Ball Don't Lie - NBA



The Knicks are, by all accounts, rolling. They've won 25 of 47 games to start the season, are on pace to win 44 and their fans have to be encouraged about the nearly set-in-stone, first-round playoff matchup with a Chicago Bulls team that New York has already twice dismissed.

And best? This group is fun. Even those that were sick to death of the drama of the Dave Checketts, Scott Layden or Isiah Thomas eras can't help but have it in for a team that plays at this pace and in that arena. There's something that hits when the organ kicks in.

But because the Apple can't go too long without a little Strum and Drang, we get the reminder from the New York Times' Howard Beck that Donnie Walsh, orchestrator of this current batch of fun, isn't currently under contract to run the Knicks next season. For some reason.

Wait-and-see is part of Walsh's nature, but it may also be a matter of practicality. Walsh's contract expires June 30, and he has received no indication from ownership that he will be retained. The team has until April 30 to pick up Walsh's option for the 2011-12 season.

It would be shocking if the Knicks let Walsh walk away, but the Garden chairman, James L. Dolan, is famously unpredictable. Those inside or outside the Garden are unsure what his thoughts are regarding Walsh.

Dolan has not spoken to reporters in four years. A Garden spokesman declined to comment on Dolan's intentions regarding Walsh.

"As a policy, we don't comment on anybody's contractual situation," said the spokesman, Barry Watkins, the Garden's executive vice president for communications.

As a policy, I like to point at the Knicks and laugh when they do ridiculous things like waffle on picking up Walsh's contract option.

Or when they hedge and wait, as Adrian Wojnarowski pointed out the other day, as they waffle before bringing the ultra-experienced Mark Warkentien on board to aid Walsh in any possible deals between now and the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Like, for Carmelo Anthony(notes). Because Mark Warkentien was the last guy to sign Carmelo to a contract extension.

All this nonsense is floating out there because, as Beck tactfully describes, owner James Dolan "is famously unpredictable." Drawing from there, it's also fair to point out that Dolan has some jock-sniffing obsession with placing types like Thomas and Allan Houston(notes) in charge. And that he'd scuttle an entire fan base's good time if it meant doing things his way, preferably with a fedora on, sent through an Ibanez Tube Screamer.

It's inconceivable that Walsh hasn't been picked up for next season, so the cynic in us is left to wonder whether or not Walsh himself has been waffling on returning, after having to put up with three years of Dolan's nonsense. But Woj is to be trusted on these things, and he points out that "Walsh has expressed a desire to finish the full reclamation project with New York," so why the hedging, Dolan?

Walsh won't win any points for creativity in his time running the Knicks, because he's basically done what followers of all fields (fans, writers, anyone with a working knowledge of how to run a toaster) have been begging the Knicks to do for years -- rebuild with cap space. And though he was never able to unload Eddy Curry's(notes) contract and paid a hefty price to swap out Jared Jeffries'(notes) contract a year ago, Walsh was able to dismantle nearly all of Thomas' handiwork as a personnel boss, while offering Knicks fans an entertaining and competitive (if not championship-caliber) club along the way.

Why he's being left to wonder about 2011-12, with Warkentien and Houston and possibly even Mark Hughes waiting in the wings, is beyond me.

Another thing that has Knicks fans befuddled is the recent play of freshly signed point man Raymond Felton(notes). Felton crashed back to earth since a hot start to the season, shooting 41 percent (and making a third of his threes) in December, and bottoming out (we hope) at 37 percent overall (and 29 percent from long range) in January.

As Felton fades to his Charlotte-era averages and percentages, the (rightful) worry for Knicks fans is that they may have signed "Ray Felton, that guy you weren't scared of when he was with the Bobcats." As opposed to, "Ray Felton, that guy that Larry Brown ruined."

Knickerblogger's Mike Kurylo distills the fear in a great post:

When Felton was red hot, the Knicks were winning games at a high rate. So it's no surprise that New York has struggled now that he's dropping closer to his career averages. Prior to the start of this season, the concern with Raymond Felton was whether his final year with the Bobcats was a fluke. If that season was an outlier, and his true value is more in line with his seasons prior then Felton still has some way to go before he reaches those depths. The question is not will he recapture the play he had earlier this year, since that seems to be far above what he is capable of producing on a long-term basis. Instead the more serious concern is how much lower will things get for Raymond Felton?

But worry not, Knicks fans. Because there's someone new to fawn over, and he throws just about the best entry passes I've seen any rookie throw in years. Not only is that not a joke, it's not hyperbole, and it could have Stanford product Landry Fields(notes) working his way into a point-forward role at some point.

Jeff Pearlman brought the fawn in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, and while the column can be about as wrong as wrong gets at times ("an unlikely candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year?" Not entirely untrue, as it would be for me to tell you that I will be unlikely to run a four-minute mile later this afternoon), and a little daffodilly in some parts, this is still a necessary read for any Knick fan gone batty at the idea of Felton falling to earth, or Walsh falling out of the picture altogether.

And it involves one of the better quotes of the 2010-11 season:

Based on the city's proximity to the Knicks' Westchester practice facility, as well as his desire to keep distractions to a minimum, Mr. Fields rents a small apartment not on Central Park West or in the East Village, but across from White Plains' City Center shopping complex.

"Almost every morning me and [fellow rookie] Andy Rautins(notes) hit up the Atlanta Bread Company for breakfast," he said. "Then we shop at Nordstrom Rack -- that place is awesome. Brand names at half the price. There's also a Barnes & Noble, just in case we want to get our read on."

Get your read on, indeed, Knick fans. There will never be any shortage of copy for your lot to lap up.

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