New York Knicks 92 – Charlotte Hornets 101 – Game Recap

For the third time in a row, our Knicks couldn’t reach the triple-digit threshold, and for the second game straight they looked like they could finally pull it off. This time it was a very, very close game until the end of the third quarter, when the two teams were perfectly tied at 71. From there on, our guys kept on misfiring while the Hornets suddenly caught fire from three, and the game was suddenly over thanks to a flurry of Malik Monk trifectas and a few inspired minutes from an unusually lethargic Kemba. Good minutes from Parker and Willy (miss ya) were the icing on the cake for Charlotte.

With Frank sidelined by a groin injury, Kadeem Allen was called up (he’s the recipient of the two-way contract vacated by Trier signing his NBA contract) and was promptly given 18 minutes. I’m not complaining about it, actually I liked it. The thing is, you realize you’re not at rock bottom of a tanking season when you’re actually happy to see a 26 year old former second round pick on the court because you don’t have to watch Burke and Hardaway chuck their way into oblivion. Actually Hardaway didn’t play that bad last night (even 10 boards for him!), but he’s definitely gone into post 2012/13 Melo territory, where you realize he’s the most talented “scorer” you have in your roster but can’t stand to watch him more than a few sparse minutes here and there. This concept fully evolved in my mind while watching this game into a system I called F.A.T.A.L., which stands for Future attractiveness, Actual attractiveness, Tradeabilitly, Aid for the tank and Laughingstock appeal. Since these games don’t have a lot to talk about (especially when your best and most exciting player gets only 13 minutes of play for who knows what reason), let’s examine the guys on our roster through their F.A.T.A.L. scores. If a guy scores more than 28 at F.A.T.A.L., you might find it easier to root for him when he’s on the court.

Before doing that, let’s take a look at how every category is graded:

Future attractiveness: the name says it all. It doesn’t matter if your guy’s young and unproven but has a lot of potential, or if he’s already a star in the making. What matters is how good you predict he will be in three years, more or less. For reference: 1 is Vince Carter/Dirk Nowitzki, 10 is Luka/Zion.

Actual attractiveness: again, the name says it all. How good’s your guy now? 1: Cameron Payne; 10: Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Tradeability: a lot of factors here. The contract is in play as much as the actual skillset and position on the floor. 1: pre-stretch provision Joakim Noah; 10: pretty much every real max player on a long contract plus a few rookie scale contracts where the guys are really good. Let’s say Anthony Davis to stay in the moment.

Aid for the tank: how badly is your guy contributing to the misfortune of his team? This time the scale is inverted as not to mix apples and oranges, so 1 is a good aid for the tank (think LaVine) and 10 is terrible aid for the tank (John Collins?). This category is hard to value for non-tanking teams, but it’s pretty clear that, I don’t know, Pascal Siakam would get 10 nonetheless.

Laughingstock appeal: is your guy prone to at least elicit a burst of laughter in a dreary stretch of games? The scale here is not inverted, as goofy entertaiment is still entertainment, but it’s reduced from 1 to 5. 1: Chris Paul or whatever boring guy you can think of. 5: prime JaVale McGee and/or JR Smith.

Now, with that laid on the table, let’s examine the guys who played last night and the ones we have on the injured/useless list.

Trey Burke:

Future Attractiveness: 3. A 29 year old welterweight back-up point guard who’s apparently not able to run basic sets must be all the rage in 2022 NBA.
Actual Attractiveness: 4. A 26 year old welterweight back-up poing guard who’s apparently able to hit a few midrange shots might be a tad more helpful to fringe playoff teams.
Tradeability: 6. His contract is very team-friendly, and he’s probably one of the most tradeable guys we have on our roster because of that.
Aid for the tank: 3. He’s not as bad as other guys, but his inability to propel anyone on offense if not himself and his size on defense are not a winning formula.
Laughingstock appeal: 2. Without his cornrows and with his relatively newfound faith, he looks pretty boring.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 18.

Tim Hardaway Jr:

Future Attractiveness: 5. A 29 year old Jamal Crawford sixth man type should stick in the league for a while, maybe even helping actual fringe contenders.
Actual Attractiveness: 5. A 26 year old Jamal Crawford sixth man type should be useful. The problem’s in the contract (and consequent role in the team), not in his overall play.
Tradeability: 3. Again, the problem is the contract, and the trade kicker. Yeah, he’s “officially” on the trade block. Fun fact: I’m “officially” in search of a job in the USA, but that doesn’t mean I will likely breathe American air soon. Actually, I’m “officially” in that position since 2008, so…
Aid for the tank: 4. Timmy’s not a tank commander anymore. He’s just a mediocre usage soaking placeholder.
Laughingstock appeal: 3. I think Timmy’s an underrated comedic rant guy. I wish they would mic him up, I found his recent bitching promising.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 20.

Kevin Knox:

Future Attractiveness: 6. Mayyyybe he’ll reach average efficiency by year 22, becoming a good tertiary piece. Or maybe he will bust out of the league after having changed three teams. Dunno.
Actual Attractiveness: 3. A starting wing who’s posting negative WS/48 and highly negative BPM (-5.9) has only his young age and a few high-scoring games as reasons to like him.
Tradeability: 7. He’s a rookie lottery pick and he’s scoring in double figures. That’s all it takes to convince a GM it makes sense to trade for him.
Aid for the tank: 1. See “actual attractiveness”. He’s a master tank commander right now.
Laughingstock appeal: 3. He looks always half asleep, but his confused drives and awkward floaters are exactly at the edge between “morbidly funny” and “absolute cringe”.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 20.

Lance Thomas:

Future Attractiveness: 1. The most likely guy in the whole league to stick around only as a chemist, the role Bill Simmons invented for Royal Ivey. A guy who doesn’t contribute anything on the court but makes everything run smoothly in the locker room.
Actual Attractiveness: 2. It would be a 1, if not for the fact that him starting makes it possible not to play Enes.
Tradeability: 3. He’s essentially an expiring contract, could be good for matching salaries purpose.
Aid for the tank: 2. Lance can’t even be super bad. He’s mediocre even at being bad.
Laughingstock appeal: 4. The guy seems a serious professional. The player is an uncoordinated mess who looks like a mix between a lamppost and a housewife doing a botched impression of a whirling dervish. It’s impossible not to laugh at his spin moves. He’s also easy to build funny metaphors around.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 12.

Noah Vonleh:

Future Attractiveness: 7. A mini Draymond Green (if this is not a contract year phenomenon) will be very useful in his prime in 2022.
Actual Attractiveness: 6. His recent slump shouldn’t take away anything from the fact that he’s a solid player.
Tradeability: 6. This is one of the cases where having a short contract makes it harder to trade the guy, especially because he’s at the minimum so it’s pretty much impossibile to retain him with non-Bird rights. Still, he might be in demand around the league for teams looking to shore up their frontcourt with solid if unspectacular guys.
Aid for the tank: 6. I don’t think he could be bad enough this season to really be a tank factor even if he wanted to. He helped the tank anyway in a few games via fouling and/or turning the ball over.
Laughingstock appeal: 2. I find him a bit blah on this. He actually fits the part of an old-school guy.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 27.

Allonzo Trier:

Future Attractiveness: 6. He’s an old rookie. In 2022 he’ll be 26. It’s unlikely the finished product will be better that what it is now, but it still looks like a capable NBA player.
Actual Attractiveness: 7. Yes, old, but still a rookie. It feels good when a first-year guy is even slightly productive (if his role was full-time PG, this grade would take a nosedive to 4). A bonus point for the fact that he’s the only guy who can find Mitch for a lob.
Tradeability: 7. An even better version of the Trey Burke contract for a better level of production.
Aid for the tank: 5. If he plays off the ball, he’s not a tank factor. If he plays PG, he’s a tank feldmarschall
Laughingstock appeal: 2. I don’t find anything about Trier funny. Maybe the fact that he looks like a cross between Pharrell Williams and Sam Cassell? Bonus point for the Twitter blunder.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 27.

Damyean Dotson:

Future Attractiveness: 6. If you hit 38% of your threes and don’t turn the ball over you’ll always have a spot in a rotation.
Actual Attractiveness: 5. Maybe 5 is low, but he’s on an extended slump where he doesn’t score a lot and doesn’t rebound well.
Tradeability: 8. His contract is ultra team-friendly. Apart from our 2019 1st and Mitch, he’s our best sweetener.
Aid for the tank: 5. He’s so average that he can neither help nor hinder the tank.
Laughingstock appeal: -1. I can’t overlook the alleged accusations. I’m sorry.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 23.

Mario Hezonja:

Future Attractiveness: 1. Does anyone really think that in 2022 Hezonja will still be in the NBA?
Actual Attractiveness: 3. His rare bursts of good basketball are too few to think it’s a good thing to have him on the court. A bonus point for the Giannis stepover.
Tradeability: 3. He’s an expiring, which counts for something.
Aid for the tank: 1. When he was starting, he was an amazing tank officer.
Laughingstock appeal: 4. I like his banters with Kanter (which brings to my attention the strange fact that Clyde never rhymed Kanter with banter).
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 12.

Mitchell Robinson:

Future Attractiveness: 8. You can’t look at him without thinking he has at least a 25% chance to become the next best rim-running big man in the League. At worst, he’ll be a Chandler-lite at 23.
Actual Attractiveness: 9. Bonus point for being a rookie. I wish NBA League Pass had an option where you could select a guy and it would show you only the portions of the game where that guy was on the floor. I wouldn’t use it this season because I have to write things, but I would certainly recommend it to everyone.
Tradeability: 10. His contract is absurdly very team-friendly, and he’s posting absurd advanced stats.
Aid for the tank: 4. Fouls too much and doesn’t rebound enough.
Laughingstock appeal: 3. I think he will become a very funny guy. Right now I like the faces he makes out of frustration when he fouls out.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 34.

Emmanuel Mudiay:

Future Attractiveness: 4. As a 26 year old back-up point guard, maybe you could do worse. Not sure, but there’s a chance.
Actual Attractiveness: 4. Until last year I would have said he was a 2. Baby steps!
Tradeability: 6. He’s an expiring young PG with Bird-rights attached and a soon to be RFA. A savvy front office would be calling everyone to trade him away and it wouldn’t be that hard.
Aid for the tank: 2. If not for his improved, if unsusteinable, midrange shooting, he’d be the definitive tank commander. As it is he’s bad enough to make up for his semi-efficiency to be offset by his terrible defense and inability to involve other guys consistently.
Laughingstock appeal: 2. I can only see sadness when I look at Mud, even during his 30-point outings.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 16.

Frank Ntilikina:

Future Attractiveness: 5. At least three bonus points for defense and some hope he’ll fix his three point shot. If I had to guess his future only from his offensive ability, he’d be a nice backup in the French second division.
Actual Attractiveness: 4. Only because he’s young, enjoys playing defense and we picked him. He shows glimpses, but I’m afraid that he’s too unathletic to really pan out.
Tradeability: 6. Former lottery pick, contract not that big. Fairly easy to trade away (for a bag of beans, but still).
Aid for the tank: 3. I think he’s actually a bit better than Mudiay, even with all his flaws. People seem to play a bit more focused around him.
Laughingstock appeal: 2. He had a few funny turnovers, and that’s all.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 21.

Luke Kornet:

Future Attractiveness: 7. If Matt Bullard played until 34 in a League that wasn’t as perimeter oriented as it is now, Kornet will be a nice commodity for a few years.
Actual Attractiveness: 5. He’s definitely not a starting-caliber center. He’s also a weak rebounder.
Tradeability: 6. Expiring, but without Bird rights.
Aid for the tank: 5. I actually think he would have been instrumental to a few wins if not for the personnel around him.
Laughingstock appeal: 3. Again, goofy is funny.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 26.

Enes Kanter:

Future Attractiveness: 6. If he accepts the fact that he’s not gonna get paid and he’s not gonna start, he’ll be useful until his late thirties. His game doesn’t age.
Actual Attractiveness: 5. He’s in the wrong situation, in the wrong city, in the wrong decade. A bonus point for fighting that lunatic Erdogan.
Tradeability: 3. Expiring, but no chance in hell that he’ll get traded for anything valuable.
Aid for the tank: 3. Great numbers, horrible defense. He was also actively stunting the development of a few pieces.
Laughingstock appeal: 4. “Watch me being selected for the All-Star Game!”.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 18.

Kadeem Allen: INC (“Is it good that two two-way contract players in the same season look better than your 2017 lottery pick? Discuss”)

Courtney Lee:

Future Attractiveness: 1. I think this is his last contract.
Actual Attractiveness: 3. Solid veteran. Nothing else.
Tradeability: 2. Thanks Phil!
Aid for the tank: 5. He’s not good for the tank, but he’s not good for anything as of now.
Laughingstock appeal: 2. A good professional. Bonus point for the old “dumb and dumberer” tweet about Ron Baker starting in his place in 2017.
Final F.A.T.A.L. score: 13.

And that’s your F.A.T.A.L. chart:

Mitch 34
Trier 27
Vonleh 27
Kornet 26
Dotson 23
Ntilikina 21
Knox 20
THJ 20
Burke 18
Kanter 18
Mudiay 16
Lee 13
Hezonja 12
Thomas 12

I think it works!

And now on to see how Luka (F.A.T.A.L. score: 42) will ruthlessly shred our pathetic defense.

Charlotte Hornets 119 – New York Knicks 107 – Game Recap

Hear me out, I have a proposal. What if we started every game with a -15 handicap from the beginning? I mean, if that’s what it takes for Fiz to feel safe playing our kids a lot of minutes, why not (all the same, somebody has to explain to me how come that you choose to play Hezonja and Mudiay to win games)?

We were treated to a game where scores were approximately a lot for them and a little for us, and I think nobody cared even a bit. We saw, maybe by accident, a game similar to the ones we grew accustomed to in the first portion of the year. 41 minutes for Knox. 31 for Dotson. 20 for Frank (artificially limited by his penchant to pick useless fouls on the perimeter and by two bogus calls in the fourth quarter). 20 for Robinson. Even 9 for Baker  (Trier was out with a strained hamstring; we don’t have news about him yet, I guess he’ll be out for the whole three-game road trip)! But more than that, more than minutes distribution, it was evident that the kids had the greenlight to be, you know, just them, which in case of Knox is “a guy who shoots everything in sight”.

Now, it’s impossible to say that even a single guy has played well (they haven’t; when stakes are this low, you have to play a perfect game to be “good”). But it’s not impossible to single out who played really bad, so I’ll do just that comparing guys to typical winter maladies, with the recipe to cure that illness right after the “bad” player.

The cold and the cough: Mario Hezonja (1 reb, 1 foul, -4 +/-) is annoying, persistent, and doesn’t seem to go away easily. In the end, it’s inconsequential at best, but can leave you tired and numb after a few weeks of its presence. Mario was so bad that he was the only starter not to return on the court for the second half, having Knox start in his place in the third quarter. I can’t remember a player who does less for the Knicks than Mario since the Bargs days. Hez looks like he has talent, but at this point I’m not even convinced he has some aside from the talent of convincing you of the contrary.

Acetylsalicilyc acid: Damyean Dotson (12 pts, 1 reb, 3 ast, +7 +/-) scored again in double figures with cool efficiency, hitting 6 of his 8 shots. I have a weak spot for low-variance guys, the ones who produce the same without regards for context. Dot is one of them: he doesn’t care if the team is up 20 or down 20, he’ll play the same way as he always does. Oddly, he didn’t attempt a single three tonight (he’s shooting 4.1 per game), but it’s not like there were timid guys around him. Bottom line: if you want to feel better after Mario, play some Dotson and revel in his consistency and workmanlike competence.

The headache: Emmanuel Mudiay (6 pts, 3 rebs, 4 ast, -20 +/-) makes it impossible to have a headstart, as for the last three games his individual defense has cratered and his team defense… well, I can’t focus with this impending migraine. This season Mudiay has objectively gotten a bit better on offense, picking his spots more carefully inside of the arc and showing off some passing chops (the best pass of the game was his assist to THJ in the first quarter for a backdoor cut between three opponents. A Nash-like pass, I swear to you). His shooting from the perimeter, though… with that form it’s impossible he’ll be ever able to hit more than 30% of his outside shots, and that’s a clear limitation on his overall impact on the game. What is really detrimental, anyway, is his defense. It’s difficult for everyone to stop Kemba and the likes, but Emmanuel doesn’t even try. He gets lost on the first screen and then wanders around like a hobbled man would play tag. Combine him with Mario on the defensive end and you’re better off staying in bed all day.

The ibuprofen: Ron Baker Frank Ntilikina (18 pts, 1 ast, 64% FG, +2 +/-) had the offensive night of his career, going perfect from three on four attempts and playing the third quarter like a real NBA combo guard, confident and assertive. On defense he was not his best self, especially in the second quarter when matched with Tony Parker, who schooled him over and over again. I don’t know what happened at half-time, but it was certainly something goooood. After going scoreless and at times being listless in the first half, in the second Frank stepped onto the court with 8:42 to go in the third quarter. He had to adjust a bit to the game, and then two minutes later he exploded in a flurry of shots: his first basket was a pullup shot after a behind-the-back dribble and a headfake; his second was an extended elbow three; his third was a top of the key three in rhythm; his fourth was an elbow pullup after a Robinson screen; his fifth a corner three. All in all, he was often in the right spot after having moved well without the ball. He couldn’t keep cooking in the fourth because of a very wrong call on a drive (bogus offensive foul, his fifth) and a possibly wrong call on defense a couple minutes later. It was also good to see Fizdale incensed for those calls on the man he benched for three straight games; if there was a moment to be ejected, he picked the right one. Maybe (just maybe) Fiz was up to something with those DNP? I don’t like mind games, but everything is possible. All in all, not the best game of Ntilikina’s career (his defense was a bit meh) but a huge injection of confidence – and maybe a great way to earn more playing time. I wish he could hit the boards more, though. He’s tall, he’s kinda big. He has to grab at least 3 boards per game.

The sore throat: Enes Kanter (6 pts, 4 rebs, 50% FG, -17 +/-) leaves you speechless at the worst times, and not in a good way. It’s not the first times a second-string opponent big starts the game wreaking havoc against the Knicks, thanks to the porous defense of Enes (remember Sabonis?). Cody Zeller went 5-5 in the first quarter to help Charlotte building a comfortable lead, while Enes stood around watching the stiffy Hornets center having his way near the rim. You convince yourself that maybe Kanter isn’t that bad for your team, and then are forced to turn the other way scratching your throat feeling uneasy just to have thought that. Enes also had uncharacteristically weak hands, fumbling passes and boards. Not his best night.

The propolis: Kevin Knox (26 pts, 15 rebs, 1 stl, -7 +/-) had an overinflated night and as a result might become overrated and thought as a panacea for all sorts of sickness, but mind you: I liked it. I don’t like Knox’s game, and that’s definitely not new, but his motor has gotten a lot better and I like his disposition. He’s starting to look like he maybe has a place in the league after all, even if he won’t certainly ever be known for his efficiency; but 25+ points and 15+ boards are not a feat for every rookie. In the last 20 years, only fourteen guys, Kevin included, posted such numbers as a rookie. The only teenager besides Knox? LeBron James (the other rookies were, in temporal order: Keith Van Horn, Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Amar’e Stoudemire, Emeka Okafor – lol -, Charlie Villanueva – double lol -, Marc Gasol, Michael Beasley – I’m out of lulz -, Blake Griffin, Karl-Anthony Towns and Ben Simmons. Not bad, huh? I just fear that in 20 more years someone else will write lol near poor Kev). If anything, we can say for sure that coach Fiz is not afraid to have his rookies shoot the ball: Kevin took 25 shots to get to his season-high in points, tying the tally of the Milwaukee game. He’s goodish in fastbreaks and shooting threes and uncontested pullups. Everything else is still a mess. There was a sequence in the first quarter where he missed the layup, grabbed his own board, missed by a country mile from under the basket, grabbed again his own board and finally was mercifully fouled. He just doesn’t know what to do when people put themselves between him and the rim.

Vaccinate yourself!:

– Noah Vonleh with 9 assists. Some of them were very good. I compared 20-ish games ago to a homeless man’s Draymond, and I stand by my opinion. I’d be happy to have him back (for a reasonable contract). An off night from the field, but it was a hard time for all the starters.

– Timmy was better than in the last games, scoring 21 points on 13 shots and dishing 5 assists. He turned the ball over five times, though. Timmy as the first option is a great tanking help.

– Mitchell Robinson is already a known quantity (6/2/1 with a side dish of two spicy blocks), and he can’t really play basketball yet. I love this kid. One thing I noticed: his screens are way better than they were at the beginning of the season. They’re already worlds better than KP’s screens. His defensive rebounding, instead, keeps on being questionable at best (his DRB% is less than his TRB%, go figure.

– Ron Baker got some playing time, and all he cared for was to make sure that Courtney Lee scored. Terrible offensive player, wonderful heart (and a surprisingly steady game, 5 points and 3 assists in garbage time).

– Courtney Lee played 13 impalpable minutes save for the time where he ditched and uncontested three to pump fake the air and then shoot (and miss) a contested 20-footer. Old habits never die.

– A wonderful vintage Tony Parker night. As I’m already on record saying, I liked the Manu-era Spurs. I feel like I could have appreciated Tony a little more than I did. He took to school every Knick defender (not that is was that hard, but still).

– At the end of the game, the cameras indulged on Frank being busy chatting with Batum and Parker, what with French Heritage Night and whatever. Kevin Knox dived in to greet the two Charlotte players, they saluted him back and went back at talking with Frank in one motiion, with the familiar expression everyone of us has when we meet someone we really don’t care about at the Christmas company party.

So, let’s head to Cleveland! It’s very likely that I won’t be able to recap that one (severe work obligations on Thursday!), so we’ll see each other on Friday night, again versus the Hornets.

Au revoir!

 

 

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.

Some Plays Count: Gallo & Lee

In the Knicks win against the Hornets, Danilo Gallinari & David Lee had some nice chemistry going. The pair hooked up 3 times for easy buckets, and to the naked eye they appeared to be veterans that had played together for years. Although Gallo had an off-night with regards to shooting (2-9, pts) he racked up 5 assists, and helped the team’s spacing on the floor.

The below video shows the three plays in which Gallo fed Lee. In the first, Gallo’s hot outside shooting allows him to head fake his defender on the perimeter. He drives to the hoop, and draws the defense in. Lee had continued all the way to the hoop, and received a nice pass from the Rooster. In the second, Lee sets a beautiful pick, and Gallo rewards him with a fantastic bounce pass for an easy layup. The last play shows Gallo’s vision, as he leads Lee with a pass over the middle.

Some Plays Count: Who Is Hurting the Knicks Offense?

Recently I had an exchange with another blogger about one Knick in particular. In our discussion, he mentioned that this player was hurting the offense because “the fact that [his] defender doesn’t have to guard [his] jumper TRULY stiffles this system. [The other team] can sag on cutters or on screens…” The blogger was describing David Lee, and needless to say I didn’t agree with his assessment. However watching the tape of the Bobcats game I saw exactly what this blogger was talking about. Except it wasn’t David Lee that was hurting the Knicks offense, it was Wilson Chandler.

In the video below, I show two plays where Chandler’s inability to score hurts the offense. Twice the Knicks attempt to run the pick & roll. And twice the Bobcats focus on suppressing the screen, leaving Chandler wide open on the perimeter. Unfortunately the only “Ill-Will” Chandler dishes out is to his own team. The Knicks retain possession on the first shot due to Lee’s tenacity on the boards. But Charlotte secures the second miss.

Over the summer I said that Chandler needs to improve his scoring efficiency by getting to the line more and/or being more consistent with his three point shot. However an injury sidelined Wilson in the offseason, so he wasn’t able to work on his game. After the first 3 games, Chandler is shooting a pitiful 12.5% from three and has a TS% of 40.9%. While he won’t shoot that badly over the course of the season, you can see why D’Antoni has inserted Danilo Gallinari into the starting lineup. Teams can double Duhon and clog the middle on every screen because there is no one on the perimeter to make them pay. This paid immediate dividends in last night’s win over the Hornets, as David Lee led the team in scoring (28 points on 17 shots). Shutting down the pick & roll is what put the Knicks in a tailspin at the end of last year, and the New York offense can’t thrive without balancing the threat between inside & outside scoring.

Knicks 117 Hornets 111

The fourth’s times the charm, as the Knicks finally win their first game this season. New York never fell behind by 20+, as they did in each of their first three games, and pulled away in the fourth quarter outscoring New Orleans 40-30 in the final frame. The team was led by David Lee (28 points on 17 shots, with 8 rebs & 3 ast) and Larry Hughes (20 points on 13 shots). This was Hughes’ second strong game in a row, after it was thought that he might not even make the rotation.

Although his stats weren’t impressive, Danilo Gallinari contributed as well. Gallo had 9 points on 9 shots, but added 5 assists, 2 steals, 2 rebounds and a blocked shot. I’ve been trying to keep notes during the game of notable plays, and my sheet is filled with the words “Gallo”. He had the ball in his hands a lot, and was able to create for his teammates.

Boxscore: http://www.nba.com/games/20091102/NOHNYK/boxscore.html