God only knows how true this is or isn’t, but it is heartening to see that all the rumors on this one are trending the same way towards the Knicks getting a shiny new non-embarrassing PG for next season. Two major points:
1. We’re getting only one shot at this people; guys who are all of good and quick and named “Ramon” do not come along too often. We’re nicknaming him “Razor”. I will not be argued with on this.
2. Sessions matters because he’s one of the first players brought in since rebuilding really got underway who stands a reasonable chance of being part of the next serious Knicks team. I love Dave Lee and if the timing were different on his free agency he could at 26 be that kind of player; but it’s not. I LOVE Nate, but it’s been abundantly clear that the current Garden braintrust just doesn’t really buy into him for the role and money he thinks he’s worth. Danilo Gallinari is a fascinating prospect and could be another guy for the next good Knicks, but we’re really not sure what we have in him yet given how up-and-down last year was. Wilson Chandler is very promising but not obviously a foundational player, and he was an Isiah guy before Walshtoni came in. This year’s draft picks are too new to make any form of call on. You can make the case that Sessions would be the first major building block, the first clear long-term answer at a key position with a real NBA trackrecord, which the new regime will have brought in. That deserves to be noted and celebrated if this comes off.
Yeah, there’s salary cap implications, and honestly only Donnie Walsh is in a position to judge those relative to what his contacts and back channels are telling him about the summer of 2010. Whatever choice he makes as a fan I’m basically ok with it, because I trust him to make the right call based on information I don’t have. But my God, on the basis of the players alone is this a serious question? Tinsley may be a local guy, but he’s got a nation-wide reputation as a dipshit with bad connections whose most memorable career moments are either the Malice in the Palace or the time thugs chased him through the streets riddling his car with automatic weapons fire. He’s played 70 games or more only 3 times in 7 seasons, and last year the Pacers hated his presence so much that they were willing to pay his salary and force him to stay at home the whole year and fight the union over doing so, resulting in him playing precisely zero games. He’s 31 and has been below average offensively (below 15 PER) two of the last three years where he actually saw a basketball court, he’s a mediocre 3 point shooter and the Knicks are a team which relies on that shot as much or more than any other, and he’s got virtually nothing going for him other than being cheap. Yaaaaay.
With Sessions, I confess: I haven't seen him play all that often, so I'm working off of stats. Here's some of them: 2 years experience, 23 years old next season, PER 16.48/17.65 the last two seasons, 2 year adj. +/- of 4.60 (note: he played only 17 games his first year, so sample size is low), finished 15th among point guards in APG last year despite playing fewer minutes per game than all but one other qualifier in the top 25. His major downsides seem to be that he's a dreadful 3 point shooter (6-34, .176 last year) and with only a year and change of pro experience there's some question as to how real all these numbers are; he's also a restricted free agent which may impact his signability, although Milwaukee was the team which let Charlie Villanueva walk without even a qualifying offer so God knows what's in the cards up there. I'm sure there's a lot which isn't captured by this picture, but unless he's got wee little horns and frequently sacrifices a fatted calf to Ba'al beneath the full moon I think he's probably a better bet as a player than Tinsley. And if he does have the calf and the horns he may be the only guy in the league with a more interesting social life, if we're going the entertainment route.
Again: only Walsh has the full breadth of information to make the call on this and only D'Antoni can make the determination as to whether a long term commitment to Sessions makes sense in context of the offense, so I'm not going to go nuts either way. But if this team ends up punting on Our Guide and Leader, passing on Sessions and signing Jamaal fucking Tinsley, well… I will be cross.
For whatever it’s worth, Posting & Toasting says an offer sheet for “Razor” Ramon Sessions is forthcoming.
EDIT: this is the trouble with writing these things in advance, as the Knicks’ point guard circus has added another ring since I put this together. Jason Williams…well, the less said, the better. He missed all of last season, and previous to that after three years of almost exact offensive averageness (15 PER) he dropped to 12.7 and then retired- not great signs for a guy in his 30’s at a position which relies on quickness. According to Knickerblogger’s similarity scores his most comparable is the current Rafer Alston based on his ’07-’08 stats, and in my also-a-Nets-fan capacity let me say that one of those guys is enough to endure in any given year. He’s 34, and the only thing he really brings to the table over Tinsley is a better 3 point shot and less chance of being shot (from 3 point range or otherwise), along with a lot of relative deficits.
Basically, the only good option out of these guys is Sessions. If the Knicks have good reason to think that they’ll need the money next year or that there’s no chance they can get Razor at a decent price, ok; but let’s be clear: if he’s not the choice, the question is simply how much the guy who is chosen will suck, not whether. If either are signed to a 1 year deal as a spare part to make up the numbers on a bad team with big plans for the future, well, whatever; if either are offered more, they’re the Mikael Silvestre of hoops, and that’s no good.
So the Knicks miss out on Grant Hill, and I profoundly do not really give a care- he’d have been using up minutes which younger players can use, and the chances of him being on the next good Knicks team were nil. Donnie Walsh may have a point about wanting veteran/character-based leadership for the team in the lockeroom, but Hill’s not the only non-asshole old guy out there.
The weird part of this is the idea that he resigned in Phoenix because- they’re extending Steve Nash? What? This is a team which sold off Shaq for nothing, reportedly has a deal in place to get rid of Amare Stoudemire, are cost-cutting all over the place and have been for years, and yet they want to bring back a 37 year old Grant Hill and extend a 35 year old Steve Nash for reportedly $11 million a year for 3 years, all while denuding the team of the weapons he needs to be most effective? It’s possible I’m deeply ignorant here, but if you’re trying to rebuild, why not just exercise your team option on Nash for this year and then trade him, similar to the Boozer situation in Utah (though that was a player option)? If you were going to keep Nash, why not keep/try to get a team around him that might have competed? The only way this reads as logical to me is if they somehow think this is a sop to their fans- “yeah the team sucks and we disassembled two contenders for financial reasons, but at least Steve is still here!” And that doesn’t even cover why Nash wanted this deal when he could have entered the free agent market next year as the best player available at one of the most crucial positions and had his pick of contenders to play for at a still-excellent salary. Maybe it was all about the money to him; maybe he expects next year’s cap to be as bad or even worse than rumored.
Whatever the reason, he appears to have locked himself into the NBA’s haunted house, a team possessed by the spirits of past contenders who died unjustly.
Is anyone really surprised by this? The calculus for LeBron has always been heavily, heavily weighted towards the Cavs on every level- financial, competitive, and for LeBron’s long term reputation. Any media glare gained by going to New York would be undermined by a reputation for deserting a competitive hometown team for a mediocre big-city substitute, and he’s hardly lacking attention in the internet-league pass-multiple nationwide TV deals era. Knicks (and Nets) fans really should not get down about this, and honestly probably shouldn’t take much notice of it. Rebuilding our local teams into serious, long-term competitors was and is never going to be just a matter of suddenly signing the right free agents who would join us because, well, we’re New York- right? It’s easy to forget in the aftermath of the Celtics coming together out of nowhere two years ago, but they were an incredibly rare deal- them, the ’04 Pistons, arguably the Lakers 3 peat if you like Shaq over Kobe, and the ’83 Sixers were probably the only teams of the NBA’s modern (since 1980) era to win a title with their best player coming by means other than the draft. 6 titles out of 29 awarded, counting with the benefit of the doubt.
I’m not going to say something inane here about it being more satisfying to win a title some day without “buying it” because let’s face it- that’s pretty much horseshit. But I will say that this is one of those times where being realistic about the situation will save you a lot of grief in the long term. He ain’t coming, folks; good thing a plan trumps a man, anyday.
An addendum to why I want no part of Jason Kidd anymore: he may be the most overrated player of his era despite also being a hall of famer, and a huge chunk of that is due to the quasi-inexplicable media lovefest he tends to engender, especially from national columnists who don’t deal with him regularly. Today’s example: Ric Bucher writes that “But when all was said and done, Harris was at home watching the playoffs, while Kidd led the Mavs, not considered one of the West’s top eight in talent, into the postseason with 50 wins.”
Two problems with that: one, it’s a mindless dig at Devin Harris because it doesn’t take teammates into account. You might have said the same thing with the roles reversed when Kidd was going nowhere serious with the Nets and Harris was in the finals with Dallas. More importantly for Bucher’s point, let’s take a look back at ESPN.com’s consensus NBA predictions for last year. Yep, there’s Dallas, projected at 45 wins and…7th place, a prediction only 5 wins and one standings spot away from the actual results. Hmm, not top 8, you say? Misrepresenting something fairly easy to check, I’d say. Keep in mind, the consensus picks include both people who’ve ragged on the Mavs and Kidd for years like John Hollinger, and Kidd apologists like Bucher. I’m guessing his individual predictions for the Mavs were even higher, and I’d love to show them to you but ESPN.com’s search engine is totally useless.
What does this tell us? It’s a specific example of the general mode of argument for Kidd apologists, which usually consists of about 80% gauzy, hazy, non-specific and unverifiable “intangibles” claims, mixed with some convenient forgetting of relevant facts. You can see this with some of the other claims in Bucher’s article: Terry had his best scoring year as a Mav! Well, yeah- he played a lot more with a guard who never shot the ball, and his actual shooting percentages were essentially identical (57.4/57.1 TS%, a slight decline.) Dirk was more aggressive in the post! Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t- it’s totally unverifiable, if you wanted to try and research it you’d have trouble (82 games only has shooting range data for this last season), and there’s no particularly obvious reason why Kidd should affect post aggression- and in any case, aggression isn’t effectiveness. It’s a claim without meaning. Dampier shot his best ever! Sounds very impressive and is actually true…except that it represented the third straight year of a major increase (.626/.643/.650 over a career mark of .492) which started before Kidd got there, and was a grand total of .007 higher than the year before. Sadly this did not actually transform Dampier into James Bond, which would be a pretty impressive intangible for Kidd to bring to the table.
All of this, in the end, is basically a fine example of the logical fallacy of special pleading, executed on behalf of a player who many in the media seem to want to lionize because of his supposedly fine on-court “character”- for the triple doubles (which remain overrated and ignoring the suspicion that Kidd selfishly overpursues rebounds to get them), the pass-first point guard mentality which brings out the wistful things-were-better-in-the-old-days quality in many writers, the supposed winner’s mentality (of a player without a ring), the leadership qualities (of a teammate who forced his way out of a team three times in his career), and so on and so forth. The reality is that Kidd doesn’t need it: he’s one of the best players at his position of his era, he’ll be remembered as a man who could in his prime single-handedly transform the fortunes of an entire franchise, and he’s still in fact a pretty good player- his defense has slipped but isn’t the worst for this position, and his PER is still over 16 where 15 is average. At age 36 that’s impressive enough, and while he’s obviously in the middle of his decline phase, he’s also having a more gentle and drawn-out decline than the vast majority of point guards and even of players in general. For my money all of this is impressive enough; I’ll never quite understand why it’s not enough for some people. Like most players and most people he’s had his good and his bad, and he only works as an unsullied symbol so long as half the story goes ignored.
Not through any virtue of his own, Donnie Walsh lucked out on this one. Jason Kidd is a hall of famer, one of the best PGs of his era, and a legitimate legend; he’s also an intensely creepy individual with a bicoastal reputation as a team-killer, who’s 36 years old at a position which doesn’t forgive athletic decline and who’s found a permanently lower level of performance over the last two years as his PER has declined from 19-ish to 16-ish and his once stellar defense has been exposed by Chris Paul and other small, quick, young players. He would have been worth exactly one thing to the Knicks- as a representative “second star” player to market during next year’s free agent period. I don’t think he’d have been worth it even than, partly because I don’t expect anywhere near as strong a market as some do next year, partly because I think even Kidd + (insert star here) + the rest of the Knicks isn’t anything like a contender. And if the resulting team didn’t reach that level…well, Knicks fans just might remember a free win they got over the Nets a few years ago, when Kidd sat out with “a migraine” which nobody bought and which was widely considered part of his attempt to force a trade out of New Jersey. He could have easily become Marbury II with a few bad bounces, and absolutely no one needs that.
Trust me: as a Nets fan I’m incredibly grateful to him for his impact on that team, and I’m also completely and totally done with having to deal with him ever again. The farther away he is, the better he looks- especially at 36, drawing a 3 year deal for $25 million. Best of luck on that 1st round playoff exit, Mavs.
It’s funny- I avoided live Knicks games for almost the entirety of the Isiah era as part of a personal boycott, but I’ve managed to have really good luck in the few I’ve seen in that span: one game quite a few years back where Stephon Marbury went nuts and hit some ridiculous number of 3s, the Jamal Crawford 52 point game against the Heat, and now today’s game against the Bulls which may not have had any one standout performances but was a great win and a fun game. I ended up going to this one partly just on a holiday whim but mostly because I wanted to get a better look at Danilo Gallinari in his first serious action as a stateside pro, having only caught the Knicks in 60 version of the Philadelphia game. A few bullet point thoughts on the last couple of games and the live experience, and then some more on the Rooster.
– It’s hard to put a finger on precisely why, but being in the Garden for the Knicks was vastly more enjoyable this time than it was in my experience at least at any time in the last…uh…decade? It’s still too loud and too crowded in the stairs and bathrooms and they still won’t stop playing noise constantly, but it’s a lot better than it was. Some of it is that this team is actually fun to root for and there’s a sense of hope around the franchise, and consequently fans are much more positive and into the game; some of it is that the irritating “popular” “music” has been phased down in favor of more sports-specific garglemesh like the Ole Ole song; some of it is that the between-quarters local entertainment is just as local but vastly more entertaining than previously (a marching band with choreographed dance moves is very preferable to child singers talent contest, believe me), some of it may just be that I caught a holiday matinee against a beatable team- who can say? The bottom line for me was that I mildly enjoyed the atmosphere instead of grumpily tolerating it. Thumbs up for that change.
– I will say that whoever decided that there had to be an extremely loud, generic, 1991 vintage hip hop beat under the players talking about Martin Luther King on the big screen should rethink their approach, however.
– One thing about the live experience is that some on-court moves stick out a lot more clearly from some angles which aren’t available on TV. I’ve seen Derrick Rose two or three times previously this season, but I hadn’t picked up on how often he uses one particular go-to move: a quick stutter step drive fake as he brings the ball up which gets him two steps under the 3 point line and freezes his defender, followed by a fade to his left and usually a totally open jumper from there which he’s very accurate with. He probably used that move 7 or 8 times in this game.
– I realize I’m echoing Bill Simmons on this one, but he’s right: you do pick up on body language and interactions between team members a lot more when you’re there live, which was part of why I went today- I wanted to see how Gallinari was being integrated into the team, especially since he’s getting rotation player minutes in all 4 quarters right out of the gate instead of being broken in slowly with cameo appearances here and there. More below on that aspect specifically, but in general I’d say I was very happy to see what looked like real camaraderie among the players today: lots of hand-slapping and encouragement, communication without fingerpointing, hard play despite coming off of two fugly losses, attention to the coach- all you could really ask for. Throw in the crowd being into the game and supportive of the team today and you have a lot of positive energy around the franchise at the moment. It’s actually fun to be a Knicks fan again.
– The Bulls, meanwhile, looked like 12 random guys who met in the parking lot before the game. Stench of death on that team. Two coaches later they seem to have all the same problems they had under Skiles, including sitting 25th in the league in TS% and being no fun whatsoever to watch. No one on that team enjoys going to work except maybe Drew Gooden, who’s almost unnaturally chipper.
-Mike Dan Tony’s little trick of defending the point with Jared Jefferies is starting to get noticed by advance scouts and adjusted to. Jefferies got the call for that duty again today and in response the Bulls consistently started their possessions against that look with a sort of scrape-screen up top near the 3 point line designed to force the switch and get Jefferies off of the point. On the upside it took a few seconds off the clock of each Bulls possession, but the countermove was mostly successful at getting a guard back onto Rose.
– I’m mostly not a fan of Dave Berri’s analysis for a host of reasons, but he’s absolutely right about Joakim Noah. Even in a loss he was probably the best player on the court today (+4, only Bulls starter with a +) with 18 boards (7 offensive) and 3 blocks in only 29 minutes, and I’m not just saying this because we briefly attended the same high school. Nope. Honest. Wouldn’t do that.
– Big Dave Lee was 3-14 in this game. Some of that was just bad luck and iffy finishing around the basket, but some of it was also him resorting to that jumper of his. According to 82games.com, he’s currently taking 29% of his shots from that range for a .363 eFG%; last year he was taking 26% for a .405 eFG%. That’s better than 06-07 (23%, .289), but it’s still not productive. In probably related news Chris Duhon’s back is obviously bothering him and while he played well today he did so by relying on his own jumper and some two man game stuff with Lee in the post, rarely running the screen/role with Big Dave which has been so effective at times this season. It’s worth keeping an eye out to see if Lee’s FG% takes a hit in some sort of clear relationship to Duhon’s staying away from that play, which at least in theory may result in Lee taking more jumpers.
That Guy watch: I was sitting next to two Very Important People who arrived one after another in the late first and early second quarters and spent large chunks of the game screwing around with Blackberrys and paying little attention to the game, which elicited barely a murmur from the pair of them. On a holiday. For a matinee. While they were drinking. Got to be kidding me.
Jersey of the Day: a kid not older than 12 wearing a Houston Oilers Earl Campbell shirt. I have no explanation whatsoever for this.
So all that out of the way, how’s the Rooster looking? After all, with the exception of maneuvering in the trade market for cap space, the development of Gallinari is probably the most important thing happening this season in regards to the long-term health and development of the franchise. Bearing in mind that I was as Sean will attest strongly in favor of drafting this kid, so far I have to say I’m quite impressed with him.
On offense he moves very well without the ball, curling off screens and flashing out when a teammate drives to provide passing options and spread the floor, as well as running the floor well on the break in terms of spacing. His shooting motion is smooth and effortless and so far this month he’s 6-11 from the field, 3-5 from three in 31 minutes. He seems roughly equally at ease either shooting off the dribble or spotting up, which contributes to his general profile of offensive versatility without being overwhelming in any one area. Right now he’s willing to shoot but also still clearly a little hesitant to force himself into the offense, becoming peripheral at times and going a couple of plays here and there without touching the ball. He seems to have good rebounding instincts, but gets outmuscled with some regularity and will have to get better at boxing out. He’s clearly got an eye for passing and throws some nice outlets off defensive rebounds including one to a breakaway Nate Robinson today, which is a skill which should stand him in good stead as he gets stronger and better on the boards. His athleticism, strength aside, is roughly as described: not special or overwhelming, but pretty good- more than enough to make his ballhandling an effective weapon off the dribble when guarded by a 4 or one of the less athletic 3s. Honestly, he reminded me a lot of Toni Kukoc in general profile as was his reputation, and if he ends up being that good when he hits his prime I’ll be thrilled.
Defensively he’s actually a lot better than the rumors would have had it, especially when you factor in that he’s a 20 year old rookie coming off an injury against players in midseason form in essentially his first real week of NBA games. His strength is also a major drawback on this end, which gets highlighted when he ends up guarding high level athletes: Andre Iguodala in the Sixers game and Tyrus Thomas today both destroyed him one on one and finished with huge dunks. On the upside Gallinari appeared unfazed after both incidents, continuing to play hard and not get either discouraged or angry, or trying to do too much to make up for the dunk. Also on the positive side he seems very aware of what’s going on around him, switching intelligently, never losing his man completely or really blowing assignments; I was quietly comparing him to Yi Jianlian during this game who he somewhat resembles as a player, and even though Yi is older and more experienced he doesn’t have a quarter of Gallinari’s understanding and poise on this end of the court. Gallinari also seems to be a useful clogger in the making with 2 steals and a block today in only 16 minutes, as well as a variety of tipped passes, slapped away balls and clogged passing lanes. What he sometimes lacks in individual defense he makes up for in this way as a team defender. He also seems to have some versatility on that end, guarding both 2 guards (Heirich, Gordon) and forwards (Nocioni, Thomas) today at various times. Fun fact: Yahoo’s box scores had him as a +7 against Philly and a +3 against the Bulls, for whatever that’s worth.
On the team chemistry front I’d prefer not to read too much into what I saw since obviously no fan can really know the whole picture, but things looked very good today. Gallinari was speaking regularly with other players, which suggests both that language is not an issue and that he’s committed to working as part of the team and his teammates are committed to helping him. There was a lot of hand slapping and such, and after his dunk there was the spectacle of him doing those leaping hip bumps with other players and accidentally almost sending David Lee headfirst into the bench. Some of this is probably facilitated by his versatility, as he actually played at shooting guard at times today which meant he wasn’t eating too badly into any other player’s minutes. At any rate I think it’s fair to say there’s no obvious issues on this front right now.
Overall I’m extremely impressed with Gallinari given his age and experience level. He’s obviously first and foremost a basketball player; I honestly think that if he were, say, 6’2 he might still have a future in the league as a journeyman point given how good his basketball IQ and shooting stroke are. In a league that sometimes still has to plead guilty to drafting glorified track and field athletes and hoping they can become basketball players, he’s a huge breathe of fresh air as a rookie. Compare and contrast, for an easy example, with Tyrus Thomas: the Bulls forward had a good shooting day going 8-11 with 10 boards against a weak defense today, but he was also guilty of 5 turnovers, 2 goaltendings and a variety of other dumbshoes plays which left him at a -9 for the game (I know that stat is limited, but it’s suggestive). Gallinari, as noted, had a pretty good line himself and was a +3. Thomas is two years older than Gallinari, was drafted two slots higher, has played 3 NBA seasons where the Rooster has played 4 NBA games, played only 8 minutes fewer in this game alone than Gallinari has in his entire NBA career, and I’m honestly not sure who was more useful today. I recognize that this sounds as though I’m getting carried away by Gallinari’s potential and to a degree that may be true, but what I’m really impressed with is just how much of that potential has already been realized- with this player it’s not a question of developing skills, but of honing them and finding the most useful ways to employ them within the context of the NBA game. That, along with his versatility, makes him the perfect player for the Knicks at the moment: a guy who’s good enough to be attractive in some measure to free agents as a teammate, has a varied enough game to create confidence that he can adapt to a variety of teammates and playing styles, and is willing and able to be effective with and without the ball in his hands. That’s about all you could hope for at this point.
Quick recap, I’m tired and the Jets are on.
This was like holding AQ and having a flop come AQ6, as the Knicks essentially poleaxed the Kings in the door and allowd the game to stumble on from there. For 3 quarters this was just about evenish, but after a 43-21 opening period the game was over almost before it had begun.
The Kings are bad, defensively. They’re badder than bad. They’re the kind of bad which is redolent not only of garden (formerly Garden)- variety incompetence, but a total lack of effort at times. There was a play in the first quarter where Jared Jefferies, now a center and coming off a broken leg, dribbled the ball the length of the court and drove it hard to the hoop against the defense of small forward Francisco Garcia, beat him to position, and kicked the ball out for a wide open Tim Thomas 3. There was another play with about 3:30 left in the first in which Wilson Chandler on a screen/roll with the ball in his hands simply blew through two men jumping out on him and dunked the ball uncontested with no one rotating to challenge, despite the Kings starting two seven-footers. Brad Miller (who spent most of this game benched) stood and watched the dunk go in from about two feet away, apparently unbothered. On another play, Jefferies again had the ball and was defended by Miler, and simply dribbled a couple of steps to his right and erased Miller against a Nate Robinson screen, Nate’s guy was also erased by the same screen, and Jefferies calmly dribbled back the way he had come, drove to the hoop and dunked it. How does this stuff happen? The Kings actually had more o-boards and fewer turnovers than the Knicks in this one and were about parallel on free throw attempts, but they shot 37% overall, 3-23 from 3 point range, and allowed the Knicks to shoot 49% and 48% respectively- 75% from the field in the first quarter. That should never be. After that first quarter the rest of the game was mostly determining what the final margin would be, bar a 5 minutes stretch in the third where the Knicks couldn’t hit a shot and the lead shrunk to…12.
Next game is Monday against the new look Suns; hopefully this win will keep the confidence rolling, and hopefully Q Rich is back for that one.
– Jerome James scored a bucket in this one. JEROME JAMES.
– I don’t want to say this game will get Reggie Theus fired since I ended up being right about Randy Wittman after that Nets/Wolves game, but the thought did cross my mind. What may save him is that whether from pride or anger or what have you, the Kings did end up playing a lot better after the first and showed some spirit. If they’d let this game keep going as it was, it might have been the end for him.
– Very nice to have Nate back. Who’s more fun to watch than him on this team?
– From “D” at Knickerblogger’s game thread: “who woulda thunk that after 22 games Jerome James would have more minutes and games played than Eddie Curry?”
Knick of the Game: David Lee- 3 points and a board shy of 20/20.
Man of the Match: David Lee