Phoenix Suns 128 – New York Knicks 110 – Game Recap

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the tank.

Guys, this was such an amazing display of tanking prowess that I’m so proud of our guys. I mean, it was a bit too much on the nose at first. Lance Thomas as your first substitute? After he didn’t play for like a bazillion games? And after he’s Lance Thomas? But it didn’t look like it was enough. After all, these Suns had the worst record in the league prior to this game. We had to do better than that to tank effectively. And we did. We did. We come away from this game with a loss, and it was such a concerted non-effort that it’s becoming evident that this team is gelling. You can’t pull this loss without a collective focus.

Seriously: this is a bit depressing. Not the loss per se, which is (as we all – cough – know) good, but the watching experience is really marred by the multiple injuries to our youngsters. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the only thing that’s worth watching this year is how the first- and second-year players behave, to see who’s a keeper and who’s not. Well, without Mitch, Zo and Dotson, we are a tad short in the excitement department. Knox is getting a biiit better, but it’s hard to bother getting warmed up for two guys who combine for 9 makes on 27 attempts in 67 minutes of play. You know well that I’m a Frank believer, but these should be the games you’re supposed to shine in. It’s hard to lose like this, apart from dreaming about ping-pong balls. I wished for a quality loss, I got the loss, I guess quality is for another time.

The good:

– I hope some GM is watching. Emmanuel Mudiay (32 pts, 6 rebs, 6 ast, -8 +/-) stuffed the stat sheet in many ways while scoring efficiently (32 pts on 21 shots). Perry should put this game* in an envelope and send it to everyone in the league, hoping someone bites. I know, I know. Emmanuel is improving – he really is. But does anyone really envision December Mud being the butterfly emerging out of the stinking cocoon that were his first three years in the League? 20/6/3.5 in 32 minutes on 48/37/84 (his December raw stats) are borderline all-star numbers in a vacuum. His defense is still non-existent, but everything is apparently in place to fool someone into thinking this is the starting point guard they need right now. I hope them fools aren’t us. That said, if you didn’t know any better it would be easy to root for this guy. He’s exuding confidence, getting to his spots, and passing the ball better, as in “making accurate passes”.

* without any mention about his three-point shooting form. This time one of his makes was described by Breen as “a deep floater… (two second pause to check the boxscore in silent bewilderment)… it was for three!”. I can assure it wasn’t pretty in any way.

The bad:

– We have a new aficionado of this portion of the recap. Trey Burke (4 pts, 2 rebs, 2 ast, -2 +/-) is playing like the version of Trey Burke that got kicked out of the League before last season. After his breakout (or swan’s song?) performance against Boston, he never shot better than 25% from the field in any of the subsequent six games he’s played. To be fair, he just got back from an injury. Also to be fair, four of those games were before the injury. His TS% has gone south of .500 and his WS/48 of 0.50 is mediocre (edit: his actual WS/48 is 0.050. I didn’t type a zero). Tonight was another display of ill-thought chucking from midrange. He’s also not being functional at all, in any lineup where he’s called to play. It’s interesting, however, that he’s a better defender than Mudiay, at least in terms of defensive positioning.

– Frank Ntilikina (9 pts, 3 reb, 1 ast, -17 +/-) started with a bang, hitting a goofy running hook shot and his first two three-points attempts. After that, his game was a mess. Booker got the best of him, because even if Frank was able to stay in front of him in most cases Devin just found the right angles to ignore the defensive coverage. Playing with another ball-dominant player shuts down his confidence right after the first missed attempt. You can almost guess his thoughts while he dribbles the ball: “Should I shoot here? Maybe I won’t see the ball for another two minutes… maybe I should drive right… I got it! I’ll call a screener! But no, wait, I’ll probe a little the defense and pull up from the stripe! Or I can try and shoot a three, I was good at math, and 3>2… ok, no, I don’t know what to do, if I miss coach will be angry. I’ll just pass the ball to my right. Next time I will shoot no matter what!”. And sometimes he shoots no matter what, and his body isn’t ready. There was a sequence in the third quarter, with the game tied at 77, where he shot a midrange jumper, missed long, Vonleh got the board, passed to ball again to a wide open Frank in the high post, Frank thought too much and shot short. His shooting form is not consistent and the release looks weak. The guy’s playing scared again, and I hate it.

– Noah Vonleh (3 pts, 7 rebs, 1 ast, -18 +/-) looks like he’s probably running on fumes, which scares me a bit. You know I’ve been pretty vocal about his usefulness to the team, but what if he can’t sustain his production because of simply lacking stamina. He’s been notably much less adaptable on the court in the last two games, and his head is not there on the offensive end. I’d tell myself not to worry about him, but if he plays again a bad game on Wednesday I’ll start thinking that maybe he can’t be good Vonleh for more than 30 games. Who knows? I’m just panicking a bit that the only bright spot outside of our cost controlled assets is slipping a lot. I don’t know how he tallied a game-low -18 in exactly 18 minutes while Kevin Knox, who was good in the first but then vanished only has -2. Noah, get back soon. …well, now, thinking about it, this was exactly the right game for his to stink the bed. Is this tanking Vonleh?

Fun-sized bits:

– No THJ tonight! I didn’t miss him one iota. He’s become our next Melo, in that we’re counting the days until his contract his over while someone swoons over his 20+ ppg on .520  TS%.

– Courtney Lee was passable (12 pts, 4 reb, 5-8 from the field). It’s trade season, we need more from him to try and trade him.

– Kevin Knox is finding his footing. I liked the aggressiveness he used to corral an offensive rebound to put the ball back into the basket in the first quarter. I need to see him display that kind of motor day in and day out to feel like we didn’t completely struck out with his selection. Until then, I’ll try hard not to puke browsing his B-R page.

– Mario with the most useless 14 points ever. Anyway, we didn’t have much at stake by that point, so it’s okay if he plays a bit.

– Enes Kanter with another double-double without effort. Not “an effortless double-double”. A double double where he didn’t put effort into the game. The man breathes, eats and drinks double-doubles, but in the end it never works. His defense and mono-dimensional offense negate whatever contribution he makes to this team. I don’t doubt he has the ability to impact a few specific playoff games. As a player on a bad team, as a starter on a bad team, he’s completely pointless. On a (not) funny sidenote, he had the only block for the night among Knicks. Mitch, where art thou?

– Luke Kornet was out of sorts tonight. He never shot inside the arc and wasn’t a big defensive improvement on Enes, which says a lot.

– Lance Thomas with his usual useless night: just five boards and nothing else in 21 minutes. I’ve never seen such a black hole for stats before, not counting Jason Collins. His negative WS/48 is still better than Knox’s or Frank’s.

And now to Wednesday, where we’ll get crushed by the Sixers in atrocious fashion. Ping-pong balls are our new gods.

 

 

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?

 

New York Knicks 108 – Detroit Pistons 115 – Game Recap

Hello losing my old friend, I’ve come to talk about you again.

After the three-win streak that we just endured, finally a consolatory loss, and with a kinda better minute distribution from Fiz. The game was ugly (our Bockers ended up shooting 39.6% from the field, but entering the second half their percentage was under 30, welp) and much less closer than the final scores indicates; there were times tonight when watching those two teams playing that I caught myself wondering if I was witnessing some sort of impromptu post-modern art performance. Guys fouled like crazy (usual and unusual suspects) and in the end Blake Griffin was just too much for any of our defenders. In the closing minutes, out of frustration (and necessity) Fizdale dusted off a previously horrendous Frank to defend on Blake, and while he did a decent job at defending Blake (but kept on sucking extremely hard at the game of basketball) the score was well out of reach, so it didn’t count. Every other guy was bullied and torched by a curly, burly Motown discount version of LeBron James. But a loss is a loss, so rejoice!

The good:

– Allonzo Trier (24 pts, 10 rebs, 7 ast, -6 +/-) makes you wonder why in the hell the Knicks haven’t already cut someone to sign him, and not out of astonishment at Iso Zo’s feats; there is an opportunity cost lurking around the corner, and it says “The later you sign him to a real contract, the more it is gonna you cost”. I mean, our man got close to a triple double and was the driving force behind a very fake and weak comeback in the fourth. It’s pretty clear that Fizdale trusts him to be our closer, especially on nights where THJ doesn’t have it – and that might mean a lot of nights by the end of the season. The last sentence, while serving its duty as our daily reminder that our roster stinks (your closer is an undrafted guy on a two-way contract!), could make Trier think twice before accepting whatever lowball offer the Knicks will throw at him. What could have cost you 2 million a year might now cost 3 or more. Every game where Zo puts up those numbers and does so on 11 shots is gonna raise the price. An undrafted rookie rocking a .612 TS% (third among all rookies) on 20.4 USG% is the stuff of your dreams, even if he’s an older rookie. There have been 8 games this year where a rookie has put a GameScore of 23+: Zo has two of them (the others: Ayton twice, Doncic, Jackson Jr, Young, Carter Jr). It has to be said that while his offense was pretty much pristine, his defense was uncharacteristically lackadaisical. Ok, Ish Smith is a longtime Knicks killer, but he got where he wanted all night and Zo never did anything to stop him. I hope that Zo is not one of those guys that after having made it just gives up on defense.

– Someone has any effing idea why Damyean Dotson (17 pts, 1 reb, 1 stl, +5 +/-) could not find any playing time in the last 4 games and had to be taken off the shelf only because of urgent foul trouble? He’s by far – by far – better that any other 3/4 wing we have. I can’t shake this feeling that Perry is constantly in Fiz’s ear telling him to play his precious Mario. More importantly, Dot doesn’t give up. Like an utmost professional, he stepped into the game and proceeded to score 17 on 8 shots in 23 minutes. He could have been a little better on defense and on the boards, but you can’t have it all. I just hope that Fizdale never buries him again, it’s the only very baffling things he did in the recent winning streak. I don’t know about those trade rumors, too. Do we have to trust our front office with getting a good return from an unheralded second round pick on a uber team friendly contract? I don’t. Let’s hope Dot sticks around.

The bad:

– Frank Ntilikina (0 everything, -5 +/-) played one of the worst transparent games I’ve ever seen. The only thing preventing him from earning a cool 16 trillions was bricking 3 shots, fouling 3 guys and turning the ball over once. I’m a fan of Frank for evidently irrational reasons, but it gets harder and harder each day to think we didn’t make a serious mistake picking him at 8th last year. His game was so ugly that I can’t even remember anything about him on defense, save for the couple possessions when he was assigned to Griffin. Hey, what do you say if we pretend (paraphrasing what someone suggested in one of the last threads) that Dotson was our 2017 first round pick and Frank was our second round pick? Maybe we could shift expectations and apologetic contortions.

– Trey Burke (6 pts, 1 reb, 12.5% FG, -18 +/-) has turned into a pumpkin again. It’s unbelievable how much variance affects his games. Or not! Actually, his success is predicated on being a marksman on the least efficient type of shots in the game: the long two-pointer. If it doesn’t fall, you have a 6’1″ mountain of bricks staring at you, and that shot usually comes and goes. His game-low plus/minus tells the same story. It’s no coincidence that our defacto PG in the last quarter was Trier.

– I guess Mitchell Robinson’s (2 pts, 5 rebs, 1 blk, -13 +/-) scout report is officially out. His second consecutive mention here it’s not exactly his fault, it’s more about experience and tendencies that can and will be corrected. That said, it’s become obvious that he has no way of stopping crafty, huge big men near the rim without fouling them; the same can be said about speedy driving guards who are not afraid of contact. Another night prematurely ended by six quick fouls. It has to be said that giving him the Griffin assignment was like dropping a hurt, bloodied puppy on a sea full of hungry sharks, and Griffin caused the fouling out of Vonleh and Hezonja too. Growing pains, guys!

– Kevin Knox (4 pts, 3 rebs, 14.3& FG, -4 +/-) is, right now, a terrible basketball player. You had to hear the deflated, defeated somber tone used by Mike Breen late in the fourth quarter in referring to Knox: “Knox really looks lost, Clyde”. It was a torrent of sadness, as if a million neurons were facepalming in unison like tiny synchronized swimmers. And Breen has been with this team through a lot of bad times. He was there when the East was big. When Beno passed the ball. When Mardy Collins was playing for us. And I’ve never heard anything so dreary come out of his mouth. But Knox is the perfect recipe for piling losses, so yay! I can be happy again! …or not.

Fun-sized bits:

– Enes with another double double. Guy is a machine. A slow, overpayed, self-inflated one, but a machine nonetheless. I wish we were in the 90s to trade him for a king’s ransom. We’ll end up buying him out instead. But his terrible defense is pivotal to our tank effort, so until March maybe it’s cool (if Mitch really can’t stay on the court).

– Mudiay with a vintage Mudiay performance. Do I have to act surprised?

– Chuck Hardaway’s numbers in his last 4 games (3 W, 1L): 17.3 ppg on 32.3 FG% (47.3 TS%). At least he reduced his usage to just 23%.

– Frank’s TS% is 43.5. His 2017-18 was 43.7. I think we would be excused if we started thinking about him as a non-shooter.

– If Vonleh has foul trouble issues, the whole team suffers. Tonight it was really apparent. His game is pure substance, even when posting mediocre numbers (6 pts, 7 rebs, 1 ast, 3 blks). He keeps on shooting the three at a .400+ clip, though.

– This would have been the perfect game to unleash a sprinkle of Ron Baker; I’m a bit sad that didn’t happen.

– Mario is playing a bit better, but nothing that grants him any of Dotson minutes.

– Stanley Johnson killed our guys tonight with 21 points, and his defense on the perimeter was very good. Is this again my heart saying “Be patient with Frank” in the background?

Another back-to-back for us tomorrow against the 76ers. Don’t know why but I have a feeling that we’re gonna win. Let’s see if I’m wrong (I hope to be)!

New York Knicks 103 – Memphis Grizzlies 98 – Game Recap

Picture this: you’ve been ousted by your former employer because of friction in the workplace, which were probably caused not only by you, by you alone paid the price. You go to work for an upstart, if disjointed, new young company. Fate intervenes and pits you up against your former employer in a nation wide competition for best businesses; you probably know you shouldn’t stand a chance to win and you would benefit more for your company developmente by just letting your youngest team members learn on the way, while getting the most experienced ones to just provide support and a sort of backbone. But no, you have to win. It’s personal.

Well, I completely understand that. Sometimes it’s really personal. So this time I’ll set aside my usual rants about veterans and rotations and whatever. It feels good for Fiz. You could see it in his eyes, and especially in the post-game hug with Mike Conley. His clash with Marc Gasol last season could have been an unwashable stain in his NBA career. Now it looks like it’s just another bump in the rearviewmirror.

Getting to the game: it was great! You see, I’m used to low-scoring games, what with my European upbringing, and rooting for the Knicks makes it so that we’re usually fond of players who give their all on the court to prevent the other team from scoring easily, but I have a soft spot for well-played games that are not shoot-outs. Now, don’t think that I don’t like those crazy scoring nights around the league that tend to happen daily this season, but well, they look like blockbuster cinema. It’s fun and everyone likes it, but sometimes a real fan wants to appreciate something closer to the nature of the game. Or maybe it’s just me longing for the past days where I banged and raised elbows and profusely sweated and fouled hard guys trying to score easy baskets, and I had my freeflowing locks a-la Christian Laettner blocking my view on the court, while nowadays I never play anymore and I’m scratching my bald head at the last 350 words.

Let’s try it again.

Getting to the game: it was great! A hard fought, gritty win on the road against the team with the best record in the Western Conference, with a few heartening performances along the way and a thrilling finale where our guys showed up in the clutch. Let’s delve into details!

The good:

– Enes Kanter (21 pts, 26 rebs, 3 ast, +9 +/-) threw in a performance for the ages, netting 14 points and 11 rebounds in a single quarter, the third. It’s his second 20-20 game for the season, and his 26 rebounds are a career high and a season high for the whole league. He played a Thibs-approved 42 minutes, but didn’t seem gassed at all in the waning minutes (insert joke here about how not playing defense make the feat easier, as you rest on the court for half the time). There were times, especially in the third quarter, where he utterly dominated the mountain-like Marc Gasol under both rims. I am always thankful for Enes, since he got us out from the Melo contract with the added benefit of the MitchRob pick, but I’m routinely harsh with him. Not tonight. I was happy to root for his monster performance. Amazingly, his game score for tonight amounts just to third-best for the season. I wish it was easy to root wholeheartedly for him this season, sadly it’s not recommendable, as it wouldn’t be recommendable to fall in love with a crazy-hot partner who you know won’t be around in a few months and will ruin some of your most promising friendships.

– Emmanuel Mudiay (17 pts, 2 rebs, 4 ast, +5 +/-) was again pretty good on offense, shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from the line to offset his subpar shooting night (5-for-12) and being the protagonist of the highlight of the game, a late-game breakaway and-one dunk after a Burke steal with less than 100 seconds to go. Mudiay has been legitimately good at attacking the rim this season. He falls to the ground like he did in past seasons, but this year he usually converts the shot. It’s funny that I refer to a 5-for-12 night as “subpar”: if he ended the season shooting 41.7% from the field it would still be his most accurate average by far. For the current season, instead, he’s shooting 49.2% from the field and is on the verge of breaking the .100 WS/48 threshold that basically would posit that he has become an average NBA player. It’s genuinely astonishing and at the same time it functions as a glimmer of hope for the development of a certain other offensively challenged kid with African roots. Mudiay found a way to be a contributor even against the top defense in the League, and that’s really something. If this is the real Mudiay, I’d count it as the highlight of Fiz’s career.

– Noah Vonleh (7 pts, 6 rebs, 2 ast, +17 +/-) took more than a backseat to Kanter’s amazing night, but make no mistake: he’s the glue that keeps everything together. Simply put, when he’s on the court it’s almost impossible for the Knicks to be outmatched in physicality and effort, and as a tertiary ball-handler he shows a lot of confidence, and his teammates rely on him to create from time to time. Memphis would have certainly escaped with the win if he wasn’t there grabbing some hard boards in the fourth (you know, the ones where you have to jump high, something that Enes doesn’t exactly excel in). Great signing from the scrap heap, wish we could have him for a few more years.

The bad (or more on point, the meh):

– Kevin Knox (0 pts, 2 rebs, 1 blk, -4 +/-) is not ready for this type of games. He shot the ball three times and he never did so in rhythm. It’s hard to find your spots against a team as defensively prepared as Memphis, so that’s not entirely his fault, but his contributions nowadays seem to came only by his points scored, and when he doesn’t hit shots he’s worse than useless, he’s actively detrimental. His road to be a competent NBA rotation player will be bumpy and we have to be ready and patient. As of now I’d say there’s a 30% chance that Kevin will be an NBA player in 5 years, but there’s no way to know for sure. I didn’t have a lot of expectations from him this season, I’d say we’re par for the course.

– Mitchell Robinson (0 pts, 2 rebs, 1 stl, -5 +/-) was the primary suspect on everyone’s list of “player less suited to play against Memphis”, and that list was correct. The rail-thin Mitch could do nothing against the Gasol behemoth, nor against the rangy Jaren Jackson Jr. He was completely out of sorts in all of his 13 minutes of play, particularly on defense. Nights like this act like a much needed reminder that Mitch has still a lot to get to NBA-starter level, but well… he’s a 20 year second-round pick rookie who’s exceeding expectations by a lot, so he’s more than forgiven. He’s still leading the league in BLK% even after this empty performance, go figure.

Fun-sized bits:

– Trey Burke was more than instrumental in securing the win, with his great interception for the Mudiay’s dunk and his 8-for-8 from the line, but man… he clunked a lot of shots. He was 3-for-15 from the field, playing a big part in the awful 37.4 FG% posted by the Knicks team. Being a six-foot guard has to be scary on a night where Memphis set its franchise record for blocks in a game.

– Tim Hardaway Jr had his second bad shooting night in a row, but made up for it with some charity stripe forays (22 points on 16 shots, 7-for-7 from the line). All in all a very transparent game from him, but in the end we needed a few of his buckets to take home the W. Sitting comfortably at 23.3 ppg on 55.5 TS%, he’s playing the quintessential high volume-average efficiency scorer role risen to prominence in many Melo years.

– Speaking of Melo: do you realize this would have been the last year of the contract Phil gave to him? And he’s apparently out of the league? How’s it goink?

– For the second straight game, Frank played 13 minutes. They weren’t bad, but Fiz looks to have shifted into “Frank is a wing who will play minutes accordingly to the game flow” mode. I’m not sure if I like this, but Frank’s not complaining. 7 points and 6 boards for him. A little more substance in his game for once.

– Exhibit A about Frank’s shot being irreparably broken: a hideous airball from three (with his feet set) in the first quarter just after a clean make from the corner 90 seconds before. Exhibit A about Frank’s shot needing only some confidence: the kid is shooting 15/16 from the line for the season and his stroke looks pure. I think Frank has to make a mental leap to become a good player; the downside of that is that mental leaps are the hardest to successfully complete.

– Zo with another double figures scoring night, but this time he wasn’t efficient (5-for-12). Credit Memphis for making his efforts at the rim much harder than they were in his first 20 games.

– Mario started again. Didn’t do a lot again. But he was a bit better and didn’t get in the way (and looked a bit more focused). Can we please see more Dotson and less Mario? Thank you.

– For all the people who think that winning useless games is better because it helps building a winning culture: if the byproduct of said “winning culture” is a Knox instead of a JJJ, I don’t want to win anymore. To me, JJJ is going to be the second best player in this rookie class.

– Lastly, for all my rants about winning useless games, we’re at 7-14, which means we won a third of the games we played, which means if we keep this W/L ratio we’ll end up at 27-55, right around where I predicted at the beginning. It’s easy to get carried away by the tanking passion.

Let’s see what our guys are made of on Tuesday against Detroit! For now it’s all. See you!

New Orleans Pelicans 109 – New York Knicks 114 – Game Recap

Hey! Hey you! Yeah, I’m talking to you, Mr. Fizdale. Don’t you know that we’re supposed to lose a lot of games? What are these shenanigans of winning two games in a row against good teams? I have two words for you: Zion Williamson. Get back on track!

Now, seriously. The last two games have been a breath of fresh air, a nutritious sip of broth for a fanbase starving for feel-good moments from this season… except, our feel-good moments aren’t really measured in wins or losses. They’re measured in development. And on a night like this, while we should be happy that we won, I can’t avoid the sting of seeing that, apart from Allonzo (more, a lot more on him later), the quartet of other rookie-scale contracts going into 2019-20 has played just 33 minutes combined. I’ll delve into the possible explanations to this further down the recap, but I had to put it off my chest: I feel uneasy winning and seeing so little out of our projects.

The good:

– Allonzo Trier (25 pts, 8 rebs, 4 ast, +13 +/-) is the clear-cut MVP of this one. Apart from his gaudy numbers – on 12 shots! – due to an extremely salivation-inducing ferociousness in attacking relentlessly the rim, he was the only reason I don’t deem a failure this game. You might think my vision is too bleak, but again I ask of you: what good comes from seeing a game won by guys who probably won’t be here next year ruin your chances at a top 4 pick next June? That said, I don’t blame Fiz for this one: he has to follow through on his meritocracy propaganda, so it’s only fair giving minutes to who’s playing well. Now, gloomy tangent aside, Trier was awesome tonight. He didn’t only score effectively: he was there everytime we needed a timely bucket, and there are nights when he’s just so good at protecting the ball driving to the rim (I was baffled when I went to look at his FG% on drives for the season: it’s just 48.3. For context: the best Knicks at drives FG% is Emmanuel frigging Mudiay, at 58.6, good for seventh in the whole league among players with 3+ drives per game; Allonzo is 61st, nothing to scoff at from an undrafted two-way player anyway). Iso Zo tonight was everything we needed THJ to be, and he carried us to the victory. Again: 25 points on 12 shots, 4 assists, 0 turnovers. On the Merriam-Webster, tonight, his picture was the definition of efficiency.

– Emmanuel Mudiay (27 pts, 7 rebs, 2 ast, +5 +/-) was Trier’s partner in crime and is a pleasant surprise, to be honest. He’s not a good (or even average) NBA player even now, but his improvement from past seasons is palpable. This is the first year where he’s putting up a WS/48 > .050 (at .083 now), a TS% better than league average, and positive BPM and VORP. Don’t get me wrong, the numbers suggest that he’s just an 8th-9th man at best, but at the beginning we all thought he was downright terrible, and had our good reasons to think so. It’s possible that Fiz has fixed him a little bit. For sure, he’s a completely different guy when driving to the rack (see above). Not only that, though: he’s better at defense, and he’s making a better use of his big body in space. Don’t let the 4 steals fool you: there was some hustle there, yeah, but also a lot of gambling. If any of his gambles was just a bit mistimed, you’re looking at easy, easy points for the Pels. The highlight of his night is his wonderful reverse drive with 34 seconds to go: that showed that his new found efficiency at the rim should be sustainable. It looks like he’s in control of his body for the first time in 4 years. It’s just a shame that his cap hold will be too big: to really invest in him for the next five months would be a pedestrian mistake. Also, for such a prolific driver, his 2 assists tally is a bit meager.

– Noah Vonleh (14 pts, 11 rebs, 5 ast, +18 +/-) is making me fall in love with his game night after night after night. Third straight double double for him, 4 for 7 from three point range, team-high plus/minus and assists. Add 2 steals and 2 blocks and he made certainly drool many a fantasy owner tonight. Vonleh is, again, the lone exception to the merry band of expiring contracts winning us useless games. I hope we keep him after this year. He looks so much better than he did in his last NBA stops. I won’t bother you with his advanced numbers again; I’ll just leave here his 3PT%: .412 on 1.7 attempts per night. I think it’s gonna fall down to around .350 (the arc is flat and two of his misses were ugly airballs), but as a surrogate stretch four he brings so many other things to the table, like a strong ability to pull down defensive boards, something that we sorely need. Our other frontcourt players are great at getting offensive rebounds, but on the defensive glass we are a little overwhelmed. We need him to jump under our basket. His defense is nothing to write home about, Davis (until perfectly healthy) dominated him, but then again who can defend well on Davis?

The bad:

– Mario Hezonja (2 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, -3 +/-) might be the worst use of cap space for a year since we signed Derrick Williams. Someday we’ll know why he’s starting instead of Dot or even – gasp – Knox. He was terrible again, apart form a very brief stint where he made a cutting layup and later dished a chocolate assist to Kanter for an easy two. His advanced numbers for the season scream “huge bust”: -0.057 WS/48, .435 TS%, -6.7 BPM. I think we have seen enough of him. It’s not even like he stabilizes the starting five! They need defense and shooting. He doesn’t bring either, which makes even more puzzling the fact that Dotson is not seeing playing time and Mario is averaging 17+ MPG as a starter.

– Kevin Knox (5 pts, 1 reb, 1 blx, -9 +/-) is having a lot of rough nights by himself; tonight foul trouble exacerbated the problem. He wasn’t able to contain anyone on defense and on offense shot 2 for 6, where one of those two connected attempts was one of the ugliest floaters/toss up I’ve ever seen. His advanced numbers are worse than Mario’s; in his defense, he’s a rookie, but that’s the only thing that goes in his favor. Anyway, I’m all for giving him all of Mario’s minutes, if Dotson can’t/won’t play.

Fun-sized bits:

– Not so fun, but Mitchell Robinson shouldn’t get so enamored with his blocking ability, or he’ll become an Hassan Whiteside-type defender, which means great blocks numbers but little impact on the game. I’m sure that won’t be the case with Mitch, and tonight he was defending possibly the best big in the whole league, but he elected to defend only with his hands and never with a jockeying motion. That he was able to put in a mildly productive night (5 points, 2 blocks, 1 rebound, 1 assist) in 9 minutes of play speaks volumes about his ability to impact games, but he has to be very careful about defensive mistakes – and where he steps when he tries to block guys on the perimeter. Twice he went under a Pelican shooting from three and once he was whistled for a flagrant 1. That call was excessive but by the rules. Second time in a row that a Mitch blunder costs us five point in a single possession. And to foul out in 9 minutes is simply… rookie dumb.

– Mitch is posting a league-high 9.8 BLK%. Over the course of a season, only three players in NBA history have posted a higher number: Manute Bol (six times), Alonzo Mourning and pre-huge contract (for the time) Jim McIlvaine.

– Frank Ntilikina played only 14 minutes tonight and was his usual good on the defensive end, plus two blocks, and quite meh on offense. There was no reason to play him so little, unless Fiz has seen that Frank can only play with certain guys (see: Burke) and not with others (see: Mudiay). That would be disconcerting, but I find no other reason to bench him so much, and that’s the only remark I have to make about Fizdale tonight. The sequence of the night belonged to Frank, though: block on the defensive end, another block by Mitch, the ball switches to the Knicks and Frank drains a three in semi-transition. This is what we want to see, dammit!

– Timmy was horrible. Too much turkey? Seven points, a lone rebound, four assists and a ghastly 2-for-15 night from the field. Improvement much, huh? It’s not fair to look now, but his WS/48 dipped under .100; how do you spell “17 million dollars” in trade language? We’ll forgive him this time, though.

– Trey came back to normal, but was still useful. 20 minutes of steadying the ship and letting others do their job. I’ll take it.

– Enes Kanter played his first Enes game since becoming a starter again. 17 and 12, plus 3 blocks and some mobility on defense. It’s just a shame that he couldn’t win a jump ball against a chair.

Our record goes to a suboptimal 6-14, good (bad?) for fifth-worst in the league. Let’s see what happens on sunday against the Grizzlies. I expect a terrible game to watch, where THJ will chuck 20 shots from the dribble and we’ll end up losing 92-75… but losing is good, isn’t it?

See you!

New York Knicks 117 – Boston Celtics 109 – Game Recap

I told you I wanted the guys to win this game. I’m really happy they followed through on my wish, and did it in such a convincing fashion. In a season dedicated to losing, sucking and (hopefully) developing players, it’s a great thing to pick your spots with regard to beating good teams. If we have to beat a good team, let it always be Boston. It feels great to wash away their smugness with the same forcefulness used by Mitch to swat those poor suckers at the rim.

The game became a much closer matter than it should have been (our largest lead was +26, but it got cut to just 3 with 34 seconds to play), but that was to be expected, given that Fiz left two rookies on the court for the majority of the fourth quarter. I have to say that this game went a long way in giving me back confidence in Fizdale’s ability to understand the game. Whatever was going to happen to this game (and it’s much better that we won, but it would have been good even if we lost), let the unproven guys get the reps they earned. Mitch and Knox were on the court for pretty much the entire fourth quarter. Frank played the full last 12 minutes. This is how you do it.

The good:

– Ok, when did Trey Burke (29 pts, 6 rebs, 11 ast, +10 +/-) become the undersized version of Kyrie Irving? Seriously, this guy is having such a good streak of games that you might mistake him for an All-Star candidate in the last four: 25.8 ppg, 4.3 apg, 3.3 rpg and 1.3 spg on a super efficient 67.8 TS% and an astounding 31.7 USG% in just 28 minutes per game. This game is all his: he played great (yeah, great) for all of his 33 minutes, and came through with timely buckets in the last two minutes and a half, including the crucial three-pointer to put us ahead for good with just 12 seconds to go. In fact, he scored 7 of our last 9 points, where the lone two points he didn’t score were free throws that the Celtics gifted to Mudiay after we were up six with 5.5 seconds remaining. Trey was everywhere, oozing confidence and showing he was in total control of the game. I know it won’t last, but this Trey is an amazing player. Well, I guess most players are amazing when they apparently can’t miss, but this one, hitting guys in stride and snatching more than a few contested boards in traffic, was the real deal. Probably his best overall game in a Knicks uniform.

– Noah Vonleh (16 pts, 10 rebs, 3 ast, +5 +/-) began the game with fire in his eyes and ice in his veins, hitting both of this three-pointers and going after caroms with undeterred savagery. The fact that he played so well and still didn’t see significant playing time down the wire speaks volumes about both the quality of the play of the guys on the floor during the bulk of the fourth quarter and the sound decision making of coach Fizdale. Noah keeps on being the best frontcourt player of the team, if not the best player entirely, and even when he commits a few mistakes you can’t deny the contribution he brings to the team. This time he was very good even at rim protection, blocking 3 shots, two of them reminiscent of particularly nasty spikes in volleyball. I think we all remember fondly KOQ; I also think we found a guy that’s a nice, consistent replacement for the zany beardo (save for those delicious passes hitting backdoor cutting guys). His stats are not at the level of peak KOQ, but are good nonetheless: .123 WS/48, 18.4 TRB%, 9.1 AST%, 1.2 BPM look like the typical portrait of a nice third-fourth big to have on a contender. If we are not able to keep him next season, I wish him the best of luck and to find a place on one of the 4-5 best team in the League.

– Mitchell Robinson’s (8 pts, 4 rebs, 6 blks, +7 +/-) inclusion here is a bit of a stretch, since he alternated resounding plays and dumb mistakes – most egregiously fouling Irving with a clear path to the basket in the fourth, effectively handing the Celtics the opportunity to cut the deficit to ten with more than seven minutes to play – but I mean… have you seen this guy roam the paint on defense? There was a stretch in the fourth quarter where the 15 foot radius in front of the rim looked positively like a no-fly zone for green jerseys. Do you know who’s on top of the block% in the whole NBA? …your guy, Mitch. I guess we probably would have won the game even with Vonleh on the court in place of Robinson, but it was such a stupendous view to see our rookie center wreak havoc and terrorize all sorts of Celtics for a few minutes. This kid really belongs in the League.

The bad:

– Mario Hezonja (3 pts, 2 rebs, 1 stl, -2 +/-) is trying a little too hard to get acting recognition, starring tonight as Lance Thomas in “Desperately seeking useless starter: a Knicks bio-pic”. Second start in a row for Mario, second stink-bomb. He shot 14.3% from the field, did nothing in any other facet of the game and was his usual listless self on defense. It’s unbelievable to think that, for all his talent, he could just very well be the worst player on our roster. His effort level is unexcusable. I pegged him for some 20+ points game from the bench inside MSG, but I don’t think he has any fire in his soul. He looks like he can’t wait to be home, wherever that home might be. Sure as hell ain’t gonna be New York after April 15th, 2019.

– Emmanuel Mudiay (5 pts, 2 rebs, 2 ast, -6 +/-) wasn’t all that bad, but the good Mudiay we’ve seen in some of the last games was nowhere to be seen. A timid performance, buoyed just a little by his block on Irving’s last shot and his subsequent 2 free throws. Never was the disparity between him and Burke more evident than tonight. There can be a lot of games where Trey is not playing well, but that’s on his physical limitations or his mental disconnect, never on his instincts. Mudiay, on the other hand, needs to be always 100% focused on the game, as his insticts are severely lacking and have to be continuatively kept in check. Tonight was a typical directionless Mudiay game; the fact that I don’t feel it was that bad maybe speaks more about my very low expectations for him than about his real level of contribution.

Fun-sized bits:

– Enes Kanter is strangely posting meh numbers since getting inserted back into the starting five (8.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 41.2 FG%); his body language looks a lot better, though. Does he really care that much about starting on a team that’s going to lose at least 55 games? I mean, I know the NBA market is skewed in favor of starting, huge numbers posting guys… but in 2018 that’s for guards, wings and stretch bigs. I hope his agent is smart and in his ear, otherwise Enes is going to be in for an unpleasant surprise this summer. Not a bad game for Enes tonight, anyway. Sometimes he kinda overcomes his defensive liabilities and find a way to be sorta useful on both ends of the court. Not hating on happy, 25-minutes playing Enes.

– Frank Ntilikina played a huge game on the defensive end. I’m sorry, I don’t have stats for you, and I’m not keen on trusting that much my eye-test (what with being shortsighted and all), but if you saw even some snippets of the game you saw his on point defense on Jayson Tatum and other sorts of Celtics. He was again good at getting to the rim, even unleashing a contorting baby Greek Freak layup in the fourth. I like me some aggressive Frank! Maybe Fiz has found his right role? Could Frank play best as a wing, acting as the egg in our Knicks cheesecake recipe: you think it has no purpose, but it makes everything stay together while enabling the different, more present flavors to emerge with their distincts features? Oh, and there were a few possessions where he was matched with Marcus Smart and I was like this.

– Tim Hardaway had another 20+ points game, but this time his performance wasn’t noteworthy in a good way: 21 points on 19 shots, a missed technical free throw late in the game, lots of bad turnovers (seven total). He seems a little more engaged on defense, but nights like this one won’t cut it when we’ll need him to win games in two years. He’s always unafraid, but he’s careless with the rock in the half-court. For all the talk about his improvement, a lot of his advanced stats are the same as they were in his last year with Atlanta.

– Allonzo Trier continues on his campaign to be a proficient offensive cog while trying not to detract anything on the defensive end. Through almost a quarter of the season, he’s still averaging double figures in points while shooting a little south than 60% true shooting percentage. Not bad for an undrafted rookie, huh?

– Kevin Knox had a nice outing (11 points, 9 boards, one block). I don’t care that much about him scoring 10+ points: I care about how he gets there. He was able to go to the line four times and employed a good shot selection. Also, his work on the boards was similar to what we saw in Summer League. I still don’t see much in him, but tonight he looked at the very least competent enough.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Celebrate this pretty win with as much cranberry sauce you like and, if your stomach is full of air and feel about to burp, send a thought to Boy Wonder Brad Stevens who just got manhandled by a merry band of misfits in his hometurf.

See you on Friday against the Pelicans!

Portland Trail Blazers 118 – New York Knicks 114 – Game Recap

Another hard fought game and a valiant loss from our beloved Knicks; so why, oh why, am I feeling so sad tonight?

Well, I guess it has something to do with the new starting five/rotation employed by a seemingly bumbling (of lately) coach Fizdale. While I understand that the starting five with the three rookies was having some problems and had to be changed, I really don’t get how sending all three of them to the bench, starting Hezonja and Kanter and not playing Dotson can be seen as any other thing from a case of “I might have lost my damn mind”. Or maybe a diktat from the front office? Either way, I’m starting to get a bit worried about a few things. Did I overestimate Fizdale’s acumen? Did we underestimate the unknown meddling power of Perry/Mills? I don’t know; I’m just happy we lost because this one wasn’t certainly a good game to win for our development plans.

The good:

– Noah Vonleh (14 pts, 14 rebs, 2 ast, -3 +/-) is a different player when he starts – and when defenses leave him a bit of space to operate. Aside from the strong numbers you see between parenthesis, to which he added 3 steals and 1 block for good measure, his presence was felt throughout the game, with a thunderous slam to cap his night with 8:31 to go in the third quarter. Yeah, he missed 4 straight free throws in the closing minutes, but as I said, I’m happy with the loss, so I won’t scold him for those (but boy, did two of them look flat and ugly). If his three point stroke is semi-legit, which I think could be even with that flat arc of his, Vonleh is surely gonna find a home in the NBA for a long time coming (at the moment he’s shooting 32% from three on 1.4 attempts per game, which is not good but at least should keep defenses a bit on their toes if he’s wide open on the perimeter). If you ask me, at this point of the season he’s my MVP for the Knicks, which says a lot about the whole team. Vonleh was the only one of the new three new starters I have no issue with: he works his tail off night in and night out, and certainly deserves to start ahead of Knox.

– Tim Hardaway Jr. (32 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast, +10 +/-) put in the third straight 30 pts performance, and did so on just 21 shots. I’m no big Timmy fan, but his scoring workload is undeniable, and tonight he added a few things here and there to be a thorn on the Blazers’ side. A key feature of this year is the sheer number of free throws he’s shooting, a career-high 6.6 per game, good for 13th in the whole league. It doesn’t hurt that he’s converting them as his usual mid-80s clip. I’m still not convinced his salary is right, as he won’t win you that many games, but if life gives you lemon, you make a Tim Hardaway 25 ppg season and call it a day – hoping someone knocks on your door to trade for him. Bonus meager tidbit: his 32 points were the most for all players in the NBA tonight.

– Trey Burke (19 pts, 3 rebs, 3 ast, -15 +/-) has bounced back very strongly in the last three games after not playing in 3 of the previous 4. For the last three, he’s marching to the tune of 24.7 ppg on 67.8 TS% in just under 27 minutes per game. I’m really hoping other teams are watching now, as he’s putting on quite the show and I certainly wouldn’t mind adding a couple second rounders to our hoard. I know, I’m saying good things about players I’d like to see traded away, but isn’t that the point of rebuilding? I mean, what good could come from winning three or four games on the heels of a scorching Trey Burke night if it’s not to trade him as soon as you can? Luckily we didn’t win this game neither the Pels’ one, so I can’t complain too much about our overall record, but you know some night we’ll win a meaningless game on a great performance from one of our useless (if we’re speaking about development) veterans. For a night, he also took the crown of “minus King” from THJ, as he posted a game-worst plus/minus of -15.

The bad:

– Mario Hezonja (2 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, +1 +/-) is starring in the critically acclaimed “How to lose your spot in the NBA in four years”, a masterful tale of fall from grace, sorrow and melancholy you can catch for another 30-ish nights on a cool off-Broadway venue near Penn Station. Seriously, Mario, this is how you play im your first start of the season after being extensively benched? You care this little about basketball? I remember you telling people that in Barcelona you were the one people should come look for, not Messi. Now, if you talk the talk, you gotta be able to walk the walk. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a guy so keen on looking so defeated and depressed on the court. At least Fiz cut his playing time quickly – only 17 minutes for him tonight – but not before Mario wandered around the court losing continuatively guys on defense and shooting the ball horribly. I thought he’d have a nice career in the League, but now he might be my least favorite Knick of the season.

– Kevin Knox (2 pts, 1 reb, 1 blk, -1 +/-) is looking like he should be Mario’s understudy in the aforementioned theater piece. In nights like these you really don’t understand what our brain trust saw in Knox when they chose to pick him. I want to be crystal clear: I’m not saying in any way that we should give up hope on him. It’s too early even for Knicks standard to think there’s nothing salvageable about him. I’m just saying, for the second game in a row, that I don’t know what to look for in Kevin to be able to acknowledge he has a future in this league. I look at him and my first thought is Joe Alexander. I’m desperately looking for silver linings here, but I don’t see any damaged Bradley Cooper to couple to this Jennifer Lawrence we have here.

Fun-sized bits:

– Frank had a quietly nice game, even dusting off a cool move driving to the rack with 3:33 to play in the third quarter. He played a little less than 29 minutes and was quite good at defending on Lillard and McCollum. He lost them a few times because of bad defensive rotations, but he certainly didn’t make the game easy for them everytime he got the assignment. Games like this act as a stern reminder that our guy is not suited to be a point guard, anyway. The Knicks dished out 22 assists, 3.5 more than their average for the year; Frank only contributed to one. Not that point guard ability is measured only in assists, but really, Frank tries and shies away from point guard responsibilites too often for my liking.

– Speaking of assists: Enes Kanter had a subdued game (posting a team high plus/minus!), scoring just 7 points and getting just 5 board, but tallied 6 assists. It’s like our inexistent offense forces him to become Tom Boerwinkle from time to time. He’s no Wes Unseld or Kevin Love, though. With 5:20 to play in the third stanza he missed an outlet pass to a streaking Knick by a good eight feet. I’m more accurate at hitting my TV with the remote from the other room when the Knicks play.

– I’m afraid of saying anything about Mudiay. Another game with a positive net rating, third game in a row with a TS% north of 60, not looking lost when driving to the rim. I can’t wait for the other shoe to drop, but I’m happy for him if he’s finally starting to get how to play in the NBA. Not that we care about that, seeing as he’s due to be out of here by the start of next season, unless something really horrible has happened in the meantime.

– Iso Zo really put the stress on the Iso part: 9 points on 5 shots, 3 turnovers and nothing else for the game. Welp, this kid sometimes is impalpable outside of points scored.

– I just want to see Mitch play. He’s an anemic defensive rebounder because he’s always in the wrong place, but he’s such a force of nature he’s almost assuredly must watch TV. 6 points, 5 boards (4 offensive ones!), 2 blocks, 2 steals and 1 assist in 18 minutes of play. He’d be easily averaging 10/7/2 as a second-round pick rookie if only one of our guards knew how to throw him two good lobs a game.

– Fiz, what’s the damn point in starting four guys with expiring contracts and a very low chance of being here next year (save for Vonleh, I hope) while totally benching a cost controlled asset like Dotson, who’s not playing that bad for the year? Hornacek, get out of that horn rimmed glasses sporting body!

– And again: I’m ok with losing the game. But why did Trey have to enter the game for Kanter with 1:43 to go and the Knicks set to defend in the next possession? Kanter is a sieve and we all now that, but Burke is a sieve who’s also a full 10 inches shorter than Enes… and guess how we ended up losing this one? On an offensive rebound putback by Evan Turner.

Next one will be tomorrow night in Boston. If there’s a game I’d like to win, it’s that one. Let’s show them ill-willed greens what we’re made of! Or not, but don’t start Mario again, please.