Fier Thy Words

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Royal Flush: Knicks’ Moves Pave Way for Landing Lebron

11/22/08

A wild day of wheeling and dealing by President Donnie Walsh leaves the Knicks fans salivating at the chance of landing a big price in the summer of 2010.

In a pair of moves, the Knicks began trimming the fat of their bloated payroll, sending Jamal Crawford to Golden State for Al Harrington, while shipping Zach Randolph to The L.A. Clippers for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley.

Crawford has been a Knick since 2004, and was among the first big moves Isiah Thomas made in trying to surround Stephon Marbury with fresh faces.  Unfortunately, like almost every other move Thomas made, Crawford wasn’t able to deliver any sustained success, as he was a talented but streaky scorer who lacked defensive prowess and was maddeningly inconsistent.

Randolph, also acquired by Thomas, brought scoring and rebounding and was supposed to team with Eddy Curry to form an dynamic tandem in the front court.  Of course that never materialized as Curry regressed and proved he couldn’t share the court this Randolph, who despite putting up decent numbers, contributed to a 23-59 season.

The additions of Harrington, Thomas and Mobley should please Knicks fans most by the lengths of their contracts, all of which expire after next season.

By dumping Crawford and Randolph, the Knicks shed two contracts which extend beyond the “Summer of LeBron”, and with their departure goes some 27 million dollars of cap space heading into the summer of 2010.

These trades are more about the players going and the cap space opening up than it is the new faces.

Harrington will probably start at the 4 and average is 13 and 6, while Mobley can fill in at the 2 and provide a decent outside threat with some veteran savvy this team hasn’t had in a long time.  Tim Thomas, who will be starting his second stint in New York after playing with the Knicks between 2003 and 2005, could see some minutes off the bench.

At 6-6, despite their improved performance under head coach Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks were hardly a championship contender, and by moving their two leading scorers Walsh has loudly and clearly stated that the process of rebuilding is in full effect, even it comes at the cost of sneaking into the playoffs and suffering a first round defeat, which is probably the best the Knicks could have hoped for this season.

Madison Square Garden has’t been able to enjoy a winning basketball season in nearly a decade, and probably will have to wait another two before their tested patience is rewarded.

With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash among others all available in the summer of 2010, Walsh has now put the Knicks in a position to sign at least one of this and perhaps a pair should he be able to shed the contract of Curry and/or Jefferies between now then.

While that may seem daunting, Walsh has backed up his word in working to get the Knicks in better cap-shape by 2010, which he has, and a whole lot faster than anybody probably he could.

Yes, the team’s two leading scorers are gone, and though Crawford was a fan favorite, he was one dimensional and when he wasn’t scoring, he wasn’t giving the team anything else.  Randolph, for all the stats he filled a box score with, has never proved hes a winning player capable of playing completely within a system.  His numbers this season were good, but too many times possessions would stall with his poor shot selection.

Their losses shouldn’t be mourned by Knicks fans, as the bigger picture is one with a very bright promise of hope, which is something they haven’t been able to feel since Isiah Thomas set the franchise back into a seemingly bottomless abyss.

Thanks to Walsh, hope can finally float for Knicks fans, as the franchise is moving in the right direction.

And in less than two years, that direction may lead straight to royalty in the form of a King.

James, that is.

November 22, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , | Leave a comment

2008-2009 NBA Season Preview and Predictions

10/28/08

I’ll preface this post by stating I openly admit to having little to no confidence in my predictions, nor do I claim to have any professional experience in making them.

I read the previews out there, I listen to talk radio and I use the old gut.

That being said, the NBA season tips off tonight, with Boston looking to defend it’s title and the Lakers looking to dethrone them behind first time MVP Kobe Bryant.

LeBron and the Cavs will looking to finally get over the hump, while out west the power may have shifted away from the Spurs-Mavs-Suns trio while being replaced by the Hornets-Jazz-Rockets three-some.

In the east, my Knicks will be better but still on the outside looking in at season’s end, while teams like Philadelphia, Toronto and Orlando will look to take another step towards deeper playoff runs.

I don’t want to get too specific, after all I do this for fun, so without furthter adieu, here is how I foresee the 2008-2009 season taking shape…

Eastern Conference Playoff Teams:

Boston– The defending champs won’t miss James Posey as they are still the most talented starting five in the NBA.

Cleveland– LeBron and his new look squad will reveal themselves as Boston’s biggest threat.

Detroit– Contract year for Rasheed, and assuming he stays, Detroit, despite a new coach, will continue their winning ways.

Toronto– This is Chris Bosh’s team, and as a result, expect Jermaine O’Neal to quietly put up numbers closer to the ones he put up during his best days in Indiana.

Philadelphia– A new “Brand” of basketball, Elton’s presence will propel Philly into the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Orlando– Still young and now with some playoff experience under their belts, Orlando might need a deadline deal to push them into the second round.

Chicago– Last year proves to be a fluke, as this team has too much talent not too make a postseason return with the help of Derrick Rose.

Milwaukee– Scott Skiles can coach, and this retooled team will be the biggest surprise in the NBA’s minor leagues…err…Eastern Conference.

Western Conference Playoff Teams:

L.A. Lakers- Kobe, Kobe and more Kobe.  Oh, and a healthy Andrew Bynum, a full year with Pao Gasol and that ‘Zen-guy” head coaching.

Utah Jazz- Deron Williams and Carlos are legitimate stars, and Jerry Sloan just wins.  That continues this year.

New Orleans- Everybody wants to talk about the Posey signing, but I’ll keep it simple.  Chris Paul will score more, and win more.

Houston- Biggest move of the off-season was adding Ron Artest.  A healthy year from Yao and T-Mac equal realistic title dreams.

San Antonio- Missing Manu Ginobili will hurt this team early, but having him healthy down the stretch will ensure they’re still playing after the regular season ends.

Dallas- Avery Johnson gone, core of the team remains the same. Kidd another year older, but a full year running that offense will be enough for a first round exit.

Portland- Greg Oden finally makes his NBA debut the year after he’s drafted, while Brandon Roy is an MVP candidate. This team finally takes the next step.

Phoenix– It may take more than 7 seconds or less, but the Suns will figure out a way to sneak into the playoffs as this team can still score with the best of them.

Awards

MVP: Chris Paul

Defensive Player: Ron Artest

Rookie of the Year: Michael Beasley

Most Improved Player: Devin Harris

Coach of the Year: Jerry Sloan

6th Man of the Year: Jason Maxiell

Local Picks

Knicks: 36-46, 10th in East

Nets: 30-52, 13th in East

NBA FINALS

Celtics-Rockets

2008-2009 NBA Champion

(drum roll please)

Houston Rockets

Check back in April to see if I have a future in fortune telling or selling fortune cookies.

Either way, it’s great to have the NBA back.

Let the games begin.

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NBA PLAYOFF PICKS (FIRST ROUND)

4/19/08

The NBA playoffs are here, and with the Final Four over and done with, the real basketball madness begins.

The great Laker-Celtic rivalry of the 1980’s has a chance to resurface should both 1 seeds take care of business, and with Kobe and KG leading the way, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if thats the match up we see come June.

The Western Conference playoffs offer 4 compelling first round match-ups, while that ‘other’ conference should end up remaining irrelevant until the Boston-Detroit conference finals match up everyone anticpates.

Lets break down those match-ups and pick some winners

What I like to refer to as the NBA’s minor leagues (a lower class of basketball than the NBDL), the Eastern Conference lacks depth and features only two real threats to whoever survives the Western Conference gauntlet. Boston and Detroit are the class of the conference, whlie Lebron lurks at the 4th spot, looking for a return to the Finals after last season’s disappointing sweep at the hands of the Spurs. There are some nice stories with Atlanta and Philly making surprising post season appearences, but expect to see an 80’s flashback with the Celtics and Piston’s making all the noise.
Eastern Conference

1 Boston Celtics vs. 8 Atlanta Hawks

The big three shouldn’t have much trouble with the young, up and coming Hawks who held off the Pacers and clinched their first playoff birth since 1999. Josh Smith and Joe Johnson are nice pieces and both have off the chart talent, but the lack of experience combined with the determination of the C’s will cause Atlanta’s run to end early.

Celtics in 4

2 Detoirt Pistons vs. 7 Philadelphia 76’ers

After embarassing themselves against Lebron in the conference finals last year, Detroit this season had stretches where they looked absolutely unbeatable. Their fab four remains as good as any, and this is another case where experience and talent just completely overmatches a young Sixer’s squad, led by Maurice Cheeks who deserves consideration for coach of the year. Andre Iguadala took a big step forward this past year, but needs more help before he’ll see the second round.

Pistons in 4

3 Orlando Magic vs. 6 Toronto Raptors

The Magic look to build off of their brief taste of playoff basketball from last season, and with Stan Van Gundy running the show and Rashard Lewis giving Dwight Howard some outside help, Orlando shouldn’t have too much trouble with a Raptors teams that outside of Chris Bosh, lacks a real offensive threat. This series will probably get back to Orlando, but won’t last much beyond that.

Magic in 5

4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5 Washington Wizards

The most compelling (probably the only compelling) first round match up in the East, Lebron James and the new look Cavs take on the Washington Wizards in what is turning into a war of words, at least from the boys from D.C. Washington’s big three of Arenas, Butler and Jamison can hold their own, but the health of the first two remain a big question mark. The Cav’s looked about as mediocre after the trade as they did before it, but as has been the case since he was drafted, as King James goes, so go the Cav’s. This series can easily go 6 or 7, as both teams are pretty evenly matched.

Wizards in 7

The Western conference playoffs actually started 2 weeks ago, with the 7th and 8th spots coming down to 3 potential 50 win teams. The Maverick’s and Nuggets got the job done, with the Warriors ending up on the outside looking in, despite a record of 48-34. The Lakers seemed primed for a return to glory for the first time since Shaq was around, but all 8 teams are very good and, anything can happen in a 7 game series, as Golden State showed us last year against Dallas.

1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. 8 Denver Nuggets

Those MVP chants are well deserved, and while Kobe Bryant should be hoisting his first ever Most Valuable Player award, his he has bigger plans with a new frontcourt and a deeper bench. The Lakers are back, and along with the best player on the planet, Pau Gasol and (if healthy) Andrew Bynum present matchup problems for a Denver team that couldn’t defend a JV high school team. Carmelo Anthony and his legal issues aisde will put up his points, along with AI, but this series, while intriguing on paper, won’t translate on the hardwood.

Lakers in 5

2 New Orleans Hornets vs 7 Dallas Mavericks

Was there a better story this season than the rise of Chris Paul and the Hornets? Byron Scott, who is no stranger to the post season with his short lived success in New Jersey a few years ago, has led a renaissance in New Orleans, led by do-it-all Paul who gave Kobe all he could can handle in the run for MVP. The Mavericks were flirting with one-upping the disppointment from their first round upset last season by nearly missing the playoffs, but a healthy Dirk Nowitzki can lead Dallas into a tough 6 or 7 game series against the trendy Hornets.

Mavericks in 7

3 San Antonio Spurs vs. 6 Pheonix Suns

Talk about storylines. The defending champs, who have never repeated as champs, will have a tall challenge ahead of them, as they get a rematch with the team they won a controversial conference finals from last year. By tall challenge, I am of course referring to the new man in the middle for the Suns, Shaquille O’neal, who returns to the western conference for the first time since breaking up his marriage with Kobe and winning a championship in Miami. The big fundamental, Tim Duncan, faces his former nemasis as the Big Aristotle looks to validate Suns GM Steve Kerr for acquiring him. This series will be fun to watch, and won’t be decided in less than 6 games.

Spurs in 7

4 Utah Jazz vs. 5 Houston Rockets

No Yao? No problem. The Rockets, who never seem to have both Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming playing well, and healthy, at the same time, will face a dangerous Jazz team that struggled away from home but with floor general Deron Williams leading the way, Utah can definitely handle a Yao-less Rockets team that went on to win 22 straight games, while entering the playoffs with homecourt advantage in the first round despite their lower seeding. McGrady continues his quest to reach the second round of the playoffs, but it will be difficult against a Jazz team that has become another trendy pick to make some noise late into the postseason.

Jazz in 6

To recap…

Celtics, Pistons, Magic and Wizards in the east

Lakers, Mavericks, Spurs and Jazz in the west

April 19, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FINALLY! Isiah Thomas Fired; Reassigned (but why?)

4/18/08

photo courtesy of The Daily News

Remember the day my fellow Knicks fans: April 18th, 2008, the day the Isiah Thomas era came to an end.

Or did it?

I can’t help but feel like i’m in a horror movie, right at the end where you think the bad guy is dead, but with one last gasp he gets up and tries one more time to kill you.

Isiah has done his best Scream impression in trying to take out the entire Knicks franchise, everything from its payroll to its employees (sorry Anucha) to respect.

He has slashed the hearts of fans by insulting it’s history, saying we haven’t had a team to be proud of since the last championship back in 1973.

And now, with Donnie Walsh having been brought in to clean up the mess Isiah leaves behind, we find out that Isiah himself will still be around in helping to clean it up.

Maybe it’s just me, but as a Knick fan, having Isiah still on the very payroll he has worked so hard to destroy doesn’t sit right.

He has been an inopperable tumor to this franchise, working with whatever the opposite of the midas touch would be, as everything he has touched has turned into absolute catastrophe.

You want to tell me that he drafted Nate Robinson and David Lee?

Well for every Nate Robinson you want to throw in, I’ll raise you a Jarred Jefferies AND a Jerome James.

Renaldo Balkman and Wilson Chanlder, both of whom have shown brief flashes of potential, got nothing on the trades for Steve Francis or Eddy Curry (and the unprotected draft picks we lost in the process).

I can’t think of much Isiah has done right since being named President of Basketball Operations back in 2003, and the last 4 years have been nothing more than a nightmare Knicks fans can finally wake up from.

So now what?

Walsh came out today and publicly announced the worst kept secret in sports, that Isiah’s days as coach are over.

What wasn’t as sure a thing was what would come of Thomas, and the 18 million he is still owed from this unbelievably undeserved extension he was given by owner James Dolan last year.

The word reassigned has never sounded so ugly, as Isiah was retained and will report directly to Walsh as what I would imagine would end up being an “advisor”.

Again, maybe its just me, but Michael Corleone didn’t make Fredo his new consigliere after finding out that he had betrayed the family.

He had him killed.

Now while ‘wacking’ Isiah would probably make a lot of Knicks fans happy, just having him part ways with the organization would suffice.

However that won’t be the case, not unless Isiah tells Dolan that he can keep his 18 million dollars.

Instead of being an advisor, Isiah should consult one, and find one who advised him to simply figure out a way to work out a sevrence package to bid the Big Apple the farewell it probably wishes he would have recieved.

With a new coach and GM on their way, Isiah needs to show himself the door, and make the first decision Knicks fans would apploud of his, by announcing he would be seeking other opportunities from anywhere that isn’t Madison Square Garden.

Regardless of the fact that he has had all his power taken away from him, just having him still call the Garden home in any capacity will prevent this organization from getting the fresh start it desperately needs.

Until that happens- if it happens at all- Knicks fans can embrace the fact that the Isiah Thomas ‘error’ (as the local media has been fittingly referring to it as) has ended, for all intents and purposes.

Now the search begins for the next coach, and the names I’ve heard most are Mark Jackson, Scott Skiles, Rick Carlisle and my dream choice, the return of Jeff Van Gundy.

Whoever it is, Knicks fans like myself can be rest assured that it won’t be Isiah Thomas, and that disingenuous smile he always had.

For the first time in 4 years, Knicks fans can smile now.

April 19, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The ‘Don’ Has Arrived; Isiah Needs To Go

4/2/08

donnie-zeke.jpg

(photo taken from ESPN.com)

Attention Fellow Knicks Fans:

We’re halfway there!

The New York Knicks today introduced Donnie Walsh as their new President of basketball operations, taking over for current head coach and now former President Isiah Thomas.

Walsh, 67, spent the last 22 years in the Indiana Pacers organization, helping them capture 6 division crowns and a conference title in 2000.

A New York native, Walsh brings experience and much needed credibility to an organization that has managed to plummet itself into the depths of not just the basketball world, but the sports world.

It has also been reported that Walsh has shown interest in bringing in former Sixers exec. Billy King, to run the day to day General Manager operations.

To think that the New York Knicks, as recognizable a franchise as the Lakers in their own sport, or the Yankees and Cowboys in other sports, have become remarkably irrelevant.

While most Knicks fans probably don’t miss the Stephon Marbury’s and Eddy Curry’s of the world (both of whom had injury plagued, disappointing years), it’s an embarrassment that the team recently struggled to beat a Miami Heat team with a lousy 13 wins all season (while the Knicks aren’t all the more impressive with only 20 wins of their own).

Then again, logic says that the more the Knicks lose, the higher a draft pack they’ll have come June.

On that topic, you might as well stop the presses because that first round lottery pick wasn’t traded or left unprotected for the first time in what seems like ages, meaning that the chances are pretty good the Knicks may land somebody Knicks fan have heard of, as opposed to names like Weiss, Williams and Balkman (even though Renaldo hasn’t been awful).

With Walsh officially on board, the biggest issue which needs to be immediately addressed is the fate of Thomas.

The number of potential replacements for Thomas on the coaching front has had names like Mark Jackson, Rick Carlisle and even Herb Williams.

Of course the one name Knicks fans had to lamented hearing late last week was none other than Isiah Thomas himself.

The news of Walsh’s hire probably set off cheers and celebrations among Knicks fan no seen since Willis Reed limped onto the Garden floor before the start of game 7 in 1970.

Finally, Isiah Thomas’ name would no loner be associated to the once proud Knicks franchise.

Or so it was thought.

The idea of owner James Dolan keeping Zeke around as coach shouldn’t come as all that big a surprise.

Thomas is still under contract for another three years, with somewhere around 21 million dollars being owed to him.

While Dolan has never been shy to pay off an outgoing coach (Larry Brown?), he has acted as Thomas’ guardian angel since his arrivial in 2003.

The head coaching revolving door seemed to stop with Thomas last season, as he was awarded a contract extension with the Knicks flirting the 8th seed in March.

After a full season’s worth of games since his extension, the Knicks featured a pathetic record of 20-62.

Yet time after time, Dolan defended his President and head coach, leading experts to believe that not only will Isiah survive the Walsh hire, but Isiah may have actually been part of the process in bringing Walsh on board.

Let us not forget that it was Donnie Walsh who injected new life into the post-playing career of Thomas in 2000, when he was hired to coach the Indiana Pacers for three seasons, until Larry Bird was brought back as GM and subsequently fired him.

It wouldn’t be far fetched to believe that Thomas suggested Walsh fill his own post as GM, knowing Walsh was the only potential replacement who would consider retaining his services as coach.

Should that be the case, it would be the equivalent of taking one step forward and two steps back.

The Knicks franchise will not take the necessary steps towards until it rids itself of Isiah Thomas, in all capacities.

Until that happens, it won’t matter who is brought in to run the team, as the man drawing up the X’s and O’s, whom many of the players have verbally expressed their displeasure with, will continue to hold them back from returning to prominence.

With a new President of the franchise now in place, Isiah now moves that much closer to being shown the door once and for all.

We hope.

April 2, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , , , | Leave a comment