I don’t want a lot for Christmas/there is just one thing I need/Keep on piling all these losses/so that Zion’s chance increases*
Hey, Christmas came early this year! I never thought they would have actually pulled off this loss, but alas, here we are talking about a miserable and tank-empowering loss to the extremely lowly Hawks, who count on their roster an NBA player (Collins), two overpaid NBA role players (Bazemore and Lin), two inconsistent rookies, a fringe role player (Dedmon) and spare parts from the church charity auction for a new oven for Mrs. Taylor, you know the one, the old lady that makes that special cherry pie that brings to her doorstep half the neighborhood.
*Actually, Santa Claus, please bring back Clyde.
I don’t have all that much to say about this game, because Wally’s commentary induces a sort of basketball coma thanks to his atrocious remarks, and I might or might not have tried the “Wally drinking game”™, where you pour down a shot every time he says something wrong and a beer every time he says something trite (and a shot of absinthe when he says something wrong and trite at the same time). Nah, just kidding, I didn’t try it, but I patented it as the next social drinking game that’s guaranteed to bring down even the most alcohol-happy members of your family on the next Wally occasion – and will soothe both the auditory and basketball related pains.
Today I won’t use my standard format, but I’ll assess a bit the game and the season until now, grading some players for actual basketball purposes and for tank purposes; these games are becoming a blur of sloppy action and botched attempts at doing anything, so it’s really becoming harder and harder to gauge their daily contributions. For example, has Mudiay played well tonight? His scoring numbers might suggest so (32 points on 20 shots), but if you watched the game you’d know that he’s doing a very bad job at directing the team. Kevin Knox’s night is evidence number one: the rookie came out with guns a-blazing in the first quarter, and while a little bit of fatigue from Thibs-level minutes might have played a role in his deflated second quarter, in the second half he was just freezed by the non-existent play creation from Mudiay (and THJ, for that matter). When he finally got into the action again, Kevin was cold and out of rhythm. A point guard first and foremost task should be to know when to pass the ball (and to whom) or when to call his number; else, you’re just a miscast combo guard on a team chock-full of teamwork-deprived checkers. That’s why Mudiay is more bad than good even on nights like this, and that’s as much on him as is on who makes roster-related decisions, namely Perry/Mills and (albeit a bit less) Fizdale. Fizdale has done a good job at making Mudiay recognize his mismatches and exploit them; as long as Mudiay is on the roster, he has to make an extra step and acknowledge that Mud’s a combo guard and not a point guard, and gameplan accordingly.
Oh, who am I kidding? Fizdale apparent can’t even draw an average ATO: this time, after a timeout in the fourth, with the game on the line, the team wasn’t even able to hoist a shot attempt (and the Hawks’ defense was far from suffocating).
On to the grades, then! (I will list numbers/grades as follows: points/rebounds/assists/plus-minus for the night; PPG/RPG/APG for the season; TS% and WS/48 for the season)
– Emmanuel Mudiay (32/1/4/-6; 14.4/3/3.6; .559, 0.073) has seen some ups and down this season but his December numbers really can’t be ignored (20/3.6/5.5). As said before, he probably has made some for real improvements. He’s probably better suited as a combo-guard off the bench for a team who’s trying to make the playoffs, as some sort of lite-Tyreke Evans. The problem with him doesn’t really reside in him. It’s that we’ve all been scarred too many times by incompetent front office iterations who have given terrible contracts to pointzzz guys. I’m kinda rooting for him; I just don’t want him here after this season unless the contract is super-favorable – and even then, I think Trier is already a better player than him. Grade for the season: C+. Grade for the tank: C+
– Chuck Hardaway Jr. (15/4/5/-13; 21/3.2/3; .540, 0.064) is the contract we don’t need and don’t deserve. We can commend him all we want for being a good soldier and playing through plantar fasciitis and drawing charges with the best in the league (tied for first with Kyle Lowry and Blake Griffin), but he’s another mindless chucker who adds a side dish of troubling handles. This was the umpteenth time this season where he netted the game-worst +/-. It has to mean something, I guess. Tonight I can commend the fact that he wasn’t as shot-happy as usual, but his shot selection is still the same of his Knicks two-fold career. I think that, in the three and a half seasons Timmy has played for us, the top three for Clyde words uttered is “rebounding and astounding” “persistence personified” and “Timmy’s problem is always shot selection”. By the way, have I said already that I miss Clyde? Grade for the season: C-. Grade for the tank: B+
– Kevin Knox (24/6/1/-11; 11.6/4.1/0.9; .483, -0.011) has asserted himself of late as a credible scoring threat. He’s at his best in open court and on maximum-one-dribble-before-shooting attempts. Maybe with an average point guard he can be a league average scorer one day. As for now, we can be happy that his motor is better than we thought and sad that this is the NBA and not the BIG3 League, where he probably would have been MVP from day one. Grade for the season: C (for being a rookie. Actual grade: D+). Grade for the tank: B-.
– Noah Vonleh (11/10/2/-11; 8.2/8.3/2.3; .567, 0.096) is, as you know, my early season Knicks MVP. He’s regressed to the mean in his three-point shooting prowess, but that doesn’t deter him from being useful in many more ways. He’s the only starter that doesn’t routinely miscalculate defensive rotations and he seems to always body up his man, both on offense and on defense. He’s probably a useful NBA player to have around. I wouldn’t be against keeping him on the roster for a few more seasons. Tonight he didn’t do anything good nor egregious, and was subbed in and out at will at the end because Fiz’s defense/offense switches resemble my attempts at speaking German more than 15 years after I stopped studying it: random and confused. Grade for the season: B. Grade for the tank: D-.
– Enes Kanter (10/5/1/-8; 15/11.1/2; .604, 0.156) is the poster boy for the “numbers don’t tell you everything” party, but as a bizarro-Shane Battier. Where Shane was the no-stats all-star, Enes is the all-stats no-star. The day someone will finally invent a single stat to help us understand how to really quantify individual defensive contributions, the computer who will be asked to go back and calculate Enes’ number for that stat will commit seppuku as not to withstand the dishonor that would come with such an abomination. You had to see this game to get a grasp on how Enes mistreats every defensive aspect (save for defensive rebounding purposes). I will never get why Fiz inserts back Kanter late into games. In crunch time it’s hard to give the ball to your bigs and it’s crazy to play 4-on-5 on defense. Grade for the season: D–. Grade for the tank: A-.
– Frank Ntilikina (0/4/1/-1; 6.3/1.9/2.6; .436, -0.046) is dangerously veering into Lance Thomas territory: the nothing-doer that gets minutes thanks to his competent defensive movements. Frank is in another league as far as his actual defensive contributions go, but his offensive game is all over the place, if “all” ranged between mediocre and god-awful. These should be the games to assert yourself as a believable rotation player. This team doesn’t need someone who doesn’t commit mistakes (and he commits them anyway, like a terrible turnover from the dribble in the third), it needs someone who’s not afraid to step up. Grow a pair, Frank. Grade for the season: F+. Grade for the tank: C-.
– Damyean Dotson is a solid contributor who can have off-nights like this one. He’s the only one who didn’t deserve the dungeon this season. Grade for the season: B-. Grade for the tank: D+.
– I don’t know what to make of Courtney Lee at this point. He doesn’t have a role here. We might end up buying him out next year. Grade for the season: INC. Grade for the tank: C+.
– Ah, my man Lance Thomas. proud owner of a team-high +12 plus/minus and scorer of 6 points tonight. As usual, he does nothing on the court but he’s a live body. Grade for the season: D. Grade for the tank: INC.
– When Luke Kornet plays instead of Kanter, you can see the team trying to play better. They fail, of course, because Luke sucks and they all suck, but it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone who’s clearly not interested in padding his boxscore. Is he the goofiest mask-bearer ever? He might be. Grade for the season: INC. Grade for the tank: C-.
– I miss Mitch so much. Grade for the season: B-. Grade for the tank: B- (thanks to the fouls who get him off the court – insert sad emoji of choice here).
– I also miss Iso Zo. This whole Mudiay’s routine is much more fun if done by a rookie. Grade for the season: B-. Grade for the tank: C-.
– Do you want Mario grades, or can you figure them out? I’d just say one’s an A+ and the other is an F (could have been an F- but a certain stepover brashly removed the minus).
Merry Christmas guys, I’ll try to do the Bucks recap but, honestly, I can’t guarantee you anything after a couple bowls of Christmas-lunch tortellini.
PS: If you don’t know what tortellini are, I strongly advise you to click on the link. You can’t say to have really lived if you’ve never tasted a bowl of home-made tortellini with
cream or broth. Actually I prefer them with cream, but here in Bologna that’s seen as a capital sin, and I can confess this just to you because nobody in my family speaks even a word of english. My secret is safe with you!