27 11 2008

There comes a point in most undertakings in life where it’s time to walk away.  When two (or more) parties are involved, it becomes a little tougher, but the theory remains the same.  Sometimes it’s best to just get the hell outta Dodge.No hearts here...
Kenny Rogers was right smack on the money with his song The Gambler.

“You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”

There aren’t many better images than this for where the New York Knicks and Stephon Marbury now find themselves. It’s the classic stare-down. New York doesn’t want to just tell Marbury to get out, and there’s too much money on the table for him to walk away.

At the beginning of the season, the New York Knicks embodied by Donnie Walsh and miscreant...Mike D’Antoni made it abundantly clear to Stephon Marbury that he was in no way, shape or form part of their plans for the future. Fast-forward to now: two massive trades involving guards Jamaal Crawford and Mardy Collins (and forward Zach Randolph) occurred. Then an injury to Nate Robinson… and health concerns for new-Knick Cuttino Mobley – this left the Knicks with only two healthy guards: Chris Duhon and Anthony Roberson. Marbury was told prior to at least two games (against the Bucks, and the Pistons) that if he wanted court-time, it was his for the taking.

Marbury’s response?
No thanks.

Whilst his refusal to have anything to do with the Knicks (other than cash paychecks from them) must be infuriating for the Knicks hierarchy, the implications for Marbury himself are even greater.

It’s easy to understand Marbury’s continued refusal to play. The Knicks made their opinion of him clear, but now that they need him, they turn up on his doorstep cap-in-hand and expect it of him. Most people would have the same reaction: thumb their nose at the arrogance displayed by these people.
But they’d be wrong too.
The powers that be...Aside from the fact that it’s a reasonable request made by the people who give him a very sizable amount of money, it could have repercussions on his career post-Knicks.
There was every possibility that a team would pick up Marbury for a deal once he finished with the Knicks (which could be any day now). But his “no thanks” and refusal to be a part of the team are indicative of an attitude that might end up making him as big a pariah in basketball as Barry Bonds is in baseball.

What should the Knicks do?
Cut their losses and run – they’ll be paying him the money any way. Marbury’s very presence is a cancer. He’s clashed with pretty much every authority figure within the New York office – Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas, and now Mike D’Antoni/Donnie Walsh. This is a man that was once called “the most reviled athlete in New York” (New York Daily News).
It’s well past time for New York to bid Stephon Marbury adieu.
Know when to walk away and know when to run.


Fixin’ the Knicks

27 06 2008

Written for With Malice by Seth from Posting and Toasting

What the New York Knicks need, more than anything, is a change of culture.

The past few years have been filled with misery and paranoia, which both loses games and alienates fans. The team is already taking steps in the right direction.
Isiah Thomas – the face of MSG’s era of bad feelings – dwells now in the shadows, with the wise, grandfatherly Donnie Walsh and the cheerful Mike D’Antoni taking the reins. James Dolan’s firm media policy has been retracted, taking some weight off players and media alike.

Moving forward, the Knicks need to stay young and fresh and work to cut payroll in preparation for a possible big splash (LeBron or otherwise) in 2010.
In Thursday’s draft and subsequent ones, players with a distinct skill set, a healthy attitude, and a commitment to the defensive end of the floor take precedent over the unrefined runners and jumpers that inhabit every draft class.

Things appear to be on the rise, and with a couple proper drafts and some responsible spending, the Knicks may very well be back in the picture in a few years.

NBA Shaberu With Malice

12 05 2008

Well, I guess money does talk.
Mike D’Antoni’s gone to the Knicks? Does that seem like a match-made-in-hell to anyone else?
The Knicks need a hard-nosed coach who is going to instill some discipline into New York’s premier franchise. In other words, NOT D’Antoni.
D’Antoni seems to be a perfect fit for the Baby-Bulls, who after being stifled by the restriction under Scott Skiles, would relish being let off the leash and allowed to run, run and run a lil’ more. They appear to have the personnel for it too. A very athletic roster. However, the word is that Pax wasn’t too enthused about having a team focused on offense, when he prefers the strict disciplinarian type (enjoying the leather/whips much?). More of an emphasis on ‘D’. Thus the dragging-of-feet on an offer to Mike D’Antoni.
But the Knicks? Good luck with Starbury yet again Mike. You didn’t like him in Phoenix, something tells me you’re not going to like him in New Yawk.

Rick Carlisle’s ensconced in Dallas, and Phoenix is without a coach. Having a player of Shaq’s nature demands an experienced coach… but who’s out there? Interesting days ahead in Arizona.
Amazing that a coach of Avery Johnson’s ability is left (at the moment) high & dry. Apparently Phoenix were unimpressed with the way that Johnson left Dallas, and will take no part in his future employment.

Anyway, some interesting developments today game-wise:

  • Utah beat LA in OT, eventually winning 123-115 – and tied up the series 2-2. Again, it was a game LA could’ve won… but fate conspired to send them back to the Staples Center to face what will be a re-vitalized Jazz. Kobe got his – 33 points and 10 assists – and playing through back-pain, but struggled to maintain his accuracy – as did most of the team not named Odom or Gasol. Gotta get the bigs involved – both of them are very accurate from in close… Ronny Turiaf surprised me with a very nasty foul on Ronnie Price – totally unnecessary.

    As a Laker-fan, not overly surprised about not winning in Utah’s house – any team that has a 37-4 record at home is going to be hard to beat.
    Their record on the road is not so impressive… and Carlos Boozer continues to struggle with accuracy. Hopefully, in LA’s house on Wednesday, the Lakers get the job done. Fingers crossed…
  • The Spurs did the same – equalizing the series 2-2 with a 100-80 win. San Antonio did a pretty good job of limiting Chris Paul – better than anyone has thus far these playoffs. Paul finished with 23 points and 5 assists for the game. Not a bad total, but certainly not what we’ve come to expect. Tim Duncan hit his straps – 20 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks.
    Are the Spurs back? Don’t know… but I think they have a greater chance than Utah.

In tomorrow’s game:

  1. Boston at Cleveland – Boston have been all over LeBron like a bad case of crotch-rot. Really, really doing a good job of getting in his face, and limiting good looks. Unfortunately for Boston, the rest of the Cavs really stepped up in game 3. Can they do it again? With the way the C’s have been on the road, I think so. Yet another series tied up at 2 a-piece.

NBA Monarchial Discussions With Malice

7 05 2008

Kobe Bean Bryant was crowned the NBA MVP for season 2007/08 today. Kinda harsh that they gave it to him on Chris Paul’s birthday tho’. A worthy MVP, despite what some folks might say. More on that later this week.

Only a matter of time before Mike D’Antoni finds another team that wants him.
Would love to see him in Chicago… they have the talent, they just need someone who can help them to believe in themselves. From all accounts, that’s something that D’Antoni was very, very good at.
On the other guy at the top of the ‘free-from-employment’ line-up of coaches – Avery Johnson… does anyone think that he might actually be a pretty good fit with what Phoenix want to happen?

Only one game today,

  • And damn, some All-Star stink in it. The Celtics ended up running out winners 76-72. Cleveland barely shot 30%… and LeBron James added to his reputation as being a ‘clutch guy’. James ended the night with a double/double – 12 points, 10 turnovers. LeBron only hit two from eighteen attempts on the night. Ugh. SIXTEEN MISSES.
    Neither Paul Pierce or Ray Allen had good nights either – Allen hit a goose-egg from his 4 attempts. Pierce wasn’t any better – hitting two of 14 attempts. Matter o’ fact, Pierce was almost James-like in his game: 6 TOs with his awful shooting.
    Luckily for the C’s, they have KG.
    And Rondo.
    Still… not sure that they can count on LeBron being as woeful as he was this game… one thing I do know: going to be a better series than I thought before the playoffs began.
    Vodpod videos no longer available.

Tomorrow’s games:

  1. Detroit at Orlando – Orlando really need to step up big-time if they are to win this.  And win they must.
  2. Utah in Los Angeles – An interesting series… It’s doubtful that Utah beat LA in LA, but it’ll be tough for LA to beat the Jazz in their own house.  If the refs would call ‘fouls’ as ‘fouls’ in Salt Lake, might be a different story

NBA Lip-flappin’ With Malice

6 05 2008

Dodgy stuff in the NBA? Gee… that’d be a surprise. So, end of the third in the Orlando/Detroit game, and the refs mess up the clock, allowing Chauncey Billups a basket that shouldn’t have been allowed.
What’s new?
Mike D’Antoni ‘allowed’ by the Suns to talk to other teams about coaching positions.
Allowed? Once you go there, there’s no coming back.
D’Antoni’s done, for sure. Just a matter of where he ends up. Me? I’d like to see what he could do with the (da?) Bulls.

Two games today:

  • Orlando lost to Detroit 100-93, and the refs mess it up, again. The game clock inexplicably stops with 4.8 seconds left, and on a play that clearly took (via TV cameras) 5.2 seconds to play, the refs (who aren’t allowed to use the TV info – again, inexplicably) ‘guesstimate’ that it took about 4.5 seconds or so… and allow the basket to stand.
    Is it just me, or do all of these close/favourable decisions go the way of the teams that David Stern obviously want to get through…? +
    Meh… just the conspiracy theorist in me I guess.
    Jameer Nelson & Howard came to the party this time, but although Rashard Lewis scored a nice 20 points, he hit 6 of 21 shots to score that. He’s going to need to work on his accuracy for the M-Men to have any semblance of a chance.
  • Yet again, San Antonio come up short against New Orleans, losing 84-102. Today, Chris Paul & Peja Stojakovic did the damage. I almost cannot ‘believe’ in the Hornets given that I have bet against them every step of the way, but sheesh… does this look like the end of the Spurs, or what?

Tomorrow’s game:

  1. Cleveland at Boston – This game has taken on huge proportions, given the struggles Boston had against Atlanta (in Atlanta). LeBron James provides a huge match-up problem for the C’s, but then so does KG for Cleveland. And Pierce… and Allen… and even Rondo for that matter.
    Looking forward to it.

Don’t forget to check out the Carnival of the NBA #56, and the Chris Paul Blog day


2 05 2008

No way in hell.

Ok, getting a bit ahead of myself there, perhaps a brief explanation is necessary.
The premier Phoenix Suns blog, Bright Side of the Sun is convening a vaunted ‘Star Chamber‘ to decide what should be the fate of the coach of the Phoenix Suns, Mike D’Antoni (if you have time &/or inclination, head over there and have your say!!!).
As reported all around the internet, Jack McCallum has D’Antoni done and already riding off into the setting sun… and Blogfrica is split on whether that’s a good or a bad thing.
Does D’Antoni deserve to go?

Which brings me back to my original statement:
No way in hell.

Quite frankly, I’m stunned that it’s even being considered, much less considered fait accompli. D’Antoni is simply one of the better basketball minds out there in the NBA, and for the Phoenix Suns, it is clearly going to be a case of “you-don’t-know-what-you-had-until-it’s-gone”.
Other NBA franchises are salivating at the opportunity… the mere possibility to hold that press conference to state

“We’d like to introduce you to the man who’s going to take the [insert franchise name] to the next level. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Coach Mike D’Antoni – coach of the [insert franchise name]!”

I’m simply amazed that a guy who has as much basketball nous as Suns GM Steve Kerr is purportedly in possession of, cannot grasp what a basketball mind they have in D’Antoni. Yes, there should be personnel changes in Phoenix, but Mike D’Antoni isn’t one of them.
How highly do I regard D’Antoni?
Let me tell you: As a Lakers fan, I am of the opinion that the best coach in all of basketball currently works for the franchise I support: Phil Jackson.
Gregg Popovich is only a hair below, and Jerry Sloan too.
Beyond that, there aren’t many even in view of that plateau. But Mike D’Antoni is. Byron Scott could well be held in the same regard sometime soon.
If Phil retired, and the Lakers got D’Antoni, I would not be disappointed.

So… why is Mike D’Antoni being pushed forward to the guillotine in Phoenix?
Pure and simple, it all comes down to not being able to get past the San Antonio Spurs. Paint it however you want, but that is the crux of the argument.
2005, in the Conference FInals the Spurs beat the Suns in 5.
2006, it’s the Mavs who beat them in 6 at the same stage.
2007 and it’s the Spurs again, this time in the Conference Semi-finals – Spurs win in 6.
2008, first round of the playoffs – guess who? San Antonio. Result: Suns out in 5.

This year, game 1 of the series Tim Duncan hits a 3 point shot to win the game. That’s what it came down to. Give him 10 chances, and he doesn’t even hit the rim on 9. But he wins that game on the back of his 3 point shot. Give that game to the Suns, and the series might well have gone a completely opposite direction.

Last year, even more contentious. But for a hard foul on Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire & Boris Diaw don’t get suspended… and it’s a completely different result. The Suns probably take the series, and is there any doubt they would’ve easily accounted for Cleveland?

“Ladies & Gentlemen, your 2007 NBA Champion Phoenix Suns!”

The most amazing thing about the brouhaha that bubbled over post the NBA Commissioner’s decision to suspend Stoudemire/Diaw is that David Stern has basically admitted that last year he got it wrong.
With the refusal to suspend either Kendrick Perkins or Marvin Williams for exactly the same offense, it’s tantamount to an admission of “oops” for the penalties the two Suns got the year before.
And that’s completely ignoring the star-treatment that Kevin Garnett got – pushing a referee (ok, mitigating circumstances), and getting off with merely a fine?
Wow… if I were a Suns fan, I’d be livid over this.

But it beggars belief that the Suns will hold D’Antoni responsible for a) Tim Duncan hitting a 3 point shot, and b) David Stern’s error in judgment…
Yes, I know. People will point to the Shaq trade & how D’Antoni was supposedly behind it. I call BS on that. D’Antoni has always striven to play a high-octane offense, and supposedly he makes a move to get perhaps the slowest center in the game today? I mean, seriously: does any other center fit less into the Suns game scheme than Shaquille O’Neal???
Changing an entire offensive philosophy mid-season is never a good game-plan… But we’re expected to believe it was Mike D’Antoni’s idea?
And it’s worth remembering where the Suns where situated prior to the O’Neal trade: 1st in the Western Conference. Yet,

Ok… suspend belief for a bit. Work on the somewhat-negligent assumption that D’Antoni did suggest it. Both GM Steve Kerr, or owner Robert Sarver could always have said ‘no’. But neither did. Matter o’ fact, both leapt at it.
Add to Sarver’s side of the ledger that it’s entirely his fault that they have no draft picks, no youth.

So where to from here?
Firstly, that roster.
Acknowledge that despite having come oh-so-close in the past few years, this roster is fast getting older, and probably doesn’t have what it takes to compete at the elite level the top of the Western Conference demands.
So, blow it up.
Anyone not named Amare Stoudemire, Boris Diaw or Leandro Barbosa (worth noting they were all born in 1982) is up for trade. And yes, that includes Steve Nash. And O’Neal, tho’ it’s unlikely you are able to move him.
But the last thing the Phoenix Suns should do is bid adieu to the one guy who is probably the best coach coaching in the NBA not named Jackson or Popovich.

Hell, I acknowledge that even in light of the obvious, it’s probably going to happen.
And as a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, for this… from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.