“Ah, the Knicks, Boston’s little brother in basketball. Keep your chin up guys, you’ll get us next time.
The smug cockiness jumps right off the page.
It isn’t just the Celtics fans that are disrespectful, though. Heading into a regular season meeting in 2010-2011, while both teams were playing at a high level, Paul Pierce had some honest, true, and disrespectful words for the Knicks:
New York wasn’t even on Boston’s radar…
When the two teams met in the first round later that year, a series that featured injuries to two of New York’s top three players in Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups, Melo’s supporting cast included the likes of Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, Billy Walker, Shawne Williams, Sheldon Williams, Roger Mason, Anthony Carter and Jared Jeffries.
This was New York’s first playoff appearance since 2003-2004 and despite getting swept, two moments of the meeting will always stick out to me.
1. Game One will go down as the last time we saw Amar’e Stoudemire play at his peak.
Simply put, Stoudemire was incredible. Heading into Game Two, he screwed up his back doing some sort of pre-game dunk. It took months for him to recover and he has yet to regain the form he was in prior to the injury. In a perfect world, this is how we should all try to remember Amar’e.
2. With these extreme circumstances facing the Knicks in the next game, the performance that Carmelo Anthony put together in a loss lives on as one of his best games in a Knicks uniform. With no Chauncey Billups and a useless Amare Stoudemire, Melo almost single-handily carried New York to a win and a 1-1 series.
Everything fell apart after the two tight loses in Boston and the Celtics completed the sweep.
However, times have changed since the two teams met in 2010-2011. At that time, Boston was the three seed with 56 wins, while the Knicks were 42-40 and a team in transition.
Now, though, the Knicks are the favorites and the Celtics are the underdogs. New York comes in as the two-seed with 50+ wins, while the Green & White struggled to finish above .500. The Knicks have constructed a different looking roster in the two offseasons since their playoff defeat at the hands of Boston. Instead of a poorly assembled, group of misfit place holders, Melo is expected to take the court with Ray Felton, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler, Pablo Prigioni, Kenyon Martin, Chris Copeland and Steve Novak — a group of players that know and understand their roles.
For the first time since 2003-2004, the Knicks won the season series with the Celtics, taking three out of the four games. To put it simply, you might as well forget those four games even happened.
The Celtics took the first meeting, but Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby and Amar’e Stoudemire all played legitimate minutes. The second meeting featured Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, Stoudemire and James White. Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett did not participate in the final two matchups. Given all that information, there is nothing to be taken from these games.
Since Garnett has joined the Celtics, the team has not lost in the first round of the playoffs. Garnett has obviously always played a big role (outside of the one year he missed the playoffs with an injury) in this and that role will be expanded now that the post-season is here. During his six seasons with Boston, in the regular season, the man they used to call “The Big Ticket” has averaged 30.98 minutes. Come playoff time, Doc Rivers has boosted that number, on average, to 36.15.
This is significant because of the individual impact Garnett has on the entire Celtics team. This season, Boston has been a net +5.4 better when Garnett is playing, compared to when he isn’t. That number is on the low-end of his impact. His average net impact over the previous five seasons was +11.44. The extra five to seven minutes a night Garnett is on the court immediately makes his team better.
New York also has to deal with a nemesis that will go down in my generation Knicks fans’ brains with Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan. It’s an exclusive club that Paul Pierce is in. In 54 career games against the Knicks, Pierce has averaged 23.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4 assists on 45.7% shooting, 38.6% from behind the arc and 82.2% at the line. All of those numbers are slightly higher than his career averages.
Here are some unfortunate memories:
That was a big game, too — New York was in the midst of an eight game winning streak and the Celtics had won 10 straight (the Pierce comments mentioned in the beginning of this piece, came from before this particular game).
I remember this one being extremely obnoxious. I truly thought the Knicks had it.
This season… I wish someone in the front row picked up his chair and chucked it at Pierce as he was showing his appreciation to the MSG fans.
The two players discussed above, along with Doc Rivers, are why I am worried about the Celtics, even though they don’t look as formidable as they have in the past.
When examining this version of the Celtics, though, you can’t look at the season as a whole (even though I will at certain points in the story…it’s impossible not too). There are 38 games featuring Rajon Rondo, and a section without Kevin Garnett towards the end of the year, which are useless.
The time frame I looked at was from January 27 to March 13. It isn’t perfect, but it is the closest you can get to the team the Knicks will see in the playoffs. The two major differences being the fifth most used line up featured Jared Sullinger and there is a limited amount of Jordan Crawford (I think this could be the case with Crawford in the playoffs also). When going into this, I honestly had no idea whether the numbers would be good or bad. I didn’t have a clue what their record was.
In this 21 game stretch, the Celtics were 15-6. They were a below average offense, but their defensive efficiency was at what would have been the league’s best average, if it were to be extrapolated over the entire season.
Boston’s turnover % was below average and its offensive rebound % was a league low. The Knicks should end up with extra possessions across the course of the game because of their league best turnover % and their steadily improving work on the offensive boards. New York’s defensive rebounding has also stayed at a top five level, despite being forced into playing ridiculous small line-ups for small chunks of the season, and being without Tyson Chandler for 14 games.
Because of the extra possessions the Knicks will get, and the poor offensive production (it will look better against New York’s slightly below average D), it takes Boston playing at an extremely high level, defensively, to defeat the Knicks.
The numbers below, which show Knicks shooting %’s and locations, are from NBA.com:
When you break it down, New York takes (excluding backcourt shots) 31.8% of its shots at the rim, 6% in the paint, 26.7% mid-range, 8% corner 3 and above the break three 26.5%.
According to Synergy Sports, the Knicks’ top three methods of offense are spot up jumpers, isolation and pick-and-roll. The ratings in all three of these areas were “excellent.”
Boston’s defense guarding mid-range, corner 3s and above the break 3s is at an elite level, going off of the numbers from NBA.com. Without a real rim protector in the frontcourt, though, they are vulnerable to teams attacking the hoop.
Against the Knicks’ top three methods of offense, Boston defends spot-ups “excellent,” pick-and-roll “excellent,” (the role man “average”) and isolation “excellent.”
It is a battle of strengths. Will the Knicks highly efficient offense win out or will Boston’s defense?
At the other end of the court, the Celtics are a team that relies heavily on mid-range jump shots, but are also towards the top third of the league in corner three pointers attempted.
This is the result of having an offense built around Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Pierce’s shot chart:
Garnett’s shot chart:
According to Synergy, the top three means of offense for the Celtics are spot-up (“very good”), transition (“poor”) and pick-and-roll (“average”). New York does not rate well defending those situations.
One of the Knicks’ biggest weaknesses this year has been defending opposing team’s guards who have the ability to break down a defense off the dribble. This is not one of the Celtics strengths, fortunately. They play a methodical offense that lacks individual player creativity outside of Paul Pierce and at times (more frequently recently), Jeff Green.
On the other hand, Kevin Garnett’s ability to pull Tyson Chandler away from the basket will hurt New York’s at the rim defense if Green, Pierce and, to a certain degree, Avery Bradley, are able to break down their man in one-on-one situations.
It will be interesting to see how the two teams go about matching up defensively. In three of the last four games, Rivers has gone with a Garnett, Bass, Green, Pierce and Bradley starting line-up.
I didn’t see anywhere if this was something Doc was planning on rolling with in the playoffs or if it was just an experiment at the end of the season. However, If that’s the lineup, Woodson has an interesting decision to make: Does he continue to start Felton, Prigs, Shumpert, Melo and Tyson? With those groups, Woody might be forced to hide Ray or Prigs on Bass and the other on Bradley. Melo and Shump would have to defend Green/Pierce in some form. I’m not sure I like those matchups, defensively, but the balance of this team winning with offense and not worrying about who guards who is a delicate balance. In this situation, J.R. Smith will have to come off the bench extremely early (probably will anyway) or you could move Jason Kidd back into the starting line-up for Prigs. Putting Kidd on Pierce intrigues me in a weird way.
If Rivers goes back to a more traditional starting line-up, moving Green or Bass into a sixth man role and swapping one of them with Terry or Lee, the matchups get simplified. You would think Pierce and Melo don’t defend each other at the start of the game, so they can both save energy for offense. Shump takes on the Pierce challenge, Melo works on Bass or Green, Tyson stays with KG, Ray defends Terry/Lee and Prigs gets the Bradley assignment. That puts New York in a more comfortable situation.
Finally, we come to the question, “are the Celtics a team that gets in Melo’s head?”
Everyone remembers this:
This season against Boston, Anthony has averaged 25 points, on 35% shooting from the field and 30% from three in four games. Conversely, in the same amount of games last season, he averaged 30.8 points with a 49% FG and 41% 3P FG.
While with the Knicks, Melo has obtained both success and failure against a terrific defensive team in the Celtics. I don’t believe Boston is magically in his head. However, the Celtics happen to defend Anthony’s strengths well, which will lead to him having a more difficult time scoring against them than against most teams. It doesn’t mean Anthony isn’t capable of performing at a high level, but it’s not going to be easy.
I don’t expect anything in this series to be easy for the Knicks. Boston is a veteran savvy team that knows how to execute in playoff situations. They are well coached and have two players, in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who understand what it takes to win playoff games.
Unlike the last time these two teams played, though, New York also has a squad equipped for a legitimate playoff battle.
New York proved more capable of dealing with the rigors of an 82 game season than the Celtics. It was the first time they were able to do that since 2006-2007. Now, we find out if it translates to playoff success.
Prediction: Knicks in 6
“They may reach the promise land, but, for now, as the Knicks slump towards Portland, it seems they have lost their way and the wheels have fallen off the wagon.”
I wrote my last post huddled by the limited candlelight that barely illuminates “Knicks Fan Hell”. You know, that place you crawl into when the Knicks (and their limbs) are free falling, settling right into their usual bottom seeded position. While I wasted away with the season in Knicks Fan Hell, I wrote an entire column likening the Knicks’ season-ending west coast trip to a cholera-filled trek on the Oregon Trail.
The wheels, I concluded, had fallen off the bandwagon (along with many fair weather fans whose stomachs had endured one too many punches over the past ten years).
Cue Montage With Newspaper Clippings, Highlights, J.R. Smith giving Steve Novak bunny ears on the team bus, Mike Woodson laughing in the mirror as Shumpert, holding a camera, catches Coach shaping his goatee, all as The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do You Believe In Magic” blares…
12 games, 12 wins and 8,043 Carmelo Points later, the Knicks are on the verge of winning the Atlantic Division Title for the first time since 1994.
I’m not hear to tell you how it happened-Someone else can offer a much deeper analysis complete with numbers and highlights with arrows and circles and all that crap. Because honestly, I have no idea how it happened. I’m just here to react to the seemingly unbelievable fact that after 19 years, the Celtics, Nets, Sixers, (and whoever else is in our division-no but seriously-who?) will once again be looking up at our shiny behinds when it’s all said and 82 done.
It’s great, glorious, and WILDLY CONFUSING.
You see, Knicks fans use one particular classic sports cliché like they invented it: Nothing matters until the playoffs.
Every season, it’s Championship or Bust. This is Madison Square Garden we’re talking about. New York, the Mecca of basketball. Basketball is in our DNA. We are a great franchise with a history of success. These are things we tell ourselves. A division title, is “not why they play game”, as we say.
But last Friday Night’s Ceremony honoring the 1973 squad was a backhanded reminder at a very sad reality. In the scheme of “Championship or Bust”, The New York Knickerbockers have busted for 40 years in a row.
Knicks fans know this. They know its been forty years since a 7 footer went down The Canyon of Hero’s . They know the most recent basketball-related banner hanging in the rafters belongs to the New York Liberty (yep, right in the groin). They know that everyone is nostalgic for ONE season, a season MSG Network has dedicated hours of programming to, A SEASON THEY DIDN’T EVEN WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP.
So, I’m going to use this platform to tell all my fellow Knicks fans something they need to hear:
A division title is not a championship. Not even close. No one really remembers them unless, like in the Knicks case, it’s been nearly 20 years since you won one. You dont even get a trophy. But at the very least, a division title is tangible validation for Knicks fans who have been looking for a glimmer of hope to rise from a darkness rivaled only by that of Woody’s Goatee. An Atlantic Division title is shaky proof, that no, the Knicks don’t suck. In fact they’re pretty good. Objectively-better -than-8-teams-in-the-league, good. And maybe. JUUUUUST maybe, when push comes to shove…they’ll make it out of the first round.
So, you can puff up your chest and get all Stephen A. “Ill wait to the playoffs” on me… but for the Knicks fans just looking for permission to enjoy this relatively non-noteworthy feat, consider it granted.
 Having said that, I would like to add that Pablo Pirgioni is just NOT getting enough credit here. I don’t know what it is about the former Gaucho (not confirmed, but highly suggested), but holy hell has he made a difference. The streak has everything to do with Melo, JR and of course the addition of Kmart, but lets take a second and applaud the little ball thief. 12-0 as a starter. He doesn’t speak much English, but that record speaks for itself.
As the Knicks roll into a big time match-up with the Oklahoma City Thunder on an 11 game winning streak, there are lots of things going right for New York. Carmelo Anthony is red hot, scoring 40+ points in three consecutive games, making New York fans hoarse from cheering at their TVs as he’s embarrassed opposing defenses; JR Smith has scored 30+ points coming off the bench four times during the streak; Iman Shumpert hit 17 three-pointers in the first nine games of the streak; Kenyon Martin has resurrected his career in glorious fashion and Raymond Felton is playing some of his best basketball of the season; Even Pablo Prigioni has gotten in on the action, breaking into the starting lineup and helping stabilize the back court with his solid play.
Yet, the Knicks have been a solid offensive team all season, averaging over 99 points a game, making over 800 threes and having the third highest offensive rating in the league. The problem the Knicks have experienced during various points in the season where they have struggled is with their defense or the lack of it. The Knicks’ defensive rating ranks 16th in the NBA.
The biggest key to the streak has been a re-invigorated defense. Over the 11 game span, the Knicks have given up 89.7 points a game. To put that into perspective, the Memphis Grizzlies, which lead the league in fewest points allowed this season, give up 89.8 points per game. No team has hit more than 50% from the field against New York during the streak and twice they’ve held opponents to 38% shooting. Five times, New York has held their opponent to 85 points or less and the most they’ve given up is 102 (ironically to the basketball challenged Bobcats).
This defensive renaissance has been somewhat surprising, given that, for most of the streak, the Knicks have been without their defensive backbone, current Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler, who’s been nursing a sore neck. Not only did the Knicks’ defense not collapse in his absence, it prospered.
Perhaps the biggest reason has been the play of Kenyon Martin. A few weeks ago this would have been like saying the biggest reason Star Wars is a good series of movies is the character of Jar Jar Binks. Martin was a man without a team, seemingly too old and too diminished for a team to take a chance on him. Then with Chandler going and joining New York’s long list of injured big men, Martin was asked to be their starting center. Well undersized in the middle at 6’9”, Martin was expected to shake off the rust and hold his own against centers that were younger and bigger.
He’s done more than hold his own. It’s not a coincidence that this winning streak and in particular this streak of good defense has coincided with Martin getting big minutes for New York. In the 14 games where Martin has played 20 minutes or more the Knicks are 11-3. New York has given up more than 105 points in those games only once. His Defensive Rating is 104, the same as Chandler, and Jason Kidd is the only rotation player on the team with a better one: 103. His defensive numbers per 36 minutes are solid: 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks, but this hardly tells the full story. His physical style of play seems to inspire the whole team to greater effort while at the same time making the other team think twice about coming into the paint. His 5.2 fouls per 36 minutes lead the team and he somehow makes it seem like a virtue. His fouls, though plentiful, are usually well timed and seem to have a positive effect on the team’s defensive intensity.
This streak is very reminiscent defensively of the beginning of the season. New York started the season 8-1, allowing more than 100 points only once. At that point, many were hailing the Knicks as an elite defensive team. Yet after starting the season strong, New York’s defense slid into mediocrity and so did their results, as they followed their 8-1 start with a 30-25 record. The entire season the one constant has been offence. Both of their streaks of sustained excellence have been highlighted by superior defense. Hopefully having both a healthy Chandler and Martin available at the same time will only help and New York will be able to carry their new found defensive vigor and excellence into the postseason. Of course when we’re talking about the Knicks, sometimes having players stay healthy seems like a lot to ask.
Here’s a track from a new mix-tape, The New York Renaissance, as well as from “Bastards of the Party.” Download here.
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- 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.
The Knicks did exactly what you have to do against to do against a team as pitiful as the Bobcats. They jumped out on them early and often, as they got a 21-6 lead behind three pointers from Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert and Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks were on fire from three-point land in the quarter, shooting 5-6. Anthony, Shumpert and J.R. Smith all had fantastic quarters. The Bobcats did not double team Anthony, and he carved them up for 13 points on 5-11 shooting. Shumpert continued his hot shooting and hit two three-pointers. Also, he had two steals and two assists. Smith once again continued to not settle for jump shots and took the ball to the basket, as he had nine points on 4-6 shooting. Felton also chipped in with seven points on 3-3 shooting. The Knicks shot 58% from the field because, as you might expect, Charlotte’s defense was miserable. Charlotte also had six turnovers and most of them were just careless things like dribbling the ball off their foot and traveling.
The Bobcats went on an 8-2 run at the end of the quarter to cut a 28 point lead to 22, but the Knicks still led 69-47 at halftime. This quarter was all about Smith, as he had 14 points in the quarter on 5-5 shooting. Once again, he only made one three-pointer and took everything to the basket. He only attempted one mid-range jumper in the quarter and made some acrobatic shots around the rim instead of taking acrobatic step back jumpers. The Knicks continued to stay hot from behind the arc, shooting 4-6 from the field, with threes by Felton, Smith, Steve Novak and Jason Kidd. The ball movement was great, as the Knicks had 13 assists in the half, including five from Shumpert. Shumpert’s penetration created many open shots for the Knicks. They shot an incredible 62% for the half, while the Bobcats shot only 42%.
The Knicks had another sluggish third quarter after getting out to a big lead, but a strong end to the quarter helped the Knicks get the lead back up to 87-69 after the Bobcats had cut the lead to 14. The Knicks shot only 5-17 for the quarter and were 0-5 from behind the arc. The Bobcats gave a much better effort on defense, and the Knicks lost a little bit of the ball movement that was so successful for them in the first half. The closest the Bobcats came was 81-67 after a Jannero Pargo three-pointer. After the teams traded free throws, Felton converted a layup, Smith got fouled behind the arc, and made all three free throws to give the Knicks a 5-0 run to end the quarter. Anthony led the Knicks with nine points in the quarter.
Just like the Grizzlies, the Bobcats gave the Knicks a scare in the fourth, but the lead was just too much to overcome and the Knicks won 111-102. The Bobcats erased the 5-0 run the Knicks had to end the 3rd by starting out the 4th on their own 5-0 run with a three by Pargo and two free throws by Gerald Henderson to cut the lead back down to 88-74. The Knicks then went on a 6-0 run with buckets by Felton, Smith and Chris Copeland and it looked like the game was over at that point. Alas, that was not the case, as the Bobcats went on a 9-2 run over the next two minutes to cut the lead to 98-85 with 5:23 remaining. The closest the Bobcats came was when a Josh McRoberts layup cut the lead to 102-95 with about two minutes remaining. Smith took the ball to the basket yet again for a hoop and the Knicks made their free throws down the stretch to ice the game. He led the Knicks with seven points in the quarter to finish with an incredible 37 points for the game.
- Didn’t we just see this game 2 days ago?
- It would be nice if the Knicks would put these teams away, but in the NBA, it is rare for a team not to make a run of any kind during a game. Even still, after the last game you would think that the Knicks would have not wanted to let that happen again.
- What can else can you say about J.R. Smith at this point? When he plays at this efficient level he is one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, especially since he had already improved his defensive game this year before he started this efficient stretch on offense.
- Hopefully he isn’t playing himself into a big contract elsewhere. It can never be all good with Smith, right?
- Remember when we wanted to trade Iman Shumpert for Jared Dudley? Yeah, pretty good non- trade there for sure.
- He is doing everything they need out of a three next to Melo right now. He is hitting the corner three, driving the lane and dishing to open shooters, and has been locking down the opponents to player lately.
- Melo has really been amazing on his own put backs lately. He had six offenseive rebounds and his second jump is just so quick and obviously his strength is tough to deal with as well.
- With all the attention Shumpert, Smith and Martin have been receiving lately for their strong play, Felton has played really efficiently of late as well.
- 7 game winning streak heading into a really challenging part of the schedule. It will be very interesting to see if this level of play carries over against the likes of Miami, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Chicago and Indiana.
Editor’s note: Before you start rolling your eyes, this piece is just outlining the slim possibility that Chris Paul ends up in New York. It’s highly improbable, but, nonetheless, it’s possible. By no means are we advocating for Chris Paul nor predicting he will land up in New York this summer, just reporting that, cap-wise, there remains a very slim possibility.
As a result of the new CBA and Tyson Chandler signing with the Knicks in December of 2011, proverbial wisdom suggested Chris Paul’s infamous toast at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding was just another Knick pipedream. In an effort to curb super-teams, the new CBA forbids sign & trade transactions for teams whose total team salaries are higher than $74,000,000. This number, known as the luxury tax apron is crucial in determining a franchise’s flexibility and its ability to change its roster.
According to ShamSports.com, this year’s New York Knicks have salary commitments of $79,289,785 which obviously puts them well over the apron. However, the same cannot be said about next year’s team when looking at certain salary cap commitments. According to cap Guru Larry Coon’s CBAFAQ.com, team salary is calculated differently for determining a team’s ability to use its exceptions and make sign & trade transactions. In these calculations, cap holds for draft picks and free agents are excluded. Based upon my interpretation of the FAQ, so are cap holds for open roster spots. As a result, the toast lives on.
Using Sham Sports’ numbers once again, the Knicks next year have $73,831,215 million committed to the following eight players: Anthony, Camby, Chandler, Felton, Kidd, Novak, Shumpert and Stoudemire. Copeland and Prigioni are both fully unguaranteed and James White has a team option that needs to be determined before June 30th. If it’s not picked up, he is a free agent. Additionally, JR Smith has a player option for 2.9 million for next season. Now if Smith picks up that option, this dream is dead unless the Knicks find a way to trade one of their players for no money coming back so that they remain below $74 million.
Smith, however, is unlikely to pick up his player option for a variety of reasons. While it’s debatable if his play has improved, what isn’t debatable is how little he made last year and this year compared to what he was making in Denver. Additionally, this projects to be a players’ free agent market with more teams having cap space than desirable big money free agents. Much like Ben Gordon got overpaid by Joe Dumars in 2009; Smith could catch the same fortuitous break this summer.
Given what we know now, the Knicks being at $73.8 million puts them below the apron, making a sign & trade acquisition of Chris Paul not impossible. Again, don’t misinterpret what is being said here. A sign and trade for Chris Paul would be highly improbable. The Clippers would have to take back salary commitments equaling, I believe to be, 80% of Paul’s new outgoing max contract, which would mean, for example, Tyson Chandler and either Iman Shumpert or Ray Felton. Or perhaps the Clippers would want all five of Camby, Felton, Kidd, Novak and Shumpert. If you ran the Clippers, why you would help facilitate the exit of the best player to ever put on your uniform is unlikely. Of course, it’s also unlikely the Clippers would accept Chandler in a trade when they already pay DeAndre Jordan an eight figure annual salary.
Furthermore, there is no definitive mainstream media sourced evidence out there that this is even the Knicks line of thinking. In an effort not to deal in rumors and hearsay, the point here is to just show that the Knicks are still legally able to facilitate a trade for Chris Paul and fulfill the destiny of the toast. It should be noted that given current salary commitments, the same possibility cannot be said for the Brooklyn Nets and their lengthy ill fated pursuit of Dwight Howard. The Nets currently have $85.55 million committed to 2013-2014, including a $1.1 million dollar player option for CJ Watson. For the Nets to move under the luxury tax apron, they would have to shed $11.55 million dollars in salary at the draft or during free agency without taking back a single dollar.
To speak to the impossibility of that compared to the Knicks situation, this means Billy King would need to find a taker for Gerald Wallace and one or two filler pieces (depending on who the player is), or trade Kris Humphries 12 million dollar expiring contract. Either package would have to go to a team willing to absorb them into cap space or a trade exception while not expecting the Nets to take any salary back on in return. In my opinion, there’s a better chance I’m playing in the final group on Sunday with Tiger at Augusta as a 5 handicap than the Nets finding a taker for either one of those packages.
Nevertheless, the NBA rumor mill is about to start churning at full throttle once again. As it occurs, no matter what you read and what sources you doubt or believe, keep in mind that Chris Paul to the Knicks via a sign and trade is currently only improbable, but not impossible.
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.
Terry Richardson shot Carmelo Anthony for the cover story of the most recent Wall Street Journal magazine. The piece is quite good and worth your time, but here are the images.
The Knicks got a huge win before they head home to New York by beating the Jazz 90-83 for their first win in Utah in eight years. The win kept the Knicks in first place in the Atlantic Divison, as the Brooklyn Nets blew out the Detroit Pistons in Detroit and a loss by the Knicks would have meant a virtual tie with the Nets.
The game started out ugly, but morphed into an entertaining second half, as the Knicks became much more efficient with their offense. For a team fighting for their playoff lives, the Jazz put forth a pitiful effort. They had 17 turnovers, which is what kept the Knicks in the game in the first half when they were struggling on offense, and their shot selection was horrific. However, nothing should be taken away from the Knicks because they showed incredible grit and toughness.
The Jazz went on an 8-0 run at the end of the second quarter to take a 44-42 lead into halftime and it looked like a repeat from the Portland game . However, Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland ran some great pick-and-rolls to get the Knicks into rhythm at the start of the thrid quarter. Prigioni made his case for more playing time and hopefully Woodson took notice after he has left him out of the rotation lately for reasons unknown.
The Knicks led 66-63 after three quarters in large part due to J.R. Smith getting to the foul line. Smith had another bad shooting game (5-13), but got to the foul line six times in the third quarter. This allowed him to finish with an efficient 20 points on those 13 shots. It was good to see him not settle for jump shots and take the ball to the rim when he was struggling shooting.
The Knicks never trailed in the fourth quarter and never trailed in the quarter. Raymond Felton was excellent, as he scored nine of his 19 points in the fourth. He hit some huge momentum shots, including a three-pointer to put the Knicks up 75-69 with 8:10 remaining and a long two-point jumper to put the Knicks up eight with 5;20 remaining. The cloest the Jazz came after that was when they got the lead down to 84-81 with 3:13 remaining. After a terrible turnover by Smith, Mo Williams missed a jumper and Smith came back and hit a jumper to ice the game,
Make fun of their ages all you want, but Kurt Thomas and Kenyon Martin were absolute men among boys out there. They outplayed a much more talented Utah front court in Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Martin had nine rebounds in 21 rebounds and gave excellent defense and energy again. Thomas was simply incredible. After there were rumors that his season was over due to a stress fracture in his foot, Thomas came out and played his best game of the season. His low post defense on Jefferson was huge, especially in the fourth quarter. Thomas did a little bit of everything as he scored six points, had three blocks, three rebounds and two assists. You can not see his true value to the win in those stats though. The Knicks won this game on defense and Martin and Thomas contributed greatly to that.
The Knicks now have an opportunity to go home and they have three winnable games in a row against Orlando and two against Toronto. A four game winning streak and getting healthy would help erase the tough west coast trip.
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.