Now That Was More Like It…

If only every game could be like this past one, where the Knicks were clicking on both offense AND defense, and just dismantled the Washington Wizards, 102-82.

Outside of the sparkling play of David Lee (which we have come to expect), Renaldo Balkman was the clear story, scoring 18 points to go along with seven boards (FIVE of them offensive) and two blocks, in just 21 minutes of playing time. Lee’s 10 points and 15 bounds took place in 27 minutes of play. Talk about maximizing your minutes!

Meanwhile, the Knicks hounded Gilbert Arenas into a terrible shooting night.

Marbury had a decent game, and Q-Rich has officially, in my mind, gone into “I am not surprised that he had a good game” territory – which I never thought I’d say at the beginning of the season.

The Knicks won by twenty, and that was WITH a ridiculous third quarter where the Knicks fouled with reckless abandon! Without all the fouling, this game wouldn’t have been as close as it was!

Still, all in all, this was a solid win (and good to get one at home, eh?), and if Balkman can even remotely duplicate his performance tonight in future games – wow, that would dramatically change the Knicks’ fortunes, wouldn’t it?

KnickerBlogger’s take:

I’m really proud of how the non-Frye sophomores have developed. The other night against Cleveland, Nate Robinson had maybe the best drive & dish I’ve seen in a Knick uniform all year. Damon Jones was taking away Nate’s right hand, so Nate went left and sped into the paint. The moment the rest of the Cavs defense collapsed in on him, Robinson stopped in the paint on a dime, and gave a crisp bounce pass to the cutting Knick forward for the easy 2. The Knick forward was, of course, Lee.

Last night the Wizards got almost no contribution from their bench, while the Knicks bench outplayed their starters (again). It was nice to see that 3 of the Knicks’ best 4 players were Lee, Balkman, & Nate. Lee & Balkman were all over the boards. Granted the pair will not dominate like that every night, because Washington is one of the poorer rebounding teams. New York had a 36% to 23% offensive rebounding advantage. Lee & Balkman combined for 10 of 16 of the Knick offensive rebounds.

David Lee played 28 minutes yesterday, which is respectable for a bench player, but at this point his production is just screaming for more than the 23.9 min/g he’s averaging. He’s by far New York’s best frontcourt player this year, and it’s in the Knicks’ best interest to have him on the court as much as possible. The same could be said of Nate Robinson. Although Nate is a bit on the wrong side of the assist/turnover ratio for a point guard, he is shooting lights out (57.5% eFG% & 61.2% TS%) and is a fine rebounder for a guard (4.1 REB/40 with 1.8 OREB/40). Statistically Robinson has been better than Marbury, Francis, or Crawford.

Although there is value on having strong bench players, there comes a time that having your better players on the bench cuts into their minutes. And ultimately it’s simple mathematics: the guys on the court more have more of an effect on the team’s performance. Maybe my last column calling for the benching of both Curry & Frye was a bit early because of the politics involved. Isiah is trying to be a players coach, and it’s hard to be an optimist when you’re benching guys early in the season. However if anyone will bust into the starting lineup (without a major injury) it’s sure to be David Lee. It’s just a matter of time.

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30 thoughts to “Now That Was More Like It…”

  1. Balkman probably won’t score this well very often, but his defense and rebounding are pretty dependable. If he does learn to be even an average scorer, he’ll be a special player for years to come.

  2. Obviously, kudos to Isiah for drafting those guys. Lee, Nate, Balkman… those are Mr. Intagibles…. At least Frye can fill other stats categories when his shot just doesn’t fall (blocking shot & steal)

    Quentin will be our consistent scorer there since Allan Houston was our last one. Plus, Q-Rich is excels on the ‘D’.

  3. what has been interesting in the two games i’ve seen where balkman has gotten decent run has been the improvement on his jumper.

    ira, balkman almost assuredly won’t be scoring like this often. last year at s. carolina he put 4 or fewer points in roughly a quarter of his games–going scoreless in several.

    having said that, the form on his jumper actually looks reasonable, like it’s been reconstructed. he’s also not hesitating on the shot. i don’t even know if he attempted a 3 point shot last season. you know the defensive effort and rebounding are going to be there every night but if he can shoot well enough not to be a liability this team is going to have some sweet frontcourt depth.

    the impressive thing to me about lee is his feel for where the seam is in the defense; like a wide receiver finding the hole in the zone. then he gets the ball up to the rim so quickly. a “quick release” isn’t something you find yourself talking about in basketball very often but lee doesn’t give the defender a chance really.

    this second unit is beginning to remind me of sacramento’s old “bomb squad” with bobby jackson, lawrence funderburk, et al.

  4. Yeah, Balkman’s jumper (and three) is a really surprising and encouraging development. If he can get together just one reliable 15-20 footer jumpshot that players can pass out of a double team to he could easily be a more energetic, more athletic Udonis Haslem.

  5. someone on another thread suggested the Knicks acquire Kenyon Martin and/or D-Miles now that they’re injured for one of our max contracts and upcoming picks, rookies, etc….any thoughts?

  6. The Knicks have so many “offense-only” players that I don’t mind a couple “defensse-only” players. If Balkman is able to get offensive rebounds, that adds to his offensive ability. And if Balkman can occasional come up with a few double digit scoring games, that’s just gravy.

    That said he does foul a heck of a lot. You expect that from a rookie that plays physical defense as he learns what works in the NBA, and still hasn’t gotten respect from the refs. I thought he had a nice steal the other day that the refs called a foul on. He looked surprised that a foul was called, but not that he wasn’t guilty of it. With a better reputation he might get away with that call.

    Although with this team, I’d rather a player be aggressive and get a few fouls on defense, then by passive and stay on the court.

  7. That game felt so good. It being against Washington felt better. The Wizards just killed us last year. At least frye is starting to show signs of life. Lee and Robinson just bring great energy off the bench. This was a great win, now we need to string a few together.

  8. K-Mart’s contract is even worse than Francis’ contract. K-Mart is signed through ’09-’10 and I believe he has some kind of option for ’10-’11. If he doesn’t recover fully, you’ll be eating that contract for four more years. Factor in that K-Mart is not a “skills” player — he’s a dynamic, enrgetic, hustling monster. He will be nothing if he can’t run and jump the way he did before the injury.

    HUGE risk. Just say no to more bad contracts.

  9. Brian,

    You know K-Mart is out for the year, right? Anyhoo, in watching this game, I was actually reminded of the ’82-’83 Knicks (Yeah I was 10 then). In a pique of nostalgia, I dug my Rubik’s cube out of storage, and thought about that year’s bench (“The Not-Ready-For-Prime Time Players” was their nickname [back when SNL was still vaguely a part of the cultural zeitgest]). Sly Williams, Marvin Webster, Ernie Grunfeld,& Louis Orr would come in, play full-court press (Oh Hubie loved them 10 man rotations) and fast break the other team to death, often outplaying the starters — Truck Robinson, Bill Cartwright, Rory Sparrow, and Paul Westphal (not Bernard King of course).

    My point is,even though Messrs. Lee, Robinson, and Balkman are clearly outplaying Franchise, Starbury, Frye, and Curry, having a 2nd unit that can be deployed en masse (like a great bullpen in MLB) can be a huge weapon if properly utilized (and the Jury’s still out on that one w/r/t Grand Poobah Zeke). both in the 2nd and fourth quarters, the aforementioned trio came in at about the same time and built a 2-4 point lead into double digits, crashing the boards, playing D, and outhustling the Wizards. If you can figure out how to get a solid halfcourt offense out of the starters, you’ve got a team that can play different syles of ball and is a LOT tougher to scout/defend. Granted, it’s one game against the Wizards, but perhaps an actual identity is starting to form for this team…

  10. Amen to that Count Zero. Getting K-marts contract now would be a killer. Not to mention Francis has very little trade value right now.

  11. Count Zero,
    Wouldn’t he be forced to retire if it was decided by doctors he couldn’t play anymore and his salary would then come off the books?

    Thats a smart move to consider because it eliminates the logjam in the backcourt and gets us picks, cap space etc…how about D-miles for Marbury as well?

  12. My point, Ken, is that I think Francis would be addition by subtraction.

    And at the moment, I don’t think there’s a market for him at ALL, so I’d be willing to take an injured K-Mart for him.

    So if we could trade HIS last few years (he has a player option in 08, but he’d be a moron to take it, so it’s probably going to be 2010) for Martin’s last few years (his ends in 2011), then I’d do it, if only because

    A. Losing Francis I think would HELP the club (even though he hasn’t played insanely bad – he just doesn’t fit in)


    B. Martin can’t be any harder to dump than Francis, and he has a MUCH bigger upside the upcoming seasons than Francis does.

    I would take all this back, though, if anyone thinks the Knicks could trade Francis for anything else.

  13. I still think Francis can contribute. He played well the first few games until he hurt his ankle. I think it’s to soon to dump him for someone who won’t play this year. Besides if you really think he hurts the team on the court then just bench him. But the last thing we need is more payroll. Martin is going to untradeable now that he has hurt the knee again. He whole game is built on speed and hustle. It’s not like he’s Webber and can depend on his jumper.

  14. But you really cannot bench Francis. It just wouldn’t work. He’d never accept it. So then you’d be at cutting him – which I’m not necessarily AGAINST, I’d just rather get something for him than nothing, and I think K-Mart is something of value, even with his knee problems.

  15. You’re right he would be a problem in the locker room if you benched him. If you unload him I think it has to be for a contract that is equal or has less years.

  16. I think K-Mart’s “potential” coming off tw straight years of injury problems with both knees, is Antonio McDyess redux. Considering that his contract is longer than Francis’s, it doesn’t make a ton of sense. Even if K-Mart was healthy, do you really want to take away minutes from Frye and Lee?

    If you want to move Francis, wait until Miami starts getting desperate, get Riley out of the tanning salon/plastic surgeon’s office and offer Francis (or Steph) for Posey, Kapono, and (injured & hasiams. Isn’t that a reasonable trade? See if you can get Miami to throw in their mid-late 1st rounde 1 more year after this on his contract) Jason Willr if possible. Some contender will bite at the all-star deadline w/a better offer than K-Mart.

  17. sorry about that…the 2nd above paragraph should read:

    If you want to move Francis, wait until Miami starts getting desperate, get Riley out of the tanning salon/plastic surgeon?s office and offer Francis (or Steph) for Posey, Kapono, and (injured & has 1 more year after this on his contract) Jason Williams. Isn?t that a reasonable trade? See if you can get Miami to throw in their mid-late 1st rounder if possible. Some contender will bite at the all-star deadline w/a better offer than K-Mart.

  18. Anyone suggesting Francis for K Mart is smoking crack. Why take on a longer contract for a player who might well retire within the next year and still be on the salary cap while contirbuting nothing? Francis, or especially Marbury, may spur a much better offer as the year goes on, especially if one of them starts fitting into the offense better. Give it time. Pulling the trigger on a ridiculous trade to add a player who is not only an injury disaster in recent years but a notorious locker room cancer is nothing short of insanity and would be probably the worst move of Zeke’s career.

  19. This was the first game I’ve seen this year and I was very happy to see the team win and preform well. I’ve beeen a long time Knick fan, back to the Championship days. The 2nd year players looked great, a lot of energy and hustle. The starters played well and were very aggressive.

    Now here comes the but, Where the hell is the defense. What happened to the days when the Knicks had a no lay-up policy. The matador defense by the guards exposes the front courts inability to play help defense. I’m a big Eddie Curry fan, but he looked like he didn’t know he was at a basketball game as a player, not a spectator. With Herb Williams as a assisstant shouldn’t he be working with him on defense. On one play I saw David Lee who was fighting for a rebound tell Curry to get out of the way.

    But, Eddie is a viable option on offense, but can someone please FEED THE POST before the set their defense. Against the Wizards bigmen I expected to see the headline ” Curry sets new Knick single game scoring record “. I know that’s wasn’t going to happen even if we feed the post, but I think you get the point. We need to make teams rethink drive the lane, Curry kinda steps to the side and escorts them to the basket.

    But, for my first viewed game of the year, it was great and can’t wait to see more wins.

  20. Even when they get Curry the ball in good position, he lowers his shoulder and gets an offense foul. The problem is Curry not the guards. He is lazy in the post, most of the time he does not try to get good position. If Isiah makes one move it should be to bench Curry. He’s bringing NOTHING to the table.

  21. Now while a HEALTHY KENYON MARTIN would probably fit nicely next to Curry or Frye at Center,he’s definitely a HUGE RISK.Francis will probably have more value at the ALL-STAR break than now.Bsides,Denver needs shooters,not scorers.If any one would want Francis or Marbury for that matter, I would think it would be some team that needs a PG/Scorer.Can’t think of a team right now but, by the deadline something might happen.But,for now,like the Blogger says “Now that’s more like it”!! Finally a scrappy team effort on both sides of the court.If this trend in increased intensity continues,this season might be an improvement after all.While this team is talented,it needs the scrappy intensity it played with last night consistently to win this season. I know it was just 1 night but,it really encouraging to see them put this type of game together.KEEP UP THE INTENSITY KNICKS,PLEASE!!!!

  22. Yea but what if they come back slower than penny hardaway, and pretend they can still play the same way penny did for so many years. I think we look to trade the contracts but eat them if theres no way to get a shorter deal. Yea thats right New York fans, be a little patient.

  23. Dan,
    To deal for an injury plagued guy who probably will be forced to retire has its upside if you can get back enough to cover the risk, ie. draft picks, cap space…best case scenario and most likely is he can never play another day and his insurance absorbs the brunt of the contract; worst case is we get lottery picks/first rounders, create room in a logjammed backcourt and take on another year of salary for a healthy Kenyon…its rolling the dice but it ain’t smoking crack!

  24. I don’t think Dolan will allow any deals that will add to the payroll long term even if it is only one year. I believe waiving Rose was a sign that if Isiah fails, he would want his successor to not be in any worse situation as far as the Knicks’ contract situation goes. At least I hope that is the reason.

    I just noticed this but looking at Balkman’s stat line and physique could it be possible that we basically have Travis Outlaw v2.0? Hell they’re even the same age. AFAIK, I believe Outlaw plays more above the rim than Balk and I know we’re barely ten games in but the similarities are pretty uncanny. I’m still trying to decide if this is a good or bad thing.

  25. Mase,
    Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t we have five players who either rookies or sophs as well as Curry who’s 23? Is stockpiling draft picks while taking on a massive contract that kills our salary cap future even more really worth it when we barely have enough minutes to develop our guys as is? Insurance absorbing K-Mart’s contract matters little to me – it was always Dolan that was going to have to pay for it anyway, not you and me (except in ticket prices, which are always high in MSG anyway). Houston’s contract is STILL on the salary cap as were such Knick greats as Luc Longley and Shandon Anderson until recently. It doesn’t matter whether they’re playing or if insurance pays or not.

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