The Best of the Best
From Carmelo Anthony to Max Zaslofsky, I went through my favorite Knick for every letter. Plus, a Fred VanVleet question and a new Knicks meme that's too good to be true.
News & Notes
Nick Nurse said yesterday on the Tim & Sid show that he’d be “pretty surprised” if Fred VanVleet didn’t return next season. More and more I’m thinking that the overpay needed to pry him away from Toronto would need to be “stupid money,” as I think the kids say nowadays.
In addition to the list of Knicks I mentioned in yesterday’s newsletter, Julius Randle and Theo Pinson are also taking part in the team’s practices this week.
Heard from a league source yesterday that you can add the Knicks to the list of teams interested in the JUCO Player of the Year and apparent draft riser Jay Scrubb. Adam Zagoria tweeted last week that Boston, Orlando, Portland and Minnesota, who own picks 14 through 17, are high on him.
On the latest episodes of the KFS Pod, I was lucky enough to be joined by comic book creator Mark Sable, who you may know from Graveyard of Empires, Unthinkable, Grounded, and his work in the Marvel & DC Universes. We talked about his Knicks fandom, his beloved Blue Devils, his past work, the future of comics, the upcoming Godkillers, and so much more that I had to break the episode into two parts. Subscribe anywhere fine podcasts are found, or click for Part 1 and Part 2. Also check out all of Mark’s work here.
Tweets of the Night
Someone from the Knicks social media department and/or photography staff unwittingly (or maybe intentionally?) unleashed the best meme-maker of 2020 last night…
…and the internet did not disappoint. Here are the best ones I saw:
And my personal favorite:
Frequent KFS Pod guests Bernard Ozarowski and Yash Manjunath joined me for this week’s Macri’s Missives on the Strickland, in which we argued about everything from Iggy’s place in the rotation to the wisdom of a Chris Paul trade. Come for spectacular cover art, stay for the petty name-calling.
Earlier this week I wrote a lot of words about how, for as rough a season as he had, there’s reason to support keeping Julius Randle around for next year, but only if there was a strong point guard in place to both rein him in and put him in positions to be successful.
The guy I mentioned explicitly was Chris Paul, and that was intentional. Advanced stats aren’t perfect, but it’s notable to me that Paul is third all time behind only Michael Jordan and LeBron James in Basketball Reference’s Box Plus/Minus stat, which measures how much your team improves when you’re on the court vs when you’re off.
Fred VanVleet is a wonderful player, but if you look at the Raptors’ On/Off numbers, they were actually a bit worse when he played this year than when he sat. In general, the more he’s played over the course of his career, the less of a positive impact he’s had.
Obviously those numbers need to be taken with several grains of salt as Toronto had one of the deepest and most cohesive bench units in the entire league this year, to the point that they almost never put anyone on the floor who was a minus at either end. Still, it speaks to the fact that VanVleet, for as good as he is, isn’t in Paul’s class when it comes to elevating the play of those around him.
And there’s no shame in that. Paul is literally among the GOAT’s when it comes to his unique ability to make those around him better. But when it comes to Randle, I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable trusting that Julius would willingly defer to VanVleet as the de facto leader of the team. Paul is also the ultimate jitterbug, and the legendary combo of his handle plus his shot alters the balance of the court, which is what opens up slivers of passing lanes that he’s made a career of threading.
VanVleet - again, no knock on him - can’t match that level of wizardry. So if they ended up signing Freddie as an alternative to trading for Paul, I’d probably be working to find Randle a new home as well.
Last week, my two friends Andrew Claudio (host of the Final Score Podcast and producer of the KFS Pod, among others) and the aforementioned Bernard Ozarowski (movie critic for Loud & Clear Reviews) teamed up to go through the alphabet and name their favorite movie for each letter. Listen here…it’s really good and will get you thinking about your faves (fair warning: G and T are particularly brutal).
It also got me thinking about what my own list would look, except not for movies, but the Knicks. So I made one.
3 basic ground rules / reminders:
I went by last names
This is a list of favorites, not best
While it’s obviously difficult to call someone one of your favorite players if you’ve never seen them play live, I believe sometimes a player’s impact and reputation is so outsized that they can still qualify even if all you’ve ever seen are highlights. But as I found when I was doing this, it is a rarity.
OK, let’s get to it.
A - Carmelo Anthony
What, you though I was going to start off with Quincy Acy?
B - Anthony Bonner
This is easily the most irrational choice on the list. Bonner averaged 4.5 points as a Knick and was only here for two seasons.
But those two seasons were my formative years as a fan - ‘93-94 and ‘94-95 - and he always came in and played his ass off. It was enough to nudge him ahead of RJ Barrett and Ron “It’s not my fault Steve Mills has no concept of money” Baker.
This is also a fantastic letter for the Knicks historically, with Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett and Carl Braun all ranking in the top 10 in franchise history for points scored, not to mention Hall of Famer Walt Bellamy.
C - Marcus Camby
The first tough choice. Tyson Chandler arguably had the better Knick career and I’m not sure he gets enough credit for their brief run of success this decade. His ferocious throw-downs on lobs or put-backs were a thing of beauty. Jamal Crawford also gave us a lot of great moments, albeit for shitty teams. I will always have an irrational love of Chris Copeland, and Chris Childs was a dawg.
But this has to be Camby, who was the biggest reason my favorite Knicks team ever beat my most hated team ever and advanced to the NBA Finals.
D- Dave DeBusschere
He just seems like someone I’d have loved to get a beer (or five) with. There also isn’t much competition for me with this one, with all due respect to Damyean Dotson, who I would love to put in this spot next time I do this.
E - Patrick Ewing
When the NFL does its final voting process for the Hall of Fame, each candidate is assigned to a writer who will “present” their case to the rest of the voting body with a speech that goes through why their player should make the Hall. I think they have something like a half hour to do it. Occasionally, the writer will stand up and say the name - “Jerry Rice,” for example - and then just immediately sit back down.
This is one of those times.
F - Walt Frazier
Raymond Felton probably should have made this harder than it was for me, if for no other reason than the face he always made after a huge three which looked like he had just smelt a wet fart. I adored that face, even if I never completely understood it.
But it’s clearly Frazier, even if it’s for nothing more than his announcing. He’s the ‘effing best.
G - Danilo Gallinari
Taj Gibson was an awesome interview last year, but I’ll always be Team Gallo. I mean, my irrational love was so high for this dude that I once said I wouldn’t trade him for LeBron James (it made sense in my head, I promise). 100 percent would have been a Hall of Famer if he’d never been traded. No doubt about it,
H - Derek Harper
This was my personal hardest choice.
Harper was only here for two and a half seasons. For the latter two, I can’t say I have any particularly notable memories of him. Allan Houston, meanwhile, made the shot that gave me the happiest fan moment of my life. He also made multiple All-Star games, is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and I don’t even hold his last contract against him one bit.
But Harper showed up to the ‘94 Finals and was arguably the best player on the court for the Knicks. Even before that, I can’t remember exactly how many nights I watched the team that season after Doc Rivers went down and thought to myself “Where the hell would we be without this guy?” but it was a lot.
He gets it by a hair.
I - Darrall Imhoff
Only choice on the board.
Fun fact: did you know the Knicks have been getting unlucky for more than half a century? Imhoff was the 3rd overall pick in the 1960 NBA Draft, and despite that pedigree, averaged five points over two seasons before getting dealt to Detroit.
The two guys picked ahead of him? Oscar Robertson and Jerry West.
J - Larry Johnson
I didn’t start watching the team until after Mark Jackson was dealt, and for as much as I’ll always wonder what Phil would have done if he had more time here, his exec resume plus a middling playing career that I never witnessed isn’t nearly enough to put him ahead of Mr. Four Point Play (and former KFS Podcast guest!) Larry Johnson.
K - Jason Kidd
Like Jackson, this was made much easier by the fact that I never saw King play live as a Knick.
Luke Kornet was seriously considered. He was an absolute delight in his one season here, and part of me hopes he makes a return at some point. I also detest Kidd for many reasons, and the fact that he was seemingly in legitimate contention for the head coaching job makes my skin crawl.
But as a player, he was the gas that made the car go on that 2012-13 team. He was also wiped by the end, but the good times were pretty damn good.
L - Jeremy Lin
David Lee got the short end of the stick for most of his Knick career - playing his butt off for five seasons, improving in every one, and finally making an All-Star team in 2010 - and he gets the short end of the stick here, losing to a guy whose moment in the sun lasted all of two and a half weeks.
But anyone who experienced those two and a half weeks knows this isn’t close.
Also, Ricky Ledo!
M - Anthony Mason
Earl Monroe doesn’t rise to Frazier-levels where he gets this nod without me ever having witnessed his wizardry live, but he needs to be mentioned.
Ditto for the Coney Island kid, Stephon Marbury. The day the team traded for Starbury is still the most excited I’ve ever been for something that didn’t happen in a game. And he had some nights here that almost made it seem like the fairy tale would come true. Sadly his stint ended on the downest of down notes, and most of his time here was pretty embarrassing for the franchise, some of which he is responsible for.
Mase, for an entire generation of fans, even more than Oak, Starks, and Ewing, represented the soul of the Knick teams he was on. Amazing he was only here for five years, and even more so that he’s gone. After Ewing and Spree, easily my third favorite Knick ever.
N - Frank Ntilikina
O - Charles Oakley
I’m not sure what Charles Oakley would have to say or do to get him to relinquish this spot to Kyle O’Quinn, but whatever it is, he hasn’t done it yet.
P - Pablo Prigioni
I know what you’re thinking. It’s convenient of me to put the guy here who had a few memorable moments and who every Knick fan remembers fondly for the one-of-a-kind pizazz with which he played the game, but it’s ultimately unfair for me to think more highly of him than a certain big man whose last name also starts with the letter P, even with how the latter’s time ended here.
I’m sorry. I still can’t give this spot to Marshall Plumlee, no matter how much NYC traffic he ran through to make it to a game on time.
Q - Brian Quinnett
Like Imhoff, Quinnett is the only choice on the board.
Did you know: Quinnett was taken with the 50th pick of the 1989 Draft, one spot ahead of longtime NBA vet and current league ref, Haywoode Workman.
R - Mitchell Robinson
I don’t know who I’m wronging more - Willis or Nate.
I’ve seen the Game 7 clip dozens if not hundreds of times, but it’s not enough for me to make me feel the connection to him like I do with Frazier.
As for Nate Robinson, the highs were so high, but like his counterpart David Lee, they were completely on an individual basis (Not that Mitch has done much winning either, but he is the shining beacon of hope for the current team. That has to count for something).
S - Latrell Sprewell
My any metric, if you’re over the age of 35, the letter S is the most difficult choice on the board.
Before we get to the big three runners up, we should at least mention Rod Strickland, who, while he was only here for one full season, left an indelible impact on those who witnessed it.
Next up is Amar’e Stoudemire, who took on the challenge of saving the Knicks when no one else would (it should also be noted that we gave him a bag no one else would). And for 50 or so games, he kind of did.
I don’t know who to pick next between John Starks and J.R. Smith. Neither was a perfect player. Far from it. But how could you not love both. Their imperfections somehow made you love them more.
But for as much as all of those JR games that made me bury my head in my hands (most of which seemed to come on Sunday afternoons), I’ll never get over 2-for-18. It’s a stain that marks my relationship with Starks to this day.
So Smith is the runner up to my favorite Knick not named Patrick Ewing. For anyone who never saw Latrell Sprewell play live, picture the ultimate badass on a basketball court. Spree was badder.
T - Kurt Thomas
Sorry Lance, but you’ll never be the first Thomas in my heart.
U - Beno Udrih
It was him or Ime Udoka. Beno, barely, gets the nod.
V - Sasha Vujačić
I refuse to say anything nice about Kieth Van Horn ever.
W - Herb Williams
I originally had Charlie Ward in this spot. I like Charlie. He came to the Knicks summer camp I went to for two summers in a row and I played him one-on-one both time. Once I almost made a shot. He seems like a great guy. But picking him would be like picking vanilla as your favorite ice cream flavor.
I also wanted to give Sheed some love, because even though his time here was short, it was long enough to be forever etched in my heart.
But Herb was just…Herb. Back when we were winning games on the regular, he was the human victory cigar. When he came into the game, you knew it had been a successful evening.
Good times, they were.
Over 500 players have worn the orange and blue. None have ever had last names starting with these letters.
Z - Max Zaslofsky
Another lone choice for the last spot.
And that’s it! If anyone wants to take the time to make their own list, feel free Tweet it out and then tag me and I’ll include a few in one of next week’s newsletters. Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did making it.
See everyone next week! #BlackLivesMatter