Mitchell Robinson Still Out For Tonight’s Game

Holy shit! I thought Mitch might make it back for the playoffs, but I was thinking second round for sure (and even there, it wasn’t like I was confident in it happening). If he’s a game-time decision tonight, that means he is actually seriously close to returning. If not tonight, then soon and that would be amazing.

I’d probably continue to start Noel, just to avoid fucking with his head, as apparently he really wants to start. Just let Mitch close the game out.

Apparently it was just some BS. Mitch is still not close to returning. Boo.

ESPN.com: New York Knicks’ Julius Randle wins NBA’s Most Improved Player Award

From ESPN.com:

Few expected the New York Knicks to make a push for the playoffs, let alone come away with home-court advantage in the first round. Maybe even fewer expected the jump Julius Randle made this season

On Tuesday night, Randle was officially awarded for it when he was named the NBA’s 2020-21 Most Improved Player.

“I just wanna say thank you to everybody involved,” Randle told reporters on a videoconference shortly after being named the winner. “I mean it truly was a team thing. Everybody in the Knicks organization, top to bottom, I can’t thank everybody enough.

“All my teammates, everybody, they trust me and empower me. I just wanna thank them for allowing me to lead them. And then my family, my wife, my son, everybody, like everybody, has played a part in helping me continue to become the best version of me on and off the court.”

Randle’s son, Kyden, surprised his dad with the award after the Knicks’ practice on Tuesday. Randle received 98 first-place votes out of a possible 100. Detroit’s Jerami Grant, who finished second, received the other two. Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. finished third.

Congrats to Randle! It was well-deserved.

NY Post: Trae Young sinks Knicks in heartbreaking Game 1 loss to Hawks

From Marc Berman:

It was as earsplitting as the Garden has been in years, let alone this pandemic season when the building’s been mostly empty.

But Hawks point guard Trae Young was louder on Sunday night. He quieted the roar and Atlanta escaped with a 107-105 victory over the Knicks in a Game 1 thriller on a night Julius Randle’s playoff debut was a quiet dud.

In his own first playoff appearance, Young hit the game-winner with 0.9 seconds left as he deked defensive specialist Frank Ntilikina, drove past him with a series of crossover moves and hit his patented floater over Randle to break the tie. Suddenly, 15,000 frenzied fans who had chanted his name in vain earlier in the night went still.

After his basket, Young took his fingers to his mouth and made a gesture of shushing the crowd that chanted his name in profane fashion beginning with his first 3-point make in the first quarter.

“I’ve always looked at it as I’m doing something right,” Young said. “If I’m offending them with my play that they hate me that much, I’m obviously doing something right.’’

It was such a tough loss that I didn’t feel like doing a post-game post last night, so here it is now.

That sucked.

But obviously, they lost by two points, it’s not like they got their ass kicked. I wouldn’t lean too much on “Our guys shot poorly” when they also had key players who shot terribly (until making their shots late when it counted, which was true for Randle, as well, as he hit a contested three that put the Knicks up 101-100 late in the game), but I think whenever you lose by two points scored late in the game, it means you clearly were in the game. Young just was the best player on the court last night. Let’s hope that’s not the case on Wednesday.

I sometimes think Thibs just continues to start Payton to see how strong the power is on his “appeal to authority.” The Payton thing was a miss, but otherwise, I think Thibs did a fine job coaching last night. I think the Hawks just had better players last night. At the end of the game, there are only a handful of Knicks you actually want to have the ball (or rather, there’s only a handful of Knicks who ever will shoot the ball) while the Hawks got big threes from DeAndre Hunter and Bogo (who hit one of the coldest-blooded threes you’ll ever see, with a muffled pass and a defender draped all over him he somehow squeezed out a game-tying three from the corner) and obviously Young feels confident in going to Gallo (who I practically expected to do one of the wrestling heel moves where he tears off his Hawks jersey to show he was wearing a Knick jersey all along, that’s how much he hurt the Hawks last night. He was practically the Knicks MVP), Huerter, Collins and Capela, as well (and Lou Williams was outstanding himself when he took over the offense for a while). However, calling his own number was typically the right call for Young, as he sliced and diced the Knicks strong defense with his insane speed.

Now, having Alec Burks inbound the ball with less than a second left when he’s the guy you probably want taking that shot? Probably not the best idea, but overall, the Knicks lost because Trae Young had a superstar game and Randle did not. I don’t even really mean that as a knock on Randle, but just saying that Young had a superstar game and he did not and the Hawks won by just two points. It’s really as simple as that.

Let us hope that the Knicks get even on Wednesday.

2021 NBA Playoffs Game Thread: Knicks vs Hawks, Game 1…of the Playoffs. Meaning the Knicks are in the Playoffs.

The Knicks host the Atlanta Hawks as they play in a playoff game for the first time in eight years (interestingly, also the last time that they hosted the first game of a playoff series).

One of the concerns about the Knicks was every game being played like Game 7 and the team possibly being worn down and then the NBA…decided to give the playoff teams all a week off. Thanks, NBA!

So the Knicks are well-rested, you know Thibs has been game-planning this for a week, the crowd is going to be deafening in support of the Knicks. Everything is set for the Knicks taking it right to the Hawks starting in Game 1. Remember, the Knicks swept the Hawks in the regular season. Granted, the Hawks were rarely healthy in those matchups and now they’ll have some healthier guys shooting threes, but let’s hope that that doesn’t matter.

It all comes down to the Knicks just taking care of business on their home court.

Let’s go, win Game 1, Knicks!

Oh, I almost forgot, as part of our all-poll content, here you go…

Who would you like to start at the 1 for the Knicks in Game 1?

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Knicks vs. Hawks Playoffs Preview

It’s been so long since we’ve done a Knicks playoff preview that I am unsure how to actually do one. So let me do it as a matchups sort of deal.

POINT GUARD

The Hawks’ star player is Trae Young, a talented scorer and disher who will forever be known as the guy that the Hawks foolishly thought was better than Luke Doncic. Still, he’s an excellent player in general, although you would have to believe that his strategy of flopping his way to foul calls will not work as well during the postseason. However, at the same time, he lost out on an All-Star spot to Jaylen Brown playing with half a lung, so how good is he really? Lou Williams backs him up and that’s like having Elfrid Payton playing point guard for you. Not a good idea. Derrick Rose, meanwhile, is a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year. Is Trae Young a finalist for any award? Nope, so I think it is clear that this one is Advantage: Knicks

WINGS

The Hawks got a boost when they received Bogdan Bogdanovic back from a major injury earlier in the year. That guy shoots a ton of threes and makes a lot of them. Deandre Hunter has played well and he’s been a strong defender (and it’s really weird looking at the Pelicans and thinking, “Huh, wouldn’t Deandre Hunter make a lot more sense for them than Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker?” What an odd trade for them that was). Lou Williams is basically the ghost of Lou Williams at this point, but that’s still relatively not awful. Kevin Huerter is a nice glue guy who is somehow the #2 guy on the team in minutes per game and Tony Snell somehow has hit 56% of his threes this year. The Knicks, on the other hand, have the steady combination of RJ Barrett and Reggie Bullock as their wings, with Bullock’s strong defense and excellent outside shooting leading to him likely finally cashing in on his career (he’s literally made the same amount in his career as Frank Ntilikina, which is insane). Alec Burks plays the Lou Williams role on this team, only he does it better than Lou Williams at this point in their respective careers and Immanuel Quickley can obviously light it up when need be. Cam Reddish will miss the series, which almost tipped this thing in the Hawks’ favor, but it’s still Advantage: Knicks

POWER FORWARD

John Collins is a good player. Not a good defender, but he’s a good player overall. Danilo Gallinari is a fine stretch four who can really help the Hawks soar when they have one of their crazy “Everyone shooting three pointers” lineups out there. Julius Randle, though, is quite possibly an All-NBA player this year. And since he’s been playing 57 minutes per game, he is better used to playing more minutes in the playoffs (at least I hope that that math checks out). Advantage: Knicks

CENTER

Clint Capela is a lot to deal with, but at the same time, he was traded so that the Rockets could start a 5 foot 3 guy at center, so how good can he really be? Nerlens Noel, meanwhile, has little twigs for fingers and yet can block shots like crazy and Taj Gibson apparently shoots himself up with the blood of the younger Knicks (this is why Kevin Knox, Theo Pinson and Jared Harper don’t play much. Too much blood loss) and is playing like he’s 27 again. This is actually the tightest category, I think, but still…. Advantage: Knicks

COACH

Nate McMillan whines and believes that the NBA is having the Knicks and Hawks play on Sunday to…benefit the Knicks, somehow? Tom Thibodeau, though, does things just to make sure that appeals to authority can still be invoked, so that’s a win for Thibs. Thibs, also, is a finalist for Coach of the Year and McMillan isn’t even the official coach of the Hawks, so how good can he be? Advantage: Knicks

When you add in the advantage of the roaring crowds at MSG, I pick the Knicks to win this one in three games (four if three games is mathematically impossible).

Also, as part of our all-poll content (I think we all know that the move to all-poll content here was why the Knicks became so good this season)…

Who will win this series and in how many games?

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Knicks 2020-21 Regular Season Report Cards

We have time to kill, so let me quickly grade the Knicks regular season efforts and you can all chime in with your own grades.

Here’s the big rule – A is the highest grade you can get. I hate that, like, “A” “A+” and “A++++” or whatever. This is like the NBA max. Once you get it, you get it. We all know some As are better than other As, but they’re still an A, so just be happy with it.

Julius Randle – A

I mean, duh. The dude might even make the All-NBA team. Kind of a no-brainer.

Reggie Bullock – A

The fascinating thing about Reggie Bullock is that there is a very good chance that he’s only still on the team because they gave him a big 1+1 contract on the first day of free agency without checking to make sure he was, you know, healthy, and he felt so bad after he failed his physical that he signed for the room exception for a two year deal, so after a terrible injury-plagued first year, he was so cheap in year two that they had to keep him (as why would you pass on a guy making so little money?) and he then turned out to be precisely the player that they were hoping they were getting the other year, only better. Great defense and big-time shooting, Bullock has made himself a lot of money this season.

Derrick Rose – A

It’s funny, I was actually very much pro Derrick Rose being an asset for a playoff team. His performance last year was encouraging enough that I really thought he would be useful as a Lou Williams-type player for a top four playoff team. However, I was thinking more obvious playoff teams like the Clippers, and thus I didn’t see Rose fitting in with a team that looked on the periphery of the playoff scene. Well, as it turned out, Rose has been a big addition to a top four playoff team, it just turned out to be the Knicks! He’s played his best ball in almost a decade and also has made himself a lot of money this season.

Alec Burks – A

We were all shocked that no playoff team was willing to give Burks a multi-year deal for more than he got for one year from the Knicks because he just had a good year last season and played for a playoff team (after a trade deadline deal from the tanking Warriors to the pre-Morey, middle of the playoff pack Sixers). Burks has been instant offense and when the rest of the team sometimes falls into a funk, Burks has been there to bail them out. He has also made himself a lot of money this season.

Nerlens Noel – A

Ever since foolishly turning down a big money extension early in his career, this former lottery pick has been forced to scrounge around for short-term, low-level contracts. He signed with the Knicks in the hopes of building up his resume as the starter and found out that he wasn’t going to even be the starter, which pissed him off enough that he fired his agent (amusingly, the actual starter, Mitchell Robinson, also fired that same agent for bringing Noel here in the first place). But then Mitchell Robinson got hurt and Noel stepped into the starting role and was excellent. His ability to approximate Mitchell Robinson’s skills has been invaluable. He’s also made himself a lot of money this season.

Taj Gibson – A

When Mitchell Robinson’s injury forced Noel to move into the starting lineup, the Knicks needed a new backup center and somehow, no team had even bothered to pay the minimum to bring Taj Gibson in and so he stepped up and has played inspired basketball for the Knicks, even moving to the closeout part of the game over Noel at times due to his stronger offensive skills. If he were a lot younger, he would have made himself a lot of money this season, as well, and now that I think about it, is it possible that he has made himself a little more money? Might a team be willing to give him, like, $4 million next season? I assume he’ll be a Knick no matter what (anyone know what the Early Bird rules are if a player plays for a team in back-to-back season, but not really concurrently. I think since he didn’t play for any other team, it still counts as two seasons for Early Bird rights, so the Knicks might be able to offer him a nice small raise to keep him going over the cap).

Immanuel Quickley – A

When you can arguably get the best performance from an NBA rookie with the #25 pick, you have to be happy with that. Quickley has shown some bad rookie habits that have led to Thibs to basically give him an incredibly short leash, where basically it’s like he has a heat check each game. “Is he on today? Okay, he’ll play big minutes.” “Is he off today? Okay, he’ll be benched most of the game.” But for a rookie to be at that level is still very, very impressive. A huge part of the team’s future.

RJ Barrett – A

I really didn’t want to give RJ an A, but then I thought, whatever, an A or a B+ is basically the same thing, let’s just be happy and give him the A. RJ has successfully transformed his game in his second season and will likely transform it again in his third season and become a superstar. His defense has been excellent and you have to love how clutch he’s been in big games this season. He just needs to also make some shots at the start of the game, as well.

Mitchell Robinson – Prorated A

Mitch is weird. I don’t feel right giving him an overall A when he’s missed half the season, but he also did play half the season, so an incomplete sounds wrong, so I’ll just grade him on how he played in the half of the season that he played, which was excellent. He was basically Nerlens Noel, but better, and Nerlens Noel has been excellent. If they could find a way to keep the two-headed monster of Mitch and Noel, that’d be amazing.

Obi Toppin – C+

He didn’t have a good rookie season, but he has played a lot better recently. I don’t think he really has a future here, but I think he could have a future in the NBA period, which I wasn’t sure about early in the season.

Frank Ntilkina – Prorated C+

His numbers are the best they’ve ever been, which isn’t that great, and he never plays (120 less minutes played than Austin Rivers, who hasn’t played on the team in months), but I dunno, he’s had some good moments when he’s played, so…yay? And hey, maybe he’ll be the Knicks starter in the playoffs. Who knows.

Elfrid Payton – D+

I mean, he had some good games, right? He’s obviously being asked to play a certain type of way that isn’t the way he normally plays, so that’s going to take a toll on him a bit as a player, but whatever, he’s still been bad.

Kevin Knox – D

He’s just a waste of a roster spot at this point. And that’s with him making a lot of strides in some areas, but like Toppin, a lot of those numbers are from games where they can’t even keep him on the court, so it’s kind of like fool’s gold.

Everyone else is an incomplete. Except Luca Vildoza, who gets an A just because.

Tom Thibodeau – A

The fact that the Knicks have a top three defense (they moved just sliiiiiiiiiightly ahead of the Jazz in the last game, so it’s really like a tie for third) honestly doesn’t shock me. I’ve seen coaches like Thibs do this all the time. Getting teams to play defense is one of the areas where I firmly believe that coaches make a huge difference. It’s why I picked the Knicks to win 31 games, as I thought Thibs would make them a good defensive team and good defense in the NBA is like three-point shooting in college basketball, it keeps you in games you wouldn’t normally stay in. So that part didn’t surprise me (here’s some past examples. Phoenix Suns defense a year before Scott Skiles took over – 19th. Skiles’ first season there – 3rd. The Bulls went from 21st in defense a year before Skiles got there to 16th when he took over as interim coach the next season to 2nd in his first full season there. Milwaukee wasn’t as dramatic, but it was still literally last in defense the year before he got there to 15th in his first year to second in his third year). In other words, the top defensive coaches have historically done this sort of thing. It’s not shocking. What is more shocking to me is that Thibs has managed to cobble together a functioning offense here. Not a good offense, but good enough to compete, but really, moreover, it’s the fact that he coaches every game like it is Game 7 and that has affected his players, as well. They choke away leads like every NBA team does, but unlike those other NBA teams (and every Knicks team we’ve been watching for years except for the 2012-13 team that now looks like Jason Kidd did some sort of voodoo shit on them), they then get them back. Look at the Spurs and the Hornets games – most teams lose those games, but not a THibs-coached team. So getting them to get to be a good enough offensive team to pair with the defensive improvement (which is also partially from Thibs’ favorites Rose and Gibson joining the team and playing like they played for Thibs back in Chicago) and getting their temperament to a point where they wobble but don’t break is what has turned them from a 31 win team to a 41 win team.

Thibs’ Coaching Staff – A

The fact that, like, every Knick coach is discussed when a coaching opportunity opens up says a whole lot. Luckily, only Woodson actually got a job (a job that was clearly meant for Brad Stevens, right? You don’t spend all of that money with the end goal of getting Mike Woodson, right?), so this great coaching staff will be back next season almost entirely intact. To be fair, though, after Keith Smart, it is hard to not look like a genius assistant coach.

Leon Rose – A

Rose was most impressive in what he didn’t do. He didn’t panic and he just let the chips play where they lay this season and trusted in Thibs to get the most out of this roster, while adding value contracts like Noel and Burks, drafting a stud rookie in Quickley and then rewarding the early strong play by getting Thibs Rose (and a time machine for Rose). Brock Aller is a star and heck, maybe Scott Perry isn’t even useless when paired with smarter co-workers. Rose seems to like having a bunch of different voices and so the whole is likely even better than the sum of its parts. That’s nice to see.