How unlikely was yesterday’s game? The Knicks didn’t falter in the 4th quarter (unlikely event #1). Crawford had the ball for the last shot & drove to the hoop (unlikely event #2). When the defense colapsed, instead of taking the shot, Crawford passed the ball (unlikely event #3) to Eddy Curry who caught it (unlikely event #4). Curry finished with a dunk, was fouled, & hit the free throw. The Knicks had a chance to seal it up, but Steve Francis missed both free throws (unlikely event #5), and the Knicks still held on to win (unlikely event #6).
I was absolutely thrilled when Crawford hit a cutting Curry with the ball. Too often Crawford forces up a jumper. Too often there is a guy wide open on the floor that the guards don’t see, and I end up screaming “pass the ball.” The Knicks’ offensive scheme isn’t so bad, it’s that they don’t have the guards to implement it. Take a fast break from Tuesday’s game. The Knicks had a clear 3 on 1. Marbury in the middle, Francis on the left wing. Marbury passes the ball to Francis, and the defender steps towards Stevie. Now anyone who has played basketball knows at this point if you’re on the wing, you pass the ball back to the middle for an easy basket. At worst you pass fake and go up with your left. What does Francis do? Drive baseline under the basket for a reverse attempt with his right. There isn’t a point guard in the league that would have done what Francis did, and that’s a problem with the Knicks’ lineup. They have all these shoot first guards who aren’t used to passing.
However there is one guard that is surprising me with his passing skill. I wrote this about Nate Robinson this summer:
The Knicks coaching staff has asked Nate Robinson to become more of a point guard and get his teammates involved with the offense. Unfortunately the message is not getting through, as Robinson has taken 2.6 shots for every assist he?s dished out. All too often Nate has sped off to the hoop with a cadre of defenders abandoning their duties to prevent the diminutive guard from scoring. With a host of teammates open on plays like these Robinson still refuses to pass the ball. Additionally Nate has issues with his shot selection, as his summer 42% eFG would attest to. Mark Aguirre has regularly benched Nate, including removing him early in the first quarter of the Kings game after the guard forced up a shot.
Robinson?s fearlessness allows him to get to the hoop on offense, grab rebounds on both ends of the court, and talk smack during the course of the game. Nonetheless he needs to increase his court vision because he?s not going to continue to make a living if the entire league knows he can?t pass when driving to the rim.
Well Nate has certainly gotten the message. While his assists/minute doesn’t back it up, probably due to the ball-sharing offense New York runs, Nate seems to understand the importance of passing the ball. He still has the best pass I’ve seen from a Knick guard this year, a stop on the dime in the paint dish to Lee. His increased awareness means teams can’t double or triple team him as he goes to the hoop, because Nate might just hit the open guy cutting to the hoop. And although he hasn’t seen a big increase in his assists, Nate’s shooting has gone from 46% last year to 53% this year (eFG%). Robinson isn’t about to turn into the next Muggsy Bogues, but by keeping defenses honest he’s giving himself a cushion when shooting.