Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday; The Day Trent Tucker Changed NBA History

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday; The Day Trent Tucker Changed NBA History

As the NBA nears the midseason point, Monday January 20, we celebrate the birthday of one of the countries most influential people, Martin Luther King Jr.

Growing up on Long Island, NY, I was a train ride away from Manhattan and Penn Station to see the New York Knicks play. I never understood prejudice. My mother was a great example to me and others that God created us all equal. She instilled that the character of a person had nothing to do with color. God made me extremely sensitive to the plight of the African-American and how much they suffered. My heart broke from the ignorance I saw at times concerning athletes, politicians, or public figures of race.

EXAMPLE OF A GODLY MAN

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of my childhood heroes because of the example he set as a man of God. He walked what he talked about, and I remember listening to the speeches he and President Kennedy gave during that era. Both men inspired me in many ways. King Jr.’s speech at the monument in Washington DC, along with President Kennedy’s at the Berlin wall just 63 days prior, are two of the greatest in American history. Along with Jackie Robinson and Magic Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my heroes.

When I was living in Saint James growing up, we did not have cable lines in our neighborhood. I was unable to watch my favorite teams unless they were on national TV or local free TV. On January 15, 1990, I was 15-years-old listening to the Knicks-Bulls on the radio in my room. That day forever changed how the last few seconds of a basketball game would end.

The Knicks and Bulls could not separate from each other all game, and with 4.6 seconds left, each team had 106 points. Knicks head coach Stu Jackson sent Trent Tucker, Rod StricklandCharles OakleyMark Jackson, and Patrick Ewing to the floor coming out of a timeout. He drew up a play for Mark Jackson to take the last-second shot. Since Chicago had yet to commit five team fouls, Bulls head coach Phil Jackson wanted the Bulls to use their last available team foul to force the Knicks to use time on the clock. As long as the Bulls did not foul a Knicks player in the act of shooting, the Knicks would need to inbound the ball again (however, the Bulls would see the Knicks plan and force them to draw up another play).  Scottie Pippen fouled a dribbling Jackson before he could get a shot off. 

Trent Tucker played nine seasons in the NBA (seven with Knicks), and
averaged 40.8 percent on his three-point attempts over his career.

The 1989-90 season was the first season that the NBA introduced tenths of seconds to determine time. This was the first game it would matter.

It’s not hard to realize that 00.1 seconds is the slimmest of time to get a shot off. Bulls head coach Phil Jackson thought the Knicks were going to lob the ball to Ewing, who could only tip the ball in considering the time on the clock. 

However, instead of doing that, Mark Jackson tossed the ball to Tucker, who was coming off a screen that Ewing set on Michael Jordan. Jordan stopped and fell back on Ewing, instead of pushing through the screen. Tucker caught the ball and vaulted the ball straight up in the air toward the basket just beyond the three-point line along the sideline.

” It’s the greatest shot I ever made,” Tucker said, via Sam Goldaper of the New York Times.” I just caught the ball and flung it. When the ball left my hands, I knew it was on target.”

From that point on, the NBA instituted a rule that you could no longer catch and attempt a shot with under three-tenths of second remaining.

The win gave the Knicks a 26-10 record, including a 17-1 record at home. They had the best record in the Eastern Conference. However, from there, the season turned. The rest of the season, the Knicks went 21-27, including going 12-11 at home.

The Knicks lost the first two games of their first-round series against the Boston Celtics, including a historic 157-128 loss in Game 2. However, in one of the greatest moments in team history, the Knicks rallied from the deficit and defeated the Celtics in five games. In winning the fifth game at the Boston Garden, the Knicks snapped a 26-game losing streak. Unfortunately for the Knicks, that was the high point of their season, as they fell to the eventual NBA Champion Detroit Pistons in five games in the second round.

Despite how their season ended, Trent Tucker will always have a special place in my heart, along with permanently altering an NBA rule.

It’s Not Just Fizzdale

It’s Not Just Fizzdale

The Knicks disappointing season has led to the firing of David Fizzdale.  From the start Fizzdale was the wrong hire for the team. He has never proven to be a good coach previously in his career and frankly never belonged coaching anything in a major market. Or a minor market. Or in the NBA. Considering all of the candidates available at the time, his hiring was a head scratcher, but thankfully many of the positive candidates that were looking for jobs when FIzzdale was hired are still available, as Fizzdale was fired so quickly into his awful Knicks areer.

Fizzdale’s firing is not the entirely the fault of David Fizzdale. It’s the fault of the team’s impotent owner, fat fuck James Dolan, and the shitty front offices that he’s assembled that draft poorly and recruit poorly.

Truth be told, I watch an embarrassingly large number of basketball games. I have watched the sport from the 1970’s through today. I have seen many changes in the game over time. Some for the better, most for the worst, as the league has turned itself from a sport and team game into globetrotter rosters and promotable movie stars. And that’s the type of coach the Knicks need: one that can turn the team into the Globetrotters offense. So let’s look at what’s out there in management and what could help this moribund organization out of its perpetual suckdom.

David Blatt- already hired as a front office guy. Blatt has multiple sclerosis, so he probably wants to be in a less physical role. A great basketball mind, and maybe a replacement for Steve Mills? GM Scott Perry? Both?

Mark Jackson – one of the most prolific point guards in Knick history, would be a local boy comes home story. Not sure if it would be a local boy does good story, however. Smart player, would teach floor spacing and passing, which the Knicks need. But can he teach them his shimmy?

Becky Hammon- No, because she’s a woman. But that’s not sexism, that’s advice. The NBA took forever just to use female officials, who are equally as bad as the male ones. But a female head coach in a situation that’s bound to fail? That will lead to 20 years of women not being considered for head coaching jobs. I am not saying Hammon is underqualified to coach. If she has Coach Pop’s endorsement, that’s good enough for me. But she is overqualified to coach a transient roster with a thus far not exactly franchise rookie in RJ Barrett as a centerpiece. Wait for the right opportunity, Becky. Right now? This isn’t it.

Mike Miller- You see this shit he’s running? No. Absolutely not.  

Mark Few- A college coach? Yup. Few has performed miracles at Gonzaga. He has also worked with NBA players at international tournaments, so he has connections to some of the better players in the league. And as a college coach, he is familiar with recruiting so he knows how to talk with players. A knock against him is that he’s never won a championship, but neither have the Knicks in a few generations, so maybe baby steps is best? And at age 57, this may be his cash cow and only shot at the pros.

Patrick Ewing- this was suggested by Knicks superfan AMR, who feels that Ewing’s connection to the team would be a shot in the arm to a franchise that could maybe use a Hall of Famers touch. Ewing presently is head coach at his alma mater Georgetown, but has been an NBA assistant so he would know the grind. Also, Ewing was an outside shooting center long before outside shooting centers were a thing in the NBA, so he could help mold the young forwards and Mitchel Robinson into a multi-dimensional offensive player.

Steve Kerr- Already said no once, but with Golden State’s run over and the ability to poach Draymond Green to jumpstart a presently invisible defense plus salary cap flexibility and ANOTHER high draft pick? Plus the salary demands of 4 consecutive finals with 4 wins minus the LeBron rules? That may be something the Knicks should open checkbooks for.

We are not going to suggest who the Knicks should hire. No matter what advice we offer here, rest assured one thing- the Knicks will fuck things up. Because they always do. Fizzdale’s firing was partly his fault, but it’s not just Jizzdale. It’s the organization. Until they run themselves with a winning expectation and demand accountability from their players and staff, you’re going to have a lot of players developing like Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikinia- underwhelming and failing to live up to expectations. And the top 5 pick this year will be more of the same.

Follow @JoshBarely on Twitter

Knicks Gotta Knick

Knicks Gotta Knick

New York Sports have an unnatural relationship with reality.

Think of it as a super hot female model. Not the cute girls at the bar and local flyer bikini models that made up the last shitty Sports Illustrated calendar. Like a real smokeshow. She walks around and people just do shit for her. Buy her stuff. Act extra nice. And It happens so often that she starts to take it for granted. She expects it. She becomes self-absorbed.  

Yeah? Nah.

And we all know what happens when that girl loses her looks, or the next super model takes her place and they fall into obscurity. It’s not a pretty picture.

The analogy here is that because something is attractive, it often doesn’t feel that is has to work hard. Let me present a specific case of not working hard as you become less attractive: the New York Knicks.

The Knicks haven’t been relevant in 20 years. That wasn’t always true. Between 1993 and 2003, the Knicks appeared in the NBA finals twice, with two different head coaches and two very different teams, philosophically. That actually is a credit to management. Generally a team has a small window with a great lineup. See Golden State… or every team Lebron jumps tat to get all stars to carry his ass.

That the Knicks lost one final (maybe Pat Reilly should have subbed in Hubert Davis? Its why you lost, bro) and a few years later were back in the finals to lose with a completely different team – showing that Patrick Ewing missing lay ups and dunks doesn’t actually matter to a loser franchise- as long as you reallocate resources.

Guy had a J

But between 2001 and today? The most exciting Knicks moment was a cast off point Harvard educated guard that electrified a city. For ultimately a go nowhere team.

So we have to look at this body of work- a dead body, really- and we have to ask- why are the Knicks so horrible?

The answer isn’t so complex. I boil it down to headline envy.

The Knicks under owner James Dolan likes headlines. But not the right kind, like winning titles. No, he wants everyone to write about the Knicks, to refer to Madison Square Garden as the Mecca of basketball (wonder how many basketball fans actually know what Mecca is?) and to keep headlines because…have you seen the Forbes valuation of the Knicks lately?

$4 billion dollars. FOUR BILLION DOLLARS. For a team that hasn’t won a title in the lifetimes of most of their fans. The last time the Knicks were champions Gerald Ford was president.

He looks happy.

And how bad are the Knicks? Look at their present crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets have made the NBA finals twice since the Knicks made their last appearance. The Nets aren’t able to keep a home, but they have more success this century than the Knicks have. And since 1974, are 2-2 in league finals compared to the Knicks 0-2, albeit that the two wins were in the ABA. But for NBA standards, since 2000 the Nets have at least won a playoff series- when was the last time the Knicks did that?

The Nets have been vagabonds throughout their existence. Since their NBA arrival in 1976 they’ve called Uniondale NY home, Secaucus NJ home, nearly called Newark NJ home, almost called Westbury NY home, and presently call Brooklyn home. No one wants to keep them! And yet…since 2000, more successful than the Knicks if you look at playoff series wins as a barometer.

This pissees Dolan off. So he wants the backpage of the newspapers by interfering with team management so trade for superstars, or stars, or by leading the league in ejecting alumni, or anything that gets a headline to disrupt his losing. Speaking of losing, how have the Knicks done with coaches?

I’m pretty sure the last good Knicks coach was Jeff Van Gundy. You could argue Larry Brown was a good coach, but certainly not in his Knicks tenure. The Knicks are presently looking at new and exciting head coaches, some with limited experience. And the first experience all of these guys get? Losing. Fizzoutdale sucks.

Same goes for the front office. Phil Jackson was an incredible NBA coach. And was an imbecile as a team President with the Knicks. The sole good draft move Jackson made was Kirstaps Porzingis, who he promptly alienated and ultimately read about demanding a trade. Why read about it? Because his ass was already kicked out the door, having done nothing but lose in his Knicks tenure.

But the management in between? Isiah Thomas did a fantastic job as team President and GM, and even better as head coach. The Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph trades comes to mind, as do all those bad free agent contacts to players like Jerome James and Jarred Jefferies. Then there’s that weird $11.5 million deal he gave to Anucha Brown Sanders. I don’t know what that’s about but it can’t be good.

And amazingly, after the sexual harassment claim from Sanders, Dolan hired Thomas to run the New York women’s basketball team, the Liberty. This is the lack of judgement that makes the Knicks losers. Guess you can’t sexually harass a lesbian? It did get headlines, which is what Dolan wants.

Couldn’t make that shit up.

Every team in sports looks to point to a golden age, but I’m a fan of the “what have you done for me lately” school of thought. And what have the Knicks done lately?

Be bad enough to miss the playoffs, but not bad enough to get a solid lottery pick? And why not? Because unlike say the New York Mess (not a typo) the Knicks will drop money at free agents. Where they do a terrible job with such- hi Joakim Noah! But just enough to make sure they’re picking somewhere after the top ten.

This past Knicks season had some promise because they were absolutely fucking horrible and had so many expiring contracts that they would finally be able to be big game hunters in free agency. And you know what happened? Knicks gotta Knick.

They lost the draft lottery. So as fans suffered all season with that little glimmer of hope for a brighter future, the Knicks couldn’t even lose right. Now I am NOT saying that RJ Barrett is a bust, and in fact he seems to have the trust of the organization as their highest draft pick since Patrick Ewing. But at the same time…he can’t hit free throws? WTF. Every game the Knicks lose by 3 or less will 100% be Barretts fault for sucking at fundamentals. He went to Duke. He should know better.

Luckily for him, the Knicks are usually blown away by much larger margins of failure.

The other part of the Knicks past season that gave them promise was the two 1st round draft picks that the Knicks got from Dallas for Porzingis. But you know what? Luka Doncic will make sure those first rounders are somewhere in the 20’s. The Knicks best hope is to package those two picks and see if they can get to a top ten pick, because a bench isn’t going to help this mess. All they do is draft bench. Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, Frank Tkinilikiniaiah- but not Alonso Trier. No, he was undrated but the Knicks signed him because he was buddies with Kevin Durant. That’s the way to woo a guy.

Because Kevin Durant was leaving Golden State to hang out with an undrafted college kid. An undrafted college kid.

Oh, that was the other thing. The summer of 2019 free agency splurge! Who were the Knicks getting? Durant? Anthony Davis? Kyrie Irving? A combination? All three?

Howabout this- Knicks gotta Knick. They got fucking nothing. A bunch of castoffs that are serviceable NBA players, but no leadership. And their coach? David Jizzdale? That wasn’t a typo either. Will he lead? Has he ever? Guy is a career loser as a head coach. How he has a job is not only staggering, but also lends to explain why the Knicks are just perennial losers.

Sucks.

But boy did they get headlines. The next one will be for firing the coach.

So that’s a lot of bitching. What about a positive? How do we fix this?

First step- James Dolan needs to sell the team. He has $4 billion reasons to. Take the money and play with your shitty jam band. You’ve done enough. And not in the good way. Shit, the Nets sold their team and shitty arena over a billion, and the Los Angeles Clippers went for $2 billion. Take the money and go ruin something else.

So douchey.

Next step? You have a $4 billion franchise. Invest 1% in a head coach, GM, front office, and scouting staff. Maybe 1.5%. That’d be $40 to $60 million dollars. You know what you’d get? The top head coach and the top GM in the NBA taking a massive salary. You have a salary cap on players, but on coaches? Not so much. Yes, there are some staffing limits that apply to the players cap, but that doesn’t fall on coaches.

Is Blatt answering a call?

Next step? Draft well. That’s why you have scouts. And free agents? Be selective. Have a five year plan. Reevaluate that plan after every game. Do not be afraid to make trades, but always weigh the trade offs and opportunity costs in keeping an asset and moving an asset. Maybe hire a team economist and a team cap expert? Look at the present model that’s working- teams effectively shooting the three- and emulate that, but figure out what the next trend is- maybe defense comes back? Maybe it’s three point plays at a higher percentage shot? Maybe it’s a ten second offense? But for the Knicks, we know what isn’t winning- what they’ve been doing for almost 20 years.

Time for a change, Knick fans, or else it will be more of the same. Or more to the point, Knicks Gotta Knick.

*This article was written while watching two consecutive Thanksgiving time Knicks losses- to be fair, consecutive Knicks losses can happen at any time- but was inspired by Knicks superfan and the creator of the term “Jizzdale,” AMR.

Follow the author on Twitter @JoshBarely