Continuing with the theme of talking ’bout the Knicks, because all 4 of my readers seem to like talking ’bout the Knicks…
It looks like the Knicks are good for the first time in a while, and, now that they’re good, it’s a good time to look back on the lost decade and see what we can learn about basketball from the debacle that just occurred in MSG for more than 10 years. (Some may say that 31 games into a season is too early to declare a team a success — especially when that team is currently the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. To those people, I say that each of the top 7 guys on the Knicks has proven that he has two legs and a pulse, and that alone is a vast improvement over the recent Knicks teams. Whatever else one thinks about the Knicks, there’s clearly some kind of improvement taking place here.)
To me, there are three main lessons:
1. Don’t sign lousy players to expensive, long-term contracts. I know that sounds kind of obvious, but the lesson is often overlooked, and not only by the Knicks. To all of the NBA GM’s reading this blog right now (ahem), let me make this simple for you… the only guys worth big money for multiple years are proven stars who are at or near their peak. Not guys who strung together a few good games in a row (e.g. Jerome James). Not role players (e.g. Jared Jefferies). Not players on the wrong side of the peak of their career (e.g. Allan Houston). Not guys who might be good if they lose 30 pounds (e.g. Eddie Curry). Hell. I might be good if I lose 30 pounds.
Look, people. If you’re going to have a bad team, you want to be young, and cheap. That way, the guys you have will get better, and you’ll have room to bring in other guys. If you’re going to have an expensive team, you want to be good immediately. If you’re bad, and you have guys with big contracts, and you don’t have young players with talent, well, then you’re just stuck. And then you might be bad for a looonnng time. You simply can’t afford to tie up big money on guys who haven’t proven themselves capable of being a top player on a good team.
2. Coaching, at the NBA level, is overrated. The Knicks had a few accomplished coaches during their decade of disaster. For starters, they had Larry Brown, whose resume
is 14 pages long has a bunch of impressive accomplishments on it. And they had Isiah, who coached the Pacers to some success, and Mike D’Antoni, who has won Coach of the Year before. None of these guys was able to turn things around. Things only started to get turned around when Felton started dishing, Gallo started swishing, and Amar’e started dunking on defenders’ faces.
To be clear, good coaching might be what separates the great teams from the good ones, or the good ones from the average ones. But a good coach can’t make a bad team a contender, so, if you’re bad, it makes much more sense to spend money on new players than it does to spend money on an expensive coach.
3. When in doubt, draft the guy who played four years in college. One of the few things the Knicks got right during the lost decade was drafting David Lee. They got him at #30. Then, this year, they got Landry Fields at #39. Both of them were four-year college players. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
Am I missing anything, Knicks fans? Getting anything wrong? If so, I hope you’ll add your thoughts in the comments section.