Knicks v. Wizards Game preview and thread

Merry Christmas Knicks fans.

I asked Kyle Weidie of the excellent Wizards Blog to give some insight on today’s game.

1.  First of all, congrats to Washington on getting a nationally televised game on Christmas even if it is against the Knicks. Washington is in third place in the Eastern Conference, can this team stay ahead of the likes of Chicago, Cleveland and Miami?


Miami? Yes. Cleveland? I think so, even before the Andy Varejao injury. The other big boys (of whom in the East there are not that many — we should probably mention the Hawks)? After Tuesday’s home loss to Chicago, coming off another home loss to the Suns on Sunday, I’m not so sure. (And yes, I’m allowing myself to admit this only a third into the season.)


Washington has the talent and depth to compete with anyone in the league. Their three main problems, in order:


1) Maximizing their offensive potential, in particular, 3-pointers — 15.6 3-pointers attempted per game, third-fewest in the NBA; 38.9% shooting on 3s, best in the NBA. Washington must take more 3s in order to not be a middle-rung offensive team. They attempted just nine 3-pointers against the Bulls, made five of them.


2) A lock-down perimeter defender. John Wall is getting better and the team might be able to get by without one (with Trevor Ariza now in Houston), but it’s still a weakness, and you can’t have your lead point guard play that part, anyway.


3) A reliable drive/slasher past Wall. Knicks fans should be very familiar with Bradley Beal, but he’s still developing. Past that, Andre Miller, Paul Pierce, Rasual Butler, and Otto Porter are not threats to get the defense moving with quick penetration. Washington averages 17.6 drives per game (per player tracking metrics), which is third-fewest in the NBA.


2. Washington is 4th in the NBA in defensive rating (99.7) per What is the plan to stop the NBA’s 5th leading scorer Carmelo Anthony?


Paul Pierce to start, although his left big toe has been bothering him lately. But you’ll remember that Pierce used his veteran tricks to bother Carmelo into an 8-for-23 night when the Wizards won by 15 points in the Garden on November 4. After Pierce, Rasual Butler and Otto Porter are probably next in line, and either could get ‘Melo salivating enough to get him scoring in the 40s, which could be a scary proposition for the Wizards under the bright lights of MSG and a national television audience. Also note, according to, the Wizards have a 93.0 DefRtg* in the 714 minutes that Pierce has been on the court, a team-best.



3. The Knicks have struggled so mightily to stop opponents that posters on often joke (actually they aren’t joking) about which opposing player will set a season high or career high against the Knicks. Which Wizard do you think might have a really big game today?


Rasual Butler has been amazing this season. Now consider that he was the very last, fifteenth man to make the roster. Some figured an undrafted hopeful might fill spot No. 15; maybe journeyman guard-shooter Xavier Silas; maybe journeyman guard-shooter John Lucas III, who was brought in for a tryout at the 11th hour before the regular season. The 35-year-old, 11-year veteran beat them all.


Now, out of all NBA players who have attempted 80 or more 3-pointers, Butler is third in 3-point percentage at 51.3 percent. With Martell Webster out due to back surgery and Bradley Beal missing training camp and several regular season games with a broken wrist, Butler has been a godsend. Against Chicago on Tuesday Butler just went 1-for-7 from the field (1-for-2 on 3-pointers). I expect a bounce back game from him against the Knicks. And if not Butler, then big men — either Marcin Gorat or Kevin Seraphin, both of whom need bounce back efforts — will be next on the Knickerblogger list.


4. I moved to Washington from the New York area in 2000, the Wizards were a pretty dismal organization back then. Today the Wizards have a solid foundation of young, talented players and offer fans a really nice experience. Does this change underscore the importance of a good ownership/management structure?


Definitely. A change in ownership certainly helped Washington. Previous majority owner Abe Pollin passed away in November of 2009 and current owner Ted Leonsis took over in the summer of 2010. Prior, Leonsis was strictly majority owner of the Washington Capitals hockey team and a minority owner in the Wizards — there was long a plan in place for Leonsis to take over for Pollin at some point.


Pollin, for all the good that he did for the community, was terrible at team-building, tragically nepotistic, and cheap in all the wrong ways. Leonsis (a “blogger”), upon taking over, implemented patience (and a 10-point plan or something like that), which allowed Ernie Grunfeld (remember him, Knicks fans?**), who’s been president of Wizards basketball operations since 2003, to blow the team up, become bad-by-design (but not like the 76ers, but more by just playing JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, and Nick Young at the same time), and ultimately rebuild (with two no-brainer draft picks in Wall and Beal). That, was a long sentence, perhaps a run-on, which is seemingly for how long the Wizards were bad. And I’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Leonsis pivoted plans a couple times and has a bad habit of taking victories with blog posts that suspiciously resemble “mission accomplished” banners on aircraft carriers.


Randy Wittman was then allow to enforce a culture change in his ability to bench “talents” like McGee (before ultimately sending him packing). And, of course, we all remember Wittman giving Blatche the “DNP – Conditioning” treatment.


So, yes, all of this certainly underscores good ownership that empowers management to do their job without risk of ultimately having to succumb to player personalities and demands that are detrimental to team culture.


[**For further reading on Ernie Grunfeld’s career running NBA teams from New York to Milwaukee to D.C., read here — TAI did a two-part series on him in April 2013.]


5.  Is there anything that Randy Wittman does that Derek Fisher should emulate?


No, probably not.


I do like Wittman more than other Wizards followers seem to — he’s able to balance the fine line of being an old school hard-ass who doles out tough love with being a guy who gets players to respond and take his coaching.


I imagine it’s a plus that Wittman was an actual NBA player who was teammates with the likes of Dominique Wilkins. Fisher probably has the advantage nonetheless because today’s players remember him more.


Otherwise, I think D-Fish is fine on his own. Despite already having a star player already in place, change is tough and takes a long time. If Guitar Man Dolan continues to back Phil Jackson, which he better, and if Jackson continues to practice patience and back Fisher (why wouldn’t he?), I think things will eventually turn around in New York. I think … not necessarily hope, but I think.


6.  Prediction for today’s game.


Wizards win. Not so much because the Knicks are very #KnicksTape, but more because John Wall and Bradley Beal seem to love to play in New York. The game, however, will be closer than Wizards fans might expect–within double digits; the Knicks might even cover the spread.


EDITED TO ADD FROM BRIAN CRONIN: In a minor Christmas miracle, Rett, the son of our buddy Jim Cavan, got through his surgery on Tuesday and his tumor was removed. The next issue is whether his liver would respond after being placed back into his body (the tumor took up about 80% of Rett’s liver, so in removing the tumor they had to actually remove the liver entirely. They then placed the healthy parts of the liver back in to his body and the plan is that his body will re-accept it and begin regenerating the rest of the liver). Today we learned that it appears that the liver is regenerating! Awesome!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Thomas B.

@Don't bother; I don't tweet

45 thoughts to “Knicks v. Wizards Game preview and thread”

  1. I did a game thread last night to make sure we had one today. Yours is better, though, so of course yours will stay! Thanks! Merry Christmas!

  2. I’d like to say Happy Festivus to the Knicks because I have a problem with all of you players!!! No feats of strength, just airing of grievances. Hahahahahahahaha…no seriously..Merry Christmas to everyone and hopefully our beloved ‘Bockers can take one from the Wiz

  3. If Randy Wittman was honest, he would have said: “With all of the open shots we’re getting, I’m actually disappointed were only shooting 62%”

  4. The fact that the Knicks got a Christmas day game over 15 better (in some cases much better) is insulting. This team really shouldn’t be on national TV.

    Give me Wizards vs Hawks or Raptors instead

  5. I don’t mind the Knicks getting a Christmas game as a sort of tradition thing, like the NFL does with a few of their teams. Plus, it just works out well schedule-wise to open with an East Coast team for the early game.

  6. Plus, it just works out well schedule-wise to open with an East Coast team for the early game.

    There are other, much better and more entertaining, East Coast teams to meet that early game criteria. Like I said, I’d much prefer a Wizards vs Hawks over Wizards vs Melo

  7. Merry Christmas everyone.
    John Wall is killing the Knicks. Having a great starting point guard makes the game flow.

    Trade proposal: JR Smith+Larkin for Jeremy Lin (passes ESPN trade machine).

  8. Trade proposal: JR Smith+Larkin for Jeremy Lin (passes ESPN trade machine).

    We’d still need a point guard, C, Wing, PF and a bench….

  9. I was derided by some on this blog for saying these knicks reminded me of the Starbury years.
    Well, I’m here to say I was wrong making the comparison.

    This is far, far worse.
    This team lacks effort. Defense is effort and it is amazing how careless they are on defense.
    I’m amazed people are paying for tickets. Jose Calderon is our most consistent scorer…
    God I hate cheering for this team.

  10. We always end of cheering for bad players because we’re desperate.
    Cole gets few minutes on most decent teams in the NBA.
    If Dolan halved ticket prices it would be too much.
    We’re so bad, average players are instantly flowing with confidence, and kill us.

  11. If we wanted to win, which we shouldn’t, I would like us to start a Prigs/Calderon backcourt with Cole in the middle.

  12. If we wanted to win, which we shouldn’t, I would like us to start a Prigs/Calderon backcourt with Cole in the middle.

    We’d also need Carmelo at the 4 and no Jason Smith. I just don’t get why Carmelo doesn’t play 4 more, other than for tanking purposes. It’s worked really well for a few years…

  13. It’s worked really well for a few years…

    One year. It work really well for one year, and then the powers that be decided it was a fluke and wasn’t worth trying to repeat for whatever reasons.

  14. Cole Aldrich TS% watch:

    After today’s game in which he scored 10 points on 6 FGA, Cole Aldrich now has a .592 TS%.

    He missed a shot though, so he’ll probably be on the bench until mid-February.

  15. Watched the game in flight. For the fourth quarter, the feed was screwy and our sound was just the on court mike. Enjoyed the game much more than without Jon Barry.

    1. Maybe a zone would have been a good idea the sixth time John Wall blew by Calderon.

    2. Carmelo had a strong offensive game after the first five minutes. It would have been better if the Wizards’ bigs did not feel empowered to ignore Dalembert/Smith/Stat.

    3. Amar’e was not strong in any sense today.

    4. THJ is not a useful defensive player. Not today and hardly ever.

    5. Acy’s ejection was, in part, retaliation for the no call 3 seconds earlier when Wall ran over Prigioni.

  16. This team is not just bad– they play a hideous, unwatchable brand of basketball on both ends. You would think after a while that they would pick up some of the nuances of the triangle offense but they look worse and worse as the season progresses. They really are just unbelievably horrendous, worse even than the worst of the Isiah teams.

  17. Count me out for the remainder of the season. My idiotic insistence on watching these guys is positively ruining my enjoyment of the sport. Watching paint dry would be more entertaining than half-heartedly “rooting” for the Knicks this year. I will check the boxscores and hope they continue to lose. Maybe the up-and-coming Sixers will find another gear and pass our hapless group in the standings.

    Thank God for Russell Westbrook and crew beating up on the hated Spurs today, both teams reminding me what it’s like to watch real talent, passion, intelligent play, teamwork, and effort.

  18. Just counting down the days until the Knicks are starting Jahlil Okafor and Cole Aldrich at the 4 and 5.

  19. Given how little the Knicks seem to value him I wouldn’t be surprised if Cole gets moved for a second round pick. If I’m a GM I’d certainly prefer him to Dalembert. Given that he’s not signed for next year, I’d give him 30 minutes a night and see if some team gets desperate enough for a big to part with something of genuine value at the deadline. Of course he should be playing 30 minutes a night anyway because he’s the best big the Knicks have.

  20. MVPs through Christmas:

    1) Rett Cavan
    2) Cole “All Up In Your Stocking” Aldrich
    3) Derek Fisher’s unwitting lottery positioning

    I want Jerome James back. That’s how bleak this is.

  21. Jason Smith is the perfect 2014-2015 Knick. He sucks, acquiring him in the first place was a terrible idea and his strong suit is his mediocre efficiency on shooting literally the worst shot in basketball. He is the Uber-Knick.

  22. Thank God for Russell Westbrook and crew beating up on the hated Spurs today, both teams reminding me what it’s like to watch real talent, passion, intelligent play, teamwork, and effort.

    Why hate the Spurs? They’ve been one of the best teams in all of the 4 major sports for the past 17 years, are fun to watch, and Pop is one of the best things about the NBA.

  23. Jason smith Is just His bargness’ understudy. When air barfnani comes back we will be an unstoppable farce in the east.

  24. Some dude on Twitter drove like 50 miles to try to fight some dude snottiedrippen because he was disrespecting Kobe. Lakers fans out of their gotdamn minds. Its Christmas day son.

    Also, Kobe sucks.

  25. Kobe sux fight me

    Yo, merry christmas to ruruland, who might have drunk himself into a coma today

    Pure speculation

  26. There really is no reason to watch these games. It would be one thing if we had one or two young players that we could watch develop, but I don’t enjoy watching TH Jr make one out of every 3 shots and play crap defense, or Shane Larkin use his quickness to dribble around in circles.

    I hope Fisher gives Cleanthony a lot of minutes going forward, he may totally blow, but at least he’s an unknown quantity.

  27. Cole Aldrich look like the stay puft marshmallow man with a missing tooth, he makes 900k a yearand he’s out there balling on guys who are rich as fuck and look like they’re chisled out of marble. Pablo like 64 years old and he’s stealing the ball from some of the most athletic young 20 year olds on the planet. Add a dose of stat turning back the clock, and our defense brings the lulz every night. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

  28. Why hate the Spurs? They’ve been one of the best teams in all of the 4 major sports for the past 17 years, are fun to watch, and Pop is one of the best things about the NBA.

    Because it’s fun to have powerful villains. Like the Kobe/Shaq Lakers or the Reggie Pacers or the Jordan Bulls, I can root for *anyone* against these guys.

    And because they beat the Knicks in 99 and they keep pumping electricity into Tim Duncan and sending him out there, goddammit!

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