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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses. . .

Is that the mantra of the New York Knicks?

They have Stephon Marbury, the poster child for a journeyman scorer who doesn't seem to make his team better, they have Jalen Rose, who is near the end of his career, and now they acquired Steve Francis in a great trade for Orlando that will give the Magic tons of cap room after this season to rebuild its team.

What is Isiah Thomas trying to accomplish here?

1. Rekindle the three-guard offense that the University of Arkansas made popular in the late 1970's with Sidney Moncrief, Ronnie Brewer and Marvin Delph?

2. Blow the Knicks salary structure so sky-high that they'll be able to contend perennially for the lottery pick.

3. Collect every difficult player in the league and try to show the hoops world once and for all that he can turn any group of talented players into a winner, whether or not they are "coach deaf."

I just don't understand the Knicks at all, and they will continue to frustrate and befuddle their fans, at least, those who will still pony up ridiculously high prices to see the product that the Knicks are putting forth. Additionally, while Isiah Thomas continues to confound, Larry Brown hasn't helped matters that much by refusing to give rookies sufficient playing time and then by burying others, including Trevor Ariza, who showed promise last year. Remember, while new coaches prefer shaping the roster according to their own coaching vision, that doesn't mean that everything the prior administration did was wrong. Ariza did show promise last year (even if he didn't stay at UCLA for as long as he should have and still needs polishing), and he and the extra cap room Orlando gets (along with the cap room that they'll have after Grant Hill's contract expires) should help the Magic build around Dwight Howard.

The Spurs and Pistons have proven that chemistry transcends all, assuming, of course, that you have enough talent in the first place. But if you look at NBA rosters around the league, you'll see that there are talented players on each team and that some teams start a bona fide college all-star team. Yet, for all their star power, teams like Chicago and the Clippers, among many others, are not outstanding teams in the league. Sometimes less, in terms of ego and expectations, is more. Get some talent, some grinders, some role players, and, presto, you could have a contender. In an era of unchoreographed pro hoops that lacks sound fundamental players, teams like Detroit and San Antonio are delights for the purists. Somewhere, I think, Red Auerbach would tip his cigar to Joe Dumars and to Gregg Popovich.

But to very few others.

The Knicks will continue to accumulate names and guards and cap-damaging salaries, but right now they are testimony to the notion that you can't buy excellence. And, in the Knicks case, you can't pay for it either.


Anonymous Stormy said...

Red Auerbach is still with us, although he's been spending a great deal of time in a Washington, DC, hospital recently. Hopefully he'll be out soon, and can tip his cigar wherever he wants.

10:09 AM  

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