Charlotte Hornets 97 – New York Knicks 109 – Game Recap

Man, does it feel weird.

A seven-game winning streak? Weird.

Being ahead of the Heat and the Celtics? Weird.

Fielding a very likely All-NBA player? Weird.

But most of all: being down six at the half and feeling ultra-confident about getting the win? Super duper weird.

Lo and behold, that’s the world we live in. A team that was penciled to win around 24 games total (and not just by me: by Vegas, who actually had the Knicks o/u at 22.5, never forget) is now strolling down every victory lane like it’s not that big of a thing at all. A guy who I was totally partial to give away for a second rounder and a bag of chips is putting up historical numbers and has a very high chance to run away with the MIP and an All-NBA berth (if I had to bet now, I’d say Julius could even sneak into the second team. Injuries to many other stars play a factor here, but other than Giannis and Kawhi, who else you got at forward that played better than Randle for the whole season, considering the win/loss column and everything? Ok I’m probably drunk on recency bias). A guy who we were all (well, most of all) worried about becoming another bust because he couldn’t shoot is actually capable of hitting six threes in the same game and is shooting 39% from three for the season, all the while getting closer and closer to .100 WS/48 in his age 20, second season. Would be mercs are playing with heart and desire and are executing defensive schemes like they really enjoy playing defense.

(Now seriously. I think parents should call Thibs and ask what’s his secret to getting – almost – every player active and participative on defense with gusto, and then put that to work in order to get their 5-year old brat to eat broccoli. If I had to guess, the secret is just shouting repeatedly in their ear, facemask half-down your nose, BROCCOLI and then send them out of the house for an hour if they so much as look at candy)

Getting back to us again: this is such a weird year that our third string center (?), 437-year old, grizzled minimum vet Taj Gibson has become an integral part of the team so much that we’not feeling at all the loss of defensive beast Mitchell Robinson – of course, that’s also because Nerlens Noel is shining under the spotlight, at least on the defensive end. Fun fact: now I totally savour the vision of guys rolling down the lane to try and dunk on us when Nerlens is in the vicinity of the rim. Those blocked dunks suck the air out of opponent lungs (and, by the way, watching Nerlens play reminds me a lot of the late Dion Mays, the best ever SlamBall defender – only Nerlens does things without trampolines and padded suits). Such a weird year that Derrick Rose looks the part of the evangelical prodigal son and our trade with Detroit has become a home-run, something that would have never been thought possible in regard to the words “Knicks” and “trade”. Such a weird year that we care very little about Obi being a fish out of water and IQ being on a month-long slump (yeah, good game last night, but the guy is yes and is no, is in and is out, is up and is down – I mean, forgive my inner Katy Perry, he’s hot and cold)

What happened in this game, you might ask? Well let’s see.

The Knicks started out super hot from three, going up 17-8 early and making it look like it would have been a quiet, in-control night. But suddenly Charlotte began to catch fire, especially PJ Washington, who by the end of the first quarter would go on to score 17 points coming off the bench and hitting three after three from the top of the key. The second quarter would be just much of the same, a juked up shooting contest between these two teams with a few guys joining the party (IQ and Rozier come to mind). A notoriously stingy Knicks defense ended up conceding 66 points in the half, with Charlotte hitting 12 of 18 from three because of their own marksmanship but also our lackluster effort on defense.

Cue the second half (and a lot ot probable BROCCOLI shouts from Thibs at the intermission) and the music changed. RJ Barrett, who ended the first half with 3 points on a very meager 1-for-8 shooting tally, scored 18 in the third riding a wave of trifectas like he was ready to dust off Novak’s double discount check. Meanwhile, the entire Charlotte team went on to score 16 points in the stanza, and got behind by nine before the start of the fourth. From there it was easy peasy game management for the Knicks, with Rose looking particularly spry and focused not only on getting his but also finding the open man. Defense did its part – maybe the invisible sixth man came back – and kept Charlotte at 15 points for the quarter, cutting the Hornets’ offensive output in half as we were running a special Black Friday offer.

Game was over, Bullock got the interview nod, and everyone was happy.

The good:

– Well, I mean, pretty much everyone? If I had to single out just a couple Knicks, it would be Barrett (24 pts, 1 reb, nothing else, +9 +/-) playing the role of the vicious hope killer while doing absolutely zilch in every other statistical area and Derrick Rose (17 pts, 1 reb, 5 ast, +2 +/-) putting the sigil on this flower-flavored beauty of an ugly win, always being where he needed to be in the fourth. But every significant contributor was good last night: good Julius on an off-night (5-for-16 from the field but 10 boards, 7 assists, 2 steals, and a whole lot of good-to-great positional defense – oh by the way: Julius’s posting a positive DBPM for the first time in his career), stout Nerlens hitting double figures in boards again, Reggie shooting only threes but making out with a 5/12 total for 16 points, IQ giving an adrenaline shot right to the second unit heart in the second quarter (5/9 from the field, 4/7 from three, 17 points for the night), Taj being his usual dependable self (6 points, 8 boards – 6 of which on offense! – , a steal and two blocks), Elf not being a wretch. There’s too much good to really pick anyone out.

The really good:

– The feeling we wouldn’t have lost. That’s a budding contender sign. Don’t get me wrong, we won’t be contenders in 2021-22, but if our management doesn’t get crazy (which of course it might, we’re the Knicks) and we stay in the lane there’s a high chance we’re a lock for a top-4 seed in 2022-23 (Brooklyn will have self-destroyed itself by then, Giannis may not be long for Milwaukee if they flame out again in the playoffs like I fear they will, Miami will be goodish but Butler will be worn out. We’ll be young and ready). Nights like these are just a teaser trailer for that.

The bad:

– We have come to expect that by now, but Obi and Knox combined for 2 points and 2 boards in 12 minutes of playing time. Obi’s gameplan is a rare wart on Thibs’ coaching season face: you see it, you don’t know how it came to be that way, and it’s ugly as hell. Knox just mostly sucks, but Obi’s got the motor, there’s got to be something to tap there. Asking him to stay on the perimeter and randomly crash boards is a strange way to use him (not that his 10.6 REB% does him any favor). Given that Randle looks like a minor cornerstone for us, maybe an extended look at the trade market for him could really be the right way to maximize that asset.

Fun-sized bits:

– You know what gives me the biggest joy of this seven-game winning streak? Having Clyde call these games. I kid you not, I was afraid he never got to see again a winning Knicks team from the booth. Well, there you go. The man deserves it. And Breen too. But Clyde mostly.

– What happened to seven seconds of Frank or less? And why was it ever a thing? Anyway, I think we should savor every single Frank second that will come in the next 13 games, because it could be the last in a Knicks jersey. It’s amazing to think that for all the fuss that came with Frank’s playing time and role management it will probably end with a whimper and everyone involved will probably think it just… had to go that way. Frank’s Knicks tenure will then forever be the gold standard for my future failed, but maturely handled, Ted Mosby-like relationships.

– Fizdale : Trump = Miller : Biden = Thibs : ????

– Tonight we shot 45 threes. We started the year shooting consistenly 25-30 threes per game. This won’t be a trend, but it’s a welcomed sight.

– I forgot J.R. Smith was Eastern Conference Player of the Week once.

– I read a nice piece on the Athletic about reassessing Isiah Thomas time at the Knicks helm, and I don’t know if it is recency bias again or just nostalgia, but I encourage you to read it and not coming away with the thought that Phil Jackson was by far worse than him in terms of basketball-related things during his presidency. I felt aghast when this thought dawned on me, but it feels so true now that I had a day to cement that notion.

Until next time!

Detroit Pistons 104 – New York Knicks 114 – Half-season grades

Guys, rejoice. This might be the last time we’ll be over .500 until 2021-22 opening night, so let’s the warm feeling sink in for, like, twenty seconds before indulging in some precious self- and Thibs-loathing.

I mean, who would have guessed that at the 37 games mark we would have won nineteen games? I penciled the 2020-21 Knicks at 24 wins and even felt a bit optimistic, so even considering the “easy” stretch in February/early March I would have guessed 14 wins tops. Exceeding that total by 4 wins is sincerely impressive, and if falls squarely on the shoulders of a plethora of people, which go by these names: Randle, Julius; Thibodeau, Tom; Barrett, Rowan Jr.; the whole coaching staff; and so on until we get to Elfrid Payton who probably deserves some credit but will only get the brunt of my totally biased criticism.

Instead of recapping last night valiant but ultimately stolid effort (starters played big minutes, Thibs exhibited very little patience with the second unit, Julius had a monster game, Noel played great but has no hands on offense, Frank hit three threes in less time than it takes to warm up a hot pocket and then did nothing at all, Quickley sucked big time, Obi looked like a giddy japanese tourist doing that annoying thing where photograpical perspective gets used to give the illusion you’re the only thing impeding the Pisa tower’s ultimate crumble-down), I’d opt to assess people at the All-Star Game milestone, putting a few numbers here and there just to give a perfect Italian public employee impression: looking busy and saying mostly coherent things but secretly hoping that someone else does the real hard work so I can get my 11AM cappuccino.

Without further Bob McAdoo, here’s what I think of the 2020/21 season so far:

– Julius Randle: last year a diamond in the dough, this year a frigging basketball lean and mean machine, who gives you consistent star effort night in and night out and is shooting lights out from deep (seriously, 40.8% from three on 169 attempts is huge and doesn’t cry out for regression anymore – even if, yeah, let’s bank on the fact that at the end of season that percentage will be around 37%, which is still amazing). Last night I took personal offense at the Garden chanting “MVP” to Julius. MVP chants are acceptable only in three cases: 1) you are really an MVP candidate, which Julius is not, let’s be honest; 2) you’re a blossoming star in year 2-3 of your NBA experience and the crowd is giving you a nice confidence boost (I’m perfectly ok with Quickley getting MVP chants); 3) you’re sort of a folk hero because you can’t really play star-level basketball but give 110% effort on the court and deserve some happiness (I’d be perfectly ok with Taj Gibson getting MVP chants) or you’re a disgraced former highly touted project and you’re playing for once at the top of your and everybody else game (the Michael Beasley against Boston experience). Since Julius is none of those things, and has instead been a great pro and probably a top-30 player this year, those MVP chants are disrespectful. Appreciate him for his contributions and don’t expose him to post-ironic trivial affections displays, come on. Grade: A.

– RJ Barrett: it looked like all hope was lost with his first 10-ish games, where he couldn’t buy a bucket from deep apart from the first Indiana game, but how things have changed with him. We probably have to accept that his ceiling is somehow lower than it looked when he went to Duke, but a 44/35/73 shooting split isn’t so bad for a player still learning to zero-in on his spots on the court on offense. If I had to bet on his peak, right now I’d say left-handed prime Tyreke Evans who actually defends. It’s a nice thing to have in house at a kind of controlled cost. His .067 WS/48 is at least adequate for a buddying second year player. He has also displayed the very encouraging skill of not getting conditioned by a cold streak. Grade: B-.

– Immanuel Quickley: <drooling> *what the hell is this thing where I swear that I won’t fall irrationally in love with the next promising Knicks rookie and then I inevitably do so as soon as there’s a glimpse of talent in sight* <stops drooling> If the 2020 draft was held today, there’s no doubt that IQ wouldn’t last past the 8th pick, so we’re just keeping alive the tradition of the lower draft pick being our actual lottery pick and viceversa. Seriously, after LaMelo, Wiseman, Hali, Edwards, (maybe) Patrick Williams and (very maybe) Isaac Okoro who would ever not draft Quickley? Dude has a 0.6 VORP on a .500+ team as a rookie while shooting 39% from the field. That is some serious shit, because if he ever figures how to up his FG% to 42 with the same shot chart and doesn’t forget how to shoot freebies you really have a premium offensive weapon here. I would be very curious to see him in a starting role here and there, but some warts aren’t excisable from Thibs at all, so you take the cool record with the stupid decisions about young players. Grade: A- (for a rookie. Otherwise it would be a B-, I expected more from him on defense. Also, likely an A+ for Kenny Payne who, if I had to put money on the line, would bet was the insider who told Rose IQ was the guy once Maxey was off the table).

– Mitchell Robinson: it’s a bit weird to see that smoking hot babe who made your  sixteen year old head turn everytime she walked down the street becoming a still beautiful but less dazzling adult woman and to find out you like her even more for that. Getting older means learning that the trade-off between dependability and spectacularity always favors the former. I’m way less excited about Mitch than I was two years ago, but at the same time I have way more faith in him being an integral piece of our next playoff contender. He showed the ability to impact the game even when the numbers aren’t there, and opposing offenses look like they fear him more now than when he was a basketball Doc Ock lookalike. I still think it’s disturbing that he never employs anything but dunks and tip-ins on offense, but as long as Payton and Rose are our PGs it’s hard to blame him for sure. Anyway WS/48 and VORP still vouch for him, and the fact that he was able to withstand 28.8 MPG limping from injury to injury until his hand finally caved in confirms he’s a legit building block, even if he’s just Tyson Chandler redux. Grade: B.

– Elfrid Payton: look, it’s not his fault that his game is so ugly to watch. He’s a basketball player whose gifts are basically wasted in this era (and maybe previous eras as well? where would Payton be able to go in the handcheck era?) but who has found Thibs’ trust because… I honesly don’t know. Among regulars, he’s the one with the lowest WS/48 (.041, not that awful when you’re the worst of your team) and lowest VORP (-0.2. Guess who’s the other “regular” with a negative VORP) and so it looks like the dreaded eye test goes hand in hand with cold, cold numbers. His AST% is virtually the same as IQ’s and more than a little lower that Julius’ and Rose’s. He’s basically the basketball version of the owner’s son, so… he’s our James Dolan? I don’t understand. Thibs’ insistence in playing him above IQ or even – gulp – Rose is dumbfounding, but let’s chalk it up to Thibs being Thibs, let’s curse under our breath and move on. Grade: D-

– Obi Toppin: how is it possible that year after year after year our scouting department/GM staff commits the same mistake over and over again? If you ran a KB consensus before the draft, everyone would have posited that, well, Toppin wouldn’t have been the right choice for this team like, at all (and that was true for Knox, and so on). How dumb does a bball lifer to know way less than our roundtable of brilliant but unexperienced minds? Obi’s advanced numbers aren’t even that bad, and you wonder what would he deliver if given the chance to play at least 20mpg on a longer leash, but as soon as you catch him move on the court… something’s off. He’s got IQ’s totally opposite demeanor: he doesn’t look like he belongs and moves so awkwardly that it resembles that kid in seventh grade who had randomly located growth spurts so he always ended up banging his knees on the desk because he still isn’t used being 5″ taller. Even Obi’s shot is awkward (and all-around bad, 29% from three is Josh Smith territory). If I had to bet, he’ll follow Knox’s steps and be on the fringe by 2024. I would advise trading him, but I’m rooting for him because the effort is there and he looks like a great kid. Grade: C–

– Derrick Rose: ouch. It hurts to give DRose a grade, because I frankly hoped I would have never seen him again in a Knicks uniform, but alas, if Thibs could he probably would try to sign Kirk Hinrich to play point for us. I don’t dislike DRose as much as I thought I would, maybe because he’s shooting an unsustainable .455 from three and that buoys his mediocre offensive performances or maybe just because he’s better than Elf and, well, heavy rain is better than a tornado. Still looking for a starting PG one could root for, and hoping that he’s not resigned next year. Grade: C.

– Nerlens Noel: diuhvsvbasviuva abvfd vcaclbujavdfc adcdcvadfcd còl. Sorry, I’ve tried to write a sentence with the same technique Nerlens uses to grab the ball in the offensive sets. I really liked the Mitch-Nerlens tandem because while they are very similar in concept, but they also provide a nice change of pace from one another. Nerlens is less menacing in space on defense but has a majestic knack to stop fools at the rim (and swipe everything in sight like a drunk uncle participating a bit too enthusiastically at his nephew’s pinata party), so it’s not like opposing offenses can really game plan for both in the same exact way. Having him at that price has been a boon and I wish we would resign him for multiple years, assuming he doesn’t go space buffet on us one day or another. Grade: B.

– Reggiec Bullorks: after a hot start got derailed by an injury, Burks has been pretty meh. An offensively capable meh, but still meh. Bullock is meh since the dawn of time, save for the spare 5/7 from three game. They’re perfectly fungible and perfectly forsakeable. Grade: C- (but if we have to keep one, let it be Burks)

– Nick Fragilina: you really can’t bet on this horse. As much as Frank looks improved (while still being mostly made from intangibles and dreamy eyes), he was listed as questionable for yesterday. Obscillating between unusable and useless, you wish you could pencil him in for 12MPG but reality always breaks in exactly at the ecstatic peak of a reverie, exactly like a challenge called on a single point (like, Duane Casey, what the fuck? Who calls a challenge to negate an and-one in the second quarter? You ruined a beautiful fantasy and I hate you for that). Let’s trade the lad and set him and us free. I can’t bear to break my heart even once more. Grade: INC.

– Austin Rivers: the proverbial flash in the pan. Remember Quivers? Yeah, life goes on very fast. It’s amazing how his advanced statistical profile resembles Elf’s but one is totally dogged and the other one is thrust back in the starting five as soon as he becomes available. Grade: D-

– The coaching staff: solid B+. We’d like to see more flexibility, but you can’t argue with results.

Now that we’ve wrapped a winning half-season, let’s brace for what’s next and let’s hope we don’t execute one or more bad trades. See ya!

Atlanta Hawks 112 – New York Knicks 123 – Not really a recap

Oh hey. I see you spent spare parts of some threads in the last ten days discussing about what is a rom-com and to decide if a movie falls squarely into the category or not. Well, I’d like you to bear with me.

You know that classic movie (but ultimately real life) situation where there’s a guy/girl who’s really close to you, who you know well because for a time you grew up with him/her, who is head over heels for you and wouldn’t want anything more from life that spend time with you and give you all of his attention and heart and caring, who some of your friends keep talking about because in the end everyone knows you’re destined to be together, but who you keep rejecting because s/he’s probably too much of a plain Jane for you and you just feel like s/he couldn’t ever surprise you, and what’s a love story if not a fucking disaster but chock-full of unexpected little joys? And you know how in the end people find themselves in weird predicaments and, like, give a shot to this poor guy/girl because, I don’t know, maybe they just need someone to take them across the shitty pond that’s been their life for the last few years, and they find that being with a stand up lad/lass who wears his/her heart on a sleeve and genuinely has your well-being as first priority isn’t that bad of a living?

Well.

Dear Knicks fans, let me introduce you the guy you met in seventh grade but, come on, he was just so basic and kinda boy-scouty: Tom Thibodeau.

***

“Oh dear god, why does he have to always let the toilet seat up?”

“Can she really eat every day the same BLT and nothing else? Is this obliviousness or is she that stubborn?”

“Fuck I hate going every sunday to my parents-in-law”

“But in the end this person makes me happy for now, so why should I second guess everything?”

***

You see, there’s something unsettling in seeing someone you give the keys to your heart not completely fuck up your life in some convolutedly stupid manner. I mean, the quirks will always be there. The befuddling choices. The letdowns. But we’re human, and that’s what we do. We disappoint people. The thing is, you fight and claw and gnaw until you find someone that among the disappointment genuinely cares for you.

If I had a dollar for every time I wrote “it’s still early” on Knickerblogger, I’d probably be 100+ dollars richer, but bear with me again. It’s still early, but there’s nothing not to like about the Derrick Rose acquisition for now (on purely basketball terms. I still have a super hard time solving the ethics conundrum of trying to root for someone who probably never understood the meaning of “consensual”). And I really, really don’t think many of us reacted to the Rose trade thinking that Thibs would not have screwed everything out of sheer commitment to his old pals. Well, guess what: Thibs didn’t screw us up. Rose and Quickley work fine together. I actually have more faith in Quickley after the Rose acquisition than before. And that’s a surprising development. Not as surprising as the day when Payton will finally move to the bench or to an entirely different team, or we stop playing the same guys together every single time, but…

***

“Dear, I found this old gramophone in that cabinet. Do you mind if I try to fix this and use it to play my old vynils?”

“(muttering under your breath) Yeah sure, as if I never tried to fix it before”

“What the hell, what’s this amazing music coming out of the basement?”

“I told you I would try to fix it. It was worth the try”. 

***

Ah, good Julius. It’s not the points. It’s not the threes. I mean, yes. It’s also that. But the really important part is the fact that 4 out of 5 nights, you know that good Julius will show up and you will have a star on the court. Not a superstar, mind you. 2020-21 Randle is, at best, a top-30 guy in the league. But top-30 is freaking good. Especially for a guy who, after last season, many of us would have traded for a bag of chips and a 1975 xeroxed, black and white Clyde Frazier trading card. Watching Julius last night you could have only come away from the game thinking that a) Julius was the only surefire all-star in both rosters and b) Randle would have found a way to win the game no matter what, a-la real stars in the League. This is a stunner. I hated Randle’s guts last season. Now I’d be heartbroken the day they’ll trade him. And his teammates just, like, genuinely like him. That’s the best endorsement that a team’s top dog can ever get. And how could you not credit Thibs and the coaching staff for that?

***

“Sometimes I look at her and wonder if I’m just settling down with a rando because I’m scared of being lonely”

“Dude, you’re crazy. You’re with her because your life has gotten unbelievably better since she’s around”

“That’s reassuring. But I still hear my inner voices. I’m unsettled”.

“So be it. But at least, at the very least, live in the moment. Enjoy what you two have. If it ever fades away, that way you won’t have regrets, at least”

***

Here’s a dirty secret. Not even once have I looked at Tankathon since the season began. I don’t care about losing. I don’t care about winning. I get angry watching Payton and Bullock play, but I’m kinda getting over it. I’m enjoying the season, and we’re 40% in. I still can’t shake the feeling that the other shoe’s gonna drop, but I can’t stop drowning into this entertainingly gritty fairy tale. This is what happens when you have your second fiddle being a no-nonsense, kinda inefficent guy who bullies his way as a living. When RJ scores 21, it gives you all the thrill you get from winning a bet on snail race. You’re happy and exhausted.

***

Is he the one?”

“I don’t think so. This feels too grounded, too logical, no butterflies in the stomach.”

“Well you know what? Maybe he’s the one. Because being the one is being the boring one. The bad breath in violet pijamas one. The squeeze my pimple one. Nobody shows this in the movies, and we’re brought to think that love is that intoxicating feeling you get when you know someone new. That’s not love. That’s falling in love. Love is boring. And you know what happens when you find it? You find that boring, well, is good because it’s enduring”

***

As much as I never looked at Tankathon, I also never felt ecstatic after a win this season. Maybe it’s the pandemic thing. Maybe it’s because I’m tired. Maybe it’s because sometimes I find myself bored to death even up by 15. But you know what? In a few years we’ll look back to the first months of the 2020-21 season, and we’ll be grateful. I couldn’t have asked for more from this. Especially because once in a while, and not that rarely even, you’ll have a Quickley eruption. A Toppin outrageous dunk. Two minutes of Noel defensive dominance. An Atlanta Hawks thorough beating.

Even boring, sometimes, is beautiful.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers 81 – New York Knicks 102 – Game Recap

Has there ever been anything more Thibodeautical (boom! there you go, out of thin air) than a team scoring a meager 3 points in the first 6:49 minutes of a game (more than 1/8 of a full match) but then keeping its opponent to 33 points for the first half and 81 at the final buzzer en route to a 21-point win?

The game was totally fugly in the first quarter, but somehow someway the Bockers came out up by 2 (19-17) at the end of the first 12 minutes. They did it by playing good defense and scrapping here and there even during that initial brutal stretch when nobody, and when I say nobody I say “Julius Randle didn’t even put up a shot until 3:50 remaining in the second quarter”, had the slightest idea about how an NBA offense should look like. Seriously, those first six minutes looked like I always figured the early Trump administration days went for the White House titular staffers: guys running around tumbling and fumbling pretty much everything while asking themselves exactly what sin were they atoning for to endure the growls of an elder lunatic (hey Thibs this is just a joke, you’re a lunatic and a psycho but you seem definitely well-intentioned and capable). From the second quarter on, the team looked like it was gelling under the tutelage of the mercurial Quivers backcourt, the sheer core strength of a certain RJ Barrett and a quiet overseeing effort from Julius Randle, ending the half up 47-33.

The second half was just the Knicks treading water, always keeping the Cavs at a comfortable distance like an older brother putting his hand on the little one’s forehead to playfully exert his gerontocratic dominion, fueled by spectacular play by Immanuel Quickley, steady leadership by Randle and a couple more Barrett blows. It was as easy as could be, and for a night I’m happy to report that there’s pretty much nothing to report.

The good:

– That is, if a supposedly unheralded rookie scoring 25 points efficiently and kinda sustainably in a good win is nothing to report. Immanuel Quickley (25 pts, 5 rebs, 3 ast, +19 +/-) is not ready to be dependable every single night, but 20 games in it’s getting harder and harder not to bet a lot of dough on him being a 10+ year NBA veteran down the line, and maybe something more than that if things break the right way. Tonight he had it all: a cold stretch in the first half (where he still scored on a velvet soft bank floater and a three pointer), a nice 20 points second half with a torrid 14 points in the fourth quarter, a boatload of swag, a few nice dishes, and the general attitude of a guy who’s toying with opponents and maybe his future. It self-belief is half the way, IQ’s direction is the right one without a doubt. Also: an and-one dunk over Jarrett Allen and (gasp!) a mid-range jumper instead of floater. 16 games onto his NBA career, he’s posting a .124 WS/48 while scoring 11.6 ppg in under 19mpg, and being mediocre-to-adequate on defense, which is pretty good for a rookie, again. I will eat crow until I die about the Quickley pick, and I’m none the sadder about it.

– Is it Paul Pierce? Is it Andre Iguodala? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a carriage waiting to become a pumpkin again? Whatever he is, there’s no denying that RJ Barret (24 pts, 4 rebs, 2 ast, +27 +/-) has visibly perked up in the last 10 or so games. His shot selection has gotten better, he looks like he’s playing in the flow, and you don’t even notice anymore his lack of burst because he’s usually pummeling guys on his way to the rim. Mind you, he’s still missing a few shots at the cup because of weird angles or because he still lacks that capricious subtlety he needs to add to get to a higher level, but at the very least he’s being consistent. I really like the fact that he’s not hoisting shots just to see what happens anymore. While his early season horrid shooting slump still affects his season TS% and even tonight he didn’t shoot that well (8 for 19) his peripheral numbers are usually good enough to have him getting close to the .100 WS/48 promised land. Now, imagine if only he could play with a point guard who can shoot.

The bad:

– Apropos of that, it’s time to have a serious conversation about Elfrid Payton (2 pts, 1 reb, 3 ast, +2 +/-). I get it. He’s a useful NBA player here and there. But he has to be the mother succubus of all the eye-gouging with a screwdriver temptations, dear god. His overall game is so ugly it could easily get a part on a David Lynch side project. I won’t argue about the fact that his defense probably hindered a bit the starting Cavs backcourt, but if that was enough to start for an NBA team Frank would have secured a starting spot as soon as he was back from his injury. I don’t think you can straight up cut you starting PG (especially if there are no signs at all that he’s not liked by the team) but god, a demotion should really be in Elf’s future. And that’s even if you, like me (and Clyde!) think that IQ shouldn’t start yet. NBA history is full of starters with little to no contribution to their team’s offense and empty box scores, but usually winning teams who find themselves in such a predicament employ that strategy because the chemistry is palpable. Here, I don’t feel any chemistry. Elf’s just a placeholder who got jinxed by the malignant god of basketball shooting, leaving him the king of the jumpshot point guard bridesmaids. Always the shooter, never the hitter.

Fun-sized bits:

– As you know, usually I watch the game in the early morning. This means I can see how much the game will last and that gives me intel enough to infere if it’s gonna be a blowout, a triple overtime game or that weird occasion where players incur in 32 flagrant fouls. NBA League Pass threw me a curveball this time: as soon as I went to watch the game, a 3:04 hours video duration popped up. I was ready for a double overtime game, and while that soothed the pain during the early scoreless minutes it gave me a bit of anxiety while up by 20 in the fourth. I was envisioning a catastrophic letdown. Well what do I know, the NBA League Pass people this time decided to include the Thibs interview and the full Pidto-Wally segment after the game. I think I blew my once in a lifetime chance to see something good happen when all signs don’t point to it on this stupid game.

– Can I say Julius Randle, leader? It’s easy to say how a bad apple can ruin the whole basket, especially if that bad apple is the fucking coach.

– What the heck is up with Mitch? “One day they’ll let me play 100”, he wrote in a tweet he deleted after a while. Who are they? Is this affecting his play? I didn’t like his game last night, and I wouldn’t be pleased at all if Mitch developed some drama. Still early but something to keep an eye on.

– Watching Austin Rivers play is like playing microwave lasagna roussian roulette: only after taking a bite you’ll know if it’s too hot, too cold, just right or plain horrible tasting. This time Rivers was instrumental in keeping us afloat in the first quarter, and after that he became almost forgettable (which is still, I guess, a part of the good Austin Rivers experience).

– Obi Toppin : Melvin Capital = IQ : Gamestop

– No but seriously, while I like Obi’s effort, how in the hell was he projected to be a top 5 pick? The guy has some Shelden Williams/Thomas Robinson vibes as of now.

And for today it’s all! Now watch me collapse under the weight of the Italian government attempt to give a shot in the veins to the economy via the building restoration market, which will give me triple the workload of a normal year (if Max is reading this, we’re talking about Superbonus 110%; for all of you non-italians, the government is actually paying back people who choose to put thermal coatings on their buildings, and I’m supposed to manage this process for 20+ buildings under my care).

 

Brooklyn Nets 116 – New York Knicks 109 – Game Recap

Oh, so you thought I wrote only when the Knicks won? Nah, if that was the case there’s a good chance I’d write again in mid-February. Sometimes I have a hour or so to allocate to Knicks writing, sometimes I don’t. This time I do, and it won’t be pretty.

I wish I knew who flipped the switch and what kind of switch it was, but since the last notch in the W column the Knicks have lost 4 straight (well whatever, we kinda expected the Knicks to be 5-7 or worse at this point) and have done so in a very dispiriting fashion. Don’t get fooled by the final score: the Knicks were down 18 with less than 3:30 to play in the fourth. It was a clear specimen of fake, belated and deflated comeback on the heels of the fact that the Nets had understandably checked out. Yeah, Durant got inserted back in the game with 17 seconds to go but I don’t think that counts as a moral victory: if you have a devastating offensive weapon who has to be accounted even 40 feet from the basket and who’s automatic from the stripe, you don’t even have him to break a sweat. You just deploy him in his sweet pajamas and just go along with it as you’re nonchalantly eating away your petit patisserie because it’s suddenly 300% easier to ensure the win. So yeah, no moral victories here.

And look, there’s not much to say about the game either: after a sloppy but well-fought first quarter, that saw the Knicks going down just by one at the buzzer (but only because Randle was hitting from the outside, and you know that’s kind of an outlier), the Nets pulled away because, well, the Knicks were characteristically shooting sideways and quite uncharacteristically – at least based on the first two weeks – defending like they were Abercrombie and Fitch models outside a store: they’re there to look qutie athletic and they’re more likely to step away as soon as you make a move to go inside. At the half, the combined shooting performance from the field of our starting guards and wings was 2 for 19.

During the third the two teams exchanged blows, only the Knicks were already down 16 so it was like watching a goblin and a dragon trading dice rolls hitting each other for 4HP every round: it’s clear who’s gonna win and it still looks like the dragon isn’t even trying while the goblin is laboring like hell just to put a dent on a marginal dragon scale. One sequence told the tale: Randle huffing and puffing and contorting for fifteen seconds and then jumping and gathering his legs like a shrimp interpretative dance and finally shooting just to hit a jumper, and ten seconds later Durant, effortless as ever, hit a midrange two with the same difficulty with which I hit the +30s button on NBA League Pass as soon as a shooting foul is whistled.

The fourth was exactly like the third until 3:30 to the end; the Knicks started eating away at the gap but it was clear that they wouldn’t go nowhere, it was just like those restoration plans that transform old, ugly suburb barracks into fake new, still ugly suburb condos.

In a word: meh.

Oh and I didn’t even touch the subject of the day: the Nets were depleted thanks to their dubious, at least to me, Harden trade. They were forced to play some guy named Reggie Perry 22 (goodish) minutes and paisà Chris Chiozza 24 minutes. KD was playing his first back to back in two years. Bruce Brown was their starting point guard. I mean, KD is playing like his injury almost never happened, but apart from him and Joe Harris everything else should have been jetsam and flotsam, but alas, they thoroughly dominated us.

The good, in haikus:

The energy gone
Still put on thirty points here
Gawd-fugly to watch

Ignored by his mates
He learned not to foul at last
I feel bad for him

The bad, in haikus:

What noise does it make
When your hard to love point guard
Hit nothing but rims?

Thibs gave him the nod
and HERE COMES AUSTIN RIVERS
Results are so bad

Boredom-sized bits:

– During the third quarter RJ experienced a scoring surge (he started 0-for-5 but ended the game 7-for-15), but amusingly enough it didn’t translate to team success. It’s almost like RJ scoring points have a 0 R-squared effect on how the team plays. That isn’t necessarily bad news, but his skills package still doesn’t make any sense with this roster. Still, a kinda good showing all in all by the sophomore: 20 points, 3 boards, 5 assists. Quite bad on defense, though.

– For such a supposedly capable shooter, Immanuel Quickley’s shot had a bad form from the arc. When he shoots from three it looks like he makes the ball roll up half his right palm and only then he releases it. That shot has a skinny kid at YMCA vibe. Not a totally bad performance per se, but since we need someone, sooner or later, to replace Payton at the helm, if only to preserve our collective sanity in watching a coherent offensive unit, this still won’t do. But it’s good to know the guy can score 19 in 22 minutes in just his 8th NBA game.

– What’s the matter playing (?) Obi 57 seconds? Was Obi dying to tell his grandchildren one day “hey you know what in my second NBA game I played against Kevin Durant”?

– Is Kevin Knox suddenly our best shooter? I can live all day with Knox shooting 6 corner threes per game. Everything else, eh.

– A very undervalued effect of putting on the court so many non-shooters is that when you can’t buy a bucket the overall intensity diminishes by a lot. You could see it in full effect during this game: the effort was never there. No momentum whatsoever, and so many botched defensive possessions. We direly need to shake things up and put more shooting in the starting five. I would try to see what happens putting IQ-token 2 guard-RJ-Knox-Mitch for long stretches. Not saying they should start. But I’d love for that unit to play consistently together, even swapping RJ with Randle if need be.

– Do you really like the Nets trade? I don’t know. Offensively speaking, they look like they have the most firepower anyone has ever had in 75 years of NBA. But I don’t like the characters and I don’t like the chemistry. I also don’t like giving up Jarrett Allen. I think Houston came out very well (not a fan of Dipo there but whatever), I think Indiana did good and I don’t know why Cleveland was the one to get Jarrett Allen but good for them. But if you ask me, unless Sean Marks pull a few championship specials and Steve Nash finds a way to stagger that Big 3, the Nets are due for a few ECF losses. At best. Now, if they flip Irving for some defensive talent…

– Thibs’ well-timed TOs are less a thing than before. Everything’s slipping these days. Body language is bad. Did something happen in the locker room? We were supposed to suck, but this can’t be just a reality check. Something must have been the decisive spark. But what was it?

So many questions, so little time. So much suckitude.

Until next!

 

 

Utah Jazz 100 – New York Knicks 112 – Game Recap

When I was a teenager, I used to play on a local basketball team. It was a thing right out of the most cliched underdog sport movies: scrawny kids with glasses, uncoordinated tall guys, a fat kid who couldn’t move but shot fairly well and a couple legitimately good players (one of them, my partner in crime in the post, was so good that he got an invite to try out for Fortitudo Bologna – a Serie A team, but of course we’re talking about their young academy). Problem is, we were always – always – shorthanded. While that explains why a 5’9″ guy like me would routinely end up playing 35mpg at the PF/C spot, it also meant that our coach had to play ubershort rotations while sometimes having to give spot minutes to this – I kid you not – 4’7″ 15 year old whose torso looked definitely smaller than the ball. Usually, we were terrible, sometimes even losing 80-20 or 110-36 to very good teams.

But, one year, a new coach came in and we ended up missing the playoffs just by one win (it was an amazing experience nonetheless. We weren’t shooting for the playoffs. We were just elated to be able to win 7 games out of 16 that year). Were we different? Maybe a bit. The other good player, not the one who got the tryout, suddenly learned how to orchestrate offense with the help of some screens and since he was already good at passing the ball, that unlocked many more opportunities for a few guys. But other than that, the thing was that this coach had a clear plan, was able to communicate it coherently and rewarded guys for hard plays and not for improptu buckets out of their asses. Remember the 4’7″ kid? He was an offensive non-entity because he didn’t have the strenght to shoot from more than 15 feet and of course never got into the paint since he would have had a 30% chance of getting bounced all the way to France, but he was a defensive pest. He moved his limbs at double the speed of anyone else and while his body wasn’t able to endure paint battles he was enthustiastic as hell in annoying the fuck out of opposing playmakers. Think Patrick Beverley in the body of a younger, shorter Rick Moranis. Well, this kid knew that, if he had put in his effort, he would have been rewarded with playing time. And he did. And we all did (most of us did. A kid left the team after half a year of the new coach because he wasn’t getting his usual touches and the coach would reprimand him over and over since he never passed the ball to the “shooters”).

You already know why I’m telling you this. Watching the 2020/21 Knicks play, that experience can only come to mind. Last night we were able to field barely a 7+ guys rotation (the plus is Quickley, who played only 6 minutes) and instead of being swept away from the court by the Jazz we were good enough to hang tight and thanks to some late Rivers heroics we pulled away with the win. But at that point I didn’t really care about the result. Just seeing these supposedly outmatched guys stay in the game and mounting a real comeback, I mean, wow. Thibs is clearly working magic there. Except, it’s not magic. You remember the expression “Fizdale magic”? Yeah, that’s magic, because it isn’t fucking real. Thibs is just doing his job in the most solid way possible. I don’t know if it will last. I don’t know if we will look at this time of the year when we’ll be in March and marvel at how that 12-26 team could be the same that started 5-3. But at this point I never want to wager against a team coached by Thibs.

About the game: the story is easier than you think. Ugly Julius showed up in the first 18 minutes, Gobert got what he wanted and we couldn’t hit a shot from outside in the first half, but were still able to cut a one-time 18 point deficit into a merely 12 point one just by staying there with our heads. Then, in the third quarter good Julius came to the rescue and Payton wasn’t pretty much totally undeterred by Gobert. The defense picked up the intensity, Mitch swallowed Gobert alive, the Jazz apart from Jordan Clarkson forgot how to shoot, Bullock hit a couple threes, and at that point HERE COMES AUSTIN RIVERS: 14 straight points for the Dukie with hyper-volumetric balls and, even after a couple bone-headed mistakes in bringing the ball up court in the last 90 seconds, we took home the win. It looked easy in hindsight. But more than that: it looks sustainable (insert bewildered Pikachu meme).

The good:

– Sometimes it’s just great to watch once overhyped players find their role player niche in the League after failing at their first stops. I don’t know if we’re at that point with Austin Rivers (23 pts, 3 rebs, 2 ast, +2 +/-) but just the fact that when he signed here nobody wrenched their nose points to a reputation shift that came before this stint – of course that’s fair only if we consider the amount he signed here for, if the contract was a Mills/Perry special at 10M/yr it would have been an entirely different talking point.
Tonight he gets the game ball because he shot the lights out in the last quarter, playing with total gusto on both ends and exuding fiery leadership in a moment when the Knicks sorely needed it, but that’s not what we should come to expect from him, honestly. This guy is a career 42% from the field, 35% from three shooter, and usually these things don’t change that much. But he can handle the ball, he can defend, he’s already been through highs and lows. I never thought that there would have been a chance at “Austin Rivers, veteran guide”, but alas, here we are. It will be interesting to see what happens when Burks will be back.

– Oh hey. You remember that guy who looked a mess last year spinning around like a bad Kylie Minogue cover band? Meet the new Julius Randle (30 pts, 16 rebs, 7 ast, +25 +/-) who makes a stellar statistical night look like a meh outing because we know he can be better. How cool is it that we’re watching a guy who’s averaging 23/12/7 and we think simultaneously “yeah well that’s good” and “no reason to think he can’t do some of that for a whole year and anyway we won’t overreact since the contract situation is only favorable to us”? I’ll be frank: I still don’t like Julius’ brand of basketball, but this year is a purely aesthetic thing and not an efficiency issue. When he gets the ball/starts the dribble just outside the paint, he’s a real force to be reckoned with. In the third quarter he made Gobert look like the police at Capitol Hill (a few words on this at the end).

– I can’t praise enough Mitchell Robinson (9 pts, 13 rebs, 2 ast, +12 +/-) who went seemingly overnight or at worst overseason from “cool stats, not sure about the actual defense” to “slightly less cool stats, but humongous defensive impact”. Last night he had 3 steals and 3 blocks, but that’s really not the point, although they of course don’t hurt a bit. The best stat of the night: 41 minutes played. And he didn’t look gassed at all, instead giving Gobert a lot of fits on both end and, at least to me, winning the duel for the night. I totally loved the play where he just dove into the paint with the ball to be inbounded from the baseline and he wrecked the rim a few instants later. The defense was caught off guard for sure, but that’s how you assert your dominance, young space cadet.

The bad:

– Ok I’m starting to worry a bit about RJ Barrett (9 pts, 5 reb, 1 ast, +10 +/-). It’s not about him being able to play in the NBA as a starter (he can) or him being able to develop (he did). It’s about the fact that it’s historically very unlikely that such a bad shooter can suddenly learn to shoot well, which brings us to the real point: why is he shooting from outside at all if he can’t hit? It’s ok trying a few to keep defenses on their toes, but honestly his outside shot is really, really cringe inducing. He can be productive even without one (even if he will have a much lower ceiling that way) but it’s on the coaching staff to understand what to do to put him in a better place offensively. I don’t care about counting stats this time. I care about not having to grimace seeing him hoist 18-foot jumpers knowing full well that his shot has the same chance to fall consistently as me getting featured on Spotify for a week. Don’t Westbrook it, man.

Fun-sized bites:

– Good game by Elfrid Payton, but there’s almost always something about him that makes him look like he’s missing a J to drop a straight. And oh! Hey! My writing is actually smarter than me, since I realized only now that that J is a jumper (no, seriously, I didn’t plan for this bad joke but I left it in anyway). Anyway, I’ll take 22/2/8 on 67% shooting and just one turnover anytime, but that doesn’t mean I have to like his game.

– Bullock hit a couple ultra-timely threes and was generally competent, but holy shit, 7 rebounds? If you caught me flat footed and asked me “how many boards got Bullock last night?” I would have answered 2 or 3 tops. This team is so good at rebounding the ball that it just numbs the actual rebounding instances out of your memory.

– Ok, Knox is our only able-bodied “big”, but the fact that Thibs is hellbent on playing him and not giving Theo Pinson or Iggy a single minute tells you something about the fact that our coach has some kind of faith in him. And sometimes that faith is rewarded, like in the block on Conley/rebound sequence with 34 seconds to go in the third. Fun fact: that block and that rebound were the only box score contributions apart from scoring from Knox in 16 minutes. He’s just not a stat-stuffer, is he? Anyway he was at least perfect from the field, 3 for 3 with a couple nasty dunks and a three.

– I have no qualms with Quickley playing this little. He’s a rookie, he came in at the wrong time, other players were fluffing the staff better. He was still able to play his dupe-a-fool and get-a-foul game and and gift Knox an alley-oop soft candy only to unwrap.

– Isn’t it amazing how confidence and discipline make you capable of hiking the hardest mountains? A few days after not being bothered by the then league-leading shotblocker, Myles Turner, our Knicks took the challenge and went right at Gobert (or better yet, exploited his absence and then pounced on him as he returned). Gobert got 5 blocks anyway, but he didn’t look impactful at all in the second half.

– The Knicks won again the rebounding battle 47 to 43, and that’s with only having Mitch, Randle and Knox (?) as their big men. Utah had Gobert, Favors, and a mish-mash of SF/PF in Bogdanovic, Niang, Ingles and O’Neale.

– Say what you want, but it this team learns to turn the ball over only 15/16 times per game, we could be trouble for anyone as soon as there will be more bodies in the rotation. TOs plagued us in the first games.

– Guys, I’ve seen it. Believe me. We run a Payton/Mitch PnR after a timeout. We can be heroes just for one day!

– Thibs is almost making Miller look bad, so he’s downright embarrassing Fizdale so much that his descendants will only be able to be addressed as Fizfail right to his third grand-grand-grand-son.

To end on a sour note: the Capitol Hill disorders were a fucking shame cast upon what once was the gold standard of Western democracy. I don’t know if I would have postponed the games citing something as “we’re mourning the death of decency” but I would have for sure said something public before the games. I like that some teams bent the knee here and there, but this was a unique chance to make their voice felt even more on every type of social disturbance. Maybe you’re of the idea that sports and politics shouldn’t mingle; I’m not. Apart from the inherent memeability of the shamanic Jamiroquai rip-off, yesterday they were airing a tragedy outside of Capitol Hill (and mind you: it WAS a tragedy. Four people died. And who knows how many would have died if the protestant’s skin was a few shades darker). I know often NBA players political stances are just a byproduct of owners’ hypocrisy, but even hypocritical condemnation is better than half-assed symbolism.

So, until next!

New York Knicks 106 – Indiana Pacers 102 – Quick(ley?) recap

You know how often are the little things that go and make a difference? Like, I don’t know, adding just a pinch of pepper to a sauce and make it go from meh to amazing? Or like diving just the fish side of a nigiri into the soy sauce and not the effing rice? Or putting a few drops of water into your Lagavulin as to enhance the flavor and the zest?

Yeah, I think you get me.

And you know what? That’s exactly what happened to the Knicks getting Immanuel Quickley back into the rotation. Now, it’s not that he’s been great (he hasn’t been). It’s not that he shot the lights out (he didn’t, mainly because he didn’t shoot much so we don’t know if he could – I highly doubt it for now but we have no proof). It’s just that between him and Austin Rivers (!) the Knicks suddenly had a few more chess pieces to deploy a functional backcourt rotation for 48 minutes, minus a few clock ticks from Bullock who sometimes becomes nearly unplayable for unknown reasons. Maybe the weird patch of hair in the back of his head is a microchip that makes him glitch from time to time. The Knicks were fine throughout the whole game, even with Bad Julius coming to play in the first half (1-7 from the field, 4 turnovers in the first two quarters), but when you added that bit of extra spacing given by Rivers and Quickley, the mechanism looked very much smoother.

The story of the game is basically this: the Pacers had a hard time getting Sabonis going (kudos to Randle for his adequate defense, but also kudos to Oladipo for wasting so many possessions), and so even with Brogdon balling out of his mind and hitting everything in sight the Knicks stayed close or got ahead for the whole game. Turner was impalpable on defense, while on offense he did hit a few open corner threes (I guess the invisible 6th man didn’t come to play this time). The Knicks rebounded like crazy, which is becoming a constant: nobody in the starting five corralled less than five rebounds, and the starting five as a whole outrebounded the entire Indiana team 40-33. Barrett hit his shots, Payton drove into the heart of the defense and got what he wanted, Mitch was a beast on the offensive glass, blocked two shots (more on that later) and altered many more, Randle stayed with his head in the game and got near a triple double again even on an off-night, while getting away with a breakaway dunk after a steal that was pretty much the defining moment before the real defining moment. In short: a very enjoyable game with a few great highlights.

The fun-sized good:

– Look. It’s still early, but how can you not be impressed by what Thibs is doing to this team? This was the classic game that, during a season like this and with a roster like ours, you didn’t mind losing at the end. Because all we want, as always, is competitiveness, and hell if we got it. We’re getting it in spades, be it on a night when everything clicks or on a night when everything doesn’t (the Toronto game). I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m totally enthralled by the early results with these mostly forsaken players. Thibodeau is the MVP of these first six games, way more than whatever Randle is doing on the court. I’m finding hard even to hold against him the fact that we don’t shoot as many threes as the other teams, because it looks like we’re shooting quality threes. And when the right personnel is on the court, the spacing is enough to get quite easy buckets at the rim.

– Remember when we were asking for a 30mpg Mitch? Yeah. Looks like we were right. And looks like Mitch is doing his best at staying in his lane. I also have this feeling that after Mitch will have proven that he can stay on the court without fouling too much and therefore he can properly anchor the defense we will see a bit more on offense from him. I feel like he’s terrified of doing anything that might cost him the ire of Thibs, and rightly so. But I won’t be surprised if by March Mitch will start shooting the occasional jumper because he’s earned it. Anyway just having a guy who’s a superb finisher around the rim and on putbacks is not a weapon to be overlooked. That’s probably the main difference between Mitch and Noel.
Also: that block on Malcolm Brogdon’s three with 40 seconds to go and the Pacers down by five. Tremendous athletic prowess, amazing reflexes in recovering the ball and passing it to a teammate in stride. That play was the equivalent of Robocop shooting a rapist in the nuts: impressive, intensely satisfying and morally right.

– Barrett icing the game from the line. Do I have to remind you how he struggled last year from the stripe? That’s what development looks like. I wonder what Keith Smart is doing these days, maybe he’s teaching kids to hit rims in some Pop-a-shot.

– Quickley and his moxie. Dude is fearless and crafty. It makes you realize how some players will never get it, just because they weren’t born with it. He did. Will he ever be a good NBA player? Who knows. Anyone doubts he will ever be an NBA player? Don’t think so. I would bet a few hundred dollars he will have a lasting NBA career though, just based on these few games. Overreaction much? Maybe, but the kid is preternatural in a few things, and that’s what you search in young players. Not (just) potential.

The fun-sized bad:

– And that’s where we talk about Kevin. It’s good that he has a place in the rotation. It’s very bad that he’s not yet a capable contributor night in and night out, and looks useless on bad nights. Kid’s shooting 38/29/66 for the (early) season. And he’s supposed to be a shooter. This is like hiring Donald Duck to play the part of a lucky mouse. Hope. Hope is all we have left for Kevin.

A quick note:

Paul Westphal passed away yesterday. Yeah he was a Knick once, and he even won Comeback Player of the Year in 1982-83 playing for the Bockers. But his passing brings sadness to me not because of that; you see, before becoming a Knicks fan, I started following the NBA in the 93 offseason, right on the heels of the Bulls-Suns finals. I just loved those Suns and became a fan of them (I think I already wrote something about that in the past). Westphal was the coach of that team, and by transitivity he was my favorite NBA coach from day one. I don’t even know if he was good. I know he was at the helm of the first team that made me fall in love with the NBA, even if I kinda forgot about him later. Still, it’s sad to see your childhood heroes die, even when their memory grew distant in the meantime. I can’t imagine what will happen to me the fateful day when Wally will be called to become the titular color commentator for the Knicks. You know what I’m saying here. I can’t even bring myself to write it out loud. So cherish every single minute of your favorite guys, because sooner or later they will be gone and you will be miserable. Just enjoy the time we have.

Until next!