Home > Uncategorized > The Good, the Bad, the Ugly Knickerbocker style…

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly Knickerbocker style…

So, we are now 22 days from the culmination of a two year plan to revive the New York Knicks. I could wax poetically about how terrible the past decade has been for Knick fans, but really… if you don’t know how much s**t they’ve had to deal with, then I’d rather not be the one to subject you to it. Lets just say that things at MSG have been so bad for so long, that you’d think that BP was involved in the cleanup. Now however, is the breaking point. You might even think of it as Groundhog day for the Knicks’ franchise.

If James Dolan crawls out of his little cave and sees his shadow, then surely the Knicks are in for another long, cold, nasty winter. However, if Dolan comes out and sees LeBron James putting on a Knicks uniform at a packed press conference with 2000 flash bulbs popping like champagne corks, well, then Knickerbocker fans might actually be in line for a (seemingly) endless summer.

As we all know, for a team that wasn’t playing, the Knicks had a superb second round of the playoffs. The Celtics upset of the Cavs increased the likelihood that LeBron James might leave Cleveland. Some, like this short, bald scribe, would argue that it opened the door and stamped his passport, but others caution that while that might have been James’ initial reaction, cooler heads will prevail. Still, for the Knicks’ hopes, the Celtics win was the best news they’ve had since Mike D’Antoni chose New York over Chicago.

It’s clear that for NY, this summer is all about the King. If they get James to join them in the Big Apple, then these two excruciating years will just be a hazy memory. If however he chooses to play elsewhere, well then things could get real ugly, real fast. In fact I would argue that this summer is actually kind of a spaghetti western for the Knicks. It could be good, it could be bad, and it could be ugly. Lets work backwards, just because Knick fans deserve to end on a high note, even if it is hypothetical.

The Ugly:

So, assume that LeBron returns to Cleveland. Then assume that Stoudemire re-ups with Phoenix, while Joe Johnson takes the Clippers money. Finally, assume that Bosh takes Chicago’s olive branch and that Carlos Boozer decides to join forces with Wade in Miami. All plausible yes? Good. Now, what are the Knicks going to do? They can’t go into next year with only four guys. They can’t go into next year with a roster that looks like an Olsen twin. They need to flesh it out. They need bodies and more importantly, after selling their fans on this waiting for 2010 plan, they need names.

Enter the Washington Wizards. The maligned capital franchise just had its name selected by the lottery Gods to be the future home of John Wall. The worst thing that the Wolves could do for Wall – the Clipper move if you will – would be to pair him with Gilbert Arenas. The Wiz are going to say publicly that they believe that Wall and the Gunslinger can co-exist in the backcourt. And of course on paper they can, but even Ernie Grunfeld isn’t stupid enough to believe that Arenas will be a good tutor to Wall. So, the Wizards will try to move mountains if it allows them to move Arenas.

That of course makes for a Jesse James’ style marriage. There’s some tattoos, some guns, strippers, an epic party or two, and a whole lot of dysfunction. It could be as simple as Toney Douglas and a second round pick. BANG! Just like that Gilbert’s a Knick.

Of course, the Knicks would not be finished there. They could also call the Sixers and say, ok, you want to clear Elton Brand off your cap, well then we’ll need Andre Igoudala. We’ll give you Wilson Chandler and Eddy Curry’s expiring deal. Done. The Sixers have Evan Turner or Derrick Favours coming in. They have Jrue Holiday developing. They need to get rid of Brand and that number two pick should have made Iggy disposable. If it takes him to clear off Brand, then seal the deal.

And, just because Knick fans sold their soul to the devil during the NBA’s first draft lottery, Donnie Walsh will decide that he saw something in Jermaine O’Neal that makes him think the former MVP candidate, and a player who was Walsh’s star in Indiana, might have something left in the tank – never mind that O’Neal actually died in the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills five years ago, but has been carried around like Bernie Lomax ever since.

Add in some cheap pieces around the fringe and suddenly the Knicks’ roster looks like this…

PG – G. Arenas, S. Rodriguez,
SG – A. Igoudala, B. Walker, J. Giddens
SF – D. Gallinari, T. Thomas
PF – E. Brand, C. Wilcox, S. Marks
C – J. O’Neal, T. Battie

I know, I know, it’s nausea inducing. You say to yourself there’s no way that that’s possible, but hey, “Gilbert a Knick” is a very real, very scary proposition. It’s like them making an A-Team movie. You know it’s a terrible idea, they know it’s a terrible idea, but somewhere along the way you both talk yourselves into it and next thing you know, they’ve made the movie and you’ve bought advance tickets online. Not that I’m saying I’ve bought advance tickets online or anything, just that, uhmmm… ahhh… lets move on.

The Wiz need to get rid of Gilbert, the Knicks need something to show for all of this waiting and seeing. It’s long been my favorite style of management, “first we show up, then we see what happens.” Of course, if “what happens” is a big pile of poop in a shoe, then that’s just plain ugly…

The Bad:

There are other scenarios for the Knicks that aren’t so Cormac McCarthy post-apocalyptic, but still leave you with that sharing an elevator with someone who just farted feeling. What about if LeBron and Bosh join forces in Chicago, Wade and Stoudemire in Miami, but the Knicks walk away from the NBA game of free agent musical chairs with Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer. How would that sit for you?

Both are good players. Together they have six allstar appearances, seven seasons of averaging better than 20 points per game and last year they combined to average 40.8 points and 15.8 rebounds, but if you believe that a core of Johnson and Boozer is getting you past the second round, well, I’ve got an amazing waterfront investment for you in the Gulf Coast.

For that reason, I wouldn’t pay either max money, but I think there are enough teams out there with cash this offseason that both will eventually receive the max. All it takes is the big four free agents (LeBron, Wade, Bosh, and Amare)* to sign elsewhere and then Johnson to get a max offer from the Timberwovles or the Clippers, or Sacramento. Everybody always talks about winning, but when the chips fall, they always take the money. All it takes is one drunken David Kahn phone call and suddenly Johnson’s “worth” 16 million. So, forget about the Knicks adding Johnson, Boozer, and someone like Rudy Gay on 11 or 12 million per year deals. It just isn’t happening. (likewise, the so-called free agent summit is irrelevant, because all those guys aren’t taking 8 million per year to band together like the Justice League).

Now, with a core of Gay and Boozer, the Knicks could still use that Curry-expiring chip to fill in pieces around the fringes. They could make Detroit an offer that took Rip Hamilton and Charlie Villanueva off the Pistons’ hands for Curry’s expiring, which would save Detroit bucket loads of cash and allow them to escape from two questionable moves. With a couple other minor signings, the Knicks roster looks thus:

PG – R. Felton, T. Douglas, S. Rodriguez
SG – R. Hamilton, B. Walker
SF – J. Johnson, D. Gallinari, W. Chandler
PF – C. Boozer, C. Villanueva
C – Mystery Center 1, J. Howard

Sure, the Johnson and Boozer led Knicks are making the playoffs, they might even win a round, but they are soft, they lack leadership, and if they don’t score 110 then they’re almost certainly losing. The chances of them winning a title are about the same as the chances of me finally getting that growth spurt I’ve been hoping for. It’s not ugly, but it’s sure as heck not good…

*(I don’t list Dirk Nowitzki here, because while he’s opting out of his contract and becoming a free agent, I fully expect him to re-sign with the Mavericks. For very obvious reason, Dirk needs to get a new contract before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement runs out, and opting out, rather than just signing an extension, allows him to negotiate a “no trade” clause into the deal. If Dirk were actually on the market, I’d have him above Amare, but below Bosh in the order.)

The Good:

LeBron supposedly wants to win RIGHT NOW, so the only way the Knicks can get him is to convince James that in this one summer they are going to overhaul their roster so completely that they will be contenders next year. Having said that, I think that there are more factors involved here than just winning. I think that LeBron’s actions have made clear that he wants to be wooed, he wants to be lusted after, he wants to be in the limelight. I think that New York actually has a very real possibility to get LeBron simply because the King wants the biggest throne possible… and folks, it just doesn’t get any bigger than ruling the Big Apple.

Of course, he’s not going to rule alone.

So, they have to get LeBron and Chris Bosh on a three way phone call and say, we want both of you, we need both of you, and if you come here, then these are the other moves we’re going to make in an effort to win a title.

After those two sign, then you want shooters, lots and lots of shooters. Before Boston’s playoff run I would have suggested signing Ray Allen as the shooting guard, but I think Boston’s success this spring will entice them to keep the gang together for one more year.

So… I make an offer to J.J. Redick. If you watched Orlando’s flameout in the Eastern Conference finals, then you surely came to two conclusions: First, Dwight Howard needs to spend six hours a day in the gym this summer working with Hakeem Olajuwon. Second, JJ Redick, yes… Duke’s own JJ Redick, who struggled in his first two years, is good, real good. He’s always been a great shooter, but his game has grown where he’s now more than just a eighth man off the bench. His defense has improved to the point that he’s not a liability and he’s learned how to get his shot off against NBA defenses. His dribbling’s improved and while I still wouldn’t have him moving with the ball too often, he’s not a turnover waiting to happen. More than just that, he’s a fighter and a smart player. I would always have a roster spot for a smart, fighting shooter.

After Redick, I poach Channing Frye from Phoenix. Frye had his struggles in the series against the Lakers, but he also showed that he’s got a sweet three point stroke. Put him on the floor with James and Bosh and watch the open J’s swish through. He has a player option for this year, but I imagine given his strong year, he’s going to opt out and look for a raise.

So, then we need a point guard. Personally, I prefer Canadian points with hair that my wife always sees and says, “oh, that’s terrible, why’s he wearing his hair like that,” but since he re-upped in Phoenix for another two years, I’d pick up Luke Ridnour off the bargain floor. He’s sort of like Steve Nash-lite and despite a good year for Milwaukee he shouldn’t have a massive price tag.

Finally I want veterans. Some guys who’ve been through the fire and say grumbly, crotchety, inspirational things when the team is in a timeout. This was both Cleveland and Orlando’s problem when things went south against the Celtics, there was no leadership to calm them down in the huddle. Shaq could have been that guy for Cleveland, because he’s won four titles, but that’s just not who he is. Instead, I’d bring in the guy the Cavs jettisoned to acquire Shaq. If you watched Ben Wallace last year, you’d realize that he’s not as dead as we thought two years ago. He’s still a fierce defender and while he can’t score to save his life, this team needs his veteran leadership, his toughness in the post and thus for 20 minute spurts can live with his lazy eye offence.

I also want to add Raja Bell. A D’Antoni favorite from their Phoenix days together, Bell could be a perfect eighth man, giving the team 15 minutes off the pine, hitting some open treys and pestering the Kobe Bryants of the world. The only question with Bell is how the knee that kept him out all of last year is holding up, but since I can’t find that information anywhere online, I’m just taking a leap of faith. I assume that were I really running the team, we’d have some sort of medical staff that could answer this question for us, but then again we are speaking about the team that gave a contract to Eddy Curry, so… who knows.

Hey, speaking of Curry, it’s probably time to round out the roster by moving his postal code sized ass somewhere that wants out of a bad contract. You know who I’d target if I were the Knicks? Lamar Odom. You can forget about all those stories about “if Odom puts it together.” At this point, he is who he is, but I’m actually kind of fond of the player he is, and his versatility is perfect for this team. It’s convoluted and tricky, but the pieces are there for the Bulls, Lakers, and Knicks to pull off a three way deal, depending on what other moves happen. The Knicks would have to give up their last remaining asset in Gallinari and they’d have to take on someone’s onerous contract (think Luke Walton’s remaining three years at five per), but for Odom it’s worth the hassle.

Finally, just to finish it off, in the second round I’d draft Duke’s Brian Zoubek. Why? Well, I have one roster spot left, and honestly, Mikey D never goes beyond eight in his rotation anyhow, so why not just select a massive, pick setting, bone crunching body to round things out. Ok, donesville. Lets see what we’ve got?

PG – L. Ridnour, T. Douglas
SG – J. Redick, R. Bell, B. Walker
SF – L. James, W. Chandler, L. Walton
PF – C. Bosh, L. Odom
C – B. Wallace, C. Frye, B. Zoubek (with either him or Walker D-Leaguing it)

Your crunch time five is Bell (or Ridnour), Redick, James, Bosh, and Odom. Desperately need a three? Then put in Ridnour, Redick, Bell, James, and Fry. You need a defensive stop? Put in Ridnour (ugh…), Bell, James, Bosh, and Wallace. Want to go small? Ridnour, Redick, Bell, James, Bosh (or Odom). Want to go big? James, Chandler, Odom, Bosh, Wallace (or Frye). Want to throw out a really crappy fourth quarter blowout five, then you’ve got Douglas, Walker, Walton, Chandler, and Zoubek.

I like it.

I’m not saying they win a title next year, the point position is weak and they could use a stronger eighth man than Chandler, but… they’re going to be good, they’re going to be exciting, and they’re going to have the garden packed and hopeful every night. Plus, over the next three years, that squad picks up every single midseason buyout, every midlevel exception, and in two years when he’s finally ageing and decides to leave Phoenix, that squad gets a floppy haired, dead eyed shooting Canadian to give them 25 solid minutes at the point. And that my friends, that… truly is the good!

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