KnickerBlogger Turns 5

This week marks the 5th anniversary of KnickerBlogger. When I started this venture, I didn’t imagine it would last this long. Five years ago, blogging was still in its infancy. There were less than 2 million blogs when KnickerBlogger came into existence. Just six months after, the number of blogs had doubled. Today it’s unknown how many blogs there are. One estimate is 200 million. Many of them are powered by individuals like myself.

More important than the number of blogs is the role they perform. Once derided by the mainstream media, just about every newspaper, magazine, and network hosts their own blog. They are now an essential part of the world’s information and entertainment. Blogs fill an important niche in the world. Previously the only avenue for the common man to voice his opinion was through those who held the keys to kingdom. Often his voice was not heard by the public. Blogs have taken the words of the everyman and projected them from the world’s tallest soap box.

Five years ago my goal with KnickerBlogger was to create a platform for those who felt their opinion was not represented in the mainstream. Judging by the other readers who come here to share their thoughts and my affiliation with True Hoop Network that allows me to bring these voices to the mainstream, it seems that I have succeeded. I can only wonder what KnickerBlogger will be in five more years.

To celebrate this anniversary, I’m announcing the KnickerBlogger Quinquennial Team. To assist in this matter, I’ve looked at the overall PER and the single season PER for that period.

Stephon Marbury, PG – As painful as it is to admit, Marbury has dominated the team in many ways during the lifespan of KnickerBlogger. As his career with the team comes nearer to it’s disappointing end, it’s hard to remember that he was a productive scorer early on. He has the highest single season PER (21.9 in 2005) as well as the highest PER (18.4) during the KnickerBlogger era. His defense was mediocre and his contract was suffocating, had the two been reversed he would have been a shoe in for the Hall of Fame.
Reserves: Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Frank Williams.

David Lee, PF – It may shock many to see Lee here, but those that have watched him play aren’t surprised that he’s been the second most productive Knick by PER standards over the last 5 years. Looking at things from a objective standpoint it’s hard to find a more deserving PF. Randolph’s PER is the same and his weaknesses are similar to Lee’s (blocked shots, defense). However, Lee has played 4000 more minutes while costing the team $10M less. After Randolph are Mike Sweetney and Kurt Thomas. Sweetney ate himself out of the league, and Thomas wasn’t nearly as productive on the offensive end. Of all the starters on this list, Lee is the one who is most likely to also appear on KnickerBlogger’s Decennial team as well.
Reserves: Zach Randolph, Kurt Thomas, Mike Sweetney.

Nazr Mohammed, C – Surprised it’s not Curry? Nazr played exactly 81 games for the Knicks in 2 seasons, and would rank 4th in Knicks PER over the KnickerBlogger era. Mohammed was a great offensive rebounder, pulling down 4.0/36 oreb/36. To put that in perspective that’s a higher rate than Lee’s career 3.6. During the Isiah era, Nazr was eventually replaced by Eddy Curry. Comparing the two, Nazr was outscored by Curry (19.2 to 13.7), but Curry did it with almost double the turnovers (3.5 to/36 to 2.0). Additionally Mohammed had nearly double the blocks (1.3 blk/36 to Curry’s 0.7), triple the steals (1.4 stl/36 to 0.4), and more rebounds (10.6 reb/36 to 7.4). With that in mind, it’s clear that Nazr deserves the nod here.
Reserves: Eddy Curry, Dikembe Mutombo.

Van Horn/Renaldo Balkman, SF Keith played only 47 games for New York, but he put up some good numbers while he was here. Van Horn was criticized for being a tweener that had trouble defending, but he rebounded well and scored efficiently. However Van Horn only played 1500 minutes for New York. That’s about as much as Al Harrington. If that’s too little for you, then Balkman is next on the PER list. Considering how PER doesn’t account well for defense, then it makes sense that he was probably unrepresented by his stats.

One note on Keith Van Horn: shortly after Isiah Thomas took over the team, he traded Keith Van Horn. At the time Van Horn was a popular player who had just been acquired that summer, so the trade felt hasty. Since then New York has suffered through instability at the small forward position, something I’ve called “the Curse of Keith Van Horn”. The list of small forwards since the Knicks jettisoned Van Horn: Anfernee Hardaway, DerMarr Johnson, Tim Thomas, Trevor Ariza, Shandon Anderson, Jerome Williams, Matt Barnes, Jalen Rose, Ime Udoka, Qyntel Woods, Jared Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, Renaldo Balkman, and Wilson Chandler. Hopefully the curse will be broken in 2010
Reserves: Tim Thomas, Junk Yard Dog.

Jamal Crawford, SG – The default pick, since there really haven’t been many other shooting guards in recent Knick history. Robinson is the only other one that merits any mention. Crawford can drive Golden State fans crazy for the next few years.
Reserves: Nate Robinson

Lenny Wilkens, Coach – I’d like to choose D’Antoni, but he’s only been around for a half season. Wilkens got the team to the playoffs until they tuned him out a year later. In retrospect that should have signified there was something wrong behind the scenes. In his latter years, Wilkens was an adequate coach, which says a lot about the coaches the Knicks have had over the last 5 years.

Most Minutes 5: Curry, Lee, Richardson, Crawford, Marbury
Least Minutes 5: Trybanski, Randolph Morris, Matt Barnes, Jamison Brewer, Jermaine Jackson

Best Defensive 5: Mutumbo, Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Ariza, Frank Williams
Worst Defensive 5: Curry, Randolph, Jalen Rose, Crawford, Marbury

Drafted 5: Frye, Lee, Balkman, Ariza, Nate
Toughest 5: Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Collins, Robinson, Frank Williams

Best Shooting 5: David Lee, Tim Thomas, Van Horn, Nate, Marbury
Worst Shooting 5: Bruno Sundov, Malik Rose, Balkman, Shanderson, Collins

All Name 5: Cezary Trybanski, Othella Harrington, Qyntel Woods, Anfernee Hardaway, Moochie Norris
Scrappiest 5: David Lee, Jerome Williams, Renaldo Balkman, Jermaine Jackson, Frank Williams

If I had to choose a Starting 5 from this era: Nazr, Lee, Balkman, Robinson, Duhon.
Reserves: Mutombo, Van Horn, Ariza, Sweetney, Frank Williams, Gallinari, Chandler.
Coach: D’Antoni

It’s sad but I think this is the best the Knicks could do combining all the players over the last 5 years. I’ve left Marbury off for obvious reasons. New York would have a tremendous rebounding starting lineup, with enough balance of offense & defense on the bench. If you wanted, you could substitute Randolph or Kurt Thomas for Sweetney. But this being KnickerBlogger, I thought it’d be good to give the guy a second chance. The same goes for Frank Williams, who is playing well enough in the NBDL to get another shot at the NBA. Gallinari & Chandler make the list because of their youth. If this team were looking at a title, then I might choose Tim Thomas and Crawford. But I think this is a .500 team that will need some youth.

Way Too Early Season Review Part I

The Knicks are 6-6, good enough to sit atop of the Atlantic division, a half a game ahead of the Sixers. Although it’s tough to be unhappy about being in first place, things aren’t all as good as it seems. New York ranks 25th in defensive efficiency, and next to last in defensive shooting percentage (51% eFG). With all of 12 games under it’s belt, we’ve seen enough of the Knicks to start evaluating the players individually. To give a complete view, I’m going to mix my observations (I’ve watched all but one of their games) with some statistical methods.

To validate what my eyes have seen, I’ll use three stats to get a general overall value of a player, PER, oPER, and Roland Rating. If you have any doubts that PER is a good measure of offensive ability, the last two years the top 5 PER belonged to Garnett, Duncan, Shaq, Kobe and McGrady, which passes my litmus test. oPER (opposition PER) is less accurate because of how defense is played in the NBA (switched defensive assignments, help defense, zone defense, double teams, etc.), but can still be valuable up to a point. According to, Roland Rating “represents a player’s value to a particular team and are not intended to be an accurate gauge of the ability and talent of the player away from the specific team.” Since it takes the player in context of his team, and we’re only looking at the players on one team, it’s perfect for our needs. So you can train your eyes on what to look for, I’m going to use it with these colors: (offensive PER, defensive PER, +/-Roland Rating).

Let’s start with the Knicks’ best player Stephon Marbury (24.3PER, 15.7oPER, +13.7RR). There’s nothing here that is different from every scouting report on the Knicks PG: great offense, mediocre defense. I’ve lost hope of Marbury ever turning up his intensity on defense, but for someone who has the untapped ability to be a good defender, he shouldn’t be criticizing his teammates for their lackluster play under their hoop. It’s easier to ignore Starbury’s aversion to defense when his offense is that good, and when the alternative could be Moochie Norris (0, 12.1, -12.4). Yes folks, thats a zero offensive PER. Norris is currently on the IR, and if I were the Knicks I wouldn’t be in a big hurry to bring him back. According to the Pro Basketball Forecast his PER has declined each of the last 4 years. Deteriorating production, being on the wrong side of 30, a long contract, and not being that good to begin with is a bad combination (right Shanderson?). Giving Norris’ few minutes to a younger and bigger Jamison Brewer can’t hurt.

Thankfully, the primary backup for Marbury is the Knicks’ new acquisition Jamal Crawford (16.1, 21.6, +2.4). He has been good offensively, but his defense is porous. Crawford’s thin frame is ill-suited to fight through picks, and too fragile to slow down a drive once the other team gets a step on him. Jamal has an excellent handle, but there is nothing more frustrating than having Crawford settling for a jumper (which comprise 82% of his shots), after he’s faked his defender with a series of fancy dribbles. Crawford should force the issue towards the basket with his great passing and dribbling skills. In addition, he’d do well getting fouled driving to the hoop, since the guy makes a free throw shot look like a layup (86% FT).

Crawford’s only 24, so I hope the Knicks coaching staff can get Jamal to produce a little more before he becomes set in his ways. For someone that will likely be in New York for the next 7 years, I’d like for him to be able to give us a little more production, either on offense and defense. He has excellent skills to build on: quickness, dribbling, a good shot, and that three point buzzer beater shows his confidence. He just needs to be smarter with his shot, and work on his defensive fundamentals. The Knicks announcers always make me chuckle with the line “he gets his hands on a lot of balls”, and Crawford’s one positive aspect on defense is creating turnovers (2.1 STL per 40 minutes).

It’s no secret that the Knicks’ defense has been pitiful, but what surprised me is what position has been their worst. I would have thought opposing shooting guards would be circling the New York dates on their schedule, but it’s actually been the power forward position that’s given the Knicks the most trouble. Amazed as I was, reports that PFs have a 20.8 PER against the Knicks. Checking their individual stats, it’s Kurt Thomas (15.3, 22.5, -9.2) who seems to be the culprit. Just to make sure this year’s results aren’t a victim of small sample size, I checked last year’s stats, where Kurt shows up as a below average defender (17.5 oPER) as well.

Watching the games I would have never believed this, so I decided to double check this manually. Since Thomas plays more minutes at PF than anyone else on the team, it’s logical to judge his worth by the opposing starting PF. For every Knicks game, I added the stats for every PF that played more than 20 minutes. The compiled offensive line is very nice from an offensive standpoint: 15.3 Points in 33 minutes on 56% eFG. Of the 15 opponents in my list, only 5 had an adjusted shooting percentage under 50% against the Knicks.

The Knicks have played some great PFs in Duncan, Garnett, Nowitzki, and Brand, but even guys like Gooden (11-16, 25PTS 75% eFG), Austin Croshere (3-4 12PTS 100%), and Matt Bonner (12-16, 24PTS 75% in 2 games) are having great shooting nights. I know that Kurt has a great reputation as a man-man defender, but the numbers say otherwise. Guys like Garnett and Duncan will score against any defender, however if Kurt is as good as his reputation, he should be able to handle the Crosheres and Bonners of the NBA. Thomas’ defense isn’t the only issue. His ability to get to the charity stripe has been fading since 2001.

year	FTA/40

2001 3.8
2002 2.9
2003 2.0
2004 0.8

The news isn’t all bad for Thomas, as his shooting as held steady over his career (currently at a nice even 50%), and his rebounding has spiked up this year. Additionally, he doesn’t turn the ball over too often.

If you disliked reading the last two paragraphs as much as I hated writing them, you’re going to really hate this one. At this moment, Thomas is the Knicks’ most attractive tradable asset. Why? First, for GMs that still use traditional stats, he’s a double-double (maybe the most misleading stat in the NBA) that’s shooting 50% and probably still has that good reputation as a tough defender. His contract is reasonable (more reasonable this year at $6M, than in 4 years at $8M). Although he’s past his prime at age 32, that Thomas has a been a healthy and solid contributor over the last 6 years makes him a nice fit for a team looking for a veteran presence to help them for a playoff run. Additionally the Knicks can easily make up for Thomas’ production with two underused players in Sweetney and Williams. Finally, although other teams covet the Knicks’ little used young players like Sweetney and Ariza, the Knicks would be unlikely to get fair value in return.

That’s the end of Part I. Tune in for Part II, where I continue with my ranting & raving.

A Defensive Trend

In case you aren’t a regular reader of my blog, I’ve been following a distressing trend since the Knicks’ season started. So far defense has been a big issue for New York. The Knicks have allowed their opponents the second highest FG% in the league. However field goal percentage is a bit flawed, and I like to use something more meaningful called eFG% (sometimes called aFG%).

If you want to know exactly how to figure out effective shooting percentage (eFG%), I did a little write up at the end of this article. It’s more accurate than FG%, because eFG% takes into account the extra point a three pointer brings. Peja Stojakovic connected on 48% of his shots last year, but since he hit a lot of threes (with great accuracy I might add), his eFG% of 57% better represents his shooting ability. Good enough for second best in the NBA. Players that don’t hit any treys have the same eFG% as their FG%. Shaq had a FG% of 58%, but since he doesn’t attempt any shots from beyond the arc (thank goodness), his eFG% is also 58%. Effective FG% is gaining mainstream popularity, and you can find it on ESPN’s stat page or

Getting back to the Knicks’ woes, their opponents have been shooting the lights out with a 52.6% eFG%. That’s a whooping 12% better than the league average (47.1%). Only the Hawks & Nuggets are worse, while teams like the Hornets, Bulls, and Sixers rank just above the Knicks. Those aren’t a group of teams you want to be associated with defensively. Right now when teams are facing the Knicks, they’re getting a better look at the rim than the Tidy Bowl Man.

It’s fair to say that 5 games is too small a sample size to make a huge deal over. However consider this: not once this season have the Knicks’ held their opponent’s eFG% under the league average. Three of their opponents shot over 50%, with the Celtics a shade under 60%. When teams that were below average shooters last year (Clippers & Sixers) are having good shooting nights against New York, it’s time to raise the red flag.

What’s interesting is last year the Knicks contested shots very well, allowing an eFG% of only 46.1%. So what happened in a year? The roster overhaul could be the answer as the Knicks no longer have defensive minded players like Deke, Frank Williams, Shanderson and Charlie Ward. Easily 4 of the Knick starters are not thought of as above average defenders, and the 5th, Kurt Thomas, is not a shot blocking big man. Actually the entire roster is void of either a shot blocker or a “defensive stopper”.

This defensive weakness coincides with another Knick sore spot, depth at center. Nazr Mohammed is poor on the defensive end, and isn’t reliable on a day-to-day basis. Against the Clippers he only played 12 minutes, because he forced himself to the bench with constant foul trouble. His strength is on the offensive end of the court, as witnessed by his 11 offensive rebound effort against the Pacers. The Knicks would benefit by having a center that could disrupt the other team’s offense, a ying to Mohammed’s yang. Marbury, Crawford, and whoever is the PF (Thomas or Sweetney) are good enough offensively to carry a millstone at center. The Knicks won’t be able to get a guy like Theo Ratliff without giving up something big in return, but there are cheaper alternatives out there. Shot blocking machine Dan Gadzuric is loosing minutes to Zaza “Gabor” Pachulia, and would have a cheaper price tag considering Milwaukee’s depth at center.

One final thought, eFG% isn’t a complete measure of defense, but is a vital component. Dean Oliver, standing on the shoulders of great basketball minds like the legendary Dean Smith, discovered that shooting at a higher percentage than your opponent is the best single factor that correlates with winning. The founder of the Journal of Basketball Studies states that out shooting your opponent is more important than out rebounding them, getting to the free throw line more often, or winning the turnover edge. The Knicks early season only seems to confirm this, because the better shooting team has won every single game. Hopefully the Knicks can break this trend either by acquiring some good defenders, running better defensive schemes, or just giving a better effort on the court with the current personnel.

A little bit about eFG%

Traditional FG% is calculated by:


Field Goals Made is simply the number of 2 pointers made (2PM) plus the number of 3 pointers made (3PM). So rewriting the equation becomes:

(2PM + 3PM)/FGA

It’s clear to see that FG% assumes that 3 point shots are equal to their 2 point counterparts. Taking into account the points gained by making a trey, (3/2=1.5) eFG% is simple to understand when you put it’s equations next to FG%’s:

FG% = (2PM + 3PM) / FGA
eFG% = (2PM + 1.5*3PM) / FGA

eFG% gives 3 pointers made an extra 50% bonus because the points scored on a 3 pointer is 50% greater. A simpler way to write eFG% is:

eFG% = (FGM + 3PM/2)/FGA.

Back to top.

David Weighs In On The Knicks SFs

It takes hours to read all the emails from my million or so adoring fans. This one comes from Dr. David Crockett Assistant Professor of Marketing, part-time KnickerBlogger and avid hoops fan.

As I said before, had the Knicks bought Anderson out this summer they’d probably have gotten a better bargain by giving him more flexibility in signing elsewhere. Nevertheless, it’s always a good sign when your leader recognizes a bad situation and gets out of it before things get worse.

You hit the nail on the head – the willingness for this Knicks regime to make changes. Before Isiah, the Knicks would have stayed pat with guys like Shanderson. For two years it was the same 30-something win team with little change. Even when Layden had created some excitement in the draft with Sweetney, Lampe and Vranes, he couldn’t get rid of dead weight like Othella Harrington & Weatherspoon to give them any playing time.

As I understand it, Shanderson comes off our cap now, right? If so, the cap space going forward is the most valuable commodity that’s been gained.

Sorry the KnickerBlogger staff capologist is vacationing in Greenland right now, so I’m not 100% sure about this. As far as I can tell, Shanderson’s salary still counts against the cap. If another team signs him, the Knicks get a reduction, which should be something like (his contract – the minimum contract)/2. In other words, unless someone is dumb enough to sign him for a LOT of money, the Knicks will see little cap improvement. The good news is that with New York’s cap situation, the cap space means nothing. Or is that bad news?

As it concerns signing Eddie Robinson, it’s a 1 year deal for the remainder of the $1.3. That’s the minimum he could sign for, right? It’s hard to fuss with that for a guy who is notoriously on again-off again. To me this is a wise (read: inexpensive, short-term) gamble.

Eddie just failed his physical. Although it doesn’t mean the Knicks won’t sign him when he’s healthy.

Speaking more broadly however, the open courtship of E-Rob even dating back to last season, says to me that TT’s leash may be quite short with Isiah. Thus he has picked the absolute worst possible time to play such horrible basketball. He may not be fully recovered from his back injury. He may be having a garden-variety slow start. Or he may be staring over the edge of the same cliff Roberto Alomar dove off upon coming to NY. I cannot say for sure which. What I can say is that the Knicks can probably get good production from the SF in a platoon that features Hardaway, Robinson, and an emerging Ariza.

I suspect that TT’s biggest issues in NY have less to do with his back and more to do with a chronic case of diarrhea of the mouth, which last season cannot have endeared him to many people. After all the ire he eventually directed at his teammates for not indulging his foolishness last season against the Nets, he may well be talking his way out of yet another situation that was tailor-made for him to do well.

I don’t think Tim Thomas is driving off Robby Alomar cliff at the tender age of 27, and he doesn’t look hurt. So I’m sticking with the “slow start” theory. Shooting-wise, he started off the game great tonight, but cooled off, and was quiet for the rest of the game. The problem with Tim is the lack of much else beyond scoring. In the first two minutes alone, Stephen Marbury got two easy rebounds that Thomas could have had. It just smacks of a lack of effort on his part. To make matter worse, Trevor Ariza looked impressive again, although he needs a little more finishing before he can be reliable day in & day out.

When I first heard that Isiah wanted to sign Eddie Robinson, two thoughts came to my head. Isiah likes projects: Nazr Mohammed, Vin Baker, DerMarr Johnson, and even Tim Thomas on some level. Zeke is a beach goer with a metal detector and a shovel, frantically digging for something he can trade in.

Next, I wondered why Isiah would want a SG/SF? We need a backup center, not a 4th SF. That led me to believe that one of the Knicks SF might be on the way out. Tim Thomas’ enormous contract makes him tough to deal, but Isiah has moved bad contracts before, usually by acquiring even more contracts. The other option I could think of is JYD. Williams seems to be the odd man out of the rotation early on in the year. He’s overpaid for what he brings, but I’m sure there is one GM out there that might want him for his “energy” on & off the court. Don’t get me wrong Williams isn’t valuable enough to bring in anything worth while, and would have to be packaged with someone – most likely Kurt Thomas. The last option is to keep Robinson as a DerMarr Johnson type. Maybe play 20-30 games, all garbage time & injury emergency.

Even without signing Robinson, the Knicks do have a little depth at SF. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them were shipped before the trading deadline.

Sixers 88 Knicks 96

For most of the first quarter there was nothing new to the Knicks attack. They mostly played a perimeter game consisting of one of three things:

  • Marbury asking for the pick & roll.
  • Marbury faking the pick & roll & driving to the hoop
  • Crawford using his dribble to get an open jumper.

The Knicks big guys were either to join in the perimeter attack (Kurt Thomas on the pick & roll) or do what Nazr Mohammed did. The Knicks’ starting center scored the first of his two first quarter field goals by waiting for a guard to dish the ball after being doubled team on a penetration drive. The second one Nazr earned with an offensive rebound and put back.

However things changed with about 3 minutes left. The Knicks dumped the ball in the low post to Michael Sweetney. It seemed natural to see New York work out of the post. Sweetney didn’t spin continuously in the paint & muscle his way to a jump hook like Larry Johnson used to. He didn’t hold the ball for 10 seconds and drive toward the middle to take a strong running shot in the lane like Patrick Ewing did in his day. Instead the second year player deftly spun to the paint and gently dropped a finger roll into the net.

In fact Sweetney asked for the ball two more times at the start of the second quarter, and the Knicks feed it to him for post-up scores. The announcers declared it was the first time they’ve ever seen him asking for the ball. That’s a long way from the “wide-eyed rookie” I described him as less than a year ago. That description could have fit Trevor Ariza.

Actually Ariza’s skills make him a Jekyl & Hyde player. He’s calm & confident in transition, or when the focus is not on him in the half court. One play in the first quarter exemplifies Ariza’s strengths. He stole the ball near midcourt, and beat out everyone to the ball and laid it in leaving everyone else trailing behind him on the play. It looked like Ariza was jogging while everyone else was running at full speed. Clearly, he was in his element.

On the other hand, Ariza looks lost in the half court game. His first jumper rebounded high over the backboard, causing him to loose faith in his shot. By my count, he passed up 3 open jump shots in the first half. The other end of the court didn’t offer any solace for Ariza, where his one-on-one defense was lacking. Before watching him tonight, I thought the Knicks should trap & press with him in the game. Writing his strengths & weaknesses down on (electronic) paper just reinforces this idea.

Ariza played plenty of minutes thanks to Tim Thomas having his third bad game in a as many attempts. By halftime, Thomas had played 15 minutes and had 0 rebounds with 3 points on 6 attempts. I wonder how many more bad games Thomas can afford before the Knicks hand over the SF starting job to Ariza. The Knicks can’t afford to have Thomas as an overpaid SF sitting on the bench, especially when Shanderson is doing so well in that role. Tim’s huge contract would make him even more impossible to trade if he can’t beat out a 19 year old that every team passed up at least once. I’m sure Wilkens will give him a $12.9M dollar long leash.

Unfortunately Michael Sweetney doesn’t have the luxury Ariza does. Kurt Thomas did what coaches love, all the small things. He blocked two of Iverson’s shots in the first half, and was aggressive on the offensive glass. Thomas ended up with only 8 points, but had 4 offensive rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Even though Sweetney was 4-4 in the first half, he only had 10 minutes in the first half, and didn’t get back into the game until 3:30 in the 3rd quarter. He didn’t take another shot after the first half. Kevin Pelton asked me the other day if this is Sweetney’s team yet. He’d be the starting PF if the other Thomas was ahead of him on the depth chart.

The Knicks best front court was when Michael Sweetney played next to Kurt Thomas. Philly doesn’t have a center that would make New York pay for such a transgression, so the Knicks were able to get away with a small lineup. When bigger centers come to town, Sweetney may loose some of those minutes when the Knicks are forced to play a center bigger than 6’9. Sweetney played only 17 minutes, and that’s with Jerome Williams and Vin Baker getting a combined 3 minutes. Although part of his low minute total can be attributed to 5 personal fouls.

Nazr Mohammed put up great numbers, good enough for the New York press to not be able to use the words “Keith Van Horn” until at least Friday. Unlike Sweetney, Mohammed stayed out of foul trouble which enabled him to play 32 minutes and score 18 points. More impressively he had 3 steals and 3 offensive rebounds.

Simply, the Knicks beat up on a bad team. I can’t blame them for it, because you can only beat who the schedule makers pit you against. New York plays the Clippers at home next, before facing a brutal road trip against 4 top notch opponents. For the time being, I’ll enjoy tonight’s victory & everything that comes with it.

Celtics 107 Knicks 73

I love getting email. This one comes from occasional guest-blogger Dave:

a few quick impressions after the opening home loss…

1. the field goal defense, after only two games, is atrocious. the knicks are unable to take anything away from the offense. is there a weaker defensive pg, sg, sf combo than marbury, crawford, and tim thomas in the entire NBA? (denver’s miller, lenard, and anthony are the only ones i can think of that even come close.)

In the last line on my Wednesday column, I said we’re going to have to watch the Knicks’ opponents shooting percentage. That night T-Wolves shot well (54% eFG%) against New York. Kevin Garnett was Minnesota’s leading scorer, but 5 of the next 6 T-Wolf scorers played either PG, SG, or SF. Watching the game tonight (as much as I could stomach) the Celtics looked unstoppable at times. Boston’s eFG% was through the roof (59% eFG%). Again most of the scorers (6 of the top 8) are from those same 3 positions: PGs (Payton & Banks), SGs (Davis) SF (Pierce & Welsh). The Celtics combined stats at the 1, 2 or 3 were a gaudy 75PTS, 29-47, 66.0% eFG%, 1.41PSA.

As always with defense it’s hard to pinpoint exactly who is to blame. Dave has a great point that the Knicks have 3 weak defenders at the smaller spots. However the Knicks lack interior defense from the big men as well. The perimeter guys did score, but I clearly recall two occasions where Pierce & Davis were having their way in the paint. Something tells me if Deke was on the court, this wouldn’t have happened.

Denver’s perimeter defense may be weak with Miller, ‘Melo and Boykins (who’s been getting major minutes with Lenard out), but at least they have some help behind them with Martin & Camby.

2. i’m beginning to think this isn’t just a slow start for tim thomas, and that perhaps his back still isn’t quite right. lenny’s decision to go with shanderson and ariza as the small forwards almost exclusively in the 2nd half when he could have reinserted thomas to try and help him find his rhythm concerns me. if it’s the back this is obviously a really big problem since thomas doesn’t defend, rebound, or pass even when he’s healthy.

Granted Pierce can make a lot of people look bad, but Thomas looked horrible. At one point Pierce was shooting a three pointer, and Thomas closed the distance, but didn’t bother to raise his arms. He wasn’t close enough to block the shot, but he could have easily gotten a hand in Pierce’s mug. One of three things was going on there. Either Thomas was really careful about giving Pierce’s dentist some more work, his back is bad enough that it hurts him to lift his arms, or he’s just in a funk. Right now I’m hoping he’s just an anti-dentite.

Seriously, being hurt might explain Thomas’ poor play, but since there is no public evidence of an injury, I have to go with random chance. Everybody has two bad games in a row a few times during the season, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Thomas’ has started the season off this way. Hopefully he’ll snap out of it on Tuesday.

3. trevor ariza’s going to be a very good defender. he already gets his hands on a ton of balls. more importantly, he puts a lot of pressure on the man with the ball. jamal crawford, on the other hand, is a much worse defender than i’d anticipated.

Agreed. Ariza is real quick & has a good nose for the ball. My personal feeling is Wilkens should try to trap and press more, especially when Ariza is in the game. This way he might get an honest defensive effort from Marbury and Crawford. The only problem with this style is the Knicks’ guards would tire quickly, and right now their depth at guard is a real concern. Penny did not play tonight, and Allan Houston is waiting for government sponsored health care. The Knicks backup PG is their starting SG, and an audible moan can be heard from the crowd when Moochie Norris or Shanderson enter the game.

I really haven’t paid too much attention to Crawford’s defense individually, as the whole Knick team has a problem stopping their opponents. Crawford, Marbury, and Tim Thomas look like they have to tools to play good defense, but just don’t apply them. That’s why I think taking an aggressive approach might get their game up to speed on that end of the floor.

4. i wondered how sweetney would fare against shot-blockers like lafrentz and blount. he had a difficult time getting the shot off but he did draw fouls. (most of his points came against the rookie al jefferson.) if he can get into the mid 70s ft shooting he could average 15 ppg.

If Michael Sweetney can get more minutes, he could easily average 15PPG. He’s looked good so far this season. I don’t think his size is much of an issue, because of his girth, reach, and strong hands (when the ball is already lodged in there). Even tonight when he went up against two shot blocker, he was able to draw the foul, and put points on the board. He needs to improve his free throw shooting, but if anything is limiting his per game scoring, it’s a lack of time.

One thing I did notice is that the Knicks don’t feed Sweetney the ball in the post often. In fact tonight I can’t remember anytime where dumping the ball into the post was the primary option. Hopefully Wilkens will correct this in the near future. So many good things can happen when you have a strong post player. The perimeter guys can get open looks when the defense collapses, drawing fouls is always good thing, and the slashers can cut towards the hoop for a quick score. Hopefully Sweetney will get more minutes and take a more prominent role in the offense.

*eFG% = Efficient field goal percentage, this is like FG%, but gives a proper bonus for three pointers made. (FGM + 1/2*3PM)/FGA
**PSA = Points per Shot Attempt. Unlike eFG%, it includes free throws. PTS/(FGA+FTA*.44)

NYK 93 MIN 99

The Knicks opened up the 2005 season with a loss. They played on the road against the team with the best record in the West last year. To their credit they were in the game until late into the fourth quarter. In his first game as a Knick, Jamal Crawford filled in for Allan Houston and scored 22 points (10-23, 48% eFG%*, .96PSA**). Marbury led the Knicks in scoring (8-15, 63% eFG%, 1.8PSA) but was one point behind game leader Kevin Garnett (13-20, 65% eFG%, 1.4PSA).

The Knicks second round pick Trevor Ariza, the youngest Knick to play on opening day, played 23 minutes. He showed some of his high energy ability from preseason, with 5REB, 3AST, & 2STL. Trevor had a “replay-worthy” put-back dunk, and later broke up a Minnesota fast break with a steal. Ariza had a good shooting percentage, and didn’t get to the line once, which was a strength of his in October. In the future, I expect Ariza to have some poor shooting nights, but I also expect him to score from the foul line.

Sweetney came into the game as a defensive substitution at 6:17 in the 2nd, and made his presence felt immediately when he was fouled on the Knicks next possession on a drive 20 seconds later. He looked so impressive, at one point unleashing a series of post moves before hitting his shot in the paint and drawing the foul. To my recollection, Kurt Thomas tried to score from the paint only once, and was stripped. Thomas played well, but he left the Knicks without an inside presence. To illustrate my point, Thomas had only 2 free throw attempts to Sweetney’s 9. If the Knicks are going to get their perimeter guys open shots, then they need someone who will force double teams down low.

It was ironic that Sweetney got in the game later, and played less minutes than Ariza. Tim Thomas’ poor shooting (3-13, 27% eFG%, .5PSA) contributed to Ariza’s high minutes. Nazr Mohammed only made a nominal contribution in the 29 minutes he played, and I wish I could say the same for Baker & “JYD” (0 points combined in 14 minutes). Wilkens will have to find more minutes for Sweetney, and I expect he will once he realizes that Sweets is the Knicks only low-post threat.

Tonight the Knicks lost on one stat alone, shooting percentage. Minnesota shot 54% eFG%, to the Knicks 43%. Looking at the stat sheet, only Sam Cassell had a poor shooting night (7-19, 37% eFG%, 1.0PSA) for Minnesota. Everyone else had a field day. New York outplayed the T-Wolves in turnovers per possession (.12 to .17), offsensive rebounds (20.8% to 10.3%), and scoring from the foul line (.191 to .165 FTM/FGA). I may have to eat my words from a few days ago when I said “the Knicks don’t need to get better at contesting shots”. With Mutombo gone, and Shanderson about to rack up “DNP-Coach’s Decision” at a phenomenal rate, maybe the Knicks have lost a step defensively from last year. They don’t have a great defensive presence on the entire team, and it’ll be something to watch this year.

*eFG% = Efficient field goal percentage, this is like FG%, but gives a proper bonus for three pointers made. (FGM + 1/2*3PM)/FGA
**PSA = Points per Shot Attempt. Unlike eFG%, it includes free throws. (PTS/(FGA+FTA*.44)