Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The ping-pong balls have all fallen and the 2013 NBA Draft order has been decided.
Thus, it's officially time for everyone to begin speculating as to who will end up where come next month. Mocks draft are now being released and published by the plentiful.
Not much of an NCAA guy myself, I usually trust the decisions and instincts of those in charge of doing so for NBA teams. Obviously, even they don't always make the right decisions either. The promise prospects display college may turn out to be just that at times, proving them to be NBA busts. The draft is a very difficult part of the business, especially when it comes down to some of middle and later selections, where there is no guarantee at all that a player's talent translates to The Association.
Nevertheless, upon glancing through a few of the more credible mock drafts, one name (and the position one mock draft had him in) stood out to me.
ESPN Insider's own Chad Ford suggests early on that the Knicks could ultimately draft Glen Rice Jr. Of course, one could joke that perhaps in wanting to maintain an older core of players, perhaps New York believes they are drafting the young gun's former three-time NBA all-star father instead. Even so, the fact that the former Knick's son may be more prepared for the professional game than any other prospect out there is no joking matter.
After being dismissed from Georgia Tech's (where he was Iman Shumpert's teammate) squad for disciplinary reasons, Rice Jr. found an unique loophole that allowed him to begin re-boosting his draft stock before actually declaring.
Because he never finished his collegiate career, nor declare for the NBA Draft as an early entry candidate, the swingman was free to play elsewhere to prove he still deserved to garner consideration from NBA teams when the time came.
Though he could have also played professionally overseas, Rice Jr. instead choose to play in the D-League this past season for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, affiliate of the Houston Rockets.
Aside from having been Shumpert's college teammate and a son of one their former players, there are also other reasons as to why the Knicks may actually want to consider drafting Rice Jr. Having spent this past season competing against a handful of past first-round draft picks and other talents on the cusp of making it to the NBA, the swingman has been more exposed to the type of talent level he's likely to face as a professional than most prospects. What's more, he won't have to adjust to any rule changes from the collegiate level to the pros, either.
By proving he can bounce back from a not so positive end to his Georgia Tech, perhaps Rice Jr. is more mature than most players his age, given all that's had to overcome up until this point. Such already existent growth could help him fit in on the Knicks well.
On the court, the swingman isn't the same sharpshooter his father was. Instead, he's a bit more raw and athletic. He can shoot the ball, but is also more explosive when driving to the basket as well. A capable defender too, Rice Jr. was no minor league slouch. He emerged as M.V.P. of the NBADL Finals after leading the Vipers to a minor league title.
Of course, much of this knowledge comes from my background also serving as Managing Editor of RidiculousUpside.com. For more on Rice Jr.'s talents and progress this past season, visit the links below.
More info on Rice Jr.'s NBA Draft eligibility:
More info on his skill-set and past "Top Performer of the Week" award in the D-League:
More info on his progress at last week's NBA Draft Combine:
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Though many of the Knicks met with the media on Saturday night (following the team's playoff elimination loss to the Pacers) as well as Monday afternoon to discuss the end to their season, Jason Kidd was not one of them.
The future Hall of Famer opted not to speak with reporters, avoiding even further scrutiny than he had previously fallen under, having not scored a single point in his final ten playoff games.
Thus, the point guard left his teammates, coaches, and General Manager Glen Grunwald to perhaps cushion his recent struggles, all the while pondering what his next plan of action will be.
After speaking Kidd, both Grunwald and Mike Woodson have asserted they believe he will return to the Knicks next season. With two more seasons on the three-year pact he signed with New York last summer, Kidd is technically obligated to do so.
But whether or not they truly want him back is the real question. Though Kidd fizzled out and became invisible during the playoffs, his impact was undoubtedly felt less during the final weeks of the regular season than it was earlier on.
Kidd finished the season with an average of nearly 27 minutes played per contest. Originally only expected to take on a reserve role and play 20-24 minutes each game, Coach Woodson called upon Kidd from the very beginning. The guard was thrust into the Knicks' starting lineup as the squad dealt with injuries to the likes of Iman Shumpert and Raymond Felton in the season's early months.
There's no denying Kidd served as the consummate pro as he came up in the clutch for the Knicks again and again. He was a key to what stood as the team's strongest start in over a decade. But there's also no denying that at 40 years old, his mind and body has a lot of basketball miles on it.
While Kidd may still be able to make worthy contributions to a basketball team, he's admittedly much closer to riding out into greener pastures than he is carrying a team back to greatness. His specialities on and off the court could have better utilized in bunches, but Coach Woodson relied upon him for much more than simply a few minutes each game. He was leaned on and asked to be much more than a mentor to the team's other guards.
After all, what other option(s) did Woodson and the Knicks have? The team's makeup was that of older proven veterans, pretty much from top to bottom. They believed Kidd and company had enough in their tanks to keep them chugging along through a steady playoff run.
Perhaps they were wrong, as New York's early round two exit to the Pacers would suggest. Woodson rode Kidd for all he had, so it's sensible to say there's a good chance he's a bit burned out. Did the Knicks use up all that was left in Kidd's basketball tank? His teammates hope extra free time in the offseason to clear his head and relax in The Hamptons will do him some good.
But should (and can) Kidd return to the team in a playing capacity? That's the real question, and the answer is certainly up for debate, given how he ended the year.
The future Hall of Famer's teammates and coaches would like him back, but will Kidd be ready and able come September? Given everything that's been said about the guard and his arguable over-useage over the last few months, perhaps he won't be.
The $6 plus million that Kidd is owed over the next two seasons holds the Knicks obviously accountable for his salary. His contract, along with the contract of Marcus Camby, prevent New York from really exploring further reliable options to add to the team in time for a more serious run next season. Based on their recent early exit, clearly they could use the extra help.
If he's going to return, Kidd will need to be fresh and his conditioning will need to improve. What's more, Coach Woodson will have to preserve his minutes and carefully calculate the proper ways to insert him into games. Two smart basketball minds, perhaps the pair will be able to come up with the perfect formula for ensuring Kidd remains effective and efficient.
But should Kidd not be up to speed come training camp, the right thing to do will be to hang up that Knicks uniform and negotiate a buyout. It was a great season, and in a perfect world, everyone in the Big Apple would like to see him back. He simply needs to figure out what the right thing to do for he, his family, and the team really is.
If Kidd does in fact call it quits, make no mistake: his ongoing value will be considered and the Knicks will likely attempt to keep him on in some capacity. The likes of Baron Davis, Chris Smith, and most recently, Rasheed Wallace, have all been kept in the Knicks' circle and have remained committed to being there for the team when their bodies could not guarantee the same.
Additionally, Mike Woodson is likely to offer Kurt Thomas a spot on his coaching staff next season, should the big man ultimately decide to retire as well. Surely, whether it be on the coaching staff, in the front office, or even on the court, there will be a spot on the Knicks for Jason Kidd. It's just a point of figuring out what that'll be.
Monday, May 20, 2013
This past season, the Knicks won 54 games in the regular season, built up a thirteen game winning streak, secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and came away with their first Atlantic Division title in nearly two decades.
After taking over for the struggling Mike D'Antoni last season, new Knicks' coach Mike Woodson made sure to instill a new and improved defensive culture in the Big Apple. Many experts often say defense wins championships, and Coach Woodson seems to understand and believe in that very philosophy.
In addition to defense, Coach Woodson also made it clear heading into last summer that he believed veterans were also the key to an eventual NBA title. With that in mind, the likes of Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace, and Kenyon Martin were all reeled in to pace New York's second unit and provide that necessary leadership on a team in need of guidance.
Though everything looked good on paper and the mind set was right, age and some extra basketball miles on each veteran's body led to a number of their obvious declines towards the end of the season. Though they each may have done something special to help the Knicks get to where they were, there's no denying a number of those same veterans had difficulty (or displayed a plain and utter inability) to maintain such intensity all the way through New York's postseason run.
Those same let-ups gave way to the Knicks' more recent struggles in the postseason but that wasn't the only thing that led to the team's demise.
Coach Woodson's own inability to make adjustments on both ends of the floor put New York in a insurmountable hole by the time their second round series against the Pacers got underway.
Clearly a coach his players relate to relatively well, Coach Woodson is the type of guy who enjoys displaying faith and trust in his players. His style of coaching allows playing each player enough to help them break out of any existent slump.
With 82 games in the regular season, there's plenty of time to experiment and the pressure doesn't mount as quickly. But in the playoffs, any necessary changes need to be picked up upon quickly. Woodson's decision to stick with the likes of J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd, and even Tyson Chandler (in lieu of some other notable, capable, and perhaps just as deserving contributors) played a big part in sinking the Knicks much earlier than anyone expected.
Though the Atlanta Hawks opted to eventually re-tool their squad a bit and go in a different direction, the organization's decision to let Woodson go was based on his playoff record. Unable to win in the postseason, the Hawks believed the coach had hit a wall.
The Pistons displayed a similar line of thinking when they fired Rick Carlisle in 2003 after back to back 50 win seasons. At the time, Carlisle wasn't able to help his team go the extra yard and obtain that oh so coveted NBA championship. Detroit hired Larry Brown instead. He did help the Pistons win a championship. Ironically enough, Woodson was an assistant coach on that staff.
With a good number of the aging Knicks either declining and/or seeing their contracts expiring this summer, the team stands to look a little different next season.
Will 2013 go on to represent what turns out to have been Woodson's best chance to win a title in New York?
Woodson helped the Knicks accomplish quite a bit this season, and clearly, his players are behind him. But if New York is truly committed to winning a title in the immediate future, they need to center their efforts around the duration of Carmelo Anthony's contract.
After a promising year, Woodson, at the very least, deserves one more shot. Though the Knicks achieved great success in the regular season, Woodson showed some signs of weakness in the postseason. If he can't prove such weakness was simply a fluke (or if he cannot learn from his mistakes next season), a change will have to be made.
The Knicks time is still now, not later.
But if Woodson cannot eventually help this team capitalize, he deserves to go. Nevertheless, he's done enough to warrant at least one more season in the Big Apple to see if he can get things right before the clock really starts to tick and time runs out.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
The Knicks' 106-99 loss to the Pacers in game six of their round two matchup put an end to their NBA title dreams, thus allowing the season to come to a close.
Having won a previously pivotal game five on their home court to stay alive, New York had hoped to steal a game six victory away from Indiana as well (this time on the road) to bring the series back to the Big Apple and essentially, force a game seven.
The hearts of Knicks fans everywhere were broken as Brooklyn's own, the spunky Lance Stephenson, helped the Pacers break away in the game's final minutes to earn themselves a series victory. New York kept the pace for three full quarters, proving they wouldn't go down without a fight. The likes of Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert, and even Chris Copeland helped their team secure a small lead in the third quarter, but such satisfaction escaped them quickly as that same lead was short-lived.
Anthony was playing like a true superstar, Shumpert was having a breakout postseason performance, and Copeland was simply continuing to prove why he deserves quality minutes. Even J.R. Smith played relatively well in relation to his recent outings, scoring more points by getting to the line efficiently and grabbing more rebounds, too.
With the Knicks on their heels and the momentum clearly in the visiting team's favor, the Indiana crowd came alive as the Pacers neutralized Anthony, thus creating a domino effect as the star was left for dead. None of his teammates were able to capitalize and come through in the clutch in keep the Knicks alive.
Losing game six is undoubtedly a bummer for the Knicks, but frankly, it's hard to blame their efforts in the final loss. The home crowd was behind the Pacers, who received last minute boosts from unlikely sources as the Knicks attempted to cover all necessary and expected bases. It's difficult to place blame on an individual or two, considering New York was in the game until the very end. It's tough to criticize their effort.
But that only goes for game six. Where was that same urgency throughout the rest of the series? Examining the rest of the Knicks' losses is where cause for concern can be found.
Tyson Chandler was not only none existent, but tremendously outplayed by Roy Hibbert all series long. It's one thing to depend on your starting center as a coach, but Mike Woodson should have pulled the plug on Chandler earlier in the series. A shortened leash was necessary. The same could be said with regard to performances by the likes of Smith and Jason Kidd. There were players waiting in the wings (Copeland, Steve Novak, and even Pablo Prigioni in game four) who could have stepped up to fill the massive voids.
The Pacers stole game one from the Knicks on their home court, but clearly, the Knicks had plenty of opportunities to recover. Both games three and four in Indiana were winnable contests. The crowd was a quiet one, the pace was slow, and the Pacers were inconsistent. All that was necessary was that the Knicks be ready to pounce. They weren't, and they failed to capitalize on things that would have kept them in the series.
As poorly as the Knicks were playing in both games, their offense stagnant as could be, Indiana was playing just as badly. New York failed to steal either one of those games away. That, paired up with the fact that they lost at home, is what truly led to their demise.
They should hang their heads high after a valiant effort in game six, but frankly, fault can be placed on those individuals who didn't step up and allowed New York to be in such a position in the first place. The team shouldn't have had to play with their backs against the wall throughout the series.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Defense win championships. Every smart basketball mind seems to understand this, and Knicks' Coach Mike Woodson is no different. Over the last year and a half, he has spearheaded a movement that's helped New York elevate their collective defensive effort immensely. Such an elevation has clearly been key to the Knicks advancing to where they are today.
But whereas Woodson may be a defensive guru, his lack of adjustments on the offensive end has (and will continue to be, should the Knicks lose in their series against the Pacers) been the team's undoing as of late.
Too stubborn to perhaps give up relying upon the likes of J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd in recent games, Coach Woodson has hung on to his belief in certain individuals that they will break out of their slumps to once again get New York back to where they need to be.
Having confidence and instilling faith in such individuals can undoubtedly be a good thing sometimes, but as the coach's eventual nod to Chris Copeland in game five finally proved, sometimes change is good. Adjustments are necessary, especially if what's currently going on hasn't seemed to work.
On his way to scoring 13 points in 19 minutes against Indiana on Thursday, Copeland not only took some pressure off Carmelo Anthony, but his ability to help spread the floor also allowed Raymond Felton a little bit more room to drive inside. His impact was clearly felt, as it was ever infectious to a number of his teammates.
The Knicks propelled themselves into the postseason with an impressive thirteen game winning streak towards the end of the season. Such a streak began largely in part due to a spark provided by (the since waived) Kurt Thomas. He lit the fire under the rest of his teammates' butts, and each of the Knickerbockers were inspired by his performance to keep things rolling.
Could Copeland's breakout postseason performance end up providing a similar spark? It certainly seemed to in game five, but now it's time to see if he and his teammates can capitalize on that same existing momentum to force a pivotal game seven.
During the Knicks' winning streak, the extra pep in their collective step was enough to keep their different opponents guessing throughout. Unlike New York's past regular season opponents, the Pacers have the opportunity to adjust to what they saw from the Knicks in game five.
If Coach Woodson is smart, Copeland is surely to be featured on offense off the bench once again on Saturday night. But should Indiana be more prepared this time, the Knicks will need someone else to turn to.
Could that someone be Steve Novak? With a similar skill set to Copeland, Novak not only has the ability to make it rain from downtown, but also to open up things for his teammates as well. His long range shooting prowess undeniably keeps opponents honest.
Over the course of three playoff match-ups now (dating back to last season against the Miami Heat), Novak has been criticized for not moving around enough to get himself open and help the Knicks. But has that been Coach Woodson's fault for not running the proper plays all along?
Perhaps it has been. The coach has been slow to make adjustments, and clearly, isn't always focused on opening things up offensively. But now it's time. As game five proved, a few adjustments on offense are necessary for the Knicks to not only keep the pace with Indiana, but to control it themselves.
Just as Copeland was a key to doing so in game five, perhaps Novak stands to help out in game six just as much.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Given how the Knicks responded to the beat down they received from the Pacers in game one of the semi-finals, it made sense that they clawed their way back into the series by returning the favor in game two.
So when game three resulted in quite the feeble effort from New York, many expected them to come out raring to go. Unfortunately, only more of the weak play followed through game four.
Over the course of the Knicks 93-82 loss to the Pacers on Tuesday night, it was clear to see why New York should be at a loss for words at this point.
For the second straight game, the Knicks failed to get things going offensively. Despite scoring 24 points and grabbing 9 rebounds, Carmelo Anthony cannot do it all alone. As he winces through the pain and attempts to minimize his difficulty to play through a bevy of accumulated postseason bumps and bruises, the forward is by no means able to carry the Knicks all by himself. Frankly, he shouldn't have to. The Pacers' defense is too good to fall victim to such a method and let Anthony takeover games.
The Knicks have plenty of other offensive options capable of spreading Indiana's defensive attention, but the shots simply aren't falling. What's more, an array of Knickerbockers simply aren't displaying the same type of aggression they put forth earlier in the year. As they fail to make the Pacers pay, what does Indiana have to be afraid of?
J.R. Smith's offensive prowess checked out midway through the Knicks/Celtics series and has yet to return. Now scoreless through seven contests, Jason Kidd has been unable to help the Knicks spread the floor. As previously noted, Tyson Chandler's lack of aggression on both ends of the floor has set quite the feeble tone for his team.
Raymond Felton has been scoring the basketball quite efficiently, but even he has failed to attack the basket much against Indiana. Such an absence in his game plan is strange considering how well it suited the point guard against Boston.
As much as the handful of Knicks are struggling, it's up to Mike Woodson to make adjustments. With his team struggling in the playoffs, clearly their entire season is on the line. Is it a smart decision to play the waiting game and hope that the streaky Smith breaks out his slump? With Pablo Prigioni previously providing a massive spark in game two, is it worth sitting him all but four minutes in a contest in favor of Kidd?
When players like Smith and Kidd are hot, spacing them around the perimeter forces the Pacers' defense to stay honest and guard them (thus pulling other potential defenders away from Anthony). When neither player is a threat, however, Indiana is free to swarm Anthony as the sole offensive threat.
The value of having shooters surround Anthony on the court was proven in the minimal time Coach Woodson opted to play Chris Copeland and Steve Novak on the court. Each player knocked down an impressive bomb from long range. If Anthony is being double-teamed, either of those players stand to be left open. It's good strategy.
The only time Woodson opted to find out how effective that same strategy could really be, the game was out of reach. Playing each sharpshooter and watching them thrive in minimal minutes simply added insult to injury.
What's perhaps more frustrating than anything else, however, is how close both recent losses have been. The Pacers, too, have struggled offensively. All that's been needed from the Knicks has been a few defensive stops and a run here or there to swing the momentum. As poorly as New York continues to play, the games are still in reach.
But taking control requires potential adjustments. Should Coach Woodson opt to stand pat and allow his team to ride and/or die with the offense of players like Smith and Kidd, their postseason run will come to an end much quicker than anyone had expected.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Shortly before earning himself a spot on the NBA's "All-Defensive" First Team, Tyson Chandler was quick to call out his Knicks teammates for their lack of ball movement on the offensive end.
With a reputation as quite the defensive star, is Chandler right to have called out players like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith? The fact is stagnant offense and too many isolation sets have both played a role into New York falling 2-1 behind the Pacers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
But so has their lack of defensive intensity. While Chandler can criticize his offensive-minded teammates all he wants, there's no denying any one of them would be justified coming back with something to say of their own, with regard to the big man's efforts.
Whereas players like Anthony and Smith are supposed to pour in the points, Chandler is supposed to serve as the anchor of the Knicks' defense. He did it in 2011 for the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, and there's no doubt that with New York competing at its highest level in over a decade, the team is depending on Chandler to do the same for them now as well.
As the anchor of such efforts, it's clear he sets the tone for what kind of intensity the team will put forth the rest of the way. Unfortunately for Chandler and his Knicks, he hasn't looked much like the defensive aggressor most people expect him to be. Instead, he's looked tentative on the boards and isn't playing as physicality as he can on Roy Hibbert.
Exploiting Chandler's feeble physicality with an array of effective offensive moves, Hibbert has looked as dominant as Shaquille O'Neal against the Knicks in round two. What's more, he's been roaring and soaring up to crash the boards, much like Chandler should be. Hibbert's ability to attack the glass on both ends of the floor is neutralizing the same big man who edged him out for a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team just a few months ago.
And of course, taking Chandler out of the game weakens the Knicks tremendously. New York not only depends on him defensively, but usually also appreciates some form of offensive output from his as well. Not putting himself in the position to crash the offensive glass much, the big man has also frequently not been in place to capitalize on alley-oop passes from his teammates.
As a leader, sometimes it's necessary to call out your teammates in hopes of lighting a fire under their butts. But when you're the team's heart and soul, who's going to be there to light the fire under yours when be instead?
Chandler has to understand how much of the Knicks' success starts and/or ends with him. Regardless of whether or not he's simply regarded as a defensive player, his efforts are still nevertheless infectious when it comes to both ends of the court.
Good offense often stems from good defense, and right now, it's clear Chandler isn't giving New York enough of that to inject some life into their offense. Should his feeble efforts continue as Hibbert toys with him again and again, the Knicks' center could be looking himself in the mirror when it comes to figuring out who to blame for an earlier playoff exit than expected for New York.