2008 Season Preview: Conclusion

With a tip of the hat to Stephen Colbert (and Tom Ziller), I present my thoughts of the 2008 season divided between the optimist and pessimist in me.

Optimist: Ready for a new season to begin?

Pessimist: Ready for a new season to end?

Optimist: Awww c’mon. You can’t tell me you’re not excited about 2008?

Pessimist: What’s to be excited about?

Optimist: Oh where to start? Another year of improvement for Lee, Balkman, and Nate. Yet another Isiah Thomas rookie find in Wilson Chandler. And ummm… Zach Randolph!

Pessimist: You’re kidding right?

Optimist: This is easily a playoff team. All we need to do it make the playoffs. Remember 1999? We almost stole a trophy!

Pessimist: I remember 2004. We got kicked in the ass by the Nets of all teams.

Optimist: Ok look, Zach Randolph replaces Frye. You have to admit that’s a plus, right?

Pessimist: Yeah but Randolph sends Lee back to the bench and eats up some of his minutes. That’s got to be a minus. We need Zach Randolph like Iran needs a nuclear weapon. Oh no – now I’m worried about nuclear war!

Optimist: Calm down. Listen David Lee will get his 30 minutes a game, I promise. It’ll be Malik Rose that loses his time this year.

Pessimist: Then why did Malik Rose get so much playing time in the preseason?

Optimist: You can’t take too much stock in preseason. Besides Curry and Randolph make a formidable frontcourt. I saw it on that commercial.

Pessimist: Do you believe everything you see on tv?

Optimist: Don’t you? Remember when you wanted to get that Medic Alert bracelet?

Pessimist: But what if I fall and can’t get up? Anyway, who is going to play defense?

Optimist: Curry can get back to blocking 1.2 shots per 40 like he did in 2006. Randolph’s rebounding will help the defense as well.

Pessimist: You expect me to believe that?

Optimist: Actually yes I do. But the defense will be better this year. Renaldo Balkman will get more minutes and that’ll certainly help the defense. We have a pair of guys that can defend in the backcourt in Jones and Collins. For years you cried about not having a single defender on the perimeter. Now we have 5 if you include Richardson and Jeffries.

Pessimist: The problem is that other than Richardson, none of these guys are going to see a lot of court time. Jared Jeffries will take the minutes Balkman deserves, and Jeffries is a mediocre defender. Besides how many minutes are Collins and Jones going to see? Marbury and Crawford both averaged more than 35 minutes a game last year. Robinson will get at least 20. By my calculations that only leaves 6 minutes a game for Collins and Jones. So 3 minutes of good guard defense, and 20 minutes of Balkman is going to make this a better defensive team?

Optimist: Balkman will play about 25 min/g this year. And you know he’s a stud defensively. Isiah will cut back on Crawford and Marbury’s time – he was quoted as saying he’s committed to everyone playing defense, and he singled out the guards. If Crawford and Marbury don’t play good defense, there’ll be more court time for the better defensive players.

Pessimist: I’ll believe it when I see it. And even then I’ll be a bit skeptical.

Optimist: Look you have to admit that we have a lot of talent on the roster.

Pessimist: I do see the talent, but you have to see that the roster is horribly mismatched. It’s like trying to make Thanksgiving Dinner with only a fridge full of condiments. Randolph would be a good fit in Chicago. The Spurs would love David Lee. Robinson would excel in Golden State. Washington would probably take Jared Jeffries back (maybe for free). But those are 4 different systems. Those players don’t fit in well to the Knicks’ team concept – whatever that is.

Optimist: It’ll take time for Isiah’s team to gel. That happens with teams that have a lot of turnover. This is how I see 2007. The Knicks are healthier – so that alone will make them better. Crawford and Robinson have drastically improved their games – you could see it in preseason…

Pessimist: I thought you said “you can’t take too much stock in preseason.”

Optimist: Don’t interrupt. Where was I? Oh yeah. Less injuries this year. Improvements by Crawford (less bad shots – more going to the hoop) and Robinson (good passing). Continued fine play by Lee. More PT for Balkman. A very deep team (sorry Nichols and Jordan – we’re too deep!) We have two X-factors in Morris and Chandler. Increased offense by adding Zach. Better commitment to the defense by Curry. The Knicks are a 43 win team – maybe do a little damage in the playoffs.

Pessimist: Wow that’s optimistic. This is what I see. Randolph and Curry just make each other less effective on offense, and are the world’s worst defensive tandem. Crawford still misses 9 shots a game. Robinson, Balkman, and Lee struggle to find playing time because Isiah has to play his vets. Jared Jeffries sees 24 min/g. Again. And Malik Rose is on the court in crunch time. Nobody plays any defense. Oh throw in some nuttiness. Let’s see last year we had a trial, a fight, and Jerome James starting a handful of games. This year we trade one of our promising younglings for Damon Stoudamire, Isiah plays around with running the offense through Jared Jeffries, and Demetris Nichols drops 30 on opening day.

Optimist: Can’t you be a little serious?

Pessimist: Ok scratch that last part. The biggest problem the Knicks face is the changing East. The Bulls will get better as their young players age. Cleveland, Detroit, and Miami are still at the top. Toronto is looking promising. New Jersey stomped us twice in preseason. Orlando should be better as well. Oh yeah and don’t forget what the Celtics did. That’s 8 teams better than the Knicks. Don’t forget that Washington still has Agent 0, while Charlotte and Atlanta have good young talent as well. Hell even Indiana and Philly had better records than us last year. So where does that leave us? I say another 33 win season.

Optimist: Can you be a little more pessimistic?

Pessimist: More pessimistic? Sure – how about 37 wins, and Isiah keeps his job another year?

Optimist: I guess I should be careful what I ask for.

2008 Season Preview: The Frontcourt

The Frontcourt
This year the New York offense will center around their big men. Last year Eddy Curry shot efficiently, and was a good rebounder on the offensive end. But he struggled to find his teammates when double teamed and turned the ball over too frequently. It’s possible that Curry was overused on offense, and was force fed the ball more than he was comfortable with. This year Zach Randolph should be able to take some of the scoring burden off of Curry. Randolph and Curry’s games overlap in many of the same areas. Both can score in the low post, both are turnover happy, and both have trouble sharing the ball with their teammates. If you want to get more granular in the comparison Randolph isn’t as efficient with his shot, but he’s a better rebounder, passer, and turns the ball over less often.

Despite Randolph’s near All Star level offensive game, it’s unclear whether he will help the offense in 2008. Zach replicates much of Curry’s game, so the law of diminishing returns comes into play. Additionally he’s taking minutes away from the last year’s most effective Knick: David Lee. The second year player was a perfect compliment to his ball-needy teammates, providing excellent rebounding and finishing around the basket. Barring an injury to Randolph or Curry, Lee will be lucky to match his 2007 average of 29.8 min/g. On the other hand, Randolph will also assume some of the minutes the team gave to Channing Frye and Malik Rose, who were horribly unproductive last year. Lee’s injury was devastating to the Knicks not only because they lost his production, but because Frye & Rose had to pick up the slack. This year the Knicks are better protected against injury with their depth.

For all the optimism on the offensive pairing of Zach Randolph with Eddy Curry, there should be an equal amount of pessimism on the defensive end. Say what you want about Channing Frye, but Frye?s blocked shot rate (0.9 BLK/40) is greater than the sum of Randolph (0.2) and Curry (0.6). Knicks on the perimeter that are looking at the front court to erase their mistakes will be sorely disappointed. It’s possible that Curry could become more aggressive in the paint. His block rate nearly halved last year as he attempted to avoid foul trouble. With a second scorer, it?s possible that Isiah isn?t as reliant on Curry to stay on the court.

If you’re looking for a silver lining defensively, Randolph was nearly 1 defensive rebound per 40 minutes better than Frye last year, so that should help the defense slightly. David Lee is an average defender, but certainly not better than that. Compared to Randolph and Curry, Lee has good foot speed, but he has trouble with bigger players. Ultimately New York will give the Milwaukee Bucks (Bogut, Villanueva, and Jianlian) a run for the money when it comes to the NBA’s worst defensive frontcourt trio.

At the end of the Knicks’ bench will be Malik Rose and Randolph Morris. Rose will see time due to his defense. He’s a shrewd and tenacious defender, but he’s physically limited what what he can accomplish. On the other end of the court Rose is an awful shooter who frequently gets stuffed underneath the basket. Undersized for his position, Rose no longer has the lift to score down low. Ironically Rose’s best asset on the offensive end is his ability to pass the ball into the post, something the guards have trouble doing.

Nearly the opposite of Rose is Morris. At 6-10, Morris is able to play either forward or center, and only has 43 minutes of NBA action under his belt. In the summer he was able to face up players on the blocks and shoot from 12 feet. We’re still unsure exactly what his strengths and weaknesses are, but this year we should get the chance to find out. Jerome James will eat up a roster spot and anything with 3 feet of his mouth.

2007 Preseason Game 4

In last night’s loss to the Nets, the Knicks went with a shorter lineup. For most of the game, they played with only 9 guys. The Knicks starters were: Crawford, Richardson, Jeffries, Randolph, and Curry. From the bench, Isiah rotated in Lee, Chandler, Nate Robinson, and Fred Jones. For garbage time, Isiah brought in Nichols, Jordan, and Morris. Like the night before, the Knicks started off poorly, but cut the lead to 1 point by halftime. Unfortunately the Nets exploded for 38 points in the 3rd quarter, and never looked back.

The Nets front court of Kristic, Collins, Magloire, and Allen frustrated the Knicks. Randolph only hit 3 of 9 shots, while Lee shot an embarrassing 1 of 8. Curry scored 23 points, but was clearly frustrated by Magloire’s physical play, and earned a technical foul shoving Jamaal in the second half. Crawford was one of the few Knicks that played well, again continuing his preseason improvement of moving towards the hoop instead of settling for the jumpshot. He scored 22 points on 15 attempts, but did turn the ball over 5 times. The other Knicks that played well was Wilson Chandler. The rookie showed an all around game, doing everything but blocking a shot. He was active from baseline to baseline.

The Knicks were defeated by their lack of defense. They let the Nets shoot 61% (eFG) and were led by Jefferson and Carter. The duo amassed 47 points on just 21 shots with only 4 turnovers.

2007 Preseason Game 3

Unfortunately last night’s game wasn’t televised. Luckily one of our readers received the Boston feed, and wrote up his commentary for the game (on another thread). So I decided to copy it here for preseason discussion.

Box score here: http://www.nba.com/games/20071017/NYKBOS/boxscore.html

danvt Said:
October 17th, 2007 at 11:57 pm e

Hey folks,
I live in VT now and suffered through some of the poorest coverage of a basketball game I have seen. Forget about knowing who?s in the game. Even finding out who scored, if it was a Knick, was not possible on a number of occasions (and they scored so rarely, it would have been nice). Inept game calling and missed shots by the cameras all night. Tom Heinsohn is completely hateful as well. He gets mad at calls that go against the Cs like Nate Robinson does.

As to the game, they found Curry in the post on the first play and pretty much did not try again. They hardly seemed to run any sets at all.

On D, by early in the third quarter, Curry was so winded that Garnett ran full court and beat him down the floor like Paxico beat Lawyer Milloy on Monday. So embarrassing.

No one made any shots tonight as the ghastly percentages will bear out. I figure that?s likely to get better. We do have scorers. they, also, made more shots than they normally would make. The forty point spread was a statistical anomaly, I think, but the lack of creativity on offense and the horrible perimeter defense did not help matters. I figure, on a normal night, they lose this game by 15 or so. That doesn?t exactly get them in the playoffs though.

In my heart I can?t believe it?s going to be as bad as last year, but, I had a familiar lump in my throat watching this game. They were done before the first quarter was over.

Allan Houston missed all his shots and got a quick hook. He tried to funnel Ray Allen to help that was late in coming and gave up an easy layup.

Randolph Morris had two nice turn around jumpers. One from each side of the baseline.

Nichols has a sweet looking stroke, though he almost cracked the back of the rim with a three point attempt. He had a nice finish on the break, though, and has a veteran presence about him.

Chandler showed good range on his shot.

Fred Jones is a good defender

Basically all units got severely outplayed tonight. They were better 1-15.

2007 Knicks Preseason Roster Crunch – Pt. 2

According to the Daily News, Fred Jones may have earned himself a roster spot.

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/knicks/2007/10/16/2007-10-16_knicks_fred_jones_likely_to_send_allan_h.html

It sounds impossible but Jones already may have pulled it off. Last week, Isiah Thomas provided an unsolicited status report on Jones when he said, “Don’t plan on him going anywhere anytime soon.”

Thomas made the comment Friday, the day Allan Houston reported to training camp. Houston and Demetris Nichols, the aforementioned draft pick from Syracuse, are both trying to make a roster that already includes the maximum 15 guaranteed contracts. For weeks, it was generally assumed that Jones, portrayed as a throw-in in the Zach Randolph trade, would be the odd man out.

But Jones’ relationship with Thomas goes back to their Indiana Pacer days and there is something to be said for being an “Isiah guy.” Just ask Knicks VP of basketball operations Glen Grunwald or assistant coaches Brendan Suhr and Mark Aguirre.

“He gave me my shot,” Jones said following yesterday’s practice in Greenburgh. “Leaving Portland was a little difficult for me because that’s my home city. But it eased the pain knowing I was coming to a familiar situation.”

Thomas sees the 6-4 Jones as a defensive stopper who can play either shooting guard or small forward. Of course, the Knicks envisioned Jared Jeffries as a defensive specialist last season but that never panned out. In order for the 6-2 Jones to crack the rotation he would cost somebody – Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, Nate Robinson – minutes. But on a team that struggled to defend on the perimeter, Jones could find a spot.

“He’s a tough defender,” Thomas said. “In this league you have to be able to stop people.”

“When I came into this league I probably wasn’t the greatest defender,” said Jones, who spent last season with the Raptors and Trail Blazers. “I knew that was my calling card to get on the floor. I take pride in that now. That’s something I’m looking forward to bringing to this team.”

Additionally the Knicks cut Roderick Wilmont. So the roster is so far:

Very likely (10)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
32 Renaldo Balkman F 6-8 208 Jul. 14, 1984 South Carolina 1
11 Jamal Crawford G 6-5 200 Mar. 20, 1980 Michigan 7
34 Eddy Curry C 6-11 285 Dec. 5, 1982 Thornwood HS (IL) 6
42 David Lee F 6-9 240 Apr. 29, 1983 Florida 2
3 Stephon Marbury G 6-2 205 Feb. 20, 1977 Georgia Tech 11
50 Zach Randolph F 6-9 260 Jul. 16, 1981 Michigan State 6
23 Quentin Richardson G/F 6-6 235 Apr. 13, 1980 DePaul 7
20 Jared Jeffries F 6-11 240 Nov. 25, 1981 Indiana 5
4 Nate Robinson G 5-9 180 31-May-84 Washington 2
25 Mardy Collins G 6-6 220 Aug. 4, 1984 Temple 1

Of course, if anyone isn’t going to make the team from this group, it will be the last 2. This leaves 5 spots open, 2 more roster spot and 3 inactive spots from the following players.

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
2 Fred Jones G 6-2 225 Mar. 11, 1979 Oregon 5
5 Randolph Morris C/F 6-11 260 Jan. 2, 1986 Kentucky 1
31 Malik Rose F 6-7 255 Nov. 23, 1974 Drexel 11
21 Wilson Chandler F 6-8 220 10-May-87 DePaul R
1 Jared Jordan G 6-2 190 Oct. 14, 1984 Marist 1
35 Demetris Nichols G/F 6-8 215 Sep. 4, 1984 Syracuse R
13 Jerome James C 7-1 285 Nov. 17, 1975 Florida A&M 8
? Allan Houston G 6-6 205 4/2/1971 Tennesse 13
6 Walker Russell, Jr. G 6-1 170 Oct. 6, 1982 Jacksonville State R

Let’s assume Jones is in. Also let’s assume that Isiah won’t cut Chandler or Morris. Walker Russell’s father works for the Knicks, so he’s probably there due to nepotism and little else. So there remains only 2 spots left for Rose, James, Nichols, Jordan, and Houston. Isiah has to make a tough(?) decision on whether or not to buy out his veterans (Rose/James) or cut his rookies (Nichols/Jordan). He could possibly hold onto Jordan by sending him overseas, but he still has to decide between Nichols or one of his vets. And even after all that, Isiah has to decide who will stay on the active roster, and who (if anyone) he might send to the
NBDL.

2007 Knicks Preseason Roster Crunch

jon abbey Said:

Mike, can you do a piece on the roster situation? I read that Houston takes them to 20 guys, do we have a list of them somewhere? when do they have to cut that to 15, by opening night?

Sure thing Jon. And I do believe we have to cut the roster to 15 by opening day (or thereabouts), with only 12 suiting up each night. Up to 3 players can be inactive, with the option to send players to the NBDL. If a veteran player is on the inactive list, they usually make up a fake injury by throwing darts on an injury labeled dartboard.

Definites: 7

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
32 Renaldo Balkman F 6-8 208 Jul. 14, 1984 South Carolina 1
11 Jamal Crawford G 6-5 200 Mar. 20, 1980 Michigan 7
34 Eddy Curry C 6-11 285 Dec. 5, 1982 Thornwood HS (IL) 6
42 David Lee F 6-9 240 Apr. 29, 1983 Florida 2
3 Stephon Marbury G 6-2 205 Feb. 20, 1977 Georgia Tech 11
50 Zach Randolph F 6-9 260 Jul. 16, 1981 Michigan State 6
23 Quentin Richardson G/F 6-6 235 Apr. 13, 1980 DePaul 7

Barring a trade these guys will be on the roster in November.

Probables: 3 (10)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
4 Nate Robinson G 5-9 180 31-May-84 Washington 2
5 Randolph Morris C/F 6-11 260 Jan. 2, 1986 Kentucky 1
25 Mardy Collins G 6-6 220 Aug. 4, 1984 Temple 1

I’d be hard to imagine one of these guys not making the team, but if I had to choose one of the three I could see Collins being the odd man out. Yes Isiah gave him the keys to the team at the end of the year, mostly because of a decimated lineup. The guy is a fine defender, but he can’t hit a jumpshot anywhere on the court. And while you can live with that at a few positions, point guard isn’t one of them. Personally I like Collins, and this team definitely needs a perimeter defender of his caliber. For how much we think NBA front offices are clueless about per minute stats and shooting percentages, I could see them evaluating Collins poorly.

Possibles: 3 (13)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
20 Jared Jeffries F 6-11 240 Nov. 25, 1981 Indiana 5
31 Malik Rose F 6-7 255 Nov. 23, 1974 Drexel 11
21 Wilson Chandler F 6-8 220 10-May-87 DePaul R

It’s not so much that I don’t think Chandler will be cut, but it’s possible that he ends up in the NBDL instead of the NBA. Remember when the Knicks drafted Sweetney and had too many PFs? Sweetney started the year in the developmental league, and Chandler may just find himself in a similar situation. Looking above, there are already 5 guys that can play SF/PF. Randolph and Lee should eat up all the minutes at power forward. At small forward you have Richardson, Balkman, Jeffries, and possibly Lee & Rose. Oh don’t forget that Isiah likes to play 3 guards every now and then. If Chandler does make the roster, he’ll likely see more time at the end of the bench.

Of course the other options are cutting Collins above or buying out either Jeffries or Rose. None of these are particularly easy pills for Isiah to swallow. Jeffries is too young and has 4 years left on his deal. On the other hand Rose is the only defensively minded power forward on the team, and he has 2 years on his contract as well. Of the three Rose is more likely to go, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. It seems that Isiah tends to buy out Knicks that he’s burned his bridges with, as opposed to ones that have outlived their usefulness.

On the Outside Looking In: 3 (16)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
2 Fred Jones G 6-2 225 Mar. 11, 1979 Oregon 5
1 Jared Jordan G 6-2 190 Oct. 14, 1984 Marist 1
35 Demetris Nichols G/F 6-8 215 Sep. 4, 1984 Syracuse R

The two rookies are intriguing. Considering that Isiah keeps them, both should play in the NBDL this year. Although if I had to choose one to make the team it would be Nichols. Having an outside shooter on the bench will be useful when teams zone it up on Curry/Randolph.

Isiah coached Mr. Jones from his days in Indiana. The problem is Indiana Jones couldn’t crack 20 min/g for a losing Portland team last year. Yes he’s athletic and can (supposedly) play defense. But I’d rather roll my dice with a younger more useful Mardy Collins.

Oh God Please No! 2 (18)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
13 Jerome James C 7-1 285 Nov. 17, 1975 Florida A&M 8
? Allan Houston G 6-6 205 4/2/1971 Tennesse 13

It’s time to cut Jerome James. Isiah inserted him into the starting lineup for a stretch last year & he still couldn’t manage to stay on the court for long. James only managed 272 minutes on the season. As for Allan Houston, he was most useful for the Knicks when the team had lots of talent at the other spots. If he’s serious about a comeback he should find a team that fits that description.

Who? 2 (20)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
6 Walker Russell, Jr. G 6-1 170 Oct. 6, 1982 Jacksonville State R
26 Roderick Wilmont G 6-4 205 Jul. 28, 1983 Indiana R

Usually I’m pretty thorough with my research, however there is such a small chance that anyone other than the above makes the team that I won’t even bother with anyone this low on the depth chart.

Who makes the team?
How the roster shapes out depends on two things. The first is how badly Isiah thinks he needs a third center on the roster. Cato had that role and only saw 95 minutes total last season. With a roster this tight, that seems to be a luxury. The second factor is how Isiah feels about the NBDL. If he’d rather the rookies see action there instead of having front row seats to NBA games, then he might be more likely to play it conservative and stick with Rose & Jeffries.

Personally I would cut Jones, Rose, and James, keep Chandler on the roster, and put Nichols and Jordan in the development league until a few spots open up due to injury. I have a feeling that Isiah may do the same, but I wouldn’t be surprised if James is around as center insurance/team clown and Chandler is in the NBDL (in favor of Rose) until Quentin’s back acts up.

Game 1: Postgame Observations

The first pre-season game for the Knicks tipped off this evening in Columbia, SC against the Sixers. Living as I do in Columbia, around the corner from the Colonial Center no less, I strolled on up, bought a ticket and settled in for the first action of the season.

I had three main questions in mind to jot notes on during the game.

1. How does Zebo look physically?

2. Will the Knicks look to run?

3. How will Chandler, Nichols, and Jordon look?

Zebo. Physically, he looked noticeably trimmed down from last season and in pretty decent shape. I’ll have to see him on TV to do a fair comparison though. It’s possible that merely seeing him live took off 10-15 lbs. I doubt it though. He looked quick, bringing the ball up the floor on at least two or three occasions. Offensively, any lingering doubts I might have had about his ability to play alongside Curry and Lee were alleviated. Zebo played a mostly turn-and-face game in the 15-18 foot area, put the ball on the floor, and posted up only occasionally. He was quite active on the boards as well. (As of the time of writing–less than 60 minutes after the end of the game–the box score has not been posted.) On the downside, Randolph is not a good defender though, picking up 5 fouls. Having said that however, in what was a theme on the night, the Knicks starters were as committed to the defensive end as I can recall. Randolph defensively was certainly active, challenging shots, if not always in the right place. (Side note: Jamal Crawford was especially active defensively, using his long arms to get numerous deflections.)

Picking up the pace. It was clear in the first few minutes the Knicks were making a concerted effort to really push the ball up the floor. The starters (Marbury, Crawford, Richardson, Lee, and Randolph) played until about 3:40 left in the first quarter when Thomas made wholesale substitutions. The team continued to run despite several point blank misses early in the game by a variety of players. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to see the team look to run off makes and misses. In addition, the halfcourt sets early in the game featured what appeared to be more movement and cutting. It’s quite possible that there wasn’t more cutting, just crisper, harder cutting. To the naked eye though, it seemed like the Knicks had more motion in the halfcourt offense. The Knicks got out to an early lead and were hardly threatened on the night.

Chandler, Nichols, and Jordan. As you might expect the rooks were a mixed bag. Wilson Chandler saw by far the most minutes. It’s easy to see what the Knicks like in the youngster from DePaul. Much like what we saw in summer league Chandler flashed his athleticism with one monster dunk. He hit a three pointer (if memory serves). He rebounded well and defended Igoudala well in stretches. He also took numerous poor shots and ultimately fouled out. Nichols and Jordan interestingly entered the game for the first time in the 4th quarter with the Knicks attempting to hold on to a lead that was shifting back forth between 10 and 8. By that time the offense had far less continuity. Nichols did manage to hit the two three point shots he attempted (one attempt was nullified by a Philly foul). Not having seen Jordan until tonight I was unsure what to expect. Jordan was matched against Louis Williams, the uber-quick high schooler Philly drafted two seasons ago. Jordan’s got handles. Stylistically he’s more Luke Ridenour (similar build, similar crossover move) than I’d pictured. I believe Jordan hit his only attempt, a 20 footer up against the buzzer. He did make a behind the back pass to David Lee, who put the ball on the floor but was unable to finish the play. I don’t think Jordan would have been credited with an assist anyway. Defensively though, Louis Williams blew right past him. Jordan is quick but physically he’s built a lot like Ridenour. Defense is going to be a problem for him, but if the Knicks are as committed to picking up the pace as they led me to believe tonight this kid could come in handy. It’s obvious he has real court vision, a trait in very short supply in NY’s backcourt.

Finally, another “rookie” who got some burn tonight was Randolph Morris, who began the 2nd half with the starters. Since I anticipate nights where Curry is in foul trouble (or the Knicks are trying to protect him from foul trouble) I suspect Morris may see key minutes. On the plus side, he displayed some touch on his pick and pop jumper (from about 12 feet). He hit the boards hard. He also looks to be able to run. On the minus side, he’s got terrible, terrible hands. He fumbled everything he touched. And, although he’s reasonably athletic overall his feet are not exceptionally quick so he has trouble sliding over and rotating. Thus he’s prone to fouls. (By contrast, Philly rookie Jason Smith is a far more fluid athlete.) Overall, again, a mixed bag but enough good stuff to hope the Isiah buys out Jerome James and goes to the kid as the full time backup.