Friday, November 11, 2005

Hard Hits: These Knicks Not Exactly What Brown Had In Mind

During last season where he coached Detroit within a quarter of repeating, Larry Brown called coaching the Knicks his "Dream Job." The 65-year-old Brooklyn native returned home July 27th when Knicks President of Basketball Operations Isiah Thomas named him the franchise's 22nd head coach at a gala press conference in Madison Square Garden.

Brown is the only coach in basketball history to win an NCAA championship ('88 Kansas) and NBA title ('04 Detroit). He knows what it takes to have success and warned that the beginning would be tough. Building a winner is a process.

So far, his dream has turned into an early nightmare. The Knicks are off to an 0-4 start, matching their sixth worst in history. What's even more alarming about it is the way they have fallen apart in the losses.

At Boston, they somehow gave up 20 points in a five minute overtime to lose by double digits. In their home opener against Washington, after getting off to a poor start, they fought back to take the lead in the fourth quarter only to falter down the stretch. The same thing happened against Golden State. But the worst was yet to come. At Portland, New York played an inspired first half and led by 10 but for whatever reason, they forgot to show up in the second half, getting outscored by 22 to lose by 12.

Brown's biggest dilemma so far this season is he hasn't been able to settle on a starting lineup nor a rotation. Already, he's tinkered with the players Thomas gave him. How else do you explain Matt Barnes going from starter to being put on the inactive list? In the first game of the season, rookies Channing Frye and David Lee did not play. But since, both have gotten significant time and proven to Brown they deserve it. Maurice Taylor has been in and out of the lineup. Last game, Brown started Jamal Crawford and shifted the struggling Quentin Richardson to the three.

How hard is it for Brown? One of Thomas' free agent additions Jerome James did not play at Portland after getting into foul trouble the first three games. It doesn't help that he came into camp overweight. Meanwhile, Eddy Curry has also not been on the court enough due to conditioning and fouls. They need the 22-year-old center acquired from the Bulls on the court. They also could use some more floor leadership from Stephon Marbury. Marbury has looked confused at times trying to adjust to Brown's system. It doesn't excuse some of the lazy passes he made in the fourth quarter the other night.

So, what does Brown have going for him? Trevor Ariza has looked good off the bench and is gaining more trust. Rookie Nate Robinson has played with a bundle of energy. Both Antonio Davis and Malik Rose play hard every night but do the same thing, which means one will be dealt.

Brown has admitted that he has too many players capable of getting into games and that it's not fair to some when they sit. Paging Isiah!

There's little doubt that the Knicks slow start is not a surprise. Brown doesn't have the kind of team he wants and it shows when he subs guys in and out faster than an A-rod homer clears the fence. There definitely will be a couple of moves made by Thomas to make Brown's choices easier.

In the mean time, the Knicks continue their six-game West coast trip tonight at Golden State with stops at Sacramento, Utah, Lakers and Nuggets.

It promises to get uglier before it gets better.

Hitting Back:

-The way ESPN has covered TO, you'd think he was a hero that kids could look up to. Why don't they run an Outside The Lines about what's wrong with sports? Oh wait. They'd have to look in the mirror.

-Speaking of TO, is it any coincidence that his dopey agent Drew Rosenhaus is at the center of every press conference? Rosenhaus is the root of the problem.

-Not long ago, ex-Devil Mike Danton had a similar agent who was nothing but a negative influence. David Frost controlled basically everything his client did, even convincing Danton to change his name from Mike Jefferson to Mike Danton, creating a family rift. Not only was their relationship unusual but they even shared an apartment. When he was in St. Louis over a year ago, Danton ordered a hit on Frost and wound up in jail. This was an extreme case. But when you see more and more agents front and center for the wrong reasons, it's not about team chemistry.

-Is everything still all rosy with Herm Edwards' Jets?

-Do the Giants look stupid for getting Eli Manning a year later?

-If Bartolo Colon is the AL Cy Young, then Mariano Rivera is the AL MVP. No player has been more valuable to his team than Rivera. Not A-rod and not even Big Papi.

-When does Ranger coach Tom Renney finally get some of Larry Brown's air time?

-There are few NHL players more exciting to watch than Jaromir Jagr.

-When you watch how the Devils nearly blew a three-goal third period lead against the Caps in Martin Brodeur's first game back from a knee sprain, you realize that the goalie isn't the problem.

-Whose job is more secure? Glen Sather or Mike Milbury?

-USC, not Texas is still the team to beat in college football but don't tell the BCS that.

-Vitali Klitschko, we hardly knew ye. And people wonder why the heavyweight division is a laughingstock.

-It was just our imagination that the Nets home opener against Milwaukee last week wasn't soldout. Yep. My eyes must have deceived me when I saw all those empty seats.


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