Wednesday Night’s Player of the Game: Robinson or Lee?

Here’s an interesting article from TrueHoop’s on yesterday’s Knick game. Henry attended yesterday’s game, and watched it without the aid of a live box score.

Every once in a while I’ll attend a game as a regular person. Sitting in the stands, buying overpriced ice cream and the like. It was fun. But I wan’t online, and wasn’t watching any kind of fancy statistics. But everyone in the building knew that the Knicks, with Nate Robinson on the floor, were a wholly different team than when he was on the bench.

So, if you’re the coach of a team in that situation — where the starters are going nowhere, and some bench players are killing it — who gets to play in crunch time?

With 3:12 left in the game Knick coach Mike D’Antoni sat Robinson and brought in Quentin Richardson. (Gallinari, at that point, had already left the floor, and even the bench area.) The Knicks were up eight, but the chess match was still on. I pointed out to my friend Randy that the Knicks’ best player of this game was on the bench, and he said that clearly Robinson must be injured.

But alas, this morning there are no such report. And I thought maybe it was a case of bringing in a free throw shooter to help protect the lead, but if you check you’ll see Robinson is notably better than Richardson at the charity stripe.) It was simply a case of a coach bringing in a starter for whatever reason.

And it worked, I guess. The Knicks held through all the free throws to win by five.

But I can’t help but wonder: Was that the right move? When the game is on the line, don’t you have to go with your best players? And last night, was any Knick better than the smallest one?

I’m quoting Henry here, because I watched the game as well. But unlike Henry I was in the comfort of my home with the tv on, checking out the boxscore on my computer, and eating regularly priced ice cream. And I have a slightly different perspective on the game. I agree that Robinson and Gallinari were great last night. The pair scored a combined 30 points on 20 shots in just under 45 minutes. But I’m not thinking that either one was the best player on the floor. In my eyes it was David Lee.

Say what you want about the David Lee love here at KB, but last night he was just awesome on the offensive end. There’s still a thought among many Knick fans that Lee is just a workman who converts on easy buckets. A few days ago someone on the forum used the word “garbage” to describe one aspect of his scoring. Had a basketball scout watched David Lee for the first time, I doubt the word “garbage” would have been in the scouting report.

Lee scored well from the inside & out. He hit two jumpers within the first 3 minutes and sank 5 of 11 from outside. Even more impressive is when you consider that he played against larger players for most of the night, and still managed to convert 7 of 10 from inside. As for the “garbage bucket” argument, only one shot was off an offensive rebound. Lee reclaimed 3 Knick misses, one ended a quarter, the second he put back, and the last led to a Gallinari three pointer.

While many of these baskets were assisted, Lee was able to knock down the outside shot and create when needed. Lee made a behind the back pass under the hoop to Jeffries, and near the end of the third quarter he hit a turnaround bank hook shot while double teamed. He finished the night with team highs in points (25) and rebounds (16). Although Robinson arguably had just as good a game (20 points on 13 shots, 4 boards, 4 dimes, and 4 steals), the difference for me was the intangibles. Normally when we use that word around here it’s in jest to discuss stats other than points (rebounds, blocks, steals, etc.) However I thought Nate was on the bench due to his defensive shortcomings.

On one possession Grant Hill backed Robinson down for an easy two, on another he was forced on a switch to guard Shaq. In a way it’s the New York defensive scheme that hurts Robinson’s value. Since the Knicks don’t have many good defenders and they have a lot of forwards, it makes sense for them to switch often. The downside for switching is less for this specific group than hedging or going over/under. But switching is a problem for the undersized Robinson.

Hence, from my perspective, it made sense to take Robinson out late in the game, despite his hot shooting. And perhaps Nate’s brainless technical foul, coming off the bench to taunt Amare on his hard foul to Lee, had something to do with it as well. But more importantly I think this reason made Robinson less valuable to the Knicks than Lee was last night.

Often times we talk about value in absolute terms, but value is tied into environment. As I said with my Kurt Warner analogy, Kurt was great for the Rams/Cardinals, but awful for the Giants. Robinson might be worthy to have on the court later in the games if the Knicks had better defenders and perhaps a few shot blockers. This way the team won’t be as fearful on switches, while gaining from Robinson’s ability to play the passing lines and his offensive contributions.

So for those that saw last night’s game, who was more valuable: Robinson or Lee?

KnickerBlogger Joins the TrueHoop Network

I just thought I’d let everyone know that I’ve decided to join ESPN’s TrueHoop Network. You should notice only two changes from this venture. The first being the ESPN links & advertisement that are on the top and sides of the blog. The second is a host of new faces looking for the best in NBA/Knicks coverage. KnickerBlogger will remain an independently owned and operated entity. From the perspective of site content, nothing will change.

I’m honored that Henry Abbott chose KnickerBlogger to be a part of this network, and I’m excited at the opportunity this will give the site. I urge everyone interested to check out Henry’s article, which does a better job describing the TrueHoop Network.

Odds & Ends

  • Via TrueHoop, Childress talks about how things other than scoring matter over in Europe. Mainly how scoring is less important. Henry Abbott sums up the matter nicely:

    If it really is true — that little things that win games are more valued in Europe — then that confirms just about every negative stereotype of American basketball development. And it fits perfectly with the message from just about every new-breed statistical expert: That scoring is overvalued here, at the expense of other things that are hugely important but less obvious.

  • We’ll see how true this is, but the Post is talking about Marbury starting tonight against the Celtics. Of course they’re not sure where he’ll start. Anyone else get the feeling he’s like Costanza in the episode he keeps leaving things in women’s houses to get them used to him so they’ll feel more comfortable dating him? [To the tune of by Mennen] Marrrrrr-bury.

    It would make the most sense to start Marbury at shooting guard, replacing the struggling Jamal Crawford, who was 1 of 6 for four points. Or he could conceivably replace Quentin Richardson in a three-guard offense. D’Antoni has started a Chris Duhon-Crawford backcourt through the first five preseason games and feels it may be time to experiment with just two exhibition games left.

  • Ever wonder what Trevor Ariza is doing these days?
  • A blog that praises it’s GM? Could it ever happen here?
  • Kevin Pelton’s breakout candidates for 2009. And there’s one Isiah Thomas drafted small forward.
  • Euro Trip

    What’s the best course of action for America’s best 18 year old basketball player? The answer depends on what year it is. Decades ago a player probably would have gone to college for 4 years to refine their game, possibly get an education, and prepare themselves for the NBA. Although Moses Malone and Darryl Dawkins skipped college and went straight to the pros in the mid 70s, this wasn’t a common decision. In fact for 20 years no other player took this direct route. Even Shawn Kemp and Lloyd Daniels went to college, although neither played in an NCAA game due to off the court issues.

    But as time passed, the options for an 18 year old baller increased. Due to some combination of the NCAA increasing its eligibility standards for incoming athletes, the popularization of high school athletics, the increasing amount of underclassman opting out of college, and rising NBA salaries, many players opted to go straight to the pros. When Kevin Garnett decided in 1995 to forgo college and apply for the NBA draft it was a controversial decision. But over the next few years as Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, and Jermaine O’Neal made the same jump (and with a good degree of success) it became more common for players to skip college.

    Consider the options at this time for a high school senior that was likely to be drafted in the first round. They could go to college where competing against Division I players could expose a player’s flaws. Waiting an extra year could result in a deeper draft class, and the player would get drafted later. Or the player could suffer an injury, and they would never get drafted at all. Each of these could cause a player to potentially lose millions of dollars. On the other hand a player’s NCAA play could enhance his draft standing, sending him to the top of the draft. Because most first rounders earn at least $1M a year, the difference between $4M and $1M in terms of life changing opportunities isn’t worth the risk of losing it all. For most athletes, the smart choice meant going to the NBA as soon as possible.

    This progression continued for about 10 years until the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement set the age limit to 19 for a player to join the NBA. Hence players could no longer make the jump directly from high school to the NBA. Basketball pundits thought this move was to force players to go to college, and the term “one and done” (a prospect who went to college for one year only because they weren’t eligible to apply for the NBA draft) gained popularity. However it may not have been NBA Commissioner David Stern’s intention to send prospective employees to college. In fact when asked about the “one and done” phenomenon recently on Pardon the Interruption, Stern remarked something to the effect of “this is not an NBA problem it’s an NCAA problem.”

    And indeed it is. Not only have college players shortened their amateur career, but many have skipped it entirely. Take for example the most famous underclass team: Michigan’s Fab Five. The three most talented players (Webber, Howard, and Rose) all left before their senior year. It’s no longer news when a player applies for the draft. These days it’s news when a player stays around for another year (e.g. 2006 Gators). In this last NBA draft, 4 of the top 5 players were underclassmen on Final Four teams. This attrition must hurt the pool of talent available to NCAA schools.

    However there may be another option in the future for young basketball players. Earlier this week the New York Times said that top point guard prospect Brandon Jennings was considering playing in Europe, and yesterday ESPN has confirmed that Jennings has made his decision to go overseas. There are three factors which have opened up this possibility for Jennings. The first is the increased NCAA academic standards. (“Jennings has committed to play at Arizona and his adviser, Kelly Williams, has said that he will find out if Jennings qualified on Friday.”) The second is the age limit to the NBA. (“Even if he enrolls at Arizona, Jennings is expected to spend only one year with the Wildcats.”) The third is that the NCAA doesn’t pay its student athletes, while European teams do. According to the New York Times, “[Jennings] would most likely get a minimum of $300,000, including salary and endorsements”. Although Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress says he can’t see a top European club offering Jennings more than $100,000.

    Naturally college coaches are against such a move. (“[Memphis Coach John Calipari] cited the language barrier, games against more physically dominant competition, and the cultural adjustment for a teenager.”) But for a single year in Europe, a player could make enough money to pay for four years of college (one year at Rutgers University costs $20,096). Playing against more skilled players would make them more NBA ready. Teenagers frequently compete in European professional leagues. Knicks draft pick Danilo Gallinari was playing in Italian Serie B1 League at the age of 15. Spain’s Ricky Rubio debuted in the Euroleague at 16. And of course living in another country is a great life experience. Consider that college students typically consider studying abroad as an opportunity.

    Ultimately the NCAA is largely responsible for creating these conditions. They make billions off of student athletes while paying them relatively next to nothing. For years they’ve been able to exploit athletes whose desire is to play professionally by controlling a monopoly to the doorsteps of the NBA. The relationship between the NCAA & young athletes have been a one sided affair. According to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban

    Every student who goes to school, post high school is given every opportunity and encouraged to maximize their effort and optimize their resources to achieve their goals. Unless of course they happen to attend a school that is a member of the NCAA and their goal is to be a professional athlete.

    Jennings could become his generation’s Kevin Garnett and high school players might consider going overseas the better choice to a year of college. Should he return to the NBA, it will become a viable option, especially for those worried about meeting academic standards. What happens next is unclear. It’s highly unlikely that the NCAA makes a major change, since they won’t pay their athletes. One possibility is the emergence of a basketball minor league, but this interview with the former GM of the Utah Flash shows that the NBDL isn’t ready to fill the void.

    An example, we had Brandon Wallace on assignment from the Celtics, he was a draft pick and they sent him to us. He was on our roster, he played for us. And in January, late December, the Celtics cut him and we had no rights to him. And that didn’t make any sense to us. We tried to make it work, we talked to his agent, but we just couldn’t get it worked out. And I think that was a source of embarrassment for the league.

    With European leagues breaking up the NCAA’s monopoly on young basketball players, don’t expect things to stay the same. Depending on the contract, European teams can receive up to $500,000 from NBA teams for a drafted player. With Jennings opening the door, foreign teams will have incentive to recruit America’s best underage basketball prospects. Eventually some organization is going to want to keep these players from going oversees. The NBA would have a motive since they would be paying an extra half million dollars for some of their draft picks. The NCAA might want to make a change before their basketball empire crumbles. And the NBDL could take advantage of this opportunity to make themselves a proper minor league. One thing is for certain, future 18 year old basketball prodigies will have more than one option to consider.

    Celtics or Lakers?

    So the 2008 NBA boils down to two teams: the Lakers and Celtics. Even though they represent the league’s most storied rivalry, the current teams have no bad blood between each other. Well except for the Kobe Bryant-Ray Allen rivalry from a few years ago. But this incarnation of the Lakers and Celtics don’t have the history of the previous rivalries. In fact for the last few seasons neither team was relevant in the NBA landscape. Los Angeles had 3 years of mediocrity following the Shaquille O’Neal trade. And Boston suffered for a decade and a half since Larry Bird retired.

    Nevertheless both teams have something to prove. For the Celtic veteran trio of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen a championship would give each of them personal validation after years of playing for bad teams. For the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, a championship would help him shed his image as a malcontent who isn’t good enough to win a title as the centerpiece.

    It’s hard to gauge this series because both teams are phoenixical; dead teams that were recently reborn. Boston was rebuilt entirely over the summer, with the acquisitions of Garnett, Allen, House, and Posey. And most of the pieces that were already there like Rondo, Perkins, and Powe were developing young players. Meanwhile the Lakers had their own reconstruction and player emergence. Farmar, Vujacic, Bynum, and Turiaf were all drafted in recent years. And of course they grabbed Pau Gasol in a midseason swap with Memphis. There’s not much to go on recent history for either team.

    Each team has something in its favor. The Celtics had the edge going into the playoffs winning 66 games in the regular season, 9 more than the Lakers. But the regular season advantage could be offset by the Gasol trade. And Los Angeles has had a better run in the playoffs, losing only 3 games total to Boston’s 8.

    For the last few weeks I’ve been competing in TrueHoop’s Geek Smackdown, and after last year’s poor showing I decided to go strictly with the numbers. My gut is telling me that Gasol has given Los Angeles a Rasheed Wallace-like increase in performance. And that’s nearly cemented in my right brain by the Lakers’ breeze through the playoffs. However my left brain keeps telling me that Boston has the edge. Not only do they own the home court advantage, but they had the superior 2008 season. Even including the playoffs, the Celtics record is still superior to the Lakers. Additionally the Lakers haven’t been much better since the Gasol trade. They won 69.2% of their games before acquiring Gasol, and 69.8% after the deal.

    So I’m sticking with my promise and going with the numbers. I’ll be taking the Celtics in 6, and crossing my fingers.


    Henry Abbott on Steph Marbury

    Here’s a snippet:

    My best guess is that Stephon Marbury never really got a chance to grow up properly. Like a lot of athletes, he was certainly undereducated. Given his active mind, he probably would have done well to have gone through some phases unnoticed on some college campus somewhere. Instead he went from star treatment at high school in Coney Island to star treatment at Georgia Tech for a year to star treatment in the NBA. The spotlight and its multi-faceted demands were always on him, and he never really got to try on different personalities for size. He had to do this and be that.

    But lately, he’s not playing the peer pressure game any more. He has the sneaker thing working for him, and a dwindling on-court career that no longer needs define him. He’s free to be something new for the first time in a long time. And he’s throwing open the doors to new experiences, and instead of a warrior he’s seeing what it’s like to be a wanderer once in a while.

    They Said It

    The internet offers a place for many people to express their opinion. Gone are the days where only the opinion of people who get paid for writing are seen by the masses. Today anyone can state what they think on a subject publicly, for everyone to see. Below are some quotes taken directly from various web pages, so I can’t take credit for any of them. I’ve only added a lighthearted header (in bold) to enhance your reading pleasure.

    Trade 5: Reality for Xbox 360?

    4 trades that make the knicks champions next year…

    Trade 1: Marbury and Rose to Cleveland for hughes, gooden, and damon jones

    Trade 2: Knicks trade Frye, Lee, jeffries and 2008 2nd round pick to sacramento for Artest, Garcia, and 2007 #10 pick.

    Trade 3: Knicks trade curry, nate and #10 pick to charlotte for okafor, brevin knight and #22 pick.

    Trade 4: Knicks trade francis, crawford, #22 and #23. and 2009 1st round unprotected to indiana for o’neal and tinsley

    I’m pretty sure he’s a Scorpio, but I’m really not into Astrology.

    This is just a rumor, but according to Jonathan Givony from Draft Express, there’s talk that the Knicks may trade Jamal Crawford straight up for Ron Artest, or a package of Channing Frye and Malik Rose for Artest.

    Listen to his podcast. This rumor comes up around the 11 minute mark.

    Personally I wouldn’t do it. For all his talent, I think he’s a cancer.

    But the old rookies come in well fed.

    The young rookies come into the NBA hungry. They play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

    If Isiah can draft a tough-minded kid who can score and defend, that would be priceless.

    Does shooting 4 for 12 create a rift in the space-time continum creating a new dimension?

    I think Jcraw has been one of our best players since the halfway mark of 2005/2006.
    Jcraw is a notorious slow starter to sasons. I dont know why that is but I think Jcraws teammates and other teams players know what a dynamic dimension Jcraw brings to this team. I called our collaspe the day we learned about Jcraw being out because I realize how important his passing, ability to break down the defense and his clutch shooting late in games meant to us.

    And from the same post:
    It’s easy for us to overcome an injury, but it’s probably a bit harder for the person that’s injured.

    The injuries to Dlee hurt as well but I felt we could over come Dlees injury not Jcraws.

    Also my father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate is a dating a writer of Lost, and he says that everyone is dead and the island is really purgatory.

    Just letting yall know, lil inside info..

    I know a girl from Seattle who dates Danny Fortson and they know Rashards brother – they went to his house recently (Rashard) and it was being prepared to be sold – she said its 100% hes leaving and so is Fortson if anyone cares LOL.

    The right nut is reserved for a Frye/Oden package.

    I would give Lee and my left NUT for Kobe.

    So you would have passed on David Lee?

    You never draft tall and white, never. Unless the kid can flush anything around the basket which he [Aaron Gray] can’t. He is dunk bait, travis knight was a better prospect and thats scary

    I’m a pacifist, so I’ll go with ‘trade.’

    This is just opinion. Save the negative noninformational bullshit for an Isiah thread.



    Trade or kill

    Mike Rowe’s not afraid either.

    Colorado State?s Jason Smith, a finesse 7-footer moving up and into the first round on many draft boards of late, also does not lack in confidence. ?I bet I could come in and be a starter for the Knicks,? he said. ?Look, I?ve got the fight in me to get better. I work hard every day. I can face the basket or play down low. I?m not afraid to do the dirty jobs. I?ll do anything to help my team.?

    ?The Knicks are a rising organization and I think — no, I know — that I could help them win.?

    I said this last summer, but then again the only person I beat in the TrueHoop smackdown was Henry’s mom.

    Last year the Chicago Bulls finished 6th in the NBA on defense so Wallace doesn?t address a big need for them. However it doesn?t mean that the signing won?t make them better. One way Big Ben can help the Bulls is to make them the best defensive team in the league.

    and from the same article:

    On the other hand, the biggest winners in the Ben Wallace sweepstakes could be the Cleveland Cavaliers. During the regular season the Cavs finished second in their division behind the Pistons, and Cleveland?s postseason was ended in the second round of the playoffs by Detroit. LeBron James is already playing MVP caliber ball, and if Ilgauskas and Hughes stay healthy for the year (and maybe with a little off-season tweaking) dismantling the Pistons could be just the thing they need to reach the Conference Finals.