While James Dolan and Phil Jackson laugh, the Knicks burn
1. James Dolan — Born silver spoon in hand as heir to a Cablevision fortune, he has run the Knicks into the ground with a rash of poor personnel decisions. A recent Sports Illustrated poll named Dolan the worst owner in the NBA. The Knicks problems start at the top.
2. Phil Jackson — He won 11 rings as a coach and two more (ironically with the Knicks) as a player, but he’s been a dismal flop as president of the Knicks. Instead of stepping up as a leader and addressing the situation, Jackson left coach Jeff Hornacek to clean up the Derrick Rose mess. And the list goes on, from the hiring of ill-equipped coach Derrick Fisher, to his insistence on running the old-fashioned triangle offense to his signing of injury-prone Yannick Noah to a four-year, $72 million contract. Jackson has tarnished his legend.
3. Leadership — It starts at the top. See No. 1 James Dolan, No. 2 Phil Jackson and No. 5 Carmelo Anthony. What leadership?
4. Accountability — Without leadership, there is no accountability. Derrick Rose goes AWOL, leaves the team in limbo, and then returns to a slap on the wrist. Heck, he’d didn’t even get suspended. In fact, he’s still starting.
5. Carmelo Anthony — Leaders make those around them better players. Not the case with Carmelo, the so-called face of the Knicks. Carmelo is a great scorer, but he’s all about Carmelo.
6. Derrick Rose — Work Rule #1. If you’re not gonna be there, if you can’t make it to work that day, tell the boss. Derrick Rose had time to run off and catch a flight to Chicago, but didn’t have time to call or text the Knicks to tell them he would miss the New Orleans game. See No. 4, accountability.
7. Teaching –He’s the crown jewel of the franchise. Knick fans are pinning their hopes on Kristaps Porzingis. And yet, how’s he going to become a better basketball player if the follows the tone of the current Knicks. Who’s going to teach him low-post presence and how to play defense. There are no mentors in sight.
8. Culture — There’s a toxic atmosphere in the Knicks front office. Who can forget Isiah Thomas and the sexual harassment suit the Knicks settled out of court. The poor decisions, like multiple lottery picks for Eddy Curry. Being hosed by Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade. See No. 1 James Dolan.
9. MSG — Playing in the world’s most famous arena actually hurts the Knicks. There’s a long list of players who seem to up their game whenever they visit New York. Michael Jordan, Kobie Bryant and Steph Curry are just a few examples. Even average players play better at Madison Square Garden.
10. History — It’s been 44 years since the Knicks won their last championship. I was in college when the Knicks last won. Now I’m on Medicare. And it ain’t happening this year either. A charter member of the NBA, the Knickerbockers have won just two titles in their history.
Here are 10 things you absolutely had to know about the storied playoff history between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks, the NBA’s two remaining charter franchises.
1. All-Time Record
The Celtics and Knicks are meeting for the 14th time in playoff hyistory. Boston won seven of the previous 13, including a 2-0 win in a curious 1954 round robin with the Syracuse Nats. Overall Boston leads the series 34-27.
2. Common Foes
That’s second all-time to the 18th playoff meetings between Boston and the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers. They have met 19 times, though just twice since 1985.
3. The First Time
Boston faced New York for the first time in 1951, when the Knicks beat the Celtics, 2-0 behind Max Zaslofsky, a guard from Brooklyn and St. John’s, who averaged 17.9 points a game.
4. Knicks in the 50s
The Knicks won the first three playoff meetings — in 1951, 1952 and 1953 — and advanced to the NBA Finals each year, losing all three times.
5. Eventual Champs
Four times the winner of the Celtics-Knicks playoff series has gone on to win the NBA Championship — Boston in 1969, 1974 and 1984 and New York in 1973.
6. Seventh Heaven
Twice the series has gone seven games, in 1973 and 1984. The Celtics had never lost a Game 7 before 1973, but the Knicks marched into Boston Garden and won 94-78 behind Walt Frazier.
7. Larry Legend
The Knicks pushed the Celtics to seven games in 1984, but Boston dominated the finale and won 121-104 behind Larry Bird, who averaged a career post-season high 27.5 points that year.
8. King of the Court
Knicks forward Bernard King averaged 29.1 points per game for the Knicks in the 1984 series, the highest single series scoring average in the history of the rivalry.
9. The Last Time
The Celtics swept the Knicks in four straight in a 2011 first round meeting. Before that, they last met in the playoffs back in the spring of 1990, when Paul Pierce was 12 years old and rooting for the Lakers; Carmelo Anthony was in kindergarten.
10. Knicks Break Streak
In 1990, the Knicks rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-five series and won Game 5 to break a 26-game losing streak over six years at Boston Garden.
Life is a long, lasting litany of links. Connect the dots and find the connection between people and events past, present and future. Recently, I discovered my connection to the New York Knicks.
The story begins in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1977, when a young coach, fresh out of Fitchburg State College, led Notre Dame High School, below left, to a 26-2 record and a state championship.
That coach was Jim Todd, below right. And as a sportswriter with the Fitchburg Sentinel & Leominster Enterprise, I wrote about Todd and his Notre Dame Crusaders.
Within a few years, both Jim and I moved on. I took my talents to South Florida and a slot position with the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
Todd worked as head coach at Fitchburg State, and later as an assistant at Columbia University for his Notre Dame predecessor, Arthur “Buddy” Mahar.
Then, 30 years ago this week, I moved north to take a communications position with IBM in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
And shortly after arriving in New York, I bumped into Jim Todd at Marist College. Jim was an assistant at Marist, where he coached future NBA center Rik Smits and helped lead the Red Foxes to their first NCAA appearance.
Todd coached at Salem State in Mass. from 1987-96 and led the team to eight NCAA Division III NCAA tournament appearances. He then went to the NBA as assistant coach with the Bucks and Clippers. On Feb. 3, 2000, he succeeded Chris Ford as head coach of the Clippers.
Less than a month later, I went to a Knicks game at Madison Square. That afternoon the Knicks beat the Clippers and new head coach Jim Todd, whose team finished the season 4-33.
Todd later was an assistant with the Raptors, Hawks and Kings. And on St. Patrick’s Day, 2012, Knicks coach Mike Woodson added Todd to his staff.
“Jim adds a lot of experience to our staff,” said Woodson. “We started together 16 years ago in Milwaukee, and then our paths didn’t cross for a long time. He went in one direction and I went in another, and we could never hook back up.
“Then when I had the opportunity to bring him to Atlanta, I jumped on it because of the fact that he has a great mind for the game. That’s why he’s here with me in New York. I’ve been pretty successful with Jim in terms of winning, and he brings a wealth of experience.”
The Knicks finished strong last year before losing to the Heat in the playoffs. And this year they’re off to one of the best starts in team history. The last two times the Knicks started a season 8-1, they went on to win the NBA Championship.
New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin has quickly become one LIN-credible story.
He’s taken the NBA by surprise, Twitter by trend, and the Giants off the back pages of the New York tabloids.
You cannot stop Jeremy Lin…you can only hope to contain him.
A little over a week ago, Lin was buried at the end of the Knick bench, just up from the Erie BayHawks of the D-League, cut by both the Rockets and Warriors. Jeremy who?
He had never started an NBA game or scored more than 13 points. Now he’s setting records.
Lin doused the Los Angeles Lakers for a career-high 38 points the other night. He scored 89 points in his first three career starts, the most by any player since the merger between the NBA and ABA in 1976-77. That includes Jordan, Bird, Magic, Kobe, LeBron…all of them.
He is the first NBA player to average at least 20 points and seven assists in his first three starts since 1991.
Lin played college ball at Harvard, an institute of higher learning that has produced more U.S. Presidents than NBA players.
Undrafted out of college, he was signed by Golden State and was used sparingly last year. Lin was picked up the Houston Rockets, then waived, and signed with the Knicks as a free agent on December 27. Talk about a holiday present.
One of the few Asian Americans in NBA history, Lin is also the first American player to be of Chinese or of Taiwanese descent in the league.
Headline writers, bloggers and quipsters coast to coast and around the world are having a field day with Jeremy Lin phenomenon.
Here are the SportsLifer’s top 10 LIN-isms.
The Mighty LIN
All he does is LIN
He’s a LINtellectual from Harvard
The LIN Dynasty
Oh, the LINsanity
Knicks Missing LINk
There are at least 10 reasons to hate the Miami Heat – but this isn’t one of them.
My entire life, I’ve rooted against the Boston Celtics. I was the guy pulling for Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and all the others who fell to the relentless Green Machine. Larry Bird was a legend, but Magic Johnson was my guy. And don’t remind me of the countless times the Celtics have embarrassed the Knicks, including this year.
But I’m changing my stripes for the NBA playoffs. For those who know me, rooting for Boston is way off base, totally out of character.
Heck, there are countless reasons to root for the Celtics to beat the Miami Heat. Especially for New York fans. Here’s 10 of ’em:
1. LeBron James, who teased New York fans before taking his “talents” to South Beach.
2. Pat Riley, who infamously FAXed in his resignation to the Knicks and fled to Miami.
3. The winters, which are warmer in Miami.
4. Beat the Heat and Hate the Heat roll off the tongue. And fittingly, Heat and hate are anagrams.
5. LeBron wasn’t very nice to Cleveland either.
6. Dwayne Wade, who not only kills the Knickerbockers, he killed my alma mater, Holy Cross, in the NCAAs when he played at Marquette.
7. The arrogant Heat players and management, who felt they could “arrange” a championship.
8. That tasteless show the Heat put on last summer when they introduced LeBron and Chris Bosh to South Florida.
9. New York basketball fans are smarter.
10. Riley’s slick hairdo.
Melo and the Knicks are missing the point – they’re heading the wrong way.
Several weeks back, shortly after the Carmelo Anthony trade, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said he’d be satisfied if the Knicks won half their remaining games.
Way to set the bar high, coach. You’ve got two superstars on your team, two of the five top scorers in the NBA in Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, and your goal is mediocrity. Sadly, the way the Knicks are playing right now, they’d settle for playing .500 ball.
The playoffs, which seemed like a lock a few weeks back, are no sure thing anymore. The Knicks are in a free fall, having lost five straight and eight of their last nine. It would take a historic collapse for the Knicks to miss the post-season in the NBA’s weak Eastern Conference, but after losing to the likes of the Bucks, Pacers, Pistons and Cavs, the playoffs are no longer automatic.
Here’s a typical Knick game: Come out flat and fall way behind in the first quarter, play catch-up ball in the second and third, then fail to execute in the fourth and go down to defeat. Again and again, the pattern repeats.
“It’s going to take a while,” D’Antoni said several weeks ago. “I don’t think we’ll get it as well as we want this week or next week. But at the end of the year we should have it real good. In the meantime we have to get in the playoffs — whatever seed it is and prepare for that team.”
“I know everybody’s anxious. I’m anxious, the players are anxious. There’s no way you can throw four-to-six new guys into a rotation and all be on the same page. Some teams exploit things we haven’t gone over.”
The Knickerbockers are good on one thing — excuses. Peter Vecsey outlined a few of those excuses in his always entertaining Hoop du Jour in the New York Post.
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
“Everybody has them and goes to ’em nightly. You all know the drill by heart — trade adjustments; readjustments to Billups returning from a thigh bruise, though the team was 4-1 without him; rough March schedule; rough upbringing; rough surf; the dog ate my home-court advantage; James Dolan spending too much time getting Radio City ready for Charlie Sheen.”
D’Antoni is part of the problem. More than one Knick fan has suggested he remove the “D” from his name — since his team doesn’t play any.
Earlier this week, the Knicks decided not to practice on an off-day — although it’s obvious they need the work. “If nothing else,” one player said, “we need a break from each other.”
Gimme me a break. Which of course Cablevision brat James Dolan didn’t give Madison Square Garden fans when he raised ticket prices by an average of 49 percent.
Before the Knicks had Clyde and the Pearl in the “Rolls Royce Backcourt,” they had Dick Barnett.
Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe may rank as the best guard tandem in NBA history, but Barnett and his “Fall Back, Baby” jump shot, below left, brought the Knicks back to respectability and pointed them towards a pair of the NBA championships.
The Gary, Indiana native, a three-time All-America player at Tennessee State, was the first draft pick of the Syracuse Nationals in 1959. He played two years with the Nats and three with the Lakers.
In between was a one-year stint with the Cleveland Pipers, who Barnett led to the ABL Championship in 1962. (The owner of the Cleveland team was former Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.)
Barnett came to New York in October of 1965 in a trade that sent forward Bob Boozer to the Lakers.
It was during his nine years in New York that Barnett made his mark. He joined a Knicks team that featured center Walt Bellamy, top draft pick Jim “Bad News” Barnes, and a second-round pick out of Grambling named Willis Reed.
Knicks on The Rise
The Knicks would finish last in the Eastern Conference for the seventh straight year in 1965-66, but they were getting better. And Barnett was a big part of the story. He averaged a career-high 23.1 points that year, and two seasons later made the NBA All-Star team.
The Knicks would win their first NBA Championship in 1970. Barnett, starting in the backcourt with Clyde Frazier, averaged 14.9 points per game in the regular season, 16.9 points in the playoffs.
In the clinching Game Seven against the Lakers, the game where Reed walked on the Madison Square Garden court to inspire his teammates and fans, Barnett scored 21 points as the Knicks won the NBA title.
Barnett remained a starter until the Knicks acquired the Pearl in 1972. He finished his career with another Knickerbocker championship in 1973. In all, Barnett played in five NBA Finals, three with the Knicks and two with the Lakers.
Barnett never averaged less than 12 points per game in his first dozen years, and finished his NBA career with a 15.8 scoring average and 15,358 total points. He was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame, along with his coach John McClendon, on the strength of their three successive NAIA national championships at Tennessee State.
After his career, Barnett received a PhD in education at Fordham, and retired from teaching sports management at St. John’s in 2007. He was recently feted at Knicks Legends night at Madison Square Garden.
Dick Barnett’s number #12 hangs from the Garden rafters.