2010 Game Thread and Preview: Knicks at Wizards

The Wizards (20-35) host the Knicks (19-37) in my adopted home town of  Washington, DC.  Both the Wizards and the Knicks changed their rosters before the trade deadline.  Wizards sent Butler, Jamison, and Haywood out bringing back Josh Howard and some cap flexibility.  So far it has worked out better for the Wizards than our Knicks in that the Wizards won a game since the trade deadline while the Knicks are still searching for a victory. This 8 game losing streak has been pretty sad.

Knicks Offense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 106.1 50.4 15 23.4 19.1
Rank 17 10 10 27 29
Knicks Defense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 109.5 51.5 15.7 27.6 21.2
Rank 23.5 26 13 27 9
Wizard Offense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 105.5 48.1 15.4 27.5 22.3
Rank 22 24 14.5 8 16
Wizards Defense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 109.4 50.2 14.5 27.1 24
Rank 22 19 24 22 19

What to watch for: Rebounding.  The Knicks have not done well on the boards of late.  The total rebounding is down compared to a month ago.  Washington lost their best rebounders in the Haywood and Jamison trades.  They waived Ilguaskas, leaving the team without a play that pulls down more than 7 boards per 36 minutes.  The Knicks really need to work on securing defensive boards to limit second chances.  The Wizards don’t shoot the ball well (24th in eFG%), so limiting the second chances is very important.

What to watch for 2: Wizards’ defense.  The Wizards defend about as bad as the Knicks’.  With their best post defender–Haywood–traded, the Wizards are without a defensive presence in the post.  Al Thornton can block a few shots as a help defender but he isnt exactly Haywood.  I know I’ve been screaming it all season, but the Knicks have to try to get inside.

What to watch for 3: Open casting call.  Struggle or not, we need to see if we have anything in the young players we brought in.  Maybe Bill Walker can show us something that makes Nate’s departure a bit easier to take.  Hope to see he and Rodriguez continue to get playing time.

The Darkhorse MVP Candidate

With less than a 1/3 of the season left, it’s time to start thinking about who might end up with the MVP award. I think I’ve discovered a darkhorse candidate that might walk away with the award. He’s been toiling in obscurity in the mid-west, and many of you may not have even heard of him. His name is LeBron James.

Unlike the front runner for the award, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James doesn’t have that last second killer instinct, which is likely to cost him a few votes. This non-coastal newcomer has a different strategy that seems to be ruffling the feathers of the NBA establishment. Kobe has been following the tradition of allowing the opponent to stay close in games, only to make a shot in the final seconds to secure the victory. Instead James is attempting to win by scoring in the first 47.5 minutes of the game. The difference can be viewed by using the advanced stat called “points per game”. LeBron James leads the league with 29.8, while Kobe is a comfortable 4th with 27.9. James’ early game strategy shows up in even more obscure stats like rebounds per game (7.1 to 5.4), assist per game (8.5 to 4.6), blocked shots (1.0 to 0.3), and FG% (50.2 to 46.3).

I’m sure the mainstream media is barely aware of these new fangled stats (since they tend to vote solely by watching ESPN highlights), and James’ lack of dramatic shots will certainly hurt him in the polls. Another strike against him is his lack of having a superior surrounding cast. Bryant’s ability to whine about his teammates, threaten to leave to a rival team, ask for a trade, and force the team to break-up its dynasty has made the franchise build a team around him with the best talent available.

The best LeBron James can muster is to wear a Yankee hat. No wonder Kobe has an All Star center in Pau Gasol, former DPOY Ron Artest, and the most winningest coach of our generation Phil Jackson. Meanwhile James has a 37 year old Shaquille O’Neal and that guy on the Simpsons who is always trying to kill Bart. The Cavs would be a middling .500 team with Kobe in lieu of LeBron, a clear sign of James’ lack of team building skills.

I might be wide-eyed thinking the media might actually vote for the statistically superior player, but despite all the other evidence the numbers are clear on this one. It might be unpopular to say, but LeBron James should win the MVP award this year.

2010 Game Preview and Thread: Knicks at Celtics

The new look Knicks (7-17 road) head to Boston (15-9 home) still looking for their first win following several trades that reshaped the team.  So far the Knicks are 0-2 with McGrady in the starting lineup.  But the Knicks should not have to worry about going 0-3 with McGrady against the Celtics because it does not look like McGrady will play tonight.  McGrady, who looked great to start in his first game, was noticeably slower and limping in his second game.  I haven’t found any official word, but I doubt he is ready for back-to-back games just yet.

Knicks Offense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 106 50.2 14.9 23.4 19.2
Rank 19 11 10 27 29
Knicks Defense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 109.4 51.4 15.7 27.8 21.2
Rank 23 26 13 27 9
Celtics Offense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 106.8 52.4 16.9 22.8 24.6
Rank 13 3 28 28 9
Celtics Defense Eff eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
Stat 101.5 47.7 17.1 26.1 24.4
Rank 1 5 2 14 21

A the second game of a back to back is on the road against the top defensive team in the NBA.  This does not bode well.  After a season low of 67 points last night, the last thing this team needs is to face is a great defense.  But hey, maybe they will rise to the occasion.

What to watch for:  Sergio Rodriguez.  So he hasn’t quite found his stroke yet (4-16 as a Knick–48.3 eFG%, 51.9 TS%), but I’m still excited to have him in place of Duhon.  One thing I like about Rodriguez is his willingness to push the ball. It’d be nice if Chandler and Gallinari got out on the break with him.   A few easy bucket in transition would help a bunch. I’d like to see him use his speed to draw a few fouls too.  He has made 1 ft (1-2) in 55 minutes.  That is not going to help the Knicks poor FT/FG ratio (29th).

What to watch for 2: Al Harrington.  I’m starting to wonder if there is an evil spirit in MSG that makes sure at least two Knicks starters can’t shoot well.  It used to be Duhon and Jeffries, now it looks like Harrington and Chandler.  Harrington is 5-19 in the last two games (2-9 3pta).  The team’s touches king (24.8 USG-r) needs to start producing.

What to watch for 3: Nate Robinson.  If he is healthy, I am very sure he is going to try to put on a show.  I’m curious as to whether a strong willed leader like Garnett can tone Nate down.

Seven losses in a row guys.  Let’s turn this thing around.

Milwaukee 83 – New York 67, The Good And The Bad

You didn’t have to look too deep last night to see examples of the opposing extremes. In a night where the franchise honored the 1970 championship team, their modern day heirs put up a 67 point stinker. Another polar event was the benching of Chris Duhon, who despite being third on the team in minutes played racked up a DNP in favor of newcomer Sergio Rodriguez. The Knicks scored 118 (albeit in overtime) against the #3 defense just two nights prior, but struggled to put up half that against the Bucks. Newly anointed savior Tracy McGrady followed up a 26 pts on 17 shots masterpiece with a 15 pts on 14 shots clunker.

But it wasn’t limited to T-Mac, as the entire team looked bad shooting. Chandler and Gallo, two youngsters who were supposed to thrive with the addition of talented passers, were a combined 4-14. Eddie House put up a Crawford-esque 4-16, Al Harrington was a meager 3-9, and Sergio Rodriguez made his predecessor look like a viable option with his 2-8 night.

The 1970 Knicks were known for their teamwork and fundamentals, as many of the telecast’s guests pointed out, and last night’s team failed to play as a unit. Rodriguez had lots of energy, but nearly too much for his teammates. He racked up 8 steals, and often pushed the ball up the floor. The problem was he was met by superior opposing numbers as the rest of New York jogged their way up the floor.

Other than cohesiveness, the Knicks lacked one other crucial aspect. With Lee bringing his game out to 15 feet and adding a long range bomber in Eddie House, the Knicks lack scoring in the paint to open the exterior. One play that stuck out in my mind was when Tony Douglas received the ball right under the hoop, but was unable to even get a shot off. Al Harrington can drive to the hoop, but he rarely passes the ball in that scenario. We’ve seen Tracy McGrady get the ball in a mid-post iso, but I’m not sure if he has that first step to get past his defender. The team is lacking someone that can really slash to the hoop. Perhaps they’ll get a view of one tonight as they face Nate Robinson and the Celtics.

2010 Game Thread Knicks v. Bucks

After a tough loss to one of the better young teams in the Western Conference, the new look Knicks take on the Bucks at MSG.  Of interest is how McGrady’s knee is holding up.  He looked pretty winded at the end of the last game and had his knee iced before the game was over.  I hope he isnt pushing too hard.

The Knicks can win this game with a better rebounding and defensive performance.  Hopefully Chandler and Harrington can shake off the doldrums.  Hopefully, Mcgrady wont push Gallinari further into the offfensive background.  The team really needs to start setting plays for him.

Your in game thoughts here.

Can We Do Two? (Or, “Where’s My Cap At?”)

Drumroll please…

This is what the Knicks cap situation looks like for the long-awaited “Summer of LeBron,” going into the 2010-2011 season. Only four players are under contract.

Player 2010-2011
Curry 11,276,863
Gallinari 3,304,560
Chandler 2,130,481
Douglas 1,071,000
roster charge* 2,841,624

Committed salary: $20.62 million.

If the Knicks want truly max cap space, they could let every other player – from Bill Walker on up to David Lee – walk away for nothing. However, until those players are “renounced,” they continue to take up cap space. For most veterans, the “cap hold” is 150% of their most recent salary. For “non-Bird” free agents, i.e. those who just got traded, like Eddie House, it’s 120%.

McGrady 34,859,342
Harrington 15,040,313
Lee 10,500,000
Duhon 9,047,700
House 3,434,400
Bender 895,907

The Knicks also have two players with team options, JR Giddens and Bill Walker. Their contracts include a set price for picking up the option.

Giddens 1,100,640
Walker 854,389

Finally, Sergio Rodriguez is a restricted free agent.

Rodriguez 2,805,888

Like Nate Robinson and David Lee last summer, the Knicks can keep Rodriguez by making a qualifying offer — in Rodriguez’ case, $2.8 million. Or, as they did with Lee and Robinson, they could cut a deal for more. Ted Nelson suggests that Rodriguez has more bargaining power than most restricted free agents, since he could probably play in Spain, tax-free, for $5 million or more.  Of course, he may want to stay on the New York stage, even if it means accepting less money.

Where will the cap fall? It depends on who you ask, but bet on a number between $51 million and $56 million. A maximum starting salary is 30% of the cap, or in the $15-17 million range. In other words, the Knicks COULD probably sign two max free agents – if they’re willing to renounce David Lee, and fill out the roster with minimum salary guys. Or, they could sign LeBron James, give $9 million to Lee and have $6-8 million left for additional free agents, or to absorb salary in trades.

Another number to keep in mind: players are allowed annual raises of 10.5%.  The Knicks could start Lee at $8 million, and by including maximum raises, make it a 6-year deal for a total of $60.6 million.  Teams signing other teams’ free agents are only allowed to make a 5-year offer.

Let the arguments begin!

*For the roster charge, I used (6 x the rookie minimum of $473,604). By league rules, the Knicks must carry at least 12 players on the roster, so technically, with only 4 under contract, the roster charge going into the offseason is 8 x $473,604  (or $3.8 million).  However, for every free agent we sign, the roster charge goes down by one player. What we’re really trying to figure out is: can the Knicks sign LeBron James and Dwyane Wade? To do that math, we only need figure on 6 remaining roster slots.

— additional design and inspiration by Thomas B.

2010 Game Thread: OKC vs. NYK

The new look Knicks take the court tonight to face the Oklahoma City Thunder with a brand-new starting lineup!

Tracy McGrady will start at shooting guard, with Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari each moving up one spot (from guard to small forward for Chandler and from small forward to power forward for Gallo). Duhon will never not start for point guard for the Knicks.

Should be interesting!

Put your in-game comments here!