Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Franchise A Knick

My first reaction was “oh no!” when I saw that red “Breaking News” banner on the front page of this afternoon. It’s NBA trade season, so before even seeing anything below the banner, I knew there was a good chance it involved the Knicks. Then I saw the actual headline: “Stevie Wonder: Knicks Make Move.” Wonderful, I thought to myself, we just overpaid for a high-talent, low-output player.

Bill Simmons had an interesting tidbit on Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury in his last NBA column.

Just like Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis seems like one of those guys who changes teams, gets his act together for a few months and eventually wears out his welcome. So what would happen if the Knicks and Magic traded Marbury for Francis ... and then, three months later, they swapped them again? And this just kept happening every three months? In other words, you would be getting only the "getting his act together" part of the Marbury/Francis package without dealing with the "wearing out his welcome" side effects. I really think this could work.

As when Marbury returned to New York, I expect Francis will come on strong in the beginning. And hell, maybe that will inspire Marbury to start actually, you know, playing. That would give the Knicks one of the most formidable backcourts in the NBA, which is fitting since they’re the most highly paid tandem.

In the area of compensation, I’m not very disappointed. I was vehemently against the trade when it involved Jamal Crawford and Kelvin Cato, since I’m beginning to warm up to Crawford and think that Cato is vastly overrated (if that’s possible). But sans Crawford, it seems to make enough sense. Trading Penny’s expiring contract was inevitable, since the Knicks will in no way benefit by his cap relief. Francis is a free agent in 2008, which kind of works well with the team’s current cap situation.

The key to this deal is ensuring that the three big contracts due to come off the books in 2007 – Jalen Rose, Malik Rose, and Maurice Taylor – aren’t traded for long term contracts during the 2006-2007 season. Then when Francis comes off the books in 2008, the Knicks might actually have some flexibility. Then again, why would I expect Isiah to possess such foresight? Hopefully he won’t be around, however, and will be replaced by someone who realized the potential in the current situation.

Unfortunately, this trade doesn’t seem the present look any less bleak. The area of major concern for the Knicks, the frontcourt, is still in shambles. I am still of the belief that they are not going to succeed with Channing Frye and Eddie Curry manning the low post. They’re both fine offensive players, but neither of them can pull down a rebound or block a shot. Add the fact that the backup big men are Malik Rose, Mo Taylor, and Jerome James, and it’s apparent that teams with semi-dominant big men can still have a field day with the Knicks.

In the backcourt, the situation is a bit crowded. In essence, the team now has two useless swingmen in Jalen Rose and Quentin Richardson. David Lee is a decent fit in the three spot, but his youth and inexperience are still visible. Since the Knicks are all but eliminated from the playoffs, playing Lee more at the three would seem to make a bit of sense. Watch out, though; two bad games and you’ll see him back on Larry Brown’s shit list.

Marbury finally gets his wish of switching to the two guard with the arrival of Francis, which will hopefully translate into increased scoring. He still has the skills to dish it off to the open man, but that won’t be as necessary now, since the offense will be running through Francis. Poor Jamal Crawford now has a huge question mark next to him, since he’ll likely be demoted to a bench player. Nice reward for a guy who is finally adding some consistency to his game. That leaves Nate Dogg with even less playing time, even though he should be getting at least 12 minutes a game. The kid has shown excellent potential, and dunk contest conspiracy or not, looks like he could blossom into an adequate two guard (though LB should be training him in the art of the point).

My original inclination was to suggest a three guard starting lineup for the time being, just to see how it works. But then I remembered that Francis, Marbury, and Crawford aren’t considered the most charitable guards in the league, and that could lead to problems on and off court. But imagine if they were able to make that starting lineup gel. Francis, Marbury, Crawford, Frye, Curry. Talk about a scoring powerhouse. Every game would be a shootout, however, as none of those five guys are exactly renown for their defense.

I won’t go so far as to offer kudos to Isiah for this move, but I will say that it was less illogical than his previous dealings. I just hope the team doesn’t try to make a bigger deal about this than it is, since there is still no way the team makes the playoffs.