We're going to start a conversation tonight, using our blogs as the forum, on the Knicks vs. the Sixers. Where are they now, where are they going? SML kicked off the debate by email, and we're going to carry it out here. I'll post, he'll respond on his blog and vice versa.
If the topic is the immediate future, i.e. this season, then that's been decided already... as poor as the Knicks have played (supposedly), they still have a chance of making the playoffs, either as the #8 seed or perhaps even as the Atlantic division winner... they have played .500 ball since their 4-9 start... no doubt that, despite all the negative reports you may read everyday, they have reached mediocre. The 76ers, on the other hand, have given up on this season in order to rebuild, perhaps around Greg Oden.
Some questions for ya are:
a) Do you think you will land a top-2 pick (Oden or Durant), and which would you prefer at this point? What happens if you land at #3, instead?
b) Do you think this is the right direction to go with the team this season?
c) When will you guys compete for the playoffs again?
d) Would you want to trade places with the Knicks?
Depressed Fan's response: I hadn't really thought about it, but I guess you could call the Knicks mediocre this year. I don't think it's because they're any better than they were last year, I think it has more to do with them staying level while the rest of the Atlantic has deteriorated. On to the questions:
a) The cynic in me thinks the Sixers will win just enough games to finish out of the top two picks in the draft, or they'll have the worst record and still lose the lottery. This could also be a good year to see if the lottery is really fixed. The way the A.I. trade happened so quickly after the Knicks/Nuggets brawl suggests some meddling from David Stern, maybe the Sixers received a wink from Stern and the #1 pick is already in the bag. Who knows? I think it's a crapshoot at this point between Oden and Durant. I'd almost rather have the #2 pick, that way someone other than Billy King has to make the hard decision, and he can just pick whichever one is left. If I was making the pick today, I'd probably take Oden. Dominant big men are harder to find than pure scorers, and Durant plays no D. If the Sixers wind up with the #3 pick I fully expect Billy King to take Joakim Noah, and I think that would be a huge mistake. He's an energy guy with no offensive skills. Good to have on a roster, but not someone to build around and not someone worth the #3 pick.
b) I'm not sure I would say the Sixers have a direction. I like Andre Miller a lot, but I'm torn on what the Sixers should do with him. When he's running the offense he doesn't let them settle for contested jumpers, he moves the ball and finds guys in the right spot for higher percentage shots. This is going to be a vital asset for the Sixers next year and beyond. On the other hand, having him on the floor is probably going to be good for an extra five or six wins this season, which could hurt their chances of getting Durant or Oden. The Sixers haven't completely given up on the season, and this limbo they're in is a dangerous place to be with the future of the franchise hanging in the balance.
c) With Oden or Durant, and Larry Brown back on the bench next year, I'd expect them to make the playoffs. It doesn't take much in the East. If Mo Cheeks is still coaching, it could take a decade.
d) No way in hell. Isiah has got to be the worst basketball executive I've ever seen (unless you count the Knicks ownership who haven't fired him yet). I realize a lot of people are saying he's got a great eye for talent because he drafted Lee and Balkman. Lee I'll give you. The guy is a rebounding machine. The best Balkman can aspire to be is a Jerome "Junkyard Dog" Williams, with less offensive skills. The team is built around a fat guy with bad heart who could drop dead any minute and the most selfish point guard in the league (and that's saying a lot.) The Sixers have a chance to rebuild. They've got the right kind of players to do it now, personality-wise, and they could get a hall of famer in the draft in June. I wouldn't trade places with the Knicks for all of King Midas' silver.
My questions to SML:
a) If the Knicks make the playoffs, do you think there's any chance they won't get knocked out in the first round?
b) If someone offered you a bag of balls for Marbury would you jump at the opportunity to get rid of him?
c) Do you really think Balkman's ceiling is higher than the 8th or 9th man in the rotation?
d) Is there anyone on this team right now who you're 100% confident will still be a Knick in 4 years?
e) What does Isiah have to do to get fired? Obviously sexual harassment, losing records and the luxury tax haven't been enough to get the job done.
Check Stop Mike Lupica for SML's response.