The process of fine-tuning this so-called "powerful" New York Knicks machine -- which doesn't seem to be intimidating the rest of the National Basketball Association -- is, admittedly, taking a little time. The Portland Trail Blazers probably were the best indicator of how far the Knicks have advanced since John MacLeod replaced Stu Jackson.
In November in Portland, the Blazers defeated Jackson's Knicks by 16 points. In December in New York, the Blazers defeated MacLeod's Knicks by 16 points. That seems to indicate that the Knicks are a good 16 points per game away from competing for a title.
The Blazers' performance last Wednesday punched yet another hole in Al Bianchi's theory that the Knicks are in need of only one more player (or head coach) to be on a championship level. The Knicks need at least three players, and in order of importance, those players are Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey and Danny Ainge (shooting guard, small forward, bench strength).
Before the Knicks improve enough to take on the big boys, they should focus on dominating the little guys. Expansion teams Miami and Charlotte are in their third season. Orlando and Minnesota are in their second. In games against those four teams -- during the Rick Pitino, Jackson and MacLeod eras, the last two years and 27 games (my, how the coaches go quickly around here) -- the Knicks have the fifth-worst record (18-10) of the 23 non-expansion teams. Only the Clippers, Nets, Pacers and Kings have worse winning percentages against expansion teams, but the Knicks actually are tied for the second-highest number of losses.
* TRAIL BLAZERS: Coach Rick Adelman ripped the league for forcing teams to travel on Christmas Day. In his weekly column in The Oregonian, Adelman wrote:
"Why [on Dec. 26] is Portland at New York, Seattle at Cleveland, Golden State at Milwaukee, Charlotte at Detroit, Houston at Orlando, Miami at San Antonio, Denver at Sacramento, Dallas at Phoenix, Atlanta at New Jersey?
"Why not Portland at Seattle, New York at New Jersey, Golden State at Sacramento, Detroit at Cleveland, Atlanta at Charlotte, Miami at Orlando, Houston at San Antonio, Denver at Phoenix, Dallas at Milwaukee?"
Adelman is lucky. League officials probably would fine him for his critical comments, but many were off last week, celebrating the holidays.
* KINGS: Coach Dick Motta is unhappy because the Kings refuse to cut Ralph Sampson, who has a guaranteed contract of $2 million.