Here is what weknow about the Knicks last season: The players didn't like each other, thegeneral manager didn't like the coach, and the coach didn't like anybody. Putit all together, and New York had its lowest win total (23) in 20 years.
The coach, LarryBrown, has been replaced by the G.M., Isiah Thomas, who is charged withrepairing some fractured egos. "The first thing I need to do is instillconfidence back into the players," says Thomas. "I have to make themsmile again, like basketball again."
The player mostin need of a pick-me-up is point guard Stephon Marbury, whose feuds with Brownlast season provided constant fodder for the New York tabloids. Marbury scoredjust 16.3 points per game, his lowest average since he was a rookie, andaveraged a career-worst 6.4 assists per game. Thomas has installed aread-and-react offense that allows more ball and player movement, givingMarbury the kind of freedom he lacked under Brown, who tried to turn him into apass-first floor leader.
Whether givingMarbury more freedom will keep the rest of the Knicks happy is anotherquestion. Thomas has long been Marbury's staunchest (some would say only) ally.Now Thomas is betting his job--he's operating under a "win or else"ultimatum from owner James Dolan--that a rejuvenated Marbury will lead the teamback to the playoffs. Given that the change at the top didn't come with amakeover of the roster, don't expect this season's story to have a happyending.
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 23--59(15th in East)
Points scored:95.6 (20th in NBA)
Points allowed:102.0 (27th)
(first seasonwith the Knicks)
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Knicks
I think any coachcould have won five to 10 more games than Larry Brown did last year becausethere was so much tension. Now that he's gone, Isiah Thomas and his playershave a lot to prove, and pride is an underestimated factor in our league. Ifthey fail to get along and play well together, then it will validate everythingLarry said about them.... Stephon Marbury is a shoot-first point guard whocan't help but make bad decisions, with the result being that every team thathe's left has improved in his absence. But he's always been a favorite ofIsiah's--and you can be sure Steve Francis is aware of that.... At least JamalCrawford is accustomed to coming off the bench. Plus, he doesn't need the ballas much as Francis or Marbury to be effective, and he's easily the best shooterof the three.... Channing Frye can be a star at power forward because of hisability to score.... I thought Eddy Curry could make a big difference if he wasmotivated and in shape. But once he signed his big contract, he reverted to theunderachieving player he used to be.
The Knicks set arecord by using 42 different starting lineups last season, one more than theWarriors used in 1994--95. Of the 19 players who suited up in New York, 16started at least once.