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.

 

Hawks 112, Knicks 101. Fisher Tells Off Media

Things certainly got interesting after the Knickerbockers got a clinic in what a free-flowing offense actually looks like in today’s NBA. Not to say the Knicks were terrible, but the Hawks were simply just so so so much better offensively. While I’ll get into the game in just a minute, can we all give Derek Fisher a round of applause for passive aggressively telling the New York media to chill the hell out?

During his postgame press conference, Coach Fisher was asked if he would consider making any lineup changes. After spending 15-20 seconds essentially dancing around the question, he hit the media with a quick 1-2 combo that certainly made this orange and blue fan chuckle.

“…It’s always very interesting to see how things change. Where last night, everything was great and the sun was up. Now, all of a sudden, there is no sun because we lost tonight. That’s the mentality we have to get out of in this organization, everybody,” said Fisher.

Dear Derek, it would be great if that same tenacity came across on the court. We get that maybe you spent too long under the tutelage of the Zen master, but to be polite: Nobody’s got time for that “Mr. Calm, Cool, and Collected” crap. No one’s buying your nice technical fouls, especially when you’ve got Calderon and Vujacic getting blown by on every play.

Speaking of which, let’s get into last night’s game with the Hawks.

For me, the story of the game wasn’t Carmelo Anthony’s 10-27 shooting, nor was it the 21 turnovers. The biggest issue moving forward was what that beat writer eluded to: Why, oh why, is Jose Calderon the starting PG for the Knicks when he can’t keep a tortoise from getting past him?

Calderon, through 2 games has a defensive rating of 102.5, which in comparison to Grant (104.4) and Galloway (102.9) is actually better. However, in Calderon’s 18 minutes of play, it’s his lack of contributions on the offensive end in correlation to his defense that are truly hurting the Knicks. The veteran guard is nearly 50 points below Grant and 40 below Galloway. Which means that per 100 possessions, when Calderon is on the court, the Knicks give up 102.5 points and score only 78.8, for a whopping -23.7 net rating.

Not only can the man not get a stop defensively, but he also is doing absolutely nothing to help the team score! Grant has a net rating of +20.8 and Galloway, +14.8.

There isn’t one category where Calderon outshines Grant and Galloway. His true shooting percentage is an abysmal 23%, he’s a poor rebounder, and he’s doing little more than setup the offense for the first unit. Not to mention, he’s typically setting up that offense because his player just scored or assisted on a scoring basket.

While fans are calling for Grant to start in place of Calderon, I’ll give you one better, insert Langston Galloway to man the starting PG position. Grant has certainly been a breath of fresh air with his speed and savviness in the second unit. But it’s been Galloway’s on-ball pressure, outside shooting, and consistent care with the ball (zero turnovers through two games), that has caught my eye.

While none of these point guards are going to be shutdown defenders at this point. Having a starting lineup of Galloway, Afflalo (when he returns), Melo, KP, and Lopez, you’ve got length, scoring, and rebounding at every position. Also, you’ll still have players in the second unit who can get out and score in transition, while Calderon and Vujacic will play against lower level guards on most nights and essentially become spot up shooters when Grant penetrates.

Now all we need is for Fisher to watch some film with Phil and come to his senses.

Additional Game Notes from tonight:

KP’s steal at the top of the arc, “accidental spin” to elude Milsap, and dunk in the open court, was easily the highlight of the night. He also finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds.

Derrick Williams came back down to earth, particularly in the second half. He finished with 9 points on 3 for 9 shooting. The turnovers and lack of defensive stops didn’t allow him to get out in transition.

Carmelo Anthony, wearing a mic for TNT, pulled Galloway and Grant aside in the first half, telling them both to attack and then setup the offense. How bad does Melo want one of these two in the starting lineup?

Lance Thomas and Robin Lopez providing offense that I definitely never expected, other than a putback or two per game. I like Thomas for his defensive activity in the second unit. Have to admit, I would like to see Cleanthony get some time because he was also very active defensively during the preseason. I expect Lopez to play better once Calderon is out of the starting lineup and Afflalo returns.

Melo didn’t shoot the ball well, which I attribute to him not having his legs just yet. However, he’s had three and-1’s this year and he’s attacking the rim regularly. 61.1% of his points so far, have been in the paint.

Quick Recap: Hawks 112, Knicks 101

Well, there goes the ‘Bockers chance to start out 2-0 for the first time in 16 seasons. A tragedy of epic proportions, n’est pas? Just thumbing through the box score, but a couple of things stand out.

* The Knicks finished the game with 21 turnovers. This is not good.

* The Calderon/Vujacic backcourt pales in comparison to the young turks, namely Messrs. Grant and Galloway, idling on the pine. The starters finished a combined 2-13 with only 3 assists. Those frisky kids put up a nifty 4-8 from the field with 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

* Carmelo Anthony’s preseason net splashing was so much iron pyrite. He scored 25 points on 27 heaves, with 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

* Overall, the Knicks simply didn’t have it tonight. They spent the bulk of the game shooting 40.9% from the field (including 6-29 from downtown), even though they got a ton of open looks.

* You know how everyone and their brother thinks they can cobble together a better starting lineup than the coach? Well, they might be right. Calderon looked like the Walking Dead for the 2nd night in a row and couldn’t begin to guard Jeff Teague.

* KP had an up and down game. Lots of effort-type plays and bricked threes, though he did manage to snaggle 8 rebounds.

* If we’re handing out hardware–and hey, it’s one game, but everyone participated, so we’re turning this in to an awards ceremony–the Knickscar goes too… Kyle O’Quinn. Once again, he finished with a double-double, threw a bazillion mean mugs at refs and snot-green clad Hawks alike. He’s our very own, better-passing Kurt Thomas. Do you think he can dunk? Or at least jump over the Manhattan phone book?

Hard to say. Recap in the mornin’, Knicker-backers!

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.

Is Jeremy Tyler’s Roster Spot in Jeopardy?

The New York Knicks announced on October 7th that Amar’e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith, and Jeremy Tyler will not be suiting up for their first three preseason games.

No one expected Smith to play at all or Stoudemire to play much this preseason, but Tyler’s early absence puts him in a precarious position as his contract is only partially guaranteed. He underwent foot surgery last month and his return has been pegged at eight to ten weeks. Best case scenario, he’d be back in mid-November.

Tyler is an intriguing project big, but given the need to keep Chandler’s MPG down and the kid gloves with which they’ve donned to handle Kenyon Martin thus far, there’s a need for a dependable backup.

There are a lot of things to like about Tyler. First and foremost, his height and size (6’10”, 250 lbs) has the frame to man the middle given the relative dearth of traditional, low-post bigs, especially considering that the bulk of his PT will be coming against 2nd stringers.

It’s also important to remember that despite three years of professional experience. Tyler is only 22 years old. He’s a very raw talent, but there have been flashes of competent play. In the Knicks’ last game of Summer League, they were pitted  against the Los Angeles Clippers, and Tyler had what could be termed a breakout game. He flashed the offensive skills that spurred interest by  schools like Louisville, UCLA and USC before he ultimately decided to play overseas in Israel and Japan. Tyler scored 20 points at a very efficient 52.7 percent rate, finished in transition with some spectacular dunks, displayed impressive footwork on the block, and looked comfortable in the pick-and-roll.

It’s to easy to push Tyler’s Summer League performance aside and say, “Let’s see if it can translate in the regular season.”  That’s fair,  because we really haven’t seen much of him in the NBA. Last season with the Golden State Warriors he amassed a whopping 7 minutes and 28 seconds in a January contest against the Miami Heat.

Even though Tyler hasn’t seen a ton of floor time the last two seasons, he did excel in his limited stints in the D-League. In the 2011-12 season, Tyler played 29 mpg for the Dakota Wizards and totaled 15.6 ppg and also added 7.8 rpg. It was only 5 games, but Tyler didn’t waste the opportunity, and in doing so improved his game. Funny how that works.

Tyler spent a tad more time in the D-League this past season with the Santa Cruz Warriors, improving on his 2011-12 stint by scoring 17.4 ppg and 8.8 rpg over 12 games.  He scored and rebounded more, but his TS% fell from 61 percent to 56 percent mainly because he attempted more free throws, which are definitely not a strength of his. In his 12 games with Santa Cruz, Tyler shot an unsightly 60 percent from the charity stripe.

Tyler is still far from being a starter in the league, but at this point, that’s not necessary. He needs to focus on improving what he’s already good at– scoring and rebounding. Tyler has struggled coming off pick-and-rolls on defense, but a lot of Tyler’s defensive issues can be improved with quality coaching and the chance to go up against older, better players on a daily basis in practice.  Again,  he’s only 22 and even though right now he’s a liability on defense it’s not beyond the pale to suggest that Tyler can become a passable defender in time.

The Knicks figure to use their last three roster spots (or at least two of them) on frontcourt players. Camp invitees Ike Diogu, Cole Aldrich, and Josh Powell — who each have NBA experience — will have a great opportunity to impress the front office in the preseason.

Is Tyler’s roster spot in any real danger? Well, unless  the Knicks need a seventh guard in Murry or Douglas-Roberts, and assuming that Leslie probably will make the team, the numbers are still in his favor. That said, the sooner Tyler can get back on the court the better for him and the team. The Knicks frontline is thin and finding a dependable backup for Chandler has been an ongoing, 2+ year quest. Martin filled in admirably at the end of last season, and if he can stay healthy, he should soak up a great many of the backup minutes.

This may be Tyler’s best chance to carve a niche in the NBA, but he’s certainly got the potential to be a young asset on a still-veteran Knick team that’s not exactly riddled with cheap developmental prospects.

Can Delonte West or Beno Udrih fill the void left by Jason Kidd?

The Knicks’ front office has been active this summer making a number of moves to try and keep the team in some semblance of contention. They’ve thus far traded for Andrea Bargnani, re-signed JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Pablo Prigioni, and brought aboard the recently-amnestied — and forever volatile — Metta World Peace.

Yet, glancing at the current depth chart — even with the all the offseason additions — the Knicks clearly have a number of roster issues that need to be addressed.

Mike Woodson might be bringing back a lot familiar faces from last year’s squad, but the absence of Jason Kidd as the team’s steady backup point guard remains arguably the biggest void. Kidd — whose production plummeted in the playoffs, where he tallied a robust 0.9 ppg — retired, landing another NBA gig somewhere else. Can’t remember where. But even given Kidd’s infamous playoff woes, it’s easy to forget how important he was to the Knicks’ early season success, when the team sprinted out of the gate to the tune of a 21-8 tear.

Despite his age, Kidd was a guy the Knicks leaned on pretty heavily during the regular season, where he played major minutes (at least 30 minutes per game in 36 outings, per NBA.com) and contributed both inside and outside the box score.

Kidd’s scoring production (a mere six points per game) is very much replaceable, but perhaps the biggest post-Kidd challenge facing Woodson will be finding a new combo guard(s) to fill the minutes Kidd’s departure leaves open.

Of all the 5-man units Woodson used last season that tallied at least 30 minutes together, the most successful unit consisted of Felton, Kidd, Smith, Melo, and Chandler — a quintet that played a team-high 269.9 minutes, per 82games.com. What separated this unit from the rest was their incredibly efficient  +137 when they were on the court together — an impressive number, to be sure.

So who fills the void? The Knicks are reportedly interested in the services of combo-guards Delonte West and Beno Udrih. Udrih is most definitely the better — and pricier — option to fill the combo-slot alongside with Prigioni, for a couple of reasons.

First, Udrih is a much better passer than West. Over the course of his 9-year NBA career, Udrih went from averaging roughly four assists per 36 minutes to close to seven per 36 last season.

West is the better shooter, but he also shoots more then Udrih. A lot more. Which poses its own potential problem: bringing in a player like West to a backcourt that features JR Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni begs a simple question of available shots. The Knicks have plenty of scoring options already in place, so focusing on adding another combo guard who’s primary instincts are to shoot — and not create for others — is probably not the way to go.

We also have a pretty good idea of what Udrih is going to bring to the table if he’s brought aboard instead of West; the former played major minutes for the Orlando Magic down the stretch last season, while the latter didn’t suit up for a single NBA game.

While Udrih is probably worth more then what the Knicks will be able to pay him (the veteran’s minimum) he is on the north side of 30, where he may be willing to accept a little less to play for a playoff team.

With a recent knee surgery expected to sideline J.R. Smith for the start of the 2013-14 season, the Knicks find themselves in a situation not unlike the beginning of last year, when it was Iman Shumpert whom the Knicks were waiting to return from his own, decidedly more serious injury.

Whether they end up with Udrih, West, or someone else entirely, New York’s newest signee will likely be counted on for some major minutes — and production — to start the season.