After the Knicks were eliminated by the Pacers in the second round of the playoffs, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the bleak future faced by this team. To be fair, there are plenty of reasons for concern.
- The team is old, the oldest in the league. The team was beset by injuries this season and most of the injury issues should get worse, not better, due to the team’s advanced age. Most of the team’s players are on the downside of their careers, we shouldn’t expect better results from players past their prime.
- The team is facing major salary cap restraints. Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire have massive contracts and they aren’t going anywhere. The Knicks’ ability to improve through free agency or sign and trades is almost zero.
- Not only are the Knicks stuck with a hard to improve roster, but there are younger, better, still improving teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference pecking order. Based on this season, there is every reason to believe the Heat, the Pacers and probably the Bulls (especially with Derrick Rose) are better than the Knicks. In addition, all three teams are younger than the Knicks and can expect more of an upward trajectory. To make matters worse, the Knicks have to be looking over their shoulders at the Nets and the Hawks, who could easily be tougher opponents next season.
Yet, it’s too soon to pack it in and write off the Knicks for next season. For one thing, the Knicks will return the same coach and the same core of players that just won the Atlantic Division for the first time in almost 20 years and advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. These are not small accomplishments for a franchise that has spent so many years mired in losing and horrible decisions.
This was Mike Woodson’s first full season at head coach and the first year in his rotation for many members of the team. Another full training camp could be a huge boost for smoothing out the wrinkles in his system and further acclimating the players to it. Let’s take a look at what we can expect from the roster:
The Core Four
Carmelo Anthony- Almost every team that makes it to the NBA Finals has a superstar and Melo is ours. He will only be 29 next season and he’s coming of a scoring title and the best season of his career. His stats appear to be trending upward: his scoring improved by six points a game this season, his rebounding increased, his foul shooting improved and his three point shooting accuracy was a career high 38%, despite attempting 414 threes, almost twice his previous career high. If Melo learns how to work his scoring into the framework of the team’s offensive flow better and ups his intensity on the defensive end a bit, he might help the Knicks even more next season.
Tyson Chandler- Unlike Melo, Chandler may be starting the downside of his career. He’ll be 31 next season and he spent much of this season battling back issues. He certainly won’t be washed up though. He made his first all-star team this year and he won’t be playing in the Olympics this off season, so hopefully he’ll enter next season in top health. A fourth straight season of double digit scoring, double digit rebounding and a field goal percentage well over 60% should be quite reasonable. Add to that his first team all NBA defensive skills and the Knicks have something few teams have: a top tier center.
Raymond Felton- Another player entering the prime age of 29, Felton is coming off a season which saw dramatic improvements over his previous one. Higher scoring, higher FG% and better three point shooting were all a part of his return to the Big Apple. His importance to the team was never clearer than in the playoffs, where his scoring and FG% were even higher than the regular season. Unfortunately, none of the other point guards on the roster this season were able to duplicate Raymond’s ability to run the pick and roll, drive and dish, plus drive and score. Finding a young backup point guard will be one of many priorities for NY in the off season.
Iman Shumpert- The youngest member of the core four, Shump also has the biggest upside. Next season he will only be 23 and he’s already shown flashes of greatness. Being able to start the season healthy may give him the chance to realize the potential he’s shown to be an all-defensive team member. If he can combine his 40% shooting from behind the arc with an ability to attack the basket from off the dribble, he should develop into a major force on the offensive end as well. If JR Smith walks, the pressure will be on Shumpert to be the Knicks main scoring option besides Melo, STAT and Felton.
Also under contract and not going anywhere
Amare Stoudemire- He may have less impact on the court than the core four, but he’s the biggest anchor on the team’s finances. Even in the case of this soon to be 31 year-old with a history of major injuries there is an upside though. While never much of a contributor on the defensive end, he seems to be getting even better at the thing he does do well: score in the paint. This season he averaged 14 points a game in only 23 minutes a game while shooting the second best percentage of his career: 58%. Working with Hakeem Olajuwon seems to be helping his low post game and another off season working with the Dream can only help. In addition, STAT enters the off season healthy. If he can make it through an entire training camp and preseason healthy we may finally get to see what it’s like when Woody has had a chance to fully integrate STAT into his system.
Steve Novak- The New York offense is predicated on shooting threes, lots of them, which makes someone that shoots over 42% from deep have value. Unfortunately though, that’s pretty much all he does well and by the end of the season he had been almost completely dropped from Coach Woodson’s rotation.
Under contract, but really old
Jason Kidd- There can be no doubt that Jason Kidd brought lots to the table this season, but there has to be some question about how much he can bring to the table next season at the age of 40, if decides to return. Not surprisingly this season he posted the lowest scoring and assist numbers of his career, while demonstrating an almost complete inability to score at the rim. Despite averaging a career low in minutes per game, many place blame for his catastrophic showing in the playoffs on overuse on his aging and aching body during the regular season. At this point New York might be better off using Kidd as an assistant coach that they return to the court as a player only about a month before the playoffs.
Marcus Camby- Boy did this acquisition look bad this season. The 39 year old center only appeared in 24 games, he only averaged 10 minutes a game and he had almost no impact statistically in those games, though there were a few flashes of good interior defense. The combination of age and injury makes the idea of him trying to play out his contract almost unpalatable.
It would be really nice if we could find a way to retain them
Chris Copeland- While it’s clear that another year of NBA seasoning should do wonders for Cope, he showed signs of being a major offensive contributor as a 28 year old rookie. Not only did he shoot 42% from three during the regular season, he shot 48% from behind the arc during the playoffs, while most of his teammates seemed completely unable to hit from deep. Unfortunately for the cap restricted Knicks, he may have priced himself off the team with his play, though Glen Grunwald has been quoted as saying that New York may use the mini mid-level exception to keep him on board.
JR Smith- The sixth man of the year is a big reason for the Knicks improvement this season and it would be a major blow to lose him. New York has the early Bird rights to him and he has claimed that he wants to stay, so let’s hope Grunwald can find a way to get a deal done. Like Anthony, Smith had the best season of his career and there is reason to believe that we still haven’t seen the best yet.
Melo, STAT, Smith, Copeland, Felton, Novak, Chandler and Shumpert are all 31 or younger, so if New York can start the season with all eight of them under contract and healthy, they not only will have a great core to build around, they will have the same core of players as the previous season, giving them some consistency. Not only should we not start giving away our Atlantic Division title, but it might be reasonable to hope we can win even more games next season. The two biggest holes that will need to be addressed if we can retain Copeland and Smith (a big and important if) would seem to be at point guard and center. We will need someone to fill Kenyon Martin’s shoes as a backup center and not only will we need a second point guard for the starting lineup ala Jason Kidd or Pablo Prigioni, but we’ll need someone coming off the bench that can somewhat duplicate Raymond Felton’s role in the offense.
So, sure, it was disappointing watching the team implode against the Pacers, but that certainly doesn’t invalidate a terrific season. The team may be old and financially limited, but that’s what they said this season and look what happened. Let’s wait and see what Grunwald can pull off this offseason before we start to panic too much.
As soon as I begin to converse with you, the fans of New York, news comes across that the Knicks’ orthopedist is flying in from New York City to examine the swelling on Iman Shumpert’s surgically-repaired left knee that flared up three days ago. I really do not know what to assume of this. My optimism tells me that it is a deep contusion, or a minor sprain, but I really am not counting on any shumping tonight, and I say that with a deep sadness.
The Knicks are in a pickle up front. With Shump most likely a no go (my gut feeling), and JR Smith ailing from a flu, a stomach virus, and Rihanna, the one advantage in this series for the Knicks has essentially flipped over to Indiana. There’s no telling what Mike Woodson will resort to tonight, he may just have to suit up Dave Hopla to run off screens and hit some three pointers. Seriously, though, these holes need to be mended for at least one game before the series heads back to New York, hopefully knotted up at two games apiece. Tonight will be a true “gut check,” as Carmelo Anthony called it, and the Knicks can either fight, or retreat with their tails between their legs and begin to find open slots for tee-time.
Woah, wait, let’s take a step back, and breathe.
Usually, I’m not one to view the glass half empty. I will never throw in the towel; and that’s just my tough-gritted New York attitude I was raised with. The Knicks do have a legitimate chance of winning this game tonight, crippled roster or not. It can, should, and ultimately must be done.
Carmelo Anthony was really criticized for not taking enough shots in game three, only 16. I know, the microscope of New Yorker’s is as brutal as a mean little boy pointing a magnifying glass at tiny little ants and watching the shrivel. Anthony knows what it’s going to take tonight, and rightfully so, he’s responded with telling us he will be more aggressive and look for his shot. Soon after, Tyson Chandler was very critical, and said the Knicks need to move the ball more and worry less about one man (Carmelo Anthony cough cough). I am just curious to where Tyson thinks the offense is going to come from. Unless he knows something about his former champion teammate Jason Kidd putting in extra hours behind the three-point line, please, inform us.
That being said, Woodson agreeably said he would cut Kidd’s minutes if his offense continues to diminish. As Woody twiddles his thumbs and ponders where he can find some sort of inside-out threat who can hit an open three pointer and take some pressure off Carmelo, I’ll let everyone know Chris Copeland is still sitting on the bench, waiting… Yearning.
Copeland is only a piece of this puzzle that is game four. If he does not get a chance tonight to implement some offense, I don’t think he’s getting out of the doghouse the rest of the season. His defense can’t really be that horrid, that his sweet stroke has to ride the pine every night, even with the situation we are in tonight, bodies down everywhere.
So, let’s see where we are, rotation wise. Shump most likely (once again, my gut) sitting this one out, I don’t even think JR knows what to expect from JR, and Kidd could see less minutes if he doesn’t produce early. That opens up three rotation slots, maybe about 50 minutes total. Out of that 50, Carmelo will most likely see a raise in a few minutes, and so will Felton, regardless of his play, the back line is just shortened. Then we look down the bench and see Novak, Copeland, and yes, Quentin Richardson. Out of these three, figure Copeland and Novak will see the court tonight, just hopefully not at the same time (defensive suicide). But If Woody really wants to continue his small ball, Copeland will help to spread the floor and pull whoever is guarding him out of the paint, and the same goes for Novak. The Pacer’s front line tonight will need to be adjusted to, heedlessly of who it is, because they have dominated two out of three games this series.
Lets hope there can be some generation of offense from those guys, and Amar’e Stoudemire, who can give the Knicks’ 15 hard minutes. Even if it is without scoring, help grab some rebounds, give us some second chance opportunities. Knicks’ fans appreciate the little things.
If Mike Woodson decides to rock the boat a little tonight, I hope he shuffles the starting lineup. Go Big, or go home. How figurative and literal is that for you? I would go with Prigioni, Felton, Anthony, Martin, and Chandler. Bolster your front line, prevent Anthony from being beat up, and grab some rebounds, please. Also, it would be great to see Pablo be the soul orchestrator while Felton can run off some baseline screens for open shots on the baseline. He’s been very effective at this throughout the season, and for sure it would open up his entire game from the get go, making the defense honor his jump shot and giving him the ability to take it to the hole and create. And that’s really how the Knicks win tonight, rebounding, grit, and scoring. The blueprint seems simple, but it’s going to take a team effort on the offensive end to win, and guys must hit shots. We’ll see where we are in 24 hours.
Thanks in part to the frequently injured status of Amare Stoudemire, Mike Woodson has been forced to be very creative in his approach to lineup building this season. Using the talent pool available to him, he’s completely twisted the traditional point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center lineup into something uniquely special and effective. This has been especially challenging, due to the ever changing pool of available players on the team, but by the end of the season he’d found and shaped something special. The dilemma comes from trying to find a place for Steve Novak in this new Knickerbocker vision, or for that matter, Stoudemire, if and when he makes it back from injury.
Point Guard: Raymond Felton, JR Smith. New York starts a fairly traditional point guard in Felton. His job is to run pick and rolls, drive and score, drive and kick and stick the occasional three. If he can defend one of the other team’s guards reasonably well, so much the better. For most of the season, no one on the team seemed able to duplicate this role and the team struggled when Felton was playing hurt or not playing at all. Not only is Felton healthy now, Smith seems to have figured out that he should prioritize attacking the basket. While Smith is not considered one of the team’s point guards per say, when he’s on the floor and Felton isn’t, he’s the one that has been filling Felton’s role of bringing the ball up the court and attacking the basket. While Smith is obviously more of a scorer than a passer, Woodson seems to like having his point man be one of his primary scorers supporting Carmelo Anthony.
Shooting Guard: Pablo Prigioni, Jason Kidd. Woodson prefers to have two point guards on the floor whenever possible, which may be one of the reasons that New York had the fewest turnovers in the NBA this season. Since neither Kidd nor Prigioni have the ability to attack the rim that Felton and Smith have, they’ve played the role of off guard, helping facilitate the offense with their passing from the perimeter while spreading the floor with their three-point shooting. Another benefit of having Kidd or Prigioni on the floor all the time is their defensive acumen, which leads to numerous turnovers by the opposing team, often in the form of steals.
Small Forward: Iman Shumpert, JR Smith. Another reason why the Knicks have so few turnovers is instead of playing with two forwards, they play with three guards. Shumpert is versatile enough defensively to defend forwards and he can even rebound like one on occasion. His primary roles are to defend the opposition’s best perimeter player, provide a three point threat and occasionally attack the rim. One of the reasons Smith is the Sixth Man of the Year is his ability to fill multiple roles off the bench. In the fourth quarter when Felton and Kidd are manning the backcourt, Smith plays this role. While not quite the defender that Shumpert is, he makes up for it on the offensive end and by being an even better rebounder. Ronnie Brewer started the season filling this exact role, but as his play fell off and Shumpert returned from injury, he was sent to the end of the bench.
Power Forward: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Copeland. Using Melo at power forward is one of the biggest keys to the Knicks’ success on the offensive end this season. By having an elite perimeter player at the four, New York has opened up the paint for their pick and roll game which is a major part of their offense. Not only do Smith and Felton have extra room to attack the basket, but Melo gets mismatches which forces double teams and opens up New York’s options further. Having Melo or Copeland on the floor at the four gives them a primary scorer and makes it almost impossible for the opposition to prevent at least one of New York’s now four shooters from getting an open look from behind the arc. Melo’s transformation into an elite three-point shooter this season while playing the four has been a major part of why New York led the league in three-point attempts and makes. Unfortunately for Woodson’s lineup preferences, after a terrific regular season, Copeland has played so poorly in the playoffs that Woody was forced to use Novak at the four in game three instead.
Center: Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin. The role of the five for the Knicks is to backstop the defense, participate in the pick and roll with Felton and grab rebounds. With only one real big man on the floor at a time for New York, it’s critical that he be able to defend the rim/paint and rebound. By having the five be the screen and roller, it gives him an important role on the offensive end, while the rest of the team can be trying to get open from behind the arc. Rasheed Wallace filled this role behind Chandler at the beginning of the season, but fortunately for New York after most of their bigs got hurt, they discovered Martin, who has done an incredible job of filling this role off the bench.
So, Woodson has found a unique combination of roles that works well with his personnel and has enabled the Knicks to become an elite team. The problem is this carefully crafted system doesn’t really have a place for two highly paid forwards: Steve Novak and Amare Stoudemire.
Novak is a good enough three-point shooter to play the three or the four, but he’s not a good enough ball handler. Not only does Woodson use the three as an extra ball handler, he frequently has Melo bring the ball up the court and he runs isolations through Melo and even on occasion, Copeland. While big enough to play the five for New York, Novak doesn’t have the necessary skill set to be the primary defender in the paint. Frankly, other than being a terrific three point shooter, Novak brings very little to the table.
Last season, that was enough. Last season, Novak led the league shooting 47% from deep, while no one else on the team shot even 35% from three. Novak provided the team with essential and amazingly accurate three-point shooting. This season is much different. This season, Novak’s long range shooting is down to 42% and he’s one of eight Knickerbockers shooting 35% or better. While 42% is still quite good, Novak’s lone skill set is now being duplicated by several other players, all of whom bring lots of other things to the table. While the threat of Novak’s shooting helps spread the floor when he’s on the court, so does the threat provided by the Knicks’ other fours: Melo (38%) and Copeland (42%). If Copeland continues to be unable to work through the playoff jitters Novak may get some minutes this post-season, but his role with the team going forward is definitely in question.
This brings us to Stoudemire. Amare has a skill set that no one else on the team has: the ability to be a superior low post scorer. Unfortunately, Woodson has been forced to design an offense that not only doesn’t need a low post scorer, it may operate better without one. Woodson’s system requires the four to be a three-point shooter and the five to be a superior defender and rebounder. None of these things describe Stoudemire. Given STAT’s overall talent level and the team’s investment in him, I’m sure Woody will make some use of him when he gets healthy. I’m just not sure if that will be in the best interests of the team’s success, based on their performances this season.
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.
The Knicks released a few statements earlier regarding Tyson Chandler and Kurt Thomas. As per The Daily News-
An MRI of Thomas’ foot Tuesday in New York revealed a stress fracture/stress reaction according to a person close to the veteran Knicks forward.
Big Kurt will miss about 2-4 weeks, but he deserves some rest time playing 27 minutes last night– a season high. Along with that, we have also learned that the MRI Tyson Chandler received on his neck, revealed a slight bulging disk. Chandler is expected to miss approximately one week.
Insult to injury is the best way to put it. Kurt Thomas had been an absolute warrior for the Knicks’ during their west coast swing, playing 27 minutes against Utah coming up with some crucial plays in helping to salvage a win before heading back to New York. Chandler has been out of action since collapsing in Denver, and what scares me is the fear of Chandler becoming listed as day-to-day, because you do not get listed day-to-day by the Knicks training staff unless your injury is extremely serious. This makes sense, doesn’t it?
For now, I am guessing Marcus Camby will fill the void at the five spot for the next week. Hopefully he won’t be relied on too heavily, but there virtually aren’t many other options in the frontcourt. The Knicks are currently missing five players, all ranging from power forward to center, considering Carmelo Anthony at the power forward spot, for now.
Luckily for New York, they do not play a team above .500 for exactly one week when they head to Boston next Tuesday. Hopefully, that is when Chandler returns. Anthony is expected to return tomorrow after missing a week of basketball, and says he feels ‘no pain’ in his knee. But without Tyson, the going may still get rough on defense.
Right now, I am more worried about heading into the playoffs healthy instead of worrying about where I am seeded. With our veterans breaking down left and right, I am legitimately worried the same thing will continue to happen if minutes aren’t seriously monitored with guys like Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby. Lets keep our heads up, grab a couple wins right now where we can, and get through this next month in one piece.
The losing streak has reached four games. The Knicks dropped the fourth game of their West Coast trip to the Los Angeles Clippers by a score of 93-80. Chris Paul was the game’s leading scorer with 20 points while passing off for eight assists. Blake Griffin registered a double-double for the Clippers with 12 points and 12 rebounds while DeAndre Jordan just missed out on a double-double of his own with eight points and 10 rebounds. The Knicks, playing without both Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, were led by J.R. Smith’s 17 points off the bench.
Just as they did this past Thursday night against the Portland TrailBlazers, the Knicks actually got off to a nice start this afternoon. The Knicks jumped out to an 8-1 lead thanks to an Iman Shumpert jumper to begin the game’s scoring and a couple of three-pointers from Chris Copeland and Raymond Felton. They would eventually stretch their lead to eight (13-5) as the combination of Copeland and Felton scored on two more baskets, looking as if each would have a big game to help the Knicks sneak out of Los Angeles with a win. Unfortunately, the good early vibes would disappear very quickly. An 11-2 Clippers run gave them their first lead of the game at 16-15. The Knicks would quickly grab the lead again on a Kenyon Martin layup but it would be their last lead of the game. A 5-1 spurt from the Clippers to end the first quarter gave L.A. back the lead and they wouldn’t relinquish it the rest of the way.
Even without their top three players and having already been blown-out in each of their first three games of the road trip, the Knicks fought hard in this game, at least in the first half. After Smith scored the first two points of the second quarter, the Clippers scored four straight on a Chauncey Billups jumper and Lamar Odom layup to extend their lead to five, 25-20. However, the Clippers had trouble extending that lead and the Knicks would eventually tie up the score at 31 on a Smith dunk attempt. Only problem was that was as close as the Knicks would get to the Clippers the rest of the game. A 13-6 Clippers run, powered by 11 combined points by Paul and former-Knicks Jamal Crawford helped L.A. take a 44-37 lead into halftime.
The Knicks opened the second half trying to fight their way back into the game, scoring the first four points on jumpers from Copeland and Shumpert to cut their seven-point deficit to three. Then the Clippers finally starting displaying the talent gap between them and the injury filled Knicks, going on an 11-1 run to push their lead to 13 highlighted by a textbook Paul to Griffin alley-oop. The Knicks quieted the storm a bit, even as the Clippers extended the lead to 16. With the score 60-47, Jason Kidd found his stroke, hitting on three straight from beyond the arc to help the Knicks get to within 12, 65-53. However, a 7-0 run from the Clippers pushed their lead to biggest Knicks deficit of the night at 19. The Knicks responded with a 7-0 run of their own, sparked by five Smith points, to end the third quarter down 72-60.
The Clippers tried ending the game early in the final period, opening the quarter with another 7-0 run to again push their lead to 19. The Knicks however did not go quietly, going on one last 14-5 run to cut their deficit to 10, 84-74. The run was just too late, even as they eventually cut it to single digits at 89-80 with 1:56 left in the game. The Knicks would not score again and the Clippers earned their second win against the Knicks this season, 93-80.
- Despite leading the Knicks with 17 points, Smith had a terrible shooting game, going 4-for-20 from the floor. Smith has shot 23-for-64 during the road trip (36%).
- Steve Novak finally broke out of his 0-for-12 slump, connecting on all three of his trey attempts.
- The starting PF/C combo of Kurt Thomas and Kenyon Martin couldn’t stay on the court consistently, as the two picked up nine fouls in their 45 combined minutes of play. Martin did manage to haul in nine rebounds in his 28 minutes.
- Felton had a nice box score line (16 points, nine assists) but the load of his scoring came early when the Knicks built their 13-5 lead and late when the game was already decided.
- The Knicks will try to salvage the final game of their road trip tomorrow night against the last team they earned a win against: the Utah Jazz. The Knicks could enter the game tied atop the Atlantic Division, if the Brooklyn Nets can earn a win against the Atlanta Hawks tonight.
The Knicks’ slow starts are no longer a trend, but a trait. Since beginning the season in near-dominant fashion, running out to an 18-5 record, the Knicks are just 14-14. Though many of their problems have stemmed from injuries and having to work new players in and out of the rotation, the Knicks have been pretty consistently out of rhythm since 2013 rang in, and Mike Woodson has found few answers to solve their arrhythmic play.
These problems could be traced back to Carmelo Anthony’s various absences, Jason Kidd’s gradual deterioration, Raymond Felton’s month-long absence, the continual injury bugs plaguing Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby, the rotational additions of Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, and the up-and-down play of J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, and Ronnie Brewer. Piled on over the course of a month and a half, these problems add up, and it’s showed in the Knicks’ play.
For awhile, the team was executing nicely on offense, but struggled mightily to get stops on defense. In the last game before the All-Star break, the Knicks smothered the Toronto Raptors’ offense, but couldn’t figure out a way to score the ball, shooting just 35% from the field and 36% from three-point range. Last night against the Indiana Pacers, arguably the most embarrassing loss of the season, the Knicks took a collective dump on the floor, shooting 33% from the field, 17% from downtown, and giving up 125 points to the seventh least efficient offense in the NBA.
It’s safe to say the Knicks are in a state of total ineptitude.
While the body of the Knicks’ players were in Indiana, apparently their brains and souls were still vacationing. In a performance lacking of effort, the Knicks were destroyed by the Indiana Pacers 125-91 in both of the teams’ first game since returning from the All-Star break. First time All-Star Paul George led the Pacers with 27 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Tyson Chandler led the Knicks with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony, the NBA’s second leading scorer, had just 15 points on 7-for-21 shooting.
Jason Kidd’s beginning to the 2012-13 season was basically a giant middle finger to all of his prior doubters coming into the season, myself included. Like many others, I had prematurely concluded that the Knicks had wasted their money on a 39-year old who wouldn’t be able to offer enough on the court to make up for the tied-up money and roster spot he occupied. I saw severely declining statistics over the previous three years and had low expectations about what kind of on-court tangibles Kidd could bring. The many doubters and I were wrong.
Kidd kicked off the season in fantastic form. Not only did Kidd bring the intangibles that people have raved about for the last decade – leadership, veteran poise, etc. – his on-court worth was huge to the Knicks. His accurate marksmanship from downtown, surprisingly stout defense with lightning quick hands, and a keen, unwavering sense of where to pass the ball at all times made him an essential member of the team.
This one was over before both team’s starters could even break a sweat. The Philadelphia 76ers embarrassed the Knicks last night, routing them by a score of 97-80. Sixers first time All-Star Jrue Holiday led Philly with a career high 35 points while dishing out six assists and grabbing five rebounds. Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 25 points but shot just 9-for-28 from the field.
From the fine folks @OakleyandAllen, I present to you video highlights from last night’s win over the Brooklyn Nets.