Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Most Logical Knicks Fix Ever

Here is the most poignant and intelligent fix for the current situation in Madison Square Garden. It's written by Mike Moreau of, and according to his bio, he's worked with pros like Chauncey Billups and Kevin Martin at the Basketball Academy and the Pro Training Center in Bradenton, FL. In this piece, Moreau addresses the Knicks as if a member of the staff.

It's the best advice to the Knicks I've ever had the pleasure of reading, despite (or maybe because of) the way in which Moreau tosses aside issues of ego, contracts and playing time that would obviously hamper this solution. To have a coach or member of the front office deliver this dose of reality to the Knicks would be a breath of fresh air not only as a fan of the organization but as a fan of the NBA and pro sports in general. The reason I loved reading this is the same reason that David Lee is a fan favorite -- there are just too few instances of coaches and players in pro sports who outwardly seem to give a damn, to truly compete (win or lose) as part of a whole rather than as individuals with similar jerseys, or to present themselves with an unselfish attitude for the betterment of the organization.

My two favorite pieces of advice from the article:

Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph: You cannot be on the floor together. This is a bad offensive scheme – it is not your fault. We need one of you on each unit and can interchange you throughout the game. Whoever has it going the best that night will be the guy on the floor down the stretch in the fourth quarter.

Zach: You are going to be the anchor of the second unit. Your attitude, effort and behavior last night in the Garden was a disgusting display of disrespect to our fans. You have a lot of making up to do to them. In order to learn to handle this assignment of coming off the bench, here is Manu Ginobili's cell number: 1-800-BE-A-PRO.


David Lee: Last season you shot 60% from the field, setting a Knick single season record. We rewarded you by sitting you behind a guy who is shooting 40% and plays half as hard as you do. That is our fault. No more will we have to see that "what kind of nightmare am I living" look on your face. You are a starter for life.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

NBA Missing the Timeless Rivalry

Heading into tonight's Heat/Knicks matchup at Madison Square Garden, I feel better about facing Miami than I have in years. The Knicks are 2-2 but have been competitive in all four games they've played. The Heat are 0-5 and struggling.

The Heat's website ran an article which described the matchup as one of the best rivalries in basketball. The only player still on either roster from the epic battles of the late '90s is Miami's Alonzo Mourning, and he's a shadow of his former self. This is simply no longer one of the best rivalries in the game. There will be no emotionally-charged contest between these two unless something happens this year to spark the two sides (a fight, a heated OT game, some words to the media, etc.). Every time the Red Sox and Yankees play, the media hypes the contest regardless of their seasons. Granted, the two teams are normally at the top of the league, but the history which follows that rivalry outweighs anything in the game of basketball.

Pistons/Cavs has developed into a nice little matchup, however recent. Lakers/Suns is usually a great shootout to watch. And any combination of Texas teams (but especially Spurs/Mavs) will draw national attention. But there's just no rivalry which is bigger than its players. Sox/Yanks is bigger than its players. Celtics/Lakers was spearheaded by player matchups like Bird and Magic, but even then, the green against the yellow was the attraction.

Player turnover and shorter careers hurt NBA franchises in terms of developing a longstanding rivalry a la Sox/Yanks. In the MLB, players can stay with a team for a decade or more. There's also more nostalgia surrounding baseball and football, which might add to the feeling of a rivalry involving more than just the players.

As a Knicks fan, I hated Reggie Miller. I hated Alonzo Mourning in his prime. I hated the Pacers and Heat just as much as I do the Red Sox. Only it was always contingent on the players. There's just no nationally-hyped matchup in the NBA that is more meaningful than the current roster, recent success and the size of the markets.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Well-Rounded Big Apple

First, let me say that I'm basing this post entirely on the Knicks' highlights, boxscore and scouting report from a fellow Knicks fan. Living in Hartford, where the line between New York and Boston fans blurs, the cable company apparently sides with the men in green rather than the boys in blue and orange. In short, I do not get MSG, I do not get to watch the Knicks on a regular basis, and I am not happy.

Next, allow me to make a bold statement which, when you really think about it, is not really so far-fetched: the Knicks can beat anybody on any given night. The big "if" will always be the defense. But the Big Apple looked pretty balanced in their season-opening loss to the Cavs (110-106 on Friday). Here are some positives. Again, we're talking about the Knicks, so they absolutely need to be layed out in full since fans have been overwhelmed with negatives.

The Stats: The Knicks had five players score in double-figures and led most of the way until LeBron went Michael on them and refused to lose this game. Offensively, this team can be very good this year. Inside, Eddy Curry had 18 and Zach Randolph had 21. No team will be able to contain both. On the perimeter, Marbury managed 10 points, but the more important line was Jamal Crawford's: 8-17 shooting, 25 points and six assists. (Honestly, Curry, Randolph and Crawford should be the big three on offense. Hopefully Marbury won't get in the way.) Nate Robinson also contributed 19 off the bench.
The Substance: The Knicks are deep. They can score inside and out. They can run with Marbury, Crawford, Lee, Nate-Rob and a surprisingly mobile duo of Curry and Randolph, or they can work in the halfcourt with those two on the blocks.

The Stats: The rotation seems to be set already. Marbury, Crawford, Q-Rich, Randolph and Curry start, while Robinson and Lee come off the bench. Both at guard and forward, the Knicks can bring energy into the game when they replace a starter. And Isiah Thomas doesn't seem to associate playing time with contracts (thank God). For example, mid-level exemptions Jerome James and Jared Jeffries never entered the game, while the washed up Malik Rose kept his sweats on all game.
The Substance: With a roster full of talent but with little direction or experience playing together, the last thing the Knicks need would be confused roles on the team.

The Stats: There are none to quantify the type of contributions which David Lee and Renaldo Balkman can make. But looking at all the names on the roster, there's a severe need for glue-guys. If everyone wants to be The Man on the team, they're going to need a couple guys who clean up, do the dirty work, and make sacrifices. Given the right situation, Marbury, Crawford, Curry, Randolph and even Robinson could all be 20-point scorers.
The Substance: Lee played about 24 minutes and Balkman under a minute on Friday. However, the team still played well, so the important thing here is that the Knicks have these guys available. They can rebound, run the floor, distribute the ball and (most importantly) defend. Some believe Curry and Randolph will eat away Lee's minutes, but that should only be a concern if either of them are playing poorly and D-Lee is still not in the game. If both big guys are playing well, as they did on Friday night, Lee is just a bonus off the bench to give them some rest. If either of them have an off night, Lee needs to get more minutes.

I'm not about to predict that the Knicks can breeze through the East or even the division. But they've got the potential to take a giant step forward from recent years.

I'll just go ahead and ignore the opposite scenario for my own sanity...

A Legend Reinvents Himself

The following is my first sports features piece which appeared in the Oct. 25 issue of the Hartford Courant.

"It's not what you used to do, it's what you're doing now," Bill Detrick says.The navy cap with "Blue Devils" on it reveals where he used to work, if not exactly what he did.

In 29 seasons at Central Connecticut, he led six teams to the NCAA Division II men's basketball tournament, amassed a school-record 468 wins and became a charter member of the CCSU Athletic Hall of Fame.Before that, he became the only Central athlete to win 12 varsity letters, playing football, basketball and baseball. His No. 4 jersey hangs above the basketball court, and the gym bears his name.

But all that was yesterday. Today, Detrick is making a name in another sport, at another level. At 80, he is in his 17th year coaching the Trinity College golf team, and he has just won his second consecutive coach of the year award in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).

"Coach was definitely one of the reasons why I came to Trinity," says golf captain Josh Biren, a junior from Sudbury, Mass. "He told me before I came to Trinity, `You have a lifetime contract with me.' And every player has that with him ... He wants to mold us into successful people. If we ever need anything, he said he'll always be there for us."

Detrick makes sure the players focus just as much on books as they do birdies. Maybe more so.

"At Trinity, Coach had to make academics come first for the kids," athletic director Rick Hazelton said. "He has gone practically overboard with that. He's very proud of the academics of his team, and I think these things make him just as proud as all the other things."

After leading Central into Division I play in 1986, then coaching Coast Guard basketball for a season in 1989, Detrick was approached by Hazelton with a proposition: leave basketball for a golf program with little success and no home course. It was the Connecticut sports equivalent of asking Clapton to put down the guitar and play tambourine for your garage band.

Detrick accepted and began using personal and professional connections to reserve courses at which his team could practice. He finally led the Bantams to the school's first NESCAC title on Sept. 30, when they won the league's fall championship qualifier, earning the right to host April's NESCAC championship, which could be at Wethersfield Country Club or the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.

The team then claimed the ECAC Division III New England championship the following week, posting school records for total score for a single day (299) and two-day performance (599).

"I found out I didn't know as much about golf as I thought I did," Detrick said. "I played a lot, but it's a pretty complicated coaching situation. It basically is not coaching in a sense. Like in basketball, we would take a youngster and help him with his shooting and his defense. Golf, it's impossible to do that. If you change something in golf, it affects so many things, and you have to practice it until it becomes part of you. You can't do that midseason."

Detrick, a father of three and grandfather of six, lives with his wife Barbara in Cromwell. He says that aside from his family, basketball is his greatest love. He still attends games at Central when he can and has plans to see the women's team play in Florida, where he spends several months each year.

Detrick has not forgotten his basketball success at Central. He just prefers to nudge the past aside in favor of the present in order to help his players along in the future.

"I would say in all the sports I coached, golf is probably the best one for preparing a young man to do what he has to do when he gets out," he says. "These kids are the cream of the crop ... We can't all be leaders, but we want to help each person develop those skills."