Goodbye-ee Part 2: Moz and Curry

Because we’re sentimental bastids, Kevin McElroy and I are teaming up on a three-part series talking about the Denver Four/Minny Two, as they shall heretofore be known. We’ll look back fondly (and at times, not so fondly) at the careers of the sextet of ‘Bockers that were summarily dispatched to the Rocky Mountains/Great White North. No analysis of the merits of the trade, mind you (I think that dead horse has been soundly beaten), just nostalgia and sweet/semi-sweet farewells

We continue with two of the tallest (and widest) Knicks, Eddy Curry (via Kevin) and Timofey Mozgov (via Robert)…

EDDY CURRY

Want to stop a room of NBA fans? Try saying the words, “Franchise Center.”

The basketball lexicon abounds with reductive two word labels that brand players for ease of filing. Usually, these classifications are commentaries on style and can accommodate vast gulfs in player quality; Chris Paul and Mike Conley are both “pure points,” Dwyane Wade and CJ Watson both “combo guards,” Dirk Nowitzki and Linas Kleiza both “stretch fours.”

But “franchise center” – that one is all about impact. Even to a basketball illiterate the words “center” and “franchise” so immediately juxtaposed would suggest the foundation and focal point of an entire organization. To an NBA lifer, the phrase suggests all of those who have worn it in the past, from Bill Russell, for whom the term should have been invented, down through Wilt and Kareem and Moses and Shaq. No last names necessary.

The thing about franchise centers, though, is that there aren’t that many of them. That’s what makes them so valuable. And that’s what makes otherwise rational NBA executives – people who wear suits and ties and read stats and scouting reports and make complex managerial decisions with millions of dollars at stake – go a little bit crazy at the scent of one. But simple math cries, “Beware.” Plenty of players that look like franchise centers – 6’10” and up, some meat on the bones, the suggestion of athleticism – come through the league. The number of these men around whom a franchise should be built – well, go to Springfield, Mass. and find out for yourself how small it is.

In 2005, Isiah Thomas believed he smelled a franchise center. Believed it so much that he looked past documented heart problems (both literally and colloquially). Believed it enough to send the Bulls Antonio Davis, Mike Sweetney, and two unprotected first rounders (maybe you’ve heard of LaMarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah?) for the right to pay $60 million over 6 years to a light-footed 23-year-old behemoth who had never displayed a shred of ability to rebound, defend, block shots, pass, run the floor, or hit a jumper. His entire game – his ENTIRE GAME – was as follows:

1. Catch ball deep in post (too far away from the rim and he’d send it right back from whence he got it).

2. Stick massive rear end into defender.*

3. PUSH.

4. If double-teamed, disregard teammate left open by help defender.

5. Gather and Spin (with surprising grace).

6. Bank shot/finger roll/dunk. Make roughly 5 in 9 times, get fouled 3 times a game.

7. *****CHECK OUT FOR INDETERMINATE PERIOD OF TIME WHILE OTHER TEAM/TEAMMATES HAVE BALL******

8. Get ball back, repeat steps 1-6.

*He really was the NBA’s answer to Kim Kardashian in terms of relying on an uncommonly large butt to make people look past the disparity between his talent and his earnings.

So now, way too long into this thing, it’s probably time to finally mention Eddy Curry by name. But this isn’t entirely about Eddy Curry. Because almost every franchise has an Eddy Curry – a big, promising would-be franchise center who was missing one ingredient in the recipe. Some weren’t strong enough (but Curry was). Some weren’t quick enough (but Curry was). Some were too soft, others lacked touch, some simply couldn’t stand up to the pressure. Eddy Curry had none of these problems.

Eddy Curry grew up in Chicago. When he played for his high school team, scouts caught the same scent that Isiah later would (Franchise Center!) and put him at or near the top of every list of the best prospects in the 2001 high school class. Made him Illinois’ Mr. Basketball. Made him a McDonald’s All-American. Eddy Curry skipped college, entered the draft, and went 4th overall to the Chicago Bulls. He’d probably been big and athletic enough his whole life for this to be desired, even expected, of him. Maybe he even started to see basketball as less a game than a foregone conclusion. Maybe he just didn’t see what the big deal was all about.

In 2005, Eddy Curry was diagnosed with an irregular hearbeat, deemed to be the result of a congenital cardiac condition. He was then shipped – like any other asset – from one team that had probably told him more times than he could remember that he was their “Franchise Center” to another team that was sure to tell him the same.

By The 2008 – 2009 season, the honeymoon was long over, Knicks’ fans having decided that Curry was an irredeemable bust who would never validate the price the team had paid to acquire him and the years they had sunk trying to make him into something that he quite simply wasn’t. D’Antoni, seemingly in agreement with his supporters, gave Curry a grand total of twelve minutes that season.. Watching Curry on the bench every night, he seemed like he was over it, a maddening development for fans who watched him sit there game after game, week after week, smiling from ear to ear while collecting paychecks for what seemed like nothing. And all the while the Knicks lost far more than they won. We were miserable and Curry, seemingly, wasn’t. We saw this as betrayal of the highest order.

On January 25, 2009, Eddy Curry’s ex-girlfriend and baby daughter were found murdered in a Chicago apartment. Curry was granted a leave of absence from the team, disappeared for a couple of weeks, never really spoke publicly about what had happened. During what must have been the darkest moments of Eddy Curry’s life, we never saw him suffer, never witnessed the pain that surely consumed him. Unsympathetic as we were throughout his struggles on the court, why should he have trusted us with a piece of him that was so much more important? What had we done to earn that?

I don’t know Eddy Curry. I was in the same room as him once – covering a 120-112 Knicks’ win over the Bulls early in this season. A matchup between the two franchises that had told Curry he was their future and eventually given up on him. Curry didn’t play in the game.

I entered the Knicks’ locker room for the first time in my life. A businesslike throng of reporters moved from stall to stall, interacting with players who looked anxious to leave, but accepting of the fact that this was part of their work. The environment was disarmingly professional. Just another job for everyone involved.

Eddy Curry sat in the corner. No reporters wanted to talk to him. He sat on a bench that was too low for his massive frame, his knees higher than his chin for the length of his legs. He wore that grin, ear-to-ear. He fiddled with his phone and patiently waited for the crowd to dissipate. You got the impression that his face would have looked the same regardless of the game’s outcome. He looked transplanted from a high school study hall or a college dorm room.

We spent six years with Eddy Curry on our team, the Franchise Center that we’d waited for, that we’d been told to expect. But he never saw what we saw. He was a big kid that was built like the basketball star he never cared about becoming. He knew pain and he knew loss that exceeded by far the loss we felt every time we saw him come up short of our expectations.

We complained because it seemed like he didn’t care. We complained because he’d robbed us of the Franchise Center to whom we were so sure we were entitled. But he knew something that we didn’t know, something we would have gotten mad if he’d tried to tell us. Eddy Curry knew that no matter how bad it got, no matter the frustration and the defeat and the wasted potential, that it was only basketball. It was only a game.

TIMOFEY MOZGOV

I’ll admit it, I have a deep personal fondness for backup bigs, (and before you can say, “Gosh Bob, are there any ex-Knicks you don’t have a deep personal fondness for, wait till I rip Gallo a new one [just kidding].) The ones who seem ill-equipped to play professional basketball if they weren’t 7 plus feet hold a particular soft spot, possibly because, even though I’ve got little to no game, I still think, even in my late 30’s, that I’ve got a major growth spurt left in me that would allow me to don the orange and blue someday.

Timofey Mozgov appeared this summer, really out of nowhere, at the end of the interminable “Decision” a tweet came over the wire saying that Walsh had signed a big Russkie that no one had heard of, save for Givorny at Draftexpress.com who had him way up on some semi-obscure list of available un-drafted Euro League free agents.

And it wasn’t a, “Come to camp and let’s see what happens-type contract,” it was a 10 million/3-year deal (though year 3 was non-guaranteed). That’s some serious coin for an international man of mystery but thanks to the interwebs, we all got a whole heaping of grainy clips of a big mofo who seemed to excel in the pick and roll and loved dunking on cats named Pyotr and Alexei. Later in the summer, we actually had a chance o check him out in competition v. whatever iteration of “The Dream Team” the US trotted out and he looked…well…pretty darned good. But more importantly, now that the Cold War is over, Russian stereotypes are far more amusing/cuddly and less “Death will rain down upon you and bring an atomic/apocalyptic hell-scape/dystopia.” (As a former Reagan-baby, the notion that Yakov Smirnov prevailed over Joseph Stalin is still kinda unfathomable.) Even better, Timo was/is a blogger. And like most Russian novelists, brevity wasn’t his strong suit (just like your humble correspondents). Now, given this was run through a google translator, this is probably way less funny than in the original, but it did lead to quotes like this.

Plus, not to sound like Rob Schneider’s annoying early 90’s character (I’m shocked they never produced a godawful movie like “Night at the Roxbury” or “It’s Pat!” around that guy), but he inspired a litany of pun-tastic nicknames: The Moz, Mozzie Bear, Mozgov on the Hudson, The Mozgovernor, Tim O’Fey  (like Tina Fey. Get it?) – this stuff just writes itself.

After a solid camp and preseason, to the shock of many, Timmay! Was named starting center on opening night. Similar to Anthony Randolph, he struggled early, botching even the simplest of entry passes, displaying hands of unobtanium, and racking up fouls and nonplussed reactions to said calls, like he’d just heard they were rationing Vodka in Red Square, galore. The nadir came at the start of the Nix 13 -1 stretch in LA. It’s still the highlight of the year in the NBA, due to Blake Griffin’s utter supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ness and the fact that it involved Timofey’s face firmly planted in his nether regions. Insane dunk + Groin joke = Awesome. That’s as much of a truism as death and taxes. It even inspired one Youtuber to make a seriously involved Rocky IV clip/mashup of the event.

At that point, one could very logically make the assumption that we wouldn’t really see much of our beloved Commie expat the rest of the year, given Coach Mike’s predilection for undersized lineups and downsized rotations. But lo! Like Toney Douglas last year, Moz kept working on his game (and clearly, his confidence in said game) and in late January he erupted with a monster line versus, granted, an underwhelming Pistons outfit – 23 points 9-15 shooting, 14 rebounds, and 40 mins of PT without fouling out. He finished with aplomb/boisterous dunks on dump-off passes, rebounded well, and was a defensive presence for a team in serious need of one. He even heard “Moz-Gov!” chants wafting down from the rafters via the Garden faithful.

I mean, think or a moment about his career trajectory. It’s truly one of the oddest in recent league history. He went from being an unknown (at a time in NBA history when due to the influx of International players and the Internet, there really are no “undiscovered gems,”)  to starting for a decent team, (even if his output was more reminiscent of Dwayne Schintzius as “Ivan” in “Eddie.” Skip ahead to 7:37 of this clip. Yes, you can watch the entire film, “Eddie” on Youtube. Why someone uploaded it is utterly beyond me.) to being the key component in a mega-trade. Seriously, would anyone have guessed at the beginning of the year that Timofey Mozgov would be the only thing standing (for better or for worse) between the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony? Ironically, if he hadn’t started playing well of late, there’s no way Denver would have insisted he be included in the smorgasbord that was shipped out west (But w/o Mozgov’s improvement, Dolan Thomas Walsh probably would have probably had to include Landry Fields in the deal, and I’d rather not even contemplate that nightmarish “what if?” scenario. Who knows how deep that rabbit hole goes).

But unlike the first big outlined in this article, Moz evokes no great sadness or solemnity. He’s a solid backup who inspires even more solid jokes. With luck, he’ll turn into Marcin Gortat in Denver (and still be better than any Knick big not named Amar’e). So, in honor of one of the more surreal Knick stints, I’ll leave you with The Moz’s own words about the first road game in Chicago:

“So this bull, and after him the whole herd ran and kaaakkkkk. In general, transport in half bull pleased us – scary. Scary much!”

Lakers 113, Knicks 96

For the second time in three nights, the Knicks played a team from Los Angeles who came into the Garden on the second game of a back-to-back. And, for the second time, the Knicks looked like the more tired team. With their 11th loss in their last 15, the Knicks dropped to .500 for the first time since November 28th, while remaining a game and a half ahead of Philly for the 6th seed in the Conference.

But while Phil Jackson certainly brought a more tested and talented squad to the World’s Most Famous, the Garden’s Charmin-soft rims didn’t seem to know the difference: the Lakers shot a very loud 54%, including a solid 6 for 15 from distance. In fact, of the players who took more than one shot, only Ron Artest (2-9) and Steve Blake (2-5) managed to shoot below 50% from the field. It was the 5th time in 6 games the Knicks have surrendered over 50 for FG%, with the lone exception being a 100-98 loss at Philly a week ago.

Meanwhile, the Knick’ shooting woes continued, as they once again mirrored their opponents’ proficiency with a head-scratching under-50% outing for the 4th time in 5 games. Overall the Knicks shot 41% from the floor, including 5-20 from downtown. The lone bright spot – at least statistically – was Raymond Felton, who banked 20 with a gaudy TS% of 75%. Stat, meanwhile, again had trouble getting to the rim against the Lakers staunch interior, netting 24 on 20 shots. Ironically however, and despite playing in the veritable Laker forest of bigs, Stoudemire managed to grab 10 boards for the first time since pulling down 12 against the Thunder on January 22nd – a string of 8 games that has coincided with an equally confounding overall rebounding famine for the Knicks.

Despite the co-captains being somewhat effective, the rest of the rotation struggled to find a rhythm. Though continuing to show an increasing acumen for taking it to the tin, on this night the whistles were silent for Gallo, who went 4 for 15 (including 0 for 6 from deep) and finished with 12 points and 6 boards in 38 minutes. Fields, who seems to have hit at least a few bricks on the “Rookie Wall” the last few games, was deafeningly silent, going 2 for 6 (0 for 1 from 3) en route to a +/- (-17) that was second only to Wilson Chandler’s -18. For his part, Chandler – who had the unfortunate task of guarding Gasol for much of the night – played with slightly more confidence than we’ve seen in the last few games, netting 13 (5-10 from the field), 5 rebounds and 4 assists in a heavy 34 minutes off the bench.

Kobe did his Kobe thing in the first quarter, picking his spots and channeling performances past in tossing up 19 on 5-7 shooting, before finishing with an irritating 33 and a TS% of 82. For a while the Knicks kept up, and trailed by only 2 at the end of 1. For much of the first quarter and the first part of the second, the ball was moving on O, guys were getting open looks, and Ray in particular was honed in, scoring 14 and dishing out 4 assists en route to a lone-bright-spot kind of night.

Then the second quarter happened. Felton and Stat went to the bench – as did Kobe and most of the Laker starters. Mozgov, who played a rough-but-passable game en route to 7 points and 11 boards on 3-9 shooting, quickly to into foul trouble, opening up the middle for the Lakers, who began exploiting the Knicks weak interior D. This episode featured 6’8” Wilson Chandler stranded helplessly on Pau Gasol, with Amar’e guarding Bynum. It was also around this time that the Knicks apparently figured “we’re having such a swell time playing defense, why don’t we turn the ball over 9 times in the quarter and 4 times in 5 possessions?” The result was a 14-point halftime lead that found both the Garden crowd and the KB forum eerily silent.

The Knicks actually outrebounded the Lakers 44-41, including 13-7 in OREBs. While there were a few inevitable lapses – which happens when you’re playing against two smart, athletic 7-footers – the Knicks also showed at least a tentative propensity for boxing out, all but eliminating by the third quarter what was, in the first half, a sizable rebounding margin. Still, particularly in the first half, it seemed all of L.A.’s offensive boards came at times when the Knicks needed a change of possession the most.
New York never made a serious run in the second half, closing to within 10 only once, and the Lakers pulled away early in the 4th as Luke Walton led the team down the home stretch. Actually, I don’t know what happened in the last three minutes. ESPN actually spirited me away to overtime of the Cavs-Clippers game. Apparently, “relevance” only begins where 26-game losing streaks end.

Despite perhaps the worst coupling of games this year, if the last two LAX-fests have taught us anything, it’s that the end of a back-to-back can actually turn out favorably. With the Sixers and Bobcats lurking in the shadows, tonight’s game in Newark presents a definite litmus test for our faltering cagers. Fall below .500, and get ready to hear the Chris Sheridans and Ric Buchers of the world play the gut-‘em guitar for the next two weeks. Go in and dominate in an arena that just weeks ago was selling last-minute Nets-Cavas tickets for 50 cents, well, that’s what good teams do.

Wolves 112, Knicks 103

view of a road sign saying panic button

Before the game I took a gander at my stat page to see what the Knicks were up against. The Timberwolves seemed to be their typical pathetic selves, ranked 30th on offense and 25th on defense. Most of the four factors were below average, far below average. That is except for one notable exception, rebounding. Prior to tonight’s game, Minnesota ranked 2nd in offensive rebounding, 8th on their own glass.

So it should not have been a surprise to see the Twolves dominate New York on the glass. In the third quarter with Amar’e Stoudemire on the bench due to foul trouble, it seemed that Kevin Love grabbed every Minnesota miss. With Mozgov occupied with Darko Milicic, New York had Wilson Chandler on Love. And for the most part that match-up on the glass looked like a high schooler facing off against grade schoolers. Love set a Minny record with 15 rebounds in the 3rd quarter, three shy of the NBA record (Nate Thurmond in 1965). By the game’s end he also set the team record for total rebounds with 31.

New York squandered a 21 lead in the 3rd quarter, and Minnesota eventually took the lead in the 4th quarter with 9 minutes left and went on to victory. In addition to being out-muscled and out-hustled on the glass, the Knicks shot poorly (44% eFG). Five New Yorkers had more shots than points, Chandler (17 points, 19 fga), Amar’e (14 pts, 15 fga), Douglas (10 pts, 9 fga), Mozgov (0 pts, 2 fga), and Randolph (0 pts, 2 fga). Although Chandler shot poorly, he did contribute with 5 blocks and 7 assists. And Felton (22 pts, 13 fga, 8 ast), Fields (16 pts 14 fga, 9reb, 3 stl), and Gallo (25 pts, 17 fga, 5 reb) saw their good nights wasted in the losing effort.

2011 Game Thread: Knicks @ Bulls

It’s been 5 days since the Knicks have played, and I don’t know about you but I’m itching for some action. New York heads into Chicago to face the Bulls, a team that seems to have improved from a year ago. The 2010 Bulls were 27th on offense, and this year currently rank 15th. I know it’s only 3 games, but Derrick Rose’s scoring is up 8 points (28.2 pts/36) from last year’s average, although his turnovers have skyrocketed as well (5.1 to/36). It’ll be interested to see how those progress as the season wears on. Joakim Noah is still dominating on the boards (5.1 oreb/36, 13.8 reb/36), and the Knicks will have to keep him and teammates Taj Gibons and Omer Asik from giving the Bulls second chances. For those that are unfamiliar with Asik, he’s Chicago’s version of Mozgov, but just replace fouls with injuries.

The Knicks will have Anthony Randolph, who is back from his ankle injury. D’Antoni has reportedly said that the youngster wouldn’t see a lot of minutes early, but wasn’t against expanding his role based on production. Other things to observe is Stoudemire’s high turnover rate (much like Rose), Gallinari’s slump (another 11 minute game and you have to figure he’s injured), Landry Fields textbook play (a joy to watch), Wilson Chandler’s TS% (especially in the fourth quarter), and Roger Mason’s minutes (will he get any with Randolph back). Should be good stuff.

2010-2011 Game Recap: NY 98–Tor 93

Right before the start of the game, I  told my wife how this moment is the best part of the season. It’s the time where you can learn about the team and the team can surprise you in all sorts of ways good or bad.  It’s nice to wonder how things will play out.  Now that they have played out–for at least 1 of the 82 games–let’s take a look at what we learned about this team.

I was interested in everything but took special note of the rookies Mozgov and Fields.  Mozgov didn’t surprise at me all picking up a foul within 32 seconds of court time (10 seconds into the first defensive possession).  He picks up his second about 3 minutes later and didn’t play again until the second half.  At the start of the second half, I made a Pop-Tart and I wondered if Mozgov would be done before the Pop-Tart. Mozgov won but not by much.

My initial impression of Fields was that he looked tentative in the early going. In time it became clear that Fields wasn’t tentative, he was simply picking the right spot to contribute.  His line: 30 minutes, 11 points, 4 reb 4-8 Fg (3-6 3fg).  He didn’t pick up any assists but he balanced that by not turning over the ball. He didn’t force anything on offense. He out played DeRozan and was only mildly abused my Kleiza. I’d say a very good introduction.

Stoudemire was a mixed bag 19 pts on 7-16 fg with 10 rebounds.  When he got deep he was great. But when he had to catch the ball outside the paint and either dribble to the basket or take a shot beyond 15 feet, nothing good came of it.  Stoudemire turned the ball over 9 times. I’m pretty sure only one of those was an offensive foul.  Then there was one that Jack knocked off his foot late in the 4th.  The rest, all bad ball handling.  Here is a sample of my in game notes:

For all his talent, I’m starting to see some things I do not like in Stoudemire.  He does not rebound well, he is a bit sloppy with the ball, and his face-up defense is not impressive.  He also takes the ball outside the paint and tries to dribble into the paint.  It really hurts the half-court offense.

Stoudemire still catching the ball too far out and then dribbling to the hoop, nearly turned it over.  Another Stoudemire dribble drive turnover.

Hate to say it but the half court offense is far less sloppy with Stoudemire on the bench. 3:50 left to play Stoudemire catches in the paint, turns and scores.  Felton got him the ball where he needs it to be effective and we got a good shot out of it. 1:45 to play, Stoudemire has to dribble into the paint and it leads to a turn over for Jack. When will they learn?

So with Stoudemire, they need to get him the ball deep in the paint so he doesn’t have to  do so much to create his offense. I blame Felton for this. Felton needs to learn when to give Stoudemire the ball.  You don’t just give it to Stoudemire then let the magic happen.

That aside, Felton played well I thought. 15 pts (6-14 fgs, 1-4 3fgs) 6 rebs, 6 asts, 1 stl, 3 turnovers.  He looked great getting to the hole.  The only real problem was giving the ball to Stoudemire out of position and taking more 3 pointers than I thought he should.  But in this offense, there will be threes for all.

Gallinari’s game? Meh. 12 points (3-9, 2-5) 6 rebounds.  I watched the way Bargnani played and I wished Gallinari would get to that level.  I’m starting to think he won’t get there.  An example of the different approach: when Toronto was making a run in the 2nd, Bargnani faked a three, lost his defender took two dribbles closer and nailed a long two.  In the 3rd Gallinari faked a three, lost his defender, took a step to his left, made sure he was still behind the arc, then missed a three. ‘Nuff said.

The bench was fantastic led by a surprisingly effective Chandler (22 points, 8 rebs).  Douglas played very well and Turiaf did help the defense with 4 blocks and 2 steals.  My wife upon seeing Turiaf: “What is up with that Col. Sanders beard of his?”  Walker was awful.  Walker’s problem: he is only useful if he is shooting well, which he did not do (0-6 fg, 0-2 3fg) 2 rebounds, 1 turnover and zeros everywhere else ( I wanted to start him at the 2, what was I thinking?).

The Knicks did a great job with the give and go early on.  They scored or drew a foul on 5 of 6 of those plays in the first half.  They took advantage of the lack of shot blocking on Toronto, but in the second and third, they abandoned that play all together.  I’m not sure why.  When they got away from that play the ball movement really suffered. Only 12 assists for the game, 15-17 free throws and 7-24 3fgs. I don’t like seeing more threes taken than free throws taken but I better learn to adjust.  The rebounding was not good. My game notes again:

Awful sequence with5 minutes to play in the first.  Reggie Evans gets an  offensive rebound with three Knicks around him. Stoudemire with a poor block out and a weak one-handed rebound attempt. Evans gets the ball and then Stoudemire just walks away to complain about a push in the back.  Evans then finds himself alone under the basket and is so surprised he blows the easy lay in.  This rebounding is really going to hurt this team.

Yes they out rebounded Toronto 49 to 45, but keep in mind that Toronto is really bad at rebounding outside of Reggie Evans.  The Celtics will not repeat such mistakes. 

Mistakes aside, the Knicks did manage to pull out a win on the road in a game where they blew a 16 point lead.  When they needed to get a few good shots, Stoudemire got deep in the post and provided the offense needed. D’Antoni deserves some credit for moving Chandler to the bench. The play from the reserves was  a key factor in the win. There are some things to build on here but I fear a much more sobering view of the team may be available to us after the Celtics game.  We can talk about it then.

Knicks 2011 Season Preview – Centers

With the Knicks 2011 season almost upon us, it’s time to analyze the roster. Usually teams have some stability from one year to the next, but New York has only a third of the players returning. How New York is going to perform is more of a mystery than previous years. This year I’ll look at each position and attempt to address the critical question for those players.

Centers: Is there a quality NBA starting center here?

Prior to the preseason, it was thought that the Knicks would open the season with Ronny Turiaf as the starting center. Unfortunately Turiaf’s preseason play has been less than spectacular, averaging a pitiful 4.4 pts/36, 7.0 reb/36, and 2.3 to/36. Mozgov scores more (13.4 pts/36) but his rebounding (6.7 reb/36) and turnovers (3.0 to/36) are actually worse. The young Russian also features the propensity to commit foolish fouls (6.7 pf/36) at a rate that would make Jerome James proud. With the possibility of them averaging 30 to 40 minutes a night, you have to be concerned with the production the Knicks will get out of the five spot.

New York’s center dilemma brings up another area of concern: rebounding. Even if Amar’e stays at power forward, the Knicks are going to have a serious problem on the boards this year. Turiaf has been a poor rebounder his whole career, and Mozgov, for all his size, didn’t rebound well in preseason. The only player on the roster who has historically rebounded at a high level is Anthony Randolph. Unfortunately he isn’t likely to see enough minutes this year to make a dent in New York’s main deficiency. The Knicks haven’t been strong on the glass during D’Antoni’s tenure, and it seems that again this year they’ll be punting one of the four factors away, no matter who is playing center.


Which Knick center will be of NBA-starting caliber quality this season?

  • Timofev Mozgov (72%, 186 Votes)
  • Neither (22%, 58 Votes)
  • Both (3%, 8 Votes)
  • Ronny Turiaf (3%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 259

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Knicks 2011 Season Preview – Power Forwards

With the Knicks 2011 season almost upon us, it’s time to analyze the roster. Usually teams have some stability from one year to the next, but New York has only a third of the players returning. How New York is going to perform is more of a mystery than previous years. This year I’ll look at each position and attempt to address the critical question for those players.

Power Forwards: Is Amar’e really going to play the four?

The answer to this question is most relevant to how the Knicks will look this year. Having Amar’e entrenched at power forward forces D’Antoni to play Mozgov and Turiaf. Additionally Amar’e and Gallinari averaging 35+ minutes per night, doesn’t leave a lot of time at the forward spot for Anthony Randolph and Wilson Chandler. Mathematically there would only be 26 minutes per game remaining for the pair. Hence if Amar’e stays at center, that could mean either Chandler stays entrenched at SG, or Anthony Randolph won’t see many minutes.

However if the option to have Stoudemire at center is available, then New York can make a much more fluid lineup. With multi-position defenders like Randolph, Chandler, Gallo, Fields, Azubuike, and Douglas the team could go into a Swiss Army mode creating mismatches all over the floor. One of New York’s strengths is their depth and athleticism. As long as Amar’e mans the 5, the team will be fast enough to outrun the opposition whether they go big with the rest of the lineup (Felton, Chandler, Gallinari, and Randolph) or small (Felton, Douglas, Gallinari, Chandler).

At its core, the answer to this question will hint at the power dynamics between D’Antoni and Stoudemire. It has been rumored that with the Suns Amar’e wasn’t happy playing the five, and this caused a friction between him and his coach. Undoubtedly D’Antoni’s system runs best when he has the flexibility with his players. In the three seasons before Shaq arrived in Phoenix, the Suns averaged 59 wins with Amar’e at center. The Knicks coach has said many kind words about Mozgov, but it’s not hard to imagine D’Antoni itching to send the 7 footer to the bench and trot out a more sleek and energetic lineup. If the centers are getting a lot of minutes and aren’t producing, then you’ll know that Amar’e is serious about not playing the five and D’Antoni is restricted in his creativity.