It only took 3 games, but New York has a losing record again. The Knicks dropped their home opener to Portland, 100 to 95, leaving their record at 1-2 on the season. To say it was a winnable game for New York is an understatement, as the Knicks were up 92-83 with 5:32 left to go. I don’t want to go too much into the details on this one, but I do have a question to ask. Wasn’t replacing David Lee with a scoring superstar supposed to prevent these fourth quarter meltdowns? Not that I’m blaming Amar’e on this one, but if he pulled it out in the final minutes the story would have been how his creative scoring led the team to victory. If people are supposed to use cliches when they naturally occur, then it only makes sense to point out the times when the converse narrative occurs.
Tonight New York went into Boston hoping to keep their 2011 season on an upbeat. Unfortunately they came up short against the Celtics, losing 105-101. Although Boston held the lead for most of the game, New York kept it close and occasionally took a lead here & there. In fact New York missed a great opportunity with 31 seconds left in the game. Toney Douglas stole the ball from Ray Allen, but Wilson Chandler missed a three pointer to bring New York within 1 point. After a pair of Paul Pierce free throws, Stoudemire made a three pointer (his second of the game) to slim the lead to 103-101. But another pair of Pierce free throws and a final attempt by Amar’e was blocked, giving Boston the victory.
Amar’e Stoudemire provided efficient scoring with 27 points on 17 shots. He had a pair of blocked shots, but one of his defensive lapses hurt the team. It was on a switch, and I’m not exactly sure what happened there, but he seemed upset that Toney Douglas went over a pick. Amar’e was clapping his hands, and left his man open for an easy basket. Otherwise I thought he played well enough defensively.
Toney Douglas chipped in with 12 points on 8 shots, but he had a head scratching moment near the end of the first half. Douglas forced an ill advised shot on a broken play, even though there were 11 seconds left on the shot clock. On the next possession he threw a cross court pass out of bounds. I’m not Paul Ekman, but D’Antoni’s facial expression wasn’t “happy” at those plays.
Danilo Gallinari continued his regressive play. He was 0-6, including 0-3 from behind the arc, and ended with 2 points in 11 minutes. He hasn’t looked good since last year. This is very concerning considering this is the year he’s supposed to make forward strides. I’d like to hear a reason why he isn’t playing well, that doesn’t include the phrase “sophomore slump.” (Yes I know technically it’s his third season…)
Wilson Chandler contributed 19 points on 20 shots, but more importantly played 33 minutes, much of it at SF instead of Gallo. Chandler was active defensively, and led the team with 4 blocked shots. Unfortunately his three point shooting, especially that attempt in the last minute, hurt the team tonight. He was 1-7 from downtown, which has me wondering if he’ll ever improve in this area. (Yeah I know it’s only game 2, but don’t forget his history.)
Roger Mason took one shot, and it was an awfully forced attempt in a fast break, which he missed. I want this guy to light it up from three, because well that’s his strength. I don’t see him getting minutes once Azubuike returns, unless he goes NBA Jam from three.
Finally Landry Fields is such a joy to watch. He’s active at all times. You’ll see him cutting to the hoop without the ball, being active on the boards, helping out on defense – everything that would take a superior athlete and make him a next level player. Fields led the team with 10 boards, and only had 11 points on 10 shots. But he didn’t have a single turnover, and dished out 4 assists. He’s a keeper.
Thought I’d start this early, considering the news about Delonte West.
During a three-on-three game with Avery Bradley(notes), Luke Harangody(notes), Semih Erden(notes) and assistant coach Tyronn Lue(notes), West began fouling [Von] Wafer each time the reserve guard touched the ball. West was increasingly physical to the point that Wafer exited to the locker room midway through the game. As he walked away, West barked obscenities and taunted Wafer.
After Wafer had showered and sat down at his locker, West approached from behind and threw a punch. Wafer didn’t see the punch coming but quickly got off of the ground and connected on two punches of his own. He then wrestled West to the ground before being separated by the team’s veterans.
Totally uncalled for, but yet still laugh out loud funny, joke about it from Twitter:
GaryJBusey (Not Gary Busey)
“So Delonte West hit something besides LeBron James’ mom?”
At the first ever KnickerBlogger Meet-Up, I had some posters to give away. Looking for a fair way to distribute them, I came up with the idea of a trivia quiz. Unfortunately my questions were a bit harder than I thought, especially without the help of the internet. So I ended up giving the winner of the quiz the poster (only 4 people got more than 1 answer correct), and the other by randomly picking names out of a hat. Thought I’d share them here for fun, see how many you can do without surfing the web.
#1. In the 1980s (1980-1989 seasons) 9 players played 246 or more games for the Knicks. Name as many as you can. (3 points for correct person)
#2. In the 1990s (1990-1999 seasons) Patrick Ewing had the highest Knick PER (min 246 games) with 22.4. Who was second? (10 points)
#3. In the 00’s (2000-2009 seasons) Latrell Sprewell had the most steals (411). Who was second? (10 points)
#4. Second round pick, Andy Rautins went to Syracuse. Who is the last Knick drafted that came from Syracuse? (10 points)
#5. Who is the only Knick in the 3-point era (1980+) to appear in an NBA game before his 20th birthday? (10 points)
#6. Which Knick had a PER of 90.3 when he was 20 years old, albeit in only 3 games played? (10 points)
#7. Only 5 Knicks have appeared in a game after the age of 37 in the 3-point era (1980+). Name as many as you can. (3 points for correct person)
#8. Mike D’Antoni’s best TS% (NBA/ABA) in a single season was: (10 points)
#9. In the 3-point era, the 5 tallest Knicks have all been 7-2. Name as many as you can. (3 points for correct person)
#10. Opening day 1990, with 38 points Ewing led the Knicks to a 134-130 win over Charlotte. Which of these players had the highest score for the Hornets? (10 points)
A. Kelly Tripucka
B. J.R. Reid
C. Johnny Newman
D. Armen Gilliam
#11 Opening Day 200, the Knicks lost 101-72 to the Sixers. Which player did not play for the Sixers that day? (10 points)
A. Pepe Sanchez
B. Nazr Mohammed
C. Dikembe Mutombo
D. Toni Kukoc
Right before the start of the game, I told my wife how this moment is the best part of the season. It’s the time where you can learn about the team and the team can surprise you in all sorts of ways good or bad. It’s nice to wonder how things will play out. Now that they have played out–for at least 1 of the 82 games–let’s take a look at what we learned about this team.
I was interested in everything but took special note of the rookies Mozgov and Fields. Mozgov didn’t surprise at me all picking up a foul within 32 seconds of court time (10 seconds into the first defensive possession). He picks up his second about 3 minutes later and didn’t play again until the second half. At the start of the second half, I made a Pop-Tart and I wondered if Mozgov would be done before the Pop-Tart. Mozgov won but not by much.
My initial impression of Fields was that he looked tentative in the early going. In time it became clear that Fields wasn’t tentative, he was simply picking the right spot to contribute. His line: 30 minutes, 11 points, 4 reb 4-8 Fg (3-6 3fg). He didn’t pick up any assists but he balanced that by not turning over the ball. He didn’t force anything on offense. He out played DeRozan and was only mildly abused my Kleiza. I’d say a very good introduction.
Stoudemire was a mixed bag 19 pts on 7-16 fg with 10 rebounds. When he got deep he was great. But when he had to catch the ball outside the paint and either dribble to the basket or take a shot beyond 15 feet, nothing good came of it. Stoudemire turned the ball over 9 times. I’m pretty sure only one of those was an offensive foul. Then there was one that Jack knocked off his foot late in the 4th. The rest, all bad ball handling. Here is a sample of my in game notes:
For all his talent, I’m starting to see some things I do not like in Stoudemire. He does not rebound well, he is a bit sloppy with the ball, and his face-up defense is not impressive. He also takes the ball outside the paint and tries to dribble into the paint. It really hurts the half-court offense.
Stoudemire still catching the ball too far out and then dribbling to the hoop, nearly turned it over. Another Stoudemire dribble drive turnover.
Hate to say it but the half court offense is far less sloppy with Stoudemire on the bench. 3:50 left to play Stoudemire catches in the paint, turns and scores. Felton got him the ball where he needs it to be effective and we got a good shot out of it. 1:45 to play, Stoudemire has to dribble into the paint and it leads to a turn over for Jack. When will they learn?
So with Stoudemire, they need to get him the ball deep in the paint so he doesn’t have to do so much to create his offense. I blame Felton for this. Felton needs to learn when to give Stoudemire the ball. You don’t just give it to Stoudemire then let the magic happen.
That aside, Felton played well I thought. 15 pts (6-14 fgs, 1-4 3fgs) 6 rebs, 6 asts, 1 stl, 3 turnovers. He looked great getting to the hole. The only real problem was giving the ball to Stoudemire out of position and taking more 3 pointers than I thought he should. But in this offense, there will be threes for all.
Gallinari’s game? Meh. 12 points (3-9, 2-5) 6 rebounds. I watched the way Bargnani played and I wished Gallinari would get to that level. I’m starting to think he won’t get there. An example of the different approach: when Toronto was making a run in the 2nd, Bargnani faked a three, lost his defender took two dribbles closer and nailed a long two. In the 3rd Gallinari faked a three, lost his defender, took a step to his left, made sure he was still behind the arc, then missed a three. ‘Nuff said.
The bench was fantastic led by a surprisingly effective Chandler (22 points, 8 rebs). Douglas played very well and Turiaf did help the defense with 4 blocks and 2 steals. My wife upon seeing Turiaf: “What is up with that Col. Sanders beard of his?” Walker was awful. Walker’s problem: he is only useful if he is shooting well, which he did not do (0-6 fg, 0-2 3fg) 2 rebounds, 1 turnover and zeros everywhere else ( I wanted to start him at the 2, what was I thinking?).
The Knicks did a great job with the give and go early on. They scored or drew a foul on 5 of 6 of those plays in the first half. They took advantage of the lack of shot blocking on Toronto, but in the second and third, they abandoned that play all together. I’m not sure why. When they got away from that play the ball movement really suffered. Only 12 assists for the game, 15-17 free throws and 7-24 3fgs. I don’t like seeing more threes taken than free throws taken but I better learn to adjust. The rebounding was not good. My game notes again:
Awful sequence with5 minutes to play in the first. Reggie Evans gets an offensive rebound with three Knicks around him. Stoudemire with a poor block out and a weak one-handed rebound attempt. Evans gets the ball and then Stoudemire just walks away to complain about a push in the back. Evans then finds himself alone under the basket and is so surprised he blows the easy lay in. This rebounding is really going to hurt this team.
Yes they out rebounded Toronto 49 to 45, but keep in mind that Toronto is really bad at rebounding outside of Reggie Evans. The Celtics will not repeat such mistakes.
Mistakes aside, the Knicks did manage to pull out a win on the road in a game where they blew a 16 point lead. When they needed to get a few good shots, Stoudemire got deep in the post and provided the offense needed. D’Antoni deserves some credit for moving Chandler to the bench. The play from the reserves was a key factor in the win. There are some things to build on here but I fear a much more sobering view of the team may be available to us after the Celtics game. We can talk about it then.
The last time the Knicks played a game that counted, Earl Barron logged 40 minutes. David Lee played 33 and Sergio Rodriguez 20. Bill Walker led the team with 28 points and Chris Duhon chipped in 5 assists. The Raptors piled up 73 points before halftime of last season’s finale at the Air Canada Centre en route to a 131-113 blowout of the blue and orange. All the while, a dreadlocked big man named Chris Bosh watched, injured, from the Raptors’ bench. “No matter,” we told ourselves, “he’ll be ours in a couple months, and a certain headband-wearing, chalk throwing, triple doubling Global Icon along with him.”
What a difference a summer makes.
Tonight, the Knicks took to the same court in Toronto. Chris Bosh wasn’t in the building, nor was LeBron, nor Lee, Rodriguez, Barron, or Duhon. In fact, of the 12 Knicks on the active roster that night in April, only three were in the house this evening (Douglas, Gallo, Walker — Chandler was inactive with an injury at the end of last season). Change was the story of the night and, when that is the case, you can typically expect equal parts excitement and growing pains. And so it was.
The Knicks put together an adequate if uninspiring performance, winning 98-93 in a game that would not have been that close but for some spotty perimeter shooting and an inability to stay in front of Toronto point guard Jarret Jack, who penetrated to the tune of 5 layups, 4 free throw attempts, and some nice dump-off assists following successful drives to the rim. After staking themselves to a quick 16 point lead, the Knicks slogged their way to a 4 point halftime edge and briefly trailed early in the fourth quarter before Wilson Chandler – who at age 23 passes for one of the old guard on this overhauled roster – rattled off a series of Carmelonian isolation sets that bought the Knicks some breathing room.
From there, the biggest, brightest, and most expensive of the newcomers, one Amar’e Stoudemire, carried the Knicks home, scoring 7 of his otherwise unassuming 19 points during a 1:31 stretch late in the fourth quarter. His burst pushed the lead to eight points, each of which the Knicks would need to hold on to an opening night victory. I mean that literally; a final unimpeded Jarrett Jack drive would have been enough to erase a two-point deficit in the last ten seconds, but the three point margin meant he had to kick it out to Linas Kleiza, who airballed a corner three into Danilo Gallinari’s waiting arms. Two free throws later — converted with little drama by another newcomer, Raymond Felton — the Knicks were off to a 1-0 start.
A night that started with change and hope ended with a win. Let’s hope the Knicks can keep that up; it’s the only change that really matters.
Player Ratings (in order of minutes played):
Raymond Felton (37 min, 15 pts, 6 reb, 6 ast, 3 to, 6/14 fg, 1/4 3p, 4/4 ft): Very solid debut by the Knicks’ new point guard. Ran a high-octane offense for stretches of the first half but didn’t force the break when it wasn’t there. Could have done a better job with Jack on the defensive end, but didn’t get any help on switches (and Douglas was the culprit for many of Jack’s better moments — we’ll get to him later). All in all, he was an impressive floor general who played better than his stats. B+.
Amar’e Stoudemire (36 min, 19 pts, 10 reb, 2 blk, 9 to, 7/16 fg, 5/6 ft): The turnovers are the first thing that jump out and, to be honest, the number surprises me. I thought they would be high but it certainly didn’t feel like 9. Mostly, he seemed kind of out of it, not quite in tune with his new point guard, not really commanding a lot of attention against a defense with nobody worthy of defending him. I’m tempted to say I liked him better on the defensive end than on offense tonight, if only because his athleticism makes him capable of the type of high-flying swats that we haven’t seen since the days of Marcus Camby. In the end, a forgettable debut, but a huge 2 minute stretch in the fourth quarter and zero signs of anything we should be worried about once he and Felton get in sync. B-.
Danilo Gallinari (33 min, 12 points, 6 reb, 1 ast, 0 to, 3/9 fg, 2/5 3p, 4/4 ft): Not good. Bad, even. The only Knick with a negative +/-. That can be a fairly meaningless stat on an individual game basis, but it felt pretty appropriate tonight. His shot was off and, while he has the ability to do other things to affect the game, he was mostly invisible tonight. At least he got 6 boards, which shouldn’t be a big deal for a 6’10” forward but in his case represents progress. No real reason for concern, his shooting will improve both in terms of percentages and the number of looks he clears himself for. We all know that he’ll be able to score efficiently in high volumes on a lot of nights this season. Tonight just wasn’t one of them. C-.
Landry Fields (30 min, 11 points, 4 reb, 4/8 fg, 3/6 3p): For me, the best part of the night. I mean, the kid is just everywhere. Don’t even look at the stat line because its irrelevant. All the cliches that we use to talk about glue guys are in play here: he does the little things, he’s in the right place at the right time, he doesn’t need plays drawn up for him, he plays better than his numbers, he makes the most of his talent, etc. etc. etc. Just every single meaningless cliche personified. He ran down loose balls, he got big rebounds, he waited for his shot and made half of his threes. He can absolutely start on this team, he’s a much better fit than Chandler with the first unit. Didn’t think he looked out of his depth athletically, which was the worry, but then again he will face much better opposition down the road. I suppose time will tell, but I couldn’t have asked for much more out of his debut. A.
Wilson Chandler (29 min, 22 pts, 8 reb, 0 to, 10/18 fg, 1/3 3p, 1/2 ft): Listen and listen good — he is the perfect 6th man for this team and there is absolutely no way he should be starting at shooting guard. On the court with the second unit, serving as the primary scoring option, Ill Will ran some isolation sets that were worthy of the league’s best slashers. He works so well with Douglas because either of them can start the offense — either with Douglas lurking as a spot-up threat when Chandler attacks or Chandler lurking as a reset-and-drive option if Douglas gets in trouble. They make a serviceable pairing defending other team’s perimeter players as well. Chandler is still the most tradeable of the Knicks three young wings and he still can become infuriatingly enamored with his very mediocre jumper (7/8 in the paint tonight, 3/10 outside of it — DRIVE WILSON, DRIVE!) but he is a fantastic weapon off of the bench and should be utilized as such. Simply put, the Knicks do not hold off the Raptors rally without his second half performance tonight. Keep it up. A-.
Tony Douglas (27 min, 10 points, 4 reb, 0 ast, 5/9 fg, 0/3 3p): A weird performance and not a very good one. The points are fine and the percentage is good, but zero assists in 27 minutes still made me feel like he doesn’t know what position he’s supposed to be playing. For my money, produced the two worst plays of the game: an impossibly bad telegraphed pass that was picked by Reggie Evans and an equally boneheaded fourth quarter foul that sent David Anderson to the line, where he tied the score at 82. Of all the important Knicks who had off nights, he’s the only one I worry about a little, simply because I’m not sure if he works better running the second unit or playing off of Felton. I’m not sure D’Antoni knows either. C-.
Ronny Turiaf (23 min, 8 pts, 4 reb, 4 blk, 2 stl, 3/4 fg, 2/2 ft): Ronny Turiaf had 4 blocks tonight. That is, by any measure, very good. He had 2 steals tonight, also solid, especially by a big man, especially in limited minutes. He did these two things while committing zero fouls. Impressive, right? Probably a pretty rare feat? Maybe only happens once a year or so? Guess what? The last Knick to do it was Patrick Ewing in 1999. Before that, the last Knick to do it was, well, Ewing again in 1997. Before that, the last Knick to do it was nobody. The list of Knicks who have had 4 blocks and 2 steals in a game without committing a foul — at least in the 25 years covered by the basketball reference play index now reads “Patrick Ewing, Ronny Turiaf.” Now, is this kind of a contrived stat? Sure. Does that make it unimportant? No, not really. The Knicks have not employed a true shotblocker since Marcus Camby (unless you want to count one season of the geriatric Dikembe Mutombo). They spent two years trying to convince themselves that Jared Jeffries was some sort of disruptive defensive presence. They trotted out David Lee at center for two years. You will not find a bigger David Lee fan than me. But even as I write this, I’m watching the Warriors opener, and their announcer just said of a Lee foul, and I quote, “You know, I don’t mind that foul by David Lee. Is it great defense? No! But why give him the easy lay-up?” You know another way to prevent easy lay-ups? BY HAVING A CENTER WHO PLAYS F—ING DEFENSE. And guess what? Now we do. What Turiaf’s stats don’t show is that, in the span of 58 seconds, Linas Kleiza was whistled for not one but two travelling violations that were purely the result of going up for a shot against Turiaf, realizing he had absolutely no chance of converting, and awkwardly shuffling his feet til the whistle blew. Party on, Turiaf. Keep drinking that Ron-Ron juice. A.
Bill Walker: I would type his stats but that would represent more effort than I saw from him in his 10 minutes on the court. The one truly awful performance by a Knick tonight. His highlight was missing a dunk, claiming the rebound and, in a sea of FIVE raptors, with open shooters everywhere, going back up for a putback attempt that was, inevitably, rejected. It will be a short leash if he continues to play like this and Fields continues to play like he did, especially when Anthony Randolph returns. F.
Timo Mozgov, Roger Mason Jr.: Whatever. Mozgov couldn’t stay on the court because of foul trouble, not super encouraging against a pretty ordinary front line, but we’ll give the kid a break and chalk it up to his NBA debut. Mason missed three jumpers and wasn’t heard from again — he’ll make most of his appearances when the Knicks are badly in need of a three or someone is in foul trouble. Not much room for him behind Douglas, Fields, and Chandler. INCOMPLETE.
Sorry for the long-winded recap — I’m so excited to have the NBA season back and I hope you are too. The team will face tougher competition but should get better as it jells. If you thought, as I did, that the Knicks would sneak into one of the last two playoff spots in the East this year, I didn’t see anything tonight — good or bad — that should make you change that.