New York Knicks 98 – Indiana Pacers 103 – Half a Game Recap

I wonder how workers’ unions do their job in the States. Watching these Knicks games I can’t help but being reminded how sad the unions situation is in Italy.

I have been the CEO of a very small company and a board member of a quite larger one (>140 employees), so from time to time I had to deal with union representatives, and I found a constant in all of my five years holding those positions: unions manifested themselves only when it was time to ward the bad workers. When I say “bad workers”, I’m not talking about people whose output was not up to par because of their own limits or aptitude; I’m talking about the slackers who were safely employed and were exploiting the fact that in Italy it’s pretty much impossibile to fire someone who has a permanent contract. You see, here unions don’t actively seek to help guys who don’t slack. They pretty much always end up finding a job by themselves, and as soon as a good boss happens on their way they’re pretty much set, since that boss will certainly recognize the good value they bring to the company.

The others, though? They’re the butter and bread of the unions. Unions need money to live, and those slackers need to squeeze every last drop from their “worker rights” to enjoy whatever is it that they’re doing that’s not work. (Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Solonic tyrant: I always cared for the well-being of my employees just like now I care for the well-being of my clients. I’m a vocal supporter of the original idea of unions. I’m also very much a vocal non-supporter of whomever basically steals money not showing up to do their job). So the unions see in them the best clients they can get: guys who will certainly pay them in order to work the least and being protected while doing nothing.

To give you an idea: once we had a worker who at some point decided he didn’t want to do the job he was doing. We came with two different job profiles we could have offered him, but he refused for undisclosed reasons. Anyway, hell bent on never returning to his titular job, soon after that he faked a soccer-like flop/injury, widening a bit his right leg while passing beside a (not loose) spare tire in our warehouse. He collided lightly with the tire and then proceeded to roll over on the floor as if someone shot him in the leg. Although the security cameras recorded everything and the dynamic of the incident was very clear, he found a complacent physician (whose name was provided by the union) who said he was not able to get to work for at least six months. Under the table, union reps were telling us that he wanted another type of job, and if that job came along maybe his injury would go through a miracle recovery. Suffice to say that I left that company more than a year later and he never got to work until I was there. I guess every workplace has his Kawhi.

That said, that’s how I feel when I see Lance, DeAndre, Mudiay and Vonleh getting significant minutes this late in the season. I would never suggest Lance is a slacker, and probably neither of the other three is, but what’s the point in playing mostly useless expiring guys in mid March for a super tanking team? Especially when all of them, save probably for Lance, are real hindrances to our resident wunderkind? I don’t hold it personally against anyone. But what’s the point in yanking Mitch in the fourth because he picked up his fifth foul? You’re trying to save his energy and his last foul for what? For when you’re going to the restaurant after the game? What’s the point in playing the expiring Mudiay so much, when it’s clear he can’t really steer the wheel for a team? Mud played a quite efficient offensive game (21 points on 14 shots, 4 assists and only a turnover, his best game in a while), but he can’t pass the damn ball to any spot from 16 feet in, rendering whatever rim running center is playing with him muffled. Mudiay rocks an AST% or 23.9. At the moment there are 57 players (having played at least 100 minutes) with a higher number. Some among them: Joe Ingles (ok), the decomposing coil of Jose Calderon (what), noted Knicks-killer TJ McConnell (huh), an ancient Jamal Crawford (gross), Kadeem Allen (ahem), Matthew Dellavedova (come on). In short: why do you keep playing this guy, especially with a budding star in the making that only needs to get the ball lobbed at him. and don’t actually reward the guys that are trying to uhhhh play basketball? I’ll never understand this facet of the Fiz season.

A few quick notes, as good and bad make no sense anymore these days:

– The game was terrible to watch. This was the first non Dominican Republic related time this season where I skipped some parts. It was too much to take in. That said, we almost won. I guess Indiana will make a valiant effort to get into the playoffs as a top-4 seed, then roll around and die in the first round. Poor Dipo.

– DeAndre Jordan is a surprisingly smart passer. With a capable offensive coach, he might have at least two of those Kyle O’Quinn backdoor assists every game. With some more effort from the coaching staff Jordan might have recorded a triple double. Such a shame his rim-protecting effort has totally waned. Anyway, a barely defending DJ is miles and miles better than whatever it was that Kanter was doing.

– As I said, Mudiay had his best game since coming back. He even passed the ball to Mitch inside once (of course Mitch delivered). In his last 10 games, his shooting averages aren’t even that bad: 44.5/43.3/70.7. He also shot just 1.7 free throws per game and had more turnovers (2.9) than assists (2.8). His overall WS/48 is 0.029. Blargh.

– Over the same span, Smith is shooting a terrible 40.8/30.6/59.1. He shot 2.2 free throws per game (too few) but he dished 6.0 apg to 2.5 turnovers per game. Also a cool 1.2 steals per game. Even while playing badly, he’s a much superior team orchestrator than Mudiay. He’s playing like shit lately, though.

– I like that Knox is capable of hitting more than half his shots every ten games or so. I also like in an ironic way the fact that when he goes after boards on defense he displays an herculean-like effort when there is nobody around. I don’t like anything else. This is a supposedly athletic kid who let Bogdanovic blow by him for a simple layup. Bogdanovic is a good player, but Bojan moves around at the same speed of a dying roomba. Draw your own conclusions.

– Bogdanovic came into the league as a possibly balding 25 year old (his hair looked very thin and spotty). Kudos to him about having mostly kept all of those hair. I am a bit envious (and I guess Evan Fournier and Cody Zeller – and soon Trae Young – share my feelings).

– Of course Thad Young hit a corner three. Thad hitting a corner three from the left side against us is like those strange sounds that Timbaland used to sneak into his productions. Distinctive, underrated, annoying.

– I don’t know how, but Mitch is upping his already otherworldly BLK% in this span. If the season ended today, he’d have the highest BLK% ever in the history of the league for players with at least 900 minutes played. The highest EVER. I don’t know how to emphasize that more.

– Wait I do. THE HIGHEST EVER.

That’s all, another slog absurdly giving birth to 1300+ words. I have to make sure Lady Farfa is not slipping me drugs under the table.

See you on Friday!

Indiana Pacers 121 – New York Knicks 106 – Game Recap

At what point, exactly, does resignation sets in?

I’m not talking about being resigned to losing. We all knew that since February, 6th 2018. And that’s good! We need to lose the highest possible number of games this season. I’m talking about being resigned to watch ugly basketball with no hope for something better in clear sight. Our best overall contributor sees his minutes cut down by foul trouble. Our highest-paid player (not a good player to begin with) is collecting minor injuries as if they were Pokemon and the coach keeps on trotting him on the field as if nothing happened. Our starting point guard shouldn’t be our starting point guard, and what’s amazing is that the last sentence is applicable to whomever is our starting PG on any given night. Our double-double empty calories machine is being sidelined by… cheeseburgers? Our lottery pick is back again putting muffled double-digit scoring efforts that only look like someone is giving him a free taco if he reaches 10 points. Our Brad Lohaus clone isn’t working anymore. Our most promising rookie is out because while he was nursing his ankle injury he picked up a groin injury (this reminds me of an Italian soccer player who injured himself while taking a bath in his own house. Really. He fell down and dislocated his shoulder in the bathtub just a few days after returning from a bad injury). We know nothing about KP’s return and his tailoring choices are definitely tailspinning. The media is head over heels for Fizdale magic, even if it’s pretty clear it doesn’t exist (seriously, Doris Burke is probably one of the best color commentators in the business and even she was fawning over Mudiay’s improvement, while calling Fizdale “David” over and over again. I get it, dude is charismatic, but how much effort does it take to recognize that whatever he’s doing it’s not working? And I’m not talking about incompetence. I’m talking about not changing a damn thing in his players, unless you believe that Fizdale magic is what is helping Mudiay hit long twos at a Nowitzki-esque pace while being a .350 career shooter from there, even accounting for this season).

All of this is to say that, wow, since I need something to keep my juices flowing, I took a dive into the dark side and I learned to root for Mario. And for Lance. I guess this is a point of no return as definitive as they come (until one between Mitch and KP comes back, at least – or maybe Anthony Bennett!).

I dare of you, find me a Knick worth rooting for. I. Just. Can’t. And that’s why now I root for the bad guys. The ones that have no reason at all to be on the court. The ones that should be out of the League.

I have become one the guys Heath Ledger’s Joker was talking about. I want the Knicks’ nuclear winter.

I just want to watch the world burn.

And pick first at the 2019 lottery, of course.

The “if you squint your eyes this picture of Albert Einstein looks like Marylin Monroe – no, really, squint harder”:

– Oh hey, guess who also got injured tonight (contused left calf)? Our forgotten aficionado of the good column, Damyean Dotson (15 pts, 6 rebs, 4 ast, -4 +/-). I maintain that there’s no reason, like, at all not to play Dotson in the starting five. You can’t have three ball dominant guys at your 1-2-3 spots and expect something to develop organically in a string of possessions. It’s always gonna be “my turn, your turn” basketball at its worst. And the best case scenario for that type of offensive setting is Scott Brooks’s Russ/KD Thunder iterations. Which were good because of the transcendent talent in spite of not having anything (even very basic sets) to run for the other guys. You need a Dotson-like player plugged into your starting backcourt, at least to have someone moving without the ball with a semblance of purpose here and there. Since we’re experimenting with lineup, and we have no reason nor intention to start Kanter again (god bless), and Kornet is blah, why not try a Mudiay-THJ-Dotson-Knox-Vonleh? I mean, I wouldn’t play neither Mudiay nor THJ, but let’s not be disingenuous, Fiz will play them come hell or high water (My preferred lineup would be Mudiay-Dot-Knox-Vonleh-Kornet, and only because we don’t have a 10-day contract PG on our roster). At least Dotson gives you a release valve. 15 points on 7 shots, a few boards, even 4 assists, what more can you ask of your resident Mikal Bridges?

The “stop trying to convince yourself that The Upside is gonna be a good movie”:

– I hate the fact that Emmanuel Mudiay (21 pts, 2 rebs, 3 ast, -18 +/-) got over 20 points tonight. His game was absolutely dreadful, and his first half was the perfect representation of that. A scoreless first half, marred with ugly turnovers and general horrendous play. I found myself wishing that his stat line at the end of game would remain god-awful, not because I carry any ill will against Mud (I don’t, I hope the best for him and for everyone, really. I only despise jerks and criminals, which is ironic given the scattered past of Dotson, but, well, until proven guilty… keep quiet, conscience of mine) but because this was a nationally televised game. If Mudiay sucked ass in this one (check), we lost by a long mile (check) and his stat line looked terrible (dang) maybe the media would have curbed their enthusiasm, right? But no, this terrible player continued his terrible play and in the mean time he tallied 21 points. In itself, 21 points mean absolutely nothing. Do you remember Flip Murray? He was a not-so-good shooting guard that in the early aughts started putting up 20 point games like it was nothing in Ray Allen’s absence. Nobody flinched even one bit, and he never got to weigh on any cap situation. Well, guess what. We’re not Seattle. We’re New York, where free agent dreams go to die and bad press prospers. Mudiay scoring 21 points on national TV, while playing a horrible game, only spells doom for us. I hope I’m wrong. By the way: 3 assist to 4 turnovers (a couple of them were veeeeery bad) is what point guards are made of, right?

Why so serious-fun-sized bits:

– Noah Vonleh should really learn to restrain himself a bit on the fouling end. He might end up costing himself a few bucks that way. Ask Ed Davis.

– If I told you the sentence “Lance Thomas played center for us”, would you believe he was probably our best center tonight? Plus/minus does, as he posted a team-best +9. Fun fact: Lance Thomas pulled down 7+ boards just 20 times in his career with tonight (one out of every 18 games he played). Of those, 13 were for us. If anything, Lance should gift Phil a huge peyote.

– Can we please sit down Timmy? What good is it for anyone if he plays through multiple injuries? We have an abundance of sucking, it’s not like we need him for the tank.

– On the good side of the nationally televised game spectrum, this game might make a Trey Burke trade more likely.

– From the moment Trier signed that damn contract, his basketball skills have reduced significantly. I don’t know for how many games we can pretend it’s on the nagging injury. Damn, I liked him.

– If I had to narrate the 2013-2019 Knicks to my grandchildren one day and I had to use only one play, I think a wide-open Thaddeus Young corner three is what I’d choose.

And that’s all. This recap is a bit subdued, but such is a Knicks fan life. I guess. See you against the Sixers on Sunday for the Jimmy Butler audition (given how obnoxious he is, isn’t he our best bet in the free agent market?).

New York Knicks 99 – Indiana Pacers 110 – Game Recap

I had a fever, and the prescription was more zone defense.

A decent loss, nothing to write home about, a game where the Knicks were pretty much always in the mix but couldn’t pull it off when they needed to (not that it mattered, after the win against Charlotte we are in dire need of quality losses – even if I’m not sure if this counts as one). The main new wrinkle in Fiz’s gameplan is a zone defense, which I am partial to, what with being European and all.

My coach used to call the zone “the homeless man defense”, which was accurate in describing how usually – at least in Europe – zone is the last weapon deployed by teams that are simultaneously terrible but scrappy as hell. Problem is, these Knicks aren’t really scrappy. Some of them surely are, but some others are incredibly lackadaisical in terms of effort and willingness to work on the defensive end.

All of this is to say that I’m ok employing some sort of zone defense here and there, because it effectively minimizes the defensive problems of some guys (especially Mudiay), but you can’t throw a zone while playing Kanter and Knox. Kanter just makes me angry on defense. He’s completely uninterested in anything that happens more than a foot from him, so much that opposing players routinely are open under the rim because Enes didn’t care about his area of the zone, but only the small circle around him. It’s like he’s wearing a cloak of invisibility with reverted effects: he can’t see outside of its circle of effect. Knox, on the other hand, looks like he’s trying, but can’t understand for his life where he’s supposed to be and leaves open the corner man over and over again, which is one of the biggest no-no in a 2-3 zone. I won’t delve into details about how Hezonja plays zone defense, because honestly I’m not a coroner.

Anyway, it was good to know that we weren’t able to pull a win out of this mediocre game, zone or no zone. I just got incredibly bored watching this game.

The good:

– Uh, nothing really good here. Emmanuel Mudiay (18 pts, 1 reb, 6 ast, -2 +/-) played a semi-productive game. He’s really learning a bit how to use his big body to take advantage of smaller defenders, which isn’t bad. I don’t like his shot distribution that much – still too many midrange jumpers – but if you can shoot almost always with a completely clear visual because you’re 3 inches taller than your defender, they’re not necessarily bad shots. Or better: they are, but not compared to his three pointers, which looks more and more like a ditched Mortal Kombat choreography for Johnny Cage. Nonetheless, Darren Collison had the absurd idea to foul him on a three point attempt. What’s amazing is that Mudiay hitting just one of the three free throws awarded to him was a statistically equal outcome than letting him shoot, since his 3P% for the season is exactly .333. At some point in the fourth he opted for a thunderous fastbreak dunk attempt that collided with the rim before bouncing around midcourt. I like the fact that he tried to dunk the ball, I don’t like the fact that he thought he was (last season’s) Donovan Mitchell.

The bad:

– Look, I get that we were undermanned. I get that we couldn’t possibly have done without Trey Burke (3 pts, 4 rebs, 3 ast, -2 +/-) tonight. Actually, scratch that. I don’t want to know anything about that. Giving minutes to Burke and Frank (3 pts, 2 rebs, 4 ast, -11 +/-)  at the same time is quite pointless. Burke just returned from a mild knee injury, and tonight kept of bricking everything in sight, hitting just one of seven attempts from the field. The main problem, though, is that as soon as Trey gets the ball and Frank is on the court with him every semblance of offense gets thrown out of the window. I don’t want to rehash the whole “Frank is/is not a PG”, because as of now everyone has his answer, and pretty much every answer tends towards “no”; anyway, I feel like I have to make a remark about the fact that if you don’t give the ball to Frank with full license to operate – which means: if you give the ball to someone, if he isn’t open you’ll get the rock back – you have to teach him to move around, screen for others, cut backdoor and so on. If you play Frank with Trey (or Timmy, for that matter), you’re condemning him to never develop. That’s as much on Frank as it is on the coaching staff: the difference, though, is that the coaching staff is paid to think of ways to get the most out of Frank, and there were some hints that letting him work with the ball was the beginning of something. If Trey has to play, I wish it was with THJ and not with Frank. Frank tends to defer too much to guys who like to handle the rock and shoot contested pullups night after night. I liked it better with Trey out (sidenote: Frank defends very well even in the zone. He’s just a natural on that side of the court).

– Boy, the last time I saw something as rusty as Courtney Lee (7 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, -12 +/-) it was a nail used to hang a painting in the house where my grandma was born in 1925. Lee’s game is just screaming “tetanus”: if you look at him closely, especially when doing his familiar “pump fake an invisible defender, dribble inside the arc, shoot a semi-contested 19-footer” routine, there’s a 3% chance you’ll fall down struck by some mysterious illness. I’m still not convinced that wasn’t what kept me in the bed all weekend trying to recover from that nasty fever – without other symptoms! Anyway, if that’s how we’re showcasing him, the trade-Lee-boat has long sailed away. Everybody on cue… Thanks, Phil!

Paracetamol tablets-size bits:

Do you know that if you take two 500 mg Paracetamol tablets, it becomes a full gram of Paracetamol? You might not believe it, but this is the word-for-word translation of the incipit of one of the top Italian radio hits of 2018. I hate it, I hate the music, the words and the way the singer (Calcutta) delivers them. Nevertheless, I hated this game more. It felt like wasting two hours of my time. Then again, I couldn’t sleep, so maybe it wasn’t a complete waste of time. But on the other hand I could have watched two episodes of whatever TV series of choice.

– Enes Kanter’s numbers are so easy on the eyes that it’s hard to believe he’s hurting the team so much. I don’t like seeing him play, but I know I can count on him to (not) anchor one of the worst defense in the League. One of the emptiest 20/15 games I’ve ever seen. In the fourth Thaddeus Young stripped the ball off him in the post out of a double and he didn’t even try one bit to resist it. Everytime something like that happens, it comes to my mind that this guy wanted to make the All-Star team, and I feel like his name should be changed into Cognitive Dissonance Kanter.

– You know who’s hurting this team’s development the most? THJ, that’s who. If you look past his PPG numbers, his season is turning into a major disappointment. He’s posting career-second-worst numbers in WS/48 and TS%, all the while employing the worst shot selection this side of Trey Burke and never trying to break the opposing defense to find easy shots for his teammates. He’s horribly miscast as a first option, not only because he’s not that kind of talent, but most of all because he makes everyone worse around him. If we could ship him away for Jabari Parker, I’d do it now. Chicago could also keep Rebecca Haarlow and Wally Szczerbiak, for all I care.

– December Kevin Knox is a glimmer of hope: 16.5 PPG on 41/40/54 splits (terrible FT%), with 6.3 RPG, 2 APG and 1.3 stocks per game. He doesn’t look that lost anymore. I feel like his ceiling is a poor man’s Chandler Parsons. It’s not good, but it’s much better than I thought a few weeks ago.

– Vonleh couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn tonight (3-for-10 from the field, 1-for-5 from three), but I still love his game. 12 boards, 3 assists, no turnovers. He’s not terrible when defending in the zone. It’s enough for keeping on dubbing him this season’s MVP for the Bockers.

– Kornet should play a bit more, especially with Mitch out. He can’t jump over an envelope (cit. Fizdale), but knows where he should be in a zone defense and he’s not afraid to let if fly.

– I don’t know what more to say about Mario. I’ll just say that “Hezonja” would net you a boatload of points playing Scrabble.

– Breen and Clyde bring their best even in games like this. I loved their bit about burgers. Also, I can’t think of a better example than Clyde about the benefit of a mostly no-meat diet. Dude’s 73 and he’s fresher than me.

Tomorrow we have a back-to-back against Phoenix. Is it too much to hope for a quality loss? Is any loss a quality loss with Mitch, Dotson and Trier sidelined?

 

Indiana Pacers 107 – New York Knicks 101 – Game Recap

Following this team this season is a very peculiar experience. You find yourself thrilled when the team is winning thanks to the young guys, and you find similarly thrilled when you realized that, despite their best effort, you’re gonna bag another loss that brings you closer to a top-5 2019 pick. This game was exactly like that. An intensely fought back and forth that ended up in a couple fortitous offensive possessions by Indiana.

2-6 is what I would have predicted at this point, which is ok. What makes it more than ok is the fact that we’re actually developing our rookie scale contract players, and giving them some burn in the closing minutes of tight games. Nice job by Fiz so far.

To the recap!

The treats:

– Tim Hardaway Jr (37 pts, 1 ast, 1 reb, -14 +/-) is still putting out puzzling all around performances, as this was definitely not a team friendly one, and for the umpteenth time this season he posted the worst plus/minus of the game – actually, it was the third time, but you get my point. That said, 37 points on 19 shots is nothing to scoff at, and we needed every last drop of Timmy’s offensive juice tonight to stay in the game. If not for three turnovers in the last three minutes, THJ would have had a real chance at being the game MVP. He was great at getting to the line, even if some of those attempts from the charity stripe came from away from the ball fouls; you still have to be in the thick of the action, though, to have someone foul you. I wish he would do a better job of moving the ball around, especially after driving to the rack, but I guess it’s time we understand that his drives are awesome in transition and mediocre at best in the half-court offense. At this point of the season he’s 64th in the league in drives per game, and ahead of him there are some luminaries like DeAndre Bembry, Michael Carter Williams, Shelvin Mack. If you’re the clear cut no. 1 option on the perimeter and have a usage of 31% you should do more. Anyway, he gave us almost exactly what we needed to beat a good Indiana team, so this one goes in the good Timmy games list. He also drew another charge and half-busted another lip. He’s out there with his maximum effort. He’s just not that good, but we’ll make do.

– Noah Vonleh (14 pts, 10 rebs, 4 ast, -4 +/-) put up a strong, all-around game. At this point, I’m not sure what happened to him, but this is nothing like the Vonleh we used to (barely) see on the court in the last three seasons. He’s an above average ball-handler for his position, has good court vision, rebounds well and when he goes up to put the ball into the basket he does it with the requisite drive to slam the air out of the ball, if it’s there. Think of him as of our off-brand Draymond Green: his work in bringing up the ball in semi-transition after a gobbled defensive board or a steal is very good, as evidenced by a very nice sequence with 5:27 remaining in the game, where he found THJ in perfect stride for a three from the extended elbow. He makes some dumb decisions now and then, but you live with them as long as he provides for a lot of other good stuff. Tonight he also delivered on the defensive end, where he was the only one who tried to put a stop on the Domantas Sabonis rampage (more on that later) and racked 2 steals and 3 blocks. His 4 turnovers were a bit too much, but it’s a byproduct of being more involved in a sometimes stagnant offense.

– Allonzo Trier (14 pts, 3 rebs. 1 ast, -2 +/-) provides more than a decent scoring punch from the bench. Even as an older rookie, it’s puzzling that no other team snatched him up in the late second round. He’s playing like your prototypical combo guard off the bench, and he’s doing fine. If Noah is our off-brand Draymond, Iso Zo is our Lou Williams-lite. It was refreshing to see him out there in the final minutes with license to operate, even hitting the lay-up that gave a little hope to the Knicks, putting them at 101-103 with 44 seconds to go. I loved the fact that Fiz didn’t opt to put Lance back in his place for defensive purposes after that bucket, even if we allowed an uncontested three to Oladipo on a botched defensive second effort right after that. Allonzo is not a stout defender, but he’s not a sieve either, and his offensive prowess is more than enough to make him a better contributor than Lance for this team. Very efficient night, 6 for 7 from the field, 2 for 2 from three. There are times when he is so good at keeping his body under control at the rim that he doesn’t draw fouls because of that. He’ll learn to.

The tricks:

– Enes Kanter (7 pts, 6 rebs, 2 ast, -4 +/-) played a totally uninspired game and botched a lot of defensive rotations, even by his standards. Domantas Sabonis ate him alive, and foul trouble was much more effective in shutting Arvydas’ son down than whatever pathetic thing Enes was doing tonight. To put things in perspective, Sabonis is the first player ever to score 30 pts in less than 22 minutes and less than 13 shots. And all of that came in the paint, with Enes as his primary defender. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a bad interior defensive performance. When I was playing basketball (before I stopped growing in height at the ripe age of 15, ouch) I was a hard-nosed, no talent, no-nonsense 4-5 whose calling cards were rebounds and interior defense. If a teammate of mine put on display a game like the Enes one tonight, my 15 year old past me would have gnawed at him until he gave a f*ck again. I’m ashamed at Enes. And this guy told ESPN before the game he wants to make the All-Star team? Get a grip, Enes. And learn to defend for once! On a sidenote, he robbed Frank of a clean assist when he missed a super easy bunny in the third. Terrible outing for Enes. I hope he recovers, but he’s spiraling down and I don’t see that happening anytime soon unless he’s inserted back into the starting lineup (which in itself it good enough reason never to put him back there).

– Trey Burke (6 pts, 2 ast, 40% FG) is becoming more and more hollow as the games go by. It’s astounding what a good rebuilding vision can to do a team. Last year, Burke was one of the few bright spot among a chaotic rotation that saw players go in and out on a moment’s notice and saw too much playing time given to useless or past their prime veterans. This year, he’s the useless veteran. I think Trey’s problems arise particularly from the presence on the team of Trier, who does a lot of what he can do (save for the floor general stuff, but it’s not like Trey’s been that good in directing the team) but is 4 inches taller and much more capable at the rim. I hope we can package him to a team where playmakers are scarce. His bad body language since his benching is rivaled only by Kanter’s, and that’s twice in a row. Sorry Trey, you seem a good guy, but this team has no place for entitled middle of the pack players.

Scary-sized bits:

– Frank Ntilikina (4 pts, 1 reb, 7 ast, -8 +/-) had a mediocre outing. This time the bounces on his shot weren’t lucky, as he put a little too much mustard on a pair of jumpers in the third that deserved a better fate and he didn’t connect on a single three pointer. His defense was good and his two-man game was more that decent. I was expecting him to do more of that gyrating routine he started to show this season when into or near the paint, but his moves were at most basic. His starting PG splits aren’t that good either: in the last three games he’s putting up 12.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 4.3 APG on 54% TS and a snail-like pace of 98.3. Out of curiosity, though, I ran a few comparisons with some of his fellow 2017 draftees: I’ll let you guess who’s Frank and who are the others.

Player A: -11.6 Net Rating, 18.8 Ast Ratio, 4 REB%, 47.5% EFG%, 6.8 PIE

Player B:  -9.8 Net Rating, 25.9 Ast Ratio, 3.8 REB%, 47.1% EFG%, 5.5 PIE

Player C: -1.7 Net Rating, 13.8 Ast Ratio, 4.1 REB%, 49.4 EFG%, 7.1 PIE

Player D: 1.8 Net Rating, 15.3 Ast Ratio, 3.5 REB%, 51.1 EFG%, 10.0 PIE

One is easy to guess, but the other three aren’t that much different, ain’t them? Too bad defense isn’t measured that much in those statistics.

– Damyean Dotson (13 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, -8 +/-) is really solid, even if this time wasn’t that active on the boards. He completes the trifecta of discount NBA Players clones by being our poor man’s Danny Green. He even had a trademark Pablo Prigioni steal under the opposing team’s rim and got an and-one from that! Loving Dotson’s game.

– Mitchell Robinson got the start but against a tough-as-nails Indiana team was able to do very little. We could make a t-shirt for Fizdale that says “I started Mitchell Robinson on Halloween night and all I got was 4 boards and 2 blocks”. The blocks were gorgeous, but his 19 minutes of play were very empty otherwise. Oh well, growing pains.

– I won’t bother describing you Lance Thomas game. Let’s say a ghost with a Knicks jersey would have played pretty much the same game. His fumbling drive in the fourth quarter against Domantas Sabonis was very comical. though. It was of the drunke YMCA 50 year old player variety.

– Is Mario Hezonja still a basketball player? Is he still on the roster? His 7 boards say so, but I’m not sure I’ve really seen him play. Maybe is was an ectoplasmic residue of an NBA player. Mario has been less than disappointing for now. He’s been totally see-through, thin as a perfectly cut slice of Parma ham.

– Man, Domantas Sabonis. 30 pts on 12/12 shooting, 9 boards, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 21 minutes. And he’s not even that good! Enes, dammit.

– I’m not complaining about the loss, but the defensive sequence with Indiana up 103-101 and the Knicks within reach to win the game was baffling. The Pacers ran a simple PnR with Oladipo and Bogdanovic to free Bojan from three. Bojan was incredibly open since Dotson, who was the man tasked with guarding Oladipo, didn’t switch while Trier did. Bogdanovic shot an airball, and both Dotson and Trier left Oladipo, Dot to chase to board and Trier to stay on Bogdanovic. Thad Young got the board and passed the ball to a wide open Oladipo, who calmly sank the three with Frank trying to get to him in time. Young players make mistakes, and this was fully on display here.

That’s all, folks! See you on Friday against Dallas, in a tanktastic square off. Just don’t cry too much watching Luka and thinking what could have been if we really tanked last year.

Knicks 110 – Pacers 103

Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America, from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea!  Recap Robert here. For those who chose to say, take in the theater or perhaps venture out to the local motion picture house or perhaps to play the role of social gadfly and sally forth for a stroll about the boulevards of our fair city, taking in the local color and engaging in witty badinage with the citizenry — shopkeepers, wand’ring minstrels,  and whatnot, I have some surprising, nay shocking news. Our beloved sporting collective, the cagers known far and wide as the Knickerbocker Basketball Club of New York, managed to score MORE points than their esteemed opponents, thereby proving victorious in this evening’s contest.

Honestly, they kinda screwed up the lead/theme I had going for this recap. I was gonna vent about lousy officiating, how the Nix never get the calls, and as a result, we get 4 and 5 point swings at crucial moments/turning points in the game. I was going to follow that by ripping MD’A a new one for sitting Hill, Douglas, and Gallo when the boys were clearly on cruise mode and end it w/a whole, “The Pacers have a plan on offense and defense and the Knicks look like 5 guys who showed up for a pickup game” screed. And they go and eff it up by, well…winning. But I’ll take wins and being forced to re-write my purple prose any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

The thing that’s so frustrating about this team is that when the 3 pointers are falling, every other aspect of their game somehow magically rounds into form. To wit: They were down 19 in the middle of the 3rd while enjoying what must have been a pleasant view of watching Tyler Hansbrough do a great David Lee circa ’05-’07 impression. (Side note — I loathe the “Caucasians can only be compared to Caucasians, Euros to other Euros, Overrated bigs from Arizona, etc. etc.,” thing, but here, the comparison is pretty apt.) Suddenly, Hughes cans a couple of threes and magically, the defense gets stingy,  they’re driving to the basket, getting to the line, and/or finding Curry down low. Over the last 4:07, they outscored the LarryBirds 13-4, forced 4 turnovers, shot 66% from the field and basically made it a game again. Same thing happened in the 4th. The lead vacillated between 9 and 13 and they hadn’t made a trey all quarter until w/5:37 to go, Al Buckets cans a bunch of shots from downtown and once again, the NYers are scrambling for lose balls, rotating like mofos on D, beating lazy defenders down the floor – basically doing all the little things good teams do — and they outscore ‘em 24-6 to win in a flourish.

Not to get too Phil Jackson here, but after the 3’s, the whole energy/dynamic of the team changed. Watching the game, you could sense it. Even if the score was still pretty bleak, I (and they) thought they could make a game of this. (One thing they gotta fix — Jordan Hill is the worst towel-waver I’ve seen in a long time. He needs to either start or get in touch w/Jack Haley, stat.) When this team is hitting from downtown (and everyone on the roster is shooting worse from downtown than last year, save Gallo), they can be pretty decent. It’s something I think we all knew heading into the year, but it’s really remarkable (in this game at least) how much their confidence/collective psyche is dependent on their long-range shooting. Anyway, we can all smile now. The world is a glorious and just place again. Let’s all bask in the glory of said win and hopefully our lovable collection of pituitary cases can try to remember what led to the win at least until Saturday afternoon v. the even more hapless NJ Nyets. Some individual performance assessments:

EDDY CURRY – Eddy! Eddy! Eddy! First things first. That Plaxico Burress-esque goat he’s rockin’ is badass. And, it actually makes his face look thinner by accentuating the downward slope of his mandible. Facial aesthetics aside, I was impressed and genuinely happy for Mr. Curry. It was like a mini bit o’ time-travel back to the ’06-’07 season. He was very good in the low post, drew a ton of fouls on offense and got called for an equal amount on defense, shot horridly from the FT line, and turned the ball/couldn’t kick the ball out whenever he was double and triple teamed. Good times. W/this team, his inability to defend the post is less noticeable b/c, well, no one else can either. If he keeps this up, he’s an asset for short stints (like when the 3’s aren’t dropping) and might…gasp…actually be tradable.

LARRY HUGHES – A comeback season for Larry at this stage of his career would be pretty much unprecedented. Can anyone else think of a volume shooting 12-year vet who shot .410 from the field, .489 TS% and .437 eFG% for his career that suddenly morphed into a smart, solid efficient 2? I can’t. It leads one to think that his #’s will regress to mean over the course of the season, but Larry’s seems to have genuinely altered his game/figured out how to play as he’s gotten less “athletic.”

AL HARRINGTON – Oh Al. I can’t stay mad at you. Even if that two-tone mouthpiece really makes you look as bucktoothed as Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. One thing that confuses me. Why isn’t Harrington a better defender? He’s certainly got the length/athleticism (Sorry about that. I promise not to write “athleticism” any more. I feel like Jay Bilas and that’s not a good thing.) to be effective, and that steal in the 4th was money. Is it just effort? W/Al, I’m tempted to say no. Al certainly tries very, very hard, at times to his detriment. So what gives?

CHRIS DUHON – Admit it. We were all secretly hoping that that stinger he suffered in the 3rd was serious. I certainly did. But then again, I’m a bad person. Duhon at least got in synch W/Lee on the pick and roll tonight. (Why Hibbert/Jones/Hansbrough switched to cover Du the whole game is really beyond me). I can actually live w/the atrocious shooting for now. He’s going to start those hitting eventually, right?. It’s the silly passes and 35 foot 3’s that are so galling and seemingly avoidable.

WILSON CHANDLER – He was having his best game of the season before getting in foul trouble (& that charge that fouled him out was a [channeling C. Barkley] turr-a-bull call, just trrbll!). Even so, he still seems inclined to pull up rather than go hard to the hole, possibly (and I’m speculating here) b/c he’s worried he doesn’t have the lift to pull it off.

DAVID LEE – (Use your Seinfeld voice when reading this) Hey, what is the deal with David Lee’s rebounding? I mean come on! You built your entire game on getting after lose balls, tip-ins, and hustle plays but for a solid week or two, you’ve looked more sluggish/lethargic than I did when I was 6 and some friends and I drank a bottle of Robitussin b/c the older kids said you could catch a buzz off of it. I mean, really! (Resume regular thinking voice)

JORDAN HILL, TONEY DOUGLAS, DANILO GALLINARI – As I mentioned about, when the game looked like it was gonna be a rout, I was pounding nails into the floor w/my forehead b/c this trio was riding the pine. Despite the fact that they won, why was Douglas benched for the 2nd half? Why was Gallo yanked so early in the 2nd & 3rd? Yeah, they’d both had uneventful games to that point, but they were certainly no less at fault for the burgeoning deficit than the other fellows. Is this a case of “trusting the vets” or just getting lucky w/the right combo at the right time. As w/all games in which Gallo doesn’t play a lot, I assume Knick fans start collectively praying to some obscure Italian saint that it’s not his back flaring up.

Couple of general thoughts on the Pacers – For all the folks (myself included) who are aghast at passing on Lawson/Blair/Jennings, how good would Danny Granger look at PF in SSOL? I remember bellowing something bellicose about the folly of passing on him for Frye in the ’05 draft. For the first year at least, I was thoroughly mocked on nykfp.com b/c Frye looked like a stud. I think everyone’d take Granger in a heartbeat now. Alls I’m saying is, give the rooks time, yo.

Larry Bird really hasn’t aged well, has he? At this point, he looks like a cross between W.C. Fields and Joe Lieberman.

Hibbert seems so out of place in today’s NBA. If it were 1987, he’d be a nice, slow-footed big w/some decent low-post moves who could contribute on a winning team. Think Kevin Duckworth and his ilk. Now, how many times a year does Hibbert play against someone his size/style? W/Yao out and w/Shaq’s decline I think we’re down to Perkins, Kaman, and Bogut

Anyways, that was fun to watch. Winning. Hmm. A fella could get used to this…

Lots of Stuff From the Beat

Lots of good info from the Knicks’ beat writers. Whoda thunk a 1-9 team with no draft pick and no game for a few days would merit so much good ink?

First, Newsday’s Alan Hahn nails it with “Knicks had to get it right, and didn’t”.

Meanwhile, Donnie Walsh and his staff had to get this draft pick right. Not only because of how valuable a lottery pick can be to a rebuilding franchise, but because the team doesn’t have a first round pick in2010. Every criteria had to be exhausted when considering all of the draft candidates at No. 8 and that includes character.

A kid that shows up at his first NBA Summer League admittedly not in great shape, to me, shows major character flaws. How much does he want it? How much does he care?

There are two kinds of players in the NBA: those who love basketball and those who love the life. One goes to the gym at night and puts up shots. The other goes to the club and puts down shots and sweats.

You feel me?

With the No. 8 pick in the draft, you try your best to get the first kind. Or at least one who has the tendencies to be the first kind.

So the fair criticism right now is to analyze the decision the Knicks made to take the not-yet-ready Hill and leave Jennings and Ty Lawson, two dynamic guards, on the board.

And where are the other scouts who should have been aware of Jennings even before he left for Europe? Was there enough of a debate in the War Room that night as the Knicks were on the clock and had gotten over losing Stephen Curry to the Warriors?

Curry topped the list and, despite his mercurial start with Dysfunction State, would have been the best fit. Tyreke Evans was also high on the list, I’m told, and yet it’s interesting that Jennings had his pre-draft workout for the Knicks against the much bigger Evans and, from what I’ve heard, he really took it to Evans. I remember Jennings walking out of the gym feeling very confident in himself that day.


Lawson, the Carolina product who we touted here at the Fix as early as the 2008 draft, was also up at the MSG Training Center in June for a pre-draft workout. Walsh really liked Lawson but, again, size (5-11, 195) was a major issue. And the other question was whether Lawson was a top 10 pick. Almost everyone had him projected in the teens and that’s exactly where he went. Denver traded an unprotected 2014 first-rounder to land him from Minnesota, which took him at No. 18.

Lots of good points here. The significance of the 2009 draft, and a little bit of why the Knicks passed on Lawson & Jennings. Additionally Hahn takes the Knicks to task for not knowing Hill’s motor (or apparent lack thereof).

Berman gets a good quote from Walsh:

Knicks team president Donnie Walsh told The Post yesterday the club’s franchise-worst 1-9 start is his fault and no one else’s, taking the heat off coach Mike D’Antoni.
The Knicks, who had the day off from practice yesterday, don’t play again until Wednesday in Indiana and have to marinate in the shame of being the first Knicks team to start a season 1-9. The franchise dawned in 1946.
“I’m not blaming the players, not blaming the coaches, I’m not blaming anyone but myself,” Walsh told The Post. “I feel this is my responsibility more than Mike’s or the players. Maybe the team doesn’t have all the elements.”

Hmmm blaming the front office for this start – where have I heard that before?

The Daily News, courtesy of Mitch Lawrence, give some insight into D’Antoni’s practice.

The New York Zombies, er, Knicks, returned to the practice floor Sunday in Greenburgh, with Eddy Curry taking a step toward returning to action this week and Wilson Chandler accepting a potential demotion to a bench role.

Curry could see his first action of the season Wednesday in Indiana. Mike D’Antoni, who called his players “zombies” after it went through the motions Friday in a loss to Golden State, isn’t sure how many minutes Curry will get against the Pacers.

His plan is to give Curry some minutes in the first half, then see if he merits more action. “Given that (D’Antoni’s) system is based on running, it’s definitely hard,” Curry said. “But I think I’m catching on and he is being very patient with me.”

But it appears that D’Antoni has run out of patience with Chandler, who has started the first 10 games, first at guard and more recently at forward. A demotion would mark a setback for both Chandler and the Knicks. D’Antoni has said a number of times that one of his primary objectives this season is to develop his top young players, starting with Danilo Gallinari and Chandler.

Yesterday, D’Antoni concentrated on defense, with Jared Jeffries, a reserve since the fourth game of the season, working with the first team and Chandler a second-teamer. As for Chandler’s move to the bench, D’Antoni wasn’t ready to announce it. “We’re still searching a little bit,” he said. “We don’t know yet, to be honest with you.”

With the Knicks offense reeling, seems like a great idea to get Jared Jeffries into the starting lineup. Maybe New York can grab Bruce Bowen to help light it up too? With a lineup of Duhon, Bowen, and Jeffries, you could have Barkley and Shaq as the 4/5, and still not break 100 points.

I Want To Draft Like It’s 1999

An NBA draft where the #1 overall consensus is a power forward, and a ton of guards are to be had including an intriguing foreign guard? No I’m not talking about this Thursday’s NBA draft where Blake Griffin is likely to go #1, there is a lot of depth at guard, and everyone is wondering where Rickey Rubio will land. I’m talking about the 1999 draft where Elton Brand went first, guards were taken in 7 of the next 10 picks, and Manu Ginobili quietly landed to the Spurs in the second round.

Of the top 10 picks, 9 of them had solid to spectacular careers, but only one of those stayed long enough to be seen as a success for the team that drafted him: Shawn Marion. A lot of these players were traded to other teams before they could really help the team that drafted them like Brand, Francis (a draft day holdout), Odom, Hamilton, Andre Miller, and Jason Terry. Number 5 pick Jonathan Bender never lived up to his potential due to injury. Wally Szczerbiak stayed with Minnesota, but was taken too high at #6. Baron Davis stayed with the Hornets for 5 and a half seasons, but was traded midyear to Golden State where he engineered one of the biggest first round upsets in history.

Although there was plenty of value at the top 10, the next 10 was filled with busts. Only Ron Artest (#16), Corey Maggette (#13) and James Posey (#18) were worth noting. As for the rest of the draft, there were two European superstars taken late in Kirilenko (#24) and Manu Ginobili (#57), and a few fillers (Jeff Foster #21, Kenny Thomas #22, Devean George #23, and Gordon Giricek #40).

Knick fans remember this draft for grabbing Frederic Weis one pick before Ron Artest, but that may not have been the biggest bust of the draft. As I previously mentioned the top 10 all netted solid players except for Bender. If you want to excuse him for injury, then nearly every pick 11-14 (except for Maggette) could be seen as failures as well. Trajan Langdon at #11 is a candidate, although he’s had a good career overseas. Aleksandar Radojevic (from the powerhouse Barton County Community College) was taken 3 picks prior to Weis. And the Timberwolves struck out the pick before New York’s with Duke’s William Avery.

So how might this draft have turned out? Here’s my re-draft, not necessarily in order of how they should have been taken. But rather in how one alternate earth might have been for the first 16 picks.

#1 Chicago – Elton Brand
The Bulls made the right pick. Actually in our reality they made 2 right picks with Artest at #15. The problem was that they gave up on that team too early. Chicago could have been a mid-west powerhouse with Brand, Artest, and Brad Miller with a supporting cast of Jamal Crawford, Fred Hoiberg and Jake Voskuhl. The problem was the team was still young & surrounded with little else. Marcus Fizer? Khalid El-Amin? Corey Benjamin? Bryce Drew? Michael Ruffin? Dragan Tarlac? Dalibor Bagaric? No wonder they won 15 games in 2001.

#2 Vancouver – Lamar Odom
Vancouver didn’t deserve Steve Francis, but they didn’t really need him either. They had grabbed Mike Bibby in the draft before, and as New Yorkers learned Francis didn’t play well with other point guards. Instead they should have grabbed Odom. The Grizzlies had an awful team, but Bibby, Odom, and Shareef Abdur-Rahem would have been a respectable threesome. Looking at their history, they were doomed to failure by their poor drafts Reeves #6, Abdur Rahim #3, and Antonio Daniels #4 is hardly the core you want to build a franchise on.

#3 Charlotte – Baron Davis
Davis was the right pick here.

#4 Los Angeles Clippers – Steve Francis
Now these two deserved each other.

#5 Toronto – Ron Artest (traded to Indiana)
The Raptors originally drafted Bender and traded him for Antonio Davis. Why would Toronto do such a thing? They have Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Doug Christie. So there goes the shooting guards and small forwards. They could use a point guard, but that isn’t a priority with Carter & McGrady taking up a big share of the offense. They need a big man, but there really aren’t any in this draft (Jeff Foster?). I see why they traded this pick, they had two dynamic scorers and needed some front court depth (past Charles Oakley). So I have the Raptors trading this pick still, and Indiana selecting Ron Artest instead. The Pacers would end up with Ron after a few seasons later anyway. The Pacers would have Artest to defend Allan Houston in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals (which Indana won) but they could also use him to shut down Kobe Bryant in the Finals (which they lost in 6).

#6 Minnesota – Manu Ginobili
I’m going to go out on a limb here. Before Garnett went to Boston and won a title, people argued how the league would have been if he had swapped teams with Tim Duncan. That the two were equally good, and Duncan won those championships because of his supporting cast. So let’s see how Garnett would have done with the Argentine at his side. Also in this Bizzaro universe Kevin McHale would be a genius.

#7 Washington – Rip Hamilton
Washington really sucked. It doesn’t matter who they draft here. The guy is going to be gone by the time Jordan arrives. Might as well be Rip so that the Pistons improbable championship still occurs.

#8 Cleveland – Shawn Marion
Cleveland took who they thought was the best guy on the board, Andre Miller. And normally I agree with such a signing, except the Cavs had two young (but undersized) guards on their roster already: Brevin Knight and Earl Boykins. Miller’s arrival meant that both would be gone within a year. Cleveland let Boykins go, but traded Brevin Knight for Jimmy Jackson, Anthony Johnson and Larry Robinson. All three would be off Cleveland’s roster by the next season. I hate it when a team overloads at one position and fails to net anything substantial from trades. If we’re not taking Andre Miller here, then you can have an up-tempo team with Knight/Boykins. So I think Shawn Marion is the right fit here.

#9 Phoenix – Corey Maggette
The Suns are probably crushed that they didn’t get Marion. They have Jason Kidd, and are about to offer Anfernee Hardaway to a huge contract. Maggette’s scoring and rebounding would be adequate in lieu of Marion’s energy game.

#10 Atlanta – Trajan Langdon
The Hawks have Mutombo and Rider and are in dire need of a point guard. So with Andre Miller on the board, they’re going to draft Trajan Langdon. This way by 2005 they’ll have learned their lesson and take Deron Williams or Chris Paul with the #2 pick instead of Marvin Williams.

#11 Cleveland – Jason Terry
With the Cavs comitting to an up-tempo offense with their #8 pick, they should take Terry here. Knight, Terry, Marion, and Donyell Marshall are undersized, but should make for a laser fast offense. With Zydrunas healthy in 2011, that’s not such a bad team.

#12 Toronto – Aleksandar Radojevic
As I said earlier, the Raptors really need front court depth, so this is why they reached for the 7-3 Euro. And this is why you don’t draft for need.

#13 Seattle – Wally Szczerbiak (traded to Orlando)
The Magic who acquire this pick in a trade have Darrell Armstrong, Bo Outlaw, and Ben Wallace. They need someone who can score, and don’t care about defense. Wally fits the bill here.

#14 Minnesota – James Posey
In this world, McHale is a genius, and the best player on the board is Andrei Kirilenko. But taking Kirilenko after reaching for an unknown in Ginobili would get him fired. Also having Kirilenko and Garnett on the court at the same time would be too weird. That’s like 60 combined feet of skinny arms & legs. Terrell Brandon, Manu Ginobili, James Posey, Kevin Garnett, and Rasho Nesterovic – that’s a nice team for 2000.

#15 New York – Andrei Kirilenko
Ahhh to dream. The Knicks dared to take a European, but clearly the wrong one. In 2000, Kirilenko would have fit in well with that Knicks team giving them so much depth. The starters would have been Ward, Houston, Sprewell, LJ and Ewing with Camby, Kurt Thomas, Childs and Kirilenko off the bench. That’s one scary team defensively. Additionally AK-47’s arrival might have prevented the team from trading Ewing for Glenn Rice, keeping the franchise from self destruction via salary cap. Perhaps the 2001 Knicks with Camby starting, Ewing coming off the bench, the addition of Mark Jackson, and Kirlenko instead of Rice could have given the team another title run.

#16 Chicago – Andre Miller
Here are your early aughts Bulls: Andre Miller, Jamal Crawford, Toni Kukoc, Elton Brand, and Brad Miller. Not a bad rebuild post-Jordan. Try not to break that team up this time.