Big changes in the Big Apple

Dan Barone

Stephon Marbury. Anfernee Hardaway. Lenny Wilkens. The pieces of a dynasty that are now being assembled by the Knick’s new general manager and former Pistons great, Isiah Thomas. A blockbuster trade with the Phoenix Suns and the hiring of Lenny Wilkins finally leaves the Knicks with some hope.

With a weak Eastern Conference, and the success of their new-look team, the Knicks sit in the 8th and final playoff slot. You may say, as many critics have, that they are giving up their future, but if you are a New York fan, you should know that the future is always now.

The Knicks gave up a little to make their big acquisitions … very little.

Antonio McDyess is back on the injured list after averaging a miserable seven points and six rebounds per game. Since being acquired by the Knicks in 2002, he has only played in 18 games total for them in two seasons, sitting out all of last year with an injury. And you had your washed-up argument ready for Penny Hardaway?

Charlie Ward, a Knicks veteran was also sent packing, and while it was sad to see Charlie go after 10 seasons, six points and four assists for a career don’t exactly stack up in New York – or even Phoenix for that matter. Ward was released just after the trade and is now wearing a Spur’s uniform, while riding the, pine.

Howard Eisley is an average player, so lets not waste our time. First round pick Maciej Lampe looked promising in the preseason, but has fallen off the face of the earth since then. As of now, he’s an 18-year-old stiff who hasn’t seen the floor all season.

No, I didn’t forget the draft picks. Two first-round picks next year is good if you have a young team like the Suns, or time to rebuild – the Knicks have neither. Name five players that will be picked in the first round next year. If you can’t, that’s because it is not as talented as last year’s draft. There may be a lot of raw talent, but the polished players are scarce.

The Knicks have seen an immediate impact from their new staff, and they have a legitimate chance in the East as early as this season.

Marbury is arguably one of the top three point guards in basketball. Other names such as Kidd, Davis and Francis come to mind, but Marbury is the only player other than the great Oscar Robertson to average 20 points and eight assists for his career. He wasn’t a good fit for the Nets, but he is a perfect fit for the team across the river in New York.

They are 5-1 in their last six games, with Marbury averaging 22 points and over 12 assists per game. His efforts earned him player of the week honors in the Eastern Conference last week.

What about Anfernee Hardaway? People everywhere are saying Penny is washed up. Why would the team with the highest payroll in the NBA take his huge contract? Answer is that he is still a quality sixth man. He is averaging nine points, three assists, and three rebounds on the season. Given a chance to play the whole game, he lit up the Dallas Mavericks last week for 19 points, while grabbing seven boards. Also, they took Penny because that was the only way they would have been able to obtain Marbury, as well as the opportunity to unload someone like McDyess, who has done nothing in the last four years.

The team now has a starting five consisting of Marbury, Allan Houston, Keith Van Horn, Kurt Thomas and Dikembe Mutombo. The backcourt of Marbury and Houston has been called the best in the Eastern Conference, and possibly in basketball. The two combine for about 40 points and 14 assists per game. From the small forward position, Van Horn has stepped up, averaging 17 points and seven boards.

The bench support is lead by Shandon Anderson, Hardaway and Frank Williams. Williams, a rookie from Illinois, is their most promising young player, but has been mentioned in trade rumors. The most intriguing rumor sends Williams and Van Horn to Portland in exchange for Rasheed Wallace.

The Knicks don’t need to build for the future when they can buy it right now. The NBA’s all-time wins leader, Wilkens, should help as well. New York will finally know what it feels like to win again, and the Marbury/Houston era may be the successor of the Ewing era in the Big Apple.