In this week’s edition of Monday Musings, Bryan and Charlie discuss second-round selection Mitchell Robinson’s sudden impact on the Knicks along with an ugly Wizards loss and more.
Bryan Gibberman: This is a little bit of a different Monday Musings because we typically don’t get the chance to react to a Sunday game. The biggest takeaway you should have as a Knicks’ fan coming off an ugly loss to the Wizards is an appreciation for what Tim Hardaway Jr. has done on the offensive end to this point in the season.
With Hardaway Jr. hurt and struggling, the offense wasn’t able to produce the output they have pretty regularly this season.
Washington came out and really got into the Knicks on the defensive end leading to turnovers and not allowing a rhythm to develop on offense. They didn’t fall apart until later in the fourth quarter though—New York battled back and did give themselves a chance to win before it got away from them.
The defense was solid for the most part, but too much fouling put the Wizards on the free-throw line. That was the main difference in the game. Mitchell Robinson looks beyond his years anchoring the D. He’s already figuring out how to use his length to defend more than one person at a time, cut off passing lanes, and keep guards/wings in front of him. What’s he’s doing so early in his career with his path to the NBA is astonishing.
I think Alan Hahn made a good point to open MSG Networks’ post-game show. The Wizards have been taking an awful lot of abuse over the last few days, since Friday night’s ugly loss in particular. They had to play well tonight, simply as a show of professional pride. (To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out how a team with John Wall and Bradley Beal can be as bad as it’s looked so far this season.)
To piggyback another point I heard Hahn make this week, the Knicks are inexperienced, they don’t know how to close these games out. But as the season goes on, some of these competitive losses are going to turn into wins.
I love what we’re seeing from Robinson; the kid makes it look like the game is being played on 8.5′ rims. And, perhaps more importantly, I love what we’re seeing from Fizdale. For better or for worse, he’s giving the most important minutes to the guys who figure to be part of the team’s future. Last year we had Jarrett Jack starting games while Ntilikina languished on the bench and Dotson was stuck in White Plains. Now we’ve got Robinson and Dotson and Frank locked into the starting five, with Knox on his way, and Trier in the “Microwave Johnson” role.
(Somebody send the Westchester Knicks a memo—they’ve gotta stop including Trier in their promos. I don’t think we’ll see him play in the County Center any time soon.)
Who said @ISO_ZO is all offense?
Wall tried to single Trier out, and Zo forces the All-Star Wall to dribble the ball out of bounds.
Peep pumped up Fizdale at the end ? pic.twitter.com/4fyDVDt2Jx
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) November 5, 2018
Bryan: The way Trier responded to getting into it with Wall and Markieff Morris saying some not nice words to him was fun to see. His defense shouldn’t be overlooked when discussing what he brings to the table. I love his individual defense, especially how well he moves his feet laterally.
How he continues to progress as the season continues is going to be fascinating to watch.
I can’t wait to see Knox with how the roster has developed since he’s been out. There’s an obvious role to carve out of him taking minutes away from Lance Thomas, Noah Vonleh, and Mario Hezonja. It wouldn’t be surprising if he replaced Vonleh in the starting lineup sooner than later and seeing the Knicks’ youth all put on center stage.
Charlie: I imagine we’ll find out soon, he’s apparently going to return tonight when they play the Bulls.
Getting Knox back will give Fiz a bit more flexibility with his combinations; maybe he moves Vonleh or Dotson to the second unit and gives that group a bit more of a defensive identity. The sample size is small, but Vonleh certainly looks like a keeper. And I’m including him in “the Knicks’ youth”—he’s just 23.
On the other hand, I’m starting to wonder whether Hezonja will ever be good enough on defense to merit a regular spot in the rotation. It’s abundantly clear that Fizdale wants to avoid having Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter on the floor together; their pick-and-roll defense is a crime against basketball. Hezonja compounds that problem, and he doesn’t do anything else well enough, or consistently enough.
Maybe another long, switchy defender like Knox will help them offset Hezonja’s trouble on the defensive end. Or maybe Hezonja will find himself on the bench.