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Surprise, Surprise: The Knicks Screw Up Again

How about we throw away the greatest thing to happen to Knicks basketball in the last decade? Classic Knicks.

To the dismay of many Knicks fans, they let Jeremy Lin walk. He was one of the biggest surprises in NBA history and parlayed his success into New York legend status in 26 games and 50 days. That’s all it took for his jersey to become the No. 2 selling jersey this year in the NBA.

People will say he took advantage of New York, turning the media and the hype into a $25 million payday. But the Knicks used him back, and went further.

‘Linsanity’ renewed New York’s interest in a flailing Knicks team at the time, which the Knicks then used to settle their cable tv dispute and charge millions more in money. MSG’s stock platooned and Knicks’ ticket and apparel sales skyrocketed during Lin’s amazing run. They even sold out next season’s season tickets early because of him.

Still they let Lin leave. They let the most marketable, exciting player in Knicks basketball since Patrick Ewing leave.

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He’s going, going…gone.

With Lin, the Knicks could have become a global team, marketing themselves in Asia just as the Yao Ming-Houston Rockets did. But the Knicks could have done it better because well Houston is no New York. They could have had their own cable tv deal with China and you can be sure, companies would have paid big for those tv rights.

All this could have been reality had they kept Lin, and that’s even if he didn’t play as spectacular as he did before. He just had to be the Knicks starting point guard.

But they backed off because of $15 million owed to Lin in the third year of the deal would cause too much luxury tax penalties. Plain stupid. The Knicks are the NBA’s most valuable franchise. They would have made all that money back, and more.

Knicks owner, James Dolan, let the decision become personal, feeling cheated by Lin’s dealing. Even stupider. Last week when Houston offered Lin a 4-year, ~$29 million deal, with the last two years worth $9.3 million each, the Knicks said they would “absolutely” match and Lin would “absolutely” be their starting point guard next season. A few days later, Lin and the Rockets signed a 3-year, $25 million deal with the last year at $14.8 million.

Dolan felt betrayed. He felt the Harvard kid took advantage of him by turning the leverage that the Knicks were ‘definitely’ going to bring him back into a heftier contract.

Dolan and the Knicks should know better though. You don’t show your hand in a poker game, it’s as simple as that. The Knicks did, and Jeremy Lin, just like every other NBA player would, did the smart thing and upped the antae. The NBA’s a business.

The Knicks played it that way too, by not offering Lin a contract when free agency began. Instead they told him to find his worth on the open market, and they would match. Well he did, and they didn’t.

Now the Knicks are left with Raymond Felton as their starting point guard. Does anyone think Felton will make the Knicks relevant? Will he make money for them off-the-court? Hey most importantly, will he give them the best chance to win? He wasn’t a better player than Lin last year, and won’t be going forward. Lin’s on the rise, and Felton has reached his peak.

You have to feel for Knicks fan though. Letting Lin go was another typical dumbfounded move by Knicks management. In the last two years, they gave Amare Stoudemire 5 years, $100 million and Tyson Chandler 4 years, $58 million. Hey Carmelo, now those are some “ridiculous” contracts.

Well at least the Knicks are consistent.

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Why The Knicks Need to Keep ‘Linsanity’

It was surreal. It was possibly the story of the year. It was ‘Linsanity’. The kid nobody gave a chance, undrafted and twice cut, took Broadway by storm ,creating a buzz around Knicks basketball that has been absent for far too long.

But now its decision time for the Knicks. Lin has signed a 3-year, $25. 1 million offer sheet with Houston, giving New York till Tuesday 11:59 pm to match that offer and retain him.

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Remember Lin’s 38 point, dazzling display he schooled the Lakers with? Simply amazing.

It looks increasingly like they won’t and if that’s the case, it will be another wrong move by Knicks management in a decade plagued by them.

Instead the Knicks have acquired 28-year-old Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade, giving him a 3 year, $10 million deal.

Seriously Raymond Felton? This is New York City, the mecca of basketball and the biggest media market in the US, if not the world, and you want Raymond Felton as your starting point guard?

Felton averaged a career low 11.4 ppg last season and is a career 41.2% shooter from the field. Portland fans spent last season closing their eyes every time he touched the ball, afraid of what he’d do. Hey New York, how does it feel to take Portland’s leftovers?

So what Jeremy Lin played only 35 games, starting 25 of those, for New York. Those 25 games were probably the most anyone has cared about the Knicks in the last decade. Lin made the Knicks relevant. Fans everywhere were tuning into to watch ‘Linsanity’. Even people who didn’t watch the NBA, wanted to see the young phenom. He was a star in a city built for stars.

Lin’s run was no fluke. You can’t fake those aggressive drives to the rim and the vision behind those chris-paul-like lobs to Tyson Chandler. You can’t fake that swagger and confidence that are necessary to surviving in the NBA. And you can’t fake an 18.2 ppg and 7.7 apg average over 25 starts.

The reality is that the Knicks had a .600 win percentage in Lin’s 25 starts. Had Lin started all 66 games, their win percentage would have been good for a division title, the number four seed in the East over Boston, and home court advantage in the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Carmelo Anthony has been one of Jeremy Lin’s biggest believers

Sure Lin had his problems with turnovers but most point guards do early on in their career. With great players like Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Jason Kidd, and Tyson Chandler around him, Lin’s game will only get better. The 23-year-old is on the rise. And on top of it all, his marketability is off-the-charts.

The Knicks’ biggest worry of resigning Lin is the $75 million they will have committed to four players in Lin, Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler, in 2014-15. Along with other players on the roster, even if they were all at the veteran’s minimum, the Knicks would surely warrant tens of millions of dollars in luxury tax penalties. Let’s be real, this is New York and they’ll make that money back.

But what if they don’t want to pay that extra money in 2014-15? They’ll have the expiring contracts of Stoudemire, Chandler, Anthony, and Lin. In a league where expiring contracts are valuable trade assets, the Knicks should be able to trade away at least one of those expiring contracts and get themselves close to the salary cap limit, if not under it.

The Knicks want to win now and are built to do it with a core of Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler. Carmelo’s in his prime, Stoudemire’s on the decline, and Chandler has never had much of an offensive game.. The Knicks need another star to win. They need Lin. If they decide to stick with Felton, then they’re fine with mediocrity, a number five or six seed in the East every year, and annual first round exits.

The clock’s not just ticking on Tuesday’s 11:59 pm deadline to match Lin’s offer, but also on the Knicks chances to stay relevant.

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Dwight’s Collateral Damage

Dwight Howard has done an impressive job transforming himself from a likable and goofy star into the NBA’s biggest prima donna in just 6 months. For a man who refuses to utter a swear word and who entered the league hoping to add a cross to the NBA logo in deference to his religion, he clearly is not a bad person.

But the 26 year old center, drafted out of high school, is proving he still has yet to grow up. Immaturity in the NBA usually describes players like DeMarcus Cousins or Andrew Bynum who regularly show lapses in judgement, inconsistent effort, and poor body language. Dwight’s immaturity is a different breed and possibly a much worse one, considering the damage it has done, not just to his own reputation, but to the NBA as a whole.

Howard is the only one smiling at his latest round of antics.

For the NBA’s most physically imposing specimen, Howard’s childish antics have long seemed out of place. But as they have begun to affect his business decisions and those of several NBA teams, he needs to grow up and quickly.

Now it appears the Howard drama could be nearing its end, or at least relocating and continuing in Brooklyn. A ridiculous 4 team, 14 player trade is in the works that could look something like this, according to ESPN:

According to sources the Nets would receive Howard, Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark in the proposed deal. The Magic would get Brook Lopez, Luke Walton, Damion James, Shelden Williams, Armon Johnson and three first-round picks — two from the Nets and a lottery-protected first from the Clippers. The Cavs would get Kris Humphries, Quentin Richardson,Sundiata Gaines, a first-round pick from the Nets and $3 million in cash. The Clippers would receive MarShon Brooks.

Trade talks are still ongoing, so this is subject to change, and may not ever come to fruition. As of now, though, this appears to be the most likely scenario, as Howard has limited his trade request to just the Brooklyn Nets.

Howard’s inability to decide his fate at the trade deadline has clearly affected many people, and his change of mind to again desire to be traded will affect even more.

The list of casualties in the Dwight Howard hostage situation:

  • Howard’s reputation
  • Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy (fired), with whom Howard long butted heads and who Howard demanded be fired if the Magic hoped to keep him
  • Orlando General Manager Otis Smith (fired), who Howard complained did not include him enough in decisions
  • Deron Williams: Williams re-signed with Brooklyn largely because of the possibility of Howard coming. He seems to have been recruiting Dwight for some time.

    Teaming Dwight with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace would make the Brooklyn Nets instant title contenders

  • Joe Johnson: Without Johnson D-Will says he would not have stayed with the Nets, so by trading for him they were able to keep one superstar (Williams) that they needed to bring in another superstar (Howard). Complicated stuff.
  • Gerald Wallace: Wallace was an early attempt to achieve the same outcome that the Johnson trade brought. The Nets hoped having Wallace on the team would make them more appealing to both Williams and Howard.
  • Damian Lillard: Drafted 6th overall by the Blazers using the pick sent to them in the Wallace deal, Lillard would most likely have been taken outside the top-10 had the Blazers not been there. Other teams in the lottery didn’t have a pressing need to draft a point guard.
  • Mirza Teletovic: Teletovic was forced to restructure his contract with the Nets after the Joe Johnson trade to free up extra cap space to fit Howard into the salary cap. He gave up several million dollars.
  • Brook Lopez: Lopez would go from being a complementary piece on a talented playoff team to the main option for a barren Orlando roster.
  • Kris Humphries: For the proposed trade to work, Humphries (as well as several of the smaller trade pieces) would have to agree to a one year agreement with the Nets and a sign-and-trade to the Cavaliers. Given that the Cavs have the space to sign him for a longer deal without the trade, Humphries would lose out on the financial security of a multi-year contract. His agreement to this trade is its biggest holdup right now.
  • MarShon Brooks: Brooks would go to a Clippers team that has a very similar player in Jamal Crawford. That could reduce his role.
  • Jason Richardson, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, Armon Johnson, Damion James, Sundiata Gaines, Luke Walton, Shelden Williams, and Quentin Richardson: These guys are all just throw ins to the trade to make it work financially and to give teams like Orlando and the Cavs more financial incentive to be a part of the deal, as they shed salary.
  • Houston Rockets: Houston tried desperately to get Howard during the draft, hoping to use their three 1st round picks to entice Orlando into a deal. If not that, they hoped to move into the top-10 and draft Andre Drummond and include him in a trade for Howard. Neither of these worked, and Houston is now left with 3 more decent players on a team full of decent players. They’re still stuck in no man’s land between playoff contention and the lottery.
  • Brian Shaw/Michael Malone: The Pacers and Warriors respective assistant coaches are among the names of interviewees for the Magic coaching job. These coaches both had important roles on their teams’ benches and their departure could have a negative impact on their former teams.
  • Marvin Williams: Atlanta traded Joe Johnson and Williams, clearing cap space to make a run for Howard, who grew up in Atlanta. Williams will get a fresh start in Utah.
  • Andrew Bynum: The lower we get on the list, it’s more of a stretch to determine the impact. Bynum’s name was mentioned a lot as the Lakers’ trade chip to get Howard. LA’s willingness to trade him could drive him away as it did to Lamar Odom.
Obviously the ripple effect caused by Howard has been extensive.

Prior to the beginning of last season Howard demanded trade, citing the Nets, Lakers, and Mavericks as desired targets. Orlando clearly did not want to part with their franchise centerpiece and tried to convince him to stay during the first half of the season. But Howard maintained his desire to be traded, and Orlando did not want to risk losing him as a Free Agent after the season and receive nothing in compensation, as Cleveland did after LeBron’s departure.

But constrained by his request to be traded to 1 of only 3 teams, none with desirable assets they were willing to part with, Orlando had its hands tied. But as a deal with the Nets, centered around Brook Lopez and draft picks, pieced itself together, Howard suddenly changed his stance (several times), finally deciding he wanted to stay with Orlando – but

Howard long made his frustration with former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy known.

would not sign a new contract. Instead he just waived his Early Termination Option, agreeing to stay with Orlando 1 more year before becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent, essentially realizing Orlando’s greatest fear of losing him for nothing.

Howard injured himself late in the season, forcing him to miss the playoff – ironic considering he claimed to stay with the Magic to make one more title run. Following the season he gave Orlando the ultimatum: him or Van Gundy. Along Van Gundy’s firing, Otis Smith was shown the exit. Howard then laid his trade demand back on the Magic management. Not cool.

Howard’s saga has shown his immaturity was worse than anyone ever imagined. He seemingly manipulated his team in order to try to force his way onto the Nets without them giving much up. Sadly it appears that plan may have worked.

Somewhere, LeBron is smiling. Just weeks apart he gets his first title and is no longer atop the NBA’s most hated list.

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The Star Behind the Curtains: Shane Battier

You just can’t quite put your finger on him. He’s old and washed up. No he’s averaging 17 points per game in the NBA Finals.

Yet he barely averaged six points per game in the playoffs before this round.

The former college player of the year, Shane Battier, has seen it all this year: the praise, the criticism, and the silence. Nothing seems new to him. Well except the fact that he’s in the NBA Finals for the first time in his career, and ensuring his first trip is not a regrettable one.

Thru the first two games of the NBA Finals, Battier has been a star in a locker room full of them.

Somehow, Battier, one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders, always finds a way to get a hand in the shooter’s face.

The defensive specialist has been lights out from three-point range, shooting 69.2 % from downtown, while quieting the previous groans that arose every time he shot the ball. Even more, he’s gotten in Kevin Durant’s head, even if it’s barely.

“I absolutely hate it,” Durant said on Battier’s hand-in-your-face defense.

The usually quiet Durant picked a less than fortunate time to show signs of weakness. Not even Kobe Bryant, in the Lakers-Rockets 2009 Western Conference Semifinal series, admitted to any sign of discomfort from Battier’s harassing defense. 

But that’s what Shane Battier does. It’s his game. He harasses you, on the court that it is.

“I enjoy the competition and enjoy trying to guard Kevin Durant and Westbrook. It’s sadistic. It’s completely sadistic,” Battier said. “These guys are the best in the world and trying to play the chess game and figure them out and figure out what works and what doesn’t…that’s the thing every guy misses when they walk away from this game.”

No that’s not what every player, or most players, will miss when they walk away from the game. The competition, the ability to match his wits against the best, and the challenge of guarding them are what drive Battier.

The Big Four? Now that’s just not fair…

The two-time member of NBA’s All-Defensive team doesn’t need the ball in hands, just a superstar in front of him to try and slow down.

In a Rockets-Spurs game during the 2007-08 season, Battier was assigned to guard Manu Ginobili, who was coming off the bench. A routine starter, Battier asked then Rockets coach Rick Adelman to scratch him from the starting lineup and be substituted in whenever Ginobili entered the game.

Later Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said, “No one in the NBA does that. No one says put me on the bench so I can guard their best scorer all the time.”

Other NBA players should take notes on Battier’s team first mindset because it’s no coincidence that Shane Battier and winning go hand in hand.

From his college days at Duke, he led the Blue Devils to the NCAA Championship game twice, winning it all in 2001.

In 2001, Battier swept all the Player of the Year awards along with leading Duke to win the NCAA Championship.

He followed that by helping the Memphis Grizzlies make the playoffs for the first time in team history in 2004, and twice more again in the following two seasons.

Later Battier was traded to Houston, where he played an integral part in the Rockets’ 22 game winning streak, second longest in NBA History, during the 2007-08 season.

The season after, Batter and Houston pushed the eventually NBA Champions, the Lakers, to seven games in the 2009 playoffs.

Now he’s with Miami, and the Heat have the upper hand on the Thunder in the NBA Finals, unlike last year against the Mavericks.

Battier is the perfect role player for any NBA team.

He’ll never make Sportcenter’s Top 10 plays with a flashy offensive game. Nor will he be called to the podium either for the post-game conference. Instead Battier will be left to do the dirty work behind the scenes, and not only will he do it right, he will do it willingly.

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NBA Draft Lottery: The David Stern Conspiracy Continues

It’s been a rough year for David Stern’s PR team. As the NBA commissioner, much of the blame of the lockout fell on his shoulders. The refusal of the owners, which he represented, to concede to the demands of the Players Union elongated the process and resulted in missed games and a truncated regular season.

Then came the Chris Paul debacle. Shortly after the league-owned New Orleans Hornets agreed to trade their superstar point guard to the Los Angeles Lakers, the league announced that Stern had shot down the deal for “basketball reasons.”

This set a pack of rabid Laker fans on Stern, and their complaints made some sense.

Jack Nicholson and a hoard of crazed Lakers fans protested David Stern’s decision to cancel the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers.

It seemed to be a conflict of interest that NBA commissioner was the owner of a franchise that was controlling the fate of two other franchises (the Houston Rockets would have gotten Pau Gasol in the trade).

Matters only grew worse when Paul was instead traded to LA’s other team, the Clippers, to team up with the NBA’s newest superstar in Blake Griffin. While the trade with the Clippers did land the Hornets some younger pieces to build around than the Lakers/Houston deal, things just smelt a tad fishy.

New Orleans better be ready for this handsome mug on their billboards.

Fast forward five months and Stern and the Hornets are in the news again. New Orleans won tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery, or better known as the Unibrow Sweepstakes as the Hornets will undoubtedly select Kentucky’s Anthony David first overall.

The league recently sold the Hornets to New Orleans Saints’ owner Tom Benson, and I’m sure Stern wishes the  deal wasn’t struck until after tonight’s results, as the addition of Davis will significantly boost the team’s value. But Stern and the league technically are still the team’s owners while the deal with Benson is finalized and approved by the other NBA owners.

After last year’s lottery went to Cleveland, allowing them to replace their lost superstar with

Vince McMahon might just be the perfect choice to replace David Stern as commissioner, given his background in WWE and their honest and not-rigged wrestling.

a new one in Kyrie Irving, it just so happens that this year’s lottery winner also lost their former franchise player. Conspiracy? Who knows, but if these types of “coincidences” keep happening, Vince McMahon might need to take Stern’s job.

Other story lines from the Draft Lottery:

  • The Bobcats fell to No. 2 in the draft, continuing to hold onto the unlucky claim to be one of just two teams (the other being the Phoenix Suns) to never have won the draft lottery. This news will be especially hard to swallow this year, coming off the worst season in NBA history based on winning percentage and drafting second in a draft with just one elite player.
  • The Brooklyn Nets did not move into the top three, meaning their pick at No. 6 will go to the Portland Trailblazers as part of the Gerald Wallace deal. Again, a tough break for a team that could have used extra help with the return of Deron Williams in doubt and the chances of acquiring Dwight Howard having disappeared. You can’t sympathize too much, though, because this was just a poor trade. The trade for Wallace could have been completed for a much lower pick, so even if the Nets only liked the draft’s top three players (their reasoning for only placing top-3 protection on the pick) they could have traded the No. 6 pick for a useful player to entice Williams to stay.
  • The Warriors, on the other hand, were able to keep their pick, which was top-7 protected, thanks to a terrific tanking job to end their season (they went 5-22 to finish the season, moving from the 10th worst team to the 7th over that span and securing the No. 7 pick). There have been rumblings in Golden State that trading the pick is a possibility, with Andre Iguodala’s name popping up frequently, but given Philadelphia’s admirable performance getting deep into the second round of the playoffs, it seems unlikely they would trade away a key player for a chance to draft an unproven rookie. Golden State will have four picks in the draft, though, so it is likely at least one of those will be traded away.

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