“What’s the point?”
If you are a human being, and I highly suspect you are, since being a sentient bot and following the New York Knicks on a high-quality but no longer mainstream blog doesn’t seem to compute, there’s a high chance you asked yourself that question many, many times in your life. What’s the point in trying to salvage a relationship gone awry? What’s the point in working your ass off if nobody ever in your company gets a promotion? What’s the point in shedding some weight and start exercising if in 20 years the polar ice will have melt and only Mecha-Greta will save the last remains of humanity?
Well, guess what. This Knicks’ season looks like it’s going to be a massive exercise in whatsthepointitis, if we are to judge the book by the cover. The final preseason game was a quite entertaining one, with lots of rubber effect scores (Pels going up ten, Knicks erasing deficit, Pels going up eight, Knicks erasing deficit, rinse and repeat) and a few legitimate highlights, but still, as it was with the other three games, I found myself wondering: “What’s the point?”. Here’s the bullet list for a number of them.
- What’s the point in having a coach if said coach does pretty much nothing to improve and prepare your team? I know. Some of you won’t like that I’m starting from my main pet peeve, which can be easily summarized in “Fire Fizdale”. But seriously: I get that it’s preseason and you have all the right in the world to experiment funky lineups and weird substitution patterns, but it’s the second close game in a row where your players have no fucking clue about what to do down the stretch and end up hoisting stupid threes or simply losing the ball (looking at you, Julius). Nobody really cares if you win or lose a glorified exhibition game, but I think we should care because bad habits have a way of getting entrenched into players’ routines. Down 1 with just 3.2 to go, the only thing this team was capable to do was to give Julius Randle the ball at the left extended elbow and just wait three seconds for him to launch a contested three. I would have had some problem with that play if the ball was in Steph Curry’s hands, go figure what I think about the fact that a (kinda stretchy, alrighty) power forward gets asked to do that to win a game. It’s playground-level offense. I really can’t wait to see Fiz canned and Mike Miller trying to work some real magic with the mismatched tools he’ll be given.
- What’s the point in having young talent if you sacrifice its development in the sake of feeding minutes to your newly signed semi-veterans (or, in the case of Wayne Ellington, true veterans)? I mean, I know, we’re still very young across the board and pretty much every available young player got a chance tonight – hi Dot and Zo! – but really, it’s preseason. There’s no reason in playing Mitch 20 minutes and Bobby Portis 24. No reason in playing Knox 18 minutes and Wayne Ellington 24 (and that’s with Marcus Morris out and the Knicks’ brass seeing Knox as a 3 and not a 4). I bet that ten games into the season the locker room will be in complete turmoil.
- What’s the point in having RJ Barrett play just south of 36 minutes and Julius Randle just south of 35 when nobody else in the whole NBA preseason is even averaging 30 mpg? Is Fiz trying to get them some reps? Or is it just a new version of “keep what you kill”, where the most apparently talented players get a free pass at playing all they want because, you know, shot creation?
- What’s the point in having three (four with Kadeem Allen) point guards on your team if not a single one is able to meet the minimum requirements for the job? DSJ might be still a bit hurt but has improbably regressed in every single facet of the game (his stat line is reaaaaaally deceiving), Payton looks lost out there and Frank is still a terrible offensive player. That said, I think Frank should get the starting nod because he’s the one who matches best with RJ, but it’s going to be another lost season at point guard. Let’s hope we can draft one in 2020.
- What’s the point in rooting for the current iteration of the New York Knicks? We’re tired of rooting for losses, but there’s no way this core wins more than 26 games. I put the over/under of switching to rooting for a tank job at November 20th.
On to more game-related notes!
– RJ Barrett’s line doesn’t quite jump at you (19 pts, 6 rebs, 3 ast, +6 +/-) but I have to say I’m quite impressed by his preseason effort. It took a little time to get used to his lack of quickness and burst, but there’s something to be said about a 19 year old who looks like he doesn’t play stupid. He looks in control out there, and physically is right on par with the vast majority of veterans. If this is the version of RJ we’re getting this year, I’ll be very enthused. He picks his spots, doesn’t force issues too much, and seems to be very well liked by his teammates. He was a beast in the first half (17 points, all in the paint save for a corner three) and displayed effort and good positioning on offense and defense. I’m not sure he’ll ever be a true star in the league, but it’s really nice to finally have a rookie to root for that has a quasi-complete toolkit. The thing I like most about him is that he moves within the flow, and cuts like a pro. The dunk in the second quarter on a well-timed cut after a Julius Randle pass is something we should be used to see a lot during the season. He’s also probably the second best passer on our team (after Randle himself) and showed it on a gorgeous full court pass to a streaking Knox in the third quarter. Just compare that play to a following DSJ attempt to do the same thing: DSJ’s pass flew at least four feet ahead of the same streaking Knox, resulting in a deflating turnover. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get killed by too many minutes being force fed to him – but with that kind of build it’s hard to see it, he looks like a 28 year old peak athlete.
– Julius Randle (20 pts, 9 rebs, 5 ast, +3 +/-) is a very talented offensive player but would benefit of some coaching restraints. I’m all for having him handle the ball in the open court after he snatches a board, but he’s not ready (and I don’t think he ever will) to play the part of a point forward. Give him the ball on the elbow or down low, don’t ask him to create in the half court with the defense set. He’s just too careless with the ball and while his dribble is pretty good for a big, he’s definitely not Blake Griffin. Winning tonight was not important, but his three turnovers in the last three minutes cost us the game. That’s something than can get corrected with the right amount of coaching, which… maybe next year?
– Allonzo Trier (17 pts, 2 asts, 41.7 FG%, 0 +/-) got out of his carbonite envelope to deliver a thrilling if messy offensive output. I don’t like his overall game, but what’s the point (again) on burying him and, on a minor note, Dotson, just to see what do we have in a totally known quantity like Wayne Ellington? There was a play late in the fourth where our Knicks were going downhill on a fastbreak, and Trier called for the ball just past halfcourt. He got the ball with a full head of steam and from there you would have been a fool to doubt he was taking the ball to the cup. He did, of course, to the surprise of literally nobody. If he shot a bit better from three we’d be talking about a win against a good Pelicans team.
– What’s the point (ok, last time) in signing Elfrid Payton (6 pts, 3 rebs, 4 ast, -7 +/-) if his skillset is kind of a duplicate of what we already had and he takes care of the ball just as I would take care of a free shampoo sample at a Holiday Inn (I’m bald, in case you forgot)? I didn’t like almost anything of what I saw from him tonight, save for a nifty up-and-under on my fellow countryman Melli in the second quarter. Five turnovers are bad in itself, but when you look at how he turned the ball over it gets even worse: at least four of them were the result of unforced errors and the most egregious of them led directly to a clear path foul. From what we’ve seen in the preseason, he should be our third-string point guard, and that’s terrible development for him.
– If you looked at Bobby Portis’ line, you would be excused in thinking he did well out there: 12 points and 6 boards on an efficient 5-for-7 night. If you saw the game, though, you would know Bobby is who we thought he was: an empty stats player. He never adds gravitas when he’s on the court, and while he provides a modicum of spacing he gives everything back on defense. I’m not against using him and Ellington as situational players (kind of a revised version of Kornet and Jenkins from last year), but if he averages more than 20mpg for the season, something went very wrong. Taj Gibson is still the better player and it’s not even close.
– I don’t know where Mitch’s mind is at, because it’s pretty clear that he came to play very unfocused (not ready to put the blame on Fiz for that, but the finger is starting to point there). When he flipped the switch briefly in the third quarter, all hell broke loose though. Two blocks and three buckets in the span of three minutes, while also wreaking havoc on the offensive boards. I think Mitch’s mental development should be the highest priority on our coaching staff’s list, but I have zero trust in that being the case. I will resort to cross my fingers, we can’t afford to squander his absurd potential.
– If by reading this you come away thinking I don’t like Ellington, you’re wrong (but it’s my fault of course). I’ll elaborate better: I like what Ellington brings to the table. I just don’t understand why we needed him when we already have Dotson, who’s surely worse than Wayne but fits in the timeline while Ellington doesn’t (and don’t start with “we’ll flip him to a contender come the trade deadline!”, we sadly never do that). Ellington is a good pro and should be used accordingly, not to subtract minutes from people who might have a future in our roster-building exercise. On the other hand, Dot was entirely forgettable, so…
And now, having sprinkled this blog with some well due realism (pessimism?), let’s get excited again for our season debut on October, 24th against the surprisingly eminently beatable Spurs!
It’s very good to be a part of this family, share the KB love!