Thursday, November 02, 2006

Knick of Time

The Knicks won their first game of the season last night. It's significant because it's Isiah Thomas' first win as head coach and it's first time the knicks have been above .500 in almost two years. It wasn't pretty though. They beat a depleted Grizzlies team by one point in a three overtime marathon. The Knicks somehow wasted a 19 point lead with less than 10 minutes to go in what looked like a flashback to the glory days of Larry Brown. The were saved by the solid play of Quinten Richardson (I find it very hard to write those words), and important contributions from David Lee and Nate Richardson off the bench.

So what to make of Thomas' debut. He got solid play out of Eddie Curry, which is more than Larry Brown could ever say. While Curry did turn the ball over five times, he also scored 17 and collected 14 rebounds. It would not be a stretch to say that the knicks would be happy with that kind of production every night. David Lee really provides a lot of energy and should see significantly more time that he did under Larry Brown last year, when he was sometimes inexplicably left out of the rotation. Steve Francis, on the other hand, was atrocious. He was 0-6 from the field, had five turnovers and scored a total of two points. I know that Francis used to be a good, if over rated player, but he seems to be totally lost. The fact that he is not the focus of the offense has turned him into a spectator on the court. The knicks would be much better off starting Jamal Crawford and bringing Francis off the bench to provide instant offense like Detroit did with Vinny Johnson back in the bad boy era. Francis probably wouldn't appreciate being demoted to coming off the bench, but sometimes you have to ruffle a few feathers to help the team. I'm not sure that Thomas, in his "player friendly" role, would be willing to make the change. Starbury had a decent night, but fouled out before the end of the second overtime period. In theory, he should really flourish under Isiah. He's got a less rigid system to play in and should have no complaints about the coaching this year. This really is his team on the floor and he's going to have the lead them. He may lead them straight to hell, but the rest of the team has no option but to follow.

The knicks head to Atlanta next, so there's a good chance that they will be 2-0 before they play their first game at the Garden. It will be nice for the Garden crowd to have a winning team to cheer for. The first home opponent are the Indiana Pacers who are not the title contending team that they used to be. The Knicks have a more than decent chance to open the season 3-0. The Spurs come into town after that and might lay all the "Knicks are back" talk to rest very quickly. The knicks are going to be better than they were last year. They have to be. I think I could coach the Knicks to more wins than Larry Brown did last year (If you're reading this James Dolan, I can be had at a bargain basement price). Thomas is on a short leash. Dolan has given him one year to turn this team around. With the Eastern conference in somewhat of a transition period, the Knicks should find the going a little easier this year. It's probably too much to expect a .500 season, but they might get close to 40 wins. Will that be enough for Dolan to keep Isiah around? It remains to be seen. The problem is that even if the Knicks do push 40 wins this year, I don't see how they get much better. They are still saddled with untradeable contracts and unless they get lucky in the draft, this is basically the team that they will have for the next couple of years. Of course there's always the prospect of another blockbuster trade for another huge salaried star (Kevin Garnett anybody), but with what they would have to give up (Channing Frye, David Lee), it probably wouldn't make the team any better.

The knicks will be at least 10 games better than they were last year. They will make a run at mediocrity, but is that what $100+ million buys you these days? Isiah has a lot to answer for. I can't wait for the end of the season when he starts spinning in the press about what a success the season was even though the team didn't make the playoffs. Should Knick fans have to settle for a 40 win team? Not for $100+ million they shouldn't, but that is about the most that can be expected. Isiah put this team together but unfortunately, the fans are going to have to live with it for years after he's gone.



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