You want me to do what?
Since this is the last installment of TBCB's Knicks Roundtable series, I want to begin by thanking those who participated: Kyle Inman, Michael Johnson, Fausto Rodriguez, Jason Lippman, and Chris Morett. Twitters @leysthepipe and @nygreenmachine also deserve a round of credit for helping to inspire this effort. If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to meet our roundtable participants by reviewing their bios here. James Dolan, Glen Grunwald, Mike Woodson, Carmelo Anthony, and company might not like everything these guys have said, but they've made great suggestions that would have a positive impact if Knicks management were listening. However, since part 4 of our roundtable isn't intended to be taken too seriously, don't blame us if Dolan fails to recruit Phil Jackson after building a Zen Center in Madison Square Garden or Carmelo Anthony disappears along with his new mafia-linked valet.
The Usual Suspects
This series has identified coaching as an issue from day 1. Consistent with this theme, most of our participants would take steps to improve overall team coaching if given the opportunity. Whether it’s hiring support for Mike Woodson or replacing him, Woodson needs help and these guys are going to give it to him. For example, Jason Lippman suggested hiring coaches to help Woodson make midseason adjustments or address any of his other needs. Michael Johnson offered that the coaches should be given raises consistent with the team’s playoff success, which might provide an extra incentive for Woody to learn from and listen to the gaggle of assistants he'll have once we're finished making suggestions.
Kyle Inman and I would hire known coaching greats if given the power and the checkbook. Specifically, Inman suggested hiring coaches like Phil Jackson or Jerry Sloan to support Woodson. While it might be difficult to convince these guys to take on the role of an assistant, a large enough salary might change their mind. (We all know the Knicks aren't afraid to spend money.) In any case, since this is New York, another option would be to simply make them an offer they can't refuse.
Photo by Remo Nassi [Public domain],
On a more peaceful note, I would hire Phil Jackson as general manager and give him the freedom to do almost anything he wants. If the Zen Master wants to spend most of his time Skyping in from California, let him do it. And if it makes him happier to have a live-in Zen Center hidden in Madison Square Garden, Knicks management should start building immediately.
When we first began this roundtable effort, I was almost certain that one of the suggested cures for the Knicks' issues would be for the team to trade one of their stars. However, I was surprised at the striking absence of trade suggestions. Even in this final round, where each participant was given free reign to make suggestions, only Chris Morett suggested a trade. And his suggestion was tempered by waiting until the trade deadline and only making moves if the team isn't performing well. However, my guess is that the Knicks will look like a respectable team throughout this coming regular season, so Anthony would likely be safe even under the watchful eyes of our most anti-Carmelo roundtable participant.
One thing that might have tempered player-related suggestions is the free agency additions made by the Knicks. Aside from the loss of unproven Jeremy Lin, their core of stars remains unchanged and the Knicks have made a number of moves to bolster their starting rotation and bench. For example, the additions of Jason Kidd and Corey Brewer only add to the bench's Mob Deep theme. And it's even possible that Raymond Felton will be a suitable replacement for Jeremy Lin, particularly considering that Felton might be a better fit for Woody's system.
Photo by New York Police Department [Public domain],
The Knicks' issues go far beyond coaching and skill. Over the last couple years, the team has made a focused effort to assemble talented players. However, Knicks management has also managed to assemble a team of uniquely flawed individuals. With this in mind, key to achieving success is developing each individual player as well as the team as a whole. This is exactly what our participants would do if given the keys to the Garden. Kyle Inman suggested hiring Dirk Nowitzki's personal coach Holger Geschwinder and having him work with Carmelo. Think Holger would say no? Well, we've already established that the Knicks aren't afraid to spend money, and my guess is that a few extra zeroes on his check might change his mind. Inman also suggested hiring a team of life coaches for Amare Stoudemire.
My own suggestions included assigning a dedicated valet to shadow each player 24-7. Some players might be motivated by a Knicks great from the past, while other more challenging cases might need some extra encouragement. For example, maybe a guy like this would help keep Carmelo focused:
Jack Dragna, c 1915
Photo by San Quentin State Prison [Public domain],
Just as Henry Hill was attracted to the glamor of the mobster life, roundtable participants offered ideas for further glamorizing the Knicks to expand their fan base. These ideas involve improving how the team is marketed and upgrading the fan experience at Madison Square Garden.
For starters, Michael Johnson would change the Knicks' uniforms by paying homage to the teams of the 70s and mid-90s. Fausto Rodriguez also suggested making changes to the team's look, such adding alternate home and road jerseys. As an added bonus, the sale of these new jerseys might increase revenue, helping to support all the pay-offs needed for the suggestions offered above. Rodriguez also suggested promoting heavily outside of Manhattan, emphasizing that the Knicks represent the entire state of New York. Similarly, Jason Lippman would initiate a significant media campaign, complete with music, video, social media, giveaways and player outreach.
As for improving the fan experience, Johnson also suggested introducing a Knicks Fanatic Night where fans get deep discounts on merchandise. He also suggested renovating Madison Square Garden to make it a better sports/entertainment venue (like Yankee Stadium). Johnson and Fausto Rodriguez both thought lowering ticket prices for certain games against lower-tier teams would help more fans be able to afford to attend games, and Rodriguez also suggested ticket giveaways and lower prices for weekday games.
New York Skyline c. 1941
Photo by Jack Delano [Public domain],
To complete the final installment of the TBCB Knicks Roundtable, we asked roundtable participants for their season predictions. While everyone thinks the Knicks will have a good year, even the rosiest prognosticator has the Knicks failing to make the Finals. Maybe next year, Mr. Dolan. Of course, these predictions are for enjoyment only.
Johnson: 4th Seed: With more moves during this off-season, the Knicks have gone from a 7th or 6th seed team to a 4th, maybe even 3rd seed team. With ATM feat. Mobb Deep II, the Knicks have become a threat that can raise some eyebrows this season. They have a defensive core now with Chandler, Camby, Shumpert, Brewer, Felton, and Kidd. Their offense is stacked with Amar'e, Melo, Felton, Novak, and Smith. I think they should, with the right chemistry and Woodson, get past the first round and maybe face the Heat in the Conf Finals.
Rodriguez: 2nd Seed: The New York Knicks have gone from a first round exit, to a potential championship team. The Knicks have had the most success this off-season. They’re depth has truly put them over the top. They acquired a pass-first type of point guard, they acquired an experienced, veteran point guard in Jason Kidd, a solid big in Marcus Camby, a solid perimeter defender in Ronnie Brewer, and re-signed both Novak and Smith. Come playoff time, they’ll have something most teams can’t have, a 10-man rotation. The depth and talent that the Knicks have, coming into this season, puts them over the top. Finish 50-32.
Lippman: First round playoff knockout.
Inman: Knicks will go 59-23 and be in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Heat
Hogan: 52-30, Lose in the second round of the playoffs.
Morett: The Knicks will go 48-34, get the fifth seed, and make it to the second round of the playoffs before getting bounced by the Bulls, 4-2.
Photo by Toni Lozano
via Wikimedia Commons
via Wikimedia Commons
Back to the Belt
Finally, as a note to Knicks fans who have joined us for this roundtable, stay tuned for our continued coverage of The Basketball Champs Belt. The next scheduled post about the history of the belt covers the 1950-51 season, which featured the Knicks facing off in the finals against the Rochester Royals. In addition, we'll continue coverage of the modern-day status of the belt once the 2012-13 season resumes. The Knicks have an early opportunity to raise the belt on November 2 when they play the Miami Heat in both team's second game of the season. If the Heat retain the belt by winning their opening-day game against the Celtics, the winner of the matchup between the Heat and the Knicks will leave Madison Square Garden with the belt. Someone alert Steve Novak!
Each participant's unedited round 4 contributions follow:
Staff/setting: If I was GM/Owner I would bring in star talent that would work with a specific coach. I would bring in a proven coach, no matter the cost, to work with the Knicks and turn them into a championship team. And for every playoff they make it to, and every championship the players bring in, I would raise their pay. Also, I would contact the city mayor to make NYC more attractive for my players to play in and live in. I would start renovating the Garden more and make it like Yankee Stadium, not only a sports/entertainment venue, but a place where people could hang out as well.
Giving back to the fans/Jerseys/Merchandise: I would change the Knicks uniforms by taking the black out of the logo and paying homage to the past Knicks. The Home jersey would stay the same, but the road would have to feature the silver part of the logo somewhere. As an alternate, I would base it off of the 70s/mid-90s jerseys (blue, orange, and white). Honestly, with the new logo, I think it's time for some new jerseys that would put the Knicks back to contending. As far as merchandise goes, introducing special nights like a Knicks Fanatic Night where fans can get 40-50% off of jerseys and other Knicks merchandise. This would display giving back to the fans for a few nights in the NBA season for their loyalty to the team.
Lower Tickets:Ticket prices need to be lowered for certain games. For games such as Pistons @ Knicks, I will lower the ticket prices because the talent of the Pistons is not in high demand to see, like the Knicks talent. For games against rivals or top tier teams such as the Heat, Celtics, Lakers, OKC, those ticket prices would be raised a little, bit but nothing outrageous.
Tickets: I would raise the possibility of ANYONE attending a Knicks game. Ticket prices are far too high for the average New Yorker, in order to attend ONE game, one would have to save up for nearly a month. I would giveaway more tickets to fans (won't lose money because of their high revenue), and also make Monday-Wednesday tickets cheaper, as well as tickets against sub-par teams.
Jerseys: The Knicks need more versatility to their look. You can't change the colors, that's the tradition, but you can go beyond the simplicity. I think having alternate home and road jerseys would help the look of the Knicks. It gets boring seeing the same jerseys, night after night, plus it would increase revenue.
Promoting: I would try to promote OUTSIDE of Manhattan. Sure they play in NYC, but they represent the STATE of NY. I would start by involving the other 4 boroughs more, with charity work, straight up advertisement, etc. Then move on outwards. They represent Syracuse, a big basketball city, they represent BROOKLYN, they need to dominate Brooklyn, etc. I believe the Knicks organization centralizes a bit too much on Manhattan, although understandably, that's where most of our population is. Loyalty is key.
Being in total control of the team where money’s no object entitles one to go out and purchase a dream team, but that will not guarantee you a championship. Talent can only take you so far. A dream team would still need to know how to play well together. Team chemistry, both on and off the floor, is the difference maker.
Beneath the tabloid noise this off-season the Knicks have deepened their field of talent. So with this dream-light team in place, I would immediately start building off the floor chemistry. Involve Kidd and Camby in regular leadership talks; bring in the Knicks greats of the past. Show films of the ’86 Mets. Now there was a team with chemistry! Off the field, that team dined, partied and hung out together in every city they played in.
The key will be to transfer team chemistry onto the floor and become champions. I would give Coach Woodson whatever he needs to succeed. Hire the right coaching staff. Make sure that the right players are in place at all times. It is up to the coach to use the whole team effectively. Midseason adjustments might turn out to be critical on the path to the title.
The Knicks need to keep the fans “insane.” That really comes down winning. Nevertheless, I would finance a media and public relations campaign to help keep the craziness going all season long. I would take this marketing campaign to the next level with team music, video, social media, giveaways and player outreach. On the court, there is nothing more motivating than fan support.
I would hire Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, and any other great unemployed offensive basketball mind to draw up plays for Mike Woodson to help facilitate the use of actual basketball plays instead of isolation basketball.
I would hire Dirk Nowitzki's shooting coach to work with Carmelo Anthony on making his jumpers at a more consistent rate than last season. With just a little fine tuning Anthony's jumper can improve.
I would assemble a team of life coaches to personally mentor and uplift Amare Stoudemire to make sure that his head is in the right place at all times pushing for him to be all that he can be. They will keep his mind on basketball and winning games instead of fashion and the glam life.
Michael “Fulk” Hogan
Hire Phil Jackson as the general manager and do anything he wants: Allow him to Skype in from California as much as he wants, build him a Zen center inside Madison Square Garden, and if he wants a new coach, hire a new coach.
Assign a dedicated valet to shadow each Knicks player 24 hours a day. The specific person assigned should be someone who will get the attention of any individual player. For some, this valet should be a former Knicks great. For others, Carmelo Anthony in particular, this valet should be a member of the New York mafia.
With the assistance of assigned valets, enforce a media blackout that begins after the All-Star game and ends after the playoffs and have players participate in a Phil Jackson book club. During the playoffs, require everyone to live in Phil Jackson’s Madison Square Garden Zen Center.
1. Trade Carmelo Anthony. At least, if the Knicks aren't playing like clear, very serious championship contenders when the trade deadline approaches, dish him to a team that is desperate--either to make the playoffs or to bolster their playoff run--and get as many young prospects or draft picks as possible. If you accept the premise that the Knicks won't make it to the top in the next three or four years (if only b/c of the Heat and OKC), then you have to view Melo not as a 28-year-old, recently injured, questionable team player but as a 32-year-old formerly injured (assuming four healthy years), questionable team player. Cut the cord.
2. Fill out the roster with a young player or two who will help the team transition to its post-Melo glory.
3. Once Melo is gone (again, unless the Knicks are looking like true contenders this year), start making other deals and/or thinking about other contract negotiations so that they can maximize their chance to sign a big free agent next year and to pay some of the top draft picks they'll get from a Melo trade.
I hope all this speculative talk hasn't been too Melo-dramatic.