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Looking for signs of hope for a better year as the 2009-10 Knicks’ season came to an end

Another season of losing is thankfully over, and I have been looking for reasons to be optimistic about next season. I, as many fanatics already know, am not one of the many Knicks fans punch drunk on the 2010 koolaid. I’m also not convinced of the viability of the excuses,… err plans B, C, D etc., – dubbed by moi as the 2011 backpeddle, the 2012 backslide,  2013 fallback and what ever other forms of retreat that can be dubbed as back up plans by the Knicks’ current lame trust. I’ve tried long and hard,… so in my best impersonation of Gullible Fanatic I will try to look for a silver lining to the grey clouds I perceive will likely continue to ensue for my beloved, yet clueless Knicks franchise.

So I started by fighting  back the frown of the trade deadline day deal with the Houston Rockets that expedited Jordan Hill and more importantly landed the Rockets the right to flip draft picks with the Knicks in 2011 and claim the Knicks 2012 draft pick. For a moment I forgot that one of my favorite players, Nate Robinson, was shipped off to the Celtics.

 

As I did so I reflected over the development and emergence of several Knicks acquired during and after this year’s trade deadline. Namely I took joy in the development of Sergio Rodriguez and Bill Walker, players considered other teams flotsam before coming to the Knicks. Both have shown flashes and look like they could be good role players with the Knicks. Sergio could even be paired with Toney Douglas to do a back court by committee deal that would certainly be preferable to another year with Duhon at the point.

 

Both Rodriguez and Walker have made ample use of the increased playing time they have been alloted. For instance, Rodriguez has had 8 out of 27 Double Digit Games [DDG (29.63 %)] and 12 out of 27 (44.44 %) games with four assists since joining the Knicks. Prior to the February 18, 2010 trade deadline Rodriguez racked up 8 DDG out of 39 games played (20.51 %) and 15 out of 39 games with at least four assists (38.46 %). Clearly his production has increased with the time he’s been alloted to show his wears with the Knicks. Similarly, Walker has had 14 DDG out of 27 games with the Knicks (51.85 %) and 5 twenty point games (TPGs) out of 27 games played (18.52%) with the Knicks . Prior to the February 18, 2010 trade deadline Walker had neither a double digit or twenty point performance in his 8 games played with the Celtics.

 

Of course in addition to the promising showings from Rodriguez and Douglas, Donnie Walsh’s years of searching for a big man to pair with David Lee finally yielded some fruit with the acquisition and play of Earl Baron from the D League. Baron short stint with the Knicks has been very productive. He has had two double doubles, five double digit scoring and four double digit rebound games since being inserted into the Knicks rotation on April 4, 2010 against the LA, Clippers.

 

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With all the promising play from that trio I began to envision a sensible management regime retaining Rodriguez, Walker and Baron. But then it dawned upon me that all three will count against the team’s salary cap if retained, even to a veteran minimum, qualifying offer or team option (which both Rodriguez and Walker are due), and offend Donnie Walsh’s myopic obsession with salary cap space and geezer lotto powerball.

 

But I would not let the spirit of Gullible Fanatic down, so… I pressed on and looked for other signs of hope to lift my weary fanatic soul.

 

So… I turned my optimistic gaze to the late season development of rookie Point Guard Toney Douglas and 2nd year Forward Danillo Gallinari. Much like the three aforementioned  rent-a-knicks listed above, Douglas and Gallinari have shown flashes of sustained promising play hinting at an acceleration of both players development.

 

Toney Douglas, for instance has had 14 DDG (77.78 %), 5 TPG (27.78%) and 10 games (55.56%) with at least four assist per game out of 18 games played since March 12, 2010. Prior to March 12, 2010 Douglas only had 7 DDG (19.44%), 2 TPG (5.56 %) and 2 games (5.56%) with at least four assists out of 36 games played. Gallinari has been as, if not, more impressive during a stint of play in which he has picked up the scoring slack in the absences of injured teammates, Wilson Chandler (Groin) and Al Harrington (Shoulder). Since March 15, 2010 Gallinari has had 11 DDG (73.33%) and 8 TPGs (53.33%) out of 15 games played. Prior to March 15, 2010 Gallinari had 50 DDG (75.75% )and 12 TPGs (18.18%) out of 66 Games.

 

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The increased production of both Gallo and Douglas when paired with the return of Wilson Chandler, provides the Knicks with a solid young core of players to compliment a pair of potential 2010 free prizes. But I think it will take more than a triumvarate of Chandler, Gallo and Douglas to balance out the Knicks’ and fill other areas of need on the roster that cannot be filled merely by any combo of max contract signings. Also given the possibility that 2010 may come and go without any significant acquisitions, would the remaining trio of Chandler, Gallo and Douglas show enough in the succeeding seasons to draw the attention of players from succeeding free agents classes or eventually just become more fodder for the Knicks dogmatic cap space cult?

 

Well if the Knicks player prospects in the upcoming seasons, w/o favorable if any draft picks, is dreary, then for Gullible’s sake there has to be a reason for hope….

 

Perhaps as has been rumored, the Knicks will hire Chris Mullin to fill the Knicks GM vacancy and work with Donnie Walsh on a more concrete approach to the years succeeding the summer of 2010. I’ve done some wiki-research and this is what I found.

 

Former Warriors GM Chris Mullin’s career as a GM began with the Warriors shortly after a two year stint with Golden State as a Special Assistant. Mullin’s most notable signing as president and GM with the Warriors was the aquisition of Baron Davis. Mullin’s most significant trade landed the Warriors Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington and to a lesser extent Josh Powell and Sarunus Jasikevicius in exchange for Mike Dunleavy Jr., Troy Murphy, Ike Diogu and Keith McCleodand. Mullin also  drafted budding star Monta Ellis in the 2nd Round of the 2005 NBA draft, and Andris Biedrins and Anthony Randolph in the first rounds of the 2004 and 2008 NBA Drafts. Mullin’s manuevering resulted in two winnings seasons for the Warriors, during the 2006-07 and the 2007-08 season and an appearance in the Western Conference semifinals during the 2006-07 Season.

 

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However, Mullin’s initial vision for the Warriors involved a team built in part around Mike Dunleavy, Jr. and Troy Murphy. Both Murphy and Dunleavy, Jr. subsequently ended up with the Indiana Pacers, with the help of Mullin’s mentor and colleague Donnie Walsh who was repaid in kind in the Knicks trade of Crawford for Harrington. Neither Murphy nor Dunleavy, Jr. have been able to help lift the Pacers out of the NBA lottery. Moreover, Mullin extended generous player contracts to Corey Maggette (5 years 50 million) and Andris Biedrins (6 years 63 millions). Those signings have both proved to be excessive and unwarranted offers. Although Mullin effectively shifted away from his initial vision for the Warriors franchise, Mullin’s  overall record as a GM presents a mixed bag.

 

With a last gasp I channel my inner Gullible and it dawns on me that in the Pacific Northwest a confluence of events may free up another potential GM candidate.

 

 

As most should know by now the NBA rumor mill was speculating that Pritchard is not long for the Trailblazers after, Tom Penn, a key player in his management team was dismissed from the organization. Word of Pritchard’s demise with the Blazers accelerated when Blazers owners made statements addressing the speculation over Prtichard’s job security that many analyst and critics took as a vote of no confidence in Pritchard’s upcoming summer bid for an extended tenure with the Trailblazers. From my understanding of materials I’ve checked out on the topic, Blazers owner Paul Allen, owner of the Vulcan Management Group, the Trailblazers parent company, has concluded that Pritchard while a good scout is not management material. Therefore Vulcan Management may bid Pritchard Adieu and allow him to live long and prosper with another organization.

 

Despite what appears to be the Blazers dismissive outlook towards their current GM, Pritchard’s body of work as both Assistant GM and GM has been pretty impressive.   As the Blazers Assistant GM, Pritchard facilitated draft day maneuverings that landed Portland: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and recent Knickerbocker Sergio Rodriguez. As the Blazers GM, Pritchard Drafter Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez and unloaded Zach Randoph’s contract on the Knicks. Part of Prtichard success may well be that he has surrounded himself with a management team that is highly regarded around the NBA.

 

However, recent coverage of the potential rift with the Trailblazers, suggest that Pritchard comes with personality flaws- arrogance, insecurity, a hunger for attention/praise or adoration- that likely rubbed Vulcan Management and Blazers owner Paul Allen the wrong way. The Blazers also have endured negative press surrounding their efforts in 2008 to avoid having opposing teams sign former Blazer, Darius Miles, for purposes of not impacting their cap space figures. I’ve conjectured that the attempt to penny pinch on the cap at the expense of what appears to have been arrogant and unethical maneuverings by the Blazers with regard to Darius Miles, may have been influenced by the recently dismissed Assistant GM, Tom Penn, who was hired by the organization for his financial acumen and legal expertise in the area of the NBA Salary Cap and its collective bargaining agreement. Perhaps the Blazer’s organization stated reason for removing, Pritchard’s Assistant GM, over philosophical difference,” belied that organizations desire to distance itself from Pritchard and his aggressive yet apparently effective allies in management.

 

As I conclude my search for hope and I turn towards another summer without Knicks Playoff Basketball, It seems that the Knicks pursuit of the maximum cap space allowable to make a bid at a pair of gems from the 2010 free agent class will likely compromise and foreclose the organization from any chance of retaining the promising role players they have developed over the 2nd half of the Knicks’ season.

 

I wonder whether players like Chandler and Douglas, will endure Lee’s fate of emerging as a home grown talent only to be hung out to dry as plans B, C, D come and go.

 

I’m not all to convinced with Chris Mullin as a potential GM with the Knicks, and frankly I’m tired of the prodigal sons stories that have been too oft repeated as selling points to goad Knicks’ fans into enduring another mediocre performer onto the halls of Madison Square Garden.

 

If there is any hope, should the 2010 bid fall on death ears, perhaps it may be in taking a chance on an aggressive, talented, yet flawed person like Kevin Pritchard. Although Pritchard may cost the Knicks in front office overhead, he will not count against the Knicks sacred cap space. Morevoer, In NY Pritchard would find a media market that would fit his desire for attention and coverage. Furthermore, Pritchard would have a chance to begin from scratch with an organization that will have salary cap flexibility, and that has recently shown it is willing to purchase a draft pick, something Pritchard is used to maximizing while with the Trailblazers. Lastly, if Pritchard can coax the talented personnel on his management team in Portland to eventually join forces with him in New York, he may be able to make a sensible revival possible in Gotham. Pritchard may just inject the much needed hungry and creative management blood into an organization that appears to have run it’s course on desperate bids at rebuilding.

 

Sure, Pritchard and his men are not perfect darlings but as Knicks fans we have seen, players like Marbury, Curry and even Tracy McGrady be given the cold shoulder by Knicks’ management and Houston’s management. Perhaps this time those sort of tactics will only be a side show to a more entertaining process of resurrecting a champ at the Garden. Perhaps with Donnie to play good cop and temper Pritchard’s enthusiam just enough, the Knicks may be able to Pritch slap rivals who have hoodwinked our organization in the past.