Elster's World

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dubious Milestone Number 23

In what can only be described as a dubious milestone at best, the New York Knicks matched last season’s win total of 23 with a last second victory over the Lakers last night in Los Angeles.

Which begs several questions. Has Coach Isaiah Thomas shown enough required “significant progress” to save his job? Are the Knicks much better than they were last season? Are they headed in the right direction or are they simply a crappy, mediocre team and destined to remain that way as they struggle in salary cap hell?

Early indications are that Thomas has, indeed, shown enough Dolan mandated progress to not get fired this season. The Knicks certainly look much better than last year and should manage to win 40 or so games, a huge (or quantum as Clyde Frazier would say) leap over last year’s sad state of Larry Brown induced dysfunction. Owner James Dolan, in an informal and impromptu meeting with the team several days ago even went so far as to unofficially indicate that Eddy Curry, on record as a Thomas guy, had “nothing to worry about”.

But are the Knicks a good team, or at least a team with potential to be good? The truth is, it’s hard to say. They have a great “on paper” team that often manages to squander leads in the final minutes and often plays so poorly at the start of games that they are out of it before the first quarter buzzer has sounded. But they are also a very young team which is learning how to win.

Clearly there is talent on the roster. Eddy Curry is becoming a dominant offensive big man with a couple of go to moves, including a beautiful hook shot from the right baseline. His defense is horrible, his rebounding mediocre at best, and he can’t block shots. But I think he is improving week to week and game to game and finally showing his potential. He is still young (24) and is already one of the best big men in the Eastern Conference. Jamal Crawford (just 26) is a skilled player starting to harness some of his sublime potential and there are a slew of first and second year players on the roster. Sure Marbury is playing slower and the wheels have completely come off of Steve Francis, but the Knicks are in better shape now than at any time in the last six or so years. Though the salary cap situation remains a disaster, that has been the case since the team made the ill fated Ewing deal. Had they simply kept him for the final year of his contract instead of trading him for bloated contracts, I believe something like 16 million would have come off the books and the whole chain of trading bad contracts for worse ones would never have occurred.

Still, Thomas is a crappy coach and I’m not sure how far this team can go with him in control. Even worse, the Knicks will probably not make the playoffs and enter the lottery, meaning that they will have to switch their number 1 pick position with the Chicago Bulls. If the Knicks somehow win the lottery (and the Oden/Durant sweepstakes), it will set the franchise back 10 more years. And I’m not even joking about that.

So to sum up, 23 wins before the all-star break is pretty good progress for a team that was so bad last year, they were unwatchable. And unlike Larry Brown, who seemed to be openly trying to get fired last year, at least Thomas is trying.

All said and done, a team going in the right direction.

With miles to go before they sleep.

4 Comments:

  • I disagree that "Thomas is a crappy coach."

    He's certainly better than his counterpart across the Hudson.

    Also, as you point, out, "learly there is talent on the roster."

    Maybe Thomas is not such a crappy GM either.

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 12:54 PM  

  • Actually, i think that Thomas is a very decent GM. He is a tremendous evaluator of talent (though his trades leave something to be desired). He drafted David Lee, got Frye, seems to have found a winner in Balkman. I would like Thomas to be replaced as coach but stay on as GM.

    As for his coaching - I'm not all that imnpressed. Whether or not Lawrence frank is better or worse is a whole different issue...

    By Blogger Elster, at 1:05 PM  

  • How can he stay on as GM? His worst moves as GM have been hiring of coaches.

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 2:51 PM  

  • Larry Brown wasn't a bad choice, it just didn't work out.

    Knicks biggest problem is ownership...

    By Blogger Elster, at 3:19 PM  

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