If ever you needed proof that the NBA isn't (totally) fixed, all you have to do is look at the Knicks record since head coach Jeff Van Gundy's departure in 2001. Talk about a franchise run by Stiffs, coached by Stiffs and played with Stiffs.
In Van Gundy's final season as head coach (2000-01), the Knicks won a very respectable 48 games and made their 14th consecutive playoff appearance. Since then, the Knicks record in the 2000's has rivaled the Nuggets record in the 1990's. The Knicks haven't finished above .500 since that 2000-01 season, have only made the playoffs once (with a 39-43 record and at the peak of the Eastern Conference's weakest era) and are on their seventh head coach of the decade.
Now steering this aimless franchise from the bench is former Nuggets head coach (I bet you didn't remember that!) Mike D'Antoni, proving that the NBA is truly a players' league. Believe it or not, the Knicks actually played well last season under D'Antoni before current general manager Donnie Walsh gutted the roster for the impending LeBron James free agency sweepstakes. If the Knicks don't land LBJ (or the consolation prizes, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) combined with passing on Brandon Jennings in this year's draft (gee, you think LBJ would've liked catching passes from Jennings?) combined with not having a lottery pick next summer (it goes to Utah thanks to a series of bizarre trades several years ago that didn't even make sense at the time), this franchise might be facing 10 more years of futility.
But the Knicks bleak future is of little concern to the Nuggets and their fans at present given that the two teams face off tonight at Pepsi Center. In other words, Nuggets fans get the privilege of shelling out hundreds of dollars per ticket to watch two of the shittiest teams in the NBA (we had the Nets in town earlier in the week) play back-to-back. Oh, joy.
These Knicks are a woeful 3-12, having beaten only the lowly Hornets (in New York), the Pacers (in Indiana) and - you guessed it! - the Nets (in New Jersey). As bad as they are, however, they gave the Celtics all they could handle last Sunday and even kept pace with the Lakers for a half on Tuesday before getting shelled in Sacramento on Wednesday night. And thus, the Knicks need to be treated with at least a morsel of respect by our Nuggets if we're to continue binging on bad teams which continues with home games against Minnesota on Sunday and Golden State next Tuesday.
Here are some Knicks players to keep an eye on tonight...
-Chris Duhon: I've long maintained that Duhon has the best agent in basketball (maybe even better than Kenyon Martin's). For the $5.5 million the Knicks are overpaying him, Duhon is delivering 6.4 ppg and 24.1% shooting to go along with a three-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. Oh, and he's shooting 19.4% from behind the arc, too.
-Nate Robinson: One of the Madison Square Garden Melee instigators from a few seasons ago continues to be a selfish, clueless malcontent. Last week, he shot a ball at his own basket with a second left on the clock, much to the dismay of his head coach. (I encourage you to watch the video if you haven't seen it already).
-Jordan Hill and Darko Milicic: Just like it's not Milicic's fault that Joe Dumars drafted him ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (and Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, T.J. Ford, David West, Travis Outlaw, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard...), it's not Hill's fault that Donnie Walsh drafted him ahead of Brandon Jennings. While the jury is still out on Hill, like Milicic's rookie year in Detroit Hill is being buried at the end of the Knicks bench. This means he won't get the opportunity to showcase his talents this season, possibly setting back his career permanently.
-Eddy Curry: Long one of my least favorite NBA players (expensive, overweight and lazy), Curry continues to prove that he's about $9.7 million overpaid. Oh, he makes $9.7 million by the way.
-Danilo Gallinari: Believe it or not, this Italian kid is coming around. Averaging a very respectable 13.6 ppg and 43.6% shooting from three-point range with plenty of upside to come, Gallinari might eventually make people forget that he was drafted over Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez, Anthony Randolph and Jason Thompson. Of course, drafting a guy just because your head coach is friends with his father is never advisable.
-David Lee: Lee must be a coach's dream because all he does is work hard and produce. His rebounds are off a bit this season ("down" to 9.9 rpg), but his scoring is up to 17.7 ppg and his field goal percentage remains a healthy 53.8%. I only hope Lee ends up elsewhere next season because he deserves a better situation than the Knicks.
-Al Harrington: It's amazing when you realize that Harrington is playing in his 12th NBA season out of high school. Statistically, Harrington is having one of his top three seasons ever and has even improved his free throw shooting substantially, making a career-high 84.9% of his attempts from the line.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images: Chris Trotman