It's mid-April, which means it must be time to sort through the wreckage of a lost Knicks season again. Turns out they can't even get losing right — New York's recent three-game winning streak is totally meaningless except for the fact that it greatly hurts their lottery odds because they passed Memphis and the Clippers in the standings.
To help separate the bad from the awful, we're back once again with year-end grades. You'll notice that the first couple letters of the alphabet are hugely underrepresented, but at least hope is on the way. Once Donnie Walsh gets a chance to sort this train wreck out, maybe next year's report card will be a little more positive. In the meantime, hold your nose and read on:
ISIAH THOMAS: K Yes, a K. Because I needed something several notches worse than an F. It's bad enough that the players quit on him as a result of his decision to quickly reinstate Stephon Marbury after he went AWOL in Phoenix. What takes the cake is that the opposite is also true — this might be the first time in history that a coach quit on the players. By mid-March he wasn't even bothering with practice on most days and held only the most cursory of shootarounds. Add in his comic incompetence as a general manager and the sexual harassment suit that he and the Knicks lost, and it's a perfect storm of ineptitude.
JEROME JAMES: F- Arguably the greatest mistake of the Isiah era, he's done nothing but eat and collect paychecks since signing a five-year deal for the full mid-level exception. One thing we can look forward to this summer is Donnie Walsh waiving him.
STEPHON MARBURY: F Hey, he did more than Jerome James did. On the other hand, his feud with Isiah was the key reason the season fizzled. While Thomas deserves much of the blame, it was Marbury who made the selfish decision to abandon the team in Phoenix, and the Knicks never recovered.
QUENTIN RICHARDSON: D- On any other team, his total collapse would be one of the year's major stories. Here, it barely registered a blip. I like Richardson, but it was hard to ignore his god-awfulness this year — he shot 35.8% from the floor and looked slower than ever at both ends. One thing the new regime needs to focus on is conditioning — a lot of these guys aren't in great shape, and Richardson is a good example.
MARDY COLLINS: D He didn't start any fights with goon fouls, so that's a positive. And he seems like he might become a decent defensive player. But if he doesn't shoot better than 32.7%, none of the other stuff will matter.
MALIK ROSE: D A true pro, but he's finished basketball-wise. But don't you suppose that being a Knick is even worse for him because he played so long in San Antonio? Unlike somebody like Curry or Crawford, he knows exactly what a professional basketball team is supposed to look like, and how many light years the Knicks are from becoming one.
RANDOLPH MORRIS: D Touted as a steal by the Knicks when they signed him out of Kentucky toward the end of last season, Morris has hardly played and when he has he's played poorly.
JARED JEFFRIES: D Though a less egregious waste of money than Jerome James, Jeffries has proven to be another misguided use of the Knicks' mid-level exception. His averages of 8.1 points per 40 minutes and a 43.5 True Shooting Percentage (adjusted for free throws and 3s) are completely unacceptable for an NBA wing player.
RENALDO BALKMAN: C- Quietly, he was nearly as big a disappointment as Richardson, as he showed little of the burst he displayed as a rookie. Maybe it was just tough getting excited being around this bunch, but Balkman's rebound rate sank like a stone and he was much less involved in the offense, especially on the transition plays where he'd thrived a year earlier.
EDDY CURRY: C- So much for the idea that he can become an All-Star center. But Curry's season wasn't as bad as some would have you believe. He still averaged 20.4 points per 40 minutes and shot 54.6% from the floor; he just wasn't playing nearly as many minutes because he made such a poor frontcourt partner with Zach Randolph. That said, his defense was a joke and his rebounding wasn't much better.
ZACH RANDOLPH: C Not all of this is his fault — he seemed as puzzled as anyone why the Knicks traded for him given the obvious mismatch between his skills and Curry's. As it was, he was probably about the worst person they could have added to the mix — a me-first gunner with questionable conditioning who didn't play defense. Walking into the Knicks' locker room must have been like looking in a mirror. It goes without saying that the Knicks will move heaven and earth trying to trade him this summer.
WILSON CHANDLER: C Where did this come from? Why hasn't he been playing all year? He's not as explosive as Balkman, but he's a good athlete who has keyed the Knicks' surprise three-game winning streak. We'll hope to see much more of him during his sophomore campaign.
FRED JONES: C+ Along with David Lee, he was one of the two Knicks who seemed to be making an honest effort to work hard even as the team collapsed around them. No, Jones didn't play particularly well and is probably best suited as a fourth guard, but at least he tried.
JAMAL CRAWFORD: B- I'm always amazed at how he can be totally oblivious to the circus going on around him. Regardless of what else is happening, Crawford plays 37 minutes and finishes with 18 points and five assists; it's remarkable on a team where everybody else's numbers yo-yoed so much. This was arguably his best season as a pro, averaging 20.5 points per 40 minutes and cutting his turnover rate. That said, Crawford still needs to rein in his inner gunner a bit and focus more on the defensive end.
NATE ROBINSON: B Robinson's development was one of the season's few positives. He's still selfish and immature and needs to make better decisions, but he improved in all those areas this season. And the kid can really score, pumping in 19.4 points per 40 minutes with a solid shooting percentage and a low Turnover Ratio . He doesn't really have a position, but he can be a huge force providing instant offense off the bench.
DAVID LEE: B+ Lee was the Knicks' best player for a second straight season, shooting 55.4% from the floor and having one of the best Rebound Rates at his position. Yes, his defense needs some work, but he's not out to lunch the way Curry and Randolph are either. His best role is probably off the bench because of his energy, but the Knicks shouldn't flinch if he has to start once Curry, Randolph or both have been exiled.