The day after it was announced Jared Jefferies’ injured left wrist might require as much as two months of recovery, The New York Sun’s John Hollinger argues that regardless of how much you might love the Knicks, a real fan would prefer to see them tank the season (“the more they win, the longer Isiah Thomas stays around. And few things have proved to be more damaging to this franchise’s long-term interests than letting Thomas make deals.”)
Thomas’s Knicks are short on defenders, but they’re going to try to play uptempo and win games 120“110. The key to this new approach will be the backcourt of Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis. They look to be basketball’s odd couple ” two guys who thrive on having the ball in their hands all the time, attempting to share just one basketball. Obviously, they each have to make an adjustment to having the ball less, and both will have to learn how to get points as a spot-up shooter or playing off the ball in addition to their beloved drives from the top of the key. They also need to push the ball. If you look at the careers of Francis and Marbury, you’ll notice neither has played this style much or shown any inclination to try it. Despite their incredible quickness, both seem much more comfortable setting up drives in the half-court than pushing it ahead in transition. It should be said, however, that Francis looked fantastic in preseason.
The problems come at the defensive end, where neither Channing Frye (above) nor Eddy Curry is an accomplished performer. Both fouled out in the final preseason game ” Frye in just 11 minutes ” and that trend is likely to continue in the regular season. Curry’s poor conditioning and general inattentiveness make him an easy mark for opponents, especially in transition. Frye’s problem is a lack of strength that gets him into trouble anytime he has to defend a decent post player.
So where is all this headed? Toward another trip to the lottery, probably. Of course, since Thomas agreed to swap picks with the Bulls if Chicago has a better record, the Knicks won’t get a lottery pick out of it, which will only prolong the Knicks’ stay in the lower rungs on the NBA. The only good news to come out of this is that Thomas is likely to be fired if the Knicks miss the playoffs, meaning they can finally get on with rebuilding this broken franchise.
New York Daily News media editor David Boroff claims “the Knicks are going to be fun and interesting to watch this season,” insisting “it is much more fun to watch your team lose 139-122 then 85-71.” I’m surprised MSG’s sales department hasn’t tried to fashon a slogan out of this.
Newsday’s Ken Berger, anticipating a rough start, pleads with his readership to Give Zeke A Chance.
With no Jeffries, with 11 of the first 18 games on the road, and with playoff-bound teams like Indiana, San Antonio, Cleveland, Houston and Chicago visiting the Garden before November is out, you get what Thomas means when he keeps saying, as he did again yesterday, “It’s a very unmerciful league.”
And Thomas can expect no mercy from the fans at the Garden, from the Brown fan club of pundits who already seem to want him fired, or from Garden chairman James Dolan, who is the only one at 33rd and Eighth who has his backside covered with this vague ultimatum for Thomas to improve the team or else.
Or else what? Bring back Brown? Elevate Herb Williams from the bench? Give Rick Adelman a call?
This is Thomas’ mess, and that is why everyone needs to take a step back and let the man coach it for the whole season.
Let the man coach. He created this team. He was not entirely innocent in the ugly divorce with Brown. But he is still a Hall of Famer and a champion of basketball, and he is the only hope the Knicks have to make it through what promises to be another dismal season with any pride left.
Indeed, we should disregard Thomas’ role in assembling this ridiculous squad, genuflect at his superior credentials, and pretend that Herb Williams is the only alternative.