The New York Knicks have now played 10% of their 2006-07 schedule and the very early returns suggest that Larry Brown was not the problem. After eight games the Knicks have only won two games. The two victories – a one point triple over-time win over the hapless Memphis Grizzlies and a two point win over the Denver Nuggets – were less than impressive. So the team under coach and general manager Isiah Thomas is not off to a great start.
What of the players? Looking at the Knicks after eight games we see a few bright spots. Quentin Richardson, Steve Francis, and David Lee are each above average. Lee – one of the best role players in the league – is currently one of the most productive per-minute performers in the NBA. Unfortunately he is the only role player getting major minutes in the rotation employed by Thomas.
The rotation Thomas employs also appears to place Richardson at forward. So although he is above average, he is playing out of position so the value of his performance is somewhat reduced.
The reason for Richardson playing at forward is that Isiah Thomas has a surplus of guards. Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, Jamal Crawford, and Francis all command minutes at the guard spot. Unfortunately, both Marbury and Crawford are below average performers thus far. Both of these players have declined from last year again suggesting that Brown was not the problem.
Looking at the frontcourt, we also see below average performances from Eddy Curry and Channing Frye. Curry is not a surprise. As noted earlier, Curry has never been an above average performer in the NBA. Frye, who was not quite average in his rookie season, has been quite a bit below average in 2006-07.
It is important to remember that the team has only played eight games. Just because the team only won 23 games last year – and is on pace for only twenty wins this year – is not conclusive proof that all is lost in New York. It is possible for Isiah to still turn this ship around. For that to happen, though, someone has to start playing much better. Unfortunately, given what we know of these players, dramatic improvements seem unlikely. Not impossible, just unlikely.