Some Plays Count: Knicks Defense, Good and Bad

Here are two video clips on the Knicks defense in their home opener. Both show the Knicks switching on every pick. The first one is of the technique working, as Miami struggles to find an open man. The other is two possessions showing different ways the Heat took advantage of this strategy.

[Note: There’s no audio on these clips for those at work. I’d like to say that’s by design, but as you can see I’m no Gian.]

Knicks 93 Heat 115

The Knicks lost the 2010 opener in Miami 93 to 115. New York tied the game at 46 on a Lee layup with 2:49 left in the 2nd quarter. But the game fell apart for them shortly after. Miami would score 10 consecutive points in the next 2:19 and then outscore the Knicks 34-15 in the third quarter.

Some notes on the game:

  • Jeffries took the opening tip, but that’s the closest he came to being a center. Immediately after the tip, and for most of the game, he defended the SF position.
  • Continuing from last year, the Knicks continued their strategy of switching on nearly every pick. There were a few communication issues in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, where Miami got players undefended in the paint.
  • One quirk Darko Milicic has is to tip defensive rebounds to his teammates, which might explain his low rebounding numbers. He took hook shots with both his left & right hand, sinking both. And his passing is certainly underrated (3 ast in 17 mins), especially in the half court set. He could have had at least 2 more assists, but Knick players were unable to convert close to the hoop.

    The defense looked good with him on the floor, and the Heat did their biggest damage (late 2nd, early 3rd) with him on the bench. He didn’t register a blocked shot, but a few times players were unable to get a shot off or make their shot in the paint due to his presence. Milicic hurt his knee in the second half, but did return to the bench.

  • The Knicks were ice cold from three point land in the first half. They hit only 4 of 19 (21%).
  • Wilson Chandler’s first three attempts were all of the 18-21 foot variety, he hit only one of them.
  • In his first NBA minute, Toney Douglas committed a foolish foul on Daequan Cook’s attempted three pointer, running into him after the shot.
  • Danilo Gallinari got hot in the second half, and finished with 7 three pointers on 13 attempts. Most of them were wide open, but he hit one at least 5 feet from behind the arc. However he didn’t do much else on offense, and only had a single shot from inside the arc. It was a drive off of a three point head fake, and was blocked by Joel Anthony.
  • David Lee started off the game well, with some baskets in the paint and he hit a jump shot. But he picked up 2 fouls early, and had to sit out most of the first half.
  • Al Harrington had a Crawford-esque line: 5-14, 0 reb, 0 ast, 2 to. At one point when the Heat were pulling away in the 3rd, his inbound pass got intercepted by Dwayne Wade for a spectacular layup.
  • Jared Jeffries had 2 points in 35 minutes. He helped in other areas, (5 reb, 4 ast, 2 blk, 1 stl), but he also had 3 turnovers. Two of them for inexplicably stepping out of bounds near the three point line.
  • 2010 Season Preview: Optimist vs Pessimist

    Optimist: Ready for another year of exciting basketball?

    Pessimist: Ready to get another beating this year?

    Optimist: What do you mean?

    Pessimist: Well every year you make these wild predictions about the Knicks, and every year I kick your butt in.

    Optimist: The last time we did this 2 years ago I predicted 43 wins, and the Knicks won 23, but that’s ancient history. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and feel confident about this year. Don’t you?

    Pessimist: Um, never.

    Optimist: Look at it from the bright side. Last year’s team won 32 games, and this team has a lot more going for it. The roster alone is deeper. Milicic, Hill, and Douglas are new additions, then add in a healthy Gallinari and a trimmed down Eddy Curry and you have to admit the team is a lot deeper, no?

    Pessimist: Darko Milicic? He’s 24 and has been on 4 different teams already. Can anyone tell me what Jordan Hill does well? From what I saw this summer, he’s a power forward that’s shies from contact and likes to shoot hooks & jumpers. Douglas is a combo guard that shot 28.8% eFG in the summer league (including an arctic 9.1% from downtown). Gallo already has back problems, and a “trimmed down” Eddy Curry? Isn’t that like a suped up Ford Tempo?

    Optimist: Easy there Pessy. Listen Darko will protect the paint. Hill will give some rebounding and outside shooting. Douglas can defend too and run the offense. Gallo is going to be the next Nowitzki. And Curry is going to score a ton in the paint. And anyway those 5 guys aren’t the core of the team, just some extra help. Lots of bench players in the league have faults.

    Pessimist: Faults? The Knicks’ bench is like San Andreas. Which reminds me I have update my earthquake insurance.

    Optimist: Earthquake insurance in New York City? With those kinds of prediction abilities, how do I lose to you every year? Anyway, the Knicks had lots of guys shuffling in & out last year. Crawford, Randolph, Collins, Roberson, Rose, Tim Thomas, and Jerome James, not to mention all the NBDL guys (Crawford, Sims, Nichols, Samb, and Sene). Certainly this year’s roster will be more stable.

    Pessimist: Perhaps. But who is to say that Donnie won’t pull the trigger to shed some more contracts. Curry and Jeffries will be gone if Walsh receives a half decent deal (at least you’d hope so). And the Knicks don’t have a draft pick to sweeten the pot, so they’ll have to throw someone in like Chandler, Gallo, or Hill.

    Optimist: Wait a second, you’re saying getting rid of Curry or Jeffries would be a bad thing? Let’s just see how things pan out before dumping on Walsh. Donnie has been pretty shrewd with deals so far.

    Pessimist: Like Balkman & Von Wafer?

    Optimist: No like getting rid of Randolph & Crawford. You have to admit he’s been good with regards to shedding contracts & having a long term plan.

    Pessimist: How about not getting the #5 pick for Jeffries & Chandler? And not sending Jeffries and Nate to Sacramento?

    Optimist: Those are just rumors. Nobody really believes those.

    Pessimist: *aheam*

    Optimist: OK almost nobody.

    Pessimist: I think the knock on Walsh is whether he’s a good evaluator of talent. Say what you will about Balkman, but there’s no doubt that Von Wafer could have helped this team last year. The Knicks were starving for a shooting guard last year, had Wafer on their summer league team, and the next thing you know Wafer was starting for the Rockets. This year the team still needs a shooting guard, they had Morris Almond on their summer league team, and … need I say more?

    Optimist: C’mon, you’re killing Walsh for Balkman, Wafer, and Almond? I’m not too concerned with the end of bench guys. D’Antoni isn’t likely to play them anyway.

    Pessimist: What about Jordan Hill? He didn’t look all that great in summer, and I don’t see him breaking the rotation this year.

    Optimist: That just shows how deep the team is. See you’re making my point for me. Anyway, Let’s move on to the offense. You have to admit that the Knicks will be better on offense this season. It’s the second year of D’Antoni’s offense so the players will be more acclimated to the system…

    Pessimist: … Got any proof that players do better in the same offense?

    Optimist: No, but it sounds right. Add in a full season from Gallinari. The guy hit 44% from three and 96% from the line. Give him more than 400 minutes and scoring will increase.

    Pessimist: That’s the teenager with the bad back, right?

    Optimist: Actually he’s 21 now.

    Pessimist: You know Crawford played almost the same amount of minutes last year as a Knick, and hit 46% of his threes? Anyone can put up eye-catching numbers in limited minutes.

    Optimist: He’s still young, and it’s realistic to think he’ll improve as he matures. The offense will improve this year?

    Pessimist: And the defense?

    Optimist: Darko Milicic, Jordan Hill, Toney Douglas are all defensive players …

    Pessimist: First off none of those players are likely to see a lot of minutes. Curry, if he ever gets in shape, could push Darko for time so the Knicks can showcase him. And both of them will keep Jordan Hill on the bench. Toney Douglas will likely see time, but not if he’s shooting 20%. You have to admit the defense will be just as bad as last year.

    Optimist: It won’t be worse and is likely to be better. Will you admit the offense will be better than last year?

    Pessimist: Of course not.

    Optimist: Time to put your money where your mouth is – how many wins are the Knicks getting in 2010?

    Pessimist: I’m skeptical of the improvements. Hill shot pretty bad in the summer, Douglas shot worse, and Milicic has shot pretty bad his whole career. Eddy Curry is a turnover machine who doesn’t rebound on the defensive end. There’s still no true shooting guard. Number 8 overall pick Jordan Hill can compete against Wilson Chandler to see who shoots less free throws. I’ll go with 32 wins again.

    Optimist: The team has definitely improved. They’ll top last year’s total and then some. The additions to the roster will help D’Antoni mix & match and won’t leave the team helpless when the inevitable injuries occur. Better seasons from Gallinari & Curry will only help the team. Continuity with the coaching staff is a plus as well. I’ll go with 38 wins.

    Pessimist: Next you’re going to tell me they’re going to make the playoffs.

    Optimist: 8th seed, which will be good enough to attract that kid from Ohio!

    The Knicks 2010 Over/Under

    This year I decided to have some fun and invite some NBA writers to participate in a little soothsaying. I proposed some possible scenarios via Over/Under and asked them to look into their crystal-ball and divine the outcome to these events. This year I got a good mix of people including: Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus, J.E. Skeets of Ball Don’t Lie, Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty, Howard Beck of the New York Times, Tommy Dee from the Knicks Blog, NBA analyst Gabe Farkas, in addition to some of KnickerBlogger’s own writing staff (Robert “The Animal” Silverman, Thomas B., Owen, Michael Zannettis, Kevin McElroy, Brian Cronin, and myself).

    The Youngsters

    Gallo 3 point shooting percentage: 40%
    My Pick: Under
    Gallinari shot 44% last year, but due to the limited number of minutes he played this could be a fluke. Most of our participants see him faring well from behind the arc this year.


    Jordan Hill minutes played: 1100.5
    My Pick: Under
    For Hill to go over, he would only need to average 13.5 minutes a game, which doesn’t seem like much. However the Knicks have a lot of depth on the front court, and Hill has looked unimpressive in the preseason. If he starts racking up DNPs, it’s not likely he’ll make this number. Only Pelton, Ziller, and Farkas see him getting this much playing time this year.


    Toney Douglas True Shooting Percentage: 50%
    My Pick: Under
    The league average for True Shooting Percentage is 54%, so this should be an easily attainable goal for most NBA players. Our panel was split, but leaned towards the under.


    Lottery Pick Centers

    Darko Milicic total points on the season: Eddy Curry total points on the season
    My Pick: Over
    Once these two were among the hottest prospects in the draft, now they’re barely able to find court time on a 30-something win team. Darko scores much less per minute, but I guess that’s the point.

    Darko and Curry. Two halves of a great center don’t make a whole.

    — Mike Zannettis


    UFOs (or I’ll Believe It When I See it)

    Jared Jeffries 3 pointers attempted per 36 minutes: 1.5
    My Pick: Over
    Another split decision by the group. I decided to go with 3 pointers attempted, because that’ll mean a fundamental shift in the way Jeffries plays on offense. And D’Antoni does allow players to shoot threes, even if they can’t hit them.

    I think Jared Jeffries will easily exceed 1.5 3 pointers attempted per 36 minutes–if he is healthy– in this offense. The better question is will he have more than 0.5 makes per 36 minutes. I don’t think he can do that without downloading a cheat code, and last I checked there is no slot for a Game Genie on JJ’s shooting hand.

    — Thomas B.


    (Smells Like) Team Spirit

    Number of Knicks traded during the 2010 season: 0.5
    My Pick: Under
    Kevin Pelton is the lone dissenter. I wonder who’ll be gone?


    Number of Wins From March 1 – April 14th: 9.5
    My Pick: Under
    The end of the schedule is just brutal.

    I ran the numbers on the Knicks’ last 24 games based on SCHOENE’s projections for them and their opponents, factoring in home-court advantage. The final estimate? 9.6 wins. Nice job on the over/under, then.

    –Kevin Pelton


    Defensive efficiency: 110.8
    My Pick: Under
    This is the team’s mark from last year, so the question is technically whether the Knicks defense will improve. Again Pelton is the only one to break from the pack.


    Playoff Spots Earned: 0.5
    My Pick: Under
    Only 5 of 13 picked New York to make the playoffs. The measure of a true optimist.

    Although watching [some of the] pre-season games is enough to make one fondly recall even the dark days of Bob Thornton, Jammin’ James Bailey, Ron Cavenall and Chris McNealy, I (gulp) think these ‘Bockers are going to surprise. I’ve got no stat-based or even vaguely logical reason to believe so other than the fact that the conventional wisdom seems to be that this year’s Knicks model is gonna stink real bad. Maybe it’s my nature as a contrarian, but to me, “Conventional Wisdom”‘s as much of an oxymoron as “Jumbo Shrimp” or “Military Intelligence”. I.e. since the ESPN gang/the beat writers are all in agreement, I’m going to go the other way.

    In short, playoffs or bust, baybee!

    — Robert Silverman


    The Free Agents

    Number of additional games Nate Robinson plays as a Knick in his career: 82.5
    My Pick: Over
    To go over, Nate would have to resign with the Knicks. The Magic 8-Ball says “Outlook not so good.”

    David Lee’s Annual Salary in 2011: $7.5M
    My Pick: Under
    Lots of people went over, but perhaps this is a trick question. He can still average nearly $10M with a 10% raise over 6 years starting at $7.5M. Of course not every contract increases that way, but it’s possible.

    Whether or not you agree with it, Lee is a HOT commodity.

    — Gabe Farkas