Following a trade for Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks seemed to cash much of their depth in for a second star to put alongside Amar’e Stoudemire. After watching the Heat and the “Big Three” crumble to the Mavericks in the NBA Finals, Knicks fans are beginning to wonder if having all that star power will ultimately translate to wins.
One man who knows all about winning is 1973 NBA Champion and Hall of Fame guard Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, who helped bring a title to New York. Monroe, who after donning orange and blue for nine seasons is to this day beloved by Knicks fans, participated in the NBA Nation tour’s stop in New York City this past weekend.
I caught up with “The Pearl” to discuss the current state of his former team, what went wrong for the Miami Heat, the art of being a point guard, and more. Read on below to check out his thoughts.
Q: After all the speculation and hype following last year’s free agency, how did you think the Knicks did this season?
A: I thought by the end of the season we finally saw the team begin to gel and feel good about each other. In the beginning of the season, I felt as though Amar’e Stoudemire was playing really well with the group of guys that he had–Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, etc. You could tell they were really starting to establish an identity. After the trade, they went through a big period of adjustment, but I thought when things got rolling they began to recapture that identity. Hopefully they can take what they’ve done and carry it over to next season.
Q: Talking about the adjustment period the team went through, do you think the players the Knicks have now are the right ones to continue help the team win?
A: Well, I hope so. But just look at what happened in Miami. I think the group of guys the Knicks have now understand the goal. There’s a lot of things that they can take away from watching the Heat play this season, so that they don’t have the same pitfalls going forward.
Q: You’re referring to all of the star power and perhaps a lack of cohesiveness on the Heat?
A: Yeah. Sometimes a team finds that they have too many stars. The thing in a nutshell is that everyone needs to be able to find their space on the court. The Heat were trying to mesh everything together, and I don’t think that it happened for them. Maybe they had it going for a while, but I think ultimately they got unfocused.
Q: So maybe the Knicks are set with two stars in Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. What does this team need moving forward to make everything ultimately work?
A: Well obviously when you have a couple of guys like that, the team needs someone to direct them. Chauncey Billups has done it before. I think what the team should do now is a bring in a younger point guard who understands the game, but can still learn from Chauncey going forward. I’m pretty sure that the players on the team from last season are only going to get better. It’s going to be a very exciting time for the Knicks.
Q: When you played alongside Walt “Clyde” Frazier, did it matter which of you assumed the point guard and shooting guard positions while on the court together?
A: No, it really didn’t. Back in those days, a team may have had a “point guard,” but we were all just guards. Clyde and I were both able to score and handle the ball. When I came over to New York, I felt as though we were both able to run the team, but that’s because we had a good understanding of each other and the way we played. We let ourselves just kind of do our thing out there.
Q: Having said that, Billups is more of a scorer himself than a pass first guy. People don’t really know if he’s the right point guard to run Mike D’Antoni’s offense. What are your thoughts?
A: I don’t think you need a “pass-first” point guard to succeed, because when you look around at all the talented point guards in the league right now, you find guys that can score as well. Good examples of that are guys like Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Nowadays, being a talented point guard means more than just passing. You have to score the basketball. In order to be successful, the team needs a point guard that just understands how to win. He needs to be able to envision what to do on the court, where to put the ball, but when all else fails, know that he can knock down a shot.
Q: You were back on the MSG Network as a special in-studio analyst, along with Bernard King, during the playoffs. Tell me how that was for you, and what else you’ve been up to lately.
A: I really enjoyed it. That’s actually the first time I did something like an “In-Studio” spot. I found myself kind of liking it. We’ll see where that goes as we move forward.
I’m back to work at other things. I’m still doing what I do with my film and music stuff. I’m coaching again too with “The People’s Games.” The Games are actually going to have its own reality show with ABC starting next year.