And then the dark times were upon us.
As if things couldn’t possibly get any worse after the mercurial James Dolan was reportedly so infuriated by New York’s poor start to the season that he demanded that the Knicks City Dancers stop dancing, now the Knicks may be without Tyson Chandler for an extended period of time. Chandler, who until last night had been the Knicks’ best player this year, went down early in the 102-97 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats after a knee-to-knee collision in the paint with Kemba Walker. Ironically, New York, now 1-3, went down early, too, and despite yet another comeback attempt, the Knicks could not find a way to win against an inferior opponent in the Garden.
Prior to the game, coach Mike Woodson announced that he would once again turn to his ”big” lineup. New York’s starting-five consisted of Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, and Chandler, the same group that started the previous three games. This, of course, despite mounting
anecdotal statistical evidence that the Knicks play far better — they are 15-1 when Felton and Pablo Prigioni are the backcourt starters, per Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal — when they go small. Woodson opted to double down on Bargs (and ’Melo at the three), though, and actually proclaimed that he would prefect to have the “big” lineup start a majority of the games this season.
Really, Woody? Do you realize that your team is now sporting a -34 plus/minus when Bargnani is on the floor versus a +30 when he is on the bench? Yeah, sample size and all, but NUMBERS.
Simply put — and notwithstanding last night’s affair, sans Chandler — it feels like the Knicks have absolutely no team identity. Gone is the character that the 54-win Knicks of last season consistently displayed. (Miss you, Jason Kidd!) Gone is the high-octane three-point shooting. Gone is the gritty-transition defense. Gone is the communication between teammates. And after four straight games, we can safely say that this sure looks a lot more like a trend than a hiccup.
Now, facing the daunting prospect of playing without their center for the foreseeable future — early reports this morning suggest Tyson’s knee is just sprained, and not fractured, as originally feared — where do the Knicks go from here? With zero frontline depth — Kenyon Martin might be able to help New York in limited stretches and Amar’e Stoudemire, well, just…no – there are few attractive options.
Maybe Dolan can recruit one of the taller Rockettes from Radio City Music Hall to fill in for Chandler?
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- Metta World Peace had himself a night, dropping 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, grabbing a team-high six rebounds and amassing three steals. His fourth quarter air ball that definitely missed the hoop by a foot could certainly be viewed as something that went wrong, but whatever, it made me laugh.
- Shumpert played well again, stuffing the stat sheet with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals, but he also found himself in foul trouble yet again. Given the Knicks’ lack of competent defenders, Woodson is going to have to live with Iman’s aggressiveness on the defensive end. Over the course of the season, things should balance themselves out with respect to the whistles.
- K-Mart wasn’t even expected to play last night — it was Stoudemire’s turn to play in Woodson’s idiotic platoon — but he was asked to do the heavy lifting for the Knicks after Chandler departed. He managed to contribute two emphatic blocks on the defensive end, but it was his single rebound that stood out, mostly because Martin shouted “MY BALL!” #GoodTimes
- ‘Melo ended the night with 32 points and 5 rebounds, but once again, he was highly inefficient, jacking up a whopping 28 shots in the process. I never thought I would actually type these words, but the Knicks really need J.R. Smith back. And fast.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- Stoudemire. I mean, yikes. The Knicks’ $100M man looked absolutely lost on both ends of the floor, turning the ball over five times and having his shot blocked twice in just 11 minutes of play. As noted by Mike Breen during the telecast, Knicks fans now cringe whenever Amar’e touches the ball, a sad turnaround from just a few years ago when their reactions were quite the opposite.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. must still think it’s Halloween or something, because he looks a lot like Smith out there. The “rook” unloaded four more three-pointers against Charlotte and missed them all. For the season, he’s just 3-for-18 from beyond the arc (17% if you’re scoring at home), which is pretty bad. Sure, you love that Hardaway isn’t afraid, but at some point, the blame shifts to Woodson, who needs to tell his player that contested threes are not exactly optimal.
- Prigioni only played 18 minutes last night, makes absolutely no sense at all. Even the casual fan can see how much better the ball movement is when Pablo is on the court. When the Argentinian is on the bench, the Knicks’ offense stagnates. If it’s a matter of keeping the older Prigs healthy, then at least Woodson should be deploying the point guard when it matters most in the fourth quarters, no?
- The Knicks got DESTROYED on the boards. Again. The Bobcats outrebounded the Knicks by 17 in the first half alone.
- Another disturbing trend continued last night as Charlotte went to the line 42 times versus 23 for New York. Heck, Charlotte tallied more FTMs (34)! Yikes.
- Nope, it’s not deja vu, but the Knicks only managed a measly TWO fast-break points against the Bobcats. Not only are the Knicks hurting themselves by playing at a slower pace — less pace means less possessions and less possessions means less opportunities to score and less opportunities to score means less baskets and less baskets means less wins — but it seems like they are doing so intentionally. This is a completely unacceptable strategy if that’s the case.
- Get well soon, Tyson! No, seriously, you need to get well soon. Maybe Chris Smith can loan you one of his knees. It’s not like he needs them.
- STOP SWITCHIN’! Even Clyde called the team out for their defensive switches. It happens on every. single. possession! Maybe, you know, for shits and giggles, the Knicks’ defenders could try fighting through a pick or (gasp), you know, TALKING to each other on defense?
- At halftime on the MSG Network, Al Trautwig called World Peace “Ron Artest.” Oh, he also noted that the New York Rangers have really benefitted from Artest’s play. What an awful night for everyone, maybe the $1B Garden renovation overlooked the water supply?
- Breen is the best (or maybe worst) jinxer. The Knicks’ play-by-play man noted early on that Charlotte came into the game as the worst free throw shooting team in the league. The Bobcats, of course, made 81% of their attempts. Predictably, when Breen later praised Beno Udrih for his prowess from the line, the Knicks’ guard missed both of his attempts. Shut up, Breen!
- Next up, the Knicks will meet the Bobcats for the second of this home-and-home set on Friday at 7:00 p.m. in Charlotte.