The Remastered Michael Jordan

Two things happen this week that seem momentous but really aren’t. Except that they kind of are.

Yesterday, (when love was such an easy game to play), a remastered edition of The Beatles’ entire catalogue was released, much to the delight of millions of people who already own copies of all of their records.

On Friday, Michael Jordan (for whom Game 1 of the 1992 Finals was such an easy game to play) will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, a foregone conclusion that would have come to pass five years ago had Jordan not (temporarily) traded his golf clubs for a Wizards jersey in 2001, two years shy of becoming eligible for first ballot enshrinement.

So it is that the worlds of rock music and professional basketball turn their respective eyes to the greatest icons in their respective histories, despite the fact that neither icon has created anything new, accomplished anything unexpected, or done anything else to warrant the attention being newly heaped upon them (especially not that awful Okafor for Chandler trade). And yet, somehow, I have spent the better part of the week with the Beatles playing on my iPod and am in the midst of DVRing 9 hours of NBA TV’s Jordan marathon (including the double nickel, which I will revisit out of the masochism with which visitors to a website named KnickerBlogger should be well acquainted).

The lesson, I suppose, is that truly transcendent greatness, the kind that gets inside its observers and re-emerges as either influence or obsession, doesn’t ever stop. Icons capable of so thoroughly dominating the cultural consciousness at the height of their greatness end up defining those cultures long after that greatness subsides. Some people desperately search for excuses to revisit the experience of buying Beatles albums (Oh, the harmonies on Abbey Road sound good this time? You’re kidding!) because they want to recapture the awe they felt hearing them for the first time; other (or in some cases the same) people use Jordan’s Hall of Fame Induction as an excuse to watch 20 year old basketball games for the fifth time without seeming like they’re (completely) crazy.

We buy into contrived excuses to revisit that kind of brilliance for two reasons. The first reason is that the kind of greatness in which the Beatles and Jordan traffic is irreplicableirreplicable because no one, not the Kinks or Kobe, not Oasis or LeBron, can ever be exactly what The Beatles or Jordan were (and still are), mean exactly what The Beatles or Jordan meant (and still mean). Through their achievements and connotations (both good and bad), both have carved out places in the zeitgeist whose impact can be equalled, possibly even surpassed, but never duplicated.

The second reason we keep going back for more is that transcendent greatness is inexhaustible. Much like the second half of Abbey Road or the crescendos in A Day in the Life, Jordan’s series winning jumper over Craig Ehlo in the first round of the 1989 playoffs never stops producing goosebumps. Neither does his dunk on Ewing in the ’91 playoffs (which gives me a rare goosebumps/nausea combo), his hand-switching finish against the Lakers in that season’s Finals, the Flu Game in the ’97 finals, the ’98 title-winner over Bryon Russell, or any of a dozen other moments, each of which is, individually, made greater by awareness of the whole; in Jordan’s case, success is all the more meaningful because so few failures exist to counterbalance it (on the court, at least).

The elephant in the room here is that I am a Knicks fan and, as such, I (and most of the people visiting this site) rooted against a great many of the accomplishments that are now being aggrandized in this space. At the time, I couldn’t have imagined that some of the very moments that served to keep the Knicks titleless throughout my youth would become the moments that I held in the highest esteem little more than a decade later. But, in the end, Michael Jordan’s induction into the Hall of Fame is not only a celebration of his brilliance, but also a celebration of brilliance itself. We watch the highlights and re-read the columns and anticipate his induction speech for the same reason that the opening chords of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band continue to boost listeners’ pulses four decades after they were recorded.

Because greatness is always worth celebrating and always worth revisiting. Even if we need a dumb excuse to do it.

Congratulations to Michael Jordan from a fan base that respects you as much as it hates you. The most fitting tribute we can offer you is a comment board filled with memories of times you crushed us.

2009 Report Card: Donnie Walsh

It was with fanfare befitting a peaceful transfer of power from despotism to enlightenment that Donnie Walsh inherited Isiah Thomas’ job as New York Knicks president of basketball operations in the spring of 2008.  But as with so many European monarchs, African generals, and Spinal Tap drummers before him, the excitement surrounding Walsh’s arrival soon gave way, at least in part, to the grim realization that the pitfalls of previous years had not all departed with his predecessor.  An impossible cap situation, a meddling owner, and a frequently unmotivated core of players were all holdovers from the Isiah era which Walsh has been forced to address, with varying degrees of success.

Walsh’s first Knicks team finished with a record of 32-50, worse than three of the five Knicks squads that Isiah oversaw.  But Walsh’s job was never about 2009 and, unlike Isiah, he immediately proved willing to accept that short term failure was a necessary and acceptable side effect of true progress.  To this end, it is undeniable that the poker-faced Bronx native has moved a dysfunctional franchise in the right direction, but his advances have not come without missteps.  That these mistakes have come with little popular backlash is cause for gratitude to Isiah – critics of Walsh would be far more vocal had his hiring not come on the heels of such unmitigated failure.

If Walsh’s patience and indecipherability are his greatest qualities in negotiation, they may also be his best assets in avoiding the kind of criticism that is typicaly heaped upon New York pro sports executives by media and fans.  His stern demeanor and unshakable calm suggest to observers, even at moments of seeming misjudgment, that he knows more about the situation than they do and so deserves their trust.  A move-by-move analysis of Walsh’s Knicks tenure reveals a well-reasoned overall plan that has been tarnished by some truly baffling decisions.  With the belief that the moves a general manager doesn’t make are as important as the moves he does make, I offer this chronological assessment of Walsh’s first season-plus on the job:

May 10, 2008: In his first, and thus far best, major move as Knicks president, Walsh signed Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni to a 4-year, $24 million contract.  D’Antoni’s hiring has resonated with fans (seen in the sense of pride that came with a prized coaching commodity choosing the Knicks over a handful of other suitors, as well as the entertaining brand of basketball to which they are treated each night), Knicks players (seen in the career years put up by David Lee, Al Harrington, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, and, for the first 50 games, Chris Duhon), and players around the league (D’Antoni’s relationship with soon-to-be-max-contract-signers LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Kobe Bryant may prove to be his most important asset as the Knicks’ coach).

Grade: A, and if LeBron’s affection for D’Antoni leads him to New York, it becomes an A-plus.

Draft Night, 2008: With the sixth pick, Walsh chose Danilo Gallinari, whose struggles with back trouble and flashes of promise have both been well-chronicled on this and other sites.  While the jury remains out on Gallo, we have a better idea about some of the guys Walsh could have taken.  Of the lottery picks remaining on the board at #6, Eric Gordon (chosen 7th, 14.98 rookie PER), Brook Lopez (chosen 10th, 17.94 rookie PER), and Anthony Randolph (chosen 14th, 16.94 rookie PER and an absolute monster of a summer league) have looked the most promising thus far.

However, simply lining Gallo up against these three doesn’t quite create a proper lens for evaluating Walsh’s choice.  Looking back through Chad Ford’s archives reminds us that Gordon and Joe Alexander (chosen  8th, 10.19 rookie PER) were the two most likely Knicks picks had they passed on Gallinari, and the early returns suggest that Walsh may have dodged a bullet by passing on Alexander’s unique, but extremely raw, skill set.

Grade: C-plus.  We all love Gallo and it’s tempting to give Walsh an incomplete here.  It’s also probably unfair to criticize Walsh for passing on Lopez and Randolph, as the former was universally regarded as low on upside and the latter as a potential bust.  Still, it’s impossible to ignore how well Gordon, Randolph, and Lopez would all fit into D’Antoni’s system, and one would be hard pressed to find a non-Knicks fan who would put an unproven 21-year-old who already has back problems on the same level as any of these three.  I think there are decent odds Gallinari will prove this grade wrong but at the moment this looks like an OK, but not great, pick.

July 4, 2008: Walsh signed former Bulls PG Chris Duhon to a 2 year contract at the full mid-level ($12 million).  The price tag here looks high now, given the lower salaries being handed out this offseason and the incredibly frustrating second half to Duhon’s 2008-09 season.  Still, the Knicks have never minded paying out  luxury tax dollars and Walsh brought in a point guard who generally stays out of his own way and makes his teammates better on the offensive end.  If Duhon’s ability to create easy baskets can turn Curry into a tradable commodity this season (it’s a long shot, but hey, a guy can hope), it becomes a great signing.  Until then, Duhon is a player who doesn’t set his team back on the court, creates reps for a young core in need of development, and doesn’t set the franchise back in its hunt for prime talent in 2010.  Pretty good move for the mid-level in a lackluster free agent summer.

Grade: B.

November 21, 2008: Walsh put on his Kevin Pritchard hat for a day and swung two trades that cleared up $27 million in 2010 cap room.  In sending Zach Randolph to the Clippers and Jamal Crawford to the Warriors in exchange for a useful forward in Al Harrington, a useless forward in Tim Thomas, and a soon-to-retire combo guard in Cuttino Mobley, Walsh dismantled the slim playoff hopes of what was then an above-.500 team.  More importantly, however, he overhauled the team’s long term cap position, picked up a trade chip in Mobley’s tax-free contract, and rid the team of two shoot-first players who were almost certainly stunting the development of their younger, more promising counterparts.   A complete no-brainer.

Grade: A-minus.  It’s a move any good GM would have made if it was available but, what can I say, it’s a good career move to succeed Isiah.

February 19, 2009: An unstoppable force (the Bulls’ desire to trade Larry Hughes) met an immovable object (Jerome James’ contract) and the unstoppable force won as the Knicks flipped James and Tim Thomas for Hughes.  Largely seen as a garbage for garbage deal, the move was supposed to make the Knicks slightly better in the short run without helping or hurting their long-term cap situation and, mainly, sparing their fans the nightly sight of James smiling and joking around on the end of the bench during 20-point losses.  A mostly useless move in the long run and maybe a net negative, as Hughes took some minute that would likely have gone to Nate and Chandler otherwise.  Hughes also brought back some of the poor shot selection and general grumpiness that had mostly departed with Crawford and Stephon Marbury, respectively.  In the end, the trade’s impact, positive or negative, was minimal and we stopped having to listen to Jerome James jokes.

Grade: C (in a one-credit class with little effect on overall GPA).

Trade Deadline, 2009: The Knicks engaged in a well-chronicled negotiation with the Sacramento Kings, who asked for Nate Robinson and Jared Jeffries in exchange for Kenny Thomas’ soon-to-expire contract.  With the Knicks still loosely in playoff contention, Walsh turned down the offer and chose not to rid himself of the nearly $7 million committed to Jeffries in 2010.  A puzzling, disturbingly Isiah-esque move whose questionability has been compounded by the complete disinterest that Walsh has displayed in re-signing Nate this offseason.  If Robinson is truly so expendable, and it’s likely he is, then why endanger the future for only a few months of his services?  This inaction made little sense at the time and makes even less sense now.

Grade: D-minus.

2009 Draft, Lead-up: Another instance in which Walsh seemed to contradict his general mission statement of financial flexibility, as he reportedly rejected an offer of the #5 pick and some expiring contracts for Wilson Chandler, Jeffries, and Hughes.  This rumor always seemed a bit sketchy from the Wizards’ side, but if this offer was truly on the table, I can’t imagine Walsh’s resistance to it.  Trading Jeffries is a desirable goal, Hughes has no long-term value, and Chandler, while a promising young player, is more likely than not to become an effective wing who is generally indistinguishable from any number of other small forwards in the league.  The negligible , if even existent, talent drop off from Chandler to the #5 pick in the draft (which turned out to be Ricky Rubio, though no one would have guessed it at the time) seemed a small price to pay for the disposal of a considerable financial obstacle.

Grade: D.  It’s worth noting that a few different versions of this trade were bouncing around during draft week, some of which would have been less of a windfall for the Knicks.  None of them, however, seemed particularly logical to reject as the Wizards displayed genuine interest in both Jeffries and Hughes.

Draft Night, 2009: Walsh played the hand he was dealt at #8, picking Jordan Hill after watching Rubio and Stephen Curry disappear in rapid succession.  An uninspiring, but far from disastrous, summer league performance has left Hill as a general mystery to Knicks fans at this point, but he’s big and athletic and he got enough numbers in college (although his FG% leaves something to be desired, considering his layup-and-dunk-heavy shot selection) to suggest that he’ll be a useful role player at the worst.  Walsh’s bigger coup on draft night was the effective purchase of Toney Douglas’s draft rights from the Lakers, just the kind of low-risk, solid-upside maneuver that the Knicks never seem to make.  If Douglas develops into a serviceable back-up point guard with a jump shot and an above average defensive skill set, which seems likely, this pick is a success.

In a final draft night move, Walsh acquired Darko Milicic from the Grizzlies by sending Quentin Richardson off on the first leg of his summer-long tour of NBA mediocrity.  Another low-risk move that might suit D’Antoni’s system well.  Given what he had to work with, a sound if unspectacular draft night for Walsh.

Grade: B-plus for draft night in a vacuum.  However, if you consider that Walsh could have had Rubio or Curry at five had he made the Wizards trade, it’s a C-minus.

Free Agency, 2009: I don’t know.  Do you?  I think Walsh was right not to pay for Iverson.  I would have loved a year or two of Nash at the mid-level, but I get the feeling that was never as close to a reality as we all were hoping.

If Walsh wins his ongoing staring contest with Ramon Sessions (17.65 PER, 23 years old) and signs him for two years at a low 2010 cap number, it will be a way better long-term move than signing Jason Kidd (16.95 PER, 36 years old) would have been, as the Knicks will acquire a young, affordable point guard who can defer to his teammates and can wait until after the Knicks make their big free agent splash to receive his long-term payout.

Additionally, Walsh has done well not to give in to unrealistic demands by either Lee or Robinson in a depressed market, but until their situations are resolved (ideally with Nate walking or taking a cheap one-year deal and Lee staying on for something near the mid-level), it’s hard to get a read on Walsh’s current plan or his level of confidence in the LeBron/Wade/Bosh sweepstakes next offseason.

Grade: Incomplete.

All told, Walsh’s tenure got off to a promising start but has suffered from several moments of seeming hesitance to take the final plunge and commit to any one comprehensive strategy.  Walsh has clearly leaned toward building for the future at the expense of the present, which is a welcome change from the Isiah era, but his unwillingness to part with anyone of value as a pot-sweetener in the unloading of bad contracts has stunted the Knicks progress toward an ideal 2010 cap situation.  As it stands, the team has a top-flight coach and more young talent and long-term financial flexibility than anyone could have realistically expected 16 months ago.  But one worries that Walsh has hedged his bets a bit too much and will fall short of a free agent jackpot next summer.

Overall Grade: B

Knicks Offseason Decisions Begin

With free agency commencing, the Knicks will have to make a major decision regarding their two restricted free agents, David Lee and Nate Robinson. New York has 8 players on their roster that could play the PF or C position: Curry, Milicic, Hill, Wilcox, Hunter, Sene, Gallinari, Jeffries, and Harrington. So on one hand the Knicks have the depth to let David Lee go. However at a second glance, it’s clear that the team would be hard pressed to replace Lee’s production. Although Hill and Gallinari might develop into NBA starters, none of the above are starting material on a good playoff team. Additionally the Knicks rebounding would suffer significantly, since that group is collectively bad on the glass (save perhaps Hill).

In the backcourt they face a different dilemma. If Robinson departs without a replacement, Toney Douglas would be the only backup for Duhon at the point. At shooting guard, the team would primarily rely on Chandler and Hughes, with Douglas and Joe Crawford as reserves. If last year was any indication, the Knicks can’t afford to be this thin at guard.

At this time the popular opinion is that the Knicks would prefer to keep Lee and might let Robinson leave. Considering the current roster construction, it’s hard to envision that scenario because they have more depth behind Lee than Nate. With this being just the start of free agency, the personnel may differ greatly between now and opening day. Not only do other teams covet Robinson and Lee, giving the team the option to shake up their roster with a sign & trade, but there have been rumors about a few Knicks being desired around the league. The Wizards may wish to reunite with Hughes and Jeffries, Wilson Chandler has been coveted by other teams, and with Yao Ming out for the season the Rockets are in hot pursuit of Eddy Curry. OK that last one I made up, but nonetheless there will be many opportunities that could provide New York with the ability to shuffle their roster.

Not only does the team have to consider this upcoming season, but the one after. The Knicks are poised for making a big splash in free agency next summer, so long term salaries are an issue. New York also needs to think about what talent will be remaining in 2010. Currently they only have 4 players on contract for that season in Curry, Jeffries, Gallinari, and Chandler, with their 2 draft picks this year (Hill and Douglas) likely to join them. While getting rid of both Robinson and Lee would free up their purses, it may leave the cupboard bare for an incoming acquisition. The Knicks will need to balance between making the team attractive for a mega-star and having enough money to bring one in.

Mock Three

Since last we talked mock draft the Lakers dispatched with the Orlando Magic and the off-season has kicked into full gear. I was out of town on business and have thus pretty much missed basketball from the past week or so. I suppose that’s fortunate in some ways.

I hope the third version of this mock is less impacted by the rumors, smokescreens, subterfuges, and misinformation that normally clouds my mocks this time of year. My gut tells me that this draft will be the 2006 draft (Bargnani, Aldridge, Morrison were the top 3) of 2009. There will be tons of busts, but a smart front office will be able to find good players late.

Onto the picks…
2009 Mock Draft, 3.0

1. Clippers – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
Nothing to see here. Moving right along.

2. Grizzlies – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain
Poor Grizz. This isn’t the draft to have the #2 pick. I still say they’re looking to move this pick to someone who wants Rubio.

3. Thunder – Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn
I don’t think Thabeet is a top three talent but this draft couldn’t have worked out any better for him. He’ll be an excellent defender and he can run the floor a bit. The Thunder don’t need another guy who needs the ball to be effective.

4. Kings – James Harden, G, Arizona State
I’m guessing the Kings just go best player available regardless of position. I think they wouldn’t mind getting out from under this pick.

5. Wizards – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
Hill will provide some rebounding and a big that runs the floor.

6. Timberwolves – Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis
It’s hard to know what Minny will do with a new management team and a lot of picks. Nothing they do would surprise. The 6-10 area just seems about when Evans should go off the board.

7. Warriors – Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
The Warriors want no part of Jamal Crawford and don’t think Ellis can run the point. Jennings seems like the right fit for this group.

8. Knicks – Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
I just don’t know that there will be a big man available Walsh will like more than Curry. I suspect that a big man is probably the only real competition for Curry.

9. Raptors – Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA
Ultimately, defense, ball-handling, and floor vision will keep him in the league but Holiday is one of the biggest question marks in the draft.

10. Bucks – DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
If Milwaukee takes Blair they’ll be putting together a nice little frontcourt.

11. Nets – Demar DeRozan, SF, USC
Lottery pick least likely to live up to expectations. What does he do?

12. Bobcats – Austin Daye, F/C, Gonzaga
I love this kid’s game and maturity but he may not be a player until he’s on his second contract (after he’s filled out a bit). He’s thinner than Anthony Randolph. Just let that roll around in your head for a bit.

13. Pacers – Ty Lawson, PG, UNC
I won’t be surprised to see him go higher in this draft. The way people dismiss his production doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not like Carolina does anything particularly unorthodox. They just play a fast pace.

14. Suns – Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
Flynn is a pure point guard, yet I’m not crazy about his decision making.

15. Pistons – Earl Clark, F, Louisville
I hate his offense but Clark’s a very capable defender.

16. Bulls – Gerald Henderson, G, Duke
The Bulls have claimed that their top off-season priority is to re-sign Gordon. Mmm. Yeah.

17. 76ers – Chase Budinger, G/F, Arizona
Budinger is a nice fit for that roster, especially as a decision-maker should they lose Andre Miller.

18. Timberwolves – B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
Given Al Jefferson’s health, this would be a decent gamble on size and provide some depth.

19. Hawks – Sam Young, F, Pittsburgh
Young would be a nice fit on Atlanta; a tough guy who can defend both forwards and hit an outside shot.

20. Jazz – Tyler Hansborough, PF, UNC
Hansborough is good value at this point in the draft. He’s going to rebound and run the floor and he’s developing a faceup jumper.

21. Hornets – Jeff Teague, G, Wake Forest
Teague would bring a bit of what Jannero Pargo did, for better or worse.

22. Mavericks – Terrance Williams, G/F, Louisville
Should Williams fall this far he’d be exactly what the doctor ordered Dallas: perimeter defense and depth.

23. Kings – Eric Maynor, PG, VCU

24. Trailblazers – James Johnson, F, Wake Forest
Portland could really use someone that can score in the post–at least a little bit.

25. Thunder – Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
He’ll be a quality backup point in the league.

26. Bulls – Nick Calathes, F, Florida (Greece)
Somebody is going to select Calathes and hold onto his rights. Presumably it will be a team with multiple first rounders that has difficulty moving a late pick. Any number of these late picks may be guys already overseas who can be stashed away.

27. Grizzlies – Wayne Ellington, G, UNC
Right now he’s a one dimensional shooter with a long windup, but worth a late first round gamble.

28. Timberwolves – Omri Casspi, F, Tel Aviv
I’d be stunned if Minny keeps all its picks, but if it does I figure they’ll select Calathes or a player they can stash overseas.

29. Lakers – Marcus Thornton, G, LSU
Thornton is a potent offensive player and a solid rebounding guard who is better in short spurts because of his questionable shot selection.

30. Cavaliers – DeMarre Carroll, F, Missouri
I’m going out on a limb and saying that Mizzou’s version of the “Junk Yard Dog” works his way into the late first round. Carroll has Anderson Varajao’s energy as a combo forward. He’s really improved his jump shot. He has a high basketball IQ, and is a very good passer as well.

Seven Seconds or Mess: Play of the Week 1/15/09

Kelly Dwyer writes:

How people can keep underestimating David Lee, thinking that he’s a product of a lousy team, easy shots, porous defense, uninspired opponents, lefty fetishism, Chris Duhon, the Washington Wizards … it boggles the mind.

30 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals, zero turnovers in 41:28; that’s a player. That’s someone that’s worth your time. It was true in 2005, it’s true today.



The Wizards get really caught up here and leave the most important man unguarded.

2009 Game Preview: Knicks vs. Wizards

Hello all.  This is going to be a quick and dirty game preview because I am swamped with work.  So I am going to give you the best that my 1 hour lunch break will allow.  So no jokes, and only meta-human analysis instead of my normal super-human analysis.  I bearly have time to this edit, so pleaze furgive any speeling errors ore mistakes gramatikal.

New York (14-22) hosts Washington (7-30)

New York faces Washington for the third time this season.  New York is 2-0 against Washington so far this season. 

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 97.6 105.8 49.2 15.6 23.4 20.3
Rank 2 21 14 16 28 29
Washington Wizards-Defense 90.1 110.9 52.5 16.1 28.2 22.6
Rank 22 28 30 10.5 25 11
New York Knicks-Defense 97.9 108.6 51.7 15.2 26.9 20
Rank 1 19 28 19 17 4
Washington Wizards-Offense 89.9 103.6 47.1 14.9 27.5 20.3
Rank 23 25 27 11 9 28

[Interesting note:  New York no longer leads the league in pace having slipped behind Golden State by 2/10ths of a point.  New York held the top spot most of the season.  Is this a consequence of a shortened rotation, tired players, a change in style, a  commitment to defense (ha!), or the natural result of moving Crawford and Randolph?  I’m not sure, but I may look into it when I have a bit more time.]

Injury report:  Gilbert Arenas out (knee),  DeShawn Stevenson out (back), Brendan Haywood out (knee), Antwan Jamison highly probable though he did miss practice this week with a knee strain. 

Gallanari out (back), Marbury out (people skills).

What to watch for: Defense.  After losses to the T-Wolves and Thunder, it is clear that New York can lose to any team on any night if they do not commit to playing strong team defense.  While Washington does not have very good team numbers on offense (25th in efficiency, 27 eFG%), Washington does have a few very talented offensive players in Jamison (49.4 eFG%, 22.5 USG-r) and Butler (47.6 eFG%, 24.0 USG-r).  Washington’s offense has improved slightly since Nick Young (47.9 eFG%)-17 points in 19 minutes off 6-10 shooting in the last meeting-took the starting job from Stevenson (39.7 eFG%).  Washington has no solid post scorers though Jamison can be effective in the paint. 

What to watch for 2: Washington’s new look backcourt.  Washington has revamped the backcourtsince the last meeting with New York.  Stevenson has been benched and Washington traded Antonio Daniels. Javaris Critteton (33.3 eFG%) and Mike James (42.9 eFG%) were brought in via trades.  The new backcourt is playing better than the old one (that aint saying much) but it is still a backcourt that features below average ball handling skills ( James 10.5 TO-r, Crittenton 17.5 TO-r).  James has been a 20 ppg scorer in his career, but Young is far more dangerous.  New York should not take this backcourt lightly.

What to watch for 3: Ball movement and penetration.  Washington is a very weak team on defense (28th in efficiency 110.9, 30th in eFG% 52.5).  The bulk of playing time at center is given to the inexperienced (rookie JaVale McGee) and the ineffective (Andray Blatche).   McGee is the only player averaging at least 1 block per 36 minutes, so the Knicks should look to get to the basket and set up easy finishes for Lee off dribble penetration.  Don’t fall in love with the outside shot against this team, the paint should be open for business.

What to watch for 4: Jared Jeffries.  JJ played for Washington his first four years in the league.  He left Washington feeling somewhat undervalued by the team.  I expecta big effort from him tonight.  Look for JJ to score 6 points on 3-18 shooting (from the line), with 8 rebounds.  Hey, that’s big for him.