Jamal Giveth and Jamal Taketh Away

[Today’s entry comes to us from KnickerBlogger.Net’s Head Scout David Crockett, Ph.D who attended the Knicks/Bobcats game in person. He is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of South Carolina, and can be reached at dcrockett17@yahoo.com.]

Anyway, not having looked at the box score or other numbers yet some general impressions. Marbury had a very poor game. First and foremost, he simply did not pass the ball well. One play was indicative of how off he was the entire game. In the third quarter he threw an underhanded shovel pass – one that had some mustard on it – right of Nazr Mohammed‘s face. It wasn’t clear if he was trying to throw the ball somewhere else because Mohammed was no more than 5 or 6 feet away from him in the high post. In another instance he threw the ball on the break to Mohammed, forcing him into a turnover when he had to put it on the floor.

The reason I mention this is because, although Crawford was unconscious for most of the first three quarters he got a fair number of those shots outside the offense. The other players stood around and looked. Once Jamal went cold there was nothing else to run. Starbury just didn’t orchestrate the offense well. Tim Thomas, who was contributing, was the only player who could score in the post. We went away from that and became a jump-shot only team. The team also wasted what appeared to be a decent first half defensive effort, at least in terms of FG% defense. Frustrating loss.

On the other side Charlotte, a team I have paid little attention, actually has an impressive young front line. Charlotte had superior overall athleticism. You could really see it in their quickness to loose balls and ability to get to the foul line. Primoz Brezec played quite well for them. Okafor has more game than I’d given him credit for. He wore Kurt Thomas out in the post early in the game, and displayed range on his jump shot. Steve Smith also gave them huge minutes down the stretch with his ability to hit the open jumper and to score in the post.

Thanks Dave, since I have the option of looking at the box score, it’s absolutely clear that the turnovers are what have killed the Knicks recently. Last night marks the first time that the Knicks outshot their opponent (54% to 46% eFG), and lost. In fact it was their biggest shooting advantage of the year (+8%). Unfortunately it coincided with the Knicks worst turnover difference (-13%) of the year. As far as the stat sheet is concerned no individual Knick is largely responsible, although the good doctor’s eyes were sharp because Marbury and Mohammed lead the team with 4 a piece.

It’s amazing that the Knicks couldn’t create any turnovers on defense. Brevin Knight dished out 18 assists, and only coughed up the ball twice. They forced only 6 turnovers, their worst team effort to date. When the Knicks are on the wrong side of the ledger in respect to turnovers, they’ve lost 6 of 8. Four of these have occurred in the last 6 games, so maybe the Knicks have lost their offensive flow and their defensive intensity.

While the Knicks were a one man show (Crawford 17-25, 76%eFG, 41PTS), the Bobcats spread the ball around. Charlotte had 7 players with double digit scoring figures, and Knight was a point short from making it 8. Their top scorers were the youthful Okafor & the ancient Smith who had 20 points apiece. This further confirms my suspicion that SG & PF are the weakest defensive positions for New York. Dave confirms this above with his comment about Okafor wearing Thomas out, and Smith hitting shots down the stretch.

This is the second time in a row the Knicks have lost despite leading at the half. Against the Magic they were stymied by a second half zone defense. New York’s offense just ground to a halt, as they lacked good ball movement and confidence in hitting an open jumper. When Houston’s deadly jump shot returns, the Knicks will have better success against that style of defense.

Unfortunately these losses came against two teams that the Knicks should have beaten. Although the Magic were a first place team, New York had a 10 point halftime lead, and they were still in it right up until Marbury missed those two foul shots. Having a tough time scoring against the #4 ranked defense (Orlando) is understandable, but going cold against an expansion team that ranks 26th overall is unacceptable. Over their next 5 games, they only have one opponent that is among the bottom third (New Orleans) in defense. They’re going to have to get back to playing 48 minutes of solid offense & defense, or suffer a few more bitter defeats.

Non-Basketball Thoughts

If you want to read about basketball, just scroll past this little entry. I have a little write-up on the Orlando Magic, who face the Knicks tonight in New York. There’s just two quick non-basketball things I’d like to talk about.

First an ethics question: Let’s say for your job, they give a test every year. Your salary is directly related to this test, where you could easily make 10 times your salary if you score very high. Of course your score is judged not only on the percentage you get right, but how you fare in comparison to the other testers. You feel very confident going into the test, since you the subject is something you’ve been great at all your life.

When they administer this test, there is no proctor or teacher observing you. No cameras. You notice that lots of people are cheating on the test. You don’t cheat so you go to your supervisor, and tell them there are other workers cheating, but they really don’t care. In fact most of the defrauders get large raises. Your work only cares about the result of the test.

So next year you have two options.


  • Because your friends are doing it
  • Because you’re naturally better than some others who are cheating and you deserve the same money
  • Because management doesn’t really care if you cheat or not


  • Because you’re honest

So far I’ve asked a few people this question and I have yet to find someone that wouldn’t cheat. My point is isn’t this the same as using steroids in baseball? For years players have been using game enhancing substances. I can’t say for how long, but at least since Ball Four, when Jim Bouton wrote about players taking “greenies” or speed pills. Even though Ball Four was written more than 30 years ago, the problem wasn’t taken seriously. For years the powers of baseball have chosen to look aside as players were using substances to enhance their game. When the andro-McGwire story hit the papers, baseball waited for the story to die down before quietly banning andro two years later. It took a federal investigation held in the court of public opinion to make the powers involved in baseball take slightly more notice. Only last year did both parties agree on testing, but the effort was a toothless joke, with guilty players suffering no ill consequences.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it was right for players to have used steroids. It was the wrong thing to do, and now they’re going to have to live with the consequences of their actions. However the players involved aren’t the only guilty parties here. Shouldn’t we assign a similar amount of blame to the owners, the commissioners office, and the player’s union for creating this situation where improving your performance by using drugs was tolerated and rewarded?

Despite the boring sounding title “Legal Fiction”, this is one of the best articles I’ve ever read. Here’s a little excerpt:

But let’s look at the more local issue of the perceived breakdown of the American family. Is this supposed breakdown of families and communities caused by a decline in values? Again, what does that mean ? and how can you test your theory? Doesn’t it make more sense to argue that these breakdowns have been caused by the economic necessities that force both parents to work longer and longer hours with fewer vacations? Or by the relentless pressure put on children to get into a good college from age 3 on? Or by the financial stress of lacking health care (over 40 million Americans)? Or by the gadgets that we stare into all day (Playstation, TV, Internet) – gadgets that isolate us from our family and human connections? Or by the economic pressures and hardships that force families to uproot and leave their friends and communities again and again and again? Perhaps it’s caused by not stopping mass chains like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s from sucking local color and money out of smaller communities, and replacing good jobs with horrible ones. [All of these explanations can be assessed empirically.]

And from the comments page:

I think we can all agree that our nightly newscasts, and even our newspapers, frankly stink. They glorify sensational stories and ignore more substantive ones. Why is that? Because people are more likely to tune into a story about stuff being blown up than an in-depth analysis about the crisis in Ukraine. So it the network’s fault for trying to gain an audience or is the audience’s fault for demanding junk-food quality news? And if the audience to blame why are they so lustful for sensationalistic stories? What feeds that mentality?

Heavy hitting stuff.

A Little Magic

Who would have thought that Friday night’s matchup would pit two first place Eastern Conference teams? While some prognosticators grudgingly predicted the Knicks as the default pick in the Atlantic, the trendy picks in the Southeast were Miami and Washington. Right now both teams are behind Orlando in the standings, the surprise team of the early season.

Why would anyone have picked the Orlando Magic to capture their division? Last year the Magic finished dead last, winning only 1 in every 4 games. Their defense was by far the worst in the league. During the offseason, their franchise player McGrady asked to be traded. And when you thought things couldn’t get worse while the Magic were shipping out their franchise player, their Florida rival acquired their first franchise player, Shaquille O’Neal.

It’s said that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can improve. Grant Hill, who has yet to play even a half a season with Orlando, has played in every Orlando game so far. If Hill plays in Friday’s game, he’ll have played more games this year than in 2003 & 2001 combined. If he doubles the amount of games he’s played in this year, he’ll have his highest amount since 1999. It feels like it was another century when he was healthy and playing for the Pistons.

Their defense which was the laughing stock in the league, is now 4th overall. Helped by a healthy Grant, Cato, and wunderkind Dwight Howard. Howard is also making a difference under the boards, as he is a main reason the Magic are 3th and 4th in offensive and rebounding respectively. Even though their defense is so highly ranked, you may see a high scoring game. Orlando averages 100 possessions into every game (depending on the equation you use), which leads the league (no matter what equation you use).

So far, everything that could have gone right for the Magic has. Their star player is healthy for the first time in 5 years. Their teenage first round pick is paying dividends right off the bat. The trade looks all Orlando, with Cato & Francis playing well while McGrady’s new fans cheer for the removal of their coach. Even if no one sees these two teams as serious contenders in the Eastern Conference, it’s a battle of two first place teams looking for some respect.

Memphis 82 New York 90

Thanks to a good friend, I was able to watch tonight’s game from section 133. Some notes from the game:

  • When you enter the garden there is a huge (30 – 50 feet?) poster of about 6 or 7 Knicks. There’s the recognizable Knicks, Marbury, Thomas, etc. But one of them is Vin Baker. Do you think the one in Memphis has Tsakalidis in it?
  • Sweetney blocked a Gasol shot, and was the recipient of his hard work on the break for 2 easy points. Very impressive for him to block a taller player’s shot & hustle down the court to finish the play.
  • Right by Gate 60 there is a bar that sells good drinks. They’re inflated, but for an extra full or half buck you can get a real beer.
  • I saw Marbury hit 4 straight three pointers in the second quarter to singlehandedly bring the Knicks back into the game with a 2 point lead. What a big difference he can be when the other team isn’t double teaming him & he is free to shoot.
  • I’m pretty sure Marbury likes it from the top of the key, either just off to the left or right.
  • On his fifth consecutive attempt from beyond the arc, Marbury missed, but Sweetney was there to get the rebound & tip it back in.
  • Sweetney played most of the night at center. As long as it’s not someone of Shaq or Zydrunas’ skill, he should be able to earn more minutes that way.
  • If you show up during the second quarter, and you didn’t see if Tim Thomas played, you can always ask the guys in front of you. New Yorkers are very helpful if you ask one a direct question.
  • The same guys will give you hi-fives when their favorite player does something spectacular.
  • When JYD does something, most of the crowd will bark. Curiously everyone barks differently.
  • The halftime highlight show on the monitors showed a montage of the Knick bench. Baker appears two or three times early on, but none were from him actually playing in the game. Just like close-up head shots.
  • Trevor Ariza is fast.
  • Trevor Ariza fouls a lot.
  • When Kurt Thomas came in to replace Mike Sweetney in the fourth quarter, the crowd let up a big cheer. Now I definitely know I’m not the only that thinks he deserves more playing time.
  • Pau Gasol really didn’t like fouling out & took a little cajoling to get off the court.
  • Magazines commonly sold at Penn Station have a ratio of 7:1 of women to men on the cover. Of the women magazines 77% of them are showing off either their breasts/cleavage or have their back turned to show off their other main asset. Of the men on the covers, only 19% of the men magazine even have them showing as much as a bare shoulder.
  • 73% of inane stats come when you have to wait 15 minutes or more for a subway train, and have a pen & paper handy.