Phoenix Suns 121 – New York Knicks 98 – Game Recap

I wish I possessed the (basic) Photoshop skills to make a montage of the Scooby Doo meme – you know the one – where Shaggy goes to unmask Mike Miller and finds that, behind the polite middle manager mask, it was David Fizdale all along. That’s how depressing this game was,

Seriously, if I showed you the whole footage of the game, only removing date and sideline shots, you all would think Fiz was coaching this team. The team was disjointed, the play was lackluster, iso-time abounded, three point shots were conceded and some rotations didn’t make sense. It was all extremely disappointing.

Honestly I don’t even know what to say about the game apart from a few thoughts, but I’ll make amend with a section dedicated to numbers and half-season grades of our crucial (?) players.

– First things first: everything – everything – goes to shit if Payton doesn’t give a damn on defense. Guess what? It’s several games that Elfrid just looks totally uninterested on that side of the ball. Now, I guess being a new dad sucks a lot of energy out of you, but why does that energy be only on the not fun side of the court? Or can it be that Payton has always been a very overrated defender and these days it’s just more apparent than before (the latter without a doubt)? Anyway, when your primary point of attack defender just becomes a turnstile everything else becomes useless. I don’t really know what can be done about it (Frank, while being a much more enthusiastic defender, ended up committing five fouls in 25 minutes, which is definitely not ideal), but if Payton can’t be counted on being held accountable, I guess that should be bench or buyout time after the deadline.

– Mook’s back! Yay! (Said nobody). I’m frankly appalled at every notion that Mook shouldn’t be traded to ensure continuity. So far he’s been regarded as a valuable mentor for a team that currently sits at 11-31 and for a young point guard (?) who’s maybe improving but stands at .028 WS/48 and .494 TS%. That’s lazy thinking, not love for continuity. There’s nothing to be salvaged here in that sense, honestly. I get holding onto him until the deadline and/or until a good offer comes around, but for god’s sake, get him out of here. When the offense doesn’t click, he only jams it further, and he can’t cover for glaring defensive issues from other players. Coincidentally, he had the lowest plus/minus of every player in the game at a very round -20.

– Hey, good news! Mitch finally played more than 30 minutes. 30 minutes and 7 seconds, to be precise. And he didn’t even get into foul trouble (only two for the night). That said, while the numbers were kinda good (12 points, 8 boards, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 5/7 from the field – two missed dunks! – and 2/3 from the line) Mitch is looking very uninspired and unfocused. It’s hard to understand if this should fall on Miller’s shoulders, because it looked like he found a way to untap his potential after all, but it’s a worrying trend. I’m more than willing to write it up to the Drummond trade rumors, but then again being a professional in the NBA means also not getting swayed by whatever it is that floats around your name. Maybe it’s a big deal to ask from a 21 year old, but that’s the harsh destiny of the closest thing to a budding superstar this team had since big ol’ Pat.

– Miller’s record for his first 20 games is 7-13, “good” for a .350 winning percentage that would put the Knicks at 29-53 over the course of a full season, which is exactly what you should try to avoid with a team full of mercs. I think Miller should be given the chance to work with a better roster, because honestly some of his choices stink of Pills orders to make them look good (lineups with Randle at the 5 and Portis at the 4 are an insult to creation itself), but it has to come on the heels of a new FO; if a new FO comes around, though, it’s unlikely Miller will stick around. Take your time to bid farewell to Miller, you have three months to do that.

And now your 2019/20 Knicks half-season report! (PPG/RPG/APG; TS%, WS/48; other notable stats if any)

– Julius Randle (19/9.1/3.3;   .532, .051;  .294 3P%): after an abysmal start for the season, Julius’ numbers and impact all went through a heavy detox program courtesy of Mike Miller. The result is that now his numbers look a bit better, but considering we needed him to be a viable three point shooter to unlock some interesting feature in our offense (mainly his fit with Mitch) and that his defense is exactly how advertised, which means Amar’e bad, the Randle experiment for now goes down as a failure. Grade: C-. In a nutshell: Fumblebee.

– Marcus Morris (19/5.5/1.5;  .584, .105;  .467 3P%): as Brain would say, how ironic that the best free agent acquisition of the offseason was the mulligan given to us after Bullock failed his medical? Honestly there’s not much to dislike about Mook’s production this season; the same can’t be said about his proclivity to halt the ball-sharing activities, but I guess he’s been given the green light to hoist it up. Enough said about the need to trade him. Grade: B-. In a nutshell: (Hope he’s) gone with the wind.

– RJ Barrett (14.1/5.2/2.5; .470, -0.026; 0.6 DWS, 93 ORtg): rough first season for the rookie, who also rolled his ankle badly tonight and will probably be out for a while. His demeanor, rebounding numbers and NBA-ready body are source for hope, as is his trending up FT% (still at 60% for the season); everything else, especially offense-related, is a mess. My 5 dollars are on RJ becoming a good not great player, which isn’t that bad after all. Grade: C+ (for a rookie). In a nutshell: The one who stayed while Ja got away.

– Mitchell Robinson (9.9/6.6/0.5; .710, .212; 1.7 BPG, 139 ORtg, 3.4 FPG): not quite the leap we expected, but still a blessing for aching souls and desperate eyes alike everytime he’s on the court. Still averaging a shame-worthy 22.6 MPG because everyone involved in his management on this team is a fucking moron, he should be the undisputed building block of this franchise but no, let’s see in how many more ways Portis can suck at this thing called basuketuboru. League-best in TS% and ORtg. Pass him the ball under or over the rim and let him go to work! Grade: B+. In a nutshell: Teenage wasteland.

– Frank Ntilikina (6.1/2.2/3.2; .494, .028; 2.4 STL%, 1.6 BLK%): sporting for the first time a positive WS/48 and improved in both steals and blocks percentage, still light years away from being good. Two dunks in traffic and an attempted posterization of KP though already render this season a roaring success. He’s also dispatched every DSJ attempt at usurping his place, but that’s because DSJ sucks badly. Grade: C——– verging on D–. In a nutshell: French milquetoast.

– Kevin Knox (7.6/3.2/1.1; .492, .023; .336 3P%): I don’t know what’s there to say about Knox that could even pass for a backhanded compliment. Oh okay, let’s try with this: he’s playing out of position. I would like to see him man the PF spot for 15 MPG consistently as to really evalue what we have in him. If we keep on playing him at SF we’ll never develop the few things he could potentially do well while exposing him to all sorts of embarrassment on defense. I see no reason in that. This is what happens when you sign 4 PFs in the offseason. Grade: D+. In a nutshell: youth is wasted on the young.

– Everyone else: they’re all Afflalo to me.

The real good news, though, is that I’m almost over with the horrible food intoxication I got between Tuesday and Wednesday (I got to eat a whole sandwich today!), so if my stomach can do it, then we all can do it!

See you after the Sixers game.

 

New Orleans Pelicans 123 – New York Knicks 111 – Game Recap

This might be remembered as the point where Mike Miller’s shine (?) wore off for good.

You know I loudly advocated for Fizdale to be fired and Miller to be promoted, and of course it was the right move to make. There’s no denying that the team is playing better, that we’ve seen a more coherent and entertaining product on the court, and that Miller is having his share of injury/absence problems (Mook’s neck, Randle dealing with a death in the family, DSJ’s strained oblique – yeah well, the last one not so much of a problem).

That said, we’re 17 games into the Mike Miller experience and there’s a good chance he’ll earn the Mediocre Mike moniker by the end of the season if things keep on going this way.

It looks like the League has taken notice of the not so small but very basic changes Miller implemented in the offense and in the defense and has adjusted accordingly. This is of course ok and to be expected – after all this is the best league in the world – but makes space for a few roster management bad thoughts, mainly:

– Our defense is sucking again (ok we played mostly good teams in the last 4 games; that doesn’t mean though that they can get any shot they want just because they’re better than us). Why don’t we try to play more defense-oriented (and hopefully defense-capable) guys together as soon as it becomes evident that we need a shock? For one, Elfrid Payton has regressed so much in that area that if I was an attacking player and Elf was tasked with guarding me I’d suspect there’s a pyramidal scheme involved in getting to the rim for how easy it would be. We have too many weak links that lead to scrambled rotations that ultimately lead to corner threes or people alone in the paint. Why doesn’t Miller roll out a Frank-Dot/Bullock-RJ-Mook (if healthy)-Mitch lineup more often?

– Speaking of Mitch: while his offensive numbers are steady and very likable (your mileage may vary about his defense, which is really inconsistent), why doesn’t he get more minutes? 17 games in he can’t seem to crack the 30 minutes threshold. It appears Miller doesn’t fully trust him in games. That’s a shame, because this season should be only about player development. Instead we’re rolling Taj Gibson out there for 27 minutes.

– While I don’t think that offensive mistakes should be punished with a short leash, defensive one should do. If you need to install a culture and a mindset, defense should always be the stepping stone (Fizdale said as much. Take that for data!). We’re treated to too many minutes of Kevin Knox just letting his guy blow past him as if defense was as unconcerning to him as world peace is to those fucking guys who don’t realize how fucked we’re sure to be if we don’t turn a lot of things around, starting from war declarations and climate change and going up (down?) from there. I usually don’t want to talk about politics, at least not here, but newsfeeds can’t be ignored forever, can they? It’s bad out there, guys. And getting back to the point, it’s bad that Knox, Payton and Randle (wishing him well on the personal side) don’t get called out for their lackluster effort on the defensive end.

– What’s the matter with Mitch not starting even with Mook and Randle out? I know they don’t play the same position, but what the hell are we trying to do by starting Portis instead of Mitch? And what are we waiting for to call up Wooten as to implant him as Mitch’s backup? If I was Miller, I’d probably roll with this rotation now that the wheels have fallen off in his coaching stint too: Frank-Bullock-RJ-Mook-Mitch with Payton-Trier-Dot-Randle-Wooten and sprinkle some Taj and Knox here and there. As soon as you trade Mook, put Knox on the starting lineup and keep Randle on the bench to feast on opposing backups. But no, let’s play the awful vets more minutes. Damn them all, they’re all Afflalo to me.

As for the game: even as the Knicks and Pels traded blows during the first two quarters (before New Orleans went on to build a lead that would prove to be insurmountable) there was an aura of losing around this game. Between all the threes that were conceded (and subsequently hit) by the Pellies and the general devil-may-care attitude on defense, to me it was pretty evident that the Pelicans would have all the gears needed to destroy us. And this was while Gibson and Mitch ended up the night with a combined 14-for-15 from the field! Sadly, more than a few other Knicks were pretty inefficient (the usual suspects: RJ shot 5/15, Frank 2/7, Dot 3/8, Knox 2/8 – and then there’s the Gehenna of inefficiency, reserved to Trier going 0/2 and Ellington 0/4) and the team as a whole finished with 46% shooting from the field and 18.5% (not a typo: 5 for 27) from three. But don’t let the score fool you, as in “we only needed to hit 33.3% from three to tie the game – 9 for 27 would have sufficed!”; remember the thing about New Orleans having all the gears needed? They would have pulled it off anyway. We plainly sucked. As we’re wont to do these days, er months, errrr years.

A few more thoughts:

– Brandon Ingram looks like the poster child of “wait for young guys to develop”. I totally thought he would have ended up being a bust when all was said and done. Lo and behold, he’s looking like a real star in the making: 25/7/4 on .600 TS% and .141 WS/48. You can kick me in the ass everytime I suggest we throw a second year guy under the bus for a bad game. Apart from Knox. Knox sucks.

– Yeah, let’s talk about Knox. When a second year guy regresses as he’s doing, you’re left feeling pretty hopeless about his future, especially considering that at the start of the season he looked to have turned a corner. His WS/48, BPM and VORP are all better than they were last year, but this is due to three things: he’s got a lower usage, he’s way better at blocking shots (a useless thing for him) and he turns the ball over less because he mostly plays as a spot up guy. Sadly, sucking a bit less won’t cut it, if you start from atrocious levels of basketball ugliness. Also, if anything Mike Miller looks to have exacerbated Knox’s problems. That said, Frank looked to have hit a very rough patch just as Miller took the helm, so maybe we should still wait a bit. Who knows.

– When you think about Pills’ resume, remember we’re paying 8 million dollars to a guy who played until now 312 minutes, shoots .320 from the field and .313 from three and doesn’t do anything else. Wayne Ellington is the new member of the renowned group of people that come to the Knicks to have their careers die in front of our eyes, just like old whales do on the beach.

– What’s with the insane Drummond trade talks? Drummond is good, but plays the same position of our best player. Are these guys really that stupid?

– I’m sorry that I can’t recap every single game this season. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t have with the losing record and mind-boggling roster at all. But that’s just a 10% of the reason. The amount of work doubled this year (don’t exactly know why), plus my work with a couple of associations and putting the finishing touches on my music related side project (next week three songs of mine will be at last distributed on Spotify and iTunes) just vacuumed a lot of energies. I hope to be more present from now until April. A few good trades would be a nice jolt for sure!

I’ll try to squeeze a recap Monday before going three days on family related matters in Sardinia. In the meantime, let’s give birth to a few more side-tangents threads in the comment section (and cross our fingers that we don’t really trade for Drummond).

New York Knicks 132 – Los Angeles Clippers 135 – Game Recap

Sometimes, a loss is a loss is a loss. Sometimes, a loss is a great loss.

While the eternal child that resides in me always (always) hopes for a fat W when the Knicks play, there’s something to be said about my adult, cynical, bashed-by-life-where-shit-happens self not wanting the Knicks to win this one even when the game was close in the last moments. You see, winning is never inherently good. You have to factor in a lot of parameters in the equation, like: what’s there to gain with a win here? What are the chances we get to the playoffs if we beat the Clippers on their home turf? (0.00000002%). What are the chances that Morris never gets traded if he goes off for 40 and we defeat a possible/likely NBA finalist? (12%). Wait, did you consider that Pills are still our FO? (Oh, that’s right. Bump it up to 75%). And Dolan being the owner? (Oh shit. This is looking like the Stonks! meme. Turn this up to eleven and let’s say 101%). And what if BoPo chimes in from the bench with another double figures game? (Oh god. We’re gonna keep all those mercs around, aren’t we?).

I think you get my point, mostly because my point is also your point. Team realist has spread like a benign virus in the last three years of Knickerblogging, and while we’re not the happier for this, we’re certainly the saner. Or are we? After all we still follow closely the fate of an intrinsically doomed franchise, submitting ourselves to Wally’s homer droning in the process at least a half-dozen times a year.

The game was fun, mind you. Fun and kinda pointless, if you think that defense should be half of the endeavor. These days a lot of pundit fall head over heels after a first glance at the box scores. Hey, teams now routinely score 120+ points in regulation time! Call this a big win for Adam Silver’s NBA!

Let’s pump the brakes a bit, K? I don’t know if I really like this product. I mean, it’s not rocket science to acknowledge that more points = a better chance to bake that highlight reel cake in a way that looks really good. But you know what also looks really good? Every single fast food burger out there, in the ads. Marvelous, bursting at the buns, colorful and making you strive for odorama. Than you go to McDonald’s, order your Big Mac, and you find it’s soggy, lukewarm and sometimes even gloomy, as if your tax return has suddenly come to life in hamburger form (going by this metaphor, the All-Star Game is the actual bun they use for the photoshoot: fake, inedible, unhealthy and misleading).

Games like this give me exactly that feeling, and not because of the loss – I think I felt the same way after the 143 points outburst against the Hawks. Do a Mitch thunderous alley oop make any noise in the forest of double digit leads in the fourth?

I want to see defense. I want to see players put up 30+ points against hard competition. I want to see meaningful basketball juice, not this sort of homeopathic ball where they dilute and dilute and dilute the meaning of competent defensive possession hoping that your basketball hunger will be satiated by the water memory of an Anthony Mason defensive stance in December 1993.

Anyway, on to the game.

Early on, and I mean in the whole first quarter, it looked like the Clippers were in a sort of Groundhog Day routine. After conceding 40 points in the first quarter of their recent Memphis game, they went on and let the Knicks amass 45 points in the first stanza (to their 29). Everything was falling for the Bockers. RJ was scoring at will, Portis was raining threes, Morris was kinda hot, even Frank (who got the nod because Elfrid’s with his newborn baby and DSJ has a strained oblique – funny how these new generations come up with rebranding even for pouting and sucking) made his voice felt with a confident three from the dribble. Meanwhile Paul George at the 2 spot was fumbling the ball, Patrick Patterson was disappearing from the court, and Ivica Zubac was busy scoring high at Scrabble with his name.

Well, it was too good to be true (and it was easy to see it was a fluke. You usually can’t win a game against a top-3 team when they score 29 on you at their worst). In the second quarter, the wheels fell off and the Clips reciprocated with a 47-24 quarter of their own. It’s a good sign that the Knicks didn’t just roll over and die there; after all, the game was still close. It’s not a good sign that the gate were kicked open by the most likely suspects from the bench: Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Harrell in particular made a point of straightly abusing Mitch down low. It got so bad that I actively hoped that Mike Miller would put Taj Gibson back in the game because Mitch was looking like Bambi’s mother out there. It wasn’t pretty (Taj did zilch to stop Montrezl, but he’s expendable. I don’t want Mitch to look this bad out there, even if he deserved the humiliation, it’s probably needed to make him evolve. He has so much room to grow before becoming a cornerstone – but he’s hands down my favorite Knick ever since I got to watch NBA basketball in 1994, with honorable mentions for David Lee, Gallo, half a season of Landry Fields and two months of Jeremy Lin. I feel about him just as I felt gazing upon Manu Ginobili dressing up for my beloved Virtus Bologna. Don’t mess with my Mitch).

In the third it got worse. The offense looked like it stopped working (not true, they still put up 31 points, but in this context it looked like that) and the Clippers kept on piling point after point on us. The quarter ended up 38-31 for them, but it felt like 50-15. We looked hopeless out there while George, Williams and Harrell were cooking.

The fourth quarter saw an unlikely but inspired comeback on the heels of a monstre offensive performance from Mook; ultimately, we lost because they’re better than us at basketball and because even with their top two guns out of the game (Leonard due to load management – LeBron triggered – PG due to having fouled out) they still had the two best players on the floor in Williams and Harrell. The quarter ended 32-21 for us, but it wasn’t enough. And I felt happy that we lost.

The good:

– Imagine if Marcus Morris (38 pts, 5 rebs, 1 ast, +2 +/-) was playing this sort of basketball in a meaningful year. He’d be inducted into the Knicks hall of fame midseason. Frankly, I never expected that he could have this sort of impact on a game on the offensive end. Scoring 38 points on 19 shots isn’t an easy feat even for the top players out there. It’s a shame that Mook’s timeline doesn’t match with the Knicks one, or I could have easily fallen in love with his production (this is your daily reminder that we signed him only because Bullock failed his medical. Don’t give Pills too much credit for Morris, ever). Right now, I feel like a farmer in the sixteenth century that had a beautiful daughter and was smart enough to know that the best scenario for him was to have her marry a noble suitor. Sometimes love has to take a step back and yield to the cruel reality. That said, was there a better opponent for Mook to showcase his talent against? I’m sure Jerry West doesn’t get easily swayed by a single game, but just imagine what happens if all the Clippers have to do to bolster their production is to send us Harkless and their 2020 first. They suddenly can field this lineup in the playoffs: Beverley-Shamet/Robinson-George-Leonard-Token buyout center with Williams-Robinson/Shamet-Morris-Green/Patterson-Harrell. Crunch time lineup: Williams/Beverley-George-Leonard-Morris-Harrell. How can you stop them? Trade. Mook. Now.

– RJ Barrett (24 pts, 6 rebs, 1 stl, +4 +/-) delivered a great, great performance last night. It was needed, honesly. 24 points on 11 shots is manna from heaven for him, especially considering that he found the time (and the way) to go to the line eleven times and sank nine freebies. A statistical aberration if I have ever seen one for this season, but at the same time it could be good foreboding. I still find his assist numbers (or lack thereof) very worrisome, but I can’t pin it on him. Miller’s no-nonsense attitude made it so that Barrett’s playmaking just can’t get exploited with him in the starting five. I’d like to see him and Mitch command the bench mob, but I don’t know if that’s ever gonna happen. For now let’s revel in his few efficient performances, and circle the dates when the Knicks play against teams that don’t have interior protection. That’s the only flaw in the Clippers’ roster construction, and it’s the only flaw that RJ knows how to exploit for now. It’s still not bad for a 19-year old, you know? For what it’s worth (nothing) RJ’s the third youngest player ever to put a 24/6 on 11 shots or less in NBA history, the other two before him being Dwight Howard and JJJ. Rounding up the top-10 of youngest players to post such a feat are the late Eddie Griffin, Chris Bosh, Andre Drummond, Marquese Chriss (what), Tyler Herro, DeAndre Ayton and Tyrus Thomas. A bit hit-or-miss, but again, let’s just take the good omens out of this.

The bad:

– I don’t have a single Knick having played significant minutes here (Kevin Knox would be the choice, but he played only 6 minutes – while posting a DSJ-like -11 +/-), so I’ll give this spot to the Knicks defense and free throw shooting *ahem* prowess. We lost a game by three and missed 13 free throws. Oh, and we found a way to lose a game where we scored 132 points on a blistering 57% from the field and 52% from three. I’m glad we lost for the aforementioned reasons, but we should still be ashamed we couldn’t snatch a win out of those numbers. Miller didn’t do a great job here, even if he was two PGs short and made the best of what he had.

– Or did he? For a couple minutes out there we witnessed the return of the 4 power forwards hydra. Frank-Knox-Morris-Randle-Gibson. Stop this madness. Paul George can play the two. Kevin Knox has trouble playing the three. Shame on you, Mike Miller.

Fun-sized bits:

– Mitch got his ass handed to him by Harrell (who scored a career high 34 points on 21 shots) but in the end he wasn’t that horrible. His plus/minus (-3) compared to Taj’s (-10) would suggest we would have been better playing him more minutes and giving the Harrell assignment to someone else. Maybe Randle would have been good, since Harrell just exploited Mitch’s pogo stick tendencies and Randle just doesn’t jump on defense at all. That said, two boards in 22 minutes are a disgrace. Mitch, you have to do better. Also: I get that the Clippers have good, switchable defenders on the perimeter, but how come we’re not running at least 15 PnRs with Mitch per game? He doesn’t even have to be the finisher. His sheer threat opens up the lane. Kadeem Allen had the easiest layup in “traffic” of his life just running a simple two-man game with Robinson. Miller, this is your wake up call. I like the job you’re doing, now it’s time to pump it up though.

– I don’t know if it’s a fluke – it probably is – but Frank’s penetrating a bit more. On a scale from 1 to 10 I’d peg him at 3, so wildly insufficient, but he’s made progress. Again, good omens?

– In the first quarter the Clips were whistled for a three seconds violation on defense. We had Frank and Morris on the court but nope, Randle decided he had to shoot the free throw to get himself going (Frank tried to dissuade him but to no avail). Sheed’s right: ball don’t lie. The free throw was deservedly weak and short. Blame’s on the coach, but Julius, being a primadonna’s not your style. Cut that crap and go back at punishing mismatches.

– Wally is really the worst. He has a worse reaction delay than Knox on defense and still finds a way to say the most uninspired, self-evident things about the action that just unfolded, often making things up on the go (“I like Frank’s aggressiveness” after Frank drained a long two in the third – by that time Frank hadn’t even tried a single drive in the game and had already played 15+ minutes). He seems a good guy, but I’d prefer anyone, anything else as our color analyst. Even Dolan himself.

And so, as predicted, we’re 0-2 on the road trip with another two hard games to come. It’s ok to lose them all, anyway. We need a bad record to convince Pills to listen to trade offers. It’s the nearest goal we have. Let’s fulfill it.

Portland Trail Blazers 93 – New York Knicks 117 – Game Recap

Tell me if you’ve heard this before: Carmelo Anthony ends up as the leading scorer of a whole game, on a fairly efficient night (26 points on 17 shots) but the team he’s playing for loses the game badly; then you go and check the boxscore a bit more and notice that Melo has zero assists for the night, and you think back at the game and realize that Melo was pretty much a lone gunner that never helped set the tone on offense and got roasted more than a couple times on defense.

Well, for once we know how that feels from the other side. While I harbor no ill will toward Melo – we’re long past that, right now it’s like bumping into an ex three-four years after you went separate ways and politely say hello and wishing him/her all the best but ultimately not caring that much – I’ve always taken solace in schadenfreuding other teams that had the best player/scorer but ultimately couldn’t snatch the prize (I’m still overjoyed at the thought of the Mavs winning the title in 2011 after the villain-y LeBron decision to cornily bring his talents to South Beach, not to talk about the utter delight in seeing Bron’s stint in Miami end in shambles in 2014 against the joga bonito Spurs). Now, sure, Melo wasn’t even remotely the best player on the floor last night, but that would not stop me from living vicariously the experience of a fan who got his team pitted against the Knicks from 2014 to 2017. It drew a wide, if bitter, smile on my mouth.

But what about the game? Was this game a New Year’s proposition thing? Was it a sign of things to come? Or was it just a lucky game against an injury-plagued opponent with a discombobulated superstar?

If I had to guess, I’d say the latter. We’ve gotten better but there’s no way we’re already at the point where we comfortably hold opponents at arm’s length just because we’re good like that.

That said, all throughout the second half I never felt half an ounce of fear that we would relinquish the lead: things looked too smooth, too easy, too “right” in a certain way. Shots were falling because they were good shots; the ball moved (29 assists!) in a very concerted team effort; the defense kind of held its own – and was helped by one of the worst shooting games Lillard ever played. It was the show of a team asserting its superiority against an outmatched one, even if for one night (although this makes it two in the last seven, given the beating we reserved to Atlanta).

From a tactical standpoint, this game was another mild reassurance that Miller actually puts some thought into games: the insertion of Bullock into the rotation gave way to the spotty resurgence of the double handoff, but this time (instead of the half-assed version that was an absurd staple of Fiz’s offense) it happened occasionally and with full purpose, with the evident aim to give the ball handler an advantage at the top of the key and to free up shooters just above the break. It worked a bit. It was good to see a new basic wrinkle that was obviously not randomly thrown to the wall.

You know what else worked? The effing PnR with Mitch! Now, I wouldn’t advise to get too excited about it because it happened against Whiteside, one of the worst (at least to the eye test – but I have no doubt that Synergy numbers or Cleaning the Glass could confirm what I’m only inferring) PnR defending centers in the league, a possibly hungover Lillard and the worst rotation “wing” defender this side of Knox (yup, still Melo), but yet. You have a dominant offensive weapon, you ought to use it. Even better: you’re morally bound to use it. Pick and rolls featuring Mitch and an average passer/ball handler won’t always (ever?) result again in a perfect shooting night for Robinson, but if you can make teams fear a particular play that means they have to adjust, and with Morris and Bullock on the wings and the reborn Randle looking capable to hit the three at a decent clip, spacing could be wondrous out there. Now imagine if you also mix and match that with a few PnRs with Randle, who’s a good-to-great passer on the short roll, and voilà! It’s suddenly a modern offense inhabiting the neglected spoils of this franchise. Amazing, ain’t it?

On to single player analysis!

The good:

– Oh well, this one is super easy. Mitch Robinson (22 pts, 8 rebs, 1 blk, +22 +/-) just took the game and made it his bitch. It’s not about the simple fact that he tied the Knicks record for most field goals made without missing a shot or that he was amazing on defense, demonstrating for the umpteenth time that block numbers don’t always correlate with good defensive results (his BLK% this year is 8.0, still good for second in the whole League, to last year’s 10.0, but there’s no comparison between the overall great defender Mitch has been in the last few games and the Melbourne Shuffle dancing octopus that he was last year). It’s that he looked downright Dr. Manhattan in Vietnam, especially on the alley-oop connection with Randle in the first quarter. Randle threw a pass that was a foot too high and half a foot too wide, only for Mitch to catch it and throw it down like it was no thing, only with his back partially to the basket and momentum carrying him out of the court. That was a superhuman thing. But what I’m happiest about Mitch is that he’s definitely not plateaued. He’s still improving as a player, and that was the most important thing for the 2019-20 season. If the only thing Miller ever did with this team was to teach Mitch how to defend well 80% of the time, it would still be a gigantic win. As long as Pills recognize at last the immense value Mitch has. Oh, and after last night (only the 48th time in NBA’s history that someone’s hit at least 11 shots without missing one) Mitch’s sporting the best Offensive Rating in the whole League. Last 10 games for Robinson: 12.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 74.7 FG% in 25 MPG. And “only” 3.7 fouls per game. That’s elite production, guys.

– Julius Randle (22 pts, 13 rebs, 3 ast, +11 +/-) is looking like the guy we thought we signed for. Miller’s Sound if Basic Elixir’s doing its job, huh? Under Miller, Randle’s posting these numbers: 22.6 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.9 APG (to 2.2 TPG) on 48.3/37.7/77.4 splits. Is it sustainable? It certainly looks like it is (save for the three point shooting, which is bound to come down). At the very least, this kind of production will up Randle’s trade value. Given Randle’s weird fit with Mitch, trading him might still be the best case long term scenario; still, if it doesn’t happen you can already see some shades of Randle doing his best Draymond impression on offense to make space for Robinson’s preternatural diving talent.

– Honorable mention for Frank Ntilikina (9 pts, 3 rebs, 10 ast, +23 +/-) who quite improbably was at the helm during the decisive stretch between the third and fourth quarter. While a few of his assists came on bush-league six-foot passes to a shooter on the perimeter, his PnRs with Mitch were the apple of my eye. Frank’s very deliberate (or you can say slow) in his pick and roll enterprises, but it’s the play where his passing acumen shines through. And no turnovers for the game! His defense was nothing special, at least for his standards, but his team command was borderline impressive this time. I won’t say anything too positive about Frank until he proves he can string together three such performances in a row, but I can’t help feeling the warmth in my heart watching those outing by my beautiful French prince. Also, what a nasty dunk in the second half. The game was already half-baked, but we need more of that Frank. Sitting “comfortably” at .043 WP/48 and 0.0 VORP for the season.

The bad:

– Nah.

– Oh come on, it’s the first day of the year!

– Ok. Well, RJ Barrett (7 pts, 4 rebs, 25% FG, -6 +/-) is due for a rest. I’m starting to worry a bit about him. Let’s see what happens when we look at him through Miller’s special glasses (that is, the .500 stint of the last 12 games): 12 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 APG (to 1.7 TPG, ouch), 0.4 SPG on shooting splits of 36.4/33.3/60 and 30.5 MPG. The assists and steals numbers are very worrisome. They scream “useless player”. The eye test is even worse. That said, I say: give the kid the full road trip off. Let Bullock, Trier and Dotson get his minutes for that time. Let’s ease him back into the rotation from the bench waiting for Morris to get traded. Keeping him on the court as the third/fourth wheel on offense makes no sense to me.

Fun-sized bits:

– Great debut by Reggie Bullock. 15 minutes, 11 points on 9 shots (3/5 from three), good effort and positioning on defense. As soon as he gets his legs under him, give him the starting nod over RJ or Dotson. If someone enquiries about him, trade him. See? It’s easy.

– A propos of Morris, he was nowhere to be found in the first half (2 points, 0/8 from the field). Then he erupted in the third and ended the game with 18/7/3. He’s trending down, but he’s still quite good. Taking a bit of a backseat to Randle these days.

– Payton shot like shit (2/9) but still grabbed 4 boards, dished 8 assists and blocked two shots. I feel quite safe in his hands.

– Then again, he’s the fourth player I’ve invested with the “passable floor general” title in the last three years. I’m like those people who just can’t wait to fall in love and design the next person who shows a bit of interest in them as “the right one”. Save me from my PG hunger.

– Clyde was strangely snarky talking about Melo’s days with the Knicks and his egotistical ways. A bit bitter, even. It hurts my feeling to hear angry Clyde. Even when he’s totally right. Give Clyde access to a ruruland news feed.

– As a last note, David Stern passed away last night. On multiple accounts, he was a prick and there were a few instances of weird underhanded race things here and there during his reign (dress code anyone?). At the same time, there’s no NBA without him. I wouldn’t have grown as a die-hard NBA fan in Italy. I wouldn’t be writing here. I mean, without David Stern I wouldn’t be what I am (yeah, I consider the passion for the NBA an integral part of me). So, I salute you, Emeritus Commissioner, Architect of the global NBA.

Ready for a likely 0-4 Western road trip? It’s very easy to fall back on earth before January, 15th.

For now, let my eyes get dreamy!

New York Knicks 94 – Brooklyn Nets 82 – Game Recap

I’ve started building my new Lego 1989 Batmobile. It’s made by 3306 pieces total, and I’m probably at 1700 after 6.5 hours of work. Honestly, it’s a total blast. The finished product will be so frigging huge. I couldn’t be more happy; I’m actually a grown kid, you give me food and/or games as gits and I’m the happiest person in the world.

Anyway, near the end of this day-conusming, brick-connecting romp, it dawned on us that at least two hours before we had made a mistake, putting a 4×4 plate just a bit right than where it should have been.

At that point, we had to make a choice. We could wash our hands and try to go on around that mistake (it would actually have been possible short term wise, none of the subsequent thirty so so operations – six construction manual pages – required that particular area again) or we could try and understand where we went wrong, disassemble the minimum amount of pieces required, fix the mistake, rebuild everything we disassembled and then go on to keep assembling the bat-themed behemoth.

We chose option number two. From where we are, we’re not sure it will be worth it in terms of effort spent in fixing the damn thing, but at the very least we’re positive we will be able to build the whole vehicle without any consequence.

The Knicks, winning behind the contributions of Marcus Morris and Julius Randle, are choosing option number one.

It’s possible than we won’t ever need to go around that particular area again, just as it is possible that Randle will become a foundational piece for the Knicks while Mook’s veteran leadership will rub on Knox and Barrett; it’s much more likely, though, that this type of wins will end up being more damaging than reinvigorating.

To wit:

Randle and Morris, combined: 55 points, 16 boards, 4 assists, 22/42 from the field, 6/13 from three, 5/5 from the line, +42 plus/minus, 69 minutes played.

RJ, Frank, Knox, Dotson, Mitch combined: 24 points, 25 boards, 6 assists, 9/27 from the field, 2/7 from three, 4/7 from the line, +8 plus/minus, 105 minutes played (I won’t torture you with what happens as soon as you remove Mitch from here).

Now, ok, this is pretty much an indictment of how much our young guys suck, but what should it matter that we’re winning games only because Randle and Morris can ball a bit? What’s our long time gain? Are we gunning for the 12th seed in the East and the #8/9 pick again, that yielded such good results for us in 2017 and 2018?

I can’t blame Mike Miller either. He’s a rookie interim head coach, and if he wants to prove he can stick around he has to try to win every possible game unless told otherwise, and you know as well as do I that Pills are simply starved for wins, so… it’s only fair that Miller’s leveraging what he has to gain the advantage over the foe du jour. If it means running Randle and Morris out there for 70-ish minutes per night, he should go for it. I hate it, but it’s definitely not his fault.

On the other hand, I’m not sold about his developmental coach resume. 10 games are nothing, especially in the middle of the season, but if anything every young player not named Mitch is regressing under Miller. It might be just the regular ebb and flow ways of rookie-scale contract players, but I just have the feeling they suck. Long-term wise, though, you should still give your coach a full vote of confidence to play them as much as you can. There’s literally nothing to lose apart from a few games (which would count as a win for the tank) and a chance for Miller to be a future NBA coach somewhere else, but let’s be real: how high are them anyway? Dude’s 55, and while a coaching lifer he’s never been a relevant figure. The chances of him ever becoming a real NBA coach outside of NY are slimmer than his hair on the central part of his dome. So, no blame on Miller, but Pills are screwing the team again just because they’re (understandably, but still not making sense strategically for the team) hanging on for dear life.

***

David Fizdale’s record: 4-18.
Mike Miller’s record: 4-6.

Sometimes I really wish Pills would read this board.

***

That said, I highly doubt Mike Miller is good enough to coach this sorry excuse of a roster to .400 ball for the season (and I don’t hope he is, as that would be inherently bad for lottery purposes). This game would have been a Knicks defeat 99 times out of 100. We shot 40.2% from the field, 31.0% from three and were still the best shooting team on the floor by a long mile. The Nets scored a NBA-record worst (since 1979-80) 8 two-pointers on 28 attempts for a Barrett-like 28.6% 2FG. That’s a really unprecedented level of futility. On the other hand, it’s not like the Nets’ defense was especially good, and we didn’t even reach 100 points. Let’s evaluate Miller in another 10 games.

***

It has to be said, though, that Mitch’s impact on defense was tremendous last night. His numbers won’t blow you away (a minimum-wage double double and 2 blocks) but he disrupted at least ten more possessions. In a game that ended on such a low scoring note, that’s really something. It was also good to see RJ’s being engaged on the defensive end. Also, Mitch definitely outplayed Jarrett Allen (who didn’t score a single field goal) and DeAndre Jordan.

***

Prepare for the ultimate Frank crusade: Kadeem Allen is coming. I kinda wish he’d usurp Frank’s place in the rotation as to try and light the ultimate fire under his ass. Frank’s playing like shit under Miller. And it’s not like Miller’s coaching him with the intent of benching him as soon as it’s possible. 1/5 from the floor, 1 ast, 1 steal in 14 minutes are just terrible numbers. Elfrid Payton (a solid 13, 7 and 4 for a game-high +25 +/-) looks like Rod Strickland next to Frank.

***

I think it’s time to bench RJ for a while. He’s still “contributing” somehow but honestly he needs to be playing better to earn even 20 minutes per game. Letting him play like this it just putting him at risk of indulging to his worst tendencies. His drives lack everything as of late: burst, overall speed, jumping ability, focus. His ORtg is 92. 92! For comparison’s sake, Lance Thomas has a 101 ORtg for his career. Jared Jeffries sports a 100 one. You have to go to Mardy Collins to plunge at a low enough career ORtg (88) as to not make RJ blush. Add to that the fact that his usage is 23%, and you have a very bad recipe here on your hands.

***

In the end, anyway, if you have to win games here and there winning against Brooklyn is always good. Let’s see if we can avenge last Monday’s monstrosity in the Wiz-Knicks rematch. See you!

Washington Wizards 121 – New York Knicks 115 – Perry Christmills everyone

I don’t know if I’ve already told you this: I’m color blind.

My color blindness isn’t severe (I’m not seeing the world in black and white, and I can actually get right even some “advanced” nuances, such as lilac or fuchsia), but nonetheless here and there it pops up, especially related to green/brown and blue/purple mix and matches.

It’s not like I ever forget being color blind, but playing a bit with an old game for iPad (Forever Lost is its name, a clunky, quirky escape room/puzzle game) I was reminded how frustrating it is for a color-impaired person to try and solve incredibly easy puzzles just because the game designer thought it was a good idea to base at least one third of the game on riddles that rely on the ability to discern bright green from yellow in a very small pixelated area. The game can be solved in around one hour, one hour and a half. It took me three hours to beat it. I breezed through hard puzzles with total ease and repeatedly clunked easy riddle after easy riddle because I didn’t understand what the hell I was seeing. I knew very accurately what I should have done: I simply couldn’t find a way to make my eyes collaborate and step over the amazingly low hurdle.

Why am I telling you this, you might ask.

It’s simple: these Knicks play defense just in the same way I approach color-coded quizzes. They theoretically know what they should do; they just have no means at all to translate theory into practice. They’re lost.

To concede 121 points to a glorified G-League team is very bad, from whatever angle you choose to look at it. This was a positively Fizdalian game: nothing seemed to be working, the choice to put DSJ into the game before Frank was puzzling (not trying to reignite the endless battle between Frankophiles and normal people – just kidding! I’m a Frankophile too – but the team struggled mightily on defense from the get go, maybe Frank would have helped stabilize the defensive mindset a bit), guys seemed very frustrated and resigned to lose, Mitch was in foul trouble for the second game in a row.

In short: maybe it’s recency bias, but this is probably the worst loss of the season. Good for the tank, I guess, but very discouraging.

***

But then again color blindness might also be the right metaphor/allegory for the talent evaluation area of our front office. There’s no way you build a roster like ours if you grasp the basic tenets of basketball and you’re capable of watching the damn game. You know those visual tests where there are a bunch of differently colored dots and you’re supposed to see a number or a letter in there? And you know how easy it is for people who see correctly to say 13! or B! and then wonder what the hell was that test, so easy that nobody could flunk it? Well, most of the time I see jack shit in there and get looked with a mixture of amusement and pity by standard people.

You see where I’m going, right?

Farfa : colors = Pills : talent.

Show us KBers a Knox and a SGA, and pretty much everyone will go for SGA. Show Pills a Knox and a Durant, and they won’t tell them apart one from the other. Where we see a .020 WS/48 peak talent, they see a vast stream of indistinguishable .100 WS/48 prospects, and if it’s so, why not go with the youngest, tallest people?

So there you have it, guys: these Knicks are a Mondrian painting made by me.

***

I wish there was something good to say about anything that happened last night. About how Julius Randle went for 35 shooting the ball just 21 times, but then I look at his pitiful 5 boards and 2:3 ast/to ratio and I’m like whatever. About how Mitch blocked 6 shots and got 13 boards but then I’m reminded he fouled out again (of course your job isn’t made easier by those swiss cheese cardboard people we call backcourt, but come on big guy) and I’m like who cares. Elfrid Payton dished 12 assists! What’s the point. Dotson drilled 5 threes! Sure, good effort, good job.

Fucking losers.

***

But they’re our losers, right?

I don’t know, honestly. Are they? Is there someone on the team you could wholeheartedly call “mine” (in a sports related sense of course)? This is a team composed by hired guns, second round picks and ill-equipped lottery picks on their rookie scale contracts.

You want to call the rookie-scale contracts “yours”? Be my guest. You can have Mitch, who’s good, great almost, but not enough if he can’t stay on the damn floor. His advanced stats and like ambrosia, but he needs to make a few extra steps to be really serviceable (in the meantime play him all you can you morons).

Then I’ll feed you a few basic advanced stats (#teamoxymoron FTW) for the other youngsters:

Player A: .031 WS/48, -2.7 BPM, -0.1 VORP
Player B: -0.032 WS/48, -4.1 BPM, -0.4 VORP
Player C: .015 WS/48, -2.7 BPM, -0.1 VORP
Player D: -0.085 WS/48, -6.6 BPM, -0.4 VORP

Can you guess who’s who? (The last one is super easy, if you watched at least three Knicks games this season).

This is not what a rebuild looks like. This is a headless chicken running around.

***

Anyway, guys. Christmas is here. It’s time to be happy. To celebrate. To stay with your family.

I have a family, of course. A loving mom, a loving dad who just retired from his job and is all too eager to help me with mine, a smart, smoking hot and snarkily strong woman (who I love with all my heart) on my side and a lot of friends.

But we’re all family too. There’s no Christmas without Knickerbloggers. Heraclitus said there’s no light without dark, no happiness without sadness; then, there’s no moral strength without Dolan, and we can revel in knowing that we all have it. Let there be a smile on your face for the next few days. Save the frowns for these orange and blue clad clowns.

New York Knicks 105 – Denver Nuggets 111 – Miller’s first five games Recap

It’s cool seeing that the guys still have some fight in them, even if they don’t end up with a win. After a winning effort in Sacramento, they followed up with another great second half, especially in the third quarter, that was nullified thanks to a completely ice-cold stretch in the last 6 minutes of the game.

Mike Miller is apparently doing a decent job, even while making some puzzling decisions (Mitch keeps on playing just around 25 minutes per game and RJ stays out there a bit too much for a guy who’s hitting that rookie wall very early and very hard). The offense is something else entirely: you see people actually moving and kinda cutting. We didn’t transform overnight into the 2013-14 Spurs, not at all, but at least the vomit-inducing isos are way down and we’re seeing a bit more variety in terms of playcalling. Talent is what it is, but Miller doesn’t look in over his head. That’s a vast improvement from the Fizdale’s days.

Some of Fiz’s stans, if such a thing exists, might argue that the Knicks are playing much better because Payton is finally back. I mean, there’s no denying that having a semi-competent point guard helps, but it’s worth repeating that said point guard was benched for the first game of the season to start… Allonzo Trier. It’s not like Fizdale really knew what he was doing.

But we’re past that; now it’s time to look at what the players are doing under Miller’s reign (2-3) and compare that to their season averages, to try and understand if something changed or not (my wild guess before starting this experiment: the youngsters got worse. Not such a good look, but let’s see if I’m right).

– Marcus Morris

Last five games: 20.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, .461 FG%, .389 3P%, .905 FT%. 31.2 MPG
Season averages: 18.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, .427 FG%, .473 3P%, .852 FT%. 32.5 MPG

It’s pretty much the same Morris, but with much more sustainable shooting average and a slight uptick in his passing ways. Nothing to watch here, this iteration of Marcus Morris would probably be asked to score 20 on any given night for our team, even if prime Popovich was here.

– Julius Randle

Last five games: 20.2 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, .457 FG%, .348 3P%, .704 FT%. 32.8 MPG
Season averages: 17.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 3.4 APG, .445 FG%, .265 3P%, .669 FT%. 32.1 MPG

Randle is tangibly better under Miller, and I think there’s enough evidence that he’s being used a bit better (another stat: his TOs for the season are 3.1 per game, in this stretch they’re just 2.0). He’s also shooting a bit better, but it’s not like he’s unable to maintain these percentages: if anything, he should be able to shoot around .500 from the field. I think Miller has been fixing Randle some.

– RJ Barrett

Last five games: 10.8 PPG, 6 RPG, 1.8 APG, .323 FG%, .238 3P%, .643 FT%. 33.2 MPG
Season averages: 13.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, .383 FG%, .292 3P%, .546 FT%. 32.3 MPG

Ok, Barrett’s a rookie and wild swings should be expected; that said, if there’s anything about Miller that I’m disappointed in is the fact that Barrett’s looking even more lost than before since the other Mike’s at the helm. Shooting averages are atrocious, he almost stopped distributing the ball and he’s still playing too many minutes. It will take a major cataclysm to make me doubt that RJ’s gonna have a bright future in the NBA, but early returns – especially with a coach that looks like he can put together something passable – are a bit discouraging. Some of that, though, might be that in an effort to win as many games as possibile (#lolknicks) Miller’s trying to maximize known quantities such as Randle and Morris and he’s kinda overlooking the long goal. I can’t blame him, honestly, but it’s not good for the Knicks in the long game. If that’s the case, it’s the umpteenth damage Pills are inflicting to this moribund franchise. Also, if you want to win, why you’re keeping RJ in when Frank’s playing much better (if only for a night)?. This is very perplexing.

– Frank Ntilikina

Last five games: 4.2 PPG, 2 RPG, 2 APG, .333 FG%, .167 3P%, 1.000 FT%. 18.4 MPG
Season averages: 6.1 PPG, 2 RPG, 3.1 APG, .382 FG%, .328 3P%, .800 FT%. 24.6 MPG

Frank’s been a smoldering pile of manure under Miller until last night, but I wouldn’t read too much into that if we’re evaluating Miller’s performance. Frank just suffered some sort of mental breakdown that also coincided with the re-emergence of Elfrid Payton (and that could have worsened Frank’s already brittle confidence). Anyway last night Frank played great, even dunking on a fastbreak and emoting plenty after that. He’s still kind of a bust, but I can’t, I can’t, I won’t stop rooting for him. It’s like a doomed crush. You know you need to stay away from that, but you can’t. That’s how I feel about Frank. I know I’ll be let down, but I’ll revel in every spark of passion from now until my heart bursts in a firework of thorns.

– Mitch Robinson

Last five games: 11.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.4 APG, .684 FG%, .000 3P%, .636 FT%. 26.0 MPG
Season averages: 9.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 0.6 APG, .685 FG%, .000 3P%, .618 FT%. 22.2 MPG

And here we have the real test for Miller. The numbers are clear: Mitch’s playing better (and more) under Miller’s tenure, which is a pleasant indication. While I’d like Mitch’s minutes to rise up to 30 per game, I’ll keep short of complaining for now. It looks like Miller’s already been able to talk Mitch out of trying to defend people fouling them while trying to block things below the shoulders. He’s blocking less shots (1.6 BPG in the last five games, 1.8 for the season), but he’s also turning the ball over less (0.6 to 0.8) and most importantly his fouls are way down (2.6 to 3.3). Eye test also says the PnR is seeing a quiet resurgence in the Knicks’ playbook. Now, if only Miller understood that Mitch should try to shot when he’s totally open from 15 feet out as to keep defenses on their toes we’d be way closer to Mitch becoming a real useful player. For now he’s still just a majestic shadow that gets projected unto our collective Plato’s cave.

– Damyean Dotson

Last five games: 5.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, .379 FG%, .318 3P%, .000 FT%. 15.0 MPG
Season averages: 5.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, .408 FG%, .316 3P%, .714 FT%. 15.7 MPG

Still the same Dame. He was instrumental in Sacto’s game, but honestly he’s been playing just badly. He should be a shooter, but his 3P% suggests otherwise. Miller’s system did nothing for the guy and I’d be curious to see his minutes go to Trier.

– Bobby Portis

Last five games: 9.6 PPG, 5 RPG, 1.4 APG, .514 FG%, .273 3P%, .778 FT%. 18.4 MPG
Season averages: 9.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, .417 FG%, .351 3P%, .735 FT%. 21.4 MPG

Me likes this. Less minutes, more efficiency for Bobby. If he plays 18 MPG as a back-up four it’s not that bad. Still a waste of 15 million dollars, but heh, are they mine? Sadly, they’re not. I’d probably be way more interested if seeing Knox as a full time PF at 18 MPG, but alas, these are the way of Pills and it’s highly unlikely things are gonna change soon.

***

TL; DR: Miller’s doing a quite fine job of playing to the strenghts of his best players (Mitch included, surprisingly), while simultaneously not changing that much in the rotation. Grade until now: C+.

Let’s see what happens against Atlanta, I will make the ballsy (?) prediction of a 15+ points win.