Golden State Warriors 128 – New York Knicks 100 – Game Recap

I guess this is what it feels like to be a happy loser. We lost by 28 to the Warriors (entering the final quarter with a three-point lead) and I couldn’t care less about the end result. While I was watching the third quarter, I found myself thinking “I hope we lose tonight; after all, we already exceeded our goal for this match, and we have to rack up losses”. And that was what happened: we lost, badly, and I was extremely happy for us.

The good vibes started when the starting lineup was announced. Frank at PG, Dot at SF and Mitch at C? I was tingling with curiosity and expectations. Let’s just say I wasn’t let down a tiny bit. We kept the game competitive until 5:32 remaining in the last quarter (and then we just rolled over and died, but who cares), while playing our rookies and second year players at least 16 minutes each.

The good:

– Noah Vonleh (7 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast, -6 +/-) was a big reason why the ball didn’t stick too much in one place on offense. He was all over the court, acting often as a release valve for the ball handler – if only to give the ball back to him after a millisecond – and threw a couple slick passes that found Mitch free under the basket. His defense wasn’t bad and his energy level was instrumental in giving fits to the Warriors offense. I’m not sure it was a lot of sense to play him alongside another big man who can’t stretch the floor, but if that is what’s needed to open up playing time for Mitch, I’m all in.

– Mitchell Robinson (7 pts, 6 rebs, 2 stl, -12 +/-) didn’t have exactly a good game in itself, but let’s put it this way: dude is 20, this was his first start in the NBA (and fifth NBA game overall) and didn’t play organized basketball at all last season. It’s like being given the keys to a Ferrari shortly after getting back to the USA from a long stay in Tokyo, where the cars are right-hand drive only, and having only driven a Prius for the last few days. The main goal is not to crash the damn thing on a lamppost on your first 90 degree left turn. Mitch clearly didn’t crash it, as he looked a little lost in the first half, but gained a lot of confidence in the second. In the third quarter he was a pogo stick who disrupted countless Warriors plays just by jumping around and moving his freakish arms. He also dissipated my fear that he couldn’t handle more than 15 minutes in a game, be it because of foul trouble of poor conditioning: he played 29 minutes, was called for two fouls and didn’t look exhausted at the end. He can be a monster offensive rebounder in short spurts, and to be honest I didn’t expect him to have such an impact on the game. Now, if he learns how to set screens and to box out under the defensive glass, in two seasons he’s gonna be a real beast. Move away Capela, here comes the next rim running center of the future. I can’t wait to see him play the PnR with Frank – or any other competent PG to be honest – in 2020-21 with KP spotting up on the weakside, or being the man called to clean up the mess after someone threw him a Kobe assist.

– Frank Ntilikina (17 pts, 1 reb, 2 ast, -12 +/-) was much more aggressive than usual, and clearly benefits from playing at PG even if he isn’t your prototypical playmaker. Aside from a couple of boneheaded fouls and turnovers, and a lack of assists due to his preferred style of horizontal passing, this was the Frank we hoped he could be. In control, assertive, confident. In the first five games of the season, played primarily at SF, he never scored in double digits. Tonight he got there in the first half. We’re still waiting for him to have a complete game, but tonight was a great night for us Frank fans. He struggled a bit on defense, but well, who doesn’t on Curry-Thompson-KD? I just don’t understand why Fiz took him out in the third with 6 minutes to go while he was cooking, effectively stopping his momentum, only to put him back into the game with the score already compromised. I think a 20 points game would have done wonders for his development in terms of mindset, and this one was as good as any to get there. Well, nevermind, let’s hope this Frank shows up to the next game. First time this season his usage was 20+ (22.7).

– Damyean Dotson (12 pts, 7 rebs, 1 stl, -9 +/-) scored in double digits for the fourth time in a row and had his standard great game on the boards. I’m worried a bit about his futile passing game, but as a 3-and-D rotation cog you really could do much worse than this. He also was passable on defense, and his basketball demeanor looks like he’s got the right to stick in the league for a few years. Here’s hoping he won’t be the one to lose playing time when Knox gets back.

The bad:

– Uh, no one? I know, it’s weird to say that when you lose by 28, but this is what a competently executed rebuild looks like.

– Nah, I was joking. Lance Thomas (2 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, -12 +/-) has totally regressed to the Lance of yore, a sorry excuse for an apparently hustling basketball player who does nothing on the court. I don’t know where preseason Lance went, but we have no use for this Lance, and he shouldn’t set foot on the court unless every other wing player is hurt. Giving him 20 minutes tonight, while giving only 25 to Frank, is the only glaring mistake by Fizdale. I propose to give to Lance the 2018-19 Jason Collins award for “most unproductive rotation player in the NBA”.

Fun-sized bits:

– Trey Burke (15 pts, 2 rebs, 2 ast, -16 +/-), Enes Kanter (8 pts, 13 rebs, 2 ast, -17 +/-) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (24 pts, 2 rebs, 3 ast, -15 +/-) were all pretty good at scoring when nothing else was working, but nobody had a particularly efficient game. I can’t complain about that, anyway, since they were coming off the bench to stir things up when the action was stalling… Oh wait, THJ is still in the starting lineup and played a team-high 36 minutes. Now, I know that this critique on Timmy is starting to feel a bit stale, but my Eurobasket roots are irked everytime he takes the ball with the clear intent of shooting it without conscience. I like his quick release on spot up threes, even if some of those are pretty much ill-advised (he tried one in the first quarter from at least 32 feet with no reason for it), but I don’t like one iota the dribble-dribble-dribble-shoot facet of his game.

– Let’s talk about Mitch. I didn’t feel this excited for a Knicks prospect since KP. I’m not saying they’re equals – in fact, here’s my bet that Mitch will end up being more productive than KP at the end of their respective careers – I’m saying that he is, between first and second year Knicks players, without a doubt the one with the most potential to become a nightmare for other teams when in full blossom. Kid is just a fenomenal specimen, and runs like a fast guard.

– Allonzo Trier’s shine is wearing off a bit, but he never seems a fish out of water. That’s always something for an undrafted rookie.

– Durant and Curry are insane. In other news, the sun is hot.

– No but really. Durant won the game by himself and there was nothing anybody could do to stop him. I don’t know if I want him to come here next year (opportunity costs, yadda yadda yadda) but he’s the most effortless scorer I have ever seen, and I saw prime Jordan. He’s a cold-blooded assassin, and his role in today’s NBA might be severely underrated.

– In the third quarter, the Warriors seemed to turn over the ball every other possession. I fully expected their box score to report 20+ turnovers by the end of the night, but it said only 14. I’m still dumbfounded by that.

Nothing else to report, but let’s get carried away by irrational hope after this peculiar youngsters-led outing! I can’t wait to watch the next game, it’s gonna be wild if these pups keep on playing like this.

See ya on Monday!

Daily Knicks Picks: Media Round-up 7/27/10

  • Scott Cacciola of the Wall Street Journal on Anthony Randolph: Long, Lean, Unlimited. “How about his two violent dunks over the Houston Rockets’ Yao Ming during his rookie season? Or his epic two-handed block on a breakaway by Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant? These are the sorts of plays—flashes of brilliance, really—where Mr. Randolph unfolds his 6-foot-11 frame and hints at what he might be, could be, should be.”
  • And Randolph says there will be no more excuses, writes Tim Bontemps of the NY Post. “‘It’s all on me right now,’ Randolph said yesterday at the Knicks’ Summer Basketball Camp at Pace University-Pleasantville. ‘If I don’t succeed, it’s my fault. It’s not on anybody else. The head coach is gonna give me a chance to show what I can do, and if I don’t capitalize on it, it’s nobody’s fault but mine.'”
  • Lastly in Randolph-related news, the man of the hour is doing a fan giveaway for his autograph. Rules to follow?
  • From STAT TV: A video from Amar’e working at the Nike Skills Academy, with what appear to be cameos by Deron Williams and Andre Iguodala.
  • Pinnaclesports.com posts Amar’e as a +3568 long-shot to win the MVP, trailing favorites Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.
  • Mitch Lawrence from the NY Daily News reports on Chris Paul’s meeting with the Hornets.”I expressed my desire to win and I like what they said about the direction that they want to take the team,” said Paul, who has been unhappy with the lack of additions to his supporting cast in recent seasons. “I have been a Hornet my entire career and I hope to represent the city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana for many years to come.
  • And finally, T-Mac with some insightful commentary on his future in the NBA, from Marc Stein and Chris Broussard. “I think, yeah, if I was the player that I was in a Knicks uniform, I would have no problem coming off the bench.”
  • The U.N. Intramural Squad Or Something More?

    Standing outside Madison Square Garden some summers ago, near the atm’s, yards away from Gerry Cosby’s. Through the glass doors, newly hired Knicks boss Donnie Walsh walked out. I watched as he stood there, lit a cigarette, a Clifford Odetts character in the flesh, he shoulda been named Sydney. As in the guy with the job nobody else wanted, toiling under the boss the whole city smirked about, for a franchise in perpetual free-fall. The suit too big, the bags under the eyes, this was a guy, this Donnie Walsh, made Jeff Van Gundy look like Randy Couture. This Donnie Walsh was a guy, you see him in a bar and you’re compelled to buy him a drink, sit him down and tell him (a’la Tony Curtis in The Sweet Smell of Success), “the cat’s in the bag and the bag is in the river.” You tell him run for your life, it’s not too late to quit this job you have undertaken.

    I shake his hand and wish him luck, mentioning to we share the same alma mater, Fordham Preparatory School in The Bronx. We alumni refer to it simply as “The Prep.” Learned a lot about patience at “The Prep.” Jesuits are part Obi Wan Kenobi, part F. Lee Ermey, the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket (may he rest in peace).

    Donnie Walsh knows a lot about patience having learned from the best. He waited patiently before he removed Isiah Thomas as coach. The replacement, Mike D’Antoni, was known for his seven seconds or less offense, a perception of his teams lack of defense, international fame a result of years playing in Italy, and his ability to recruit all-star talent.

    Donnie Walsh had a vision. He waited, traded away the Knicks best players, and watched the team lose to clear cap room and got the Knicks in position to pursue free agents. One can only guess that he painfully watched as several of the bigger names formed their own fantasy basketball camp in South Beach.

    Those unsure of his vision for the team need only take a second look at the group now assembled in blue, orange and white. For just a second, forget about the “Chosen One” who chose not to be in the Knicks picture. Look instead at the team Walsh has assembled.

    Because it might be that all Donnie Walsh has done is carve a team out of the same stone of which New York City is built. If he pulls it off, if this team wins, ignore the suit, dismiss the wheelchair, if he pulls this off cabbies should scream out “Donnie Basketball” as they drive by.

    New York is and always has been a “melting pot” of cultures, religons, ideas, tastes, culinary delights, dances, dialects, music, sounds. Go to Little Italy, Harlem, Chinatown, the Theatre District, Wall Street, the energy is there, distinctive, bright colors, vibrant sounds… one bold experiment.

    The 2010 New York Knicks for the first time in franchise history are an extension of the shared experiment that is New York. On the likely fifteen man roster, there’s an Italian, a Russian, a Canadian, a Frenchman (from Martinique), a German, a Londoner, a Jamaican… nearly half the roster are players with passports from their home nations. How will these guys pick what restaurant they eat out at together?

    None of this is by accident. Donnie Walsh sought out a “team that made sense…” He sought out personality types as well as skill sets that when together might add up to a sum greater than the parts.

    He also sought out individuals who were up to the challenge that is New York, who want to be here. Ask any native New Yorker or passing tourist: when you step out on the streets of New York, you had better be ready. The sidewalk warns “keep up, or get out of the way,” in about twenty different languages. You get the point, whether its a horn, a shout or a finger. At Madison Square Garden, the cheers don’t get any louder in the league, but the same can be said of the boos. On that stage you can become legendary or you can become infamous. In the case of John Starks you can become both. And in New York, you become that for life. Like being a “Parcells Guy.” Or playing for ” Mr. Torre.”

    This current team, this 2010 edition seems special. Gallinari the Italian Knick, has in two years proven to be one of the top shooters in the NBA. It is no accident his nickname is “The Rooster,” an inference to his cockiness. The new aquisitions are long on edge. Turiaf, the Frenchman is a veteran willing to dispatch his limbs in the path of those bold enough to speed into his paint. Mozgov, the seven foot one Russian, has displayed a fire and flamboyance, a desire to dunk and block shots. And the Jamacian Jerome Jordan, a seven foot draftee joins him. Anthony Randolph, the German born player, is the simply the second coming of Marcus Camby, an uncanny dunker who posesses a jump shot that at his height is matched only by Kevin Durant. Azibuke, the Londoner, is smooth, among the best shooter/slasher the Knicks have had in a decade. The Canadian, draftee Andy Rautins, a coaches son, and a three point arsonist, who at Syracuse, played his college home games at Madison Square Garden.

    They are led by All star Amare Stoudamire and Raymond Felton, both provide leadership and heart. The New York Knicks may have quietly turned the corner. The J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets finished a game away from the Superbowl as that team took on the attitude of its new coach.

    This team, Donnie’s team, seems to be an extension of a vision, perhaps without a single name written on it, but rather characteristics, personality traits, skill sets.

    How will they fare? Will they simply look like the United Nations Intramural squad, against say the Celtics? We’ll know soon. The New York Knicks will unveil their new look in Milan and Paris this fall as part of an NBA Global initiative. The anticipation is high. The Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Braves once laid claim to “America’s Team.”
    Now the stage is set for the 2010 New York Knicks, The World’s Team.
    Knick fans across the globe can dream of the playoffs in English, Italian, Russian, French, German or the language of their choice.

    If they win, we should all give “Donnie Basketball” the credit for having the vision.