They stood about 40 feet apart on that first day of training
camp, a study in contrasts. On one end of the floor, a towel
draped around his neck and a smile creasing his face, the future
of the Knicks franchise, Antonio McDyess, talked about his new
life in New York, where he hoped to become a team leader and
average 20 points and 10 rebounds.
A long outlet pass away, near half-court, Knicks G.M. Scott
Layden stood with his arms folded like a bouncer, his visage a
grim picture of disappointment. As a pack of New York writers
circled around him, he repeatedly said that he had no comment
about his All-Star small forward, Latrell Sprewell, who had
arrived at camp that morning with a broken right hand.
In the figurative and literal middle ground between this good
news-bad news combo stood coach Don Chaney, who was engaged in
some serious cognitive dissonance. After praising the acquisition
of McDyess and calling him "my dream player," Chaney attempted to
rationalize the loss of Sprewell. "I've been in discouraging
situations before," he said. "I've learned to master seeing the
A month later Chaney must be needing something akin to the Hubble
Telescope to keep those positives in sight. The Spree situation
has gone from discouraging to disastrous; after fining him
$250,000 and banishing him from the team--a punishment that
Sprewell has appealed--New York on Monday suspended him for
failing to rehab his injury, which will cost him $140,000 more.
What's more, on Oct. 12, McDyess fractured his left kneecap while
following up a missed shot in a preseason game. In one crumpled
landing, the Knicks saw their lone bright spot to date (McDyess
was averaging 17.7 points and 13.0 rebounds in preseason) reduced
to a frustrated spectator expected to miss all of the season.
The loss of McDyess is compounded by the fact that the team bet
the house to acquire him. In dire need of a center and a point
guard, New York sent guard Mark Jackson, forward Marcus Camby and
the No. 7 pick (Nene Hilaro of Brazil) to the Nuggets for
What's left now? An array of mismatched castoffs that Jeff Van
Gundy might have been able to goad into respectability, but not a
squad that can handle the offensive-minded, run-run-run style
Chaney was hoping to institute.
With no offense and a suspect defense, is there a chance the
Knicks can avoid the lottery? A betting man would have to answer:
No Dice. --C.B.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH BREAKING POINT The sooner Sprewell's hand mends, the better the Knicks' chances of avoiding a slow start.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH KEEP IT COMING The Knicks will need the career-best scoring Houston gave them last year--and then some.
Last season Allan Houston (20.4 points per game) became the first
Knicks guard to average 20 since Ray Williams (20.9) in 1979-80.
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Knicks
"The only thing keeping the Knicks from being the worst team in
the East is their experience. The starters are all veterans, and
Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell and Kurt Thomas are capable of
going for 25 on a given night.... Sprewell isn't as consistent a
finisher or shooter as he used to be--in part because the team
around him isn't what it used to be. If he were a more reliable
person, he could get traded to a contender and make a big
difference. But I emphasize the if.... Houston and Sprewell are
no longer among the top five shooting guards in the East.
Houston's game has deteriorated since he signed his big contract
in 2001. He's less athletic, he can't create his own shot and
even when he comes off screens, it's not as easy for him as it
used to be. It hurts, too, that he hasn't had a point guard who
can draw the defense and kick it out to him.... Losing
Antonio McDyess for the season was a huge blow, though I had
questions about his health after watching him limp through his
first attempted comeback last year.... Thomas is a great
defender, but he's closer to 6'8" than his listed 6'9", which
means he has a hard time guarding most centers, especially the
7-footers who know how to score.... Clarence Weatherspoon would
be fine as your third big guy coming off the bench, but asking
him to start as an undersized power forward is asking for
trouble.... Charlie Ward's shooting has declined, and Howard
Eisley doesn't do anything at a high level. He and Shandon
Anderson are two average guys who benefited from playing in the
Utah system with two Hall of Famers.... Even if the Knicks get
off to a good start, I still see them finishing in the lottery.
Until Sprewell comes back, they're going to be starting Houston
and four substitutes who are making starter's money."
2001-02 record: 30-52 (seventh in Atlantic)
Points scored: 91.6 (24th) Points allowed: 95.6 (14th)
Coach: Don Chaney (second season with Knicks)
STARTERS PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS
Sprewell 68 19.4 ppg 3.7 rpg 3.9 apg 1.16 spg 40.4 FG%
Weatherspoon 168 8.8 ppg 8.2 rpg 0.86 bpg 0.66 spg 41.8 FG%
C Kurt Thomas 47 13.9 ppg 9.1 rpg 1.1 apg 0.96 bpg 49.4 FG%
SG Allan Houston 52 20.4 ppg 3.3 rpg 2.5 apg 43.7 FG% 39.3 3FG%
PG Charlie Ward 171 5.2 ppg 3.2 apg 1.08 spg 37.3 FG% 32.3 3FG%
BENCH PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS
Anderson 182 5.0 ppg 3.0 rpg 0.9 apg 39.9 FG% 27.7 3FG%
G Howard Eisley 214 4.4 ppg 1.3 rpg 2.6 apg 0.62 spg 33.7 FG%
Harrington 265 7.7 ppg 4.5 rpg 0.47 bpg 0.39 spg 52.7 FG%
Williams (R)279 16.2 ppg 4.7 rpg 4.4 apg 39.3 FG% 34.0 3FG%
Doleac 322 4.6 ppg 4.0 rpg 0.6 apg 0.26 bpg 41.7 FG%
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)
ASKING WEATHERSPOON TO START AS AN UNDERSIZED POWER FORWARD IS
ASKING FOR TROUBLE.