It won’t be easy for Brown in New York
By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor
(Sports Network) – Larry Brown has his dream job now that he is the new
head coach of the New York Knicks, but it’s not going to be easy. He does not
have the same luxury that he had in Detroit, when he took over a team that was
coming off back-to-back 50-win seasons.
The Knicks finished the 2004-05 season with a disappointing 33-49 record and
did not qualify for the postseason for the third time in four years. New York,
which was swept in its last appearance in the playoffs by the New Jersey
Nets in the first round of the 2004 postseason, looked like a team that
needed a complete overhaul in the offseason.
With the hiring of Brown, who is already a member of the Naismith Memorial
Basketball Hall of Fame, the Knicks have brought in a proven winner. New
York’s new general has guided his clubs to the NBA Finals in three of the last
five seasons. He led the Philadelphia 76ers to the 2001 championship round,
won a ring with Detroit in 2004 and was on the bench when the Pistons fell in
seven games to the San Antonio Spurs in this year’s championship round.
Brown, who is the Knicks’ 22nd head coach and will turn 65 on September
14th, has proven in the past that he knows how to turn around struggling
teams and get them back to the postseason. He has 33 years of coaching
experience at the collegiate or professional level. Brown, who was a
three-time ABA Coach of the Year and was the 2001 NBA Coach of the Year,
also spent time as the head man with the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers,
San Antonio, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey and the ABA’s Carolina
Cougars. He was the head coach at UCLA and the University of Kansas, where he
captured the 1988 National Championship with the Jayhawks.
New York will be a much tougher challenge than Detroit. Brown does not inherit
a club that is on the cusp of winning a title. Instead, he will try and fix a
squad that has salary cap issues and is simply trying to find the formula for
Starting point guard Stephon Marbury is New York’s best player. The 28-year-
old Marbury led the Knicks in scoring (21.7 ppg) and assists (8.1 apg) in
2004-05. He started all 82 of the regular-season contests and played 40
minutes per game. The two-time All-Star shot 46.2 percent from the floor and
averaged 1.49 steals per game.
Marbury, who has averaged 20.6 points and 8.3 assists during his nine-year
career in the NBA, is one of the league’s top point guards, but can he
adjust to Brown’s system. New York’s new general stresses defense first,
while Marbury loves to shoot the ball and is not afraid to get into a run-
and-gun type game. The Knicks’ offense will operate in a half-court set
most of the time and that could prevent Marbury from his free-wheeling style
of play. The fact remains that if Brown can get his new lead guard to
accept his philosophy, the Knicks will be one giant step closer to getting
back to the postseason.
New York’s president of basketball operations Isiah Thomas has tried to build
an athletic roster during the offseason. So far, Thomas has drafted
Arizona’s Channing Frye with the eighth overall pick and David Lee of Florida
at No. 30, and dealt center/forward Kurt Thomas and the draft rights to
Dijon Thompson, who was the 54th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, to Phoenix
for swingman and three-point specialist Quentin Richardson, the draft
rights to guard Nate Robinson, who was the 21st pick in this year’s draft,
and cash considerations. The Knicks will also reportedly ink 29-year-old
free agent center Jerome James, who had spent the previous four seasons
with Seattle, to a multi-year contract when the NBA and the Players
Association finalize the new CBA.
Guard Jamal Crawford and forwards Malik Rose, Mike Sweetney, and Tim Thomas
will also figure prominently in Brown’s new game plan. Crawford averaged 17.7
points and 4.3 assists in his first season with the Knicks in 2004-05, while
Sweetney registered 8.4 points and 5.4 boards per contest. The Knicks hope the
22-year-old Sweetney, who will be entering his third season in the league, can
continue to develop into a productive power forward.
Twenty-eight-year-old Tim Thomas contributed 12.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per
game last season, while Rose, who was acquired from San Antonio at the trade
deadline, teams with fellow veteran Maurice Taylor to give New York depth up
Brown does have some pieces of the puzzle in place. The players will need to
adjust to the coach. He has proven that he can turn struggling clubs
into winners, and has always been able to get the most out of his teams.
Marbury is the key here. If Brown has the same success on the court that he
had with All-Star Allen Iverson in Philadelphia, then everything else should
be able to fall into place. Brown’s patience was put to the test during his
six years with the Sixers, but the 76ers did reach the NBA Finals once and
qualified for the playoffs in five of the six seasons under Brown. Bottom
line, he helped Philly become a winner once again.
It’s not going to be easy, but if anyone can turn the Knicks around it’s