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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Night’s Player of the Game: Robinson or Lee?

Here’s an interesting article from TrueHoop’s on yesterday’s Knick game. Henry attended yesterday’s game, and watched it without the aid of a live box score.

Every once in a while I’ll attend a game as a regular person. Sitting in the stands, buying overpriced ice cream and the like. It was fun. But I wan’t online, and wasn’t watching any kind of fancy statistics. But everyone in the building knew that the Knicks, with Nate Robinson on the floor, were a wholly different team than when he was on the bench.

So, if you’re the coach of a team in that situation — where the starters are going nowhere, and some bench players are killing it — who gets to play in crunch time?

With 3:12 left in the game Knick coach Mike D’Antoni sat Robinson and brought in Quentin Richardson. (Gallinari, at that point, had already left the floor, and even the bench area.) The Knicks were up eight, but the chess match was still on. I pointed out to my friend Randy that the Knicks’ best player of this game was on the bench, and he said that clearly Robinson must be injured.

But alas, this morning there are no such report. And I thought maybe it was a case of bringing in a free throw shooter to help protect the lead, but if you check you’ll see Robinson is notably better than Richardson at the charity stripe.) It was simply a case of a coach bringing in a starter for whatever reason.

And it worked, I guess. The Knicks held through all the free throws to win by five.

But I can’t help but wonder: Was that the right move? When the game is on the line, don’t you have to go with your best players? And last night, was any Knick better than the smallest one?

I’m quoting Henry here, because I watched the game as well. But unlike Henry I was in the comfort of my home with the tv on, checking out the boxscore on my computer, and eating regularly priced ice cream. And I have a slightly different perspective on the game. I agree that Robinson and Gallinari were great last night. The pair scored a combined 30 points on 20 shots in just under 45 minutes. But I’m not thinking that either one was the best player on the floor. In my eyes it was David Lee.

Say what you want about the David Lee love here at KB, but last night he was just awesome on the offensive end. There’s still a thought among many Knick fans that Lee is just a workman who converts on easy buckets. A few days ago someone on the forum used the word “garbage” to describe one aspect of his scoring. Had a basketball scout watched David Lee for the first time, I doubt the word “garbage” would have been in the scouting report.

Lee scored well from the inside & out. He hit two jumpers within the first 3 minutes and sank 5 of 11 from outside. Even more impressive is when you consider that he played against larger players for most of the night, and still managed to convert 7 of 10 from inside. As for the “garbage bucket” argument, only one shot was off an offensive rebound. Lee reclaimed 3 Knick misses, one ended a quarter, the second he put back, and the last led to a Gallinari three pointer.

While many of these baskets were assisted, Lee was able to knock down the outside shot and create when needed. Lee made a behind the back pass under the hoop to Jeffries, and near the end of the third quarter he hit a turnaround bank hook shot while double teamed. He finished the night with team highs in points (25) and rebounds (16). Although Robinson arguably had just as good a game (20 points on 13 shots, 4 boards, 4 dimes, and 4 steals), the difference for me was the intangibles. Normally when we use that word around here it’s in jest to discuss stats other than points (rebounds, blocks, steals, etc.) However I thought Nate was on the bench due to his defensive shortcomings.

On one possession Grant Hill backed Robinson down for an easy two, on another he was forced on a switch to guard Shaq. In a way it’s the New York defensive scheme that hurts Robinson’s value. Since the Knicks don’t have many good defenders and they have a lot of forwards, it makes sense for them to switch often. The downside for switching is less for this specific group than hedging or going over/under. But switching is a problem for the undersized Robinson.

Hence, from my perspective, it made sense to take Robinson out late in the game, despite his hot shooting. And perhaps Nate’s brainless technical foul, coming off the bench to taunt Amare on his hard foul to Lee, had something to do with it as well. But more importantly I think this reason made Robinson less valuable to the Knicks than Lee was last night.

Often times we talk about value in absolute terms, but value is tied into environment. As I said with my Kurt Warner analogy, Kurt was great for the Rams/Cardinals, but awful for the Giants. Robinson might be worthy to have on the court later in the games if the Knicks had better defenders and perhaps a few shot blockers. This way the team won’t be as fearful on switches, while gaining from Robinson’s ability to play the passing lines and his offensive contributions.

So for those that saw last night’s game, who was more valuable: Robinson or Lee?

14 comments on “Wednesday Night’s Player of the Game: Robinson or Lee?

  1. jon abbey

    “However I thought Nate was on the bench due to his defensive shortcomings.

    On one possession Grant Hill backed Robinson down for an easy two, on another he was forced on a switch to guard Shaq. In a way it’s the New York defensive scheme that hurts Robinson’s value. Since the Knicks don’t have many good defenders and they have a lot of forwards, it makes sense for them to switch often. The downside for switching is less for this specific group than hedging or going over/under. But switching is a problem for the undersized Robinson.

    Hence, from my perspective, it made sense to take Robinson out late in the game, despite his hot shooting. ”

    yes, this is all dead on, and is precisely why Nate (correctly) came out. also, they were protecting a lead so it made more sense to go back to the stronger defensive player.

    all that being said, Nate actually successfully guarded Shaq on that switch, it was pretty incredible. he fronted him and jumped as high as he could without the ball coming in that direction, I did a freeze frame where his head was actually higher than Shaq’s, it was quite entertaining.

    as for who was more valuable last night, probably Lee, but really they don’t win without either of those guys. hopefully Nate is out of his funk permanently now.

  2. BK

    Excellent points, and I would vote for Lee without hesitation, and had no issues with Nate on the bench.

    Having said that, I thought Nate did a much better job on defense of getting back to his man (when possible), and communicating with other teammates regarding where to be. In recent games, once he was rubbed off on a screen, he would frequently give up on the play or react slowly. His defensive awareness seemed better last night, even if he still is easily exploitable on mismatches and tends to gamble on steals.

    I just liked seeing how active Nate was — whatever his faults, his energy off the bench can still be a positive even when his shot isn’t falling. But his shooting issues seemed to be affecting his aggressiveness, and he was a little too constrained with his recent play. Let’s hope he’s past his slump.

  3. Thomas B.

    Why does it have to be an either/or discussion?

    I think we do each player a disservice by stating that only one of them can be the player of the game. Both Robinson and Lee made contributions to this win that likely could not have been made by any other person on the team.

    I thought Robinson brought as many intagibles to the team as Lee did. It was Robinson’s quick and efficient scoring that dug the Knicks out of at least two deficits, a 13 point margin in the first half and a 6 point margin in the second half. Say what you will about his defense but Robinson’s four steals turned into offense for the Knicks while reducing chances for offense from the Suns. The Knicks clearly responded to the energy Robinson brought off the bench and I think the Suns were taken aback by the energy.

    Stoudamire commented after the game that he does not think teams are afraid of the Suns anymore. Did any player better demonstrate this lack of fear than Nate Robinson? Perhaps only David Lee, and to some extent Gallanari, matched Robinson’s energy and expressed overt confidence in the face of a much better team.

    Lee will likely never be appreciated as much as he should be. Lee was not flashy or explosive. Lee provided his usual solid, quiet, efficient scoring and rebounding. Hell i have become some accustomed to double-doubles from him that I did not even realize he was close to a 20-20 night. And I admit, Robinson getting out of his funk caught more of my attention than Lee being Lee. Lee kept the Knicks in the game and made it posible for Robinson and Gallanari to push the team over the top. Plus he gets cool points for dunking on Amare!!

    The best player on the floor was each of them. If only we could combine them into Navid Leebinson: The perfect basketball player.

  4. Frank

    I was at the game also — and I thought without a doubt that Lee was the best player on the floor for us last night. The only think I’ll say about his game, though, is that he often seemed afraid to take the ball at Shaq — lots of wild kick-outs. The 2nd half was better — maybe D’Antoni told him that Shaq’s really not that great a shotblocker anymore.

    That being said– no one brings energy to the Garden like Nate does — and it does seem that when he’s going well, he brings the level of the whole team up — trouble is you never know when that’s going to be!

  5. Cartman

    Lee is developing into a borderline all-star player. In my opinion, he was more valuable last night.

    Robinson is great to watch when he goes on one of his tears like last night. But he’s too out of control to have on the court at the end of a close game. Defense is an issue, but at this stage it’s more about his ability to make good decisions.

    It wasn’t late in the game, but the technical foul illustrates the point. Lee took a hard hit from Amare, but there was no reason for Robinson to take a tech. He still hasn’t matured out of that macho mentality. In the end, it didn’t matter, but it could have. And I am certain if it had occurred with one minute left in the game he would have done the same thing.

    He’s way too emotional.

    When he gets hot, he also loses control over his shot selection and makes foolish passes because the adrenalin is pumping and he feels the momentum.

    Personally, I don’t he’s ever going to mature. His game is what it is and in my opinion he can’t be trusted in crunch time.

  6. jon abbey

    I hate the way every T is deemed a bad play, I blame Mike Breen’s incessant stating of that over the years brainwashing viewers on this topic. I thought it was great to see Nate sticking up for Lee like that, so what if it cost them a point.

  7. Cartman

    I hate the way every T is deemed a bad play, I blame Mike Breen’s incessant stating of that over the years brainwashing viewers on this topic. I thought it was great to see Nate sticking up for Lee like that, so what if it cost them a point.

    I think it’s fine to stick up for your teamates, but foolish to take a technical foul like that one in a close game. D’Antoni ripped him “new one” after that play. They could have easily lost a game like that by one point or wound up in OT when the game should have been over.

    Perhaps there are times when the coach or even a player should get pissed off enough to take a “T”. Perhaps it can change the emotions of the team and even the momentum of the game. Perhaps it can even sway future calls from the officials. I do not know. But I think whoever is getting the “T” better make sure he knows what he is doing otherwise he is costing his team a point and perhaps the game. That can’t be a good thing.

  8. jon abbey

    players make hundreds of decisions all game long, each of which can cost their team 2 or 3 points and “perhaps the game”, by that logic. I had zero problem with that T, and like I said, was glad to see Nate come to the aid of a teammate who’d just been borderline cheap shotted.

  9. Jcon

    players make hundreds of decisions all game long, each of which can cost their team 2 or 3 points and “perhaps the game”, by that logic. I had zero problem with that T, and like I said, was glad to see Nate come to the aid of a teammate who’d just been borderline cheap shotted.

    I see N8 as similiar to Starks in this respect: You cannot seperate the good parts of their game from the bad. The emotions are what make them unique.

    I remember watching the Starks/Miller head butt and wanting to kill John . But its that emotion and fiestiness that made him an NBA player. I hope N8 figures out that coming off the bench and screaming in an opposing players face after an and1 is bad form……but at the same time I thought it was awesome. I’m still getting used to seeing our bench support each other instead of sulking aroiund with towels on their heads.

  10. Z

    players make hundreds of decisions all game long, each of which can cost their team 2 or 3 points and “perhaps the game”, by that logic. I had zero problem with that T, and like I said, was glad to see Nate come to the aid of a teammate who’d just been borderline cheap shotted.

    Great point, Jon. I’d never really thought about it that way, but it’s true. Nate costs the Knicks a lot more points when he’s on the court than he does jabbering from the sidelines.

  11. GAx

    I’m actually with the people who liked Nate coming off the bench. I interpreted it as Nate immediately coming to David’s defense after that hard crash to the floor and loved it, even after Breen started trashing it after the replays. I love our announcers, but in this instance you gotta love seeing a player defending a teammate who’s been there with him since the beginning.

  12. jon abbey
    players make hundreds of decisions all game long, each of which can cost their team 2 or 3 points and “perhaps the game”, by that logic. I had zero problem with that T, and like I said, was glad to see Nate come to the aid of a teammate who’d just been borderline cheap shotted.

    Great point, Jon. I’d never really thought about it that way, but it’s true. Nate costs the Knicks a lot more points when he’s on the court than he does jabbering from the sidelines.

    haha, come on. he played well yesterday, although admittedly for the first time in a while, he was also one of our best players for the first part of the season.

    I don’t know how anyone can be a Knicks fan in 2009 and not have Nate be one of your three or four favorite players. no made basket in last night’s game was as entertaining as Nate fronting Shaq like an overeager puppy whose owner just came home after a week away.

  13. Cartman

    players make hundreds of decisions all game long, each of which can cost their team 2 or 3 points and “perhaps the game”, by that logic. I had zero problem with that T, and like I said, was glad to see Nate come to the aid of a teammate who’d just been borderline cheap shotted.

    I think we can agree to disagree about whether this specific tech was a good one or not.

    In my opinion, the thing that prevents Nate from reaching his full potential as a player is his immaturity. There are pluses and minuses to his passion. However, there are other passionate players in the league that don’t allow their emotions to impact their decisions in a negative way as often as Nate.

    My original point was that getting up in the face (or chest) of an opponent when you are on the sidelines is an example of the type of emotion he needs to control better and channel in a positive direction. As it is now, he can’t be totally trusted in critical situations because one easily avoidable emotional poor decision at crunch time can be the difference between winning and losing at the highest level of this sport.

    From the NY Post:

    To be honest with you, that’s why you don’t have concealed weapons, ’cause I’d have shot him at that point,” D’Antoni said yesterday.

    “So probably I didn’t like it. No, he doesn’t need to get a technical at that point. We’re not good enough to give away points. Now I do like his feistiness, but he just needs to channel it in the right way. And he knows that.”

  14. d-mar

    “all that being said, Nate actually successfully guarded Shaq on that switch, it was pretty incredible. he fronted him and jumped as high as he could without the ball coming in that direction, I did a freeze frame where his head was actually higher than Shaq’s, it was quite entertaining.”

    I wish someone could freeze frame when Nate jumped and Shaq grabbed him around the waist. It looked like a Dad trying to control his hyperactive toddler.

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