The Knicks played a pair of games this weekend, and came out with a 1-1 split. I figure I’d split my thoughts between the pros and cons…
- First off I was pleasantly surprised to see the Knicks be competitive early and take the lead at times against the defending Eastern Conference Champs on the road. New York had a 5 point lead going into the fourth quarter. Last year they feel behind early so many times, and folded against the league’s better teams.
- The most drastic change I’ve noticed is in Jamal Crawford. So far on the season, Crawford has hit 16 of 32 shots, and 15 of 16 free throws. Had he given back to back performances like this last season, I would have chalked it up to luck. Whereas in the past he’d use his shake and bake crossover for creating separation on a 20 foot jumper, he’s now using that same move to get closer to the hoop. Not only is this giving him better shots, but he’s also finding his teammates more. Normally I don’t get excited over 50% shooting over 2 games, but I’ve noticed this change in Jamal during the preseason. If he keeps this up, he could crawl his way out of my doghouse and into my five.
- Nate Robinson is getting good playing time, at least until he tweaked his hamstring half way through Sunday’s match. Robinson is scoring at a phenomenal rate, and lost at least 2 assists to fumbled passes. Robinson showed he’s taken a major step in his maturation with his hard foul on LeBron. James was going in for an easy layup, and Robinson fouled him the proper way – preventing him from scoring while not crossing the line into a flagrant foul. LeBron even acknowledged the foul by slapping hands with Nate after the play.
- During the offseason, many people wondered if Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry could co-exist. Much like free markets and communism in China, the two supposedly destructive forces are working fine together. As I said earlier, both players are seeing their scoring dip slightly, but otherwise there is no matter/anti-matter explosions. Randolph’s rebounding on the defensive end is a pleasant addition as well.
- I like the shortened rotation. Take out Balkman’s 40 seconds in game 1, and you have two 8 man rotations. I couldn’t be more thrilled than to see Malik Rose and Jerome James get 2 DNPs. And while I would love to see Wilson Chandler, Randolph Morris, and Mardy Collins more, if the Knicks are a competitive team, they shouldn’t be giving lots of minutes guys that need to develop. In a way if my choices are not seeing those three in order to keep Rose, Jeffries, and James on the bench, I’m all for it. Letting the Knicks’ main rotation get more familiar with each other early is a good tactic for early in the season. Later on they can ease the rest of the team in.
- You can’t like David Lee getting only 25 minutes a night. Lee has played well in the minutes given to him, but no matter what he does it seems he can’t earn more. He definitely compliments the team better than the duo of Curry & Randolph. There have been so many times that Lee gets himself open close to the hoop, and he’s a strong finisher. Lee also showed a new knack for creating his own shot from the low post. And of course he’s one of the best rebounders in the league.
- The Knicks are awful on defense – especially on the perimeter. Without further inspection it’s hard to pinpoint the exact problem, but I’ve concentrated on Marbury tonight and he’s definitely one of the culprits. His biggest weakness is staying focused on the defensive end. A handful of times tonight he collapsed towards the middle, and lost track of his guy. Unfortunately Marbury’s man would be found by his teammates for an open trey. New York let Cleveland shoot 54.5% from three, and Minnesota 52.9%. Those are awful numbers, and must improve.
- Despite all the individual progress, the team hasn’t shown much improvement. While I noted Cleveland is the defending Eastern Conference champs, they’re shorthanded, and some people aren’t predicting them to be amongst the league’s best teams this year. Meanwhile Minnesota is practically last year’s Boston team that won 24 games. Yet the Knicks lost to the first, and the latter had the ball with 11 seconds and was only down by three points. With all this improvement you’d expect a tad more from New York. It’ll be interesting to see how they proceed this week with Denver, Orlando, and Miami.