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.
“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.
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.
“Chris Paul, Clippers torch injury-depleted Knicks,” reads ESPN’s headline. Rather than add insult to injury with puns about getting burned yesterday in Los Angeles, Raymond Felton had the fire under his feet scoring the team’s high of 16 points. In his 41 minutes, the Knicks guard’s 3-point shooting was clutch keeping NYK in striking distance during the first half. Then his mid-range jumper, and drives to the basket supplemented their offense in the second half. A Felton-Jordan matchup was one to watch though. Felton’s key layup scored against DeAndre Jordan was a highlight that clearly isn’t getting as much replay as Jordan’s open floor dunk from the first half. Being a poster boy for posterizing Brandon Knight has earned Jordan the national attention he deserves, plus a big promotional push by Under Armour with a line of T-shirts that read, “Show Me Your Dunk Face.”
Will Raymond Felton get a liltle more love from UA? Felton has been wearing all the varieties of his Micro G-Torch Player Exclusive, including the Christmas Day edition. Yesterday he gave the orange upper and blue laser perforated kit some mileage, while Jordan stole the sneaker spotlight sporting the St. Patrick’s Day Spine Bionic green colorway. Since Under Armour announced the addition of Felton to the Under Armour family in January, there haven’t been any recent updates to what’s next for Felton and Under Armour. The brand’s support of players who are underdogs, who turn adversity into triumph fits right in with Felton’s narrative bouncing around the league, leaving the Knicks and his warm welcome back to New York this year.
Right now the Knicks are holding onto the 3rd spot in the Eastern Conference. They’re constantly striving to prove themselves against criticism of their age, lack of team depth, and of course the injuries. The Knicks will be back at Madison Square Garden to play Orlando on Wednesday. So you can surely expect Felton to lace up a pair of his UA PE to protect their house.
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.
When you look at the Knicks’ stats as a team compared to the rest of the NBA, something stands out like a sore thumb: assists, or more accurately, lack of them. Of the 30 teams in the NBA, the Knicks are 29th, with 19.4 assists per game. Only the pathetic Bobcats make fewer assists per game than our beloved ‘Bockers. Since New York scores the tenth most points in the league and is sixth in offensive rating, this is pretty shocking.
When you consider the Knicks roster and their style of play, it starts to make a little more sense. The Knicks have a roster filled with good offensive players; the team is well stocked with scorers, shooters and ball handlers, just not playmakers. They have some players that are skilled at creating their own shots, but few that are displaying much skill in creating shots for others.
Despite the presence of future first ballot hall of fame point guard Jason Kidd on their roster, the closest they come to a true playmaker on the team currently is Raymond Felton. Felton is averaging 5.8 assists per game, down from his career average of 6.6 a game and only good for a four way tie for 25th best in the league. Of course Felton’s stats may be hurt by the slow pace the Knicks play at (25th in the NBA), but Greivis Vasquez and Deron Williams are both in the top five in the league in assists and they play for teams with an even more glacial pace than the Knicks (29th and 30th!) Rajon Rondo leads the league in assists with 11.1 per game and the Celtics have the 20th slowest pace. Not only is there little evidence to suggest that a slow pace prevents a playmaker from racking up big assist numbers, but the opposite almost seems true. Obviously some teams rely heavily on their playmaker to create shots out of half court sets.
In theory the Knicks would like to be one of them. Much of their offense is intended to revolve around pick and rolls orchestrated by Felton; giving him the opportunity to get assists by setting up the roll man or feeding an open shooter. Despite this plan, entirely too many of the Knicks’ offensive possessions boil down to Carmelo Anthony or JR Smith trying to create their own shots in isolation.
While it may seem obvious that the more assists the better, this specific stat seems to be particularly revealing in the case of the Knicks. In games where the Knicks have made fewer than 17 assists this season, they are 2-11. In games were they’ve made 23 or more assists, they’ve gone 14-2. For a team that’s one of the two worst assist producing teams in the NBA, this correlation is quite troubling.
This has been especially glaring over New York’s last 17 games. Over that span they’ve averaged a meager 17.3 assists, Raymond Felton has had more than 5 assists in a game only once and the Knicks have gone 7-10.
Obviously there are lots of reasons the Knicks have been struggling recently. The past week and a half have been particularly rough with the knees of all three of the Knicks’ frontcourt superstars breaking down at the same time. Despite this kneepocalypse or perhaps because of it, it’s no time to panic. Unfortunately, the Knicks are not acting like the team that started the season 8-1 without having Amare Stoudemire available to play. Instead of sharing the ball, finding open shooters and trying to create the most efficient offense possible, the Knicks seem to be relying on individuals like Melo and JR to create their own offense more than ever.
If New York is going to overcome the loss of so much star power to this kneegeddon and pull themselves out of their awful tailspin, they’re going to have to work as team, now more than ever. They can start by sharing the rock and finding some good shots. Failing that that could always try playing some great defense, but I don’t want to get too crazy.
The Knicks defeated the short-handed Golden State Warriors in an absolute barn-burner to spoil Stephen Curry’s eruption for an NBA season-high, 54 points. What looked like it was going to be breezy win for the Knicks in the early going turned into an edge-of-your-seat, big-play-after-big-play trade-off between two teams who desperately wanted to come away with a win. Curry nearly gave the Warriors the game, throwing them on his shoulders as he repeatedly launched from downtown, lighting the Garden ablaze with a multitude of long shots, contested and open. In the game’s final minutes, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony each scored big baskets for the Knicks, and Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, and Iman Shumpert contributed big plays on the defensive end to give the Knicks the edge.
The first quarter was hardly indicative of what was to come later in the game. Both teams struggled out of the gate, the Warriors missing two-thirds of their frontcourt with Andrew Bogut out with a cranky back, and David Lee suspended because of his scuffle with the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night.
The Knicks, meanwhile, defended more ably than we’d seen in opening quarters in quite awhile. Their offense, however, took awhile to get going as Anthony continued his mini-slump from outside, while Jason Kidd and Iman Shumpert both laid bricks. The positive for the Knicks was Tyson Chandler’s youthful energy as he ravished the boards, collecting 10 rebounds in a matter of six minutes. He also skied to finish alley-oops and clean up misses from his out-of-tune teammates.
The Knicks’ defensive energy stemmed largely from Chandler’s dominance on the boards and Shumpert’s sudden aggressiveness in his on-ball defense. Shumpert bounced back and forth guarding Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry, and was able to pester each of them, nabbing three steals in the opening period, showing signs of his exciting rookie year D. Chandler, too, bothered the Warriors into a couple turnovers, after which the Knicks generally looked to push the pace. One particularly splendid Shumpert steal from Curry led to a fastbreak dunk for Smith.
The Warriors struggles forced Mark Jackson to go very small, putting the 6’8″ Carl Landry at center, with Barnes at power forward, Thompson at the three, and Curry and Jarrett Jack in the backcourt. This small lineup prompted Anthony to go down on the right block where he continually abused whomever tried to guard him. Even when he missed, Chandler was able to finish over the much smaller Warriors. Anthony and the Knicks finally got some rhythm on offense and finished the quarter up 27-18.
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.
In a possible preview of a first round playoff series, the Knicks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden last night by a score of 96-86. The Knicks entered the game second in the Eastern Conference while the Bucks entered seventh in the conference standings. The Knicks were led by Carmelo Anthony’s 25-point, eight rebound, six assist performance. The Bucks were led by Ersan Ilyasova, who stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Tonight could qualify as one of those “ugly, grind-it-out” wins that are so often referred to when a basketball team squeezes out a victory by the skins of their collective teeth. Said games, however, are usually given such a description when both teams struggle to score the ball, and actually have to play ugly, hustling, desperate basketball in order to get the win. The Knicks and Hawks had to battle each other quite a bit tonight, but instead it consisted of two decent offenses going back and forth while the respective defenses played half-heartedly, with lackluster execution on both ends polluting the quality of play.
Mike Woodson and Larry Drew, the Hawks’ head coach, would probably both like their chances of getting a win if they knew their teams would shoot over 50% from the field and over 40% from three-point range. Instead, the outcome of the game hung in balance until the final buzzer. The Knicks used a heroic offensive performance from Carmelo Anthony, with some great bench production from J.R. Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire to make up for the fact that their defense begged the Hawks to take the game. A last-minute three-point play and a final stop (even with some poor defense) ended up tilting the game in the Knicks’ favor as they escaped with a win to move to 27-15.