Thursday, April 19, 2007

New York Knicks: Tortuous End Finally Comes [J. Mark English]

The New York Knicks offered glimpse of what could be this season. At one point, back in early March they had managed to find themselves in a tie for the last playoff spot. Then Jim Dolan offered Isiah Thomas a contract extension. Everything fell apart after that. Yes, the team had a laundry list of injuries, but it still does not excuse a season in which they won only four games in their last 19 games.

The team did improve by ten wins this year. But a 33-49 record is pitiful when you put it in the context of the NBA Eastern Conference. Three of the eight teams going to the playoffs in the East don't even have a winning record. Orlando gets a slot with a 40-42 record. From this vantage point you'd have to figure that the Knicks season was a massive failure.

Howard Beck of the New York Times puts a wrap on yet another season of misery for the Knickobockers:

In a season that was by turns frantic and frustrating, often promising and ultimately disappointing, the Knicks proved to be too flawed, too inconsistent and, in the end, too injured to break their postseason drought.

So Isiah Thomas engaged in a familiar, if not entirely enjoyable, ritual on a mild spring day at the Knicks’ suburban training center. He sat in a chair for 34 minutes and tried to explain what went wrong and why things will get better.

Thomas began his fourth off-season as the Knicks’ president, and his second as coach, with a notably sunny tone and a decidedly modest agenda. After several seasons of dizzying change, Thomas sounded ready to stand pat.

“I’m pretty happy with what we have,” Thomas said Thursday afternoon, 16 hours after the Knicks closed out a 33-49 season. “Now, that being said, if there’s a chance to improve what we have, I’ll do that. But I don’t think I’ll be aggressively out in the market.”

Thomas said that he did not intend to use the Knicks’ midlevel salary-cap exception, which he used in prior years to sign Jared Jeffries, Jerome James and Vin Baker. Despite the rumored availability of several star players, Thomas also indicated that he would not seek to make a blockbuster trade.

If any player could change Thomas’s stance, it might be Jermaine O’Neal of Indiana. The Pacers are in shambles, and O’Neal, an All-Star, told Indiana reporters that he would not be opposed to a trade. Thomas coached O’Neal for three years in Indiana, and they remain close.

Kevin Garnett figures to be another potential target, but Minnesota’s general manager, Kevin McHale, said Thursday that he would not trade him. There could be other All-Stars on the market, including Pau Gasol of Memphis and Ray Allen of Seattle...

...With good health and a little internal growth, Thomas said that he believed the Knicks would be a playoff team next spring. Eddy Curry and David Lee had breakthrough performances, and Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson were having career seasons before sustaining season-ending injuries. The rookies Mardy Collins and Renaldo Balkman were better than expected. Stephon Marbury adapted to a new offense centered around Curry and became a better teammate.

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