Guess who gets to pull it?
— Head? Chest? or Foot?
Last night, Lenny Wilkens came out with a lineup I was thoroughly pleased with. The big changes were Kurt Thomas starting at center for the second straight game and rookie Michael Sweetney started at PF. It was Sweetney’s first start in the NBA.
I thought this was a good lineup because, arguably Kurt might be our best starting center. Mutombo, albeit a good help defender and rebounder, is too slow to guard other centers one on one. Deke might have the worst footwork of any big man I’ve seen on the offensive end. He can turn a 3 foot layup into an 8 foot hook shot. Nazr Mohammed looks promising at times. His post moves look good, although he’s missing a lot, and his rebounding is solid. However he keeps getting into foul trouble, averaging 5.8PF/48mins as a Knick.
This year Thomas’ scoring is down, but he might be the best scorer of the three. Not only that, but he might be the best man-to-man defender of the three (certainly he’s not worse than Mutombo). Of the other two, Nazr might be a better pure center, but we won’t know until he can stay in the game for more than 20 minutes on a consistent basis.
When he joined the Knicks, Isaiah Thomas was shocked that the #9 pick in the draft was wasting away on the I.R. One of the advantages to drafting Sweetney out of Georgetown was that he was supposed to be ready to play in the NBA. Against the Clippers, Wilkens started Thomas at center, and gave Kurt’s old starting spot at PF to Othella Harrington. Harrington was, to be kind, unspectacular in 25 minutes. So why not try the rookie out and see what he has?
Sweetney got into foul trouble quickly, and was yanked early in the first quarter. His line for the game was as empty as they come: 9mins, 0-1FG, 4PFs, and nothing else. It could have been worse, Harrington could have come in & done well. Instead Harrington was limited to 8 minutes, where he only had 2 points, 2 turnovers, and 1 foul.
Nazr and Deke split about 31 minutes at center, and Thomas split his 41 minutes between PF and C. Out of all the people mentioned in this entry, only Thomas had a good stat line: 9-19 with 18 points and 11 boards.
It’s no secret that the Knicks have a problem in the middle. Each option has a big weakness or two. It looks like Wilkens is tired of watching other centers have career nights against the Knicks. Which leaves either Nazr or Kurt to start at center. If Kurt starts, who will get the nod at PF, Sweetney or Harrington? Basically it’s a three man competition, since Kurt Thomas will start at either center or power forward. Who will get the nod between Mohammed, Harrington, or Sweetney? All three foul too often to tell. I’d love to say Sweetney will develop, but I think he just hasn’t had enough playing time. I’ll go with Mohammed, since he’s more ready to play now than Sweetney and has a higher ceiling than Othella.