Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Meaningful Basketball Discussions

Just like Donnie Walsh, all Knicks fans have a lot of meaningful basketball discussions ahead of us. So, let's start with the Don's scripted remarks:

And, after that rather stiff foreplay the Don and the assembled fourth estate really get down to brass tacks. And, by "brass tacks" I mean that he is asked every which way how quickly he is going to fire Isiah. And, he gives the best, most meaningful nonanswers that I've ever heard. It is amazing to hear someone speak honestly about this team who is actually affiliated with this team. I can't even describe how great it its. This clip is almost a half an hour long, but it is VERY, VERY much worth the time. It's not often that you get to hear one of the top hoops minds in the game speak plainly at length.

And, though I love the idea (and implied results) of "a meaningful basketball discussion I just can't imagine anyone having one with this Cheshire cat. This is the very definition of a sh#t-eating grin. A picture from this interview is in the dictionary under that entry.

But the knowledge that that man is not likely long for his current post as head coach (and that even if by some Faustian bargain he is able to maintain that role he will not be charged with stocking the cupboard) makes me almost as happy as I know Mike Breen must be. The Knicks play-by-play man has been wonderfully outspoken in his criticism of the Knicks dismal play this year as has is partner Clyde Frazier. As a fan you felt like they felt your pain. And, today you felt like they felt your joy.

Though, the my enthusiasm for all of this is somewhat tempered by the fact that Stephen A digs it.

But, not too much. I'd pick Stephen A over Isiah T any day of the week. Which is saying something. I would rather listen to Stephen A while stuck in traffic every single day for the rest of my life than have to watch Isiah run this team for any longer than the last day of the 2007-2008 regular season. So, bearing that in mind, let's cleanse the pallet with some Chris Sheridan.

From the Horse's Mouth

The New Don

Donnie Walsh Officially Named President of Knicks
It was on December 22, 2003 that Isiah Thomas was named President of Basketball Operation of the New York Knicks. His official bio on the team's website and in the media guide states that this is the date that he "brought his singular style and winning attitude to the world’s greatest basketball city."

That bio goes on to state that:
His impact upon the Knicks has been swift and dramatic, as he has engineered trades to bring the likes of Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Steve Francis, Eddy Curry, Jalen Rose and Quentin Richardson to New York, as well as the free agent signings of Jared Jeffries and Jerome James.

And, adds that:
Thomas’ patience and ability to stick to his long-term plan, rebuilding the organization through a balance of youth, athleticism and experience, have re-energized the franchise (every player on the Knicks’ roster has been acquired during Thomas’ regime). Taking on the added role of head coach, he brings a singular philosophy - both short- and long-term - for returning the Knicks to elite status.

The fact that this text is on the team's website today is as laughable as the team's lack of a called play coming out of a timeout in the fourth quarter. Steve Francis, Jalen Rose and Jerome James are listed as three of the eight most significant non-draft roster moves during Thomas' tenure as Team President. Really? On April 2, 2008 the team is touting the Jared Jeffries and Jerome James free-agent signings in his best-of section? That right there is as damning as anything else I could ever write about the guy. It's so much more damning because you realize that his worst, most laughable moves are really all that he has to show for himself. After all, Jared Jeffries may actually be his best free-agent signing!

And, horrendous personel judgement is just one of the myriad reasons why Donnie Walsh is replacing Isiah as President of Basketball Operations. That is one job down for Thomas and hopefully the rest will be stripped from him shortly after the close of the season. Either way, there is a new Don in town as of 1 PM EST and I couldn't be any happier.

In this case the new boss is nothing like the old boss. The new Don is nothing like the old Thomas. He has the job because he's great at exactly this sort of job and not because he was once great at another job (playing basketball) that is related to this sort of job. The new Don is someone whose resume reads impeccably*.

His team has been to the playoffs in 16 of the last 18 years. He put together a team that made a trip to the NBA Finals in 2000. His teams made six trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. His teams won four division titles. He put together a team that had the best regular season record. His club made (mostly, except when Isiah sold him on Fred Jones over Tayshaun Prince) savvy draft picks and hired (mostly, except a certain former Pistons great) quality coaches.

Even if you don't think he is the absolute best person for the job. Even if you long for Jerry West, there is no way that you don't think that Walsh isn't one of the top-four people for the job. He is a basketball man, born in NYC, molded as a player under the legendary Frank McGuire at UNC (where he would receive his law degree after eschewing a career as a baller), shaped as a coach at the University of South Carolina and hardened as a General Manager-turned-Team Executive in the Midwest. After this long circuitous journey, Donnie Walsh is ready to come home. He is ready to turn around the enfeebled Knickerbockers.

There is a new Don in the New York City. And, he ain't a member of the Corrleone family. He is a member of the Walsh family from the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

*Everything that transpired in Indiana lately goes on Larry Bird's ledger in my opinion. Walsh has been phasing himself out, and I do (perhaps with rose-tinted glasses) place most of the blame at Bird's feet. Of course, this team was irrevocably damaged by the melee with the Pistons. That team had Artest and half of the Warriors roster that everyone in the NBA loves now. Remember that? Things have gone to hell in a hand basket since that fight (and since Walsh starting backing towards the door in deference to Bird) but we can't forget that Walsh new about those guys before Nellie did.

"Everthing's Coming Up Roses...and Walshes"

How the Knicks Can Win Big By Losing Them All

So, the Knicks continue to tank games. It is unabashed. While you were watching baseball they were blowing a late lead to Bucks last night before eventually falling in OT. As planned. They have lost 15 of their last 17 games. They were outscored 32 to 21 in the fourth to allow overtime. And, I couldn't be happier. I've got designs on the one of the top two picks in the upcoming draft lottery and I think, for once, we've got the coach to get us there!

With so few games to go and the point guard (the glaring hole on our team that undeniably cost them the game last night as they couldn't run a halfcourt set when the possessions counted most down the stretch) of my dreams playing so well in the tournament I'm just happy to have the ping pong balls that each additional defeat brings in the upcoming draft.

The Knicks wake up today with a 20-54 record. This is good for fifth worst in the Association. Miami has the runaway lead for last place with only 13 wins, but I'm not overly worried about catching them (since we can't) because I think that the the Knicks just need to have one of the top two picks to get a potentially franchise-changing player in Michael Beasley from K-State or Derrick Rose from Memphis.

And, to be honest, I want Rose. I want a point guard that can pass, score, defend and has some size and can completely control a game. In other words, I want Rose to be my Chris Paul. Or, my second Mark Jackson. And, I think that if we can land in the top two spots of the draft then we can snag him.

That means, that we've got to outmaneuver Memphis (19 wins), Minnesota (19 wins) and Seattle (17 wins) either by way of bouncing ping pong balls or by way of errant basket ballls. Thankfully, tonight the Blue and Orange disastactular travels to Memphis. If we can pull out a loss down there (and maybe send some Knicks gear over to Coach Cal and D. Rose) than we'll have fallen level with them.

That leaves 7 more games to make up one with Memphis and three with Seattle. Unfortunately, the Knicks don't get a chance to lose to either of those teams again this season. Which is a shame. If we could be losing to anyone these days I would want it to be Seattle or Minnesota. However, the Knicks play very losable games @ New Orleans, at home against Orlando, @ Detroit and at home against Boston. Those should all be chalk L's, which leaves dangerously winnable contests against Charlotte, Atlanta and @ Indiana on the schedule.

The Hawks are fighting (and seemingly securing) a playoff seed so I would hope that they wouldn't mail in their fourth to last game of the year. They need the win. I need the loss. And, I'm confident that we can all leave that night (Friday, April 11) feeling like we got what we wanted. So, that just leaves Charlotte and Indiana. The 'Bockers have split the first two games with Charlotte. Each team has held serve at home. However, the Knicks win came in their brief stretch of inspired .500 ball in February when Nate was playing so well and Jamal hadn't broken the 45,000 minute-mark for the season.

The Knicks are not the same team they were for those two halycon mid-winter weeks and the Bobcats have won 3 of their last 4, including a win @ the Lakers. Even though the game should be a toss up I feel confident that Isiah can sabotage this game with some combination of Wilson Chandler in crunchtime and Randolph Morris the rest of the time.

And, if we can make my dreams of these losses a reality and THEN we'll end the miserable 2007-2008 season in Indianapolis playing another woeful team in front of tens and tens of paying customers. In many ways it is fitting that we end with the Pacers since the word is out that today the Knicks will announce the hiring of longtime Pacer exec Donnie Walsh as the President of Basketball Operations here in the Big Apple.

If so, then I would think his (hopefully) last duet (since their first took place in Indy) with Isiah will be a good one. Isiah can lose each and every game left on the schedule and Donnie can use that draft pick to start turning this thing around in the offseason.