Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Your New York Knickerbockers

I don’t think it is humanly possible to put together a more entertaining and accurate assessment of the New York Knicks than Bill Simmons did a few weeks ago. But I’m a frustrated Knicks fan, and I’m starting to become a bit perturbed.

After reading the last sentence, most Knicks fans probably thought, “you’re just starting to become perturbed NOW?” Yes, I realize the Knicks haven’t been good for quite some time now, but I’ve come to grips with that. They’re suffering through their second straight incompetent GM, but that’s a fact that I just can’t change so I begrudgingly accept it.

I could take this space to nit-pick Isaiah’s trade portfolio, but 1) it’s been done countless times and 2) let it suffice to say that they were ALL bad. I feel as if he’s playing a game of NBA Live rather than actually GMing the Knicks.

There were a few (just a few) issues heading into the 2005 NBA off-season, and for some reason I thought that Isaiah might have learned from his past mistakes and actually addressed these critical issues rather than overspend and bring big names to the Garden. Alas, I overestimated Isaiah’s ability to learn. You can teach a dog to stay in your yard, but you can’t teach Isaiah how not to screw up an NBA team.

The first indication that Isaiah doesn’t have a clue came when he acquired Jamal Crawford at the two to complement Stephon Marbury at point. But he neglected one minor detail, however: his two starting guards were shooters who are highly ineffective without the ball, and they don’t play defense. Thankfully, Kurt Thomas was still at the low post with his sweet shot and tough defensive capabilities.

And a few months later, Thomas exchanged Thomas for another guy who chucks up a lot of shots and is ineffective without the ball in his hands. But Mike Sweetney was still on the roster to anchor the defense…until Isaiah traded him for a center who – guess what – chucks up a lot of shots, is ineffective without the ball in his hands, and doesn’t rebound.

Look on the bright side: Isaiah got rid of Tim Thomas and his uber-inflated contract, right? That would have elated me under normal circumstance, but Tim’s contract expires after the 05-06 season, which would have freed up some valuable cap room. Instead, the Knicks are locked in long term with Eddie Curry.

More evidence of Isaiah’s inability to learn: he also sent a first-round pick to Chicago in the Curry deal. This has been the biggest headache of the Isaiah Era: having perpetually crappy teams but no draft picks to compensate because they keep getting dished. There was a glimmer of hope this year, when Isaiah didn’t deal the first round pick away, and actually acquired another one from Phoenix in the Kurt Thomas deal. With the Curry deal, all hope that Isaiah would learn to be smart with the draft would be eliminated.

Adding to the headache is the recent ESPN Insider rumor that Kevin Garnett is on the trading block. Isaiah wouldn’t be Isaiah if he didn’t throw his name into the hat for every superstar available, and this is no exception. The rumor has the Knicks sending Channing Frye, Penny Hardaway (whose inflated contract expires after this season), and a first rounder to Minnesota, and I don’t think Isaiah would blink an eye before pulling the trigger on that one.

But who could blame someone for acquiring Kevin Garnett? This guy, right here. There are three chips the Knicks would be sending off in this deal, and each presents a problem that KG can’t solve. In Frye, the Knicks have a young man who is currently exceeding expectations, proving that he can play an adequate power forward under Larry Brown the rookie hater. His status at adequate has the potential to rise, and while he’ll most likely never be on the same level as KG, he’s also a good seven years younger and has plenty of room for development.

In Hardaway, the Knicks have cap relief following the season, an invaluable asset when the team is inundated with crippling contracts. Every penny counts at this point, especially when there is way too much money tied up in the likes of Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Eddie Curry, Quentin Richardson, and Allan Houston, not to mention Malik Rose and Maurice Taylor. It’s not as if dumping Penny’s salary (along with Antonio Davis’s) will get the Knicks enough cap room to make a signing. In fact, it’s likely they will still have the highest payroll in the NBA next season. But he is merely the first step in creating flexibility under the cap.

And finally, the first round pick is an aspect that should be more coveted by Thomas and Co., especially considering the cap situation. No matter what your team salary is, you’ll always be able to sign your draft picks. So considering the dismal fiscal state of the Knicks, it is only logical to save up draft picks and build the team that way, since free agency beyond a mid-level exception won’t be an option until 2010.

Garnett is signed through 2009, meaning more long terms dollars for the Knicks. And it’s not even as if he would be a guaranteed solution. Actually, the only thing KG guarantees is a commitment to more dollars in the future, which means considerably less flexibility (what is considerably less than shitty?).

Oh, and the trouncing by Miami sans Shaq made me feel a whole ton better.