When this season started, all the Knicks were back from last year. They had a full training camp together, not to mention a healthy Danilo Galliari, and two promising rookies in Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas.
Everything pointed to improvement, right?
Wrong. After matching their all-time worst start at 1-8, the only thing that appears as if it may improve is their status at the lottery draft. That is, if they hadn’t forfeited their lottery pick courtesy of the—insert cringe here—Stephon Marbury deal.
But wait. There is one player who was not around last year for most of the season and the beginning of this one. And this player just may be the difference maker, the only flotation device for a season that already appears to be drowning.
The only player left for the Knicks to pin their fragile hopes on is their 6-foot-11, 300 and-God-knows-what pound center, Eddie Curry. Team sources say he may be ready to go in as soon as a week.
Now that you’ve stopped laughing, let's examine this.
Word around town is Eddie Curry’s almost a double nickel lighter; he is no longer the before picture of Jared from Subway.
Okay, you say. So what? What can Curry possibly bring to a Knicks team that looks as if it’s just waiting for a miracle named Lebron to land on its doorstep next year?
That all depends on which Eddie Curry shows up wearing the orange and blue this year.
Will it be the Eddie Curry of 2006-07, who averaged nearly 20 points and seven rebounds, both career highs, whose quick foot work down low on the box and bevy of low-post moves had many people crying foul when he was left off the All-Star team for an emerging Dwight Howard.
Fast forward to today, and it seems unlikely that anyone would have argued for Eddie Curry to play on All-Star weekend rather than Howard, but the race for best young big man in the East really was that close at the time. Howard had the edge in rebounding and defense, but Curry had proven himself a much more potent low-post threat.
The alternative Eddie Curry is the one Knicks fans want to forget and management wants badly to trade. This is the Eddie Curry of the last two seasons, the Eddie Curry who couldn’t beat the 24 second clock down the floor, the Eddie Curry who couldn’t outrebound Celtic point guard Rajon Rondo.
If this is the one who shows up, then the season truly is over, and it will be a long wait until 2010 and the signing of a possible savior.
The naysayers are already wondering how D’Antoni will get Curry’s physical bang-and-bump game to fit in his system. It didn’t seem to fit in Phoenix with Shaq, a much more talented big man, they say.
First, D’Antoni’s alleged run 'n’ gun style is lacking the run and heavy on the gun with this team.
The Knicks put up way more three-pointers than they create fast break opportunities, so any claims that Curry will only serve to slow the Knicks down will be coming from people who believe that Chris Duhon can run an offense with the rapid-fire fluidity of Steve Nash. It’s just not going to happen.
The Knicks have spent the first few games walking the ball up, making one or two passes, and then chucking up a long shot. You live by the jump shot, you die by the jump shot, and the Knicks are already on the coroner’s table early in the season.
What Curry can potentially give them (potentially being the key word here) is a low-post scorer. He's a guy who can draw fouls on the other teams’ big men and send them to the bench. He's a guy who can maybe, just maybe, even alter a shot or two.
At the very least he might be able to clog up that airport landing strip of a lane the Knicks have been giving up without a true center.
Curry’s presence will also help the team in some indirect ways. First, if he has a successful season, it will go a long way toward attracting a major free agent in 2010. A young, dominant center can be a very attractive lure for a superstar looking to go far in the playoffs.
Secondly, if Curry can stay on the floor for any meaningful amount of time, it allows David Lee to play his natural position, power forward, and will let Al Harrington play small forward, where each player will have easier matchups, both offensively and defensively.
Consider the alternative: the only thing resembling a true center on the Knicks squad is Darko Milicic, a guy who Coach D’Antoni was quoted as saying, “For all I know, he could be a serial killer,” joking about his lack of knowledge of Milicic as a player or a person.
The other option is to continue to play Lee at center, which means another year of playing undersized and out of position.
And yet another year out of the playoffs.