TrueHoop: Eddy Curry
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Eddy Curry: The Mavs' newest reclamation project.
LOS ANGELES -- Would you look at Eddy Curry? Wrestling Pau Gasol down on the right block, taking him middle after a massive drop step, then deking him with an up-and-under move?
"I was just trying to get Pau off his feet a little bit," Curry said with a sheepish smile. "It worked. I got him out of position, and I was able to stand between him and the basket and bank it off the glass."
As Curry toweled off at his locker, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stood outside in the concourse snarling, "The Curri-nator!"
"Eddy was a beast," Cuban said. "He still has a long way to go defensively, but underneath and in the post, he's not afraid of anybody."
Curry's line Tuesday wasn't beastly -- seven points, four rebounds and four personal fouls in 17 minutes -- but he bothered Gasol all night on both ends. Once a ghastly 300 pounds-plus, a slimmed-down Curry bumped Gasol on both ends of the floor. While he was out there, Curry was the most physical player for an undermanned team that had to resort to guerrilla warfare to beat the Lakers 99-91 in Los Angeles.
"I asked [Gasol], 'You got something personal against me or something?'" Curry said. "'You trying to body me?' But it was fun."
Fun hasn't played a prominent role in Curry's career since he was drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2001, except for legions of NBA fans for whom Curry has been a reliable punch line over the years. Between his weight issues, personal turmoil, serious heart problems that jeopardized his career, and his association with the Isiah Thomas Knicks, Curry became a cautionary tale -- a young project gone bad.
On Tuesday night, Curry was effusive after the game. His exuberance wasn't glib or an expression of self-satisfaction. Curry was simply a guy who'd had a blast for two hours.
"It was a fun game, man," Curry said. "I'm a physical player, and I look for contact. We're out west, so we'll see them again. It was fun."
Curry is the unlikeliest of reclamation projects. He had a cup of coffee with Miami last season but never played meaningful minutes for the Heat's championship team. Claimed off waivers less than a week ago, he didn't figure to play a much larger role with the Mavericks. But with injuries to Chris Kaman and Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas' front line was thin, especially against a starting frontcourt of Dwight Howard and Gasol. The Mavs needed Curry's size Tuesday -- they'd worry about the skills later.
For Curry, Dallas is the perfect lifeboat, an organization that demands professionalism and features a coach who can maximize the strengths -- few as they might be -- of every rostered player.
"[The Mavericks] take guys who kind of float around," Curry said. "They give them a home. They give them confidence and just reboot them a little bit. If Mark gets you over here, he sees something in you, and the team will get it out of you."
Seventeen minutes in October does not a restoration make, but if the Mavs can bank some wins against a relatively soft schedule with a 29-year-old Curry as a contributor, his story just might take a turn.
- Tim Frank of the NBA: "Tonight's NBA games will be played. We are still assessing the situation with regards to the rest of the week."
- Andray Blatche got an assist from some first responders.
- What's going to replace James Harden's beard as the icon of Thunder fanhood? The Lost Ogle offers up 11 nominations.
- Matt Yglesias, Slate's business and economics blogger, on the Harden deal: "[M]y real critique is that the Thunder don't seem to be considering the optionality involved in resigning Harden. Having the guy under contract for a multiyear deal doesn't just carry with it the right to employ Harden's basketball services; it carries the right to trade the right to employ him at any time. So if it did come to pass that the Thunder were a championship-caliber team and nonetheless running some kind of intolerable operating loss, they could always trade him then (or, better, they could trade Westbrook). The existence of the luxury tax can lead to a kind of overthinking and irrational sequencing about these things. When considering whether or not to sign a player for $X million, the question to focus on is whether he produces more than $X million worth of basketball services. If he does, then he's a valuable trade asset at any time. And the luxury tax should be understood as being assessed on the entire team payroll rather than having the entire hit arbitrarily assigned to whomever happens to be the last player you signed."
- Once everyone in the starting lineup is healthy and and the meet-and-greet is over, the Lakers are going to be a bear to defend. Brett Koremenos of Grantland breaks down five devastating sets from five title contenders, including the Lakers' "slot pick-and-roll into high-low" scheme.
- Something we often forget about rookies playing their first regular season game in the NBA: Many of them are taking the floor against their idols. That has to be a bit of a jolt, as Portland's Damian Lillard tells it toward the end of his most recent installment of "License of Lillard."
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus unveils his final SCHOENE predictions for the season. Denver and Atlanta look strong. Oklahoma City and Indiana fall a few rungs. And who projects to have the No. 2 offense in the NBA? Your Minnesota Timberwolves.
- The best in Nikola Pekovic propoganda this side of Podgorica.
- Says here that Eddy Curry will probably start opposite Dwight Howard in the Mavericks' opener in Los Angeles, as Chris Kaman nurses a right calf injury.
- One NBA scout has some unkind words for the Golden State Warriors. From his perch, Richard Jefferson causes headaches, David Lee was known to some Knicks teammates as FEMA because he was never there when you needed him and Mark Jackson doesn't have a feel from the game.
- There aren't any industry studies, but I'd guess there are very few 15 year olds in North America whose Moms chaperoned them to the tattoo parlor -- Wizards rookie Bradley Beal is a notable exception. From Michael Lee in the Washington Post: "Besta Beal joined her son at the tattoo parlor when he got his first ink at age 15, and he needed her permission, because otherwise, 'she would’ve killed me,' Bradley said with a laugh. Beal provided all of the artwork on his arms ... "
- Media outlets across the nation are publishing endorsements for the presidential election. The ClipperBlog editorial board weighs in and endorses ... Eric Bledsoe for Clippers starting shooting guard: "Across the league, NBA head coaches are facing tough choices as they go to fill out their lineup cards for opening night. Candidates have campaigned for spots since the start of training camp, hoping to show they have what it takes to get the job done. Some races were over before they began -- the incumbent's hold on the seat just too strong. But there are those, like the fight for the Clippers' second starting backcourt spot, that keep coaches up at night. Now it's time to make the call ... After thorough review of the candidates, we believe that the player best equipped to fulfill the necessary responsibilities of starting alongside Chris Paul is 22-year old Eric Bledsoe."
- Can Rajon Rondo make the leap to first-team all-NBA?
- Don't you just hate it when you realize that a player you can't stand is, in fact, a big-time contributor? Aaron McGuire of Gothic Ginobili on Jason Terry: "At some point, people who dislike Jason Terry -- myself included -- need to step back and simply start appreciating his production. And let's get this straight now -- I am no fan of Terry's. I think he's bombastic, self-obsessed, and preening. He needs to realize, at some point, that he is not an airplane ... But you know what? He probably was underrated in #NBARank, and in a general sense, Terry is of inconceivably low repute to a vast majority of the NBA's fans. And it makes no sense to me. Last season, Terry was the 5th best shooting guard in the NBA. Really. There were the obvious betters -- Kobe, Wade, Harden, Manu -- and you could make a reasonable case that Joe Johnson was better. Beyond those five? Nobody."
- Our friends at Ball in Europe, without an NBA franchise on the Continent, are considering which NBA team to adopt as their own. You can cast your vote here.
- Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones celebrates the release of Stephen Jackson's "Lonely at the Top," featuring Kevin Durant.
- Did you hear about the time Matt Bonner dragged Jackson to a Coldplay concert?
- Marreese Speights would like to remind you that there are 13 other teams in the Western Conference besides Oklahoma City and the Lakers.
- Serge Ibaka tells us how Brooklyn is like Brazzaville.
Drew Gooden, left, and Eddy Curry are prime examples of bad contracts. Owners want shorter contracts, but that means more free agents every summer.
The basketball landscape is littered with symbols, but none more damning than the bad contract.
Rhetorically, there's a good reason for this. No matter how conscientiously you point out that bad contracts represent a small fraction of the whole, or that the volume of underpaid rookie-scale players and superstars far exceeds the number of bloated deals, the trump card is irrefutable:
"Jerome James," "Eddy Curry," "Gilbert Arenas," "Drew Gooden."
Bogeymen have always populated the political debate: the welfare recipient who drives a Cadillac. The failed CEO with his golden parachute. The undocumented immigrant who uses the emergency room and public school. The retailer who gouges a community after a natural disaster. The corporate jet owners who get tax breaks.
In that same spirit, basketball has James, Curry, Arenas, Gooden and the guy who slurped up your team's budget and then failed to live up to his contract. These players might be the far-reaching outliers, but they represent something fundamentally unfair to most fans:
Getting paid to do a job, then not doing it.
That transgression is particularly rotten when the job in question is playing a child's game, and this breach of public trust makes the overpaid player a very convenient talking point.
Of course, a bad contract doesn't birth itself. It starts off as an offer extended by a team soliciting the services of a player -- usually in free agency, sometimes as an extension of an existing deal. Either way, an NBA front office saw a vacant roster slot, thought enough of a player's potential to pursue him, then ultimately inked him to a lucrative deal. As much as we can fault the work ethic of someone who phones it in after signing such a deal, the job of vetting the character and projecting the performance of a player falls on team executives and the owners who employ them.
As much fun as it looks from the outside and the ranks of a fantasy league, general manager is a grueling, all-consuming, difficult position. The tenure of a general manager usually ends with a pink slip. Unless he's wearing a baseball cap in June standing alongside a star player who's lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy, a GM's missteps always attract a brighter spotlight than the small victories. The chase for NBA talent is fraught with all kinds of hazards, and even the best human resource managers in the league are going to have an expensive blemish or two on their record.
For this reason, a push for shorter contracts has been a central part of the "system issues" conversation since well before the expiration of the previous collective bargaining agreement. Whether you interpret this as a means for bad teams to seek protection from themselves, a smart way to keep spending in check, or a way to prevent deadbeats from profiting without performing, reduced contract length is almost certain to find its way into the next CBA, whenever the deal happens to be executed.
In the owners' Nov. 11 proposal to the players' union, the length in contract of the mid-level exception signees for both taxpaying and non-taxpaying teams was reduced from five years to either four or three years. Maximum contract length for players with Bird rights was reduced from six years to five, and from five years to four for non-Bird players. In addition, option years for players earning greater than the league average were eliminated (which would effectively shorten contracts vis-a-vis the last CBA), as were sign-and-trade deals for taxpaying teams after Year 2 of contracts (ditto).
What are the repercussions of shorter contracts?
Shorter contracts mean more turnover, which means more free agency. And free agency, lest we forget, has always been the vehicle for the creation of bad contracts.
On the surface, this change would provide a modicum of safety for front offices and ownerships. Never again will a player like Gooden earn a mid-level deal of five years and $32 million. In the new NBA, the maximum a mid-level player could be offered would be 4 years and $20 million. Curry's 6-year, $60 million contract would also be an impossibility.
In other words, execs' colossal mistakes will be trimmed in scale by about 20 percent and their medium-size stupid pills would be reduced by 35 to 40 percent. Curry would've merely been a 5-year, $50 million blunder, while Milwaukee would be on the hook for one year and $12 million less, assuming the Bucks would've opted to use the mid-level on Gooden -- and that Gooden wouldn't have had suitor willing to pay him more.
General managers would be inoculated from truly epic failures, but they'll also be filling more roster spots, more often in more feverish free agent markets. Execs will have more opportunities to make more mistakes of, albeit, slightly less detrimental consequences. That means bad judgment could potentially be compounded in an off-season when a league has dozens of more roster spots to fill with free agents.
On the flip side, shorter contracts would punish crafty executives capable of locking in talent to favorable long-term contracts. With more roster slots to fill more frequently, smart execs will have more shot attempts to work their magic. In 2002, Joe Dumars signed Chauncey Billups to a 6-year, $34 million deal, possibly the best mid-level deal in history. In today's NBA, Dumars would be denied full reward for his prescience. The jury is still out on Wes Matthews in Portland, but his $7.2 million contract in the final year of his 5-year deal might prove to be a bargain. Under the new system, the Trail Blazers wouldn't enjoy the benefits of Matthews' potentially cost-efficient services.
In a league with shorter contracts and greater turnover, navigating the free agent market will be more important than ever. But if making sound judgments on extending free agent contracts is a task front offices as a whole have mismanaged -- by the league's own admission -- is it reasonable to expect that to change with even more opportunities for mistakes?
In return, the Knicks sent forward Wilson Chandler, guard Raymond Felton, forward Danilo Gallinari and center Timofey Mozgov to Denver. The Nuggets will also get the Knicks' 2014 1st-round pick, the Warriors' 2012 and 2013 2nd-round picks and $3 million cash.
ESPN's Chris Broussard reports the Knicks will also receive Corey Brewer from the Timberwolves and send center Eddy Curry and forward Anthony Randolph to Minnesota. The 12-player trade (not including draft picks) is tied for the second-largest trade in NBA history.
Chandler, Felton, Gallinari and Mozgov combined for 53.4 points per game this season (50.3 percent of total team scoring). The Knicks acquired a combined 50.9 points per game in the five players that they received from the Nuggets, 47.3 percent of the points that Denver had scored this season.
The Knicks gave up an awful lot to bring Anthony to town, especially when it comes to outside shooting. New York ranked among the league's best in spot-up shooting metrics, including 25.3 points per game. Chandler, Felton, Gallinari and Mozgov contributed 13.1 of those points.
In the last five minutes of games in which the score is within five points, Raymond Felton (32.4), Danilo Gallinari (30.8), and Wilson Chandler (24.0) have the three lowest FG percentages among Knick players who have attempted a shot.
Conversely, Billups and Anthony have shot a combined 43.6 percent in those situations, slightly above the league average of 41.8 percent.
When you are a scorer, you need to find different ways to provide your team with points. For Carmelo Anthony, the leak out play has been a key cog in his arsenal. He is the only NBA player who has had more than 100 leak out plays during the past five seasons (133).
Though he's not one of the title sequence characters of the series, Will Bynum is featured prominently. He's presented as Sean Dockery's main rival in the Chicago Public League. The producers set up the parallel: Dockery is the classical floor general at southside's Julian High School, while Bynum is a dynamic, ball-dominating point guard at westside's Crane High School. Both are considered can't-misses at the college level. Dockery goes on to play for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Bynum spent a couple of seasons at Arizona before transferring to Georgia Tech.
A perpetual theme in the the Bynum segments?
He feels underrated.
PistonPowered features two additional segments.
- Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub explains how you assemble a strong 21st century defense. The recipe for success? Focus on the two areas in the half-court where opponents put up the highest effective field goal percentage: The 3-point line and the immediate basket area.
- Kurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold explores what's eating Andrew Bynum.
- Capologist Larry Coon at the New York Times' Off the Dribble blog says that if Eddy Curry is willing to leave some money on the table, he's imminently buyout-able. The sticky point? Curry's player option.
- A pessimistic Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball sizes up the state of the Milwaukee Bucks as we head into 2010. Among Bucksketball's revelations: Contrary to popular belief, there's no evidence to suggest Scott Skiles hates rookies.
- The Painted Area presents its All-Underachiever Team for the decade.
- Sports Media Watch lists its five biggest NBA stories of the decade. At first blush, the list that seems a bit dated in current context, though it's easy to forget how much both the game and the league's persona has evolved over the past ten years.
- Rob Mahoney of Two Man Game enumerates all the reasons why Dallas' road win over Denver last night was extremely satisfying. Not only did the Mavs overcome Dirk Nowtizki's off night, but the Dallas defense brutalized one of the most potent offenses in the game. More than anything, though, when you watch Dallas you see a team of grown-ups that knows how to execute its stuff on both ends of the floor.
- Geoff Lepper of 48 Minutes.net wonders if Stephen Curry can learn to be a better defender.
- John Krolik of Cavs the Blog elaborates on how LeBron James deployed his emerging post game against an undersized Rockets team.
- Rahat Huq sounds the alarm on Trevor Ariza: "I just don’t understand what is going on with Ariza. I don’t want to just criticize; I want badly to just understand the rationale behind what is taking place. I just can’t think of any logical explanation as to why this player is being allowed to frequently attempt feats which he has absolutely no hope of achieving. It’s become mind boggling at this point. I have said many times that I am all for experimentation and player development. But these have to be within certain limits of realism. You play David Andersen despite his defensive troubles because he will improve. You live with Jermaine Taylor getting blocked at the rim because he will learn from it and adjust his shot. These are areas where players improve from in-game experience. Trevor Ariza cannot compensate for his complete and total lack of skill and body control with in-game experience. It just won’t happen. Letting him take in-game reps at creating off the dribble is completely counterproductive – he just can’t do it. Maybe he’ll improve over the summer, but affording him such a leash during the season is simply hurting this team."
- More great visuals from Kyle Weidie of Truth About It illustrating the Wizards' woes.
- Knicks highlights and lowlights from the decade, courtesy of Knickerblogger. Needless to say, the latter outweighs the former.
- Philadunkia poses that age-old conundrum for underachieving teams whose seasons appear over: At what point do you throw your rookie point guard into the deep end to see if he can swim rather than stick with your unexceptional, but proven veteran? Jrue Holiday and Willie Green are the respective players in questions.
- Cringe-worthy montage of various Sacramento Kings performing in-studio covers. (Hat Tip: Cowbell Kingdom)
Ray Amanti/NBAE via Getty Images
William Wesley, to those who have lost patience with Eddy Curry: "At the end of the day, we have to remember that these are still young kids, and they're our kids. We're responsible to lead them down the right road."
Eddy Curry has already been much discussed as a key to the Knicks' future.
Against the Nets on Saturday, in his fifth game since the 2007-2008 season, he didn't blow anybody away. He still got great post position -- he's among the best in the NBA at that. He had some looks. But time and again he couldn't catch the pass, his teammates couldn't get it to him, or his shots went awry.
At one point his teammates raced ahead and drew a foul. Curry, at a slow walk, trailed the play so severely he barely arrived in time to line up for the free throw.
He looked ... "Like he hadn't played for two years?" quipped coach Mike D'Antoni after the game. But he said it with a smile, and right now the relationship between the Knicks and Curry is a happy one.
"We're still learning each other," confirmed Curry. "I've only practiced with them maybe five times. In a sense, I'm like a new player here. And at the same time we're still trying to win games. I'm not trying to disrupt them. I'm adjusting to it. But I think it's only a matter of time before I'm able to dominate this game."
"The team will improve on getting him the ball where he needs it," adds D'Antoni, "and he'll improve with his footwork and feel more comfortable. We'll both have days like this and it'll be a while. But he's giving us something that we need and lifting up our spirits."
Consider that last point. Curry -- the poster child of the big, bad contracts that Isiah Thomas doled out in condemning the Knicks to long-term mediocrity -- is an inspration. The player who has endured just about everything anyone could imagine, and could well have soured on life, is flashing smiles.
On the court through his career he has been out of shape, out of sync, and sometimes a laughingstock. Off the court, the stories have been nightmarish, with murders in his family, lawsuits, and accusations. No one will ever accuse Curry of having had a smooth ride, and as much as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett may be the poster children for players coming straight from high school to NBA success, Curry -- despite big earnings -- has been a cautionary tale.
And yet, he has reached a point where he's a ray of light in the locker room of the franchise that has been called the most valuable in the NBA.
"Kind of like a new person coming around," says Curry of the mood since he returned to the team. "Everybody's just kind of revitalized. I love the energy in the locker room and on the court."
On Sunday, he'll play in Madison Square Garden for the first time since March 2008, when Thomas was still coach.
"Definitely fun to play my first game in the Garden since I don't know when,'" he says. "I was scared that it wouldn't happen here. ... Definitely looking forward to it. Hopefully they'll accept me. But they don't have a choice. I'll be there!"
Scheduled to be showing support for Curry in the face of Garden critics on Sunday -- and sitting courtside at the Izod Center on Saturday -- was Eddy Curry's "uncle" and noted NBA insider William Wesley. As a trusted advisor of a long list of players, including Curry, LeBron James, and Allen Iverson, Wesley has the potential to be a major figure as Donnie Walsh works to bring the Knicks back to respectability.
Wesley has already been a central figure in Curry's recent weight loss and rejuvenation.
Wesley very seldom talks to reporters on the record, but made an exception, speaking from his courtside seat at halftime of the Knicks' win at New Jersey:
Seeing Eddy Curry out there obviously means a lot for the Knicks. But also for you. Why?
Because of his personal struggle to get back to where he once was. There's a lot of people that doubt that he can get back to his form. He's trying. He's trying. This is just another step. The bar is being raised in each game.
Do you like his chances?
I like his chances.
These two teams we're watching, they're both banking on getting much better through free agency. If you could give them advice on how to succeed in attracting a premium free agent this summer, what would you say?
I'm not going to answer that question, because I think it's a set-up question. I'm here to talk about Eddy Curry, and to support Eddy Curry.
Tell me about your summer with Eddy Curry. What did you actually do?
We did two-a-days. He worked out. He ate right. Chris Douglas-Roberts came in and supported him -- Chris is from Detroit, so he came in and supported him. There's a lot of guys that wanted to come in to support Eddy through this process. J.R. Smith came in and spent some time with him. It was really great to see people coming and rallying around Eddy's family. A lot of people just wanted him to be in the right situation.
The stories about Eddy's situation have been terrible. There have been murders. There have been weird accusations. Just about everything bad you can imagine ... Very serious stuff. As someone who knows him better, it must kind of kill you to see Eddy Curry be the butt of jokes.
Yeah, but I've seen that my whole life with these young kids. Some of them get held to different standards. But at the end of the day, we have to remember that these are still young kids, and they're our kids. We're responsible to lead them down the right road. So if they hit a bump in the road, we should help them.
What do you say to people who make fun of him?
You're wasting your breath to talk to them. They're called haters. Their thought process isn't going to alter. You spend too much energy trying to convince them.
Is the perfect scenario for him to be a long-term Knick? Or would it be better for him to get a fresh start?
No, with Eddy, I think the best place for him is to be a New York Knick. People have to remember, the Knicks took a chance on Eddy when nobody else did. He hasn't forgotten that. Donnie Walsh has bent over backwards for Eddy to be successful. Knowing Eddy, Eddy's not going to take that lightly. He understands the commitment from Donnie Walsh and the New York Knicks organization.
So, Eddy's playing 11 minutes in Indiana, Donnie Walsh said in the papers, played a role in the Knicks' decision not to sign Allen Iverson.
I don't know anything about that.
Donnie talked to the media yesterday, and said basically that there were enough good signs from the young Knicks that they didn't want to alter the structure of the team. And he specifically mentioned Eddy's performance as part of that.
I don't know.
Sounds like the kind of thing you're talking about, though, with a big Knick commitment to Eddy Curry.
I guess! I don't know. I wasn't privy to the information.
Eddy spent the summer with your trainer and with you, and then he came to training camp and was immediately injured and the Knicks didn't seem to think he was in shape.
I don't want to comment on that. But I'll say that he had to start somewhere. And he started it in Detroit, Michigan.
And you're happy with where he is now?
And here's the big news, according to Knicks president Donnie Walsh: Curry's weight is "way down."
Walsh refused to attach a specific number to Curry's actual weight, but noted it was "way down" from the 317 pounds that Curry weighed at the beginning of training camp.
The Knicks are not putting any kind of a timetable on returning Curry to game action, but the best-case scenario would allow coach Mike D'Antoni to at least showcase Curry for a few minutes Friday night when the Golden State Warriors come to Madison Square Garden.
Golden State remains one of the league's most active teams in trade talks as they search for a deal to send Stephen Jackson packing, and the Knicks -- still anxious to clear additional cap room for the summer of 2010 -- would gladly get involved in any kind of three-way discussions in which Curry and/or Jared Jeffries could be dealt for players with expiring contracts.
The Lakers need Lamar Odom as much as Lamar Odom needs the Lakers. Jarrett Jack heads to Toronto, while Eddy Curry remains unmovable. And the big powers in the East make some tweaks to their benches.
Kurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold: "Don't delude yourself into thinking the Lakers are better off without [Lamar] Odom -- the best proof is that last season he led the Lakers in +/-, the Lakers outscored opponents by 16.4 points per 48 minutes when he was on the floor. Second was Kobe [Bryant] at 12.1. The simple truth is that good things happened for the Lakers when he was on the floor. He came up big in the playoffs. His versatility cannot easily be replaced. There are some intriguing pieces on the Heat roster ([Mario] Chalmers, for one) but any move the Lakers make here is not going to make a title more likely. Can the Lakers win a title without Odom? Yes, but the margin of error is now non-existent. [Andrew] Bynum has to be healthy and playing at his peak. Artest has to fit in swimmingly. Bench guys like Sasha [Vujacic] and Jordan [Farmar] cannot struggle for long stretches. Everything has to go right. And that's a lot to ask."
Mike Kurylo of Knickerblogger: "When the Knicks acquired Eddy Curry, he was supposed to be the future of the franchise. Although there were signs that he would never reach that level of play (namely every stat but fg% and pts/36), his size and flashes of scoring lead many to believe in his potential. In 2009 Eddy Curry had his most disappointing season, playing a grand total of 12 minutes and scoring only 5 points. Immediately after the season ended, Curry vowed to get in shape, and immediately began twittering about his work out regimen. In the weeks since, his private trainer 'leaked' that Curry lost 30 pounds, and Eddy appeared before the Knicks brass at the summer league. It appears that Curry is doing what he does best. He appeals to the optimist in Knick fans, while producing almost nothing."
Jared Wade of Eight Points, Nine Seconds: "In the end, however, Jarrett [Jack] isn't worth $5 million a year - at least not to a Pacer team that still has [Jamaal] Tinsley's devastating deal on the books, will be paying Mike Dunleavy to rehab his knee for at least another six months, and is significantly overpaying for the production of both Troy Murphy and TJ Ford. I really liked the fearlessness and aggressive penetration Jack showed so consistently last season, but Bird was right to let him walk for that price. It would have been great to keep Jarrett around at something like three years/$12 million, but he played his way into a better offer from Toronto and no Pacer fan should fault him for that."
(Photos by Noah Graham, Jeff Zelevansky, Harry How/NBAE via Getty Images)
With better performance from two players who were seldom available or useful last season, the Knicks could improve notably.
For various reasons, Danilo Gallinari and Eddy Curry gave little last year.
But a footnote in today's New York Times says both are on the road to contributing next year.
Danilo Gallinari, who had back surgery in April, is said to be recovering well and could be back on the court soon. "All the reports that I'm getting back is that they feel the operation was a success," Donnie Walsh said. "It doesn't seem to be a big obstacle." Walsh also offered a positive appraisal of Eddy Curry, who is working to lose weight and regain his conditioning after an injury-marred season. Walsh visited Curry in late May. "He's working very hard, he's losing weight, he's starting to get his body to look like an athlete's body again," Walsh said. "I have to give him credit for working as hard as he can work to try to do it."
You never want to project too much from these kinds of reports. But consdier that if Curry and Gallinari are at their best for sustained periods, the impact of their play would mean more next season than anything a rookie is likely to bring.
Multiple reports say Curry's dedication to his craft has been reinvigorated, and he is working hard to lose weight and get more athletic. Scroll back through his Twitter feed. You'll find plenty of people asking him where he is, and why he isn't around to hang out, and he just about always responds that he's in Michigan working out. There is plenty of talk of speed and explosiveness, and even a mention of Donnie Walsh and a team doctor dropping in and being "impressed." (And, if an athlete is on web video getting pulled over by the cops, don't we know he's going to be horribly embarrassed? Not Eddy Curry. Not this time. In one of the strangest stories you'll ever see, Curry and J.R. Smith broadcast live Web video of themselves getting pulled over, and apparently not getting in trouble at all.)
By the way that Times article also drops names of players the Knicks are considering with the eighth pick. The unsettled nature of this draft comes through loud and clear. The list, essentially, is Ricky Rubio (if something weird happens and he falls), Hasheem Thabeet (ditto), Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans, Jordan Hill, Gerald Henderson and Jrue Holiday.
That list is seven players long! And we know Blake Griffin will be off the board. That implies nearly zero ability to predict what will happen with picks two through seven (short of perhaps assuming James Harden will be taken). I kind of love it that clearly nobody knows much about what is going to happen on Thursday. Good setup for drama!
Kurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold: "The Rockets offense is about Yao Ming -- it is where their plays start, where they will need to get the majority of their offense ... The Lakers cannot just do one thing all series long against Yao -- he is too good and too smart for that. One thing the Lakers need to do is make him work for post position - but unlike [Greg] Oden doing it without fouling. Portland had some success fronting him in the post ... while earlier in the year the Lakers had success sending a slow double to the block (not when he first gets the ball but when he starts to make a move). The Lakers may even go with a little one-on-one -- although let's be clear, while we should expect more out of [Andrew] Bynum, expecting him to stop the best center on the planet one-on-one is asking too much of him. (And before you say Dwight Howard is the best center on the planet, look at his head-to-head with Yao.) The goal is to both Make Yao hesitate and make him think and pass out -- he is a smart player and in recent months he has become much better to passing out of the double, out of trouble. But that is still the preferred option."
Rob Mahoney of Two Man Game: "[Jason] Kidd has done plenty to validate his acquisition, but the heady floor general was actin' the fool during the most critical stretches of Game 1. I can confidently say that I've never seen so many poorly timed and poorly executed bounce passes from such a talented point guard, and Kidd made it easy for Denver's defense by bouncing the ball right into their laps. Obviously the Dallas brass didn't dream of Kidd double-dribbling away fast break opportunities or hurling passes out of bounds when they traded for him a year ago, but that's exactly what he was doing with the Mavs' most critical possessions. I can accept Kidd's weaknesses. I know he won't be an impact scorer, and I know that his defensive abilities are impacted by his age. But I'm not prepared for Kidd's strengths to suddenly disappear before our very eyes."
Mike Kurylo of Knickerblogger: "There's a problem with the league when fans can't analyze a trade without consulting an accountant ... The issue stems from guaranteed contracts, or more specifically bad contracts ... Falk suggests the owners will push for a hard cap and shorter contracts. And I hope they win, because the soft cap/guaranteed contract is bad for the league and its fans. Imagine if player deals were only guaranteed for the first 3 years. Almost instantly the Knicks could have jettisoned any unwanted players and reshape their team in a single offseason. On his first day Donnie Walsh could have cut Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Jamal Crawford, and Malik Rose. With the players cut from other teams, Walsh could have had a wider berth of players to chose from when building the 2009 roster. Unfortunately the current cap rules forced Walsh to stick with these undesirable players and allowed him to trade them only for matching salaries ... It's easy to see why this would benefit teams and their fans. Bad franchises would be able to fix their mistakes quicker, which means fans wouldn't have to wait years for the hometown squad to turn things around. And since winning correlates to ticket sales more than anything else, it means the owners would see more money in their pockets."
(Photos by Lisa Blumenfeld, Ronald Martinez, Mike Stobe/NBAE via Getty Images)
Mike Kurylo of Knickerblogger: "[T]he Knicks should concede the rest of the season and use the remaining 15 games to prepare for next year. One way is to allow Nate Robinson to be the starting point guard (which may have already occurred). Another is to give minutes to Wilcox, Curry (if healthy), Samb, and Nichols in order to better understand how they may help the team...
And in the interim, playing the reserves would increase New York's standings in the June draft. While the only team that they might realistically pass is Indiana ... it's just as important for New York to not allow any of the teams ahead of them to improve their draft day position ... From any perspective the worst scenario would be New York passing all those teams in the standings without making the playoffs. If D'Antoni shifts his main focus from winning individual games to developing the end of his bench, New York would probably avoid such a undesirable fate."
Matt McHale of By the Horns: "Ben Gordon has been the Bulls' leading scorer for the past five seasons. That also happens to be the same number of seasons that Gordon's been in the league. But despite that fact, nobody knows yet whether he's even going to be in Chicago next season … and opinion is pretty firmly divided on whether or not John Paxson should spend any more of the team's precious salary cap space on him. That's too bad. I know BG is streaky and woefully undersized, but he brings it every night, and has been since his rookie campaign."
John Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Mo appears to have hit some sort of a wall, because every other game it seems like his shot's not there, which suggests tired legs more than it suggests something mental keeping him out of his rhythm. Delonte, on the other hand, is in a major, major funk. He played gritty defense and got to the rim a few times, but his shot is off to the point he just can't buy one from outside the paint and he's not moving the ball right now. There's no option here -- we just have to wait for him to snap out of it, because we don't win in the playoffs without him. He's our Lamar Odom -- he's the difference between good and great for us."
(Photos by David Sherman, Larry W. Smith, Ronald Martinez/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nate Robinson and David Lee put Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford to shame. Chris Paul makes J.J. Barea look bad, and Nenad Krstic is making Sam Presti look good. Appearances matter at the TrueHoop Network.
Mike Kurylo of Knickerblogger: "What I want to talk about is the siren song of the NBA - the creative scorer. As a fan who watches many games, it's easy to understand the lure of the volume scorer. The average fan focuses on the guy with the ball, and the scorer tends to have the ball in his hands more often than his teammates. Additionally he is able to create the shot by his own ability, independent of his teammates. It's easy for the fan to see the benefit of the scorer's efforts, since it connects directly to the main goal of the team: Points. Rebounds don't change the point totals on the scoreboard. When the news covers the game, usually you hear something like 'Robinson led the Knicks with 29 points, while Duhon and Hughes chipped in 19 each.' You don't hear about the other stats unless it's a phenomenal number (20 rebounds). And the players listed are in point order, even if they score 19 points on 20 shots.
...I'll agree that the double-double is an overrated stat, but is it that much more overrated than points per game? Or even the ability to create your own shot? This final component seems especially important for the average fan who plays basketball. At the level of the average fan, being able to create your own shot is more important than many other attributes. In other words your neighborhood version of Al Harrington is worth more at the park than the NBA's version is to his team. In the Hawks game thread, a game that Robinson missed due to injury, 'ess-dog' commented, 'Now this is the kind of game that makes me wonder if Nate's scoring and penetrating is overrated.'
During Isiah's tenure New York was stuck with two players that could create their own shot, but do little else. Crawford & Curry seemed to divide Knick fans between creationists who worshiped their ability to make shot attempts, and those that covered their ears to the siren song of YouTube highlights. This year the team has traded one and marginalized the other, and their record is on track to improve by 10 games. It's no coincidence that this improvement has occurred by replacing the inefficient ex-Bulls' minutes with the more efficient Robinson and Lee. Additionally the latter pair gives the team more than just field goal attempts. Lee provides rebounding, while Robinson sprinkles the stat line with rebounding, assists, and steals.
As advanced statisticians already know, at the highest levels of basketball shooting is the most important factor with regards to a team's chances of winning. But it's not shooting volume that we use to measure it, but rather shooting efficiency."
Ryan Schwan of Hornets247: "I felt bad for Dallas back-up point guard J.J. Barea. He and Antoine Wright got most of the defensive duties against Paul all game, and Paul was treating him the way eighth graders do fifth graders on the playground. He was smacking Barea's hand away, going right at him, and treated him multiple times to a contemptuous stare that looked right through Barea like he wasn't even on the floor. Defensively, Paul was even more disrespectful of poor J.J. I counted four possessions where Paul left Barea open on the perimeter -- and never came back. He simply walked away and helped out elsewhere, showing no concern about Barea at all. It was so egregious that I re-watched Barea's second stint in the game, and I figured out why. Neither Dirk nor Kidd pass to him. Paul kept close to Barea for a few possessions and then cheated towards Dirk three times. Not once did the ball skip out to Barea, even when he was left wide open. So Paul abandoned him -- and it led to some nice defensive possessions. (Oh yeah, Paul had 27 points on 18 shots, 15 assists, 4 rebounds, a steal and a pair of turnovers. Nice)"Royce Young of Daily Thunder: "It's probably more coincidental than anything else, but since Krstic officially became a Thunder-er Dec. 31, the team is 13-16 (though he didn't actually play a game until Jan. 7 against Minnesota in a huge blowout loss). He averaged 8.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game in about 22 minutes per game in January. In February, his minutes went up to 26 per game and he averaged 8.3 ppg and 5.4 rpg. But so far in March (two games albeit), he's averaging 22 points and 5.0 rebounds per game and has led the Thunder in scoring the last two.
...[F]rom what I can tell, he's not doing anything that much different. He's still taking a majority of jump shots, but now he's making a really high percentage of them...He catches, sets and shoots. No thinking and no second guessing. Just swish.
...I don't think we should get used to 20-point nights from Krstic, but he's really settling in and is a candidate to put up solid offensive numbers every night...He's not going to be the Tyson Chandler enforcer in the paint and block shots and change games on the inside. That's not his game. We still definitely need that, but he's a more than competent defender with good footwork and long arms and a potentially deadly offensive weapon.
And for just $3 million a year, I think Presti worked some magic again with this guy. Maybe it's a coincidence that the Thunder's playing better with Krstic in a Thunder uniform and maybe it's not. Regardless of that, the team got much stronger with him and the future got brighter."
(Photos by Lisa Blumenfeld, Barry Gossage, Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
The fact that this article even exists -- let alone sounds convincing -- is something James Dolan must note in his ongoing internal debate about whether or not to keep Isiah Thomas.
Mike Moreau, who works with David Thorpe at the Pro Training Center at IMG, wrote an article about the Knicks for Hoopsworld, imagining he were talking to the team. Here's one key part:
Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph: You cannot be on the floor together. This is a bad offensive scheme -- it is not your fault. We need one of you on each unit and can interchange you throughout the game. Whoever has it going the best that night will be the guy on the floor down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
Zach: You are going to be the anchor of the second unit. Your attitude, effort and behavior last night in the Garden was a disgusting display of disrespect to our fans. You have a lot of making up to do to them. In order to learn to handle this assignment of coming off the bench, here is Manu Ginobili's cell number: 1-800-BE-A-PRO.
Eddy: This is your opportunity to be the consistent, dominant post player you have the ability to be. We won't just dump it in and stand around like we have been. We will create more action around you to give you more room to work. We question your commitment to being great. This is your chance to prove us wrong.
You guys are both overweight -- this is your fault. Both of you need to lose those five bags of sugar you are carrying around in your uniforms. You will room together on the road with our new assistant coaches: Jared Fogle and Clay Henry from Subway.
Of course, proposing to get production out of guys like Jared Jeffries, Stephon Marbury, and Quentin Richardson is easier said than done. (An assessment of how they have done so far.) But Moreau has some notions about what could make it so. And I'm certain that Jamal Crawford is not best used standing still in the corner watching.
There are some comments on the Hoopsworld post, and one of my favorites is "now fix the Bulls."