Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the tank.
Guys, this was such an amazing display of tanking prowess that I’m so proud of our guys. I mean, it was a bit too much on the nose at first. Lance Thomas as your first substitute? After he didn’t play for like a bazillion games? And after he’s Lance Thomas? But it didn’t look like it was enough. After all, these Suns had the worst record in the league prior to this game. We had to do better than that to tank effectively. And we did. We did. We come away from this game with a loss, and it was such a concerted non-effort that it’s becoming evident that this team is gelling. You can’t pull this loss without a collective focus.
Seriously: this is a bit depressing. Not the loss per se, which is (as we all – cough – know) good, but the watching experience is really marred by the multiple injuries to our youngsters. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the only thing that’s worth watching this year is how the first- and second-year players behave, to see who’s a keeper and who’s not. Well, without Mitch, Zo and Dotson, we are a tad short in the excitement department. Knox is getting a biiit better, but it’s hard to bother getting warmed up for two guys who combine for 9 makes on 27 attempts in 67 minutes of play. You know well that I’m a Frank believer, but these should be the games you’re supposed to shine in. It’s hard to lose like this, apart from dreaming about ping-pong balls. I wished for a quality loss, I got the loss, I guess quality is for another time.
– I hope some GM is watching. Emmanuel Mudiay (32 pts, 6 rebs, 6 ast, -8 +/-) stuffed the stat sheet in many ways while scoring efficiently (32 pts on 21 shots). Perry should put this game* in an envelope and send it to everyone in the league, hoping someone bites. I know, I know. Emmanuel is improving – he really is. But does anyone really envision December Mud being the butterfly emerging out of the stinking cocoon that were his first three years in the League? 20/6/3.5 in 32 minutes on 48/37/84 (his December raw stats) are borderline all-star numbers in a vacuum. His defense is still non-existent, but everything is apparently in place to fool someone into thinking this is the starting point guard they need right now. I hope them fools aren’t us. That said, if you didn’t know any better it would be easy to root for this guy. He’s exuding confidence, getting to his spots, and passing the ball better, as in “making accurate passes”.
* without any mention about his three-point shooting form. This time one of his makes was described by Breen as “a deep floater… (two second pause to check the boxscore in silent bewilderment)… it was for three!”. I can assure it wasn’t pretty in any way.
– We have a new aficionado of this portion of the recap. Trey Burke (4 pts, 2 rebs, 2 ast, -2 +/-) is playing like the version of Trey Burke that got kicked out of the League before last season. After his breakout (or swan’s song?) performance against Boston, he never shot better than 25% from the field in any of the subsequent six games he’s played. To be fair, he just got back from an injury. Also to be fair, four of those games were before the injury. His TS% has gone south of .500 and his WS/48 of 0.50 is mediocre (edit: his actual WS/48 is 0.050. I didn’t type a zero). Tonight was another display of ill-thought chucking from midrange. He’s also not being functional at all, in any lineup where he’s called to play. It’s interesting, however, that he’s a better defender than Mudiay, at least in terms of defensive positioning.
– Frank Ntilikina (9 pts, 3 reb, 1 ast, -17 +/-) started with a bang, hitting a goofy running hook shot and his first two three-points attempts. After that, his game was a mess. Booker got the best of him, because even if Frank was able to stay in front of him in most cases Devin just found the right angles to ignore the defensive coverage. Playing with another ball-dominant player shuts down his confidence right after the first missed attempt. You can almost guess his thoughts while he dribbles the ball: “Should I shoot here? Maybe I won’t see the ball for another two minutes… maybe I should drive right… I got it! I’ll call a screener! But no, wait, I’ll probe a little the defense and pull up from the stripe! Or I can try and shoot a three, I was good at math, and 3>2… ok, no, I don’t know what to do, if I miss coach will be angry. I’ll just pass the ball to my right. Next time I will shoot no matter what!”. And sometimes he shoots no matter what, and his body isn’t ready. There was a sequence in the third quarter, with the game tied at 77, where he shot a midrange jumper, missed long, Vonleh got the board, passed to ball again to a wide open Frank in the high post, Frank thought too much and shot short. His shooting form is not consistent and the release looks weak. The guy’s playing scared again, and I hate it.
– Noah Vonleh (3 pts, 7 rebs, 1 ast, -18 +/-) looks like he’s probably running on fumes, which scares me a bit. You know I’ve been pretty vocal about his usefulness to the team, but what if he can’t sustain his production because of simply lacking stamina. He’s been notably much less adaptable on the court in the last two games, and his head is not there on the offensive end. I’d tell myself not to worry about him, but if he plays again a bad game on Wednesday I’ll start thinking that maybe he can’t be good Vonleh for more than 30 games. Who knows? I’m just panicking a bit that the only bright spot outside of our cost controlled assets is slipping a lot. I don’t know how he tallied a game-low -18 in exactly 18 minutes while Kevin Knox, who was good in the first but then vanished only has -2. Noah, get back soon. …well, now, thinking about it, this was exactly the right game for his to stink the bed. Is this tanking Vonleh?
– No THJ tonight! I didn’t miss him one iota. He’s become our next Melo, in that we’re counting the days until his contract his over while someone swoons over his 20+ ppg on .520 TS%.
– Courtney Lee was passable (12 pts, 4 reb, 5-8 from the field). It’s trade season, we need more from him to try and trade him.
– Kevin Knox is finding his footing. I liked the aggressiveness he used to corral an offensive rebound to put the ball back into the basket in the first quarter. I need to see him display that kind of motor day in and day out to feel like we didn’t completely struck out with his selection. Until then, I’ll try hard not to puke browsing his B-R page.
– Mario with the most useless 14 points ever. Anyway, we didn’t have much at stake by that point, so it’s okay if he plays a bit.
– Enes Kanter with another double-double without effort. Not “an effortless double-double”. A double double where he didn’t put effort into the game. The man breathes, eats and drinks double-doubles, but in the end it never works. His defense and mono-dimensional offense negate whatever contribution he makes to this team. I don’t doubt he has the ability to impact a few specific playoff games. As a player on a bad team, as a starter on a bad team, he’s completely pointless. On a (not) funny sidenote, he had the only block for the night among Knicks. Mitch, where art thou?
– Luke Kornet was out of sorts tonight. He never shot inside the arc and wasn’t a big defensive improvement on Enes, which says a lot.
– Lance Thomas with his usual useless night: just five boards and nothing else in 21 minutes. I’ve never seen such a black hole for stats before, not counting Jason Collins. His negative WS/48 is still better than Knox’s or Frank’s.
And now to Wednesday, where we’ll get crushed by the Sixers in atrocious fashion. Ping-pong balls are our new gods.