Thursday, March 31, 2011

The good, the bad and the truly ugly of the Knicks

The Knicks should play 39 and 10 in the lottery. Carmelo Anthony scored 39 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the second straight game, leading the team past the Nets 120-116, as Deron Williams missed a jump shot with 3 seconds left.

It was a good, bad and ugly game for Knicks as they allowed New Jersey to score a season-best 68 points in the first half. Again in the half, the Knicks played phantom defense and a complete inability to block anyone out on the boards, allowing the Nets to out rebound them 2 to 1. Brook Lopez ended up with 9 rebounds for the game. Yes, the same Brook Lopez that has been criticized for his lack of rebounding all season. These Knicks tend to make stars out of anyone in any uniform that is not orange, white and blue.

The good:

Carmelo Anthony played hustling defense for the second straight game, and had the aforementioned stats of 39 and 10. He also added 5 assists. He and the second half Knicks looked like they could beat anyone when they played up-tempo ball, moving the ball around to hit the open man.

At times, Carmelo looked like a man among boys on offense, scoring at will, and clearly showing why he is known as one of the best shooters in the game, causing sorrow to Morrow, as Clyde might say.

Only 5 turnovers for the game. The Knicks took care of the ball. Bravo! Good job.

Jared Jeffries was a difference maker - 4 steals and 6 rebounds. Solid all around game.

Anthony Carter provided great energy and hustle running the offense when he was in there, changing up the pace, and showing great leadership.

The Knicks really hustled in the second half, looking like a different team, and impressed with their solid defense, allowing only 48 points vs. the first half's 68. They also upped the tempo, moving the ball around sharply and began hitting 3 point shots at crucial times.

The big three; Billups, Amare and Melo scored 95 of the teams' 120 points.

The bad:

The first half was just embarrassing. The Knicks didn't put any effort in on the defensive end. They are getting into a "we don't have to try because we can always come back" mode. This may work for a few games against weaker teams, but against the better teams, it won't.

All game the Knicks didn't rebound well inside defensively, except for one rebound at the end of the game by the smallest player on the court- Toney Douglas. Jeffries' 5 rebounds, and 6 rebounds by Anthony helped but... yes they are a small team, but rebounding is also hustle. Amare had ONE rebound all game. ONE! He didn't put his body out there on defense, and he needs to play tougher. Think the Knicks could use Kris Humphries?

The big three; Billups, Amare and Melo scored 95 of the teams' 120 points. Landry Fields has now almost completely disappeared from the box score, with 2 points and 2 rebounds, and the other players didn't fare much better.

Again, the phrase I hate to repeat..."This may work for a few games against weaker teams, but against the better teams, it won't."

The truly ugly:

Watching the game tape, I noticed that the Knicks don't box out at all. I didn't see one play where any Knick blocked out anyone. They just stand around and wait for the ball to come to them, and reach out to foul when they don't get it. Where is the coaching? This is an issue that must be corrected.

In addition, the Knicks don't seem to set picks well. Watch other teams set picks. Knicks end up on the floor banging into them. I haven't seen one pick all season that really caused a problem for an opposing player.

Again,  Where is the coaching? Is it really that hard to teach a player how to set a pick? I'm 5'7". I will come in and show the Knicks how to set a pick, mmmm-k?

I heard a great interview Steven A. Smith did with Charles Barkley regarding the latter's opinion of the Knicks. He ragged on the team, saying that they are not a defensive squad, never will be, and teams salivate at the thought of playing them in the playoffs, saying, "they will be easy to beat".  He also criticized Carmelo's one on three offensive tendencies, and that the team is too small. I can't say I disagree. Much as the team is fun to watch,(when they hustle), they won't go far in the playoffs, and with the Pacers and Bobcats nipping at their heels, a complete collapse may be unlikely, but it still makes me worry.

What we saw in the second half was encouraging, but when the playoffs come around, will the Knicks put forth the 48 minutes of intensity that they are capable of? If not, those boos we heard at halftime will be truly ugly.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Knicks "Will To Win" Carries Them Past Magic In Overtime

Carmelo Anthony played with energy and desire, scoring 35 points in the second half to lead the Knicks past the Magic in a tightly contested game at Madison Square Garden tonight.

The game went into overtime after Magic Guard Jason Richardson hit an uncontested 3-point shot  over Jared Jeffries with 5.7 seconds left in regulation.

 The defensive call was curious when the Knicks had a 3 point lead at the time. Jeffries elected not to foul, and not to play tight on Richardson, giving him the easy 3 pointer.

After the game, Anthony mentioned a "will to win" several times. It was clear tonight that he gave 100% effort from the opening tip-off, grabbing 10 rebounds and playing better defense than we've seen from him lately. If he and his teammates can play with this kind of hustle and desire every night, we can expect a much better Knick team in the playoffs.

Dwight Howard said, "They played like the Knick team we saw earlier in the season." Tonight the Knicks got back to moving the ball around and playing up-tempo basketball, and they started in the first quarter. This is what they do best, and they need to keep it going,a nd continue to get off to a good start. Though we do need to temper our enthusiasm, because this was a win past a team missing a key player. Jameer Nelson did not play tonight because of a sprained left knee, and he has been a Knick killer as of late. The Magic committed 21 turnovers in his absence, and looked sloppy without their floor general. In addition, Carmelo did go with his isolation game many times, slowing down the flow.

The Knicks though showed good hustle and desire throughout the game tonight, a missing element in their previous six games, and that made all the difference. Obviously, the Knicks need to carry this hustle over to the next game Wednesday night vs. the Nets, or we could be back to the "same old Knicks" again. Speaking of which, not all was rosy tonight. Landry Fields continued his disappearing act, shooting 1 for 3 with 3 points, and a minus-8 on the floor, and Shawne Williams 2 of 6 and minus-10. The Knicks still need to get more players involved, but it's a start.

We'll take it.

Now, about that Jared Jeffries play...

Friday, March 25, 2011

The ghost of Michael Jordan makes another appearance at the Garden

After tonight's Knick 102-96  loss to the Bucks, Brandon Jennings was asked about why he played so well, and he exclaimed "I love New York". Interestingly enough, the Knicks passed over him in the 2009 draft for Jordan Hill. I'm sure Brandon took delight in doing his own Jordan imitation, though it wasn't Jordan Hill he was channeling.

The Knicks have a habit of making average players look like Michael Jordan. Last week it was Tyler Hansbrough. Tonight it was Brandon Jennings (No disrespect to Brandon). Indeed, he played a great game, even dominating vs. an inconsistent Knick defense. One moment looking like a hustling, energetic solid defensive squad, pressuring, stealing, blocking and doing all the little things required to be great, and the next moment, leaving the middle wide open for a Truck Robinson to drive through.

Not that the defense was to blame for this loss. It was a team loss, as they say in football. The Knicks shot less than 25% in the fourth quarter. Can you really expect to win that way? Meanwhile the Bucks shot 51% for the game, and 50% from deep. This Buck team happens to be the worst shooting team in the league, proving my point of the Knicks being the worst defensive team in the league.

Everyone seems to be coming around to my way of thinking, so, me being the contrarian I am, I'll try to be a bit more upbeat about this Knick team...

I do think the Knicks will still make the playoffs (probably as the 8th seed).
(5 minutes have gone by)
Remember when Shawne Williams really hustled trying to make a block from behind, and almost made the play and showed all that hustle and desire?
Remember when Melo made that steal in the backcourt and scored?
Remember when AC gave the Knicks all that energy off the bench?
Remember when the Knicks had that run at the end of the game?
That was awesome.

For moments at a time, the Knicks can beat anyone, and a game is made up of moments. The Knicks just don't put enough of those moments together to make a difference. They need consistency more than anything.

Consistency in moving the ball around for the open shot, and not going one on four.
Consistency in defensive assignments, and not changing defensive philosophy every game.
Consistency in avoiding mental mistakes, and make no mistake, these Knicks lead the league in mental mistakes. They don't seem to keep a cool head and make intelligent decisions.
and the #1 thing...
Consistency of effort.

Consistency in the basics leads to competency, which leads to chemistry.
And with chemistry, the Knicks can beat anyone.

Without it, Michael Jordan's ghost will be making a lot more guest appearances through the rest of this Knicks season.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Paaaaa-trick Ewing

Before the game tonight, MSG showed the best moments of Patrick Ewing's career, and I couldn't take my eyes off the TV. I never truly appreciated what a great player he was. Blocking three shots on one play is incredible. (He should have been nicknamed "Hat-trick Ewing"...:)

And watching him hobble around on one leg in the "Willis Reed" game, almost brought tears to my eyes...He was a warrior.

The presence he brought to the team was palpable, and though I see a spark of that in Amare, there is just no comparison. Until the Knicks can find an intimidator like that in the middle, these Knicks will fall short of Ewing's squad, regardless of how well Amare, Melo and Chauncey play.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Great One On One Players Stumblin' And Bumblin' To Another Loss

Tonight's word is "Chemistry", boys and girls.

Ray Allen said it in the post game interview, "The Knicks have great one on one players".

The only problem is what happens when the shots don't fall? Melo missed his last seven shots, and Amare wasn't hitting either when crunch time came vs. the Celtics tonight. The chemistry is just not there.

The Celtics hit the Knicks for a 19 point swing to take the game, 96-86. With the Knicks up by 9 points in the final quarter, they  "got stagnant" according to Amare, "got careless" according to Coach D'Antoni, and "stumblin' and bumblin", according to Knick Announcer Walt "Clyde" Frazier in those last minutes, looking completely lost and disorganized.

The first half was a thing of beauty, as the Knicks dominated their opponents, but the Celts flipped the switch on with about 6 minutes to go, and ran roughshod over the home team. The Knicks fell apart at the end of the game, and have now lost 6 of their last 7 games,...slip slidin' away with only 12 games left.

The motion offense of D'Antoni is rarely seen these days. I am used to saying "push it" to my TV as I watch the Knicks rebound, and I keep getting reminded that the Knicks don't push it up floor anymore. According to D'Antoni, the offensive plan is to move the ball around for 18 seconds and leave it up to one of the stars to shoot. Well, this plan hasn't been working very well. D'Antoni appears to have changed his whole offense to suit Carmelo, and there seems to be a disconnect there. Seems like some of the players on the team want to run, and some don't. It does feels that way, doesn't it? the chemistry is off. Seems to me that the problem is all mental...

I wrote about two weeks ago that the Knicks were in danger of missing the playoffs. Now it becomes a reality. The Knicks stand at .500 now, in 7th place and sinking. The only thing they can do is keep. Keep working hard, keep a positive attitude and keep communicating with each other.

Several readers have complained that I am too hard on Anthony. I am hard on him because he is great, and I want to see him stop taking plays off and play up to his capabilities... to hustle, like he did when he collided with Rajon Rondo at the end of the game and bloodied his left eye. To bust his balls like when he tried to block a shot in the final moments on a Celtic fast break. He came up short on that play, literally, but he hustled tonight, and I give him credit. If you get this hustle out of him every night, it will make a difference, and that's what I've been writing about from the start.

Notice how the Knicks can put together a marvelous half where they give up 37 points against a great team, and then give up 59 points in the second half. Inconsistency is the hallmark of a young team, but you'd expect more out of a team led by the great veteran point guard Chauncey Billups. He hasn't been the same since the injury against the Magic, physically and mentally, and I have a feeling that he isn't anywhere close to 100%.

I keep saying this but he has to get it together more than anyone else... take charge and become the leader that he is, or the Knicks will stumble and bumble right out of the playoff picture.

Knick fans: Wait till next year?

Carmelo Anthony discussed his thoughts on the current Knick team last night...

"For everyone to get 100% on the same page, it might take next season," Anthony said. "But right now, in this short period of time, we've just got to come together as a unit. As far as everybody jelling and the chemistry and clicking to where we want to be at, it's going to take some time...We're losing games, some games that we're supposed to win," Anthony said. "But that's neither here nor there. It's a learning process. We ain't even been together three weeks. So I'm not really concerned about where we are as a team or us losing games or winning games. As long as we get better at the things we need to get better at, I'm cool with it."

I heard a great interview with Mike Breen on ESPN radio today. He explained that Carmelo is not a good defensive player. "He can be, but right now, he's not." He added that the Knicks can be a good defensive team. All they need to do is commit to playing defense. (What have I been saying?)

In the last six games, Melo has been a minus-36 with 2.8 turnovers per game when on the floor for the Knicks. Let's hope that all changes tonight vs. the Celtics...Big game tonight. The Knicks actually have not had too much trouble vs. the best teams, going 6-2 vs. playoff teams, and only 1-7 vs. lottery teams.

This strangely reminds me of the NY Giants. For many years with Jim Fassel as coach, this was a problem. Beat the good teams, lose to the bad. But Tom Coughlin seems to have changed that. Now the Giants lose to everyone...:)

The Knicks are not performing at a high level against bad teams, and that has to be on the coach, as well as on the players. Where is the mental preparation for these games? The coach is responsible for the player's mental attitudes, and whatever is being taught, or emphasized is not working.

I predict the Knicks win tonight, and maybe upset the Magic as well, but then lose to the Cavs and Raptors.

Unless something changes....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Back to the up-tempo style for Knicks?

Amare Stoudemire  told Alan Hahn at Newsday, “Absolutely, absolutely, that’s the way we’re going to win,” Stoudemire explained about going back to the team's previous up-tempo style “That’s the way we’ve proven that works with the team we had before the trade and it can work with the guys we have now. It’s just a matter of us buying into it and really trying to understand that our ultimate goal is to make the playoffs and see what we can do.”

By the way, the Knicks have now dropped to 7th place for the playoffs.
What have I been saying? :)

Carmelo needs to tip his hat to someone other than himself

In the picture on the right, which one is Carmelo Anthony?

Acting like a child is not the way to win over New York. Becoming a leader is. Instead of following Amare Stoudemire's lead, and being a team player, he is showing a side of himself that is less than superstar-like.

At the first sign of adversity, Carmelo is moody, pointing fingers at his coach, and after going 2-12 from the floor in the most recent loss to the Pistons, stormed out of the locker room.  After the second loss to the Pacers, he complained to Jared Jeffries about not getting the ball on the last possession. These are not good signs.

Stoudemire has defended his coach, saying, "We've just got to subscribe to Mike D'Antoni's system...It works. I've been a part of it for a long time. And it's very successful."

And Carmelo Anthony needs to buy in. Superstars don't do their own thing. They follow their coach's orders and execute the game plan to perfection. They at least try to play defense. Until he does that, the Knicks won't win, and Carmelo Anthony will remain unhappy and frustrated. D'Antoni has already changed his system to suit Anthony, and it's cost the Knicks. Now Carmelo needs to give a little. He's acting like a child who isn't getting his way, and that won't fly. Not here in New York.

Never did, never will.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Carmelo tips his hat to himself again

The great Carmelo Anthony has now decided to throw the coach under the bus and tell the media,  “(We have to) come up with a scheme or a couple of schemes we’re going to stick with and do better at,” Anthony said yesterday. “Right now, one game we come in with one scheme. Another game we come in with a different scheme. I think it’s a bit confusing at times.”

Why does this remind me of "I tip my hat to myself"?

After Tuesday's 119-117 loss at Indiana, Anthony also questioned the defense on Tyler Hansbrough, who killed the Knicks, with 59 points in two games, and posted two consecutive career highs. Anthony added, "I don't think we made adjustments to him at the top of the key, especially after the game he had in the Garden..I'd think we'd have made adjustments after that."

So Carmelo's a coach now? Since when has Carmelo Anthony PLAYED defense? He usually watches his man blow past him, as he waits patiently for his next opportunity to chuck the ball at the basket. At this point, coach D'Antoni needs to "say no to Carmelo", and tell him to keep his criticism "under his hat".

Let's hope they can prove me wrong, because so far I have been spot on with everything that's now coming to light about this team.

Denver is now 9-2 since the trade, while the Knicks are 6-6. George Karl can be seen visibly smirking whenever talking about Anthony, and how his team has become a solid defensive squad since the trade.

And here's a telling statistic-  "According to, the telling stat of the Melo-'Mare combo is through the 344 minutes when they are both on the floor together, the Knicks are just a plus-1. That might be as telling about their defensive instincts as whether they can share the ball."

Hate to say it, but...."I told ya so..."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Andy Rautins...This is why we watch sports.

The chant started in the fourth quarter of the Knicks-Jazz game the other night, as I sat watching the Knicks pulverize their opponents from my "best seat ever", close to the action. At first, I couldn't make out what the crowd was chanting, but after a few moments it became clear. The crowd was chanting "And-y Rau-tins".

The former Syracuse star has had a bit of a tough time in the NBA. The rookie has only appeared in 5 games for the Knicks since being drafted, and his last appearance took place over a month ago, on Feb 2nd.

Since being drafted,  his only claim to fame has been an appearance in a youtube video, lip-synching "We are the NY Knicks" with teammate Landry Fields. But in the game against the Jazz, as the sub team was put in by coach D'Antoni in the 4th quarter, the crowd wanted the kid in there, to show what he could do. Everyone loves an underdog. There's always that last guy on the bench that everyone wants to see get a chance, and Andy is that guy.

The chant was deafening. It seemed like 50% of the crowd was chanting his name, and I joined in. I wanted the 3 point specialist to sink one, to show what he can do.

Moments later, the crowd roared. Andy had gotten up and was ready to check into the game. I felt like I  related to the kid for some strange reason. I was more excited at that moment than any other moment in the game.

Why did I feel so emotionally invested in seeing a rookie get into the game?

I think now, as I look back on that moment, that I felt as if it was me out there checking into the game. I related to the kid at that moment, wanting to achieve something that was difficult...getting a chance to do what you dream of. I felt that if Andy gets into the game, then I can get into the game ...whatever my game is.

I realize that this is why we watch sports. To live vicariously through our heroes. To connect with them and experience their ups and downs, and learn lessons for ourselves and our lives.

When I watched my football New York Giants defeat the unbeatable Patriots in the Super Bowl, I felt that if the Giants could do the impossible,  I could do something impossible too. It inspired me. And the moment of watching Andy Rautins check into the game inspired me as well.

This seemingly insignificant event may mean little to anyone outside Andy or his family and friends, but in the moment, the mind does not make logic of emotion. It just reacts.
And so, for that moment, I was Andy Rautins.
I felt frustration as he threw a wayward pass out of nervousness and rustiness.
I felt confidence at what I imagined he was telling himself...
 "Calm down, you've done this before, a million times for the Orangemen in clutch situations. You're a pro now, a draftee for the NY Knicks....DO IT!"
And I felt joy and redemption as he hit the shot the crowd clamored for.
"I can do this, I BELONG here!"

And for a few minutes in my life, as I sat close to the action, heard the cheers, saw his face and felt all those emotions, I could say that I honestly felt like a player in the NBA. Even if it was in my imagination.

Thanks Andy.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Same old Knicks, different faces? The 76ers are looking better right now

Watching the Knicks lose to the Cavaliers for the fourth time this season, I can't help but think that the surging 76ers look better. The 76ers play with heart, character and desire. Right now the Knicks look like an overrated bunch of talented individuals playing one on one selfish basketball. Sound familiar? Same old Knicks, different faces?

Dating back to games played on Nov. 27, Philly is tied for the seventh-highest winning percentage of any team in the league at 27-16.The Knicks have played .500 ball since the Carmelo trade and without their current MVP (IMO), Chauncey Billups, they look like a mediocre team. The Knicks don't play defense, and let's be honest. They won't until they get some new players or a new coach. Don't let the Heat game fool you. The Heat have also been mediocre recently, and the Knicks caught them at a good time.

Meanwhile, here for only six games, Chauncey has already proven to be the key to this team. He is a leader and the engine that makes the team go. He has won a title. He has been through the wars and proven himself over and over again. Without him, they seem lost. And just as I predicted, Carmelo's isolation style doesn't really fit into the D'Antoni offense, which preaches ball movement. But with Chauncey, they seem to get by because of this "big shot" ability, solid defense and leadership. If anything happens to their new leader...if this leg injury lingers...they are in trouble. The 76ers will overtake them for the 6th spot in the conference and they may slip out of the playoff race. But with him, they could be a special team. He is that good.

Come back Chauncey. New York needs you.