Basketball is...Back? Maybe?
Some random Friday thoughts as we prepare for the return of the NBA
After a week’s worth of legit Knicks news, Spencer Dinwiddie of all people broke that NBA games might resume as of July 15. There is officially a light at the end of the tunnel.
With that as the backdrop, we’re going bear bones for this week’s Friday Top Ten: 10 things that are on my mind as we get closer to the NBA maybe possibly sort of returning in a bastardized form because rich people like to stay rich (not that I’m complaining):
As I tweeted yesterday, I heard from someone that has knowledge of the league’s thinking right now, and yes, July 15 is indeed a possibility for the date when games would restart. However, contrary to what I initially heard about July 1 being a remote possibility, I’ve since learned that August 1 is a stronger one - possibly even stronger than July 15.
The Knicks, along with all the other teams out of the playoff picture, would be included in the re-start. Why? As with anything else in life, follow the money. The NBA needs to get to the 70-game mark because of teams’ deals with regional sporting networks. How will it work with some teams having played 67 games and others as few as 63? Not sure yet. But assuming everyone needs to hit 70…
New York has played 66 games, so they’d have four to go before hitting the threshold. Who are they scheduled to play next? Miami, Charlotte, Boston and Golden State.
These games would have massive importance. Currently, the Knicks are only a game and a half “behind” the Cavs and Hawks (who are tied for the second spot in the lottery) with the Pistons and Wolves just one game “ahead.” The Bulls, meanwhile, are only a game and a half “behind” New York, with the Hornets trailing by an additional game.
Lots could change, especially with Minnesota only having played 64 games, and with several cross matches remaining including both of New York’s bouts with the cellar dwellers, Cleveland vs Atlanta, Detroit vs Golden State, and Cleveland vs Charlotte.
All this is to say that it is imperative the Knicks lose out. If they beat the Hornets and the Warriors, it could, in the now immortal words of Scottie Pippen, really fuck up their summer.
As of now, they have a 37.2 percent chance at a top-four pick. If they switch spots in the standings with the Hornets, that would go down to 26.2 percent. If they move up two spots, however, those odds increase to 48.1 percent.
This draft might not be great, but the Knicks would have to pretty thrilled with a LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards or Killian Hayes outcome - something that would be all but assured with a top-four pick.
That said, there’s a strong possibility that the league just scraps the existing schedules and either creates new ones or goes in a different direction alltogether.
Why? For one, the way the schedules exist right now, all the teams can’t finish with exactly 70 games (for example, as currently scheduled, the Knicks game against the Warriors would be New York’s 70th but Golden State’s 71st). So some rejiggering would have to occur to ensure equal games played but also maintain competitive balance.
More importantly, something tells me the league is not just going to send a bunch of virtually eliminated teams to play out their respective strings. My guess: we should all prepare for something very much out of the box. Marc Berman reported last week that there was a scenario in which the 9th through 12th place teams in each conference would compete for the right to play the current 8th seed in something akin to wild card spots in baseball.
For a league that’s never afraid to try something out of the box, this seems to be right up their alley.
Regardless, here’s a novel idea: Tell all the old guys to stay home.I think Knicks fans would actually break quarantine and riot if the team comes back for 5 mostly meaningless games and doesn't play Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox 25+ minutes a nightOK the Warriors roster for a potential 4-7 game bubble season would probably be: -Paschall -Chriss -Poole -Lee -Bowman -Mulder -Smailagic -Randle -Bender -Toscano-Anderson -Wiggins (limited minutes if at all)Tim Kawakami @timkawakami
The Knicks have more than enough kiddos to fill the void and treat this like Vegas: RJ, Mitch, Frank, Kev, Iggy, Trier, Dot, DSJ, Kadeem Allen and Kenny Wooten (now theoretically fully recovered from his February thumb surgery) makes ten, and ten will do. Besides, do you really think the Moe Harklessses and Wayne Ellingtons of the world want to get back in playing shape for four measly games?
I swear, if we have to see one more all-vet starting five…
Since we’re having some fun, here are the units I’d run for the final games:
Dennis Smith Jr, Damyean Dotson, RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson
Kadeem Allen, Alonzo Trier, Frank Ntilikina, Iggy Brazdeikis, Kenny Wooten
Here’s my logic:
Even if there was a “wild card” format, and the Knicks could - technically - make the playoffs, and even if the first round was truncated to a best-of-three where crazy shit could happen, would that really be worth going all out to win these games? Considering that advancing teams would almost certainly give up any chance at moving up in the lottery, hell to the no.
You want to see someone really, truly not give a shit on a basketball court? Play Dennis Smith Jr. at backup PG minutes for these meaningless affairs.
Best case scenario: they start him, and he unexpectedly shows out, convincing some team to take a chance on his talent and offer something other than a middling second-round pick (maybe his current value) in a trade.
Worst case scenario: they start him, he becomes the tanking weapon of Alan Sepinwall’s dreams, and by himself, gives the Knicks a shot at moving up into the top five (or even the top three).
Even with DSJ starting, you can still get Frank on the court for upwards of 30 minutes a game since Mike Miller can make him the first sub for any of four starters (and really, five starters. Seriously…if there were ever a time to give Knox minutes as a small-ball five, it’s in these glorified pickup games)
Speaking of Knox, if there’s one player who I absolutely care about seeing, it’s him. I’d be shocked if his name were not at least discussed in trade talks this summer, and it would be nice if they got one more look before those conversations took place (and not in a “go put Baby in the corner” role either; run some damn offense through the kid and see how he does. Party like it’s Summer League 2018)
Also on the Knox front, how’s this for a devilish little bonus of the Frank Zanin hire: You just know Oklahoma City (where Zanin has been a pro scout for the last four years) has had internal discussions about a possible Chris Paul package they’d want from the Knicks. Zanin has not only been privy to those discussions, but probably been at the forefront of them. It’ll be nice to know how another team that has really done their homework views Knox, not to mention other players on the roster they probably considered.
Another Zanin bonus: With all the Chris Paul chatter, who better to shed light on the effect that Paul has had on the Thunder roster, and whether what he brings would really be worth the asking price?
On the whole, I don’t remember the last time I felt as good about the Knicks and their future than I have this week.
There isn’t even a whiff of “winning the press conference” stink on these hires (which would be tough regardless because the Knicks have apparently vowed never to hold another press conference again). All kidding aside though, Walt Perrin and Frank Zanin aren’t names. Neither was Brock Aller. They’re guys who are respected throughout the league, and in the case of Perrin and Aller, viewed as masters of their particular craft.
But Scott Perry was also viewed as an utterly respectable hire once upon a time. So why does this feel different? Simple: When Perry was hired, it was clear that New York needed to find someone amenable to making all basketball decisions jointly with someone who was a businessman first and a basketball ops person second.
Steve Mills is gone now (excuse me… “reassigned”). Leon Rose doesn’t need to find people who will jive with his way of running a basketball team because by all indications he’s still learning how to run a basketball team. Surrounding Perry - still respectable, by the way - with these three cats is a helluva’ great way to steepen the learning curve.
Now, of course, comes the hard part. But hey, at least they - like us - will get to see a few more glimmers of basketball before they enter this all-important summer.
It can’t get here soon enough.