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Posts Tagged ‘Larry Brown’

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It’s been two seasons since I’ve seen the New York Knicks up close and personal. I missed their trip through Portland last season due to the flu, but having covered the Knicks for three seasons prior I was used to being sick.

The Knicks now are nothing like the Knicks then.

Slowly but surely the organization is starting to turn things around. Okay, it’s not the glory days of Frazier, Ewing or Houston. The wins aren’t there. But it sure beats the charade New York endured during the Isiah Thomas era – or error as those in the know prefer to call it.

Here’s some quick hits on the Knicks then – as I saw them for three seasons, versus the Knicks now:

Then: The Garden Gestapo tried to muzzle Larry Brown from speaking openly to the press. When Thomas took over on the sidelines, he opted for a “just tell them what they need to know” approach with the media. And even that was hard for him to do

Now: Head coach Mike D’Antoni can speak his mind and freely interact with the media….as it should be.

Then: David Lee could barely get a start.

Now: Lee is the man.

Then: Beat writers typically had their conversations with players transcribed by media relations staff members into handheld devices, where they were then sent on to upper management.

Now: All beat writers have to worry about looking over their shoulder at are the constant layoffs in the newspaper biz.

Then: Larry Brown heralded Eddy Curry as the Knicks next big man. To Thomas, Curry was an All-Star in the making.

Now: Basketball is the furthest thing from Curry’s mind.

Then: The Knicks brawled against the Denver Nuggets.

Now: They are fighting for the eight spot back East….21 wins and all.

Then: Channing Frye was part of the Knicks foundation.

Now: He can’t get off the Blazers bench.

Then: Stephon Marbury was a locker room cancer.

Now: The Knicks are close to being cured with Marbury out of the picture.

Then: Marbury said he was the best point guard in the league.

Now: He’s teamless.

Then: Nate Robinson was an out of control point guard.

Now: Robinson makes the Knicks go.

Then: Thomas hoped veterans like Steve Francis, Jalen Rose and Kelvin Cato would help lead the Knicks.

Now: D’Antoni has all the faith in the world with a youngster like Wilson Chandler.

Then: Jerome James was known as “Big Snacks”.

Now: Well, some things just don’t change.

pic via: nymag

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eddyClick-click-click-click-click. That’s the sound of a New York Knicks media relations lackey typing your conversation with a player or coach into their BlackBerry, only to send it on to upper management. Maybe it’s not that way right now. But that was the reality not too long ago.

You may think these shenanigans about a certain Memphis Grizzlies forward (told you I wasn’t going to use his name again), is a flashback to a Bob Whitsett era in Portland, and they may easily be. But I’m not sure it is nearly as bad as the never ending circus that is the New York Knicks.

Now with Eddy Curry making ugly headlines, I dove into this today over at HOOPSWORLD in a story titled, “When Can The Knicks Move On?”. I wonder if the Knicks will ever get back to basketball instead of dealing with these typical distractions. 

(As a side note, it’s really hard to believe these Curry allegations. It’s just unfortunate when bad things happen to really good people. I smell a rat on this one.)

What I saw, read and wrote about in my three seasons covering the Knicks will forever be branded into my memory. Let me count the ways. I need only mention the usual suspects – James Dolan, Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas, Stephon Marbury – and the story starts to tell itself.

I’ve got stories. Man, I’ve got stories. Stories too long to detail in this simply blog post. I’ll save it for the book one day.

Know this though: it got so bad between the team and media – a tangible paranoia that trickled down from Dolan from day one – that some writers couldn’t do a single interview without a team media relations representative present and transcribing the entire conversation into their handheld device.

This happened everyday. Everyday.

It could even be as simple as, “Hey bro, nice game last night. How are the wife and kids?”

Click-click-click-click-click.

Such Gestapo tactics at the Garden led one beat writer to seriously joke he’d better look under his car or check the breaks in his ride on his way home from the arena.

Only in New York.

pic via: newsday

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nateThe Seattle SuperSonics versus the Chicago Bulls, 1996 NBA Finals. Those VCR tapes of the games I recorded were played out. My poor Quasar begged for mercy. Must have watched them weekly during the following offseason, with a gimpy Nate McMillan giving Seattle an emotional lift in Game 4 with a Sonics win.

All these years later – and now having covered Nate the past two seasons here in Portland – it’s still amazing the kind of defensive commitment he embodied throughout his entire career. We spoke about it briefly as I picked McMillan’s brain about Portland’s own defensive make-up this season.

You can head over to HOOPSWORLD for that full story – “New ‘Mindset’ In Portland” – which is running now.

Anytime the Denver Nuggets come to town, it’s worth grabbing a minute or two with George Karl – who coached Nate in those days – for a good McMillan story alone. Heck, even guys who played sparingly with McMillan still rave about what he was able to do on the floor.

Take Jerry “Ice” Reynolds for example. Talk about a blast from the past. “Ice” spent eight seasons in the NBA as a 6-8 swingman and still remembers fondly his lone season in Seattle (1988-89) playing alongside a then 24-year-old McMillan.

“He was always into the game both mentally and physically,” Reynolds, who now coaches the Jersey Express in the ABA, told me recently.

“I can remember Nate not being a great shooter, but never hesitating to shoot a big shot down the stretch of a game. He was as confident in himself as any player I’ve played with or against.”

What Reynolds said holds a lot of weight. It says a lot about how the Blazers are ran today under McMillan.

You always hear from coaches – Larry Brown loves to use the phrase – about players who “play the right way.” Nate fit the bill as a player. Even as a coach McMillan employs that tagline every now and again as he wants his guys to “play the right way.” I’m thinking if McMillan could have, he would have suited-up in Toronto on Sunday against the Raptors. He was that into the game. It’s only fitting then for the sum of this season – with Portland sitting right behind the Los Angeles Lakers atop the West – that Nate McMillan has “coached the right way.”

Man, I wish I had those VCR tapes now.

pic via: seattletimes.com

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