The NBA Playoffs Get Rougher for Knicks Fans

Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford help their teams to surprising wins.

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, May 3, 2011  |  Updated 10:50 AM EDT
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The NBA Playoffs Get Rougher for Knicks Fans

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There was one play that summed up Zach Randolph's tenure with the Knicks.

Against the Raptors, Randolph got the ball at the top of the key, overdribbled until he lost the ball, recovered it and then launched a deep three that fell about six feet short of the basket. It was funny, sad and everything you needed to know about the Isiah Thomas Knicks all at once.

When Randolph was traded early in Donnie Walsh's first season as the team's general manager, it was very hard to find anyone who shed so much as a single tear for Randolph's loss. His salary was an albatross around the neck of a team deadset on getting below the salary cap deck even if it meant fielding dreadful teams for two seasons.

It's been almost three full years since that deal, but revisionist history is starting to rear its ugly head thanks to Z-Bo's playoff performance. He led the Grizzlies to their big upset of the Spurs in the first round, including several dominant stretch performances, and starred again in Memphis's Game One shock of the Thunder.

That the player knocking heads in the paint and playing with aggression looks nothing like the daydreaming jump shooter from New York isn't stopping Marc Berman of the Post from ruminating about what the Knicks would look like if they never made the trade. Such calculations also include Jamal Crawford, who was traded the same day as Randolph and who is also driving daggers into the hearts of Knicks fans who haven't turned away from basketball yet.

He dropped 22 points on Tuesday night as the Hawks ran past the Bulls en route to a Game One victory in Chicago. He's averaging more than 20 points a night for Atlanta and he's precisely the kind of spot-up shooter that would look awfully good dropping wide-open bombs in the Mike D'Antoni offense.

It's a fun game of what if to look at a Knicks roster that includes those two players, David Lee, Danilo Gallinari and assorted other ghosts that were sent to all corners of the Earth to facilitate the deeply flawed Amar'e/Melo team we saw this season. It's also a pretty futile one, even if you ignore some of the logical gaps Berman leaps to put the team together.

Expecting this kind of transformation from Randolph was unthinkable when the Knicks made that deal, which is still secondary to fact that the whole point of the trades was to put the Knicks in a position to remake their entire organization. Hindsight makes it easy to say that the Knicks should have kept the band together and focused more on wins in the short term, but foresight was the point of those deals.

Besides, there's no point in going that far back in time to throw brickbats at Walsh and D'Antoni's personnel decisions. Just look back to February when the team cut Corey Brewer before even letting him get any run after coming over from Minnesota.

Brewer only played eight minutes in the Mavericks' upset of the Lakers on Tuesday night, but the team was +11 in those minutes as they erased much of a big third quarter Lakers lead. Brewer's length, defensive ability and athleticism would look a lot better than much of what the Knicks trotted out off the bench against the Celtics during the sweep. 

The future of the Knicks isn't going to be decided by the big moves because they've already been made. It will be about the small moves around the stars and, as Brewer shows us, that's the real reason for concern.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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