The Quincy Acy Trade: A Knicksplainer

That’s right. We’re calling it the Quincy Acy trade. Y’all got a problem with that? I didn’t think so. In any case, if you haven’t heard, the Knicks made a trade yesterday. To recap:

Knicks get: Travis Outlaw, Quincy Acy

Kings get: Jeremy Tyler, Wayne Ellington, protections removed from Knicks 2016 second-round pick

All caught up? Good. Let’s break this down.

The good: Recent reports had the Knicks entertaining the idea of packaging Pablo Prigioni in a deal with Ellington, so hopefully this trade means Prigs is here for the long run. And by long run, I mean forever.

A lot of the immediate reaction to this trade was focused on the alleged second-round pick the Knicks were giving up, but it was later clarified that said pick already belonged to Sacramento. The pick’s protection – picks 31-37 – was dropped with this trade, but the Knicks would have to finish with the seventh-worst record (or worse) in the 2015-16 season to actually keep the selection, so it’s a cosmetic change at the worst. We can argue about whether the Knicks should have received a pick, considering they are taking on salary, but before we go there…

…As fot the players actually involved, Outlaw is an 11-year veteran of the league that is of little use at this point. His PER last year was a 10.4 and he’s turning 30 in a month’s time, but if you’re desperate for a positive slant, he can help in the “veteran experience/leadership/guidance/knows where to find a decent meal in Minneapolis after most of the restaurants have closed” department

Acy was a second-round draft pick in 2012, averaging just shy of 13 minutes a night in 92 career game over two seasons. Acy played for Toronto for about a year and a half before being dealt to the Sacramento Kings. For a better take on his game, we turn the program over to Sam Holako of RaptorsRepublic and Greg Wissinger of SactownRoyalty:

Holako

So the good news for the Knicks is that they didn’t give up a lot (anything?) to get him and Outlaw. The bad news is that depending on how you classify him, he’s either an undersized power forward or a small forward…who isn’t…there’s really no other explanation.

At his core, he is a hustle player who has a nose for rebounding and a great locker room dude, but when I think of his season-plus in Toronto, the first few thoughts in my head were of his antics (cheerleaderNRA spokespersondolphins) than of his performance (blocking Dwight Howard at the rimlegendary preseason game).

I really wish I had more for you, but aside from doing fairly well when given meaningless minutes late in a lost season, he didn’t show me enough to make me think he would have a long career in the league…good guy though!”

Wissinger:

Acy is a huge value relative to his contract, and should be a fan favorite with the Knicks.  Acy is a hard worker above all else. He’s always going to be ready when his number is called, and will always put forth effort on the court.  He’s a pesky defender, and will have some emphatic, crowd-pleasing blocks.  He’s a solid rebounder.  And he can actually shoot a lot better than you’d think.  The beard makes you think he’d be another Reggie Evans, but Acy can hit a mid-range jumper with some reliability.

He’s unlikely to ever make the leap and become a star, or even an above average starter, but he’s a fantastic guy to have coming off this bench.  And he’s still young.  I think Knicks fans will be really happy with Acy this season.

Acy, above all else, is going to be one of the more likable players on the Knicks roster.

The bad: There’s not a whole lot “bad” here, but a couple of questions certainly come to mind. First off, why did the Knicks so badly want to deal Ellington? He’s a smart player that can knock down the three and is familiar with the triangle. The Knicks were by no means clogged at the two guard spot. It’s now down to just Shumpert/Smith and Hardaway Jr. Trading Ellington – whose contract is expiring at the end of this season – just seemed far from a necessity but was treated as such anyway.

Secondly, what does this mean for Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo? Acy’s a young player too, but an argument can be made that both Early and Antetokounmpo have higher upsides. Sure, the latter was likely going to be stashed overseas anyway, but I was excited to see Early get some burn this season. Instead, it looks like he’ll be battling it out for third string minutes.

Giving Travis Outlaw minutes over any young player in a year in which you won’t be competing for a championship is nonsensical. (Hell, you might be better off playing a half-blind pygmy marmoset over Outlaw even if you were competing.) Let’s hope this isn’t the case.

The ugly: We almost lost Pablo Prigioni.

Final verdict: Nothing here moves the needle much, really. Cap space for 2015 is unaffected, the roster balances out a bit and the Knicks didn’t cause any significant self harm. I guess we can call that a victory.

 

The Heat Just Want to Watch the World Burn

Been a nice couple of days, right?

Derek Fisher slung some heartstring-tugging verbiage. Big Daddy Phil and he are in lock-step. All is right in Knick-ville, si?

Let’s just enjoy the finals and see what else is…OHMIGOD. MELO TO THE HEAT. PANIC. Here’s all the Rangarok-y details, via a report by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein.

Hi Pat Riley. I hate you, Pat Riley. Now that that’s out of my system, let’s try to break this down. Realistically, the chances of Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joining forces is slim to none. In order to fit under the cap, all four would have to take salary cuts in the tens of millions over the next few years. Although Wade’s begun to deteriorate along with some key role players, the Heat have been to back-to-back-to-back-to-back Finals. Miami’s current big three would have to believe they need Anthony to continue competing, or find it extremely appealing to play with their former Olympic teammate, money be damned.

Melo himself would have to sacrifice a massive chunk of income in pursuit of a championship as well as his image. In the end, it only takes one of these four not being fond of the idea to effectively kill it. Theoretically, the Heat could part ways with either Wade or Bosh and replace them with Anthony, but this would be an even crazier idea considering the ties Wade and Bosh have to the franchise and their fellow stars.

So, yes, Miami being able to ink Anthony AND James AND Wade AND Bosh is a long shot. But if they were able to, it’s hard to envision anybody stopping them.

The league’s fifth best offense in terms of efficiency would bring on one of the most lethal scorers in basketball to play in his optimal role. One of Miami’s current weaknesses is the stretch four position, a vital cog of their space-heavy system. In years past, Shane Battier was a step quicker and a more consistent shooter, making him a capable suitor. Battier shot 43% from downtown last season, a number that slipped to a below average 34.8% clip in 2014. His spot was taken over by Rashard Lewis – who has been an improvement – but Lewis’s jumper still doesn’t demand the amount of attention necessary to open up more lanes for Miami. This hole doesn’t seem like a real vulnerability because with the game on the line, MIami’s gone to their “game over” lineup of James at the four with Wade and Ray Allen on the wings.

Enter Carmelo Anthony, who had the best season of his career in 2013 playing at power forward. We first saw a glimpse of his ability to space the floor and drill catch-and-shoot jumpers in the 2012 Olympics, where he finished with 130 points on 86 shots, making half of his threes and setting the nation of Nigeria ablaze to the tune of 37 points. The season following, Anthony shouldered the load for the Knicks offensively at the four, nearly doing the work of two players in terms of usage rate (35.6% – distributed evenly, all five players on the court should take up 20%) when he was on the floor. He tallied a career-high in three-point attempt rate and three-point percentage (37.9%) despite the sheer amount of offensive output. Melo boosted the latter number to 40.2% this season, or 43.8% if you specify catch-and-shoot threes via SportVU. That’s lights out.

Now imagine this ability in Miami, with the most transcendent superstar of this era that plays pass-first and does so better than almost anybody at his size in history, the best floor-spacing five the NBA has to offer and yet another ball handler that creates well for others. What separates Anthony from Battier or Lewis isn’t just his edge in accuracy, but that opponents can’t just close hard on him and have to respect his ability to step in for a mid-range shot or drive to the cup.

Forget schemes for a second. Though, remember them later, because a good part of Anthony’s iso-heavy ways have been the product of a coach that has a reputation for loving isolation offense. Picture LeBron running a simple pick and pop with Chris Bosh as Chalmers, Allen and Carmelo are stationed behind the arc. How do you stop that? Help and it’s an open three. Don’t and James puts you on a SportsCenter reel. It’s laughably unfair. It’s Grand Theft Auto with a God Mode cheat. It’ll be the The Dream Team v. Nigeria for 82+ games. Cats and Dogs, living together.

But Carmelo wants the ball in his hands! He loves isolating and hates passing! Why would he ever subject himself to this?

Because he did it during the 2012 London Olympics, for a piece of jewelry he already won in 2008. Yes, the entire team was stacked with talent he wouldn’t want to tick off, but Miami has the star of stars in LeBron James and the championship pedigree to back it up. Besides, it’s not as if Anthony won’t get any chances to create his own shots.

One of Erik Spoelstra’s best strategies is that he rarely if ever rolls with a unit sans one of his three headliners. Spo can have Anthony be the first of the four to sub out of the first quarter, returning as the second period begins to command a bench unit. The offense can be all his for this stretch and a similar one in the second half. Factor in the bailout attempts he’ll be given with the shot clock running down, and he’s probably not going to lose a ton of attempts.

I’m not the only one trembling in the wake of this offensive superpower. “The Heat’s offense would be literally unguardable,” according to Sean Highkin in a piece on Sports on Earth. “And James might average a triple-double with the extra assist opportunities.”  Tom Ziller adds, “You could start Toney Douglas and play 4-on-5 on offense without concern against 27 or so teams,”  

As for defense, within the Heat system, all he has to do is give them what Rashard Lewis/Mike Miller have done, Melo ranked 16th in post defense per Synergy Sports, holding opponents to .64 points per play (or 35% shooting) down low. Anthony is a capable help defender when engaged, especially since adding his funky swipe block thing. Having to take on much fewer duties on offense in Miami means there’s a chance Anthony could be more active defensively. LeBron’s voice in his ear might prevent Anthony’s lapses on that end as well.

This is, admittedly, more conjecture than fact, but it’s by no means outlandish to expect. There are probably two offenses Miami’s defense wouldn’t be equipped to handle with Melo in the game, in which scenario the Heat can just resort back to their Bron-at-the-four lineup.

Anthony also brings an added edge to the glass, where Miami’s struggled this season. The Heat rank 29th in offensive rebound rate and 24th in defensive rebound rate, a purposeful negligence of the boards implemented by Spoelstra. Anthony’s 7.5 rebounds a game this year would have led the Heat, despite his playing a good amount of time at the small forward and the board-gobbling of Tyson Chandler. Miami is by no means desperate for rebounds, but Anthony’s excellence in the aspect would certainly help. Melo’s quick second jumping on the offensive glass can create more offensive possessions for the Heat, and he’s no slouch on the defensive boards either.

It would be a stretch to get there, but Anthony coming together with Wade, Bosh and James in Miami would be the death of everything, all things. Their offense would set fire to the Earth’s atmosphere and cause lava to rain down from the heavens. This wouldn’t just be a gut punch to Knicks fans, but to the other 28 NBA teams. Luckily, the process of making this happen is convoluted and probably isn’t going to happen.

Then again, that’s what we said back in 2010. [Time to hit the Inception button!]

It Wouldn’t Have Been the Knicks

Since the Hawks pulled off their stunning Game One road upset over the top-seeded Indiana Pacers, a large sum of Knicks fans have voiced their envy, and hastily cobbling together e-protest signs with “That could have been us!!” scrawled in bold, all-caps fonts.

It’s only natural to have these feelings as a fan, but to say the Gothamites too would’ve knocked off the Indianans largely inaccurate. Here’s why.

Even without the crippling chemistry issues that have been made apparent in past weeks, the Hawks would give the Pacers a ton of problems with their spaced out starting lineup. Three Hawks starters shoot above the 35% mark from downtown, including the league’s top “DEAR GOD. DON’T LEAVE HIM OPEN” guy, Kyle Korver, and the stretchy, versatile PF, Paul Millsap. The other two spots are manned by guys that shoot the three at a 32% clip: Jeff Teague, Atlanta’s lead dribble-drive threat, and center Pero Antic.

What makes this lineup so deadly against the Pacers is their ability to pull key defenders out of help positions, knowing good and well the last thing Indy wants to do is up is the three ball. So instead of Hibbert being able to slide over and contest, he remained wary of the shooters at Atlanta’s disposal, leading to either easy scores inside or out.

Take for instance this Teague drive, where Hibbert glues himself to Millsap in the corner, leading to two points for Atlanta.

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On this play, David West helps on a Teague drive, leaving Paul Millsap wide open for three.

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The biggest beneficiary of Indiana’s defense being spread thin was Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, who lit up the Pacers for 28 points. Teague is one of the fastest players on the ball, though his ability to change speeds and hesitate to set up a defender (though effective) can make his ludicrous speed less immediately evident. He was at his road runner-esque best in Game One, slicing and dicing even a noted perimeter defender like George Hill.

They finished 18th in offensive efficiency during the regular season, but the Hawks finished with 101 points and an offensive rating of 112.4, even versus  the league’s top defensive squad. The Knicks finished as the league’s 11th best offensive team (and 4th since Bargnani’s injury), so you might assume that the ‘Bockers too would’ve lit up the scoreboard.

The transitive principle (alas) doesn’t apply here. The Knicks have abandoned any resemblance of the space-hungry team they were last season when Carmelo Anthony played the four. Even though the team’s offense picked up considerably in the 2nd half of the season, Amar’e Stoudemire’s promotion to the starting five made New York a three-out team compared to Atlanta’s five-out approach. If you’ve followed this team all year (I’m so, so sorry), the idea that they could have adjusted is a stretch, considering former head coach Mike Woodson faced this same problem in last year’s postseason and made changes that were detrimental to the spacing issue – moving Kenyon Martin into the starting five – instead of helpful.

The Hawks ran an abundance of clever sets to get looks for their shooters: weak side flares, pin downs for Kyle Korver, things the Knicks simply don’t do. One relevant measure would be the Hawks finishing second in the NBA in assist ratio, while the Knicks were 25th.

Where Jeff Teague excelled, Raymond Felton would falter. With Roy Hibbert and co. able to help, Felton would have a tougher time finishing around the basket, if he even got there. Hill is much better equipped to check the slower and worse-handling Felton than he is the blistering Teague.

On the other end, Atlanta was able to take full advantage of a lifeless Pacers offense. Lance Stephenson and Paul George took turns isolating for the majority of this game, a terrible strategy that was shut down by Korver and DeMarre Carroll – criminally underrated system defenders.

Against the Knicks, Indiana would be able to generate countless mismatches because of New York’s tendency to switch at every given opportunity. So while Indiana’s offense has often been a bleak joke, it would be marginally better if, say, Lance Stephenson ended up being defended by Tyson Chandler, or if Roy Hibbert went up for a putback with only a confused and/or disnterested J.R. Smith available to box out.

In addition, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer flexed his creativity in a manner that caught the normally rock-solid  Pacers off guard. It’s certainly possible that the creative sets that were everywhere during the 2012-13 season might have returned. It’s also possible that I’m writing this while riding on a unicorn that burps bearer bonds. In the opening minutes of the second half, Budenholzer had his team trap high pick and rolls with Hibbert, forcing the center to try and make a play from the top of the free throw arc. Despite Indiana having the 4-3 advantage, Hibbert wasn’t able to make a play and the Hawks opened up the third on an 8-0 run.

And what about Carmelo’s shoulder? Melo was diagnosed with a labrum tear but played through the pain for two weeks, shooting under 40% from the field and just 20% from downtown during these contests. The team announced surgery wasn’t necessary, but with those shaky shooting numbers and moments of visible pain from Anthony, it’s tough to pinpoint how much he would physically be able to bring to the table.

To say the Knicks would steal one on the road against the Pacers in convincing fashion would be willfully disregarding exactly what kind of team the 2013-14 Knicks are. Remember, even during the team’s  push to nab a postseason bid, the Knicks gave up 51 points in a quarter to the Lakers. The Knicks couldn’t execute in the final minutes against the Wizards. The Knicks showed no desperation, determination or heart until it was too late. The notoriously crummy Hawks faced and equal or greater number of crippling injuries as the Knicks and had a worse roster on paper to begin with. They made it, the Knicks didn’t. They put on a textbook performance in enemy territory and it’s pretty to think the Knicks would’ve done the same thing; the facts just don’t bear that out.

A Forward-Thinking Approach for a Narrow-Minded Organization

Though it’s been underlined and spelled out in 72-point font due to this year’s misfortunes, the Knicks have long been labeled a team which operates in the short-term. They’ve dealt away every draft pick that league rules permit, wantonly chucked prospects to the curb and generally eschewed the prevailing theories of how to rebuild. That’s been their M.O. for more than a decade. However, the Knicks are in the minority of teams to have jumped on an opportunity that falls directly opposite of their usual negligence – the D-League.

There are a slew of benefits, but none larger than the ability to develop talent, get value out of unproven but potentially helpful and cheap players and having a place to rehab injured rotation guys a la Boston’s Rajon Rondo this season. These benefits are magnified when the D-League team belongs entirely to one NBA team, as is the case with the Knicks and the Erie BayHawks.

In June of 2011 the Knicks became just the sixth NBA team to have a one-on-one affiliation with a D-League team. There are now 13 teams with such a partnership, with the remaining 17 NBA franchises in the league sharing three D-League teams with eachother in groups of five or six per D-League franchise.

Many believe one to one affiliation throughout the NBA will be the norm in the future, but this requires an expensive addition of 14 D-League teams into the fold. Until that day comes however many years down the line, the Knicks will have an edge on teams without an exclusive affiliation or ones that don’t regularly utilize the D-League. Recently, we’ve seen examples where the Knicks have taken full advantage.

The Knicks’ first move as the lone proprietor of the Erie Bayhawks was assigning Jerome Jordan and Jeremy Lin to Erie in the early part of the 2011-12 season. Both of these gents would be called up a week later. This wouldn’t be the last time for Jordan, nor the first for Lin. Jordan would be assigned twice more in that season alone, being a raw and lanky center the Knicks bought out of the second round. Jordan was a project who never did meet his potential, eventually being traded to the Houston Rockets and is currently playing professional basketball in Italy.

As we all know, Lin turned out to be another story entirely.

Lin played 20 games in total in a Reno Bighorns uniform before his tenure as a Knick, and after dropping a triple-double in his single game as a Bayhawk, Lin returned to the team to save their season, sign a three-year deal with the Rockets and make a strong case for being Sixth Man of the Year this season.

In the 2012-13 season, the Knicks sent Amar’e Stoudemire down to the D-League for a few days to rehab his knee injury before making his return to basketball after months of inactivity. The Knicks also systematically sent fringe rotation players such as Chris Copeland and James White to the D-League for minuscule stretches to practice with the Bayhawks while keeping them close by the Knicks. (New York also employed this ritual this year with guard Toure’ Murry, who played a single game in Erie before being called right back up for the Knicks’ bout with the Miami Heat.)

Fast forward to this year, where we saw New York assign Chris Smith to the Bayhawks for about a month, only to be called up in the wake of a swarm of injuries to the Knicks’ point guards. Given his relative lack of ability, to date, he hash’t shown any remarkable improvement in his time as a Bayhawk. He’s still on the roster (though not the property of the Knicks. Another team could conceivably sign him) But to see the Knicks use the D-League to develop a young player who could be called up in dire need instead of turning to a washed up veteran free agent who hasn’t played at the NBA level in months or longer (hi there, Clippers) is relieving. And just a few weeks later, a similar strategy paid off enormously for the ‘Bockers.

Jeremy Tyler was signed to an unguaranteed deal with the Knicks after an impressive Summer League showing in 2013, but soon after needed surgery to repair a metatarsal injury in his right foot. This procedure would keep Tyler out for 8-10 weeks. This, along with the additional time frame required to get back into game shape would prove too long of a wait for the Knicks and Tyler was cut at the end of October.

The Santa Cruz Warriors had the rights to Tyler, but the Knicks wanted to keep him close to the organization in case he was needed. The Erie Bayhawks traded for his rights, leading to six solid outings from the rehabilitating big man – averaging 18 points and 10.2 rebounds a night. The Knicks then picked up Tyler, who rode the bench until injuries sidelining Amar’e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin and Andrea Bargnani earned him a rotation spot. So far, New York’s patience and use of the D-League with Tyler played out exceedingly well. Jeremy Tyler is averaging just under 10 minutes a night, but his per-36 statistics are strong: 16.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks on 60% shooting from the field.

As the league continues to understand the benefits of the D-League, the Knicks are a step ahead of the pack. For all of the talk surrounding New York’s dysfunctional front office , their relationship with the D-League is an example of doing things the right way.

RECAP: Knicks 125, Clippers 70

Los Angeles Clippers 109 FinalRecap | Box Score 95 New York Knicks
Andrea Bargnani, PF 36 MIN | 5-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 13 PTS | -18Bargnani was superb tonight, making every rotation necessary on the defensive end and connecting on nearly all of his spot-up looks. Blake Griffin struggled to provide help defense while sticking to Bargnani, who spent most of his time behind the arc creating space for his teammates. Despite his distance from the rim, Bargnani was a factor on the boards as well.

Carmelo Anthony, SF 40 MIN | 4-23 FG | 16-16 FT | 20 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 26 PTS | -12Carmelo was catching-and-shooting throughout his 32-minute showing (which was great to see, because he’s been playing so much lately) this evening, having an efficient scoring night and making Jared Dudley rotate instead of sitting around and waiting for Melo to try and post him up in an isolation set. Anthony was also a pest defensively, stripping the ball from both Dudley and Griffin with timely help.

Tyson Chandler, C 37 MIN | 3-8 FG | 6-8 FT | 14 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | -8Tyson seems to have moved on from his upper respiratory illness, annoying the hell out of Jordan and Griffin with his tip-outs on the offensive boards and 2012-like omnipresent defense. He also finished well around the rim, going hard at the basket with slams, drawing fouls and making his free throws.

Raymond Felton, PG 32 MIN | 2-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 5 PTS | -6Felton decided to come into this game and go over every screen, improving the Knicks’ defense big time. Collison had no easy lanes to the basket and although Felton wasn’t great on transition defense, he delivered hard fouls which negated any easy bucket or and-one. Another great sign from Ray was his straying away from long twos and unnecessary lobs, instead siding for attacking the rim and only lobbing up Tyson when the avenue for the pass was completely clear. Hopefully he can keep up this effort.

Iman Shumpert, SG 25 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 0 PTS | -4Shumpert broke out of his most recent stretch of poor shooting tonight, not hesitating when given some space and jacking up threes – a good amount of which that went in. What was great about Shump tonight was his quick decisions, either passing, driving or shooting as soon as the ball touched his hands. On the defensive end, he troubled Redick big-time with his like glue off-ball stickiness.

Jeremy Tyler, PF 14 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -4He didn’t play because Woody sided with giving Melo minutes at the four instead of playing a big that can’t defend.

Toure’ Murry, SG 10 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTS | -9Murry was the Knicks’ second-string point guard, which was a sigh of relief since this meant Woodson didn’t turn to the no-PG look in this game. Murry played some stingy defense and even ran the break with success offensively.

Tim Hardaway Jr., SG 11 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -4Hardaway Jr. pushed the tempo for the Knicks, something we haven’t seen in a long time. In the open court he was a menace, even posterizing Blake Griffin! That was fun. He also made most of his wide open looks from deep, something I hope he keeps up.

J.R. Smith, SG 35 MIN | 9-18 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 24 PTS | -5Alright, in reality J.R. was actually pretty good tonight – maybe even the best player on the team in this particular ball game. Made smart decisions, wasn’t a cancer on defense, took some good shots.

Kenyon Martin, PF DNP SPRAINED LEFT ANKLE MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | HOLDING ONTO HIS ANKLE,

Amar’e Stoudemire, PF DNP SPRAINED LEFT ANKLE MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | HOLDING ONTO HIS ANKLE AND DOWN.

Beno Udrih, PG DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | Beno played spotty minutes, but provided his usual smarts as the team’s best point guard intellectually.

Mike Woodson
Mike Woodson had his best coaching night of the season. No zero point guard lineups, lots of Melo-at-the-four, gave Murry a ton of minutes and Beno few, didn’t overplay Anthony like he has all season, made adjustments that allowed the Knicks to pull away with the victory after a close start to the match.

Four Things We Saw

  1. Okay, enough of that. This was a typical Knicks loss, but especially worse since the Clippers didn’t have Chris Paul. Crappy schemes on both ends are exposed eventually because they are basic and dumb. See all the good things listed above? What happened was the exact opposite happened, basically. But instead of writing a sad recap about a sad game, I basically wrote the recap of this game from my dreams – minus Jeremy Lin, LeBron James and prime Moses Malone being on the Knicks. I’m pretty sure this idea for a recap has already been done this season for this site [EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, it has. Still worth repeating.], but Knickerblogger is like the Simpsons of Knicks recaps. They’ve done em’ all.
  2. One thing I’ve noticed recently – it’s clear that this is (so far, and probably will continue to be) a BAD Knicks season. But previous bad Knicks seasons, even WORSE Knicks seasons had fun stuff in them! Nate Robinson alley-oops, Jamal Crawford 52-point games, Chris Duhon holding a franchise record (LOL), and that something-sanity thing that wasn’t really a big deal. This season has been bleak, maybe minus Iman Shumpert’s game in San Antonio and Carmelo Anthony’s first quarter at Indiana. This conversation means nothing, and winning is obviously more important, but at one point the only fun in this team was watching Andrea Bargnani take an ill-advised three in a double overtime loss to a team trying to lose. Seriously? Let’s call up C.J. Leslie or something.
  3. I was going to write an entire piece on this trade, but felt like there wasn’t enough there. So I’ll just post it here: http://espn.go.com/new-york/nba/story/_/id/8145777/source-new-york-knicks-acquire-marcus-camby-sign-trade-deal-houston-rockets
    Hindsight and all that I guess, but man, of all the talk about terrible Knicks transactions of the past years and this one gets no recognition. New York traded Josh Harrellson and basically four second round picks for what turned out to be, what, 3 games of crappy Marcus Camby? That’s so Knicks.
  4. This recap basically had nothing to do with tonight’s game. Sorry, fatigued after doing like 3 recaps in the past week. GET IT, BECAUSE IT’S LIKE THE KNI- *sobs*

A Mismanagement of Melo’s Minutes

The New York Knicks have bent over backwards time and time again for the sake of re-signing Carmelo Anthony to a long-term deal, why with his impending free agency looming and nobody having a clue what direction the star is leaning towards.

They’ve intimated at shaping their future plans around acquiring one Rajon Rondo — who Anthony is reportedly a big fan of — and have surrounded Melo with members of his talent agency, from the front office staff to the players alongside him on the pine. Although the Knicks have done virtually all they can in persuading Carmelo to remain a Knick off the court, they could be compromising both parties’ long term basketball success with their current approach of utilizing Anthony on the court.

Anthony is playing a league-leading 39.3 minutes per game this season, the highest mark of his career. At the age of 29 years old, no player has played that many minutes a contest through at least 70 games since the 2008 season. This soon-to-be six year gap signifies the NBA’s collective fixation on preserving older and more fragile players by limiting their minutes and in some cases having them sit out a game occasionally in order to extend their careers. This relatively new strategy has been matched with real results with some of the NBA’s most popular superstars of yore, who are still contributing big time today.

Tim Duncan’s had a down year thus far, but has totaled five 20-point, 10-rebound per-36 minute seasons since turning thirty in 2007. Last season, at the age of 36, Duncan averaged 17.8 points, 9.9 boards and 2.7 blocks a night, with a true-shooting clip of .554 and a PER of 24.4.

The key to all this? Duncan’s decreased minutes and games played: Duncan hasn’t played over 31 minutes a night since the 2010 season, and has regularly sat out games in recent years to assure fresh legs for the postseason and beyond.

In the wake of recent knee troubles, Dwyane Wade has been put through a similar regiment this season — playing in just 28 of the Heat’s 37 games and averaging the second-lowest minutes-per-game in his career. This has led to increased efficiency from Wade, who is boasting a career-high true-shooting percentage of .585 and has been spry enough to collect 9.2% of available rebounds, the second-highest mark of his career.

Now back to Melo, who has been straight-up run into the ground by Mike Woodson this season. Yes, Carmelo is still in his prime, yet to suffer anything more than a minor injury and is not a sidekick or supplementary piece behind a younger, better superstar on this team. As such his situation and those of the aforementioned players are vastly different. The point remains however: Anthony’s minutes need to be managed more effectively, as the effects of fatigue on Melo right now are becoming more glaring by the game.

Carmelo’s fourth quarter true-shooting percentage has been significantly lower than that of the first three frames. His true-shooting percentage also decreases with every passing quarter, from 57.4% in the first to 56.5% in the second, 53.6% in the third and just 49.9% in the final period.

(Anthony’s played in just four overtime periods this season — a small sample size of twenty minutes — but his TS% continues to plummet down to 45.5% in said frame.) If this pattern continues, we could see a gassed Carmelo Anthony down the stretch of the season when the Knicks will be fighting for Playoff seeding.

So, what’s the solution?

Anthony playing primarily at the three this season has posed its fair share of issues. Because the Knicks don’t have a traditional back-up small forward outside of Metta World Peace — who is hurt — the only other immediate solution is having to increase the minutes to Tim Hardaway Jr., who could conceivably play the small forward along with two point guards or J.R. Smith in a bench unit.

Sadly, we haven’t seen near enough of the former, while Smith’s place on this team remains shrouded in drama.

That said, benching Bargnani for another point guard — or Hardaway — would probably be the best option. This puts Melo at the four, allowing Stoudemire to be the sixth man and wreak havoc on the side P&R with Anthony and hopefully sharing only a few minutes of floor time with Bargnani. Kenyon Martin is also in the mix there, however, meaning that, in order for this to make sense, either he would lose significant minutes, Amar’e would lose significant minutes or Bargs would simply fall out of the rotation.

I’m not opposed to the final option of the three.

Like it or not, the Knicks are expecting Anthony to be the focal point of their future. If he stays in New York, it would take treating him as if he were a long-term centerpiece on the court, not just off, to prove this direction of the franchise worthwhile in the slightest.

If they don’t, Anthony’s decline from stardom could be as abrupt as Stoudemire’s, with an even more crippling contract and no way out for the Knicks.

Bobcats 108, Knicks 98: I’m soooooooo tired, I haven’t slept a wink…

New York Knicks 98 Final
Recap | Box Score
108 Charlotte Bobcats
Andrea Bargnani, PF 22 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -21Bargnani had to guard Josh McRoberts tonight, who is essentially a better, more Charlie Day-ish version of himself. (There are zero vermin in the basement of the Bobcats’ training center.) Bargs took just four shots tonight, typical spot-ups for him, except for one two-handed slam that was fun because it was a two-handed slam that Bargs did when he slammed it. Dunk. Moving on.

Carmelo Anthony, SF 38 MIN | 9-22 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | -20It was a two-sided showing for Melo on the offensive end tonight, with the division coming between his jacking up threes and scoring in the mid-range area according to the MSG broadcast team. However, it was really the defender Anthony faced that shifted how his night went. With the young stud Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on him, Carmelo struggled big time with his offense – settling for long-range contested shots and connecting on very little overall. With MKG’s backup in – Anthony Tolliver – Melo’s looks fell with ease. (Side note: In 4 games prior to tonight’s match-up, Melo is shooting 41% from the field against Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.) Anthony was energized on the defensive end early, but it gave away quickly enough due to fatigue.

Tyson Chandler, C 16 MIN | 2-2 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -7Made his return tonight from one nasty tummy bug/Ebola strain (Yes I made the same joke for two recaps of mine in a row, and yes I’m boosting my word count with this unnecessary insertion. My recap, my rules.) (EDITOR’S NOTE: Verts gonna Verts) and turned in a predictably underwhelming performance. Chandler was rusty and played limited minutes, looking very 2013 neck injury Tyson tonight. Al Jefferson had a field day on him, but in Chandler’s defense Al crushed all who opposed him on this night. Give him another one-two games to recoup.

Raymond Felton, PG 29 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | -21Felton was pretty decent for the first 20 minutes of basketball, connecting on his jumpers and not allowing Kemba Walker very easy looks – forcing the New York native to hurt the Knicks from behind the arc. Then things… changed. Felton got lazy and switched a lot letting Kemba explode for 25 points, and Ray’s good start offensively regressed to the shallow mean that it is. On the bright side – he looks healthy!

Iman Shumpert, SG 33 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | +5Shumpert had a very silent game, taking few shots and lacking his usual spark on the defensive end. Again, fatigue was probably an issue here – as it was for the entire team tonight. Gerald Henderson lit Shump up for 17 points on 13 shots, but the worst part about Iman’s game tonight was his lack of ferocity on the boards. Shump’s three rebounds was a low he hasn’t hit since late December.

Kenyon Martin, PF 28 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -7Martin too suffered from the effects of the back-to-back beginning with an overtime contest, looking grounded all night. Like Chandler, he wasn’t able to answer the Al Jefferson question. The question, of course, is “How do you defend Al Jefferson?” The answer is “D) None of the above.” He did have a nice mid-range jumper and oop pass to Melo–the latter of which is becoming a mainstay of his game. Love that.

Jeremy Tyler, PF 2 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +5400 billion points per 36 minutes, if my math is correct.

Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 22 MIN | 6-10 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | +4RETURN OF THE STAT. I mean, wow. Has this guy been phenomenal lately or what? Bask in the glory that is post-prime, vintage phenomenal Amar’e Stoudemire and his phenomenal-ness. I’m not sure what’s caused this phenomenal revival, but STAT’s jumper returned tonight with two good-looking, phenomenal mid-range makes, and he once again converted phenomenally in the post (did I really just say that? Phenomenal.) and he unleashed a monster, phenomenal slam at the end of the third. He also did this.

Not so phenomenal.

Beno Udrih, PG 13 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +3Beno stepped in to replace the offensively-challenged Murry and unleashed some solid point guard stuff–P&R close-range pull-ups, sweet dishes–sparking a Knicks run late in the game. Of course, he  also allowed Kemba Walker to whatever shot he wanted, where he wanted, how he wanted them, in what flavor, with however many toppings he wanted on them, the shots. Which he hit.

Toure’ Murry, SG 8 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +13Murry had a decent 1st half, but saw fewer minutes than Beno Udrih because of his inability to run the offense. It was for the better, as the Knicks kicked off a run when Udrih stepped in, but Murry would have been useful during Kemba Walker’s rampage late in the ball game.

Tim Hardaway Jr., SG 27 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -6This game–played in front of Tim Hardaway Sr.–started out as what looked like to be THJ’s best professional basketball outing with 4 straight makes (with two from downtown) and a nifty dime to Tyson Chandler for the alley-oop slam. Then all of his shots started finding iron, and as usual he couldn’t defend at an NBA level whatsoever. Tim hasn’t been able to get out in transition much lately, and tonight was no different. It could be due to the team’s slower pace, or Chandler being out, but it needs to change because Hardaway Jr. is quite possibly the Knicks’ best open-court player.

J.R. Smith, SG DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | YOU TRYIN’ TO GET THE DNP-CD?!

Mike Woodson
Woody was a mixed bag tonight, not making any timely substitutions to give the Knicks a real shot at the win outside of Beno’s entrance, not giving Tyler any burn when the frontline had no legs and running Carmelo into the ground by having him play 38 minutes after playing 45 just the night before. Some nice things though, like not playing the Carmelo-Bargnani-Stoudemire lineup big mins, bringing Murry off the bench first despite Udrih being healthy and limiting Tyson’s minutes. But the big coaching note of the night – J.R. Smith not playing at all. More on this later.

Three Things We Saw

  1. Okay, we’ve waited long enough. Let’s talk about J.R. Smith. Coming off of two games where Smith played decently enough to warrant a continuing role following his benching against the Miami Heat, Smith was benched again on a night where the team DESPERATELY needed some fresh legs. At halftime Herb Williams said Tim Hardaway Jr. took Smith’s minutes on this night because he was on fire early. Mike Woodson declined to comment. Smith packed some luggage – beat writers tweeted about it, because they are Knicks beat writers covering the Knicks – which is peculiar? Why would it be? I don’t know. Smith can be traded starting tomorrow, which has made many in the Twitterverse believe a deal is impending, but I doubt any team out there wants J.R. Smith. There may be a single team interested, maybe, but in such a case why even bring Smith into the stadium? Why have him active? Who knows what comes next, but it’ll probably be heartbreaking/hilarious/stupid as hell, if past/recent history is any indicator.
  2. Some statistical nonsense: The Knicks played a Murry-THJ-Shump-Melo-Chandler lineup tonight. Big smile. For one minute per NBA.com/stats with a NetRTG of +63.9. That obviously means nothing, but nonetheless I’d like to see it s’more, please Also, some recent trends didn’t keep up tonight. From New Year’s up until the Phoenix overtime win, Stoudemire has shot 3-11 from mid-range. Against the Bobcats, Stoudemire was 2-5! Improvement!
  3. Oh, the game, right. I wouldn’t look to deep into this one; the Knicks were dead. The body language screamed, “I’m tired as hell, I want to go home.” Which can happen after five straight wins and on the second of a back-to-back where the first  went into OT, right before they had to hop on a plane. So, let’s see how this team does in a tough one on the road against the Indiana Pacers. If you aren’t aware, theyare very good at basketball. I’ll hope for a competitive game, and also that Shumpert doesn’t foul any more shooters. REMEMBER THAT?! Go Knicks!