The Gospel of Smoov

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Category Archives: NBA

Patience? Yes, Patience

Like any other Knicks fan coming into this offseason, I had big expectations in regards to potential moves that Phil Jackson would make to improve the team. It’s in our nature to hope for a big splash in free agency, embedded in our DNA to be excited about drafting the next young superstar in the NBA Draft. Hell, we feel spoiled at times because of all the incompetence we’ve suffered through for the last 15 seasons. With a high draft pick and bundles of cash to spend, you couldn’t blame us for salivating over the prospect of flanking Carmelo Anthony with the most elite basketball talent available.

Instead, we’ve gotten the exact opposite. No flashy names. No large, crippling contracts. In a summer where everybody and their mother is getting a maximum-value deal, New York has played it safe by bringing in the right role players. Only Robin Lopez (4 years, $54 million) received big money from the Knicks this offseason, and even that deal seems like a bargain compared to what other frontcourt players will earn. He, along with Aaron Afflalo (2 years, $16 million), Derrick Williams (2 years, $10 million) and Kyle O’Quinn (4 years, $16 million in a sign-and-trade), provide the Knicks with players who will do nothing more than play their game and not do too much on the court. Let’s not forget about the Draft, where Phil went with the biggest high risk/high reward talent in Kristaps Porzingis and traded for Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant.

It’s been a great breath of fresh air to see the Knicks’ braintrust change course in building a team. It shows that Jackson has really been paying attention to how the Knicks operated over the years and wants to put an end to the ineptitude. He’s always understood that TEAMS win championships no matter how talented your best player is. I’d even go as far as to say that Phil doesn’t really concern himself with what Melo might want in this rebuilding process. Newsday’s Al Iannazzone touched on this idea in an article yesterday:

Phil Jackson hasn’t spoken with Carmelo Anthony since he revamped the Knicks’ roster and doesn’t seem concerned about his franchise player’s patience level.

Jackson doesn’t know if he has assembled a playoff team, and that might not sit well with Anthony, who is 31 and coming off knee surgery.

“We’re a team sport,” Jackson said Monday night. “When we’re putting a team together, that’s our first priority — how do we make a team that works together? That’s the important aspect. How this all comes together is still a mystery for us. We’ve got five months to kind of get into it here.

“Obviously, Carmelo is a guy that is a premier player, we understand that. But it’s a team game. And it has to fit together.”

Jackson reiterated that it was by design that the Knicks didn’t go star hunting. “I don’t look at basketball that way,” he said. “That’s what we’ve done over the years in New York. That’s not what I’m doing. We’re going after solid players that will step into vacuums and play ball, and if we have a system that we play basketball together with, that will all work out.”

It’s about damn time!

For all the Knicks fans out there who may not be overly excited with rebuilding, I merely ask that you trust Phil Jackson. He’s won 11 rings as a coach for a reason, and it certainly wasn’t by relying solely on one elite player. There are some really solid players coming into the fold at MSG this season, and they will definitely bring brighter days to the Garden.

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Little Late, I Know

A belated Happy New Year, everyone!

Just thought I’d let everyone know that I am indeed alive … even after the shenanigans that went down on New Year’s weekend. I have to show props to the Giants and Rangers for kicking off the new year right sports-wise. The Giants ended the NFL season strong by beating the Jets and Cowboys to clinch the division title, and best believe I’ll be rooting hard for them in the playoffs on Sunday against Atlanta. The Rangers played in the NHL Winter Classic in Philly and beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2. I’m not a big hockey fan (yet), but anytime a New York team beats a Philly team it puts a smile on my face.

The big news, however, is that I’ve been contributing to the Knicks-themed blog BeatKnicks on the Aerys Sports network. It is run by my good friend Stacey, who also writes for Spreadin’ The News on Aerys, and (obviously) deals with everything Knicks. Feel free to check out my material there as the lockout-shortened NBA season rolls on.

I’ll post on here periodically as the winter goes on if anything interesting happens. Hope 2012 treats you all well!

Not-So-Perfect Timing

The following post will be featured on the BeatKnicks blog of Aerys Sports.

It’s finally okay to be a Knicks fan again. They have their first winning record since 2001. The 42-40 was good enough for a playoff berth. While it only amounted to a four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics, there’s still a lot to be excited for. Amar’e Stoudemire willingly put the team and the city on his back and left it all on the court every night — much like Patrick Ewing did during his 15 seasons in New York. Add in the 2nd superstar in Carmelo Anthony, the experience of Chauncey Billups and a supporting cast that stepped up at any given moment … you have a team on the rise that can challenge for the NBA title in a few seasons. You can’t help but think to yourself, Nothing can stop the Knicks now!

Of course, the lockout strikes on July 1st. Figures, right?

The main sticking point in labor negotiations (not that there have been many recently) has been the owners’ insistence on a “hard” salary cap, preferably one significantly lower than the $58 million set for 2010-11. As it currently stands the Knicks have nine players under contract for 2011-2012 at a total of $60,610,763. Most of that money is tied into Anthony and Stoudemire (both set to earn north of $18 million), plus $14 million for Billups*. That $60 million does not include forward Derrick Brown’s qualifying offer, nor does it include the potential rookie contracts for guard Iman Shumpert and center Josh Harrellson. And lest we forget the fact that the Knicks still need a center and shooters. Oh, and it doesn’t help that Donnie Walsh was forced to walk away after saving the franchise from salary cap hell.

I’d love to go into who the Knicks should target in free agency to fill the necessary holes, but the uncertainty of a new CBA makes it difficult to fully gauge who will be available and at what cost. You can judge for yourself by checking out the free agent classes for 2011 and 2012. But what we’re looking at is a Knicks team that desperately needs not only a higher salary cap, but one that is “softer” and allows for exceptions to exceed it. Otherwise, we could be headed for yet another dark period of being the red-headed middle child stuck in the NBA’s dreaded purgatory.

And quite frankly, we don’t want to see THIS again:

*This was the main reason I was against including Raymond Felton in the deal and taking back Chauncey.

GO NY GO NY GO!

HOW ‘BOUT THOSE KNICKS!

After possibly the darkest decade in the history of the franchise, the New York Knicks have won back my heart. Not only are they headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, but they will do so with their first winning record since 2001. Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony have put this team on their respective backs and made me and other Knick fans proud to rock the REAL orange-and-blue. You have to love the fact that they are carrying out Donnie Walsh’s plan of retaining relevance this season in hopes of contending for a championship down the road.

The job that Walsh has done in his three seasons as President of Basketball Operations is nothing short of remarkable. How many men out there can successfully unload the contracts of Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford and Jared Jeffries to put the team in position to acquire two A-list players in free agency? Even though the main prize got away, we are more than happy to have Amar’e on our side — a player with immense talent who, unlike LeQuit, actually wanted to be a Knick and resurrect the franchise. Then Donnie managed to unload the monstrosity that is Eddy Curry’s contract (thanks, Isiah) in order to bring in ‘Melo and Chauncey Billups, while still leaving room to add another quality starter in the coming seasons. I honestly believe it would be a crime if Donnie Walsh isn’t Executive of the Year.

I cannot wait for playoff basketball to return to Madison Square Garden. Even if we don’t have a realistic chance of beating the battle-tested Boston Celtics in a seven-game series, it will be great to see the sellout crowds make the Garden shake like the old Yankee Stadium used to. You remember that feeling, don’t you?