Thursday, January 24, 2008

And, time. Pencils down and please hand in your NBA Midterm Reports

It's that time of year, again. The tax papers are in the mail, the holiday gift certificates are all but spent, the media uses the Super Bowl bye-week to destroy your interest in the game and the basketball writers around the country are dusting off their red pens and dishing out "midterm grades" to all of the teams in the NBA. Below you'll see that I've rounded up the comments, compliments and complaints that have bee directed at the Knicks during this year's midterm season.

First we'll start off with Tim Legler's Eastern Conference Grades from the Daily Dime on ESPN.com:
New York Knicks (Grade: F) -- I honestly don't know where to begin. The Knicks could have earned at least a D grade if they hadn't been such a disaster off the court. It's one thing to play poorly or underachieve. It's an entirely different level of ineptitude when a team lacks passion, chemistry, unselfishness and the concept of basic winning basketball fundamentals. Thank goodness for David Lee and Renaldo Balkman, the only two Knicks who bring the right mind-set to the arena every night.

A former Academic All-American at LaSalle, Legler predictably sticks with the tried and true alphabet grading system for his story. Not surprisingly, the Knicks flunked the first half of the season. I agree. In fact, I have no back-handed commentary on anything that the champ of 1996 Three-Point Shootout has to say about the team. The only thing I would amend is that I would add Nate Robinson to the list of players who bring the right mindset every night. Of course, I would like to hear something about Crawford's improved play and the other positive signs in the past two weeks but I can't really argue with Legs knowing that space is limited and he's considering the first-half as a whole.

Meanwhile Charley Rosen over at FoxSports.com eschews the grading route and poses the questions facing each team in the Association during the second half of the season.
New York Knicks:
-Will Jerome James be the Knicks' savior?
-If the Knicks have to deal either Eddy Curry or Zach Randolph, the former should be designated to go — if only because the latter (even though he's much more of a pain in the butt) will at least rebound and occasionally pass.
-The Knicks are a mathematical anomaly — their total is less than the sum of their parts.
-By hook or by crook (both methods being SOP at MSG), shouldn't the Knicks get a real point guard, play Crawford at the shooting-guard slot, and bring Nate Robinson off the bench?
-And why doesn't Dippy Dolan heed the vox populi and put Zeke out of his misery?

I have a hard time taking this guy seriously for two reasons. 1) He works for Fox. 2) He wrote a column a few years back about the players in the NBA who he considered most overrated that, shall we say, upset me. He named Barkley, Ewing, Robinson, Malone and several other prominent and future HOF players in his article and offered very suspect and incomplete evidence to back up his assertions. It was the worst sort of ill-conceived, attention mongering Skip Baylicosity and is indicative of the sort of stuff that you would expect from a FOX outlet or bad talk radio. But, Rosen poses some interesting questions here, so I'll just focus on that. I agree that the fate of Jerome James is an interesting subplot in the second half. As Curry and Randolph show that they are completely inept defensively will James see more playing time? He is allegedly healthy and seems to understand that he is essentially starting from absolute zero as far as the rotation and the fans are concerned. This bit of self-knowledge puts him ahead of some of his teammates and coaches. If James plays well enough then perhaps we could unload him in the offseason or perhaps we could be free to trade another of the bigs. I don't like what James represents about the Isiah Thomas era and I've frequently expressed the fact that I want him banished, so obviously the fates have made it so that he could potentially be a factor down the stretch. Of course.

Jack McCallum attempts to do Rosen's question ploy one better over at SI.com, but he fails miserably with his hilariously unfunny use of the failing economy as a prop.
Sell! Run for your lives and sell!
New York Knicks (NIX)
Price at beginning of season: $11.75
Current price: One cent
Analysis: Buyouts impossible for overcompensated workforce. Leadership crisis. Stockholders in near revolt. Company has taken the "standard" out of Standard & Poor's.

I must confess that I do like McCallum's work even though I think this conceit is pretty hokey and can barely tolerate Marty Lyons when he does the same thing during the weekly pre-game Jets broadcasts on the radio. I think that McCallum tried to be too clever here. After all, there isn't anything to take away about the team. Yes, I can infer that they're not doing very well but if I'm reading this sort of an article than I already know that. C'mon, Jack. You're better than this

Thursday's Starting Five

1. The New Orleans Hornets. Led by my MVP pick Chris Paul, the NOH took over first place in the Western Conference with last night's victory over red-hot Portland. That means the Hornets have more wins and fewer losses than teams like the Suns and the Spurs and the Mavs and, well, and everyone else in the hoops' version of the AFC. They'll be in The City in March.

2. Jose Calderon. Thrust into a starring role when TJ Ford went down earlier in the year, Calderon has been one of the best point guards in the Association this season. He converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 10.5 seconds left to lift the Raptors over the Celtics.

3. Mike Smith. The 2003 and 2006 winner of the Most Generic Name Contest was named HC of the Atlanta Falcons yesterday. After courting Cowher and Parcells, um, this sort of feels a bit anticlimactic. Smith was, most recently, the Defensive Coordinator for the Jags.

4. The Baylor Bears. With Curtis Jerrells lighting the way the Bears knocked off in-state rival Texas A&M (at College Station) in a five-overtime affair last night. Jerrells had 36 points, with 11 coming in the final overtime, to secure the victory in the longest game in Big 12 history.

5. Al Jefferson. The second biggest piece in the Garnett trade had a career-high 39 points to go along with 15 boards as the lowly T-Wolves beat the Suns last night. Even more surprisingly, this was the second straight game between these two that ended this way.