Carmelo Anthony Is Playing New York’s Most Dangerous Game

I don’t believe the Knicks will win tonight’s game against the Mavericks. This isn’t, necessarily, surprising; the Mavericks are the defending champions, and the Knicks have been up-and-down. But the more I think about why I don’t feel good about tonight’s game, the more I keep getting back to the differences between Dirk and Melo as the leaders of their respective teams.

Both the Mavericks and the Knicks are coming off of what should have been extraordinarily disappointing losses against quality opponents. Each had erased a second-half deficit of some magnitude to reclaim the lead. Each had chances to close out the game. Each had failed to do so. The Mavericks’ loss to Oklahoma City included Jason Terry calling his own number instead of getting the ball to the appropriate Alemanian, prompting this, um, somewhat-less-than-pleased reaction from Mr. Novitzski.

Carmelo Anthony, on the other hand, had taken the last shot for his team in regulation, a potential historic buzzer-beater against the Boston Celtics, and missed. His team failed to prevail against the  Celtics- which, it seems worth repeating, are from Boston- and yet his reaction was decidedly less upset. As Marc Berman of the NY Post reported, Anthony post-loss was able to remark “Games like that are fun. It’s more exciting and more of a thrill if we won the game. But it happens and we move on.”

…….

Look, my views on this subject are admittedly influenced by my own competitive nature. And as I noted in my lockout-analysis of why we love the NBA, players are largely correct when they understand that basketball is just a game. But, as I also noted, if the players don’t at least maintain the façade that the games really matter, fans are going to get pissed off. This is especially true of New Yorkers, and even more true of anything having to do with the New York-Boston rivalry. And so Melo seemingly shrugging off the loss, in addition to the easy manner the Knicks displayed as they hugged it out with the Celtics, makes me pretty frustrated.

The main problem with the reaction, if one is inclined to support the Knicks, is that such behavior appears to be the opposite of how leaders of previous championship teams would have acted. Can you imagine MJ missing a game winning shot, and then saying “the game was fun?” Dirk? Kobe? Tim Duncan? Going further back, Larry Bird? And I don’t care if you think Pierce or KG was more important to the Celtics title in ’08; neither was going to laugh off that loss.

The problem is not that Melo is slacking on the court; there were several moments where his effort was unquestionably on display, such as when he fought for a rebound off three or four consecutive misses. He also hit a number of shots for the Knicks in the last few minutes of the game, displaying once more why he can be a great option in the clutch. I didn’t love the play at the end of the game (you should get a better shot off when you have over four seconds left on the clock,) but I didn’t have a problem with Melo shooting the ball, or with his missing the shot. The potential issue is that his demeanor post-loss indicates that losing doesn’t bother him in the way that history indicates it would have to for him to be (or become) a top-flight player. Melo’s demeanor didn’t help Paul Pierce make a ridiculous three-pointer, or cause him to miss his game-winner, but it may be preventing the team from establishing the sort of culture in the locker room required for the Knicks to reach real success. And, those on Twitter who stepped forward to defend him aside, making light of a loss doesn’t play well in this city. Especially not when that loss is to Boston.

Which is why I fervidly hope that the laughter is merely Melo’s way of shielding his interior frustration about the loss. Since he was young his coaches have always noted his competitive desire, making his comments yesterday that much more befuddling. Saying the game was fun is acceptable only if, on the inside, he was thinking “I will absolutely destroy you, Paul Pierce, next time we play.”

Anyone who has watched Dirk knows that the Mavericks will come out angry tonight. Not only did they just lose a close game, they lost to the Knicks the last time the two played, and I guarantee no player on the Mavericks has forgotten the role they played in Linsanity. If the Knicks don’t match that intensity, especially coming off a tough loss of their own, it will only create more doubt about the players leading the team. This is a chance for Melo to prove my doubts incorrect. I sincerely hope that they are.

‘Twas the Night Before Knicksmas

” ‘Twas the night before Knicksmas,

And all through MSG,

Not one fan was stirring,

Not even Spike Lee.

The players had practiced, worked, and prepared

in hopes that a victory soon would be theirs…”

 

One night, and the waiting is over. The beginning of the NBA season is upon us. The strange tale of the path the NBA took during 2011- the incredible play-offs, the victorious Mavericks, the lockout and its resolution, “basketball reasons-” is about to receive its final chapter, a preview of what’s to come in the sequel.

For Knicks fans, the wait has been much longer. It has been years- years– since we knew that the team being put on the court was meant to stay, that the players in whom we were investing ourselves were not merely trade chips in hopes of receiving a superstar, or rental players whose expiring contracts guaranteed cap space. This team is comprised of the players who, for better or worse, will define the early 2010’s in the minds of Knicks fans everywhere. Amar’e. Melo. Chandler. Each of them has flaws that have been recounted numerous times both by national prognosticators and in the message boards on this blog. But they are, for all their flaws, our team, and tomorrow we can return to watching the game and seeing the players decide things for themselves. So much time and energy has been put into analyzing what pieces should be added to the Knicks in hopes that they would become, one day soon, contenders. Personally, come tip-off, I’m going to experience a feeling of relief that finally the wait is over. Finally I can root for my team. Finally I can leap off my couch to celebrate another Amar’e dunk, another Melo jumper, and whatever crazy antics Shump-Shump and Jorts are up to. Finally I can return to mocking Boston (“Mickael Pietrus? Players who got bought out from lottery teams don’t scare me!), the referees (Hey Ref, if you had one more eye you’d be a cyclops!) and Eddy Curry. (Ok, I never stopped mocking him, but… “Miami Heat? More like Miami Eat!” So bad, yet so necessary.)

So, from me to everyone who cares about this team- Merry Knicksmas Eve. This is a moment you deserve. And maybe, just maybe, if everything goes right, the Knicks will find a W in their stockings. Happy holidays.

 

Bring on Boom-Dizzle: Baron Davis commits to signing with Knicks

Boom-Dizzle

Baron Davis can be many things. He can be a comedic actor. He can be an overweight, disinterested point guard. He can be a headache, making you wish a million times he wasn’t on your team……if you’re a small-market team, or lack the right pieces around him.

But when you give him someone who can throw down almost any pass tossed his way…..he can make magic happen. With picture perfect passes, over, and over, and over^10 again.

And when you give him a crowd that won’t let him give anything less than his best, a crowd that energizes him, a crowd that pushes him to his absolute limits…. that’s when something truly incredible can happen.

ESPN’s Marc Stein  is reporting that Davis has officially decided to join the Knicks. Are there risks attached to this signing? Certainly. Davis looks to be out about a month with a back injury. His career TS% is just north of 50%. His highest WS/48 was for the 2006-2007 season at a .139.

But his AST%’s from last year – 39.9% with the Clippers, 45.4% with the Cavaliers – dwarf DWTDD’s 19.5%. And Toney did little to dispel the notions that he’s not a PG during the first preseason action of the year. With Amar’e and Carmelo requiring so many shots, it’s imperative the Knicks have someone who can get them the ball in the right spots. So while I still trust in TD’s ability, and hope that he will improve, this signing is a great gamble by the Knicks. If things go poorly, Baron can sit at the end of the bench on a one-year, $2.5 million contract. But if things go well, and Baron’s ooping to Amar’e, and the Garden is rocking- well, then we might remember this as the moment we grabbed our starting PG for the 2012 playoffs.

Do you believe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps You’ve Heard of This Chris Paul Fellow?

 

From Hornets.com. The colors will change to blue and orange soon.

16 months and 1 day ago, in the aftermath of The Decision (and in my very first piece for this website), I considered the possibility of the Knicks forming their own Big 3. At that time the Knicks had only signed Mr. Stoudemire. However, then as now there seemed an air of inevitability that Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul would both decide to come to the Big Apple.

As the 2011-2012 season begins, the Knicks are halfway to that dream. Chris Paul will be the dominant subject of speculation this season, and early reports seem to indicate that experts will remain amusingly divided on the inevitability of his joining the Knicks until the day it occurs. Chris Broussard broke that Paul’s first choice was far-and-away the Knicks. (Hooray!) Then John Hollinger suggested that Paul was unlikely to join the Knicks, due to limited cap space. (Bah!) Then Frank Isola tweeted that Melo had a big grin on his face during a media session with Paul at his charity. And soon I will report that I saw Melo and CP3 playing hopscotch together. You get the picture.

Cutting through the multitude of opinions on the subject, I wonder what could possibly make people doubt that Paul will sign here next year. I have no inside connection to someone in Paul’s camp. I have two rather circumstantial pieces of evidence which make me think Paul will sign: that he’s been BFF with ‘Melo all summer, and that Broussard said he wants to come here. But really, havn’t the past two years proven without a doubt that star players will play where they want to play? The Melo-Bosh-Amar’e-LeBron-Wade-Paul group all wanted to play basketball with their friends in the city of their choosing. Five of the six have made that a reality.

Now, to the extent that Paul might like playing somewhere else (Broussard says he’s open to the Clippers), he might join one of those teams. But the reason will be the same: because he wants to, and not because of relatively minor financial considerations. While Professor Hollinger does some good work demonstrating how the Knicks’ offer will be smaller than a Hornets’ extension, I can’t help but feel that it just doesn’t matter. Jordan Brand guys all know the marketing power that being in this city gives an athlete. Prospective PG’s gotta buy shoes too, and New York is the stage where Paul could increase the value of his brand. It just seems preordained when you throw in the combination of his friendship with Carmelo and the opportunity to run Mike d’Antoni’s offense (or the opportunity to figure out how to make a point guard relevant in the triangle…perhaps you’ve heard of this fellow Phil Jackson? Nevermind.)

Personally, I plan on tuning out most of the chit-chat about Paul, except when it confirms my pre-existing belief that he will sign as a Knick in the summer of 2012. As the season progresses, perhaps it will become time to analyze how Paul will neutralize Melo’s bad shot selection, or wonder about how devastating the CP3/Amar’e pick and roll will be. Some may say that I am reacting as a typical New Yorker, always suspecting that a particular player will want to join my team. To them I reply, how cool is that Knicks #3 jersey going to look? Sun’s gotta rise, Earth’s gotta turn, and Chris Paul will be a Knick. (I hope.)

 

Why We Love the Game

My greatest gift that I have in life is basketball- Isiah Thomas

As we begin the third week of October it appears that much of the 2011-2012 basketball season will be lost. There are a number of very real economic consequences which will accumulate from the loss of games, not only from the number of employees that have been let go from their franchises, but also from the decrease in business for numerous restaurants and stores close to arenas. Livelihoods are threatened. Much more rides on this lockout than just a game. And yet, while many fans of the NBA will make this observation and sympathize with those put out of work, I imagine that the loss they will feel the most will come when they are unable to root for their team as the winter months stretch onward. This symptom is found within all of fandom: rational humans who understand that there exist far more important issues and problems within our world will devote countless time and energy to following a game, led more by their heart than by their head. To be a true fan is to appreciate what the Knicks’ much-maligned former executive realizes: the game of basketball is a gift.

And so what is the response when this gift is taken away? What can possibly fill the void in an adequate manner? To figure out a solution requires an understanding of why fans love the game of basketball and the NBA. I was prompted to think about this question by Zach Horst’s article defending the view that a player-led league would fail to carry the interest of true fans. The article prompted a heated debate among commenters (some of whom disliked the use of the phrase true fan, others of whom disagreed with the thesis of the argument.) I believe that a separate basketball league could succeed in attracting fans as long it could understand and act in a way that recognizes what constitutes fandom. It would need to understand what drives passion to such irrationally high levels. It would need to understand the sorts of things that make fans frustrated. It would need to understand why we love the game.

“Dribble, pass and shoot. I always thought it’s the way the game was supposed to be played.”

Byron Scott

Appreciation for the beauty of the game of basketball is a good place to begin analyzing why fans can be driven to such irrational devotion. The reason why fans would choose to concentrate on basketball over other sports must be found within the game itself. The precise geometry required for success, the way in which the game lends itself to showcasing incredible athleticism, and the concept of five players working together as one; all contribute to an appreciation for the game. The degree to which a person cares about the previous three factors is an important factor in determining if they favor the professional or college game. College enthusiasts obstinately repeat Scott’s sentiment that there is a “way the game [is] supposed to be played.” Fans of the NBA may be more likely to appreciate the incredible athleticism necessary to be a star in the league, while harboring frustration that college fans believe that a lower shooting percentage could somehow represent a purer form of the game (I think it’s obvious what camp I fall into.) While fans often think of offense when describing the way the game should be played, it is equally important that defense is active and of a high-quality. When defense breaks down too frequently, it becomes too easy to score, and contributes to the perception that those playing the game do not care about its result (a perception we will deal with in a moment.) This is one of the first issues an outside league would have to overcome, but it is not true that only the NBA could convince players to play defense. If the league was structured in an organized manner, fans could be drawn to the quality of basketball just as if it were the NBA.

I’m a fan myself and I’m frustrated just as much as them when we get beat. –

Steven Gerrard (Yes, I snuck a soccer quotation in.)

Even more important is that the games manufacture a heightened sense of importance, so that fans act as though something is life and death when in fact it is entirely the opposite. This is exactly why the exhibition games do not fill the need for basketball. (They are, by definition, fairly empty of meaning, except insofar as they can reinforce beliefs we already held, such as when d uring a recent exhibition Carmelo’s three-pointer with a second left to tie the game confirmed our sense that he is “clutch.”) Fans need to feel hurt and frustrated when their teams lose, and they need to feel elation when their teams win. This emotional connection is built up through repeated traumatic and ecstatic experiences. The best way to begin creating these experiences would be for the players in the new league to exert visible effort each and every play toward the eventual goal of a championship. As a general rule, the enthusiasm a team’s fans have for its success or failure cannot noticeably exceed for a long period of time the importance a team’s players place on the game. When teams appear to have lost the will to win, (Hello, several Knicks’ teams from the mid-2000’s) fans’ energy and interest is slowly sapped from the game. This is something separate from simply losing a lot of games; many fans have stuck with their teams through downtimes, often in support of young teams which lost incredible numbers of games. So long as the players are giving their all, fans can remain invested in the team’s success. Creating a large end-of-season playoff would provide the do-or-die mentality necessary to motivate the players effectively each and every game. It would also help to create the searing memories that cause fans to form intense attachments to a team.

Basketball is in my blood. It is my obligation to try.

Hakeem Olajuwon

 

I played basketball to try to get my parents from working so hard.

James Worthy

 

A potential league could fail if it did not appreciate fans’ distaste for overt commercialism. When Zach wrote that it was unlikely anyone would care about a game between Kobe’s Denver Citibank Armadillos vs. Lebron’s Akron MetLife Wildcats, he certainly was correct, but I’m not sure he was correct in analyzing why people would not care. Fans of the NBA do not appreciate when players play the game for money because that reason does not line up with why fans love the game. As with many things in life, it is not enough to enjoy the same thing as someone else; fans would like to believe that players share the same reason for enjoying the game as they do. It is widely assumed that anyone who does not play “for love of the game” will fail to exert the same effort as someone who does love the game. One might wonder if this is a fair assessment. Consider the two quotations above. Who will be more motivated? The player who loves the game, or the player who works so that his family can enjoy a better life? Playing a game one loves is easy. Doing anything that you do not enjoy so that you can benefit others should be recognized as both difficult and noble. We glorify those who work rotten jobs to support their families in other areas of society; in sports, we vilify those who lack love for the game because we cannot imagine not loving the game ourselves. To put corporations in the teams’ names would bring the raw commercialism of professional sports too close to the surface for fans’ sensibilities. Much as the lockout is currently doing, it would remind us that money is more of a force in the game than we would like to realize. However, it is not as if a renegade league would have to take this step, so this is not a fatal flaw. Amend the statement to, “Would you watch a game between Kobe’s Seattle Sharks vs LeBron’s Akron Admirals?” and I imagine a number of fans would be quite interested.

All I care about is money and the city that I’m from-

Drake

The easiest way to appeal to fans would be to draw upon the instinct Zach identified in his article and depend on fans “supporting their city.” Our support for our city is not merely a random allegiance due to where we happened to have been born, but rather a product of our memories and experiences within that city; an attachment of a similar kind as the one created over time with a sports team. Using the draw of “Support Your City!” as an initial hook, a renegade league could then let the Shakespearean drama that is basketball draw fans in on its own. Basketball is one of the most personality-driven sports. There are no helmets hiding players’ facial expressions. There are regularly moments when players are called upon to to rise to the occasion and come through in the clutch, moments which will undoubtedly result afterward in psychoanalysis of “who exactly a player is,” and questions about their ability to perform under pressure. There are a wide-enough range of personalities that every casual fan can find a player who they identify with to support; while some appreciate Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose’s quiet drive, others are drawn to Carmelo and Kobe’s prima donna swagger. Finally, it is important to remember that while the players are important-incredibly important- like any good character in a dramatic story, to be fully appreciated they require the right plot and stage.

Basketball is basketball.

Oscar Robertson

What barnstorming exhibition tours prove is that there needs to be an organized league in place for fans to care about basketball. What they do not indicate is that the NBA is the only league in which this could occur. While the reasons I identify above are not necessarily exhaustive, I believe they provide a good picture of what makes a person a fan of basketball. To the extent that a new league could satisfy what fans are looking for in the game, it could find success. However, what I hope most of all is that today’s meetings help ensure that we never reach the point of seriously contemplating the creation of another league. The NBA is coming off one of its greatest seasons ever. The story lines have never been more intriguing, the star power has never been brighter. It would be a shame to lose the gift of something we love so much.

James Dolan decides to Fix the Knicks

Look, I want to warn anyone who is thinking about reading further that what I will show you may ruin your day. There’s a lockout going on. No reason to think about basketball right now. Maybe you’re content with waiting to see what happens this season, full of optimism about the team and the direction in which it is heading. If so, go away. Right now. Because (SPOILER ALERT) this video is a reminder of a big problem with the organization.

Fix the Knicks.

No matter what positive expectations you might have for the coming season, the Knicks still have to deal with an owner who thinks it’s his job to Fix the Knicks. What he actually has to do is get out of the way of the basketball minds whom he pays to do Fix the Knicks for him. Once, it should have been Donnie Walsh fixing the Knicks. Now, who knows? But not the owner.

I almost forgot… he also listens to his “friend, Isiah Thomas.”

Uh oh.

2011 Report Card: Shawne Williams

Extra E demonstrating his toughness by winning the War of the Williams'

On the day the Knicks announced their 2010-2011 roster, the inclusion of Shawne Williams was notable mostly because of the name he displaced- Patrick Ewing Jr. Your fifteenth man is there to be a good cheerleader and locker room presence, and the son of a former Knicks great seemed much more likely to fit that description than Williams. After flopping in stints with the Pacers and Mavericks, Shawne- a former #17 overall pick- was seen as a non-factor.

How, then, did we end up in a world where he was being asked to start at center against Dwight Howard?

Cynics might answer, “Because Mike D’Antoni doesn’t care about defense.” Others might respond, “No, it’s because the Knicks didn’t have a center.” The answer I’m interested in? That we ended up in that world because he wasn’t there to be a cheerleader, he was there to prove himself.   Because, locker room presence be damned, he would fight Ball Wilker in a practice if that’s what it took to see some playing time.  Because he was shooting lights out game after game after game. And because when given an opportunity, he grabbed it like a life vest and never let go.

Williams’ was the perfect player for the pre-trade Knicks, a forward with good size who could knock down the open 3. His pre-All-Star-break 3P% of 47.5% was laughably good, the most unexpected of gifts from this player whom had barely made the roster. Unfortunately, this number would trail off after All-Star weekend (I wonder why? Maybe we could ask Landry). He would shoot only 33% from three-point land after the trade, losing his touch at a time when the team most needed him. Yet looking back, I fail to be bothered at this dip in performance. Could he have played better? Yes. His rebounding was suspect (7.2/40min). His defense wasn’t always great (often, albeit, against larger opponents.) I got the same feeling when he drove the lane that I get when Jared Jeffries takes a shot.

But what I keep remembering is that Shawne Extra E Williams was gritty. He would defend whatever position you wanted him to as best he could and scrap and claw for every inch. As Marvin Williams learned, he would stick up for himself even when a game was already decided. He was tough. He had a checkered past. He had to fight for everything he got. He kept pushing on through his struggles. What more could we ask for from a player selected to represent New York?

Report Card (5 point scale):

Offense: 3
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 2
Rootability: 3
Performance/Expectations: 4

Final Grade: B+

Similarity Scores:

PlayerID FLName Year Age Tm PER TS_P eFG_P PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
0 Shawne Williams 2011 24 NYK 12.2 .558 .536 12.4 1.6 6.5 1.3 1.1 1.4 1.3
0.067 Rasheed Wallace 1999 24 POR 16.7 .566 .522 16.0 1.5 6.1 1.5 1.2 1.4 2.0
0.077 Brian Howard 1992 24 DAL 13.0 .557 .524 14.8 1.9 5.8 1.6 1.2 0.9 1.7
0.080 Bill Willoughby 1982 24 HOU 13.1 .541 .520 13.2 2.6 6.4 1.8 0.8 1.4 1.9
0.092 Eddie Robinson 2001 24 CHH 17.9 .559 .533 14.9 1.8 5.9 1.8 1.5 1.0 1.3
0.095 Dorell Wright 2010 24 MIA 14.5 .567 .536 12.3 1.2 5.7 2.2 1.3 0.8 1.3
0.103 Shane Battier 2003 24 MEM 15.0 .597 .559 11.4 1.9 5.2 1.6 1.5 1.3 1.0
0.104 Mickael Pietrus 2007 24 GSW 13.0 .590 .567 14.9 1.5 6.1 1.2 0.9 1.0 2.0
0.104 Semih Erden 2011 24 TOT 10.3 .593 .559 9.9 2.2 7.1 1.2 0.9 1.5 2.1
0.106 Paul Millsap 2010 24 UTA 16.7 .573 .538 15.1 2.9 8.8 2.1 1.0 1.6 1.8
0.106 Jake Tsakalidis 2004 24 MEM 12.5 .532 .504 11.5 2.5 8.6 1.2 0.6 1.5 1.6