Tag Archives: donnie walsh

As is his wont, Larry Hughes is causing me to have an existential crisis

HE IS THE MINDFREAK. (Photo courtesy of The Plain Dealers Early Edition blog)

HE IS THE MINDFREAK. (Photo courtesy of The Plain Dealer's Early Edition blog)

When I saw the headline to the Wednesday post on New York Daily News reporter Frank Isola’s “Knicks Knation” (ugh) blog, I felt a chill run down my spine:

“Knicks targeting Bulls’ Larry Hughes.”

For real?  I mean, I’d heard possible trades discussed that would maybe allow the Knicks to shed a contract or two, maybe bring back an expiring deal, maybe add a frontcourt asset, etc.  But “targeting”?  Larry Hughes?

Are they aware that this is the dude whose reputation for taking abysmal, low-percentage shots at inopportune times inspired someone actually started a Web site called “Hey Larry Hughes, Please Stop Taking So Many Bad Shots“?  That he has in the past worn an ungodly body armor undershirt contraption that would elicit derision from the hairiest, Rec-Spec-iest dudes in your Wednesday morning YMCA league?

That he has engendered such distaste among Bulls fans that Matt at Blog-a-Bull admitted he “may have snuck in a pump of the fist when [he] saw Larry Hughes crumple to the ground” during a pre-season game against the Timberwolves?  That goathair’s lone birthday wish for this trade deadline (BTW, happy birfday, broheim) was that his beloved Bulls ship out Hughes?

That math genius Tom Ziller wrote at The Sporting Blog that “Hughes + Basketball = Wincing pain“?  That spiritual sage Bethlehem Shoals at the same site once advised Bulls GM John Paxson that Hughes “will destroy this team if you let him shine, like a cult leader and corrupt guidance counselor rolled up in one“?

That, through a uniquely distasteful combination of poor play and selfishness, he earned this etherization by Eamonn Brennan, noted scribe of seemingly everywhere?

Larry. Real talk. You are not as good as you think you are. You’re that awkward, crappy guy at open gym who, for whatever reason, thinks he’s really good, and alienates an entire court of eager basketball players in the meantime. You are self-deluded. You don’t command minutes. You waste possessions. You don’t defend. Your arm sleeve-sweater-thing is utterly ridiculous. You take horrible shots. SOMEONE NAMED A WEB SITE AFTER YOUR BAD SHOTS. IT WAS QUITE POPULAR DESPITE ITS INCREDIBLY LONG URL.

Christ, Larry. Figure it out. You’re the only one that hasn’t.

(I knew there was a lot of Larry Hughes-centric venom on the Internet, but I never knew it was this widespread … and we haven’t even gotten to the Basketbawful retrospective.  More on that to come.)

And yet, here we are, with Isola reporting that team president Donnie Walsh is considering flipping the expiring contract of Malik Rose and at least one player asset — including, possibly, restricted-free-agent-to-be Nate Robinson, whose stock has jumped after a string of quality performances leading into the All-Star break and whose monster 38-minute-32/10-with-3-assists-and-zero-TO line in Tuesday’s surprise victory over the Spurs led Kelly Dwyer to write the following: “That’s a line, and I’m being serious, that we were used to seeing from Dirk Nowitzki during his MVP run” — to bring in Hughes, whose $13.65 million contract comes off the books heading into the much-ballyhooed Summer of 2010.


But hold the phone on the giant cap-space clearance.  Let’s see if we can’t handicap the odds of this sucker actually going down.

Over at ESPN.com, Chris Sheridan last night gave us the good ol’ “go fuck yourself, trade watchers!” coin flip:

I have one very plugged-in source telling me that the Knicks still have a “slim but possible” chance of landing Larry Hughes, while another source was equally emphatic in saying he expects the Bulls to keep Hughes in mothballs now that they’ve dropped some $200,000 under the luxury tax threshold via the Brad Miller/John Salmons deal.

Today’s Chicago Tribune reports that “a nearly completed deal sending Hughes to the Knicks for Malik Rose and Jerome James fell apart Wednesday.”  At the same time, however, today’s Chicago Sun-Times says that Hughes didn’t travel with the Bulls to Milwaukee for their game against the Bucks (intrigue!) and that the framework for a Hughes deal might involve David Lee going Midwest and Kirk Hinrich heading to the Big City of Dreams.  (NOTE: Newsday’s Alan Hahn says that deal’s not happening, and that Lee’s not going anywhere.)

That first trade would make some economic sense — the Bulls get Rose’s expiring $7.65 million deal to create some space this off-season, the Knicks shed the now-largely-symbolic albatross of Big Snacks and turn about $14.25 million in total expiring contracts (spread over two years) into one lump-sum $13.65 million goner next year, the overwhelmingly obvious and explicitly stated goal of everything they do.

On the other hand, the second proposal would make most Knicks fans cry, cry, cry for several reasons:

  1. Lee’s become the great white hope for many in the Apple;
  2. While Hinrich is a more gifted overall player than Chris Duhon and his 2009 per-36 numbers are about in line with his career marks (with at least a couple of his advanced stats/peripherals nosing up toward his ’06-’07 career bests) despite missing about two months to a thumb injury, he doesn’t appear to represent a monster upgrade over what the Knicks are getting from Duhon this year;
  3. Hinrich’s contract pays him through 2011-2012, meaning that even though the Knicks would shed Hughes’ $13.65 million, they’d still have Cap’n Kirk, who doesn’t seem to be too many people’s idea of an NBA championship-caliber starting point guard, on the books for two more seasons.

Added wrinkle: In his post yesterday, Isola claimed that Lee would only go to Chicago in a Hughes deal if the Bulls sent back Joakim Noah or Tyrus Thomas, a framework for which had also been discussed as a “trade that SHOULD happen” by ESPN.com’s Chad Ford (in a post that was summarily pooh-poohed by Tommy Dee at The Knicks Blog on Tuesday).

But what makes this all the more interesting is Isola’s suggestion that some in NY’s front offices are having doubts about whether Lee is talented or savvy enough to merit locking up long-term:

Lee has enjoyed a breakout season but some in the organization wonder if he has reached his ceiling. On Tuesday, Lee was no match for Tim Duncan, who scored 13 fourth quarter points. Lee also missed a crucial free throw in the final minute and then knowingly gave his sixth foul in the final three seconds while guarding Tony Parker, who finished the night shooting 5-for-20.

Although the Knicks won the game, Lee’s decision to give a foul – the Knicks had one to give – was a questionable move at best. If the Knicks were up one, Lee would have been smart to foul. But in a tied game, there is a strong chance that the game will go into overtime. Think of it this way, how many All-Stars (and Lee thinks he belongs in that group) would knowingly foul out of a tie game? The answer is none.

Now, there’s one patently ridiculous point in Isola’s post, as has been noted in various places: Name me all the teams that Duncan doesn’t go to town on, especially down the stretch, especially when opponents are trying to guard him with 6’9″ guys.

But as for the other stuff — the questions about how much more’s left untapped in Lee’s talent reservoir — well, hmm.

/takes himself out of fan mode and tries to think like a company man

If you believe Lee’s reached his ceiling and as a result you’re not really considering him in your long-term plans … and if you’re looking for a higher-potential athlete that might be totally unleashed in Mike D’Antoni’s system (I think we can all agree that Thomas has the chance to be that) … AND if you think teams are unlikely to ever have higher opinions of Lee and Robinson than they do right now …

Then doesn’t it make perfect sense to continue the job started by the Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph deals and use these remaining valuable assets (in conjunction with Rose’s expiring contract) to try to shed the last remaining bad multiyear deals (Jared Jeffries and Eddy Curry) and keep cleaning up the company’s balance sheet?  Especially if said deals could return a chip (Thomas) that has the potential to be a higher-performing asset?

Even if it goes against all intuitive fan instincts to actively try to lose the two players who most make your team worth watching and fun to follow?  Even if it means taking on a millstone (Hughes) that is sure to inspire Silky Johnston-level hating from yours truly (which, come to think of it, might also be considered an upside)?

The man in me thinks the “sell high” principle should take hold and I should have the balls to stick with the same thought process that I maintained when Walsh dumped Crawford and Randolph — this year doesn’t matter, D’Antoni will find ways to be competitive and interesting this season regardless, building the foundation for the future and scouring the books is what counts, etc.

But the fan in me wants to boo the notion of moving Lee and NateRob until my throat is sore because of the life they’ve helped bring to the squad.  It’s causing the clash of head versus heart, intellect versus instinct, adult analysis versus childlike glee.  I honestly didn’t know I cared this much.

Wow.  That’s 1,500+ words I didn’t see coming.  Thanks, Larry Hughes, for making me feel like Dane McGowan after he smokes the blue mold in The Invisibles.  Trade deadline is doing my fucking head in, man.


Finding the silver lining when faced with a s–tcloud that endlessly rains down points

This list pretty neatly encapsulates the way I’ve been thinking about the Knicks since Isiah was powerstripped and D’ontonnie took over last spring.  It’s also why I can’t get really behind “LeBron or bust” (though God, it’s hard not to daydream after what he and Kobe have done on the Garden floor this week) or doing too much in the way of handicapping what five players will start in orange and blue on Opening Night 2010.

Things had to be different to have a chance at being better, and they are now (both better and different, though the Knicks are still a sub-.500 team headed toward the lottery).  Stylistically, intellectually, spiritually, physically, emotionally, mercifully, the game in the Garden has changed.  Knicks fans don’t have to be ashamed anymore; the last seven years are over, done, kaput, and I can’t think of any better illustration than the tenor of the national reactions that followed Kobe’s 61 and LeBron’s 52-10-11.

For Christ’s sake, the Knicks have been on the business end of titanic, historic, remarkable individual accomplishments on their home court in losses IN CONSECUTIVE GAMES — and the dominant topic of discussion isn’t, “Man, how awful is this woebegone franchise that’s getting served while their fans root for the bad guys?”  It is, as it should be, the two very different (yet equally jaw-dropping) forms of sharp-fanged athletic alchemy so ruthlessly unveiled by Messrs. Bryant and James against Dominant Team Pringles.

To the extent the Knicks have even been part of the national/league-wide conversation that has followed these two insane performances, the inclusion has mostly come in one of two forms:

  • a minor acknowledgment of the role that their lack of defense played in the two stars getting off so sick-like (a totally fair point, since the Knicks typically don’t play great team defense and don’t have any top-quality individual on-ball defenders, let alone someone who could hope to reasonably check Kobe or God forbid LeBron for more than a tenth of a second), or
  • a note of tacit amazement that New York didn’t get beat by 50, that they didn’t melt into a puddle of tears at the showcase of sheer masculinity they were witnessing … that they were, for large stretches at least, very much in both of these games against far superior individual and collective talents.

It would be absurd to qualify either loss as a net positive for D’Antoni, Walsh, et. al., but there’s something to be said for a coach being able to sell his team on the idea that the two best players in the world not only had to go supernova to beat them, but also that the outcome of each game wasn’t a foregone conclusion every step of the way.  Similarly, fans can find the honor in a team that doesn’t just roll over when they recognize the sword of God wearing a road uni.

But more important than anything else, not a single word of the preceding paragraphs could have been typed with a straight face (or even with a screw-face, really) at any point during the previous seven seasons, and certainly not during Isiah’s run.  The poison’s been purged, the demons exorcised.

Now, does that mean the Knicks’ next seven seasons will be better?  Maybe, maybe not.  But at least it’s not insane to believe that there’s a chance they can be.  Change has to start somewhere, and whatever starting five we end up with is the only one we could have.  Let Jesus take the wheel, Knicks fans, and for the first time this decade, try to enjoy your team as a choose-your-own-adventure story that actually doesn’t have to end with the secret agent you thought was your friend putting two in the base of your skull.  Things could be different; they already are.

Photo via FFFFOUND!

The saga of a grown-ass man called “Big Snacks” may have just ended

Jerome James ices down his knees, holds what I am almost certain is a plastic spoon and fork (or perhaps a spork). (AP photo/Mike Groll, via Daylife)

Jerome James ices down his knees, holds what I am almost certain is a plastic spoon and fork (or perhaps a spork). (AP photo/Mike Groll, via Daylife)

You might not have noticed it, but buried in the notes at the bottom of the Associated Press game story about the New York Knicks’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day victory over the Chicago Bulls was a sentence that could mark the end of the single most flagrant disgrace of the Isiah Thomas era.

That it ends with not with a bang or a blaze couldn’t be more appropriate; a whimper and a wheeze more than suffice for little-used, little-caring, little-consequence, huge-salary, huge-appetite, huge-mistake center Jerome James.

Not sure who had it first: the AP, Knicks beat writer Frank Isola of the New York Daily News (and its knattily knamed Knicks Knation blog) or someone else.  Either way, the reports came out Monday that James suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during practice on Sunday — an injury that will reportedly require season-ending surgery, likely spells the end of his tenure with the Knicks and could mark the end of his pro basketball career.

So we can now close the books on James, at least for the 2008-2009 NBA season, for which he is to be paid $6.2 million, according to the handy HoopsHype salary database.  (After ’08-’09, he’s still got one year remaining at $6.6 million on the five-year, $29 million contract he signed in August 2005.)  Through 39 games this year, James — affectionately nicknamed “Big Snacks,” which would be funny if it wasn’t so damn sad — had logged 10 minutes of court time for Dominant Team Pringles; that’s less than half the number of DNP-CDs that James compiled in ’08-’09.

It’s safe to say that at 7’1″, with a weight very generously listed between 280 and 300 lbs. — were I a betting man, I’d bang the over with most of my paltry salary — and virtually no distinguishable offensive skill set, James wasn’t a great match for the Mike D’Antoni offense (although watching him spend more time on the floor could have driven the fine, talented gentlemen at Seven Seconds or Mess to agony and ecstasy in equal measure).

Obviously, no one wants to see a man undergo any injury, let alone one serious enough to potentially cost him his very lucrative livelihood, even if you could make a pretty compelling argument that he wasn’t exactly earning that livelihood to begin with.  It’s our hope here at this is the city line. that Snacks can rehabilitate fully and either catch on with a club somewhere (just not one that plays its home games at MSG) at what’s certain to be a damn sight better than a living wage, or, failing that, that he’ll find some enjoyable and productive way to spend the remainder of his days after his exit from the game.

But the pure math on this is just stunning.  In the final analysis, Jerome James — JEROME F’N JAMES — will have earned $620,000 per minute of PT this year, or about 182 times the league average calculated by the Salt Lake Tribune’s Ross Siler last month following a discussion with TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott.  Nice work if you can get it.

Takes a special man to wear a garbage bag on the basketball court.  Jerome James is just that special.

Smile wide, Jerome. $620,000 per minute of labor's a damn solid take, m'man. Buys a lot of trashbag outerwear.

But wait — there’s less.  In a post-mortem on James’ season published Monday, RealGM Executive Editor Chris Reina — who may want to crack the whip on the folks responsible for his site’s Clippers coverage — used some more “creative accounting” to break down just how James’ five-year deal played out on the floor, assuming he doesn’t come back to New York next year:

$2,507,204.61 per hour on the floor

$325,842.70 per game played

$130,044.84 per point scored

$177,914.11 per rebound

$743,589.74 per blocked shot

Wow.  More from Reina:

James had more combined turnovers (75) and personal fouls (179) than points [and] was just about as apathetic as any player I’ve seen. My most lasting vision of his tenure will be when I saw him counting multiple hundred dollar bills all by himself after another game in which he didn’t even dress …

To his credit, Reina bites the bullet and admits that he liked the signing at the time because “James had a very good season for an exciting and successful 04-05 Sonics team that culminated with an excellent playoff series against Sacramento in which he averaged 17.2 points and 9.4 rebounds,” and because in the days before Eddy Curry and after the Knicks dealt Nazr Mohammed and Kurt Thomas, New York needed a pivot (“The remaining bigs on the roster at that point were rookies Lee and Channing Frye, plus Malik Rose, Mike Sweetney, Jackie Butler and Maurice Taylor”).

Just for fun, here’s Isiah’s post-signing take:

“When I looked at Jerome, the first thing I looked at was his shot-blocking ability, his ability to clog up the middle. He gives you a defensive presence. It was what we lacked last year. We needed size, we needed girth, we needed a space-eater. We also needed some intimidation in the middle.”

And Jerome’s:

“At this point of my career, I wanted to move to the next level. I’m very comfortable playing the supporting role, but I not only wanted to hold myself accountable for what I feel I can bring but I also wanted an organization to demand more from me. The Knicks presented me that opportunity.”

Sure, all that is laughable now.  But of course, it was pretty laughable at the time, too.

Yeah, the Knicks’ front line stunk on ice, but James’ “very good” ’04-’05 season –which saw him put up merely decent per-36 numbers (10.7 pts. and 6.5 rebs., in addition to an admittedly eye-catching 3 blks) — was an obvious mirage.  He’d never notched a PER above 13.1, he’d never averaged more than 16.9 minutes per game in a season, and with a nickname like “Big Snacks,” it’s not like anyone expected dude to become a workout demon and prepare for starter minutes after getting a multi-year, multimillion-dollar deal.  It was an atrocious signing at the time, one that led Paul Merrill at Supersonicsoul to write the following:

Does he deserve $29 million over five years? No. Will he be out of the league, bankrupt, and selling sports drinks out of the back of a van in five years? Probably.

Confidence-inspiring, to be sure, and sadly prescient.  But that someone wrote that AS IT WAS HAPPENING — that this take on James’ abilities wasn’t just the preachings of a lone nut, but the FREAKING BOOK on him —  bolsters my contention:

More than the weird Maurice Taylor and Malik Rose deals, more than the Steve Francis and Jalen Rose trades, more than the Jared Jeffries signing and even more than importing Eddy Curry, the decision to sign Jerome James to a five-year deal and pay him $30 million was the single most asinine and completely indefensible move made under the Isiah regime. To borrow a line that standup comedian Patrice Oneal once used on Opie and Anthony, it was the kind of deal that made you go to the thesaurus to find synonyms for awful.

And now, by the looks of things, its putrid stench might vacate the premises of the World’s Most Famous Arena.

Just one more millstone shed from the necks of D’Antoni, Donnie Walsh and the New York faithful.  Just one more brick mortared to the wall we’re building between ourselves and the traumatic memories that Isiah Thomas once ran our favorite basketball team.  Just one more step toward a future that, while maybe not full of the King or 2.0 or CB4 or Black Jesus or Nash or whomever, is at least open to new possibilities.  Just one more reason to be happier than you ever in a million years thought you’d be to root for a 16-24 team.

Vaya con dios, Jerome.  Go haunt someone else.

P.S.: Perhaps the most staggering thing about Jerome James?  That I saw this on his ESPN.com player card:


See that 0.1% under the “% OWN” column?  That means that someone out there has Jerome James on his or her fantasy basketball team.  Noodle that one for a while.