Robert and Jim and Mike go to Wall Street

As a foreward, let me just say that neither Mike, Jim nor myself made this video to either support and encourage or condemn and mock the actual #occupywallstreet movement. We’re talking about basketball. And trying to be funny. And while we’re trying to be funny (and hopefully succeeding), we’re actually really peeved about the cancellation of NBA games (you can read our formal declaration of grievances here). Alas, being really peeved about the cancellation of NBA games puts us (and probably you, Knickerblogger’s readership) in a rather small minority — the 1%, if you will. But if one starts to ask serious questions about why these games are being cancelled, it inevitably leads to some rather thorny, economic and political quandaries/issues/contradictions. Which I guess means we are, in fact, making a kind of political (if satirical/Swiftian) commentary. Drats. I’ve just tied myself into a pre-amblic Gordian knot. Let’s try again…

We interviewed some of the protesters down on Wall Street about the NBA lockout. What did we learn? Not much (except that attractive young women dig Ronny Turiaf). Here are some of the finer moments.

A bit that didn’t make the cut because it was just too durned long (but was hi-larious) was yours truly getting interviewed on camera about the 9-11 truth movement. Some press types cornered me and asked, “What do you think of the 9-11 truth movement?” and I went into a long-winded (quelle surprise!) diatribe about the fact that we all find conspiracy theories so compelling because they support the illusion/idea/hope that some omnipotent, all-knowing force is in charge of this miasma of chaos and inscrutability we call life. Even if the unseen power that rules us all is evil (like the Bilderberg Group or the Illuminati or any comic book/filmic supervillian), that’s preferable to Einstein being wrong and accepting the idea that God does in fact, “Play dice with the universe.” Anyhoo, I was waxing philosophical/poetic when the cameraman said, “That’s enough. Thanks.” I asked what the interview was for/where I might see it and he calmly said, “Sorry. We won’t use you. We’re looking for 9-11 Truthers.”

So if any of you stumble upon a documentary/Youtube clip stating #OWS is entirely populated by fringe Leftists, feel free to wholeheartedly debunk it with the above anecdote.

One more thing: Jim Cavan and I are not the same height. I was standing on a ledge when we shot the opening, like Tom Cruise does whenever he has to kiss a co-star taller than 5’6″. Side-by-side, Jim literally towers over me. Think Jared Jeffries and Nate Robinson.

Serious kudos to Mike K. for the boffo editing job. Enjoy…



Robert Goes to the Game

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
-Revelations 6:8

It’s always a solid idea to invoke the eternal in situations like these. Granted, the Columbia School of Journalism would frown on such a thing. Not your classic pyramidal lede, after all. But I used the King James version in honor of last night’s opponent. Yours truly, by dint of luck, got to attend this titanic affair in person (some of you may have already read my in-game tweets). Just as the good Dr. Thompson would have were he still with us, I brought a pad and paper (no smart-phone for Altacockers like me — heck, I came this close to wearing a fedora and bringing a Smith-Corona with me) and took copious notes. Here, Gonzo-style, is my mostly unedited, minute-by-minute experience of/commentary on said contest…

5:20 – Walking up 7th Avenue. Looking for that “Knicks buzz” that we haven’t seen round these parts since Bubba Clinton was lord and master of all he surveyed. It’s sorta there. Scalpers milling about at five-ish is a good sign. So is cops half-heartedly trying to bust said scalpers. For a second I ponder hocking my ticket and “covering” this event from Rudy’s Bar and Grill down the block (free hot dogs!). But considering I’m a respected member of the mainstream media, I quickly ditch this idea.

5:25 – I finish my last cigarette and enter MSG. Turns out, Gerry Cosby Sporting Goods is no longer in existence. I die a little inside. Back in the day, going to the game with my father, a key part of our pre-game ritual involved a pit stop at Gerry Cosby to stare in wonderment at the game-used jerseys and (utterly out of our price range) threads for sale. I blame Ebay/Craigslist for its demise. [Ed’s note: Cosby’s is still alive, 31st street East of 7th.]

5:26 – I wander over to the concierge desk and get my ticket. Clyde Frazier saunters (and I mean saunters) by. He’s rocking a turquoise suit, shirt and shoes. Sweet.

5:35 – So this shindig’s been set up by American Express. Upon entering, I’m approached by a middle management-type who gives me a free hat (not to mention, you know, the tickets) so I smile politely and make a beeline for the hors-d’oeuvres.

5:36 – I was hoping for some good cheese at the buffet table, but alas, there’s just reheated pigs-in-a-blanket and some chicken teriyaki thingies.  I eat them anyway. I mean, they’re there so I’ll eat but I was kinda hoping for fancy cheese m’self.

5:38 – There’s Clyde Frazier and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. I’m giddy as a schoolgirl. Seriously, just in awe. I walk over, attempting to be casual, as if chilling with all-time NBA greats is a daily occurrence for your humble correspondent. (I assume I fail. Casual anything isn’t my strong suit).  They’re talking about Rondo and how they’d defend his lack of a shot. Clyde, in his ineffable greatness says, “I’d insult him. I’d stand five feet away with my hands at my side and dare him to shoot. One miss, and he’d be mine for the rest of the game.” (I so want to be as cool as Walt Frazier in my next life). You may have seen some of the choice quotes from Clyde n’ Pearl at the mini-“press conference” that I tweeted ( But prior to this, we just hung out and talked hoops. I’m just about ready to die happily now. A few snippets of our chit-chat below…

PEARL: Dick Barnett used to bring his man close to me so he’d lay off Dick and double me. That was his way of letting me know it was time to give him the ball.

CLYDE: The Knicks haven’t executed a last-second play well since Red was the coach.

(I then asked Clyde, “Is that the players’ fault? Or the coach’s/poor play design?)

CLYDE: It’s both. They don’t practice it enough. In that situation, you’re so exhausted it has to be instinctive. You have to rely on muscle memory.

(Side note — I often carp on Clyde’s malapropisms/misused vocab when he’s calling a game. Hearing him “just talk” he’s clearly a very bright, articulate guy. It make me kinda wish he’d ditch the rhyming shtick — he clearly doesn’t need  it.)

PEARL: I almost came out of retirement to play for the expansion Dallas Mavericks in ’81. They really tried to sell me. Offered me a house in Dallas and a front office job when I retired. Almost said yes, but I really couldn’t play any more and I didn’t want the fans to remember me struggling.

CLYDE: (Comparing LBJ/Wade to himself and Monroe) Someone has to adapt and change their game. A team always knows who the alpha dog is. You fight it, and everyone gets messed up. Pearl changed to fit with me and we were able to flourish.

6:10 – I’m positively floating after getting to talk roundball with two of my heroes. In my stupor, I eat my eighth pig-in-a-blanket. The waiters are eyeballing me warily.

6:15 – The aforementioned mini-press conference. I listen for a bit. When the questions devolve into, “What was your favorite moment as a Knick,” I figure this is my chance to grab a last smoke before the game begins. Alas, I’m not allowed to leave. For serious. There’s an electronic chip on the ticket that once scanned, can’t be re-scanned or something and so if I go, I’m out for good. I begin to mumble something about hyper-technology dehumanizing us all and go back to the event, smoke-free.

6:30 – John Starks enters.

6:31 – John Starks exits.

6:32 – Wait, was that John Starks? Is he coming back? I wanna meet John Starks and do the three-fingers-to-the-heart gesture!! I go to ask the AMEX guy, but he’s hitting on the bartender. Poop.

6:35 – The pre-game event is over and we’re supposed to head up to the luxury suite, but I break away from the pack to take in the ambiance and go over my notes (this will be important later). Charles Smith walks by. He seems to not have aged at all since 1993. Ironic, since his series of bricks at the end of Game Five v. the Bulls clearly took ten years off my life and added three or four permanent furrows to my brow. [Ed’s note: That moment is what turned me from a boy into a man. It stole any childhood happiness from my soul.]

6:55 – I make my way up to the suite. I’ve never seen this part of MSG before. Honestly, it looks like the hallway of a Days Inn somewhere. Middle-aged, red-faced, clearly wealthy guys in suits, reeking of axe body wash are dragging their half-bored fraying trophy wives behind them. Again, just totally out of my element. The Garden for me will always be dingy fluorescent hallways that reek of deep-fried food and/or urine. It’s like the Great Recession never happened for these people. I can guarantee you that none of them ever considered lining their pockets with Ziploc bags to scarf buffet-table leftovers (I’ll let y’all decide if that’s a good or a bad thing).

7:00 – I enter the suite. We’re above the blue seats. To my surprise, being this high up allows for a much better view of the game than what one would find in the 200’s. There’s clearly a mathematical reason for this, but look! More buffet food. Sliders and dumplings and wings! Awesome. Excuse me please…

7:03 – Again, I try to suss out the vibe of MSG. Being this far away from the huddled, unwashed masses makes it a wee bit difficult, but there’s a genuine nervous energy about the place. Folks are ready to bust out with joy and/or hate.

7:08 – Pre-game hoopla. It’s a remnant of the Isiah regime. So much hurly-burly. T-shirt cannons. Random hype guys trying to get the crowd juiced. Hate it. I understand when the Knicks were a pitiable lot, some corporate bigwigs might have thought all this sound and fury was necessary to, you know, distract the populace from the abhorrent product on the court. But now that there’s a good (or at least usually entertaining) team, it’s just not necessary. I’m reminded, oddly enough, of a scene from that awful remake of Rollerball.

7:12 – Oh, right. The game. LeBron, etc. That’s why we’re here.

7:20 – Between sending Mike K. my tweets, taking notes and snacking like a fiend, I realize that I’m only semi-paying attention to what’s occurring on the court. I’m more impressed than ever by Bill Simmons’ running game diaries/”Cover it live” scribblings (to which this little ditty owes more than a passing resemblance). It’s really hard to write about and watch the game and be vaguely witty and/or insightful all at the same time.

7:25 – I ravage the buffet/beverage table like Amar’e going to the rim on the pick and roll. I’m on my twelfth piggie-blankety treat and loading up with Buffalo wings. So now I’ve got a hot sauce slathered face (bleu cheese dressing is for wimps) and I’m intermittently bellowing things like, “That was a foul!” and, “Stop throwing up early three’s Raymond/Will/Landry! Move the @#$%^& ball!!” My fellow box residents are starting to give me the stink-eye. None of them seem nearly as emotionally invested in the outcome of the match as I am.

7:35 – 1st Quarter ends. Nix down nine. I’m trying to figure out what cost our lads the lead. Felton/Amar’e seem too eager to play well. Doubling LeBron is allowing Bosh and Carlos effing Arroyo to nail easy open shots. While marveling at my brilliant analysis, I suddenly realize that I’ve been in the wrong luxury suite the whole time. I’m surprised no one asked who I was what I was doing there or something, but as I said, these folks didn’t seem to care too much that they were there, so my presence wasn’t likely to make that much of an impression.

7:38 – I make my way to the AMEX box. This is more like it. I’m suddenly surrounded by some seriously jacked fans, wearing Amar’e jerseys and drinking heavily. (The fact that this suite [unlike my first one] contained a fully stocked bar probably helped. I take a moment to curse the fact that I’m an alcoholic and move on). Much theorizing about why they’re down. Someone says, “D’Antoni sucks!” Cogent analysis or not, these are my people. The AMEX guy asks, “Where have you been?” I mutter something about being in the wrong suite and he laughs stiffly and whacks me on the back saying, “You rock, dude!” He’s like the fraternity brother I never had.

7:52 – Oo! A Padma Lakshmi sighting in celebrity row! She’s like, really pretty and like, this season of Top Chef looks like totally promising if…Wait. Wrong pointless obsession. Sorry ’bout that. [Ed’s note: I thought I was the only one? Which chef do you think has the best game? The easy answer is Anthony Bourdain, but I’d put my money on the darkhorse chef/cager, Eric Ripert. There are plenty of ballers in France… I see what you mean by pointless obsession.]

7:59 – The Knickerbockers start to claw their way back in the game, capped by Willll-son CHAND-La!’s thunderous dunk on the break. The suite’s rocking and the one attractive woman in the room starts to dance seductively to whatever classic rock tune they’re playing during the time out. Suddenly every male with an operant limbic system shifts their curdling blood-rage into an indefinable lust for this supple yet lithe, gyrating female. Her ostensible boyfriend, heretofore the most vociferous chap in the joint, gets quiet and protective.

8:10 – Halftime. Tied. I’m seriously jonesing for a smoke, but the food-coma I’m entering is counteracting the effects nicely. Everyone in the suite is super-sure that the Nix will win this one. I’m not convinced. It’s not the ten years of losing, mind you. My Nix, even when they were a “contender” always seemed to botch games like this’n. I wonder how these doe-eyed optimists are going to react when the soul-crushing defeats inevitably arrive. Will they be thrilled just to have “meaningful games?” Will they revel in “moral victories?” Or will they be even more distraught?

8:30 – My notes say in all-caps & repeatedly underlined, “3 MISSED FREE THROWS BY STAT. THAT’S THE GAME. IT’S OVER.” Again, I’ve seen too many of these affairs. It’s not because I have any great b-ball insight, mind you, it’s all a matter of  repetition. I’ve seen this show before. Just like I know how Hamlet’s going to end when I watch that bit o’ drama play out.

8:54 – And just like that, down 16 at the end of the third. John Kenney’s got a much more thorough recap but in short, LeBron went into full-on killer mode.

9:02 – The fans in the pricey seats start leaving in droves and the energy in the arena deflates quicker than the Metrodome.

9:12 – The AMEX guy asks if I’m sticking around for the post-game interviews. Of course, I say. He seems edgy and queries what I plan on asking Gallo/Stat/Turiaf (Who evidently are going to hang around to chill with us uber-fans after getting grilled by the beat reporters. I’m impressed. After this game, I’d be high-tailing it out of there.) I reassure him I won’t say anything to kick the team after a bad loss. Clearly, I’ll never be employed by the New York Post.

9:25 – Game’s over and we’ve made our serpentine way through the bowels of MSG to the court. We wait.

9:30 – We wait some more. Again, if Gallo/Stat/Ronny chose to bail, I wouldn’t blame them.

9:31 – By the way, the fans in the pricey seats left a TON of food on the floor. Aside from the mess, those things are expensive and some people took less than one bite before throwing it away! Why not take it with you? It’s still good! Och!

9:33 – Stephen A. Smith walks by. Someone in our group yells out, “Quite frankly, I love them Cheesy Doodles!” I laugh like a hyena. If you’d like to get the reference, check out this clip: Heh. Cheesy Doodles.

9:35 – Gallo/Stat/Ronny come out. AMEX has swung us a free photo with them on the Knicks’ logo at center court. I wait my turn and step on to the sacred floor of Madison Square Garden.  I’m 12 years old and Bernard King is still the best baller ever. I mime launch a three and stand next to the aforementioned trio. Kill me now.

(Side note — NBA players are really tall. The thing about watching games on TV is that, since everyone on the court is usually a ginormous human being (save Nate), one doesn’t realize how massive these guys really are. We’re not even the same species. There’s a photo coming of this moment via mail which I’ll share with y’all as soon as it arrives. I’ll be the midget sporting an ear-to-ear grin.)

9:36 – As the photographer gets ready, I say to Turiaf, “C’est dommage, mon gros!” (Translation: Too bad, my friend!) Completely unsurprised by my comment in French, he replies, “Oui, Oui, Le demain sera meilleur.” (Translation: Tomorrow will be better). Ronny Turiaf is super-cool. Then I say to Gallo, “In bocca al lupo! (Translation: Into the mouth of the wolf – it’s Italian slang that means, “good luck”). He was seriously taken aback, but still managed to pull off a fist bump while saying, “Crepi!” (Again, it literally means “Eat it!” but it’s slang for, “I will!”).  Dap from Gallo plus a bit of linguistic gymnastics has me on cloud nine. I’m King Superfly Baddass Mofo.

9:40 – We find out the Q&A has been canceled. They’ve got to get on a plane to Cleveland. No quibbles here.

9:50 – I’m on 7th Ave again, killing my nic-fit and still in a daze (maybe it’s the literal truckload of buffet I gobbled). Thinking back on the evening’s events, I’m given pause by how much it didn’t feel like going to the game (at least not in any sense that I’d experienced before). I know we lost and I have a few ideas as to why, but the usual emotional highs and lows were for the most part completely absent. And then it hit me. I couldn‘t watch the game as a fan because I was there to report on the game. Now, I’m not saying I had a typical sportswriter’s experience. For one, I assume that real reporters aren’t nearly as star-struck as I was. But the thing I think I shared with those ink-stained wretches is the sense of detachment that’s required for the task at hand. There’s really no way to root for the Knicks and write about it as it happens (recaps for Knickerblogger are clearly another matter entirely) in any competent manner. So I sacrificed my emotional investment in order to type this. And were someone to pay me to report on this team on a daily basis (Ha!), I’d have to stop pulling for this team in order to do my job. I guess I just inadvertently discovered objective journalism.

Didn’t see that coming.

What Difference Did Two Games Make, Statistically Speaking?

The Knicks have won their last two contests, and have snuck into 7th place in the Eastern Conference standings. This chain of events might have coaxed Knick fans who were on the ledge back into safety. But what do these recent games say about the team? To do so I’ll compare the Knicks stats from prior to this win streak to today. I’ll concentrate with team stats, since they are the most insightful.

The good news is that the New York offense has jumped up to the 8th spot from the 18th. Although the Knicks have improved in each of the four factors, the biggest improvement has come in free throw shooting. Getting to the line is now a Knick forte, with the 3rd best rate in the league. Although Amar’e (8.2 fta/36) and Gallinari (7.5 fta/36) power the franchise, Wilson Chandler has made the most significant strides (3.4 to 4.0 fta/36).

On the other hand, the defense has declined as New York now ranks 24th, down 4 spots from prior to the win streak and 13 spots from less than a week ago. Defense appeared to be a Knick strength, but now has become a liability. The only factor that dramatically dropped was opponent shooting percentage, which is now the fifth worst in the league behind the Kings, Wizards, Suns, and Clippers. The knee-jerk answer is that Turiaf’s injury has made New York worse on defense. However Ronny came back on the 16th, a day after the Knicks were ranked 11th. Additionally he’s started in the last 3 games, so it’s hard to explain the defensive decline on his absence. The better explanation is that the team overall hasn’t done a good job in preventing opponents from getting good looks at the rim. The strength of the Knick defense is in making opponents cough up the ball, as New York ranks 11th in forcing turnovers.

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?):

2009: 28.5
2010: 38.5
2011: 33.3

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).

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 – Centers

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 I’ll look at each position and attempt to address the critical question for those players.

Centers: Is there a quality NBA starting center here?

Prior to the preseason, it was thought that the Knicks would open the season with Ronny Turiaf as the starting center. Unfortunately Turiaf’s preseason play has been less than spectacular, averaging a pitiful 4.4 pts/36, 7.0 reb/36, and 2.3 to/36. Mozgov scores more (13.4 pts/36) but his rebounding (6.7 reb/36) and turnovers (3.0 to/36) are actually worse. The young Russian also features the propensity to commit foolish fouls (6.7 pf/36) at a rate that would make Jerome James proud. With the possibility of them averaging 30 to 40 minutes a night, you have to be concerned with the production the Knicks will get out of the five spot.

New York’s center dilemma brings up another area of concern: rebounding. Even if Amar’e stays at power forward, the Knicks are going to have a serious problem on the boards this year. Turiaf has been a poor rebounder his whole career, and Mozgov, for all his size, didn’t rebound well in preseason. The only player on the roster who has historically rebounded at a high level is Anthony Randolph. Unfortunately he isn’t likely to see enough minutes this year to make a dent in New York’s main deficiency. The Knicks haven’t been strong on the glass during D’Antoni’s tenure, and it seems that again this year they’ll be punting one of the four factors away, no matter who is playing center.

Which Knick center will be of NBA-starting caliber quality this season?

  • Timofev Mozgov (72%, 186 Votes)
  • Neither (22%, 58 Votes)
  • Both (3%, 8 Votes)
  • Ronny Turiaf (3%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 259

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Knicks 2011 Season Preview – Power Forwards

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 I’ll look at each position and attempt to address the critical question for those players.

Power Forwards: Is Amar’e really going to play the four?

The answer to this question is most relevant to how the Knicks will look this year. Having Amar’e entrenched at power forward forces D’Antoni to play Mozgov and Turiaf. Additionally Amar’e and Gallinari averaging 35+ minutes per night, doesn’t leave a lot of time at the forward spot for Anthony Randolph and Wilson Chandler. Mathematically there would only be 26 minutes per game remaining for the pair. Hence if Amar’e stays at center, that could mean either Chandler stays entrenched at SG, or Anthony Randolph won’t see many minutes.

However if the option to have Stoudemire at center is available, then New York can make a much more fluid lineup. With multi-position defenders like Randolph, Chandler, Gallo, Fields, Azubuike, and Douglas the team could go into a Swiss Army mode creating mismatches all over the floor. One of New York’s strengths is their depth and athleticism. As long as Amar’e mans the 5, the team will be fast enough to outrun the opposition whether they go big with the rest of the lineup (Felton, Chandler, Gallinari, and Randolph) or small (Felton, Douglas, Gallinari, Chandler).

At its core, the answer to this question will hint at the power dynamics between D’Antoni and Stoudemire. It has been rumored that with the Suns Amar’e wasn’t happy playing the five, and this caused a friction between him and his coach. Undoubtedly D’Antoni’s system runs best when he has the flexibility with his players. In the three seasons before Shaq arrived in Phoenix, the Suns averaged 59 wins with Amar’e at center. The Knicks coach has said many kind words about Mozgov, but it’s not hard to imagine D’Antoni itching to send the 7 footer to the bench and trot out a more sleek and energetic lineup. If the centers are getting a lot of minutes and aren’t producing, then you’ll know that Amar’e is serious about not playing the five and D’Antoni is restricted in his creativity.