Another hard fought game and a valiant loss from our beloved Knicks; so why, oh why, am I feeling so sad tonight?
Well, I guess it has something to do with the new starting five/rotation employed by a seemingly bumbling (of lately) coach Fizdale. While I understand that the starting five with the three rookies was having some problems and had to be changed, I really don’t get how sending all three of them to the bench, starting Hezonja and Kanter and not playing Dotson can be seen as any other thing from a case of “I might have lost my damn mind”. Or maybe a diktat from the front office? Either way, I’m starting to get a bit worried about a few things. Did I overestimate Fizdale’s acumen? Did we underestimate the unknown meddling power of Perry/Mills? I don’t know; I’m just happy we lost because this one wasn’t certainly a good game to win for our development plans.
– Noah Vonleh (14 pts, 14 rebs, 2 ast, -3 +/-) is a different player when he starts – and when defenses leave him a bit of space to operate. Aside from the strong numbers you see between parenthesis, to which he added 3 steals and 1 block for good measure, his presence was felt throughout the game, with a thunderous slam to cap his night with 8:31 to go in the third quarter. Yeah, he missed 4 straight free throws in the closing minutes, but as I said, I’m happy with the loss, so I won’t scold him for those (but boy, did two of them look flat and ugly). If his three point stroke is semi-legit, which I think could be even with that flat arc of his, Vonleh is surely gonna find a home in the NBA for a long time coming (at the moment he’s shooting 32% from three on 1.4 attempts per game, which is not good but at least should keep defenses a bit on their toes if he’s wide open on the perimeter). If you ask me, at this point of the season he’s my MVP for the Knicks, which says a lot about the whole team. Vonleh was the only one of the new three new starters I have no issue with: he works his tail off night in and night out, and certainly deserves to start ahead of Knox.
– Tim Hardaway Jr. (32 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast, +10 +/-) put in the third straight 30 pts performance, and did so on just 21 shots. I’m no big Timmy fan, but his scoring workload is undeniable, and tonight he added a few things here and there to be a thorn on the Blazers’ side. A key feature of this year is the sheer number of free throws he’s shooting, a career-high 6.6 per game, good for 13th in the whole league. It doesn’t hurt that he’s converting them as his usual mid-80s clip. I’m still not convinced his salary is right, as he won’t win you that many games, but if life gives you lemon, you make a Tim Hardaway 25 ppg season and call it a day – hoping someone knocks on your door to trade for him. Bonus meager tidbit: his 32 points were the most for all players in the NBA tonight.
– Trey Burke (19 pts, 3 rebs, 3 ast, -15 +/-) has bounced back very strongly in the last three games after not playing in 3 of the previous 4. For the last three, he’s marching to the tune of 24.7 ppg on 67.8 TS% in just under 27 minutes per game. I’m really hoping other teams are watching now, as he’s putting on quite the show and I certainly wouldn’t mind adding a couple second rounders to our hoard. I know, I’m saying good things about players I’d like to see traded away, but isn’t that the point of rebuilding? I mean, what good could come from winning three or four games on the heels of a scorching Trey Burke night if it’s not to trade him as soon as you can? Luckily we didn’t win this game neither the Pels’ one, so I can’t complain too much about our overall record, but you know some night we’ll win a meaningless game on a great performance from one of our useless (if we’re speaking about development) veterans. For a night, he also took the crown of “minus King” from THJ, as he posted a game-worst plus/minus of -15.
– Mario Hezonja (2 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, +1 +/-) is starring in the critically acclaimed “How to lose your spot in the NBA in four years”, a masterful tale of fall from grace, sorrow and melancholy you can catch for another 30-ish nights on a cool off-Broadway venue near Penn Station. Seriously, Mario, this is how you play im your first start of the season after being extensively benched? You care this little about basketball? I remember you telling people that in Barcelona you were the one people should come look for, not Messi. Now, if you talk the talk, you gotta be able to walk the walk. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a guy so keen on looking so defeated and depressed on the court. At least Fiz cut his playing time quickly – only 17 minutes for him tonight – but not before Mario wandered around the court losing continuatively guys on defense and shooting the ball horribly. I thought he’d have a nice career in the League, but now he might be my least favorite Knick of the season.
– Kevin Knox (2 pts, 1 reb, 1 blk, -1 +/-) is looking like he should be Mario’s understudy in the aforementioned theater piece. In nights like these you really don’t understand what our brain trust saw in Knox when they chose to pick him. I want to be crystal clear: I’m not saying in any way that we should give up hope on him. It’s too early even for Knicks standard to think there’s nothing salvageable about him. I’m just saying, for the second game in a row, that I don’t know what to look for in Kevin to be able to acknowledge he has a future in this league. I look at him and my first thought is Joe Alexander. I’m desperately looking for silver linings here, but I don’t see any damaged Bradley Cooper to couple to this Jennifer Lawrence we have here.
– Frank had a quietly nice game, even dusting off a cool move driving to the rack with 3:33 to play in the third quarter. He played a little less than 29 minutes and was quite good at defending on Lillard and McCollum. He lost them a few times because of bad defensive rotations, but he certainly didn’t make the game easy for them everytime he got the assignment. Games like this act as a stern reminder that our guy is not suited to be a point guard, anyway. The Knicks dished out 22 assists, 3.5 more than their average for the year; Frank only contributed to one. Not that point guard ability is measured only in assists, but really, Frank tries and shies away from point guard responsibilites too often for my liking.
– Speaking of assists: Enes Kanter had a subdued game (posting a team high plus/minus!), scoring just 7 points and getting just 5 board, but tallied 6 assists. It’s like our inexistent offense forces him to become Tom Boerwinkle from time to time. He’s no Wes Unseld or Kevin Love, though. With 5:20 to play in the third stanza he missed an outlet pass to a streaking Knick by a good eight feet. I’m more accurate at hitting my TV with the remote from the other room when the Knicks play.
– I’m afraid of saying anything about Mudiay. Another game with a positive net rating, third game in a row with a TS% north of 60, not looking lost when driving to the rim. I can’t wait for the other shoe to drop, but I’m happy for him if he’s finally starting to get how to play in the NBA. Not that we care about that, seeing as he’s due to be out of here by the start of next season, unless something really horrible has happened in the meantime.
– Iso Zo really put the stress on the Iso part: 9 points on 5 shots, 3 turnovers and nothing else for the game. Welp, this kid sometimes is impalpable outside of points scored.
– I just want to see Mitch play. He’s an anemic defensive rebounder because he’s always in the wrong place, but he’s such a force of nature he’s almost assuredly must watch TV. 6 points, 5 boards (4 offensive ones!), 2 blocks, 2 steals and 1 assist in 18 minutes of play. He’d be easily averaging 10/7/2 as a second-round pick rookie if only one of our guards knew how to throw him two good lobs a game.
– Fiz, what’s the damn point in starting four guys with expiring contracts and a very low chance of being here next year (save for Vonleh, I hope) while totally benching a cost controlled asset like Dotson, who’s not playing that bad for the year? Hornacek, get out of that horn rimmed glasses sporting body!
– And again: I’m ok with losing the game. But why did Trey have to enter the game for Kanter with 1:43 to go and the Knicks set to defend in the next possession? Kanter is a sieve and we all now that, but Burke is a sieve who’s also a full 10 inches shorter than Enes… and guess how we ended up losing this one? On an offensive rebound putback by Evan Turner.
Next one will be tomorrow night in Boston. If there’s a game I’d like to win, it’s that one. Let’s show them ill-willed greens what we’re made of! Or not, but don’t start Mario again, please.