This Sunday afternoon I found myself on a mini MSG binge watching some Knicks games of yesteryear. Starting with Game 7 of 1994 Eastern Conference Finals and then briefly watching the countdown of 2011-12’s best dunks, I came up with a series of random musing about the Knicks and NBA in general, found below.
- It is astounding to me how different the game was in 1994 and really up until the 2005 rule changes. The days of illegal defense and perimeter hand-checking (although I believe that rule was changed prior to 2005), it was like watching a different sport. Aesthetically, it was brutal. Yes, there is beauty and appreciation in the post up games of Ewing and Smits, but the more open style of essentially the last decade is in my opinion preferable.
- With that in mind, I wonder how some of today’s players would have fared during the hand checking illegal defense era. Perhaps some wouldn’t be in the league, or some even all stars, it’s really fascinating to think about.
- Another thing I noticed was the schematic differences in plays. One set I noticed featured a Ewing post up on the left block, and BOTH Oakley and Charles Smith were hanging around on the right block, providing limited space for The Big Fella to operate vs. Smits in the post. I wondered why this was. Perhaps because of the limited range of Oakley or perhaps because Riles valued his two forwards crashing the offensive boards instead of spacing. However, think about how much that contradicts to today’s game. When a team features a player in a post up, most of the time we see players on the opposite side of the court stretched all the way out to the 3 point line (think Knicks with Melo posting or how Stan Van Gundy operated with Howard & the Magic). Is this because of the changes in basketball analytics and how much more valuable the 3 point shot is considered nearly 20 years later? Or is it because of the new rules regarding illegal defense? The answer is probably some amalgam of all of these things.
- Unless I’m too young (only 26) to remember this, but did Pat Riley ever an endorsement deal with a hair gel company? Riles and Vitalis were made for one another as he sported that semi-greasy flow.
- As for the 2011-2012 Knicks, I was amazed how many members of last year’s team are now out of the NBA. Not including the injured Baron Davis, six members of last year’s team are currently out of the league: Renaldo Balkman, Mike Bibby, Dan Gadzuric, Josh Harrelson, Jerome Jordan and Bill Walker. Obviously, last year’s Knicks weren’t the only team where this happened (last year’s Nets had quite a few guys who are not currently employed by NBA teams). However, given the lofty expectations that fans and the media had for last year’s team after the Chandler signing, it’s actually remarkable that they were so high. In fact, given the number of non-NBA players that were even on the roster, perhaps going 36-30 overall last season shouldn’t be deemed the disappointment that it was considered by most, including myself.