Well, they’ve done it. The Knicks have clinched a playoff spot. Now I can finally stop holding my breath, I can shave my “they’re-not-in-the-playoffs-yet” beard and I can dump my girlfriend. That last one might not have much to do with the Knicks, but I like to share. Speaking of sharing, now that the boys are officially in the playoffs, I’ve decided to get some other things off my chest, too. I’m sure the Knicks know and care that I think they’re all heroes for getting us to the promised land, but there is still lots of work to do. While each of the Knicks seems to have found a way to contribute something positive this season, each of them also seems to have a fatal flaw which has hurt the team on occasion. So, I’ve decided to make a Knicks wish list, wherein I list the one thing I would wish for/from each member of the team to give us the best chance of success in the postseason.
Carmelo Anthony - Don’t be a hero. Melo has become a surprisingly complete player this season, but even he has a fatal flaw. He wants to win so badly and he wants to be the hero so badly that he will sometimes make bad choices that end up hurting the Knicks. So no more playing hurt when he should be resting up and no more forcing tough contested shots when things aren’t clicking for the team on offense. We need a healthy Melo that trusts his teammates and sticks to the plan on offense even when things aren’t going great.
Tyson Chandler - Stay on the court. By which I mean get/stay healthy and stay out of fights and foul trouble. I love that you’re such a rambunctious tough guy Tyson, but we really need you to keep out of trouble.
Raymond Felton - Pass first, attack the rim second and shoot jumpers last. This may seem like pretty obvious stuff for a point guard, but Ray’s shooting under 42% from the field and it’s due largely to him taking difficult two point shots when he should be finding a way to dish or get to the rack.
Iman Shumpert - Be aggressive. Alright Shump, you seem to have fixed your three point shot as you’re now hitting on close to 40% of them after only hitting around 30% last year, nice work. So why is your overall field goal percentage down to just 36%? It seems like you need to attack the rim more, like you did last year. While you’re at it, let’s see more attack mode on D as well. Last season you were someone we counted on to shut down the opposing team’s best perimeter player and we need to see more of that kind of defense this season.
Jason Kidd - Find your shot again. Look Jason, we all lose things, so let’s think about this: where were you standing the last time you remember having your shot? The good news here is that after an epic slump from three-point land, Jason has recently been showing signs that he’s over it. At this point in his career, Kidd’s game actually has quite a few flaws, but he finds lots of ways to compensate and cover for most of them. Being able to reliably nail open threes is a crucial part of old man Kidd’s game now though and if the Knicks are going to make noise in the playoffs, he needs to keep working with shooting guru Dave Hopla and making sure he doesn’t misplace his three point shot again.
Amare Stoudemire - Get back in shape in time. STAT is the Knicks’ X-factor for the playoffs. If he’s healthy and in playing shape like he was right before he got injured, then suddenly anything’s possible come playoff time. Remember the way he dominated the beginning of the fourth quarter against the Heat before Woody inexplicably benched him? Yeah, we need that.
JR Smith - Play intelligent, fully engaged basketball. At this point, nobody can really question Smith’s talent. The question is his focus and judgment. When JR is focused on the defensive end, he can give the Knicks a real perimeter stopper. On the offensive end, he needs to stop forsaking team offense so frequently in favor of crazy, low percentage, step back, two-point jumpers. When Smith is taking open jumpers off the catch or attacking the rim, he’s an incredible weapon, but when he’s constantly freelancing, he frequently digs big holes for the Knicks.
Steve Novak -Find a second skill set. Not only is Novak the Knicks’ best three-point shooter, but he’s one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. That’s why he has a job in the NBA and he averages 20 minutes a game. He may be one the ten best shooters in the entire galaxy, but he really needs to find a second skill set. I realize it might be asking too much for Steve to become an elite or even solid defender, but what about developing a two-point game to compliment his three-point game? Like Shump, Steve actually has a higher percentage from three than he does overall. This means that teams only need to guard him at the arc and can and often do otherwise ignore him. Get on that Steve!
Pablo Prigioni - Just shoot already! At close to 39%, Pablo is one the Knicks’ best three-point shooters. Someone needs to inform Pablo of this though. No more looking left, right, up and down before deciding it’s safe to shoot. You’re not crossing the street Pablo and you don’t need to check with anyone when you’re wide open, just shoot like you’re confident that it will go in and things will be great.
Kenyon Martin - Keep up the good work. Kenyon is playing so far beyond reasonable expectations, that I feel that it would be absurd to ask for anything else but more of the same at this point.
Chris Copeland - Work on your defense. Cope is a special talent on offense, able to score and score efficiently in a variety of ways. Yet he doesn’t get much playing time, because coach Woody considers him a liability on defense. Cope realized that being a great offensive player will get you a job in the NBA, now he needs to realize that being at least a decent defender is what’s required to get him more playing time.
Rasheed Wallace - More healthiness, less three-point shooting. Given how long Sheed has been out of the lineup, getting healthy is a given, so I’m adding a second wish: stop shooting so many threes. Sheed is a stopper on defense and he has the skills to be a post threat, but he wastes too many offensive possessions with his love of the three ball, which wouldn’t be quite so bad if his shot wasn’t so bad (32%).
Marcus Camby - Find your game. So far this has been a lost season for the former defensive player of the year. When he’s gotten onto the court his offense has been completely missing: 31% FG%, down from 48% last season and he hasn’t established enough dominance on defense or on the boards to maintain a spot in the rotation, even with the Knicks seriously hurting for bigs.
James White - Recover your swagger. While White is far from an accomplished NBA player, we could always depend on him for self-confidence and swagger. Who can forget his epic trash talk leading up to the Slam Dunk contest? Unfortunately, the dunk contest seems to have been overly humbling for White. Ever since his ignominious performance (or lack of performance) at the dunk competition, Flight White has been grounded. In the starting lineup against Miami to help defend against the Heat’s elite wings, he looked lost and desperate, seemingly always a step behind the game. It didn’t take long after that for him to fade from the starting lineup all the way to very end of the bench where Sheed leaves his used chewing gum. He’s recently shown a little bit of life in garbage time and if he can learn to shine during meaningful minutes, he may yet have a shot to stay in the NBA after this season.
Kurt Thomas - Rehab, rehab, rehab. While Kurt hasn’t seen many minutes this season, he’s delivered when called upon. The defense is still there and though his offensive is somewhat one dimensional, at least it’s consistent. Thus I can only ask/hope/wish that he gets better soon.
Mike Woodson - Manage those minutes. Based on his short tenure in NY, Woody is a sensational coach who deserves to be part of the coach of the year conversation. I just ask that he find more rest for his older players and his overworked stars. JR, Tyson and Carmelo have all played over 2000 minutes this season, despite the fact that JR is a reserve, Chandler has missed five games and Melo 13. You’ve clinched the playoffs coach, as much as playoff seeding matters, it won’t matter at all if the Knicks’ key players have all broken down.
There’s been some speculation the past few days about the Knicks’ front office pondering a move, but Mike Woodson, to this point, has been reluctant to cut anyone from this team. With the Knicks’ frontcourt completely battered and tattered, it would seem feasible that New York picks up a decent big to fill a void for a few weeks. However, there is also a gap in the backcourt, although not as big, that needs to be filled. We know New York has been monitoring Delonte West’s performance in the D-League the past two weeks. I have also seen a few sources linking the Knicks to the 30-year-old Josh Powell, who is currently playing in Greece, to help the Knicks under the basket.
There are already currently 15 players under contract, which means there would need to be a cut made in order to bring in some reinforcement along the lines of either defense, or rebounding. The problem is, Mike Woodson is optimistic that Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas could be healthy by the time April rolls around. I believe it is more of a respect issue, and not wanting to cut one of these veterans who believe it or not, still want to play. The chance of Wallace making a significant impact after missing about two-thirds of the year, coming off a foot injury, and a mini two-year retirement is slim to none. Kurt Thomas probably won’t get cut because of the respect the franchise has for him, although he is an expiring contract.
So, that leaves James White. White has bounced around the rotation routinely throughout the year, but has never played any noteworthy minutes that would build a case for him to remain on the roster, if a better option came along. If Grunwald and company were to come to a decision to make another signing, White would be the likely candidate to be let loose from the KnicksTape.
With that being said, does this make sense at this point in the season, with less than a month of regular season left? White, most likely, will not make any impact on this team from now through the playoffs. But I am against letting him go IF New York decides to bring in someone over the age of 35 who hasn’t played basketball all year (no disrespect to K-Mart). West has been playing all year, and so has Josh Powell. Two players who are both, at least capable of coming in and helping the Knicks to keep their division lead and maybe even moving back into second place in the conference. Delonte West’s only issue is his maturity level; there are already a few players on this team who have a reputation of being a misfit. But to Woodson’s credit, there have not been any outbursts this year, and maybe he can keep West under control? If so, West has a pretty sweet stroke from three, and can create for others off the dribble. He would be brought in, though, for sure on his defensive mentality and his ability to guard multiple positions. As we’ve been watching Felton and Kidd this season get burned on a regular basis, while Shumpert is stuck guarding small forwards, out of his natural position.
A few other notable names that deserve a mention, are Hakeem Warrick, Hassan Whiteside, Ben Wallace, and most recently Brooklyn (New Jersey) Net, Sundiata Gaines who’s name has been whispered a few times as a dark horse signing, if there is to be a signing. Again, I would stray away from the likes of players like Ben Wallace, who is aged. Any signing made would have to be one with an instant impact, not someone who needs two weeks to get in shape and be effective. If the right players available at the right time, I would go for it.
In a possible preview of a first round playoff series, the Knicks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden last night by a score of 96-86. The Knicks entered the game second in the Eastern Conference while the Bucks entered seventh in the conference standings. The Knicks were led by Carmelo Anthony’s 25-point, eight rebound, six assist performance. The Bucks were led by Ersan Ilyasova, who stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.
With the Knicks somewhat reeling (5-6 record in their past 11 games) and injuries hurting the team, rumors have surfaced that the team is interested in bringing free-agent power forward Kenyon Martin on board. Martin (career averages of 13 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks) has not played this season after appearing in 42 games last season for the Los Angeles Clippers and after beginning his career with four seasons as a New Jersey Net and seven seasons as a Denver Nugget. While he’s been a talented and quality player throughout his career, bringing on KMart doesn’t really help any of the Knicks current issues.
Losers of three of their last four games (including the Battle for New York City to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night), the Knicks (9-4, tied for 1st in Atlantic Division) end their quick two game road trip tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks (7-5, 1st in Central Division). The Knicks will again be without Jason Kidd, who missed Monday night’s game with back spasms. The team has him listed as day-to day. Ronnie Brewer, who dislocated his left ring finger in the loss to the Nets, will be available for the Knicks. There has been no word on who will replace Kidd in the starting lineup. Coach Mike Woodson could use his big lineup of Raymond Felton-Brewer-Carmelo Anthony-Kurt Thomas-Tyson Chandler or just replace Kidd at shooting guard with one of either J.R. Smith, Steve Novak or James White.
Beginning a three-game Western Conference road trip, the Knicks got off to a flying start, routing the Anthony Davis-less New Orleans Hornets by a score of 102-80. The win was the second in a row for the Knicks, who are now 8-1 in the young season and maintain the NBA’s best record. Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists. The Hornets were led by Ryan Anderson’s 15 points and eight rebounds.
With the Knicks set to take on the Philadelphia 76ers in their fifth preseason game, let’s take a look at notes from their two losses this weekend against the Toronto Raptors (a 107-88 loss on Friday) and Boston Celtics (a 109-88 loss on Saturday).
James “Flight” White is known for his superb athleticism, but, unfortunately, he’s had a difficult time sticking in the league. The Knicks gave White a one-year, guaranteed deal at the start of the summer, and White elected to play with the youngins’ in Vegas, to work on his game. Seeing that he was the one guy with a guaranteed deal on the summer league team, one might expect him to drastically outplay the competition, but White did not. Sure, he looked better than the others, but not that much better. Luckily for White, due to injuries to Shumpert and now Brewer, it looks like he’ll see some playing time when the season roles around.
Artsiom Parakhouski wins the opening tip, James “Flight” White (with a nice look) finds an open Chris Copeland for an easy bucket, and then…
Well, suffice it to say, it wasn’t pretty!
Before you say it, I know, I know…it’s the summer league! As Anthony Donahue pointed out, some people were comparing Renaldo Balkman to Latrell Sprewell after one summer league game.
James “Flight” White and the New York Knicks have come to terms on a one-year, guaranteed minimum deal. White has spent the last two season in Italy, where he was the top scorer in 2010-2011 with 20.1 points a game, and averaged 17.1 points this past year.