CARMELO ANTHONY, A-
Being the sixth youngest cager to surpass the big, gaudy, arbitrary 20,000 point threshold is the lede here, but it was points 20,021-24 including an oh-so-smooth elbow jumper that gave the ‘Bockers the lead for good. (See what I did there?) He also rose up to snaggle the most important ‘bound of the night after Kemba bricked a floater Definitely a small sample size alert but weirdly, he’s got only managed to corral eight total caroms through three games. This could mean absolutely nothing, especially since we saw him do a ton of yeoman board work as recently as last season, but I think the fact that the Knicks have shown the ability to put forth a more-than-competent if fairly conservative un-switchtastic defense means that Melo, playing more minutes at small forward isn’t finding himself at the rim nearly as often. It’s not his fault, is what I’m saying and may just be a whole lot of signal and very little noise.
Here’s something that is a big, red, blinking signal: As was the case for the fourth quarter of One Of The Most Important Sporting Events In, Like, The History of Everything. Ever (©, LeBron James), Melo sat for a good chunk of the beginning of the final stanza, and the whole kit and kaboodle didn’t come tumbling down. It seems that Fisher’s dead serious with this whole “not grind Melo into a substance that resembles guacamole, such that he can drain big buckets down the stretch” thing, whether Anthony’s in foul trouble or not.
You can read Chris Herring’s scribbling here about Melo’s ever-shrinking field goal percentage when logging serious pt, or you can take my word for it and beam at the 4-8 he banged home in the final eight minutes. The fact that he’s getting the bulk of his shots playing off the ball, waiting for the various points of the triangle to be aimed squarely at his eager mitts can’t be overlooked either. Melo’s buying in to the system–which was far from a given–and he’s not expending nearly the amount of effort he had to in seasons past to carve out space. There were some really glaring mistakes on defense, where he got caught on screens and he wasn’t passing out of doubles with the decisiveness that we saw whilst throttling the Cavs, but this is pretty much what we all hoped to see from Anthony. (More good and smart things via Fish-Head Coach later.)
AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE, B+
So in whose hands did all those pretty, pretty rebounds land? What’s got two thumbs, racked up his first double-double of the year and carried the non-Melo portion of the offense via flurry of deft low post buckets? STAT guy! He’s still not really equipped to be the backup center, though. This is a tune we all know the words to, but the
RobertCats Hornets ended the second on a 20-7 run, mainly by feeding Big Al, who crept closer and closer to the bucket, causing wings to start creeping ever closer–though never sending a hard double-team–or lingering a half a second longer within his field of gravity. That opened up a ton of open looks on the perimeter and/or created lanes for Stephenson to barrel through. Amar’e did a better job of at least contesting shots in the third, but I still don’t think they’ve rolled with a combo that can really maximize his skills at the other end. There may not be one no matter how you re-arrange the flawed pieces of this puzzle.
QUINCY ACY, C-
No more threes, kay Quincy? He’s a capable defender, especially when the Knicks were ICE’ing pick and rolls like fiends in the first, but on offense, he just gets ignored completely, and it’s a problem, especially when he’s sharing the floor with other bros that give opponents a collective ¯\_(?)_/¯
SAMUEL DALEMBERT, B
This was without a doubt Dalembert’s finest outing in Blue n’ Orange. We’ve carped on his issues with playing defense in space, but he was soooo much more effective tonight when his responsibilities were limited to pushing Big Al a foot or three out of his comfort zone and remaining firmly planted to terra firma no matter what jukes and up-fakes were thrown his way.
IMAN SHUMPERT, B+
A lot of What We Talk About When We Talk About Iman Shumpert can tend to devolve into rather ineffable, borderline-Talmudic questions about his “confidence”. Does Iman feel confident in his jumper and that’s why his mid-range/off the bounce game looks so durned sweet, or is that self-same confidence causing him to firing up weird, off-balance heaves? Conversely, is the lack of self-assurance causing him to hesitate and pass up open shots? And that’s before we get to the armchair psychoanalyzing about his emotional well-being. Playing “angry,” lingering resentment about trade gossip, being in a certain ex-coach’s doghouse v. the effervescent joie-de-vivre we heard about at Media Day and into the preseason.
We use this kind of language with Shump in part, I think, because more than any other Knick, he’s our very own too-precious/precocious child. It’s also not at surprising, therefore, that he’s often the subject of vicious, vaguely parental/protective squabbles about his potential, worth, development and c. If you want to slap a “Proud Parent of an Iman-or Student” bumper sticker on the back of your Audi for tonight’s outing, go right ahead. The gaudy gold stars—the calmly drained three that knotted the score at 93-all, the clever strip of Jefferson down low with New York up tow, the first eight minutes of the game, when he rattled home nine points—are plain for all to see. But you can just as easily go all tough love on the fact that he committed two dumb fouls to relegate him to the bench mere seconds after his early scoring outburst, or carp on his ongoing inability to finish at the rim, or even “Well, actually…” the fact that he was royally lucky to have the opportunity to drain the aforementioned trey, considering how badly he botched the exchange with Prigs.
SHANE LARKIN, C+
Larkin’s been a really nice surprise filling in for Calderon. I was trying to think of the last time that the Knicks employed a player with this much pure speed at the point. Nate Robinson comes to mind, but he wasn’t anyone’s idea of a floor general. Marbs, Sugar Ray and Rod Strickland were more quick than fast, which leaves us with… Shane Larkin. Throughout the fourth, I was counting off the minutes till he returned, if only to pester Kemba Walker or shadow Gary Neal through a thicket of picks. Of course, he stayed glued to the pine because of the heady, steady play of…
PABLO PRIGIONI, B+
…PABLOOOO. How do you feel about taking the tiller for a robust 24 minutes, including the last 15:32?
the Pablosneak that resulted in the above image was part of a Morris Mentum-changing play, after a Roberts jumper put the lead at three, the Bugs had the ball when Pablo darted and sent the rock skidding downcourt. Hurtling towards the sideline and picking up floorburns a-plenty, he boinked the ball off of Roberts’ leg and out of bounds, then gave MSG a big ol’ thumbs up More importantly, he deftly ran weakside pick and rolls with Smith and STAT, frequently drove the lane (even though every fiber of his being was howling that he was getting way too close to a position where he might be called up to shoot), did a more-than-solid job of steering Walker into waiting bigs, and both he, Shump and Larkin closed on shooters better than we’ve seen round these parts in a long, long time.
JASON SMITH, C-
Still banging home long twos at a Doleac-ian pace, but he’s sort of the anti-Dalembert—often in the right place defensively, but once there, he really lacks the foot speed or the hops to serve as any kind of deterrent.
JR SMITH, C+
For all the things that one might say about JR—and there are many—he’s a pretty smart, self-aware feller. Peep these post-game sound bites.
Yeah, what he said. JR still has a tendency to gum up the works on offense and wildly flail away/reach on D, but he’s been driving with a purpose and developing some nice (legal) chemistry with the other Smith brother (no, not Chris), and limited his step-back heaves to the moments when it’s the only option available, mainly when the shot clock is running down. Of course, for the life of me, I’ll never understand why he felt the need to charge like a meth-addled, toreador-stabbed bull towards Lance Stephenson with .8 seconds to go, very nearly drawing a foul that would have sent Born Ready to the line with the chance to tie the game. It was so mind-boggling stupid that you wonder how it’s possible he retains the power of speech, let alone muster the verbal skills to not only digest the game plan, but regurgitate it to a reporter in a concise and clear manner.
Warlord Kevin of the Clan McElroy, what say thee?
This is the paradox of Earl. Phil hasn’t really solved this Rodman-esque mystery wrapped in an enigma stuffed neatly into a discarded empty 25k bottle of Legacy by Agnostura either. Not to say that a journalistic bastion like Rupe Murdoch’s fish-wrapper is prone to scurrilous, clickbait-y rumor mongering, but even if you imbibe this with a pinch of NaCl, it’s a deal that most of us would jump at, amirite?
TIM HARDAWAY JR., C
Tim got to spin a little longer than he did on Thursday, and did a nice job converting when given space. He also used that little hesitation move of his to finish at the rim on a blind pig (Knickerbloggeristas, if that play was not a blind pig, please let me know. Like the team, I’m still learning these sets. Actually, scratch that. Don’t correct my sub-par analysis It’s way too much fun to write “blind pig.”), and even dumped off a pocket pass (really!) to STAT off a weakside pick and roll. He got yanked after a few missed defensive assignments, but look! A coach that will use playing time as a teaching tool. What a concept!
Cole Aldrich, D+
COLE ALDRICH 2014-15 ANAGRAM: CHOLERIC LAD