The 2008-09 season was supposed to be a fresh start for the Knicks. They had finally fired Isiah Thomas and parted ways with Stephon Marbury. Donnie Walsh had been brought in to right the ship and he lured Mike D’Antoni away from Phoenix to coach the team. Walsh had a top six pick in the 2009 draft and selected intriguing sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari.
That Knicks team started off hot (yes, hovering around .500 for the first few weeks of the season equates to “hot” for a franchise that hadn’t won a single playoff game since Bill Clinton was in office). Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as Walsh traded away the team’s most expensive/productive players (Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph) in order to clear space to make a run at LeBron James in 2010. Those Knicks missed the playoffs again and finished with a 32-50 record that season.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Shockingly, despite a recent three-game winning streak, the Knicks are on pace for the worst season in franchise history.
The Knicks haven’t tallied a high number of wins (in fact, dating back 2001, the Knicks have lost 638 games, which is the most in the NBA over the last 13-plus seasons); however, New York has been prolific in another department: An NBA-high 87 players have suited up for the Knicks since the start of the 2008-09 season.
Back in the peak of the lunacy which was “The Summer of LeBron,” Will Leitch of New York Magazine painstakingly listed every player who that the pleasure of playing for the Knicks since the day LeBron James entered the NBA.
It made Knicks fans sigh, shrug and smile.
Well, Knicks fans have no choice but to smile at their plight this season. Unfortunately, they’ve become accustomed and conditioned to it.
So, as the Knicks are about to “start fresh” and once again hit the reset button, I thought it was high time to renew a proud tradition. Below I have dutifully listed every player to put on Knicks uniform since their previous “fresh start,” back in the fall of 2008.
* Quincy Acy:
Doesn’t play a ton, but plays hard when he’s on the floor, so he stands out. In fact, he was serenaded with loud MVP chants while he was at the free throw line during a blow out loss to the Hornets earlier this month (a game in which the Knicks trailed by as many as 45 points in the middle of the third quarter).
* Cole Aldrich:
Currently ranks third highest in PER among Knicks this season. Think about that for a second.
* Lou Amundson:
One of only two active players to have played for at least 10 different NBA teams.
* Carmelo Anthony:
The Knicks traded half their team to acquire him in February of 2011 and signed the 30-year Anthony to a $124 million contract this past summer (despite the fact no other team could offer more than $97 million). He has played absolutely brilliantly at times during his tenure in New York, but the fact remains: The Knicks have won one playoffs series and a grand total of seven playoffs games in his five seasons with the club.
* Renaldo Balkman:
Knicks GM Isiah Thomas drafted Balkman with the 20th overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft (Rajon Rondo was taken with the next pick – No. 21 overall). Last we heard from Balkman, he was banned for life from the Philippines Basketball Association after choking a teammate.
* Andrea Bargnani:
In what will go down as one of the worst trades in Knicks’ franchise history, New York traded a first-round pick and two second-round selections (along with Marcus Camby, Steve Novak and Quentin Richardson) to Toronto for Bargnani prior to the start of 2013-14 season. The results have been beyond disastrous. How angry/frustrated are Knicks fans? Last Monday at MSG, the Knicks put up baby pictures of various Knicks on the jumbotron. Well, as soon as Bargnani’s baby picture was posted on the big screen, boos rang out inside MSG. Yes, they booed a baby Bargs!
* Earl Barron:
The only player on this list that averaged a double-double in his Knicks career! Yes, Barron played in the final seven games of the 2009-10 season and averaged 11.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in those seven contests.
A knee injury effectively ended the former Pacers career in 2006, but after a three year hiatus, he returned to appear 25 games for the 2009-10 Knicks. Walsh drafted him in Indiana and gave him an opportunity to come back to the league with N.Y., but Bender couldn’t overcome his debilitating injuries. “I’ve never drafted a player with more potential. I can tell you that without even thinking about it,” Walsh was quoted as saying about Bender.
* Mike Bibby:
The estranged son of former Knick Henry Bibby, a past-his-prime Mike played the final season of his career in New York.
* Chauncey Billups:
Came over with Carmelo in the blockbuster deadline deal in February of 2011, and played well for New York before hurting himself in Game 1 of the Knicks first-round series vs. the Celtics. Billups may be best remembered by Knicks fans as being the player New York had to burn their amnesty clause on in order to create the cap space to sign Tyson Chandler. Many fans bemoaned the fact that this move prevented New York from amnestying Amar’e Stoudemire.
* Ronnie Brewer:
Knicks fans were initially excited that N.Y. was able to snag Brewer for just the veteran’s minimum in 2012. He won the starting shooting guard spot but ended up shooting just 36 percent from the floor and 41 percent from the free-throw stripe in the 46 games he played for the Knicks.
* Derrick Brown:
Raymond Felton (before things soured) recommend the Knicks take a flier on his former Bobcat teammate, Derrick Brown. The Knicks claimed him off waivers and Brown saw spot duty over the final eight games of the 2010-11 campaign.
* Jose Calderon:
Over his first 11 years in the NBA, Calderon’s career cumulative FG percentage stood at 48 percent, and he had never shot below 42 percent from the floor in any one season. Calderon is currently shooting 39 percent from the floor. The Knicks owe him $15.2 million over the next two seasons. And Tyson Chandler, the player they gave away to get Calderon, is averaging a double-double and shooting better than 67 percent from the floor for Dallas.
* Marcus Camby:
A cult hero during his first stint with the Knicks, he helped carry an undermanned squad all the way to the NBA Finals in 1999. In July of 2012, New York traded away two second-round picks to acquire re-acquire Camby in a sign-and-trade. He played in three games for the Knicks in the 2012-13 season, before they traded him away in the Bargnani deal.
* Anthony Carter:
Knicks were so depleted at PG during his stint in NYC that he played significant minutes in 2011 playoffs for New York, despite the fact he was nearly 36 years old.
* Tyson Chandler:
First Knick to ever win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Chandler was the heart and soul of the team and the Knicks most valuable player when he was completely healthy. Unfortunately, it seemed like he was always sidelined by one ailment or another during the Knicks’ postseason runs. He was dumped onto Dallas this past summer and is unsurprisingly bouncing back with a terrific all-around season for the Mavericks.
* Wilson Chandler:
One of the gaggle of goods the Knicks had to part with in order to pry Anthony from Denver. Ill Will has always possessed an enticing ceiling, but hasn’t been able to maximize that potential, even now in his eighth season.
* Earl Clark:
The former lottery pick and New Jersey native appeared in nine games for the Knicks last year and is playing in China this season.
* Chris Copeland:
Copeland was toiling in obscurity (playing in Belgium from 2010 through 2012) before earning a spot on the Knicks’ roster after a strong showing in the 2012 Summer League. After strong rookie campaign in New York, the Indiana Pacers signed him to a two-year $6.1 million offer sheet that the Knicks declined to match.
* Mardy Collins:
First round pick of the Knicks that never quite lived up to the Walt Clyde Frazier comparisons some attached to him coming out of Temple.
* Joe Crawford:
Jordan Crawford’s brother played 23 minutes in two games in 2009.
* Jamal Crawford:
The Knicks had very few good players and even fewer exciting players during the depths of darkness that were the mid-2000’s. Crawford was the exception, with his dynamic handle and superlative shooting touch. He was allergic to defense, but he at least gave fans something to cheer about on the offensive end.
* Eddy Curry:
Not only did Isiah Thomas overpay Eddy Curry by signing him to a six-year, $56 million contract, Thomas also overpaid to get him. As part of a sign-and-trade with Chicago, he traded away two UNPROTECTED future lottery picks: a 2006 first round pick, which was used to select LaMarcus Aldridge, and a 2007 first-round pick that was eventually used to select Joakim Noah. It’s torturous for Knicks fans to think about, but how different might the Knicks now look if Thomas hadn’t pulled the trigger on this trade?
* Samuel Dalembert:
Slammin’ Sammy was brought to replace the huge hole in the middle left by the departed Tyson Chandler. Phil Jackson tried to trade Dalembert early and often over the first few months of the season. Eventually Jackson swallowed millions and just waived him. Nobody claimed Dalembert off waivers.
* Baron Davis:
Davis’ most memorable moment as a Knick? Perhaps: “Baron Davis Says He Wasn’t Making A Smoking Gesture When He Made That Smoking Gesture”
* Toney Douglas:
When asked how he might adjust to NBA play, Douglas replied that, among other things, he’d simply “Do what Toney Douglas do“.
* Chris Duhon:
Pop quiz, hotshot: Who holds the franchise record for most assists ever in one game by a Knickerbocker? Yup, you guessed it.
* Cleanthony Early:
There will be very, very little for Knicks fans to be get excited about in the second half of this disastrous 2014-15 season. Watching Early play 30+ minutes a night and finding out if he has a future as an NBA rotation player may literally be the only thing to look forward to.
* Raymond Felton:
Felton played well for the Knicks for the first half of 2010 season under head coach Mike D’Antoni. Then Felton was traded to Denver in the Anthony deal. Then Felton got fat during the lockout and showed up in Portland out of shape. Then the Knicks traded a 2016 2nd round pick and the rights to current Houston Rockets rookie Kostas Papanikolaou to Portland in a sign-and-trade to bring Felton back to New York, signing him to a four-year, $14.9 million deal in the process. Then Brooklyn rapper Fabolous rapped about Felton cheating on his wife. Then Felton’s estranged wife purportedly brought Felton’s Belgian-made semiautomatic handgun to the 20th Precinct station house. Then the Knicks traded Felton again.
* Landry Fields:
It appeared the Knicks had struck gold with Fields. An unheralded second-round pick, Fields earned Rookie of the Month honors twice in his rookie season and was named to the NBA All-Rookie team. Once he became a free agent, it actually wasn’t the Knicks that overpaid him (to his credit, Landry was always a good sport). Instead, in a perplexing turn of events, the Toronto Raptors signed Fields to a ridiculous $19 million contract simply to prevent the Knicks signing Steve Nash, who actually ended up on the Los Angeles Lakers. Fields, who is being paid over $6 million annually, has knocked down a grand total of three three-pointers in his three seasons with the Raps.
* Dan Gadzuric:
Another player who played his final NBA game in a Knicks uniform. Gadzuric appeared in two games in 2012.
* Danilo Gallinari:
Try NOT to smile while watching Gallinari sing “Halo” by Beyonce.
* Langston Galloway:
Poured in 21 points and grabbed five rebounds in his first career start last week. Per the Elias Sports Bureau: Galloway is the fifth Knicks player since 1970-71 to score 20+ points and grab at least five rebounds in his first career NBA start. The other Knicks to do this are Dean Meminger (1971), Henry Bibby (1974), Bill Cartwright (1979) and Channing Frye (2005)
* J.R. Giddens:
Played his final NBA game in 2010, for the Knicks.
* Tim Hardaway Jr.:
Many were hoping Hardaway would take the “next step” this year; instead, his FG%, three-point % and FT% all dropped in his second NBA season. And his defense hasn’t gotten any better, either.
* Josh Harrellson:
Went by the nickname “Jorts” because he wore jean shorts. He also once stunk up Bill Walker’s car.
* Al Harrington:
Amazingly, Harrington cost the Knicks two wins in one week by getting called for technical fouls because he hung on the rim. Twice!!
* Jordan Hill:
Donnie Walsh selected Hill No. 8 overall in the 2009 NBA draft. That was one spot after the Warriors selected Stephen Curry, and one spot before the Raptors selected DeMar DeRozan. Hill was dumped in a cap-clearing trade halfway through his rookie season in order to create the cap space needed to make a run at LeBron in 2010.
* Eddie House:
Here’s an Eddie House Tribute video.
* Larry Hughes:
Just one of many, many players on this list to have earned more than $12 million in one year to play basketball (not very well) for the Knicks.
* Jerome James:
No “Worst Contracts in Sports History” article will ever be complete with the inclusion of Jerome James. In 2004-05, James, a middling journeyman center, averaged 4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds for the Seattle Supersonics, but had a strong showing in the playoffs. It was enough to get Thomas to sign him to a five-year, $30 million dollar contract. James appeared in a total of four games over the final three years of that deal (while pocketing a cool $18 million)
* Jared Jeffries:
Per Wikipedia: In 2014, Jeffries began hosting ‘Modern Fishing with Jared Jeffries,’ a fishing television series on the Outdoor Channel.
* Jerome Jordan:
A backup big for the Knicks in 2011-12, Jordan is now a back up big for the Brooklyn Nets.
* Solomon Jones:
I don’t remember this, but the internets say he started a single game for the Knicks in the 2012-13 season. He never actually scored a point as a member of the Knicks.
* Jason Kidd:
Whenever he became a free agent at any point in his career, Kidd would flirt with the Knicks every summer in order to drive up his asking price, before eventually signing elsewhere. Until, that is, the final year of his career. On July 5, 2012, Kidd signed with the Knicks. The next week, he was arrested for DWI after he crashed his car into a Cablevision pole in the Hamptons. He actually played very well early in his lone season in New York, but ran out of gas down the stretch. Kidd failed to score a single point his final 10 games as Knick (all playoff games), which turned out to be the final 10 games of his illustrious, Hall-of-Fame career. He was 0-for-17 from the floor in those 10 contests.
* Marcus Landry:
Carl Landry’s brother was the 15th man on the Knicks roster in 2009-10.
* Shane Larkin:
Knicks fans were jazzed the Knicks snagged the young Larkin in the deal with the Mavs, as he offered some youth and upside. Then the Knicks announced they weren’t going to pick up his option for the 2015-16 season.
* David Lee:
On the right team he would have been the consummate blue-collar, role player. On the Knicks, he was a focal point of the offense and put up big numbers on bad teams. To his credit, he used his time in New York to improve his game (foul shooting climbed from 58 percent to 82% percent and he developed a reliable jump shot) and in 2010 he became the first Knick named to the All-Star team in nearly a decade (Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell in 2001).
* Jeremy Lin:
True Story: I once had the privilege of interviewing Legendary Knicks PG and broadcaster Walt Clyde Frazier and I asked him what was the loudest he’d ever heard the Garden. His immediate response: “Linsanity.” I pressed him and playfully reminded of Willis Reed walking out of the tunnel before Game 7, and Larry Johnson’s four-point play etc. Clyde repeated his answer assertively and without hesitation: “Linsanity. Unequivocally.”
* Kenyon Martin:
Martin tormented and bullied the Knicks for years as a member of the Nets. He spent parts of two seasons playing in New York, and was actually relatively effective when healthy.
* Roger Mason Jr:
* Tracy McGrady:
A once great NBA player. The Knicks traded for him solely for his expiring contract in February of 2010. He wasn’t great for the Knicks. Last we heard, he was playing minor league baseball.
* Darko Milicic:
The player selected ahead of Melo, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the 2003 NBA Draft is now a kickboxer.
* Timofey Mozgov:
After the Anthony blockbuster was consummated, rumors circulated that Walsh was unwilling to include Mozgov in the package, which led to Jim Dolan stepping in and overriding Walsh. Dolan wanted Anthony desperately and wasn’t going to allow Mozgov to be the deal breaker. Dolan and Walsh’s relationship may have never recovered. The Nuggets just recently dealt to Mozgov to the Cavs in exchange for two first-round draft picks.
* Toure’ Murry:
At one point, the Knicks had two players with apostrophes in their first name on the same team!
* Demetris Nichols:
The former Syracuse Orangeman played briefly for the Knicks in 2009. Last we heard, he was playing in Russia.
* Steve Novak:
Exploded on the scene in 2011 after the Knicks signed him off the scrap heap prior to the start of the season. Novak led the NBA in three-point shooting that season and signed a $15 million contract the following offseason. For a minute there, he had all of New York doing the “Discount Double Check” after hitting three-pointers in their rec league games.
* Pablo Prigioni:
Knocked down three three-pointers and tallied a total of 14 points in the Knicks’ Game 6 series-clinching victory over the Boston Celtics in 2013. This is the first and only time the Knicks won a playoff series in the last 15 years.
* Zach Randolph:
Starbury was really, really, really excited when the Thomas traded for Z-Bo. However, this clip succinctly sums up Randolph’s stint with the Knicks.
* Anthony Randolph:
Randolph was acquired as part of the deal that sent David Lee to Golden State. He was 20 years old at the time of the trade and his “potential” and “athleticism” was referenced anytime you heard his name. After languishing on D’Antoni’s bench for half a season, he was shipped to Minnesota as part of the three-team trade featuring [Carmelo] Anthony.
* Andy Rautins:
Became BFF’s with Ladry Fields and co-starred in the “Landry and Andy Show.”
* Quentin Richardson:
Knicks fans liked Q-Rich because Q-Rich hated Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
* Malik Rose:
Reportedly once fought Nate Robinson in the shower over a football bet. Rose hated losing, thus did not fit in well the 2008-09 Knicks.
* Anthony Roberson:
Played well in summer league. For some reason, Knicks offered him a two-year deal. He did not play well after summer league ended.
* Nate Robinson:
We all have our favorite “Nate moment.” It seems unfair to pick just one. But, I suppose this is as good as any: “Nate Robinson shoots on wrong basket, D’Antoni snaps”.
* Sergio Rodriguez:
Nicknamed “Spanish Chocolate”.
* Cheikh Samb:
Once a Knick, Always a Knick.
* Mouhamed Sene:
Per Wikipedia: “Mouhamed Sene is cited in the TV show One Tree Hill as the player who was drafted instead of Nathan Scott after his accident.”
* Iman Shumpert:
Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that Knicks fans fell head over heels for Shumpert right off the bat. He cried uncontrollably when he realized his dream of getting drafted. He then greatly exceeded expectations his rookie year, averaging 9.5 points per game and playing ferocious defense. He had cool hair, wrote a theme song for the team (#KnicksTape), played with an edge and a swagger and defended with a toughness that reminded fans of the Knicks squads from the 90’s (which is the quickest way to Knicks fans’ hearts). Alas, for a number of different reasons, he never reached his potential in NYC and was shipped out with J.R. Smith in a cap clearing move earlier this month (after the Knicks decided NOT to trade him the prior season – when they likely could have received a first round pick in return)
* Courtney Sims:
Once a Knick, Always a Knick
* J.R. Smith:
Man, Swish’s era in NYC deserves its own 30-for-30 documentary. It’s impossible to encapsulate the Smith experience in just a line or two. Netw3rk penned a poignant goodbye letter that sums up why NYC loved (and hated) J.R.
* Chris Smith:
Even by Knicks standards, this was truly bizarre. New York was reportedly investigated for potentially circumventing the salary cap (a kick back to brother J.R. and CAA management?) by giving a valuable roster spot to J.R.’s little bro.
* Jason Smith:
Blocked a Josh Smith dunk attempt earlier this season.
* Amar’e Stoudemire:
Walsh wanted LeBron, but had to settle for STAT, who proclaimed “The Knicks are back!” upon his NYC arrival. Stoudemire was a beast during the first few months of his Knicks career, at one point scoring at least 30 points in a club record nine straight games. Stoudemire garnered NBA Player of the Month honors in December of 2010, when he averaged a whopping 29.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks, while shooting better than 53 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the free-throw line. MVP chants rang out inside MSG on a nightly basis. As we know, his body eventually betrayed him and the Knicks were stuck with an albatross contract.
* Kurt Thomas:
A throwback to the beloved 90’s Knicks. Long live the “Kurt Thomas Game”
* Tim Thomas:
He once wore two headbands at the same time. Sadly, he didn’t do that while playing in New York.
* Lance Thomas:
The Brooklyn-born power forward is currently on his second 10-day contract with the team.
* Ronny Turiaf:
Every teams needs a guy that is wildly animated on the bench.
* Jeremy Tyler:
Played 41 games for the Kniks in 2013-14, currently playing for Shanxi Zhongyu of China.
* Beno Udrih:
Mike Woodson crazily blamed Udrih for a wild J.R. Smith three-point attempt, which birthed the hashtag “#BlameBeno”
* Bill Walker:
Why you should feel sorry for Knicks fans, reason No. 3,876: There was a good six months there when NY fans had to try and convince themselves that Bill Walker was pretty good and could be a solid role player if the Knicks built up the rest of their roster.
* Rasheed Wallace:
Will be forever fondly remembered for inventing the now ubiquitous “Three To The Dome.” He also gave the Garden faithful an epic “Ball Don’t Lie!” As an added bonus, he scared Woody.
* James “Flight” White:
Knicks fans thought they had the 2013 Dunk Contest locked up when the team signed him for the 2012-13 season, but White didn’t even make it out of the first round of the contest.
* Chris Wilcox:
Played a nondescript 30 games in the lost 2008-09 campaign.
* Shawne Williams:
Out of the league in 2009, ‘Extra E’ returned to the NBA and revitalized his career shooting corner 3’s for Coach D’Antoni in 2010, averaging a career-high 7.1 ppg.
* Sheldon Williams:
“The Landlord” was traded to NY in the Melo blockbuster.
* Travis Wear:
As an undrafted free agent who was seventh on his college team (UCLA) in scoring during his senior season and only played in two summer league games, Wear most certainly took the road less travelled to the NBA.
* Metta World Peace:
Knicks fans were furious and heartbroken when the Knicks took Frederic Weis over Artest with the 15th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft (including Artest, who was wearing Knicks shorts underneath his suit that day). So, everybody was excited when the New York native formerly known as Ron Artest (and now known as Panda’s Friend) signed on to play in his hometown. He took the F train from Queens to MSG for the Knicks home- opener in 2013. The relationship eventually soured and the Knicks bought-out World Peace, who is now playing in China with stuffed panda dolls sewed onto his shoes.
When trying to figure out just why the Knicks are so bad this year, refer to this list for all the explanation you need.
NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Houston Rockets
Ben Nadeau continues Basketball Insiders’ “Grading The Offseason” series by analyzing the Houston Rockets.
Over the course of July and August, Basketball Insiders embarked on grading all 30 NBA teams for their offseasons — additions, subtractions, draft picks, trades, etc — and their potential headed into the 2019-20 campaign. Between today and autumn, franchises will be tasked with figuring out how their roster pieces, both new and old, might mesh together on the floor. At long last, the journey has nearly reached its conclusion but a reshuffling of the hierarchy has left the recently-superior conference in a state of unpredictability.
Between Kevin Durant leaving for new opportunities, Anthony Davis finally getting his way and Kawhi Leonard teaming up with Paul George, the Western Conference, for now, is anybody’s best guess. Among those with an imaginable volatile future, the Houston Rockets will be a mystery box of highs and lows, anchored by two ball-dominant MVPs and former teammates. James Harden and Russell Westbrook need no introduction, but their fit has been questioned since the latter was snagged in a shock deal for the oft-injured Chris Paul.
There are other pieces here, most definitely, as general manager Daryl Morey continues to find gems in the league’s tiniest nooks and crannies, but make no mistake: The Rockets’ ceiling will only rise as far as Harden and Westbrook can co-habitat. It’s both the million-dollar query and a philosophical wonder, a beard-sized challenge that’ll come to define the new-look NBA by January — for better or for worse, however, that remains to be seen.
But before any Westbrook-related fireworks can commence, it’s worth looking back on a mostly successful campaign for Houston in 2018-19.
Despite experiencing major turnover to a roster that was once an ill-timed Paul injury away from eliminating the perpetually historic Warriors during the previous postseason, Houston recovered better than many expected. An early, ugly spat between Paul and the Lakers’ Rajon Rondo, a long-time rival, helped to put the Rockets in a 1-5 hole to start the season, where an ever-so-slight inkling of worry began to creep in. But Harden — the eventual runner-up in a contested MVP race, only bested by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s other-worldly efforts — erased those apprehensions with an electric effort every night.
For the Rockets, that was often more than enough.
Harden played 36.8 minutes per game, practically a dead tie with Bradley Beal and Paul George for the league lead, and finished as one of two players with a PER over 30 (Antetokounmpo). The feared iso-ball mastermind tallied 36.1 points per game — a staggering eight full points ahead of the second-placed George — and ended as the seventh-best assister (7.5) on the ladder too. The former MVP made 4.8 three-pointers and nabbed an even two steals per game too, numbers that placed Harden, once again, as second-best in the NBA. Not a single player attempted or made more free throws than Harden either — a result largely thanks to the bearded-assassin’s flat-out insane 40.47 usage percent, the second-highest season-long rate in basketball history.
(Westbrook’s 41.65 rate in 2016-17, his MVP-worthy campaign, ranks first all-time, but that is a detail better suited for another section.)
To cap off a list of personal achievements that could truly run the length of this entire piece, Harden scored 30 or more points in 57 games, topped 50 in nine of them and hit 60 twice. For everybody else that stepped on the court for Houston in 2018-19, they reached the 30 point-mark a combined total of five times (Eric Gordon, 3; Clint Capela, 1; Paul, 1).
After the All-Star break, when Harden embarked on the equivalent of a nirvana-induced bender in all the best ways, the Rockets went 20-5 and secured the conference’s fourth seed. Unfortunately, a significantly tight race in the standings left Houston on the same side of the bracket as Golden State, who dispatched them in a tough six-game series during the second round and eliminated the Rockets for the fourth time in the last five postseasons.
All and all, it was a concentrated, historic effort for a franchise that was doubted after losing key rotation pieces like Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza the summer beforehand.
But what they did next might’ve been even more unbelievable.
So, Russell Westbrook — let’s get into it, finally.
On Jul. 11, the Rockets pushed all-in by trading Paul and first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, plus pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, for Westbrook. Apparently, James Harden was a loud, positive voice during the acquisition of the point guard and believes that the union can work.
In any case, Westbrook is an upgrade over Paul, if nothing else, given his nearly clean bill of health over the last half-decade. 80, 81, 80, 73 in the games played department for Westbrook compares so generously to Paul’s injury-riddled count of 74, 61, 58, 58 that the Rockets might consider the reliability worth the blind leap of faith alone. Since Harden and Durant departed Oklahoma City, Westbrook turned into a usage beast and evolved into the type of No. 1 option that many had envisioned for the floor-running, high-flying future Hall of Famer.
Additionally, Westbrook’s 10.7 assists per game crushed second- and third-placed Kyle Lowry (8.7) and Paul (8.2), respectively, while his rebounding efforts should help a Rockets side that ranked almost dead-last in rebounds per game last year at 42.1. On offense, the ball-hawking, aggressive duo should get Houston in transition early and often, a place where they succeeded all year long by putting up 18 points per game off opponent turnovers. When considering a near-perfect outcome, the pair would have to reignite their dynamic partnership, equally share responsibilities and not end up watching alternate possessions as the other isolates.
However, the Rockets have built their brand on volume three-point shooting — that, naturally, is one of Westbrook’s weakest tendencies. At 16.1 three-pointers made (and a ridiculous 45.4 attempted), Houston blew away opposition from behind the arc in 2018-19. The season before that, they did it again (15.3, 42.3) — but how about the year prior? You guessed it: The Rockets’ 14.4 three-pointers made on 40.3 attempts per game during 2016-17 also lead the entire league. Simply put, it’s the key tenant of Houston’s up-tempo offense and the forward-thinking Morey often fills out the roster with like-minded players during free agency to boot.
Westbrook has only shot over 34 percent from three-point range on one occasion over his 11-year career and is coming off a disappointing 29 percent effort during his final season in Oklahoma City. Like most professionals, Westbrook can get scorching-hot from deep but it’s inconsistent enough to question his perimeter fit alongside Harden, an elite penetrator that often drives and kicks to open three-point shooters. Still, mixing two recent MVPs, and getting out from under Paul’s albatross-sized deal, is a chance the Rockets will swing on every time — so, at this moment, the only thing left is to wait and see.
Of course, Houston made other moves too — that certainly happened!
Danuel House, Austin Rivers and Gerald Green all returned to the fold after dipping their toes into free agency — more of those athletic, adequate three-point shooters, obviously — while Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried both departed. On Jul. 19, the Rockets snagged Tyson Chandler to backup the blossoming Capela, then took fliers on Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett a week later.
As a small note, Houston left the 2019 NBA Draft with no new additions.
PLAYERS IN: Russell Westbrook, Danuel House, Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, Ben McLemore, Anthony Bennett
PLAYERS OUT: Chris Paul, Kenneth Faried, Iman Shumpert
Lots of prayers, right?
There’s an undeniable magnetism in joining Harden and Westbrook together once more — two former MVPs in their respective primes — but how that practice plays out is still a relative unknown. The Rockets will continue to shoot a metaphorical truckload of three-pointers — hopefully, with some better looks than he got in Oklahoma City, Westbrook can get closer to the league-wide average. Even if he doesn’t, Houston holds plenty of deep-hitting cards to use at head coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced, high-volume mercy.
Clint Capela, bless him, has taken a backseat in discussions all summer because of Westbrook, but the 25-year-old has continued his ascent and recently averaged 16.6 points and 12.7 rebounds, both career-highs, on 64.8 percent shooting. He’s still range-limited but with Harden and Westbrook dishing open looks, and surrounded by many capable three-point shooters, Capela fills his role perfectly. In spite of some draft-time chatter of a possible Capela trade, Morey held onto his 6-foot-10, rim-protecting stalwart — a decision that’ll keep the Rockets from bleeding points in the paint for years to come.
So, then, what is next? Is their ceiling higher than last year? Lower? With an injured Thompson and departed Durant, could this be their year to enact revenge on the Warriors? Or did they fall behind the other conference risers? In August, these are some heavy questions that don’t have answers today, understandably.
Honestly, it’s impossible to fully and accurately predict the Rockets’ forecast — still, there is one fact already written in the stars, however:
It’ll be fun as hell, so buckle up and enjoy the show.
OFFSEASON GRADE: B
High-Performance Mindfulness: Energy Psychology – The NBA’s Best Kept Secret
Jake Rauchbach takes a deep dive into the positive correlation between the effectiveness of leading-edge Energy Psychology techniques in removing mental baggage and improving on-court statistical performance.
With the NBA’s latest initiative requiring all 30 teams to have mental health professionals on staff, the door has now been kicked wide open on in regards to High-Performance Mindfulness and mind-based holistic methods that support the well-being of the player both on and off the court.
As teams all around the league begin to expand their mental health groups, and the scope of their player development departments, the next logical step in player support could be the application of Energy Psychology-based techniques. These techniques zero in on the elimination of subconscious performance blockages for the direct aim of exponentializing on-court statistical improvement.
Before we discuss how NBA, college and international professional teams are implementing these High-Performance Mindfulness modalities to move the dial on on-court statistical performance, let’s first discuss the foundational mechanics of the player mindset, starting with the subconscious mind.
Energy Psychology techniques interface directly with the subconscious mind of the athlete for the goal of unlocking the player’s full potential.
The Subconscious Mind
Science tells us that the conscious mind makes up 1-10 percent of total brain capacity, while the subconscious mind makes up 90-99 percent. The conscious can focus on one to two things at any given time (reading and writing, e.g.), while the unconscious can manage thousands of tasks all at once, doing so while a person is generally unaware that it is happening.
The subconscious mind is about habit, pattern and muscle memory. For a player, tending to the subconscious is vital, because all hours of practice, training and repetition get logged there. A player’s subconscious is like a supercomputer, storing all programs (thoughts, emotions, feelings, images) from life’s past experiences.
Subconscious Performance Blocks
If not fully processed on the mental and emotional levels, thoughts, emotions, feelings and images from negatively-charged past experiences can often become trapped within the player’s subconscious mind. When this happens, performance blocks occur, ultimately throwing a wrench into instinctual response, muscle memory and on-court performance execution.
A prime example is Nick Anderson’s missed free throws in the 1995 NBA Finals, and the unresolved subconscious loop of blocking thoughts, emotions and feelings that ensued and sabotaged the remainder of his career.
Mental blocks can stem from on and/or off-court experiences. Off-court situations that seemingly have nothing to do with basketball frequently present the biggest challenges when improving performance by working through the mind.
Many times, players are unaware that the unresolved thoughts and feelings from their past are acting as performance impediments to success. Furthermore, these players generally do not have the skills to resolve these performance-blocking imbalances on their own.
From the pool of NBA, college, international and national team players that I have observed, below are some of the most common subconscious blocks to on-court statistical improvement:
1. Epic Failure: Epically failing the team, no matter the level of basketball, is one of the most commonly observed performance-blocking experiences. Often, the anxiety, embarrassment and shame attached to these unresolved memories can be carried throughout a career, effectively hampering performance. Case in point is Nick Anderson.
2. Freshman Year of College: When a player has not quite solidified their role or found their confidence and rhythm within the context of the team, volatile experiences on both the mental/emotional and performance levels can occur. The first few games of a college career can be overwhelming. Players often carry forward emotional discord from these events, until resolved.
3. DNPs & Injuries: When a player does not play for an extended period, it can mess with the psyche. NBA veterans who have experienced these stretches often carry it with them throughout their career with emotions such as lack of confidence, confusion and frustration. Watching teammates contribute while they are resigned to the bench can be debilitating.
4. Family & Home Life: Many performance issues at the deepest levels map back to off-the-court issues. It is important to note that the older the blocking emotional discord, generally, the more debilitating to performance it can become.
5. Recent Poor Performances: Subconscious blocks relating to recent hiccups in performance are common. It is prudent to address these immediately when fresh in the mind of the athlete so that long-term performance barriers do not occur.
With this breakdown, we are providing context to what coaches and players intuitively already understand: past negativity can affect future performance if it is allowed to linger.
This being said, when performance blocks exist, there is generally no amount of additional skill-development repetition, film study or strength and conditioning work that will help to unblock or unlock big time improvement for the player. The root cause of down trending performance held at the unconscious level has to be eliminated first.
This is something that many player development approaches have historically overlooked.
The Gap Within the Traditional Player Development Model
Although closing fast, a gap has existed within old constructs of traditional player development strategies.
Players have been viewed as purely mechanical commodities as if they were robots repeatedly able to generate top-level performance by the click of a button. Outside of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and maybe a couple of other all-world players, this is simply not the case.
Players are multi-dimensional beings requiring customized, specific support at all levels of their awareness (especially the subconscious, where performance habits are created and fostered).
Only addressing the physical component (on-court work/strength and conditioning), or only addressing the conscious mind/analytical component through film analysis and scouting, neglects possibly the most important aspect of the athlete – the subconscious (muscle memory) element, which directly influences the player’s effectiveness in each one of these areas.
Tweaking the player development model, by addressing this aspect, may present the best opportunity to date for helping players consistently optimize on-court performance throughout a season and a career.
This, then, begets the question: What is the most effective way to do this when incorporated within the context of an overall team dynamic? Enter Psychology.
Closing the Gap Through Energy Psychology
Energy Psychology or EP is quite possibly the best-kept secret in basketball player development, and may be on the verge of breaking out big-time as a way to facilitate massive statistical on-court performance improvement for players.
Based on ancient traditional Chinese healing principals, and rooted in empirically-based results, EP works directly with the natural energetic flow, or meridian system of the body, to unburden and unblock past lingering experiences still residing within the subconscious mind of an athlete.
This has the effect of freeing up the player’s ability to perform better and, quite possibly, could be the fastest way to supercharge on-court statistical performance when integrated within the totality of an existing player development program.
Once deemed nonsensical and out there, techniques like Touch-Point tapping, muscle testing and Reiki and Quantum-Touch are now being implemented by NBA teams, high-major Division-1 college programs, and European ball clubs, as ways to supercharge performance.
Players and coaches are beginning to turn to these methods to dramatically improve three-point shooting percentage, free-throw percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio, VAL analytics, plus-minus offensive efficiencies and defensive efficiencies, mental focus, confidence, decision-making and leadership qualities, just to name a few.
This past season, the Los Angeles Clippers and their Integrated Player Development Department, employed the next level skill-sets of Dr. Laura Wilde, a cutting edge High-Performance Consultant who has been working with professional athletes for years. Dr. Wilde is a pioneer in this space, applying advanced Energy Psychology methods as a way to promote player well-being and to improve performance.
The Utah Jazz rely on Graham Betchart’s expertise as a long-time Elite Mental Skills Coach to star NBA players as a way to support their players both on and off the court.
As awareness around this space continues to build and these practices become common knowledge for helping players, roles for the High-Performance coaches who administer these Energy Psychology–Player Development-based techniques will become more defined.
For now, the most effective implementation of this type of specialist is likely as an embedded, trusted resource within an overall coaching staff or player development department.
The bottom line: The trend for improving performance through unlocking the mind is growing, and so too are the innovative and proven ways for producing positive change for players.
Energy Psychology and other types of High-Performance Mindfulness methods like it are now coming on-line as player development – secret weapons – in facilitating big-time statistical performance improvement for players.
NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Philadelphia 76ers
In this edition of Basketball Insiders’ “Grading The Offseason” series, Matt John takes a look at the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the most talented albeit confusing teams in the league
When evaluating a team’s offseason, it can take a while to complete.
Between going over what happened last season, what they did this summer and predicting what lies ahead – it’s quite the exercise. You could almost call it a process.
Oh hey, speaking of processes, the next team up in this series? The Philadelphia 76ers.
Philadelphia has to feel good about itself. It came within a literal buzzer-beater from overtaking the reigning champion Toronto Raptors. They don’t have the same team that they did three months ago, but they still have a team that, should things break their way, can feasibly win its first title since 1983.
Their roster makeup is a tad confusing at the moment. Then again, saying that would imply that their roster construction has always made sense in the Embiid-Simmons era, which it hasn’t.
One thing is for sure, though: This team is going to be good. With Kawhi Leonard out of the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant probably out for the year, the Sixers have a bigger window than they’ve had in decades.
Give Elton Brand credit. In just his first year as general manager, the guy didn’t shy away from shaking things up. Between Philly’s so-so start to their season to the trade deadline, Brand made the following moves.
- Traded for a bonafide scorer who was available for cheap (Jimmy Butler)
- Gave up on a prospect whose lack of progress was not helping the team (Markelle Fultz)
- Acquired a pseudo star whose abilities fit like a glove next to Simmons and Embiid (Tobias Harris)
Since starting from scratch in 2013, Philly has always been about the future. The moves they made signified that the future was now. Butler wasn’t the best fit next to Embiid and Simmons, and Harris had never been on a team with aspirations nearly as high as Philly’s, but the talent that the Sixers had at their arsenal was gargantuan – gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated-like gargantuan.
Though Butler and Harris clearly made the Sixers a bigger threat for a title, progress was kind of slow after adding both of them.
Without Butler/Without Harris: 9-6 (Winning percentage of 60), Offensive Rating: 106.8 (19th overall), Defensive Rating: 106.9 (9th overall)
With Butler/Without Harris: 25-14 (Winning percentage of 64), Offensive Rating: 113 (7th overall), Defensive Rating: 108.9 (13th overall)
With Butler/With Harris: 17-11 (Winning Percentage of 61), Offensive Rating: 112.1 (10th overall), Defensive Rating: 110.3 (15th overall)
There are other factors that played into this. For example, it could’ve been the opponents who they played in those time frames. Or maybe it was Joel Embiid missing 18 games. Still, the Sixers somehow didn’t really take that next step they were hoping for. They finished the season 51-31, which qualified them for the third seed.
With Toronto and Milwaukee as their primary competition, that’s a mark the Sixers should be proud of. Maybe it would have been different if they had Butler and Harris from the get-go.
In their defense, some growing pains are in order when you shake up the roster to the degree that the Sixers did. When the playoffs come around, you can’t afford to wait for progress. When the Sixers entered the postseason, the progress they desired came, and it came swiftly.
After making quick work of the upstart Brooklyn Nets – and making someone look really dumb in the process – Philadelphia had quite the duel with Toronto. There were times where the Sixers looked completely outmatched against the Raptors. There were times where they completely outclassed the Raptors. To make a long story short, the craziest buzzer-beater – perhaps in playoff history – took them out for good.
As heartbreaking as that was, when you look at how the rest of the postseason turned out, the Sixers were the closest to eliminating the team who ended the Golden State superteam. Even if things didn’t end the way they wanted to, last season proved that Philadelphia is on the right track.
In a perfect world, the Sixers would have retained all three of Butler, Harris, and J.J. Redick. As we know, not everything went according to plan. That doesn’t mean the Sixers had a bad offseason. Far from it.
It all started with the draft. The Sixers had five picks coming into the draft and wound up keeping two of them. They wound up with Matisse Thybulle and Marial Shayok. There’s not much to say about Shayok besides that the best hope for him is adding some guard depth.
For Thybulle, he could add so much to the 76ers. He was one of the best defenders coming out of this draft. At the very least, he should make Philadelphia much stronger on that end of the floor. He’s not necessarily a future star, but his potential as an impact player is very high. Expect him to be in Philly’s rotation sooner rather than later.
As for free agency, well, the Sixers were among the teams that went through quite a bit of turnover.
Let’s just get to the main course. Jimmy Butler decided to take his talents to South Beach, which honestly was a “surprised, but not surprised” type of move. Unlike say, oh, Kyrie Irving and Boston, Butler didn’t leave Philly on bad terms. In fact, he didn’t leave the Sixers empty-handed either.
While Butler is gone, in comes Josh Richardson. There is definitely a talent disparity between Butler and Richardson. In fact, there were many times where Butler carried the Sixers on his back when the team could not get things going. Richardson doesn’t command the same kind of respect, but he brings certain advantages that Butler does not.
-At 25 years old, Richardson fits better with Simmons and Embiid’s timeline than Butler does
-As a career near-37 percent shooter from three, Richardson is a better floor spacer than Butler is
-At $10 million, he’s one of the best bargain contracts in the league with his production
Brand probably would have preferred keeping Butler, but considering the alternative – letting Jimmy Buckets walk for nothing – getting Richardson expertly salvaged the situation.
That wasn’t the only sly move Brand made this summer.
When you’re building a contender, nothing helps your chances better like taking away a valuable piece from one of your biggest rivals. Philly took Al Horford right under from Boston’s nose, simultaneously giving the team another dimension while knocking the Celtics down a peg.
Over the last two years, Horford has established himself as one of the better defensive bigs in the league. He’s not a rim protector, nor is he the best pick-pocket, but his elite defense comes from his smarts. You wouldn’t think he could match up against Embiid’s girth or the footwork to contain Ben Simmons’ speed, but he can and he has.
As one of the few players who has shown the ability to slow both Simmons and Embiid, Horford has been Philly’s worst nightmare since “The Process” went full-throttle. With him on board, both of their young stars should be able to play their games more smoothly, especially against Boston.
That would be more plausible if Horford’s fit on the Sixers was a perfect one, which it isn’t. Horford is slated to start at power forward, which he only played eight percent of the time last year. At 33 years old, Horford’s footwork is on the decline. Plus, last season, he struggled to play well on back-to-backs. The Sixers already have enough worries on their hands with Embiid’s conditioning. With Horford, they’re going to have all their fingers crossed.
The Sixers also brought in plenty of new faces to help round out the roster. Raul Neto and Trey Burke are good flyers to take when looking for a second or third-string point guard. Kyle O’Quinn didn’t do much for the Pacers last season, but he’s an upgrade over the likes of Greg Monroe and Amir Johnson.
This offseason hasn’t just been about who they brought in, but who they brought back.
Considering what they gave up for them, the Sixers had to keep at least one of Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris. Butler leaving for Miami increased the urgency to keep Harris at all costs. The Sixers definitely took that to heart, as they gave him a five-year/$188 million extension.
Harris is a talented scorer. Before he was traded to Philadelphia, he gained a lot of well-deserved All-Star recognition. He didn’t put up the same numbers as a Sixer – with some of that understandably coming from less touches – but those numbers fell further in the playoffs. Being traded mid-season gives him the benefit of the doubt. With more time, maybe he’ll figure it out.
That’s going to be hard though, because with Horford on the team, Harris is going to be playing a lot more at small forward now than he’s played in years. His best position is playing a stretch four because he’s not quick enough to cover wings, but his strength holds up against power forwards.
He could make the proper adjustments, but if he doesn’t, that could spell trouble. What makes it more troubling is that the Sixers paid Harris superstar money when the man, as good as he’s been, is not a superstar. If he’s put in the right role, keeping Tobias could be the right move no matter what he gets paid. Finding that role is going to be hard with the frontcourt logjam.
The Sixers wanted to keep their wing depth this summer. Along with Harris, management brought back James Ennis III – who carried his weight in the playoffs – and Mike Scott, who, regardless of his production, will get plenty of attention because of The Office.
Oh, and the Sixers are going to have to adjust to losing three-point marksman that is J.J. Redick. Redick’s three-point shooting was a threat. Richardson and Horford have a respected deep ball, but they don’t command the same respect that Redick did. He fit perfectly next to Simmons/Embiid. Playing without him is going to take some time to adjust to.
Losing Butler and Redick bites, but Philadelphia compensated well in response to their departure.
PLAYERS IN: Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Matisse Thybulle, Raul Neto, Trey Burke, Kyle O’Quinn, Shake Milton, Isaiah Miles, Chris Koumadje, Norvel Pelle (two-way), Marial Shayok (two-Way)
PLAYERS OUT: Jimmy Butler, J.J. Redick, Greg Monroe, Boban Marjanovic, TJ McConnell, Amir Johnson
Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto and Philadelphia all lost a player(s) that played an important role in each team’s success. The difference between Philadelphia and the aforementioned teams is that they brought in a fair amount of talent to cover its losses. But was it the right talent?
This has been said about the Sixers all summer, but it bears repeating: This roster doesn’t make a whole lot of sense right now. Brett Brown is a good coach, and he redeemed himself pretty well in the playoffs following an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Celtics in 2018, but he’s got a lot on his plate this season.
This can go right or it can go so very, very wrong. It’s not just about who the Sixers gained and lost this summer. There still remains the question as to whether Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can reach their full potential when they play together. Simmons may never get a respectable jump shot, and Embiid’s conditioning is still an issue.
Both are two of the best young players in the game. If the Sixers are serious, they may have to choose between one or the other going forward. This isn’t something that needs to be taken care of now, but it is something that the Sixers should be paying close attention to.
This season could be the one where the Sixers finally cash in on the process just as much as it could be the confirmation that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will never co-exist on a championship team.
OFFSEASON GRADE: B+