Thursday , Apr , 01 , 2010 C.Y. Ellis

New York Knicks 2004-05 Season Preview

=== New York Knicks 2004-05 Season Preview ===

By Chris Ruddick, Contributing NBA Writer

2003-04 FINISH: 39-43

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Jamal Crawford (G) – Trade with Chicago; Jerome Williams
(F) – Trade with Chicago.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Dikembe Mutombo (C) – Traded to Chicago; Cezary
Trybanski (C) – Traded to Chicago ; Othella Harrington (F) – Traded to
Chicago; Frank Williams (G) – Traded to Chicago.

2004 DRAFT PICKS: 2. (43) Trevor Ariza (F, UCLA).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Stephon Marbury, SG Jamal Crawford, SF Tim
Thomas, PF Kurt Thomas, C Nazr Mohammed

COACH: Lenny Wilkens

(Sports Network) – There is plenty of optimism surrounding the 2004-05 New
York Knicks, as they enter the campaign as the favorites to win a relatively
weak Atlantic Division.

If Isiah Thomas has done anything since unseating Scott Layden as president of
basketball operations in January, it is that he as at least made them
interesting once again. Only four players remain on the 15-man roster he
inherited. In addition he fired head coach Don Chaney in favor of Lenny
Wilkens.

His most important move, though, was the acquisition of point guard Stephon
Marbury, a New York playground legend out of Brooklyn. Marbury was acquired
from Phoenix, along with shooting guard Anfernee Hardaway and center Cezary
Trybanski in exchange for forwards Antonio McDyess and Maciej Lampe,
guards Charlie Ward and Howard Eisley, the draft rights to former second-
round pick Milos Vujanic, an unconditional first- round draft choice, a
conditional future first-round draft pick and an undisclosed amount of cash.

Marbury’s arrival helped the Knicks recover from a 10-19 start to finish the
year 39-43 – good enough for the seventh-seed in the Eastern Conference.
However, their first trip back to the postseason after a two-year absence was
brief, as the Knicks were swept in the opening round by the New Jersey Nets.

Never one to stand pat, Thomas again tinkered with the roster in the summer,
as he traded for Chicago guard Jamal Crawford, who is another scoring option
and provides insurance for Allan Houston’s aching knees. Also acquired in the
Crawford deal was forward Jerome Williams, who will help the Knicks undersized
front court.

“Our goal is to win the NBA Championship, and we think the additions of Jamal
and Jerome will be important pieces of that puzzle,” Knicks president of
basketball operations Isiah Thomas said. “Both players have the winning
mentality to succeed as Knick players.”

Marbury, though, is the key ingredient and the new face of the franchise.
However, the only problem is that he has yet to prove he can carry a team far
into the postseason. No matter who Thomas surrounds Marbury with, his most
important job might be to pass on the leadership skills that made him a Hall
of Fame guard.

Thomas is always looking for another deal and if things don’t get started the
way he likes, Wilkens might be on the unemployment line.

BACKCOURT

There are not too many backcourts in the East, or the entire league for that
matter, that boast as deep a unit as the Knicks.

Marbury is the leader and last year ranked 15th in the league in scoring (20.
2) and second in assists (8.2). In addition to his unbelievable court vision
and passing ability, Marbury can take a game over by himself from a scoring
standpoint.

However, sometimes he tends to do too much and loses faith in his teammates
late in games, which usually leads to some ill-advised shots.

One of the main reasons Marbury tried to shoulder the load was the injuries to
Houston, who missed most of the last month of the regular season and all of
the postseason with chronic knee pain. When he is in the lineup though,
Houston is one of the best shooters in the league and will likely soar with
Marbury as a running mate.

Last year, in 50 games the 6-foot-6 Houston scored 18.5 points-per-game.
Houston, though, has continued to be plagued by knee pain and will likely come
off the bench in favor of Crawford once the season starts.

Crawford, acquired in early August from Chicago for forward Othella
Harrington, guard Frank Williams and centers Dikembe Mutombo and Trybanski,
has improved his scoring, rebounding and assist averages in each season.

The four-year NBA veteran led the Bulls in scoring last season at 17.3 ppg,
while handing out 5.1 apg.

“Jamal has the ability to play both guard positions, and adds an additional
scoring punch,” Thomas said.

Moochie Norris and Hardaway will also see some time in the backcourt. While
Norris was a non-factor last season, Hardaway was a solid player off the bench
for the Knicks after the trade and should fill the same role this year.
Shandon Anderson, provided he is on the team, will also be used.

FRONTCOURT

One move that Thomas took some heat for last season was the deal that sent
Keith Van Horn to Milwaukee for Tim Thomas. Isiah wanted to make the team more
athletic, but Van Horn was thriving with Marbury at the time of the deal.

Tim Thomas has been labeled as an underachiever for the better part of his
career, but definitely fits Isiah’s uptempo style. In 24 games with the
Knicks, Thomas averaged 15.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg. However he injured his back in
the first game of the playoffs and the team was never able to recover from an
offensive standpoint.

The power forward spot could be an interesting area for the Knicks this year.
Incumbent Kurt Thomas remains the team’s most consistent player day-in/day-
out, but his starting position is being challenged by second year man Michael
Sweetney – the team’s top selection a year ago.

Thomas, who is probably better suited to come off the bench, led the team in
rebounding last year (8.3) despite playing most of the season with a crooked
right pinkie that required offseason surgery. His scoring dipped to 11.1 ppg,
but does every little thing that does not show up in the box score. He also
has to endure numerous trade rumors.

Sweetney, though, has been the star of camp and maybe his time has arrived.
Playing just 42 games last season, the 6-foot-8 Georgetown product provided a
spark off the bench. He is a relentless offensive rebounder and has a knack
for getting shots around the basket.

He came into camp in terrific shape and improved on his mid-range jumper and
now seems poised to unseat Thomas as the team’s starter. It is not a matter of
if he will start, but it is only a matter of when.

In the middle will be another one of Isiah Thomas’ mid-season acquisitions,
Nazr Mohammed, who was acquired from Atlanta as part of the three-team.Van
Horn blockbuster. Mohammed quickly replaced the ageless Mutombo as the team’s
center and shot a team-best 56.3-percent from the floor. He also delivered 9.1
ppg and pulled down 7.7 rpg.

At 6-foot-10, 250-pounds Mohammed is still mobile around the basket, but is
also easily overpowered on defense. He is not a major shot blocker and at
times seems confused on the defensive end of the court.

The addition of Williams should help the team around the basket. He is a
ferocious rebounder and a tremendous asset on defense. Williams also played
with Wilkens in Toronto.

Vin Baker was picked up off the scrap heap late last year and became an inside
post presence the Knicks lacked. Hopefully his substance abuse problems are
behind him, because he will play valuable minutes at the backup center
position.

New York’s only draft pick Trevor Ariza is considered a long-term product, but
was impressive in the team’s summer league and has showed enough in camp that
he could be used in a limited role.

OUTLOOK

The Knicks are not about to join the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference,
but they will be there come playoff time, no doubt about it. Provided that
Houston is healthy, this team should win at least 45 games. Marbury has said
all his life that all he ever wanted was to play for the Knicks, now is his
chance to shine. Crawford will help and Sweetney could become a force in the
frontcourt. However, if things get off to a shaky start everyone on the
roster, with the possible exception of Marbury, will be available.

NYK