It is with great joy that I’ve been watching the Knicks’ mish-moshed roster play selfless, exciting ball. And because of that joy that a certain melancholy strikes with the realization that it will be difficult to keep many of these heroes for various reasons, mostly salary related:
- J.R. Smith will likely opt-out of his $2.5 million deal and find a home paying at least double that amount;
- Steve Novak could 3-point bomb into Kapono or Korver money;
- Jared Jeffries has finally proven to the NBA that his defense is worthy of something more than the league minimum;
- Baron Davis will likely prove that his back is healthy and if he isn’t a starter, he’s still a damn good backup;
- and Mike D’Antoni, who suffered three long years for a whiff at this type of talent is by all indications a dead man walking at Madison Square Garden.
But we have these guys now. For this brief moment. This coming together for a fleeting episode of confederacy and understanding, and ultimately inevitable parting evokes a certain film from my childhood.
From Wikipedia (with edits where appropriate):
students basketball players and coaches,— Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) Mike D’Antoni, Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) Jared Jeffries, John Bender (Judd Nelson) J.R. Smith, Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) Steve Novak, and Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) Baron Davis—who seem to have nothing in common at first, come together at the high school library Madison Square Garden, where they are harangued and ordered not to speak or move from their seats or sleep not to have success in Mike D’Antoni’s freewheeling offensive style by the antagonistic principal owner, Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason) James Dolan, supervising them, so he can angrily dismiss all of them and bring in Phil Jackson. They are to remain for a period of eight hours, fifty-four minutes (from 7:06 A.M. to 4 P.M., the only indication of time being on a clock that is 20 minutes fast) one lockout shortened season. He assigns a 1,000 word essay 66 games (in which each student player or coach must write about show who he or she thinks they are is) and then leaves them mostly unsupervised, returning only occasionally to check on them declare that the Rangers are going to win the Stanley Cup.
At the request and consensus of the
students players and coach, Brian Novak is asked to provide a shining example – in responding to the task write the essay Mr. Vernon Dolan assigned earlier (the subject of which was to be a synopsis by each student player or coach detailing “who you think you are”) - which by using the freedom D’Antoni has granted them to challenge s Mr. Vernon Dolan and his preconceived judgments about all of them. Brian Novak does so, but instead of writing about the assigned topic, he writes playing a very motivating and eye-opening letter game against the Cleveland Cavaliers that is, in essence, a proxy for the main point of the story: that each of them (or any person, in that matter) is a bit of everything and not the whole of what people see in them. He signs the essay as dedicates the game to “The Breakfast Club Knicks” and leaves it at the table as a Garden memory for Mr. Vernon Dolan to wistfully recall when they leave. There are two versions of this letter game, one read played at the beginning for other coaches and one at the end played for D’Antoni, which are slightly radically different; illustrating the change in the students players‘ and coach’s judgments of one another and their realization that they truly have things in common.
The film ends with the
students players and coaches walking down the hallway to leave the school Garden. Outside, Allison D’Antoni and Andrew Jeffries are shown kissing, as well as Claire Davis and Bender Smith. Claire Davis gives Bender Smith her earring a copy of his teleplay, which he puts on throws out after she leaves. Bender D’Antoni walks onto the school’s football field center court and pumps his fist into the air, and the scene is freeze-framed.”
The Knicks are likely going to have to use their mid-level exception to retain Jeremy Lin. After that the only contract offers they’ll be able to tender will be the bi-annual exception and the veteran’s minimum. Maybe one of Jeffries or Davis or Novak will be willing to take the bi-annual, but that’s up in the air.
More importantly, if Mike D’Antoni is gone would a guy like Jeffries or Novak even want to stay? These were discarded, scrap heap types of players. We’ve already witnessed the affinity that Jeffries and D’Antoni have for each other. D’Antoni transforms players for whom other teams have no use, recognizes their chief talents, and puts them in a position to excel using their gifts. The more likely scenario is that Jeffries will follow D’Antoni wherever he goes. And wherever Novak winds up (unless he’s playing for D’Antoni) he’ll likely be plastered to the bench. I think his agent will explain that he needs to take the money while he can. @BandwagonKnick explained this phenomenon as Super Nova was lighting up the Cavs last night:
As odd as it may sound, Jeremy Lin, who has risen like a Phoenix to an unlikely position of influence – in no small part due to the freedom D’Antoni has handed him – has all the power in the world to force Dolan to re-up his embattled coach and perchance keep as much of the team together as possible. Lin has the power to leverage his ability to leave the Knicks high and dry at the end of next season. As Jamie O’Grady has already noted:
If successful, D’Antoni and Lin will secure each other’s futures.
Would Lin use the leverage he undoubtedly wields? Time will tell. But just like Jeffries and Novak, I suspect he knows where his bread is buttered. Per Howard Beck:
Jeremy Lin is not Steve Nash, although his poking, prodding, hunt-and-peck approach to finding open lanes evokes Nash’s style. Lin does not have Nash’s pedigree, or his 3-point shot. But he does have D’Antoni, whom he called “an absolute offensive genius”…