New York's Never Ending Tragedy
November 12, 2003
by William K. Wolfrum
Watching The New York Knicks play is somewhat akin to a rectal examination. Going in you’re pretty sure it’s going to be uncomfortable, and by the end you’re sobbing uncontrollably, feeling emasculated and in need of a hug.
Aspiring for mediocrity is not a very New York kind of thing, but year in and year out, that’s exactly what the Knicks have done.
While other teams have taken the risk of rebuilding their roster, the Knicks patch theirs up, putting them in the solid position to win between 32 and 40 games every year and narrowly miss the playoffs.
At 2-5 thus far this season, the Knicks are a mess. Against Cleveland, they made a group of dunk-happy teenagers look like defensive stalwarts.
We played scared (on defense)," Chaney told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. "We respected their athleticism too much and didn't get into guys. It showed a lack of trust, teamwise.”
The Knicks’ offense consists primarily of getting the ball to Allan Houston at any part of the court and having him fire up a jumpshot.
When this works, good things can happen, like New York’s stunning 114-111 victory over Sacramento with Houston scoring 39. When it doesn’t work, it’s a tedious 94-80 loss to the Cavs, with Houston going 9-of-25 from the field.
The problem all along, however, has been a weird reluctance by the team’s management to retool. GM Scott Layden has made moves designed to keep his team vaguely competitive, with no real thought for the future.
In the past few seasons, we’ve seen major shake-ups by Cleveland, Denver, Utah, Memphis and even the Clippers. The long run effect of those maneuvers is still questionable, but at least they realized they sucked.
The Knicks, for whatever reason, don’t think they suck. They stick to their guns of ineptitude. This off-season was a perfect example. The Knicks basically traded Latrell Sprewell straight up for Keith Van Horne. Then they signed an aging, slowly forgetting-each-of-the-nine-or-so-languages-he-knew Dikembe Mutombo.
These moves were applauded by most NBA executives, who believed that Van Horne and Mutombo had passed away years ago.
Getting a No. 9 pick in the NBA Draft is usually a good thing, but the Knicks, in an inspiring show of will, defied that theory. They took Michael Sweetney of Georgetown. OK, guys, get over the whole Georgetown thing already.
Do the names Clarence Witherspoon, Kurt Thomas and Othella Harrington ring a bell? They should; they are the exact same player as Sweetney. So now the Knicks have four slow, average power forwards on their roster.
Sweetney, thus far has defied all expectations, of course. He’s averaging 0.3 points per game, putting him on pace to break Kareem’s career scoring record on November 28, 4362. He’s also pulled down three offensive rebounds, and you can read that any way you choose.
The Knicks enjoy making those sort of draft picks it seems. The four No. 1 picks they had prior to Sweetney were Frank Williams, Donnell Harvey, John Thomas and John Wallace. Now there’s a starting five.
Antonio McDyess should be back on the floor in a couple weeks, then right back off four games later clutching his (pick one) knee/groin/head/shoulder/toe/eyelashes. For this, the Knicks will likely give him a six-year, $85-million extension.
That is the heart of the Knicks’ problems. They pay everyone a fortune and never have a cent to spare when actual worthwhile free-agents come around. Think Kobe would be interested in playing in New York next year? Possibly, but he plays the same position as Houston, and as Sprewell found out, the Knicks just can’t have that.
So, Knick fans are stuck again with a team that excites no one, scores when Houston does and seems to be playing out the string after only seven games. One positive thing for New York fans, however: point guard and religious zealot Charlie Ward is guaranteed a place in heaven for having to be a part of this team.