2010-2011 Game Recap: NY 98–Tor 93

Right before the start of the game, I  told my wife how this moment is the best part of the season. It’s the time where you can learn about the team and the team can surprise you in all sorts of ways good or bad.  It’s nice to wonder how things will play out.  Now that they have played out–for at least 1 of the 82 games–let’s take a look at what we learned about this team.

I was interested in everything but took special note of the rookies Mozgov and Fields.  Mozgov didn’t surprise at me all picking up a foul within 32 seconds of court time (10 seconds into the first defensive possession).  He picks up his second about 3 minutes later and didn’t play again until the second half.  At the start of the second half, I made a Pop-Tart and I wondered if Mozgov would be done before the Pop-Tart. Mozgov won but not by much.

My initial impression of Fields was that he looked tentative in the early going. In time it became clear that Fields wasn’t tentative, he was simply picking the right spot to contribute.  His line: 30 minutes, 11 points, 4 reb 4-8 Fg (3-6 3fg).  He didn’t pick up any assists but he balanced that by not turning over the ball. He didn’t force anything on offense. He out played DeRozan and was only mildly abused my Kleiza. I’d say a very good introduction.

Stoudemire was a mixed bag 19 pts on 7-16 fg with 10 rebounds.  When he got deep he was great. But when he had to catch the ball outside the paint and either dribble to the basket or take a shot beyond 15 feet, nothing good came of it.  Stoudemire turned the ball over 9 times. I’m pretty sure only one of those was an offensive foul.  Then there was one that Jack knocked off his foot late in the 4th.  The rest, all bad ball handling.  Here is a sample of my in game notes:

For all his talent, I’m starting to see some things I do not like in Stoudemire.  He does not rebound well, he is a bit sloppy with the ball, and his face-up defense is not impressive.  He also takes the ball outside the paint and tries to dribble into the paint.  It really hurts the half-court offense.

Stoudemire still catching the ball too far out and then dribbling to the hoop, nearly turned it over.  Another Stoudemire dribble drive turnover.

Hate to say it but the half court offense is far less sloppy with Stoudemire on the bench. 3:50 left to play Stoudemire catches in the paint, turns and scores.  Felton got him the ball where he needs it to be effective and we got a good shot out of it. 1:45 to play, Stoudemire has to dribble into the paint and it leads to a turn over for Jack. When will they learn?

So with Stoudemire, they need to get him the ball deep in the paint so he doesn’t have to  do so much to create his offense. I blame Felton for this. Felton needs to learn when to give Stoudemire the ball.  You don’t just give it to Stoudemire then let the magic happen.

That aside, Felton played well I thought. 15 pts (6-14 fgs, 1-4 3fgs) 6 rebs, 6 asts, 1 stl, 3 turnovers.  He looked great getting to the hole.  The only real problem was giving the ball to Stoudemire out of position and taking more 3 pointers than I thought he should.  But in this offense, there will be threes for all.

Gallinari’s game? Meh. 12 points (3-9, 2-5) 6 rebounds.  I watched the way Bargnani played and I wished Gallinari would get to that level.  I’m starting to think he won’t get there.  An example of the different approach: when Toronto was making a run in the 2nd, Bargnani faked a three, lost his defender took two dribbles closer and nailed a long two.  In the 3rd Gallinari faked a three, lost his defender, took a step to his left, made sure he was still behind the arc, then missed a three. ‘Nuff said.

The bench was fantastic led by a surprisingly effective Chandler (22 points, 8 rebs).  Douglas played very well and Turiaf did help the defense with 4 blocks and 2 steals.  My wife upon seeing Turiaf: “What is up with that Col. Sanders beard of his?”  Walker was awful.  Walker’s problem: he is only useful if he is shooting well, which he did not do (0-6 fg, 0-2 3fg) 2 rebounds, 1 turnover and zeros everywhere else ( I wanted to start him at the 2, what was I thinking?).

The Knicks did a great job with the give and go early on.  They scored or drew a foul on 5 of 6 of those plays in the first half.  They took advantage of the lack of shot blocking on Toronto, but in the second and third, they abandoned that play all together.  I’m not sure why.  When they got away from that play the ball movement really suffered. Only 12 assists for the game, 15-17 free throws and 7-24 3fgs. I don’t like seeing more threes taken than free throws taken but I better learn to adjust.  The rebounding was not good. My game notes again:

Awful sequence with5 minutes to play in the first.  Reggie Evans gets an  offensive rebound with three Knicks around him. Stoudemire with a poor block out and a weak one-handed rebound attempt. Evans gets the ball and then Stoudemire just walks away to complain about a push in the back.  Evans then finds himself alone under the basket and is so surprised he blows the easy lay in.  This rebounding is really going to hurt this team.

Yes they out rebounded Toronto 49 to 45, but keep in mind that Toronto is really bad at rebounding outside of Reggie Evans.  The Celtics will not repeat such mistakes. 

Mistakes aside, the Knicks did manage to pull out a win on the road in a game where they blew a 16 point lead.  When they needed to get a few good shots, Stoudemire got deep in the post and provided the offense needed. D’Antoni deserves some credit for moving Chandler to the bench. The play from the reserves was  a key factor in the win. There are some things to build on here but I fear a much more sobering view of the team may be available to us after the Celtics game.  We can talk about it then.

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 Exercise Options on Gallinari, Randolph, and Douglas

[From the Knicks P.R. department.]

NEW YORK, October 24, 2010 – New York Knickerbockers President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh announced today that the team has exercised fourth-year options on forwards Danilo Gallinari and Anthony Randolph, as well as its third-year option on guard Toney Douglas.

Gallinari, 6-10, 224-pounds, has averaged 12.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 109 games (76 starts) over his first two NBA seasons. Originally selected by New York with the sixth overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, Gallinari was selected to play in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and compete in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest at 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend in Dallas last season.

Randolph, 6-11, 225-pounds, has averaged 9.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in 96 games over his first two NBA seasons with the Golden State Warriors. Originally selected by the Warriors with the 14th overall selection in the 2008 NBA Draft following his freshman season at Louisiana State University, Randolph was acquired by New York, along with Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf, from Golden State in exchange for David Lee on Jul. 9, 2010.

Douglas, 6-2, 185-pounds, averaged 8.6 points, 2.0 assists and 19.4 minutes in 56 games during his rookie campaign with New York in 2009-10. The Jonesboro, GA-native was selected by the L.A. Lakers in the first round (29th overall) in the 2009 NBA Draft and had his draft rights traded to New York in exchange for cash considerations on draft night, Jun. 25, 2009.

Interview with Howard Beck (10/12/2010)

Looking for more information on the Knicks this early in the season, I picked up the phone and called Howard Beck of the New York Times. He spent 17 minutes and 33 seconds answering questions about the team.

Mike Kurylo: What’s the mood of the team?

Howard Beck: It’s not easy to detect right now. It’s so early. I think they’re still trying to feel each other out. If you ask they’re all trying to be optimistic, and feeling like they’re in the early stages of something good here. The mood is a hard thing to put their finger on when they’ve only played 2 preseason games and have been in camp for only a couple of weeks. As we’ve all pointed out numerous times – it’s a completely new team, so they’re still trying to feel each other out and figure out what their (team) identity is. It’s early so every team is feeling optimistic and feeling like there are some good days ahead. But with it being so early, it’s just hard to put a label on the Knicks.

Mike Kurylo: How different is this from teams of previous years? Where any of them this optimistic?

Howard Beck: The cliche of October is that everybody feels great about their chances, but with the Knicks it was within a narrow zone of “Hey this year we might get to 35 wins.” This year the difference is a new beginning. The last 5-6 years here, at a minimum, you couldn’t say anything was a new beginning. They had these fake new beginnings, false hopes pinned to “we just got Stephon Marbury” or “we just got Eddy Curry” or “we just got Zach Randolph” and it was always some false promise of a franchise player that couldn’t really lift the franchise. This is the first time the Knicks actually have a true franchise player, someone who is among the best in the league at his position and overall, with Amar’e Stoudemire. So that makes it different. For the first time the players who are still here, and there are only a handful of them, have someone that they can look at and say “that’s our guy”, “that’s our leader”, “he’s not only going to be our leading scorer, but he’s going to be our spiritual leader, our team leader, our morale leader; the guy who sets the tone every day.” So that’s a huge change, because they haven’t had anyone who remotely resembles that in years.

On the other hand since 10 of these guys weren’t even here last year, it’s not the same guys that are coming in, it’s completely new guys. These guys aren’t carrying the burdens of the Stephon Marbury-Isiah Thomas era. Roger Mason, Ronnie Turiaf, Raymond Felton, and Amar’e Stoudemire – they don’t carry the weight of the Knicks misery from the last 5 years. And that’s positive. They don’t have to worry about what the franchise (has been recently). These guys were brought in by Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh to be part of their team, going forward. The last several camps were characterized by guys who were going to be purged or were brought in solely for the purpose for their contract to expire. So the emotional investment of (this year’s team) are deeper.

Mike Kurylo: Speaking of Amar’e – is he really going to play the 4 exclusively, primarily, or occasionally? What’s your take from what you’ve seen in practice?

Howard Beck: That’s a great question because over the last week or so, watching Turiaf struggle a little bit and watching Mozgov flash between promising and foul prone I’ve been thinking about that same thing. And I’ll ask Mike D’Antoni about that today when I get there. In Phoenix, the Suns were widely successful with Amar’e as their so-called undersized/non-traditional center, and I don’t know why the Knicks can’t be successful as well. I think they have to (try) a banger/traditional center next to Amar’e to help him out and keep him out of foul trouble. But I think there is a lot of merit of playing it the Suns way – which is go undersized at every position and just outrun the other team up and down the court. You know there are only a few true centers who are scoring centers in the league anyway, so it’s not as if Amar’e Stoudemire is going to just sit there every night and get banged on by low-post/back-you-down centers. There just aren’t many of them anymore. I think we’ll end up seeing Stoudemire at the 5 a lot, but I think Mike D’Antoni doesn’t want to start that way. He’s inclined to, if he can, keep Amar’e at his natural position.

Mike Kurylo: Let’s talk about one of the guys you mentioned: Mozgov. He looks like a foul machine out there. He’s a big guy that’s very agile for his size, but how is the team working on that? Do they have refs at practice?

Howard Beck: Aside from the occasional scrimmage when you bring in refs, it doesn’t happen much. Most guys have to learn on the fly in exhibition games. He’s got 6 games left, so that’s a lot of time for him to get acclimated and work out all the kinks…

Mike Kurylo: … right, he’s got 36 fouls…

Howard Beck: Exactly, and he’ll use 30 of them, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but you hope his foul rate will go down as he progresses. So if this is a question of his athleticism or his positioning or his technique, I’m not sure I know the answer to that question after two games. But clearly if they want him as their starting center, fouls are the primary area of concern. They know what he can do skill wise. They know he can shoot. They know he can rebound a little and block some shots. They know he can get up and down the court and finish on the break. So can he stay on the floor? Can he not put the other team at the foul line? They still have 6 games to figure that out.

Mike Kurylo: One of the things that D’Antoni talked about was the ability to go 9, 10, or 11 players deep in the rotation. Do you see that as being a reality?

Howard Beck: I think it’s realistic in the sense that he’s got a lot of players who are about even. In the past they were about even because unfortunately they were all equally mediocre. Right now they have some guys with good intriguing qualities about them. So it’s about how you want to go about it. How often you want to go big or go small. Whether you want to go with two point guard/play-makers in the back court. If you want to go with shooters. There’s a lot of ways they can go and most of these guys deserve playing time. Landry Fields had such a good summer league and training camp that he’s pushed his way into the conversation too.

It comes down to when D’Antoni feels he needs to go 11 deep to keep up the pace and keep his guys fresh. And whether the guys who look like they deserve playing time continue to earn it. But you can make the case for probably 11 guys right now off the bat based on their experience or skill set or whether there’s a certain guy you need in a game (situation). I think it’s quite possible (to have a deep rotation). It sounds like he’s committed (to trying) if all those guys are earning the time.

Mike Kurylo: Let’s talk about Anthony Randolph for a second. He looks like to be an inefficient scorer. What does the coaching staff think of him? Is he a starter?

Howard Beck: He’s not a starter yet, because first it’s not clear what position he would start at. He’s got some really intriguing abilities that would make him a 3, 4 or 5 depending on who is around him. Right now the priority or concern is whether they have enough shooting on the floor. With him out there alongside the starters guys are going to cheat off of him to play Amar’e. The thing with this coaching staff, and you heard it with David Lee all the time who went from a banger to a person with a knock down jump shot, the coaching staff believes in guys and allows them to do their thing. And if they’re trying to learn or become a shooter they’re not going to yank him if he misses one or two. I think during the season Randolph might have a little less latitude. But right now during the preseason I don’t think it’s a problem for Anthony Randolph to go out there and say “look I’ve worked on my jumpshot all summer, I’m trying to get it down, it’s going down for me in practice, and I want to shoot the open shot.” He should. The coaching staff always encourages these players to shoot the open shot as long as it’s in the flow of the offense, to take the opportunities. Eventually he’s got to start making them, but that’s how you get the confidence that you can do it. A lot of guys get the mechanics down and can make them in practice but they can’t do it in the game. That’s mental, that’s nerves, or a lot of other things. Maybe the same transformation Amar’e Stoudemire or David Lee did (in developing a jump shot) Anthony Randolph can make. And if he can, he can be a fantastic weapon out there. But that remains to be seen.

Mike Kurylo: You mentioned the word ‘shooting’, which reminds me of the Knicks’ shooting guard situation. Chandler has been the default guy for a few seasons even though he probably fits more of a forward’s build. There seems to be a lot of competition this year, even though Azubuike is hurt and isn’t playing. How is that position shaping out?

Howard Beck: It’s an intriguing group because they’re all very different. Wilson Chandler got the nod initially because he’s one of the few returning guys, knows the system and he played almost the entire season at shooting guard last year and did alright. The nice thing of having him there is as long as he can stay with his man – he’s 6-8 and strong with long arms and he can harass guys – (he’s a) defensive presence and can be a real asset. His jump shot and his three point shot are unreliable enough to be a concern. It depends on what your priorities are. If you’re priority is shooting then Roger Mason is an accomplished shooter, although a little undersized. If you like Wilson’s size and defensive abilities and his length then you put him out there.

This is goes back to the Amar’e Stoudemire question, because if you put him at center Wilson Chandler can be your power forward. D’Antoni said power forward was his best position. He likes him in the post and he likes his strength inside. I don’t know if you get enough rebounding from him, but if he’s at the 4 and Gallo is at the 3, now the 2 is open for one of your more natural shooters like Roger Mason or when healthy Azubuike. And Azubuike is the sleeper here. I think if he were healthy from day 1, then he’s the best fit at shooting guard. Not because he’s necessarily a much better player than Wilson Chandler, they’re different, but Azubuike is a better shooter and if you look at what he’s done his first couple of seasons, he could become their Raja Bell. Hit the open three and defend. Those are Azubuike’s strengths. If he were healthy, and maybe when he gets healthy, he’s the best fit there.

Mike Kurylo: I only have time for one more question, so here you go: Who is the starting five on Christmas Day?

Howard Beck: Wow. (chuckle) Two games into the preseason and I have to predict the lineup for Christmas Day. I’m just gong to go on a whim here, with a few impulsive judgments that I wouldn’t normally make. Amar’e Stoudemire at center, Wilson Chandler at power forward, Danilo Gallinari at small forward, a healthy Kelenna Azubuike at shooting guard, and Raymond Felton at point guard.

2010 Summer Interview: Danilo Gallinari

Another Reporter: You have to be excited about this year, with all the new changes. Do you think you’re a playoff contender?

Danilo Gallinari: I think we have a playoff team. There’s a positive atmosphere. We’ve been working out together and getting to know each other. We’ve got a nice group of guys. Everybody is optimistic, and everybody’s so excited for the new season.

Another Reporter: Are you excited about having Amar’e here?

Danilo Gallinari: Amar’e is an unbelievable player. He’s an All Star and he’s been improving his game over the last couple of years. He’s going to be great for us. And we want to (do well together).

Another Reporter: Are you happy with how you rebounded from injury last year?

Danilo Gallinari: My goal to have the chance to play 82 games. I played 81 of 82 and it was a great experience to see how long and tough the NBA schedule is. I’m looking forward to getting more wins this year.

Another Reporter: What do you need to improve on?

Danilo Gallinari: I have to improve on a lot of things. I’ve been working on a lot of things this summer, especially my post up game. I’m looking forward to having a great season with my team and make the playoffs.

Another Reporter: Do you get distracted by trade rumors, especially with Carmelo Anthony?

Danilo Gallinari: I wasn’t worried, because I knew what New York wants from me and I know what the coaches and organization thinks of me… And the expectation they have of me.

Mike Kurylo: What have you been working on this offseason?

Danilo Gallinari: I’ve been working on my body with my trainers. In our program we have two goals, one of them to improve my flexibility and the other to improve my explosiveness. Also I’m working on my post up game a lot.

Mike Kurylo: In the past you’ve mostly been a perimeter player. Are you looking to moving to the mid or low post?

Danilo Gallinari: Yes, of course. It’s one of my goals, and I think I did pretty well last year towards the end of the season where I was playing in the post a lot more. And I was pretty effective. I’m looking forward to being even more effective this year.

Mike Kurylo: Where are you looking to be in the low post or the mid post?

Danilo Gallinari: Both positions, because in Mike (D’Antoni’s) system you have to be ready and aggressive every time. In any situation the ball can get to you so easily and quickly so you have to be ready in any position you are at.

Another Reporter: Given the recent history of the team, how do you think the city will react if you find a way to play winning basketball and actually get a playoff spot?

Danilo Gallinari: You would know better than me. I’ve been in New York for just two years, but you’ve been here in New York when they were winning… I want to be a part of this history. I want to get to a point where Madison Square Garden rocks.

Mike Kurylo: How do you feel playing with all these new teammates?

Danilo Gallinari: I have a good feeling when I began to work out with them two weeks ago. And everybody is so excited… We are ready to go.

Mike Kurylo: Who are you most looking forward to playing with?

Danilo Gallinari: I’m looking forward to playing with everybody, because everybody has a great knowledge of the game and there is a lot of talent.

Last Year’s 2010 Over/Under

A quick look back at last year’s over/under.

The Youngsters

Gallo 3 point shooting percentage: 40%
My Pick: Under
Actual: 38.1% – Under

Gallo shot a sizzling 44.4% in 2009, and appeared near automatic that year from downtown. My reasoning was that 412 wasn’t enough minutes to warrant a true measure of his skill. Interestingly enough he shot greater than 40% in only one month (I’m not counting the 3 games in October) and really dogged it in February.

Month Games 3P%
October 3 50.0%
November 14 40.5%
December 14 36.2%
January 15 38.7%
February 11 31.1%
March 16 35.9%
April 8 38.6%

Jordan Hill minutes played: 1100.5
My Pick: Under
Actual: 624 – Under
Hill only played 252 minutes for the Knicks and 372 for the Rockets.

Toney Douglas True Shooting Percentage: 50%
My Pick: Under
Actual: 57.1% – Over

Yeah I was way wrong on this one. Douglas had an awful summer league in terms of shooting, and ironically he had another bad summer shooting (49.7% TS%) this year too. But during the season he was incredibly efficient.

Lottery Pick Centers

Darko Milicic total points on the season: Eddy Curry total points on the season
My Pick: Over
Actual: 215 to 26 – Over

This looked good for Curry, especially when Milicic was essentially sent home from the team. Eddy outscored Darko as a Knick (26 to 16), but Milicic racked up another 199 points in Minnesota to win this cripple fight.

UFOs (or I’ll Believe It When I See it)

Jared Jeffries 3 pointers attempted per 36 minutes: 1.5
My Pick: Over
Actual: 1.4 – Under

Jeffries was averaging 1.53 3pa/36 before he was traded to Houston. The Rockets put a crimp on his Sam Perkins imitation and Jeffries’ rate went under. This was actually much closer than I expected.

(Smells Like) Team Spirit

Number of Knicks traded during the 2010 season: 0.5
My Pick: Under
Actual: 6 – Over

New York made 3 deals, and sent Nate Robinson, Marcus Landry, Jared Jeffries, Jordan Hill, Larry Hughes, and Darko Milicic packing.

Number of Wins From March 1 – April 14th: 9.5
My Pick: Under
Actual: 9 – Under

New York underachieved, although who would have guessed that winning 9 games from March 1st onward would actually be an improvement on the season? The Knicks were 20-38 at the end of February (.344) and 9-15 down the stretch (.375).

Defensive efficiency: 110.8
My Pick: Under
Actual: 111.6 – Over

The Knicks were just awful on defense, much worse than they were the year before. D’Antoni refused to play any of the defensive minded centers given to him (Darko, Hill), conceding the paint to the opposition.

Playoff Spots Earned: 0.5
My Pick: Under
Actual: 0 – Under

I tend to eat healthier than the average person, so drinking Kool-Aid isn’t in my diet.

The Free Agents

Number of additional games Nate Robinson plays as a Knick in his career: 82.5
My Pick: Over
Actual: 30 – Under

Um, no comment.

David Lee’s Annual Salary in 2011: $7.5M
My Pick: Under
Actual: $10.8M – Over

A few years ago if you told me that someone would sign David Lee to a contract where the first year salary was $10.8, I would wonder how Dave Berri got a job as an NBA GM.

Why Knicks Fans Should Be Glad Chris Paul Will Likely Remain a Hornet in 2010

When reports first started surfacing that Chris Paul had ranked the Knicks as his number one trade destination, I was ecstatic. Immediately, I had visions of a counter-dynasty to the Miami Heat. Dreams of Carmelo Anthony signing the next summer creating our own Big 3. So I thought the Knicks should trade whomever we need to get Paul, for no matter how much I love Gallo’s intensity and the potential of the recently-acquired Anthony Randolph, you absolutely cannot pass on obtaining perhaps the best point guard in the game. Especially when that point guard comes with the likelihood of Anthony, the smoothest scorer outside of Oklahoma City.

Unfortunately the news of a positive sit down between Paul and the Hornets, would seem to have thrown a wrench in my dreams of a New York Big 3. However, the truth is Knicks fans should be glad that the Hornets’ brass appear likely to persuade Paul to stick it out another year in New Orleans. And here’s why.

Chris Paul will not be traded for pennies on the dollar, and any deal would likely include Gallinari among a few other of the New York youngsters. We love Gallo for his shooting, his height, his overwhelming potential, but most of all we love him for his attitude. He has long been described as simply “tougher” than other European players, with a cocksure demeanor on the court that New Yorkers can easily identify with and appreciate. His duel against Carmelo this spring and his desire to defend the other team’s best player, night in and night out, only further endeared him to us. We want to watch him develop, we want him to succeed, and we want him on our team.

As great a sacrifice as it would be to Knicks fans to trade Gallinari (and Randolph, Douglas, and whatever other young prospects the Hornets required to make a deal), the truth is that, at this point in time, we would never have to make that sacrifice, because the Knick’s trade package is widely regarded among national media as perhaps the weakest available to the Hornets of the four teams on Paul’s wish list. (With the Magic, Trailblazers, and Mavericks rounding out the list.) Bill Simmons and John Hollinger both supported the idea of a trade which would send All-Star Brandon Roy to NO, and multiple writers argued that the Magic, with the ability to send Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, and other supporting players, provide the best option for the Hornets. I believe we can disregard the Blazers’ deal for two reasons. First, Paul’s desire appears to be to play with other stars, and trading away your best player doesn’t satisfy that request. And second, I don’t think Blazers’ management would give up Roy anyway.

However, the Orlando deal should be of very real concern. A day after his original report stating that the Knicks were number one on Paul’s wish list, Chris Broussard reported that the Magic had taken the top spot, because Paul believed they could present a deal more likely to persuade Hornets management. Besides the possibility that the Hornets play well next year (encouraging Paul to stick with the only team he’s ever played for) a trade with Orlando is the greatest threat to the Knicks landing CP3.

Analysis of potential trades in this scenario is difficult because, when comparing trades, the determining factor in whether a deal is plausible is what management/ownership are trying to receive in return, and in the case of the Hornets this isn’t very clear. They’ve stated repeatedly that their preference is to keep Paul, and appear encouraged by this latest meeting. However, it is believed that if they were forced to trade him at this point, it would be largely for financial reasons. The prolonged sale of the team from majority owner Gary Shinn to minority owner Gary Chouest has some believing that Shinn, amidst fears that the sale could collapse, and unable to continue suffering the massive losses the Hornets have been posting, might eventually OK the trade of Paul as a way to cut salary and rid himself of Emeka Okafor’s ($53 million- 4 years) and James Posey’s ($13 million- 2 years) weighty contracts. The Hornets must also be concerned with the impact on attendance if Paul were to ask for a trade; for as Marc Stein wrote:

A case can be made that keeping Paul in hopes of eventually regaining the confidence of the face of the franchise — or merely holding off until the Hornets decide that they’re ready to trade him — might not be as beneficial for the long-term health of the franchise as proactively trying to move Paul and ultimately spare themselves from the daily distraction and potential negative impact at the gate that comes with employing a disgruntled superstar.

It is then easy to understand that, if one of the Hornets’ main concerns is increasing attendance (a statistic in which the Hornets ranked 23rd out of 30 last year, albeit with Paul out most of the season), a trade featuring marquee names such as Vince Carter would be likely to trump a Knicks’ package featuring unproven prospects. This is true even if from a long term basketball perspective Randolph and Gallinari are more attractive than Nelson and Carter.

The one thing the Knicks have going for them is that they could swap the trade chip that is Eddy Curry’s expiring contract for Okafor’s equally ridiculous and longer contract. This is a thought that should seriously worry Knicks fans, for while a team with Chris Paul and Amar’e Stoudemire is almost immediately a very good team, if we have to lose our most exciting young players in the process, we have no possibility of being a championship team. Okafor’s contract makes it next to impossible that the Knicks could obtain that third star which would make them competitive with the elite of the East.

So what does this all mean? While I love the idea of getting Paul, if we have to sacrifice everything to get him, including our young prospects and the ability to acquire Carmelo, I just don’t think it is worth it. The most successful franchises in the leagues don’t make that deal, because they understand that erasing your ability to win a title in the process of becoming very good just isn’t worth it. Furthermore, even if the Hornets did decide to make a deal before the end of next season, the chances are slim to none that the Knicks would be the beneficiaries.

However, if the Knicks, Paul, and the Hornets can all make it through this season, each biding their time until the opportune moment, the dynasty of the New York 3 can still happen. In one year’s time, Gallinari, Randolph, Azubuike, and Douglas should all be worth more than they are now. Darren Collison will begin to outgrow his role as Paul’s backup. And the Hornets will be closer to having their superstar leave without any compensation. In this scenario, Chris Paul to New York will make much more sense. It would be cheaper for the Knicks since they would have more assets, and the Hornets would be getting a bona fide star instead of an aging one (Vince Carter) or a young question mark (Randolph or Gallo this year). Without mortgaging both talent and cap space now, the team could have one or both of those in the future. Which would mean that there would still be the possibility of obtaining the third superstar after Paul. And my notion of the NY3 propelling the Knicks to instant contention would still be alive.