Brad Miller to Take Center Stage For Knicks?

April 22, 2010

Although Marcus Camby expressed interest in returning to the Big Apple as a free agent this summer, he is no longer an option. Camby, currently enjoying a playoff stint with the Blazers, came to an agreement on a contract extension with the team this week.

Donnie Walsh was fully prepared to offer Camby a chance to be the defensive anchor next season with the Knicks. As one of the league’s best defenders and rebounders, Camby would have been perfect, providing the Knicks with skills it severely lacked this season.

Camby’s pass on the Knicks could ultimately end up being the first of many free agent letdowns this summer. The Knicks will shoot for the stars, quite literally, pursuing the likes of Lebron James and Chris Bosh.

Walsh’s ability to move on to “Plan Bs” may very well define the Knicks’ offseason.

The Bulls’ Brad Miller has immediately been linked to the Knicks since Camby’s extension agreement was announced.

Walsh acquired Miller while Walsh ran the Pacers, helping Miller become an all-star in 2002-03, his first full year with the team.

Miller, however, is a completely different player than Camby. His play has also declined considerably since his all-star days with Indiana.

It’s undeniable that the Knicks need a big man. That being said, a tough defensive presence (in that big man) is needed even more.

Miller, like Camby, is a gifted passer and has averaged 7.5 rebounds during his career. The negative connotation to Miller is that he is aging and is in no way known for his defense. His ability to catch and shoot the midrange jumper may make him a fit in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, but whether he can provide the Knicks with something they do not already have is an open question.

Brendan Haywood, another upcoming free agent, is known more for his defense than anything else. Although he may be more of what the Knicks need, he could be playing his way out of the Knicks budget as he helps the Mavericks in the playoffs.

That would leave the door open for Miller.

More things seems to be in Miller’s favor than not. At 7 feet tall, he would immediately be the tallest Knick, he’s a Walsh favorite who could potentially play well in the D’Antoni offense, and above all else, he would likely come at a cheap rate. If the Knicks hope to sign two free agents at maximum contracts, Miller could be the most appealing choice.

While I wouldn’t mind Miller becoming a Knick, hopefully by July 1st, a few more talented free agents will leapfrog Miller on the list of most likely to sign.

The trick would be pairing Miller up with the right big man partner. If the Knicks sacrifice a bit of rebounding and take on a defensive liability in Miller, they will need to sign another big man who has serious defensive skills.

I’m thinking Miller would be a nice complement to Chris Bosh, if the Knicks were able to sign him first.

At this point, the possibility of the Knicks signing a major star cannot be counted on.

That being said, I would now characterize Brad Miller as, by default, the most likely free agent to sign with the Knicks.

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The Knicks 2009-10 Season in Review and What Could Be Next

April 17, 2010

The Knicks recently closed out the season, finishing with a 29-53 record. This, however, should not be a surprise or a disappointment to anyone.

It is simply what was expected. The Knicks have now gone several seasons without a “star” player. Seven-time all-star Tracy McGrady was acquired by the team at the trading deadline, and the move was met with much hype that T-Mac could possibly fill that star void the Knicks have been desperate to fill.

Instead, he was outplayed by players such as David Lee, Danillo Gallinari and even former D-League standout Bill Walker.

From a competitive standpoint, one could say that the trade was made too late in the season because T-Mac did not have enough time to gel with teammates. By February, the season was already lost. Nevertheless, based on his play during his 24-game stint, I am not sure he would have made more of a difference had he arrived any earlier.

I wish him good luck with his further rehab. I do, however, wish him happy trails elsewhere. I don’t believe there will be spot for him on the roster next season.

This season for the Knicks was obviously not about being competitive, but simply getting it over with. Fortunately, that time has come, and the only way to look now is forward.

The Knicks are in line to offer maximum contracts to two of this summer’s top free agents in hopes of building a winning team again.

There are a few pieces that the Knicks can and will hold onto next season. Gallinari, Toney Douglas and Wilson Chandler (who will be coming off ankle surgery for the second straight summer) will all be back next season.

It’s my belief that all three of them will be starters next season. In Douglas’ case, it’s simply the smart move to make. He has shown some flashes of solid talent, and while he needs to mature into a smarter player, the best remedy for that is time and experience on the court. Did I mention he is also already under contract next season? There is no need to spend money on a point guard when you clearly already have one.

This season, before his injury and Gallinari’s request to guard each opponent’s best player, it was Chandler who was guarding the big guns like Lebron and Kobe. As Chandler has developed, his offense has been consistent but not yet overwhelming. He has, however, become regarded as the team’s best defender since the departure of Jared Jeffries. His elevated defense this season came as a pleasant surprise, but is also an even more valuable piece of this team’s future.

Although Douglas and Chandler are valuable pieces, no one other than Gallinari will be the most crucial in the Knicks’ recruiting process.

Gallinari is the perfect complementary player. His offensive repertoire has been compared to that of Dirk Nowitzki’s. He can unconsciously hit jump shots from anywhere on the court. This would create difficult matchups for opponents’ double teaming the Knicks’ main offensive threat(s), whoever that may be next season.

The beauty of Gallinari is that he could seamlessly fit into a role as the second or even third offensive option in the Knicks’ offense. If he were the latter option, he could pile up points by simply positioning himself behind the three point line and waiting for the pass.

Having a teammate like that could be very enticing for the upcoming free agents.

But what if the Knicks fail to sign two top free agents, and end up with just one? That’s just fine too. Everyone knows Gallinari, who averaged 20.8 points in his last fourteen games, loves to shoot.

Those last fourteen games of the season helped Gallinari prove that he can increase his offense productivity if forced to do so. If the Knicks are able to sign Lebron James or even Joe Johnson, two very gifted passers, either one of them could help Gallinari average 20 points.

Eddy Curry is also under contract for the Knicks next season, which at this point is nothing more than simply unfortunate.

This summer could end up becoming monumental for the Knicks, but the pressure is mounting. Donnie Walsh has some great pieces and has put his team in a very strategic position going forward.

The position the team is in, however, is nothing more than just the opportunity for success. What Walsh does with this opportunity will define the organization’s future.


An NBA Blogger Inside the WNBA World: Day Two

April 13, 2010

Before the WNBA Draft, my fellow bloggers and I filed into a “dressing room” to speak with league president Donna Orender.

Referring to the big day, Orender called the draft the “culmination of all the girls’ hard work” and reflected fondly on having an opportunity to meet each of the prospects’ families.

I was also able to speak to some of the college coaches in attendance with hopes of seeing their player(s) drafted. Alison Lacey, the Iowa guard whom I spoke to the night before, was set to have her coach by her side. Aside from singing praises for Lacey, coach Bill Fennelly called himself “that crazy little tourist from Iowa. We were taking pictures (in NYC) last night and everything! We are very happy to be here.”

Over the course of my two days of duty with the WNBA, I respected that the league stands for appreciation above all else. Whether it is the league as a whole appreciating the hard work of its players, or the loyalty of its fans, the league makes sure it conveys that message.

“The WNBA arena is very fan friendly, the approachability of the athletes—it really does start with them. They really make it a fun and safe place to be. It’s somewhere you can bring your kids. That whole piece is getting amplified. That’s important,” said Orender when I asked her about some of the league’s initiatives.

Also appreciative are the WNBA’s players. 20 years ago, young women did not have such an opportunity. Something that many touched on during this draft is that this year’s group of prospects is more than likely the first group to have grown up watching the WNBA, which was founded in 1996.

“Did you grow up watching the WNBA?” was a question posed to various prospects during pre-draft discussions, and while a select few mentioned they had not watched basketball until high school, many of them stated that their pro basketball dreams began watching the Houston Comets build its dynasty when the league first started.

Prior to speaking to Orender, I was shown around NBA Entertainment Studios, where the draft was being filmed in just a few short hours. Rehearsal was taking place, where a staffer stood in place of Tina Charles, the number one pick to be, during a mock interview.

“How excited are you to have been drafted number one?” an energetic reporter mockingly asked the staffer acting as Charles.

“Uh, this is where she would say something intelligent,” he replied.

When the draft began, Charles and the rest of her fellow draftees were ushered in to speak with myself and the rest of the media as they were drafted.

I was able to touch base with Monica Wright and Alison Lacey, both of whom remembered me from our meeting the night prior. Wright, who had only been to Minnesota once in her life, was excited for a new beginning with the Linx.

Lacey, drafted by the Seattle Storm, was elated to be able to actually call fellow Aussie Lauren Jackson, whom she had expressed interest in learning from, a teammate.

Their excitement for what was to come continued to shine through. New Los Angeles Sparks guard Andrea Riley (at 5’5”, she was the shortest to be drafted) was beaming the most, “It’s a dream come true. Staying in LA will make me feel like a movie star!”

No offense Andrea, but I was sitting right there with you, and New Jersey seemed just fine to me. After having rubbed elbows with league officials and college coaches, toured NBAE studios, and having talked with the drafts’ prospects, plain old Jersey had made me feel plenty like a star in my own right.


An NBA Blogger Inside the WNBA World: Day One

April 10, 2010

When I was originally invited to the WNBA Draft, I had no idea what to expect.

Sure, from following the NBA Draft for years, I expected this one to be similar on some levels. But with only 12 teams, I did not expect the draft to be as busy as far as player movement was concerned.

Boy, was I ever wrong!

Perhaps only having 12 teams makes the league a bit more close-knit, therefore allowing easier negotiations. This draft turned out to be one of the busiest I have watched unfold, with the Connecticut Sun making rapid-fire moves to obtain four draft picks, including two out of the top three.

That was all on Thursday afternoon.

My journey started Wednesday night at the WNBA’s pre-draft event at the NBA Store in New York City.

Upon walking in and being greeted, I was taken upstairs to the designated media area by Seattle Storm center and current WNBA intern Ashley Robinson.

Am I the only one who finds the dual roles pretty interesting?

Wednesday was certainly a day for me to find my footing in time for Thursday’s big event. Still unsure about how things would pan out on day one, Ashley eased my mind with a light conversation about the Liberty’s marquee acquisition that week, Cappie Pondexter.

After I got settled in, the WNBA’s quite accommodating public relations staff brought two prospects over to speak with me: Virginia’s Monica Wright and Iowa State’s Alison Lacey.

I spoke to Lacey first. She conveyed to me how after growing up in Australia, playing in the WNBA had just recently became a reality to her.

The NBA blogger inside me instantly compared her to all the international players that had come through the league.

I began to think about how much of a pioneer Lacey could be for the still young WNBA in comparison, but she expressed to me that she was simply looking forward to learning from the league’s already present international players, most notably fellow Aussie Lauren Jackson.

When you start thinking about how each prospect could affect the different teams in the league, you forget that most, if not all, of these girls are still college students looking ahead to graduation.

After my first chat, I was able to relax a bit more with Wright. She and I conversed about college life and how excited she was to move forward.

Like Lacey, she was interested in learning from the league’s best, but said she was trying not to be over-anxious or worry about her draft position. After all, being a projected top-three pick could bring on some anticipation.

I was experiencing a big moment of my own, so I was certainly able to relate.

League President Donna Orender said a few words before the prospects sat down for a Q&A session, as well as autograph signings.

“Well, I know we’re joined by all the parents today. Oh my gosh, how much hard work? How many trips back and forth did you have to make to that gym? I know. I’m a mom! This is a lot of work, and we’re grateful to you.”

Was that really her first comment, a thank you to the players’ parents?

I sat there a little befuddled, but that was probably the coolest and most sincere thing I had ever seen.

Then and there, I realized the biggest difference between the WNBA and the NBA. In a time where competitive nature and contractual negotiations take first priority, the WNBA was recognizing its prospects’ parents for helping them get where they were.

I had an immediate understanding. The WNBA draft was a celebration, and I was going to be part of it.

With 30 teams in the NBA, I suppose you take for granted the roster spots available for players.

The WNBA limit of 12 teams makes it that much more difficult to make a roster. Because of that, college programs do not always place a big focus on getting its young women to that next level.

These young women and their families were celebrating that accomplishment. The fact that this was the main focus makes the league so endearing, a side you don’t always see in sports.

Heading into Thursday, I felt comfortable and extremely welcomed into the event because of this.


WNBA Draft 2010 Analysis: How the Top Five Picks Will Help New Teams

April 9, 2010

Recently, the good folks at the WNBA reached out to me to attend and cover its rookie draft. For those not too familiar, the draft is quite similar to any you’ve ever seen; the anticipation, the emotions, and the hustle and bustle of last minute player movement is all right there happening before you.

But the most similar characteristic, however, is all the teams gunning to improve themselves through some of the strong talent available. For more of my overall draft experience at NBA Studios, check back in a bit. But for now, here’s an overall analysis of how the top five picks may help their new teams.

Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun: Number One Overall Pick

There was no doubt that after leading her team to a NCAA championship win, Tina Charles would be the number one pick. The Sun traded up for the #1 pick to keep the UConn star at home base.

An undeniable winner, Charles’ team had not lost in two entire seasons on its way to back to back tournament wins. Not only did Charles average 18 points during her senior year, but nine rebounds and two blocks.

That toughness down in the post is something many WNBA teams lack, so that plus Charles’ winning mentality will be a big boost to the Sun.

Monica Wright, Minnesota Linx: Number Two Overall Pick

No matter what anyone else says, Wright is a fantastic consolation prize if your team wasn’t able to pick up Charles.

Wright was the ACC Player and ACC Defensive Player of the Year. While Charles had a strong supporting cast, Wright carried her team strongly on her shoulders.

In one word, Virginia head coach Debbie Ryan described Wright as a true “competitor”, so you know she will be bringing a positive energy to Minnesota.

Kelsey Griffin, Minnesota Linx: Number Three Overall Pick(Traded to CT)

Moments after Wright and Griffin, who have been roommates throughout the draft experience, were drafted together, media questioned both about how great it would be to play together. Both were very positive.

Soon after that, however, it was announced that Griffin was traded and would be joining Tina Charles on the Sun. The Sun truly loaded up in this draft, grabbing some of the best players available. Griffin, the Big 12 Player of the Year, was no exception.

The Sun may experience some growing pains with the two young stars, but the future is certainly bright.

Epiphanny Prince, Chicago Sky: Number Four Overall Pick

For all you NBA fans out there, be aware that Prince was the Brandon Jennings of the NBA! After playing three years at Rutgers, Prince went off to Turkey to play oversees for a year before obtaining draft eligibility.

Prince set a high school record with 113 points her senior season, and said her experience in Turkey has been no different, as she attempts to fill it up every game.

Her team in Turkey saw a jump from 11th to fourth seed in its league after she arrived, so the Sky must be hoping Prince is elevate its team in the same sense.

Jayne Appel, San Antonio Silver Stars: Number Five Overall Pick

Leading up to the draft, Appel had been in the Tina Charles conversation. As UConn and Stanford, their respective teams, went head to head in the NCAA championship, Charles and Appel were widely considered to be drafted as a one-two punch.

Stanford did lose to UConn, however, which analysts say may have hurt Appel’s draft position.

In any event, Appel, like Charles, is a dominating low post presence, and should do well in a WNBA that desperately needs good low posts players.


The WNBA Draft: Live Blogging From “Knicks Journal”

April 8, 2010

Keith Schlosser’s “Knicks Journal” will be shifting gears this week, blogging live from the WNBA Rookie Draft in Secaucus, NJ today, April 8th at 3pm.

Fans can watch the draft on ESPN 2, but can also follow Keith’s coverage on WNBA.com’s live “Twitter” feed, where he will be tweeting from @KnicksJournal.

Although the local New York Liberty do not have a first round pick, it does have 13th pick, first pick of the second round. The Liberty are in dire need of a good point guard, but could get lucky with a good prospect slipping into their hands during this guard heavy draft.

Check back on “Knicks Journal” and Bleacher Report over the course of the next couple days for exclusive coverage and comments from top prospects and league president Donna Orender.

For updates on the New York Knicks and much more, visit http://www.knicksjournal.com.