2015-16 Game Thread: Knicks vs Trailblazers

As the Rambis era continues to rear its ugly head in performances like last night’s game, my mind wanders to construct exactly how this situation came to pass. The Knicks were 22-22 and on the cusp of breaking back into the playoff conversation after a January 20th OT victory over the Jazz before everything went to hell. Since that fateful midpoint of the season, the Knicks have lost 14 of 17, their head coach was fired just before the All-Star break, and blame has cycled from one scapegoat to the next in the ensuing weeks. Melo has played well, probably the only Knick who has consistently done so, yet the fanbase was calling for him to be traded before the deadline. We all complained about Fisher, but I don’t think anyone was calling for his job on February 7th when he was fired following a brutal stretch against some of the league’s best teams. They played 6 of the league’s 8 best teams in a 10-game stretch following that win over Utah, losing 9 of those 10 games, and at the end of that gauntlet, Fisher was fired.

What happened? We will never know all the gory details about this, but I’m going to write out my own plot to this movie. Fisher, listening to his players and seeing their struggles to execute the triangle in the modern era of basketball, goes to Phil and asks to abandon this aging concept for an offensive approach more suited to their current personnel. Phil tells Fisher to stick with the process, that the players will come around, that the system will work given time to be implemented. Fisher says the team doesn’t have the shooters, that Kristaps isn’t reliable from the midrange and Afflalo is a shadow of his former self. Calderon can’t beat anyone off the dribble and no one on the bench is consistent except the surprising Lance Thomas. They have to play more pick and roll, and they have to shoot more 3’s out of drive-and-kicks. Phil insists on staying the course and refuses to budge on his evangelical faith in the Triangle. Fisher and him have a clash of egos, and Fisher is excused after a dramatic confrontation behind the scenes because emotions are running a thousand miles high after a particularly trying set of games.

Jackson and friends took the weekend to discuss how they would approach this from a public relations standpoint, and decided that the team’s public stance would be that the coaching change was for the good of the team, that the Knicks needed a culture shift, and that making the playoffs and salvaging the season was the reason for firing Fisher. The Knicks privately knew they had already played themselves out of a realistic shot at the playoffs, and so allowed Rambis to finish out the year as a Jackson lackey who would keep preaching the creed of Zen. Phil has plans to seek a new candidate this summer, or maybe even install himself if he’s feeling frisky enough (and I think that’s a real possibility here), and so he tells Rambis to use this opportunity as well as he can to market himself for another chance at an NBA head coaching job. Rambis has waited six years for another chance after being laughed out of Minnesota, so he takes this really seriously and says a lot of Ra-Ra quotes to the media and plays his best players a ton of minutes to chase meaningless wins down the stretch of a rapidly unfurling season.

And that leaves us where we are now. Kristaps was consigned to the bench nearly the entire 2nd half of Sunday night’s game, his minutes are being handled more erratically then an alcoholic’s house plants are watered, and players are jumping all over the place in rotation up and down the bench. The only thing that seems assured is that Melo will play 40 minutes a night, and RoLo and Calderon will be right there with him for most of the way. Tonight, the incredibly hot Trailblazers come to town, boasting one of the best backcourts in the league and a young, athletic roster brimming with confidence. My god, could you imagine if New York had Dame on this team? How many games would they win if you switched Calderon with Lillard, 52? 55? He’s such a gifted young player, and I’m so impressed with how Portland has completely overhauled their roster around him and achieved this kind of success in year one. To lose 4 of 5 starters from a playoff team and come back the next year and be a playoff team is the kind of thing usually reserved for the big schools in college basketball.

Portland has won 13 of their last 15 games, and one of those losses was a wonky home game against Houston where the Blazers held a 22-point 3rd quarter lead and somehow collapsed into a 15-point defeat. Houston has a weird way of pulling that kind of performance out of their ass every now and again (see, game 6 @ LA Clippers, 2015) when they get super focused, and Portland was fresh off their convincing curb stomp of the Warriors, so I’ll excuse it as a case of emotional exhaustion. So a team that’s 13-2 in their last 15 is playing a team that is 3-14 in their last 17, to put it simply, and the strength of the team that is 13-2 is the glaring weakness of the team that is 3-14. All this is to say that the situation does not bode well for our Knicks.

Portland, lovingly referred to as Rip City by their rabid fanbase of hipster counter-culture cycling enthusiasts, comes into MSG loaded with confidence and locally grown kind bud. The Knicks will have to do more than “try really hard” to beat this team, which is well-coached and plays with the ferocity of a team that has nothing to fear. One thing I haven’t questioned too often this year with the Knicks is their effort, I will give them that—the team has lost a LOT of close games and remained competitive in the majority of their games this year, even against the league’s best teams, but their late game coaching and poor general strategy has been the difference in them being a playoff team and being 11 games under .500 right now. It’s a shame that in a game of chess, they fired the guy who was playing checkers and made the guy playing chutes & ladders his replacement for the remainder of the season. But that’s where the Knicks are at right now, and even if Rambis thinks a checkmate is when Australians split a bill at a restaurant, the Knicks have 21 more games to play, starting with tonight against Portland. They may as well win some of them.

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Erik Judd

I'm a lifelong basketball fan whose interests range from some things to other things.

77 thoughts to “2015-16 Game Thread: Knicks vs Trailblazers”

  1. Melo has a TS% around 50 since our apogee. He’s stunk. I’m not sure if anyone has played well one that stretch. Maybe Rolo? We’ve gone 3-14.

  2. My brother is in Vegas and asked me for some NBA betting advice. I didn’t want him to bet against the Knicks, per se, so I chose the next best thing – I said to pick the over on 104 halftime points.

  3. It’s a shame that in a game of chess, they fired the guy who was playing checkers and made the guy playing chutes & ladders his replacement for the remainder of the season.

    This about sums it all up. Well put.

  4. Melo getting blocked by the rim after the play was over also sums it all up pretty well. Well put Melo.

  5. Carmelo is so fucking bad now I really hope the Knicks are bad enough that no one watches us so we can bamboozle some team into trading for him.

  6. Afflalo brought his A game tonight. Unfortunately, most nights he brings his C- game.

  7. I don’t know what Stott’s said during his timeout, but it seemed to work

  8. Poor Croninbrother

    He has a decent chance, really. The over/under is 104 and we’re nearly there.

  9. Hooray for Croninbro

    I was 4/6 on his bets yesterday and today.

    It would have been nicer if they got to 104 through a Knicks run, though. I liked that they got nearly there on that quick 5-0 run, but then Portland scored 5 in response.

  10. That last Porzingis shot seemed to me what Jackson meant by a good shot that wasn’t a good shot. He was open, but he didn’t really use his legs and make a shot with nice looking form.

  11. What a surprise. You bench KP, Lopez, Melo, etc., and play Galloway/Vuj/Williams/Lance/Oquinn, and the opposing 2 goes off, and they drive to the basket at will. Who knew?

  12. Hey! Since we were doing so well with that lineup, lets start the 4th with it!

  13. The worst thing is that Phil somehow thinks that nabbing free agents will make us anything more than a consistent first round playoff exit.

    The worst fucking excuse in the world to not play the young guys is “well we need to win as many games as possible even if we’re eliminated from playoffs bcuz free agents!!!!!!”

    God this organization sucks

  14. At this point, it is beyond belief not to get Grant some minutes. Another lost game…at least try to develop someone, Rambis! Oh, I forgot, the playoffs…

  15. @philjackson11

    Never seen anything like DamLillard? Remind you of Bobby Jackson.

  16. What is the point of playing 2:50 of Sasha Vujacic? Like what are you trying to do with that? I have no idea what the fuck Rambis is doing.

  17. Saddest part is how this culture of losing undermines the confidence of good young players like KP, Grant and Gallo. These guys deserve to play and learn within a better system. They are wilting here.

  18. At no point this year did I ever think the Knicks were good, but they were certainly entertaining. Now it feels like last season again. Know Now Its Curtains Knicks Supporters

  19. We are losing in the worst possible way. Without gain in the past, present, and future.

  20. Ah, there is a silver lining to all this losing. At least there’s no chance that Rambis will get the gig next year!

    I’m desperate here.

  21. I can’t write on this shit tonight, guys. I’ll do it the morning with a fresh set of eyes. I would be too damn mean if I wrote it now.

  22. Incredibly depressing and humiliating, that was really hard to watch. Probably should have just watched the Knick game instead.

  23. Heh, Russell had a great game tonight and specifically thanked two of the Laker assistant coaches after the game. Man, Byron Scott is just the worst. He practically ruined Russell this season. I almost want the Lakers to keep him for next season, just for the sad laughs.

    It’s so hilarious to see Russell “shockingly” perform better when Scott “decided” to (in other words, “was forced to”) drop his moronic offensive system and go to a modern motion offense. And when injuries to Kobe and Lou Williams forced Scott to start Russell.

    Man, few coaches make me quite as mad as Byron Scott. He’s the worst. He makes Rambis look good. And ugh, he’s just as smug as Rambis.

  24. Hey Phil, what’s with the culture change? Is this how a team with a healthy culture responds to a bad stretch? By quitting?
    At a minimum Phil should get into the locker room and shout like crazy at this bs. Show your players what frustration looks like.

  25. At no point this year did I ever think the Knicks were good, but they were certainly entertaining. Now it feels like last season again. Know Now Its Curtains Knicks Supporters

    This.

    It was nice being excited to watch a Knicks game again. We had some great moments (like that Celtics OT game, and the Porzingis game winning three at Charlotte that still happened in my mind), and for the first time I was confident about our path. It was fun to check in and talk about it with y’all.

    Now my confidence in Phil is shot, and we’re looking at handing over a top 10 pick. The air is completely out of the ball. This sucks.

  26. The team was really starting to gel and play well

    Yeah, the good old days. So what has happened since then?

    – Melo’s has either been injured or when he plays, his shot has gone AWOL
    – KP has had a lot of 4-13 type performances
    – Galloway has been awful
    – Lance Thomas has become the player he probably always was
    – Derrick Williams has become the player he probably always was
    – Calderon gets torched on a nightly basis by opposing PG’s
    – Afflalo has one decent game out of every five
    – We’ve gone from one clueless coach to another clueless coach

    The only player who has been pretty consistent during this stretch has been Lopez; he is the one bright spot (other than Zinger being 20 years old) during these very dark days.

  27. The worst thing about this stupid ass team is that next season the Knicks have a whopping six players under contract: Lopez, Melo, Porzingis, Calderon, Grant and O’Quinn. And the last three of those guys fucking suck. Everybody else is either a player option or an expiring contract. And every team in the NBA is going to have a ton of cap space. So the Knicks will be looking to surround their three viable players and three bums with nine other guys who will be new to this outdated offensive system and outsiders to the “culture” Phil has been building here. It’s gonna be the same shit next year: the three core frontcourt guys plus a handful of stopgap starters and retreads that nobody else really wants.

    So hey, maybe it’s time to man up, cut losses, trade Melo and Lopez for assets, ditch the triangle, hire a real coach and join the rest of basketball in the 20th century, because this shit ain’t working. Or, we could just continue to pursue Phil Jackson’s quixotic ego trip of a team-building strategy, bring in the last remaining triangle coach on Earth in Brian Shaw to coach the team and hope that a gimpy, past-his-prime Carmelo Anthony pulls off some sort of inexplicable mid-30’s renaissance and some other teacher’s pet like Pau Gasol comes here as a free agent and everything clicks and Phil Jackson is vindicated as the great counter-cultural basketball visionary that he believes he is.

    Whatever, either way I’m cool. Spring training is underway.

  28. Bring in the last remaining triangle coach on earth in Brian Shaw

    Wait. There’s still Bill Cartwright! (If Phil can somehow woo him away from coaching in Osaka…)

  29. Boy this season went downhill fast. I knew it when it happened but this is the moment where it all turned around.
    http://espn.go.com/nba/recap?gameId=400828458

    The team was really starting to gel and play well

    I think it was the OKC game on January 27th – I watched every minute and the last time I was so into a Knick game was probably every game in the 2012-2013 season.

    http://espn.go.com/nba/game?gameId=400828566

    Up 10 with 8 mins to go in the 4th, then losing that lead, that was the turning point for me.

  30. Apoarently, no more Jimmer,

    The New York Knicks will not re-sign Jimmer Fredette to a second 10-day contract.

    The Knicks are considering signing Tony Wroten or Ray McCallum with Fredette’s roster spot.

    (From realgm)

    Honestly, when I watched him last night, it seemed to me he couldn’t keep up on defense

  31. Jimmer’s 4 minutes yesterday were enough to show how abjectly horrible he is on defense: constantly getting lost on every possession; getting caught on every screen (against 3rd string competition.) Several times I saw him standing in the middle of nowhere, guarding no one. Giving Jimmer Calderon’s minutes is equivalent to firing Fisher only to have Kurt Rambis coach your team. Jimmer is the backcourt version of Andrea Bargnani.

    Give me McCallum, please. Give me Jimmer too, I guess, if you waive Sasha/Kevin/half this god damn team.

  32. Jimmer scored 4 pts in 2 minutes. He deserves a chance,

    True, if you extrapolate that out to a 48 minute game that’s 96 points. Pretty impressive.

  33. True, if you extrapolate that out to a 48 minute game that’s 96 points. Pretty impressive.

    If Wilt could do it, so can Jimmer.

  34. @57 – I saw the same thing out of Jimmer. He’s not the answer to replace Calderon. Jimmer’s role should be the same as Novak’s back when watching the Knicks was less painful. He’s a spot-up 3-pt sharp-shooter. He can spread the floor and put up points. Giving him 8 minutes a game is reasonable. Having him be a starting PG is insanity.

    As for point guards, it’s time for Grant to be starting every game and logging 35 minutes every game. And if we ever get Cleanthony Early back, he should be playing the off-guard position.

  35. Jimmer can give us lots of easy points and is the best shooter on the team. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to watch the team force passes into the post, get in each other’s way, and mostly miss forced shots as the 24 second clock is expiring every damn time? Easy points, unlimited range, and penetration albeit with Calderon’s level of defense.

  36. As bad as our guards are we should say goodbye to Sasha, Amundson, Seraphin, and Early and sign Tim Frazier, Wroten, Lawson and keep Jimmer and play them to see if we have something. I’d release Jose too if we can. Why not?

  37. Well Calderon is currently better than all those guards you listed while also being a very positive presence in the locker room.

  38. McCallum is out there too. Btw Jose is not better than any of those guys. Neither is Sasha. They represent the distant past.

  39. Calderon is signed through next season, so they probably don’t want to cut him.

  40. sign Tim Frazier, Wroten, Lawson and keep Jimmer and play them to see if we have something.

    Since this season is basically over, I’m fine with trying to find new names out there.

    But I don’t get all this Jimmer love.

    He’s 26. 3.148 unproductive minutes in the league.

    What are we expecting from him? Lance Thomas 2.0?

    Lance Thomas 2.0 kinda suck.

  41. Tony Wroten is a dogshit basketball player-he’d be the worst guard on the roster. Jimmer is, at best, a Calderon who can drive a bit. But he’s certainly never shot like Jose (one of the best shooters in NBA history) in the big boy league. They definitely should have played Jimmer instead of Sasha, but Jimmer probably sucks too.

  42. Calderon shoots well when he’s wide, wide open and his arms have the strength to lift the ball up. About 3 shots per game before he needs a vitamin B12 shot.

    McCallum reminds me of Lowry. I hope we get him.

  43. I’m no big Jimmer backer, but fuck, why even sign him if you’re not going to give him a chance? Play him for ten days, if he sucks, don’t bring him back. Easy peezy.

  44. We have so much deadwood. Do we really need to have Sasha, Amundson, Early and Seraphin on our roster at this point? We should bring in the best young guards available and actually play them for the rest of the season along with Jerian.

  45. I agree with starting Grant. Time to do it and see what he’s got, maybe some signs of improvement? Calderon is what he is and could be useful playing off the bench as a sort of combo guard. Galloway looks increasingly awful to me. He’s not a good defender. He looked as bad as Jimmer was (in very limited time) in getting lost when screened. Even worse, Galloway has a habit of fouling guys as he tries to fight through screens. And his shot is broken.

    I’m also no fan of Jimmer (he looked like a midget out there), but like Brian said, why the hell bring him up for 10 days and pretty much not play him? At least see if he can score some off the bench, b/c Vujacic and Galloway suck at scoring.

  46. We have to have the worst scoring backcourt in the league. Could be the worst defensively as well.

  47. Tim Frazier, or Mccallum, or both would be fine with me. Lawson would only be worth a shot if he were sober.

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