- A morale destroying losing streak.
- Major injuries to multiple key stars.
- A reserve guard suddenly putting up MVP type numbers.
- A surprising seven game winning streak led by some unexpected heroes.
The Knicks’ current winning streak isn’t their only impressive win streak this season, but it’s the one that most reminds me of the history making seven game win streak they went on last season, now better known as “Linsanity”. Let’s start with a look back.
February 4, 2012. Coach Mike D’Antoni and his Knicks were desperate. After starting off the strike shortened season an encouraging 6-4, the wheels had seemingly come off the Knicks’ season. New York had just lost to the Boston Celtics, their eleventh loss in 13 games. Now, the Knickerbockers’ record stood at 8-15, with thoughts of making the playoffs rapidly seeming like a pipe dream. After missing the playoffs for six straight years, the Knicks had made it back in 2011. Now it looked like they would be going back to their losing ways in 2012.
Yet, February 4 was the day things changed. With point guard Baron Davis unavailable due to injury, D’Antoni had been trying to get by using Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas to run the show without success. Douglas had lost D’Antoni’s confidence and Shumpert was both playing out of position and playing too many minutes. Out of other options, D’Antoni had given six minutes of playing time to journeyman point guard Jeremy Lin against the Celts. Lin was solid but unspectacular, yet D’Antoni was happy enough with solid to get Lin into the game sooner the next night against the New Jersey Nets. Lin was ready. As Lin started piling up points and assists, D’Antoni took notice and left him out there for almost 36 minutes as Jeremy put up 25 points and seven assists. That night, the Knicks beat the Nets 99-92 and everything changed.
The discovery of a good point guard buried at the end of the bench was somewhat muted by the loss of Amare Stoudemire, hurt in the New Jersey game. If this wasn’t bad enough, the Knicks lost another key star, Carmelo Anthony, the very next night against Utah. At this point, D’Antoni was willing to try almost anything and he’d shoved Lin into the starting lineup and reached down to the end of the bench for another journeyman, forward Steve Novak. Novak had struggled so far that season and only played a total of four seconds in the two previous games. Yet this night he played over 17 minutes and as the Jazz defense collapsed to try and deal with the penetration of Lin, he found himself getting open and thanks in part to Lin, getting the ball. Novak made the most of this opportunity and went five of eight from deep.
With that, Linsanity was on. Lin and Tyson Chandler led a cast of second and third tier players to seven straight victories, with Novak coming off the bench and blazing away from almost as deep as he had been buried on the bench.
No one expected anything similar to happen this season. The main reason was because this time the Knicks had loaded up pretty much their entire roster full of aging veterans, with the plus and minus of them being known quantities, so the Knicks’ at least knew the ceiling of what they could likely expect from each of them. Last season’s roster featured nine players with five years or less of NBA experience. This year, the Knicks’ have only four, and two of those players, Pablo Prigioni and James White, are in their thirties. Last season, the Knicks included seven players 27 or younger, this season they only have one, the 22 year-old Shumpert.
While this may give New York a better shot at winning big this season, it does limit the number of pleasant surprises possible from their roster. There is less discovering new young talent like Lin, and more discovering nagging injuries and players losing a step from advanced age.
March 18, 2013. Coach Mike Woodson and the Knicks were desperate. They were reeling from a crushing four game losing streak where New York lost by an average of 20 points a game. Added to this were injuries to all three of New York’s front court superstars: Chandler, Anthony and Stoudemire. Suddenly, hosting a first round playoff series wasn’t looking like such a lock, never mind winning the Atlantic Division title.
March 18 was the day things changed. With the injuries to his stars, Woodson had been mixing and matching various starting lineups, frantically trying to find a winning combination. This night he unveiled his third different lineup in as many games: Prigioni, Shumpert, Raymond Felton, Chris Copeland and Kenyon Martin. Despite playing on the road, the second night of a back-to-back against a Jazz team fighting for its playoff life, the Knicks broke their losing streak with a 90-83 victory. News of the victory was tempered by the news that Kurt Thomas had joined the bevy of injured Knicks and would be out indefinitely.
Fortunately, the Knicks were able to trade up by getting Melo back in the lineup for their next game. With a small starting lineup of Melo, Shumpert, Prigioni, Martin and Felton, the Knicks have put together their longest winning streak of the season, currently at seven and counting.
While Jeremy Lin’s emergence was clearly the biggest impetus to last season’s seven game win streak, it certainly wasn’t the only reason for it. There were other big stories as well: the emergence of Steve Novak and terrific defensive efforts from Chandler, Shumpert, Landry Fields and Jared Jefferies.
There are several major reasons for this win streak as well. Returning home to Madison Square Garden, getting Melo back in the lineup and playing some relatively weak teams certainly have helped, but that only begins to tell the story. While Melo has made a strong contribution, these games haven’t been up to the standard of excellence that he’s set earlier this season. Instead, much of the credit for the Knicks’ surprising turnaround have to go to new starters Martin and Prigioni, along with elevated play from Shumpert and perhaps most of all: JR Smith.
In some ways Kenyon Martin and Pablo Prigioni are this season’s much older version of Lin and Novak. Martin has spent most of the season unsuccessfully trying to get a team to take a flyer on him and Prigioni has spent most of the season buried on the Knicks’ bench. Martin has averaged 11 points and six rebounds a game during the streak, after basically being a garbage heap pickup for a Knicks’ team with every post player on their roster out with injuries. Those stats only tell part of the story. The 6’9” Martin has been playing out of position at center, bringing rugged hard-nosed defense every night while shooting 62% from the field.
Prigioni has also come out of obscurity to be a steadying presence in the starting lineup. It’s not a coincidence that these seven wins have also been his first seven starts of the season. Having a second point guard on the floor with Felton has increased New York’s ball movement and security. During the streak he has an impressive assist/turnover ratio of 25 to 3. Prigioni’s pesky defensive presence has also added to the improved defense that has been a key part of this streak.
Iman Shumpert has started to look more like his old self during the streak. After taking what seemed like an eternity to regain his form after returning to the lineup from last season’s injury, he’s starting to be more aggressive and more effective on both ends of the court. His biggest impact on the offensive end has been the development of a deadly long range game. During the streak, he has gone 12 of 22 from three-point range.
The biggest key to the streak though, has been Smithsanity. Most of the season the talented but mercurial Smith has been just as likely to throw away games with his poor shot selection as he has been to win them with his clutch late game shot making and game changing dunks.
Over the streak however, Smith has transformed into an overnight superstar. Despite coming off the bench, he’s averaged over 26 points a game while shooting a remarkable 54% from the field after being a career 42% shooter that’s only shooting 41% this season. He’s also attempted 60 free throws over the streak. This is an average of 8.5 attempts a game, yet for his career Smith only averages 2.6 attempts a game. This vastly increased number of times he’s getting to the line reveals the biggest reason for his remarkable transformation. Instead of constantly settling for extremely high level of difficulty jumpers when he’s handling the ball, he’s attacking the rim instead.
Smith shows no signs of slowing down, if anything, he’s heating up. In his last three games he’s scored 32, 35 and 37 points. He’s also averaging close to five and half rebounds a game over the streak, despite averaging 2.6 a game for his career. Does this mean that Woodson has finally become the one coach to fully tap into Smith’s talent after nine seasons in the league? Knicks’ fans can only hope. If JR can even come close to keeping this up, the sky’s the limit to what New York can accomplish once its big men start to get healthy.
While I don’t expect Smith to average over 30 points a game for the rest of the season, he’s not necessarily as sure to cool way off as much as the hot three-point shooting that keyed the Knicks’ six game win streak earlier this season. He’s not scoring more simply because he’s got a hot hand, he appears to have fundamentally changed the way he approaches the game offensively. He not just choosing better shots either, he’s creating better shots. If this new JR sticks around, his contract is going to look like the biggest bargain in the NBA. More importantly, the Eastern Conference playoff picture may have just gotten a lot more interesting.
“Yo Steve. Settle a bet. Who would you rather have right now. Felton or Lin?”
I stare at the text message longer than a stern Mike Woodson death stare directed at JR Smith before smacking my palm against my forehead and letting out a quick, disinterested sigh.
“Without a doubt Jer… ” I start typing before tilting my head back and giving it a second thought. Let me think this through before I get branded as some sort of anti-Knick Lin supporter who can’t admit that “Lin is certified trash“. After all, I am a Knicks fan, so I should support current Knicks. Lin is a Rocket now. I’d clearly be a Houston fan if I say anything positive about a Rocket. But no, that’s not how Knicks fans work. It’s 100% Knicks. All the time. Forever and always. Right? Right.
So… where do I even begin entertaining this comparison?
I guess I could start where any self-respecting basketball fan would: the statistics. Because after all, the stats sum up everything that happens on a basketball court in a nice, succinct package. Let’s take a look then. Per game averages through 3/21/13: (via NBA.com‘s lovable new stats site which is available to EVERYONE FOR FREE – isn’t the NBA the best?)
- Raymond Felton: 14.5 points, 5.7 assists, 41.6% FG, 35.2% 3PT, 78.4% FT, 2.9 rebounds (okay okay, I’ll round it up to 3 for you), 2.5 turnovers.
- Jeremy Lin: 13.2 points, 6.1 assists, 44.7% FG, 33.7% 3PT, 78.5% FT, 3.2 rebounds (okay okay, I’ll round it down to 3 for you), 2.9 turnovers.
At first glance, you might say, “Okay, so… ?” And I would agree with you.
On second glance, you might say “Well, they have nearly identical stats. The Knicks made the right choice letting the Asian go to Houston for that ‘ridiculous contract‘.” And again, I would agree with you.
BUT at third glace, and if you’re still reading, you might want to examine these plain ole’ stats a little deeper. Also, thank you for staying with me for this long and not switching over to Twitter or Instagram or checking up on your favorite net model and whatever she can balance on her bossoms.
Actually, hold on, Jill Martin is on my television screen. Be right back, folks.
Okay, sorry about that. I’m back now. As I was saying/typing…
What if we delve a tad deeper into Knicks Twitter’s favorite preseason topic of advanced metrics? I mean, anything to make a case for our favorite bulldog, right?
- Raymond Felton: 109.4 Offensive Rating, 104.6 Defensive Rating for a Net Rating of 4.9.
- Jeremy Lin: 106.3 Offensive Rating. 104.1 Defensive Rating for a Net Rating of 2.2.
(Oh yeah, for those who need clarification: OffRtg is how an approximation of how many points a player produces per 100 possessions, DefRtg is an approximation of how many points a player allows per 100 possessions, and NetRtg is the difference between the two.)
So, cool. Our best buddy Felton actually outperforms Lin here by a NetRtg of 2.7 points. Sweet Lord… LIN ACTUALLY IS CERTIFIED TRASH AFTER ALL
But Steve, what about their True Shooting Percentages, which takes into account three pointers and free throws, making it superior to the regular FG percentage stat???
Oh, I see you did your homework, you sexy whippersnapper you. Okay then, let us waddle on over and take a gander at those numbers.
- Raymond Felton: 49.1% TS. *coughthisisbadcough*
- Jeremy Lin: 54.1% TS.
YIKES. Okay, okay, remain calm here, Knicks faithful. We remember Jeremy Lin. Don’t we, Knicks fans? Mr. Dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-drive-into-an-impossible-layup-that-he-somehow-finishes-omg-I-hate-him!!! We remember that guy, right? The guy who gobbled up all those field goal attempts because Mike D’Antoni had no other choice but to let him? These numbers have to be skewed because Jeremy Lin has all the free reign in the world down there in Houston. RIGHT???
- Raymond Felton: 746 field goal attempts on the season.
- Jeremy Lin: 732 field goal attempts on the season.
Okay, well, whatever. A bulldog takes what a bulldog wants. And besides, this only means that Lin is more efficient at scoring the basketball, not passing the basketball, which is what a point guard is supposed to do anyway, right? Especially when you have Carmelo Honey Nut Cheerios Anthony on your team, right? Right.
- Raymond Felton: 23.3% Usage Rate, 28.1% Assist Rate.
- Jeremy Lin: 20.3% Usage Rate, 28.8% Assist Rate.
Um, all right. Usage Rate is an estimate of how many possessions a team involves a particular player (in this case, our favorite penguin Raymond Felton and the devil personified Jeremy Lin, respectively) while he(/she… RELAX WNBA FANS – ALL 7 OF YOU) is on the court. Assist Rate is an estimate of how many of said possessions a particular player notches an assist. SOOOOOO… Lin marginally gets more assists with less touches of the basketball. Meh, whatever. Doesn’t mean anything, right?
STEVE!!!@#!@$@# How does this affect their team’s records tho? Where is Houston in the rankings????
Honestly, I got kinda lazy, so check for yourselves. Yes, basketball is a team sport, but I believe the question at the top was “who would you rather prefer raymond felton or jeremy lin?” and not “who is the better team knicks or rockets?” Side note: For the sake of Knicks Twitter, I’ll ignore the fact that the Western Conference is slightly more competitive than the East.
Steve you moron, basketball is more than just numbers on a stat sheet. It’s about basketball fundmentalsandblahalahalahakahalahaskhfdsakdhf
Well, you’re right. Basketball games are not won on a nerd’s Excel spreadsheet, but instead on hardwood floors surrounded by paying customers. So let’s analyze this from a “basketball purists”‘s standpoint (please excuse the punctuation confusion on my behalf on those ironic air quotes).
Felton is a speedy point guard [footnote here: the point guard is essentially the quarterback orchestrating your coach's desired play set, because I <3 you and didn't want you to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the screen just for a measly footnote] with several shooters on his team. Lin is a speedy point guard with several thousand million shooters on his team. What would the coach most likely tell these speedy point guards to do? Well, I believe that, quite clearly, the answer is to penetrate the paint, draw the defense, and kick out to an open shooter, yes? ESPECIALLY when you (the point guard) are quite adept at finishing in the paint. Do you agree? Or am I just crazy?
ANYWAY, with what backdrop, I present to you these two lovely graphics:
OMG JEREMY LIN HAS SOOOOO MUCH MORE RED ON HIS SHOT CHART THAN FELTON. Yes, I know. And I cordially invite you to join me in analyzing this a little deeper (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID).
Drive and kick, that’s what we (both Raymond and Jeremy supporters alike) agree would be the best approach given our point guard and our teams’ talent. In “drive and kick” situations, where would you, the coach, prefer your point guard, a quick and decent finisher around the rim, get his shots when trying to draw defenders?
Yep! You’re right! In the paint around the rim! Give yourself a pat on the back for that one!
- Raymond Felton: 290 field goal attempts at the rim while making 49.7% of them.
- Jeremy Lin: 368 field goal attempts at the rim, making 53.8%.
WHATEVER, STEVE. AT LEAST FELTON DOESN’T CHUCK UP RANDOM THREES LIKE THAT OTHER MANIAC
- Raymond Felton: 210 three point attempts.
- Jeremy Lin: 205 three point attempts.
So, what you’re telling me is that, even though Felton is a less efficient scorer, less efficient passer, and probably not the smartest point guard, you would STILL prefer JEREMY EFFING LIN over the bulldog? What about Felton’s bulldog effort on defense? It’s not like he gets caught on picks and lets opposing point guards pirouette to the rim, while leaving his defensive stud of a center out to dry. Did you really want James Our Lawd And Savior Dolan to pay $30 million for an overrated and over-hyped point guard anyway??? Wow, you’re SUCH a Knicks hater. Go to Brooklyn bruh. You can’t hang with real Knicks fans. KNICKS FOR LYFE.
Well, sure. I guess I’m just #aggy
Peace out, y’all.
Following a miserable season with the Portland Trailblazers last year, Raymond Felton came into New York with hopes of silencing his critics. “I look forward to this year shutting up everyone’s mouth,” were his exact words.
The Knicks were handed their first home loss of the season from a Rockets team no one expected to snap New York’s dominance on their home court. Fittingly, one of the leaders of that Houston team was a guy who defied odds and led an underdog team back to relevance just months ago: Jeremy Lin. The Rockets and Lin, making his first return to Madison Square Garden, ran the Knicks ragged tonight, exposing an offense missing its primary weapons and a slow-footed defense, unable to contain the Rockets’ speedy ways, rim-darting guards, and three-point attacks. The Knicks lost their first game of the season in New York, falling to 18-6 on the season, thankful they’re done with the Houston Rockets this season.
Hopefully the Knicks had a great Thanksgiving dinner, because they’re Thanksgiving Eve and Black Friday were absolutely horrendous. Following their late game loss to the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night, the Knicks put up a pitiful performance tonight against the Houston Rockets, losing by a score of 131-103. The Rockets were led by the duo of James Harden (33 points) and Chandler Parsons (31 points). The two combined to shoot 20-for-32 from the field (7-of-12 from beyond the arc) and 17-of-18 from the free throw line, with Harden alone shooting a perfect 16-for-16 from the charity stripe. The Knicks were led by the hot hand of Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 37 points on 14-for-24 shooting (7-for-12 from beyond the arc).
As training camp begins and the season is right around the corner, many of the weathered Knicks fans have begun to come out of the woodwork. As a fan myself, I have no doubt let my feelings show to the world (or for all my Facebook friends), in order to keep my sanity during the dark ages of this organization’s fandom.
Understandably lost in the Jeremy Lin buzz last week was the fact that the Knicks quietly let Landry Fields walk to the Toronto Raptors. Though it didn’t cause nearly as much controversy as the Lin decision (Lindecision!) – the Knicks weren’t expected to match Fields’s three-year/$18-million offer sheet – it was yet another example of the Knicks failing to retain young, home-grown talent.
Great work, @Pavvy8.
Pablo Torre of Sports Illustrated has the first one-on-one with Jeremy Lin. From it. we learn that Lin’s top choice was New York, he was told not to rush back for the playoffs. I’m going to post some tidbits from the article, but be sure to read it in full here.
It’s official. The Knicks did not match Jeremy Lin’s offer-sheet, letting him to be signed to the Houston Rockets for $25.1 million over three-years.
Letting Lin leave for the Rockets could be a colossal mistake, or it could be financially savvy move that has little bearing on the team’s ultimate success. Nobody really knows, which only adds more confusion and heat to the debate. Lin could be the player that showed All-Star potential last February, he could be an above-average to average point guard like he showed in March, or he could end up a below average player.
Jimmy Guitar has done it again. James Dolan has yet again picked up his favorite instrument and produced another unbearable sound. But this time, it isn’t with his favorite music instrument (although, by judging from reviews, he’s not any better at that either). This sound is the one of Knicks fans all over New York City (at least the intelligent ones), lamenting yet another incredibly stupid decision by this human who masks himself as owner of a professional basketball team.