New York Knicks 106 – Atlanta Hawks 91 – Game Recap

What is this? Is this some magical artifact shaped like two mountain peaks, only upside-down? What in the world should I do with this W? I wasn’t ready anymore to write about… a win? And a from start to finish line one to boot?

Seriously, where do I begin? This was like watching a usual Knicks game, only from the other side of the mirror.

Oh, ok, I’ll start from the beginning: the Knicks came out with guns blazing and got to an early 14-0 lead thanks to some good shooting and abysmal Hawks offense. Dennis Smith Jr was hitting his shots (not the free throws, though). Mitch dunked a lob just 5 seconds after he got onto the court. John Jenkins shot and hit with a vengeance against the team that originally drafted him, and the first period ended 28 to 13. The lead could have been larger but the Bockers couldn’t stop turning the ball over. In the second quarter the table turned, our offense ground to a halt (Kadeem Allen’s efforts to involve people notwithstanding) and the Hawks scored 38 points. Mitch blocked two shots but was involved in early foul trouble, with a useless foul on a double on Trae Young 27 feet from the basket. The Hawks weren’t ever able to gain the lead, though, earning a couple of ties (47-47 and 51-51) before a Dotson three broke the tie for good. The third quarter never saw the Knicks gain enough separation (at most they led by 9), and the fourth was a matter of keeping the Hawks at bay (Smith was pretty good at it). An unremarkable win, but a win nonetheless that ended the longest losing streak in Knicks history. It’s amazing to think that, as bad as we have been, we don’t have anymore the worst record. The Phoenix Suns, who have arguably more talent than us, are 0.5 games behind us. That Devin Booker must be really worth a max extension (thank you, Janis)! I don’t know, I don’t feel so happy about this win, not for the tank but because it was pretty meh all around.

The good:

– Dennis Smith Jr (19 pts, 2 rebs, 7 ast, +9 +/-) played the game you’d like to see on a regular basis from him, free throws aside. 19 points on 10 shots, 7:1 assist/TO ratio, passable defense. If this was what you’d get from him every night, he would be the surefire starting PG for the next two years and nobody would bat an eye. I don’t like particularly the type of player DSJ projects to be, but what he is now doesn’t scream “future failure” as some egregious examples we have on our roster when they were in their second year in the League. His shooting problem reeks of Nick Anderson-itis, so maybe the coach who taught DeAndre his “Who ya got?” routine could be helpful. Speaking of DeAndre, DSJ found him on a couple perfect lobs. I can’t wait for him to develop the same chemistry with Mitch.

– Kadeem Allen (14 pts, 2 rebs, 9 ast, +8 +/-) keeps on being a net positive for this team, as his steady hand and defensive competence provides stability to the team. I can only imagine Steve Mills watching him play and getting ready to offer him a 14/2 contract with a player option for the second year. Seriously, though. Kadeem is averaging good numbers in his Knicks stint (.136 WS/48 included). I don’t know if he has a place in the future of this team, but it’s really hard to get a feel of that right now. Let’s enjoy his teamplay while we get sad thinking that Frank has never produced like this.

The bad:

– I don’t know who told Luke Kornet (11 pts, 3 reb, 4 stl, +17 +/-) he can create from the dribble, but I guess it’s the umpteenth side effect of the “eat what you kill” offense. I mean, I have no issue with Kornet shooting 10 threes in a vacuum, provided that those 10 threes are open and/or last second heaves. Those 6 attempts from two, though (all misses) were extremely terrible. I used to have a cover image on Facebook that looked exactly like one of the attempts from Luke tonight (pic taken on a Brooklyn playground): a shot from 18 feet, left leg up, turning around to face the basket. The pic was super cool, especially because it didn’t included the aftermath: a clunk on the rim very similar to the ones Luke experimented last night. Anyway, his fit with the team is becoming clearer by the day. I hope he sticks and he never forces a shot again.

Fun-sized bits:

– What about Mitch? He played pretty well as usual, but Fizdale kept him on the leash thanks to two quick fouls in the second quarter (I would have left him on the floor, but whatever): 6 points, 7 boards, 4 blocks, 1 steal in nineteen minutes of play. To be honest he had 5 blocks, but one of them was on a halfcourt heave after the buzzer. It was exhilarating and very stupid (why risk a foul there?).

– Dotson played well enough, apart from his errant shooting. 13 points and 5 boards in 21 minutes.

– DeAndre had another double double and is looking a bit more interested in the game than when he got here. My guess is that he likes playing for the Knicks (no idea why). We really might have a puncher’s chance to retain him at a fair price. 10 points, 13 boards, 3 blocks in 30 minutes.

– Our bigs need to do a better job of knowing which opposing bigs can be left open on the perimeter. Alex Len = good. Dedmon and Spellman = bad.

– Knox ended with 10 boards, a good number. I think it’s a fluke, since most of them ended in his hands without him making a serious attempt to get them. Mitch’s boards, instead, were of the good kind (effort and focus). Kevin scored 9 points on 2-for-9 from the field. A lot of cringe-full drives to the rim that ended nowhere. At this point Knox looks like a parody of himself (who in turn is a parody of Andrew Wiggins), but in the end he’s only a rookie, let’s try to be patient here.

– John Jenkins had the second most shots for the Knicks. He started on fire and cooled off a bit. I like him, but when a shooter (not a shot creator) ends up with 13 shots in 27 minutes something’s gone wrong, much like Kornet’s 16 shots in 31 minutes seemed to indicate. The five boards were cool, though.

– Noah Vonleh is looking lost on the court. It’s discomforting, but that’s what it is. Also, has anyone ever botched more alley-oops and putbacks than him in a season for the Knicks? Iman Shumpert : layups = Noah Vonleh : dunks when you get the ball while you’re already jumping. Also, he was able to post a negative plus/minus in this game, the only Knick to do so.

– Quiet night for Trier, who shot only twice and hit both times. 6 points, 1 rebound, and nothing else in 19 minutes.

All in all, a good team effort by our Knicks. They can go to rest for a week, as I will, while we root for Knox in the Rising Stars Challenge and DSJ in the Slam Dunk contest. I think Knox will suck but Dennis can win it. See ya!

New York Knicks 112 – Atlanta Hawks 107 – Game Recap

Dum-dum-dum, another win bites the dust.

A worthy last installment of the Suckitude trilogy, tonight’s game left us with the bittersweet aftertaste of victory among the uneven development of some of our youngsters. I can’t shake the feeling that every win that comes on the heels of playing Kanter, Hezonja or whoever else who’s not part of our future is ultimately slightly detrimental to us, but it’s not like you can ask your coach to throw games away just because.

This one was easily foreseeable, anyway (as I predicted two days ago), so we take it and move on.

The good:

– Enes Kanter (17 pts, 11 rebs, 2 blk, +3 +/-) looks to have regained a little of good body language after his last strong performances. Maybe he understood that starting from the bench is not that bad for him, as he keeps on posting double doubles with the same easiness I push the forward button to skip Rebecca Haarlow’s interludes. The Hawks, as of now, are a really terrible team, so I can’t say much about Enes defensive effort. He was a little more nimble on his feet, but a springy and hungry Miles Plumlee was able to jump over or around him as if the beefy Turk was an afterthought, and the oldest Plumlee brother is not exactly a worldbeater. By the way, did you know that Miles is already 30? I feel old. It seems yesterday that he was jumping around as the starting center of the only good Hornacek teams in Phoenix.

– Chuck Hardaway Jr. (34 pts, 1 reb, 3 ast, +20 +/-) was in full gunslinger mode, only his aim from the field was poor, rivaled only by his shot selection. Fortunately, he was able to go to the line a lot, like 20 times a lot. For what it’s worth, only one other Knicks shot as many in a single game since 2006: Chauncey Billups in 2011 (Knicks record is 26). You already know I don’t like Timmy’s game that much, and we were playing the derelict Atlanta team, but his contribution to this offensively inept squad can’t be overlooked. Our offensive sets are so bad you almost need someone willing to shoot from anywhere just because. 34 points on 22 shots are also good. It also looks like his back isn’t troubling him anymore.

– Allonzo Trier (16 pts, 4 rebs, 1 ast, -7 +/-) is spoiling us a bit. As an undrafted rookie with a 2-way contract – due to an upgrade as soon as it’s mandatory – he’s providing a much needed scoring punch from the bench with upper echelon efficiency (81st percentile of qualifying players in TS%). Tonight, 16 points on 7 shots and a naaaaaasty move on Kent Bazemore with 2:34 to go in the last quarter. Too bad Zo didn’t pull a Harden and glare-shamed Baze’s broken ankles for a second or two before calmly sinking the shot. Kid’s not ready to shoulder a bigger load, but as a tertiary scoring menace he’s already an NBA player. His ceiling is definitely lower, but it’s the second consecutive game between Knicks and Hawks where he looks better than Trae Young.

The bad:

– Fizdale ATOs deserve a mention here. Remember how in my sushi-fueled rave of a recap of the Bulls game I made a little fun of Fiz’s playcalling during timeouts. Well, tonight we witnessed the nadir of it: with 10:08 to go in the second quarter, Fiz called a timeout after a bad defensive rotation that ended in a wide open Lin three. He inserted Frank back in the game, yanking Mudiay out of the game and (presumably) drawing a play for the ensuing possession. Guess what? We weren’t even able to inbound the ball. On our half of the court. Yeah, it’s really that bad.

– Damyean Dotson (3 pts, 3 rebs, 2 ast, +6 +/-) gave us his first dud of the season. Foul trouble plagued him from the first quarter, and he was never able to get into a rhythm. He finished with just 18 minutes played. Nothing to worry about, just a bad game that ends his streak of games in double figures. I’m pretty sure Dot will bounce back very easily from this poor performance.

– Kevin Knox (0 pts, 1 ast, -14 +/-) did his best Lance Thomas impression tonight. With Lance sidelined with “Injury/Illness” (are the doctors not sure if his suckiness is derived from a virus or a contusion?), Knox was perfect in substituting him missing all of his 6 shots and doing almost nothing else, notching a team-low -14 plus minus. I get that he’s being eased into the rotation and that he’s a rookie, so I don’t read much into it, but I’d certainly like to see him a little more engaged. We’ll live with our recently injured rookie stinking for a bit.

Fun-sized bits:

– Frank Ntilikina had an encouraging offensive outing (14 points on 10 shots), but even while starting as PG his game screams “Andre Roberson with slightly better handle and above-average passing instincts”. Who knows if by the end of the year we’ll know what we have on our hands with him. Also, he fouled out on a lot of early-KP frustrating dumb fouls. I will never understand why he fouls so much bigs right under the basket.

– I fear that Noah Vonleh reads my recaps and took for serious my off-brand Draymond Green remark about him. Tonight he shot 5 threes (hitting 2, which is not the worst outcome), after attempting just 10 in the previous 11 games. I like him better when he plays around the paint, I’m a bit worried that he’ll cut himself some slack trying to avoid some banging inside. 40 minutes of play for him, another double double and a +16 plus/minus, anyway, so good for him.

– 23 minutes of playing time for Mudiay, who alternated between horrendous and tolerable. The stat line is not bad (11 pts, 5 rebs, 3 ast), but I guess it won’t be soon he’ll hit again 3-for-3 from the three point line. Every single one of his attempts near the rim were of the Circus of Horrors variety, in a very vintage Mudiay fashion. And Trey Burke lost his spot to this guy!

– Mitch keeps on being a monster offensive rebounder and a weak defensive one, and he keeps on swatting guys on three points attempts (I’m pretty sure there’s nobody keeping track of those stats, but I’ll go out on a limb and say if there was such a stat Mitch would set the record by a landslide as soon as we reach game 20). He even uncorked a nice looking fadeaway step back from 12 feet in the third quarter. I can’t wait to see him get consistenly used to NBA level competition and unleash his fully developed repertoire. His numbers for now (and rookie ranking among qualifying players): .202 WS/48 (1st), 4.4 BPM (1st), 141 ORtg (1st), 0.3 VORP (3rd), 13.5 Reb% (5th). Oh and also: 107 DRtg (21st – welp) and 12.3 DReb% (15th). The defensive part needs a bit of smoothening, but he’s good. I wish he played a little more tonight, only 16 minutes for him.

– I like Omari Spellman. I think he’ll have a nice career in the NBA. Trae Young is still a bit of a mess (as young PGs are wont to do), but his passing ability is undeniable. I’ll never understand why Atlanta traded away Doncic, but Young is way better than I expected him to be, even at this chrysalis stage.

We’re at 1/7th of the season and have won exactly 33.3% of our games, perfectly on pace for 27-55, which was my initial prediction. I’ll take it, even if probably won’t be good enough for 4th-worst in the league.

This will be my last recap until the Orlando game on Nov, 18th, because at last me and lady Farfa will take a little vacation (the first this year, we had a lot of work to do), going to Santo Domingo for a little more than a week. Have fun in the meantime!

 

Atlanta Hawks 107 – New York Knicks 126 – Game Recap

To paraphrase Dwyane Wade circa 2010, “Sorry if everyone thought we were going to go 0-82”. I guess this Hawks team was tailor made to get a thorough beating under the MSG lights on opening night!

So, with our first win under our belt, let’s take a look at what happened tonight!

The good:

– Tim Hardaway Jr. (31 pts. 6 rebs, 5 ast, +14 +/-) had a heck of an second quarter on offense. He just couldn’t miss (which was not true for the rest of the game, since he ended up shooting 10/22 from the field and 3 for 9 from three) in the historic second stanza, and that propelled the Knicks to a wide margin – and effectively to the victory, since they would never relinquish that lead for the night. Last time I wrote that his game screamed “empty calories”, this time he served us a healthy lasagna. That said, this was the same old Timmy: streaky as hell. prone to mediocre shot selection, not doing very much in the half-court offense. He also was extremely volatile in his defensive effort: this was very evident in the second quarter, when right in the middle of our scoring break Atlanta Hawks coach called a timeout with 7:59 remaining, after a fastbreak THJ dunk. Right after the timeout, Timmy completely forgot his defensive assignment and Kent Bazemore wound up drilling a totally uncontested corner three. Now, against the Hawks this might not be a problem, but during the course of the season, maybe down the wire in an exciting game? It could be a momentum stopper of huge proportions. Then again, aren’t we rooting for losses this year? So, yay Timmy!

– Noah Vonleh (12 pts, 10 rebs, 3 ast, +22 +/-) did a lot of damage in his 16 minutes. He kept the Knicks boat afloat in the first quarter, when our Bockers couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn, by ferociously attacking the offensive glass, getting fouled and throwing down a nice putback dunk. He was projected to be our third-string center, but got more minutes because Mitchell Robinson got semi-injured tweaking his ankle after a minute of play. Against a rebounding-challenged Atlanta team, Vonleh was deadly. It’s going to be hard for Mitch to keep his back up center slot in the rotation, but in the long run it could make him stronger, which is definitely not a bad thing. I’m doubling down on my bet that Vonleh will be this year’s KOQ in terms of endearment from the Garden crowd.

– Enes Kanter (16 pts, 11 rebs, 3 ast, +7 +/-) was the Enes that we learned to know, and that means the same crossbred result of making an Energizer bunny mate with a very wide and very ground bound oak and giving him a feathery touch around the rim. Strangely quiet in the first quarter, was held scoreless until 4:23 remaining in the second quarter. He finished the half with 10 points. Again, I know we’re not supposed to win a lot of games this season for our good, but I like to watch competitive losses, and Enes is probably our best bet to keep us in a lot of games. He’s just too good on the things that he does well (rebounding, inside scoring) and looks to be marginally improved on defense, especially on lateral movement.

– Allonzo Trier (15 pts, 4 rebs, 2 blk, +9 +/-) had definitely the best debut of all the rookies playing tonight. On a good night, like tonight, he is instant offense and looks the veteran part. Granted, we were playing against a glorified G-League team, but his poise in his first NBA game was a sight to behold. Coach David Fizdale probably was right in saying he has a real knack for chasedown blocks, as he stuffed people at the rim twice, and generally didn’t look too much out of place in the half-court defense. He also had a monster jam to end the second quarter, when he drove down the lane and challenged three Hawks to stop him from scoring; they failed, he slammed the ball with utter force and the Garden erupted. The moment was a little bit reminiscent of the early-KP putback dunks.

– Trey Burke (15 pts, 3 rebs, 4 ast, +14 +/-) ditched the preseason jitters and came back to last season form. He scored efficiently and smartly, even posting up Trae Young a couple times with good results. It’s a shame that he isn’t a good shot creator for others, otherwise he would be a sure bet to enjoy a long, starting point guard career. As it is, he’s probably best suited to bench energizer-stabilizer. Anyway, he’s by far our most polished point guard as of now and I feel Hawkeye-fine with him at the helm. Hawkeye as in “the plainest of plain Janes in the MCU”. Well, being average is better than being terrible, right?

The bad:

– Nobody really sh*t the bed tonight, but a special mention goes to the first quarter offense. The Knicks started 0 for 8 from the field and didn’t score until Frank Ntilikina connected on a long-range shot with 7:52 to go in the first quarter (shout out to my man Frank for netting the first field goal of the Knicks season!). To put that into perspective, a fan scored before any Knicks could, hitting the half court shot during a timeout with 8:03 remaining and cashing for his effort a hefty 10.000 dollars, or 1/650 of Joakim Noah cap hit for the next three years.

Truth be told, our offense keeps on being underwhelming. Yeah, we scored 126 tonight but it didn’t feel like a single bucket came from organized half-court play. I’m not sure what’s the problem here, but Fiz needs to be more imaginative with stuff, otherwise in nights when our opponents don’t turn the rock over 24 times and don’t get crashed on the boards we’re in for horrendous spurts of rim-clunking.

Fun-sized bits:

– The 49 points scored in the second quarter are the most ever scored by a Knicks team in that period. That’s no small feat, especially when we don’t run many successful plays.

– The Knicks apparently chose coach Fiz to be the cheerleading spokesperson on the Jumbotron. That’s a really smart choice, seeing as Fizdale oozes charisma from every pore. He’s a really great communicator, and people genuinely seems to be stoked when around him. There was a nice exchange between Fiz and Kanter in the second quarter after a broken play that got salvaged by an errant Hawks foul where you could really see the chemistry broiling.

– The Knicks also chose Lance Thomas to address the crowd before the game. Let’s just say I’m way more passionate when ordering a Big Mac speaking gibberish after a night of partying.

– Vince Carter was starting tonight. The dude is 41 and was the only Hawks starter posting a positive plus/minus. Did I mentions that the Hawks are hot garbage? Trae Young, though, was better than I expected (not that I expected much).

– Frank had a good game, with an excellent first quarter, especially on defense. He played a lot of minutes (34, more than anyone else in the game) and was his usual defensive self. He also was his usual offensive self, clearly overthinking in a couple occasions and rushing his shot in another couple. His crossover in the third was sick, as was his finish at the rim, but his handle is still loose and high. He was the only Knicks playing more than one minute who posted a negative plus minus for the night. Hoping this doesn’t become a trend. Overall, though, he was decorous at the very least.

– Knox was a mixed bag. He shoots from the right areas, as DRed noted in the comments a few days ago, but shoots very badly. His forays at the rim are terrible, as he contorts his body in strange ways, probably to avoid contact, and his go-to move right now seems to be an awkward floater from anywhere inside the paint (nothing that his scouting report didn’t mention). I mean, the kid shot 4 for 16 and notched 10 points. Anyway his motor looks better than advertised and there’s no sense of entitlement in him. I doubt he’ll ever be a star, but a decent contributor at 9 is not that bad.

– Baker was cool as the back up point guard. A zero on offense (save for his 4 assists) but a total pest on defense and pretty much never in over his head. He’s so, so much better than Mudiay at this basketball thing.

– Hezonja’s game is all over the place, but tonight his effort level was much better, deflecting balls here and there in the second quarter and going for nice drives. His body language is still horrible, but this kind of good J.R. Smith-lite games are a welcome sight.

– NBA League Pass has introduced a new feature this year that allows you to keep track in real time of stats and stuff. Sometimes it throws at you the most random stuff, like “Taurean Prince just tied Craig Ehlo for 16th in the all-time Hawks 3pts made leaderboard with 210”. NBA League Pass: making life easier for recappers around the globe.

– Mike Breen and Clyde are such a class act. I missed them so much along the summer.

And that’s it! 1-0, undefeated, baby! Let’s see what our guys will do against the Nets on Friday. Until then, let’s debate about whether or not Courtney Lee deserves to be traded for half a sack of potatoes.

 

Game Preview & Thread: Knicks vs. Hawks

A Wednesday night Hawks-Knicks early-season game is typically not a game either Knicks fans or Hawks fans too mark down on their calendars as a must-watch before the season starts. However, Knicks owner James Dolan made things interesting when he guaranteed a Knicks victory over the Hawks after the Knicks were torn apart by the San Antonio Spurs.

The Knicks have lost four of their last five contests and Tyson Chandler is going to miss significant time, but Dolan is confident his team is walking out of Atlanta with a victory. Trying to decipher why Dolan guaranteed a victory over the Hawks Wednesday night is not something I’d personally recommend; Dolan doesn’t have a filter, so all we can do is sit back, enjoy roll our eyes, and not dwell on it — unless you’re Mike Woodson.

Woodson is thinking about changing the starting lineup again and it appears Metta World Peace and J.R. Smith are the front-runners to be inserted into the rotation. I guess Smith’s 1-for-9 display on Sunday really showed Woodson something. Something.

The Hawks are coached by Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s long-time assistant Mike Budenholzer, so maybe that’s why Woodson is thinking about adjusting his starting lineup. The Hawks are second in the league in assists per game (28.0), which is something the Knicks have struggled with, averaging just 18.5 (24th). This past offseason the Hawks opted to let Josh Smith walk, replacing him with Paul Millsap. It’s paid off thus far — Millsap is averaging 20.9 points per 36 minutes (highest on the team). More importantly, Millsap is doing it at an efficient 60 percent TS% and 57.9 eFG%. The other Hawks big man, Al Horford, is averaging 20.5 points per 36 minutes.

Horford and Millsap have been great for the Hawks thus far, but the biggest reason why the team has been so good offensively is their point guard Jeff Teague’s progression as a passer. According to the new SportsVU data on NBA.com, Teague is creating 32.1 points per 48 minutes through his assists. Teague is also third in the league in assist opportunities per game averaging 19.0, per NBA.com.

So, if the Dolan’s guarantee of a Knicks victory over the Hawks is to come true it will mostly fall on whether or not the Knicks can stop Teague. If the first six games are any indication, that doesn’t seem to be very likely: Raymond Felton has had a rough start to the season on that front, and with the absence of Tyson Chandler, chances are it’s only going to get harder for Felton to get back on track. Felton has shot his best inside (51.9 percent in the restricted area), but is still shooting roughly four three-pointers a game and only making 24% of them. His counterpart tomorrow night isn’t exactly setting the roof on fire either from behind the three-point line — Teague is shooting 27 percent from three-point land — but he’s getting to the line six times per game and doubles Felton in the assists per 36 minutes (10-5) .

With the state the Knicks current frontcourt is in, the Knicks probably won’t be able to slow down Millsap and Horford Wednesday night, but maybe Woodson’s backcourt rotation choices will ultimately decide if Dolan’s guarantee comes true.

Game Recap: Knicks 92, Hawks 79

That headline is not a typo. Tonight the Knicks held an opponent to less than 80 points for the first time since a 102-73 win over the Nets on April 15 of last year. The Hawks shot 45% from the field, got to the line only 9 times, and committed a woeful 19 turnovers en route to 79 points on 90 possessions. Considering the Knicks typically allow 109 points per 100 possessions, this was a considerable step up in defensive performance against an above-average offense.

Where did it come from? Hard to say. Turiaf was out, replaced by 27 minutes of Jared Jeffries. Jeffries didn’t strike me as having an exceptional defensive game, but the Hawks did seem to settle for a lot of mid-range jumpers (on which they were generally very unsuccessful), so maybe his presence counted for more than I noticed. The Hawks got 17 from J-Smoove, 15 from Kirk Hinrich, and 14 from our old frenemy Jamal Crawford, but aside from Hinrich everyone got their points at a pretty inefficient clip.

For their part, the Knicks scored a pedestrian 92 points on 90 possessions, including 26 on 20 shots from Amar’e, 15 on 11 shots from Landry Fields, and an UnMelonian 14-7-7 line on a slightly more Melonian 6/18 shooting clip from the Big Volumizer. Extra E made 4 threes and grabbed 6 rebounds. Anthony Carter turned into Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson for a few minutes in the second half.

To my eyes, this one had more to do with the Hawks having an off-game than the Knicks turning into the ’89 Pistons overnight. But no matter the cause, the Knicks got a 13 point win on the road against a good team and they got some late-game rest for a couple key players on the first night of a back-to-back. Ugly as it was, that’s a result you’ll take any day.

So what do you guys think, improved Knicks D or just incompetent Hawks offense? Do we want to see Jeffries take more of Turiaf’s minutes long term (I don’t)? What to do with all of our marginal wing players who are suddenly all demanding more PT with their play (Extra E, Anthony Carter, even Roger Mason’s Son)?

The Grass Really Isn’t Greener

Back in February, a lot of Knick fans were hoping for some kind of change to jump start their lifeless 2010 season. New York was 19-34 (.358) and seemingly stuck in a mire. By the 20th they had dumped Nate Robinson, Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries and a bunch of draft picks for a winter rental of Tracy McGrady, Eddie House, Bill Walker, and Sergio Rodriguez. Some fans saw McGrady, a former All Star, as a potential great player. For instance a friend of mine on facebook wrote “T-Mac, now a Knick, hopefully he stays healthy and has a couple more good seasons left in him.”

Since that trade New York’s record hasn’t gotten better as the team has won only 5 of the last 15 games. Neither McGrady nor his new teammates have been able to turn the tide. In fact the Knicks won the only game that McGrady missed (against the Hawks), so he hasn’t been as effective as my friend expected. Personally, I wanted the Knicks to change because the team had been monotonous, and after the trade the new players were intriguing to watch. But ultimately, to paraphrase Bill Parcels, you’re as interesting as your record. And the results from the new group of players has been just as bad as the old group.

There are a few positives to take from this trade. The first is Bill Walker, who is playing reasonably well and could be a cheap and productive roster filler for 2010 and beyond. The second is New York’s first hand look at McGrady, House, and Rodriguez might prevent them from spending too much on any of these players. They haven’t looked particularly good, and although each may have something to bring to the Knicks past this year, none are playing well enough for the team giddily overpay them. The last positive is the extra minutes for Toney Douglas. Although it would have been possible for the team to play him without this trade, with D’Antoni’s mindset that may have not occurred. But the removal of Nate Robinson helped pave the way for his minutes, along with the equally poor play from Duhon/Rodriguez. With the team counting every summer 2010 penny, having two guys that make relatively little but that can crack the rotation will be key for the future.

Hawks 114 – Knicks 101

Y’all may not realize it, but the turning point in yet another Knicks’ loss came with about 1:30 to go in the 2nd quarter. You see, I went over to my Pop’s house to watch the tilt v. Atlanta. Like your humble correspondent, he’s a long-suffering fan (he used to rock me to sleep when I was a wee ‘bairn while listening to the ’72-’73 team march to the championship). For reason’s that are a mystery to us both, some grand karmic disorder is set in motion when we watch the game on the teevee together. We’re just plain old bad mojo. So, when he descended from his studio right before the half (shameless plug: www.burtonsilverman.com), the planets aligned in the worst possible way. In my notes I scribbled, “Close out the half well. Break their spirits! March to Xanadu on a road of their bones!” But alas, ‘twas not to be.

A big turning point came via our beleaguered PG’s utterly boneheaded play w/10 seconds left, Knicks up 9. Whether he was seized by the furies or what, he launched an ill-advised trey w/6 seconds still on the clock, leading to a long rebound and fast break finish for the Hawks.

So, instead of being up 11 (or 12, but at a minimum 9) at the half, suddenly the lead is a manageable 7 and the fine denizens of Atlanta walk into the lockerroom clearly pondering some variation of, “Gosh golly. We’ve missed a ton of easy shots. There’s no ball movement on offense. We’re getting torched by Toney Douglas of all people and the Knicks are easier to psychologically topple than a 2 year old’s blocks. Sweet!” I’d assume Mike Woodson impressed them how fortunate they were to find themselves in such a situation, but I’m not entirely convinced that Mike Woodson is a sentient being. Seriously, did he move the entire game? Now, it’d be easy to blame C-Du (Or MD’A for continuing to start him) for this dire turn of events. But personally, I think it’s me and my Dad’s fault. If we were true fans, we would have switched to watching the ‘Top Chef’ marathon. Being selfish, we stayed glued to the set until the inevitable conclusion.

My glib thoughts on my family’s psychic powers over basketball games notwithstanding, here are some thoughts on our hardwood heroes:

AL HARRINGTON – It’s amazing to me how he can look like an all-star (or at least a more motivated Tim Thomas) for one half and then seemingly forget all the things that led to his success in the other. He’s great off the dribble v. traditional PF’s/C’s and can post smaller players. When he overdribbles, the rest of the team stands around and watches, mainly because they know the ball has a better chance of escaping the gravitational pull of the sun than Al’s clutches and/or he launches contested jumpers. And how did you miss that dunk? Did the ghost of Tree Rollins emerge from the ether and swat it away?

CHRIS DUHON – Boy is he a mess. He’s got zero confidence in his shot right now. As a result, teams are sagging on the pick and roll and severely reducing Lee’s effectiveness. He’s turning the ball over at an alarming rate and making some godawful decisions (see above). I can only assume he hasn’t been benched b/c MD’A is worried that another setback will send his self-esteem below Emily Dickinson’s. But honestly, he’s a liability on the court right now.

DAVID LEE – was playing an inactive/listless game for him even before sitting early in the 3rd after his old college chum Al Horford decimated him in the low post and repeatedly beat him down the court. I was probably as stunned as the rest of you to see him Charles Smith a series of put-backs in the fourth. I think I even summoned my inner Bill Walton and bellowed, “Throw it down, big man!”

LARRY HUGHES – I refuse to live in a world where Larry Hughes is one of our best players. For the most part, he makes good decisions w/the ball, hits the open jumper, plays the best perimeter d on the team and gets a real bang out of sending a closing defender hurtling towards midcourt w/a headfake on foul-line extended 3’s. He did chuck up a couple of heylarryhughespleasestoptakingsomanybadshots.com specials in the 2nd half, but for the most part, played well. And he certainly didn’t warrant a benching.

TONEY DOUGLAS – Hit some clutch shots. Penetrated at will. Played good defense. Got a little shot-happy in the 4th when the game had gotten out of hand, but anyone who’s watched the last 3 games (and if you have, I’m sorry that you’ll never get those 7.5 or so hours of your life back), has to realize that he’s playing well enough to warrant starting at PG. Granted, he did start tonight, but having him guard Johnson was a recipe for disaster that was only averted when JJ took half the game to get warmed up/decide to play.

JARED JEFFRIES – First of all, you can’t wear a headband, Jared. Really, you just can’t. It looks awful. Second, for every nice play you make that doesn’t show up in the box score (drawing charges, moving w/o the ball on offense), it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll make one play that turns Knick fans’ collective brains into a substance resembling guacamole. To wit: 4th quarter, 3 on 1 fast break, Nix trying to cut the lead to 6, you’re undefended and you fumble away a perfect bounce pass like the ball was covered with Crisco. “He went to Jared!” isn’t just an annoying marketing slogan for a diamond company, but a cry that emerges from Knick fans between the hours of 7:30 and 10pm.

MIKE D’ANTONI – Um Mike. When the other team’s getting on a run. You can like, call a time out and stuff. Like in the 3rd quarter and you were up 5 (thanks to Toney Douglas doing what Toney Douglas do). When suddenly, your team misses 11 of 12 shots from the field and the other team goes on a 12-0 run. You can like, call a time out then or put in different players and stuff. I’m worried about you, Mike. You are starting to take on a Zeke Thomas-like expression in the 4th quarter these days. It’s a combination of utter despair combined with the vague hope that you might come down with a mild case of the Ebola Virus on the way home, thus freeing you from your contractual obligations to coach this ‘team,’ as it were.

Ok, I’m done being snarky. The boys played well enough to win for stretches, and then just well enough to lose for the rest of the game. Poop.  I (and the rest of us stalwarts) will be back on Fri. night when we get to pine for one Curry that never was (Stephen), and wait for another Curry that might possible be (Fast Eddy).