Season preview: New York Knicks
The Mike D'Antoni/Donnie Walsh era can't help but benefit the Knicks
Will Stephon Marbury (now a backup point guard) be a distraction?
Small forward Wilson Chandler is a player to watch in his second season
SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.
Knicks at a glance
Last season: 23-59
Notable additions: Chris Duhon (FA), Danilo Gallinari (R), Anthony Roberson (FA), Allan Houston (FA)
Notable losses: Fred Jones (unsigned free agent), Renaldo Balkman (trade with Nuggets)
Coach: Mike D'Antoni (first season with Knicks; 267-172 overall in six NBA seasons)
Reasons for hope
1. A new administration. Saddled with bad contracts and an ill-fitting roster, the Knicks won't put years of abuse to rest in one season. But with a well-respected personnel boss (Donnie Walsh) and a coach who averaged 58 victories over the past four seasons on board, the Knicks can at least point to better days ahead. And the fans can look forward to a day when they can root for players based on their effort and potential, not because their salary suggests they should be the stars they are not.
2. Lee didn't leave. The Knicks' surrender under Isiah Thomas last season saw a white flag raised in almost every corner of the locker room. Not so with David Lee, who won over the Madison Square Garden crowd with an effort that belied New York's usual dire circumstances each night. The big man also won over a number of opposing GMs, who came calling this summer for one of the Knicks' only reasonably priced assets (Lee will make $1.8 million this season in the third year of his rookie contract). Walsh wisely kept the fan favorite, whose willingness to play garbage man on the boards should be a good fit for D'Antoni's guard-led offense.
3. That's entertainment. Last season, Knicks fans were enthralled by only two events at MSG: chanting "Fire Isiah!" each night and enjoying the free food and drinks served up during the last regular-season game. D'Antoni's up-tempo scheme should keep the paying customers a bit more interested this season. Offense may not win titles, but it does sell tickets, and the possibility that the Knicks could outscore an opponent on any given night, combined with the notion that the team has some sense of direction, should create a more positive vibe. And if that fails, the Garden still has perhaps the best prime rib sandwich of any arena in the country.
Reasons for worry
1. James Dolan is still the owner. Thomas clearly earned his reassignment to the scouting department with his mismanagement of the team, but he's only part of the circus that Dolan has been running since he took over the franchise in 1997. From dubious roster moves and a revolving door of coaches to a sexual harassment trial and a restrictive media policy, the Knicks have been a model of how not to run a franchise. Dysfunction this pervasive doesn't start with a high-level middle manager like Thomas, but at the top, with Dolan. With Walsh's arrival, the Knicks implicitly are asking their fans to believe that the team is finally focused more on basketball than in self-created damage control. But with Dolan still calling the shots, it would be fair to be skeptical.
2. Starbury's back. Stephon Marbury is an example of everything that can go wrong with a star athlete -- the sense of entitlement, the oversized ego, the lack of commitment, the need for validation of his efforts over that of his team. Now, though, all of those lazy passes and missed defensive assignments are about to pay off for the Knicks, as his $21.9 million salary comes off the books after the season. But his presence on the roster this season -- despite reports about a possible buyout, Marbury remains with the team as a reserve guard -- could lead to tension in the locker room. Newsday quoted a source as saying that "you could just feel the hate" between Marbury and some veterans during a workout before training camp started.
3. There's no D in "offense." Scoring wasn't the problem for the Knicks under Isiah; defense was the issue. Much the same could be said for the Suns in the D'Antoni era. The Knicks, by and large, won't have too much trouble adapting to D'Antoni's seven-seconds-or-less mantra on offense. But will anyone embrace the challenge of stopping the opponent? Does anyone even want to?
Keep an eye on ...
Wilson Chandler. Last year's first-round pick quietly showed promise in his rookie season. When his playing time increased after the All-Star break, Chandler averaged 8.9 points (on 44.6 percent shooting) in 26 games. With incumbent starter Quentin Richardson having struggled with injuries the last three seasons, and 2008 first-round pick Gallinari slowed in the preseason with a back injury, Chandler could be in line for big minutes at small forward.
With center Eddy Curry on the court last season, the Knicks committed an extra 4.4 turnovers per 100 possessions -- the worst impact in the league. Curry averaged 2.1 turnovers in 25.9 minutes.
What happens on the floor this season (which should be somewhere between bad and woebegone) is secondary to what Walsh can accomplish on the phones. Chopping Marbury's and Malik Rose's expiring contracts off the books at the end of the season is a sizable step in reducing a $99 million payroll, but if the Knicks hope to take a swing at LeBron James or Dwyane Wade in the summer of 2010, Walsh will need to be creative and/or lucky to pare long-term deals like that of Zach Randolph, who has three years and $47.9 million left on his contract.
Sports Illustrated's NBA preview issue will be on newsstands Wednesday, Oct. 22.