2011 Game Thread: Knicks @ Bulls

It’s been 5 days since the Knicks have played, and I don’t know about you but I’m itching for some action. New York heads into Chicago to face the Bulls, a team that seems to have improved from a year ago. The 2010 Bulls were 27th on offense, and this year currently rank 15th. I know it’s only 3 games, but Derrick Rose’s scoring is up 8 points (28.2 pts/36) from last year’s average, although his turnovers have skyrocketed as well (5.1 to/36). It’ll be interested to see how those progress as the season wears on. Joakim Noah is still dominating on the boards (5.1 oreb/36, 13.8 reb/36), and the Knicks will have to keep him and teammates Taj Gibons and Omer Asik from giving the Bulls second chances. For those that are unfamiliar with Asik, he’s Chicago’s version of Mozgov, but just replace fouls with injuries.

The Knicks will have Anthony Randolph, who is back from his ankle injury. D’Antoni has reportedly said that the youngster wouldn’t see a lot of minutes early, but wasn’t against expanding his role based on production. Other things to observe is Stoudemire’s high turnover rate (much like Rose), Gallinari’s slump (another 11 minute game and you have to figure he’s injured), Landry Fields textbook play (a joy to watch), Wilson Chandler’s TS% (especially in the fourth quarter), and Roger Mason’s minutes (will he get any with Randolph back). Should be good stuff.

Game 1 Recap: Knicks 98 – Raptors 93

The last time the Knicks played a game that counted, Earl Barron logged 40 minutes. David Lee played 33 and Sergio Rodriguez 20. Bill Walker led the team with 28 points and Chris Duhon chipped in 5 assists. The Raptors piled up 73 points before halftime of last season’s finale at the Air Canada Centre en route to a 131-113 blowout of the blue and orange. All the while, a dreadlocked big man named Chris Bosh watched, injured, from the Raptors’ bench. “No matter,” we told ourselves, “he’ll be ours in a couple months, and a certain headband-wearing, chalk throwing, triple doubling Global Icon along with him.”

What a difference a summer makes.

Tonight, the Knicks took to the same court in Toronto. Chris Bosh wasn’t in the building, nor was LeBron, nor Lee, Rodriguez, Barron, or Duhon. In fact, of the 12 Knicks on the active roster that night in April, only three were in the house this evening (Douglas, Gallo, Walker — Chandler was inactive with an injury at the end of last season). Change was the story of the night and, when that is the case, you can typically expect equal parts excitement and growing pains. And so it was.

The Knicks put together an adequate if uninspiring performance, winning 98-93 in a game that would not have been that close but for some spotty perimeter shooting and an inability to stay in front of Toronto point guard Jarret Jack, who penetrated to the tune of 5 layups, 4 free throw attempts, and some nice dump-off assists following successful drives to the rim. After staking themselves to a quick 16 point lead, the Knicks slogged their way to a 4 point halftime edge and briefly trailed early in the fourth quarter before Wilson Chandler – who at age 23 passes for one of the old guard on this overhauled roster – rattled off a series of Carmelonian isolation sets that bought the Knicks some breathing room.

From there, the biggest, brightest, and most expensive of the newcomers, one Amar’e Stoudemire, carried the Knicks home, scoring 7 of his otherwise unassuming 19 points during a 1:31 stretch late in the fourth quarter. His burst pushed the lead to eight points, each of which the Knicks would need to hold on to an opening night victory. I mean that literally; a final unimpeded Jarrett Jack drive would have been enough to erase a two-point deficit in the last ten seconds, but the three point margin meant he had to kick it out to Linas Kleiza, who airballed a corner three into Danilo Gallinari’s waiting arms. Two free throws later — converted with little drama by another newcomer, Raymond Felton — the Knicks were off to a 1-0 start.

A night that started with change and hope ended with a win. Let’s hope the Knicks can keep that up; it’s the only change that really matters.

    Player Ratings (in order of minutes played):

Raymond Felton (37 min, 15 pts, 6 reb, 6 ast, 3 to, 6/14 fg, 1/4 3p, 4/4 ft): Very solid debut by the Knicks’ new point guard. Ran a high-octane offense for stretches of the first half but didn’t force the break when it wasn’t there. Could have done a better job with Jack on the defensive end, but didn’t get any help on switches (and Douglas was the culprit for many of Jack’s better moments — we’ll get to him later). All in all, he was an impressive floor general who played better than his stats. B+.

Amar’e Stoudemire (36 min, 19 pts, 10 reb, 2 blk, 9 to, 7/16 fg, 5/6 ft): The turnovers are the first thing that jump out and, to be honest, the number surprises me. I thought they would be high but it certainly didn’t feel like 9. Mostly, he seemed kind of out of it, not quite in tune with his new point guard, not really commanding a lot of attention against a defense with nobody worthy of defending him. I’m tempted to say I liked him better on the defensive end than on offense tonight, if only because his athleticism makes him capable of the type of high-flying swats that we haven’t seen since the days of Marcus Camby. In the end, a forgettable debut, but a huge 2 minute stretch in the fourth quarter and zero signs of anything we should be worried about once he and Felton get in sync. B-.

Danilo Gallinari (33 min, 12 points, 6 reb, 1 ast, 0 to, 3/9 fg, 2/5 3p, 4/4 ft): Not good. Bad, even. The only Knick with a negative +/-. That can be a fairly meaningless stat on an individual game basis, but it felt pretty appropriate tonight. His shot was off and, while he has the ability to do other things to affect the game, he was mostly invisible tonight. At least he got 6 boards, which shouldn’t be a big deal for a 6’10” forward but in his case represents progress. No real reason for concern, his shooting will improve both in terms of percentages and the number of looks he clears himself for. We all know that he’ll be able to score efficiently in high volumes on a lot of nights this season. Tonight just wasn’t one of them. C-.

Landry Fields (30 min, 11 points, 4 reb, 4/8 fg, 3/6 3p): For me, the best part of the night. I mean, the kid is just everywhere. Don’t even look at the stat line because its irrelevant. All the cliches that we use to talk about glue guys are in play here: he does the little things, he’s in the right place at the right time, he doesn’t need plays drawn up for him, he plays better than his numbers, he makes the most of his talent, etc. etc. etc. Just every single meaningless cliche personified. He ran down loose balls, he got big rebounds, he waited for his shot and made half of his threes. He can absolutely start on this team, he’s a much better fit than Chandler with the first unit. Didn’t think he looked out of his depth athletically, which was the worry, but then again he will face much better opposition down the road. I suppose time will tell, but I couldn’t have asked for much more out of his debut. A.

Wilson Chandler (29 min, 22 pts, 8 reb, 0 to, 10/18 fg, 1/3 3p, 1/2 ft): Listen and listen good — he is the perfect 6th man for this team and there is absolutely no way he should be starting at shooting guard. On the court with the second unit, serving as the primary scoring option, Ill Will ran some isolation sets that were worthy of the league’s best slashers. He works so well with Douglas because either of them can start the offense — either with Douglas lurking as a spot-up threat when Chandler attacks or Chandler lurking as a reset-and-drive option if Douglas gets in trouble. They make a serviceable pairing defending other team’s perimeter players as well. Chandler is still the most tradeable of the Knicks three young wings and he still can become infuriatingly enamored with his very mediocre jumper (7/8 in the paint tonight, 3/10 outside of it — DRIVE WILSON, DRIVE!) but he is a fantastic weapon off of the bench and should be utilized as such. Simply put, the Knicks do not hold off the Raptors rally without his second half performance tonight. Keep it up. A-.

Tony Douglas (27 min, 10 points, 4 reb, 0 ast, 5/9 fg, 0/3 3p): A weird performance and not a very good one. The points are fine and the percentage is good, but zero assists in 27 minutes still made me feel like he doesn’t know what position he’s supposed to be playing. For my money, produced the two worst plays of the game: an impossibly bad telegraphed pass that was picked by Reggie Evans and an equally boneheaded fourth quarter foul that sent David Anderson to the line, where he tied the score at 82. Of all the important Knicks who had off nights, he’s the only one I worry about a little, simply because I’m not sure if he works better running the second unit or playing off of Felton. I’m not sure D’Antoni knows either. C-.

Ronny Turiaf (23 min, 8 pts, 4 reb, 4 blk, 2 stl, 3/4 fg, 2/2 ft): Ronny Turiaf had 4 blocks tonight. That is, by any measure, very good. He had 2 steals tonight, also solid, especially by a big man, especially in limited minutes. He did these two things while committing zero fouls. Impressive, right? Probably a pretty rare feat? Maybe only happens once a year or so? Guess what? The last Knick to do it was Patrick Ewing in 1999. Before that, the last Knick to do it was, well, Ewing again in 1997. Before that, the last Knick to do it was nobody. The list of Knicks who have had 4 blocks and 2 steals in a game without committing a foul — at least in the 25 years covered by the basketball reference play index now reads “Patrick Ewing, Ronny Turiaf.” Now, is this kind of a contrived stat? Sure. Does that make it unimportant? No, not really. The Knicks have not employed a true shotblocker since Marcus Camby (unless you want to count one season of the geriatric Dikembe Mutombo). They spent two years trying to convince themselves that Jared Jeffries was some sort of disruptive defensive presence. They trotted out David Lee at center for two years. You will not find a bigger David Lee fan than me. But even as I write this, I’m watching the Warriors opener, and their announcer just said of a Lee foul, and I quote, “You know, I don’t mind that foul by David Lee. Is it great defense? No! But why give him the easy lay-up?” You know another way to prevent easy lay-ups? BY HAVING A CENTER WHO PLAYS F—ING DEFENSE. And guess what? Now we do. What Turiaf’s stats don’t show is that, in the span of 58 seconds, Linas Kleiza was whistled for not one but two travelling violations that were purely the result of going up for a shot against Turiaf, realizing he had absolutely no chance of converting, and awkwardly shuffling his feet til the whistle blew. Party on, Turiaf. Keep drinking that Ron-Ron juice. A.

Bill Walker: I would type his stats but that would represent more effort than I saw from him in his 10 minutes on the court. The one truly awful performance by a Knick tonight. His highlight was missing a dunk, claiming the rebound and, in a sea of FIVE raptors, with open shooters everywhere, going back up for a putback attempt that was, inevitably, rejected. It will be a short leash if he continues to play like this and Fields continues to play like he did, especially when Anthony Randolph returns. F.

Timo Mozgov, Roger Mason Jr.: Whatever. Mozgov couldn’t stay on the court because of foul trouble, not super encouraging against a pretty ordinary front line, but we’ll give the kid a break and chalk it up to his NBA debut. Mason missed three jumpers and wasn’t heard from again — he’ll make most of his appearances when the Knicks are badly in need of a three or someone is in foul trouble. Not much room for him behind Douglas, Fields, and Chandler. INCOMPLETE.

Sorry for the long-winded recap — I’m so excited to have the NBA season back and I hope you are too. The team will face tougher competition but should get better as it jells. If you thought, as I did, that the Knicks would sneak into one of the last two playoff spots in the East this year, I didn’t see anything tonight — good or bad — that should make you change that.

Knicks 2011 Season Preview – Shooting Guards

With the Knicks 2011 season almost upon us, it’s time to analyze the roster. Usually teams have some stability from one year to the next, but New York has only a third of the players returning. How New York is going to perform is more of a mystery than previous years. This year’s I’ll look at each position and attempt to address the critical question for those players.

Shooting Guards: Who will be the starter?

It’s hard to believe, but the longest tenured Knick after Eddy Curry is Wilson Chandler. Over the past few seasons Chandler has been the starting shooting guard due to a lack of alternatives. Offensively he’s miscast at the two because of his hurtful three point shooting (30.8% career) and his inability to get to the free throw line (0.15 ftm/fga). Both of these make him less than a perfect fit in D’Antoni’s offense. Defensively he’s about average; at times his length is helpful, other times his lack of speed is a liability.

The time for Chandler, who stands at 6-8 and 220lbs, masquerading as a two could come to an end this season. There’s been talk of D’Antoni using him at forward more, and he started at PF when Amar’e sat out a preseason game. But more importantly is that Donnie Walsh brought in numerous shooting guards in an attempt to shore up the position. At the top of the list is Kelenna Azubuike. In fact if it weren’t for his injury, it’s likely that he would already be the starter. Career-wise compared to Chandler, Azubuike is a better three point shooter (40.9% to 30.8% 3p%) and slasher (3.4 to 2.7 fta/36). Unfortunately his inability to participate in preseason along with his murky timetable for return (Dr. D’Antoni says Christmas, while Dr. Azubuike says Thanksgiving) means that the Knicks will have to look elsewhere to find an opening day starter.

If Chandler is moved to forward, and Azubuike isn’t healthy, then Bill Walker is probably next on the depth chart. I’ve talked in the past about Walker’s incredible efficiency:

Walker doesn’t average a lot of points (15.4 pts/36 in 2010), but his efficiency (64.9% ts%, 62.5% efg%) is through the roof for a small forward. Only 10 players 6-6 or shorter had a true shooting percentage of 60% or better last year, and no one other than Walker was north of 62%. According to HoopData, Walker attempts the bulk of his shots from behind the arc (50%) or at the rim (33.2%); he doesn’t take a lot of shots in between those areas. So far his career NBA three point shooting percentage is a sizzling 42.7%. Walker relies on his hops to take the action to the cup, including converting a fair share of alley-oops. He moves better without the ball, and doesn’t cough it up much (his turnovers per 36 minutes were a minuscule 1.3).

However his deficiencies (rebounding, defense, and passing) just scream bench player. And the same could be said of Roger Mason. Primarily a three point specialist, Mason does a tiny bit of everything. Emphasis on the word tiny. From the numbers alone it seems he lacks the athleticism (rebounding, free throws, steals, etc.) to be effective. Mason can play the point in small stretches, and he might find some minutes there as well.

Like the point guard position, there’s a spot here for a rookie with a steep climb up the depth chart. Landry Fields has been as impressive as one can get for an unheralded second round pick. At the risk of using a cliche Fields is a “glue guy” or a “heady player.” In other words he doesn’t score a heck of a lot, but does it efficiently and has a well rounded game. More specifically through 5 preseason games he’s averaging 14.5 pts/36 on a sizzling TS% of 66.4%, in addition to 6.1 reb/36. If those numbers are any indication of his true level of play, he’d be a better choice than either Walker or Mason.

In short, I can sum up the Knicks shooting guard starter through a logic statement.

  • Is Azubuike 100% healthy?
  • Else is Wilson Chandler still a SG?
  • Else does D’Antoni trust Landry Fields yet (alternatively is it after March)?
  • Else flip a coin between Walker and Mason.
  • Else if the coin landed on its side Then Toney Douglas.
  • Last Year FGA 3PA FTA ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
    Azubuike (2009) 12.8 3.2 3.5 1.7 5.6 1.8 0.9 0.8 1.4 16.1
    Chandler 13.3 2.3 2.5 1.4 5.4 2.1 0.7 0.8 1.7 15.4
    Mason 11.8 6.3 0.8 0.3 3.8 3.3 0.7 0.3 1.4 11.9
    Walker 10.9 5.4 2.3 0.7 4.1 1.9 1.1 0.1 1.3 15.4
    Career FGA 3PA FTA ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
    Azubuike 12.5 3.7 3.4 1.8 6 1.7 0.9 0.7 1.4 15.6
    Chandler 13.5 3.1 2.7 1.4 5.8 2.1 0.8 0.9 1.7 15.3
    Mason 12 6.2 1.4 0.3 3.4 2.8 0.7 0.3 1.5 13.4
    Walker 10.6 4.3 2.6 0.8 4.3 1.9 1.1 0.2 1.7 15.3

    Last Year PER TS% eFG% 3P% FT%
    Azubuike (2009) 19.8 56.2% 52.0% 44.8% 80.8%
    Chandler 13.7 53.4% 50.2% 26.7% 80.6%
    Mason 9.7 49.0% 47.8% 33.3% 79.4%
    Walker 14.6 64.9% 62.5% 43.1% 79.6%
    Career PER TS% eFG% 3P% FT%
    Azubuike 14.3 55.7% 51.9% 40.9% 77.0%
    Chandler 13.1 51.9% 48.7% 30.8% 77.9%
    Mason 11.2 53.1% 50.7% 38.1% 87.1%
    Walker 13.8 64.8% 62.4% 42.7% 76.4%

    Poll

    Who will start the most games for the Knicks at SG this year?

    • Wilson Chandler (38%, 136 Votes)
    • Kelenna Azubuike (28%, 100 Votes)
    • Toney Douglas (17%, 61 Votes)
    • Landry Fields (11%, 39 Votes)
    • Bill Walker (4%, 16 Votes)
    • Roger Mason (2%, 6 Votes)

    Total Voters: 358

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    Mozgov’s Preseason Garden Debut

    After a European Road Trip, the Knicks finally returned home for their first preseason game against the Celtics. The significance of this game was Timofey Mozgov’s first start for New York. The Knicks have been looking for a starting center to play alongside Amar’e Stoudemire, and it seems that Ronny Turiaf may have played himself out of the starting role for now.

    Mozgov started off his Garden debut on the right foot. He made his first shot, an 18 foot jumper with 9:40 left in the first quarter. As Felton had the ball cross court dribbling towards the foul line, Mozgov was unguarded on the weakside and stepped into an open spot to receive the pass for an easy shot. Twenty four seconds later he made another open jumper, this time along the baseline. With 7:07 remaining, he showed great court vision and hit a wide open Felton in stride for an easy basket. Less than a minute later, he forced a driving Pierce into a turnover and was rewarded with the ball on the offensive end.

    His first quarter wasn’t all positive, as Mozgov picked up a careless foul on a Jermaine O’Neal drive, and got a silly technical walking to the bench. The rest of the game was less impressive. He picked up two fouls in the second quarter. One nullifying a block on Pierce (Erden recovered and scored despite the foul). He came back in the third quarter, but back to back turnovers ended his night on a sour note.

    Its too early to drink the Kompot on him being an NBA quality starting center. At the end of the night he only saw 15 minutes, netted 5 points and 3 rebounds along with 4 fouls. From a strictly statistical standpoint it’s what you’d expect from a rookie backup center. However a visual perspective showed him to be athletic for a big man with flashes of ability. Against Harangody, Mozgov closed out nicely on a perimeter shot attempt. His pass to Felton was Sabonis-worthy. And at least once he fought for a rebound tipping it to a teammate. In the end, Mozgov showed more potential than you’d expect from a player who flew under the NBA scouts radar. However he also reminded New Yorkers that he’s not quite ready for prime time.


    More game notes:

  • Amar’e finished with 30 points (on 13 shots) but the Knicks still lost. I wonder how many times I’m going to repeat that phrase?
  • On the flip side, Felton had 7 points on 11 shots. He didn’t have a particularly good defensive game either.
  • Bill Walker had 11 points (on 9 shots) and hit half of his threes. But he had 0 rebounds and 0 assists.
  • Randolph led the team in rebounds (6 tied with Gallo), but coughed it up 5 times. On the court it looks like he’s trying too hard.
  • After Amar’e the best players for the Knicks were Wilson Chandler and Landry Fields. The latter only played limited minutes, but you figure he’s working himself up the rotation, especially with Roger Mason’s poor night. Ill-Will looked great, hitting 2 of 3 treys and attempting 5 free throws. If he can do that consistently…
  • 2010 Summer Interview: Bill Walker

    I sat down with Bill Walker for 3 minutes and 52 seconds, and he was kind enough to answer some questions.

    Mike Kurylo: What have you been doing this offseason?

    Bill Walker: Getting a lot of shots up. Running. Try to get in shape and get ready for the season.

    Mike Kurylo: It was reported that you lost a lot of weight this summer and you looked thinner at summer league. Is that true?

    Bill Walker: Yeah. I think I got down too much (and was too fast). I lost a good amount of weight.

    Mike Kurylo: How did you accomplish this?

    Bill Walker: I stopped eating bread and sugar. That was basically it. I eat (everything else) that I like to eat. (That) and excersizing and it came off easy.

    Mike Kurylo: On my site I looked up all players 6-6 and under, and you had the highest efficiency (including things like free throws and three pointers) last year. What makes you such an efficient scorer?

    Bill Walker: I only take shots that I know I can make. That’s half the battle. I just try to get good shots.

    Mike Kurylo: Do you know why you weren’t shooting well in the summer league?

    Bill Walker: I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. When I work out, it feels fine. I don’t know.

    Mike Kurylo: Last year Toney Douglas didn’t shoot well in the summer, but he was efficient during the season. When I asked him last year, he said it was just one of those weeks.

    Bill Walker: Yeah. It was just a bad week.

    Mike Kurylo: How hard was it last year to come to the Knicks mid-year?

    Bill Walker: I welcomed it. It gave me an opportunity to play. I enjoyed it. It’s fun to get out there and show what you can do.

    Mike Kurylo: What were some of the differences between the Celtics and the Knicks?

    Bill Walker: The style of play. The Celtics are more of a inside first, trying to get who they want shooting the ball. New York is more of an uptempo, spread it around, everyone handles the ball. It’s a fast break mentality up here. We’re looking to run every time, and Boston only looks to run when they have the advantage.

    Mike Kurylo: What areas of your game are you looking to improve?

    Bill Walker: Passing. I know I can be a better passer. Rebounding. Defense. Those are three big things that I continue to work on and get better at.

    Mike Kurylo: You started 13 games for New York, and there are a lot of new guys here. Do you feel like you’re competing for a starting spot?

    Bill Walker: I don’t know. You’re always in competition. That could be every year. If I don’t get a starting spot, I just want to be a contributor. My goal is, like everyone else here, to start. At the same time we’re a team, and everybody has to know their role. Maybe being a starter isn’t my role. But whatever my role is I’ll play it out.

    From the Mailbox: T-Mac for 2011?

    Been a while since I’ve gotten a request from the old inbox, so I thought I’d take the time to answer.

    Do the Knicks have any interest what-so-ever in resigning Tracy McGrady? I know that most people think T-Mac will never be half the player that he once was, and there is more than enough evidence to support that. However, he won’t be worse than he was last year, and last year, even injured, he still always seemed to have the highest IQ on the floor, especially in a Knicks uniform. He can pass as good as anyone in the NBA, and hes clutch. Additionally, Wilson Chandler is a small forward, not a 2 guard. I like him, but he does not have the handling, or the jump shot the Knicks need at SHOOTING guard. Bill Walker is good, but i dont think he is ready to start just yet. So again, do you know if the knicks have any interest in T-Mac? Looking forward to your response!

    Thanks,
    James

    First, the reliable Alan “my sources say LeBron is going to Miami” Hahn tweeted that neither McGrady nor the Knicks were interested in a reunion. So it doesn’t seem like a likely possibility.

    Second, I’ll start this off by saying I’m not a fan of McGrady’s, and I’ll try to convince any New Yorker not to be either. Let’s look at what I said about him after the season ended:

    I had hoped that McGrady would benefit from a reduction in shot attempts upon arriving in New York. But even when he cut his FGA/36 to 12.6, T-Mac put up the lowest TS% of his career (46.6%). You know your career is over when you’re a former All Star trying to beat out Chris Duhon for a starting job, and you fail. Probably some team will sign him to a minor contract this year, I just hope it isn’t New York.

    How bad is a 46.6% TS%? Well Jared Jeffries managed a TS% of 52.4% for the Knicks last year. Chris Duhon was at 50.1%. Larry Hughes was at 47.3%. Darko Milicic 47.1%. This number is a personal low for McGrady, but poor shooting has been a staple of his late career. In 4 of the last 5 years McGrady hasn’t gotten his TS% above 50%. And mind you that 54% is the league average for true shooting percentage.

    I agree that McGrady has good basketball IQ with regards to passing. However the prerequisite for shooting guard is, as you aptly put it, “SHOOTING.” And hands down T-Mac was one of the worst in the league. If there is any role for McGrady to play in an NBA offense it’s point guard, but even then he’d need to be the basketball equivalent of Stephen Hawkin to make up for his poor shot.

    Now, it’s been no great secret that shooting guard has been a Knick weakness for the past few seasons. As you point out, Wilson Chandler is a forward masquerading as a guard and this summer didn’t do anything to improve Bill Walker’s stock. However, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Chandler finally addresses one of his offensive weaknesses (although I’m still waiting). Nor is it inconceivable that Bill Walker turns into an NBA starter at shooting guard. But if neither happens New York has more depth beyond them. Azubuike was a starter for most of 2009, and seems to be a great fit for D’Antoni. Douglas will likely see time alongside Felton, and either Fields or Rautins could surprise fans this year as well. Between Chandler, Walker, Azubuike, Fields, Rautins, and Douglas the Knicks finally have some better options to get some real production from the 2 spot this year.

    Vegas Summer League Game One: Nuggets 100 – Knicks 90

    Ah the summer league…

    All potential. No consequences. It’s kinda neat actually. Instead of the sturm und drang of LeBrocalypse/obsessively following twitter for rumors about gossip about hearsay, one can watch an actual basketball game. Novel idea, I know

    For those who missed it (or, you know, have a life), the ‘Bockers lost to the Rocks 100 – 90. SL games tend to be a rather haggard affair and this tilt was no exception as the Nix engaged in a bit of a hack-a-palooza, compiling 46 fouls in 40 minutes of play. But before your humble correspondent focuses his oh-so keen powers of observation and/or scouting acumen upon our hardwood heroes-to-be, lemme spew a few random/general observations…

    Oddly enough, the game played out in eerily similar fashion to the Nix regular season affairs for the past few years. They quickly fell behind by double digits, crawled back with some hot shooting, couldn’t get over the hump, and then lost by ten. They also didn’t play a lot of defense and scored primarily from the perimeter/threes. Strange. Considering these cats have only been in Vegas for a few days, it’s impressive/vaguely nauseating that they’ve managed to absorb the Knicks’ basic DNA so quickly.

    Was Kenny Atkinson wearing parachute pants?

    For some reason, the Knicks didn’t have uni numbers on the front of their jerseys. This isn’t an SL-wide phenomenon as the other teams seem to have managed to iron-on some plastic onto their very YMCA-looking shirts. Did someone forget? Is it some convoluted, “You have to earn a front number” motivational technique? I must have this information!

    Seriously, I think Kenny Atkinson was wearing parachute pants. And to make matters worse, they were practically riding under his armpits. Kenny, Dude!

    Ty Lawson is hella good. Knickerblogger-istas far and wide were royally pining for this guy a year ago and, hot damn, it’s not hard to see why. He truly toyed with the Knicks out there, penetrating at will, finishing w/ease, and finding teammates all over the court. He pretty much controlling the game to the tune of 28 points, 10-16 from the field, 7 dimes, and 5 steals. Lawson then proceeded to plug the oil spill in the gulf, reveal the identity of the second gunman on the grassy knoll, and develop a diet soda that actually does taste as good as the real thing. He’s just a got a complete and polished game. If I were Denver, I’d send him home ASAP. He really has nothing to learn/prove here.

    They were beige parachute pants too. Ugh.

    THE GOOD

    Toney Douglas did what Toney Douglas do. His jumper is silky smooth and effortless, even from 30 ft. out. He snuck into the passing lane a few times and converted a really acrobatic and-one on the break on the way to amassing 27 points, 6 boards and a couple of steals. As far as PG skills, eh. I counted at least four occasions where he missed a cutter in the lane. His tendency, still, is to look for his own shot first. The Felton signing, though, will allow him to be a score-first PG off the bench – the role he’s really best suited for.

    Landry Fields has a really nice nose for the ball and tends to play within himself (Wow. I’m really starting to master the use of these bball/sportswriting clichés. It’s like sticking a hatpin in your cerebral cortex. Stuff writes itself!) Where was I? Oh yeah, Fields Landry or whomever looks like a nice small forward, though nothing about his game jumps off the page. His jumping, ironically, does.

    THE BAD

    Andy Rautins sure was channeling his inner Eddie House today. Like Free Eddie, he shot with utter impunity but aside from a stretch in the 3rd, was laying serious bricks. During the regular season, unless he’s Steve Kerr-ing it at a 40% or better clip, it’s hard to see him getting a lot of pt.

    Jerome Jordan – It’s still hard to avoid typing Jerome James – is raw.  He is both big and tall and long and those things tend to come in handy. Aside from that, it was hard to tell what the skill-set he brings to the court might be.

    THE UGLY

    Tweet! Bill Walker just fouled somebody again. Aside from Asst. Coach Atkinson’s aforementioned sartorial splendor, the ugliest part of this afternoon’s tilt was the game that last year’s late-season find, Bill Walker had. He seems to have lost a lot of weight and with it his ability to play professional basketball. His jumper was strangely high-arced and he generally was sluggish and seemingly disinterested out there, leading to 9 fouls and 7 turnovers. Granted, game one, but the SL is a setting where a cat like Billy Sky Dubs should dominate.

    C’est tout. Next time hopefully Charles Garcia and PEJr. get some spin.

    Okay – maybe they weren’t parachute pants, but if not, they were some oddly wide, beige sweats that he for some ungodly reason insisted tucking his polo top into.

    Can someone please run to The Gap in Vegas and buy this man a set of khakis?