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NY Post Exclusive:

May 14, 2006

Brown to Go !

Editors Note: The story to the right was written a month before the Knicks gave Larry Brown the heave ho. We certainly wish Larry Brown no ill will, and hearing about his recent bladder operations, we at paperbacknovel.com wish him the best of health. But he wasn't fit for the Knicks, it was best for him to move on. It actually made our day. We only wish the Knicks had jetisoned Brown long before they traded Trevor Ariza. From a purely professional and moral standpoint.

-- LouV

 

 

 

My Prison Without Bars by Pete Rose

 

 

April, 2006

Why the Knicks Suck

The worst Knick season in history -- 23 wins, 59 loses. Lots of finger pointing going around in New York as the 2006 season wound down, with those fingers mostly pointed at Isiah Thomas and Stephon Marbury, and even a few at Larry Brown.

Late Breaking Dec, 2007 News:

Why the Knicks Don't Suck .. Anymore (click to read)

But the NY Post and NY Daily News Do

 

Like most difficult mathematical problems where you need to isolate all of the variables to figure out the answer, there is no single issue causing these Knicks to suck. But they are dwarfed by one central issue. The Knicks own X factor.

It's Not Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas is not X. I've never liked Thomas from what I've seen of him in the newspapers. He has that shit-eating grin, he froze-out Michael Jordan in the All-Star game when Jordan was a rookie, and he's made some seemingly veiled racist statements in the press (for example, saying Larry Bird was overrated because he was white, or that he (Isiah) doesn't like 'European' ballplayers). 

But this lost Knick season isn't his fault. 

In fact, Isiah has done a heck of a job turning around the talent level of the Knick team in just two seasons. Isiah has done the impossible -- take an old, un-athletic, injured, overpaid roster full of contracts that the Knicks were stuck with for years into the future, with players that had little or no market value (ie, nobody wanted anyone on the Knick roster except Kurt Thomas two years ago), and did what everyone said couldn't be done -- turn the roster completely over to produce a young, athletic team full of guys who can score. The Knicks now have a load of guys sought after by other teams in the league.

Isiah's Strategy 

Not only do the Knicks look better talent wise than they did just two short years ago, Isiah seems to have turned the roster over with a solid strategy in place -- contrary to what you've read in the NY Post, the pieces of Isiah's puzzle fit together.

In Eddie Curry, the Knicks have one of the legitimate, premier young post-up centers in the NBA. The perfect tandem to Curry is to have a point guard who can penetrate to the basket to draw defenses, and dish off to Curry for easy baskets -- and there is no better point guard in the NBA at penetrating through half court defenses like a knife through butter like Stephon Marbury. If Marbury can't score on his own drive or dish off to Curry on the low block, then there's Channing Frye waiting in the paint -- the perfect scoring power forward, getting most of his points facing the basket and dead eye from 10--20 feet. The final pieces to this offensive puzzle is to have some players who can shoot lights-out from three-point range, so that if a team clogs the middle to defend Marbury-Curry-Frye, you beat them from the outside. There Isiah hasn't been as exacting, bringing in Jamaal Crawford and three-point-record-holder Quentin Richardson -- both streaky shooters. 

On the defensive side, Isiah's players are weak. Jamaal Crawford, Stephon Marbury, Quentin Richardson, and Eddie Curry have reputations as bad defensive players. To solidify the defense, Isiah -- arguably because Knick upper management twisted his arm to do so -- brought in a coach highly regarded for coaching teams that play great team defense -- Larry Brown. 

Not Stephon Marbury's Fault

Stephon Marbury was having a terrific year when he was brought down in a mid January game that killed the Knick season. The Knicks had just reeled off six wins in a row before a loss to Toronto, when Marbury was injured in a game at the Garden against Minnesota. Despite being yanked around by Brown, and crapped on in the press by Brown, Marbury was scoring, passing, and leading the team, and beyond all else, was fun to watch. This disaster of a Knick season was not Stephon Marbury's fault. He is not X. 

So then Why Do the Knicks Suck? 

1) The number one reason why the Knicks suck -- is in two words, Larry Brown. Larry Brown = X. Forget the 'track record'; Larry Brown took a team that should have won 40-45 games this year and won 22. The defense was atrocious, and the team absolutely stopped playing for him the final third of the season. 

Brown's past coaching technique has been to spend the first 6 to 9 months discombobulating whatever team he coaches, playing different starting lineups every night in an effort to emasculate all the egos on the team and make every player his puppet, hanging on his string, knowing that if they lapse just a little bit on the court, they won't play the next night. If any player grumbles about playing time, Larry Brown goes after them in the press, calling them names or disparaging their talent level. If the player fights back, he's soon traded. If he doesn't fight back, Brown has won the will of egos, and the player is put back in the playing rotation. 

Now Versus Then

In two short years, Isiah Thomas has turned the Knick roster over -- from old, unathletic, injured, overpriced geyser lineup, to young, athletic, high-scoring players. The Knicks two years ago featured:

C: Dikembe Mutombo. Old (38?)and immobile and couldn't score.

PF: Kurt Thomas and Antonio McDyess (with Othella Harrington, Clarence Weatherspoon, and Michael Sweetney in reserve). Kurt Thomas was the only player on the team that anybody else wanted. Sweetney had talent but wasn't playing at all. Weatherspoon was the only power forward in NBA history who had to quadruple fake to put his shot up, and would still get it slammed down his throat.

SF: Keith Van Horn. Unatheletic and piss-poor defensively. Van Horn was a scorer who would disappear late in games when other teams put defensive stoppers on him.

SG: Alan Houston. His career was over, although we weren't sure at the time. Piss poor defensively even in his prime, before the knee operations.

PG: Charlie Ward and Frank Williams. 

In comparison, the Knicks 2006 roster contained the following players:

C: Eddie Curry (with Jerome James in reserve). Curry is 23 and one of the best young post-up centers in the NBA. Deficiencies are his inability to rebound nor block shots or clog the middle defensively.

PF: Channing Frye, Antonio Davis (with Malik Rose in reserve). Channing Frye is 23, has dead-eye accuracy from 10-20 feet, moves well without the ball, and has the kind of court sense reminiscent of Tim Duncan. He's 6'11". 

SG: Jamaal Crawford (with Quentin Richardson in reserve). Only 25 years old, Crawford can score and score and this year, he's scoring within the confines of the team offense, which is the best news for the Knicks. Richardson is also only 25.

PG: Stephon Marbury. You can piss on Marbury all you want, but he remains one of the premier point guards in the NBA. One of the few players in the game who can penetrate defenses and get to the basket like a knife through butter. Doesn't 'see the court' while running a full-court offense like Steve Nash or Jason Kidd, but I'd still rather have Marbury in a slow-down half-court offense of the playoffs. Hey, remember, Nash was one-and-done in last year's playoffs. 

The result of Brown's tactics is a team that plays hard, even kamikazee defense, for a while. His spell typically lasts a year and a half to two years. After that, Brown's constant head games with his players eventually backfire and the players stop playing for him, at which point Brown has already set path to 'jump to the next stone'. He wears out his welcome, amongst the players and the management, and has a history of leaving teams high and dry. 

Brown left New Jersey high and dry in the late eighties, and the year after he left both Kansas and UCLA, those college programs were placed on probation. In Detroit, he rode a conference champion (that then added Rasheed Wallace) to a championship, and some of those players have made it clear in the newspapers they resent Brown for the way he coached and taking all the credit for their championship. And let's not forget that Larry Brown is responsible for the worst coaching job in the history of basketball -- coaching the 2004 US Olympic Basketball team to a bronze metal, despite the fact that they had one of the greatest rosters of all time, featuring Lebron James, Tim Duncan, Carmello Anthony, Alan Iverson, and others. That team couldn't beat Puerto Rico. That team complained to a man about being 'discombobulated' by the coach.

With the Knicks this year, Brown's constant lineup changes subterfuged Isiah Thomas's lineup. The team never gained any kind of continuity or teamwork, as Brown jostled the lineup without rhyme or reason, playing guys 35 minutes one night, and zero the next. Beyond that came the whines to the press about the roster Isiah Thomas had put together, about his players, about lack of effort -- always someone else's fault. At one point in the season Isiah Thomas capitulated and privately asked Brown to write down the players he wanted; he'd go get them. Brown's response -- he immediately went to the press with this private piece of information, making Isiah Thomas look like an idiot. 

Ancillary Reasons Why the Knicks Suck

Besides Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas's team is still not perfectly formed. There are other reasons why this season went down in flames for the Knicks, and they are:

2) Eddy Curry can't rebound. The Knicks have lost several games this year because Curry couldn't rebound the ball in late game situations after the Knicks as a team had played great defense on a possession. 

3) The Knicks entire frontcourt can't rebound. If Eddie Curry is getting 5 or 6 rebounds a game, and his sidekick power forward is Channing Frye who gets 7 or 8, the Knicks C-PF positions are getting 12-15 rebounds a game and you're not going to win too many basketball games if that's the case. And that's why Knick coaching is impressing on both of them to rebound, rebound, rebound. Don't be surprised if the Knicks eventually have to trade one of them (Frye?) for a big time rebounder. Remember the Knicks had Ewing (who was a pretty good rebounder) and Cartwright. Trading Cartwright to Chicago for Charles Oakley gave Ewing the rebounding power forward he needed, and gave Chicago the center they needed (alongside PF Horace Grant) to win championships.

4) Eddy Curry is not a big-time offense force. I think by this time Isiah Thomas was hoping Curry would be averaging 20 points a game. He's not near that. He's inconsistent, and disappears in games when the other team makes defensive adjustments to him. Late in games, he never gets good position inside -- he's often moved so far off the blocks he's 20 feet from the basket. He often becomes a non-entity for the Knicks offensively, late in games.

5) The Knicks are still a young team. It takes two years for NBA teams to play together and become good -- to know how to win. From the start this Knick team was a collection of players who were just getting to know each other. For a good part of the early season the Knicks were playing rookies Channing Frye and Nate Robinson, and 20 year old Trevor Ariza. Rookies tend to make mistakes (leave their man on defense or throw the ball away in key situations) and not know how to finish games. And on top of that they had Brown discombobulating the team.  

6) Deficiences in the roster. Isiah has only been working on this roster for only two years. So far he's done the unimaginable, turning the roster around. But there are still holes at backup point guard, at small forward, and the rebounding situation at center-power forward mentioned above.

The Solution

The Knicks need to get rid of Larry Brown and his big ego as soon as they possibly can; bring in a coach who can win with the players he is given. They need to address the rebounding situation. And they need to get a coach who gets his team to play defense; a coach that the team doesn't stop playing for midway through the season. If they can do those things, they'll be a fun team to watch; a playoff team; a contending team. 

They've got the talent. X has to go.

-- LouV

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