Miami Heat 106 – New York Knicks 97 – Game Recap

“And I — my head oppressed by horror — said:
“Master, what is it that I hear? Who are
those people so defeated by their pain?”
      And he to me: “This miserable way
is taken by the sorry souls of those
who lived without disgrace and without praise.
      They now commingle with the coward angels,
the company of those who were not rebels
nor faithful to their God, but stood apart.
      The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened,
have cast them out, nor will deep Hell receive them —
even the wicked cannot glory in them.” 

I just spent more than 10 minutes searching through the Internet for quotes about mediocrity, because that’s what we’re witnessing night after night, when I stumbled upon that perfect gem coming from Dante Alighieri himself (more specifically, from Inferno, Canto III). He’s talking to Virgil about the cries coming from around the City of Dis, which encompasses the circles ninth through sixth of Hell. These guys, these poor souls, are the ones who were sinners but not in a bad enough way to consent the high devils to rejoice in them, for the lower circles of Hell (where the upper echelon of devilish spawn resides) are far from there, and due to the structure of Hell itself those guys can’t ever go anywhere but there.

Why did I get entangled in the (world wide) web trying to find a scathing quote about mediocrity, you might ask. Well, you know, after last game against Brooklyn I caught myself thinking about the fact that I might have been a bit too harsh on the coaching staff, and wondered why. The answer, my friends, is not blowing in the wind, but in the fact that it’s very, very hard to endure this endless suckitude without the comfort of knowing that someone, somewhere, knows what he’s doing. This is my – give or take – 45th recap of the season, and while I always watched all Knicks games since 2011, there’s a strange malady seeping in when you realize that you’re supposed to be able to write about basketball and there’s not really much to be said… and there are still 34 games to go. You find yourself willing to blame someone for this abominable spectacle, because if it’s true that the team as currenltly built is worse than terrible, at least a fan should be supposed to find silver linings here and there. When you see pretty much only disparaging scenarios thanks to a multitude of factors, it’s only fair to lose hope in who’s behind the wheel. Appropriately, the warning sign above the entrance to Dis goes like this: “Per me si va ne la città dolente/Per me si va ne l’etterno dolore/[…]Lasciate ogni speranza o voi ch’entrate“, which means, quite literally, “From now on you’ll only see pain, leave any hope behind”.

That’s what I advise for anybody who’s willing to endure those aforementioned 34 games left.

What’s strange is that this game was never a blowout, and we had a good chance to win it (tied at 90 with just 4 minutes to play). It’s not the outcome that was a problem here: it was the general play of the team. There were long stretches, after Frank got out with a groin strain, where it was hard to find anyone who you could root for in orange and blue. Figure this: Burke-Hardaway-Knox-Thomas-Vonleh, on a rare Vonleh off-night. Who do you root for? Who do you care for? I kid you not, Mario was the third most rootable guy for us tonight (Mitch first, your sucker of choice between Trier, Frank and Dot second – I choose Trier -, and then Mario). At the same time, it was impossible to root for them to fail any worse than they already do: they’re bad as it is, what good comes from beating a dead horse? So, yeah. Utter mediocrity.

The good:

– I was thinking that maybe… Nah, next question.

The passable:

– If not for an alarming tendency to pass the ball while already jumping in the air, Damyean Dotson (14 pts, 1 reb, 4 ast, +6 +/-) would have been in the good section and maybe the hero of the night. He was the only one that visibly didn’t give up when the Knicks went down by eleven with nine minutes to go in the fourth. His effort was goodish, as was the willingness to take (and make) a few shots in the period. He just didn’t do anything really heroic, missing three free throws in the same span and turning the ball over with just 2:20 to go and the Knicks down four, giving Wayne Ellington a free lane to the basket. From there, Miami never relinquished the lead and Ellington proceeded to hit two very difficult threes, as if he had been awoken by that mistake. I also don’t know what’s happened to the good rebounding Dotson. Last year, he gobbled 17.5% of available defensive boards. This year he’s down to 12.8%. Over the course of 36 minutes, it’s a difference of 1.3 boards. It might see negligible, but if Dot’s not a good rebounder (right now he’s in the 65th percentile of guards and wings) his contribution on the court shrinks a lot.

– I feel a bit sick, but maybe I have to insert Tim Hardaway Jr. (22 pts, 6 rebs, 5 ast, -14 +/-) here. Apart from his usual putrid plus/minus, where every starter is at fault save for the poor Frank, he at least stuffed a bit his box score and I have to commend him for the boards and assists. He also came through a bit in the fourth, when he hit the three that tied the game at 90. Other than that… I don’t exactly know what to say about him, these days every THJ game goes by in a cloud of whateverness, unless he’s really bad. A very nice idea to give 17 million dollars to a quintessential sixth man from the early aughts.

The bad:

– Ouch. If I told you that we traded right now Kevin Knox (4 pts, 2 rebs, 33.3% FG, -15 +/-) for a couple of second rounders, would you really be that upset? I mean, I would surely be because it’s crazy to sell so low on half a season from your lottery pick, but his production has nosedived in January, Sixers game notwithstanding. For this month, he’s averaging 12/4/0.8 on 36/28/77 splits, 0.5 AST/TO ratio, 46% TS, 87 ORtg and 117 DRtg. That’s simply a woeful player. There’s something really off with him in the last weeks. Maybe he could use a bit of rest.

Fun-sized bits:

– I love the fact that we’re starting Lance Thomas. It’s like we’re going to war with a water gun but, just to be sure not to harm anyone in any way, we never fill the reservoir.

– Some nights, not even Vonleh gives a damn about playing. These was one of them. Hassan Whiteside is not an easy customer, but Vonleh was routinely overpowered and left looking like a small child. Also, while he has showed that he can hit the three here and there, I’m not that fine with him beginning almost every game taking at least two threes in the first four minutes. He’s open, it’s ok that he shoots. But when he doesn’t hit at least one his game spirals out of control, and I don’t like that.

– 24 minutes for Mitch, and he kinda delivered. Six points, seven boards, a lone assist, three steals, two blocks. If only we had someone who knows how to pass the damn ball. Fun fact: Mitch has a higher AST% than Knox.

– Trier got another double-digit scoring game, but was again subdued. His defense is suspect, but I like the fact that he seems to have developed a bit of chemistry with Mitch. He’s also horrible at playing point guard, but we already knew that.

– Burke played again and scored again, but 16 points on 16 shots are not a good thing. When I look at our PG rotation I feel like when I was 18 and opened a Magic: The Gathering pack only to find just lousy cards that I felt compelled to add to my deck to justify my purchase. Those cards were usually the ones who drove me to embarrassing losses.

– Frank can’t catch a break. For the second time in a row he was playing quite an average game, and could just play 16 minutes. This time it was an injury who robbed us of the chance to see what he can do as a starting PG. 6 points, 2 boards, 4 assists and a steal in 16 minutes aren’t that bad, as his positive plus/minus seems to indicate.

– Mario was energetic and gave us a few highlights for the night (most notably being on the passing and receiving end of two separate alley-oops). I feel like he’d be perfect in the All-Star Game, since he plays with passion only when everyone else is paying pretty much zero attention to what’s at stake in a game.

– Since I am clearly a masochist, I also watched the last quarter of Bulls-Cavs. When I saw the lineups chosen to finish the game by both coaches, I thanked whoever is governing our fate for having at least Trier and Robinson. The Cavs were trotting out Dellavedova-Burks-Hood-Osman-Zizic. The Bulls: Dunn-LaVine-Selden-Markkanen-Lopez. Us: Trier-THJ-Dotson-Mario-Mitch. Advantage: Knicks.

See you on Wednesday to rehash our Willy Hernangomez takes!

New York Knicks 87 – Miami Heat 110 – Game Recap

Last Tuesday, I wrote I sensed a win in Miami. Boy, was I wrong! Tonight’s game delivered us our first stinkfest ot the season (and it certainly will not be the last), and there were stretches when it was really hard to keep watching. At least we can take solace in the fourth loss (and get annoyed at the thought that it’s so Knicksy to nail a rebulding/tanking plan in the first season of flattened lottery odds). And finally, some playing time for Mitch!

The adequate (nobody was good tonight):

– Damyean Dotson (20 pts, 10 rebs, 2 ast, -5 +/-) was the lone bright spot tonight. Efficient shooting, even when the game was still on the line, good rebounding effort, average defense. I liked the fact that he was the first one from the bench to enter the game and I especially liked the fact that he got in for Trey Burke, therefore handing over the keys to Frank. The only real basketball issue I have with Dot is that he’s kind of a black hole. If you hand him the rock, chances are he’s gonna shoot. Still, over three games he’s posting a very healthy .185 WS/48.

The meh

– Frank Ntilikina (9 pts, 3 rebs, 5 ast, -9 +/-) had a quiet, but not discouraging game, with a few comforting moments. For one, the offense ran better through him, as he’s clearly our best initiator/passing guard. He drilled a couple threes, and for once had a clear path to the rim and slammed the ball down (even if that was on Miami’s lack of defensive communication and not on his offensive prowess). His defense was quite good, but he has to stop fouling guys who are either not doing anything or have already scored – his foul on Whiteside in the third was egregious, as Frank was not able to keep his momentum in check and fell on the Heat big man after he already scored, handing him a free trip to the line. The problem with Frank is always the same: he’s not hungry for his points. I found myself asking “How many times do we have to listen to Clyde saying Frank should look at the hoop from inside the paint before we give up hope?”; my answer is “a bazillion times”, but really, if he’s not able to fix that his value will keep on being marginal at best. If I had to peg him in a role now, it would be a 15 mpg guy off the bench who handles the best perimeter scorer in the other team. We need him to be much more than that, and he’s so young I feel morally obliged to believe in him.

– Noah Vonleh (6 pts, 9 rebs, 1 stl, -3 +/-) is being consistent in his back up. energizing big man role. He wasn’t good tonight, but his effort alone grants him a mention here. It’s not much, but it’s the best I can do for this game. Actually, he could have ended up in the adequate section, if not for a couple ill-advised shots. For a partially guaranteed contract, he’s really giving a cool return value to the team. He’s earning his minutes out there, and I feel like Fiz is handling him well.

The bad:

– Trey Burke (3 pts, 4 ast, 10% FG, -12 +/-) played one of the worst games I have ever seen a guy play without any explicable reason (like, say, being guarded by prime Scottie Pippen). I’m starting to convince myself that he might be the second main culprit in our starting lineup futility, the first being of course Lance Thomas. He’s not making the offense click, and as soon as his shot is not falling he becomes a clear minus for the team. The first quarter ended with the Knicks grabbing an 11 points lead, but when he exited the game and Frank took on the PG mantle the Knicks were losing 5-7 with 6:16 to go. So the first quarter partial without Trey was 22-9. He was again on the floor for the first minutes of the third quarter, when the Knicks got crushed by Miami offering up zero resistance to the Heat dominance. A bad performance for Trey, and maybe a wake up call for Fiz to try different things with the starting lineup.

– Enes Kanter (8 pts, 5 rebs, 3 ast, -24 +/-) was uncharacteristically rudderless. He looked tired, deflated, defeated throughout the game. He made Whiteside look like the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain, and while nobody was expecting for Enes to match Hassan’s athleticism, at least we hoped that he would outhustle the notoriously inconsistent Heat center. Tonight, that was not the case. I don’t remember the last time Kanter provided so little in terms of everything. Let’s just hope it’s not a trend, since the early symptoms were already showing in Milwaukee.

– Mario Hezonja (13 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, -3 +/-) went back to bad Mario in this game. He started pretty fine, hitting a couple threes in the first stanza. Apart from that, I’m not sure I saw him bend his legs even once. He looked like those passive-aggressive partners that takes out for dinner after you scold them for not caring about you enough to wine and dine, and then proceed to order half the menu just to throw in your face that they can do those things, it’s you that don’t care about their potential. Just as they will end up throwing away a lot of uneaten food, Mario threw away many shots so carelessly that it seemed he didn’t even want them to tickle the twine. His shooting line for the night: 4/15 from the field, 2/8 from three in 22 minutes. I hoped Milwaukee could be a turning point in his season; I can tell you it won’t be. I fear Mario will be back playing in Europe before 2021 rolls around.

Fun-sized bits (not so fun tonight):

– Tim Hardaway Jr played his usual mediocre game, tallying 14 points on 40% shooting and posting a -21 plus/minus. It’s the second time in a row that he post a -20 or worst plus/minus. I don’t care very much about plus/minus in itself, as it’s incredibly noisy, but I think we’re onto something here. Here’s his NetRtg trend: 22.9, 1.1, -3.8, -32.3, -42.0. If accountability is what Fiz’s aiming for, Tim should be in for some adjustments.

– Lance pulled down 6 rebounds and scored 6 points, and did absolutely nothing else. I feel this has to be the moment when I recall the “He’s gonna be our Draymond Green” Fizdale quote and I urge you to question the sanity of coach Fiz. Also, given the commendable rebounding prowess of Dotson, why are not giving Dot the chance to start at PF?

– Then again, I remember Fiz also said “Emmanuel, we gonna fix you!” to Mudiay, and fix him they did: if he’s not playing he’s a better basketball player than he could be if he stepped on the court.

– Ron Baker is borderline unplayable in nights like these. 19 minutes of play, 1 steal, 1 missed field goal attempt, -13 +/-. Another reason to move Trey to the bench and try Frank as our starting PG. Ron’s PIE for the season is -2.8, good for seventh worst in the whole league (more than 10 mpg). I love his effort and that’s documented, but I can’t wrap my head around his contract.

– Third quarter: Knicks 20, Heat 45. Yikes.

– In the second quarter it was already evident that this game was going to end up in an ass-beating. We were tied while shooting the lights out from three points and getting to line just twice in 24 minutes. It wasn’t sustainable at all.

– Mitch was a welcome sight. 4 points, 3 boards (all on the offensive glass), 1 block. His athleticism is off the charts and he is clearly going to distil every minute he’s given. I hope Fiz finds a way to make him play 8-10 mpg on a regular basis. We need to develop him, as he might be our best young player in a couple years.

– The high note of the evening must have been a back and forth conversation between Mike Breen and Clyde where they tried to remember correctly the names and composition of the Flintstones families, right after Bam Adebayo entered the game (apparently he got his nickname after the super strong son of Barney and Betty). Hearing those two talk about a cartoon melt my heart a little. God bless them for making every potentially unbearable Knick night a little gem, everytime.

Well, I guess our dog days aren’t over, as we’re set to face the Warriors on Friday night. I don’t care for wins, but I fully expect a much better effort than tonight (and some minor tweaks in the rotation, especially in the starting five).

See you soon!

2010 Report Card: Earl Barron

The Earl of Barron

Earl “The Pearl” Barron

Earl “The Duke” Barron

Ah, the late season gem. Over the last ten years (Can we start calling it “The Lost Decade?”), Nix fans have had precious little to root for as the calendar hit March and April. The 8th seed was a lofty place where our boys could find no purchase . What we did have in abundance, was 11th/12th men and/or D-League call-ups who’d capture the fancy of the maddening throng by putting up some nice/solid efforts in otherwise meaningless games, the most surprisingly effective of which (Sorry. Courtney Sims. You do, however, win the award for “Knick whose moniker sounds the most like that of a Porn Starlet”) was 2010’s Earl “Insert Pun-tastic Nickname Here” Barron.

For those unacquainted w/his personal bio, The Earl was an undrafted 7’ Center out of Memphis in 2004…

Stop. Let’s take a moment to ponder that seemingly innocuous fact. If you’re 7′ tall and play for even a semi-viable college program, you will get drafted by the NBA. It’s the corollary of Parcells’ “earth-movers” theory – to wit: there are a limited number of sentient beings who are 7′ tall who have operant limbic systems and one absolutely must have one of these massive individuals on one’s roster in order to win. Ergo, go git that big mofo!

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen the likes Patrick O’Bryant, Rafael Araujo, Curtis Borchardt, Hasheem Thabeet. BJ Mullens, Spencer Hawes, Jason Smith, Hilton Armstrong, Saer Sene, Johan Petro, Robert Swift (sorry ex-Sonics fans), The Immortal Pavel Podkolzine (I think Pavel P. and Chad Ford ended up getting an apartment together – Darko’s moving in next year), DeSagana Diop, (Channeling my inner Jack Horner/Burt Reynolds here, those are great names!) all taken 5-10 spots in the draft ahead of where they should have been selected b/c…well…”You can’t teach height.

So the fact that The Barron went completely undrafted suggests that, while he may not have been vertically challenged, the varied talent evaluators thought he didn’t even possess a glimmer of the ancillary skills required to play professional basketball at the highest level. (See Mike K’s excellent Eddy Curry Autopsy for further reading on this subject.) The early part of his career certainly suggested that the wags were correct as he toiled for Tuborg Pilsner in the Turkish league, the Hunstville Swift of the D-League, and w/Red Bull Barako in the Phillipines from 2003-05.

Pat Riley did bestow him a towel-waving gig for the champeenship (refs…cough, cough…refs) Heat in ’05-’06 and he managed to stick around for another two seasons, but nothing in the numbers suggested he was anything more than a big body taking up space:

So when the Nix signed him to a 10-day, the odds of Early Barroness doing anything of note were somewhere between slim and none (And Slim’s outta town and I ain’t no nun!)

But lo! Somewhere in his wanderlust, The Earl acquired a very solid 15-18 ft. jumper and prowess on the boards that was eerily reminiscent of David Lee’s early work. Now whether he can maintain this pace, or this seven-game blip is just a statistical anomaly another matter altogether. After all, for a 10-games or fewer stint, you know how many centers averaged 10 ppg and 11 rpg at age 28 or later? One. Earl Barron!

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 3
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 5
Rootability: 5
Performance/Expectations: 5+

Final Grade: B+

Similarity Scores:

.000 Earl Barron 2010 NYK 14.7 50.8 44.1 12.7 4.8 11.9 1.2 0.6 0.6 1.7
.068 Mike Brown 1992 UTA 12.3 51.5 45.3 12.8 3.8 9.6 1.6 0.8 0.7 2.1
.083 Derek Strong 1997 ORL 13.6 51.3 44.7 12.6 3.1 9.3 1.3 0.8 0.4 1.8
.087 Olden Polynice 1993 DET 14.6 49.5 49.1 13.5 5.0 11.6 0.8 0.9 0.6 1.5
.124 Joe Smith 2004 MIL 16.6 51.0 44.0 13.3 3.7 10.3 1.2 0.8 1.5 1.3
.125 Joe Kleine 1990 BOS 10.5 52.9 48.0 11.5 3.1 9.4 1.2 0.4 0.7 1.7
.154 Drew Gooden 2010 TOT 16.9 54.7 47.9 15.7 4.2 11.1 1.0 0.8 1.2 2.2
.159 Dan Gadzuric 2007 MIL 11.9 48.2 47.4 11.1 4.0 10.5 1.2 0.9 1.4 2.1
.161 Mark Bradtke 1997 PHI 9.6 46.3 43.1 8.5 3.7 9.8 1.0 0.7 0.7 1.3
.167 Jim Chones 1978 CLE 14.9 50.3 47.2 15.2 2.7 10.5 1.6 0.6 0.7 2.3
.168 Eddie Lee Wilkins 1991 NYK 10.5 47.4 44.7 15.0 3.7 9.7 0.8 0.9 0.4 2.7

In a very limited sample size Barron hit open J’s, hustled after loose balls, and was a reasonable facsimile of a defensive presence, which as all well know, the ‘Bockers have lacked since Mutombo made his cameo in ’03. We can only hope that he’ll be eternally grateful to D. Walsh for plucking him from obscurity and sign a reasonable deal to provide solid minutes off the bench next season. Then again, w/the utter dearth of bigs, who knows? He might get a poor man’s McIlvaine/Koncak/Jerome James-type deal from some poor, addled GM out there. Isiah?

Knick Fans Should Be Thankful This Christmas

Hey Knick fans, what’s there to be unhappy about? (And for those needing a little extra Christmas cheer, I highly recommend Twas The Night Before Knicksmas.) Wait before you answer this question, I want to put things into perspective.

First, the Knicks will have cap space this offseason. And not just a few million through the mid level exception to grab a Jerome James or Jared Jeffries. But rather enough room to get the best player in the NBA. And perhaps with a little luck there will be space for a second star as well. Considering the overspending of the last decade, this alone should have New Yorkers dancing in the aisles.

Second, the roster has some good young talent. David Lee has blossomed from a late round pick to become one of the better power forwards in the league. Maybe he’s not an All Star talent, but he’s in the discussion. It’s easy to imagine Lee on a championship team as a key element. Additionally New York has Danilo Gallinari, an intriguing 21 year old. Gallo showed he’s deadly from three his first year, and in his second he is wowing fans with multidimensional play. Personally if I’m the Knicks GM, he might be my only untouchable player on the roster.

Rookies Toney Douglas and Jordan Hill are both still raw. From the minutes I’ve seen of Douglas, the guy can defend. He’s lightning quick on the defensive side of the ball, and if he can put together his game on the offensive side, he’ll be a solid pro. Jordan Hill is a #8 pick that has been buried on the bench, but his potential is unknown. Certainly there’s a GM out there that fansied him last summer and would be willing to part with something of value for his services. Finally, of course there is Nate Robinson, who is talented and may find himself out of D’Antoni’s doghouse yet. And if he doesn’t then he might fetch the Knicks another young player, a draft pick, or some cap space.

As for D’Antoni, he’s the best coach the Knicks have had in about a decade. Complain all you want about his short rotation, favoritism, or system, but isn’t that par for the course of a good coach? Think of the last 2 good Knick coaches. Jeff Van Gundy treated Marcus Camby like a red-headed step child for a year. It took Ewing’s injury and subsequently Camby leading the team to the Finals for Van Gundy to realize the talent he had. And Pat Riley forgot he had Rolando Blackman in the playoffs and instead played Greg Anthony (with a TS% of .487 that year) 17 minutes per game. Blackman had almost as many playoff minutes (34) as Corey Gaines (28) that year.

No matter what you think about D’Antoni, it’s clear that he’s a step up from Don Chaney, Herb Williams, Isiah Thomas or Lenny Wilkens. (I won’t even mention that other guy, considering the joyous season we’re in). D’Antoni turned Phoenix into one of the best teams in the league, and was one bloody nose (and a few suspensions) away from a title. There’s no chance any of those other guys would have been able to accomplish with the Suns. And if you think that D’Antoni gets too much credit for Phoenix’s success, think about Phil Jackson for a second. How many championships did Jackson win in the 2 years Jordan fielded fly balls? Even having Kobe and Gasol and Odom wasn’t enough talent 2 years ago. Given the players, Jackson is the type of coach that’s good enough to win a title. And the same is true of D’Antoni.

Finally Knick fans should thankful of the front office. Oh sure we can argue about every little move, and debate lots of the small stuff. But to put things in perspective, we owe a draft pick because of what Isiah Thomas did in 2004. In the preceding years, Knick fans would be cowering in fear of a news announcement involving their team because it likely meant that they traded away a draft pick or gave another team the cap space to sign the player of their dreams. Those days are gone. In fact if the team announced a trade, I think most fans would imagine it would involve acquiring a draft pick (like when we got Toney Dougals) or freeing up some extra cap space (like when we sent Jamal Crawford or Zach Randolph packing).

When I think about my childhood, opening Christmas presents wasn’t about what I didn’t get. I rarely got the exact toy I wanted, and some Christmases were leaner than others, but more often than not I got lots of good things that I enjoyed. And the same should be true of Knick fans. In the spirit of Christmas, for one day we should be thankful for the things we have and not fret the things we don’t. That, and let’s beat the tar out of the Miami Heat!


Knicks 110 – Pacers 103

Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America, from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea!  Recap Robert here. For those who chose to say, take in the theater or perhaps venture out to the local motion picture house or perhaps to play the role of social gadfly and sally forth for a stroll about the boulevards of our fair city, taking in the local color and engaging in witty badinage with the citizenry — shopkeepers, wand’ring minstrels,  and whatnot, I have some surprising, nay shocking news. Our beloved sporting collective, the cagers known far and wide as the Knickerbocker Basketball Club of New York, managed to score MORE points than their esteemed opponents, thereby proving victorious in this evening’s contest.

Honestly, they kinda screwed up the lead/theme I had going for this recap. I was gonna vent about lousy officiating, how the Nix never get the calls, and as a result, we get 4 and 5 point swings at crucial moments/turning points in the game. I was going to follow that by ripping MD’A a new one for sitting Hill, Douglas, and Gallo when the boys were clearly on cruise mode and end it w/a whole, “The Pacers have a plan on offense and defense and the Knicks look like 5 guys who showed up for a pickup game” screed. And they go and eff it up by, well…winning. But I’ll take wins and being forced to re-write my purple prose any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

The thing that’s so frustrating about this team is that when the 3 pointers are falling, every other aspect of their game somehow magically rounds into form. To wit: They were down 19 in the middle of the 3rd while enjoying what must have been a pleasant view of watching Tyler Hansbrough do a great David Lee circa ’05-’07 impression. (Side note — I loathe the “Caucasians can only be compared to Caucasians, Euros to other Euros, Overrated bigs from Arizona, etc. etc.,” thing, but here, the comparison is pretty apt.) Suddenly, Hughes cans a couple of threes and magically, the defense gets stingy,  they’re driving to the basket, getting to the line, and/or finding Curry down low. Over the last 4:07, they outscored the LarryBirds 13-4, forced 4 turnovers, shot 66% from the field and basically made it a game again. Same thing happened in the 4th. The lead vacillated between 9 and 13 and they hadn’t made a trey all quarter until w/5:37 to go, Al Buckets cans a bunch of shots from downtown and once again, the NYers are scrambling for lose balls, rotating like mofos on D, beating lazy defenders down the floor – basically doing all the little things good teams do — and they outscore ‘em 24-6 to win in a flourish.

Not to get too Phil Jackson here, but after the 3’s, the whole energy/dynamic of the team changed. Watching the game, you could sense it. Even if the score was still pretty bleak, I (and they) thought they could make a game of this. (One thing they gotta fix — Jordan Hill is the worst towel-waver I’ve seen in a long time. He needs to either start or get in touch w/Jack Haley, stat.) When this team is hitting from downtown (and everyone on the roster is shooting worse from downtown than last year, save Gallo), they can be pretty decent. It’s something I think we all knew heading into the year, but it’s really remarkable (in this game at least) how much their confidence/collective psyche is dependent on their long-range shooting. Anyway, we can all smile now. The world is a glorious and just place again. Let’s all bask in the glory of said win and hopefully our lovable collection of pituitary cases can try to remember what led to the win at least until Saturday afternoon v. the even more hapless NJ Nyets. Some individual performance assessments:

EDDY CURRY – Eddy! Eddy! Eddy! First things first. That Plaxico Burress-esque goat he’s rockin’ is badass. And, it actually makes his face look thinner by accentuating the downward slope of his mandible. Facial aesthetics aside, I was impressed and genuinely happy for Mr. Curry. It was like a mini bit o’ time-travel back to the ’06-’07 season. He was very good in the low post, drew a ton of fouls on offense and got called for an equal amount on defense, shot horridly from the FT line, and turned the ball/couldn’t kick the ball out whenever he was double and triple teamed. Good times. W/this team, his inability to defend the post is less noticeable b/c, well, no one else can either. If he keeps this up, he’s an asset for short stints (like when the 3’s aren’t dropping) and might…gasp…actually be tradable.

LARRY HUGHES – A comeback season for Larry at this stage of his career would be pretty much unprecedented. Can anyone else think of a volume shooting 12-year vet who shot .410 from the field, .489 TS% and .437 eFG% for his career that suddenly morphed into a smart, solid efficient 2? I can’t. It leads one to think that his #’s will regress to mean over the course of the season, but Larry’s seems to have genuinely altered his game/figured out how to play as he’s gotten less “athletic.”

AL HARRINGTON – Oh Al. I can’t stay mad at you. Even if that two-tone mouthpiece really makes you look as bucktoothed as Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. One thing that confuses me. Why isn’t Harrington a better defender? He’s certainly got the length/athleticism (Sorry about that. I promise not to write “athleticism” any more. I feel like Jay Bilas and that’s not a good thing.) to be effective, and that steal in the 4th was money. Is it just effort? W/Al, I’m tempted to say no. Al certainly tries very, very hard, at times to his detriment. So what gives?

CHRIS DUHON – Admit it. We were all secretly hoping that that stinger he suffered in the 3rd was serious. I certainly did. But then again, I’m a bad person. Duhon at least got in synch W/Lee on the pick and roll tonight. (Why Hibbert/Jones/Hansbrough switched to cover Du the whole game is really beyond me). I can actually live w/the atrocious shooting for now. He’s going to start those hitting eventually, right?. It’s the silly passes and 35 foot 3’s that are so galling and seemingly avoidable.

WILSON CHANDLER – He was having his best game of the season before getting in foul trouble (& that charge that fouled him out was a [channeling C. Barkley] turr-a-bull call, just trrbll!). Even so, he still seems inclined to pull up rather than go hard to the hole, possibly (and I’m speculating here) b/c he’s worried he doesn’t have the lift to pull it off.

DAVID LEE – (Use your Seinfeld voice when reading this) Hey, what is the deal with David Lee’s rebounding? I mean come on! You built your entire game on getting after lose balls, tip-ins, and hustle plays but for a solid week or two, you’ve looked more sluggish/lethargic than I did when I was 6 and some friends and I drank a bottle of Robitussin b/c the older kids said you could catch a buzz off of it. I mean, really! (Resume regular thinking voice)

JORDAN HILL, TONEY DOUGLAS, DANILO GALLINARI – As I mentioned about, when the game looked like it was gonna be a rout, I was pounding nails into the floor w/my forehead b/c this trio was riding the pine. Despite the fact that they won, why was Douglas benched for the 2nd half? Why was Gallo yanked so early in the 2nd & 3rd? Yeah, they’d both had uneventful games to that point, but they were certainly no less at fault for the burgeoning deficit than the other fellows. Is this a case of “trusting the vets” or just getting lucky w/the right combo at the right time. As w/all games in which Gallo doesn’t play a lot, I assume Knick fans start collectively praying to some obscure Italian saint that it’s not his back flaring up.

Couple of general thoughts on the Pacers – For all the folks (myself included) who are aghast at passing on Lawson/Blair/Jennings, how good would Danny Granger look at PF in SSOL? I remember bellowing something bellicose about the folly of passing on him for Frye in the ’05 draft. For the first year at least, I was thoroughly mocked on b/c Frye looked like a stud. I think everyone’d take Granger in a heartbeat now. Alls I’m saying is, give the rooks time, yo.

Larry Bird really hasn’t aged well, has he? At this point, he looks like a cross between W.C. Fields and Joe Lieberman.

Hibbert seems so out of place in today’s NBA. If it were 1987, he’d be a nice, slow-footed big w/some decent low-post moves who could contribute on a winning team. Think Kevin Duckworth and his ilk. Now, how many times a year does Hibbert play against someone his size/style? W/Yao out and w/Shaq’s decline I think we’re down to Perkins, Kaman, and Bogut

Anyways, that was fun to watch. Winning. Hmm. A fella could get used to this…

Lots of Stuff From the Beat

Lots of good info from the Knicks’ beat writers. Whoda thunk a 1-9 team with no draft pick and no game for a few days would merit so much good ink?

First, Newsday’s Alan Hahn nails it with “Knicks had to get it right, and didn’t”.

Meanwhile, Donnie Walsh and his staff had to get this draft pick right. Not only because of how valuable a lottery pick can be to a rebuilding franchise, but because the team doesn’t have a first round pick in2010. Every criteria had to be exhausted when considering all of the draft candidates at No. 8 and that includes character.

A kid that shows up at his first NBA Summer League admittedly not in great shape, to me, shows major character flaws. How much does he want it? How much does he care?

There are two kinds of players in the NBA: those who love basketball and those who love the life. One goes to the gym at night and puts up shots. The other goes to the club and puts down shots and sweats.

You feel me?

With the No. 8 pick in the draft, you try your best to get the first kind. Or at least one who has the tendencies to be the first kind.

So the fair criticism right now is to analyze the decision the Knicks made to take the not-yet-ready Hill and leave Jennings and Ty Lawson, two dynamic guards, on the board.

And where are the other scouts who should have been aware of Jennings even before he left for Europe? Was there enough of a debate in the War Room that night as the Knicks were on the clock and had gotten over losing Stephen Curry to the Warriors?

Curry topped the list and, despite his mercurial start with Dysfunction State, would have been the best fit. Tyreke Evans was also high on the list, I’m told, and yet it’s interesting that Jennings had his pre-draft workout for the Knicks against the much bigger Evans and, from what I’ve heard, he really took it to Evans. I remember Jennings walking out of the gym feeling very confident in himself that day.

Lawson, the Carolina product who we touted here at the Fix as early as the 2008 draft, was also up at the MSG Training Center in June for a pre-draft workout. Walsh really liked Lawson but, again, size (5-11, 195) was a major issue. And the other question was whether Lawson was a top 10 pick. Almost everyone had him projected in the teens and that’s exactly where he went. Denver traded an unprotected 2014 first-rounder to land him from Minnesota, which took him at No. 18.

Lots of good points here. The significance of the 2009 draft, and a little bit of why the Knicks passed on Lawson & Jennings. Additionally Hahn takes the Knicks to task for not knowing Hill’s motor (or apparent lack thereof).

Berman gets a good quote from Walsh:

Knicks team president Donnie Walsh told The Post yesterday the club’s franchise-worst 1-9 start is his fault and no one else’s, taking the heat off coach Mike D’Antoni.
The Knicks, who had the day off from practice yesterday, don’t play again until Wednesday in Indiana and have to marinate in the shame of being the first Knicks team to start a season 1-9. The franchise dawned in 1946.
“I’m not blaming the players, not blaming the coaches, I’m not blaming anyone but myself,” Walsh told The Post. “I feel this is my responsibility more than Mike’s or the players. Maybe the team doesn’t have all the elements.”

Hmmm blaming the front office for this start – where have I heard that before?

The Daily News, courtesy of Mitch Lawrence, give some insight into D’Antoni’s practice.

The New York Zombies, er, Knicks, returned to the practice floor Sunday in Greenburgh, with Eddy Curry taking a step toward returning to action this week and Wilson Chandler accepting a potential demotion to a bench role.

Curry could see his first action of the season Wednesday in Indiana. Mike D’Antoni, who called his players “zombies” after it went through the motions Friday in a loss to Golden State, isn’t sure how many minutes Curry will get against the Pacers.

His plan is to give Curry some minutes in the first half, then see if he merits more action. “Given that (D’Antoni’s) system is based on running, it’s definitely hard,” Curry said. “But I think I’m catching on and he is being very patient with me.”

But it appears that D’Antoni has run out of patience with Chandler, who has started the first 10 games, first at guard and more recently at forward. A demotion would mark a setback for both Chandler and the Knicks. D’Antoni has said a number of times that one of his primary objectives this season is to develop his top young players, starting with Danilo Gallinari and Chandler.

Yesterday, D’Antoni concentrated on defense, with Jared Jeffries, a reserve since the fourth game of the season, working with the first team and Chandler a second-teamer. As for Chandler’s move to the bench, D’Antoni wasn’t ready to announce it. “We’re still searching a little bit,” he said. “We don’t know yet, to be honest with you.”

With the Knicks offense reeling, seems like a great idea to get Jared Jeffries into the starting lineup. Maybe New York can grab Bruce Bowen to help light it up too? With a lineup of Duhon, Bowen, and Jeffries, you could have Barkley and Shaq as the 4/5, and still not break 100 points.