Indiana Pacers 104 – New York Knicks 103 – Game Recap

And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time

And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her sky

Good riddance, Fiz. I think you won’t be missed round here.

***

At last! A hard-fought game. A brutal, excruciating loss on a failed free throw attempt, but nevertheless 48 minutes of eminently watchable basketball at MSG. A few well rounded performances. A rotation that made some sort of sense. It wasn’t too much to ask, and yet you couldn’t ask for more (a win would have been welcome, if only to wish Mike Miller well on his first step of the journey among the real pros, but you get my point). The game never looked out of hand, some of the young kids played well, and the vets mostly didn’t hamper whatever it was that the neophytes were trying to do.

Actually, the Knicks started well in a way that was kinda reminiscent of the opener against the Spurs. They were tighter, they were crisper, they were jumpier in a good way. At the end of the day, they lost because they can’t hit free throws, lost their man on some crucial defensive rotations and missed more than a couple bunnies during the game, but then again, for the umpteenth straight season we’re not gauging things in terms of wins and losses. I definitely can’t wait for that time to come (it won’t be soon; I doubt there’s a chance of playoff contention until 2021-22, but you know what they say about the journey being the fun part, and we all can stick around for a couple seasons of real development, can’t we?), but minor improvements are always welcome.

As I was saying, the Knicks started quite well (staying in front of the Pacers for the first nine minutes of the game), then bumbled their way a bit, going down five at the end of the first quarter. Mitch was featured on offense, Randle wasn’t horrible, RJ was balling, and the rock was being passed around like they actually knew you aren’t supposed to go lazy iso every time down the floor.

The second quarter was a matter of trading blows (five lead changes), with Payton orchestrating like a semi-competent PG should do during an NBA game and Marcus Morris warming up (scoreless in the first, 9 points in the second). Sure, the Pacers were still punishing some blatant defensive mistakes, but they never looked quite able to pull one of those killer punches the Knicks saw delivered straight in their faces in a lot of the latest Fizdale coached games. The first half ended with the Knicks down 6, and it seemed about right. The Pacers are a better team, they’re coached pretty well and they have a few good players. Getting Domantas Sabonis, who looks like he can’t miss a shot against us, and the now injured Oladipo for Paul George is looking better and better by the day.

The third quarter saw the Knicks putting up a solid fight again, going to take the lead behind an incineratingly inspired shooting performance from Mook (11 points in the quarter) with 4:39 to go and then surrendering too many easy shots to Indiana wings, namely ex-Knicks Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott. We finished the quarter down eight. But hope was never lost.

The fourth was a grand guignol of missed opportunities on both sides. The Pacers quickly went up eleven on another McDermott three, but then proceeded to score just 12 points in the remaining 11 minutes. I wish you could ascribe that to the Knicks defense, but if we’re going to be fair it was 40% defense and 60% luck. Anyway it was good to see that people weren’t just rolling over and dying, but were trying their best to make it work. It was simply refreshing to see the players in a spontaneous huddle in the middle of their comeback effort, giving all their collective shits to focus on the task at hand. They simply weren’t able to put the ball in the basket when it counted. During the last 5 minutes of the game, the Bockers scored just one bucket (a horrible, stunted and snuffed drive by Morris than in the end scored on an old-man move five feet away from the basket) and missed something like 10 other shots. With 3:57 to go, the sequence was as follows: Payton dribbles the ball down the court, Morris shoots (miss), Randle grabs the board and gives the ball back out to RJ, Barrett shoots from the left elbow (miss), Randle grabs the board, goes up and gets blocked (miss), he grabs again the board, passes to Morris who shoots from the right elbow (miss), Payton grabs the board, passed the ball to Randle who drives and misses and eventually Sabonis corrals the rebound and ends that pathetic offensive showcase. All the way, the MSG arena cheered like you would cheer the team your son plays for: it’s the effort that counts.

At the end of the day, the game came down to Randle going to the line to shoot two with 0.1 seconds to go after Turner was done snuffing a bad Antetokounmpo impression by Mitch (if it went down the Garden would have probably exploded) that was rebounded by Randle who was subsequently fouled. He made the first and, as he’s wont to do, missed the second. Game over, but it was good fun.

The good:

– Marcus Morris (25 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, +9 +/-) is hopefully showcasing his talents for the upcoming trade window where he can be featured as a new signing (so, by December 15th). He played good ball, he didn’t seem to clog the offense, and quite never shot a bad shot. This is what a veteran should do on a “rebuilding” team. It’s probably a trust issue. If he sees the ball being passed around and people taking mostly good shots, it’s likely he won’t hijack many possessions fearing that others would do worse than him. Now, I’m not defending the fact that he heroballed us out of a few games in November, but as human being it’s at least understandable. If your colleague is routinely making burger patties fall on the floor, you’re probably tempted to go and flip them yourself on the grill even if your skillset is better applied to the cashier role. It falls on the manager to remove the burger failure from the kitchen, but if he doesn’t someone should step up. Problem is, if you’re no more than a competent journeymen you’ll end up making some other mistake that, even not resulting in a burger than tastes like dust and foot fungi, will probably see the burger misaligned or with too much ketchup and not enough cheddar on it. Or maybe you’ll confuse marshmallow paste with Monterey Jack, who knows. Anyway, raise your glass hoping that the FO trades Morris as soon as they can for a bag of potatoes and a draft pick to be reused later.

– Elfrid Payton (9 pts, 3 rebs, 7 ast, +11 +/-) had a killer impact on the game, notching the game-high plus/minus and generally looking like he understands the basic tenets of point guarding out there. He’s a flawed player who can’t shoot to save his life and whose defensive effort looks like the Bitcoin price chart from the last five years, but if he’s not the starting point guard and/or plays at least 28mpg by the end of December it will mean one of these three things: we’ve traded him (ok), he’s hurt again (dammit), Mike Miller deserves a spot on the dumb Knicks coaches conga line. Since Miller doesn’t strike me as the in over his head type, I’m quite confident he’ll be handed the reins.

The bad:

– Dennis Smith Jr. (1 pt, 3 rebs, 1 ast, -10 +/-) is soooo bad this season. He’s had a few goodish outings, but he looks outmatched 95% of the time and his shot is utterly broken. I really think he should be sent to the G-League for at least two weeks, if only to figure out himself a bit. On the other hand, we can at least live vicariously some of the Philly-famous Process through him: we have our own Markelle Fultz to pile upon! His advanced stats are the stuff of Lovecraftian tales: -0.097 WS/48, -7.5 BPM, -0.4 VORP, .392 TS%. I don’t know if Miller has his brand of dungeon (he looks more the kind to have an inflatable castle for his kids in the backyard), but DSJ should probably be sent into one for his own good.

Fun-sized bits:

– If you think the “improvements” we saw from the team are Miller’s merit, you’re going to be pretty deluded. I’m not saying he won’t be a better coach than Fiz (I’m willing to bet more than a thousand dollars on it), but this was just the players being given a modicum of responsibility and probably just a few generic instructions. I have moderate hopes for Miller, but this game can’t be proof of anything just like the first Dallas game wasn’t proof of Frank having turned the corner.

– I wish I knew what’s the secret to good Mitch games. This was quite good: 14 pts, 7 boards, 2 steals, 3 blocks and just 1 foul in 25 minutes. Oh wait, I probably know! Just run some fucking pick and rolls with him or drive into the paint and pass him the ball if his defender comes to help. If he’s active on offense, he’ll probably be making an all-around positive impact (even if some of his defensive possessions last night were butt-ugly. He desperately needs professional coaching, he won’t go far just by blocking things). Good job on not fouling guys in stupid ways, also.

– Randle was good in the first half because he got the ball at the top of the key with at least a half-full head of steam and just had to zero in to the cup in a straight line. If he gets the ball while he’s still and has to create entirely for himself he’s just a mess. I hope Miller will do something about that, which should be easy: Julius, if you get the ball standing around on the perimeter, just do one of this three things: pass the ball, shoot the ball only if wide open and there’s no one else to pass the rock, methodically back down your defender if you’re isolated but always look for the pass and don’t do weird dribbling stuff. If you don’t, you get benched. Easy peasy.

– Mike Miller looks like a hybrid between a mild-mannered Scott Skiles and a sedated Jack Nicholson. Basically you could cast him on Mindhunters and it’s equally likely to play the weary cop role as he is to be an unsuspected serial killer disguising as a tax accountant.

– You know what really irks me about this season, even more than whatever it was that Fizdale was doing trying to (ahem) coach? The “Knicks tackle kid cancer” initiative. I mean, how crazy cheap you have to be to donate the embarrassment of riches that is 50 dollars for every Knicks block? And have Mitchell Robinson dwarf that by donating 100 dollars of his own for every shot blocked by him? If this season went like last season, the Knicks would total 422 blocks as a team. It means that MSG (go check its net worth, please) would donate a miser 21.100 dollars to such a worthy cause (and Mitch would donate 16.200 dollars by himself, which is more than 1% of his full salary). If there is one thing that makes me ashamed of rooting for this god forsaken team, that’s it. Go fuck yourself, cheap-ass MSG honchos, for delivering such an half-assed idea of charity. Than go fuck yourself again, but harder, thinking about Jim Cavan, and pray that somehow the karma gods overlook your pathetic initiative while you’re guzzling down overpriced liquor in your penthouses.

Until next time, buddies. Let’s see what the new Melo vs. old Melo brings us in Portland next Tuesday.

 

 

Boston Celtics 113 – New York Knicks 104 – Game Recap

Fight for 42 minutes. Down the stretch, go ISO after ISO. Lose everything in the last 6.

Rinse, repeat.

Fight for 42 minutes. Down the stretch, go ISO after ISO. Lose everything in the last 6.

Rinse, repeat.

I mean, we shouldn’t even be surprised anymore. I certainly ain’t. I’m just already along for the ride. I’ll come clean: when we were evidently in the act of throwing away the game, I was completely rooting for the Knicks to falter so as to not give any single excuse for keeping Fiz on board.

Now, I know Fizdale isn’t the source of all problems. I also know that there’s a non negligible chance that the next hire will not solve anything. But you work with what you have, and right now the only thing that we have are another season to sorta waste in terms of competitiveness and the absolute need to develop at least some of our kids.

At one of my previous jobs, the company had a distinct philosophy to test its newcomers: sink or swim. Essentially, you got thrown to the wolves and it was entirely up to you to show your mettle in order to stay afloat (or even better to rise to the top, if you had the requisite skills). Now, while I don’t condone the policy tout court, I have to admit it was pretty effective at skimming the milk. When something was needed, usually it was needed on a very short notice and without skipping a beat; with that policy, the company was pretty much sure that whoever survived was able to complete the tasks that were demanded. After an initial stint where I didn’t even know how to save time to breathe, I survived and became extremely well-versed in everything that required planning and managing resources, even going on to become Deputy Chairman and to arrange a good chunk of the required services for an officially sanctioned FIFA World Cup (yeah, ok, the beach soccer World Cup but it’s still something!). The sink or swim gimmick worked with me.

Thing is, though, a company doesn’t work with the same constraints that bind an NBA franchise: you’re not burdened with failed draft choices, you can cut bait with your employees after a couple months, you don’t have a cap space and so on. So just praying that your players will do something on the court without too many directions is wishful thinking at best and a waste of precious development time at worst. Given that this coaching staff seems to have done pretty much nothing to ease the evolution of our prospects (whatever you think about them, I don’t care if you are a Frankophile or a DSJxegete), it’s time to turn the page.

How many time do we have to watch our team turn the ball over right after a timeout? Why don’t we have a few sets to go to when it’s crunch time? I know that many teams devolve into ISO-happy Pez dispensers when it matters most, but it can’t hurt having some bread and butter based on simple variations of PnRs or something like that involving our best ball handlers, shooters and screeners? Or do we want to watch Mook and Randle pound the ball into oblivion before jacking up a semi airball from twenty feet?

Our lack of a capable hand on the steering wheel never was more apparent than last night during the fourth quarter. After going up by nine in the third quarter 73-64, the Knicks were a bit on the ropes in the fourth, with the Celtics tying the game 95-95 with 6:33 to go in the fourth. Fizdale called timeout. The Knicks went on to turn the ball over in four consecutive possessions right after said timeout.

I rest my case.

***

No good, bad and fun-sized section toady, since my car broke completely down today and I really have little time (and soon I’ll have little money too, dammit).

Anyway a few thoughts:

– Efficient offensive game from Julius Randle (26 points on 16 shots). He should treat his game like a diet plan: cut two thirds of saturated fats (iso from the elbow) and stick to simple, raw ingredients when possible (cuts, postups down low, open catch and shoot attempts) he’d be a good offensive player, just as he was in New Orleans. Let’s agree not to talk about his defense though.

– I’m sad because I probably have to shell 20k euros or more for a new car, but I’m also sad because Mitch is regressing in his understanding of the game. I hope it’s just frustration at the coaching staff, but I’m not sure. He looks like he’s suffering from restless arm syndrome these days. 6 points, 5 boards and 6 fouls in 19 minutes. Meh,

– RJ started very well and then went on to shoot blanks for the rest of the night. Still not worried since it’s crystal clear that he needs a few solid rails to thrive. Going 1-on-5 isn’t his cup of tea (and shouldn’t be anyone’s cup unless you’re Giannis or LeBron or Harden – maybe throw Doncic in too). 16 points and 7 boards but 4/13 from the field (started 4/7) and 8/13 from the line (started 5/6).

– DSJ had a kinda good game, 17 points, 7 assists, 2 blocks, 6/11 shooting and just two turnovers. That said, he was terrible at commanding the offense in the crucial fourth quarter stint and Boston simply went at him everytime on defense.

– How is it even possible that neither Trier nor Iggy play a single minute in a game where Mook and Frank aren’t available (Frank played just 7 minutes before injuring his back, or his soul)?

– I find it a little easier to understand why Knox gets his minutes at the three spot (roster construction), but I can’t seem to find any real sense behind the decision to peg his slow PF piece in a quick wing hole.

– Damn that came out very wrong.

Guys, I don’t know I can do the recap tomorrow. It’s not just that my car broke down, I also have to attend the funeral of a friend’s dad. I’ll try to chime in one way or another. In the meantime, behave :)

 

 

Philadelphia 76ers 101 – New York Knicks 95 – Game Recap

At last, a game where something akin to basketball happened with regard to the Knicks. Apart from the final score (that looks like it was ripped from 2005, in a League that’s been seeing the highest score average since… last year? No but seriously, this season is still seeing teams average 110.3 PPG, and without 2018-19 that would be the highest average since I was a kid, in 84-85), there were a few intense moments here. Most important of all, some of the protagonists were the youngsters, and not just the merc du jour who gets hot but won’t have any impact whatsoever on the outcome down the road in 2022 or so.

If was a game of two halves, with the Knicks gaining a comfortable lead in the first and then surrendering it in the second half (first lead for the Sixers after the 2-0 start: 67-66 on an Embiid free throw with just 1:25 to play in the third), which led to the obvious final result – a loss – because when things get dire it’s everyone for themselves and even when the ball finds a shooter on the corner the Friday Night Knicks legacy intervenes and makes a career .378 three point shooter miss everything by a foot and a half, setting the table for one of the most bonkers sequence of the year; I have to describe it just so you can understand the level of absurdity correlated with Fizdale’s tenure here.

Down 93-99 with 16.9 seconds to play (and after a timeout), the Knicks gave the ball to Randle at the top of the key to let him create something from the dribble*. Randle kinda beat his man, Tobias Harris, and went for the objectively useless layup, which would have put the Knicks down four with 12 seconds to play. Usually, in this type of scenario, shooting a three is the only choice available, since there’s so little time that cutting the lead to four is the epitome of the good job, good effort kid meme. Of course the Knicks chose this after a timeout. Inexplicably, Tobias Harris chose to contest the layup and fouled Randle, who went on to score and therefore gained the opportunity to cut the lead to three, giving the Knicks a puncher’s chance to tie the game if, for example, they’d have tried to go for the steal and the miracle three. I don’t need to tell you that these things happen, you just have to watch a TNT live feed with Kevin Harlan to be reminded of that by his awful color commentator. Well, ok. So here’s Randle at the line. By the way, Harris fouling Randle on that layup elicited in Mike Breen the same kind of astonishment you’d probably feel if someone stuffed your Thanksgiving turkey with lavender scented styrofoam. But anyway, I digress. Here’s Randle at the line. The most sensible choice there would have been to try to score, right? Ha! You’re not that familiar with Fizdale magic, it seems. Going totally against the current and the common sense, Fizdale urged Randle to miss the free throw, hoping for the Knicks to get an offensive board and… what? They would have been still down four!

Let me put my math teacher hat for a moment (I know, not all things are equal and I should probably conduct a deep research on Cleaning the Glass or something like that, and even then I’d come away with very empiric results, but bear with me, alright? It’s a terribly flawed calculation but it serves its purpose): solely based on this season, the chance that Randle intentionally hits a free throw is roughly 63%. Now the score is down three, and the Knicks have to come up with a steal (roughly 6.5%) and then hit a three (conservatively 28% – the Knicks are shooting 37% for the year but it probably would have been a contested, weird looking shot). It all adds up to a probability of 1.15% of tying the game. With Randle missing the free throw, you’re looking at the Knicks needing to secure an offensive board (26%), hitting a three (28%) and then steal the ball (same 6.5%) and make a two (not conservatively 45%) to win the game or hitting two twos to tie the game. You’re left with a 0.2% chance to win the game or a 0.3% chance to tie the game. Essentially, you’re betting on the strategy that gives you a 0.5% chance of a positive outcome instead of the one that gives you a 1.15% to do pretty much the same.

I’d looooove to play poker with Fiz.

Anyway, the Sixers grabbed the board and we lost.

*I’m so tired of writing this sentence.

***

The good:

– Marcus Morris (20 pts, 7 rebs, 1 blk, +8 +/-) is giving the Knicks almost everything they thought they would be getting when they signed him. I say almost because you’re insane if you think he’ll sustain this level of marksmanship for the season from three, but you’re not so insane if you think that his 2P% isn’t necessarily due to rise up a lot. What I’m saying, basically, is that his currently commendable .578 TS% is unrealistically buoyed by his unprecedented three point shooting prowess in the last few games (19/27), while his ugly two point shooting is very probably caused by the amount of hero ball Fizdale’s lack of offensive sets and imagination inflicts on him – not that Mook looks like he’s not liking the chance to play like that. If you ask me, I think his percentages by the end of the season will be something like 42/37/84, which aren’t bad but not the kind of numbers that spell out high efficiency (unless you’re James Harden and shoot like that on a monster volume of three pointers and free throws). I would have loved to see Marcus plugged into a coherent system as a Knick. I’m having trouble liking him because of his general demeanor, but a guy who defends in a capable manner and takes and sometimes hits the right shots will always have a place in my heart. Sadly he’s being used like he’s being subjected to the “Gonna fix you, Mudiay” treatment. Anyway, he played a nice game and he’s succeeding at looking dependable even in this mess. If these guys don’t trade him asap, they’re complete buffoons.

– RJ Barrett (18 pts, 3 rebs, 2 ast, +9 +/-) was good Rowan Jr last night apart form the foul trouble. He scored efficiently, he sort of worked as a primary option down the stretch and even fooled Embiid on a couple drives. I’m fairly convinced that if we had three or four sets where we run him through screens to secure a mismatch on the perimeter, or make him backdoor cut, or post him up against smaller and weaker defenders he’d already be a handful. Right now he’s a sinusoid of good and bad offense without so much of a middle ground. It has to be expected from a rookie, but looking at him and Mitch you’re left wondering if we’re already wasting time. A lot of time. You know what I’m talking about.

The bad:

– Dennis Smith Jr. (3 pts, 3 rebs, 2 ast, -12 +/-) is being misused and used too much at the same time. While I like the idea of playing him and Frank in the same lineup, playing him and Barrett is surefire recipe for failure, and since Barrett is very clearly the superior player, that means you have to alternate the two, which usually results in him being left on the court with Portis and Ellington (or Dotson) so that the defense turn into a crumbling dam – and exposes Mitch to even more foul trouble. In short: I hope Elfrid Payton comes back really soon. It’s not time to cut bait on DSJ, but this year he’s been simply abysmal. If this is who he is, try Kadeem Allen.

Fun-sized bits:

– Let’s talk a bit about Mitch. This was probably the most futile he’s been on offense since his NBA debut (1/5 from the field, 0/4 from the floor) and of course he fouled out, but even then he refuses to be a net negative. Yeah, he blocked two shots, but there were times in the first half when his presence on the court really made a difference on defense even without numbers popping up in the box score. If only we could figure out a way to have him on the court at least 24 minutes every game… But then again you remember the FO probably views him as the fourth best in-house prospect and your soul starts playing My heart will go on on a panflute made by tears and regrets.

– On the other hand, Frank had a pretty encouraging (if again slightly inefficient) performance. 13 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal but two crucial plays down the stretch that he probably wouldn’t have the confidence to make last year. Not a point guard? Ok. Probably. The same Frank? Nah, definitely.

– We started the game well. You what was happening in the first quarter? We gave the ball to Randle down low. That’s not a certain recipe for success, but it’s waaaay better that whatever else we try to do with him. Give him the ball down low, let him be double if it happens, and watch some nugget of beautiful ball movement. Or give him the ball more than 16 feet from the cup and let him improvise, put that thing in the microwave for 90 seconds, stir it and enjoy a flurry of turnovers and clogged offensive sets.

– Oh yes! Julius scored 22 points, grabbed 10 boards and dished 4 assist (while turning the ball over 4 times). Randle’s counting stats have on me the same effect of R-rated material after your 15th birthday: you know it’s not the real thing, so you stop considering it rad and just get over with it.

– No Knox today. The Dungeon is real (and for once very earned, not that probably anyone ever coached him on the right way to defend). Daily reminder that in order to avoid the dreaded tank we ended up drafting at the ninth spot in a draft where there were at least three amazing future players and a current superstar. Nice one.

Another loss, and the clock probably ticks faster for Fizdale. Well, the sooner the better.

New York Knicks 98 – Toronto Raptors 126 – After the KB blackout

Lately I found myself more and more invested in reading every nook and cranny of the spoilerrific site Tv Tropes. If I have ten minutes to spare and nothing else to read, I’ll fire up the aforementioned site and see what it has to say about one of my favorite movies (or series, or cartoons, or videogames). I have discovered through the years that Tv Tropes is the vastest hoard of hidden meanings, mindblowing theories and genuine fun facts you’ll ever come around in the ‘Net. If there’s an Easter egg in a semi-unknown Korean movie you just happened to watch while browsing your phone, sometimes enthralled by the plot but driven to peruse at least five different tabs on your once potent (now only fatigued) iPhone 7 in a classic case of “too many things on the web” 21st century telematic boredom, well rest assured: Tv Tropes knows it, and you’ll feel better after having read it.

Why am I telling you all this? Because nowadays there’s nothing to say about the Knicks. Even in games where they improbably find themselves up eleven in the second quarter, they’ll find a way to disappoint fans and bystanders alike in the most bland and unentertaining guise available. Just a few numbers for the Canadian blowout we just witnessed: 37.5% (field goal percentage as a team), 29.3% (three point percentage as a team, it also doubles as RJ’s FG%), 51.2% (three point percentage as a team by the Raptors), -26 (Marcus Morris’ game-low plus/minus in just 20 minutes), 21 (three point makes by the Raps, the Knicks made only 12), +29 (OG Anunoby’s game-high plus minus – not coincidentally playing the same position as Morris), 0 (good ideas by Fizdale).

So I thought: let’s rip a page off of TV Tropes and let’s assign a trope to a few selected Knicks players, why not? If anything, it should be more fun than whatever ill-fated attempt at describing this Masked Singer-like contrived ugliness of a game. Let’s start!

Word of God: “Once they get in there maybe for whatever reason we don’t play as fast as we’d like,” Fizdale said. “How they measure pace as well is not necessarily conducive to how fast you’re playing. Because sometimes if you don’t get a shot on goal it takes away from what your actual pace is. So the actual speed we’re playing at, I think, is fine.” The result of this game makes this statement appear like the (weak) meme that popped up in a few Facebook feeds last month. “Hey, I ingested this pill that makes your brain go a lot faster!” “Oh, so are you now way smarter?” “No, I’m the same stupid me but at a much higher speed!”.

Abnormal Limb Rotation Range: Averted. While Frank Ntilikina has ultralong limbs, he wasn’t able to get a single rebound, steal or block in 21 minutes of action. The much sturdier VanVleet was running circles around him tonight.

Marionette Motion: Mostly played straight with Mitchell Robinson. He still moves in strange ways and acts weird as if he were controlled by a trigger happy toddler on a PS4 controller. In the third quarter he committed a goaltending so blatant that looked a giant F-Bomb to Fizdale. The same can be said about the totally useless, pretty classless foul committed with a few second to play in the fourth and the Knicks down 28.

Everybody Hates Mathematics: shout out to Team Optimist, y’all. Lampshaded with RJ Barrett, who threatens to be the fourth NBA player ever to hit at least a third of his three point attempts while hitting less than 52% of his free throws (minimum 3 3PA per game), after Ken Norman in 94/95, Dion Waiters in 18/19 and the Trope Namer Nick Anderson in 96/97.

Contrasting Sequel Main Character: (Over)Played with Marcus Morris and Carmelo Anthony.

Elite Mooks: Averted with Marcus Morris. Mook, yes. Elite? Nah. He totally sucked last night (7 points, 3 boards, 1 assist). Also played with Marcus Morris: he’s still shooting a blistering 51.9% from three for the season.

Hopeless Boss Fight: Haha. Did you ever think that Randle vs. Siakam would have ended well? Julius posted solid numbers (19 points, 8 boards) but Siakam was a beast (31 points, 8 boards, 5 for 8 from three and looked unstoppable).

Hollow Knight: Even if this Trope means an entirely different thing, I liked how its name applied to Randle. Every year, every bad team has at least a guy who posts “big” numbers that ring hollow and untrue. Enes Kanter and Tim Hardaway Jr. are poster childs of this misunderstood (by me) Trope, but Randle is very well growing in their footsteps.

Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Played straight with Bobby Portis (15 million dollars for this guy is simply preposterous). Averted with Mitch Robinson, who’s too awesome to be paid this little.

Karl Marx Hates Your Guts: from the Trope description: “[…] in such a way that it is impossible to make money by buying something and then re-selling it elsewhere“. Lampshaded by this board. Overplayed with the FO’s acquisition of one-year vets. Who would want them after they play like this?

Dungeon Maintenance: Probably played in the future with Kevin Knox or Dennis Smith Jr, especially as soon as Elfrid Payton comes back. In nights like this, those two are borderline unwatchable. In the second quarter DSJ committed two consecutive turnovers, with the second being the most egregious one: a full court pass attempt that went high above Bobby Portis’ head by at least ten feet.

A Wizard Did It: Subverted with David Fizdale. Whatever it is, Fizdale magic is working no wonders on the offseason acquisitions: every single one of them is posting a worse WS/48 than last year (with the exception of Elfrid Payton, who has only played 4 games though).

Blatant Lies: Played straight with Steve Mills and Scott Perry, who somehow tried to convince James Dolan that this roster was playoff-contention worthy.

Chew Bubblegum: Clyde is here to chew bubblegum and snark about failing Knicks players and sets. And he’s all out of bubblegum. Early in the third the Knicks wound up turning the ball over right after a timeout by Fizdale. Let’s just say Clyde wasn’t pleased with the subsequent play.

Leitmotif: Fire Fizdale.

***

Happy Thanksgiving guys! See you after the Sixers game. Let’s hope it’s better than this. Or not, if it helps getting ridden of a few guys.

Note: this was supposed to be published yesterday at 10:00 AM, before the site went off for several hours.

Brooklyn Nets 103 – New York Knicks 101 – Game Recap

Hey there, fellow Knicks fans! I guess you want to know why we lost last night against a pretty mediocre Nets team, right? Fear not, I’m your man and up to the task!

Here’s the reasons why:

Dolan. Dolan Dolan Dolan Dolan Dolan: Oh and Dolan. Did you Dolan that Dolan just Dolan? But Dolan Dolan, Dolan! And Dolan. So, Dolan Dolan Dolan. Dolan…

Seriously, when you consider how the loss (the game, actually) came to be, you can’t help but trace everything to the origin of evil that taints this franchise since 1999. The Knicks played pretty much the same game they play 60% of the time: put up a fake fight at the beginning, let the game slip a bit, try to cover the gap somehow, let the game slip another little bit, mount a fake comeback, play stupid ball in the last three minutes, come away with a loss and nothing new learned.

Against Brooklyn, they followed the script to a T. Here’s the score every 6 minutes: 15-16 (six minutes mark), 22-29 (end of first quarter), 33-34 (six minutes mark), 46-52 (end of first half), 63-66 (six minutes mark), 72-82 (end of third quarter), 82-91 (six minutes mark), 101-103 (end of game).

So, you might say, why all the doom and gloom this particular time?

Oh, that’s why: as I had all too easily predicted, the valiant (?) efforts of the night came from veterans who didn’t play team ball at all – not their fault I guess – while the youngsters were total horseshit. I’m actually happy we lost: to win this game would have added insult to injury.

And that’s where we come back to Dolan.

Our youngsters played very bad because they’re not coached. They’re not being trained to improve. No one’s grooming their tendences. No one’s teaching them anything. We could rave all we want about Frank’s improvement (?!?… but yeah, if Frank ends the season at around .050 WS/48 we should be thinking we had witnessed a borderline miracle) but how much is on Collet’s shoulders and how much on Fizdale’s? Do you remember our optimism about Knox and his improved shot selection? Do you remember when we thought Randle was a good signing?

I mean, everything could still happen. But do you see it happening with this coaching staff? RJ Barrett is out and their answer is putting a frigging power forward – who were clearly headed for the dungeon – at the 2 spot? While burying Trier and not starting Dotson and/or Ellington? WTF is wrong with them?

And if anyone thinks Fizdale is the problem, they’re not paying attention. Fizdale has no reason to feel that he has to held himself accountable for mistakes: the roster made no sense from day one, our GM has some strange talent evaluation bias and our POBO is widely thought to be the worst in the business, but has a very firm grip on his chair.

But this all starts from the top. Dolan’s the obvious culprit. I know, I’m preaching to the choir (especially here at KB), but it’s not like I can get semi drunk every night and fill half of the recap with my weak shenanigans, you know? So let’s state the obvious from time to time. It’s boring, but not hurtful. Who know, maybe one day Jimmy D will read this blog and some of our words will ring a bell in his head; you know, like a Christmas Carol thing where Jowles and JK47 take turns to get the right to play the snarky Ghost of Knicksmas Future, Brian plays the comforting and scolding at the same time Ghost fo Knicksmas Past and a beleaguered ptmilo finds unthinkable ways to express disdain at Guitar Jimmy with some careful worded assorted dissings.

Or maybe Dolan reads something and writes a wrathful letter accusing me to be an alcoholic. It would still be a nice result, since it’d be one of the few times he’d say something resembling the truth.

– Let’s talk about Mitch, shall we? It’s hard not to come away from his last few games very, very disappointed. The blocks are still there, but so are the dumb fouls. Also, wasn’t he supposed to shoot goddamn threes if left open? Defenses routinely sag eight feet off of him and he doesn’t even threaten to shoot the ball. He’s still jumping at everything even remotely blockable and leaves a ton of defensive boards on the table. Now, I mean, I still love Mitch with all of my soul, but those things are the ones that have to be coaxed by competent coaching. Fizdale’s approach to Mitch seems to be “let’s play him and just hope he doesn’t foul too much but anyway there’s still Bobby waiting on the wings hurr durr”. I hate it, and that’s reason number one why we need a change ASAP. His technical after his sixth foul also tells me his head really isn’t the right place. We. Can’t. Squander. His. Talents. Do something about it. Yeah, but there’s still Dolan who probably thinks Dwight Howard is still a better player (actually Dwight’s playing fine this year, but come on). If Mitch peters out like a few dozen

– Same goes for pretty much every other young player. You don’t like Knox’s defensive effort? Sure, neither do I. So why reward him with a start after three very inconcludent games? What’s the message? You suck at defending small forwards, so hey, let’s play defense on quicker and smaller two guards! That way, you’re way more prone at failing, and that opens up one of two equally bad scenarios: either you suck and get benched for it – to no fault of your own, though. It would be hard for Knox to defend two guards even if he were fully commited and focused – or you suck and don’t get benched for it, which in turn upsets the guys who might be trying their darnedest to stay on their defensive assignment. A real lose-lose scenario. Moreover, there’s nothing that Knox gives you at the 2 that Dotson can’t give you. Not even rebounding (just 1.6 REB% more for Knox).

– Lost in all of this is the fact that we keep on losing games where we shoot exceptionally well from three (18/35). When you lose these games, it means that a) your shot selection inside of the arc is terrible (true) and b) your opponent is shooting more/better from the line (also true). If it happens once, no problem. If it’s a trend, the only stat that counts here is the fact that you don’t know what is a good shot and what’s not.

– I kinda like Wayne Ellington. No, better. I don’t despise him. Ok? That said: 28 minutes for him and 17 for Portis. DNPs for Trier (again: Knox played 17 minutes as a shooting guard) and Brazdeikis.

– If you look closely, there are blatant contradictions in Fizdale’s general approach to his job. Playing veterans seem to suggest he’s coaching for wins and for his job. Playing Knox at the 2 looks like he’s trying to get fired in between those awkward Bill Pidto’s Subway commercials. Astounding and confounding.

– Marcus Morris is shooting 42% from the field and 51% from three. He’s shooting 36% from two on almost nine attempts per game. That’s simply atrocious. To put that in context, Frank is shooting 42% from two.

I’m sorry guys, no good or bad section, no fun-size. There’s no fun these days and honestly there’s not even good or decent. Let’s move on. let’s wait another year.

San Antonio Spurs 111 – New York Knicks 104 – Game Recap

Sometimes I have trouble sleeping. Especially if I come home pretty late after a night of quasi-partying (if hanging around at a big downtown pub/karaoke until 4 am qualifies). So when I came home last night I took my iPad, fired NBA League Pass up and started watching the already finished Spurs-Knicks game, knowing it would either relax my mind and lull me to sleep or keep me awake in an exciting manner but saving time in the morning after (I’d have already watched the game and would be ready to write the recap just jumping off my bed).

It seems like nowadays I just can’t get what I want, though (they say it’s something called life. I guess I have to agree). While Lady Farfa fell in a sound sleep as she always does – bless her sleeping pattern, time will go easier on her neural connections than it will on mine – I started watching the game. Pretty much at the middle point of the second quarter I kinda blacked out. The Knicks were down a million to nothing and the last thing I remember about that was a Mitch foul. I woke up this morning with the iPad in my face and a terrible feeling of general uneasiness. A quick mental check of everything that went down last night easily confirmed that everything went well: a nice aperitif in a cool place, dinner with friends in the best burger/meat joint of the city with some great Rosso di Montepulciano to boot, an invigorating walk through the city center and then three Belgian beers, a few minutes of impromptu Latin dances (Lady Farfa dances pretty well, I’m like a wooden log that occasionally stretches him arms out in rhythm – oh god I’m Julius Randle playing defense) and a more than adequate rendition of “I want it that way” that threatened to bring the place down, mostly thanks to the rampaging alcohol count and late hour.

So, everything went fine (apart from the fact that it looks like a 25-year old night and not a 36-year old one, which brings me to question myself about my lingering marginal Peter Pan insecurities, but then again, I’m rooting for the Knicks! It should be a given that I’m trying to reach Neverland even at this “advanced” age). My liver can more than take that booze. My personal issues that I wrote about in the last recap are going much better too. So what was this feeling?

Oh, the Knicks.

When I dozed off, they were losing 51-29 and putting on a display of atrocious all around basketball. You think you should get used with time to the trials of rooting for such a god forsaken team, but personally I ain’t. My mind treats every forthcoming Knicks game like it’s gonna be a new Game of Thrones episode between seasons 5 and 7 (season 8 is usually reserved for free agency, lottery and draft night. The Knicks drafting Mitch last year pretty much counts as the scene where Brienne of Tarth gets knighted. The Knicks signing Portis instead of renting capspace is that weird retconning Melisandre speech to Arya). So when a game devolves into a slugfest-y carnage of hopes and dreams, it sinks into my soul. And believe me, there’s nothing good with feeling emotionally downtrodden just before getting to sleep – and getting your forehead bashed by a falling iPad.

You think you’re ready to give up hope everytime, but you just can’t. That’s why I turned the iPad on again and kept watching as soon as I got awake. Well, what do you know, the Knicks were even more terrible. They were able to get down by 28 in the third before attempting a patented fake comeback on the heels of some inspired defense and a whack-a-mole appearance on the perimeter by Wayne Ellington. Of course they were never able to complete it (the closest they got was 105-98 which, hey, it was cool! But you knew it wasn’t going to get better than that, not when all you need is three more stingy defensive possessions and you’re playing Randle at the 5 for the decisive stretch) and that caused a little more reason for despair.

The game was pretty much over after RJ Barrett drove to the rim to try to get 105-100 but his (not bad) attempt caromed out of the rim after a few unlucky bounces. From there on, it was suckitude again everywhere.

But Farfa, you might say, you pretty much said nothing about the game!

You’re right, of course. There’s nothing to say about this game. The Spurs were too hot, the Knicks were too deflated, and our offensive sets are the stuff of legend (if we’re talking about Hoboken open mic night).

On to some individual remarks:

– I don’t think Fizdale’s Death Watch is gaining any traction right now. We end up being embarrassed most nights anyway but it happens in a way that allows Fiz to save face. The players compete even down 25! They’re giving their best effort out there even when outmatched! They don’t quit! That’s kinda true, but would you still eat at a restaurant where after having botched the entrees and the main dishes they brought to you, with the most dedicated smile ever, a very solidly cut pineapple?

– Julius Randle is the coriander that keeps getting confused and used as parsley.

– If you didn’t know, some people have a genetic trait that makes coriander taste like the Palomena Prastina bug. Maybe you’re not familiar with that bug, but I am, and I have that genetic trait. It’s like tasting soap mixed with cigarette ash.

– Seriously, this was Randle’s night: 14 points, 8 boards, 3 assist, 6 for 17 from the field (1 for 5 from three), 4 turnovers, -12 +/-. For the season he’s posting a cringe-y .010 WS/48, negative BPM and a precise 0.0 VORP. He’s basically a worse than replacement player at this stage. If you go look at his per game numbers (but away that Wicker Man prop guys, I’m not really going to argue raw box score stuff), though, you’ll see that his numbers are very par for the course with his last Lakers season. Only two things have changed, and pretty much everyone with at least 1-20 eyesight can guess which they are: turnovers and FG% (which is a function of shot distribution). Since no man is a island, and that counts even for basketball players, who do you think is to blame for how Randle is being used?

– So yeah: fire Fizdale. Randle can still be a good player, but someone has to step in and… you know, coach him.

– THE BEES! THE BEES!

– So you need defense in the last five minutes and don’t play neither Gibson nor Mitch at the five? Ok, Gibson played like shit last night, but I think he would have been very useful in bodying up Aldridge and not getting out of position on half of the defensive possessions.

– Mitch ended up playing 24 minutes and posted a strange line: 6-4-4-2-2. So basically he was invisible on the boards but popped out everywhere else. I still don’t understand how is it even possible that we’re not running at least 5 mandatory PnR sets with him every given night. Oh yeah, back to square one. It’s Fiz and the gang. If Mitch qualified, he’d be 6th in the League in BPM and second in WS/48. He’s dumb as fuck in some circumstances, but holy crap this is your best basketball player stop treating him like he’s John Salley

– Marcus Morris Sr. has perfected the art of padding scoring stats in the last minutes of a quasi-blowout. In a vacuum I don’t really like it, but it’s probably going to be useful come trade season.

– The fact that we’re taking for granted RJ’s production (not great, not good, but adequate for a rookie is more than enough) is a good sign for the kid. If he could play in a system where his strengths get enhanced instead of routinely snuffed we would be already be seeing better numbers from him. 15/5/3.5 in the first fifth of the season is not bad anyway. Now, if only his WS/48 weren’t in the negative…

– Frank had a nice stat line: 9 points, 9 assists, 6 (!!!) steals. He’s the third different Knick to tally 6 steals this season, in just 16 games. He also dunked the ball! Really!

– Wayne Ellington is good at coming off curls, but couldn’t we design a set that makes him open for standstill catch and shoots from time to time?

– The Dungeon is calling for Knox. I think it’s a good thing in the end.

Now, hear me out. I hope we win against Brooklyn. I think we can do it. I also think that, if we win, we’ll do that by indulging in bad basketball practices. So, what should we root for? What if they fire Fizdale sooner or later and then give the keys to another bad coach? How long does this have to go on? Is that hard to aspire for basic competence?

Fire Dolan.

New York Knicks 104 – Philadelphia 76ers 109 – Game Recap

I wanted the Knicks to win this game. Actually, scratch that. I needed the Knicks to win this game. I’m going through a very rough patch in my personal life right now, and I certainly could have used it a little Bockers win balm to apply upon my emotional wounds. I know, sports wins don’t matter at all big picture-wise, but you try and find solace where you can, amirite?

That’s why the third quarter looked a bit like heaven. After going mano-y-mano for two quarters with the Sixers, they came out firing on all cylinders right after the long break. It was like watching a recent vintage Golden State game, where the opponent finds himself irredeemably lost and bludgeoned by a dozen or so well placed buckets. Seriously, the Knicks went on a 15-0 run to open the quarter and looked like they wouldn’t ever look back after going up 17 with 4:15 to go in the third (on a serendipitous right-handed putback slam by Barrett, nonetheless). It was beautiful basketball all around. Players doing their best on offense and on defense. Frank playing like an Andre Miller spin-off, dusting off spin moves, floaters and even a weird-ass up and under from 12 feet. You couldn’t have asked for more.

But then, one of the basketball god looked down and thought it was time to intervene. Ripping off a page from Satan’s book, that particular god probably transmutated into a snake and whispered to Fizdale’s ear “Hey, you know what? Frank’s probably tired. Why don’t you put in some of your reserves?”. Fizdale (understandably so, to be fair. You have to rest your guys from time to time) complied. Everything fell apart in a little more than two minutes, and the copious lead all but evaporated, leaving the Knicks up just 5 and the momentum entirely in the past, like some old furniture you couldn’t care less about that gets left in the back of a storage box in the suburbs.

The fourth quarter was a hard-fought matter until the very few minutes, where the Ben Affleck of Carmelo Anthonys, after a pretty much well-rounded game, suddenly developed a severe case of tunnel vision and in two separate occasions didn’t pass the ball to an open teammate (once it was Mitch right under the basket!), choosing instead to deploy some ill-fated late-era Meloisms that didn’t find the net and condemning the Knicks to the umpteenth loss at the hands of personal Knicks slayer, emoji-tattooed, placeholder name avatar Mike Scott. A three pointer from the insufferable Embiid sealed the deal putting the Sixers up by seven. From there, it was pure formality for the Process nephews to put the game away.

And so I came away from the game with a loss that I didn’t want, but still got because it was the right outcome. This looks a bit too much like regular life, you guys.

The good:

– I’m kinda conflicted here. There are two guys who were clearly better than the others, but neither of them delivered in the clutch and one of them posted such a line that if it came with the words “Tim Hardaway Jr.” before it we would have collectively barfed in resignation.

– Well ok. Let’s start here. With a little less than 3 minutes to go in the third I witness one of the most unlikeliest* sight ever. It said “Leading scorers: Frank Ntilikina (17 pts, 1 reb, 1 blk, +2 +/-) 16; Joel Embiid 11”. It was everything you needed to know about Frank’s night. For once, he decided that focusing on intangibles and corollary-like stuff was so 2017 and focused on scoring. Mind you, it’s not like he shot that much (8 shots in 33 minutes), it’s that he shot well and attacked with a lot of purpose. His pull-up game is not weak sauce anymore these days. Problem is, if you don’t put him in the PnR and/or don’t free shooters around him he’ll never notch another assist in his life. He’s a very unbursty type and he’s not strong like RJ, so defenses will never collapse on him. That’s why he didn’t collect a single assist. I have no answers, though, as to why he grabbed just a single board. It’s like you can’t have the whole package in one game with him (apart from his Dallas breakout). For now it will suffice, seeing as Frank’s posting 0.050 WS/48 (!) and positive VORP. I never thought I’d see the day, honestly.

*shout out to SOAD fans.

– On the other hand, it’s hard to anoint Marcus Morris (22 pts, 13 rebs, 6 ast, +5 +/-) with a “good” moniker, what with the very recent memory of him throwing away the game with bone-headed plays; at the same time it’s undeniable that this was a very, very well rounded game from him. Numbers speak for themselves – even if efficiency does not. A quick aside: how is it that it seems like there’s only one Knicks per game that can connect with Mitch on the pick and roll/lob play? Do they forget that the guy jumps very high? Do they draw straws and only the one who gets the shortest one can throw lobs to Mitchell? Morris was the one tonight, in just two instances, right before he went into hero mode. It shouldn’t necessarily be the coaching staff’s task to say “hey guys! That thing worked! Why don’t you do it again?” when things go downhill; what did we sign vets for, if so?

The bad:

– RJ Barrett (8 pts, 7 rebs, 3 ast, -5 +/-) didn’t have a bad game per se, but he completely vanished when every play mattered. I’m not asking him to be the undisputed alpha on this team (and how could he? He’s just a 19 year old rookie), but just because you mentioned Mamba mentality – throwing up in my mouth right now – it’s not like you should pull a Kobe against Utah in the 1997 playoffs. Also, 8 points on 12 shots? Ouch. I guess he just needs to picks his spots on drives, right now there are times when he just decides he’ll go inside only to get bottled/stuffed/sometimes fouled but uncalled. His advanced stats are terrible, but I’m still not worried. My preseason predictions about him, though, were waaaay off base.

Fun-sized bits:

– I didn’t figure that the Randle’s experience would be such an empty calories affair. A quite invisible 17 and 8 for him. And to say that I liked him before he wore a Knicks uniform. There’s still a lot of time, though.

– Taj Gibson had a goodish game (11 points, 4 boards, a cool spin move and dunk in the third) but only played 13:40 minutes because of foul trouble, having commited two quick ones in the first three minutes of the game. *checks boxscore* Oh well, they were the only ones he committed.

– Bobby Portis fully understood how to play 20+ minutes against Philly: never get into Embiid’s breathing space, defense be damned. 24 minutes of playing time, seven points, a whopping -14 +/-. Within 25 days I’ll start the “Trade Portis” campaign, be warned.

– Mitch also got in super foul trouble, and stayed there (4 fouls in 13 minutes). He still managed to block 3 shots, grab 2 boards and stuff two almost-crunch time dunks. But yeah, let’s pretend he’s just a run of the mill guy and not our best player.

– Kevin Knox is losing playing time, but I’m not complaining. His defense is atrocious at times, and he deserves to be set on a short leash. I don’t know why ne netted a team high +7 +/- in just 10 minutes while letting his guy run circles around him.

–  Damyean Dotson played almost 20 minutes and was terrible (2 points, 1-6 from the field, -12 +/-). I guess he belonged in the bad section after all, but at this point he’s such an afterthought that sometimes I don’t ever remember he exists.

– Dennis Smith Jr had a passable offensive outing (13 points and 2 assists in 15 minutes), but was very lackadaisical on defense while displaying all of his low BBIQ. I want to know what happens when Elfrid comes back.

– The NBA should cut some of the bogus foul calls drawn by whoever is Embiid’s defender. Mitch was whistled for his third foul on a side swipe by the Cameroon-born player. It was really awful officiating, Embiid looked for contact and Mitch is not at the point where he can comfortably teleport away. I said it last year, I’ll say it again: the NBA should do what it can to stop Embiid from being a giant, petty thorn in the ass. Evidently the KAT brawl isn’t still enough.

Until next time!

Just know that I love you all (well, almost). There’s strength in numbers.