So Larry Brown’s the new head coach of the Knicks. Awesome. Now can we all get on with our lives again? The amount of attention devoted to Brown the past few months has been sickening. I understand he’s one of the best coaches in NBA history and I also understand that the Knicks job is one of the most coveted posts in the league, but this was ridiculous. The first rumor with any apparent substance to it was that Brown would become the Cavaliers’ new team president once the Pistons’ season was over, but then Brown went out of his way to assure everyone in Detroit that he intended on coaching next year and that he intended on doing it with the Pistons. Then the Cleveland rumor really started heating up. Then Cavs owner Dan Gilbert announced that he would not be hiring Brown. Then Brown’s status with the Pistons grew even more uncertain as we received daily updates on the discussions Brown and Detroit GM Joe Dumars were having. Then the announcement came that the Pistons bought out Brown’s contract and he was free to coach whomever he wanted in 2005. Then we heard of lunch and dinner meetings between Brown, Isiah Thomas and Knicks owner James Dolan. It got to the point where I half expected to see Brown on the cover of The Enquirer with a headline that read, “I’m having Isiah’s baby!” Thankfully, the fiasco is over and we can all go back to wondering what team is going to overpay for Antoine Walker and whether Damon Stoudamire will be able to establish a reliable weed hook-up in his new city.
Of course, the real question regarding Brown is, can he lead the Knicks to the playoffs next year? I say no. The East is looking pretty tough right now, with the Pistons and Heat once again representing the conference’s two best teams. You know Philly, Indiana and (most likely) Boston will be in the thick of the playoff race again, plus the young Bulls should prove that last year wasn’t a fluke while the Wizards rebounded nicely from losing Larry Hughes to the Cavs. And then you’ve got the Nets, who added Shareef Abdur-Rahim and will welcome back a healthy Richard Jefferson, and the Cavs, who may be one of the most improved teams in the NBA thanks to the acquisitions of Hughes and Donyell Marshall and the re-signing of Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Plus, the Bucks added some depth this summer and the Magic certainly have the talent to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Knicks’ best player is a shoot-first point guard (Stephon Marbury) whose attitude and game clashed with Brown during last year’s Olympics, their starting shooting guard (Jamal Crawford) is, somehow, more of a ball-hog than Marbury, and they dealt their best big man (Kurt Thomas) for a small forward (Quentin Richardson) who loves to hang out beyond the arc as much as Marbury and Crawford do. And to top it all off, the Knicks are buried in cap problems and nobody on the roster can play a lick of defense.
Can the Knicks make the playoffs next year? It’s certainly conceivable, if some of the East’s second-tier teams fall short of expectations. If anyone can pull it off, it’d be Brown. But I just don’t see it happening, not with that roster.