All that talk about pizza a few days ago really left me hungry for the delicious pie until I came back to Italy yesterday, so I did what any sane person would have done: even if Lady Farfa and I had just three hour of sleep between the two of us in the last 48 hours, we promptly went and ate our first pizza in a couple weeks.
Damn, it was as good as we remembered.
Sadly, it wasn’t the only thing that I remembered that well. Approaching this game, I hoped to see some development from our future pieces, and was instead treated to pretty much the same old story of the last six games, give or take: our young guys are stalling – which is predictable, even understandable for green players – or regressing, while our “veterans” are performing just mediocre enough to keep them in the game too much. The silver lining is that our so-called veterans aren’t neither that old nor weighing on our future cap space that much, which is a strong divergence from the past wasted seasons, but it’s hard to wash away the bitter aftertaste, even with the most amazing salsiccia e friarielli this world has to offer.
– Trey Burke (31 pts, 3 rebs, 2 ast, +6 +/-) had his second strong outing in a row tonight, scoring efficiently to the tune of 31 points on 20 shots in 29 minutes of play. He’s not a great playmaker by any means, but in the barren landscape that is our abysmal team offense his shot creating skills shine very bright from time to time. He was one of just two Knicks with a positive plus-minus and looked very inspired, even notching a couple steals on defense. I can’t help thinking that Trey will be the first Knick to get traded this season, as in today’s NBA he represents the best value you can extract from our roster among the disposable players (low salary, position of need, duration of the contract). I don’t think there’s any doubt left about what his ceiling his, and that’s “second-string PG for a middling contender”. I guess San Antonio or Memphis could like him for a brief stint.
– Enes Kanter (21 pts, 19 rebs, 3 ast, -4 +/-) put up a great stat line with his usual dominance of the offensive glass and voracity with regards to putbacks. I put him in this column because his output is hard to completely ignore and because it’s hard to find that many “good” performances, but honestly it’s dispiriting to see Enes play these days, even as he keeps making fantasy owners happy with his rebounding numbers. I already wrote something about it, but I can’t imagine how bad must be to be a teammate of his during this stint. Teams are clearly attacking him night after night in the PnR and he straightly refuses to do anything about it, at least in terms of effort (if you’re not born with the agility of a ballerina, you can’t teach that to yourself, but you can learn how to sweat it out on defense, dammit!). He also is exacerbating his tendence to grab the offensive rebound and ignore everything around him. I’m not sure Fiz means that when he says “You eat what you kill”: It’s not like I’m even angry at Kanter, I’ve just given up on his value for this team. Sadly we can’t even trade him, as his contract is too bloated and it’s not like there are that many teams needing a scoring center who kills your defense. He would be great as a situational player on a good team where you could call his number when you needed a little oomph around the basket; here he’s just taking up space and minutes while providing nothing for our future.
– Tim Hardaway (32 pts. 2 rebs, 2 ast, -24 +/-) completes the trilogy of useless quite efficient scoring nights. How can a thing be efficient and useless at the same time, you might ask? Welcome to your 2018-19 Knicks. They have played just 17 games this season but it looks like a clear trend: on any given night a guy or two will deliver the goods on offense, then you realize that his overall value was at best insignificant, since basketball is, at its heart, a team sport, and that guy looked like a competent opera singer performing only his solo act, completely oblivious to the fact that he was also supposed to provide baritonal backing vocals to the ensemble. You might single out his performance, but the show will be sorely lacking. Tim is that: an average player who’s not being bad at shouldering the scoring load but is performing poorly at everything else basketball. He’s dead last in plus/minus among fellow Knickerbockers, second to last in net rating (not counting poor Luke Kornet) to Kevin Knox while putting up the highest usage of the team and the fourth highest TS%. I guess the picture is starting to get well-defined.
– Mitchell Robinson (0 pts, 2 rebs, 1 stl, -3 +/-) had one of the nights we were worried about at the beginning of the season. He just played 9 minutes because of foul trouble, and looked totally overwhelmed by Vucevic, who’s not athletic but very crafty and able to get his defenders out of position with good activity in the paint. Robinson committed a couple of stupid fouls in the first four minutes and his night just unraveled from there. If only we had someone who could pass him the ball near the rim two or three times a quarter he could probably mitigate this bad defensive nights, but at the present moment there are nights like this one where he can’t be counted on, and that’s ok. It’s his 16th professional game in two years.
– Kevin Knox (4 pts, 2 rebs, 25% FG, -16 +/-) must really be a beast on 3-on-3 basketball. Rookies have a definite tendence to utterly suck, but usually you catch something in that sea of basketball horror that makes you think that guy could be a contributor for your team down the line. Frank has defense; Mitch has amazing potential as a rim running center and only needs to get better at some defending precepts; Dotson has competence on the boards and passable defense; Trier has shot creating ability. I don’t see anything in Knox. If he turns into a rotation player by the end of his second year I’ll be very surprised; I hope that’s what’s gonna happen, but if the kid had been selected in the midst of the first round and was out of, say, Gonzaga, he would be seeing much less playing time. I’m all for force feeding opportunities to unproven young players, but I don’t feel like Knox is doing anything to deserve these chances night after night. He’s shooting 33% from the field (and 34% from three, which is still not on par with the league averages), posting the lowest Reb% of the team, the second lowest Ast% to Mitch (who’s only touching the ball under the rim and on the perimeter for useless handoffs) and the lowest net rating, all the while having the fourth highest usage on the team. If I made you guess, based on their numbers, which one of our rookies was the undrafted one, I think you’d have a hard time not pointing out to Knox, unless you went for Dolan’s Razor.
– Frank Ntilikina (0 pts, 2 rebs, 2 ast, +10 +/-) impacted the game in a very visibile way just with his defense, as suggested by his team-high plus-minus. As for his offense: he shot only once in 22 minutes. This time he wasn’t just timid: he never got the ball to shoot, more or less. I’m becoming very concerned with the Knicks offense. How is it even possibile to record just 12 assists on a night where you score 117? Fizdale better start putting in the work with X’s and O’s, or the NY press’ leash will get shorter by the day.
– Emmanuel Mudiay seems a bit improved. The problem is that his starting point was so low that an improved Mudiay is still nothing to write home about. He’s posting career highs on advanced stats as WS/48 (.052), VORP (0.1), TS% (54.6), and none of them are good. On defense he looks better, but his DRtg is the lowest of his whole career. I agree with the principle that we have to see what we have with him, but if this is the improved Mudiay, well, I’ll pass (but Zo won’t, hehehe).
– Allonzo and Dot played just 13 minutes apiece. Trey Burke played 29 minutes and Kanter 38. Definitely not pleased with Fiz tonight. What good comes from nights where you don’t play your rookie contract guys to pursue a win (and fall very short of that, just look at the final score)? This one was positively Hornacek-like.
– The Magic started 13 for 15 from the field. Who knew that removing our two best perimeter defenders from the starting lineup would yield such a result?
Well, another loss weighing on our record, which is tank-good. Let’s try to stay positive and wait for the Blazers to come to town on Tuesday, where Lillard’s going to torch anyone not named Ntilikina for 40 points. I hope to see a different starting unit but, more importantly, a rotation that has both eyes on player development.