MSG Jeers, Walsh Cheers: Knicks Ignore Fans and Get Their Man

David SanchiricoCorrespondent IJune 27, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 25:  NBA Commissioner David Stern poses for a photograph with the eighth overall draft pick by the New York Knicks,  Jordan Hill during the 2009 NBA Draft at the Wamu Theatre at Madison Square Garden June 25, 2009 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It's an annual occurrence in Gotham. Call it a summer pastime.

As synonymous to the "City that Never Sleeps" as the December lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center, the jeering of discontent Knicks fans can be heard every June.

New Yorkers are quick to judge anyone that participates on one of their professional teams.

And unlike other media markets where fans are relatively patient for draft picks to develop, tri-state diehards will let draft picks know in a matter of mere moments whether they have received good graces or not.

In the case of Knicks fans, draft selections are rarely seen in a favorable light.

Quite frankly, the collective voice of displeasure these fans expressed in the past was usually valid. Frederic Weis, Ronaldo Balkman, and Mardy Collins, among others, were deafened by the roar of dissatisfaction that echoed among Knicks fans.

None of these first round draftees lasted long in New York—or in the case of Weis, ever played in the Big Apple.

You can add Jordan Hill, the No. 8 selection of the Knicks during Thursday's NBA Draft, to the list of verbally assaulted New York draft picks.

Fans went to the WaMu Theater praying towards to the basketball gods to be blessed with a big-name guard.

They groaned when Jonny Flynn—who put on a spectacular performance at the Knicks' home arena during the Big East Tournament in March—was grabbed by Minnesota right after selecting Ricky Rubio, another flashy player on the fans' limited wishlist.

They then saw Golden State's selection Stephen Curry, the hotshot shooter from Davidson, at the No. 7 spot as the kiss of death of sorts.

That was Donny Walsh's perceived No. 1. They suddenly expected the worst. A dark cloud hit the white-and-blue jersey wearing attendees.

What huge-name high scorer was left on the board? Would Donnie Walsh grab Brandon Jennings? What about Gerald Henderson? They will surely take a guard, just look at that crowded front court.

Nope. Walsh and head coach Mike D'Antoni grabbed a 6-foot-10 big man that instills toughness inside while providing D'Antoni with an athletic, mobile big man for his run-and-gun offense.

Fans didn't view the selection this way. Looking at the glass half-empty, diehards at WaMu Theater condemned management for not trading to acquire one of the highly-touted guards.

Hill was not the guard who could help bring thrilling basketball back to Madison Square Garden.

So they booed mercilessly. Hill, already expecting the unanimous displeasure, could be less worried.

That's how it should be.

Walsh and D'Antoni are on the right page. If there was one thing the Knicks needed, it was a hard-nosed forward like Hill who could thrive in D'Antoni's offense.

Maybe these Hill hecklers forgot about the interior defense the last few seasons. Seeing Al Harrington, Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph, Chris Wilcox, and other offensive big men get dominated on the defensive end was hard to watch.

Sure, D'Antoni's system does not emphasize defense.

But there were pieces of the Suns' frontcourt that focused on offense, but provided resistance on the other side of the ball.

Lets put it this way; where D'Antoni's Suns had a weak-side shot blocker in Amare Stoudamire and an undersized but tough Shawn Marion, the Knicks have had softer than a baby's bottom Eddy Curry, a lackadaisical Randolph, selfish small forward Harrington, a hard worker but inefficient defender in David Lee, and various other unworthy forwards.

If I had a nickel for every Maurice Taylor we've had, I could get a five-dollar footlong.

And now, Hill makes Lee expendable. As a poor man's Chris Bosh, Hill can equal Lee's rebounding numbers while providing more defensive intensity and athleticism. This all comes without the hefty contract Lee is pressing to receive.

Hill can also play above the rim. He will make guards and slashing forwards think twice before driving to the hoop. His 35-inch vertical and 7-foot-1 wingspan just translates into shot blocker.

When was the last time New York had a player who rejected shots on a consistent basis? Marcus Camby?

Curry and Lee sure don't prevent baskets from happening. They essentially invited Eastern Conference guards into the lane, resulting in a 48 percent shooting percent for opponents.

And unlike those previous big men, Hill will provide an offensive attack fitted for D'Antoni. He can run the floor and will be rewarded for his effort with passes on the break.

Sounds like a player the Knicks have missed from their roster for a while now.

Even though Hill looks to be exceptionally more promising than prior draft picks, his selection points to a common theme.

The Knicks have never drafted for top talent, but more for need. Balkman was viewed as a defensive player who could provide work ethic and energy. Collins was predicted as a perimeter defender who could develop into a crafty ball-handler and floor leader.

But both were reaches and never materialized. The same went for numerous prior draft picks.

Hill was one of the most talented players in the insubstantial draft. The Arizona Wildcat improved by leaps and bounds during the '08-'09 campaign.

Management saw this and stuck by their man.

By refusing to succumb to the pressure of fans desperate to move up and grab a big name, Walsh and D'Antoni filled a need while grabbing a multi-dimensional player who will most likely succeed in New York.

New Yorkers will boo. If you go against preference, you're a marked man on Draft Day.

Jordan Hill shook off the hostility and is looking towards the future.

He has already gotten off to a good start.


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