Pre-Knicks 96, Pre-Celtics 80

Basketball!

To start, a semi-painful admission: it may be partially due to a three-month hibernation without watching more than the odd Summer League tilt, but for vast swathes of this game I was as confused as a lost, wet puppy in the rain staring at a street sign. (Yes, it was adorbs.) Whether it was all the new ‘Bockers, a totally different, rather intricate offensive system, a revamped (if conservative) defensive set or just a combination of all of these things, it felt like trying to re-learn AP Calculus after twenty years without running so much as a standard-brand differential equation.

I spent the idle summer day peering at YouTube clips that purported to break down the principles of the Triangle offense. (I did my homework, Teach. I super-swear!) But there are worlds of difference between learning the textbook, properly executed plays and counter-plays and counter-counter plays with the help of a patient, khaki-clad dude and being enough of an expert to sift through the muddled sets that sometimes occur as a result of the ‘Bockers remaining at the beginning of this steep learning curve.

I guess that makes this Recap Training Camp/Preseason as well! So please, pardon me if I miss a couple of the details from tonight’s contest, but I promise you, Knickerblogger’s chemistry is boffo, and I’m entering this blogging season in the best shape of my life. That weird whistling sound emanating from my thighs when I wear corduroy slacks is no more, and I don’t hack up a lung after a hearty jog to the corner to buy a pack of smokes and a jar of Nutella (as a well-deserved treat).

So where were we? Oh right. BiskitballlllllLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!1!

It’s also worth dumping the big ol’ caveat that tonight’s win means about as much as last Wednesday’s dreary drubbing, big picture-wise. Everyone’s #feels properly calibrated? Neither too high, nor too low, but just freakin’ right, right? Okay. Let’s dive into a lukewarm, properly-sized portion of oatmeal notes.

CARMELO ANTHONY
Really nice to see him remain patient in the post, making more than a few dandy passes into the paint when the double team came. He was an active defender, and whapped a couple of those oh-so-frightening windmill blocks, and was solid defensively. But enough about that, LADIES LIKE OFFENSE. (Read more in my five-part explainer, “Sportsball things and ladies” at Men’s Health Magazine).That up and under move that he unleashed a couple of times is so Paul Pierce-esque that it instinctively makes the vein above my right eyebrow throb uncontrollably, but it feels like a shiny new Craftsman in his toolbox. He’s obviously still figuring out how to shoehorn his game to an entirely new set of systemic constraints—and yes, it’s plumb weird not to see the Knicks’ dump him the ball as he flares to the free throw line as the opening play each and every single game—but It felt like he had as much space to operate tonight as any game in recent memory. Yay! Melo seems to agree, but the phrasing of this quote is… problematic.

While we’re here, STFU, Jim Boeheim. You wanna sell a few books? Fine. It took an entire team of investigative journalists from the New Yorker to unearth Dubya’s grades, and to date, no one has still been able to lay eyeballs on Obama’s marks. You know why? BECAUSE THAT ISH IS PRIVATE. Carmelo’s report card is not yours to hold up like some shiny prize to burnish your record, especially when the fine institution of higher learning that issues your w-2 forms still has a piss-poor graduation record when it comes to the Men’s Varsity. Seriously, Jimmy. Shut yer goddamn mouthhole or I’m cramming my own transcript down it till I scuff my watch on your tonsils. Thanks.

IMAN SHUMPERT
Right around last year at this very same time, I’m pretty sure I was tossing more or less the same bouquets that landed on top of Shump’s flattop just so. Which floral arrangements? These… looked very confident with the ball in his hands, did a nifty job creating off the bounce or after a handoff from the high post, and he even had a nice, explosive drive to the rim. Finishing, not so much, but as always, the team is just plumb different on the defensive end when he’s in the game. Have we heard this siren’s song before? Yes. Will we continue to warble a few bars of “Promise, potential” till it all comes a’ tumblin’ down? Yes, my darling. Yes, we shall….

JOSE CALDERON
You know, for a pass-first point guard, Jose’s got some serious swag. With a little more than five minutes remaining in the first, he just grabbed what the game by its (up until that point) sloppy collar and took over. He twice pump faked Brandon Bass into the Mohegan Sun slot machines before canning a twenty footer, and banged home a nice trey off of a busted transition feed from JR. I remember him repeatedly hitting frustratingly contested shots when he toiled in Toronto n’ Dallas, but I always chalked it up to New York’s execrable three point defense. If he can do even a passable job of staying in front of his man…

TIM HARDAWAY JR.
Bricked a couple of open outside jumpers, but the dribble penetration, both off of a deft feed from STAT in the high post and curling around a high post play off of ball reversal. He even dumped the ball off smartly down to Aldrich for an easy lay-in. Really. It happened. I swear! I don’t have photographic evidence, but… Hey. Get back here! Still, got absolutely torched to start the 2nd half by Marcus Thornton, but you can see the improvements that he’s made to his overall game.

QUINCY ACY
He’s a boundless ball of Blanka-like energy, and any and all “Anthony Bonner combined with Sacha Baron Cohen’s prop beard from The Dictator” are hereby approved, especially with regards to converting on the break. (Bonner, too, had a tendency to suddenly lose all fine motor control when streaking down the court. Now, kitties, gather ’round my side and I’ll tell you the tale of Eli Whitney and his wondrous cotton gin. ‘Twas the summer of…) If he can consistently make those wide open mid range jumpers, it’ll definitely help get him in the regular season rotation.

SAMUEL DALEMBERT
A perfectly reasonable stint from Sam (Can we call him “Sam?” This feels both utterly right and completely wrong.), a couple of nice weakside rotations to contest at the rim and capable board work..

JR SMITH
There’s a joke I made during the LVSL about Timmy Jr. thinking “The Triangle” was actually the tip of an arrow (a sanctified Native American arrowhead, natch) that was pointed at him. I’d like to formally request a stay of injunction for said witty gibe, your honor. As evidence, I offer the stretch in the 3rd Quarter when our man Earl just said, “Eff it. I’m shooting.” Even though he was hardly the only Gothamite to point a middle finger at Tex Winter’s magical mystery dance, during the stanza, his solo was the most egregiously out of rhythm. Granted, it worked. But still.

AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE
Oy Vey. Still totally lost defensively. Got shredded by both Bass and Sullinger, and was generally befuddled on both ends. ICE-ing the pick and roll is a nice change from Woody’s switch-tastic fahlderal, but STAT really doesn’t have the skillset to do it properly. He couldn’t do what Son of Wood wanted either, for what it’s worth. On offense, you can practically hear the gears whirring in his head as he checks off each box before making an abortive post move. Things will improve, but this was bad. Real bad. Speaking of which, Fisher really can’t go with Stoudemire at the five and THJ at the same time. They gave up 11 points in 3.5 mins to start the 2nd half, to the surprise of absolutely no one.

TRAVIS “WEAR BEAR” WEAR
They’ve got him listed at 6-10 230 and all I can think is that at least three of those inches and 30 pounds are shunted into the same alternate dimension that takes on Ant Man’s mass when he shrinks. Some nice hustle moments, but he’s the spitting image of James Waterston in Dead Poet’s Society. I move that we hereby christen him WEAR BEAR. Like Bulldog Hershiser, it’ll toughen up his rep. Wear Bear cares about scrappin’ and hustlin’ for loose balls n’ whatnot. Yeah, not much tougher, but I’m sticking with WEAR BEAR for the duration of his Knick career, i.e. the next decade.

WaterstonWare

SHANE LARKIN
Yeah, that’s about right. Very Pablo-like in his pesky, hands-y defense too. Hi Pablo. I miss you, Pablo. <3 Pablo

COLE TRAIN.
I agree. #FreeCole

MVP
This guy

ALMOST MVP
Clyde’s Suit game is STRONG

And that’ll do it. The defense was improved from Wednesday (I think. I missed that game. I know, shocking, right?) but the Celtics missed a lot of open looks from outside during the stretches when the Knicks pulled away. Granted, keeping a team from shredding them on the pick and roll counts as a major step forward. This is a gonna take time, but learning about these new bros is fun. Learning how to even watch this team play is fun. Sports is fun! More Monday. HOOPS.

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Robert Silverman

Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times and at ESPN, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.

29 thoughts to “Pre-Knicks 96, Pre-Celtics 80”

  1. Once I was a lonely voice crying out in the wilderness, but now even the Wall Street Journal is preaching the gospel of Cole.

  2. I’m not seeing what optimists are seeing in Travis Wear. He’s like Steve Novak without the 3-point shot. He’s smart and scrappy, but nowhere near an NBA-caliber player. Barring trades/injury, he has no chance of making this roster.

    The only thing that bothers me about Cole is that it seems like he is a very poor passer in the “triangle” sense. It’s too early to judge , and the bar isn’t very high on our team (we’ll get a look at Jason Smith in that role tomorrow, Dalembert is mediocre at passing and Bargnani is Bargnani) but that is definitely something that stood out negatively with Cole. On the other hand, Cole looked very good defensively and on the boards, his hands are deceptively quick when he reaches in. Overall, I’d say that Dalembert has outplayed Cole thus far but they make a good defensive combo at the 5.

    I hope Jason Smith can play the 4 in the big lineup so that Cole’s minutes don’t go to him.I’d like to see Fisher run out a Cole-Jason-Melo-Shump-Calderon lineup for vs. Toronto, or even JR and Shump in the backcourt.

  3. Durant’s out 6-8 weeks. I bet people who’ve taken the under on the Thunder’s season are feeling quite happy today.

  4. Things I liked:
    1. Actually seeing Shump’s confidence again and his getting penetration as opposed to looking lost on offense.
    2. Dalembert’s spry activity on defense.
    3. Melo looking like he’s starting to adjust to the triangle.
    4. Cole!!
    5. Calderon continuing to look like a natural in the triangle and showing that maybe he has a lot more to offer than we know
    6. TH2 continuing to look ready to take a leap

    Things I did not like:
    1. Acy looking discombobulated on offense combined with his shooting a bit too much.
    2. STAT’s disinterestedness. It was either that or he regressed from the previous game. Either way, it didn’t look good.
    3. JR breaking the offense. Again. It looked like he wanted to show he’s better than Shump. If he wants to show that, then defense is a good starting point. The team can really use a step up in effort and consistency in perimeter effort from him. If he can ever accept the fact that he is not the top option on offense, he will be a really really good 2nd option.

    Things I’m watching for:
    1. How Bargs and Jason Smith effect Cole’ playing time. I believe that with Dalembert’s activity on defense that Cole and STAT will probably be paired together a lot. And they probably should. If Jason Smith turns out to be a good revelation on defense, and can stay healthy, I see no need for Bargs. Until then, the Knicks REALLY need him to buy into the system and find his niche. I prefer him as a backup center at about 20-25 mpg, but that screws up the rotation in the sense that it diminishes Cole and likely pairs Bargs with either STAT or Jason Smith.
    2. Travis Wear is probably gonna make the team at Larkin or Outlaw’s expense. That makes me happy. Outlaw is just not a good fit and Larkin’s ball handling is shaky. I still have hope for Larkin though.
    3. How soon will Early crack the rotation? He looks really comfortable in the triangle.

  5. Durant’s out 6-8 weeks. I bet people who’ve taken the under on the Thunder’s season are feeling quite happy today.

    Ew

  6. Fish & Phil will not sacrifice wins for A mare and his ego. No offensive movement and a “defensive liability” is an understatement. AMARE.. try to take some charges, use up your fouls wisely, refrain from publicly complaining about playing time and make the most of your opportunities…..I’ll be your biggest fan.

  7. I know, flossy. He’s the most exciting player in the league right now. Sad he’s got no shot at the MVP because of this.

  8. I am little surprised that everyone expects Bargnani to be a bust this year. I remember when he was traded for, there was a lot of debate and the supporters basically said “if he’s used differently than he was in Toronto” he could be an asset. But then he was consistently used at the 5 position, he was hurt a lot and he was bad. But now it seems there is no thought of him playing the 5. Instead, he will play the 4, and be in system that actually uses his one above average skill, mid range jump shots. I think he has a chance to be effective. Does anyone else feel this way?

  9. Bargs looked exactly the same in the first game. Some decent offensive numbers but more than gave up it all on the defensive end. I actually had some hope for him because the Triangle does use the one thing he’s good at – midrange jumpers, but he looked exactly the same in the first preseason game.

  10. I was the standard bearer for the optimistic take on the Bargnani trade as a high risk, high reward move. However, all of the “if’s” linked to my optimistic take were exposed pretty early into the season.

    -He’s a much less efficient shooter than he appears to be, from all spots on the floor except maybe around the 15-foot range.
    -He’s a terrible decision-maker in the flow of the game.
    -He is a terrible stretch 4 and an even worse 5.
    -His team defense is the worst I’ve ever seen.
    -He’s a god-awful rebounder.

    The triangle can maybe make him slightly less bad in the regular season, but his terrible decision-making on both ends turns anything positive he does into fool’s gold. He just doesn’t think like an NBA player.

  11. I’n glad you’re hopeful. I don’t think the triangle will help his defense though, unfortunately, but one preseason game is a very small sample, there’s still time for him to get better (crossing my fingers as I write this)

  12. Bargs has been in the league a long time now. He’s never been good. He is what he is. He’s not going to be good. I’m actually fine playing him if we’re not trying to win this season. Best case we sucker someone into taking him, worst case we get a better draft pick.

  13. I’d like yo believe he can be helpful, but this blog is convincing me it’s very unlikely.

  14. I don’t want to hear the “Bargs can be good in a different role” argument. He can’t shoot the 3 to save his life– he’s at about 30% over his last three seasons spanning about 3200 minutes. He’s one of the worst team defenders you will ever see, and a pitiful rebounder for a PF/C. There is no “role” you can put him in where he will be a competent NBA player. There is no place in the league for a seven foot doofus with the basketball IQ of a newt who can’t shoot, defend or rebound. He is the rare bad player who looks awful in a box score, yet the box score does not even capture the full magnitude of the awfulness.

  15. @14 +1

    Agree 100%. Bargs will suck in any system because…… because…… He Sucks! Just a bad basketball player with a low motor and low hoops IQ. Let him sit all year

  16. I don’t see why the team can’t just release him, considering he’s in the last year of his deal. No sense in trading him unless we can get a second star in return. And I don’t see any stars that fit on teams looking to get cap space. So no reason to waste next year’s cap space unless it improves the team significantly. Maybe Phil should release him and guarantee Wear for a year. Or trade him to Philly for Richardson and next year’s 2nd rounder, waive Richardson and guarantee Wear for the season.

  17. I think that Bargnani could be a great scout team player, if he were trying to simulate an awkward 7-foot high school sophomore who had recently switched to basketball from competitive ping-pong.

    He could also be a great player for the Sixers’ tankapalooza. Imagine the PR spin: “But how could we be tanking? We’re playing a former #1 pick! And he’s so big, man!” I bet ruruland could write a great press release for that scenario.

  18. I thought Bargs could be a good player if he changed his role and were hidden by Tyson Chandler, and he probably could have. The thing about NBA players, though, is they don’t get to where they are without confidence in their ability. You can’t tell a man he sucks at what he does when he was drafted first overall, has been a starter forever, and has earned around 9 figures playing this game. Bargs is the worst at basketball, but there is no way to convince him of that. It’s the same reason why JR will never stop taking step back jumpers. It’s the same reason Russell Westbrook won’t stop “taking over” a game despite having Kevin Durant on his team. Basketball players have egos and the money they are paid just inflates the ego. Bargs will never be good at basketball, and a lot of NBA players will never improve at basketball, because they made it to the NBA and are convinced that they are already elite (which they are in terms of the rest of the world).

  19. Bargnani was half decent during the stretch of his career when he was more like a 36-37% 3 point shooter. He wasn’t good exactly, but he at least wasn’t one of the very worst players in the league on a per minute basis. But that 3-pointer appears to have left for good, and that leaves him clearly woefully lacking of an NBA skillset. He’s a big who’s bad at defense, doesn’t rebound, poor passer, can’t shoot the 3. I guess he has a pretty good handle for a bigman – that’s about the only positive thing you could say about him, and it’s a pretty much worthless skill. Even if Bargs had zero ego and could stay in his lane, what would his lane be? There are plenty of backup bigs out there who can shoot the 15-footer, defend a bit and rebound a bit. Bargs maybe shoots it slightly better from the midrange than a lot of those guys, but does literally everything else worse. I think the only way Bargs could be a good player at this point is if there’s some sort of situation where he gets bitten by a radioactive spider or maybe gets caught in a reactor meltdown. Something along those lines.

  20. Hoop data has league shot averages from 06-07 through 12-13. In 2012-13 10-15′ avg was 41.7 16-23′ 8.3. 11-12 was 38.3 and 38.1. 10-11 39.3 and 39.4 respectively. Bargs is 42.7 and 42.3 for his career. It is certainly above average but every year several teams will shoot above that. To my eyes it is nothing special. In fact, Amare is at 41.8 and 43.5 for his career. So I don’t think that his “skill” is particularly elite just not below average.

  21. Are there any Bargnani apologists left here? I just went on the Knicks subreddit and most people called him underrated. Then they talked about his FG% and how he should only be used as a PF, never a C. Underrated.

    UNDERRATED.

  22. So I figured I’d check in on what’s going on on Knickerblogger on a Monday morning after a preseason win and, surprise, it’s full of Bargnani bashing! What a refreshing change. I never saw that coming. So, it appears that this is the pattern —
    – Knicks lose, Bargnani plays — Bargnani’s sucktitude made the Knicks lose.
    – Knicks win, Bargnani plays — for once, they overcame Bargnani’s sucktitude.
    – Knicks win, Bargnani doesn’t play — see, they’d win all the time if they didn’t have to deal with Bargnani’s sucktitude.
    – Knicks lose, Bargnani doesn’t play — The Knicks suck. And they’re going to continue to suck because they gave up three (sic) draft picks for Bargnani’s sucktitude.
    Seriously, do you guys ever get tired of typing the same thing over and over again?

  23. Read post 8 Johnno. If it wasn’t for rehashing old arguments or random musing things would be pretty quiet.

  24. To respond to Post 8 more specifically I would say that I was someone who was moderately pro-Bargnani at the time of the trade because I thought he had the potential to be a slightly improved version of Novak if he could rediscover his 3 point touch. Obviously he would be bad on defense, and a poor rebounder, but Novak was bad at those things also, so we wouldn’t give up much on that end and he (in theory) has a slightly more diverse offensive game than Novak.

    The problem is that he reenforced last year that his 3-point shot is gone (29% last 3 years) which means that there really is no “using him differently than he was in Toronto” because he doesn’t have the skillset for it. He can’t be a Novak or Copeland type where his weaknesses on the defensive end are at least partially compensated for by the fact that he presents serious match-up issues on the other end. Bargs can’t do that because his skillset offensively has shrunk to where it’s pretty much the skillset of a standard 4, except that he shoots shots he can’t make (namely the 3) more often than most.

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