The Dead Zone

For good or bad, the Knicks have had their share of exciting stories this year. Over the summer New York acquired Eddy Curry, a 23 year old center with heart problems. They’ve grabbed one of the best coaches in the game in Larry Brown, and the Knicks have no shortage of young players. For a few months Channing Frye was one of the forerunners in the Rookie of the Year award. Slam Dunk Champion Nate Robinson is the 5-foot-something guard who combines a football player’s mentality with a childish enthusiasm for the game. David Lee, a solid rebounder, had a dunk last week against the Hawks that showed he might be worth more than the average 30th round pick.

Second year player Jackie Butler just turned old enough to buy beer legally and shows plenty of promise for someone that never played a game in college. That Butler has made it into the big show at all is a story of itself, and if he can stick around in this league it would be an incredible achievement. Those that have read the Last Shot know how perfectly aligned everything has to be to make the NBA and how hoop dreams end more like Darryl Flickling’s than Stephon Marbury’s. A similar statement could be said for Qyntel Woods, who is running out of teams to make himself unwelcome on.

The Knicks picked up Jerome James who would give them size in the middle, something they’ve desperately needed since the days of Camby & Ewing. At the small forward spot Quentin Richardson had the most 3 pointers made in 2005, and the recently acquired Jalen Rose is versatile on the offensive end. My least favorite player last year, Jamal Crawford, has shown immense improvement in his weakest area: shot selection. And finally Steve Francis is a 3 time All Star, and his arrival gives the Knicks an odd scoring punch in the backcourt.

So, how can a team with so many interesting stories field such a boring team? There are too many offensive plays where the ball ends up in the stands. Too many times two players end up in the same spot. On defense, when the Knicks aren’t allowing their opponents an easy path to the rim, they’ve giving them a second chance to complete the job. Too often they’re down by 12 in the first, and you know they’re not coming back.

Knick-nation will spend the next 6 months arguing over who is to blame: Isiah Thomas for assembling a roster of overated players, Larry Brown’s inflexibile ways making a bad team the laughing stock in the league, or James Dolan for his emporer’s new clothes act. And while there is plenty of finger wagging to spread around to those three, as far as I’m concerned the onus for the on the court product belongs to the players and more specifically the veterans.

There seems to be a general malaise among the non-rookies. Against Toronto there was one play that sticks out in my mind, a defensive rebound that bounced past Eddy Curry, Jalen Rose, and Steve Francis before ending up in Raptor hands. These were three veterans with a combined 24 years of experience, and none of them knows that if they see a basketball bouncing past them that it’s a good idea to secure it. It’s ironic, because in that same game Nate Robinson went full speed into the scorer’s table chasing the rock, sending a pile of papers into the air in a failed attempt. How is it that a rookie is setting the proper example in putting the extra effort to get another possession? The sloppy play and lack of effort makes the games painful to watch. The 2006 Knicks are like a Steven King novel, they’re a great read but awful when translated into video.

Hollinger’s Knicks

[In today’s article, we take you back in the KnickerBlogger.Net Time Machine? to February 8th 2006. In this much darker time in Knick history, the hometown blue had been in the middle of a 10 game losing streak. It’s a stark contrast to the 1 game win streak the team is currently riding.

In this date in history, Michael Zannettis sent me this intelligent discourse on the Knicks of his era. Unfortunately I was out of town on business (that thing that allows me to collect money to pay for this thing), and the KnickerBlogger publishing group was on a team building exercise in the mountains of Nepal.

Mr. Zannettis is head of the KnickerBlogger.Net Biology department, ensuring that all employees of KB.N Industries do actually bleed orange & blue. So without further ado…]


mort (nyc): Okay, smart guy. Imagine this: Larry Brown gets fired and John Hollinger is named head coach of the Knicks. Oh, and Stephon Marbury just broke his leg. Who are your starting 5?

John Hollinger: (3:12 PM ET) Wouldn’t be MY dream job, that’s for sure. The obvious move in the frontcourt would be start Frye and Curry, bring Lee off the pine and forget the others. I’d have to play Crawford at point and if Q’s back felt OK would probably play he and Ariza at the wings, with heavy sprinklings of Jalen off the pine. Nate Robinson and Qyntel Woods could sop up whatever minutes are left over and take over for Q when the back acts up.

In the wake of the Davis-Rose trade a lot has been spoken of the luxury tax consequences of assuming Rose?s salary, but I share the sentiment of many Knicks fans in saying I could care less how much money James Dolan loses. Moreover, since their salary cap was already a hopeless situation going into next year, adding Rose does nothing to hurt the remote possibility that they might be under the cap in the summer of 2007. At that time the cages should be cleaned of such albatrosses as Allan Houston, Shandon Anderson, Jerome Williams, and Maurice Taylor. Three players who do not actually play on the team, and the fourth who shouldn?t.

Since the Knicks gave away their draft pick and they are nearly mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture, their record this year has no significance. However, that being said, it would still be nice to see the Knicks win some games. After all, we do like rooting for them.

So the question remains, what is the best rotation for the Knicks in terms of winning games this season (and next)? The conventional wisdom seems to state, at least according to Larry Brown?s resume, that playing rookies is an untenable option, since they are undeveloped and unproductive. Therefore Brown has been riding the more ostensibly reliable veterans?.um?wait. Only the problem is this logic does not apply to the 2006 Knicks. The rookies Brown has on the team are not named Darko or Delfino and are now already superior players to the ones in his rotation. Since Larry Brown did not follow Hollinger?s plan, his latest starting five was: 1, Jamal Crawford; 2, Quentin Richardson; 3, Jalen Rose; 4, Maurice Taylor; 5, Eddy Curry.

FRONTCOURT
This latest game was a microcosm of the entire season. When Curry ran into early foul trouble, he was replaced with resident worst free-agent signing of the year champion, Jerome James. If Brown wanted to bring in more front-line support he called on Malik Rose?s number 13, which is actually higher than his PER 8.9. The ineffectual trio of Taylor, Rose, and James played 51 minutes, while David Lee played less than 1, Frye played only 19 and Curry 23.

Let?s first examine the difference in production between David Lee & Channing Frye versus Maurice Taylor & Malik Rose, assuming that any rational observer can agree that James should not be beating out Herb Williams for the back-up center spot, much less the promising Jackie Butler.

Taylor scores more than Lee, but does so at a less efficient rate with more turnovers and less rebounds. Moreover, Lee has an Assist Ratio twice as high. In fact, if Lee keeps up his 14.0 rate, it would qualify as top-ten among NBA power forwards. All that being said, Taylor is still a superior player to Malik Rose, who has the same rebounding problems, but with an altogether new level of offensive incompetence. He shoots a woeful TS % 42.5, which is almost as bad as Darko last year, who couldn?t get off the end of Brown?s bench despite his implicit connections to Eastern European mobsters. And while Rose is a far worse player than Taylor, Frye is a far superior player to Lee. In fact, Frye?s rookie PER of 19.9 ranks 30th in the league. With such strong production, he is qualified to be a starter on every team in this league with the possible exception of Brown?s old team the Pistons.

Last year, Michael Sweetney?s lack of playing time caused temper fits from Knick fans fluent in statistical evaluation of performance. This year Lee and Frye are d?j? vu all over again. Once again, the Knicks simply do not seem to understand what they have on their hands. The fact that Frye and Lee are rookies is simply irrelevant on a team that currently has the league?s worst record. They are already better than aging veterans who have no roles in the Knicks? future.

Using Curry and Frye as starters with Lee off the bench, the Knicks can employ a rotation in structure congruent with Brown?s last team, the Detroit Pistons, who start Rasheed and Ben Wallace, then bring in Antonio McDyess off the bench to play power forward, moving the remaining player to center. Since both Frye and Curry can play center, Lee can be used in this way at power forward, a more natural position for him than the awkward small forward, where his inaccurate jump shot was a liability. Lee shoots an astronomically high percentage from the floor, albeit in his limited minutes, and one would think putting him into the post will deter too much regression to the mean, as he can employ more of his around the basket moves and less 15-foot line drives off the side of the backboard.

Finally, if this rotation leaves any stray minutes, they should go to Butler. In a rebuilding team filled with talented and promising rookies, there is no place for Taylor and Rose.

BACKCOURT
Marbury?s absence gives this author a modicum of pleasure to see how important he was to the ?competitiveness? of the Knicks. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. His continued inactiveness presents considerable problems for the Knicks? rotation.

While Crawford is a no-brainer at the point, Hollinger prefers Trevor Ariza over Qyntel Woods even though the latter is experiencing a resurgence in his second chance opportunity. Woods 15.3 PER is very respectable and superior to Ariza?s 10.7 PER. Nonetheless, Ariza was a burgeoning perimeter stopper before he was lost in Brown?s doghouse. That Trevor does not get along better with the coach is unfortunate for the young player?s development.

Conversely, Brown is certainly giving QRich ample opportunity to prove himself now that he is back in the Knicks? rotation. Nonetheless with QRich collecting bricks like he’s starting a construction company, it would seem he would be a more prudent benching. Perhaps much of his struggles should be attributed to rust and injury, but no matter the reason he?s still stinking up the joint. It?s admirable that he?s playing with heart, but a healthy Ariza should be getting his minutes. Using Woods and J. Rose, who both have average PERs and alternating Ariza for defensive assignments seems a more prudent course than currently relying on QRich.

In only two games with the Knicks, it is clear that J. Rose should be the primary ball-handler whenever he is on the court. This should alleviate Crawford?s bad shot tendency and Robinson?s turnover rampage, both which are wrecking havoc to the Knicks? offense. Therefore if Marbury ever returns, there is optimism that Knicks will no longer have to employ either Robinson or Crawford at the point. Considering that Robinson is not yet a competent rotation player, using him in a more limited role will improve the Knicks? competitiveness. In Hollinger?s scenario he would only receive sparse minutes when Crawford is sent to the bench, for a more reasonable ten minutes of energy off the bench.

All three swing spots, sans Marbury, are average at best, or rather, at worst. There is not one among them that even posts a 16 PER, but neither are they below 14 PER. Having no open sores in your starting line-up is more than can be said for many other teams around the league. Once Marbury returns, the Knicks can go eight players deep ? Marbury, J. Rose, Woods, Crawford, Lee, Curry, Frye, and Butler ? who post average PER or better. Conceivably, by eliminating Robinson and Richardson from the rotation, if the Knicks employed this line-up for a full-season without starting the season 19 games under .500, it would be more than reasonable to expect competition for a playoff berth. But just as importantly it would allow their rookies to receive the playing time they need to develop.

Robinson’s Shot Overshaddows Frye’s Start

Although it was Nate Robinson who earned most of the plaudits for his single game heroics on Saturday, it was another Knick rookie that took a step forward in his burgeoning career. This weekend Channing Frye was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time in his career. Frye adjusted well to the transition, scoring 21 points on 57% shooting, and turned the ball over only once. Since Knicks coach Larry Brown changes his lineups as often as he changes his underwear, it’s uncertain whether Frye’s performance will earn him a permanent spot in the starting 5.

Many Knick fans were uncertain what to expect from the number 8 pick in the draft. Despite raising some eyebrows with the strength portion of the NBA Pre-Draft work outs, the power forward out of Arizona never shed the soft label from early on in his college career. Frye didn’t earn a spot in the Knicks’ rotation with a weak summer league, including one game where he amassed 10 fouls. Coming into the season I wrote this about him:

“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.”

Looking at his last 5 games, my comments are laughable for die hard Knick fans whose faith in Frye never swayed. In that span, Channing has roughly averaged 19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block. However, I don’t feel so bad about my concern over the rookie power forward considering that the New York coach didn’t have much faith in him either.

Frye was a DNP for the Knicks’ opening season loss to Boston, and was played sparingly afterwards. After his 19 point outburst in as many minutes on November 13th, Brown kept the rookie on the court for only 11 minutes the day after. In that game, the Knicks struggled to beat a shorthanded Jazz squad. New York managed only 73 points, and they could have benefited from Frye’s scoring touch. Instead they used Antonio Davis (22min, 0pts), Malik Rose (19min, 7pts), and David Lee (12min, 2pts). Maybe that performance prompted Brown to give Frye more minutes over the last 5 games.

On the offensive end of the court, Channing Frye’s outside touch is reminiscent of Kurt Thomas. His slender build doesn’t make him as good of a pick and roll partner as the former Knick, although he’s accurate with the jumper facing the hoop from at least 19 feet. Instead Frye takes advantage of opposing big men fearing the unfamiliar confines outside the paint. Channing is not devoid of an interior game and he can hit a jump hook from inside the paint. The statistics back up Frye’s offensive performance, as he is leading the Knicks in scoring per minute (23pts/40) and shooting percentage (51.2% eFG).

Aside from his scoring prowess, Frye’s rebounding has been a pleasant surprise. Coming into the season, the Knicks had lost their three best rebounders in Sweetney, Thomas, and Jerome Williams. Additionally Isiah’s two main acquisitions, Jerome James and Eddy Curry, were notoriously bad in that regard. However Frye has the second best rebound rate (14.7) among the Knick regulars. In fact Channing is showing a well rounded game, averaging 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes.

Unfortunately for Frye rookie card holders, his status in the near future is uncertain. Due to Eddy Curry and Matt Barnes’ injuries, Brown has been forced to move Antonio Davis to center and Malik Rose to small forward. When both players are healthy, Channing Frye is going to have more competition than just Maurice Taylor, David Lee, and Jackie Butler. My guess is that when that time comes, Frye is going to feel the crunch as Coach Brown continues to rotate his players in order to gain some knowledge of their skills and keeps them prepared to play. Curry will hold onto the center spot, even if for only 24 minutes a game and Antonio Davis will stay on in his role as captain of the defense. Frye will be the primary big man off the bench, and he’ll see extra minutes on nights that Curry or Davis are plagued with foul trouble. Barring injury and considering Brown’s fondness of Davis’ defensive ability, Frye’s ceiling his rookie year might be a spot alongside Davis for the Knick fourth quarters.

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.

Isiah Might Serve Up Another Gem In Butler

Last March I wrote an article titled Zeke?s Eye For The Draftee Guy which praised the Knicks GM on his ability to find talent in the draft. At the time it was based on his his only selection in New York where he stole Trevor Ariza in the second round, combined with his stellar record in Toronto where he drafted Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, and Tracy McGrady. Since then he’s had three more picks with the Knicks. While the final verdict is still out on these rookies, they have been well received so far.

A few days before writing that article, Isiah Thomas had picked up two CBA players to fill out the Knicks roster. Again, I had an opinion to share about it.

Of the two, Butler is more likely to be a CBA success story ala John Starks or Anthony Mason… To think either of them is going to be part of the Knicks future in 2007 would be optimistic. However it?s the perfect type of low risk/high reward move where a GM can?t lose, but can win if he gets a serviceable player out of the deal.

Butler’s stats in the CBA showed that he excelled at scoring, rebounding, and blocking shots. After he signed with New York, he played sparingly in the NBA regular season seeing only 5 minutes of garbage time. So far this preseason, Butler has put up some interesting numbers. He’s averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes. Those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Butler has only appeared in 5 games, he’s barely averaged 14 minutes a game, and preseason games don’t have the same level of competition as the regular season. But by combining his stats from preseason, the summer league and the CBA, a pattern emerges.

LEAGUE       OREB/40           TREB/40           BLK/40           PTS/40
'06 PRE       3.8              12.1              3.3              17.0
'05 SUM       4.0              11.8              1.6              11.8
'05 CBA       4.2              12.4              1.7              20.8

Although competition level and the minutes played have varied, Butler has been remarkably consistent in regards to his rebounding. He’s averaged close to 12 rebounds per 40 minutes, with about 4 of those coming on the offensive glass. Those numbers are almost identical to former Knick center Nazr Mohammed. In fact, between the three stops, Butler’s blocked shots, turnovers, and rebounds are comparable to Nazr’s. As I said in March, it would be a “win” if Isiah was able to get anything in return from picking up Butler from the CBA. But if Jackie turns into a player of Nazr’s caliber, Thomas will have accomplished a major feat and cemented his status as a young talent evaluator.

Right now, Butler is probably 4th on New York’s center depth chart behind Curry, James, and Frye, although his prospects of playing might not be as bleak. Jerome James has had only one season where he has missed less than 17 games. Meanwhile Frye might see most of his time at power forward, and Curry’s health will be an eternal question mark. It’s possible that Larry Brown might have to rely on Jackie Butler if the Knicks big men gets bitten by the injury bug. While it’s unsure if Brown will turn to Butler other than out of emergency, one thing is clear. When Jackie Butler steps onto the court, he will be a force under the boards.

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?