Friday, December 17, 2010

LeBron who? Amar'e has made the big apple forget about LeBron James

As quickly as Tino Martinez made New Yorkers forget about Don Mattingly, Amar'e Stoudemire has made New Yorkers forget about LeBron James.

It almost seems like ancient history now, but back in July the whole city of New York was salivating at the possibility of King James becoming the King of New York. Knicks President Donnie Walsh for two seasons had cleared up cap space by dealing away fan favorites in numerous trades as well as draft picks to gut the rotting corpse that former Knicks President Isiah Thomas had left him. And he had done a good job by giving the Knicks the ability to sign two max contracts in the summer of 2010.

New Yorkers believed that LeBron was their guy. LBJ dropped little subtle lines here and there. James was always donning a Yankees cap. It made sense, right?

Then the Cavaliers were bounced from the playoffs and the frenzy began. For the next 50 days, the top story was LeBron, LeBron, LeBron! ESPN even dedicated a page on it's website featuring a ticker to the days left until NBA free agency began.

July 1 came. The Knicks met with LeBron. For the next week, the sports world was able to create thousands of stories based on chatter and rumors, most of it unverified. It literally changed by the minute. He was going to Chicago...Cleveland...New Jersey.

But that didn't matter. New Yorkers still believed LeBron was there guy - it had to be. They deserved it. They had spent this entire decade waiting to be great again, and this was New York's chance. It's destiny!

Even Wall Street was in on it. The MSG stock sky rocketed in the days before The Decision speculating that LeBron was going to be a Knick in the fall.

Then the Knicks inked Amar'e. Amar'e wasn't the player the Knicks really wanted but he'll just be a piece for LeBron - right?

"The Decision" came. LeBron was taking his talents to South Beach. New York was hungover for about a week. Darkness swept the Knicks Nation. New York would never recover from such a blow.

Now all the Knicks had was a $100 million power forward with bad knees. The Knicks were going nowhere...again...

The Knicks started with a 3-8 record losing a string of games to sub-par teams. New team, same story. ..

The End...

Then the remarkable happened. The Knicks started playing well. They strung several wins together on a western roadtrip and suddenly New York was paying attention.

The winning continued. And now the Knicks believed they could win any time they walked on the court. The swagger was back. Basketball was back in New York.

The Garden became alive for the first time in years and the Knicks were playing meaningful games for the first time in a decade.

Who is to "blame"?

Watch any Knick home game and you'll hear the crowd chanting MVP - and it's only December. For who? Amar'e Stoudemire. The true savior of New York. The guy that was supposedly New York's silver medalist of this past summer's free agency. The guy the Knicks were never really after. The guy that has been the most dominant player in the league since mid-November. The guy that has been flushing the ball on opponents on what feels like every play and averaging over 30 points a game over the last 10 contests. And the guy who during a 6-game losing streak publicly challenged his teammates to not accept losing and single handedly turned the season around for the Knicks. Amar'e has taken the reigns as New York's emotional leader and New York has embraced him.

His toughness and fearless style is exactly the type of player that fits the mold in New York. Thick skinned. Ice water flowing through his veins. Amar'e takes responsibility for wins and losses by putting the team on his back. He wants the last shot. He gets in the opposition's face if you tick him off. He knocks players to the ground after a blocked shot and stares them down. He screams in your face after he dunks it on you. Electricity and passion. This is what New York wants and has wanted the whole time. Not pomp and flash. He's not a King. He's blue collar. He's New York.

The Knicks meet the Heat tonight for the first time this season. In October this game would have been about reigning boos on LeBron for payback. But now Amar'e has made it about winning.

LeBron James? LeBron who? How quickly New York has forgotten. How quickly Amar'e has made New York forget.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Knicks offense flies high against Boston; Interior defense their undoing

Wednesday's epic regular season match-up between the Knicks and Celtics has all left us with a Thursday morning hangover. Boston's 118-116 victory over the up and coming Knicks featured all the NBA action one could ask for including two game "winners" - one, by Paul Pierce in the closing moments of the game and of course Amar'e's discounted three as time expired.

But all the action aside, there are few things that we learned about the Knicks on Wednesday, one of them a major concern as the season progresses.

The Upside: The Knicks can play with the best of them

The Knicks showed last night that they can beat the Celtics. Yes, even though we all said a loss would not be a moral victory. It strangely is. It's a step forward since coming into this season making the playoffs was New York's only goal. Now the Knicks are thinking they can be an elite team in the East this season. The reason they can run with Boston is simply because of their high powered offense.

New York was able to score on the NBA's stingiest defense and score on them often. The Knicks jumped off to hot start and didn't stop the whole night. They ended up with 116 points - 24 more than the Celtics season average for points against. Amar'e dropped 39, the most a player has scored on the Celtics this season. The 116 points is also the most points the Celtics have given up all season.

With Chandler at the PF (naturally a SF/SG), he is able to stretch F/C defenders to guard him along the perimeter. We saw this last night.

He keeps them honest with spot up threes and lately Chandler has been hitting them consistently. What does this do? Well besides having the ability to drive past slower defenders, it forces big men to defend 15-20 feet beyond the basket. This clears up the middle for Amar'e who can now feast on one-on-one match ups from 10-12 feet out.  Even Garnett, one of the best defenders in the NBA had a tough time guarding STAT one-on-one.

This is a good sign for the Knicks that even against a stingy like Boston they were still able to score 116 points - over 7 points above their season average. The upside is going small and having four players they are able to score on an elite defense.

Equally as impressive about the Knicks offense last night was that Felton and Stoudemire were still able to run the pick and roll to a success especially in the 2nd half, when you expect the Celtic defense to lock down.

The Downside: The interior defense will be their undoing

Chandler who at the PF helps create the scoring versatility at one end of the court, also leads to the Knicks undoing at the other end. Chandler is mostly always over sized in a power forward match up. Bigs catch the ball down low and are able to shoot over him. The result is that the Knicks are forced to double down to help Chandler. The counter-result, the player in the post kicks the ball out to a wide-open perimeter player.

This is what we saw last night, especially in the 4th quarter. The Celtics made it a point to exploit the Garnett-Chandler mismatch. They pounded the ball inside to Garnett who would muscle his way to the block for an easy hoop. When the Knicks did double down, Garnett would kick it out to an open perimeter player  - Allen, Pierce or Robinson.

With the Knicks clinging to a small lead in the 4th quarter, they were not only unable to make a big stop, but Boston was able to score on many easy layups - most of the uncontested.

Now the obvious question is, why not stick Amar'e on Garnett? Although Amar'e can match Garnett in strength and quickness, STAT is prone to playing defense with his hands rather than his feet. He often hacks and gets into foul trouble. So they let Amar'e take a weaker scorer at the expense of defense. In Wednesday's case he took Glen Davis.

Boston's strategy from the beginning of the game was to exploit this mismatch. The Knicks did a good job early on to poke balls and deny the entry pass into the post. However, when it really mattered, Garnett dominated Chandler down-low. The Knicks made very few key stops in the 4th quarter and despite Paul Pierce's team high 32 points, it was the Knicks inability to contain KG that lost them the game.

Now obviously, it's only one game, but what is concerning is that it's a sign of things to come. With a stretch of games coming up for the Knicks over the next month and a half, they will face many of the NBA's elite big men.

From now until February, they will face the Lakers twice, the Heat twice, the Spurs twice, the Thunder twice - and this is just a small sample. Just imagine the nightmarish match-up when the Knicks play the Lakers. Will Chandler have to guard Gasol or Bynum?

If the Knicks continue the strategy of having Chandler guard a bigger player, the Knicks will continue to have difficulty to make stops like they did against Boston. Scoring is great, but it will eventually come at the expense of defense.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Analysis: A Tale of two Amar'e's

The Knicks are on a tear that has not been seen since the days of Jeff Van Gundy. They are 13-9 through 22 games, but more importantly are 10-1 through the last eleven. Starting the season 3-8, most people were ready to write off the Knicks as another failed season as the result of another failed off-season . They had failed to land LeBron, and had failed to land any of the other premier free agent guards i.e. Wade, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay. They had just given a huge $100 million contract to Amar'e Stoudemire who was coming off an impressive second half and playoff run with the Suns, but had questions coming in.

Undergoing micro-fracture surgery several years ago, would STAT be able to stay healthy and log heavy minutes? Maybe the biggest question though was how would Amar'e adjust to an NBA life post-Steve Nash?

Well over half of Amar'e points for the Suns have come off Steve Nash assists. Would Amar'e be able to be as dominant without the guy who had created so many of his scoring opportunities?

Through the first 10 games, it didn't appear so. Amar'e was averaging multiple turnovers a game, was forcing the ball into the defense, and was catching the ball 18-20 feet from the basket. And when he did score it was usually at the expense of any type of offensive cohesion.

Then something funny happened. The Knicks suddenly found themselves in California and rattled off three consecutive road wins against the Kings, Clippers, and Warriors. This coming off of a previous 6 game losing streak. They didn't play the stellar teams of the West, but what they did do was win games - something New York had been struggling to do ever since Jeff Van Gundy left as head coach.

How did they do it? High powered scoring which involved a fast uptempo pacing of the offense, hot perimeter shooting and most importantly, Amar'e feasting inside the paint. And when I say feasting, Amar'e has been a monster during this current tear. Through the last 11 games Amar'e is averaging 29.5 points per contest. He is season average is currently 25.3 which puts him third in the league in scoring.

The increased outburst is definitely a conscious effort to not only get Amar'e more touches, but to get him those touches closer to the basket. Earlier in the season, Amar'e was catching the ball 18 feet beyond the basket and tried to beat every defender one-on-one. He forced the ball into the teeth of defense and was swarmed by rotating defenders which led to turnovers & offensive fouls.

Now, with the improved play of Raymond Felton, Amar'e is feasting on opportunities where he is catching the ball 6 feet to the basket. Amar'e is hands down the best finishing big-man in the NBA, and when a player of his talents is catching the ball that close to the basket, great things are going to happen. His dunking prowess is what has been making SportsCenter but his inside game has been the most impressive. In addition to his quickness, and jumping ability, STAT has amazing touch and can alter his shot in the air when close to the basket and still finish - something usually privy to elite guards. With his ability to finish, and the Knicks ability to continuously feed him the ball in the right manner is has opened up the offense for other players. Chandler, Gallinari, Felton, and now even Shawne Williams have been finding themselves wide open on the perimeter as the result of double or even triple teams. The Knicks high powered offense has pushed them to 107.7 points per game, third in the league.

The reasoning for the Knicks current streak is pretty clear. It's not as simple as give Amar'e the ball, but give the Amar'e the ball close to the basket. How the Knicks accomplish this is another story, but it has been largely because of Felton's ability to attack the basket and create passing lanes. Essentially, as long as the Knicks continue to create opportunities for Amar'e, they will continue to be competitive and win games. They still are yet to beat an elite team but that could change as Boston visits the Garden on December 15.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Knicks defeat Warriors 125-119. What was different?

The Knicks defeated the Warriors 125-119 in Golden State last night. It was a quality win. The reason being not because they played locked-down defense. The win was as a result of stellar ball movement. In the 2nd half, the Knicks began to channel the 69 Knicks. Passing became contagious. And it wasn't just escape passing, or forced looks. It was swing and skip passing around the perimeter that opened up the offense for the entire team. Quick, crisp passes along the perimeter forced Golden State to stretch their perimeter defense. The quick passes created open looks and lanes and when this happened, GS was forced to rotate their defense. The Knicks, in turn, attacked the basket and had many dump off passes for easy hoops.

The handful of possessions where the Knicks has 7+ passes usually led to baskets. It was beautiful. It was basketball. And it's the way the Knicks should be playing every night. It actually takes less energy to pass the ball then to dribble. It's the way the offense should be scheming every night. The team passing opened up an 18 point lead for the Knicks and it was only when they started dribbling and going one-on-one again did Golden State get back in the game.

It was great to see New York move the ball in a way that is truly basketball. Hopefully they can keep it up tonight against the Clippers.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Knicks win 98-93 - Season Opener Reaction

So the Knicks won their season opener tonight against the Toronto Raptors 98-93. They looked impressive at times but definitely need some work in other areas mostly taking care of the ball.  Here are some thoughts about last nights game.

Knicks are undefeated when holding an opponent under 100 points

Ok. So they've only played one game. But in all seriousness, the Knicks will be a much more competitive team when they accomplish this task. When they went on their stretch of wins last December, most games they won they also held opponents under 100. Look for Turiaf and Mozgov to get more playing time if they continue to clog the middle like they did. Chandler will also be key.

Knicks are undefeated when out-rebounding their opponents

Yep. Couldn't resist. Same concept though. When the Knicks control the glass, good things happen. That's just simple basketball.

Knicks need to take better control of the ball

At times last night, especially during the 2nd quarter, the Knicks were sloppy and out of control. Amar'e often put his head down and didn't look for a kick-out to an open perimeter player - he was often swarmed once catching the ball. Amar'e alone had 9 turnovers last night.

Knicks need to run - and often!

The Knicks looked lightning fast last night on the break in several instances. I like that they were pushing the ball up even after a made basket. They definitely have the horses in Amar'e, Landry, Felton, Toney, and Chandler to have this uptempo style - something that D'antoni's offense has been lacking with a true great finisher until now (Amar'e). Look for the Knicks to run more as the season progresses.

Amar'e catching the ball too high in the post

Yeah, I get it. The Knicks are trying to get Amar'e and Felton to work the high pick and roll, which was successful for Amar'e in PHX and also for the Knicks under D'Antoni the last few seasons. But when they pick and roll wasn't there, Amar'e was catching the ball too high from the basket - often 15-18 feet. Amar'e has a slew of moves to get him the bucket, but after beating one defender he was often swarmed and forced shots or committed charges. Knicks need to get Amar'e the ball closer to the goal so that when he is swarmed he could have an easier finish or kick it to an open man who has much more room to shoot from a defender tracking back.

Chandler key off the bench

I didn't agree with this decision to not have Chandler start when I first heard about it but after seeing last night, it looks like Wilson might settle in nicely to a "Lamar Odom" type of roll. He will bring scoring and stellar man-to-man defense off the bench - similar to what he brought last night, especially in the 4th. Fields is also a good option to start since he is very athletic and has decent range. He will develop into an impact player.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Knicks inching closer to Melo deal

ESPN has reported that the Knicks have made tremendous progress in their attempts to acquire Carmelo Anthony. Denver appears to be more warm to offers than previously and on top of that the Knicks are rumored to be willing to include Gallinari in the deal.

According to ESPN, the Knicks are offering Randolph, Curry (of course), and now possibly Gallinari. It is also rumored that the Nuggets are not interested in Gallo and are possibly shopping him to a third team.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Time is now for Gallinari and Chandler

    The New look Knicks, as they have been called this offseason, have added an array of new players: Amar'e, Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, Timofey Mozgov. "The Knicks are back" has been declared by Amar'e himself. New York has added depth, youth and offensive potency into a franchise that has not been a serious competitor for a decade. Because of this newly added talent the Knicks will most likely compete for a playoff spot this year. But what nobody has been talking about are the "old" Knicks. Specifically Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari.
    Chandler and Gallinari represent two of the five returning players from last year's team, are coming back from a year that was overshadowed by David Lee's emergent All-Star season. They are the most important players next to Amar'e Stoudemire and are the biggest factors that will lead to the Knicks' success in 2010-11. If the Knicks are going to be a successful team this year, it will be largely dependent on the play and improvement of Chandler and Gallo.

Here's why:

Both Gallo and Chandler put up similar numbers in 2009-10. Chandler averaged 15.3 points a game along with 5.4 rebounds while Gallinari averaged 15.1 points with 4.9 rebounds. SImilar numbers - yes. Similar scorers - no.

Chandler is a mid-range guy. He likes to catch the ball on the wing from about 12-15 feet up and face up. Being 6'8", Chandler has the ability to shoot over most defenders, and with his underrated athleticism and strength, can get to the basket well. His spot up shooting has improved greatly from last year.

Chandler's biggest asset will be his ability to create mismatches by forcing defenders to swarm him. By catching from 10 feet out and driving, opposing defenses will be forced to rotate and swarm thus creating catch and shoot opportunities for perimeter shooters. His abilities on offense is reminiscent of Latrell Sprewell or a young Richard Hamilton.

Chandler's continued improvement from mid-range is a must need to for the Knicks offense this season.

Gallo has all the makings of an all-star forward, it is just a matter of him hitting his potential. At 6'10", Gallo can also creates mismatches for defenses. His favorite place on the court is behind the perimeter. Gallinari took an astounding 488 three-point attempts last season and hit 186 of them.

Gallo loves to create his own three point opportunities which usually come by the way of a one dribble hard step at a defender from the triple threat position. With his height, Gallo can shoot over mostly any perimeter defender.

Gallinari has the ability to become a Dirk Nowitzki type of player. He has all the tools to do it. He is 6'10", athletic, can shoot, and can handle the ball well for a guy his size.

In order for Gallo to get to the next level year, he must improve his mid-range face-up game, and post game. Gallo must improve on catching the ball from 12-15 feet out, facing up on a defender and shooting over them. He should limit his shot attempts from beyond the arc and focus his offense on positioning like Dirk does.

Dirk gives coaches nightmares with his ability to two things really well. One, he shoots over small defenders from the mid-range, and two, drives past bigger defenders with his speed. Gallo can be this same type of player but he must be committed to staying inside more than floating beyond the perimeter.

If the Knicks want to make a run this season, the time is now for Chandler and Gallinari. They will have to be the best scoring options behind Amar'e. Both Chandler and Gallinari are "veteran" Knick players but their age, 23 and 21 gives them tremendous upside. Look for them to improve like they have in years prior and be the X-factors in the Knicks offense this season.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Farewell to David Lee

It's been almost a week since the Knicks have sent David Lee packing for Golden State, and he never got his proper send off.

David Lee was drafted by the Knicks in 2005 out of the University of Florida. Being a reserve for his first few seasons, Lee became a starter and solid contributor once Mike D'antoni arrived on scene as the Knicks head coach in 2008. He had breakout seasons in 2008-09, and 2009-10 where he averaged a double-double.

Last season he became the first Knick since Patrick Ewing to average 20 points and 12 rebounds per contest. He was also awarded a spot on the East All-Stars, a feat that had not been accomplished by a Knick since 2001.

David Lee was not chased out of town but he was not welcomed back. During the signing of Amar'e Stoudemire, and the failed courting of LeBron James, Lee was lost in the shuffle and tossed to the curb like an afterthought.

The Knicks are a better team now than they were two weeks ago, but Lee, playing as an undersized center, held his own these past two years.

A fan favorite, Lee was a player who improved his game week-to-week. His range improved dramatically in 2009-10 and became a quandary to defend. Players who sagged off him paid the price with 15-18 foot jump shots. Those who played him tight were drove past with an array of scoops, finger rolls, and jump hooks.

Lee's game in the post was also high quality. His face up game from eight to ten feet out was deadly. Lee had an array of weapons including a smooth touch for baby jump shots, and the ability to drive middle with a quick first step. His ability to finish with both hands was also uncanny.

Lee thrived in D'antoni's pick and roll system. He became more adept as time wore on. Lee would often slip the defender with a decoy screen leaving him in a position to seal or catch a lob pass for an easy lay-in.

The high screen and roll also gave the opportunity for Lee to distribute. Catching the ball 18 feet beyond the basket, Lee would often hit cutters with point guard like precision bounce passes. His passing is one of his most underrated parts of his game as he is probably the best passing big man in the NBA.

His defense was his biggest criticism and the key reason why the Knicks did not pursue him more. Lee's natural position is a power forward but because of an undersized Knicks lineup, Lee was forced to play center. Lee was an average on-ball defender but was terrible in his rotations. Not only was he not a threat to challenge shots but he would often shy away from even stepping in the lane to disrupt the offense.

There were even instances where he would literally not move and allow players to get the hoop for unchallenged finishes. Had it not been for this aspect of his game, the Knicks might have been planning their free agency around him.

Despite this, Lee is still the best Knicks player of the last five years. It's sad to see a young star like Lee leave. He has not yet hit his full potential. If he works hard, and improves his defense, Lee could be a top five power forward. His scoring is certainly good enough.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shaq a Knick?

According to Cleveland Plain Dealer Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst, the Knicks have some interest in acquiring Shaq.

LeBron James and the LeBrand: Why Playing for the Miami Heat is About the Money

Originally Appears on Bleacher Report

We are approaching the one week mark since the LeBron James "decision."
The contracts are signed ($14.5 million). The predictions have been made. The hype is extremely epic. LeBron took a pay cut, as did Bosh and Wade, to play for the Heat in order not only to win a championship but to become a dynasty.
LeBron James said money isn't the issue here. His decision to join the Heat is about winning. But when they say it's not about the money, it's always about the money.

Anybody following LeBron over these last few years has heard the word "brand" more times than they can remember—The LeBron Brand, LRMR, partnerships, etc.
Brand has become somewhat synonymous with legacy, but in more of a business aspect. It used to be Larry Legend but now it's LeBron the Brand.

A little crash course on what branding is. Think of literally branding a cow. It is done to label, or identify—to distinguish.
In the business world, many people define branding as trademarks, and logos; ways for companies to stand out. But a brand is really what you believe about a product or service.

Take Coca Cola for example.
The Coca Cola brand, which is argued to be the most valuable brand in the world, is worth $69 billion. That means if Coca Cola were to suddenly replace all of their bottles of Coke with bottles that simply said "Soda," the value of the company would degrade by $69 billion.
When you think of Coca Cola, what comes to mind? Refreshing, global, best-tasting. Now do the same for Michael Jordan? Champion, the greatest, clutch. When you think of him, memories of game-winning shot after game-winning shot come to mind, along with six NBA championships, and acrobatics which gave him the title "Air."
This is why the MJ brand has been so successful. Who wouldn't want to sport the MJ insignia? Some of the best athletes in the world are under the MJ banner. Even Carmelo Anthony is a Jordan athlete.
It's a brand that people believe in.

Now think of the Charles Barkley brand—The Charles Barkley brand? Hmm...Taco Bell, "that's terrible," and most importantly, zero rings. The same goes for what you believe about Patrick Ewing, the Mailman Karl Malone, and Reggie Miller—great players but they never won a ring.

Now at this moment, what do you believe about LeBron? It may be hard, but try to ignore the recent fall-out from the decision and focus on him as a player.
You will probably think of something along the lines of dominant, great scorer and defender, the player of this generation. Fast forward 10 years to a ringless LeBron, what is your opinion of him now?
This is the fear of LeBron James and why he is now playing for Miami.

LeBron, in announcing his decision to leave Cleveland, said he didn't want to be "31 years old, with bad knees and no title." 31 isn't so young. He'll still have some good years left in him, but the window of opportunity to win multiple championships will close if he is ringless at 31.

LeBron wants to be the biggest athlete in the world. He wants to be bigger than the global icon of MJ, and to be a billionaire.
At times, it seems that LeBron has transcended the court. We hear about partnerships with companies and organizations that are not even sports-related. LRMR, LeBron's marketing company, recently created a partnership with American Signature, a furniture company. If this doesn't make sense, don't worry. But imagine seeing a LeBron sofa, or a LeBron coffee table and now the partnership makes sense.
Similar to how Iron Man is on every conceivable piece of merchandise imaginable this summer because what kid doesn't want an Iron Man lunchbox? What person wouldn't want a LeBron lounge chair?
These partnerships are forged with the brand of LeBron, and with a brand comes value.

If LeBron doesn't win multiple titles, than the value of his brand will be diminished. Who would buy sneakers from a guy who never won a championship? It's the reason why you won't be able to walk into a Footlocker a buy a pair of Ewing Athletics, Patrick Ewing's signature sneaker line.

This is a quest for multiple championships because for LeBron, one, two, or even three is not enough. He's chasing Kobe and MJ. If he doesn't challenge those numbers, people will say "LeBron...yeah he was good, but he's wasn't a Kobe or MJ." This is damaging and exactly what LRMR doesn't want.

The LeBron brand doesn't end when he retires. This is a lifelong brand. Look at MJ. To this day, when MJ releases or re-releases sneakers, people line up in droves to get a piece of his legacy.
The man hasn't played in almost 10 years and he is still arguably the biggest athlete in the world. People are buying a piece of him when they purchase his shoes. They're buying a champion and it makes sense because everybody loves a winner.

This is what LeBron wants. A cemented legacy that will last for decades beyond his playing career. To be able to create partnerships and make business deals with companies that will bring him to all corners of the Earth. To be the biggest global sports icon in the world. To make money.

From his decision to play with Miami, we can surmise one thing—he needs multiple championships—and what better place to do it than with superstars like Wade and Bosh?
LeBron needs this not for his desire to win, but his desire to win in order cement his LeBrand.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chris Bosh: The odd man out in Miami

The Big 3 have been making big news over the last week. Last weeks "press conference" in Miami that introduced the new trio was nothing short of a spectacle. But as I look at LeBron and Wade I can't help but feel that Chris Bosh may be the odd man out in Miami. I am not criticizing Bosh as a player. We all know he has talent. But his decision to play with the Heat could turn him into a hapless third option. What will his role be on this team?

For one, expect LeBron and Wade to get theirs. They both like to dominate the ball. The dynamic between them alone will be interesting. Who will control the offense? I would say in order to for the HEAT to be successful, LBJ and Wade have to dominate the ball. It is their natural playing rhythm. I can see them both trying to run the point at certain points of the game. I don't expect them to both shoot 20 times a game, but I do expect them to combine for somewhere around 35 shots a game. Last year Bosh, shot the ball around 16.5 times a game. The question is will he get enough touches to shoot this many times? If he does, then great but then you're looking at around 50+ shots from 3 players. The average NBA team hoists around 70-75 FG attempts a game. That's leaving 25 shots for your other two starters and your bench. Assuming, your average NBA starter shoots 8-10 time a game, that leaves your bench roughly 9+ shots. Something has got to give as no team could survive with 3 players doing it all.

If the Big 3 do shoot 50+ times a game, expect the offense to stagnate. But this will most likely not happen. What will happen is Bosh is likely to get limited touches, and limited shots and thus lower scoring. Imagine two Kobe Bryants on LA - how much would Gasol get the ball? Essentially Miami will be paying $14.5 million for a guy who will potentially average 15 and 10. Now Bosh is a guy who is capable for going off for 30 points on any given night, but the HEAT would be a much better team if they were the Dynamic Duo (LBJ + Wade) instead of the Big 3. And here's why:

Bosh is not a banger. He is on Miami to score. He has never been labeled as somebody who could D-Up on some of the NBA bigs. Shaq dropped 45 on him in 2009. He averages a little over a block a game for his career. He pulls down on average less than 10 rebounds a game. Basically Bosh is not there for his defense but for his offense. If Bosh is going to be primarily a scorer, where does that leave him in Miami's schemes? Is his defense worth $14.5 million a year. Miami might have been better suited to trade for a center like Chris "Birdman" Anderson, or Emeka Okafor when they cleared the deck in June. Somebody who just wants to bang, block shots, and clean up the glass. Somebody of a defense first mentality. They have could have still courted LeBron and Wade for the $14.5 million and had room to spare to acquire other role players.

Will Bosh be able to bang with the NBA bigs on a daily basis? With Miami having a target on their back this season, their defensive interior will be one of their biggest questions. Expect teams, especially DHoward & Orlando to try to exploit Miami in the middle every night. When it comes to playing Chicago, Orlando, Boston or possibly LA in a finals match-up, does Miami have the size and defensive toughness to compete in a 7 game series? How will they match up against a duo like Gasol and Bynum?

There is no doubt that Miami is one of the elite teams in the East if not the entire league. Right now the question is if Bosh will be the guy in the middle who will be able to bring defensive toughness for 82 games.

If he is the odd man out on offense, does Chris Bosh have what it takes to carry his weight on defense?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chris Paul a Knick by December?

Let's not get our hopes up again, but this past weekend at Carmelo Anthony's wedding, Chris Paul toasted about the possibility of creating their own big 3 - the big 3 being Amar'e, Carmelo and CP3.

Amar'e is already a Knick, Melo will be a free agent for the summer of 2011 and is rumored to want to play at MSG, but Paul will not be a free agent until 2012, so we're waiting at least two more years for this to happen...


The Knicks acquire Paul in a possible trade this season. Why would New Orleans trade their superstar PG to the Knicks? How would this even be possible?

Paul has been rather vocal about his situation in N.O.. He wants the team to improve and he wants it to happen fast. Since they were eliminated by the Spurs in '08, the Hornets have not come close to being a Western powerhouse. If the Hornets do not make a dramatic improvement this season, expect Paul to become disgruntled and demand a trade.

The Knicks have tradeable assets. Young talent (Chandler, Felton) and a large expiring contract (Curry) could be enough to move Paul to the Knicks. Especially if Paul starts demanding a trade, the Hornets might have to deal to save face and avoid bad publicity.

It would not be a total loss for the Hornets either. They get Felton a young hardworking player who would most likely be the starting PG and Paul's direct replacement. Wilson Chandler plays great ball defense, is extremely athletic, can get to the basket, and has been improving his range. One of the most improved players on the Knicks last year, Chandler was overshadowed by David Lee's all star season. Thirdly the Hornets would get Curry, an $11 million expiring contract that would give them flexibility for spending in 2011.

Paul is scheduled to make around $15 million this season. Felton will make around $7.5 mil, Curry $11, and Chandler a little over $2 mil. The trade would not be an exact swap of equal contracts.

The Knicks are able to trade any newly signed free agents starting on December 15. If the Hornets do not improve, expect the rumors to start heating up by then, especially with the trade deadline around the corner.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More Moves for the Knicks: Felton and Mozgov

The Knicks have been extremely busy post-LeBron fallout. In a matter of 3 days, they have acquired 5 news players: 3 from the Warriors in a S&T for Lee, Bobcats PG Raymond Felton, and now a young 7-1 center from Russia, Timofey Mozgov.

Felton, a tough slashing PG vows 'to make everybody better' but also gives the Knicks flexibility to go after Chris Paul in 2012. Felton signed to a 2 year deal, expiring just in time for the courtship of CP3. The upsides of Felton are not to be overlooked though. Felton is a cerebral PG, and will work the pick and roll well with Amar'e. He is in his prime and is coming off one of his best seasons in which he helped the Bobcats clinch their first ever playoff birth. He's solid from 18-20 ft out and can slash.

Timofey Mozgov. Russian Center. 7-1. 24 years old. Tremendous upside to this pickup. Mozgov is a great inside-outside guy. He can intimidate in the middle and due to a Russian philosophy for young centers, has not logged any serious minutes. Most importantly, the Knicks now have a true center. Above 7 feet tall, this will alleviate Ama're from having to bang with every NBA big on a nightly basis.

What's more impressive about the Knicks dealings since July 1 is how young they are now. Besideds Eddy Curry, Amar'e is the oldest player on the team. It will be interesting to see how Galo, Chandler, Douglas, Randolph, and the two new rooks will develop. There is now potential and hope that the Knicks may be better than on paper.

But, if all else fails, the Knicks, with the expiring contract of Curry, will have enough cap space in 2011 to court Melo - a much needed scorer. And on top of that, 2012 and the signing of CP3 or Deron Williams. NYK was shut out this year from acquiring LBJ and DWade, but things are looking up as the Knicks could be major players in the East for 2012.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Knicks close to signing PG Raymond Felton

According to Yahoo! Sports the Knicks are close to signing a multi-year deal with Bobcats PG Raymond Felton.

It was first believed that after losing out on the LeBron sweepstakes, the Knicks would sit on their cap space and wait for July 2011 for Carmelo, Tony Parker, or Chris Paul. Now it looks like the Knicks are putting all their eggs into 2010.

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Lee sign and trade complete

By now you are probably aware that LeBron James will be playing with Miami Heat. A big disappointment for all suitors who were hoping to land LeBron, however the Knicks have already exectured their Plan B.

LeBron passing on the Knicks last night meant that the Lee sign and trade to Golden State would be executed and it has. It is now confirmed by David Lee's agent Mark Bartelstein, that Lee will play with the Golden State Warriors next year in exchange for Anthony Randolphy, Rony Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike.

Not a bad pickup for the Knicks that will give them some size, and cheap expiring contracts that will give them enough cap space to make a run at Carmelo in 2011.

The best pickup in this transaction has to be Anthony Randolph. Randolph, only 20 years old, is 6-10, long, and athletic. He runs great in the transition, finishes, cleans up boards, and has a nice mid range jump shot from 18 out. The upside could be huge. He definitely needs to bulk up a bit but has the potential to be Marcus Camby type of impact player. He is coming off a bad ankle sprain that sidelined him for the second half of the season. Randolph is not a huge guy, so don't expect him to bang like a Kendrick Perkins. However he is long. He averaged 1.6 blocks last year and should be able to challenge and alter shots in the middle.

Azukuike, a 26 year old SF, is returning from a knee injury that sidelined for most of the 09-10 season. He underwent surgery to repair his right knee in May.

Now how will the new Warrior trio fit in with Knicks current roster. Right now, the starting 5 is expected to be Toney Douglas, Wilson Chandler, Galo, Amar'e, and most likely Randolph. Amar'e is obviously option 1 on offense. Having played with D'antoni for several seasons, the pick and roll will be a viable part of the offense. Randolph should fit well as a guy who could feast on cheap dump off passes and cleaning up the boards. He will runs extremely well in transition and could even handle the ball to start a fast break - major upside in D'antoni's schemes. Not only that, but with Amar'e drawing double teams in the post, and Galo attracting guys on the perimeter, it should open up Randolph's game for 10-15 ft open jumpers.

Kelenna Azubuike is a 6-5 SF. Somewhat undersized for a SF, this guy plays big and with a lot of heart. Think Quentin Richardson - he get's to the rim, solid finisher, and has a decent shot from the outside (45% 3PT FG% in 08-09). He will be a decent option off the bench who could bring some scoring and some hard-nosed defense.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lee sign and trade imminent

A sign and trade sending David Lee to Golden State for Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike is imminent.

The deal is dependent on Lebron passing on the Knicks.

Welcome to the greatest show on Earth

Welcome to the greatest show on Earth!

Word was out this morning that Lebron James was leaning towards signing with the Heat. According to reports he was 90% sure. My first reaction of the report was "ok, at least we know now." But the more I kept thinking about, the more it didn't feel right. Something smells fishy.

For the past week, Lebron and his circle have been so tight lipped about their intentions. They've been guarding all information as if it were a matter of national security. We were told that during meetings with teams, he showed very little emotion. He has been extremely mum during the entire process. There have been leaks here and there , but for the most part we didn't have any idea what Lebron was thinking.

On Tuesday night, Lebron announed to the world, I will make my decision and when I do it will be during a live press conference at 9pm on Thursday night during prime time, and oh yeah it will be on ESPN! Talk about drama! Lebron apparently loves the theatrics. Oh and another thing the program is called "The Decision" as to say this is the most important decision in all of sports.

We learned yesterday afternoon, the venue will be a Boys & Girls club in Greenwich, CT. Kind of an odd choice but only 35 miles from MSG, and even closer to the Knicks practice facility in NY. So the buzz yesterday was that Lebron was going to New York. So much so that the MSG stock dramatically rose.

So as of last night/ early morning, everything seemed to point NYK. Now as America awakes, we see a new report - Lebron leaning Miami, according to ESPN. Lebron's inner circle has told players and NBA officials that "privately" he is leaning towards playing with Bosh, and Wade in Miami. At first glance, wow! He made his decision. But why now of all times to break this story? It was the first thing I read this morning and yes I believed it at first, but now it is inconsistent with what Lebron and Co has been doing this whole free agency - playing mum! If it is Miami, then why the 1 hour special for 9pm tonight? It seems rather counter-intuitive to the drama LBJ was trying to create. "The Decision" will be rather undramatic if we all know he is playing in Miami...

UNLESS This is all part of the plan to create the greatest drama on Earth! At this point let's not call this a free agency signing, because let's face it, it's not. Instead let's call it a movie!

Now during any movie, the main character goes through a series of events and by the end he/she is faced with a decision. Some movies feature something called a twist and it makes for great drama. Just when you think the main character's life is going one way BAM the opposite happens! America, the audience, has now been set-up to believe LBJ = HEAT and with good reason. But if Lebron has showed us anything these last few days is that he loves being a free agent for the drama.

Could this be the greatest drama of all, making us believe one thing and then BAM a twist? Who knows? The fact that this story broke this morning for the world to see during the 11th hour just makes it feel, dare I say, planted. It it inconsistent with the world Lebron was trying to create. Lebron is the director, writer, and starring actor in his movie, and a movie makers knows that a great twist doesn't reveal itself until the end.

Be prepared for anything tonight! But my gut still feels NYK.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Knicks point guard situation

So if the King does decide to play in NY, where does that leave the Knicks in respects to the point guard. Chris Duhon is now out of the picture having signed with the Orlando Magic. That leaves Toney Douglas as the only current option for starting as the 1.

A lot of people sleep on Toney but he was impressive in the second half of the season. With Chris Duhon struggling to find his shot, Douglas started a chunk of games for the Knicks in the second half. He led the Knicks in scoring on several occasions and from mid-March until the end of the season averaged well over double digits in scoring. His assists though - meh. Around 3.5 - could definitely be better. However, he does show some promise.

He can compete physically, and has a solid mid-range jumper mixed in with some good speed. Based on 2009-10, I don't think Toney is a starting PG but I do think he can be solid back-up.

Now the Knicks have a decision make. Assuming they land Lebron, there are already talks of trying to sign Luke Ridnour. Now I like Luke Ridnour. I think he's hardnosed, smart ball player. But he doesn't give you anything that Toney doesn't. On top of that, he'll cost the Knicks anywhere from $5-$7 million. Now this doesn't seem like such a gamble, but with talks of a possible Carmelo signing in July 2011, the Knicks are going to need as much cap space as possible in order to give Melo a deserving contract. They most likely will not be able to do that if they acquire Ridnour.

However, let's say they do keep Toney as the starting PG for the 2010-11 season, July 2011 should open some doors for the Knicks with a possible acquisition of Tony Parker or trades for Chris Paul, or Deront Williams should they become disgruntled.

Regardless, who says you need a dominant PG to win a championship? Who was the point guard during the Bulls dynasty? How about the Lakers dynasty of the 2000s? A solid guard who can get you in your sets, hit 15-20 foot jumpers and play good defense should be good enough for a team with LBJ, and Amar'e. And Toney Douglas is good enough to fill that role.

Knicks Plan B

If Lebron doesn't choose MSG as his home for the next 5 years, the Knicks apparently have some things in motion.

The Knicks are currently in talks with the Warriors for a potential sign and trade for David Lee. The Knicks would get Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Randolph. The trade would give the Knicks some much needed size and defensive toughness inside. This would obviously benefit Amar'e who would be alleviated of tough defensive assignments.

This whole plan will be scrapped though if Lebron chooses NYK,

Ray Allen signs 2 year contract with Boston

Ray Allen has reportedly signed a 2 year $20 million contract with the Celtics. Looks like all the pieces from last years title run will be returning. Word is that Rasheed is mulling over coming back for another season.

Boozer to Bulls

According to ESPN, the Bulls and PF Carlos Boozer have agreed on a 5 year $80 million deal. This is most likely a last ditch effort to persuade James to Chi-town. The way this free agency has been going, the LBJ buzz might be totally different this time tomorrow.

Jon Rothstein: LBJ to Knicks, according to Bulls

Jon Rothstein of ESPN Radio received a text from a member of Chicago's front office saying that they believed Lebron was heading for MSG. The Bulls will refocus their efforts and try to sign PF Carlos Boozer.

Lebron press conference location announced

According to Newsday, "The Decision" will be held in Greenwich, CT. Approximately 34 miles away from Madison Square Garden. 65 miles away from Bristol, CT (ESPN HQ). Stay tuned.

Why Lebron is leaving Cleveland

Let's face it - what more can LBJ do in Cleveland? In Lebron's eyes, the opportunity to win a championship with the Cavs has become impossible. Here's why he's leaving.

It's not about the salary. If that were the case he would already have announced his intentions to re-sign with Cavs. That's not happening despite the fact that he will potentially lose $30 mil over the life of the contract. No other team can pay him as much as Cleveland can.

Cleveland can't provide a better roster. Last year they put all their eggs into the 2009-10 basket. They failed. They brought in Jamison which they thought would put them over the hump - it didn't. They signed Shaq for a one year contract to bang with Dwight Howard in a 7 game series - the match-up never even took place. Cleveland has no flexibility with the cap. Their only chance at making a dramatic improvement to their roster disappeared when Bosh announced he will play in Miami.

It's about a legacy. Lebron wants to be the king of the world. He is big on branding and wants to be a global icon. He wants to be the NBA's first billionaire. He wants to win 6+ mvp awards and 7+ championships. He will only be able to achieve this in the markets of Chicago, and New York. Despite receiving less money, the endorsements and branding alone will net him tons of cash.

Kevin Durant is the man!!

During the whole free agent fiasco of LBJ, Wade and Bosh, Kevin Durant has just (quietly) signed a 5 year extension with the Thunder for approximately $85 million. Oh and also - there is a NO opt-out clause after the fourth year as reported by Marc Spears of Yahoo. If you're still not convinced that Durant is a different breed of ballplayer, then read the story from Hoopsworld. Pretty refreshing during the Hollywood style free agency we have seen over the past week. Good for you KD. Glad to hear it's still about basketball.