Cavs 93 Knicks 97

Again quick notes.

* I’d like to write a program so that when I hit a key combination (CTRL-ALT-F1, for example) it spits out the sentence: “I?ve said it before and I?ll say it again, the Knicks need to work on their last second plays.” This is the lineup Isiah had in for the final shot: Marbury, Jeffries, Rose, Frye, Curry. And Isiah subbed in Jeffries specifically for that play. Why put in a defensive specialist with a career PPG of 6.1 for the last play when you have the ball? In fact, why have two of them (Rose)? Again there seemed to be no play, just a “you guys improvise out there” talk from Isiah. Luckily Marbury hits the three pointer, and this is all just a cranky blogger nit picking. But this situation bites them on the ass so many times.

* On that last shot, Frye passed the ball with 4 seconds on the shot clock. You can’t really blame him, but he does do that a lot. Someone needs to teach him how to look at the shot clock every now and then.

* When Randolph Morris entered the game I had to explain to my wife the significance of this situation. Hopefully 5 years from now when she’s on Jeopardy and the final question is “who is the first player to score in March Madness and the NBA in the same month” she’ll know the answer.

* Taking my advice from yesterday, Isiah gave Jerome James some second half running. Thanks for reading Zeke, feel free to comment!

* Boy our guards are good at rebounding, or is it that the rest of the team doesn’t apply themselves? Marbury and Nate both outrebounded Curry, and if Collins didn’t play 10 less minutes, we’d be including him here as well.

* Oh and hey we won a game!

Orlando 94 New York 89

Quick notes:

* When Curry had that “and 1” with 2:00 left he actually got emotional and let you a loud yell. While I like seeing an emotion out of Curry that isn’t that sulking/whiney look when he doesn’t get a foul call or any penetrator makes him look bad (was that Dooling or Nelson that made a layup running into his chest?), I’m not too happy with the timing of it. At the time I looked at my roommate and said something to the effect of: “You know what I hate about these Knicks? Everytime they make a shot with under 2 minutes to go in a close game, they act like they just clinched the 7th game of the Finals. It’s way to early in the game to celebrate, and hell it’s way too early in the season to celebrate. Watch they’re going to lose it.”

* I like seeing Collins on the floor more and more these days. But he needs to work on his three point shot in the summer league.

* It was great seeing the one guard lineup. At one point Frye was the small forward. Another time the shooting guard was either Jeffries or Balkman. When Isiah puts these big lineups on the floor they just shut down the middle. I hate to pick on him again, but Eddy Curry is just an awful interior defender. The Knicks look so much better big, because it covers his defensive deficiencies.

And jump all over me for this one, but why doesn’t Jerome James get play in the second half of the game if he does well in the first? While he shot two awful 15 foot mallards yesterday, he played pretty well. James had 6 points in 6 minutes. Sure he gets stupid fouls, but he at least seems interested in the defensive end. If he’s worth 6 minutes in the first half, then why not give him another 6 in the second? I’m not saying prime minutes. But maybe mid-late 3rd for a Curry breather. And before you criticize me for that thought, then answer this question: Why does Malik Rose play only 4 minutes in the first half, then almost 11 in the last quarter? Here is how I envision Rose: comes into the game, pulls the chair out on defense, throws that lob pass for Curry, comes out of the game for good. He’s not a good rebounder (anyone else throw something at the tv, when he let that rebound go between him & Steph?), and I’ve said in the past what a bad low post shooter he is (28% of his close shots get blocked!). I know Frye is shaky in high pressure situations, but I’d rather see him out there to close the game than Rose.

* I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Knicks need to work on their last second plays. They were down by 3 with 20 seconds, and you have 2 options in that scenario. The first is to get a quick unguarded layup, then quickly foul. The second is to shoot a three. What do the Knicks do? Dribble the ball for half the shot clock looking for an opening, then have the layup blocked to clinch the loss. They looked like a playground team that had stepped on the court together for the first time.

NCAA Tournament Open Thread

My apologies for not getting an NCAA thread up earlier. Even though I have been mostly in and out of this weekend’s games I have seen any number of players that might look good in orange and blue. As the tournament draws to a close it leads to the inevitable questions about who will stay and who will declare. Oden and Durant are the most obvious. But consider players that might be mid-to-late lottery picks or lower based on workouts yet would add tremendous depth to this draft, like Joachim Noah and Al Horford at Florida, Brandon Wright and Tyler Hansborough at North Carolina, Nick Young at Southern Cal, Marcus Williams at Arizona, Chris Douglas-Roberts at Memphis, Julian Wright and Brandon Rush at Kansas, and even Darren Collison, UCLA’s pure point guard.

Thoughts?

Blazer/Knicks Pre-Game Whatever

Random Links:

http://msn.foxsports.com/fantasy/story/6594540 – Position battles: The book on the Knicks
http://www.postingandtoasting.com – An SB Nation blog for New York Knicks fans
http://blog.oregonlive.com/blazers/ – Blazers Blog

Team stats for Tonight’s game:

Team Four Factors
  PACE   OFFENSE   DEFENSE
TYPE
   
KNICKS
89.7   108.1

49.6

18.4

30.9 27.2   110.9

50.4

15.4 26.6 24.7
RANK
18.5   13 14 29 2 6   26 23 30 14.5

17

Team Four Factors
  PACE   OFFENSE   DEFENSE
TYPE
   
BLAZERS
87.3   106.1

48.4

17.2

29.2 23.5   111.0

50.6

15.6 26.5 26.1
RANK
29   21 22 20 7 20   27 25 29 13

23

My Offer For KG

Coming home from work yesterday, I thought I had my night planned. I had some painting I needed to do, which I would finish by 7:30. At that point I would kick back a few beers, order some dinner, and give my full attention to the Knicks-Mavericks game. Of course my best laid plans were thwarted by two foes. The first being my wife who had the “we need to get out of the house look on her face.” Her request was understandable. The weekend storm had brought a handful of weary traveling friends and family to our house. For a few days we were the keepers of an impromptu hostel.

The second interruption to my planned evening was an email from Henry Abbott. The email said that there was a group of bloggers representing their teams in a post-season online bid for Kevin Garnett. My job, should I accept it, was to come up with a deal that would get the Big Ticket in blue & orange. However the trade would be compared to the other offers by different bloggers, and the best one accepted. With an opportunity to play the Knicks GM, I felt as if I couldn’t refuse.

The first question I asked myself is would the Knicks want Garnett? On the negative side of the ledger, Garnett is going to be 31 by next year. Certainly his best years are behind him. Currently his PER is at 25.5, which is lower than last year’s PER. In fact should that number stay, it would be his fourth straight year in decline. Garnett has been in the league since he was 19, so his body has seen its fair share of wear and tear.

On the other hand Kevin Garnett is still a fantastic talent. He is a perennial All Star, earning a berth every possible year since he was 20 years old. Additionally Garnett has been named to 7 All NBA Teams, 7 All NBA Defense Teams, and won an MVP award in 2004. Even with his dwindling PER, Garnett is 6th overall in the league, still among the league’s best. And although he has played over 30,000 minutes Garnett should age well. He has been extremely durable, and hasn’t missed more than 6 games in any season. The 6’13” forward has another advantage: taller players age better than ones that are dependent on their speed & quickness.

It seems quite obvious that Garnett is the type of player that the Knicks could use at this stage. Since arriving in New York, Isiah has been looking for a star to mold this team around. Originally it was Stephon Marbury, and now it seems to be Eddy Curry. However neither player seems to be talented enough to be the core of a winning team. Currently the Knicks have a host of talented players, but lack the superstar that will take them to the next level. No Knick on the roster has a ceiling as high as Garnett’s over the next 2-3 years. New York seems to have made baby steps, but they’ve failed to show any major improvements over that span. While Thomas has escaped the guillotine this year, another 30-something win season won’t cut it next year. The pressure will be on to win in 2008.

So with my sights set on Garnett, I have to wonder how he would fit in on this team. His shooting touch doesn’t extend to the three point line, but he can score from inside or outside. But Garnett isn’t just a scorer, he is a consummate player that can rebound, handle the ball, and most importantly defend. None of the current trio of front court players (Curry, Frye, and Lee) are particularly good defenders. Garnett would mask Curry’s weaknesses on defense and under the glass, and the duo would create defensive nightmares for opponents. Meanwhile a Frye and Garnett duo would present the Knicks with a quick a versatile front court that can score from anywhere inside the arc. Both of these Knicks can play center, which would allow Garnett to stay at his preferred position at power forward.

Unfortunately for Knick fans, that means David Lee would be my odd man out. While Lee is the most productive Knick, he doesn’t mesh well with Garnett. Both are strong rebounders, so the team would see diminishing returns, much like adding Ben Wallace to an already strong defensive Bulls team. Additionally Lee’s ability makes him the most coveted Knick, which would increase the chances the Knicks would receive Garnett. While Lee has the most potential of any Knick, at this point it’s still just that. He’s a wonderful rebounder, finishes well around the hoop, and has a nack for passing. But he’s still a bit off from being an All Star caliber player, nevertheless a franchise player like Garnett.

If Minnesota were to trade their franchise player, it would mean that they have finally comitted to rebuilding. Looking at their salary cap situation, it seems that taking Marko Jaric off their hands would be most helpful. Jaric’s contract runs until 2011, and is 5th highest on the team. Unfortunately the Knicks won’t have any expiring contracts this summer, so they can’t offer any instant relief. Malik Rose is the closest the Knicks can offer in cap relief. His contract expires in 2009, a year before Blount, Hudson, James or Hassell. To make contracts match I would have to add either Steve Francis or Stephon Marbury. Considering that trading for Marbury would be a huge public relations hit in Minnesota, I chose Francis. And to sweeten the pot I’ve thrown in Nate Robinson.

So my offer would be Lee, Francis, Robinson, and Malik Rose to the Timberwolves for Garnett and Jaric.

When I first got Henry’s email, I did a little brainstorming and Brian Cronin wrote back “The SLIGHTEST chance the Knicks have would be a package of Frye, Balkman, Crawford, Richardson, Robinson and the next draft pick they are allowed to trade (maybe some second rounders, too). It works cap-wise, but would the Wolves even slightly consider it?” However this would leave the Knicks with a lineup of:

C: Curry/James
PF: Garnett/Lee/Rose
SF: Jeffries/Lee?
SG: Francis/Collins
PG: Marbury/Collins

This would give the Knicks a front court duo of Curry & Garnett, with the option of using Lee off the bench or at the 3. But we would have no depth at any of the other positions. An injury at any the guard or swingman spots would doom the team. And who knows if Francis’ “tendonitis” will flair up again, which would leave us without a shooting guard. By trading only Lee & Robinson the lineup is a more palatable:

C: Curry/Frye/James
PF: Garnett/Frye
SF: Richardson/Balkman/Jeffries
SG: Crawford/Richardson/Jaric
PG: Marbury/Collins/Jaric

In this version, the Knicks are solid at the center & both forward spots, with quality and depth at all spots. Both guard spots could use some more depth, but I left the Knicks with their first round pick and the MLE to get a pair of guards here. More importantly a Garnett led Knicks, with this supporting cast would be among the top teams in the weak East. For the first time in years, Knick fans would have their sights set a bit higher than jockeying for that last playoff spot and a first round kick in the ass.

I could live with this trade, but the question is would the Timberwolves accept? I’ve given Minnesota a bit of cap space (Rose), a possible future All Star (Lee) that the fans will love (much like they do here), a former All Star (Francis) and an exciting young player (Robinson). Check out TrueHoop (now at ESPN) to see.

Other team’s offers:
Lakers offer.
Celtics offer.
Bulls offer?
Warriors offer.

Knicks 92 Raptors 74

Here I was all ready to sit and scout the Knicks. I had a good time slot on my PVR (PC used as a TIVO) and set the game up to tape. I had a good idea of a study I wanted to do concerning Eddy Curry (which I’ll save for another day). And I actually had some free time, something that’s rarer than all of the above.

Unfortunately for me, Eddy Curry failed to co-operate with the deal. Easy Eddy decided to put in a half day’s work, which I can only assume he did in order to catch some March Madness on a hidden am radio under his chair. Curry played for only 16 minutes, and was a non-factor with 5 points and 1 rebound.

With all that could have gone wrong, I guess I couldn’t have asked for more in terms of the Knicks game. After suffering through another Knick let down Friday night (and I use the term suffering lightly since I was treated to a night at one of the Garden’s luxury suites), I was thrilled with the result of today’s game. Without their outstanding rebounder David Lee, their rejuvenated small forward Quentin Richardson, and their only guard that knows how to get the ball into the post Jamal Crawford, the Knicks blew out the Raptors 92-74.

Marbury and Frye led the Knicks in scoring with 21 and 20 points respectively, but it was the play of Renaldo Balkman that surged New York past their division rivals. Balkman stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 steals. He shot a perfect 7 of 7 and had a bevy of dunks, some in transistion and others off of missed shots. Not only is Renaldo pleasing to the statistical eye, but he is a firecracker on the court. On defense Balkman is a fine shot blocker. He had one block in the post and his other was behind the three point line. Balkman also seems to have a good eye for the ball, and isn’t afraid to dive after a fumble. Balkman excels in transition; he’s quick up the court, can handle the ball, and is especially strong in finishing around the hoop.

With the absence of Lee, it was thought that Frye would pick up some of the slack. While Channing has stepped into the starting lineup and had back to back 20 point games, he doesn’t bring Lee’s hyalophilia or energy. But these are Balkman’s strengths. So maybe Isiah would do well to get Balkman in the game more often in Lee’s stead. Although it’s unlikely that Balkman will play like this every night, he’s a low risk player. Renaldo isn’t likely to demand the ball or take a cluster of careless shots. And when Balkman is on, he can lead the Knicks to victory.