Wednesday, March 08, 2006

That's Called Two In A Row

Have you ever half-heartedly wished failure upon someone just so they could learn a lesson? Like your buddy who dogs it at practice and doesn’t keep up with his conditioning outside of the team. You half-heartedly hope he loses so that he’ll have to step back and assess himself. And upon doing so, he learns a lesson and comes back full force. Well, I was hoping the same thing on the Knicks. I wanted them to lose every single game following the Francis trade so the executives could learn a lesson in humility. Alas, my dream is dead (was on Saturday, actually).

Yet, despite the hex I put on them, I’m not disappointed at all in the Knicks current winning streak. Well, two technically isn’t a streak, but with the 2005-2006 Knicks we’ll take what we can get. I will become enraged, however, if they regress from this point. I didn’t get to catch much of the Knicks-Pacers contest from last night, but I have my box scores. Oh boy do I have my box scores. Poring over game statistics is much more enjoyable if you haven’t seen the game, and especially if you find something of note.

I was going to wait until Game 10 of the Francis Era to report my initial findings, but something clicked as I entered my statistics into Excel last night. As I typed in each player’s points and assists totals, I watched their per minute stats inflate. Of course, this is in large part because of the aforementioned sample size. But it got me to thinking, Knicks played definitively better last night than they had in the six games prior.

This is a promising sign for the Knicks. The backcourt is loaded with “assets,” that are intended as trade bait this summer. The paradox here is that the players most attractive to other teams are the players that should be sticking around for 2006-2007. This is a veritable self-destructive situation for Isiah Thomas. More on that in a minute.

As it stands, the Knicks have a backcourt of Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Jalen Rose, Quentin Richardson, Jamal Crawford, and Nate Robinson. Obviously the intention is not to carry all six of these gentlemen in 2006-2007. And since all of them either have actual value or value in Isiah’s eyes, some of them will be packaged this summer for another crappy contract. Let’s take a look at each of these players and their value.

Marbury: There is little to no chance any team would take on Starbury’s ginormous contract this summer without unloading a crappy contract of their own. However, this shouldn’t be much of a problem for the Knicks this off-season because there is a zero percent chance Isiah will trade him. Think about it. Attitude and contract aside, Marbury is one of the most talented players in the NBA. What does Isiah value? Talented players. We all know his M.O. of obtaining the single best player in all of his trades. No team on earth would give up a player more talented for Marbury in exchange for his “dogging it” attitude and cap-crippling contract. He’s staying in New York, which is a shame, because he’s just going to continue dogging it through 2010.

Francis: Very similar to Marbury on all fronts, though his contract isn’t as atrocious. Isiah could land a player more talented than Francis (especially if he was packaged with a low-price, high ceiling youngster), so he seems the likely candidate.

Rose: Another inflated contract, but this one expires in 2007, making Rose a bit more valuable. When he’s gotten his minutes, he’s been producing on the floor as well, making me kinda want to keep him around next season. His expiring contract may be trade bait, but the cap relief is infinitely more valuable at this point. But, since he has actual value, Isiah will undoubtedly dish him for a more talented, more overpaid player.

Crawford: Most frustrating situation in 2005-2006, and I doubt we’ll see him in a Knicks uniform come November. Since the Francis trade, he’s seen 13 less minutes per game, which must be frustrating. And it’s shown in his numbers, too, dipping from just over 20 points per 48 minutes pre-Francis to 16 post (and that number was inflated by his 20 minute, 16 point performance last night). I thought Crawford was making some serious strides this season, but Isiah went and effed it up for him. Now he’s playing scrub minutes. You just watch him have a breakout season in 2006-2007 for another team.

Quentin Richardson: Chronic back problems. Uninsured, inflated contract. Nope, Q is completely untradable this off-season. Maybe, just maybe the Knicks can find a role for him next season. I wish upon a wish that he can fit into the offense as a pure shooter, but I don’t see him falling in line to that role at all. He was so successful on the Suns because he was placed in the middle of a system that had impeccable personnel. In New York, he’s stuck in the middle of a system that has no place for him. Lordy Lord do I decry Thomas for this trade. Though it did net us…

Nate Dogg: I’m going to punch through my bedroom wall the day he’s traded. He’s young and has shown tremendous potential (19.59 points and 4.38 assists per 48 minutes before he was deactivated), making him a valuable throw-in on a potential Francis trade. Maybe I’m wrong about this, and man do I pray I am. I just don’t see Thomas clinging onto Robinson if the chance to land an overvalued player comes along. It will just be too enticing. And we’ll wave bye-bye to the star that never was. Fare thee well, Nate.

In essence, the players with value are the ones the team should be keeping around, and the worthless ones are untradable. Did James Dolan miss out on that memo? Or is it just part of “the plan?” Any way this off-season goes down, the Knicks are screwed. This leads us to the self-destruction of Isiah. It’s impossible to avoid. He’s going to attempt a cannon ball in the free agency waters, and he’s going to wind up doing a belly flop. So instead of being killed by the cap until 2009, it will be 2011.

My recipe for the off-season: Larry Brown and Nate Robinson get a reality show in which Larry does to Nate what he did to Chauncy Billups. Then, Dolan buys a clue from a traveling salesman, which leads him to slam his head against the wall, simultaneously firing Isiah Thomas (and screaming “two years ago! Two years ago I should have done this!”). I elect Bill Simmons as his replacement, who keeps delighted readers privy as he holds a fire sale for the Knicks glut of “assets.” Okay, so maybe I went a little overboard in the fantasy world. But at least my fantasy world doesn’t lead to the destruction of the Knicks ::ahem:: Isiah.