A Knicks-Wolves Conversation with Zachary Bennett

Greetings and salutations, ‘Bocker brethren. No, the Knicks were not able to escape Mill-ee-wa-kée with a noble, spirited dub-ya, but don’t let that get you down—yet. Next up: A frisky pack o’ Wolves in the great state of Minnesota. What better way to limber up for the ritualistic, 11 o’clock assumption of the fetal position than a gentlemanly to-and-fro with Zachary Bennett. He’s a big wheel over at Canis Hoopus, SBNation’s Minnesota Timberwolves blog. Though the Knicks have, at times, resembled fifty shades of macabre more so than a geometrically sound basketball team, I hope you’ll find this exchange as enjoyable as we did.

Zach Bennett 

Realistically, where do you see the Knicks finishing the season? Is there a best and worst case scenario?

Angus Crawford

Ugh. It’s tough to hold an especially rosy disposition about the prospects of the regular season proper, but that’s not to say that the Knicks can’t (or won’t) take anything away from it. As intoxicating as it can be to watch Carmelo Anthony unleash all hell upon opponents, engrossing fans in a one-man show—seriously, watch this and tell me you didn’t just get a lil’ misty-eyed—the Knicks need to look beyond the horizon. Without doubt the “worst” case scenario is mediocrity, to win just enough games to damage your dalliance with the Ping-Pong balls, only to wind up squarely in basketball purgatory.

Let’s be clear, too: Derek Fisher kvelling about “East” and “big” in one sentence is a little more than a Freudian slip. The well of Woody-isms is a plentiful one, and ‘Fish’ managed to extract a mighty good’n.

Best? Iman Shumpert tippy-toes along his current form line, slowly progressing into the more rounded two-way force that some have long anticipated; José Calderon gels seamlessly with ‘Melo, and clicks some geometric variety of offense into gear; Fisher fosters a healthy rapport with the team’s key long-term cogs, and the Knicks fall right into the meaty part of the 24-32 win range. Plop yourself into the ol’ lottery mix, and who knows how the #sporps gods will look down on the team’s rep on the dais of shame.

And what of your Wolves, Zach? Has this ‘Flip’ fellow once again endeared himself to Minnesotans? Are 30-plus point losses nauseating, par for the course, or both?

Zach Bennett

Flip Saunders is a name most know, and some trust, but it’s only fair to give him credit for not fumbling the Kevin Love situation during the offseason. He put together a pretty good group of young pups – i’m so, so sorry – and savvy veterans, before signing Ricky Rubio to an extension in early November.

In theory, the Wolves were ready to surprise some people this season – this was the vibe around the locker room, anyway. However, when the season started, everyone would be watching to see how Flip would manage his players; would he hinder the development of Andrew Wiggins? When was Zach LaVine going to get playing time? Is Nikola Pekovic capable of playing more than 60 games? How will his minutes be managed?

Basketball minds have tipped their proverbial cap in approval to Flip Saunders: President of Basketball Operations. That much is certain.

As for Flip Saunders; the Head Coach, inserting Zach LaVine into the starting lineup – after Ricky Rubio suffered a sprained ankle – was a bold statement that worked in his favor to appease the locals.

However, Britt Robson of MinnPost, a renowned Wolves scribe, thinks the Wolves weren’t just bad against New Orleans. They were disgraceful.

And he’s correct.

With Rubio sidelined and Thad Young out for an indefinite amount of time due to the death of his mother, mentorship responsibilities were bestowed to Kevin Martin, Mo Williams and Corey Brewer, who did not relish in the opportunity. To be fair, Corey Brewer played with the same energy we’ve seen throughout his career.

However, if the rumors reported by Marc Stein are true, Flip Saunders is currently – as we speak, maybe – shopping Brewer to a competitor. Is this parting with an influence that can render a unique, positive impact on the younger players? Maybe. Will it make or break the development of guys like Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad and Glenn Robinson III?

I doubt it.

All in all, Flip’s done a good job, his feelings about players shooting three-pointers notwithstanding.

Angus Crawford

Speaking of veteran leadership and currency in the locker room… Flip made the decision that, for one reason or another, it better suited the Wolves to pawn off the rights to Miami’s 2015 first round pick for Thad Young. If anybody is familiar with the idea of mortgaging a future asset for a present one, it’s Knicks fans. Where did you stand at the moment of that trade? Has your opinion wavered at all in the three months since?

Zach Bennett

After trading Kevin Love, the Wolves were left with approximately zero power forwards. Had they not swapped the Heat’s draft selection, which they received from the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Wolves would have started either Robbie Hummel, Anthony Bennett or Glenn Robinson III at the 4 spot.
Yea. Robinson III, a rookie, isn’t even a power forward. Hummel and Bennett are, essentially, perennial backups – Bennett has a bit more upside – so it was essential for the Wolves to land Thad Young if they were going to part with Love.

Thad Young will miss an undetermined amount of games tending to family matters. His mother passed away last week.

He’s been great! Young seems to score 20 points per game on a nightly basis. Moreover, it’s his character and charisma that has impressed me the most. He knows his role is to play hard at both ends of the floor and, thus far, he’s been nothing but a positive example for the younger players to look up to. At least as far as I can tell.

Thad could elect to forgo his player option for next season and test the market as a free agent. Otherwise, he’s slotted to make $9,971,739 in ‘15-’16 and would become an Unrestricted Free Agent in the summer prior to the ‘17-’18 season. For now, he’s here to start at power forward and help his teammates “get better” – two words Flip Saunders uses alllll the time.

So, no, my opinion has not altered since the trade was consummated. In fact, as it stands now, Thad is the second-most important player received in the Love trade. I hadn’t even thought about the aforementioned draft selection until you mentioned it just now.

JR Smith, Iman Shumpert and Carmelo Anthony. There’s Jose Calderon, Pablo Prigioni and Minnesota Native Cole Aldrich….that’s all I got.
Who the hell else is even on the Knicks?

With what parts must Derek Fisher try to implement Phil Jackson’s renowned Triangle Offense? And how’s that working for them?

Angus Crawford

I’m on the record as a Jose Calderon fan, for one thing, but you’re right in terms of the cupboard being pretty, pretty, pretty bare. Pretty bare. I’ll leave the bishophood of the First Church of Cole Aldrich to Señor Silverman.

Other than that, unless you’re really high on Lane Sharkin or Cleanthony Early, there ain’t a whole lot going on here. I don’t fancy Derek Fisher’s chances of plugging Travis Wear into the lineup and letting him run riot in the pinch-post.

Fisher is privy to a bunch of flotsam, expiring deals, one transcendent talent, and not a great deal in between.

There have been fleeting moments of competency, little snippets of something resembling a three-sided shape, but unless there’s some resilience on the opposite end, the role of the Triangle Offense in steering the Knicks to wins (this season) is more or less a moot point.

Nonetheless, for tonight, that Melo-plus-Shump-plus-Earl-plus-Pablo-plus-scrapheap formula may well be enough. Tell me, Zach: Minnesota are favored by 1.5. On that basis, which side of the coin do you find yourself on?

Zach Bennett

Tonight’s game against the Knicks will be the Wolves best chance to win until November 28th, that’s when they play the Lakers. Does that mean a victory is imminent? Certainly………not for the home team, though.

It’d be nice to think the Wolves are catching the Knicks on a tail end of a back-to-back, which they are. However, it remains to be seen how well Andrew Wiggins can contain Carmelo Anthony – if at all. A deep bench gives Flip Saunders a lot of chess pieces to play with, but the story lately has been his team’s inability to defend.

If Carmelo gets going, and the Knicks get competency from the scrubs, it could be another long night for Wolves fans. Part of the dilemma when predicting a winner in this one has been the Knicks inconsistency: I don’t believe either of us knows which team will show up.

The Wolves are on a three-year plan. So, thankfully, unlike last season, a sub .500 year will not doom the franchise into a horrific situation. Therefore, tonight, I’m able to sit back, relax and just take everything in, because the outcome of tonight’s game won’t ultimately make-or-break the ‘14-’15 season.

Away you go. OH? I won’t get away without predicting a score.

Knicks: More

Wolves: Less

Knicks win.


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73 thoughts to “A Knicks-Wolves Conversation with Zachary Bennett”

  1. One loss and we bring in 2 new guys. The bottom line is that the guys on the court lost, but did Thomas B have to write the preview ? You gotta look at that.

  2. One loss and we bring in 2 new guys. The bottom line is that the guys on the court lost, but did Thomas B have to write the preview ? You gotta look at that.

    Occasionally we let people who know something about basketball provide the preview. Angus did a great job and after we win tonight’s game, we can ask him to get to work on Vol 2: It was the best of blogs, it was the worst of blogs.

  3. Anyone looked at Kyle Anderson’s stats lately? The dude would do better if he chucked every shot like it was a baseball. That is some awful shooting.

    He’s only a rookie, so whatever, but damn! He’s on the Spurs!

  4. This must be so rough on Melo. I know, I know, he’s crying himself to sleep on a bed filled with money next to a beautiful wife but still, dang, he deserves to be on a good team during his prime.

  5. Yeah, but I guess I am thinking of it as more of a macro thing. Yes, on the micro level, he can’t complain about this or when the Knicks possibly have to choose between Shump and Marc Gasol because of how much money Melo is making, but on a macro level, I don’t like when the league’s best players play for shitty teams. Same with Anthony Davis.

  6. For the love of god I just want JR Smith off the fuckin team. He represents everything terrible about this new Knicks era of terribleness.

  7. I think we’re running out of adjectives to describe the Knicks defense, has anyone used execrable yet?

  8. My favorite adjective to describe the Knicks defense is shitty. You can also go with horrible, awful, pathetic and embarrassing.

  9. I think we’re running out of adjectives to describe the Knicks defense, has anyone used execrable yet?

    Not yet this season! You’re the first! A bunch of times last season but not yet this year.

  10. I can’t wait until we play the Lakers…Hopefully Nick Young is out so that it’s at least competitive.

  11. If the Wolves are shopping Brewer, they should try to trade him directly following tonight’s game.

  12. “Highest scoring half for the Wolves this season.”

    That’s pretty much all you need to know about this team and the coaching staff.

  13. You know what would be nice? If Fisher proved he was capable of recognizing his defensive philosophy of enticing teams to shoot uncontested 3’s is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.

  14. Fisher is an idiot for surrendering wide open 3s. He should take a look at NBA.com’s team stats.

    Opponent 3P%:

    1. San Antonio 26.5
    2. Houston 29.1
    3. Golden State 29.5

    28. LA Lakers 40.9
    29. Minnesota 41.8
    30. New York 42.7


  15. The Timberwolves broadcast team is always excellent. I legitimately think Jim Petersen may know more about Travis Wear than either Phil or Derek Fisher. Does that count as having found something nice to say?

  16. Cant wait to see the positive spin Fisher tries to put on this debacle. I assume the Knicks will make it close in the end which will allow Fisher to talk about NYC pride or some bullshit.

  17. It is important to note that Fisher doesn’t exactly have a lot to work with here. His defensive strategy is incredibly frustrating and most of us agree that Cole should play more…beyond that though our roster sucks. Big time. When you have almost all bad players you’re gonna be a bad team. And that’s factorial.

  18. Down by 24 to lowly Minnesota who’s playing without three starters.
    But, don’t you understand, it’s a new system.

    And next year’s excuse – It’s all new guys learning a new system.

  19. Very disturbing trend..these slow starts. The team can’t hold up if they play “furious catch up” every game. Especially our 124 million man. U would think think that the team would play at least some semblance of defense with guys like Acy, Dalembert, Shump, Prigs, and Larkin in the rotation. And also Cole Aldrich- if he wasn’t viewed as a 3rd center. Has anyone noticed Melo’s facial expressions as he sits on the bench?? Calderon and Bargs are not gonna save the season. I love the way Shump has played thus far though. I’m not concerned with offense, because I can’t see a team with Melo-JR-Bargs-TH2-Calderon-STAT struggling to score consistently. So within the next few weeks the offense should be improved. If Melo’s getting more comfortable and guys like Shump are playing much better on offense, then the rest of the team shouldn’t be far behind…right? Right? Defensively..we need to find another specialist somewhere. It’s still very early and Fish is still trying to find out which combinations work, but he needs to settle on his rotation soon. Calderon and Bargs being injured doesn’t help. Even still..the Knicks should NEVER be down double digits against Minny as currently constructed.

  20. Pistons lose, fall to 3-9, Andre Drummond goes 2-10 and has a TS% threatening the wrong side of .400 Odd start to the SVG era.

  21. SVG very clearly isn’t trying to win. He’s trying to get Drummond to develop new skills, which will take longer than 12 games. Not sure if it’ll work, but you can see what he’s trying to do.

  22. And this year’s Brian Quinnett award for outstanding performance by a white basketball player who the Knicks will trade to Dallas mid season goes to…

    Travis Wear.

  23. Do you think Fisher congratulates TH2 when he stays in the paint and leaves Kevin Martin open for yet another three just as the Knicks are mounting a comeback?

  24. OMG the ending to the 1st OT in Brooklyn. WOW. Brandon Knight is gonna have a hard time sleeping tonight if the Bucks lose this game.

  25. Damn, Raps got pummeled on the glass (8 offensive and 10 defensive for Z-Bo) and still beat Memphis in a dark horse NBA finals preview.

  26. Next time there’s a Knickerblogger/Posting & Toasting meetup there should be some sort of pick an opposition backcourt player made 3 drinking game.

  27. Kidd as a person seems like an asshole. Kidd as a coach though, he’s kinda fun.

    Kidd should probably be in prison. But he’s a very interesting coach.

  28. For those planning to play the Knicks v. Sixers blown defense drinking game.
    I suggest you have some white wine spritzers available if you want to live to see the second half…of course you might not want to see the second half.

  29. Man, I’ve seen more end of game 5-second calls this season than I can ever remember, and we’re only a dozen or so games in.

  30. Hey, if I told you at the beginning of season that after 13 games we’d have same record as OKC, you’d have gladly taken that. So stop complaining.

  31. “At least Bargs should be back on Saturday!!”

    I missed the entire game. I was expecting a win. Clearly, that was foolish.

    I also have, in a very sick way, been really looking forward to Andrea’s return.

    But you know, I am a New Yorker. I appreciate the best. When it comes to being bad at basketball, no one does it with the aplomb, the brio, and the out and out affable cluelessness of Bargs. He takes athletic ineptitude, adds a dash of hair gel, and turns it into performance art.

    His return is appointment viewing for me. I suspect it’s going to be awesome.

  32. He takes athletic ineptitude, adds a dash of hair gel, and turns it into performance art.

    That’s awesome.

  33. This must be so rough on Melo. I know, I know, he’s crying himself to sleep on a bed filled with money next to a beautiful wife but still, dang, he deserves to be on a good team during his prime.

    Ummmmm…. he WAS on a good team in his prime…. the 2010-11 Denver Nuggets who finished that season 50-32 in the west with Melo shooting himself out of Dodge City. The self absorbed charlatan deserves everything he gets.

    This sort of reminds me of the Dr Lillehei story. Foe those who are unaware, Dr. Walt Lillehei pioneered open heart surgery in 1954 before the development of heart/lung machines. Surgery on the major vessels around the heart was done via hypothermia, but no major atrial/septal defects could be repaired since there was no method of bypassing the heart’s function of moving the blood to be oxygenated and then pumped through the body.

    Dr lillehei had the vision of finding a person with a compatible blood type and via cross circulation using the second person’s heart and lungs to oxygenate and pump the patients blood while the patient’s heart was being repaired.

    When Dr Lillehei first brought this idea to the board at the U of Minnesota hospital, they refused to let him do the surgery because they weren’t interested in a procedure that likely had a 200% mortality rate.

    The Melo trade caused a 200% mortality rate as it killed 2 franchises. That will be his legacy in the NBA

  34. The Melo trade caused a 200% mortality rate as it killed 2 franchises. That will be his legacy in the NBA

    Thought those of your ilk were crowing that Denver won the trade…..Go figure.

  35. Also how the fuck did Melo kill the Knicks? Were they reigning champions? Were they eastern conference finalists? No… Their fucking winning percentage in the 5 years before Melo was between 28 and 40 percent often closer to 28%, so spare me with the bullshit.

  36. Man, Toronto’s success over the past 12 months is just the most frustrating thing for long-suffering Knick fans to see. They got rid of their two overpaid volume shooters and turned from a joke into the best team in the east. They lost their franchise player and retooled to a better team in just 3 years. And with no major free agent signings, and no top draft picks.

    See, it can be done NY (and yet the Knicks struggle on…)

  37. The Nuggets were 57-25 in 2013. George Karl killed the Nuggets. Losing Carmelo did nothing.

    The Knicks? Tyson Chandler was the only hope we had. Now that he’s gone (and #2 in the league in WP so far), we can hope for a high lottery pick. Nothing more.

  38. SVG very clearly isn’t trying to win. He’s trying to get Drummond to develop new skills, which will take longer than 12 games. Not sure if it’ll work, but you can see what he’s trying to do.

    I get that he is trying this, and even that it isn’t totally nuts. Of course, the part about him not trying to win is a narrative. He is. He takes Drummond out of almost every close game in the fourth quarter, and not just for the final 2 minutes. Don’t give me that crap about protecting his ego on the FT line, since if protecting his ego was the key to development he wouldn’t be asking him to shoot turnaround baseline jumpers into the side of the backboard. I think the effort to turn Drummond into Shaq or Howard as opposed to what he sure looks like: a much scarier Deandre Jordan or Tyson Chandler is almost surely a dumb idea. What’s the upside? If things work out incredibly well, and he goes from abominable to a pretty good post player, he is still going to be far less effective in the post than in the pick and roll or rim hanging slash crashing the boards. You’re not turning him into Hakeem. Guys like Howard *never* averaged 80%+ of their FGA from the rim even has hyper-raw 19 year olds and guys like DeAndre and Tyson always did and still do.

    Meanwhile, Drummond has been even worse at defense than Jordan and Chandler as young players, and that’s saying quite a bit. This year, though it’s only been 12 games, he looks even worse yet. Forget the post up BS. Don’t turn a 60% TS guy who turns it over every time he passes into a 40% TS guy in the hopes that he will eventually become a 55% guy who attempts more passes. You’ve been handed a given a pick and roll and ORB machine who needs to learn to use his superpowers to not be Amar’e on defense. He doesn’t need to get better at something that will increase his ball handling and free throw attempts if it goes well. Don’t take the IQ test upside down.

  39. Well, it’s more complicated than not trying to win. He’s willing to trade a reduced likelihood of wins now for a hoped for increase in wins later.

    I tend to agree with what you’re saying about focusing on Drummond being a Deandre or Tyson Chandler type. I’m just saying that Drummond’s decrease in effectiveness isn’t really evidence that Drummond isn’t an effective player.

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