Toronto Raptors 117 – New York Knicks 92 – Game Recap

It occurs to me I’ve never exactly told you about my Clark Kent job. I don’t know if there’s such a profession in the USA; but my trade is essentially facility management for condos, accounting for expenses for common areas, negotiating between home owners, and generally acting as the guy you call if you’re an home owner and you’re having some sort of building-related problem. In short, I’m sort of a commissioner of condos. At the end of the year, you have to report in a public meeting with the owners about expenses, works in progress, etc.

Historically, in Italy there have been two ways to do this sort of job: treading water, with minimum effort, and bullshitting your way through every meeting, thinking that the owners will easily be manipulated by the guy they feel is in a position of authority, or being very meticulous and transparent, putting as much effort as possible into making data available to every owner in real time so that by the time of the meeting your work is almost entirely done and you just have to negotiate the disputes between owners.

After a new law about condos was approved in 2013, the first category has seen its ranks slowly but steadily depleted, while new blood (like me) has been inserted in the profession with both eyes towards transparency and accountability. That’s all well and good until you actually have a guy from the first category managing your condo (by law, every condo has to have one of such managers). When that happens, it’s amazing to see how a lot of people fall for their bullshit (“Mr. Rossi, but why did we spend 6k euros just for the cleaning service when last year we spent 3k?” “Eh, you see, growing interest rates have an effect on cleaning materials, so the company has to charge more to every customer, also Mr. Bianchi on the second floor has a dog who suffered from diarrhoea all year and your building needed a lot of extra services”) without even blinking an eye. That’s at the same time discouraging for honest guys and mesmerizing to watch in real time. Of course, as soon as one of the owners sees through the blatant lies, the “bad” manager knows his days are numbered, but ignorance and fear of the “supposed” authority makes it so that “bad” managers last a few years more than they should.

I think you know where we’re headed.

Listening to Fizdale lament a lack of defensive players and attribute the many defensive shortcomings to that, and seeing for the umpteenth time a starting five that clearly doesn’t care at all for defense, I couldn’t take my mind off the thought that he actually makes up things on the go. “Oh god, I have the press conference, I have to survive this, what can I say? Yeah, defense! Even if I don’t pay that much attention to gameplan or rotations, those fools will certainly fall for it again!”.

I mean, Toronto is a really good team, and the standings speak for themselves. But there’s no need to make things easy for them by playing from the start two atrocious defenders in Knox and Mudiay and a very suspect one in Hezonja, while forsaking (at least for the moment) our best available defenders in Kadeem Allen and Mitchell Robinson. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we started the game falling behind by 13 (25-12) before Knox and Mudiay got subbed out of the game. By the time Mudiay came back in to the game in the second quarter, Knicks had cut the deficit to seven and the team was humming playfully, with a clear monster performance in the making by Mitch. The second quarter went on to end with the Knicks behind by 19, and there was the game. I don’t think we would have had a chance even with Kadeem running the show from the beginning (especially because tonight he was particularly turnover- and foul- happy) and Mitch and Lance (!) playing from the start, but at least we wouldn’t have been subjected to this dreadful start for the umpteenth time this season. I’m tired of watching no-defense ballhogs and chuckers play freely without any kind of dungeon in sight. We’re near the end, but I can’t help thinking about how there were chunks of this season that were lost due to the fact that we didn’t really put our money where our mouth was, as the full moniker of Stratomatic has been suggesting for a few months.

After that, the game was just a cool Mitch showreel and a reminder that Pascal Siakam is everything you should want in a player.

Onto some notes:

– Let’s start with the huge plus from this game: Mitch blew a chance to nab his first career 20/20 Nick Andersoning two free throws with 3.6 seconds to go, but his box score was still more than majestic: 19 points, 21 rebounds, 2 blocks (I counted 4, but whatever) and a steal in 31 minutes of play. For reference, I give you the full list of rookies who reached those thresholds: Mutombo, Mourning, Shaq, David Robinson, Terry Cummings (guy was good for a while), Hakeem, DeJuan Blair (huh), Ralph Sampson, Derrick Coleman, Greg Anderson, Clark Kellogg, Bill Walton and Earl Williams. It’s not entirely a murderer’s row and Mitch registers the lowest scoring performance, but I think it’s something else to add to his impressive resume. He’s also the third youngest ever to post such numbers. He’s also rocking the second highest WS/48 in the list. Right now he’s posting the sixth highest ever WS/48 season for a rookie. He surpassed MJ. I really, really, really don’t get why he doesn’t start. It makes no sense.

– But, well, in a game like this maybe not starting was a boon, since he didn’t have to play with Mudiay a lot. Mudiay is like Mitch’s kryptonite, on behalf of the fact that he never passes the ball like it’s supposed to. Late in the fourth, Kornet and Ellenson were able to find Mitch twice in the low post. Result: a bucket and a foul. If Luke freaking Kornet is able to do that, shouldn’t everyone be encouraged to do the same? Isn’t “pass the ball to the tall, high jumping guy” a good enough strategy, if we’re trying to keep things simple?

– About Mudiay’s night and the general shortcomings of our lead guards: tonight the Knicks recorded as many assists as turnovers. You know who led the team in assists? You’ve guessed wrong right (I guess, by this paragraph and at this point): DeAndre Jordan, with 4 assists in 20 minutes. Tied at 2 apiece after DAJ there are Kadeem, Mario and Kornet. This team is soooo bad.

– I saw the Knox-as-Novak gain some traction in the comments in the last days (and some weird speculation about trying to foresee how good a player will be based on the number of threes taken in his rookie season – but I think we need team optimism more than ever, so it’s ok), and I stand by it. Shooting open threes is probably the only real NBA skill Knox has. It’s not much, but it’s something. Also two blocks and a steal today! But don’t let them fool you: he played defense like my mom would if I put in her hands a NBA2K controller for the first time and didn’t explain her which button does what.

– I didn’t like Kadeem’s performance that much, but at least he was scoring efficiently (18 points on 9 shots) and trying on defense. These days, it’s enough, even with his 4 turnovers.

– Fiz tried to play Jordan and Mitch together. While I commend the fact that we’re trying weird things, it’s evident from the fact that they tried to defy the principle of bodies compenetration in a few offensive possessions, where they both stood in the same exact area under the rim, that they aren’t receiving even a modicum of effective coaching. That’s, uh, not how you should play, you know? At least one has to stand a bit further from the rim.

– DSJ came back and was terrible. Not Mudiay terrible, but still terrible. 7 points on 11 shots and just one assist are horrible numbers, but he looked like he was playing with a bit of fire on defense.

– How is it even possible to airball a layup and a 5-footer in the same game? Well, the Knicks were able to do that, thanks to DAJ (layup) and Lance (5-footer). Veteran leadership, yay!

So, I think I won’t be able to recap Saturday’s game because I have a friend’s graduation party incoming and we’re planning on getting real wasted, but who knows, I might surpise myself and not wake up with a tremendous headache just to watch Knicks basketball!

See you guys!

Los Angeles Clippers 124 – New York Knicks 113 – (Live) Game Recap

Ok, thanks to the Italy-friendly time, I’ll try to do a new thing today: a live-game recap! I’ll scribble down notes as the game goes by, just to spice it up a little… let’s see if it will come down as a coherent writing or just a warbled mess!

– Oh no, again this starting five.

– I miss the days of yore when home teams played in white and the other team would play in color. I’m getting old.

– 4 shots, 0 makes. Of course, you’re starting Mario and Mudiay.

– Gallo picks up a smart chance getting fouled from the three point line. DeAndre looked like he was attempting to break his arm, I’m surprised they didn’t call a flagrant there. On a side note, and something I already wrote: I like Gallo so much, I almost hope the Clippers need to move him to sign two max free agents and we welcome him in our cap space after having fizzled in free agency. I could root all day for a team with Gallinari.

– It’s 8-0, and Fiz calls a time out with 9:28 to play. In the first quarter. Shouldn’t it be high-time to stop starting this wretched monstrosity of Mudiay-Dot-Knox-Mario-DAJ? I’d like to see a Kadeem-Dot-Frank-Knox-Mitch lineup from the start.

– Mudiay has learned to throw lobs, but only to Jordan. First bucket of the game for the Knicks.

– Jordan bully-balling Zubac. I think it won’t last.

– Tip-in by Jordan. Guy can still play, there’s no denying that.

– Dotson it’s quite good at coming off curls. Kid has some clear NBA skills.

– Jordan with 6 of the Knicks’ 8 points. The ball is moving more, if not better.

– Mario tried to dive into a player to get a foul called, failed miserably but at the last millisecond passed the ball to Jordan for an easy give and go. It looked like those videos on Facebook where you see people falling miserably but then getting up in one fluid motion and going around full swag, like the fall was actually intended.

– I hate Mudiay’s game, but that mid-range shot looks real. Good for him, I guess.

– I can’t decide if like Shamet or not. For sure he looks good when he plays against us, but well, talk about damning with faint praise.

– Kadeem is in for Mudiay! I rejoice.

– Whoa, power move from Gallinari, moving around Mario and converting a layup from under the basket with the and-one. Such a pity his health hasn’t better better through all of these years.

– Jordan with a revenge! 8 points already in the first 8 minutes and 5 boards. I still don’t care that much. I want Mitch, dammit.

– Mike Breen says “Lance Thomas comes in”. Let’s hope it’s a sentence we won’t hear after this April.

– Knox scored on… guess what… an ugly drive with a baby-bookish floater. Anyway, we’re trailing just by two. Kind of a good game until now.

– MSG graphic shows DeAndre is the Clippers’ record holder for games, rebounds and blocks. It’s easy to forget they were an amazingly bad team for eons, so much that players didn’t even stick with the team for as long as he did.

– Doc Rivers talks like he is the Merriam-Webster definition of “hoarse”.

– And Frank is in too. I noticed after, like, 20 seconds he was in. Meanwhile, good bucket from Allen, driving and stopping for a very close layup.

– Now I noticed Frank a bit more. First ball touched, a traveling violation. Urgh. But then a Lou Williams travel!

– Frank really understands the pick and roll. It’s just so obvious that he’s never going to shoot, that the PnR action is quite easy to foresee. He will always pass.

– Third foul for Allen. After the umpteenth awkward drive from Knox. These are the Knicks we’re used to see.

– My answer to the Trivia question “who’s the only other player in NBA history to lead his team never starting a game?” is Ricky Pierce. Let’s see if I’m correct in a few quarters.

– Mitch is in! Now the fun might begin. Or not. Frank just shot a veeeery short three. I’m aghast by how bad he is on offense. I’m still on the Frank train, but boy, this is a kid who doesn’t know what offense in the NBA should be.

– Montrezl Harrell is just so good. If you have a good motor and great instincts, you’ll always have a place in the league.

– First quarter gets to an end. 29-24 LAC, could have been much worse. Anyway, nothing worth mentioning from the first quarter apart from DAJ’s play.

– Dotson with a free layup thanks to the Mitch lob threat.

– Very good defense nullified by a JaMychal Green three. Nice intensity, though.

– Another early timeout by Fizdale. For a supposed players coach, he certainly does a terrible job at inspiring guys from the start.

– Early returns from Frank/Mitch not inspiring, but it’s been like three minutes. Let’s stay focused here.

– Threes raining down for the Knicks! Raining down on the rim, I mean. Oh wait, no, Lance Thomas just airballed one.

– Aaaand another timeout. It’s two timeouts in the second with 8:33 to play. Wow.

– If you don’t think Mudiay and DeAndre will get reinserted in after that timeout, you don’t know our coaching staff. Let’s see if I’m right.

– I was wrong. Fiz just reinserted Mudiay. Still, the ATO resulted in a turnover with the ball bouncing off Dotson’s foot.

– Oh well, I wasn’t that wrong. Just 50 seconds later, Mitch gets benched and DeAndre gets back. For chrissakes, fire this clown of a coach. WHO THE HELL CARES IF WE LOSE JUST PLAY THE YOUNG GUYS. I mean, if you play 47 minutes Knox, what’s the problem with giving Mitch 30 minutes every single night (unless he fouls out, of course)?

– Strange lateral jumping defense by Knox. Looked like an animation from NBA Live 98. Of course Harrell went to dunk uncontested.

– DeAndre becoming sort of a passing threat. I never foresaw that development.

– Knox is a good three point shooter for a rookie. I think we should just employ him as a very young Steve Novak and call it a day.

– A very springy Jordan forgot to box out Zubac. It happens.

– So Mudiay can pass the ball inside! But only to Jordan, it seems. Anyway, timeout by the Clippers with the Knicks trailing by six and 3:58 to play.

– I like MSG’s celebrity row sequences, they help me to give a name to a few minor actors I know I’ve seen somewhere but I could never figure out their name. And of course every time there’s Tracy Morgan. I loved 30 Rock (mostly because I loved Tina Fey).

– Amazing DAJ throwdown with the and-1 on another lob from Mudiay, has Mitch stolen Mud’s lunchpail?

– Jordan playing like a man possessed. 13 pts, 7 boards, 2 blocks and 2 assists in the first half. And a Dotson three ties the game!

– Does Knox commit the stupidest fouls in the league? I think so.

– Fizdale is certainly great at one thing: making the stink face after a ref’s dubious call.

– Knox with the uncoordinated layup to give the Knicks the lead! Lou Williams ties it again soon. But then a bucket from Mudiay, who’s playing well. I hate when he plays well. I am too afraid of what will happen in the offseason.

– Oh god, Mudiay from three. He has 16/4/5 in the first half.

– Knox is probably injured after a ridiculously ill-advised three-point attempt. Watching the replay, though, he was fouled (thanks to the Zaza Pachulia rule, if a defender puts a foot in the shooter’s landing area, it’s an automatic foul. They… forgot to run the whistle here).

– Harrell with a stupid foul just before the first half buzzer. So the Knicks haven’t really cornered the market here. Jordan goes to the line for another “Who you got?” moment.

– First free throw, Dotson answered to DAJ: clean make. Second free throw, Hezonja didn’t even look at him: clanked. I think the world needs to know the name of the man that figured out how to improve Jordan’s free throws just with this psychological wrinkle. Pure genius.

– It seems like I’ve mistimed my espresso break and I missed 4 minutes and 30 seconds of play. LAC on a 15-6 run. Of course, another quick time out.

– This Noche Latina shtick sounds like my Santo Domingo vacation. This reminds me I need a few days off, but who knows when that will happen.

– Frank is again bothered by that groin injury. Ouch. As much as he sucks on offense, his worst trait might be durability.

– Mudiay has already reached the 20 points threshold. On 12 shots. But then, his third foul.

– Jordan at the line again. This time Hezonja answers to him: another clean make.

– And Jordan gets to 20 points, too. Amazing game from him, honestly. A spirited DeAndre is a good player, yes.

– Zubac quietly with almost a double-double. Magic and Pelinka really screwed up trading him away.

– Time for the Trivia question answer: it’s Jordan Clarkson. And again, I’m wrong. Tough night for my guessing work.

– And another Knicks time out with 3:44 to go. At least Mitch is due to get back into the game. Let’s hope he plays a bit more this time. Only 6 minutes for him till now.

– “Hips don’t lie” plays on the MSG speakers. By far the Shakira song I like the least.

– MITCH WITH THE BLOCK ON LOU MY DAY IS MADE

– And an offensive board by Mitch, now at the line. His stroke is very, very good. I can see him shooting some random threes in the future. He shouldn’t look to add that to the repertoire, but as a last second resort it could work.

– Timeout called by Rivers, these Knicks won’t quit. Down seven late in the third. I like the fire they’re displaying tonight, even if don’t like the offensive action. You also have to keep in mind that for the LAC players it’s like they started the game at their 9am internal clock. Matinees can be weird.

– Lance Thomas from the corner! Down five.

– Mitch “grabs” the board, than fumbles it away. Thankfully an errant Clipper leg insures than the ball still stays in Knicks’ hands. Mitch really has to improve on his ball-keeping ability.

– Third quarter ends. Clippers 89 – Knicks 84.

– Stupendous sequence: Mitch block, Mitch rebound, Dotson three. Down two. Mitchell’s defensive prowess is indisputable.

– Wilson Chandler with the super easy bucket. Ill Will, another player I liked sent away in the Melo trade.

– Harrell must have a top-5 motor in the League. I’d love to have him on our roster.

– Kadeem Allen with a good foray to the rim, Knicks down three. And then: Mitch steals the ball, amazing ball movement on the offensive end and Lance Thomas drill another three. As good as Jordan has been tonight, Mitch completely changes the complexion of the game on the defensive end. He’s too long, too quick and too eager for the ball. We’re tied, guys.

– What’s this? A hamster dubbed by the iconic “eeeooo” Freddie Mercury routine? Ultra weird.

– Kadeem Allen from three and the Knicks have the lead! But why is Mitch on the bench now? Fizdale, are you serious? I hope you’re resting him for the last three minutes.

– If Mitch doesn’t play another minute, I’ll tell you, I’m definitely rooting for the loss.

– Again Kadeem with the layup. This guy is quite good, you know?

– Of course, he follows that with an offensive foul. But to be honest, that’s a totally bogus call.

– Terrible sequence on the right corner. Mudiay and Jordan pass the ball to themselves, over and over, in a ten-square foot area. With 4 seconds remaining and nowhere to go, Mudiay launches a fadeaway. Of course it goes down. It’s that kind of night for him.

– Dotson 1 for 2 from the line. Knicks by 1.

– A wide open Gallo three puts the Clippers back in the lead. Me likes it. I also like the subsequent Mudiay miss.

– Jordan gets the offensive board after an Allen miss, only to throw the rock away. Again, me likes it.

– Lou Williams with an uncontested three thanks to the usual lackadaisical defense from Mudiay. I think I already said that I don’t like Mudiay’s game one iota. I don’t like how many efficient nights he puts up if he never learns how to defend.

– Despacito is a surprisingly likable tune even after two years of incessant hearing. The Daddy Yankee featuring really brings the song to life. I know, the last words were never supposed to be uttered by anyone in mankind’s history. Sorry.

– Some sort of circus shot by Allen right under the rim. Knicks trailing by five.

– But Beverley shoots from three and, guess what, he hits it.

– Mudiay gets stuffed by a ground bound Gallo, Lance Thomas gets the board but loads his dunk like a 13th century trebuchet. Luckily for him, he gets fouled. Perfect trip to the line, Knicks down six.

– Lou with a gorgeous floater. I don’t think Mitch would have blocked it, but Jordan is not playing good defense since getting back into the game. Fizdale is a good tank commander, I guess.

– What the hell, we’re already at 2200 words and counting? To think I found really hard to fill three pages for my 6th grade essays. Basketball brings out the best in you (or the worst, according to my detractors)!

– Gallo going to the line with 1:25 to go and the Clips already up 8. It’s ok, I got my wish for a loss.

– And Mudiay puts the cherry on top of the cake turning the ball over on an ill-advised drive to the rim. Very clutch for tank purposes, this guy here.

– Lou Williams with another three. It’s 13 points for him in the fourth. Great bench player.

– Kadeem Allen with a three, but after that he fouls out. Just 26.5 seconds to go, LAC up 10.

– Mudiay hoists up a three and misses. Game over.

All in all, not a bad game. Mudiay with a good line of 26/7/6, DeAndre with 20/14/4 and 2 blocks. Dotson had 18 points. Playing Mitch just 14 minutes, though, is a crime against humanity. I’m really annoyed by Fizdale. I hope he tells Dolan to sell the team.

This one gets in the pocket, see you for the next game and a nice Sunday to everyone!

Utah Jazz 137 – New York Knicks 116 – Game Recap

“Hello, my friend. Stay awhile and listen”*

Today I’d like to tell you the story of Dorando Pietri. I don’t know if many of you already know it just as I don’t know if I use this example pretty often just because the guy was Italian and the episode got stuck in my mind in a bizarre exercise of weird patriotism.

You see, Dorando Pietri was a marathon runner from a little town less than 100 km from where I live. We’re talking about times when sports was much more about the discipine itself than whatever it is that surrounds the ahtletes (endorsements, doping scandals, and so on). This was a guy who started running competitively, the legend says, because he randomly participated in a race (in work clothes) where he, as a debutant, promptly beat the national champion of the time. It was 1904. Thinking to himself “hey! I must be good!” he started running more, and more, and more, and in three years became the undisputed best Italian runner on long runs from 5000 mt to the marathon itself.

In 1908, the Olympics were held in London and he participated, having regularly qualified for the event. At the time, the length of a marathon wasn’t thoroughly regulated. It had to be at least 42 km long, but the official distance was not instituted until 1921, when they set the London 1908 length as the standard from then on. Well, Dorando Pietri was well on his way to win the race with less than 3 kilometers to go, when evidently he started running on fumes. Then on fumes of fumes. Entering the stadium where the final lap would have to be taken, he chose the wrong path and had to be redirected by the umpires, who also helped him when he fell over for the first time. Before crossing the finish line he tripped over and fell three more times. He was able to finish the race (still in first place!) only because he was helped every single time by the umpires. It took him 10 minutes to “run” the last 350 meters, after having run the other 41,950 in 165 minutes. In the end, the umpires’ help got him disqualified from the race, but his legend was still set in stone as the man who crawls to the finish line no matter what, while struggling in an otherworldly way thanks to fatigue and/or exhaustion.

Well, Dorando Pietri is me.

*bonus points if you get this citation

***

I can’t even start to tell you how hard it is to recap these final games. At times, it might even look like I’m not even trying, which maybe subconsciously it’s true, like some sort of maneuver to avoid further psychological trauma. The truth (or the conscious one at the very least) is that I never imagined the situation would have ever been so bleak. I remember the 2014/15 season very well. I found myself able to watch that slog because in the end it was kinda easy to root for some of those scrubs. Galloway, Lou Amundson, even early Lance Thomas: very bad players who tried their darndest to… well, do something, I guess? It was hard to watch but it was kinda easy to sympathize.

This season just drained almost every possibile smidge of joy from watching the team. I said it a million times: it’s not the losing. It’s not even the beatdowns. It’s the fact that for most of the time, I don’t have anyone, anything to root for. It’s starting to feel a bit stale even rooting for Mitch. I was happy to see him post respectable numbers again, but did they matter? No they didn’t. Finally guys were passing him the ball again, but well… when you’re down 30, it’s not like anything still has value, right?

This is why recapping (or doing something else, but still Knicks-related, about) these games is like being Dorando at the entrance of the stadium: you’re trying to do it, but man, you don’t know where you’re supposed to go, or what’s your name, or why you’re in this place to start with. You, my friends, are my umpires. Somehow, you keep helping me every time I fall and feel the urge not to write a single word about this terrible team, at least until October (a very heavy stretch of work-related days doesn’t help either).

I can see the finish line. It’s just soooo far away…

***

There are a few things to say about the game, apart from the fact that it was over very early (the first quarter ended 39-25 for Utah; the first half ended 74-47) and that we had a lot of guys on the shelf, so let’s tackle them:

– Kevin Knox’s March is going pretty well on the offensive side of things. For the month he’s shooting 42.6% from the field and a blistering 48.5% from three. He’s turning the ball less, assisting a bit more and not coincidentally his usage has gone down (19.3%) while his TS% is pretty much at league average (54.9%). Tonight he scored 27 points on 17 shots and grabbed 8 boards. His defense was simply atrocious (Ingles is a very good player, very underrated, but his shot release is not very quick and still Kevin found a way to leave him open time after time after time), but I’ve come not to expect anything from him on that side. I don’t have much faith in Knox, but it’s good to see he’s trending up a bit.

– We were so depleted at point guard that we were able to witness to the first minutes in history of Mario Hezonja, PG extraordinaire! It really didn’t go well. Mario played a cool game (by the numbers) when deployed as the power forward, scoring 23 points on 13 shots, but was predictably a huge failure as a backup PG (4 TOs, 2 of them very comical). I’m still happy I got to witness that. It’s like those movies where a random schlub becomes president for a day and funny antics ensue. They can be funny sometimes, not like this reality where a non-random schlub becomes president for four years.

– Henry Ellenson has to be the best ball-handling garbage time big ever. A cool line of 7/9/5 in 18 minutes and a super slick pass to Mitch in the fourth. He can’t defend to save his life and he’s slow, but he’s a guy I can root for. One of the very few. His 5 assists were a tie for team high with Mudiay and DeAndre. Maybe next game we will witness Henry moonlighting as a 6’10” dorky poing guard? He was also the lone Knicks with a positive plus/minus, but it doesn’t mean anything at all in a game like this.

– When Mitchell Robinson ends the game with 14/12/1 and 3 blocks in 30 minutes and you’re still meh, well, I guess that’s the best definition of jaded you’ll ever see around.

– Dotson is another guy who’s posting good numbers in March, but to no avail. Still, if March Dotson was everyday Dotson I’d be ectastic: 17 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.6 apg on 44/40/80 splits are terrific production for a second round pick.

Guys, I don’t know if I’ll be able to recap next game, but it’s not like these games have a lot to say, so, if we don’t see each other after the Denver game, just know I loved you all. Just kidding. I barely tolerated you :)

See you soon!

New York Knicks 92 – Toronto Raptors 128 – Again, not a Game Recap

Honestly I don’t know what to tell you. This game was probably the worst of the season in terms of actual appeal (I think the Utah one was a bit worse thanks to that dismal first half, but I’m getting to the point where I’m not caring about anything Knicks related for the season. It’s a side effect of the fact that we have so few rootable guys around, I guess) and I found my mind wandering around quite a bit during the game, so I’ll do something different: I’ll reverse engineer our roster, putting into Basketball Reference the exact combination of numbers from every Knick (points, rebounds, assists, minutes played) and selecting the matching performance with the lowest GameScore, just to see what sort of total failure would be needed to assemble a worst team than the one we have right now (hint: it’s possibile that this exercise won’t end with such a bad team).

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the Alternate History New York Knicks:

At starting center (DeAndre Jordan, GmSc 7.2): Mehmet Okur (6 pts, 6 rebs, 3 ast, 20 mp, GmSc 2.2). Do you remember Memo? He was a stretch big when stretch bigs weren’t all the rage in the NBA. He wasn’t also a bad player at all, finishing his career with a WS/48 of .142, or .065 less than what Mitch Lob is sporting right now. Memo won an NBA title with the Pistons in 2004 as a competent backup big and then proceeded to cash out with Utah, where he was a part of those post-Stockton to Malone iterations that were pesky in the playoffs but never amounted to much. The only Knicks-themed thing I can think of, about Memo, is that Bargs was supposed to be the better version of Okur. Of course, he ended up being just the worse version of BJ Mullens. Anyway, a good choice for starting center. AHNYK start with the right foot. Advantage: tie (prime DAJ would have better than average Okur, but current DeAndre isn’t much better than the big Turk was in his full career).

At starting power forward (Mario Hezonja, GmSc 5.0): Bob McAdoo (8 pts, 5 rebs, 3 ast, 27mp, GmSc 2.9). Wow, really? So the combo PF-C of the AHNYK would be a good stretch five who made an All Star Game and an Hall of Famer? Uh, Mario, you might be in trouble here. Bob McAdoo, who has been a Knick for a full season and two half ones was, was a superb scorer in his heyday, leading the league in total WS in his third season and in PER in his second one, both with the Buffalo Braves. While he was at it, he went on and won ROY in 72-73 and MVP in 74-75. He’s currently 58th ever in career PER. Advantage: AHNYK (but Mario, don’t worry, that block will always be in our hearts).

At starting small forward (Kevin Knox, GmSc 6.9): Danny Manning (12 pts, 6 rebs, 1 ast, 28mp, GmSc 2.8). Oh, wow. Manning was a bit too tall to effectively play small forward even in his much less small-ball reliant era (he actually played just 47 minutes overall at SF since play-by-play data was available for B-R), but he was a pretty good player. The first overall pick in 1988, his career was effectively derailed by injuries, but he found a pretty good niche as a sixth man, winning the 6MOY award in 1997-98, but not before having made two All-Star Games in 1993 and 1994. In a weird stat, he’s 90th ever in personal fouls in the NBA. If someone told me Knox would become a Danny Manning-like player, I’d slap him and myself on the face from joy. So, advantage: AHNYK.

At starting shooting guard (Damyean Dotson, GmSc 6.6): Nate Robinson (11 pts, 0 rebs, 0 ast, 18mp, GmSc 2.7). I don’t think I have to tell you who Nate was, right? It would be strange seeing him start at SG, since he didn’t play a single minutes outside of the PG position in all of his career (his height, or lack thereof, pretty much prevented him from playing his more natural role of combo guard). But, did you know that Nate posted a quite respectable .096 WS/48 for his career? If you asked me before this weird exercise which was the career WS/48 number for the three-time Slam Dunk Champion, I would have guessed .050. He was better that I (we?) remember. He also has a Player of the Week honor under his belt. Advantage: tie (for height purposes, but average Nate was a better player than actual Dot is now).

At starting point guard (Emmanuel Mudiay, GmSc 3.6): Andrew Toney (7 pts, 0 reb, 3 asts, 21mp, GmSc -3.8). I’m quite in awe of the fact that I didn’t force any position in the B-R Game Finder search engine and it still found, in a total random way, a plausible starting five. I mean, I was quite sure this boxscore line (7/0/3 in 21 minutes) could have been posted by any single type of player. Amazingly, of the 23 such performances no single one was posted by a forward or a center. The tallest guy to post such a bad line was the 6’7″ Eddie Johnson. Anyway, Andrew Toney, the prototypical microwave scorer who was a very important cog in the 1983 NBA Champions 76ers, had a brief but prestigious career: two-times All-Star, one-time NBA Champion, an astounding 15th place in MVP votes in 1985. His Knicks ties reside in his running backcourt mate with the Sixers. Mo Cheeks, and the fact that TDDWTDD had Andrew’s surname as his name. Advantage: AHNYK (and if you switched positions and put Toney at SG and Nate as PG, both positions would result in an advantage for the AHNYK, who are actually built, until now, like a 5-th place in the East team).

First three reserves:

First one (Allonzo Trier, GmSc 18.3): Danilo Gallinari (22 pts, 4 rebs, 3 ast, 31 mp, GmSc 12.8). It turns out it’s hard to post a bad GameScore with these numbers, huh? Anyway, Gallo is another one I needn’t tell you anything about, apart from my #feels every time I see him play. I always liked his game, and I suffered like hell when we traded him away in the Melo package. Oh, about Melo: don’t look now, but the career WP/48 of Gallo is actually higher than Melo’s one. Here’s your curio about Danilo: he’s currently 20th ever in the history of the NBA in TO% and 14th ever in ORtg (really, look it up). If we strike out in free agency, I would be glad to welcome him back somehow. Advantage: AHNYK (sorry Zo, kinda good game, but Gallo is too good for you).

Second one (Mitchell Robinson, GmSc -0.1): Solomon Jones (0 pts, 5 rebs, 0 ast, 14 mp, GmSc -5.8). Who? Well, actually Solomon Jones was a no-nonsense bruiser who ended up playing 281 games in the NBA (2 with the Knicks in 2012-13, and he even started one!) while doing nothing well enough to grant him a real place in some team’s rotation. His career high in points scored is 14, in boards is 10 and in blocks is 5 (this one, not bad). Somehow, he ended his career with an average WS/48 of .078. You know who doesn’t have a WS/48 of .078 this season? Every current Knick not named Mitch, DeAndre, Kadeem, and Noah. Anyway, advantage: Actual Knicks.

Third one (Kadeem Allen, GmSc -7.4): Chucky Atkins (0 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, 26mp, GmSc -2.2). As you can see, actually the worst ever has been our own Kadeem last night, but for the sake of this exercise I went with the next one, the perennial journeyman Chucky Atkins, an 11 season veteran sporting a not so bad .077 WS/48 for his career. Somehow he ended up playing the 20th most minutes in the whole league in 2004-05. Advantage: tie (only because I’m feeling generous).

It’s incredible: even cherry picking the worst outings in terms of Game Score with the same exact numbers, the Alternate History New York Knicks end up with this 8 man rotation: Okur/McAdoo/Manning/Toney/Nate Robinson with Gallo as their sixth man and two journeymen filling the other spots. They would simply crush us, like 128-92 crush us. In other news: we have a very, very bad team.

One quick note about the game: in the beginning of the third quarter, with the game already out of hand, Fiz elected to substitute the entire starting five out of the game at once. With 10:55 to go! I supported that move, but it goes to point out how much this game was a debacle.

See you on Wednesday!

 

Los Angeles Lakers 123 – New York Knicks 124 – Game Recap

I beat LA and all I got is this Hezonja block.

Games like this, man. They are exactly what’s wrong with this team. It’s weird to say that after a win, and somehow a wildly amusing one, what with the fact that we swept the Lakers during the worst season in Knicks’ history and forced a loss upon the self-appointed King of MSG. Nonetheless, you just have to look at the minutes allocation to see that one of these two scenarios is in play right now: a) Fizdale doesn’t listen to management and/or b) management doesn’t understand the basic fact that, deep into March in a totally lost season, guys who should be playing lots of minutes should be young and under contract, even if with a team option, for the next season (I’d bet on b, which is somehow scary and very Dolan-like). I know. in the end you’re supposed to play five guys for 48 minutes anyway, and it’s not like our roster is littered with healthy long-term prospects under contract. But, well… let’s take a look at the box score, shall we?

Team expiring: 102 minutes
Team maybe expiring: 29 minutes
Team “we should play more”: 109 minutes (37 to Knox, 41 to Dotson – who, in all fairness, is not guaranteed for next season, but come on).

It doesn’t look that bad, right? Wrong.

I know, I should be prasing these Bron-defeating Knicks and not be so Mitch-centered, but guys, I think we have a huge problem if we don’t recognize the fact that he should be playing 30mpg no matter what and the guys on the court should be passing him the ball every damn time he seals a guard or a wing under the basket. I counted at least 8 such occurrances tonight, and not a single time someone tried to give him the ball. Seriously: he received a grand total of one pass (who he promptly converted) in 15 minutes of play. If he’s as smart as he looks to be, which is at least above-average, I think Mitch has realized how good he is/can be compared to all of the other scrubs on our roster. He’s a rookie and as such certainly shouldn’t be entitled to anything, but believe me, if I was him I’d be sulking quite a bit (and I’m mostly a very happy-go-lucky guy). This season should be about Mitch, Trier (a very blah game), Knox, Dotson and [redacted]. Nobody from the Mud-Hez-Vonleh-DAJ-Lance should play more than 20 minutes in a game, and that’s only when injuries are a factor. Through dungeons and injuries, it’s March 17th and we’re forced to watch Mudiay and Hezonja combine for 69 minutes. Tonight they were very good and so in a vacuum deserved the playing time, but what’s the benefit for us?

Ok, rant’s over, let’s take a look at the game!

For once, the game was actually very watchable. Lots of points scored, a few hot-shooting barrages, not a lot of defense in sight. Now that I think about it, it looked like your typical late-aughts All-Star Game (with much worse players). Neither the Knicks nor the Lakers were able to gain a comfortable lead (the Knicks were up 11 at the end of the first, with a season record of 41 points scored in the period – just after having scored 83 in a whole game against the Spurs), but the Lakers got their 11-point lead much later in the game and looked poised to steal the win. But alas, no, they went back to their terrible status just in time for us to win it in an absurd fashion.

Here’s what happened: with just 3:45 to go, the Lakers were leading 122-111 after a smooth LeBron jumper. From there on, all hell broke loose: Mudiay suddenly remembered how to throw a lob for DeAndre (113-122). Kuzma lost the ball. Knox committed one of his stupid trademark offensive fouls late in the game. KCP missed badly a three. Hezonja missed a three, DeAndre snatched the board (his fourth in the last 90 seconds) and promptly passed the ball back to Mario, who drilled the three. Mudiay committed a stupid foul on Caruso with the Lakers on the bonus, but Caruso went on to shoot 1-for-2. Dotson scored on a stepback long two from the corner. LeBron missed a three, Johnathan Williams (who?) grabbed the board but Hezonja stole the ball from him, the ball got to DeAndre near the basket and Kuzma fouled him. “Who ya got?” calmly drilled both freebies. Bron drove to the rim but got blocked by Jordan and Mudiay got the rebound after a missed tip-in by Extra-H Williams and incredibly passed the ball again under the cup to Dotson who went for a 6th grade-like layup. LeBron shot another jump shot, missed the target, Dotson got the board and passed the ball to Mudiay. KCP fouled inexplicably Mud, who wasn’t even looking at the rim, with just 22 seconds to go and no foul to give. A stone cold Mudiay sinked his free throws, giving the Knicks the lead, and then the masterpiece: LeBron took his sweet time to go for the game-winning layup, only to end getting blocked by Hezonja. The block was as clean as it gets and made for a memorable moment, probably borderline iconic and cult-like.

A few notes about the game (while this would have been a game good for the “good/bad/fun-sized”, it’s too late in the season and in the end it counts for nothing):

– At last, a legitimately good offensive game for Mudiay: 28 points on 11 shots (!), 8 assists, the clutch free throws to win the game. His defense was his usual ugly, but his offense really benefited from the appalling Lakers’ defense. Even bad players can have good games now and then (shout-out to Acie Earl scoring 40 points in 1996 for Toronto).

– I don’t like the fact that Jordan is stealing minutes from Mitch, but honestly, it’s not his fault, so let’s take some delight in seeing him transform into a strange Capela-Jokic off-brand hybrid. He’s averaging 2.9 assists per game as a Knick, while his career-high until last season was 1.5. His last five games: 10.8 points, 13.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists. The numbers are cool (his impact, a little less)!

– Damyean Dotson had another good game. 25 points, 6 boards, and a team-high +9 plus/minus. His shooting is very erratic, but we would all have signed up for this with a second-round selection. Over the last 4 games, he’s 16th in the whole League in scoring. I’m not one to value pointzzz that much, but that’s an achievement in itself given the clogged toilet offense we’re running (with a few exception for the DeAndre passing experience).

– Hezonja! Such a sad tale of squandered talent. This kid has all the tools to be a successful NBA player, but no pulse whatsoever. The rare times when he does, he looks like a worldbeater. More often, he’s a hopeless husk of a hope-glazed former lottery pick. Tonight we got good Hez, 17 points on 8 shots, 8 boards, and the block on James. In a lost season, Hez is personally responsible for 2 of the top-5 2018-19 Knicks highlights (the other one, I’m sure you got the memo, is the Giannis stepover).

– Hey, so Knox is able to hit more than half his shots more than once in a month! Problem is, even when he does that he does nothing else and commits a lot of dumb and-one causing fouls. But I like the fact that his shooting splits will look a bit better. Maybe we’ll be able to trade him for a late first.

– I don’t want to talk about Mitch. He’s so misused these days that it makes my soul weep endlessly. I’ll just say that only four rookies in the history of the league rocked a longest streak of games with at least two blocks: Mourning, Shaq, David Robinson and Manute Bol. We’re in really rarefied air.

– I’ve never been a fan of LeBron. I always recognized his greatness – I’m not blind, after all – but his demeanor annoyed me to no end. I made sure to tune into every important Bron game to root against him (as I rooted against Jordan, Shaq, Kobe – I like me some underdogs, that’s what I’m saying). I think the Spurs beating the Heat in 2014 is my happiest non-Knicks, non-Virtus Bologna sports moment ever. That said, even I can’t bear rooting against him anymore. I don’t think I ever saw him so miserable. Every camera cut to him sitting alone on the end of the Lakers bench evokes all sorts of #feels. He’s still an amazing player (who has stopped playing defense), but he went from one-man-army juggernaut to basically an afterthought. I think it’s quite unprecedented and it also speaks volumes about the importance of roster building. It’s not the first time he has bad teammates, but it’s probably the first time he’s had such ill-fitting pieces around him. Someone suggested the Lakers should trade him. I totally agree.

See you tomorrow for the Raptors game! Carry on, just 12 games to the end.

 

 

New York Knicks 98 – Indiana Pacers 103 – Half a Game Recap

I wonder how workers’ unions do their job in the States. Watching these Knicks games I can’t help but being reminded how sad the unions situation is in Italy.

I have been the CEO of a very small company and a board member of a quite larger one (>140 employees), so from time to time I had to deal with union representatives, and I found a constant in all of my five years holding those positions: unions manifested themselves only when it was time to ward the bad workers. When I say “bad workers”, I’m not talking about people whose output was not up to par because of their own limits or aptitude; I’m talking about the slackers who were safely employed and were exploiting the fact that in Italy it’s pretty much impossibile to fire someone who has a permanent contract. You see, here unions don’t actively seek to help guys who don’t slack. They pretty much always end up finding a job by themselves, and as soon as a good boss happens on their way they’re pretty much set, since that boss will certainly recognize the good value they bring to the company.

The others, though? They’re the butter and bread of the unions. Unions need money to live, and those slackers need to squeeze every last drop from their “worker rights” to enjoy whatever is it that they’re doing that’s not work. (Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Solonic tyrant: I always cared for the well-being of my employees just like now I care for the well-being of my clients. I’m a vocal supporter of the original idea of unions. I’m also very much a vocal non-supporter of whomever basically steals money not showing up to do their job). So the unions see in them the best clients they can get: guys who will certainly pay them in order to work the least and being protected while doing nothing.

To give you an idea: once we had a worker who at some point decided he didn’t want to do the job he was doing. We came with two different job profiles we could have offered him, but he refused for undisclosed reasons. Anyway, hell bent on never returning to his titular job, soon after that he faked a soccer-like flop/injury, widening a bit his right leg while passing beside a (not loose) spare tire in our warehouse. He collided lightly with the tire and then proceeded to roll over on the floor as if someone shot him in the leg. Although the security cameras recorded everything and the dynamic of the incident was very clear, he found a complacent physician (whose name was provided by the union) who said he was not able to get to work for at least six months. Under the table, union reps were telling us that he wanted another type of job, and if that job came along maybe his injury would go through a miracle recovery. Suffice to say that I left that company more than a year later and he never got to work until I was there. I guess every workplace has his Kawhi.

That said, that’s how I feel when I see Lance, DeAndre, Mudiay and Vonleh getting significant minutes this late in the season. I would never suggest Lance is a slacker, and probably neither of the other three is, but what’s the point in playing mostly useless expiring guys in mid March for a super tanking team? Especially when all of them, save probably for Lance, are real hindrances to our resident wunderkind? I don’t hold it personally against anyone. But what’s the point in yanking Mitch in the fourth because he picked up his fifth foul? You’re trying to save his energy and his last foul for what? For when you’re going to the restaurant after the game? What’s the point in playing the expiring Mudiay so much, when it’s clear he can’t really steer the wheel for a team? Mud played a quite efficient offensive game (21 points on 14 shots, 4 assists and only a turnover, his best game in a while), but he can’t pass the damn ball to any spot from 16 feet in, rendering whatever rim running center is playing with him muffled. Mudiay rocks an AST% or 23.9. At the moment there are 57 players (having played at least 100 minutes) with a higher number. Some among them: Joe Ingles (ok), the decomposing coil of Jose Calderon (what), noted Knicks-killer TJ McConnell (huh), an ancient Jamal Crawford (gross), Kadeem Allen (ahem), Matthew Dellavedova (come on). In short: why do you keep playing this guy, especially with a budding star in the making that only needs to get the ball lobbed at him. and don’t actually reward the guys that are trying to uhhhh play basketball? I’ll never understand this facet of the Fiz season.

A few quick notes, as good and bad make no sense anymore these days:

– The game was terrible to watch. This was the first non Dominican Republic related time this season where I skipped some parts. It was too much to take in. That said, we almost won. I guess Indiana will make a valiant effort to get into the playoffs as a top-4 seed, then roll around and die in the first round. Poor Dipo.

– DeAndre Jordan is a surprisingly smart passer. With a capable offensive coach, he might have at least two of those Kyle O’Quinn backdoor assists every game. With some more effort from the coaching staff Jordan might have recorded a triple double. Such a shame his rim-protecting effort has totally waned. Anyway, a barely defending DJ is miles and miles better than whatever it was that Kanter was doing.

– As I said, Mudiay had his best game since coming back. He even passed the ball to Mitch inside once (of course Mitch delivered). In his last 10 games, his shooting averages aren’t even that bad: 44.5/43.3/70.7. He also shot just 1.7 free throws per game and had more turnovers (2.9) than assists (2.8). His overall WS/48 is 0.029. Blargh.

– Over the same span, Smith is shooting a terrible 40.8/30.6/59.1. He shot 2.2 free throws per game (too few) but he dished 6.0 apg to 2.5 turnovers per game. Also a cool 1.2 steals per game. Even while playing badly, he’s a much superior team orchestrator than Mudiay. He’s playing like shit lately, though.

– I like that Knox is capable of hitting more than half his shots every ten games or so. I also like in an ironic way the fact that when he goes after boards on defense he displays an herculean-like effort when there is nobody around. I don’t like anything else. This is a supposedly athletic kid who let Bogdanovic blow by him for a simple layup. Bogdanovic is a good player, but Bojan moves around at the same speed of a dying roomba. Draw your own conclusions.

– Bogdanovic came into the league as a possibly balding 25 year old (his hair looked very thin and spotty). Kudos to him about having mostly kept all of those hair. I am a bit envious (and I guess Evan Fournier and Cody Zeller – and soon Trae Young – share my feelings).

– Of course Thad Young hit a corner three. Thad hitting a corner three from the left side against us is like those strange sounds that Timbaland used to sneak into his productions. Distinctive, underrated, annoying.

– I don’t know how, but Mitch is upping his already otherworldly BLK% in this span. If the season ended today, he’d have the highest BLK% ever in the history of the league for players with at least 900 minutes played. The highest EVER. I don’t know how to emphasize that more.

– Wait I do. THE HIGHEST EVER.

That’s all, another slog absurdly giving birth to 1300+ words. I have to make sure Lady Farfa is not slipping me drugs under the table.

See you on Friday!

New York Knicks 92 – Minnesota Timberwolves 103 – Not a Game Recap

We’re getting to the point where every game more or less looks like the last one, or the next one: an endless blur of players sucking, strange coaching, players disappearing due to injury or whateverness, uninspired play from veterans and rookies alike, and a distinct trend to hit the forward button everytime Mitch is not on the court.

I mean, I could tell you things about this game (and about the Kings one I could not recap, again due to work obligations), but are those things really unknown to you? It’s always the same old story: starters bring some action but mostly suck and sooner or later fall behind, Fizdale makes the bizarre decision to sub in Mitch with Mudiay “running the point”, Lance Thomas gets minutes at power forward, Kadeem Allen languishes in the G-League while being clearly our second-best point guard, Knox doesn’t understand basketball at all, Mitch does ridiculous things but keeps on being ignored on the offensive end by Mudiay, DSJ pads his stats in the fourth quarter with the game mostly out of hand, the camera cuts to Frank during the third quarter with the announcers saying vague things about his return from injury (frankly, no pun intended, I believe we have seen the last of Frank with a Knicks jersey). There, you have your recap for the next 15 games.

Today, I’d like to focus a bit on lineup data, because really, while watching the games I feel like I could do a better job than our coaching staff simply rolling dice on a water surface to decide who should play with whom. I’d like to delve into lineup data because I need to know if eye test (you must be astoundingly obtuse to keep running your best player by a long mile with the only one on the roster incapable of passing him the ball) gets any validation from cold, cruel numbers.

First chapter: who plays best with Mitch, or the only question that should matter now

Let’s keep it real: there’s nobody else on this roster, save for Trier maybe, who can actually be of consequence to the Knicks’ chance to become a contender sooner or later. So, armed with patience and the useful NBA.com tools, I set the threshold to 96 minutes (or two full games) and browsed the list.

In two-man lineups, the one with the best net rating involving Mitch is the one we should be clamoring for: Mitchell + Kadeem Allen have played 124 minutes together and they’ve put together a nice +4.8 net rating, thanks to the highest ORtg between every single two-man Knicks combo that passed that threshold. The highest, ok? Higher than every shitty super-offensive outlook like, I don’t know, Kanter + THJ or things like that. In fact, Mitch appears in four of the best 15 such lineups (after Kadeem: Trier, THJ, Dotson. By the way, Zo is the only one with more appearances, with 5 in the best 15).

But back to net rating: the second best Mitch-featuring one is… Mitchell + Lance Thomas (+2.2)?

The third one, and the last with a positive net rating, is Mitchell + Dotson (+1.3).

Fun fact: all in all, there have been 160 two-man lineup logging at least 96 minutes together. Only 9 of them posted positive net ratings. The worst of them all? Vonleh + DeAndre, with a net rating of (I kid you not) -30.0. Maybe it’s about the fact that the starters tend to play against better ballers? It might be. But those numbers are atrocious, so kudos to Mr. “Take that for data” for finding a way to conjure our worst looks from the beginning.

You know who plays worst with Mitch? Well, it’s not that hard, it’s the god of terrible on/off numbers: our freshly minted lottery pick, Kevin Knox. Those two combine for an ungodly -16.9 net rating, good for sixth-worst.

That said, I know what’s really bugging you: which PG (after Kadeem) is best for a Mitch combo? Well, your guess might be definitely wrong (mine was DSJ), but not that wrong (my choice surely wasn’t Mudiay).

Here are the data: Mitch/Frank -2.4; Mitch/DSJ -7.6; Mitch/Mudiay -8.3; Mitch/Burke (not that it matters now) -14.6.

Here’s how I point out that a) I figured the distance between DSJ and Mudiay would have been much wider but mostly b) it looks like Mitch plays best with low-usage guys who actually understand their limitations and are not that bad on defense. Also, most of our young guys are terrible. The third worst two-man lineup is DSJ/Knox (-20.3!). Eye don’t lie, I guess.

Second chapter: which five-man lineup has sucked less this season? 

Setting the threshold at 20 minutes this time (I know, a lot of noise that way, but the harsh reality is that setting the threshold at 30 minutes only produced 13 lineups; at least 20 minutes brings the number to 23) you get a few surprises. The best such 5-man lineup is the Frank/Trier/Dot/Hez/Mitch one, with a net rating of +26. The second best is a weird Mudiay/Trier/THJ/Vonleh/Kanter one with a net rating of +25. The absolutely worst one is a eyes-gouging Mudiay/Trier/Knox/Hezonja/Kanter (-58.9!) who, honestly, should get Fizdale his coaching license revoked, burned and dusted with angel’s tears just to be sure it never wakes up again.

If we take a look at the “mainstays” (more than 50 minutes together), there’s only one lineup with a positive net rating. Can you guess which one? I think you do, if you have been paying attention to this season: it’s the one that got yanked because “we weren’t winning”. Frank/Dot/THJ/Vonleh/Mitch got a net rating of +8.1 in 94 minutes, mostly thanks to a marvelous 98.5 DRtg. Who would have guessed that playing together our best defenders would have been the best way to suck less? The other five lineup that have logged more than 50 minutes are negative net rating ones, with one that sticks out: the very recent DSJ/Dot/Knox/Vonleh/DeAndre, who has a borderline vomit-inducing -30.4 net rating (with an ORtg of – blech – 86.5). Did you recognize those five guys? Yep, it’s our current starting lineup. That whole lineup has a TS% of 47.7. Very well done, coach.

Third chapter: if we had to build only around first- and second-year players, where should we look? 

If we look at three-man lineups, and focus only on young guns, maybe we can infer something about our preferred direction. After noting the weird fact that among three-man lineups with >96 minutes played the best one, net rating-wise, is Vonleh/Hezonja/Trier (+10.5), the best one with guys with only one or two years of experience in the league is Frank/Dot/Mitch (+7.1), followed by Frank/Dot/Knox (+5.1), and then Kadeem/Trier/Mitch (+3.8).

There are a few things here: first of all, somehow every Knick that got picked in the last two years makes an appearance here (I wouldn’t have bet a dime on Knox). Second of all, it looks like defense again is the key. Lastly, it looks like the numbers tell exactly what we see: the high-usage players we employ are terrible, and we should be better off giving a more extended look to Frank (even if he’s god-awful), but more importantly to Kadeem. But no, well, let’s keep playing Mudiay!

A few notes:

– This has to be the worst game by DeAndre in a while. The best player in FG% in the history of the NBA somehow shot 1 of 8 and got his dunks rejected twice… by the rim. Not a good look this time for the veteran. Also, useless again.

– Great game by Dotson. 26/6/6 and 2 steals. I wish he was a bit more effective on defense, but I’ve not been that disappointed by him as a starter.

– During our patented fake comeback, there was a moment where the tide could have turned a little. After a good defensive possession, Knox got the board with 3:15 left and started the fastbreak. Four seconds later he was barreling into the Wolves defense, dribbling looking at the ball. Of course he committed an offensive foul. These are mistakes you usually see in 7th grade. Knox just doesn’t understand the game. It’s not about being 19. It’s about lacking the basics.

– Robinson rebounding numbers have veered into “respectable”. If you had asked me what was the thing I was less confident he would have been able to improve, I would have answered his rebounding. It’s hard to get significant improvements in the NBA with regard to attitude to catch boards, but he has made great strides. I think at this time it’s safe to assume he’ll end up with one of the most amazing rookie season ever in terms of advanced measures.

Until next time!