Minutes before this game was on, Al Trautwig was at center court telling the viewers that coach Fizdale told his guys to treat the last seven games of the season as a playoff series, and that since we were 3-3 in the last six the game against Detroit would have counted as a game seven. Now, aside from the total retconning bullshit of that claim (yeah, sure. The last seven. What if we went 5-1 during that stretch? Or 0-6? It’s things like this that trigger my inner con artist alarm, but whatever), I think now we know what would happen if the Washington Generals played by total happenstance a game seven against an NBA team.
This game was utter trash and deserves not even the tiniest smidge of a recap, at that’s not only an indictment of the game itself, but also of my writing ability. There’s a saying in Italian that goes like this: “(He is trying to) extracting blood from turnips”, describing someone who’s trying to turn a bad thing into good results without any chance to reach his goal. Well, I won’t even try. Keep your orange and blue turnips, hoping that in July they’ll have become majestic roses.
So, instead of recapping this game (honestly, there’s nothing to say about the game: Detroit went up by a lot early. Mitch was in foul trouble, and that’s a shame because suddenly people kinda remembered how to pass the ball to him in the air. The 2+ block was interrupted. Jenkins was the only one able to put the ball in the basket apart from Mitch. Hicks played 21 minutes. That’s all), I will be handing out grades for the season, with basic stats (pts/reb/ast; TS%, WS/48) and whatever, for every guy who donned a Knicks jersey this season. Players in alphabetic order (surname):
Kadeem Allen: 18 games, 9.8/2.6/3.8; .582, .105. Kadeem was a very nice surprise for the season, being the beneficiary of the two-way slot left open when Trier signed his first true NBA contract. He’s an old sophomore (26), and he came here with a reputation of defensive-minded short shooting guard. He actually transformed (for a bad team, I know) into a capable point guard, with good instincts and a penchant for not turning the ball over too much while hitting shots. Look at the TS% and WS/48! Small sample size and all, these are the numbers of a very nice second/third string point guard for a playoff team. He won’t be shooting 45.5% from three on a steady diet of shots, but 39% would be more than good, and he has the mechanics to float around there. Grade for the season: B. I want him back.
Ron Baker: 11 games, 1.3/0.6/1.2; .376, .003. One of the good guys, as Clyde would say. I think he’s definitely out of the League. Kadeem is what we thought Ron could have been, but was never able to become. Wish you well, Ron. Grade for the season: D-. His defensive intensity will be missed. Everything else is useless and/or ugly.
Trey Burke: 33 games, 11.8/1.9/2.8; .496, .045. Regression to the mean was the name of the game for Trey, who’s definitely capable of 25/5/5 games as a dynamic backup but more often than not shoots you out of the game while not creating plays (not to self: copy/paste this sentence for Mudiay). I was happy to see him shipped elsewhere mid-season. Grade for the season: D. I had some expectations about him being able to man the point effectively, but should have known better.
Damyean Dotson: 72 games, 10.8/3.6/1.8; .528, .040. The OG Dungeon Boy, was the first beneficiary of some inexplicable strings of DNPs Fiz reserved to a few guys during the season. Dotson regressed a bit from his rookie season in a few areas, namely defense and rebounding, but shot better from three and showed some flashes as a tertiary playmaker. I really, really wish I could overlook his former criminal allegations and root lightheartedly for him. Anyway, grade for the season: C-. A good basketball cog to have around next year if we build a superstar core.
Henry Ellenson: 16 games, 5.6/3.3/0.9; .524, .059. A cool fourth/fifth big, with the requisite shooting for a stretch four, a knack for good ball handling, but too slow and not enough intense to really impact games consistently. I can see in his future a playoff game decided by his sudden unexpected insurgence, only to be forgotten for the next four years. Grade for the season: D+. Wouldn’t mind having around as a homeless man Olynyk, as I already said.
Billy Garrett: 3 games, 6.7/1/2; .437, -0.010. Thank you, next. Grade for the season: INC. (veering on F+).
Tim Hardaway Jr.: 46 games, 19.1/3.5/2.7; .531, .049. He was who we thought he were. Probably a good kid, not really versed in winning basketball. The poster boy for everything that’s wrong in Steve Mills basketball analysis. So glad he’s gone in the KP trade. Grade for the season: D. Hope he never comes back. I don’t harbor any ill will towards him, but I couldn’t simply stand him anymore.
Mario Hezonja: 57 games, 9/4.1/1.5; .500, .005. Apart from the late season insurgence of point Mario, he was very frustrating, especially when Fiz insisted on starting him and keeping Dot or Frank glued to the bench. Aside from Mitch, though, he had the most iconic moments of the season, and that has to mean something. Still waiting for Giannis to punch him in the nuts after the stepover. Hopefully it will be when the Bucks are playing another team and not the Knicks. Grade for the season: F+ (point Mario: C – even last night he had two gorgeous assists for Mitch; maybe I actually wouldn’t mind him here as a combo guard on a vet min).
Isaiah Hicks: 3 games, 4/2.3/0.6; .510, .012. A total waste of a two-way contract. Slow, unathletic, unplayable and unplayed. Grade for the season: INC. (veering on F-)
John Jenkins: 21 games, 4.7/1.6/0.9; .492, .002. The numbers aren’t there, but you can squint and see a James Jones-like path for John Jenkins. He badly needs someone who makes defenses collapse and then kick the ball out for open threes to thrive a bit. I liked his contribution (as much as you can like such a shallow on). Grade for the season: C—. Wouldn’t mind having him back if the right guys come on board.
DeAndre Jordan: 19 games, 10.9/11.4/3; .681, .185. Who would have guessed than DeAndre has such passing acumen in him? While he apparently lost a step and a half on defense, his play wasn’t half bad and there’s a real chance he helped Mitch grow into the vocal presence he is now on the court. It’s astounding to see that he’s played less games than Jenkins and only three more than Ellenson, but such is the tanking way. Grade for the season: C+. I don’t see the reason for wanting him back (considering he’ll command a lot more than the vet min), but I see the abstract reasoning in wanting DeAndre on your team.
Enes Kanter: 44 games, 14/10.5/1.9; .585, .144. Sooo glad he got bought out. I’m eager to see him getting his ass kicked by Steven Adams in the series against OKC. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish anything bad on Enes, but his shtick grew incredibly stale and annoying (and his defense-averse ways were even more annoying). Props for standing up against Erdogan, but it’s not politics, it’s basketball we’re talking about. The poster boy of why WS/48 doesn’t describe everything right. Grade for the season: D-. I can’t wait to see him come back to the Garden and get posterized by Mitch over and over again.
Kevin Knox: 74 games, 12.9/4.4/1.1; .477, -0.026. The rookie played the most games and minutes for the 2018-19 Knicks while being terrible in every aspect of the game save for shooting threes. I don’t have a lot of faith in him becoming a good NBA player, but as a 9-10th man off the bench to shoot threes and be quite tall he could carve his spot for a decade, I guess. Not what you’d go for in the lottery, but if you swing for the fences that’s what you have to know you could get. I love the idea that as soon as Zion Williamson will post his first 30 point game next year the media will run the list of teenagers scoring 30+ in a game in the NBA and Kevin’s name will be there, a perfect trolling figure amidst all-time great. Grade for the season: D+ (if he wasn’t a rookie he’d get an F).
Luke Kornet: 45 games, 7/3/1.2;.537, .090. Luke ended the season on a tear, but he just gave us confirmation of what we already suspected: he can be an NBA player. He has to play in a system that limits in a hard way his shot creation but gives him the green light to bomb away. He’s like a very limited Brook Lopez, and we saw this year what difference can make a player like him if surrounded by good to great players. He’s a good fit for Mitch, and even for that reason alone he needs to be back. Grade for the season: C+.
Courtney Lee: 12 games, 4.7/2.3/1.3; .527, .087. Courtney is the clear cut example that advanced stats don’t have to be terrible even if you can’t be a good basketball player anymore. You simply have to understand what you can and can’t do anymore. Hated his contract, never hated the guy. Wish him well. Grade for the season: D+. Prime candidate for a buyout in 2020 in Dallas.
Wesley Matthews: 2 games, 7/1.5/2.5; .330, -0.114. Somehow, this washed up guy is a starter in the Eastern playoffs. I thank him for his huge contract that was perfect to match salaries in the KP trade. Grade for the season: LOL.
Emmanuel Mudiay: 59 games, 14.8/3.3/3.9; .531, .024. Improved by leaps and bounds, still has no idea whatsoever on how to run a basketball team. I commend him for the good job he did on becoming a better player, but honestly it’s not enough, not by a long mile. I would sleep much more comfortably if I didn’t know about Fizdale’s love for him. You can’t be an average playmaker in this league with 24 AST% and 14 TOV% if you can’t defend, can’t hit consistently your threes and the team stops dead in its tracks as soon as you pump the air out of the ball just because you breathe inside an NBA arena. Mudiay’s future is the third most anxiety-inducing subplot of the offseason (free agency and lottery night being the other two). Grade for the season: F+.
Frank Ntilikina: 43 games, 5.7/2/2.8 .417, -0.044. Well take a look at me now/cause I’ll still be standing here/and you coming back to [the] Knicks/it’s against all odds/it’s the chance I got to take. It’s so hard to stay on team Frank, I don’t know how I manage to do it and still pretend I can write on the smartest blog I know. This season was terrible for Frank fans. He regressed everywhere, and also failed to stay on the court because he got hurt. I wouldn’t bet a dime on Frank being in the NBA after 2021. It’s a shame, I like his (presumed) style of play, super team-oriented and defense-oriented, but at some point you gotta hand some results, and he seems unable to do that. He reminds me of those people who have a nice sound to their talking voice, and friends of them ask me to teach them to sing. Apart from the fact that I’m not a singing teacher and I couldn’t even if would, I’ve seen too many of them not being able to really sing because they don’t feel anything when they do, even when they can “sing” in the right key. Frank looks the same to me in basketball terms. Grade for the season: F-.
Mitchell Robinson: 65 games, 7.3/6.5/0.6; .690, .218. I can quite recite by heart every single Mitch stat. I’m pretty sure his B-R page got more hits from me than PornHub ever did. A few numbers to digest at the end of this season: Knicks rookie records for most blocked shots in a season, most games in a row with at least 1 block, most games in a row with at least 2 blocks (2nd ever in NBA history for a rookie), highest WS/48 (6th best in NBA history for rookies, just ahead of MJ), highest BPM (6th best in NBA history for a rookie), highest BLK% (second highest in NBA history for rookies, 4th highest ever), highest TS% (highest ever for a rookie, minimum 1000 minutes played). He’s second in VORP amongst rookies this year despite having played a lot less minutes than the others. The guy is simply unbelievable. His production waned a bit in the last week, but you can see that teams really game plan for him. It’s hard to block many shots if the other team is scared to shoot around you. A foundational piece if there ever was one in the last 35 years of Knicks history. Grade for the season: A+. (Might I remind you he’s a second round pick and he’s under contract for 4 years for peanuts? He might be hands down the best contract in the whole NBA right now, at least of non-max ones).
Dennis Smith Jr.: 21 games, 14.7/2.8/5.4; .473, -0.013. Not a great player, and the numbers are there to tell you exactly this, but you can see a functional point guard in him. Problem is, he’s frail and his shot is broken. The good thing is that we have him under contract for two more years, so there’s no rush to make decisions about him (unless a certain flat-earther comes along). I’d like to see what he’s capable of when not hurt. He seems to have a good nose for steals. Grade for the season: C—
Lance Thomas: 46 games, 4.5/2.5/0.6; .482, .004. A great locker room guy, an endless abyss of suckitude on the court. I can see him sticking around in the future for MSG, but I think we saw the last of him on a Knicks jersey. I can’t say I’m unhappy of that. Out of 492 to ever don the blue and orange, Lance is 60th ever for games played. This sums up perfectly the Phil tenure and subsequent years. Grade for the season: D–
Allonzo Trier: 64 games, 10.9/3.1/1.9; .564, .031. Lost behind Mitch’s stupendous rookie season there has been another strong rookie season here. A lot of ups and downs, mainly thanks to injuries and the non-existent offensive sets, but in the end a fairly good debut for Iso Zo. I don’t know if he’s the guy I’d keep around if superstars were to come here (maybe a more “never off his script” guy like Dotson would be better?), but I was extremely pleased by his attitude and skill level compared to the League at large. Grade for the season: B.
Noah Vonleh: 68 games, 8.4/7.8/1.9; .561, .091. It seems like Vonleh hasn’t played in two years, when he only missed 14 games. He went a bit AWOL even before, because after the All-Star break his play totally cratered (pairing him with DeAndre wasn’t that smart), but in the end it was a solid season from him, but still forgettable enough that we should be able to sign him at the minimum again. Grade for the season: B-. Definitely like to have him as a third/fourth big.
David Fizdale: he’s great at one thing: selling you what he says. That was a major skill to have during such a bad season. Everything else was mediocre at best, and I wouldn’t mind if they canned him today (they won’t, and they’re right. For now). Grade for the season: D-.
Guys, it’s finally over. I’d like to thank you all for bearing with me throughout this dismal season, for having kind words for my writings, for making me feel your support. If I did put a smile on your face here and there, well, I want you to know that those are the riches I’m striving for in this life. A smile because you made someone laugh; a tear because you moved something inside someone’s soul; a fist pump because your name is Mitch and you just swatted a Celtic attempt at the rim.
I’d like to thank Mike and Brian for the opportunity.
I’d also like to present to Brian my condolences for his mother. I cheated a bit and read the comments in last night’s thread. I don’t know personally any of you, but as it happens with most online communities you end up knowing people with matching hobbies or tastes better than you do on your day-to-day real-life interactions. On that basis, I think I can say for sure that Mama Kathleen Cronin had to be an amazing woman, since she raised such a great guy.
Be nice to each other, guys. We only get a splinter of time on this Earth, caring for other people is the best we can do. (If you have a few spare minutes, though, feel definitely free to argue about whether Barrett or DeAndre Hunter is the right choice at #3.)