A Look After 3 Games

With 3 games in the books, let’s take a quick look at how the team is doing.

* A few interesting things to notice with Amar’e’s stats. His turnovers (5.7 to/36) are more than double his career rate (2.7 to/36). His worst in Phoenix was 3.1, which he did in 2004 and 2007. Astute KnickerBlogger readers have noted that he’s getting the ball on the perimeter too often. Additionally he’s attempted 5 three pointers so far (1.7 3pa/36) which is also far above his career average. It’s possible that his perimeter play has also upped his assist rate (3.0 ast/36) which is also double his career rate (1.3 ast/36). However from what I’ve seen that rate might be from playing alongside Landry Fields (more on that tomorrow). Obviously giving the ball away 5+ times a game is awful for any player, so you’d expect that number to decline.

* Some stats to keep your eyes on for Raymond Felton as the season progresses (aka which Raymond Felton are the Knicks getting?):

3P%
2009: 28.5
2010: 38.5
2011: 33.3

TS%
2009: 48.3
2010: 52.5
2011: 52.7

* Please tell me Gallinari is hurt. He shot poorly in the preseason, and he’s continued it into the regular season. Making only 18% of your three pointers is not a trait you’d expect from him. If his shooting is being hampered that badly, he should not be on the floor, period. Without Gallo, the Knicks really lack a three point shooter. Although it seems that Bill Walker could fill the void.

* At the KnickerBlogger meet-up I yelled “David Lee” every time Landry Fields touched the ball. It’s because he, like Lee, is great at contributing without holding the ball in his hands on each possession. Actually he’s a bit reminiscent of another Knick: Renaldo Balkman. Granted the two have their differences. Balkman was a much better defender, especially with regards to shot blocking and steals. But Fields has a more refined offense, including a jump shot all the way out to three. Differences aside, Fields, like Balkman, gets most of his offense by making strong cuts to the hoop and finishing in the paint. Again, I’ll have more on this tomorrow.

* Toney Douglas is 5th on the team in minutes, earning a chunk of them at SG. He seems to clearly have the edge over Roger Mason. The former Spur has been a disappointment, and isn’t playing as you would have expected given his career stats. He’s yet to hit a three pointer, and his TS% is a unbelievably low 11.3%.

* Not much to dislike statistically about Ronny Turiaf (20.3 PER, 65.1% TS%, 4.1 blk/36, 3.6 ast/36). Ok maybe defensive rebounding is an eyesore (3.1 dreb/36).

2010-2011 Game Recap: NY 98–Tor 93

Right before the start of the game, I  told my wife how this moment is the best part of the season. It’s the time where you can learn about the team and the team can surprise you in all sorts of ways good or bad.  It’s nice to wonder how things will play out.  Now that they have played out–for at least 1 of the 82 games–let’s take a look at what we learned about this team.

I was interested in everything but took special note of the rookies Mozgov and Fields.  Mozgov didn’t surprise at me all picking up a foul within 32 seconds of court time (10 seconds into the first defensive possession).  He picks up his second about 3 minutes later and didn’t play again until the second half.  At the start of the second half, I made a Pop-Tart and I wondered if Mozgov would be done before the Pop-Tart. Mozgov won but not by much.

My initial impression of Fields was that he looked tentative in the early going. In time it became clear that Fields wasn’t tentative, he was simply picking the right spot to contribute.  His line: 30 minutes, 11 points, 4 reb 4-8 Fg (3-6 3fg).  He didn’t pick up any assists but he balanced that by not turning over the ball. He didn’t force anything on offense. He out played DeRozan and was only mildly abused my Kleiza. I’d say a very good introduction.

Stoudemire was a mixed bag 19 pts on 7-16 fg with 10 rebounds.  When he got deep he was great. But when he had to catch the ball outside the paint and either dribble to the basket or take a shot beyond 15 feet, nothing good came of it.  Stoudemire turned the ball over 9 times. I’m pretty sure only one of those was an offensive foul.  Then there was one that Jack knocked off his foot late in the 4th.  The rest, all bad ball handling.  Here is a sample of my in game notes:

For all his talent, I’m starting to see some things I do not like in Stoudemire.  He does not rebound well, he is a bit sloppy with the ball, and his face-up defense is not impressive.  He also takes the ball outside the paint and tries to dribble into the paint.  It really hurts the half-court offense.

Stoudemire still catching the ball too far out and then dribbling to the hoop, nearly turned it over.  Another Stoudemire dribble drive turnover.

Hate to say it but the half court offense is far less sloppy with Stoudemire on the bench. 3:50 left to play Stoudemire catches in the paint, turns and scores.  Felton got him the ball where he needs it to be effective and we got a good shot out of it. 1:45 to play, Stoudemire has to dribble into the paint and it leads to a turn over for Jack. When will they learn?

So with Stoudemire, they need to get him the ball deep in the paint so he doesn’t have to  do so much to create his offense. I blame Felton for this. Felton needs to learn when to give Stoudemire the ball.  You don’t just give it to Stoudemire then let the magic happen.

That aside, Felton played well I thought. 15 pts (6-14 fgs, 1-4 3fgs) 6 rebs, 6 asts, 1 stl, 3 turnovers.  He looked great getting to the hole.  The only real problem was giving the ball to Stoudemire out of position and taking more 3 pointers than I thought he should.  But in this offense, there will be threes for all.

Gallinari’s game? Meh. 12 points (3-9, 2-5) 6 rebounds.  I watched the way Bargnani played and I wished Gallinari would get to that level.  I’m starting to think he won’t get there.  An example of the different approach: when Toronto was making a run in the 2nd, Bargnani faked a three, lost his defender took two dribbles closer and nailed a long two.  In the 3rd Gallinari faked a three, lost his defender, took a step to his left, made sure he was still behind the arc, then missed a three. ‘Nuff said.

The bench was fantastic led by a surprisingly effective Chandler (22 points, 8 rebs).  Douglas played very well and Turiaf did help the defense with 4 blocks and 2 steals.  My wife upon seeing Turiaf: “What is up with that Col. Sanders beard of his?”  Walker was awful.  Walker’s problem: he is only useful if he is shooting well, which he did not do (0-6 fg, 0-2 3fg) 2 rebounds, 1 turnover and zeros everywhere else ( I wanted to start him at the 2, what was I thinking?).

The Knicks did a great job with the give and go early on.  They scored or drew a foul on 5 of 6 of those plays in the first half.  They took advantage of the lack of shot blocking on Toronto, but in the second and third, they abandoned that play all together.  I’m not sure why.  When they got away from that play the ball movement really suffered. Only 12 assists for the game, 15-17 free throws and 7-24 3fgs. I don’t like seeing more threes taken than free throws taken but I better learn to adjust.  The rebounding was not good. My game notes again:

Awful sequence with5 minutes to play in the first.  Reggie Evans gets an  offensive rebound with three Knicks around him. Stoudemire with a poor block out and a weak one-handed rebound attempt. Evans gets the ball and then Stoudemire just walks away to complain about a push in the back.  Evans then finds himself alone under the basket and is so surprised he blows the easy lay in.  This rebounding is really going to hurt this team.

Yes they out rebounded Toronto 49 to 45, but keep in mind that Toronto is really bad at rebounding outside of Reggie Evans.  The Celtics will not repeat such mistakes. 

Mistakes aside, the Knicks did manage to pull out a win on the road in a game where they blew a 16 point lead.  When they needed to get a few good shots, Stoudemire got deep in the post and provided the offense needed. D’Antoni deserves some credit for moving Chandler to the bench. The play from the reserves was  a key factor in the win. There are some things to build on here but I fear a much more sobering view of the team may be available to us after the Celtics game.  We can talk about it then.

Game 1 Recap: Knicks 98 – Raptors 93

The last time the Knicks played a game that counted, Earl Barron logged 40 minutes. David Lee played 33 and Sergio Rodriguez 20. Bill Walker led the team with 28 points and Chris Duhon chipped in 5 assists. The Raptors piled up 73 points before halftime of last season’s finale at the Air Canada Centre en route to a 131-113 blowout of the blue and orange. All the while, a dreadlocked big man named Chris Bosh watched, injured, from the Raptors’ bench. “No matter,” we told ourselves, “he’ll be ours in a couple months, and a certain headband-wearing, chalk throwing, triple doubling Global Icon along with him.”

What a difference a summer makes.

Tonight, the Knicks took to the same court in Toronto. Chris Bosh wasn’t in the building, nor was LeBron, nor Lee, Rodriguez, Barron, or Duhon. In fact, of the 12 Knicks on the active roster that night in April, only three were in the house this evening (Douglas, Gallo, Walker — Chandler was inactive with an injury at the end of last season). Change was the story of the night and, when that is the case, you can typically expect equal parts excitement and growing pains. And so it was.

The Knicks put together an adequate if uninspiring performance, winning 98-93 in a game that would not have been that close but for some spotty perimeter shooting and an inability to stay in front of Toronto point guard Jarret Jack, who penetrated to the tune of 5 layups, 4 free throw attempts, and some nice dump-off assists following successful drives to the rim. After staking themselves to a quick 16 point lead, the Knicks slogged their way to a 4 point halftime edge and briefly trailed early in the fourth quarter before Wilson Chandler – who at age 23 passes for one of the old guard on this overhauled roster – rattled off a series of Carmelonian isolation sets that bought the Knicks some breathing room.

From there, the biggest, brightest, and most expensive of the newcomers, one Amar’e Stoudemire, carried the Knicks home, scoring 7 of his otherwise unassuming 19 points during a 1:31 stretch late in the fourth quarter. His burst pushed the lead to eight points, each of which the Knicks would need to hold on to an opening night victory. I mean that literally; a final unimpeded Jarrett Jack drive would have been enough to erase a two-point deficit in the last ten seconds, but the three point margin meant he had to kick it out to Linas Kleiza, who airballed a corner three into Danilo Gallinari’s waiting arms. Two free throws later — converted with little drama by another newcomer, Raymond Felton — the Knicks were off to a 1-0 start.

A night that started with change and hope ended with a win. Let’s hope the Knicks can keep that up; it’s the only change that really matters.

    Player Ratings (in order of minutes played):

Raymond Felton (37 min, 15 pts, 6 reb, 6 ast, 3 to, 6/14 fg, 1/4 3p, 4/4 ft): Very solid debut by the Knicks’ new point guard. Ran a high-octane offense for stretches of the first half but didn’t force the break when it wasn’t there. Could have done a better job with Jack on the defensive end, but didn’t get any help on switches (and Douglas was the culprit for many of Jack’s better moments — we’ll get to him later). All in all, he was an impressive floor general who played better than his stats. B+.

Amar’e Stoudemire (36 min, 19 pts, 10 reb, 2 blk, 9 to, 7/16 fg, 5/6 ft): The turnovers are the first thing that jump out and, to be honest, the number surprises me. I thought they would be high but it certainly didn’t feel like 9. Mostly, he seemed kind of out of it, not quite in tune with his new point guard, not really commanding a lot of attention against a defense with nobody worthy of defending him. I’m tempted to say I liked him better on the defensive end than on offense tonight, if only because his athleticism makes him capable of the type of high-flying swats that we haven’t seen since the days of Marcus Camby. In the end, a forgettable debut, but a huge 2 minute stretch in the fourth quarter and zero signs of anything we should be worried about once he and Felton get in sync. B-.

Danilo Gallinari (33 min, 12 points, 6 reb, 1 ast, 0 to, 3/9 fg, 2/5 3p, 4/4 ft): Not good. Bad, even. The only Knick with a negative +/-. That can be a fairly meaningless stat on an individual game basis, but it felt pretty appropriate tonight. His shot was off and, while he has the ability to do other things to affect the game, he was mostly invisible tonight. At least he got 6 boards, which shouldn’t be a big deal for a 6’10” forward but in his case represents progress. No real reason for concern, his shooting will improve both in terms of percentages and the number of looks he clears himself for. We all know that he’ll be able to score efficiently in high volumes on a lot of nights this season. Tonight just wasn’t one of them. C-.

Landry Fields (30 min, 11 points, 4 reb, 4/8 fg, 3/6 3p): For me, the best part of the night. I mean, the kid is just everywhere. Don’t even look at the stat line because its irrelevant. All the cliches that we use to talk about glue guys are in play here: he does the little things, he’s in the right place at the right time, he doesn’t need plays drawn up for him, he plays better than his numbers, he makes the most of his talent, etc. etc. etc. Just every single meaningless cliche personified. He ran down loose balls, he got big rebounds, he waited for his shot and made half of his threes. He can absolutely start on this team, he’s a much better fit than Chandler with the first unit. Didn’t think he looked out of his depth athletically, which was the worry, but then again he will face much better opposition down the road. I suppose time will tell, but I couldn’t have asked for much more out of his debut. A.

Wilson Chandler (29 min, 22 pts, 8 reb, 0 to, 10/18 fg, 1/3 3p, 1/2 ft): Listen and listen good — he is the perfect 6th man for this team and there is absolutely no way he should be starting at shooting guard. On the court with the second unit, serving as the primary scoring option, Ill Will ran some isolation sets that were worthy of the league’s best slashers. He works so well with Douglas because either of them can start the offense — either with Douglas lurking as a spot-up threat when Chandler attacks or Chandler lurking as a reset-and-drive option if Douglas gets in trouble. They make a serviceable pairing defending other team’s perimeter players as well. Chandler is still the most tradeable of the Knicks three young wings and he still can become infuriatingly enamored with his very mediocre jumper (7/8 in the paint tonight, 3/10 outside of it — DRIVE WILSON, DRIVE!) but he is a fantastic weapon off of the bench and should be utilized as such. Simply put, the Knicks do not hold off the Raptors rally without his second half performance tonight. Keep it up. A-.

Tony Douglas (27 min, 10 points, 4 reb, 0 ast, 5/9 fg, 0/3 3p): A weird performance and not a very good one. The points are fine and the percentage is good, but zero assists in 27 minutes still made me feel like he doesn’t know what position he’s supposed to be playing. For my money, produced the two worst plays of the game: an impossibly bad telegraphed pass that was picked by Reggie Evans and an equally boneheaded fourth quarter foul that sent David Anderson to the line, where he tied the score at 82. Of all the important Knicks who had off nights, he’s the only one I worry about a little, simply because I’m not sure if he works better running the second unit or playing off of Felton. I’m not sure D’Antoni knows either. C-.

Ronny Turiaf (23 min, 8 pts, 4 reb, 4 blk, 2 stl, 3/4 fg, 2/2 ft): Ronny Turiaf had 4 blocks tonight. That is, by any measure, very good. He had 2 steals tonight, also solid, especially by a big man, especially in limited minutes. He did these two things while committing zero fouls. Impressive, right? Probably a pretty rare feat? Maybe only happens once a year or so? Guess what? The last Knick to do it was Patrick Ewing in 1999. Before that, the last Knick to do it was, well, Ewing again in 1997. Before that, the last Knick to do it was nobody. The list of Knicks who have had 4 blocks and 2 steals in a game without committing a foul — at least in the 25 years covered by the basketball reference play index now reads “Patrick Ewing, Ronny Turiaf.” Now, is this kind of a contrived stat? Sure. Does that make it unimportant? No, not really. The Knicks have not employed a true shotblocker since Marcus Camby (unless you want to count one season of the geriatric Dikembe Mutombo). They spent two years trying to convince themselves that Jared Jeffries was some sort of disruptive defensive presence. They trotted out David Lee at center for two years. You will not find a bigger David Lee fan than me. But even as I write this, I’m watching the Warriors opener, and their announcer just said of a Lee foul, and I quote, “You know, I don’t mind that foul by David Lee. Is it great defense? No! But why give him the easy lay-up?” You know another way to prevent easy lay-ups? BY HAVING A CENTER WHO PLAYS F—ING DEFENSE. And guess what? Now we do. What Turiaf’s stats don’t show is that, in the span of 58 seconds, Linas Kleiza was whistled for not one but two travelling violations that were purely the result of going up for a shot against Turiaf, realizing he had absolutely no chance of converting, and awkwardly shuffling his feet til the whistle blew. Party on, Turiaf. Keep drinking that Ron-Ron juice. A.

Bill Walker: I would type his stats but that would represent more effort than I saw from him in his 10 minutes on the court. The one truly awful performance by a Knick tonight. His highlight was missing a dunk, claiming the rebound and, in a sea of FIVE raptors, with open shooters everywhere, going back up for a putback attempt that was, inevitably, rejected. It will be a short leash if he continues to play like this and Fields continues to play like he did, especially when Anthony Randolph returns. F.

Timo Mozgov, Roger Mason Jr.: Whatever. Mozgov couldn’t stay on the court because of foul trouble, not super encouraging against a pretty ordinary front line, but we’ll give the kid a break and chalk it up to his NBA debut. Mason missed three jumpers and wasn’t heard from again — he’ll make most of his appearances when the Knicks are badly in need of a three or someone is in foul trouble. Not much room for him behind Douglas, Fields, and Chandler. INCOMPLETE.

Sorry for the long-winded recap — I’m so excited to have the NBA season back and I hope you are too. The team will face tougher competition but should get better as it jells. If you thought, as I did, that the Knicks would sneak into one of the last two playoff spots in the East this year, I didn’t see anything tonight — good or bad — that should make you change that.

Knicks 2011 Season Preview – Point Guards

With the Knicks 2011 season almost upon us, it’s time to analyze the roster. Usually teams have some stability from one year to the next, but New York has only a third of the players returning. How New York is going to perform is more of a mystery than previous years. This year’s I’ll look at each position and attempt to address the critical question for those players.

Point Guards: Is this really an upgrade?

Last year if you had to find a single scapegoat for the Knicks abysmal record, you might want to place some horns on Chris Duhon. He played the 5th most minutes on the team, while providing virtually no offense (8.6 pts/36). His scoring was so futile that he would often drive into the paint and be left alone, only to kick the ball out in lieu of an easy layup. Defenses were able to play off of Duhon and concentrate on his teammates, disrupting the offense.

So this season New York decided to invest $7M on a new point guard: Raymond Felton. Based on last year’s stats it seems that Felton is an upgrade to Duhon. He had a better true shooting percentage (TS%: 52.5% to 50.1%) and three point percentage (3P%: 38.5% to 34.9%) while scoring nearly five more points per 36 minutes (pts/36: 13.2 to 8.6). Additionally he was a better ball hawk (stl/36: 1.7 to 1.0) and rebounder (reb/36: 3.9 to 3.1). However a look at his career stats show Duhon’s superior in regards to true shooting percentage (52.4% to 49.3%) and from downtown (36.2% to 32.7%). It’s painful for me to write this, but over the course of their careers Duhon had been a more efficient scorer than Felton.

CAREER MP FGA 3PA 3P% FTA FT% ORB TRB AST STL TOV PTS PER TS% eFG%
Douglas 1087 12.9 5.8 38.9% 2.3 0.809 1.3 3.6 3.7 1.4 1.8 15.9 14.9 57.1% 54.5%
Duhon 12706 8.5 4.3 36.2% 2 0.797 0.5 3.2 6.5 1.1 2.1 9.8 11.5 52.4% 48.5%
Felton 13939 12.5 3 32.7% 3.2 0.782 0.7 3.5 6.6 1.5 2.6 13.7 14.1 49.3% 44.8%
2010 MP FGA 3PA 3P% FTA FT% ORB TRB AST STL TOV PTS PER TS% eFG%
Douglas 1087 12.9 5.8 38.9% 2.3 0.809 1.3 3.6 3.7 1.4 1.8 15.9 14.9 57.1% 54.5%
Duhon 2072 7.8 4.5 34.9% 1.7 0.716 0.5 3.1 6.6 1 1.9 8.6 10.7 50.1% 47.2%
Felton 2643 11.5 2.1 38.5% 2.4 0.763 0.7 3.9 6.1 1.7 2.3 13.2 15.2 52.5% 49.4%

So it boils down to which Raymond Felton are the Knicks getting? Unfortunately even last year’s Felton wasn’t a big upgrade over Duhon. Even worse if that was a fluky career year, then the Knicks have made no progress. Ultimately it means they didn’t significantly upgrade the one position that is most crucial for a Mike D’Antoni run team. From what I’ve seen, the Knicks’ coach requires his point guards to be good passers, hence why he stuck with Duhon last year. Statistically there isn’t much of a difference between the old point guard and the new one. So if Felton hurts the New York offense with poor shooting, it’s likely that D’Antoni will stick with him as well, much to the team’s detriment.

The backup PG will be Toney Douglas, although it’s possible that he’ll play more SG than PG this year. Douglas is more of a scorer than Felton, but a better passer than his predecessor Nate Robinson. Last year Douglas was the forgotten man until mid-March but he played well once given the opportunity. His TS% was well above average (57.1%) and he provided strong defense on the perimeter. Douglas struggles running the offense, as his low assist total (3.7 ast/36) would attest. This year I don’t see D’Antoni ignoring him like last year, but I do see him as a huge underdog in unseating Felton. In the end I think he’ll fit nicely as the backup guard role, much like Barbosa did in Phoenix.

At the end of the line is Andy Rautins. It’s hard to predict how Rautins will do in the NBA, because he was a three point specialist who played mostly zone for the Orangemen. The rookie looked over matched in summer league, but has looked capable in limited minutes this preseason. Considering how selective D’Antoni is with his PGs, I don’t see him playing a lot of minutes, at least early on. However if in D’Antoni’s mind Felton isn’t cutting it, and Douglas isn’t the type of PG he wants, then Rautins could have a small window to show his stuff.

Poll

Did the Knicks Upgrade the PG position in 2011?

  • A little bit. (60%, 380 Votes)
  • Greatly. (32%, 203 Votes)
  • Not at all. (8%, 52 Votes)

Total Voters: 635

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Preseason Recap: Celtics 97 – Knicks 84

Can you see it?

Look real hard.

I know, right now, it’s only there in fits and spurts, like a Sasquatch that dashes into view only to be just as quickly herded back into its pen in Area 51, that one might be tempted to doubt that they had seen it at all.

But I’m telling you, there’s the making of a real durned good ball-team here.

But, not to wax too poetic for a Sunday afternoon when most of us (and your humble correspondent) are girdlaing our loins for the Manichean, proto-fascist, ground-acquisition war/blood orgy that is NFL Sunday in America (Let’s go Jets!), but watching the ‘Bockers late last night, I almost whispered to my teevee, “Inchworm! Climb Mount Fuji! But slowly, slowly…”

And yes, I oft quote Issa during ballgames. It’s a real hoot when I do it in bars.

Long story short, even without the Great God STAT, there were flashes of…something…in last night’s tilt v. the right proper Bostonians. Crisp passes as the ball flitted around the perimeter till the open man drained an uncontested J, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Earl n’ Clyde were doing their thang. Rotating on D? Defending the rim? Sweet fancy Moses, who are these guys?? Of course, somewhere in the 3rd quarter, this wondrous bounty of winning b-ball, seemed to crawl into a hole and die, but for stretches there…

Anyhoo. Here’s a bit of, “The good, the bad and the random/jejune.”

THE GOOD

Ray Felton – Ray-Ray finally had a game that implied why DW would lavish 15 million upon his rounded shoulders. He was confident in his shot, got to the rim quite a bit and generally hit the open man. I was semi-resigned to him being, “A faster Chris Duhon, “ so while 6-13, 16 points, 5 dimes, doesn’t exactly scream Nash 2.0, he held his own against the otherworldly Rondo. (And boy, isn’t “Balkman over Rondo” starting to look like one of the worst draft blunders ever?)

Danilo Gallinari – Someone must have told him that the 22’ ring on either end of the court isn’t an electrified fence or something because Il Gallo actually decided to take it to the bucket a few times. And lo! He had his best game so far. Go figure. There’s very few sights in this work-a-day world more enjoyable than Paul Pierce with a royally pissed-off look on his mug because he can’t fathom how he got whistled for hacking a guy (our Danilo) who runs like a drunk careening down 9th Avenue, crashing into mailboxes/streetlights, trying to avoid an imaginary cop.

Wilson Chandler – I’m convinced that someone fixed his shot this off-season. He’s holding the ball more out in front, using his legs and less launching the ball from behind his shoulders/fading away. It’s definitely working as Ill Will Chill’s looked like a legit SG for the first time, well…ever.

Landry Fields – He’s just got a knack. Granted, the bulk of his minutes came when the Knicks were going through one of their trademark, “Someone put cellophane over the hoop so there’s like, seriously no effing way we can score, ” stretches, but, He. Just. Makes. Plays. I think he’s gotta be in the rotation sooner rather than later.

THE BAD

Toney Douglas – Toney certainly didn’t do what Toney Douglas do in this one. His shot was off, he had gobs of sloppy turnovers, and the offense up and croaked when he was running it. Still, I have complete and utter faith that he’ll turn it around ASAP

Anthony Randolph – Oh, I so want him to be good. And you can tell by watching that he does too. Therein lies the problem. He so wants to do something that makes the crowd collectively go, “Ooo!”, that yanks the mob out of their seats and transforms them into a sea of suitors sooooo badly that he’s prone to some godawful blunders/seems like someone tought him how to play, like, yesterday. In addition, when he errs, like by say lofting a Jamal Crawford-esque off-balance 20 foot brick, he instinctively fires a glance towards the bench to see if he’ll get yanked. Screw Don Nelson, we as fans need to give AR unconditional love and maybe a nice card or some candy every chance we can get.

Mike D’Antoni – pick a rotation, Coach. Pretty please?

THE JEJUNE

Mozgov! – Evidently, when Timofey got t’d up, he was saying to himself (and yes, when I imagine him speaking, it’s in Ivan Drago-style pidgin English), “I say, I no good with fouls. Referee say I talking to him. But I am talking to me! Now, when I foul. I say nothing…” Good times, good times.

Roger Mason Jr. – Is it me or does he look eerily like Larry Hughes out there. I don’t like him. Maybe it’s because he resembles Wee-Bay from the Wire, but the sooner Azubuike/Fields takes his pt, the better.

C’est tout, mes amis. I’m yoinked to watch the irrepressible John Wall and the goofily appealing Javale McGee tonight. In lieu of a separate game thread, feel free to add your thoughts on tonight’s game too. Even though the games don’t count, get them W’s!

Mozgov’s Preseason Garden Debut

After a European Road Trip, the Knicks finally returned home for their first preseason game against the Celtics. The significance of this game was Timofey Mozgov’s first start for New York. The Knicks have been looking for a starting center to play alongside Amar’e Stoudemire, and it seems that Ronny Turiaf may have played himself out of the starting role for now.

Mozgov started off his Garden debut on the right foot. He made his first shot, an 18 foot jumper with 9:40 left in the first quarter. As Felton had the ball cross court dribbling towards the foul line, Mozgov was unguarded on the weakside and stepped into an open spot to receive the pass for an easy shot. Twenty four seconds later he made another open jumper, this time along the baseline. With 7:07 remaining, he showed great court vision and hit a wide open Felton in stride for an easy basket. Less than a minute later, he forced a driving Pierce into a turnover and was rewarded with the ball on the offensive end.

His first quarter wasn’t all positive, as Mozgov picked up a careless foul on a Jermaine O’Neal drive, and got a silly technical walking to the bench. The rest of the game was less impressive. He picked up two fouls in the second quarter. One nullifying a block on Pierce (Erden recovered and scored despite the foul). He came back in the third quarter, but back to back turnovers ended his night on a sour note.

Its too early to drink the Kompot on him being an NBA quality starting center. At the end of the night he only saw 15 minutes, netted 5 points and 3 rebounds along with 4 fouls. From a strictly statistical standpoint it’s what you’d expect from a rookie backup center. However a visual perspective showed him to be athletic for a big man with flashes of ability. Against Harangody, Mozgov closed out nicely on a perimeter shot attempt. His pass to Felton was Sabonis-worthy. And at least once he fought for a rebound tipping it to a teammate. In the end, Mozgov showed more potential than you’d expect from a player who flew under the NBA scouts radar. However he also reminded New Yorkers that he’s not quite ready for prime time.


More game notes:

  • Amar’e finished with 30 points (on 13 shots) but the Knicks still lost. I wonder how many times I’m going to repeat that phrase?
  • On the flip side, Felton had 7 points on 11 shots. He didn’t have a particularly good defensive game either.
  • Bill Walker had 11 points (on 9 shots) and hit half of his threes. But he had 0 rebounds and 0 assists.
  • Randolph led the team in rebounds (6 tied with Gallo), but coughed it up 5 times. On the court it looks like he’s trying too hard.
  • After Amar’e the best players for the Knicks were Wilson Chandler and Landry Fields. The latter only played limited minutes, but you figure he’s working himself up the rotation, especially with Roger Mason’s poor night. Ill-Will looked great, hitting 2 of 3 treys and attempting 5 free throws. If he can do that consistently…
  • Interview with Howard Beck (10/12/2010)

    Looking for more information on the Knicks this early in the season, I picked up the phone and called Howard Beck of the New York Times. He spent 17 minutes and 33 seconds answering questions about the team.

    Mike Kurylo: What’s the mood of the team?

    Howard Beck: It’s not easy to detect right now. It’s so early. I think they’re still trying to feel each other out. If you ask they’re all trying to be optimistic, and feeling like they’re in the early stages of something good here. The mood is a hard thing to put their finger on when they’ve only played 2 preseason games and have been in camp for only a couple of weeks. As we’ve all pointed out numerous times – it’s a completely new team, so they’re still trying to feel each other out and figure out what their (team) identity is. It’s early so every team is feeling optimistic and feeling like there are some good days ahead. But with it being so early, it’s just hard to put a label on the Knicks.

    Mike Kurylo: How different is this from teams of previous years? Where any of them this optimistic?

    Howard Beck: The cliche of October is that everybody feels great about their chances, but with the Knicks it was within a narrow zone of “Hey this year we might get to 35 wins.” This year the difference is a new beginning. The last 5-6 years here, at a minimum, you couldn’t say anything was a new beginning. They had these fake new beginnings, false hopes pinned to “we just got Stephon Marbury” or “we just got Eddy Curry” or “we just got Zach Randolph” and it was always some false promise of a franchise player that couldn’t really lift the franchise. This is the first time the Knicks actually have a true franchise player, someone who is among the best in the league at his position and overall, with Amar’e Stoudemire. So that makes it different. For the first time the players who are still here, and there are only a handful of them, have someone that they can look at and say “that’s our guy”, “that’s our leader”, “he’s not only going to be our leading scorer, but he’s going to be our spiritual leader, our team leader, our morale leader; the guy who sets the tone every day.” So that’s a huge change, because they haven’t had anyone who remotely resembles that in years.

    On the other hand since 10 of these guys weren’t even here last year, it’s not the same guys that are coming in, it’s completely new guys. These guys aren’t carrying the burdens of the Stephon Marbury-Isiah Thomas era. Roger Mason, Ronnie Turiaf, Raymond Felton, and Amar’e Stoudemire – they don’t carry the weight of the Knicks misery from the last 5 years. And that’s positive. They don’t have to worry about what the franchise (has been recently). These guys were brought in by Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh to be part of their team, going forward. The last several camps were characterized by guys who were going to be purged or were brought in solely for the purpose for their contract to expire. So the emotional investment of (this year’s team) are deeper.

    Mike Kurylo: Speaking of Amar’e – is he really going to play the 4 exclusively, primarily, or occasionally? What’s your take from what you’ve seen in practice?

    Howard Beck: That’s a great question because over the last week or so, watching Turiaf struggle a little bit and watching Mozgov flash between promising and foul prone I’ve been thinking about that same thing. And I’ll ask Mike D’Antoni about that today when I get there. In Phoenix, the Suns were widely successful with Amar’e as their so-called undersized/non-traditional center, and I don’t know why the Knicks can’t be successful as well. I think they have to (try) a banger/traditional center next to Amar’e to help him out and keep him out of foul trouble. But I think there is a lot of merit of playing it the Suns way – which is go undersized at every position and just outrun the other team up and down the court. You know there are only a few true centers who are scoring centers in the league anyway, so it’s not as if Amar’e Stoudemire is going to just sit there every night and get banged on by low-post/back-you-down centers. There just aren’t many of them anymore. I think we’ll end up seeing Stoudemire at the 5 a lot, but I think Mike D’Antoni doesn’t want to start that way. He’s inclined to, if he can, keep Amar’e at his natural position.

    Mike Kurylo: Let’s talk about one of the guys you mentioned: Mozgov. He looks like a foul machine out there. He’s a big guy that’s very agile for his size, but how is the team working on that? Do they have refs at practice?

    Howard Beck: Aside from the occasional scrimmage when you bring in refs, it doesn’t happen much. Most guys have to learn on the fly in exhibition games. He’s got 6 games left, so that’s a lot of time for him to get acclimated and work out all the kinks…

    Mike Kurylo: … right, he’s got 36 fouls…

    Howard Beck: Exactly, and he’ll use 30 of them, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but you hope his foul rate will go down as he progresses. So if this is a question of his athleticism or his positioning or his technique, I’m not sure I know the answer to that question after two games. But clearly if they want him as their starting center, fouls are the primary area of concern. They know what he can do skill wise. They know he can shoot. They know he can rebound a little and block some shots. They know he can get up and down the court and finish on the break. So can he stay on the floor? Can he not put the other team at the foul line? They still have 6 games to figure that out.

    Mike Kurylo: One of the things that D’Antoni talked about was the ability to go 9, 10, or 11 players deep in the rotation. Do you see that as being a reality?

    Howard Beck: I think it’s realistic in the sense that he’s got a lot of players who are about even. In the past they were about even because unfortunately they were all equally mediocre. Right now they have some guys with good intriguing qualities about them. So it’s about how you want to go about it. How often you want to go big or go small. Whether you want to go with two point guard/play-makers in the back court. If you want to go with shooters. There’s a lot of ways they can go and most of these guys deserve playing time. Landry Fields had such a good summer league and training camp that he’s pushed his way into the conversation too.

    It comes down to when D’Antoni feels he needs to go 11 deep to keep up the pace and keep his guys fresh. And whether the guys who look like they deserve playing time continue to earn it. But you can make the case for probably 11 guys right now off the bat based on their experience or skill set or whether there’s a certain guy you need in a game (situation). I think it’s quite possible (to have a deep rotation). It sounds like he’s committed (to trying) if all those guys are earning the time.

    Mike Kurylo: Let’s talk about Anthony Randolph for a second. He looks like to be an inefficient scorer. What does the coaching staff think of him? Is he a starter?

    Howard Beck: He’s not a starter yet, because first it’s not clear what position he would start at. He’s got some really intriguing abilities that would make him a 3, 4 or 5 depending on who is around him. Right now the priority or concern is whether they have enough shooting on the floor. With him out there alongside the starters guys are going to cheat off of him to play Amar’e. The thing with this coaching staff, and you heard it with David Lee all the time who went from a banger to a person with a knock down jump shot, the coaching staff believes in guys and allows them to do their thing. And if they’re trying to learn or become a shooter they’re not going to yank him if he misses one or two. I think during the season Randolph might have a little less latitude. But right now during the preseason I don’t think it’s a problem for Anthony Randolph to go out there and say “look I’ve worked on my jumpshot all summer, I’m trying to get it down, it’s going down for me in practice, and I want to shoot the open shot.” He should. The coaching staff always encourages these players to shoot the open shot as long as it’s in the flow of the offense, to take the opportunities. Eventually he’s got to start making them, but that’s how you get the confidence that you can do it. A lot of guys get the mechanics down and can make them in practice but they can’t do it in the game. That’s mental, that’s nerves, or a lot of other things. Maybe the same transformation Amar’e Stoudemire or David Lee did (in developing a jump shot) Anthony Randolph can make. And if he can, he can be a fantastic weapon out there. But that remains to be seen.

    Mike Kurylo: You mentioned the word ‘shooting’, which reminds me of the Knicks’ shooting guard situation. Chandler has been the default guy for a few seasons even though he probably fits more of a forward’s build. There seems to be a lot of competition this year, even though Azubuike is hurt and isn’t playing. How is that position shaping out?

    Howard Beck: It’s an intriguing group because they’re all very different. Wilson Chandler got the nod initially because he’s one of the few returning guys, knows the system and he played almost the entire season at shooting guard last year and did alright. The nice thing of having him there is as long as he can stay with his man – he’s 6-8 and strong with long arms and he can harass guys – (he’s a) defensive presence and can be a real asset. His jump shot and his three point shot are unreliable enough to be a concern. It depends on what your priorities are. If you’re priority is shooting then Roger Mason is an accomplished shooter, although a little undersized. If you like Wilson’s size and defensive abilities and his length then you put him out there.

    This is goes back to the Amar’e Stoudemire question, because if you put him at center Wilson Chandler can be your power forward. D’Antoni said power forward was his best position. He likes him in the post and he likes his strength inside. I don’t know if you get enough rebounding from him, but if he’s at the 4 and Gallo is at the 3, now the 2 is open for one of your more natural shooters like Roger Mason or when healthy Azubuike. And Azubuike is the sleeper here. I think if he were healthy from day 1, then he’s the best fit at shooting guard. Not because he’s necessarily a much better player than Wilson Chandler, they’re different, but Azubuike is a better shooter and if you look at what he’s done his first couple of seasons, he could become their Raja Bell. Hit the open three and defend. Those are Azubuike’s strengths. If he were healthy, and maybe when he gets healthy, he’s the best fit there.

    Mike Kurylo: I only have time for one more question, so here you go: Who is the starting five on Christmas Day?

    Howard Beck: Wow. (chuckle) Two games into the preseason and I have to predict the lineup for Christmas Day. I’m just gong to go on a whim here, with a few impulsive judgments that I wouldn’t normally make. Amar’e Stoudemire at center, Wilson Chandler at power forward, Danilo Gallinari at small forward, a healthy Kelenna Azubuike at shooting guard, and Raymond Felton at point guard.