Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
DaveO

The New York Knicks' Mini-Dynasty of 1969-1973 - The Epitome of What a "Team" Should Be

Recommended Posts

As discussions swirl around the GS Warriors, the Cleveland Cavs and other teams, I keep going back to my favorite basketball "dynasty" (really meaning mini  dynasty) of all time; the Kniicks from 69-70 to 72-73.  Four years in the playoffs, three years in the NBA finals and two NBA championships.  Very long ago.  I realize that.  I suspect that Steve R has memories of this mini dynasty.  Any others?

Here are some interesting elements to that team:

For 3 of those 4 years they allowed the fewest points per game in the league.  In the 4th year I think they allowed the third fewest points.  They won championships with defense.

They might have been the greatest passing team of all time; and did so while spreading the ball to the entire team with every player being a potential shooter and with no player dominating the shooting stats by any stretch of the imagination.  Possibly the most balanced scoring of any championship team of any period.  Completely unusual and even more balanced in that regard than other teams that approached ball distribution (thinking 2014 Spurs team as the most recent example and the 2004 Detroit Pistons before them).  The Knicks of that earlier era simply spread the shots around more evenly than either of these two teams.  Shooting stats from the team in the 69-70 season:  (see below)

The 69-70 team developed as a result of what had to be one of the great trades in the history of the NBA from the previous season, (68-69).  Midseason the Knicks dealt the big talented but erratic Center Walt Bellamy and their starting point guard, Howard Komives to the Detroit Pistons and the Pistons sent forward Dave Debusschere to the Knicks.  Reed became the starting center, Debusschere was the starting power forward and Walt Frazier became the starting point guard.  From mid season on the Knicks developed into a league power.  The enigma and missing piece was who would be the small forward, Bradley or Cazzie Russell.  Cazzie was the better offensive player and scorer.  Bradley fit Coach Red Holzman's scheme better.  Holtzman put Bradley in the starter's role and it clicked. 

The 69-70 team was the epitome of this spread it around type offense, but it continued to operate in the same manner over the next 4 seasons; (through 72-73 another championship season and one additional year, as Debusschere, Reed, and Lucas remained with the team).  It wasn't until Reed, Debusschere and Lucas left that shot attempts skewed more toward Frazier, Monroe, and thirdly Bradley.  Remarkably when Earl the Pearl first joined the Knicks he changed from one of the leagues leading offensive weapons and leading shot takers, to the fifth option.  He sacrificed his offensive orientation to be part of the team concept.

I was lucky to watch them a fair amount.  I moved to Baltimore for college and got to see Bullets/Knicks games in Baltimore.  Possibly the greatest, most fierce  mano a mano matchups in NBA history.  Reed vs. Unseld, two height deficient Centers who were muscular physical brutes.  (they must have crushed one another every game).  Even more ferocious were the man on man battles between Debusschere and Gus Johnson two of the most rugged players in the league with Johnson additionally being one of the early skywalkers.  Watching Bradley and Jack Marin play was fascinating in a different way.  Those two guys covered a lot of ground from one side of the court to the other, moving out to the perimeter for outside shots.  Man, those two guys were always grabbing and clutching.  The creme de la creme matchup was the artistry between Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier.  Mr offense vs Mr Defense.  The Bullets emphasized offense, being one of the highest scoring teams in the league, the Knicks emphasized defense, being the league leaders.  Over the course of a season neither team dominated, while the matchups and games were always fascinating.

Everyone on those old Knicks could pass.  Every player.  The only starter who might not have been a stellar passer was Reed...but when you watched those games the Knicks always had a teammate in Reed's eyesight.  He became a good passer and that coach and the teammates helped him become one. 

Well its over 40 years later...so who cares?   Possibly Steve R, who related this great tale that I'm sure every star struck kid who idolized pro's would love to experience. (Steve R Schooling Earl the Pearl on the Playgrounds)

As the current NBA season moves along, the Warriors with their great scorers also face defensive problems: players such as Harden, DeRozan, Westbrook, and Davis, all averaging over 30 pts a game, are monopolizing the ball; the Spurs play this Knicks type game, though nobody has ever distributed the ball like the Knicks....and the Cavs have the remarkable Lebron James..who admittedly makes his teammates a stellar team....I still yearn for those Knicks.

PS (undoubtedly if one looks at old tapes of those games and that era today's players are more athletic.   Still I maintain that Reed would be a star in today's game.  He has a midrange jumpshot.  How many of today's centers can do that?   Uh...maybe one or two.  He was amazingly tough against one and all including the giants of that time such as Chamberlain and Kareem.   I can't see how anyone could control Monroe.  His offensive moves were remarkably different and defied defensive efforts.  If there was anyone who was as rugged and indefatigable as Debusschere he would probably be the all time best linebacker in all of football.  I'd love to see Frazier play against today's guards.  Besides passing his shooting was based on a sense of how to beat the defense, not just pure athleticism  (like Larry Bird in a way).  That team would be strong today.

....and getting back to Earl the Pearl.  I defy anyone to come up with any player who could successfully defend against Earl the Pearl at any point in basketball history...

knicks 69-70.gif

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, DaveO said:

As discussions swirl around the GS Warriors, the Cleveland Cavs and other teams, I keep going back to my favorite basketball "dynasty" (really meaning mini  dynasty) of all time; the Kniicks from 69-70 to 72-73.  Four years in the playoffs, three years in the NBA finals and two NBA championships.  Very long ago.  I realize that.  I suspect that Steve R has memories of this mini dynasty.  Any others?

My memories of this amazing team are limited to vague, childhood, aural images of Howard Cosell announcing "Dave Duh Bussher" - that, and a memory from just *two days ago*, when I was having lunch at Amici's East Coast Pizzeria in Vacaville, CA, where I was sitting at a booth crowned by a terrific B&W photograph of Reed, Bradley, and DeBusschere - it's quite a coincidence that you wrote this post.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

48 years ago today, May 8, 1970 the Knicks won the 7th game of the NBA finals and their first championship.  It was a game for the ages characterized by the heroism of Willis Reed and the sparkling overall play of Walt Frazier.

The Knicks had the best regular season record that year, Willis Reed won the NBA MVP award, Reed and Frazier were first team all-NBA, and Reed,Frazier and Dave Debusschere.  It was the year after Bill Russell retired, Lew Alcindor's (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) rookie season, and Wilt Chamberlain was injured most of the season only playing 12 regular season games but the complete playoffs.  The team had the best defense in the NBA and is often included in All Time Best Team lists.

I admit.  I''m a fan boy.  This is my favorite pro sports team of all time.  No muss, no fluff, no theatrics, incredible team ball (nobody dominated the shooting).  Lots of simple passing, really just looking for the open man;  great defense.

All that being said, in the finals the teams split the first 6 games.  Chamberlain was back and that made LA extremely strong.  In the 5th game of the playoffs  Reed suffered a terrible leg injury.  He didn't play the 6th game and the Lakers killed the Knicks with Chamberlain dominating.  Looked bad in the 7th game.  It seemed highly unlikely Reed would play.

The team shot Reed full of cortisone.  --Lots of cortisone.  And with the imminent start of the game, there arose one of the all time great/heroic/wildly cheered moments in all of Sports History.   Reed made his surprise entrance to the shoot around before the game started.   The fans went berserk!!

There are many videos that capture that moment, the first minutes of the game, and its totality.  Here is one of them as part of a tribute to Willis Reed

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, DaveO said:

48 years ago today, May 8, 1970 the Knicks won the 7th game of the NBA finals and their first championship.  It was a game for the ages characterized by the heroism of Willis Reed and the sparkling overall play of Walt Frazier.

The Knicks had the best regular season record that year, Willis Reed won the NBA MVP award, Reed and Frazier were first team all-NBA, and Reed,Frazier and Dave Debusschere.  It was the year after Bill Russell retired, Lew Alcindor's (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) rookie season, and Wilt Chamberlain was injured most of the season only playing 12 regular season games but the complete playoffs.  The team had the best defense in the NBA and is often included in All Time Best Team lists.

I admit.  I''m a fan boy.  This is my favorite pro sports team of all time.  No muss, no fluff, no theatrics, incredible team ball (nobody dominated the shooting).  Lots of simple passing, really just looking for the open man;  great defense.

All that being said, in the finals the teams split the first 6 games.  Chamberlain was back and that made LA extremely strong.  In the 5th game of the playoffs  Reed suffered a terrible leg injury.  He didn't play the 6th game and the Lakers killed the Knicks with Chamberlain dominating.  Looked bad in the 7th game.  It seemed highly unlikely Reed would play.

The team shot Reed full of cortisone.  --Lots of cortisone.  And with the imminent start of the game, there arose one of the all time great/heroic/wildly cheered moments in all of Sports History.   Reed made his surprise entrance to the shoot around before the game started.   The fans went berserk!!

There are many videos that capture that moment, the first minutes of the game, and its totality.  Here is one of them as part of a tribute to Willis Reed

 

Who was a more important center: Willis Reed (6'9"), or Wes Unseld (6'7")? 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, DonRocks said:

Who was a more important center: Willis Reed (6'9"), or Wes Unseld (6'7")? 

Willis Reed.  Natch.  Willis Reed and Muhammad Ali were my childhood heroes.  That's all I know.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, dcs said:

Willis Reed.  Natch.  Willis Reed and Muhammad Ali were my childhood heroes.  That's all I know.

Mine too plus The Mick

18 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Who was a more important center: Willis Reed (6'9"), or Wes Unseld (6'7")? 

Unlike the highly opinionated but probably correct @dcs I ain’t going there. ;)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/16/2016 at 4:38 PM, DaveO said:

knicks 69-70.gif

The 1969-1970 Los Angeles Lakers roster is pretty imposing - 11 players averaged over 20 minutes per game. Incredibly, the Knicks beat them in the Finals (and the Celtics beat a very similar Lakers team the year before). 

Amazing statistic: In the 1968-1969 season, Wes Unseld had 1491 rebounds in the regular season, 2nd in the NBA to Wilt Chamberlain.
Wilt Chamberlain had 444 rebounds ... in the playoffs. 😲

Per Game

Rk   Age G GS MP FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT% TRB AST PF PTS/G
1 Wilt Chamberlain 33 12   42.1 10.8 18.9 .568 5.8 13.1 .446 18.4 4.1 2.6 27.3
2 Jerry West 31 74   42.0 11.2 22.6 .497 8.7 10.6 .824 4.6 7.5 2.2 31.2
3 Elgin Baylor 35 54   41.0 9.5 19.5 .486 5.1 6.6 .773 10.4 5.4 2.4 24.0
4 Happy Hairston 27 55   39.0 7.7 15.8 .490 5.1 6.4 .803 12.5 2.0 3.5 20.6
5 Dick Garrett 23 73   31.8 4.8 11.2 .434 1.9 2.2 .852 3.2 2.5 3.2 11.6
6 Mel Counts 28 81   27.1 5.4 12.6 .427 1.9 2.5 .776 8.4 2.0 3.8 12.6
7 Rick Roberson 22 74   27.1 3.5 7.9 .447 1.6 2.9 .566 9.1 1.2 3.5 8.7
8 Keith Erickson 25 68   25.8 3.8 8.3 .458 1.3 1.8 .746 4.5 3.1 2.6 8.9
9 Bill Hewitt 25 20   23.9 1.3 4.4 .284 0.8 1.6 .516 7.1 1.4 2.0 3.3
10 Johnny Egan 31 72   22.6 3.0 6.8 .438 1.4 1.7 .818 1.4 3.0 2.4 7.3
11 Willie McCarter 23 40   21.5 3.3 8.7 .378 1.1 1.5 .717 2.1 2.3 1.8 7.7
12 John Tresvant 30 20   11.1 2.4 4.4 .534 1.2 1.8 .657 3.2 0.9 2.0 5.9
13 Mike Lynn 24 44   9.2 1.0 3.0 .331 0.7 1.1 .646 1.5 0.7 2.0 2.7

Julius Erving has 3 of these guys in his Top 5 all-time (admittedly formed when he was 15-years old).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I watched either all or almost all of those 2 finals series, albeit on black and white tv’s that were not large nor were the transmissions flawless (that befit the technology of the day)

The Lakers were more imposing in NAME than GAME.  By that time Baylor’s game had slowed due to leg injuries and I’m sure age.  Possibly one could equate him to Julius Erving toward the end of his career: sometimes great sometimes not.  I’m sure Chamberlain’s game had also slowed as he played remarkably less offense 

One little remembered factoid from the Laker Celtic series—Havlicek played every minute of every game.   

As to many players averaging 20 minutes or more in the 69-70 Lakers regular season—it was a factor of injuries;  Wilt missed most of the regular season, Baylor and Erickson missed a big chunk of games and so on.  The current Wizards alsohave many players averaging 20 minutes.  Assuming Porter doesn’t start the Wizards current starting lineup has only one starter from what they anticipated at season’s start

One other point:  It was incredible the Knicks won the 7th game in that Willis Reed was hobbled by injury.  It was not incredible they won the series.  The Knicks had the best record in the league,  Frazier and Reed were first team all NBA, I think Reed won MVP and Frazier, Reed, and Debuschere where all first team all defense.  It was the Knick’s peak in their mini dynasty.  The Playoff Lakers were better than their regular season record as Wilt played the entire 3 series, but he had very limited movement due to his injury.  He couldn’t defend a healthy Reed’s jump shots.

Alternatively it was incredible the Celtics won in ‘69.  It was the last year of their dynasty.  Russell was showing his age and had deteriorated as had Sam Jones.  The Celtics only finished 4th in their conference while the Lakers won the West.  It had to be “Celtic Pride” that carried them through the playoffs, plus Havlicek stepped up to show he was truly one of the best players in the NBA, starting that year.  Oh yeah: in a losing cause Jerry West won the finals MVP.  His entire series was magnificent 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×