Knicks 125 Nuggets 128

From my perspective I don’t expect for there to be a lot of change in the end of games until the lineup changes. Again Chris Duhon, Hughes, and Harrington were among the top minute getters (along with Chandler). Again Harrington had a lot of points, but failed to get his teammates involved. Again Robinson played well without getting many minutes (36 minutes total). Toney Douglas spent the whole game on the bench, while Jared Jeffries saw 21 minutes of court time.

After tonight’s game, my wife asked “the Knicks seem to be losing a lot of close games, isn’t that a good sign?” I replied “good teams win a lot of blowouts, bad teams lose a lot of close games.” Perhaps this is just an extension of the “Guts and Stomps” theory, but I think it applies to tonight’s game. The Knicks had a last second opportunity to tie the game, but the refs didn’t call a foul on a Larry Hughes three point attempt. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if it was the right call, because there would have been a lot of “ifs” for the Knicks to actually win this game. If the refs make the call, if Hughes hits all three free throws, and if the Knicks win in overtime. In other words, it’s more likely that the Knicks lose than win.

What I’m Thankful For in Knickland

The world’s great religions teach us that gratitude is an important spiritual discipline. Feeling thankful, and furthermore acknowledging thanks, makes us better people. Much like exercise, gratitude probably does the most for us when we work hard at it and do it consistently. My wife has been posting one thing she’s grateful for everyday on Facebook during the Thanksgiving season. Although I’m not that disciplined, I’m trying to be better.

I wonder if I can list five things to be grateful for about these Knicks? Mind you, I started typing this without really having thought of them yet. I want to avoid a laundry list (I’m thankful for Toney Douglas, and Gallo, and Lee, and Nate…). I also want to avoid being Pollyanna about this God awful, frustrating team. So, without further procrastination, here we go. Here’s what I’m thankful for about the 2009-2010 Knicks.

1. The Journey — At my most optimistic I think of the current Knicks as the 2nd act of a three act drama. We are hopefully nearing the end of Act II, with Act III scheduled to start this summer. What we don’t know yet is whether the third act will turn out to be an American action flick, where the hero finally slays the monster, or a European drama where everyone just suffers until they run out of film. Although I don’t know how this is going to turn out, it’s going to be interesting to see what the summer brings–and that’s worthy of some gratitude. But being grateful for the journey is hard. I have to work at this when I see Wilson Chandler taking jumper after jumper, when I think about having no first round pick, and when I see Chris Duhon seemingly unable to play his way off the floor.

2. Passing — The Knicks have stretches where they really move themselves and move the ball very well. During those all-too-brief moments they can be a real joy to watch.

3. Mike D’Antoni — I have never been the biggest D’Antoni fan. I felt like he cried the “they don’t love me blues” a bit too hard on his way out of Phoenix. He’s also done some things so far this season that have left me scratching my head; for starters an almost slavish devotion the Chris friggin’ Duhon. But, I’m being grateful here so let me change my tone. Even D’Antoni’s worst detractors would acknowledge that the guy wins with decent talent, and he isn’t afraid to be unorthodox. If Walsh puts some players on this team next season D’Antoni will get 50+ wins out of them, almost guaranteed. (I still wish he’d hire a “defensive coordinator” though.)

4. Fiscal Responsibility — Ditto Donnie Walsh. I’ve never been the biggest fan. I’m not completely sold on his eye for young talent, and long-term that’s what keeps you from tanking. Nevertheless, Walsh was hired to cut up the credit cards and lock up the checkbook in order to give the franchise a shot to change its fate this summer. Well, that’s what he’s done. LeBron may or may not be on his way to make it all better, but either way the Knicks are almost out of salary cap hell. And that has taken some discipline that we haven’t seen from the front office for a long, long time.

5. Likability — These Knicks are fairly easy to cheer for even though they’re not very talented. If you have the misfortune of loving a team that isn’t very talented you at least want likable players. When Nate Robinson, who is just childish but hardly a bad guy, is the team’s biggest “character” problem things could be a whole lot worse.

Some Thoughts, Good and Bad

The Good:

The Knicks almost beat the Celtics, and for the most of the game they were competetive with one of the best teams in the NBA. In fact New York had a 5 point lead to start the 4th quarter, but couldn’t extend it past 6 points.

Nate Robinson had his best game of the year, and first good game in nearly a month. Last year Robinson averaged 29.9 minutes a game and was a pivotal piece of the Knicks season. He gives New York scoring and rebounding at the guard spot off the bench. Sure Nate is still struggling with maturity issues and clearly gets under D’Antoni’s skin, but without a doubt New York needs him playing well for a successful 2010.

Wilson Chandler showed some signs of improvement. His stat line was still poor, but he played tough defense on Garnett and showed some smart play. A few times Chandler took the action to the bucket, and late in the 4th quarter smartly avoided committing an offensive foul by dishing off to Lee for an easy score. I’ve said on more than one occassion that Chandler needs to shoot better or drive to the hoop more often, and he seemed to do the latter frequently against Boston. Hopefully he can keep it up.

The Bad:

You’ve probably already heard about Eddy Curry’s mindless technical foul. What has also bothered is how he’s played since his first game. During his tenure here, it always seemed that the New York guards had trouble getting him the ball in the post. But what I’m finding is that Curry is lackadaisical when it comes to catching passes. This year a lot of entry passes are getting bobbled or plain ending up in the other team’s hands. Granted he’s got a lot of rust to shake off, but Curry has to do a better job catching the ball, even if the pass isn’t thrown perfectly.

I’d also like to see him do more than just plant himself on the blocks. The team should use on the high screen or off the ball as well. When Curry’s on the floor, the team should have guys drive to the hoop more (namely Douglas, Nate, Chandler) and let Eddy pick up some easy buckets from double teams or offensive rebounds. Additionally Curry (and Lee) should be allowed to be aggressive on the offensive boards, instead of worrying about transition defense.

In order of minutes received, Sunday’s top minute getters were: Duhon, Harrington, and Hughes. Meanwhile Nate Robinson had a sizzling 19 points on 11 shots in 26 minutes (and blocked 2 shots). Gallo shot well and had a few strong rebounds, and only managed 24 minutes. Toney Douglas was on the court for only 6 minutes.

This is a disturbing trend because the Knicks should be playing their youngsters more. I understand the need for winning games, but if Nate, Gallo, and Douglas aren’t getting action when they’re playing well (or in Douglas’ case his replacement was playing awful), when are they going to see playing time? Al Harrington isn’t going to score 30 points on 21 shots every night, while Duhon and Hughes combined for 7 points on 17 shots (3-17). D’Antoni is generally good at finding playing time for the kids, but I hope that philosophy doesn’t get lost when it comes to crunch time.