12 New York Knicks Trying to replace Latrell Sprewell won't be a walk in the Garden

October 27, 2003

Keith Van Horn knew the boos were coming. He just didn't know
they'd come so soon. It took all of one shot--a three-pointer
that clanged off the front of the rim--during his Oct. 11 Knicks
debut at Madison Square Garden. Like an epidemic, the boos spread
as the game went on and continued at the next preseason game.
This is what happens when you falter while trying to replace
Latrell Sprewell, the Garden favorite traded by New York for Van
Horn in a six-player deal in July.

Knicks coach Don Chaney has pleaded for fans to "be fair" with
Van Horn, explaining that the change in personnel won't make much
of a difference defensively. "Keith's size can bother guys just
as much as Latrell's quickness did," he says. As dubious as that
comment is--Sprewell is an excellent defender, Van Horn a
liability--a case can be made that the 6'10" Van Horn brings to
the Knicks exactly what they lacked last season: length. He also
lost 15 pounds over the summer and, at 240, can play small
forward this year. "I'm lighter, quicker and more agile," says
Van Horn, who spent five seasons in New Jersey and last season in
Philadelphia. "I'll be able to run the break better and use my
size to post up against mismatches."

Thus far, Van Horn's optimism has been an annual rite of fall.
His tantalizing talent wins over coaches, each of whom thinks
maybe he may be the one who can get Van Horn to play hard every
night. When he does falter, the heckling comes quickly and
mercilessly. And if Philadelphia was a rough environment for
failure, New York is the epicenter of epithets. Still, Van Horn
says he's ready for it. "As the season rolls on, I think the fans
will see how hard I work, and they'll appreciate that." --C.B.

COLOR PHOTO: D. CLARKE EVANS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES Keith Van Horn

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Knicks

"Signing Dikembe Mutombo will help, but because he can give them
only about 20 minutes a game, all they can expect is a half dozen
points and rebounds plus a blocked shot or two. At least Mutombo
will ease the burden on their hardest-working player, Kurt
Thomas, who won't be overmatched at center for those 20
minutes.... They'll miss Latrell Sprewell's intensity, but he was
no longer making a big difference. The Knicks were fourth-worst
last year in field goal percentage allowed, and they were near
the bottom in steals and blocks.... Keith Van Horn will suffer if
fans compare him to Sprewell, for whom he was essentially traded.
If you start missing shots and the fans are booing, you have to
block that out and keep shooting. Van Horn has a reputation for
disappearing when things aren't going well.... You can pressure
Charlie Ward because he's not going to get by you on his bad
right knee. It might take longer to initiate the half-court
offense when he's running the team.... I didn't understand their
first-round pick, Mike Sweetney out of Georgetown. He's
undersized and, like Clarence Weatherspoon, figures to have
trouble against the big power forwards. On the other hand, Maciej
Lampe of Poland was a great second-round pick. He's too young and
thin to contribute right away, but he has a huge upside.... The
big variable is going to be power forward Antonio McDyess, whose
return from surgery to repair a fractured kneecap--his third
operation in two years--has not been determined. After breaking
that kneecap on a routine dunk last year, he's bound to have
concerns about reinjuring himself. But if he's back to where he
was two years ago and everybody else plays well, they're a .500
team fighting for the last playoff spot. Otherwise they will do
well to match the 37 games they won last year."

FAST FACT
The Hawks' Theo Ratliff (3.23) and the Pistons' Ben Wallace
(3.15) averaged more blocks per game than the Knicks did as a
team (3.11).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2002-03 statistics

Record: 37-45 (10th in East)
Points scored: 95.9 (11th in NBA)
Points allowed: 97.2 (20th)
Coach: Don Chaney
(third season with Knicks)

DIKEMBE MUTOMBO[1]

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
C 137 5.8 6.4 0.8

BPG SPG FG% FT%
1.54 0.17 37.4 72.7

KEITH VAN HORN[1]

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
SF 66 15.9 7.1 1.3

BPG SPG FG% 3FG%
0.41 0.85 48.2 36.9

HOWARD EISLEY

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
PG 144 9.1 2.3 5.4

SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
0.87 41.7 38.9 84.8

ALLAN HOUSTON

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
SG 60 22.5 2.8 2.7

SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
0.66 44.5 39.6 91.9

KURT THOMAS

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
PF 97 14.0 7.9 2.0

BPG SPG FG% FT%
1.20 1.00 48.3 75.0

BENCH PVR* 2002-03 KEY STATS

F ANTONIO
McDYESS+ 146 11.3 ppg 5.5 rpg 0.80 bpg 1.00 spg 57.3 FG%
G-F SHANDON
ANDERSON 177 8.4 ppg 3.1 rpg 0.89 spg 46.2 FG% 37.1 3FG%
G CHARLIE
WARD 199 7.2 ppg 2.7 rpg 4.6 apg 1.18 spg 39.9 FG%
F CLARENCE
WEATHERSPOON 219 6.6 ppg 7.6 rpg 0.46 bpg 0.87 spg 4.9 FG%
C[1]MACIEJ
LAMPE (R) 238 19.1 ppg 7.6 rpg 1.35 spg 52.1 FG% 45.2 3FG%

NEW ACQUISITION[1]
(R) Rookie (Spanish minor league statistics)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 94)
+2001-02 statistics

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)