Can Michael Beasley become a fixture in the Knicks’ rotation? That and more in this week’s installment of Monday Musings.
Every Monday, we’re going to hit you with some thoughts from the past week of Knicks basketball with a cast of rotating writers, and look ahead to what the immediate future will bring.
Knicks record: 3-0 on the week, 16-13 overall
Upcoming schedule: 12/18 vs. Hornets (10-19), 12/21 vs. Celtics (25-7), 12/22 at Pistons (17-13)
There have not been a lot of times you could say this, but what a week for the New York Knicks. They went a perfect 3-0 this week and made some noise for all the right reasons—something else you cannot say a whole lot about this franchise.
Kristaps Porzingis stole headlines to start the week. With Jen Selter, Lonzo Ball, and the Lakers at the Garden Tuesday night, KP showed out in historic proportions. In the overtime win, New York’s fire-breathing dragon lit the Lakers up for 37 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks, and a career-high five three-pointers. That performance likely got him a date with Selter, but more importantly made him the first player in NBA history with 30 points, five blocks and five threes in a single game.
The rest of the week’s headlines belonged to the other guys. The only downside to last week was when Porzingis exited the Nets game early with a knee bruise, but the bench picked up his slack to get the win. They shined again during Carmelo’s return to the Garden and look to carry that momentum into next week as the Knicks face three Eastern Conference foes.
Before we move forward, let’s take a closer look at what happened last week and what could happen this week.
1. Frankie Figuring it Out
Drew Brees once said playing quarterback was 90 percent mental and ten percent physical. Football and basketball are different worlds, but the same principle rings true when you’re at the top echelon of any field. The biggest thing that has held Frankie Ntillmatic back on offense has been himself:
“Sometimes, I have a tendency to hesitate on my shot,” Ntilikina said. “Now I feel more comfortable while getting a lot of reps. Hitting shots in the real game gives me confidence.”
Quite a few of his drives this season have replicated myself trying to talk to a dime at the bar. He would start his attack towards the basket then pull the e-brake at the last minute. His jumpers were the same story. Instead of fluidly going up he would hesitate ever so slightly. That confidence was not there. Over his last eight games that confidence was there:
This will show up as another mid-range shot for Frank, but a world of difference from the ones he settled for out of tentativeness earlier in the season. I like how he attacks first, finds nothing there, resets, and then dribbles into mid-range shot #Knicks pic.twitter.com/oSuaH76Hls
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) December 15, 2017
He had his best game of the season against the Lakers, pouring in 13 points, hauling in five rebounds, and dishing out five assists. There was nothing particularly different in his game. The main thing he did, however, was remain persistent on offense. He carried that into Thursday’s tilt against the Nets where he hit a late three to help put the game on ice.
With Hardaway Jr. out for extended time everyone will have to pitch in on offense, especially the promising 19-year-old.
His mentor Jarrett Jack feels confident that this recent string of games isn’t an aberration, but a maturation.
“His game is maturing and right around this time, Christmas, the top of the year that’s when [rookie] guys start to get a handle on the task ahead of them and he’s done a tremendous job.”
We’ll take your word for it, JJ.
2. Fear the Walking Bucket
Saturday night was Michael Beasley’s coming out party as a Knick. With Porzingis out, the crowd hyped off the return of Carmelo Anthony, it was B-Easy who took over. Playing opposite of Anthony, Beasley erupted for 30 points and the Knicks needed every single drip from the Bucket. Hornacek had no other choice but to let the walking bucket loose and the results were stellar:
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) December 17, 2017
Saturday’s 30 point performance capped Beasley’s best week in New York. Against the Nets, he contributed 15 points. On Tuesday, against Los Angeles, he played crunch time minutes at the four alongside Porzingis, helping close out the win with crucial overtime baskets. He has benefitted the most from Timmy’s injury, and Beasley’s scoring prowess has been a blessing.
Moving forward, it’s obvious Beasley deserves a real role in the rotation. His best role could be playing the small-ball four alongside KP. His ability to finesse his way to the rack leads to buckets or makes the defense collapse, allowing KP, Courtney Lee, and others open shots on the perimeter.
His scoring does come at a cost. At times, Beasley regards defense the way we regard highway speed limits. He will make bonehead decisions at times but that’s the price you have to pay for points right now. Even when Timmy returns I am here to at least see what Beasley can do at the four during crunch time.
3. Stop it Five
He may not want to play it, but there will come a time Porzingis realizes his destiny is playing center. When asked about moving over, he sounds eerily similar to ‘Melo when people asked him why he doesn’t like bumping up to the four:
“Me at the 4, especially if I’m playing against a non-shooting 4, I can do a lot. When I’m playing against the 5, I’m fighting with the big a lot of times and I’m wasting a lot of energy. Obviously, offensively I have an advantage at center, but I’m just more comfortable playing at the 4.”
Comfort is nice, but stop it five. There are a handful of guys stopping KP from getting his shot off and not all of them are centers (i.e. LeBron, Draymond, Kawhi). Sure, playing the five full-time could add more wear and tear to his body, but I’m not asking for 30 minutes. Give me 20 minutes, particularly down the stretch like he did against the Lakers:
The @kporzee highlight reel from regulation:
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) December 13, 2017
The Lakers played super small down the stretch, and KP feasted. He tallied 37 points, and truth be told he was getting that against anyone Luke Walton threw his way. Hornacek would be wise to continue closing games with KP at center. Earlier this season playing him against Dwight late resulted in a mismatch favoring the Knicks. It also allows KP the chance to ease in and slowly get comfortable at his natural home. Once he returns from his knee bruise this is something worth keeping tabs on.
4. Trey Day
Let’s talk some DubKnicks. Trey Burke has been silently killing it up in Westchester. For the season, he is averaging 25.7 points, 5.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals. He’s also been efficient, shooting 50.5 percent from the field and a scorching 46.4 percent from three. With Ramon Sessions gathering dust on the bench, I believe it’s time give Trey the call:
The great thing about adding Burke to the main roster is that he would fill the role that is supposed to already exist. Sessions has been a bust of a signing, but had he not been he would be the scoring guard off the bench. Burke can do that and importantly, he can shoot from deep.
In a league shooting threes by the boatload the Knicks have been frugal in their attempts. They average just 22.5 three-point attempts per game, per NBA.com/Stats, good for second-to-last in the league. That has a lot to do with the personnel. Timmy, McDermott, Lee and Porzingis are the only consistent three-point shooters. Ron Baker, too, but he’s not on the floor enough. Burke at the very least fill a void Sessions (2-for-11 from three this season) never will.
5. Closing the Chapter
Saturday night was the closure Knicks fans and Anthony needed. Neither party downplayed the homecoming, but thankfully that is now over. The Knicks left with the W—Carmelo has yet to win on his former home floor in Denver and New York—and the ‘Melo Era has officially closed for good. The Knicks have (probably) won the trade, and hopefully at some point Carmelo can find his way to LeBron’s team (who is the one guy that I believe he will thrive with).
On the Knicks end, it had to feel good to beat the “super team” they helped build. ‘Melo struggled (12 points on 5-of-18 from the field), the pieces he was traded for thrive; Enes Kanter played limited minutes with that bad back yet managed to contribute 10 points and five boards. McDermott had a better outing, totaling 13 points on 55.6 percent shooting.
It’s obvious the Knicks won the trade. Kanter and McDermott will never be the caliber of player ‘Melo is, but in terms of what’s best for KP these two fill important roles ‘Melo could not. Kanter is the bodyguard down low and McDermott is the safety valve outside. It was evident Saturday night as it was most of the season. Now that everyone is aware we can move forward and enjoy a surprisingly exciting season.