Anniversary Mailbag, Part 1

News & Notes

  • Daryl Morey is stepping down in Houston. Before you get any crazy ideas, it seems he’s stepping away from the game altogether for a bit (and even if he wasn’t, I can’t imagine he has any interest in being Leon Rose’s No. 2 under Dolan)

  • Ty Lue got the Clippers job, with Chauncey Billups and Larry Drew as his head assistants. Meanwhile, Jeff Van Gundy, John Lucas and Stephen Silas seem to be emerging as the top candidates in Houston.

  • According to Bobby Marks, the market for Christian Wood seems to be around the midlevel exception ($9.3 million). This seems fair given the small sample size of him playing big minutes and how dreadful Detroit was over that time. Maybe the Knicks get involved.

  • Finally, there was lots of speculation about Russell Westbrook to the Knicks floating around yesterday. I mention it here only to acknowledge that is it a thing that is being talked about, and to say that it is not worth talking about at this time.


Anniversary Mailbag!

Thank you SO much to everyone who submitted questions. There were way too many for me to answer in one newsletter, so I’m going to hit as many as I can today and save the rest for next week (and possibly hit a few on this weekend’s pod with Jeremy). In the order they showed up for me…

Likewise Chip. To answer your question, there’s no secret…I just think about this shit way too much, so ideas kind of just appear eventually. But when I can’t think of anything, I scroll through Twitter to see what folks are talking about and I usually get something within a few minutes. And if that fails, I do a mailbag.

It’s either Mitch or RJ, because as much as I like Frank, he doesn’t have close to the same ceiling.

I’ll go with Mitch. RJ might become good, and maybe someday will be great, but Robinson has already shown evidence of being a monumentally helpful force on both ends. I also think he’s the sort of character that doesn’t come around a lot. I can say with 100% certainty that nothing about his persona is false. He is as fun-loving and goofy as he appears to be. And that’s an awesome guy to get to root for when he’s also a beast on the court.

If we’re going by defense, rebounding, low turnovers and sharing the ball, I think it has to be Malachi Flynn. The knock on his defense is that he’s on the smaller side and doesn’t have a wingspan to make up for it, but he’s everything else you want on that end of the floor. He also averaged over four rebounds per 36 minutes, and his assist to turnover ratio of 2.84 was not only one of the best in the country but tops among point guards who have a realistic hope of getting drafted.

My gut instinct is to say “in a heartbeat,” because even though Morey painted himself into a corner with Russ, I think that was because Harden and Paul couldn’t play nicely, which I don’t know that I can blame on him for. The CP3 contract was mammoth, but really, if he stayed with Houston and played last year at the level he did, would anyone care? He swung big and he missed. I still think the guy is really smart when it comes to the way he approaches the game.

And you know what? My answer is no. Maybe I’m being fed a bunch of bullshit, but everything I hear coming out of the Garden is that things are different - different feel, different sense of purpose, different level of support that employees feel they have from leadership if need be - just 180 degrees different than under Mills, who I’m growing increasingly confident was in even more over his head than people realized at the time.

Could Morey have done what Rose has thus far? Sure, maybe…but the difference is that Rose has Dolan’s trust, so whereas even if the Knicks turned into the Good Ship Lollipop initially under Morey, I’d always be petrified that it’s just a matter of time until Dolan blew a gasket.

(To be clear, I still have that fear, but the presence of Rose and Wes lessens it a great deal. Also, I don’t see Russ happening.)

Fucking great question.

Mitch is the only guy on today’s squad I want anywhere near this thing, which presents a problem, because after you get past the obvious quartet of Frazier (70’s), King (80’s), Spree (00’s) and Melo (10’s), I’m left with a difficult choice. Do I go Ewing, and leave Mitch as a 6th man? Or do I grab Allan Houston for his shooting and positional versatility?

I guess it would depend on the rules of engagement here - is this a shorter game, do I need to sub in my 6th man for a certain period of time, etc - but my gut says Ewing is the pick.

If we were playing fantasy basketball, maybe, but I’ve spoken before about the importance of laying a foundation and not always starting over, so it’s a no from me dawg.

I don’t even want to see a photoshopped version of LeBron in a Knicks uniform. He had his chance, and he passed. He can suck it.

Love Paul depending on the price, hate Russ regardless of the price, love Goran for any amount of money on a one-year deal (and on a regular old overpay for two years) and I’d happily accept LaVine if the price is right.

KFS…I don’t know where to begin. I could write for hours about the gift I’ve been given - to be able to send out these daily newsletters to people who actually read them - but in short I’ll just say that when I add up the sum total of anything else I’ve accomplished in my life and compare it to what writing these things means to me, the former doesn’t come close to matching up.

Most right: There’s really not much here, sadly. Why do y’all read me?

Umm….if forced to answer, I guess I was right on the Derrick Rose trade, which I hated at the time and didn’t see an upside for (ditto on signing Noah to that contract, but getting that one right was the equivalent of spelling your name correctly on the SAT’s). I’d also love to take credit for steadfastly wanting Mikal over Knox, but by draft night I’d talked myself into Kev so no soup for me here. Oh, I think I also picked Donovan Mitchell to win ROY in a preseason column once, which was right because Ben Simmons cheated.

Most wrong: I mean, My God…Stanning Fizdale until a few weeks before his ouster was pretty bad. I also talked myself into last summer’s transactions pretty quickly, although in fairness I thought the front office had done more homework on how this mishmash of spare parts would work under Fizdale. So much for that.

Advice: I feel incredibly uncomfortable talking about this because I don’t think I’m particularly good at writing, but I will acknowledge that I’ve gotten better over the years. There’s no secret though…it’s just reps.

I’ve also never been afraid to try stuff out. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it works, but at the very least, it keeps me fresh. I’d also like to say “don’t try to sound like someone else or like what you think a writer is supposed to sound like,” but that’s like telling someone to fall in love. You can’t force it. It just kind of happens over time once you say “fuck it” and accept that fact that not everyone is going to like what you write, but at least it’s your voice they’re reading and you’re comfortable living with the consequences.

Probably the Chris Paul thing. I was like everyone else last summer, and dismissed the idea immediately, even if they got back assets in a trade.

How’s your cholesterol?

If they’ve done anything to bring in new fans, I haven’t noticed. As far as keeping old fans, I think how they’ve operated since the Rose hire has been incredibly encouraging.

I’m pretty sure at one point I predicted in all seriousness that Frank Ntilkina would turn into a lesser version of Scottie Pippen, which is obviously ridiculous because by the time Frank is done, Scottie Pippen will wish he had a career that was half as good.

As you’ll surely know as well as anyone Alex, getting to cover NBA games in person. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to hide the fact that I think very little of my own work, but covering games gave me a sense of validation that I didn’t completely suck at this stuff and that it wasn’t all pretend anymore. Plus, just standing on the court at MSG, being in the locker room, walking through the bowels of the arena, etc…literally every single time I got to do all that, I felt like the luckiest man alive.

Must accomplish: They can’t whiff on the eighth pick. I know that’s a cop out, but it’s literally the only thing I think they have to do. A close second would be to get a starting point guard who can shoot, but there’s a world where they don’t get that, are still respectable under Thibs, and just pile up losses into a good pick next year.

Must avoid: trading away any of their own future picks (which, based on everything I’ve heard, is quite literally the last thing I expect them to do)

This is a fantastic question. My first instinct was to say yes, because league-wide interest in Wiseman seems to be high, such that another team who thought the Knicks were bluffing about taking him ponies up something good to get him after the fact. But if that were the case, why would seven teams pass? So I’m going to say no, ever so slightly, since I’d rather have Mitch than Wiseman, although I’d like to see what offers would be on the table for Mitch before making that call. I do not think they can play together.

And Jeremy. He’s a deviant.

Shump (who, in fairness, he didn’t completely suck, but relative to what I thought he’d be, sucked a lot)

I wish I knew the answer to this question for sure, but my guess is that no big time players are going to sign on here until they see proof of concept. If they go out and look like a competent basketball team this season, both on the floor and organizationally, sure, I could see someone coming next summer.

First off, thanks!

Draft night: 1) Killian falls and they take him 2) They trade down, pick up a juicy asset, and end up with Kira Lewis 3) LaMelo starts to fall and they trade up for dirt cheap (like, 8 and 27) to get him.

Free agency (within the bounds of reason, which makes this really tough, because I legit don’t think much is realistic, at least as far as people you’d actually want): 1) Dragic 1 year/$20 million 2) FVV 4 years/$72 million 3) Derrick Jones Jr. 3 years/$15 million

Memories: On court, they basically all have to do with Mitch. He has been my bar of soap through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can imagine and really don’t want to.

Mead: I’m not a quitter.

I don’t think Rose is counting on anyone else on this roster to be a long term piece.

I think the only possible choices are Wilt, Kareem and Duncan, and I’m leaning Duncan.

If I’m the GM, it means I want to keep my job, and if I draft Tim Duncan, I’m pretty sure that I’ll have a job for the next two decades. He’s eminently coachable, could still defend in the modern game, and is maybe the most selfless superstar ever who would still dominate when he needed to. Kareem was obviously a better offensive force at his peak and lasted just as long, but I’ve seen Duncan defend against offenses that look vaguely like the ones we’ve seen the last couple years, whereas I’d need to use my imagination for Kareem. It’s damn close.

Wilt Chamberlain is the most dominant force in the history of basketball and maybe all of professional sports, but he was no picnic to deal with at times. Ditto for Shaq and Magic. With Bird I’m getting 10 great years as opposed to 17 or 18, and I don’t know how Russell would hold up in all aspects of the modern game.

Just reading the tea leaves, I think if they draft a point guard in the first round, either at eight or trading down from eight, they will go into next season with that guy and a DJ Augustin type (or, you know…the actual DJ Augustin)

Jeremy is a smart chap, so something where he had an opportunity to outsmart our pursuer…maybe Friday the 13th or Halloween? Those guys didn’t seem too bright. I’m also pretty sure Jeremy is a virgin because he’s 12, and virgins always survive those movies, so if I stuck with him, I think I’d be fine.

As for a current Knick…I think Mitch. I feel like he’s the aloof guy who you’re like “THIS is one of the three people who lives!?!” at the end.

No.

(I mean…if you’re giving me the one pick that Houston can trade away - 2022 - unprotected, and I’m unloading Randle, and I can do a swap in 2027, and you throw in Daniel House…then still no.

I’m sorry, but trading for Russ is like trying to get laid through four years of high school, failing, and then hiring an escort for prom night. Yeah, you’re going to have a great time, even if people might look at you funny. But the night ends and you’re right back where you started. Unlike Chris Paul, Russ doesn’t make anyone better, and to the contrary, would absolutely hijack this offense if and when he pleased. I also don’t think he carries nearly the same weight around the NBA. If they got Paul, it’s a sign that maybe the most respected player in the NBA decided “I’m going to give this organization my twilight years,” because you better believe he’d be fully on board. That has real meaning. Also, Paul’s contract is one year shorter, and he’s an eminently better player than Westbrook at this point.)

They are banking on everyone playing nicely, that’s for sure.

I’m bullish, because Wes seems so be a masterful reader of people, and I don’t think he’d have pushed for Bryant and Payne to be brought aboard if he didn’t think they could work well with Thibs (who he also knows quite well). And I have no reason to believe guys like Perrin and Zanin can’t work collaboratively; they come from incredibly functional front offices, where I imagine such a thing is the norm.

But who knows. Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face, and an angry Dolan can have that sort of effect. Hopefully the team doesn’t give him a reason to blow any gaskets.

Jesus…so that means no Billups to amnesty because they didn’t get Chauncey via trade, which means New York could have amnestied Stat when they traded for Chandler (which I’d still do 100%). You’d also still have Gallo and Felton, and theoretically still drafted Shump. And Lin would still be on the roster.

So given all that, I’ll go with Aron Afflalo, who signed for five years and $43 million in Denver as a restricted free agent. What would it have taken for New York to pry him away? I bet 4/50 would have gotten it done (which I think they would have been able to afford with some cap gymnastics, although it may have required salary dumping Mozgov). It’s an overpay, but he averaged 16 a game on decent efficiency while playing solid defense over the next four seasons.

A Felton/Afflalo/Gallo/Melo/Chandler starting five with a Lin/Shump/JR/Fields/Novak bench would have forced D’Antoni to play small-ball, and brought on the offensive onslaught we saw in 2012-13 a season earlier. If they kept that team together, I bet they could have given Miami a run for their money in one of the next three seasons.

That’s all I can fit today! Have a great weekend everyone and I’ll see you next week! #BlackLivesMatter #VOTE