This might be remembered as the point where Mike Miller’s shine (?) wore off for good.
You know I loudly advocated for Fizdale to be fired and Miller to be promoted, and of course it was the right move to make. There’s no denying that the team is playing better, that we’ve seen a more coherent and entertaining product on the court, and that Miller is having his share of injury/absence problems (Mook’s neck, Randle dealing with a death in the family, DSJ’s strained oblique – yeah well, the last one not so much of a problem).
That said, we’re 17 games into the Mike Miller experience and there’s a good chance he’ll earn the Mediocre Mike moniker by the end of the season if things keep on going this way.
It looks like the League has taken notice of the not so small but very basic changes Miller implemented in the offense and in the defense and has adjusted accordingly. This is of course ok and to be expected – after all this is the best league in the world – but makes space for a few roster management bad thoughts, mainly:
– Our defense is sucking again (ok we played mostly good teams in the last 4 games; that doesn’t mean though that they can get any shot they want just because they’re better than us). Why don’t we try to play more defense-oriented (and hopefully defense-capable) guys together as soon as it becomes evident that we need a shock? For one, Elfrid Payton has regressed so much in that area that if I was an attacking player and Elf was tasked with guarding me I’d suspect there’s a pyramidal scheme involved in getting to the rim for how easy it would be. We have too many weak links that lead to scrambled rotations that ultimately lead to corner threes or people alone in the paint. Why doesn’t Miller roll out a Frank-Dot/Bullock-RJ-Mook (if healthy)-Mitch lineup more often?
– Speaking of Mitch: while his offensive numbers are steady and very likable (your mileage may vary about his defense, which is really inconsistent), why doesn’t he get more minutes? 17 games in he can’t seem to crack the 30 minutes threshold. It appears Miller doesn’t fully trust him in games. That’s a shame, because this season should be only about player development. Instead we’re rolling Taj Gibson out there for 27 minutes.
– While I don’t think that offensive mistakes should be punished with a short leash, defensive one should do. If you need to install a culture and a mindset, defense should always be the stepping stone (Fizdale said as much. Take that for data!). We’re treated to too many minutes of Kevin Knox just letting his guy blow past him as if defense was as unconcerning to him as world peace is to those fucking guys who don’t realize how fucked we’re sure to be if we don’t turn a lot of things around, starting from war declarations and climate change and going up (down?) from there. I usually don’t want to talk about politics, at least not here, but newsfeeds can’t be ignored forever, can they? It’s bad out there, guys. And getting back to the point, it’s bad that Knox, Payton and Randle (wishing him well on the personal side) don’t get called out for their lackluster effort on the defensive end.
– What’s the matter with Mitch not starting even with Mook and Randle out? I know they don’t play the same position, but what the hell are we trying to do by starting Portis instead of Mitch? And what are we waiting for to call up Wooten as to implant him as Mitch’s backup? If I was Miller, I’d probably roll with this rotation now that the wheels have fallen off in his coaching stint too: Frank-Bullock-RJ-Mook-Mitch with Payton-Trier-Dot-Randle-Wooten and sprinkle some Taj and Knox here and there. As soon as you trade Mook, put Knox on the starting lineup and keep Randle on the bench to feast on opposing backups. But no, let’s play the awful vets more minutes. Damn them all, they’re all Afflalo to me.
As for the game: even as the Knicks and Pels traded blows during the first two quarters (before New Orleans went on to build a lead that would prove to be insurmountable) there was an aura of losing around this game. Between all the threes that were conceded (and subsequently hit) by the Pellies and the general devil-may-care attitude on defense, to me it was pretty evident that the Pelicans would have all the gears needed to destroy us. And this was while Gibson and Mitch ended up the night with a combined 14-for-15 from the field! Sadly, more than a few other Knicks were pretty inefficient (the usual suspects: RJ shot 5/15, Frank 2/7, Dot 3/8, Knox 2/8 – and then there’s the Gehenna of inefficiency, reserved to Trier going 0/2 and Ellington 0/4) and the team as a whole finished with 46% shooting from the field and 18.5% (not a typo: 5 for 27) from three. But don’t let the score fool you, as in “we only needed to hit 33.3% from three to tie the game – 9 for 27 would have sufficed!”; remember the thing about New Orleans having all the gears needed? They would have pulled it off anyway. We plainly sucked. As we’re wont to do these days, er months, errrr years.
A few more thoughts:
– Brandon Ingram looks like the poster child of “wait for young guys to develop”. I totally thought he would have ended up being a bust when all was said and done. Lo and behold, he’s looking like a real star in the making: 25/7/4 on .600 TS% and .141 WS/48. You can kick me in the ass everytime I suggest we throw a second year guy under the bus for a bad game. Apart from Knox. Knox sucks.
– Yeah, let’s talk about Knox. When a second year guy regresses as he’s doing, you’re left feeling pretty hopeless about his future, especially considering that at the start of the season he looked to have turned a corner. His WS/48, BPM and VORP are all better than they were last year, but this is due to three things: he’s got a lower usage, he’s way better at blocking shots (a useless thing for him) and he turns the ball over less because he mostly plays as a spot up guy. Sadly, sucking a bit less won’t cut it, if you start from atrocious levels of basketball ugliness. Also, if anything Mike Miller looks to have exacerbated Knox’s problems. That said, Frank looked to have hit a very rough patch just as Miller took the helm, so maybe we should still wait a bit. Who knows.
– When you think about Pills’ resume, remember we’re paying 8 million dollars to a guy who played until now 312 minutes, shoots .320 from the field and .313 from three and doesn’t do anything else. Wayne Ellington is the new member of the renowned group of people that come to the Knicks to have their careers die in front of our eyes, just like old whales do on the beach.
– What’s with the insane Drummond trade talks? Drummond is good, but plays the same position of our best player. Are these guys really that stupid?
– I’m sorry that I can’t recap every single game this season. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t have with the losing record and mind-boggling roster at all. But that’s just a 10% of the reason. The amount of work doubled this year (don’t exactly know why), plus my work with a couple of associations and putting the finishing touches on my music related side project (next week three songs of mine will be at last distributed on Spotify and iTunes) just vacuumed a lot of energies. I hope to be more present from now until April. A few good trades would be a nice jolt for sure!
I’ll try to squeeze a recap Monday before going three days on family related matters in Sardinia. In the meantime, let’s give birth to a few more side-tangents threads in the comment section (and cross our fingers that we don’t really trade for Drummond).