The New York Knickerbockers are coming to town Sunday night and that means it's time to check in with my man Modi, the mastermind behind one of my favorite blogs Cosellout.
It's one of the most unique and thought provoking blogs (not just sports) out there. This man knows the Knicks (see the Book of Isiah: Myth of Isiah, Worst Roster Ever, Revisionist History, Salary Cap Myth, Isiah's "Mistakes", The Draft Genius, Trades: The Truth, Bloggers Respond!, and Starbury, Sarah, and the Retail Revolution) but he also has some great insights and analysis about the role white privilege played in Steve Nash's back to back MVP's (see It's Not Steve Nash's Fault!: A Study in White Privilege and It's STILL Not Steve Nash's Fault: A Response to Jack McCallum) and why Barry Bonds has 99 problems, but a pitch ain't one (see The Myths of 755: Hank Aaron Bonds with Barry and The Myths of 756: Barry Bonds' Predictable Power Progression) among many others. Regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with Modi's takes, this is what blogging is all about- a platform to express ideas and viewpoints that the mainstream media for the most part wouldn't touch or has ignored.
Make the jump for a take on the Knicks that's actually free from the hysteria of NY tabloids.
Golden State of Mind: The Knicks are near the bottom of the win column with respect to the entire association right now. If they were in the West their season would already be over, but in the Eastern Conference Playoff race anything can happen. Is there any way you see this squad making the playoffs this year? Can they get there with their current roster and coaching staff or will they have to make some minor or even drastic in-season changes?
Modi (Cosellout): You are absolutely right about the pathetic Eastern conference. Every lower-rung team is one Portland Trail Blazer win streak from getting back in it! But despite the recent wins, I just don't see it happening. The talent is there for the Knicks and has always been there. The problem all season has been Isiah's inexplicable coaching. Certainly my past "open letters" pleading for starting line-up and rotation changes have gone ignored! In my humble opinion the Knicks can easily be a .500 team if coached properly, but it won't happen if Isiah stubbornly insists on starting Eddy and Zach together; keeps 32% shooting Q Richardson on the floor; and keeps his best hustle players on the pine. The most frustrating experience for a fan is believing your team is much better, but the wrong players are often playing together. My best guess is that Isiah developed loyalties to players as GM which has severely clouded his judgment as coach. There is no human rationalization for QRich to remain in the starting line-up. In 40 starts, the man has not had one game this season where he has shot higher than 50%. Not one single GAME.
I never thought that I would see a coaching performance that would rival Larry Brown awful Knick tenure, but this is it. Ironically, it's just the opposite extreme. Brown started a ridiculous 42 line-ups, but Isiah simply refuses to change the current one. Brown would play role players heavy minutes at crunch time (see Jackie Butler), but Isiah will often not play a role players nearly enough (see Balkman). Eddy and Zach should not be starting together or on the court at the same time. Their games are simply too duplicative. One of them could be hidden somewhat on defense, but never both. The interior D AND the 3-point D becomes atrocious. The Knicks essentially give up every game in the 1st quarter. Want a crazy stat? When the Knicks were up by 5 after the 1st quarter against the Sixers on Friday, it was only the second time all season that an Eddy-Zach starting line-up produced a 5+ first quarter. In contrast, the Knicks were DOWN by 5 or more after the first quarter 21 times! I've been calling it the Eddy-Zach Blues. The Knicks usually play teams even in the 2nd and 4th quarters which supports the "flawed starting line-up" theory.
Golden State of Mind: It seems like whenever the mainstream media talks about or covers the New York Knicks the "Fire Isiah" chants find a way into the limelight. Is it fair for Knicks fans and the media to pin all the recent on court troubles of the Knicks on Isiah Thomas? If so, who should the Knicks be targeting to be their next head coach and front office leader? If not, then who should be held accountable for the Knicks struggles the past 2.5 seasons?
Modi (Cosellout): Good question. First of all, I don't hold the popular "Enron Model" position on Dolan and Isiah. Up until the Zach Randolph trade -- which I initially WRONGLY supported -- I thought that Isiah did a pretty good job as GM in turning over one of the worst rosters in NBA history --when measured for future potential. By any historical standard Isiah inherited a 5-7 year turnaround project. ...Now I have already advocated for Isiah to step down from his coaching duties back in December. Having stated that, I'm still very troubled with the treatment Isiah gets from the media which often incites fans. I don't know the local writers in Oakland too well, but it is hard to overstate how much many members of the local media detest Isiah. In many cases it is personal, and has reached a level of viciousness and vitriol that is very disturbing.. Wanting your coach fired is one thing, but having The New York Daily News issues "Fire Isiah" posters that INSTRUCT fans to hold up at games is quite another. It is waaaaay beyond basketball.
...As for an updated rating on his GM performance, I just can't render that verdict on this team until the best starting line-ups and combinations on the floor. Who would I suggest as a coach? Perhaps assistant Herb Williams as an interim and see what he does. He has earned an opportunity. I would also be strongly in favor of bringing Jeff Van Gundy back to restore the concept of defense! Now if Isiah the GM were axed, let me tell you who I WOULDN'T want who was rumored: Chris Mullin. You can keep him. In my mind he was simply the beneficiary of a Larry Bird bail out gift. And was it you who said that it was made at Nellie's urging. If Murphy and Dunleavy were still on the squad, your team would have been tied up for years -- given your ahem, "thrifty" owner. Mullin gets credit on Baron Davis and Monta Ellis though. And I also like the JRich deal even if I understand why some folks might get pissed off... but let me stop there...
Golden State of Mind: When people talk about the Knicks all they ever seem to focus on is what has gone wrong this decade with one of the NBA's oldest and greatest franchises. But you know the ins and outs of the Knicks moreso than the NYC tabloids and you're always "Tellin' It Like It Is when the "Cosellouts" Won't". What has gone right? What can Knicks fans be proud of right now?
Modi (Cosellout): What has gone right? You may be the first person to ever ask that question! It's slim pickins these days! Firstly, Isiah deserves a measure of credit for turning aging vets into younger players. Players like David Lee, Renaldo Balkman, Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford were all obtained for Kurt Thomas and dead weight (i.e. Antonio Davis) Unfortunately, none of those players have been used properly in my humble opinion. From a developmental standpoint the only real positive I see this year is the unexpected recent maturity of Nate Robinson as of this January. He shot 37% in November, 41% in December, and now 48% in January. He is taking better shots, using more pump fakes to fool defenders, and shooting within the offensive flow. But much more importantly Nate is starting to pass the ball for the first time in his life. He has basically gone overnight from one assist per game to five a night in January. He is changing speeds, controlling his dribble, setting up teammates without any increase in his turnovers. For the first time I have used the words "Nate" and "poised" in the same sentence. If his growth continues (a big if) he could become much more than a role player. Stay tuned.
Golden State of Mind: In your Book of Isiah you expose the Salary Cap Myth and make an interesting case for why it's a case of pure media madness for the Knicks to try to get under the salary cap and the luxury tax as a means to get better. Why do you think the mainstream media has missed the boat on this? How generalizable would you say the principles in your piece are to other big market teams like the Lakers, Bulls, 76ers, and Warriors?
Modi (Cosellout): The foundation for the Salary Cap Myth was studying the last 100 players who made the all-star team and how they were acquired. Only 9 were obtained by free agency over that 10 year span. The two big free agent prizes the last two years were Rashard Lewis and Ben Wallace. Meanwhile guys like KG, Ray Allen, and Allen Iverson were obtained in trades. Did I mention Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington? That's why the cap is a "lotto strategy" for the most part. The only rare exception to the rule that I see might be for 2010. With Lebron, D-Wade, & Chris Bosh eligible in the same year, there might be a good chance at least one doesn't resign. Still a very risky strategy, but that would be the year to play lotto.
Why has the mainstream media missed the boat? ...It's probably a combination of things. ...Firstly, there are the Knicks and then there is everyone else. As you nicely point out in Cohanomics, the Warriors are on the short end of "everyone else". It seems that sometimes NBA analysts are so used to taking the salary cap into consideration with the other 29 teams that they forget that the rules don't apply to the Knicks. Other big market teams have advantages, but none quite like the Knicks. It also depends on how cheap an owner is. But you already know that! Secondly, many media members are often MORALLY offended at the Knicks and strike back. Take "the Jalen Rose trade" which was widely ridiculed because of the millions on Rose's contract in exchange for Antonio Davis' expiring contract. The Knicks essentially bought a draft pick that became Renaldo Balkman for 30 million dollars when you include the luxury tax. Now to you, me, and even Chris Cohan such an exchange is absurd, obscene, and maybe even morally offensive. But to James Dolan, it is simply petty cash. It's all relative. But media members are often too busy being offended by the whole thing to actually inform its readers of this major Knicks distinction. A third reason is just this simple: Too many writers just don't like Isiah Thomas. He doesn't kiss their ass, and they like their ass kissed.
Thanks to Modi for taking the time out of his extremely busy schedule to come on our show. It's great to hear something different than the constant "Fire Isiah" media coverage and Knicks bashing. Definitely make Cosellout a regular destination on the World Wide Web.