New York 86 Denver 95

Since I’m away on a trip, I didn’t get to see this game. Although I got to watch a competitive game last night between the Celts & Raps, I’m curious if anyone can tell me what happened to the Knicks?

From the box score it’s pretty obvious how the Knicks lost. The Nuggets shot at a higher percent (47% – 40% eFG%), turned the ball over less (16% – 21% TO Ratio), and repeatedly got to the foul line (.32 – .21 FT Ratio). The Knicks beat them on the boards (35% – 21%), but that’s nowhere near enough to overcome those odds. What is not explained in the AP release or the box score is Larry Brown’s substitutions. I’m curious why Eddy Curry, Quentin Richardson, and Trevor Ariza only played 20 minutes.

It’s not hard to imagine why Curry hit the pine. Marcus Camby is a quick and athletic center and I’m guessing that Curry would have had trouble keeping up with him on the defensive end. With Carmelo having a big scoring night, I can make the same excuse for Q-Rich, given his defensive reputation. However I’m at a loss why Ariza only played 7 minutes. Matt Barnes was unavailable due to injury, which would leave Trevor as the Knicks’ best defender at the small forward spot.

Instead it looked as if Brown wanted to go big. He gave his power forwards and centers a combined 128 minutes, which means than over the half the game the Knicks had three big men on the court. So my question to KnickerBlogger.Net readers is why in a close game (New York would start the 4th only down by 10 points) would their two best small forwards be largely unavailable?

InsideHoops.com Eddy Curry Interview

Sorry folks. Between work, my wife’s birthday & the stat page, there hasn’t been much time for blogging. So here’s an interview with Mr. Curry.

LINK: http://www.insidehoops.com/curry-knicks-interview-111105.shtml

InsideHoops.com: So yeah, talk about the evolution of your game.

Eddy Curry: The next step for me is to continue to try to jell with this team. Try to just make this my home. I hope to be playing here for the next 12, 14 years, so I just want to make this my home and make this a very special place again.

Knicks 2006 Preview Part II

Small Forward/Shooting Guard: New York has some depth at the swingman spots, as the only Knick that can’t play both spots is the rail thin Jamal Crawford. Newly acquired Quentin Richardson hasn’t played much with the team due to injury. Reportedly he’s back practicing with his new teammates, but it’s unknown whether he’ll be used at the 2 or the 3. So far Penny Hardaway has been the benefactor of Richardson’s hamstring, and he could find a role in Brown’s rotation as a perimeter defender. Hardaway still has good court vision, but his shooting has deteriorated to the point where it has become a liability. I would imagine that this would be a temporary solution, because Penny’s $16M expiring contract will be too much temptation for Isiah to resist (see the Charlton Heston comment from Part I). Vegas odds are 5:1 against Hardaway remaining a Knick by the trade deadline.

With all the excitement over Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Larry Brown, and the three drafted rookies, it seems that Trevor Ariza has become the forgotten man in New York. As a second round pick, no one expected much from him, but last year Ariza might have been the lone bright star in what was a dark season for the Knicks. This season he has a year of experience under his belt, an improved team, and one the best coaches in the game. I don’t want to go as far to say this is a critical year in Ariza’s development, but he won’t find a better environment to improve himself. The same could be said of Jamal Crawford. While he’s still young, he’s approaching that age where players stop showing improvement. If Jamal can’t put it together under Brown, he’ll never do so.

I’ve talked time and time again about Isiah’s ability to find young talent. Like a miner in a dark cave, Zeke may have found another gem in Matt Barnes. I have a special scouting report from Chief KnickerBlogger Talent Evaluator, David Crockett:

Barnes can start or come off the bench. He has always been an underrated defender – good feet, long arms, and just a little more athletic than you think he is. Perhaps most importantly, he doesn’t need the ball to make an impact. Barnes is a very good passer. He runs the floor and boards. He does all the hustle stuff, and unlike Tim Thomas he’s good at defensive rotations. That help will be critical as Marbury and Crawford continue to feel their way into their roles.

I know Brown has been angling for his guy, the ancient George Lynch, but i think Barnes will grow on him and stay in the rotation even after Quentin Richardson gets healthy.

If Barnes is the real deal (and I have no reason to doubt Dr. C.) then it’ll be all the more reason to trade Hardaway. On second thoughts make those odds 10:1 in favor of Isiah trading Penny. The obvious choice is Richardson at small forward and Crawford at shooting guard. Earlier I said that Jamal would find his way to Brown’s dog house, and I’ll stand by that statement. Don’t be surprised if Isiah finds a way to upgrade the position, or if Ariza, Barnes, and Hardaway steal Crawford’s minutes at the 2 to provide a better defensive alignment.

Coach: New York’s biggest upgrade might not see any time on the court. Larry Brown gives the Knicks their first real coach since Jeff Van Gundy. Although you won’t see Brown buffing the floor holding onto opposing player’s ankles, his presence will be felt on the court as if he was doing just that. The Knicks don’t have a particularly good defensive team, but Larry Brown will get every bit of effort possible out of his players on that end of the court. While Brown’s wanderlust will eventually get to him and the Knicks will be worse off when he goes, the Garden faithful should enjoy their hometown coach while they have him.

Outlook: I’ll start with the most pessimistic view. Eddy Curry’s heart sidelines him for good, and Quentin Richardson’s back keeps him from playing more than 40 games. Jerome James tries to eat the $30M the Knicks gave him and Channing Frye is too soft to man the center. Isiah panics and trades Hardaway & David Lee for Mike Olowokandi and instantly gives him a 6 year $45M extension. Trevor Ariza and Nate Robinson spend the year at the end of the bench, as Brown has Isiah grab Lynch & Eric Snow for their leadership abilities. Their traded unprotected 2006 pick wins the draft lottery & turns into Andrea Bargnani, the next Dirk Nowitzki.

The best case scenario might start with Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury making the All Star team. Isiah Thomas is able to turn Malik Rose and Penny Hardaway into Dan Gadzuric, Danny Fortson, and a first round pick. The two became expendable because of the rapid development of Frye, Lee, Ariza and Barnes. Brown makes the Knicks one of the top defensive teams in the league, and they take the Atlantic. The Knicks use home field advantage in the first round to trounce the injury ridden Pistons. In the second round they face the Cavaliers and Trevor Ariza gains national prominence on his ability to shut down LeBron James. Against the Heat, Shaq inexplicably wanders on the court to break up a fight between Dwayne Wade and Nate Robinson. All three are suspended, which allows the Knicks to advance to the Finals.

Reality lies somewhere in between, the Knicks only won 33 games last year, and I think improving by 8 and making the playoffs seems to be reasonable given all that is involved. 41-41 and a first round whipping.

Knicks 2006 Preview Part I

Center: This is one area that the Knicks have certainly upgraded. While Nazr Mohammed filled the position reasonably well last year, his departure left a 6’10 foot void in the middle of Knicks’ lineup. Herb Williams did the best he could with a rotation of Mike Sweetney, Kurt Thomas, Malik Rose, Maurice Taylor, and any fan 6’7 or taller willing to don a uniform for a few minutes.

This year Knick fans should notice an instant transformation at the 5. When the Knicks acquired Curry, the press was quick to compare him to Patrick Ewing, but I was reminded of another young Knick center. Marcus Camby arrived in New York in a controversial summer deal. Both players were former high lottery picks, with health issues, whose previous teams had soured on them, and were brought over in controversial summer trades. If Gothamites are looking for a bright comparison, it would be fantastic if Curry’s could break out for New York like Camby did years ago.

There is one problem with comparing Curry to either Ewing or Camby. Both of the former Knick centers excelled at rebounding & defense. In the 2006 Basketball Forecast, John Hollinger said that Curry was among the 5 worst rebounding centers in the league, meanwhile Dan Rosenbaum had him ranked as the 5th worst defensive center in the league. Watching him during the preseason, Curry’s defense appears as poor as advertised. His ‘D’ suffers from poor footwork, being out of shape, and a general indifference. The Knicks young center is a beast when he has the ball, but shies away from contact at all other times. The blocked shots that I recall from preseason were from the weak side, and unfortunately Curry doesn’t have Camby’s athleticism to be a force in that manner.

Eddy is a fantastic scorer who does so at a very high rate. Big men that shoot well usually get a lot of easy buckets from tip-ins, but Curry was a pitiful 89th in offensive rebounds per minute last year. This just means that Curry’s skills as a scorer are even more impressive than his 54% might indicate. Luckily 82games.com tracks such things, and Curry only scored 2% of the time on “tips”. In comparison Nazr Mohammed rebounding tips comprised 7% of his scores, and Mike Sweetney tipped the ball in 4% of the time. Kurt Thomas matched Curry’s 2%, which is a bad sign since the pick and roll specialist Thomas only ventured into the paint when he was lost.

Eddy’s size presents problems for opponents trying to defend him. Defenders that that allow him to get too deep in the paint are likely to fall victim to one of his variety of post moves. Fronting Curry isn’t a better proposition, as his soft hands allow him to handle the lob and he can finish the alleyoop as well as any big man in the league. Eddy Curry’s addition means that the Knicks have a legitimate second scoring threat next to Marbury, which should improve New York’s offense tremendously.

Before acquiring Curry, the Knicks signed Jerome James to help bolster the middle. Like Curry, and unlike any of the Knicks centers last year, James’ size is more than adequate for the position. Jerome will be able to protect the rim, and will provide a bit of muscle as his 8.4 fouls per 40 minutes will attest to. Unfortunately, James also shares Curry’s lack of rebounding and offseason conditioning.

The Knicks also have a pair of young players that should be able to fill in at center for a few minutes a game. The number 8 pick in this year’s draft, Channing Frye, and undrafted CBA prospect Jackie Butler have gotten good reviews from Larry Brown. Of the two, Butler is more likely to see time at the 5 for two reasons. The first is that Frye’s slender build will make him more suitable for power forward his first year. The second is despite his inexperience, Butler is the Knicks’ best rebounder. Unfortunately like most young players, Jackie finds himself committing mental mistakes. In one summer league game, Butler had 3 whistles on him in what seemed like a 5 minute stretch. If he wants to earn playing time, he’ll have to cut back on the gaffs.

Power Forward: In recent history, the Knicks have had a glut of power forwards. This year seems to be no exception. Less than a month ago I asked Knick fans “By January 1st, who is the Knicks’ starting PF?” The most popular choice was Malik Rose, which was my answer as well. I chose Rose due to the Knicks lack of defenders, but after watching a few preseason games, I’m going to switch to Antonio Davis.

Malik Rose is an intelligent player who understands the concept of team defense. Rose is rarely lost in a defensive rotation and has a sneaky array of moves to thwart opposing players. However he is staring down the wrong side of 30, and won’t be able to compensate for his lack of size with physical ability anymore. Davis’ height has allowed him to age more gracefully than Rose. Despite nearing the end of his career, Davis’ rebounding and defense is still at an acceptable level. Although Rose was never a big shot blocker, his per minute rate is half of what it was just a year ago, and less than a third of what it was at its peak. Malik’s rebounding dipped noticeably as well, grabbing only 7.4 boards per 40 minutes for the Knicks.

If rebounding and defense will keep Davis as the starter, then it’ll be the same thing that will keep Maurice Taylor off the court. Taylor will have the role of scoring big man off the bench, and he’ll be limited to 15 or 20 minutes a game, depending on how often the Knicks are behind. Joining Taylor on the bench will be the rookies, Channing Frye and David Lee. Although Frye was taken much earlier in the draft, Lee has been the more impressive of the two. A natural lefty, Lee has become ambidextrous and is a handful (punny!) for defenders when he’s in the post. He can score with either hand, and seems to have a wide array of moves in the paint. Lee was thought of as a good rebounder in college, and hopefully that skill will transfer over to the NBA.

I’m still not sure what to expect out of Frye. His frame resembles that of Marcus Camby, but he lacks Camby’s high flying theatrics. On the other hand Frye has a nice touch from the outside and should make a fine partner for Marbury on the pick & roll. With the depth at power forward and Brown’s predisposition towards rookies it’s hard to tell exactly who will see playing time.

Point Guard: I bet you thought I was going to talk about the Knicks’ small forwards, but the only other position I’m sure about is the point guard spot. Despite reports of a Brown enforced Iversonian-esque move to shooting guard, Stephon Marbury will run the point for the Knicks. The reason is simple, neither Crawford nor rookie Nate Robinson are able to run the point for an extended period of time. Crawford still suffers from poor shot selection, and while the NBA doesn’t keep it as an official stat, I would bet that he led the Knicks in airballs from off balanced jumpers this preseason. The Knicks will rely on Jamal to run the point for a few minutes a game, but leaving the ball in his hands for too long is like putting a gun in Charlton Heston’s hands at an NRA rally. The pressure to shoot becomes unbearable.

Meanwhile Robinson is still learning what he can do at this level. Ironically his rebounding has remained impressive as he tied for the Knicks lead in total rebounds. This should be taken with a grain of salt considering he was also second in total minutes and the Knicks don’t have a lot of good rebounders. Nate’s biggest weakness has been his passing, which shouldn’t be a surprise because he’s more of a shooting guard that needs the ball in his hands than a point guard. He throws too many lazy college passes which end up as NBA turnovers. The Knicks diminutive guard is best suited at going to the hoop with reckless abandon, and using his blazing speed to convert steals into easy buckets. It will be those attributes that keep him Brown’s rotation.


Tune in tomorrow for Part II. For optimists I will have a best case scenario for the 2006 Knicks. For pessimists, there will be a worst case in hell prediction. For small forwards & shooting guards I’ll break down those positions as well.

2006 Preseason – Mavs 104 Knicks 102

Although the Knicks played the Nets in Connecticut on Saturday night, yesterday’s game against the Mavs in the Garden was their first televised preseason game of 2006. I could do a statistical analysis of the Net game, but as preseason games go it’s hard to determine what was accomplished against the starters and what was done against New Jersey’s end of the bench. So I’ll give my impressions of some of the Knicks from Sunday’s game instead.

David Lee
With all the hoopla over Frye and Robinson, Lee has been the lost Knicks rookie. Sunday evening he was the most impressive of the bunch. The initial reports of Lee are a blue collar type, and I really didn’t see it. The Knicks power forward seemed more polished than scrappy. Lee didn’t impress me with either his rebounding or his defense. Although on defense his assignment for most of the night was Nowitzki.

Where Lee did impress was with his ability around the hoop especially driving inside. He has a nice handle for a big man, and seems to be able to finish with either hand. Although he didn’t finish as often as I would have liked (5-12), he led all players with 11 free throw attempts. In the early fourth quarter, Lee was nimble enough to keep up with Robinson on the break & finish with a resounding dunk.

Nate Robinson
I saw a handful of Nate’s games both in the Final Four and in Summer League, and that player was absent tonight. It might have just been an off night for Robinson, but the Mavericks were able to neutralize Nate in the paint. Most of Robinson’s forays to the hoop ended up with a shot block or a turnover. In the first half he looked totally outmatched, but he did pick it up in the second half. Nate used his speed to earn a few steals and push the ball upcourt for some transition buckets. One thing to watch for will be if he will be able to use his leaping ability at this level.

Channing Frye
On one play Frye did a Marcus Camby impersonation trying to put back a missed shot, but he’s not as athletic as the former Knicks’ center. Channing only played for 19 minutes, and the only other thing that I recall is that he had a nice stroke from outside.

Eddy Curry
At times Curry looked impressive on the offensive end, but other times he seemed to be sleepwalking. He scored on a nice pass from Penny Hardaway, and looks to have extremely soft hands. On the other hand he turned the ball over 4 times, and a few were offensive fouls. It would have been nice to see a full effort from Curry, but it’s still only preseason.

Jamal Crawford
Crawford looked good very early in the game as the Knicks point guard. Unfortunately a few of his bad habits crept back as he jacked up a few shots that the chucker who plays at your neighborhood park would have passed up on. Forcing Jamal to run the point and distribute the ball may curb his wild shooting habits.

Larry Brown
How intense is this guy? He got T’d up on a non-shooting defensive foul against David Lee.

Jackie Butler
Butler had a quiet first half. He didn’t do anything to overly impress, but he didn’t do anything stupid that you would expect from a 20 year old out of high school with 5 minutes of NBA experience. That in it of itself is a big accomplishment. I remember Butler blocking a shot, and looking at the stat sheet it was the only one the Knicks had all night.

Penny Hardaway
When Penny started the game, my jaw almost hit the floor. Could it be that last year’s prodigal son will find a role as Brown’s perimeter defender?

Isiah Currys No Favor With Fans

Isiah Thomas reminds me of Felix Unger. The Odd Couple character’s downfall was that he couldn’t leave well enough alone. Nearly every episode had Unger ruining his life because his compulsive nature forced him to go too far. Last night, Isiah traded for the Bulls’ disgruntled center Eddy Curry. Chicago had been looking to move Curry since he pulled his Redd Foxx act during last year’s playoffs. Thomas traded away the Knicks young power forward Mike Sweetney along with Tim Thomas and garbage time specialist Jermaine Jackson along with two picks, which have yet to be disclosed.

The only way to like this deal is if physique is your only criteria on building a basketball team. Of the two, Sweetney is the one more likely to be confused as a Sumo wrestler. But for those who’ve watched their fair share of Knick games last year, Sweetney used his body in the paint to his advantage, tossing opponents like, well, a sumo wrestler. An excellent rebounder, he used his size, reach, and footwork to pull down rebound after rebound, often tipping them to himself when fighting against taller opponents. On the offensive end, when he received the ball under the hoop, there often seemed to be only two options: an easy field goal or a trip to the foul line.

However going into next year with the third year player as the starting forward wasn’t good enough for Isiah. Thomas insists on building the team in his “younger and more athletic” mold. Curry certainly fits that bill, just like outgoing Tim Thomas did. However it’s arguable whether or not Eddy is the better player on the court.

Name		FG%	PSA	USG	RBR	R/40	TO	PF	PER
Sweetney	52.2	1.16	17.6	16.8	11.5	2.7	5.6	16.6
E. Curry	52.9	1.13	21.2	11.8	8.5	3.3	5.1	15.8

They score at about the same rate, although Curry’s usage rate is higher. That could be because the offensively challenged Bulls leaned on Eddy, while the Knicks never featured Sweetney in the half court set. The turnover numbers and foul numbers are close enough to even out. However despite giving up 3 inches and 10 pounds, Sweetney’s rebounding numbers puts Curry to shame. Using John Hollinger’s rebounding rate, Sweetney ranked 20th last year in the league ahead of such luminaries as Yao Ming, Zach Randolph, Shawn Marion, and Elton Brand. In fact within the last year Isiah Thomas has traded two of the top 20, with Nazr Mohammed showing up at #11 on that list.

If Knick fans are looking for a silver lining on this deal, it won’t be Curry’s defense. While Chicago was one of the top defensive teams last season, the Knicks didn’t get the defensive stalwart of the Bulls frontcourt. According to 82games.com, the Bulls were 3.3 points worse with Curry on the floor, although he did keep opposing centers in check with a 13.3 oPER. Last year those numbers were 2.7 and 13.8. Dan Rosenbaum rated Curry as the 5th worst defensive center in the league while Matt from Bulls Blog, now over at BlogABull.com, said Curry won’t help the “Knicks’ awful help defense.

In fact in that column, which was written almost a year ago, Matt hit the nail on the head:

Another observation was laughing at the Knicks’ awful help defense. Curry won’t help there, but sometimes Isiah sees something shiny around the league and must have it. After my initial look at Sweetney (and I would really like to hear a Knicks’ fan’s perspective), I’m starting to hope that Isiah gets his man.

Isiah’s obsession with other team’s players has led him to acquire guys like Jamal Crawford, Jerome James, Tim Thomas, and now Curry. Jerome James came from a playoff team, but since he barely played, his contribution to their success was dubious. The 2004 Bulls won 23 games, and Isiah has 3 of their starters (including Antontio Davis)on his roster. Do these sound like the players you would be targeting if you were a GM?

The only positive is Curry’s arrival means the Knicks no longer have to worry about being undersized at the 5, but it comes at a heavy price. While I have no illusions that Sweetney would be enshrined in Springfield, he’ll be an above average starting power forward in this league. Additionally, the supposedly still rebuilding Knicks have given up some future considerations in the form of draft picks. Meanwhile, the Knicks will pay Curry $60M over 6 years. I usually don’t like to deal in hypotheticals, but it’s logical to assume the Knicks could have gotten Sweetney to sign for half that. Sweetney would have given the Knicks about the same amount of production (albeit at a different position) for half the price & New York wouldn’t have to worry if his heart will hold up under the Gotham media.

Isiah’s fault seems to be his inability to stay the course. One minute the Knicks are rebuilding, the next they’re spending $90M dollars for two centers with dubious histories. At the last trade deadline the Knicks were stock piling draft picks like a Central Park squirrel in fall, but now Isiah may have given away two for Curry.

Marbury is still an offensive force, while second rounder Trevor Ariza has flashed great potential. Nate Robinson dominated the summer league, and could be Isiah’s second steal in a row. Additionally, the Knicks have two more youngsters in Frye & Lee. Coach Larry Brown is one of the best in the business. If Isiah stopped there, New York would be in great shape to start the season. Instead, he’s bogged down the team with bad contracts. Eddy Curry, Quentin Richardson, Jamal Crawford, and Jerome James will reportedly cost the Knicks over $180M for the next 5-7 years. That will undoubtedly make the Knicks observers in free agency over that time. The worst part about it is that none of those players are worth it. None are locks to even make a single All Star Appearance. With the salary cap, it’s better to underpay for marginal talent than overpay for an average return. New York’s downfall will be Isiah’s inability to sign cheap talent and leave well enough alone.

(Guest Post) – You’re back in the NBA now, Chicago Bulls

[In honor of the Knicks-Bulls matchup this weekend, today’s blog comes from Matt of Bulls Blog. KnickerBlogger’s post is published on Matt’s site..]

Greetings Knickerblogger readers, my name is Matt and I am the creative force behind Bulls Blog. While it can be said that such a title is the blogging equivalent of being the valedictorian of summer school, I still enjoy being in my own corner of the blogosphere writing about the post-dynasty trials of the Chicago Bulls. It’s an honor to write to you on one of the most prolific (and one of my favorite) basketball blogs around.

Your New York Knicks are coming to the United Center on Saturday, so Knickerblogger and I decided to switch places for a good-ole-fashioned preview. Since it’s the first meeting of these two teams, you may not be fully aware of how things are going in Chicago. With so many new players shuffling in and out of the house that Jordan built these past 6 years. That said, unless you haven’t been paying attention to the league lately, you’ve heard that the Bulls are one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Riding a 5-game winning streak (and 11 out of their last 14), the Bulls have rebounded from a disastrous 0-9 start to the 8th best record in the Eastern Conference. But enough about the wins, how are they getting them?

GM John Paxson’s first two drafts since taking over for Jerry Krause have gone particularly well, with 3 his first round picks of Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, and Ben Gordon now the foundation of the team. Hinrich (PER of 16.39) is probably the Bulls’ most recognizable player, and this season has shifted more to the off-guard position to accommodate the smaller Gordon and 2nd round pick Chris Duhon in the rotation. While you will find him moving off of the ball moreso than last year, he still exhibits his playmaking ability (14 assists against Boston last saturday), and remains the floor leader of the team. Deng (14.79) leads the team in +/- ratio and while he lacks the outstanding athleticism you see of most 19 year old draftees, he more than makes up for it with basketball skills and court awareness that makes him seem a lot older than he is. Ben Gordon (13.03), while not a starter, is definitely the energizing 6th man and ‘closer’ for the Bulls. As the best creator on the team, Ben can take nearly anyone off the dribble to get off his accurate (50.1% eFG) shot launched, an invaluable resource at the end of close games.

Another place where you can see Paxson’s fingerprints is the veteran bench. Through trades of Jalen Rose and Jamal Crawford, Paxson not only gained cap flexibility but picked up veterans Antonio Davis, Eric Piatkowski, Adrian Griffin, and a familiar face to Knick fans in Othella Harrington. While all past their prime, they also are an upgrade from the CBA talents that used to fill the Bulls bench, and help maintain head coach Scott Skiles’ desire to instill the principles hard work and discipline into the younger players. Another bench contributor is 24-year-old Argentian Andres Nocioni. His rookie campaign in the NBA hasn’t shown the offense he exhibited while helping his country win a gold medal in Greece, but especially as a defender he’s equal parts effective and hilarious. Baiting of opponents into technicals, drawing charges on flops, and performing an act on the officials to the point where any call against him is met with no less than bombastic exasperation. These tactics, I’m guessing, will have most opposing fans loving to hate ‘Chapu’.

Now onto the once-heralded cornerstones of the franchise, Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler. Curry (14.58) still isn’t the dominant player he can be, but finally in his 4th year and at the age of 22, he is becoming a big part of the team’s success. Look for Eddy in the first 5 or 6 possessions of the game to establish post position early, and going right into his increasing assortment of post moves. His talent has always been evident, but now he’s showing it more consistently, which is a scary message to Eastern Conference frontcourts. Chandler (16.56), as you probably know already, is the opposite of Curry. With small hands and awkward moves, his offense is limited. But while Eddy still drifts through defensive assignments and rebounding, Tyson has become one of the premier rebounders (8th in the league in rebound rate) and shotblockers in the league. At 7’1″ and the ability to jump out of the gym, he alters nearly any shot that’s near him, and would have even more rebounds if he were strong enough to hold on to them.

And that brings me to the most important factor in attributing the Bulls success: Defense. Using defensive efficiency as a metric, which as you may know factors in the possessions accrued during a game as well as points allowed, the Bulls are second in the NBA in team defense, behind only San Antonio. The Bulls defense starts in the paint, with Chandler, Davis, and an improving Curry making their capable perimeter teammates’ jobs much easier. This defensive success is mainly due to Skiles, who always has his players playing hard and within the designed scheme. Assuming they keep up their usual intensity on that end, the Bulls’ defense will keep them in nearly any game they play throughout the season.

But all this ‘homer’ praise is not to make you assume that the Bulls do not have weaknesses. Their most glaring weakness defensively is their trouble against opposing guards. No matter which combination of Hinrich/Duhon/Gordon is in the game, there is nearly always a size disadvantage. Gordon especially is immediately targeted by opponents as a post-up victim and despite Skiles’ claims to the contrary, Duhon isn’t much better. And all 3 (along with Curry and Chandler) are known to get in early foul trouble. If Marbury and Houston can be agressive, foul problems could arise for both their man defenders and help defenders alike. Another major problem is turnovers. Both Gordon and Curry are in the league leaders in TO/40 minutes, and while I have mentioned that they play a great team defensive game, they are still a very young team and often throw away possessions on offense. One workable strategy to force the Bulls into these mistakes is to use Duhon’s man to double on Eddy right when he gets the ball. On most occasions either Eddy is rushed into a poor shot or turnover, or an open Duhon bricks a shot of his own (and if you read my blog you’ll know that picking on Duhon is a pretty consistent theme).

To use a generality in terms of how to beat the Bulls, anything that keeps the Bulls from defending effectively will help the Knicks win. The Knicks’ big men will need to crash the glass for offensive rebounds and tip-ins, and getting out on the break after forcing turnovers to not allow the Bulls to dig in. It also means their guards being aggressive and getting to the line, both to shoot free throws and to get the Bulls younger foul-prone players relegated to their bench early. The Bulls aren’t a stellar offensive team, and are prone to long scoreless stretches when Hinrich and Gordon aren’t playing their best. But what they do is stay close, and by crunch time, Gordon and Chandler will use their specialized excellence to try and take over both ends of the court.

Hopefully after reading this you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect on Saturday afternoon. Although after watching the Bulls go from 0-9 to a potential playoff birth, its hard for myself to know what to expect anymore.