Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Knicks 112, Hawks 108 (OT)

I like 2010 so far.
Before tonight’s game I quoted U2 in making the point that, while 2010 could finally be the year that brought wholesale change to New York Knicks basketball, the year would start off with exactly the same team that was fighting for relevance and a low-end berth in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  It took only nine minutes for me to be proven wrong, as Mike D’Antoni lifted his monthlong embargo on Nate Robinson’s minutes and inserted the diminutive pinball of a combo guard into the lineup.  Robinson immediately made his presence felt with a tip-in here, a drive-and-kick there, and everywhere a sparkplug for a team that had looked decidedly flat to start its first game of the new year.
By halftime Nate had an efficient 14, raising new questions in the announcers’ booth and on the commenters’ board about where he would now stand in the Knicks rotation, what role the future held in store for an athletically gifted player that had seemingly clashed with his third coach in three tries.  It felt like a fun little story that would have some legs and add some intrigue to the wintry dog days of the NBA season.  Certainly, it seemed like the most interesting angle for what was shaping up to be an otherwise hum-drum loss for the Knicks, who were outclassed for three quarters by a better team whose stars were scoring with ease while the Knicks three primary offensive weapons were either mired in slumps or, in Gallo’s case, borderline invisible.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to the finish line.  The smallest man on the court did what we all knew he could do, what even those among us (myself included) who have agreed with his benching have always conceded even as a punctuation to our criticism of his flaws.  Dude can put points on the board.  And dude did.
If you haven’t seen the fourth quarter and overtime, I suggest trying to find video footage.  For me to try to put prose to a walkthrough would be both unfulfilling and redundant; I would surely wear out my copy and paste buttons while continuously highlighting the words “And then Nate beat his man off the dribble for an uncontested layup.”  But it’s worth mentioning that he finished with 41 points (on 18/24 shooting), 8 assists, and 6 rebounds, that he eschewed any opportunity to show up the coach who had sidelined him in postgame interviews, that he had the look of a player who has gone through a difficult experience and come out the stronger for it.
There’s no talking about the Nate we saw tonight without talking about the Nate we’ve seen for the last month.  The last decade of Knicks basketball has seen more than its fair share of benchings, often of high profile, high paid pseudo-stars whose playing time has succumbed to injury, malconditioning, attitude, or general incompetence.  We’ve seen these players every night on the bench, and we can remember their faces: from the brooding Stephon Marbury, to the disinterested Jerome James, to the frustrated Eddy Curry.  And then there’s the Nate of December 2009, interacting with teammates, on his feet for every important moment, bounding onto the court to congratulate teammates after big plays.  Without that Nate, who has looked disappointment and frustration in the face and remained a committed member of the team, we don’t get this Nate, who took exactly one shot to shake off a month of rust and propelled a generally hapless group (outside of a spectacular Wilson Chandler) to one of the year’s most rousing, most improbable victories.
There was no Knick who deserved to own a night more than Nate Robinson, and Nate Robinson owned the first night of the new year.  After a decade where the Knicks moved so far backwards, from Eastern Conference Champion, to perennial playoff team, to fringe lottery team, to the league’s cellar, a new decade began tonight.  And it began with a player who had every excuse to give in to the pouting and buck-passing that has plagued 10 years of Knicks basketball refusing to do so, quite literally standing up and winning the game.
Where this goes, who knows.  We’ve seen explosions from Nate before and we’ve seen the inconsistency that can follow.  But after a decade that saw some of the worst lows in franchise history, we start a new one with one of the most memorable Knicks games in a long time.  And we have Nate to thank.
I’ll leave you with a comparison of two great offensive performances to close out basketball games.  The timestamp indicates time remaining before the end of the game in question; if the game went into overtime, like tonight’s did,then 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter is indicated as 10 minutes remaining and so forth.  This should do a better job of paying tribute to Nate’s push to the finish than I could.
10:07 Player A makes running jumper (1/1, 2 points)
8:33 Player A misses three pointer (1/2, 2 points)
7:02 Player A makes 19-foot jumper (2/3, 4 points)
6:37 Player A makes driving layup, misses free throw (3/4, 6 points)
5:38 Player A makes game-tying layup (4/5, 8 points)
5:11 Player A makes game-tying layup (5/6, 10 points)
4:13 Player A misses 19-foot jumper (5/7, 10 points)
3:56 Player A makes go-ahead driving layup, misses free throw (6/8, 12 points)
3:26 Player A makes go-ahead driving layup (7/9, 14 points)
2:09 Player A makes go-ahead driving layup, makes free throw (8/10, 17 points)
1:32 Player A makes three-point jumper (9/11, 20 points)
0:43 Player A makes one of two free throws (9/11, 21 points)
Total: 21 points in the last 11 minutes on 6 layups, 2 free throws, 2 two-point jumpers, and 1 three pointer.
10:31 Player B makes go-ahead driving dunk (1/1, 2 points)
10:09 Player B makes game-tying driving dunk (2/2, 4 points)
9:47 Player B makes two of two go-ahead free throws (2/2, 6 points)
8:31 Player B makes game-tying dunk (3/3, 8 points)
7:54 Player B makes one of two game-tying free throws (3/3, 9 points)
7:01 Player B misses jumper (3/4, 9 points)
6:16 Player B makes two of two go-ahead free throws (3/4, 11 points)
5:33 Player B makes 20-foot jumper (4/5, 13 points)
5:07 Player B misses 22-foot jumper (4/6, 13 points)
4:31 Player B makes go-ahead 19-foot two point shot (5/7, 15 points)
1:51 Player B makes game-tying 19-foot jumper (6/8, 17 points)
1:14 Player B makes game-tying 25-foot three pointer (7/9, 20 points)
0:02 Player B makes game-winning driving layup (8/10, 22 points)
Total: 22 points in the last 11 minutes on 3 dunks, 1 layup, 5 free throws, 3 two-point jumpers, and 1 three pointer.
Player A, Nate Robinson, in his 41-point performance tonight against Atlanta.
Player B, LeBron James, in his 48-point performance in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit.
Happy New Year.

I like 2010 so far.

Before tonight’s game I quoted U2 in making the point that, while 2010 could finally be the year that brought wholesale change to New York Knicks basketball, the year would start off with exactly the same team that was fighting for relevance and a low-end berth in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  It took only nine minutes for me to be proven wrong, as Mike D’Antoni lifted his monthlong embargo on Nate Robinson’s minutes and inserted the diminutive pinball of a combo guard into the lineup.  Robinson immediately made his presence felt with a tip-in here, a drive-and-kick there, and everywhere a sparkplug for a team that had looked decidedly flat to start its first game of the new year.

By halftime Nate had an efficient 14, raising new questions in the announcers’ booth and on the commenters’ board about where he would now stand in the Knicks rotation, what role the future held in store for an athletically gifted player that had seemingly clashed with his third coach in three tries.  It felt like a fun little story that would have some legs and add some intrigue to the wintry dog days of the NBA season.  Certainly, it seemed like the most interesting angle for what was shaping up to be an otherwise hum-drum loss for the Knicks, who were outclassed for three quarters by a better team whose stars were scoring with ease while the Knicks three primary offensive weapons were either mired in slumps or, in Gallo’s case, borderline invisible.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the finish line.  The smallest man on the court did what we all knew he could do, what even those among us (myself included) who have agreed with his benching have always conceded even as a punctuation to our criticism of his flaws.  Dude can put points on the board.  And dude did.

If you haven’t seen the fourth quarter and overtime, I suggest trying to find video footage.  For me to try to put prose to a walkthrough would be both unfulfilling and redundant; I would surely wear out my copy and paste buttons while continuously highlighting the words “And then Nate beat his man off the dribble for an uncontested layup.”  But it’s worth mentioning that he finished with 41 points (on 18/24 shooting), 8 assists, and 6 rebounds, that he eschewed any opportunity to show up the coach who had sidelined him in postgame interviews, that he had the look of a player who has gone through a difficult experience and come out the stronger for it.

There’s no talking about the Nate we saw tonight without talking about the Nate we’ve seen for the last month.  The last decade of Knicks basketball has seen more than its fair share of benchings, often of high profile, high paid pseudo-stars whose playing time has succumbed to injury, malconditioning, attitude, or general incompetence.  We’ve seen these players every night on the bench, and we can remember their faces: from the brooding Stephon Marbury, to the disinterested Jerome James, to the frustrated Eddy Curry.  And then there’s the Nate of December 2009, interacting with teammates, on his feet for every important moment, bounding onto the court to congratulate teammates after big plays.  Without that Nate, who has looked disappointment and frustration in the face and remained a committed member of the team, we don’t get this Nate, who took exactly one shot to shake off a month of rust and propelled a generally hapless group (outside of a spectacular Wilson Chandler) to one of the year’s most rousing, most improbable victories.

There was no Knick who deserved to own a night more than Nate Robinson, and Nate Robinson owned the first night of the new year.  After a decade where the Knicks moved so far backwards, from Eastern Conference Champion, to perennial playoff team, to fringe lottery team, to the league’s cellar, a new decade began tonight.  And it began with a player who had every excuse to give in to the pouting and buck-passing that has plagued 10 years of Knicks basketball refusing to do so, quite literally standing up and winning the game.

Where this goes, who knows.  We’ve seen explosions from Nate before and we’ve seen the inconsistency that can follow.  But after a decade that saw some of the worst lows in franchise history, we start a new one with one of the most memorable Knicks games in a long time.  And we have Nate to thank.

I’ll leave you with a comparison of two great offensive performances to close out basketball games.  The timestamp indicates time remaining before the end of the game in question; if the game went into overtime, like tonight’s did,then 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter is indicated as 10 minutes remaining and so forth.  This should do a better job of paying tribute to Nate’s push to the finish than I could.

10:07 Player A makes running jumper (1/1, 2 points)

8:33 Player A misses three pointer (1/2, 2 points)

7:02 Player A makes 19-foot jumper (2/3, 4 points)

6:37 Player A makes driving layup, misses free throw (3/4, 6 points)

5:38 Player A makes game-tying layup (4/5, 8 points)

5:11 Player A makes game-tying layup (5/6, 10 points)

4:13 Player A misses 19-foot jumper (5/7, 10 points)

3:56 Player A makes go-ahead driving layup, misses free throw (6/8, 12 points)

3:26 Player A makes go-ahead driving layup (7/9, 14 points)

2:09 Player A makes go-ahead driving layup, makes free throw (8/10, 17 points)

1:32 Player A makes three-point jumper (9/11, 20 points)

0:43 Player A makes one of two free throws (9/11, 21 points)

Total: 21 points in the last 11 minutes on 6 layups, 2 free throws, 2 two-point jumpers, and 1 three pointer.

10:31 Player B makes go-ahead driving dunk (1/1, 2 points)

10:09 Player B makes game-tying driving dunk (2/2, 4 points)

9:47 Player B makes two of two go-ahead free throws (2/2, 6 points)

8:31 Player B makes game-tying dunk (3/3, 8 points)

7:54 Player B makes one of two game-tying free throws (3/3, 9 points)

7:01 Player B misses jumper (3/4, 9 points)

6:16 Player B makes two of two go-ahead free throws (3/4, 11 points)

5:33 Player B makes 20-foot jumper (4/5, 13 points)

5:07 Player B misses 22-foot jumper (4/6, 13 points)

4:31 Player B makes go-ahead 19-foot two point shot (5/7, 15 points)

1:51 Player B makes game-tying 19-foot jumper (6/8, 17 points)

1:14 Player B makes game-tying 25-foot three pointer (7/9, 20 points)

0:02 Player B makes game-winning driving layup (8/10, 22 points)

Total: 22 points in the last 11 minutes on 3 dunks, 1 layup, 5 free throws, 3 two-point jumpers, and 1 three pointer.

Player A, Nate Robinson, in his 41-point performance tonight against Atlanta.

Player B, LeBron James, in his 48-point performance in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit.

Happy New Year.

85 comments on “Knicks 112, Hawks 108 (OT)

  1. KNCIKS2010

    Awsome game, really great to watch. Nate looked more composed, releasing his energy in short spurts. Im afraid however that the guys we need to play when Nate doesn’t have his 41 point nights will keep watching him, guys a bit tenative such as Gallo and Duhon when he doesn’t want to shoot his 3. 2 questions though.
    1) Is Gallo going to be in the 3-point contest this year
    2) How come the Knicks don’t wear their throwback jerseys anymore?
    Happy New Year!!!!

  2. Thomas B.

    Wow and I thought I wrote lone posts. :-)

    Okay so Nate Robinson v Atl is similar to LBJ vs the 2007 pistons which was a team with a very good defense and a ton of post season experience in a must win game? I’m sorry Kevin I respectfully disagree. Now I have to say I did not watch the game. But I think it is really hard to compare Nate’s effort to LBJ’s. That’s not apple to apples. It’s not apples to oranges. Hell it’s not even apples to moose balls. Maybe I missed the point but I just dont get what the compaison is trying to elicit. Help me understand.

    So much of the talk is about the big return of Nate Robinson, rightfully so with his play. I do think some attention should go to Wilson Chandler’s play of late. I think Nate’s play really overshadowed what may be one of Chandler’s best games.

    24 (10-19) 17 rbs 4 dimes and 1 oops. That is really good. And it is in keeping with his strong play of late. People all over were really getting on Wilson early in the season and perhaps he deserved it, but I think he was not at full speed/strength before and now he is getting there. I wonder if some of the people who called him overrated might rethink that.

    Great win and this win only makes the Net loss more painful because the Net loss should not have happened.

  3. BigBlueAL

    Tonight was phenomenal, but they MUST win these next 2 games at home especially since they are vs the Pacers and Bobcats to make tonight’s game really meaningful in the long run.

    After tonight’s game for the 1st time this season I truly believe this team can make the playoffs so lets hope they can keep it up and start becoming a really good home team and just steal games on the road here and there and make the freaking playoffs!!

  4. BigBlueAL

    Yeah good point Thomas, comparing Nate tonight vs LBJ in a game he dominated in the ECF is like comparing Darko Milicic with Patrick Ewing which some posters here make it seem like benching Milicic is akin to benching Ewing when he was in his prime. Hell Ewing with the Magic is still 100X better than Milicic now.

    Still an amazing performance by Nate tonight nonetheless.

  5. Kevin McElroy Post author

    OK, OK, OK. It’s not the same, of course. I don’t need to be told that. I’m just saying, the level of domination he exhibited down the stretch, I mean, there it is. As far as creating easy, game-altering baskets at amazing efficiency, that is. I’m a big enough Derek Jeter fan that I don’t pretend to compare things happening at the championship level to mid-season games for also-rans but as far as bursts of offensive brilliance are concerned, this one was pretty special. That’s all I meant.

    And, as a witness for the people who called Chandler overrated, he was fantastic tonight, he’s been an entirely different player the past few weeks. I want to see it strung together for longer, but he’s beginning to change my opinion of him. I’m anxious to see more, but I still wouldn’t hesitate to move him to dump a contract.

  6. Kevin McElroy Post author

    As far as the length of the post, I get paid by the letter, like Dickens. It was the best of Nate, it was the worst of Lee, and all that.

  7. SJK

    Two things I took away from this game:
    1. Nate Robinson can fill it up with the best of them on any given night.
    2. Gallo NEEDS to get the ball more. At one point during the beginning of the 3rd I counted 6 straight possessions where he did not even touch the ball. He needs to call for the ball more and they need to work on getting it to him. I’m not saying they should run the offense through him but give him some more looks. Please.

  8. jon abbey

    that comparison looks even better if you only compare the final 8 minutes, FWIW, Nate had 19 and LeBron only 14.

    and no one is equating Nate’s night to maybe the most impressive individual game performance of the last decade, but I agree that it’s mildly interesting to note.

  9. nicos

    Nate was indeed awesome- actually ran the point pretty well in the first half even if he didn’t have the assists to show for it and just completely took over the game one-on-one (with D’an actually calling for iso’s!!!) down the stretch. Thought I’d mention that Jeffries really deserves a big assist on Nate’s game tying bucket near the end of regulation- he made a great play getting his shoulder in front of Josh Smith as Nate went to the hoop and prevented him from blocking the shot. It’s the kind of thing Jeffries does fairly often that no one else on the team would even think of doing. That said I’d still trade him in a second as I think clearing his salary is a must if we want get a max player and still keep Lee (and let’s face it while he’s got a great basketball IQ, plays hard, and has good length and reasonable athleticism, he almost uniquely ungifted when it comes to doing anything that actually requires touching the ball.)

  10. David Crockett

    Good call on Jeffries nicos – I was going to mention Chandler’s game but Thomas B beat me to it. Chandler was key in that his scoring kept the Knicks from losing touch in that dreadful 3rd quarter. He was the only player doing anything for much of the night. His gradual transformation as a guy who goes strong to the hole has been really nice to watch. It’s almost like he reads this blog ;-)

    Jeffries played quality defense tonight. Even when the Hawks were scoring they were taking high degree of difficulty shots. What was telling for this team is that as bad as they were in the 3rd quarter the defensive effort was there, particularly from Jeffries, Chandler, and (gasp!) Gallo, who had a key tip away resulting in a Nate steal down the stretch.

    Perhaps the most interesting thing about Nate’s performance tonight is that he was on the unit with Jeffries, Gallo, Ill Will, and and Harrington that made the *defensive* push to get back in the game in the 4th quarter.

  11. Ted Nelson

    “I do think some attention should go to Wilson Chandler’s play of late. I think Nate’s play really overshadowed what may be one of Chandler’s best games.”

    Completely agree that Chandler played well, part of a longer trend of him playing well. I honestly questioned if he had the finishing skills that he’s been showing lately or the will to display them. Really impressed.

    Still, his performance is rightfully overshadowed by Nate. He did some non-scoring things (mostly rebounding, but also a few assists), but 24 points on 19 shots is not special for one game (his TS% was 60%, so if he does it consistently it’s very special). The consistent good play (besides one crappy game) is great, definitely.

    I don’t really rethink calling him overrated (which, of course, depends on how you rate him in the first place… and at times people have spoken of him as a 2nd coming… saying they wouldn’t trade him for a top 5 pick, etc.). It wasn’t just earlier this season that he was bad (and he wasn’t bad earlier in the season, but pathetic)… He’s been a bad player on his career, so I have no problem saying that he was a bad player and had a whole lot to work on. I have been overly pessimistic about his long-term prospects at times, a lot of times. I’m still waiting to see him do this for a whole season before saying I was completely wrong there, but the last month or so he’s certainly been proving me wrong (which is great).

  12. astrasberg

    Unfortunately couldn’t watch the game because it was blacked out (and still is) on League Pass Broadband.

    Nate’s game was obviously huge, I went to bed with the Knicks down 80-67, and woke up shocked when I read they pulled it out in OT.

    I’m glad to hear the defensive effort was still there when he was out on the floor, that’s really been a key for this recent run. The games I’ve watched recently are a huge contrast to the early season defensive effort (or lack there of). (It should also be mentioned, that the Knicks are making this defensive push sans an intimidating shot blocker to protect the hoop.)

    The other important Nate stat of the night is 8 assists, and he only took five 3′s. That means he was going to the hole and moving the ball also key elements of the recent run.

    As for whether the benching was effective or not, this effort is just one game, I think we should revisit this point in a month, after Nate’s got some games under his belt. It’s not like he’s going to score 41 every night, but if he’s going to the hole, giving effort on D, and distributing most nights then I think there’s evidence that it made the desired point. If he’s back to his gunner ways and half hearted D, then not so much.

  13. David Crockett

    K Mac – I liked the LBJ comparison. Obviously, it’s not the same context or caliber of opponent, but LBJ’s performance sets a standard of undeniable greatness that is useful in comparing other performances. Nate’s performance might have been like a .75 on the Lebron-o-meter after adjusting for context and opponent quality.

    A quick thought on Gallo – At one point I referred to him as a “no show” (and I regret using that phrase when “invisible” might have been a better choice of words). Right now I’d say D’Antoni’s offense is doing what it can do for Gallo. It’s hard to complain about ball movement on this team–other than Harrington.

    Gallo just needs to play more on the strong side and quit drifting away from the ball. He is almost entirely dependent on ball rotation for his touches because he camps out on the weak side unless he’s being iso’d. Sometimes even then he starts with the ball in his hands, centers it, and drifts to weak side. To his credit (and we saw this last night) he finds other ways to contribute, particularly on the boards.

    I was watching Phoenix play a few nights ago when Channing Frye went off. Frye and Gallo are reasonably comparable players in terms of how they score. Frye is getting plenty of touches in D’Antoni’s offense, and they’re not force feeding him. He plays on the strong side and sets ball screens. Gallo can get more touches in this offense if he’ll move.

  14. IGMKNICKS

    No doubt that Nate’s game was spectacular, but when he is given the opportunity this is what he does. He is not a point guard, but he is far less likely to turn the ball over than the Duhon the re-gifting point guard who is a turnover machine.

    Agree with DC on Gallo. Gallo does not get the ball because he is not open and he is not moving without the ball. His best games are when he mixes it up. He should be more involved in the PNR and post-ups. He is hard to guard on the drive. A foul magnet.

  15. David Crockett

    I should also say… I like the way Gallo is maturing. He’s gonna figure out the right mix of playing on the weakside and getting good looks at the three and setting screens to get touches. And damn, when he develops a little post game here and there to take advantage of mismatches… scary.

    I thought last night was a nice game for him. He was efficient from the field but probably provided the most value on the boards and on defense.

  16. Ted Nelson

    “as far as bursts of offensive brilliance are concerned, this one was pretty special. That’s all I meant.”

    Yeah. If Nate were like 3 inches taller he would have looked like the love-child of Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade out there.

    “It’s the kind of thing Jeffries does fairly often that no one else on the team would even think of doing.”

    Yeah, this is a great point. He really does do the little things, which is something we haven’t seen from many Knicks in a decade. During the Nets game I was really wondering whether any Knicks not named Jeffries knew what a charge was (which is a pretty simple and common “little thing,” not as subtle and heads up as putting your shoulder in front of a shot blocker). There were like 3 possessions in a row at one point where a Knicks had an opportunity to try to draw a charge in transition and not one even seemed to consider it.

  17. d-mar

    One thing we all agree on on this site is winning and making the playoffs is the bottom line for this team. Right now we’re 13-20. I would ask the D’Antoni detractors – 1) if he had made the right call on Nate (not relegating him to the bench for 12 games), what would our record be today? 2) if he had given more minutes to Douglas and Hill, what would our record be today? Most preseason predictions on this site had the Knicks winning 30-35 games, we seem well on track to surpass that.

    We also all agreed at the beginning of the season that our core for the future was Lee, Chandler and Gallo. Look at where we are today: Lee is a borderline All-Star, Gallo is developing into a potential future All-Star, Chandler is playing the best ball of his career and as an added bonus, Nate has just re-emerged. We’ve beaten one of the best teams in the East TWICE in their building.

    And finally on D’Antoni – he coached a great game last night. Going in and out of the zone in the 4th qtr. confused the Hawks, and benching Lee and putting Gallo on Horford was a shrewd move. Doesn’t it seem to everyone that other coaches are reacting to what D”Antoni does? That’s a mark of a great X’s and O’s coach.

  18. Ted Nelson

    David,

    I agree that Danilo needs to work on some things, but if he were playing with Nash (and to a lesser extent next to Amare) he’d probably be getting more good looks, too.

    Also, in fairness, we can’t say what D’Antoni is telling him to do. He might be telling him to camp out on the weak side as a safety valve. From what I’ve seen both in Italy and here he’s got a good basketball IQ and he was an aggressive go-to scorer as a young guy playing with men in Italy. D’Antoni said on his show last night that Danilo needs to work on his post moves and driving ability from the elbow before his offensive role can expand. I don’t know exactly what’s going on and Danilo probably could step it up a little on his own, but I think there is some evidence that he’s doing what he’s been told. It’s sort of the role that Q-Rich played in D’Antoni’s offense in Phoenix.

    I think the post game is already there to some extent. He posted up Crawford last night and drew a foul. Certainly he has room to improve, Crawford is a scrub defensively and like 6 inches shorter, but he was posting guys up starting in his rookie Summer League.

  19. Z-man

    Following up the Ted vs. Frank lovefest on the previous thread:

    Ted, correlation does not imply causation is a phrase that you have used a lot in defending your position re: Nate vs. D’Antoni. You also state that Nate’s defense is not as bad as portrayed. The bottom line, however, is that the Knicks played better after the benching than they did before it (particularly on defense). Nate’s overall play before the benching was poor (even without considering the antics, 22-pt 4th quarters aside.) +/- stats are not reliable in single games, but there was a disturbing trend with Nate, not to mention their record in games when he played a lot vs. when he played less. Without Nate, the team has been more focused and has played better team defense than I have seen them play over an extended stretch in a long time. It is virtually impossible to prove causation to the degree that would satisfy you, but the correlations here support causation to at least some degree.

    There is another issue that you and Frank did not mention: Nate had a slew of technical fouls last year, mainly for bitching at the refs. He made some ridiculous pledge during preseason that he was going to cut his techs in half. I heard the announcers state during the Nets game that the Knicks had the fewest techs in the league thus far (ironically, Jeffries got called for one shortly thereafter.) In fact, the most noticeable difference I saw in Nate last night was that he did not badger the refs anywhere near as much as he had before the benching.

    You minimize the shooting at the other basket incident, but I saw it live, and was shocked even before the ball went in. For you to say that other players do it all the time is a crock. I have never seen it done in that way and watch games all the time. It’s when and how that matters and Nate was way out of line. And it wasn’t in a vacuum, either. There is typical NBA horsing around and there is stuff that goes over the line that builds frustration in a coach and an organization. I have been as big a Nate fan as anyone over the years, even calling him their best player two years ago, but I was right with D’Antoni on this one and had had enough. We could quibble about the length of the “suspension” but the bottom line is that, far from backfiring, it seems to have grounded the team into its best month-long stretch of team ball in years.

    Did you really expect that the Knicks would go 9-6 without Nate, particularly with Duhon and Chandler playing extended minutes (you suggested that they bench Duhon and give up on Chandler and go with Landry, no?). Wins and losses aside, did you really expect for them to play as well as they have? We’ll never know whether they would have gone 14-1 with Nate, but we do know for sure that they played better than you thought they would have without him.

    So Nate comes back and plays his ass off on both ends, leading his team to the best win of the season. You now credit D’Antoni with suggesting that he is not sure whether he did the right thing and use that suggestion to support your criticism, as if that really means anything beyond throwing the press and Nate a bone. The bottom line is, he did what he did and stuck to his guns and it worked WAY better than you and most others thought it would. That you keep hammering away with the “well, there’s no way to tell whether it was due to the benching or in spite of it because correlation does not mean causation” argument is pretty curious.

  20. Gapeseed

    Now *that’s* how you showcase a player! I did not see the game, but Nate’s ridiculous statline is going to cause some GMs to swivel their heads a bit over morning coffee. Some more performances like last night’s, and Nate will be just the sweetener to make a Curry or Jeffries go down all that more easily.

  21. Z-man

    Any chance that Duhon and Lee were hung over last night?

    Any chance that Nate playing is related to the T-mac situation?

    Just wondering…

  22. Ted Nelson

    d-mar,

    I agree that there are tons of reasons for optimism.

    I wouldn’t consider myself one of D’Antoni’s bigger detractors, or even much of a D’Antoni detractor at all, but on the Nate issue I certainly disagreed. 1) No one knows. D’Antoni himself said he doesn’t know. That it’s certainly possible the Knicks could have won more or just as many games with Nate. And as I’ve been saying for weeks, the correlation of Nate’s benching and the Knicks winning does not imply causation. He’s a 25 mpg rotation player, not the only reason they win and lose every night.
    2) Again, no one knows. I don’t have a huge problem with him not playing them. I thought he could have looked to them after the slow start, but he went another way (well, he did look to Douglas a bit) and it worked out.
    He has been giving Douglas a few minutes pretty consistently. He’s shown some real promise (efficient scoring, defense, and pretty low TOs for a rookie), but I don’t know if he’s earned much more playing time.
    Hill hasn’t played in forever, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of what he’s got. Seeing as they’ve still got a hole in the middle you could make an argument he should be in there a little to see what he’s got, but given how raw he’s looked at times and how many long guys they do have in the rotation you could make an argument he shouldn’t. (His work ethic, etc. are also important considerations I can’t comment on.)
    He did throw Landry out there last night.

    In general, some people have been way over-critical of D’Antoni (just as some have been pretty under-critical). However, he has made a lot of moves that were exactly in-line with the criticism (not at all saying he did it because of the criticism, just saying that the criticism was perfectly legitimate). Make a big chance after the bad start. Stop 7SOL and slow it down a little. Put in a coherent system on both sides of the ball and take a little more hands-on approach. And recently, make a change after the rotation became a bit stagnant (which may or may not be due in part to injuries to Hughes and Bender). I’ve been happy with D’Antoni in general, but there have been reasons to criticize him.
    I’ve been over-critical of him at times, but I didn’t want to just assume he was a great coach because he won a lot of games in Phoenix. I also think it’s fine to criticize a coach. The Yankees won it all, but a lot of people still hate Girardi. I like Girardi fine, but if people have well thought out reasons to criticize him I have no problem with it.

  23. SeeWhyDee77

    Anyone here thinks that Walsh should give Arenas a looksee if the Wiz really do void his contract in the next week or so. Personally, i’ve always liked Gil. In this offense, can play the 2-if we hold on to Duhon. Regardless of where he plays, I think he’d be worth a shot as a low cost alternative. If he plays well, maybe we re-sign him as a second offensive option. What do u guys think about that possibility? We do need backcourt help.

  24. SeeWhyDee77

    that first line was meant to be a question..lol I forgot the question mark-just wakin up and it’s FREEZING

  25. Ted Nelson

    Z-Man,

    With the correlation/causation stuff, I’m just saying that one needs to site evidence besides just “he got benched, they played better.” A whole lot of people have made that argument. You make a few points outside just correlation. I’m not saying that the Knicks definitely would have played better with Nate, just saying that it is a possibility that makes a correlation equals causation argument illogical. If you can make a sound argument with evidence to support it, I have no problem with that. I may or may not agree, but I would be wrong to dismiss it off-hand. If someone just says he’s a short little ball-hog and I don’t like him so I’m glad he’s benched, then it’s hard to discuss it.

    “+/- stats are not reliable in single games, but there was a disturbing trend with Nate”

    I believe he had a positive overall +/- when he was benched, he was also positive last season (+6.3). There are two kinds of basic +/-: vs. the other team and vs. your own team. In ESPN’s box scores the +/- is based on how your team scores vs. how the other team scores when you are on the court. 82games has how your team scores with you on the court vs. how your team scores with you off the court. So, the single game and season +/-s are not always the same thing.

    I agree that the benching has not backfired and it’s been an all-around success so far.

    The light over the basket was red and Nate took a shot. It was a questionable call, but not nearly as big a deal as some (including the mainstream media at large) have made it out to be. If LeBron did that no one would have thought twice. Part of my thing is that there’s a double standard with Nate.

    “Did you really expect that the Knicks would go 9-6 without Nate”

    I certainly did not, and have said as much several times. I didn’t think they’d go 9-6 with Nate, either.

    “(you suggested that they bench Duhon and give up on Chandler and go with Landry, no?)”

    Yeah. After that start was that really so far fetched? I still think Duhon should have been benched at some point in that horrific start. My point with Chandler was that he should be coached: stop shooting so many long jumpers and start taking it to the hole. I mentioned Landry because I liked what I saw and wanted to see more. Still feel that way, and D’Antoni may too after throwing him a bone last night. I was never saying Landry IS better than Chandler, but that he might be in the long-run.
    I was wrong to be so pessimistic about the team and I tip my hat to D’Antoni and the team for turning this thing around, but I don’t think my comments were ridiculous given the context.

    “We’ll never know whether they would have gone 14-1 with Nate, but we do know for sure that they played better than you thought they would have without him.”

    I am not really against the benching anymore. I was strongly against it at first, precisely because I thought Nate was too good for this team to bench. That’s been proven wrong. I kept defending Nate because I think he’s a good player that gets criticized too much, but at some point I decided that if they’re winning I don’t care whose out there. I wasn’t always thrilled with the rotation choices, but I also wasn’t that upset with them.

    “So Nate comes back and plays his ass off on both ends, leading his team to the best win of the season. You now credit D’Antoni with suggesting that he is not sure whether he did the right thing and use that suggestion to support your criticism, as if that really means anything beyond throwing the press and Nate a bone.”

    If the other side of the coin is crediting D’Antoni 100% and quoting Nate crediting D’Antoni, then I’ll stay on my side of the coin. I don’t think it’s so black-and-white though. They both deserve credit for various reasons and they probably also both deserve some blame for various reasons. I quoted and paraphrased D’Antoni so much because I was really impressed both with his decision to play Nate (which a lot of people thought was close to a no-brainer for several games now, but a lot of coaches would have been way too stubborn to do) and his post-game comments. He couldn’t come out and say “this was all me, I’m the man,” but he didn’t have to be so thoughtful and articulate either. He didn’t say he’s not sure if he did the right thing, he just (basically) said that he made the call and can’t be 100% sure it was right. This is in line with Frank O.’s (I think it was him) statements that it was a tough call coaches have to make. It was not at all in-line with what a lot of people who have criticized Nate have said, though.

    “That you keep hammering away with the “well, there’s no way to tell whether it was due to the benching or in spite of it because correlation does not mean causation” argument is pretty curious.”

    After the way he played last night I don’t feel it’s curious at all. He played similarly well against Orlando right before the benching. You play one way, something happens, you keep playing the same way. Does the thing that happens deserve credit for changing the way you play? We’ll have to see what happens over a larger sample size.

    The way he handled it and came back makes the immaturity angle questionable and the he can’t help the team win argument questionable. The way his teammates reacted to his play even makes the team chemistry argument questionable. The only Knick who seems to outwardly dislike Nate is Chris Duhon (that’s the perception I get from his media persona anyway). That’s why I’ve always made it sort of a Duhon vs. Nate thing (along with them playing the same position, some of the time at least). The way D’Antoni seemed to side so much with Duhon is a big part of what made me question him. I was also wondering if the D’Antoni doghouse is a black hole no one escapes from and if he plays favorites, which Nate’s return sheds a lot of light on (Nate is not Marbury or Curry, and D’Antoni recognizing this is great).

  26. Ted Nelson

    Z-man,

    The flip side, what I would ask you, is has the entire rotation not played a lot better since and just before (during the Suns game where the benching sort of started mid-game) the Nate benching? The reason I am a broken record on correlation/causation is that the entire team stepped up. Nate might have been a symbol/scapegoat of sorts, but I find it really questionable to say that Nate being benched is the reason Duhon snapped to, the reason WC improved his approach/shot selection, or the reason Jeffries emerged from the dead as a glue-guy zombie. Benching Nate doesn’t seem to have hurt that progress, but I just don’t see it as so obvious that his benching was the reason they played so well or that they couldn’t have played just as well with him playing 20 mpg. What happened happened, though, and I’m no longer very upset about the benching (between the winning and now Nate getting a second chance). I just still think Nate is a valuable NBA player and will continue to defend him if I feel he’s unjustly attacked so long as I continue to feel that way about him.

  27. Ted Nelson

    SeeWhyDee77,

    I assume Gilbert Arenas will be suspended for the remainder of the season. Even Billy Hunter reacted with a wtf… The only real supporters he’s going to have will be his agent and the NRA. I personally think guns have no place in a locker-room, and Arenas and Crittenton should both be suspended at least until the end of the season, if not banned from the league. I am not a big fan of the NFL’s tough handed policies of late, but pulling guns in the locker room is just completely ridiculous. Can you imagine if someone was killed?

    If he’s not suspended… I wouldn’t have a problem with signing him. I would be careful and make it clear that he should leave his gun at home and have his mental stability examined professionally. I’m not so sure Arenas would really help the Knicks at this point, at least not as much as he’s help other teams. I’d take him over Duhon, but I don’t know if D’Antoni would. Not sure he’d take a 3rd guard role, or how much of an improvement over Nate/Douglas he is in that role. As a SG I’m not all that interested. He’s at .513 TS% this season and has never shown the ability not to dominate the ball. It’s an idea, but I’m not too high on it.

  28. Thomas B.

    On Chandler for the 5th pick.

    Depends on the player available. In the 2009 draft who was available at 5 that you know, actually I should say you KNEW was better that Chandler? I remind you, I still dont believe in Rubio. How is he doing overseas btw, seriously i dont follow his play. So I would not have been happy with Wilson for Rubio. I would not give up Chandler for Curry (whom I did like) and there was no need to trade him for anyone after 7 as we could have taken that player without the trade. The only player I would have taken was already gone at 4th–Evans. So, why trade Chandler again?

    Kevin, thanks for the explination I think I get it. The difference between Nate and LBJ in skill level is comparable to the difference between the Pistons and the Hawks in terms of defense. So, that makes the Nate to LBJ comparison similar. Okay I’ll buy that, for now.

    And the post length was fine. It was half what Ted Nelson usually writes. :-)

  29. Frank O.

    Wow. What a night!
    A great basketball game! When was the last time we were all treated to such a game involving the NY Knicks???
    I have a few thoughts.
    Putting the Nate v. D’Antoni thing aside for a moment, did you all notice that the Knicks’ three best scorers were almost utterly ineffective last night, and still they found a way to win?
    Did you all notice that the Knicks held a very high-powered team to 108 points in five periods?
    Did you notice that while Horford clearly treats Lee like his punk, D’Antoni found a way using a formerly “frail” Gallo to confound Horford in the fourth and OT periods? Gallo as defensive stopper??? Really??? Where is tractor trailor now??? :)
    Did you notice that Lee and Duhon got benched for almost all the fourth and OT, and the Knicks still managed to function?
    Did you notice that while Nate didn’t have an assist in his first 16 minutes he got eight for the rest of the way, and then noted how his coach told him that being aggressive on offense creates huge passing opportunities…and Nate appeared to internalize that message?
    Did you notice that Nate barely had any turnovers relative to how much the ball was in his hands, meaning he was making sound decisions?
    Did you notice that Jeffries managed not to foul out and managed to have yet another quiet, but huge impact on the outcome?
    Did you notice how strong Harrington played defensively?
    Did you notice how strong the Knicks defense was in the last two periods in general?
    Did you notice that D’Antoni was swapping out defenses and defensive assignments almost constantly down the stretch, and our Knicks players actually executed those changes nearly flawlessly?

    I posit to you that this Knicks team feels like a well-coached disciplined team. They are doing much less to beat themselves. The play solid team defense.
    Certainly it’s not like the old Knicks where they wrapped the opposition in a straight-jacket from the opening tip. But situationally, they can tighten the vice when needed.
    When the Knicks lose lately, it’s mostly because their shots don’t fall. It’s not because they stop playing defense, or turnover the ball excessively, or just make stupid plays or don’t hustle. When teams play the Knicks, there are constants now.
    This has become a well-coached team that doesn’t just give away 20 points a game through stupid mistakes. There is a glue that binds them.
    Good coaches find ways to forge hardened teams. They find ways to instill discipline. If the coach is willing to do one particularly harsh thing to one guy, even if it means potentially disrupting a future contract, well, the message is sent to everyone: This guy is in charge, he has the full backing of management, and unless I start concentrating on the goal, I’m potentially punked.
    Another key that appeared last night is that while Nate was put in a tough position, in my view resulting from his own actions, his teammates actually care about the dude and there is a real sense of team. Quotes from guys who got benched last night showed that quite clearly.

    The last point, again, the Knicks three best scorers couldn’t do the job last night, and yet as a team, the Knicks were able to beat one of the best teams in the East on their court. Nate could have scored all those points, and they still could have lost if their defense hadn’t shut Atlanta down in the fourth and OT (Atl scored 28 points in the final two quarters).
    Remember, Nate now has put up 30 points or more in a game 14 times in five years, and the Knicks lost 9 of those games.

    So, Nate lived up to his potential last night. But if D’antoni hadn’t been effectively coaching this team, emphasizing defense, minimizing mistakes, this easily could have been another Nate explosion in the midst of another blowout of the Knicks. Certainly it looked that way going into the fourth.

    How exciting to see this team emerging as a well-coached, hard-playing, resilient, multi-faceted team. If I’m coaching other teams in the East, I cast a wary eye at the Knicks.
    When was the last time we could characterize the Knicks as “dangerous?”
    :)

  30. Z-man

    Ted,
    I follow most of what you say. We are in agreement about Nate’s talent and value to this team or any other. We are also in agreement that D’Antoni’s initial reasons were less than candid, i.e. we agree that it was more of a suspension than a mere removal from the rotation. I probably think less of Nate’s D than you do, especially in terms of consistency, and especially, especially compared to Hughes, who I think is well above average defensively, but I don’t think his D was as big a problem a other things. Here’s where we definitely disagree:

    1) I don’t equate the performance last night to the performance vs. Orlando in the 4th quarter. I thought Nate excelled in every facet of the game last night (except FT shooting maybe) as opposed to just having an offensive explosion. He seemed to always be in the right place at the right time. He did not bitch at the refs or ever look distracted. That is not the same player I saw before the benching, even when his shots were falling. His defense was not merely adequate, it was very good if not excellent.

    2) The main point of contention between us is whether he DESERVED to be benched based on his play and his behavior combined. Clearly, he generally did not play well before the benching, but the same can be said about lots of the players. However, when the team is 11 games under .500 after 17 games, his happy-go-lucky attitude was viewed by the coach as counterproductive and I agreed with him despite being a huge Nate fan. If Nate was the one to be singled out, he did the most to deserve it. If it said nothing more to the team than “I’m not tolerating any nonsense” at a time when they needed to hear it, at least that part of the message seemed to come across loud and clear.

    3) You say “The light over the basket was red and Nate took a shot. It was a questionable call, but not nearly as big a deal as some (including the mainstream media at large) have made it out to be. If LeBron did that no one would have thought twice. Part of my thing is that there’s a double standard with Nate.” I couldn’t disagree with you more on this point. Even if your team is 14-3 and you are putting up SMOY or all-star numbers, a coach should have been outraged by that…and again, I was outraged when I saw it live even before the ball went in, and was glad when D’Antoni immediately lit into Nate worse than he has at any player during a game since I’ve been watching him. I don’t think it is a double standard at all, and I think the circumstances of being 3-14 or whatever and Nate playing poorly overall compared to his play last year, Nate’s many T’s and badgering of officials, Nate’s moronic behavior during the summer traffic incident, Nate’s dancing and goofing around when things were not going well, etc. elevated it from a tongue-lashing to a benching. Other than Eddy Curry, nobody on the team seemed to mind his benching very much; that also says something.

    Whether the team played better because Nate wasn’t playing, because they were individually concerned that they might be next in the doghouse, or because it was sheer luck, we’ll never know. I think that if nothing else, D’Antoni made it clear that nobody is above the team, and got positive results despite benching arguably his most dynamic player. You can’t get any more bottom line than that.

    By the way, Duhon was among those mobbing Nate throughout the 4th quarter and OT. I don’t think he dislikes Nate, only that he was frustrated with him and his less-than-professional approach to a . I was frustrated with him too. There is no evidence that he has not been rooting for Nate, and hopefully Duhon respects the way Nate has responded. I certainly do. I wish the benching had been unnecessary in the first place, although I honestly believe it was more than justified. I honestly feel Nate has all-star potential, more so than every Knick except maybe Gallo. No current Knick is capable of dominating the way he did last night; he mad it look so easy. I don’t believe last night was a fluke by any means, and hope the kid can finally live up to his potential. I personally think that his maddening inconsistency has been a by-product of his immaturity. If he grows up a little bit from this, in his own words, humbling experience, he could make the jump to the next level I thought he was primed to make this year. Hopefully last night is a sign of things to come.

  31. StevenU

    PLEASE please please whatever happens do not sign Gilbert Arenas. I mean,,,,,setting aside the fact that he likely committed multiple felonies and could (should?) be suspended for a very long time, he is a big huge giant CHUCKER; the very last thing this team needs. He is an explosive scorer and an entertaining player-but talk about a guy who will never be a winner and lacks something between the ears-dAyum.
    Last night was incredibly fun and exciting. Lost in the excitement is this tidbit: When Nate played the point, the team ran better and committed less turnovers. And that was without running the pick and roll and with DLee having a really lousy game (perhaps a little self inflicted pre all star facing Florida big man stress?). When Nate came in the game he brought the team back from 9 down to 1 up (Knicks minus 9 w/o Nate; plus 10 with him). he started out by dishing the ball, a sweet put back, and driving to a short J-very nice.
    Then D’antoni starts the second half with his regulars who had fallen behind by 9 in the first 9 minutes of the game (I had no problem with that choice-just worth mentioning in this context). They quickly fell behind by 5-again. Nate comes in, but this time with Duhon. They tread water and actually fall further behind. Till Duhon sits. Then, playing PG, Nate does his thing. It was NOT hoisting a bunch of 3s and a lot of chest pounding. It was running the offense, hitting the open man, taking the mid range shot when it was there, getting to the hoop at will. I am just saying…maybe Nate has finally figured out how to play the point without killing the team. It is not as if Duhon needs 38 minutes a game to be “effective”. And, Nate is not the turnover machine/defensive sieve as portrayed. His game has matured and rather than look back and debate ad nauseum what the record woulda coulda been had Damphony not been such a stubborn jerk, I am just happy that Nate played so well that he is unbenchable for the time being.
    AS a previous poster wrote, (and especially with the bad taste of losing to the Nets still fresh), the main thing is that they win these next two games. Then I will start to get excited about the team

  32. StevenU

    @Z-man-and anyone else who is still harping about the shot at the wrong basket. The clock had clearly expired. Even if the ball was live that shot doesn’t count. It is beyond a non-issue. Was it sort a dumb ass play? Yeah-it was. The very fact that it is still even being talked about reflects the double standard that I think Ted was referring to. I agree wholeheartedly with anyone who says that Nate has lacked maturity and that it has held him back as a pro. I am glad to see him maturing. I am not about to give D’antoni credit for this.
    Also, just one nitpicky point. Nate was NOT playing badly before the benching; quite the contrary-that is revisionist. He had in fact just started to round into form after his injury. The team was struggling badly but to be fair it was against some elite teams and included a 2pt loss to the Celtics and a 3pt loss to the Nuggs-which reflected an improvement-sad as that may be-from the pitiful start of the season. These are his numbers from the five games-lewading up to his 0-2 11 min run in the blowout win vs.the Suns: 18.8ppg/3.2 ast/1.2 r/.578fg%/.538 3pt%-in 27.2 mins. YES, the team was playing badly but those are pretty damn good numbers, and I think it is totally ridiculous to single Nate out as the reason they lost. If anything the close losses to good teams were an indicator that the team was improving.

  33. d-mar

    Frank O. – continuing your point about the Knicks’ commitment to defense – I was watching the highlights on ESPN; on Johnson’s go-ahead basket with 15 sec. left in regulation, 3 Knicks were contesting it. And on the Hawks final possession of regulation, 2 Knicks swarmed Johnson, got the ball out of his hands, and still when Williams took his desperation 3, there were 2 more Knicks flying at him. These are the kind of defensive sequences we have rarely seen in recent years. And you know, a lot of it starts with Jeffries. I totally get that moving his contract is a priority, but when he’s not on the floor, our defense suffers notably.

  34. Z-man

    StevenU,
    not harping on it, just citing it as one of many reasons for the benching. You said yourself that it was a dumb-ass play, on top of lots of other dumb-ass stuff Nate has done, and it was definitely not the time for dumb-ass stuff. There’s no double-standard, he is among the least mature players to have ever played on the Knicks. D’Antoni has to get credit because he took a big risk in benching him and it clearly payed off. Nate deserves credit as well for keeping ready and playing his ass off last night.

  35. nicos

    As some of you have noted Nate’s defense was pretty good last night but I think that was because he spent a good part of the night guarding Bibby who tends to sit out on the perimeter a lot while the offense runs through Johnson. I’ll be interested to see how he handles Felton when they play Charlotte- he’ll have to work an awful lot harder than he did last. Still, to his credit Nate was where he was supposed to be pretty much all night on both ends of the floor which was great to see. While I don’t think Nate is any worse than several other Knick defenders I do think in the past he’s been the one who other players trust least (due to his circuitous paths around screens and his tendency to make really bad gambles in passing lanes). And given how much switching the Knicks do on screens it’s essential that you trust one another.
    And on Chandler- he’s been much better at the 2 than I thought he would be. It’s not ideal for him defensively- he’s going to struggle with really quick guards but he’s been very aggressive posting up when matched up with a smaller guard and surprisingly good moving the ball when doubled. This has kept him from spending too much time on the perimeter where he should never, ever be- he should be a David West type guy- everything 17 feet and in. I think he could be pretty effective in that role- he’s never going to be a superstar (outside of a miraculous improvement in both his ball-handling and outside shot) but I think he does have a chance to be a pretty solid starter. His numbers the last month- 18 points 6.5 rebounds 2 assists are very encouraging (especially as over the first month of the season he was probably the worst starter in the NBA not named Duhon).

  36. rama

    Z-man –

    totally agree with post #21. Ted and StevenU, haven’t you heard of making someone an example? I don’t know how you can excuse that shot on Nate’s own basket; a kid did that on my team when I was in high school, and I shoved him to the ground afterward. I wanted to kick his ass. Not very mature (hey, it was high school), and honestly I’m ashamed of it now, but it really, really pissed me off in the moment. (It didn’t help that it was a talented guard who wasn’t getting back on D.) However embarrassed I am about it now, in that game none of my teammates were upset about it, and after the dude got up and we had to be separated, the coach cooled us all down, and we went on to beat a superior team in OT. From that moment — not that this was my intention, and again, it was an immature thing to do — everyone got on the same page and gave 100% for the win. That was toward the end of our season, and afterward we made it to the regional finals, playing way above our heads.

    The point is, we became a team.

    On a site dedicated to statistical analysis, it’s heresy to talk about such things — and I should preface this by saying I LOVE statistical analysis and believe it reveals a truer picture of the game and player than your eyes alone can give – but there are more important aspects of team sports than SA alone can show. Heart is real. Chemistry/unity is real. These are professional players who get paid whether they win or lose; except with the great ones, the truly driven players like Kobe or LBJ or MJ, a coach needs to get and keep their attention through a long, tiring season. D’Antoni certainly got his team’s attention.

    And while maybe he should have relented earlier, better to adjust a little late and lose a game (the putrid Nets game) than adjust too early and send an inconsistent or hypocritical message. We all hated Larry Brown’s parade of starters on Team Chaos; the steadiness and commitment of recent months from D’Antoni has been an excellent counter-example. This is a marathon, and he didn’t have to act out of desperation — and he didn’t. He made a good move, a game late, and no doubt will continue to adjust to keep the team’s attention going forward.

  37. rama

    Hate to write another long post after that last, but I watched the game twice and just have to comment on the great D. Jeffries was killing it out there; he is particularly good in the zone. As well, Gallo was excellent; he essentially shut down Horford, fronting him aggressively, even with 5 fouls. The coaching was great, too; D’Antoni switched from zone to man, as another poster noted, and the trap on Joe J, forcing the ball out of his hands, was crucial. Some of the Hawks still made amazing shots – Joe J over Jeffries and Chandler with 15 seconds left sticks out – but this really is a sound defensive team.

    I truly didn’t believe it would happen under D’Antoni.

    Also, further to the limits of SA: there is no measure of how crafty a play it was when Jeffries took out JSmith on one of Nate’s late drives (with Nate looking for a foul on Smith and Smith looking for a foul on whoever that was who elbowed him away from Nate). And Jeffries tipped the ball off the offensive glass to Chandler for a late hoop as well. A very canny player…

    …who we should still trade if at all possible, just for the cap space to keep Lee and sign LBJ.

  38. Frank

    Few thoughts about Nate and about last night’s game–

    I have to give a mea culpa to D’Antoni, at least for now. I saw the Nate benching and equated it to the Marbury benching — and now I guess I can see that while the “benching” was the same, the purpose was not — he benched Marbury to remove him from the team, and it appears that he benched Nate to make him see how much he missed playing and how good he could be when he plays like he did. So giving D’Antoni the benefit of the doubt (at least for one night) — the benching of Nate (maybe too long, maybe not) looks like a winner for now.

    About the Knicks’ D — clearly improved. Love the zone especially with Jefferies at the top — BUT… the defensive rebounding is horrible in that set. I guess that is a known weakness of zones, that it is harder to find your guy to box out — but the horrible D-rebounding nearly cost them the game last night. Coaching staff needs to figure out a way.

    About Chandler – maybe the best game I’ve seen him play. 17 boards! Almost all his shots taken under control! Good mix of drives, mid-range, and just a few 3′s! Pretty respectable D on Joe Johnson! I was impressed.

    By the way – does anyone think we should try and sign DLee to an extension now, before he hits the market? As I understand it, his cap hold is $12MM right now — maybe we can get him for the $8-9MM/year deal, which seems like a good price for him given how well he has been playing. Add Lebron to that, wait for Jefferies and Curry to come off the cap in 2011, make another HUGE splash — then we’ve got something. Horford just OWNS Lee though.

  39. Brian Cronin

    I suppose my biggest issue regarding Nate is that I don’t think his game has changed at all. He played the same way last night as he always plays. He made some stupid decisions and he made some good decisions, and most of all – he scored. He also celebrated most of his shots like he just won the World Series. He gave a speech at the end of the game like he had just won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the same guy last night that he was a month ago. Yeah, it was one of his best games, but as I noted before, it’s not like it was such an aberration – it only tied his career high for points off of the bench.

    Remember, I’m not even much of a Nate fan. I think he’s a pretty one-dimensional player. But that one dimension is something that can be quite valuable to teams – the guy is very good at offense.

    Please, go watch the Orlando game again. You will see the same Nate in that game as you saw last night. The differences between the games are twofold. 1. His teammates played better last night on defense (as everyone else noted, the defense Gallo played on Horford with five fouls was stunning) and 2. Atlanta is not as good of a team as Orlando.

    Wilson Chandler, for instance, has become a better player because he has stopped taking stupid outside shots (particularly threes). He has changed his game.

    Nate last night did not.

    So with that in mind, all I saw last night was the same style of play Nate would have brought to the team in any number of games over the last month. And for a month, we’ve been hearing from his detractors “He’ll mess up team chemistry,” “He’ll mess up the new dedication to team defense,” “He is not suited for instant offense as much as Toney Douglas (Yes, someone actually did make that argument)” – and last night, he played and none of that applied.

    I’ve been saying his benching was wrong for a month now, and I was happy to come by here and give D’Antoni credit for getting over his stubbornness and actually returning Nate to the rotation – I was going to admit that it surprised me, as I did not think D’Antoni would let him out of the doghouse, so I was pleased to see D’Antoni willing to adapt and bring Nate in (even if it likely had more to do with Hughes and Bender both being out, but hey, he could have gone to Douglas instead), but to show up here and see Nate’s play being credited as a result of his benching – well, I was more than a little bit taken aback by that.

  40. BigBlueAL

    Im not sure D’Antoni benched Nate because he wanted him to change the way he plays, especially on offense. I think he benched him because he was tired of some of his antics and his continued disregard for the most part of playing D despite how some here say Nate isnt bad on D. It was a message not just to Nate but to the entire team which is why I think it worked because it was a message that got through to the entire team and hopefully Nate too.

    Nate last night seemed committed to D and you can see he was communicating on D with his teammates too. On offense he got 8 assists and as I noted last night if this was the NHL and you got an assist for the pass leading to the assist he wouldve gotten a few more too plus as he usually does to his credit rebounded well too.

  41. nicos

    Brian- Have to disagree with you a little bit- yes Nate still celebrated some makes way too much (including turning his back to the play to posture towards the Knicks bench on more than one occasion) but in general he was where he was supposed to be on the court on both sides of the ball. He didn’t spend half the game drifting into the passing lanes and ignoring his man on defense as he has so often has in the past. And while as I mentioned before, Atlanta didn’t run him off too many screens, he did seem more focused on keeping the ball in front of him than normal. And as I mentioned he really did make a good-faith attempt to run the offense in the first half (in the 2nd half and overtime they just cleared out and let Nate go one-on-one). In general I think the shooting at his own basket/showboating after a make while the other team is getting a dunk at the other end stuff isn’t really why he was benched- it was just the cherry on top of four years of making little attempt to play within any kind of system on either end of the court. Last night I thought he played within the system more often than not and hopefully that will continue. I’d also say big props to D’Antoni for calling for repeated isolations for Nate down the stretch even though he had to know that Nate’s going off was going to have people questioning the benching more than ever (while it may seem like a no-brainer there are a lot of coaches value their rep and their system more than winning).

  42. Sandy

    side-question, would David Lee making the all star team be a good or bad thing for the Knicks? This will ultimately affect whether I vote for him or not.

  43. DS

    “side-question, would David Lee making the all star team be a good or bad thing for the Knicks? This will ultimately affect whether I vote for him or not.”

    For a while I wondered if Mike D. and Walsh were doing with Lee the opposite of what they do w/ Curry. Keeping him on the bench for 10 mins a game so that his stats didn’t get too high.

    IMHO Lee officially becoming an All-Star would be only slightly bad for the Knicks. I think it puts a little extra pressure on Walsh to spend more on his contract in order to keep fans and Dolan happy(both of whom are by and large less knowledgable than GM’s throughout the league).

  44. rrude

    My impression for a while has been that the coaching staff wants Gallo to focus on learning to play D, not making turnovers and to only take shots when they come in the flow of the game. I have a feeling they are confident his offensive game will progress, but want to round out the rest.

    What’s amazing is, his D seems to get better and better, and last night he played 43 mins with no turnovers. If he’s able to mix in the offensive skills everyone says he had in Italy that he doesn’t display now, he’s going to be a heck of a two-way player.

  45. Brian Cronin

    I don’t think Lee making the All-Star Team will dramatically affect his payday. He’s going to make roughly $10 million no matter what happens. I guess making the All Star Game might increase that to $12 million, but I doubt it.

  46. big_fella

    Wow. Nate’s PER went up like 4 points after last night’s performance. Not important, but kind of funny.

  47. daJudge

    Sandy, I find your question really interesting. I guess if the “Knicks” want to sign Lee, making the All-Star team could be bad, because his market value perhaps rises. If I were his agent, I would use it as leverage. It’s really how you define the “Knicks” and how you see yourself relative to the team. Believe it or not, I see myself as part of the Knicks, as a dedicated fan. That’s probably why my wife and I are die-hards and get emotional about them, despite their abysmal performances. In that sense, I totally want him to be an All-Star, basically because I’ve enjoyed watching him so much and, IMO, he deserves it, because he brings it (offensively) almost every night. I can’t completely become abstract from my fan-gut and view this from a different, perhaps more ‘reasonable’, perspective. I guess I just like players to reap what they sow, including, but not limited to Lee. W/O getting too heavy, it’s like how life should be. Guys that play hard and get better should succeed and be rewarded. That’s one of the reasons I have been questioning some recent decisions on this team. Anyway, if the Knicks can’t sign Lee because he makes the All-Star team, who’s to blame for that?

  48. Frank O.

    Z-man:
    Ummm. Agreed with #21; loved #33.

    Ted, StevenU and Brian: Keeping fighting the good fight. I regret that you felt somehow I was coming off gloating or trying in your views to have it both ways. It is not my intent.
    But I always viewed Nate’s benching as something that would end, although I was quite prepared for it not to end for some time.
    I think the shortened rotation has forced the core team to learn how to win, to adapt and contribute even when some aspects of their game is not working.
    It’s like starting pitchers. Some are forever looking for the hook when their stuff isn’t working and they are getting pounded. Some recognize they don’t have the right stuff, know the hook isn’t coming, and they find a way to pitch through. Knicks players needed to know the hook wasn’t coming, that it was those eight, and that was it.
    I wrote a lengthy piece a week or so ago about the value of learning together to overcome shortcomings and finding ways to win. This Knicks team is learning that even on nights when shots don’t fall they can give themselves a chance to win by playing strong defense, making an extra pass, dropping a well-placed shoulder, or taking fouls in key situations.
    In times past the Knicks often would collapse when their offense ran dry, knowing the hook would come. David Lee said in a recent interview that one major motivating factor for him is “I’m not going to get embarrassed tonight.” I think they’re all thinking that way now.
    Now, this team fights together. I think the Nate benching forced change. And it forced Nate to confront his weaknesses.
    And I do think bringing him back is a credit to both D’Antoni and Nate. Nate is big in this. He stayed ready (although I don’t envy how his legs must feel tonight). He had to work hard to put in those kind of NBA minutes under duress. And he showed some of what makes him special. The fact that he played sound defense last night only proves to me that he was not putting the consistent effort in in the past. He is able to do it; at times in the past he simply chose not to try his hardest at that end.
    And never underestimate the power of redemption, to the redeemer and the redeemed. This could be a major bonding experience that forges an even tougher team.
    Who should be credited for that should it come to pass?

    Now, last night Ted said I angered him because he said I was trying to be right about the benching and about D’Antoni finally playing him. What I believe is D’Antoni potentially bears some responsibility for Nate’s more complete game last night.
    After all, Nate’s performance did not occur in a vacuum, and we’d be foolish to believe that his inspired play last night was not, in part, motivated by the fact that he had been “humbled” by a 13 game benching during which his team experienced the most successful month it has had in eight years or so.
    I have no dog in this hunt, so I can take credit for diddley-squat.
    But I applaud the outcome. I applaud Nate’s rising to meet the challenge. I applaud D’Antoni for his courage in making an example of Nate in a city where tabloids eat coaches alive and then having the courage to face the heat he likely would feel after deciding to play Nate and the little man delivering a monster performance.
    The man has balls, has made tough calls, and it appears so far that they are working out.
    I have been very critical of Nate’s antics, his lapses, his silly transgressions. Ted says I have been the most outspoken on this, although Z-man made a pretty strong case in my opinion, too. I think Nate was most deserving.

    I also have thought and said Nate could be a very potent PG. I watched him during summer league, two or three years ago, and he was dynamic and got his teammates involved. Truly, I was impressed.
    It wouldn’t bother me a lick if Duhon lost his starting job as point, and Nate took that position. I called for this when Duhon was playing so terribly. Personally, I think he could do it, and I think he guards 1s better than 2s as Ted has pointed out on several occasions. I also think him working the PnR with Lee would simply be lethal.
    I don’t think it will happen. I’m not sure D’Antoni is confident yet that Nate won’t regress. If I’m Nate’s coach, I’d be prepared for some disappointment. He’ll likely do some dumb things. But there is tremendous value in instilling faith in someone at key moments. I have seen people do incredible things when bestowed with great responsibility. Certainly some fail under the pressure. But at 5’6 or 5’8, whatever his height really is, Nate is a very good NBA player in a land of giants. He has overcome much. I think he could be a very good point.

    D-mar:
    Agreed with your #36. I listened to the game last night but watched highlights also. Phenomenal. But don’t forget the key foul that forced Atl to reset with only 5 ticks left. It set up the pressure D and the desperate 3. Good call by D’Antoni and great execution by the Knicks.
    That is so key. The Knicks have had coaches in recent years who made the right calls often, but the team simply couldn’t execute. This team is more disciplined and better coached.
    D’Antoni was a coach known for an offensive system, but weak defense.
    He has been forced to teach a different style of play, adapted to his personnel, and he is doing a masterful job, in my humble view.

  49. Frank O.

    I agree with Brian that the market for Lee will be about $10 million, regardless of whether he is an all star or not.
    I hope the Knicks are able to keep him. I suspect Lee might want to stay with the Knicks if this season goes well and he knows a max FA could land in NY.
    Money will talk. But I’ll tell you something: if the Knicks think hard about taking Bosh as a max FA or Lee at $10 million, I think you get more bang for your buck with Lee.
    Frankly, with the Knicks playing as they are right now, and then you add Wade or Lebron, they would go deep into the playoffs.
    Then there is 2011, and the Knicks can reload…
    The thought gives me chills. :)

  50. Z-man

    Frank O,
    Thanks. It is a bit ironic because I am probably more closely aligned with Ted in my opinion of Nate’s value and talent. I think that some of Ted’s points about your criticism of Nate’s play are accurate, but the personal nature of his rebuttals were over the top. You seem to have acknowledged the gist of the points he made in post #52, and Ted has acknowledged a few things as well. So let’s all kiss and make up and bask in the glory of last month and especially last night. Let’s all hope for more riveting basketball on the way to the most anticipated FA summer in Knicks history. This team is fun to root for and the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter and brighter!

  51. SJK

    Well said Z-man. If they replicate they’re December wins/losses in January they’ll be right there in the playoff race… and maybe one of the more dangerous “lower tier” East teams… Things are looking up regardless of whether or not Nate keeps this up. What was so impressive about last night was that we still won even though David Lee, Gallinari, and Harrington all had relatively bad games. Let’s Go Knicks!!!

  52. Ted Nelson

    Thomas,

    I was just using the #5 pick as strong value. If you could get the #5 pick–which I don’t think the Knicks had the chance to get for Chandler–then presumably you could also get other things of value.

    (Since I don’t have a B-R for the Spanish league or Euroleague I am going with per game stats) In Spain Rubio is 3rd in apg, 1st in spg, and 3rd in 3P% (over 48%). He’s hitting 53% on 2-pters, and 82% on FTs. His eFG% is 62.3% and his TS% is 68%. His ast/TO rate is 2.82.
    http://www.acb.com/stsindiv.php?cod_competicion=LACB&cod_edicion=54&cod_fase=LR

    In 8 Euroleague games his shooting stats are not impressive: http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=BAR&pcode=LFW&seasoncode=E2009 (he is 15/15 from the line). He is 5th in apg with a strong ast/TO ratio. I think he’s pretty phenomenal, and I would have taken him 5th.

  53. Ted Nelson

    Z-man,

    I really don’t know what D’Antoni’s reason for benching him was, but at this point I am buying the face value explanation that he thought the team was better without him (not that I completely agree with that explanation, I just gained faith in D’Antoni).

    1) I agree that he has a better game last night than vs. Orlando. He had a very good game against Orlando and an amazing game against Atlanta… Even LeBron doesn’t have his best game every night (and Nate’s not even in the same league). All I’m saying is that it is incorrect to say he was playing no where near as good before being benched. It is incorrect to fault him for the Orlando loss (Nate can’t be expected to guard Rashard Lewis or Dwight Howard) or say he was showboating in a blow-out (he brought them to within 6 with tons of time left).

    2) I disagree that he clearly did not play well before the benching. He had a slow start, but when he was benched his TS% was like .540, his assist rate was right around Duhon’s, and his +/- was positive (I believe).

    3) “a coach should have been outraged by that…” By what? Shooting at the other teams basket when the game was not going on? I agree that it was a bad decision, but it was of absolutely no consequence. It didn’t count. This was not Ricky Davis trying to pad his own stats with an offensive rebound. It was not during play, it was a practice shot.
    “3-14 or whatever and Nate playing poorly overall compared to his play last year, Nate’s many T’s and badgering of officials, Nate’s moronic behavior during the summer traffic incident, Nate’s dancing and goofing around when things were not going well, etc. elevated it from a tongue-lashing to a benching.” Exactly my point: if it wasn’t Nate Robinson you wouldn’t be making such a big deal of it. If it was Duhon, D’Antoni would have gotten on his knees and licked his balls. I’m not trying to criticize D’Antoni, but I think there is a double standard when it comes to Nate (with D’Antoni, the press, and fans) and making a back-up PG your undisputed team leader and possibly the only player with no chance of being benched no matter what he does is odd.

    “D’Antoni made it clear that nobody is above the team, and got positive results despite benching arguably his most dynamic player. You can’t get any more bottom line than that.”

    My only problem with this is that the Knicks fortunes started to turn before Nate’s benching… during the Phoenix game. The benching took effect during that game, but I’m not sure it was so clear at that point that Nate was being benched as to have a psychological impact on the team. Maybe D’Antoni said something to the team in the middle of the game about why Nate would not be playing anymore, but maybe he just pulled him and rode his “core” guys. I really can’t say. This brings the psychological argument into question to me.

    I just get that feeling from Duhon, but it’s totally subjective and I really have no idea. I think I mostly just don’t like a guy whose rep is all about partying and womanizing and who appeared to be hungover during an early weekend game this season (at least one… I mean he was slow, terrible, and his face was all puffy… he looked like a young black Don Nelson) getting all high and mighty about character and professionalism. That’s probably stupid, but I can’t help but resent it.

    If the benching can help Nate get better, then I’m fine with it. I’m not upset with the benching at this point, just with the posts about how D’Antoni is infallible/all-knowing-and-ever-powerful and Nate is a bum. After their recent make-out session, I don’t really see a Nate vs. D’Antoni battle at the moment.

  54. Ted Nelson

    Horford has generally outplayed Lee, but I would like to point out that last time the Knicks and Hawks met Lee had 18 points on 9 FGAs, 17 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl (and 5 TOs…). Horford also had a good game, but Lee did get his.

    Brian, very well said.

    nicos, I think your assessment of Nate’s play on his career is harsh. Do I think Nate could have stood to improve his maturity and consistency, sure. If he does that/has done that he’ll be better, but he was already a good player.

    Frank O.,

    Apologies if it got too personal last night. I did not mean to call you an ass in that post, but to say that it came across as abrasive (ass-like) to criticize Nate for weeks and then celebrate his return. Maybe a poor choice of words, but the point was really not to criticize your personality, merely the content of your comments.

    I mostly agree with #52, but I would add two things. A. Nate does primarily guard 1s already. He has played a lot of minutes with Duhon under D’Antoni and Duhon usually switches over to guarding 2s when they’re together (last season, when they played a good amount together, it was evident to me and others that Duhon is often better off on 2s and the stats seem to back that up… anyway, not totally relevant). When they’re not together Nate usually also guards 1s. There are switches and occasionally maybe Jeffries picks up the 1 or something, but Nate basically guards 1s already even if his offensive position is often the 2.
    He may not have tried his hardest at all times defensively in the past, but how many Knicks can you really say did? Jeffries, maybe. Otherwise I’m not sure anyone did, or at least they were so ineffective that they didn’t look like they were. This is another case where I don’t think it’s entirely fair to single out Nate. The teams defense has improved, everyone’s defense has improved. Basketball is a team game where it’s easier to be at your best when your teammates are. Some people–don’t know who–have gone so far as to imply that the Knicks defense during the Orlando 4th Q was Nate’s fault.

    B. He did stupid things last night. He made a couple of plays that were dumb or even really dumb. I just don’t think his play pre- and post- benching (and we have a small sample size in the latter case) are as black-and-white as a bunch of people are making it out to be. He played amazingly, but was generally Nate. He still over-celebrated, he still overplayed passing lanes at times, he (or the team in general while he was out there) still left some shooters wide open, he still forced some shots he should not have (a lot of them went in, but I can think of one time where he jumped into 3 Hawks defenders trying to shoot and I’m not sure even got the shot by them). Before the benching he also wasn’t a 100% ball-hog who never passed and while he might not of always given a good defensive effort he also wasn’t a terrible defender statistically. He was always their best transition player (maybe Gallo’s 3-pt shooting, or maybe Lee’s rebounding, or maybe Jeffries’ charge drawing abilities… but I still think Nate was/is clearly the best in transition).

  55. Z-man

    Ted,

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/r/robinna01/gamelog/2010/

    Nate’s first 10 games were not very good. His shot, particularly from 3, started to come around in the games before the benching, however, his shooting inside the arc was not great. He wasn’t getting to the FT line very much. His assists and rebound numbers were nowhere near what they were in the last game (he had 8 assists despite taking 24 shots, and had 6 rebounds, 2 of them offensive putbacks.) He had a steal, which isn’t much, but he had many games w/o a steal which is an area he should excel in. I will concede that he was playing better than he had earlier, but he was mainly a 3-pt specialist with little else to offer. He never went to the basket like he did vs. Atlanta before the benching.

    Looking at his October and November splits, his rebounding, assists, steals and turnovers were all not great. I know an injury was sandwiched in there, but he really didn’t play a complete game to the degree that he did vs. Atlanta before the benching. To imply that it was bound to happen, he was on his way, is not supported by the stats.

  56. Z-man

    “if it wasn’t Nate Robinson you wouldn’t be making such a big deal of it. If it was Duhon, D’Antoni would have gotten on his knees and licked his balls. I’m not trying to criticize D’Antoni, but I think there is a double standard when it comes to Nate (with D’Antoni, the press, and fans) and making a back-up PG your undisputed team leader and possibly the only player with no chance of being benched no matter what he does is odd”.
    “I just get that feeling from Duhon, but it’s totally subjective and I really have no idea. I think I mostly just don’t like a guy whose rep is all about partying and womanizing and who appeared to be hungover during an early weekend game this season (at least one… I mean he was slow, terrible, and his face was all puffy… he looked like a young black Don Nelson) getting all high and mighty about character and professionalism. That’s probably stupid, but I can’t help but resent it.”

    This is pretty confusing, coming from a guy that calls people out all the time for making assertions without supporting evidence. First of all, where is the evidence confirming that since Duhon has been with the Knicks, he has been all about partying and womanizing, especially to the degree that it hurt the team, or out of line with the typical millionaire bachelor athlete of today, e.g David Lee or Derek Jeter? That he appeared hung over to you during an earlier game? That’s it? After the flak you give anyone who even suggests that Nate visually appeared to dog it on D? Maybe Duhon had a cold, or an allergy, or a family issue, or maybe he just had a lousy game. There must be something else you can point to. Has he cheated on his wife? Showed up late for practice? Been pulled over for speeding or DWI? Had a brawl in a bar or in the locker room? Been called out by his Knick teammates for excessive partying or dogging it in practice? Got called for unnecessary T’s for losing his cool? Argued with officials w/o getting back on D? Other than lackluster play, what evidence do you have that Duhon has been anything but a consummate professional during his time with the Knicks? That he had the audacity to make a statement to the press about lack of focus of unspecified teammates?

    We’ll never know whether D’Antoni would treat Duhon the same way as he did Nate until Duhon does the same things Nate has done, other than play badly. If there was a no-brainer better option at PG on the team, we could have this discussion. You can argue that Nate was the better option in December, but there is no indisputable evidence of that. The “licked his balls” stuff is really over the top and irrational. To be fair, you did characterize your own statements as “totally subjective” and “probably stupid.” (You were obviously hung over when you made this post, your keystrokes were slow and your syntax read like Jimmy Breslin’s. :) )

    Since you admit that you “just dont like” Duhon for whatever reason, you shouldn’t get so hot and bothered when people”just don’t like” Nate. I certainly don’t take it personally that you don’t like Duhon; nor am I a D’Antoni groupie or a Nate hater by any means. For example, I was highly critical here of the way D’Antoni treated Steph at first because I thought Steph came in with a great approach and in great shape but was slapped down for no apparent reason other than his checkered past. However, when Steph got his chance to play and refused, I lost all respect for him; in contrast, I gained respect for Nate by the way he has handled his benching. I was also very critical of the 30-40 3′s they were taking in preseason and during the first part of the season. I am as big a fan of Nate the player as anyone. I would not have had a huge problem with him benching Duhon in favor of Nate, but I did (and still do) feel that Nate had it coming to him more than Duhon did.

  57. danvt

    Kevin,
    Thanks for that excellent summation of what was an important event in NYK basketball. I think Nate’s performance was an obvious triumph for Mike D’Antoni. Maybe his first as coach of the Knicks. I was hugely critical of him off of the 3-14 start but in December he started making good decisions. Slowing the tempo when you have Chris Duhon and not Steve Nash is a good decision, employing Jeffries, switching everything on defense, all turned us into a solid club. We were close in games we lost and we won more than we lost. The Nate benching was the most important decision of all though. Because it showed that if you didn’t do what the coach said to do you were going to lose your spot. He asserted his authority over the team and unlike IT and LB he didn’t just put something in for a week and then cave in when it didn’t work and put Stephon back in, etc. Whatever you say about how we could have done with Nate in December, the team improved, so MD showed everyone that he knows what he’s doing. Nate, as Kevin so eloquently wrote, handled it all like a mensch. He stayed positive and HE GOT HIS S**T TOGETHER. He looked more deliberate, he looked to distribute, he picked up 3/4 court, and it looks like he’s been practicing some moves. His fitness looks better than ever. I’m excited to watch him work tonight. Great job NYK.

  58. StevenU

    @ Z-man: The main difference, other than the fact that he was especially hot in Atlanta was that he was running the point instead of playing off the ball. I’ve never thought he was a point guard and I still don’t think it’s his best position, but it may well be his best position on this team as currently constructed. Part of the reason I got so upset about the benching is that despite what could nicely be called room for improvement in the area of maturity, I really had witnessed noticeable growth-in him and in his game. I found it notable that even in Atlanta the team was minus with him at the 2 (minus 6 or 7 I think) and plus 24-25 with him at the point. Obviously, just one game but perhaps indicative of what he can do at the point now, as opposed to the past. And, he really had been coming around (as was the team) just prior to DEcember. I posted his very good numbers for the 5 game period before the Phoenix game (18.8ppg/3.2 ast/1.2 r/.578fg%/.538 3pt%-in 27.2 mins). I think when you take those numbers into account it is a huge reach to say that the benching “paid off”. Playing him may well have paid off in the form of a couple more wins, which, given the crowded middle of the Eastern conference, could turn out to be critical. Much like how coaches always talk about how each play (fts, tos-etc) and each game are so critical to the outcome-we may miss the play offs by one or two games if things go well-and we may be able to look back to some games in December they gave away and struggled to score.

  59. StevenU

    Danvt-what is it that D’antoni wanted Nate to do that he didn’t do? I have no idea-and from interviews I think it’s pretty clear that Nate had no idea either. It is not as if D’antoni said, “I need him to play better defense and exhibit better shot selection”. I do not see this in an isolated manner but rather a part of the D’antoni “method”. he is consistently elusive, and dishonest, bordering on bizarre when answering questions about any decisions he has made as coach and all too often his explanations turn out to be bald faced LIES. I hate to go back so far but it does go back to the situation D’antoni created all by himself with Marbury last year.
    I am not loyal to any player, just to the team, but when you tell a player he has a role and then you bench him for no apparent reason it is (was humiliating. Yes, it’s obvious and inarguable that Steph responded horribly but it still started with D’antoni lying to him as well as the media and the fans…all that “he came in in great shape and did everything we asked of him”…to…”I see him playing on the wing as opposed to a point guard” (HUH?)…to “it would be an insult to a veteran like him to play spot duty” (Since when is a coach overly concerned with a players opinion of the manner in which he is used?). He pushed him right to the edge and then yes, Steph toppled over-sad-and I would say indicative of the fact that he came in with a hidden agenda to jettison Marbury, made up a bunch of garbage to justify it, and waited so long to finally release him that he was never able to get in sync in Boston.
    I’ll try to keep this brief but he made some similar very dubious comments by way of explaining benching Nate. It was all so vague it felt like some sort of CIA stuff, not a basketball team rotation.
    Side comment re: David Lee and his projected value. I think the effect of the lower cap is really being missed here. I do not think any team is getting two max FAs. I think the market for the 2nd tier Fas may be a lot lower than in the recent past. Even with his mediocre defense I do think DLee is better bang for the buck than Bosh or Amare (as a previous poster pointed out), but I do not think it’s any sort of lock that Lee will command 10 mil per.
    Lastly, a question re: Lee, if the Knicks wait and sign a FA first, do they have the right to exceed the cap to retain him (like the rule used to be)?

  60. Brian Cronin

    Lastly, a question re: Lee, if the Knicks wait and sign a FA first, do they have the right to exceed the cap to retain him (like the rule used to be)?

    Yes and no.

    Yes, they can exceed the cap to re-sign Lee, but only if they first made room for his cap hold. So if they get right up the cap with the signing of another free agent (taking into account Lee’s cap hold), then they can go over the cap in re-signing Lee for more money than his cap hold.

    The problem is that his cap hold is not low – it’s about $9 million, so it’s not a major benefit for the Knicks to be able to go over the cap, but it is a benefit. To wit, if the Knicks don’t go for/don’t get other free agents, they’ll know that they can basically match any offer for Lee.

  61. StevenU

    Thank you Brian…so-just curious-why do you (among others) seem certain that Lee will command 10 mil per? If the cap goes down to 51-52 I think all of these FAs are in for a sad surprise. Of course the true clear cut max guys will get their $-but after the big 4 or 5 I am much less sure of the new current value. For example, I think Joe Johnson will quickly live to regret leaving 60mil over 4 on the table, and that Rondos 55 mil over 5 may mark the end of an era, much as KGS 126 contract marked the end of the last free spending period. I’d predict DLee at 5 years about 40-45 mil-just a guess

  62. Brian Cronin

    Too many teams have cap room for someone like Lee not to get $10 mil per.

    Teams with cap room sign good free agents, and if they don’t get the “top” names, they’ll move to the next tier of good players and compete with each other for those players to the point where everybody gets paid. Yes, there will be teams like the Nets who, if they don’t get a top player, will likely roll their cap room over for 2011, but most teams with cap room will spend it.

    The players who get pay cuts are the next tier – which is older players who no one wants to lock up long term. Those are the players who end up signing for roughly the mid-level exception (or less).

    Players like David Lee typically don’t get to free agency. Once there, though, they get their money, even with a shrinking cap number.

  63. Frank O.

    Ted, Z-man:

    You know, I think people are more critical of Nate visa vis Duhon or some other Knicks primarily because Nate is such a good player.
    Fans, coaches and management often are harder on those players with great potential but who do not take the steps they need to take to elevate their games.
    Ted, you use Duhon and his play as a comparative to justify your arguments that Nate’s treatment was unfair. I know now you seem more ambivalent about the benching now.
    But for me, I shrug at Duhon. He has almost never reached great heights. But Nate sometimes puts up as dynamic a performance as AI, where he appears unstoppable and literally soars above much larger and longer opponents. But then he undercuts himself, ala Harrington hanging on a rim and blowing a game.
    We all expect more from Nate because he can be so much more. Personally, that’s why have been so tired of his silliness at time. He hinders his own development. It gets so frustrating, I had reached a point where I was simply over him.
    Now, to Nate’s defense. There appears to be varying opinions of his defense. And the statistics available to assess overall defensive effort are poor indicators for the most part. Read any of the explanations behind PER and WoW, and, generally, they acknowledge how difficult it is to quantify defensive performance. For years we all have been critical of jeffries, who was noted as a defensive specialist when he arrived from Washington. I watched here in DC. I always felt his D was very good, but he never got a chance to play here consistently, until this year. Even now, his stats appear pedestrian, and yet we all can acknowledge that his impact has been significant.
    In my view, 90 percent of defense is effort. And for a man who is 5’6 or 5’8, effort is even more important because he’s giving up so much in height.
    When Nate puts in the effort on defense, you can see he can be formidable. But if Nate loses focus, or his effort on that end is deficient, it is glaring.
    His man gets open shots, penetrates easily, and does great harm.
    He gets steals, but I suspect he should be more of a pest. I realize often he is inserted for his offense, but I think that’s a cop out.
    I have watched numerous times when Nate postured after a score or bitching about a no-call only to find his mark already down court and doing damage.
    And I have seen him make very pesky, energy-filled defensive efforts. It’s infuriating that a guy with such gifts can’t play a complete game.

    You know, a better comparison with Nate is someone like Curry. He is another player with immense physical gifts, and with the help of a guard can utterly offensively dominate a game. But yet he so often has taken for granted his abilities. He has never reached his potential, and like Nate’s lack of focus from moment to moment, Curry’s inability to control his weight and fitness has completely undercut his energy an effort on the court. He infuriates because you see his mobility and quickness, his athleticism, power and size, and then you see him walking around in a haze disconnected from the game when he should be at the center of it.

    I also applauded the kind of will it took to lose virtually a small person in weight in a year of what must have been a massive commitment on Curry’s part.
    I have written here about how I think he has matured, that he has suffered terrible family tragedy and from that he emerged leaner and fitter than we have seen him since he was a Bull. I think he’s a different guy. I think his situation is sad because given his new commitment, it must be very frustrating to know he has not shot with this team.
    I think he will be productive for someone, but his two years off has made him so rusty. And his style of play simply doesn’t fit. The Knicks have slowed the pace, but they are not a half court team. And Curry’s defense has been abysmal, I believe, for lack of a commitment on his part.
    So, I’m very critical of him, less so lately because he is no longer relevant.
    On the other hand, Nate is relevant. He is a huge x-factor. I am ready to applaud his reemergence. But I also have lost patience with his regressions. I will not be a forgiving fan. He’s used up a lot of good will.

    Ted, I went back and looked at the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTI61OV30kU). He held the ball and turned on the hoop to shoot just as the alarm sounded. His release didn’t come until the alarmed ended the 1st period, as you described. I thought it was closer, but it was after.
    But watch D’Antoni lecturing him and gesturing at the other basket. D’Antoni’s point, if I read lips and gestures well enough, was that if you have time to heave up a shot, take it at the basket that counts. He said, gesturing at the other hoop, “Shoot the ball this way.”
    With .5 on the clock, Nate had time to chuck up a midcourt short at the goal. The Knicks were up by four, and a 3 pt basket at that point would have bumped it to seven and could have excited the team and certainly doused the Nets’ fans fervor.
    My view, and I believed this when I was young enough to compete, is that while you’re on that court your every effort should be towards defeating the other team. The great players never take moments off on the court. Remember how MJ or Magic or Bird, or the Mailman or Ewing used to keep talking to their opponents during foul shots and during time outs? If MJ had a chance to get a shot off before the buzzer, do you think he didn’t take it…ever???
    There was a time out at .5 seconds. I guarantee there was a play for Nate to get the ball and heave a shot. I guarantee it.
    I have said Nate tends to freelance and we have all witnessed it. Plays were called and were not executed. Does anyone really believe D’Antoni’s plan was to say, “okay, catch the inbounds pass and then just hold it?” .5 is enough time to fire off a shot. Three points in the 1st is as important as in the 4th in the final tally. Coaches play for every shot. It’s not killing time in football because a pass can be intercepted and returned. Heaving a prayer can’t hurt you.
    I’ve said what Nate did hurt the Knicks. It did because A) he probably blew off D’Antoni’s desire for a shot, and blowing off the coach undercuts the coaches leadership and B) because it simply looks foolish, which makes a team that at that point had played like a joke, look even more bush league.
    What I like also was that D’Antoni appeared to make it a teaching moment. You could see it. At first, he just said something angrily and walked away. Then Nate started to argue and his teammate held him up. At that point, D’antoni came over and explained himself. Larry Brown would have walked away muttering to himself and probably would have given up on that moment.

  64. Frank O.

    I watched the Orlando game Nov. 29, and the fourth, while notable for Nate’s burst, never felt like the Knicks had a chance.
    But I went back to research what went down to double check my impression.
    A major part of the reason it was exciting was that Nate scored 20 points in a compressed 7 minute period, all from outside, save one layup.
    The Knicks never held a lead in the second half, and never got closer than 6 in the fourth. I never felt as if Orlando ever lost control of that game. Nate had one basket in the last 3:10 of the game, not that that is his fault.
    I think Chandler kind of killed the Knicks chances, heaving up a couple ill-advised bombs down the stretch, that enable Orlando to put it out of reach. And Chandler had replaced early in the fourth Hughes, who also was sucking.
    The Knicks made three lay ups and one dunk in the fourth, the rest of the shots taken and made, I believe, were mid- to long-range jumpers.
    The Knicks also had their worst defensive quarter of the night. Orlando put forth a very balanced effort, with Carter, Lewis, Barnes, Anderson and Howard all contributing baskets, including four 3 pointers.
    In my view, Nate’s burst that night was streaky John Starks-ish in its intensity and brevity.

    Nate’s more balanced attack the other night was a far better effort. He drove, he shot from outside, and he played strong D. The Orlando game felt more fluky given the shot selection, and hence not so significant in my view.

    Here is the scoring sequence for the fourth.

    The Knicks started the fourth quarter it was 84-73, Orlando.
    At 10:55 in the quarter, Nate made a 19-footer, making it 84-75.
    At 9:45, Nate made his second shot of the quarter, 84-77.
    By 7:49, it was 89-77.
    At 7:50, Nate made a 3, and it was 89-80.
    At 7:30, Lee hit a shot and it was 89-82.
    At 7:20, Orlando hit a 3, 92-82.
    At 7, Nate hit a deuce, 92-84.
    At 6:11, Nate hit another deuce, 92-86.
    At 5:52, Orlando drained a deuce, 94-86.
    At 5:22, Orlando hit a couple fouls shots, 96-86.
    At 5:13, Nate hits a 20-footer, 96-88.
    At 4:56, Carter hits a jumper, 98-88.
    At 4:31, Carter hits again, 100-88.
    At 4:18, Nate hits a jumper, 100-90.
    At 3:57, Orlando drains a 3, 103-90.
    At 3:46, Nate hits short jumper, 103-92.
    At 3:18, Orlando hits shot, and a Nate and-one foul, 106-92.
    At 3:13, Nate hits 3, 106-95.
    At 2:15, chandler gets one of two, 106-96.
    At 2:14, Orlando gets foul shots, 108-96.
    At 1:45, Orlando hits 3, 111-96.
    at 1:07, Chandler hits deuce, 111-98.
    At :54, Orlando hits foul shots, 113-98.
    At :49, Nate hits lay up, 113-100.
    At :44, Orlando hits one foul shot, 114-100.
    At :35, Harrington dunks, 114-102. Game over.

  65. StevenU

    Frank O-I’ve sided with Nate, not because I see him as above reproach, mostly just because I think D’antoni is such a jerk, but you do make an excellent point with regard to the whole shooting at the wrong basket thing. I’ve noticed a trend in the last couple of years that I find very disturbing though perhaps not surprising. Very often-all too often, no shot is attempted at the end of quarters as the clock runs out. There is no (legitimate) excuse for this. The only thing I can guess is that players with the ball do not want to lower their shooting percentage. I find this inexcusable. There is absolutely no reason a shot, however far from the hoop, should be attempted at the end of every quarter. We have all seen the miracle “lucky” baskets that occasionally result. Nate happens to be very good at them. Even if there is a 1% chance the player with the ball owes it to his team to attempt a shot-there is absolutely nothing to lose-from a TEAM perspective. I’d not thought of his wrong way attempt through that lens. It’s a common occurrence, and does not in my mind in any way justify a month long benching, but I can not argue with D’antoni for being upset about it.

  66. danvt

    StevenU,
    I think it’s obvious to all the flaws as well as the better aspects of Nate’s game. I like that D’Antoni didn’t air it out in the press ala LB. I think my point was that, after this year, the coach is gonna be one of the few people on this team that is still around and it’s nice to see that he can make some choices that positively impact the team.

    I just thought, since I had soured on D’Antoni in November that I’d give him credit for December. He displayed some cajones that his predecessors didn’t and he got results that they didn’t. Nate clearly looked like a man on a mission and I think coach Mike deserves a little credit for motivating him and for taking control of his team.

  67. Brian Cronin

    Let’s look at a comparison of where Nate and the Knicks were at 6:12 left in the fourth quarter of each games.

    Orlando game – Knicks down six, Nate was 5 for 5 with 1 assist (and one turnover)

    Atlanta game – Knicks down eight (they did not cut it to six until 5:46), Nate was 2 for 3 with 4 assists

    But the first game Nate was much worse and the Knicks had no chance at winning the game.

    Do note that once the Knicks did cut the lead to four against Atlanta (on a Nate layup), Nate proceeded (after a possession which ended with a Chandler miss) to turn the ball over and then hoist up an ugly looking three that missed badly. Luckily, the Knicks defense held the Hawks to zero points on those three possessions, allowing Chandler’s putback on the next possession cut the lead to two.

    Even in overtime, Nate missed shots, turned the ball over and took a ridiculous looking three that happened to go in (you should see the replay, Crispino – who can’t hide his emotions for shit – freaks out when Nate shoots, all ready to rip him for the terrible shot when the ball goes into the basket).

    It’s the same guy!

    He’s a streaky scorer whose bad end of the Orlando game coupled with the Knicks playing terrible defense turned a feasible victory into the blowout it was before Nate took over early in the fourth (note that the Knicks trailed the Hawks by four points more than the trailed the Magic heading into the fourth quarter, yet the Magic game was never a contest) and whose good end of the Atlanta game coupled with good Knick defense turned a feasible victory into, well, a victory.

    I also meant to mention this earlier, but I forgot – if Nate’s “antics” were meant to be curtailed by the benching, then why did he get his return to the rotation a game after he supposedly was yucking it up with the crowd at the end of the Nets blow-out?

  68. Ted Nelson

    Z-man,

    60: He had a bad start. He was not playing horribly leading up to the benching, though, he seemed to be getting it together. The argument I was responding to was specifically that Nate was playing badly leading up to the benching. Considering how poorly Duhon and Chandler were playing up through the benching (save a couple of good games each), I find that argument ridiculous. He’s a combo-guard, so I think it’s unfair to expect 8 apg given his role. His rebounding was bound to come around at some point, I think, just like Duhon’s 3-pt shooting was bound to come around despite the horrible start. Reverting to the mean. He was not playing as well as he did during that Hawks game (if he could play that well consistently, he would be the best player in NBA history… 80% true shooting plus the assists, rebounds, etc…) but he was turning around a bad start and coming off an injury (which a lot of people site as the reason Chandler struggled early). It was not inevitable that the other individuals on the Knicks (especially Jeffries and Chandler) would play as well as they have over the past month, but they did. Why couldn’t Nate have participated in that renaissance?

    61: I wasn’t hung over, I was a little drunk though. I don’t dislike Duhon, I just don’t think he’s good enough to get so much leeway as a player and that his off-court history makes him a question-mark to get so much leeway as a leader who seems so high on seriousness and a sort of moral-righteousness (he was run out of Chicago as somewhat of a pariah, now he’s the Knicks leader…). Maybe he is a great leader and has been fresh and ready for every practice and game, but no one else seems to even wonder about it while constantly criticizing Nate mostly for things that don’t impact the game.
    I do think D’Antoni figuratively licks Duhon’s balls, so I don’t really have a problem saying that. Plenty of coaches (all?) have favorites and preferred players, so there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with it. I do think that Nate is an obvious candidate to play at PG, but I guess D’Antoni had his reasons for actively losing games by riding Duhon as he struggled so horribly for such an extended stretch.

  69. Ted Nelson

    “I posted his very good numbers for the 5 game period before the Phoenix game (18.8ppg/3.2 ast/1.2 r/.578fg%/.538 3pt%-in 27.2 mins).”

    Good call, StevenU. Hard to call that playing poorly.

    64: I don’t agree on D’Antoni. You make some justified criticisms, but overall I think he’s doing a good job.

    If the Knicks move Jeffries, I think that the CAN sign two max FAs even if the salary cap comes down: the max salary is a % of the cap. Whether two, or even one, max FAs that the Knicks want will sign with the Knicks is another issue.

  70. Ted Nelson

    “Too many teams have cap room for someone like Lee not to get $10 mil per.”

    Good call.

    Also, I saw a headline recently that the salary cap will not shrink as much as Stern initially indicated. It’s all speculation, but I never thought it would.

  71. jon abbey

    there is nothing funnier to me on this site than people STILL defending a washed-up and insane Stephon Marbury. if it was so personal from D’Antoni last year, why was he worthless in a role with Boston where virtually any contribution would have been welcome? why did no team have any interest in him this year? I can’t believe I even have to write these things.

  72. david

    Off topic for this thread, but does Indiana have the least mobile front line in history — they started Roy Hibbert, Josh McRoberts, and Mike DUnleavy yesterday, three of the biggest stiffs of all time (hibbert isn’t a bad player, but can move laterally). It’s going to be a weird game…

  73. StevenU

    jon abbey-you are talking about Steph, too-and dead bang wrong on that point-he failed in his stint with the Celtics in no small part because he was completely out of sync after being hung out to dry for months by D’amphony and yet-the Celtics did indeed offer him a contract to come back this season.
    Why on earth would such a good team want him back if he was, as you say, washed up???
    Stupidly, he turned it down. I’ll grant you that he may well be insane (also not something I find terribly funny-sad is more like it-the guy is a human being whether or not he is greatly resented for making a lot of money), but there was no indication whatsoever that he was “washed up” prior to his benching, and subsequent humiliation. Again, I’ll grant that he handled it very poorly-but by all accounts he was not given a fair chance by the new KNick regime-that is a fact, not an opinion. His total mental collapse occurred after that. If you know anything about his family history you might find his demise less of a laughing matter. He overcame tremendous odds to get where he got, even if he ultimately fell short as a leader or a winner in the NBA. He is only 32 (33?) and as a fan of the game and a person who appreciated his story, I still hope he will make a successful return to the NBA-maybe next year.

  74. Ted Nelson

    Frank O.,

    I tend to agree that Nate has not quite reached his potential on his career. However, even though Lee didn’t reach his potential until this season he was always a useful and valuable player. Nate was a valuable spark-plug off the bench, if nothing else. If Nate suddenly becomes a noticeably better player than he has been and it really clicks long-term, then I will agree that the benching was a great thing for him. I just don’t think that’s obvious yet based on one great game. A trend is starting to emerge of D’Antoni getting players to achieve (he is far more patient with some than others, but I guess maybe that’s inevitable).

    I don’t completely agree on defense. First, I think offense is just as much effort (i.e. doing the smart thing and what you are asked to do). Not just “trying” but making the effort to make the extra pass or move off the ball or not jack up a bad shot or drive instead of settling for a jumper or get an offensive rebound or set a good screen or play fundamentally sound basketball or put your shoulder in front of a shot blocker so your teammate can get to the hoop without any chance that guy will block his shot, etc. There are also defensive skills that just cannot be taught. Some guys waste those skills, just as some guys waste their offensive skills. And some guys overcome a lack of defensive skill through effort just as some guys overcome a lack of offensive skill through effort.
    I know that your viewpoint is the conventional wisdom on the subject, I just disagree with the conventional wisdom on the subject.

    I agree that Jeffries’ resurgence is great and unexpected. I would say that D’Antoni mentioned Jeffries as someone he liked from maybe even his initial press conference, so it’s not like he discovered him out of no where. I still feel that Jeffries is easily replaceable. Whatever he brings to the table with basketball IQ can be replaced by someone else who produces good stats and/or another smart veteran.

    “But if Nate loses focus, or his effort on that end is deficient, it is glaring.
    His man gets open shots, penetrates easily, and does great harm.”

    Can you really single out Nate here? Doesn’t this describe the entire Knicks defense really nicely throughout the decade up until the last month?

    I don’t think your Curry comparison is baseless, but I also don’t think it’s a good one. Curry has generally been a net negative to his team, except maybe one season in Chicago when they did everything possible to hide him and use him as a specialist. Nate has generally been a net positive.
    Curry committed himself to losing weight and been commended by his coaches, but he still stinks. I think he was just unfairly overrated as a teenager.

    “but his two years off has made him so rusty.”

    I don’t buy this. What about Bender’s years off? Both got an equal shot to play when they came back, and while Bender does fit with what the Knicks do Curry has a skill set they could sorely use.

    I generally feel as frustrated with Wilson Chandler as you do with Nate. The guy was always teasing us for two years. He’s put it together for a somewhat extended run now, but every game I just wait for the regression. Hopefully they can both keep it together.

    “Shoot the ball this way.”
    That’s a fair point.

    “I guarantee there was a play for Nate to get the ball and heave a shot. I guarantee it.”

    If there was a play drawn up for Nate to shoot on one basket and he turned around and shot on his own basket instead, that would be complete subordination. I think the benching would have started immediately if that were the case. I have no idea, though, and if that’s the case I would be on-board with benching him as of that moment.

    “I have said Nate tends to freelance and we have all witnessed it. Plays were called and were not executed.”

    I don’t know what plays are called. Generally D’Antoni’s offense is a freelance offense. And generally the better point guards and combo guards in the NBA freelance a lot.

  75. Z-man

    Ted, I don’t agree that Duhon was run out of town. He signed a free agent contract for the mid-level exception, and Chicago had other options at PG. All of the off-court evidence against him is conjecture. And since he’s been here, there has been nothing but sometimes bad play to criticize.

    Nate’s numbers were not bad during that stretch, but not anywhere near what he is capable of, except for his 3-pt shooting. Why was it taking him so long to get into the groove? Why did he suck so bad in the first 3 games of a contract year before he got hurt, especially after the lack of interest in him in during the off-season? The Knicks did him a favor by not signing him to the qualifying offer and he proceeded to stumble out of the blocks. Is it possible that he was out of shape at the beginning of the year? He mentions that he has been busting his tail running steps with Greg B., why didn’t he do that in the off-season? Certainly, if he needed the time to get his game together, you would think he would have needed a few games to get it together now. Frankly, I think the out of shape hypothesis is a real possibility.

    I honestly think that Nate has the game to be a triple-double threat on many nights, and to average 2-3 steals a game. He is immensely physically talented. In my view, the gap between performance and potential was way wider for Nate than it was for Duhon. Duhon just isn’t very good and never will be, he doesn’t have the talent or skillset that Nate does, he just runs the offense better. That Nate is now in his 5th year and still can’t displace Duhon at PG is evidence of distraction, underachievement and/or lack of commitment, especially for a guy his height. So the coach forced him to ride the pine for a while and think about who he wants to be as a player. He brought him back with 50 games left to show what he can really do. Nate has millions of dollars riding on it, so he better take advantage.

    Anyway, we’re going around in circles so you can have the last word if you want it.

  76. Ted Nelson

    I just watched the YouTube. If the Knicks were so desperate for a last second shot, why inbound it backwards? There were three Nets defenders in the backcourt, that means it was 3-2 in the frontcourt. They should have chucked it into the frontcourt to try to get a reasonable shot. Nate also had a guy right in his face, but he didn’t even appear to think about heaving it up… And Nate’s pretty strong, but is he their best 3/4 court shooter? I think it was Josh Boone in his face. Boone has over a foot on Nate, but has nothing on someone like Danilo.

    He took a couple of steps and then shot it, so I still don’t feel like the actual shot at the own basket was nearly as big a deal as people are making it out to be. I do think they should have heaved up a last shot, though.

  77. Ted Nelson

    Frank O.,

    69: Compare what Nate did against the Magic in that quarter against what the Knicks have done against the Magic this season. Compare it with what the rest of the league has done against the Magic.

    Howard is arguably the top interior defender in the world right now. If your outside and mid-range jumpers are falling, it’s not necessarily a good idea to take the ball at Howard.

    6 points with 6 minutes is close. How is that not close? If they had made a couple of defensive stops that game is a toss up.

    I agree that he was much better against the Hawks, but he did a whole lot for the Knicks in that loss. He’s been criticized for show-boating and not getting back on D in that game, which I think is incorrect. He’s been criticized for showboating in a blow-out, I also think that’s incorrect. He’s been criticized for their lack of defense, which I don’t even understand. It’s now being said that he was playing poorly leading up to the benching, which I also don’t think is correct.

  78. Ted Nelson

    Z-man,

    I am not talking specifically about Duhon leaving as a free agent. I am talking about his final season there. His minutes were reduced and there was a slew of articles written about his disagreements with the team and how he was a malcontent (not one article from one shady newspaper, this was like all season and everyone). I don’t know the extent of everything, but it is not fair to say that he was universally loved in Chicago and triumphantly walked away to a big payday in NY. The Knicks also purposely overpaid to give him a shorter contract, remember that he was reportedly about to sign a 3 or 4 mill per deal for 3 or 4 years. I think Walsh did the right thing and knew he was overpaying, but wanted to preserve 2010 cap space.

    The off-court stuff is not ALL conjecture. There are pictures and first hand accounts to back it up. The extent of it is conjecture, but Duhon’s rep is not completely unfounded. Maybe that’s a thing of the past… I don’t know. There was one noon or so Sunday (I think Sunday) game where Duhon just looked lost on the court. It wasn’t like his shots weren’t falling, it was like he was a wounded puppy lost out on the court. He had already started to have a couple good games at that point, then he just stunk. I’m not saying he was hungover, I’m just saying it’s a possibility.

    Are you seriously criticizing Nate for his start? How many Knicks can you criticize for the same thing? Several of them were/are also playing for a contract. Is it possible that he was already injured and trying to play through it? (I don’t remember what the injury was and not sure I ever knew how it was sustained.)
    He was out of shape? And my Duhon comments are conjecture? This is a guy who is only in the NBA because of the shape that he is in.

    Duhon was playing SO badly for so long that I really don’t think the gap between production and play was wider with Nate. At some point it is unfair to hold Nate to such a high standard. If he’s been a certain player for 5 seasons, there’s a possibility that’s the player he is capable of being. I think it’s a possibility that he’s been underachieving on his career, but I don’t think it’s a certainty.

    “That Nate is now in his 5th year and still can’t displace Duhon at PG is evidence of distraction, underachievement and/or lack of commitment, especially for a guy his height. So the coach forced him to ride the pine for a while and think about who he wants to be as a player. He brought him back with 50 games left to show what he can really do. Nate has millions of dollars riding on it, so he better take advantage.”

    Sorry, but this is pure conjecture and pretty extreme. Nate has not been given a chance to replace Duhon. You can state your opinion on why, but it’s an opinion. D’Antoni seems completely unwilling to replace Duhon no matter how poorly he plays over an extended stretch. So, my opinion is that it’s hard to criticize Nate too much.
    I think your take on how deliberate he was in benching Nate and bringing him back is out there.

    Personally, I am thinking that Marbury, Curry, Hughes, Darko, and Nate were all put in the same doghouse. That only Hughes and Nate have stood back up after getting knocked down. D’Antoni’s handling of Marbury was strange, but I’m not thinking it was unjustified.

  79. Frank O.

    We’re critical of Nate because more than any other Knick he has the potential to be great.
    Ted, I tried to explain why Nate gets singled out on the Knicks for bad play at the start of the season, for bad play on D, and for lame-brained goofing off. It is because he can be great. Broadening out an assessment to all other Knicks and asking why single Nate out means that you think all other Knicks are equal to Nate, and they are not.
    Lee is probably the other Knick, probably their best player, that you could compare Nate to, but Lee is playing all star level basketball almost every single night.
    You could say something about Chandler, but he doesn’t have Nate’s experience, yet.
    Harrington, Hughes are rent-a-players.
    Curry has become irrelevant.

    Gallo? A kid.
    Duhon has never been great, or even good. He’s having some moments now.
    No, Nate is special, he could be great, and so he faces scrutiny.
    That’s all I’m saying.

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