2010 Game Preview and Thread: Knicks @ Nets

New Jersey (2-29) hosts New York (12-19).  New York won the last two meetings 98-91 (road) and 106-97 (home).  New York is coming off a good road win against the Pistons–who just cannot find a way to score.  In the last meeting, New York had to rally from 13 down before pulling away.  Hopefully the boys in blue won’t dig themselves such a hole this time.

Knicks Offense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 105.6 50.2 15.2 23 20
Rank 20 11 9 29 27
Knicks Defense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 107.8 51.2 16.7 26.4 23.6
Rank 19 24 7 13 18
Nets Offense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 96.8 44.1 16.7 24.9 23.3
Rank 30 30 26 24 15
Nets Defense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 109.1 51.6 16.5 29.2 24.1
Rank 23 26 8.5 26 20

What to watch for: 

Nets Backcourt.

The neophyte Chris Douglas-Roberts averages 25 points (Efg% 63.1) against the Knicks this season.  Devin Harris put in 19 on 7-16 shooting in the last meeting.  The success of the Net back court against the Knicks says a lot about the Knick defensive effort.  Sure, the Knick offense has improved greatly in the last month and a half–efficiency up 5 points and EFG% up 3 points from since Nov 9–but to stay in games the defense has to improve.

Brook Lopez

Lopez is a fairly skilled second year big man with a few moves around the basket and a solid defensive game.  So naturally he averages 18 points per against the Knicks.  Lopez really is too big for anyone on the Knicks’ front line to shut him down.  The best thing the Knicks can do is to attack him and hope he picks up fouls (3.3 per/36).

And now a word from Carnac the Magnificent.

Carnac: The envelope please.  (holds to head) Vitamin D, Potassium, and Larry Hughes’ offense. (opens envelope and reads) Name three things you’ll see on a milk carton.

Seriously, how long has it been since Hughes had a solid offensive performance?  I know he had the groin pull and perhaps that is still a hinderance, but with D’Antoni playing such a short rotation we really need Hughes playing well.  Hopefully he can repeat his performance in the come from behind win against the Nets at MSG, in which he hit 14-17 from the line.  With the Nets’ foul prone players, it would be nice to see the Knicks trying to pick up a few fouls.

Of Note:

  • Knicks are 2-5 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.  Will D’Antoni’s short rotation, combined with the travel result in the Knicks getting out to a slow start or a weak finish?

Knick Fans Should Be Thankful This Christmas

Hey Knick fans, what’s there to be unhappy about? (And for those needing a little extra Christmas cheer, I highly recommend Twas The Night Before Knicksmas.) Wait before you answer this question, I want to put things into perspective.

First, the Knicks will have cap space this offseason. And not just a few million through the mid level exception to grab a Jerome James or Jared Jeffries. But rather enough room to get the best player in the NBA. And perhaps with a little luck there will be space for a second star as well. Considering the overspending of the last decade, this alone should have New Yorkers dancing in the aisles.

Second, the roster has some good young talent. David Lee has blossomed from a late round pick to become one of the better power forwards in the league. Maybe he’s not an All Star talent, but he’s in the discussion. It’s easy to imagine Lee on a championship team as a key element. Additionally New York has Danilo Gallinari, an intriguing 21 year old. Gallo showed he’s deadly from three his first year, and in his second he is wowing fans with multidimensional play. Personally if I’m the Knicks GM, he might be my only untouchable player on the roster.

Rookies Toney Douglas and Jordan Hill are both still raw. From the minutes I’ve seen of Douglas, the guy can defend. He’s lightning quick on the defensive side of the ball, and if he can put together his game on the offensive side, he’ll be a solid pro. Jordan Hill is a #8 pick that has been buried on the bench, but his potential is unknown. Certainly there’s a GM out there that fansied him last summer and would be willing to part with something of value for his services. Finally, of course there is Nate Robinson, who is talented and may find himself out of D’Antoni’s doghouse yet. And if he doesn’t then he might fetch the Knicks another young player, a draft pick, or some cap space.

As for D’Antoni, he’s the best coach the Knicks have had in about a decade. Complain all you want about his short rotation, favoritism, or system, but isn’t that par for the course of a good coach? Think of the last 2 good Knick coaches. Jeff Van Gundy treated Marcus Camby like a red-headed step child for a year. It took Ewing’s injury and subsequently Camby leading the team to the Finals for Van Gundy to realize the talent he had. And Pat Riley forgot he had Rolando Blackman in the playoffs and instead played Greg Anthony (with a TS% of .487 that year) 17 minutes per game. Blackman had almost as many playoff minutes (34) as Corey Gaines (28) that year.

No matter what you think about D’Antoni, it’s clear that he’s a step up from Don Chaney, Herb Williams, Isiah Thomas or Lenny Wilkens. (I won’t even mention that other guy, considering the joyous season we’re in). D’Antoni turned Phoenix into one of the best teams in the league, and was one bloody nose (and a few suspensions) away from a title. There’s no chance any of those other guys would have been able to accomplish with the Suns. And if you think that D’Antoni gets too much credit for Phoenix’s success, think about Phil Jackson for a second. How many championships did Jackson win in the 2 years Jordan fielded fly balls? Even having Kobe and Gasol and Odom wasn’t enough talent 2 years ago. Given the players, Jackson is the type of coach that’s good enough to win a title. And the same is true of D’Antoni.

Finally Knick fans should thankful of the front office. Oh sure we can argue about every little move, and debate lots of the small stuff. But to put things in perspective, we owe a draft pick because of what Isiah Thomas did in 2004. In the preceding years, Knick fans would be cowering in fear of a news announcement involving their team because it likely meant that they traded away a draft pick or gave another team the cap space to sign the player of their dreams. Those days are gone. In fact if the team announced a trade, I think most fans would imagine it would involve acquiring a draft pick (like when we got Toney Dougals) or freeing up some extra cap space (like when we sent Jamal Crawford or Zach Randolph packing).

When I think about my childhood, opening Christmas presents wasn’t about what I didn’t get. I rarely got the exact toy I wanted, and some Christmases were leaner than others, but more often than not I got lots of good things that I enjoyed. And the same should be true of Knick fans. In the spirit of Christmas, for one day we should be thankful for the things we have and not fret the things we don’t. That, and let’s beat the tar out of the Miami Heat!


Twas the Night Before Knicksmas

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The minutes are force-fed by D’Antoni with care
Just praying Chris Duhon won’t collapse from wear and tear.

The kiddies were nestled in at the end of the bench
With visions of playing, even hitting shots in a pinch.
Daddy Walsh in his kerchief, Mamma D’Antoni in her cap
Had just settled down for an early season nap.

When out of the the Garden there arose such a clatter
Walsh sprung from his nap to see what was the matter.
He got up and ran to turn on his big screen TV.
The channel was already set to get MSG.

Clyde wondered aloud who might start to percolate.
Breen was, as usual, just hating on Nate.
Jared Flippin’ Jeffries had just hit a three.
To push the Knicks forward. To thwart a big rally.

Suddenly a rooster, all of six foot and ten
Began pulling down boards and going to the tin.
Lee stuffed the stat sheet till we’d all had our fill.
Then we hit ’em again with a dose of Ill Will.

Without a single word Walsh went straight to his cell
To see if anyone had a cap friendly player to sell.
It ain’t even New Years, better sell while they’re hot.
Jeffries may just keep ballin’ but most likely he will not.

Gotta watch my pennies. Gotta watch my pounds.
Gotta focus on this summer, when free agents abound.
The Chosen One will come to save us from this mess*.
Until then, Merry Knicksmas to all–in seven Seconds or Less!

* yeah, right.

Amid Noise, A Rooster Crows

There’s a lot to talk about with the Knicks these days. The Nate Robinson saga is in full swing, with the latest volley being the diminutive guard having his agent lobby for a trade. Of course this goes hand in hand with the Knicks current win streak, as lots of people will point out the team has gone 6-3 since D’Antoni exiled Nate to the canine abode. And if Nate is asking for a trade that means the number of rumors involving Tracy McGrady, Tyrus Thomas, and Anthony Randolph will also increase. You could add into this drama Eddy Curry’s status, as the former franchise savior sits behind Darko Milicic in terms of minutes played on the season (Curry 62, Darko 71). There are grumblings that Curry is unhappy with his lack of court time as well. Finally is the newly acquired Jonathan Bender, who is having a Rip Van Winkle style awakening.

But perhaps lost in all this is the improved play of Danilo Gallinari. The team grabbed Gallo with the 6th pick last year, and a back injury derailed his initial campaign. The Rooster was a one trick pony, hitting threes at an unbelievable rate. This season, Gallo seems to be taking the critical next step forward in his development.

2009 28 412 10.9 .448 6.3 .444 2.4 .963 1.1 3.7 4.8
2010 26 771 13.0 .432 8.2 .423 3.0 .785 0.9 4.8 5.7

2009 1.3 1.2 0.3 1.3 4.2 14.9 .621 13.4
2010 1.7 1.2 1.0 1.6 2.5 17.0 .595 16.5

Although his primary asset is still the long ball (61% of all his points come from behind the arc), Gallo is showing a more well rounded game. He has improved his passing, scoring volume, free throw attempts, rebounding, fouls, and blocked shots. The latter stats are vital to Danilo’s growth. There was never any doubt that Gallinari could shot, but rather it was his athleticism that was under question. So to see Gallo contribute in these areas is a good sign. Some stats are more linked to physical ability, and it’s good to compare Gallinari’s to another young Knick known for his “explosiveness”.

   Player Year Age  G FTA ORB DRB TRB STL BLK  PF
 Chandler 2010  22 27 2.2 1.8 3.7 5.6 0.5 0.9 3.8
Gallinari 2010  21 26 3.0 0.9 4.8 5.7 1.2 1.0 2.5

Gallo has clear advantages in free throws attempted, steals, and fouls per minute. The first is a bit surprising considering how often Gallinari is camped behind the three point line. However he has shown the ability to get inside and either finish or draw contact. Gallo’s success could be the result of having a few different moves, as witnessed by his pump & scoop shot against the Bobcats on Sunday. The steals seem to be more the result of quick hands than playing the passing lanes. And Gallo’s height advantage allows him to commit less fouls. The interesting aspect of comparing Gallinari to Wilson Chandler is that the latter is thought of being a player that relies on his physical ability. But it’s clear that Gallo is more athletic than previously thought and/or Chandler isn’t producing has you’d expect from someone with his physique.

Looking back at the Knicks recent win streak, there’s been a lot of conjecture on if this was the result of Robinson’s banishment or Jeffries role as a defensive force. But perhaps it’s Gallinari’s emergence that has helped to put New York over the top. In the Knicks last 9 games, the Rooster has give New York 13 blocks and 13 steals, in addition to 2 double digit rebound games and 8 double digit scoring outputs. There’s an old basketball axiom that says your shot may not be there some games, but you can bring intensity on the defensive end every night. Perhaps a microcosm of Gallinari’s game could be seen in the final moments of the Bobcats game. Gallo was unable to hit free throws to ice the game, but he blocked a shot in the final second to preserve the victory.