The Knicks Guard Quandary
Going into preseason the Knicks were suppose to have stability at the guard spots. During the summer Allan Houston initially slipped out from under the guillotine that bore his name (the “Allan Houston Rule”), which meant another season of uncertainty concerning how much and what role he would play on the team. However his knee had other ideas, and forced Houston to retire before the season started. Isiah Thomas had brought in Quentin Richardson and drafted Nate Robinson which meant the Knicks would have depth and reliability coming into the season. Unfortunately things haven’t turned out as planned.
Quentin Richardson, who was to solidify the shooting guard & small forward spots, has been a disappointment thus far. Injuries kept Richardson from practicing with his new teammates during the preseason, so when the season started he was frequently out of position and was unfamiliar with the plays. So far this season he has yet to surpass his career average in points (12.5) in any game for New York. If matters weren’t bad enough, Friday he left the game after playing only 6 minutes and was a “DNP-Back Spasms” for Sunday’s game. So not only has Quentin’s various maladies kept him from settling into the Knicks’ offense, but now they are keeping him from playing altogether. While Richardson played in 79 games last year, the Knicks might have purchased the 2003-2004 version, where he only averaged 62 games a season.
At the risk of being unpopular, Nate Robinson might be the worst Knick still in Brown’s rotation. Although Robinson is an undersized rookie shooting guard trying to learn the point, he has done little to help his team. While he’s nearly a better rebounder (5.0 REB/40) than Marbury (3.4 REB/40) and Crawford (2.4 REB/40) combined, Nate is shooting a feeble 36.3% (eFG) and fouling opponents at a ridiculous rate for a point guard (6.6 PF/40). Usually a player whose shooting percentage resembles Ty Cobb’s career batting average might try to minimize the damage they are doing to their team by shooting the ball less. Unfortunately for New York, Robinson is doing more jacking than a Rock Star Games convention (19.4 FGA/40 second on the team). Nate’s selfishness is so bad that his usage rate (27.1) is nearly identical to All Star Vince Carter’s (27.2).
When Robinson gets the ball, he streaks into the paint where the defense colapses around him. For most point guards this is an ideal situation, because it means a teammate is open for an easy shot. Unfortunately for Nate he infrequently passes out of the double team, and instead forces up a contested shot. Opponents have caught on to this and send one or two help defenders into the paint, knowing that the Knicks’ guard won’t burn them by passing to the open man. With Brown’s impatience with shoot first point guards and players who foul incessantly, one has to wonder if Robinson would get the same treatment if he were 6’1.
Surprisingly, the only guard to show improvement is the player in which I had the least amount of confidence. Jamal Crawford seems to have retired his patented “off balanced-21 footer-hand in my face” shot. He is attempting less shots (14.4 FGA/40 compared to 16.3 last year) and has become more aggressive pushing the ball towards the hoop. Once his free throw percentage (currently 67%) returns to his career average (83%), he could have the most efficient season of his career. One thing Crawford needs to do better is give the ball up in transition. At least twice this year he has kept it for himself trying to elude defenders with a fancy dribble or a fake pass and go the full length of the court. Jamal needs to give up the rock when the Knicks have the numbers in the open court.
Even the Knicks best guard has been wildly inconsistent. Stephon Marbury had point totals of 10, 4, and 9 until erupting for 27 on Sunday against his cousin. Unfortunately for New York, they don’t face any more point guards from the Marbury family tree. Until that game, he seemed content to hang out on the perimeter and feed the ball to everyone else. Stephon’s main weapon is attacking the basket with a strong ability to finish or find the open man. Whether it is due to Larry Brown being overly restrictive or Marbury taking his instructions to an extreme, having him handcuffed to the three point line is not the best way to utilize his talents.
The other day Marbury took a lot of slack from the media & the fans for requesting to move to the shooting guard position. It doesn’t make sense that Robinson’s leash is long enough that he can take any shot he pleases, and Crawford is encouraged to make his way into the paint. Stephon is superior to his teammates in both passing and scoring from inside. The Knicks could help their last place offense and add stability to their backcourt by letting Marbury return to the form that made him one of the better offensive point guards in the league.