the award with CNBC’s Beijing Inside China host, Eunice Yoon, the former Knick jokingly talked about the struggle of being a Knicks fan. After stating he believes one day the Knicks will “win the opportunity” to go to the playoffs, he discussed the struggle of being a Knicks fan.

“I’m still a Knicks fan, after all the nonsense I’ve been through, everything I’ve been through in my life with the Knicks, I’m still a New York fan.”

“Look, see, this is what we go through… I even put us through it (smiling).”

What is the Pioneer Award?

It is presented by the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham China), which is a business-oriented lobbying organization.

Why did Stephon Marbury, of all people, receive the award?

As explained by AmCham China:

Stephon has embodied those principles since arriving here in 2010, both through exemplary leadership on the basketball court, and through a range of entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures off it. Leading the Beijing Ducks to three CBA titles in four years (2012-15), Stephon is often referred to as Commissar Ma (马政委) due to his role as mentor and coach to his Chinese teammates and youth players. Off the court, he has been involved in a variety of business ventures, and, in 2014, he was named one of the Top 10 Model Citizens for Beijing – the first foreigner to receive this award – due to his commitment to the Beijing community and his charity work.

 

On This Date: Larry Brown wins his first game as Knicks coach after 0-5 start

November 13, 2005: Larry Brown finally leads Knicks to his first victory as head coach with a 105-95 victory in Sacramento

Larry Brown won his first game as Knicks head coach after an 0-5 start. Rookie Channing Frye led the Knicks with 19 points and 6 rebounds off the bench. Stephon Marbury led the team with 39 minutes played, resulting in 17 points and 7 assists.

Larry Brown signed a 5 year $50 million contract to coach the Knicks after leading the Pistons to consecutive NBA Finals berths. Despite the excitement and high expectations, chaos marred the team to start the season. Through six games, Brown changed the starting lineup three times, played 11 or 12 players every game, and gave many of the players’ unpredictable minutes.

Additionally, Nate Robinson sparred with Jerome James (height difference of 16 inches) during a team practice before the West Coast trip.

Despite the win, the season ultimately became a public embarrassment for the organization and fans alike. Brown’s tendencies to shake up rotations and publicly admonishing his players created unnecessary distractions for the team. Furthermore, in-fighting between players and coaches only created a corrosive environment not suitable for the rookies or veterans alike.

The lack of a semblance of a team led to a 23-59 record and Brown was ultimately fired at the end of the year with more than $40 million remaining on his contract.

On This Date: Charles Oakley makes his Knicks debut

November 4th 1988:  Charles Oakley makes his Knicks debut against the Boston Celtics

Charles Oakley made his Knicks debut and grabbed a double-double (11 points & 11 rebounds) in an 122-115 overtime loss against the Boston Celtics. Oakley was one of six players who scored in double figures that night. Patrick Ewing led the Knicks with 28 points, while Mark Jackson and Johnny Newman both scored 19 points each.

The Chicago Bulls traded Oakley to the Knicks on the day of the 1988 NBA Draft for Bill Cartwright. Of the 9 trades between the Bulls & Knicks, this trade ended up being a win-win for both team. Oakley became expendable as a result of the rapid development of Horace Grant. The Knicks relegated Cartwright to be Ewing’s backup. New York needed a power forward who could rebound while the Bulls needed a center who could score. This trade met the demands of both teams.

Oakley anchored the power forward position for the next decade and used his toughness on both ends of the floor to help the team achieve more than a decade of playoff berths and an NBA finals appearance.

Cartwright immediately became the Bulls starting center. While he was not scoring a high number of points, he eventually was an integral part of the Bulls’ first championship trifecta.

One hidden gem in the Oakley trade was the swap of 1st round picks. The Bulls used the Knicks’ pick to draft Will Perdue. Perdue would be a decent backup center who was part of 4 championship teams in his NBA career.

The Knicks ended up drafting Rod Strickland. Although he had a solid rookie season in New York, he became frustrated as Mark Jackson’s backup and demanded a trade in the following year (reminds me of a former Knick last year). He was later shipped to the Spurs in for Maurice Cheeks.

P.S. there’s 3 degrees of separation between NYC basketball legends Rod Strickland & Stephon Marbury.  Can anyone guess the link?