Do you remember those kid books where they show a picture and ask you to find all the mistakes? Watching basketball this Sunday, I could do the same; find all the things that were wrong with the Knicks
* Watching the Spurs play defense
No wonder this is the best defensive team of all time. Duncan and Rasho man the middle, while the rest of the team swarms like an angry beehive. Few teams play defense with the intensity and energy of San Antonio. Although it was joyful to see a display of pride in stopping the opposition, my thoughts drifted to question why the Knicks don’t defend as well?
Certainly part of it is not having two 7 footers to intimidate their opponents. However even the smaller Knicks fail to hustle like the Spurs’ Ginobili or Bowen or Parker. Watch a Knick game, and look at the disparity of the energy level between the offensive and defensive end. Marbury is tireless with the ball in his hand, whether dashing to the hoop or operating the pick & roll. Crawford skillfully manipulates the ball until his opponent is off balanced. Tim Thomas can alternate between his jumper, posting it up, or driving to the hoop.
When he’s on the defensive end of the pick, Marbury doesn’t have the same desire to fight through to stay with his man. Crawford would rather watch his opponent’s crossover than actually defend it. While on offense Thomas can play from the outside or inside, on defense he’s unskilled in both areas. Seeing the Spurs play a few hours before the Knicks underscores that a large part of the problem is a lack of intensity by all of the Knicks. While getting a center who can guard the paint is a big Knick need, the team will not be successful in stopping their opponents until the smaller guys shed their apathetic ways.
* Watching Miami win
It was no secret that Miami is among the top teams in the NBA Least. Like post Cold War Europe, the balance of power in the NBA rests in the west. The Heat’s Sunday victory over the West’s best team, San Antonio, cements their status as serious players in the Larry O’Brien trophy race. Knick nemesis Alonzo Mourning was at the game, harking back to a time when the Heat was a fierce enemy of the Knicks. New Yorkers old enough to buy a beer can’t see ‘Zo without recalling the time he used Jeff Van Gundy as a swiffer. If the halftime show was P.J. Brown in a midget tossing contest, we could have had a complete time warp to the late 90s rivalry.
It’s frustrating seeing a former rival prosper when your own team is heading towards a fourth straight losing season. In Miami, Knick fans can see everything that is wrong with their team’s front office. While players accustom to warm weather or fear a megapolis lifestyle might actually prefer Florida over the North East, it’s hard to understand why New York hasn’t been successful in attracting the NBA’s elite. Forget about the cultural advantage the Big Apple has, for a basketball icon Madison Avenue is a lot greener than Gator Alley. In twenty years the Knicks haven’t used this advantage of a second salary to lure one of the NBA’s greats. Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell, and Larry Johnson were fine players, but I’m speaking about guys that can dominate. The motto of the New York Lottery is “you gotta be in it to win it.” With the Knicks mismanagement of their salary cap and talent, it’s obvious they’re not even in it.
* Knicks 102 Bobcats 99
Sadly, even watching the Knicks win can cause me pain as well. A month ago, a close victory would have been met with open arms. With New York 11 games under .500 and talking about rebuilding, it’s hard to get too excited over a victory. As a Jet fan I’m well aware that you play to win the game, but when winning is meaningless the method in which a team wins can be frustrating.
While I’m opposed to ludicrous thoughts like sitting Marbury in an effort to get a few more ping pong balls, I don’t think the Knicks best player should have more minutes (39) than their two best prospects combined (36). It’s understandable that Tim Thomas could take away minutes from Air Riza and his erratic jumper. What’s perplexing is Sweetney only playing 19 minutes, despite outscoring the starter in 14 less minutes. The “Round Mound of Sit Down” hit all 8 of his free throws, and led the Knicks in offensive rebounds (3). In the last month he’s averaged 9.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in only 20 minutes per game. Any more of this and I’ll have to show up to the Garden with a “FREE SWEETNEY” poster in tow.
If the Knicks decided to put in the effort to win games, and they finish just shy of the playoffs I’d take pride in the team not laying down for the second half of the season. But the Knicks are still the worst team in the NBA’s worst division, and not giving ample time for your young players seems counter productive at this point.