Observation Deck (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday April 17, 2007 12:47PM; Updated: Tuesday April 17, 2007 6:06PM
New York Knicks
It was another messy year for the Knicks, what with heaps of losses (49, at last count), the NBA's highest payroll, plenty of transparent bouts of bravado (anytime Isiah Thomas and/or Nate Robinson get to the us-against-the-world routine) and the embarrassing might play/won't play subplot featuring Steve Francis. And yet, for all this organization's many failings, the play of Isiah-bred youngsters like David Lee, Renaldo Balkman, Robinson and Channing Frye (well ... last year, at least) gives New York hope for what promises to be another few years of Isiah-led clumsiness. We're still not buying the Eddy Curry hype, not when you pay that much (both in terms of salary and traded draft picks) for a player whose sole contributions (points in the paint) are almost completely mitigated by a continued inattention to defense, rebounding and the other 489,000 details that well-rounded players pull off with ease.
The Sixers were 5-18 when GM Billy King pulled the trigger on an Allen Iverson deal with Denver that netted some cap relief, Andre Miller and a pair of low first-round picks. The Sixers, who kept Miller past the trade deadline, have been a .500 team since then. And yet, you get the sneaking suspicion that they could have had a bigger hand in the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant sweepstakes had they played their cards right. Andre Iguodala has been a gem (18.2 points, 5.7 assists, 5.7 rebounds), but King shouldn't hesitate to decimate this roster at a moment's notice. Outside of Iguodala, the 31-year-old Miller and Sam Dalembert, nobody on the Sixers would be in a 60-win team's nine-man rotation.
Portland Trail Blazers
There's a lot to like about these Trail Blazers, especially with coach Nate McMillan on board for a while and new general manager Kevin Pritchard running the show. Things we like: LaMarcus Aldridge rising above the trees for a turnaround jumper; Brandon Roy, who can shoot like an Allan Houston clone, keeping a live dribble like few other shooting guards can; and Sergio Rodriguez keeping the dribble, losing the dribble, reacquiring it, then determining to send the dribble someone else's way (be he a Trail Blazer or not). After that? Not much. But Pritchard's in charge now, and won't be likely (unlike his predecessors) to extend the contracts of those who haven't shown much affinity for the game of professional basketball in their, um, professional basketball careers.
Even though this group played hard, it knows that poor execution may cost a good coach (Eric Musselman) his job, and should lead to the dissolution of the roster this summer. Good thing, because these guys never seemed comfortable playing alongside each other, and Muss probably needs a little more time in the top assistant's chair before taking over another team. The bright spots? Kevin Martin, wily beyond his years. Justin Williams can jump (soon he'll get better at everything else). And role players never gave up even when a trip to the lottery seemed all but certain.
Despite coach Bob Hill's best efforts, the SuperSonics were a fun watch for most of the season, especially when Kevin Calabro and Lenny Wilkens led the play-by-play. Hill did little to improve a pitiful defensive unit, left players wondering aloud about their place in the rotation, was quick to spread the blame and even quicker to offer his take on whether he should be retained next season (for fewer than eight figures per year, Hill reminded us).
But from all this gloom, life can start anew: Hill probably won't be around next season; free agent Rashard Lewis can go not play defense for some other team; Earl Watson will probably be traded to a team that enjoys having a point guard who can stay in front of people; and the team's host of young bigs (Mouhamed Sene, Johan Petro, Chris Wilcox, the returning Robert Swift) will only get better. Best news of all? Free agent Danny Fortson won't be around.