Knicks Beat Miami (Did I Just Say That?)

New York defeated the Miami Heat in South Beach, 91-86. Of course D’Antoni’s Knicks did it with defense. I can’t believe I just wrote those two sentences.

The Heat were held to only 47.3% eFG, and had 20 team turnovers which gave New York the victory. The Knicks gave up the shooting edge (NYK: 43.8% eFG), but took three of the other four factors, including turnovers (16 to 20), rebounding (8 of 44 to 6 of 41 offensive rebounds), and free throws (21 to 16 free throws made).

Carmelo Anthony led the team in scoring with 29 points on 22 shots (ts% 55.9%) while Amar’e Stoudemire was held to only 16 points on 14 shots and zero free throw attempts. Miami’s defense’s scheme was clear – keep Amar’e out of the paint. The Heat packed the middle daring New York to beat them from the outside. On the other hand the Knicks shut down Dwayne Wade, holding him to a mere 12 points on 15(!) shots. Have to give credit to Anthony Carter who played really well on defense against Wade.

Some notes:

* Did you miss the game? Check out KnicksNow’s video recap of the game.

* ESPN goes over the Knicks win:

Anthony finished with a game-high 29 points and 9 rebounds. Eleven of Anthony’s 29 points came on isolation plays. He trails only Kobe Bryant for the most points off isolation plays this season…

While Anthony’s offense certainly kept the Knicks in the game, it was his defensive presence that may have put the game away. Anthony was asked to guard LeBron James in the fourth quarter, and the defensive switch paid off for the Knicks. James was 1-for-4 when Anthony was the on-ball defender during the final five minutes of the game, including on Miami’s final two field goal attempts.

Anthony wasn’t the only Knick to lock down on defense. New York held Miami under 40 percent shooting in the half court over the final three quarters. For some perspective, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks shot a combined 46 percent in the half court during the Knicks previous two games.

* Could Azubuike finally see some court time?

* Posting & Toasting on Bill Walker’s (+22 last night!) game:

In a game in which the long-haired bruhs (Ronny Turiaf and Renaldo Balkman*) had very little effect, Bill Walker was king of the bench. That bank job just before halftime was one of two big threes he hit, the other being an equally deep one to mess with the Miami momentum in the fourth quarter. Bully also had some nice sequences defending LeBron (and Wade as well), and pulled down 7 boards in 25 minutes.

* Buried in Alan Hahn’s “Denver forced Chauncey Billups on New York” article are these juicy tidbits:

This early success – save for the embarrassing loss in Cleveland – might help the Knicks become a more attractive destination for some of this year’s buyout class. Troy Murphy, who is expected to have a buyout agreement done with Golden State, would be a terrific fit as a stretch 5 because of his ability to shoot the three, plus he is an excellent rebounder. Murphy may be leaning more to the Celtics for a better shot at a ring, but the Knicks are on his list. Another big the Knicks have under consideration is Leon Powe, who could give them some hustle and muscle in the paint, though not much size. One seven-footer, Joel Przybilla, appears to be off the potential market as the Bobcats appear to be keeping him for the rest of the season as they battle for a playoff spot.

The Knicks could use another three-point shooter and Rasual Butler will be available once he clears waivers. In limited minutes with the Clippers this season, Butler was shooting 32.6 percent from downtown. He is a career 36.1 percent shooter from three-point range.

One addition we know the Knicks will make for their next game is 6-11 Jared Jeffries, who will sign on Tuesday once he clears waivers. He’ll be eligible to play against the Magic on Tuesday night in Orlando.

* Someone could use a basic course in statistics. Ugh!

Knicks to Sign Jeffries?

Good day fellow Knick fans!

If you are a believer in the proverbial “gut check” win then last nights brickfest in Miami was for you. I suppose I am an agnostic on whether any one mid-season game really matters more than any other long term. But, the game demonstrated that the Knicks have the capacity to at least maintain a defensive focus for extended stretches. Certainly the Heat allowed the Knicks to hang around, following their blistering start with horrible shot selection and minimal non-Big 3 contributions. Still, one would have to be a real cynic to overlook the fact that the Knicks mostly contested shots and kept Miami off the boards. (Bill Flippin’ Walker banked in the big 3 at the halftime buzzer, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t see him down in a stance moving his feet on D. He pulled down 7 defensive boards, which were big as NY outrebounded Miami by 1. Dude had a +22!)

Isola is reporting that the recently bought out Jared Jeffries plans to sign with NY, assuming he clears waivers. ESPN also reported last night (on the ticker) that the recently bought out Troy Murphy may be a consideration. Any moves would of course require NY to clear roster space.

Knicks Fall to Cavs

Cleveland 2, Knicks 0. At least that’s the season record. The Cavs beat the Knicks again, trumping them 115-109 last night. No doubt the mainstream media will tout Amar’e and Carmelo combining for 58 points, which will lead most to believe that it was their teammates that let New York down. However the pair needed 49 shots to accomplish that goal.

Instead it was Chauncey Billups who brought the Knicks within a shot of victory. New York’s new PG had 26 points on only 14 shots, including 20 in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless the effort was in vain, as the Knicks allowed Cleveland to score 32 points in the final frame to seal the victory.

Billups was +9 on the night, but there was Knick who was even better in that category: Renaldo Balkman. The prodigal forward only played 8 minutes, but was a whooping +15. He didn’t do much that was recorded on the box score, only 2 rebounds, 2 fouls, and zero shot attempts. However he did play good defense between the forward spots, and more importantly he actually played. I didn’t think that D’Antoni would use the energetic yet jumpshooting-challenged forward. but it appears he might have a tiny role as a defensive stopper, for now.

The Trade Deadline’s Impact on the Knicks: Melo-free Edition

It didn’t really sink into my mind that the Carmelo trade was completed until I watched the Nuggets take the court with Gallo wearing sky blue and yellow. It felt incredibly, incredibly weird to watch our players in a different uniform. I could still feel the bonds formed over each player’s time with the Knicks, cheering each time Ill Will hit a shot, and frustrated that Felton wasn’t starting for the Nugs. Nevertheless, watching the game was a good reminder that the Knicks weren’t the only team that made a trade over the past week- other teams significantly changed their roster as well. As teams wheeled and dealed trying to find that last missing piece, an astonishing number of trades occurred just at the 3pm deadline. At one point it seemed like the Daily Dime Live chat at ESPN was going to spontaneously combust. A number of these trades have interesting possible ramifications for the Knicks, which I’ve ranked in order of importance as they could potentially impact the Knicks below.

1. Deron Williams traded to the Nets for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and 2 1st round picks.

This trade has been covered pretty extensively in the comments section of the earlier post announcing it, found here.  After initially being very frustrated that the Knicks hadn’t dealt for Williams instead of Melo, I discovered the silver lining to this trade. There are a few possible outcomes for Williams tenure with the Nets, most of which are positive for… the Knicks.

A. Williams goes to New Jersey, gets excited about move to Brooklyn in 2012, recruits Dwight Howard that summer after signing his own extension with the Nets. Knicks fail to sign Chris Paul. This is the worst possible scenario for Knicks fans. I don’t even want to dwell on how frustrating this would be.

B. Williams goes to New Jersey and hates it. He is seen partying with Amar’e and Carmelo every weekend, starts calling them his best friends in the league, and continually talks about how annoyed he is that he has to commute to play basketball in Jersey. In 2012, he leaves the Nets and signs with the Knicks, and calls Jim Dolan “smarter” than Mikhail Prokhorov. (Ok, maybe the last part will never happen.) In actuality, the possibility of it now being easier for Amar’e and Melo to recruit Williams is a fantastic plus to him being traded to Jersey.

C. Williams decides to go to random franchise X and we sign Chris Paul or Dwight Howard. In this case, the outcome is neutral to Knicks fans and only hurts the Nets, which I wouldn’t mind one bit.

Considering these three possibilities, the frustration I felt after the trade was announced has washed away. I mean, he can’t possibly grow to like playing in Jersey, can he? Can he?

2. Carl Landry traded to the New Orleans Hornets for Marcus Thornton and $$.

Why is this trade so important? Because it is yet another competent move by a front office aiming to convince Chris Paul to stay in New Orleans by making the Hornets a contender. CL (I almost used Landry, but it would feel too weird) is an excellent low post player who should instantly improve the Hornets. Thornton, the player they gave up to get him, is a nice piece but wasn’t very useful given all the wing depth the Hornets have. As a Knicks fan, you have to hope this trade (and other moves made by the Hornets) don’t convince CP3 to abandon his wedding-toast-promise.

3. Troy Murphy traded to Golden State for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric

With Murphy presumably being bought out, there is a now a player available who could fit perfectly into Coach d’Antoni’s scheme as a big who shoots well, rebounds, and doesn’t play defense. You’d have to guess he’s eager to break that “longest-games-played-without-being-in-the-playoffs” streak too, making the ‘Bockers an excellent choice for him to move to, except..

4. Semih Erden and Luke Harangody traded to the Cavs for a 2013 2nd round pick

This move gives the Celtics open roster spaces to pick up players exactly like Murphy, and word is they’re interested. One would have to give the edge to the Celtics acquiring him over the Knicks if they really are interested, given their superior record and championship aspirations, but Knicks fans can continue to hope he’d prefer to be in the playoffs AND playing substantial minutes, something much more likely to occur if he chooses to join the Knicks’ depleted frontline.

The rest of the deadline deals were also quite interesting, with the most interesting of all being the Celtics trade of Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. I can’t understand the move from the Celtics side- even if you couldn’t afford to keep Perkins after this season, I’d still rather have him for this playoff run than Jeff Green- but it appears to give OKC a roster capable of winning a title right now. Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Ibaka, Perkins starting, with Harden, Collison, Maynor, and maybe even Nate off the bench…the Thunder are stacked, and seem to have the perfect balance of star power, defense, and role players that usually is the path to a title.

Finally, the Hawks trade for Kirk Hinrich moves them from horrific to serviceable in regards to the PG position, Gerald Wallace to the Blazers makes the Bobcats even more irrelevant and the Trailblazers a fun 2k11 team, Aaron Brooks to the Suns for Goran Dragic is a swap of once-good-but-not-this-season backup PG’s, Baron Davis for Mo Williams improves the Clips while making the Cavs roster a hilarious hodgepodge of players (Davis! Jamison! Erden!), Marquis Daniels to the Kings gave the Celtics another roster spot as well, Shane Battier to the Grizzlies for Thabeet and a pick gives the Rockets even more “assets”, Nazr Mohammed to the Thunder gives OKC another tall player, and James Johnson to the Raptors gives the Bulls an open roster spot.

From a Knicks perspective, one notable thing which didn’t occur this weekende is a trade for a big man. While I’d have loved to get Thabeet (I know he’s bad, I know, but I can’t help it) the Knicks lacked the assets to make any real move to shore up the frontline, ensuring that we’ll have to rely on bought-out players like Murphy or Jared Jeffries as well as currently-out-of-the-league Earl Barron to give us depth.

Goodbye-ee Part 1: Felton and Randolph

Because we’re sentimental bastids, Kevin McElroy and I are teaming up on a three-part series talking about the Denver Four/Minny Two, as they shall heretofore be known. We’ll look back fondly (and at times, not so fondly) at the careers of the sextet of ‘Bockers that were summarily dispatched to the Rocky Mountains. No analysis of the merits of the trade, mind you (I think that dead horse has been soundly beaten), just nostalgia and sweet/semi-sweet farewells

To start, two of the shortest-tenured Knicks, Raymond Felton (via Kevin) and Anthony Randolph (via Robert)…

What a strange little Knicks’ career Raymond Felton had; a roller coaster of fan approval and disapproval surpassing what most players experience in far longer periods of time than the six months that Felton wore orange and blue. He arrived on the coattails of Amar’e Stoudemire, was acquired with a piece of the “second free agent” cap room cleared by the now infamous Jared Jeffries trade and intended for a player of twice Felton’s fame and talent. So that couldn’t have been easy. Luckily for him, Knicks’ fans suddenly realized that he was replacing frequent (and justified) scapegoat Chris Duhon, and thus provided an even larger positional upgrade than the one that Amar’e represented over David Lee. Felton shot the lights out in November, averaged double digit assists in December, and put up averages of 20.4 points, 9.4 assists, and a .536 effective field goal% during the 13-1 stretch that pushed the Knicks into the upper half of the Eastern Conference for the first time in years. In the midst of that run came Ray’s finest moment as a Knick, an ugly, bouncing, rolling, buzzer-beating three that spent about 3 seconds on the rim and ultimately sealed a 113-110 win for the Knicks over the Raptors on December 8. Felton had 28 points and 11 assists on 20 shots in the game – not at all an atypical line for him at the time. NBA fans around the country discussed Felton’s all-star candidacy while Knicks fans contemplated whether he was the best facilitator the team had employed since Mark Jackson. It seemed like an impossibly good signing.

As it turned out, it was. Impossible, that is. In exactly 30 games since the end of the Knicks 13-1 stretch, Felton maintained respectable averages of 15.5 points and 9.0 assists, but did so at a far less efficient clip, racking up an effective field goal % of only .440 and shooting under 30% from downtown. These shooting numbers are reminiscent of the player that Felton was before this season, and Knicks fans (and bloggers) blamed him as much as anyone for the team’s stagnation since mid-December. In a sort of Bizarro version of his aforementioned buzzer beater against the Raptors, he missed a jumper in the fading seconds of a tie game on January 22 in Oklahoma City, declining to get the ball to Amar’e or a red-hot Danilo Gallinari and leaving enough time for a Kevin Durant game-winner at the other end. For many, the shot (and the shooter’s unapologetic postgame reaction) confirmed the suspicion that Felton had interpreted his early-season shooting improvement as justification for him to become a score-first guard. And since he wasn’t scoring efficiently, this was not a good thing.

Felton currently sits eighth in the league in minutes per game (38.4) and I think there’s some reason to believe that, like Chris Duhon before him, Felton’s hot start couldn’t stand up to the strain put on his body by a coach who leans on his starting point guards for minutes that aren’t easy to handle if you’re not Steve Nash. Here is where I am a bit worried that we will grow to miss Felton. Without a backup point guard approximating the quality of Ty Lawson, the 34-year-old Chauncey Billups is sure to be asked to step up his playing time from an average of 32 minutes to somewhere near the level required of Felton before him. While Billups is the superior player, will the Knicks truly be better at the point guard position if 1) Billups is asked to increase his minutes at the risk of wearing himself out or 2) Toney Douglas plays more minutes at the point, off-setting some of the presumed upgrade the Knicks will enjoy during Billups’ time on the floor?  The answer could well be “yes;” I could be underestimating Douglas’ improvement or Billups’ resilience, but we can’t necessarily pencil in 38 minutes of PG production that far exceed Felton’s output.

Of course, the job of Knicks point guard is likely about to get a whole lot easier than the one Felton had, with much of the offense running through Carmelo Anthony and the point guard confined for stretches to the role of spot-up shooter. This suits both Billups and Douglas just fine. And it underscores the difference between those players and Felton, who was always better when trying to create for others than when trying to be the Knicks second option on offense.

So we close the book on an unusual Knicks career, feeling like we improved ourselves at the point guard position and thankful that Felton’s sub-par outside shooting is going the way of Anthony Randolph’s basketball IQ and Timofey Mozgov’s haircut – which is to say, out of New York. But Felton was a big part of the reason we’ve had so much fun with this year’s Knicks. I have a feeling we will always have fond memories of the young Knicks squad that brought respectability back to MSG for the first 54 games of the 2010-11 season, and Felton — pushing the tempo, learning to mesh with Amar’e, finding shooters for open looks all over the perimeter, and playing miles over his head for 6 glorious weeks — was the key to that team’s ignition. If he had a fault, it was that he was too willing to put up shots that he simply couldn’t make at the rate that we all hoped he could. This was most frustrating when he did it in the clutch, with more efficient scorers on the court with him. But on the heels of an era defined by passivity and indifference, we should be so lucky as to have too many guys who wanted to come up big when it matters.

Potential. It’s one of the most damning words in the OED. And Anthony Randolph had (has) potential that seemingly clawed out of every inch of his 6’11” frame (and 7’5” wingspan!). As the 14th pick in the Gallinari draft, Randolph was a bit of a wild-card. Some dared to invoke the names “Stromile Swift” and “Tyrus Thomas”, two other springy, lengthy LSU Freshman entrees who never harnessed all their ridiculous upside after they turned pro. In fact, Walsh (according to reports) was ready to take AR at 6 if Gallo hadn’t been there. (Walsh clearly has a predilection for young, bouncy, skinny-as-a-mofo PF/C’s like Jonathan Bender and Jermaine O’Neal). For his first two years in sunny Oakland, Anthony Randolph became a youtube star and if possible, even more of an enigma. Roundball luminaries such as Bill Simmons called him a future 25-10-5 guy.

He’s one of the most breathtaking rookies I’ve seen in person — ever — for all the reasons you just described. There has never been anyone quite like him. He’s like a cross between Josh Smith and Lamar Odom, only if you fed him 10 Red Bulls and told him right before the game, “If you can make 10 things happen during the 10 minutes you play tonight, we will quadruple your salary and you will start for the rest of the season” … and then he does just that, but the coach reneges on the promise so Anthony has a near-crying meltdown on the bench. That’s every Anthony Randolph game. I caught him once and, in the span of two hours, he made three “MY GOD!” plays and broke down on the Warriors’ bench because Nellie wouldn’t put him back in, followed by an assistant consoling him through an entire timeout like Randolph was a third grader who got in trouble for something he didn’t do, then had a meltdown and got kicked out of class. It was riveting. The odds of me missing another Clips-Warriors game for the next five years are 10,000-to-1

But he clearly forgot that it was his turn to buy Don Nelson his case of Bud before a game or something, because Donnie kept him firmly planted in Chez Chien (when AR wasn’t injured, that is). After all, when you go flying around like that and weigh 200 lbs. sopping wet, one can tend to get injured. He also developed a rep for being a bit of a pouter, once seemingly breaking down into tears upon being benched (see above quote)

So when the word was given that he’d been traded to NY for KB fave David Lee, with a coach who seemed perfectly suited to take advantage of his open-court skills, the “potential”/expectations millstone reared its ugly head again. Really, go watch the clip again and tell me you don’t think he could be Marcus Camby 2.0, down to the eerie parallels of a young, untapped talent who was traded for a beloved vet PF. But yeah, that certainly didn’t happen.

During training camp, Hahn and others hinted that he wasn’t really impressing and and when the season started, he was…much as it pains me to say…awful. He still rebounded the basketball like a fiend, but his court IQ was at Jerome Jamesian levels. Plus, after any gaffe you could see him shoot a look towards the bench to see if he was about to get yanked. He looked like a much more athletic but just as ineffective Jared Jeffries. (Yes – invoking two of Zeke’s worst signings in the same paragraph is never a good thing when discussing a player’s merits). D’Antoni (like clockwork) shortened his rotation in late Nov. and suddenly, AR was getting splinters in his bony tuchus riding the pine and amassing a swell collection of DNP-CD’s.

Some (like your humble correspondent) held out hope that AR would develop and start to contribute but alas, as of Tuesday, it ain’t happening here. I still (perhaps misguidedly) think that he’s going to be a very serviceable big down the road. Maybe this shrinking violet will come full flower in Minny, where they’ve developed a rep for turning around (sort of) weird head cases/tortured artists/tragic figures like Messrs. Beasley and Milicic. Perhaps he’ll never figure it out. But that’s the thing about potential, doesn’t thinking about AR and his misspent youth make you well, sad? Or at least melancholy in the “Ode to an Athlete Dying Young” sense. And if there’s any truth to Buddhist philosophy, it seems borne out in Anthony Randolph — you could tell that he wanted oh-so-badly to do well and that his desire clearly impeded his ability to do just that. Whatever the true cause, you could tell that his failures caused him much personal suffering. It’s not that he didn’t give a crap — he did and that (at least for me) makes it tragic that he wasn’t able to achieve what both he and we the fans wanted. So, that’s how I’ll remember AR, his long face and longer body glued to the end of the bench, often the only player not to get giddy at a great play (consider him the anti-Ronny Turiaf, if you will) dripping with potential, all of it, sadly, going to waste.