"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
January 21, 1999
BASKETBALL: Why Sprewell?
From an email I wrote when the Knicks traded for Latrell Sprewell in January 1999. Obviously, I was wrong.
What would possess the Knicks to trade John Starks and Chris Mills for Latrell Sprewell? Let's review.
Improve the offense? Sprewell's career shooting % is .436, so he won't help the team's famous lack of shooting accuracy, and his career 3-point % is 20 points lower than Starks'. Plus he plays the same position as the team's best young player, Allan Houston.
Play the point? Sprewell is a notorious ballhog; that's why Tim Hardaway hated him. Adding Sprewell will mean fewer shots for Houston and LJ -- the last thing the Knicks need -- and maybe fewer for Ewing, which could get Sprewell booted from the players' union.
Play small forward? In a league where the 3s routinely run 6'10" and over, a 6'5" small forward, next to LJ or Camby at the power forward, will mean a frontcourt that is overmatched on D and can't rebound. No rebounds, no rings.
Come off the bench? Spree is accustomed to 40 minutes a game, and we know how well he responds to orders from his coach.
Intangibles? Starks is a playoff veteran -- the career leader in 3 point shots in the playoffs -- while Sprewell has appeared in 3 playoff games and his teams have routinely underacheived. In the NBA, playoff experience matters more than talent. The Knicks have already lost one playoff series and risked another because they couldn't keep their cool against Miami; we know how well Sprewell controls his anger, and he has a running feud with Tim Hardaway.
Guard Jordan? One of Sprewell's big plusses is that he is one of the few shooting guards big and athletic enough to go toe-to toe with Jordan for 40 minutes. Now, if only the Knicks could find people to guard Isaiah Thomas and Larry Bird . . .
Put fans in the seats? Don't get me started. People might have forgiven Sprewell if he had just apologized and taken his puishment like a man, but the Alice-in-Wonderland lawsuits against the NBA, the Warriors, and his own agent have not helped his cause.
Salary cap? I don't understand the new cap rules, but while dumping Mills is a plus I have to think that Sprewell makes more money than Starks, so this can't be it.
They're not losing anything in Mills, and Sprewell really is a younger, better version of Starks, but this deal just doesn't make any sense at all from the perspective of assembling a winning team and can't be excused on business grounds.