As a die-hard Knick fan, I'll be the first to admit that the 2000s was not the best time to root for the orange and blue. Actually, it was pretty awful. The Knicks only made the playoffs twice in this decade and went from being a consistent contender to laughing stock.
Now as this decade comes to a close, I thought it's time to look back at the players who didn't completely disgrace the Knick uniform within the the last 9.5 years. I know the decade isn't technically finished yet, but I don't think anything that happens in the first 3 months of the 09-10 NBA season will change anything here.
And note the fact that I'm doing a starting lineup, not an All-Decade team. I started to do an All-Decade team but some of the players who made it were so laughable that this article could not be taken seriously if I published it. That's how bad my team has been...
...now on with the list!
Some very disturbed people may say that Stephon Marbury deserves to be on this spot, and I would understand as he was the mascot for Knick incompetence in the new millennium, but Ward was the only point guard who helped the Knicks win every now and then this decade.
Ward was a Knick from 1994 to the first half of the 2003-04 NBA season, and was the starting point guard in the late 90's and occasionally a starter in the 2000s, splitting the job with Mark Jackson and/or Howard Eisley.
Ward's numbers won't blow you away (his best season in the 2000's was 7.2 points and 4.6 assists in 2002) but he was a steady leader who could control the offense and shut down the opposing point guard on defense. I can't remember any other player who would take as many charges as Ward on defense.
Not to mention, he was the starting point guard during the Knicks' only playoff wins of the decade.
One of the most frustrating players that I have every cheered for, Crawford was an enigmatic presence during his four and a half seasons with the team.
For one thing, he almost never played defense. His defense was downright deplorable and the opposing guard would almost routinely have a big game against the Knicks. Not it was not a coincidence.
Also, for a professed combo-guard, Crawford was essentially an undersized shooting guard (like the other four hundred that the Knicks have had in recent years). He could bring the ball up the court well, but didn't accumulate many assists and would jack the ball up pretty quickly before waiting for the offense to get set.
At the same time, Crawford was an explosive scorer who could go off on any given night (see his 52-point game against the Heat for reference) and score in a variety of ways and got better as the years went on. His three point shot became more consistent, he stopped settling for jumpers and drove to the basket effectively, and if his shot wasn't falling, he knew when to shot shooting and start distributing (such as the 2007-08 season where his field goal percentage and assists both went up).
Also, Crawford was a team leader and good community guy off the court. In an era filled with malcontents, Crawford was a genuinely good guy and somebody that Knick fans could actually be proud to have on their team.
What else endeared him to Knick fans was his clutch play. So many times, Crawford would hit a big shot in the last minute or at the last second to win the game. His game-winning shots were the one thing keeping Knick games watchable over the last few seasons and while his inconsistency during the game would usually cause the Knicks to blow a big lead leading to a need for him to hit the big shot, it's all part of the enigmatic player known as Jamal Crawford.
Yes, I know Houston is a shooting guard and not a small forward, but give us a break here. Lord knows that the Knicks haven't had many breaks recently.
Houston is a player who became "the guy" in this new decade. After trading away Patrick Ewing and having Larry Johnson retire, Houston was relied upon more than ever to be a big scorer. When he was healthy, he delivered.
Houston became one of the best shooters in the league, scoring over 20 PPG twice this decade and making two All-Star appearances (the last All-Star appearance by a Knick by the way).
Houston played very well and as a result, was signed to a maximum contract. However, soon after signing it, injuries to his knees sidelined him for many games and eventually forced him into retirement.
The only player on this team currently on the Knicks roster (but who knows how much longer he will be there), Lee has been a consistent force since being drafted with the 30th pick of the 2005 draft.
A double-double on any given night, Lee evolved from a rebounding hustler in his rookie season, to a one of the best rebounders in the league with an improved all-around game, especially on offense. He is one of the hardest workers on the team and fights for every loose ball. His offense evolved from simple put-backs and dunks to mid-range jumpers and even better dunks.
One of the highlights of Lee's career with the team is winning MVP of the 2007 Rookie-Sophomore game, with 30 points and 11 rebounds. Another highlight which Knick fans surely remember well is one of the best buzzer beaters in NBA history when he scored on a tip-in with 0.1 seconds left against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Currently, it is unknown whether Lee will stay with the Knicks or sign with another team. But if the Knicks are smart (based on the last decade, I'm severely debating this), they should do all they can to keep him because he looks to be a future star and has been playing very well for the Knicks thusfar.
Thomas made the transition from a low-risk signing in 1998 to a key starter in the 2000's. Injuries limited his career early on and he looked like a draft bust, but after signing with New York, he was able to stay healthy and play effectively.
Undersized at 6'9 for a center, Thomas played bigger than he was, especially on defense. He was able to lock down the opposing big and block shots at a pretty good rate. On offense, his bread and butter was his mid-range jumper which he still has to this day.
His rebounding improved vastly from 5.7 in his first season with the team to 10.4 in his final. With all the injuries and turnover in personnel for the Knicks during the early-to-mid 2000's, Thomas was the one constant in the lineup and the one player that the Knicks could rely on to stay healthy and play well on a nightly basis.