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.
– 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.
– 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?